Teach Scots to read their Bibles

Instead of sending missionaries to spread the Christian gospel throughout the endless forests of Canada, a better and cheaper way would be to teach the illiterate highlanders who are leaving Scotland in the tens of thousands to read the Bible, a Reverend Mr. Mcleod tells the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in Edinburgh. From the Novascotian, April 5, 1826.

Permit me to draw your attention to one other respect in which the Highlands and Isles must greatly interest every benevolent heart…[F]rom these counties… thousands have been emigrating yearly to our colonies in North America: men whose language and habits being distinct, will render them an admirable barrier against American and French principles; and carrying with them their ancient and established principles of loyalty and military value, will prove the most valuable settlers in those important colonies.

The numbers who have emigrated for the last forty years from the Highlands and Isles is absolutely incredible. Thousands and tens of thousands, until within the last few years, were totally uneducated, and ninety out of one hundred were unable to read the scriptures.

I have in my possession at this very moment a letter from the collector of customs in a small port in the west end of the Island of Mull, in which he tells me that during the past three years 4,288 have entered in that port alone, and emigrated to our colonies in North America; and he adds, that being from some one or other of the more remote islands, they were unable to read either English or Gaelic, and unacquainted he believed, to a great extent, with the nature and design of the Christian religion. And this emigration proceeds from no temporary causes; it proceeds from peculiar circumstances connected with the country, for which no remedy can be applied.

To what quarter of the world, then, I would ask, can the friends of foreign missions direct their attention with so certain a prospect of promoting that great cause which they are labouring to advance, as to the Highlands and Isles of Scotland? Will not a few hundred pounds per annum expended in teaching these people to read their bibles before they leave the country, and instructing them in the elementary principles of Christianity, effect greater good than thousands spent in sending missionaries after them when they are scattered though these endless forests, where they have not a bible, nor the capacity of reading it? It will prove to them a moral wilderness where all the better traits of their natural character will soon and for ever be obliterated.

Sir, I appeal to every person who hears me, whether a few such families whom you have taught to read the bible and sent out with them this valuable light to comfort and guide them, will not prove a more valuable acquisition to that country, and have a more civilising influence in the districts to which they go, by spreading around them a moral and Christianizing influence than by any one missionary, however respectable, who at ten times the expense, you could send afterwards to teach them.

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