Men, The

Men, The area class of persons who occupy a somewhat conspicuous place in the religious communities of Northern Scotland, chiefly in those parts of it where the Gaelic language prevails, as in Ross, Sutherland, and the upland districts of Inverness and Argyle. 'Large and undivided parishes, a scanty supply of the means of grace, patronage, and other causes peculiar to such localities, seem to have developed this abnormal class of self-appointed instructors and spiritual overseers, who sustain in the Church of Scotland a relation very similar to that of our lay-preachers. They are designated "Men" by way of eminence, and as a title of respect, in recognition of their superior natural abilities, and their attainments in religious knowledge and personal piety. There is no formal manner in which they pass into the rank or order of Men, further than the general estimation in which they are held by the people among whom they live, on account of their known superior gifts and religious experience. If they are considered to excel their neighbors in the exercises of prayer and exhortation, for which they have abundant opportunities at the lyke-wakes, which are still common in the far Highlands, and at the meetings for prayer and Christian fellowship, and if they continue to frequent such meetings, and take part in these religious services, so as to meet with general approbation, they thus gradually gain a repute for godliness, and naturally glide into the order of "The Men." There are oftentimes three or four "Men" in a parish; and as, an communion occasions, Friday is specially set apart for prayer and mutual exhortation, these 'lay-workers have then a public opportunity of exercising their gifts by engaging in prayer, and speaking on "questions bearing on religious experience. This, in many parts of the Highlands, is considered as the great day of the communion season, and is popularly called the "Men's day;" and, as there may be present twenty or thirty of these "Men" assembled from the surrounding parishes, the whole service of the day is, so to speak, left in their hands-only the minister of the parish usually presides, and sums up the opinions expressed on the subject under consideration. Many of the "Men" assume on these occasions a peculiar garb in the form of a large blue cloak; and in moving about from one community to another, they are treated with great respect, kindness, and hospitality. The influence which was thus acquired by the "Men" over the people was very powerful, and no wonder that some of them grievously abused it. Yet there can be no doubt that, in many parishes in the Highlands, where the ministers have been careless and remiss in the performance of their duties, these lay-workers have often been useful in keeping spiritual religion alive. It is not to be wondered that the heads of some of them were turned, and that the honor in which they were held begat spiritual pride in them. But these are always said to have been the exception. Since the period of the disruption, when the Highlands have been furnished with a more adequate supply of Gospel ordinances, and spiritual feudalism has been broken, it has been observed that the influence of the "Men," for the most part connected now with the Free Church, has been gradually on the wane. See Auld. Min. and Men of the Far North (1868), p. 142-262. (J. HW.)

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