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being so simple as to be easily understood by the most unlearned.
In 1749, he paid a visit to a distant northern bishop of great consequence, whose lady was what you may call, a learned woman, and had such influence over her husband as often to dispose of the livings to her own favourites; so that, as Mr. Skelton remarked, the lady was a sort of a bishop herself. She was on this account courted by the clergy, who humoured her in all her notions. She professed herself an admirer of Hutcheson's System of Moral Philosophy, and the clergy consequently approved of her taste. As she had a respect for Mr. Skelton's judgment, she took the following method to find out his opinion on this subject. Having lately got a new book written by one of Hutcheson's disciples, she ordered it to be put in the room in which he slept, naturally supposing he would examine it a little, and he did so. In the morning, an archdeacon, by the lady's directions, came to Skelton's room to sound him on the book, and asked him carelessly if he had read any of it? Yes, he told him, he had looked into it here and there. He then asked him how he liked it? He said but indifferently, for he thought there was a great deal of nonsense in it. This brought on a sort of dispute between them. At last Skelton said he would lay him a wager, that opening the book at any page he pleased, be would shew him nonsense in it before he read to the bottom. The archdeacon agreed'; and wbile he was reading the page, Skelton stopped him now and then, and said, “that's nonsense;"_"yes, it is,” he owned; and thus he was forced to acknowledge there was nonsense in every page of it. The bishop's lady, when she heard how contemptibly he spoke of the book which she so highly esteemed, could scarcely keep her temper; especially as she was accustomed to be flattered in her notions by the clergy, who would never oppose her. She therefore resolved to affront Mr. Skelton in an open company, supposing a poor curate like him dare not say a word. Accordingly, after dinner, before the bishop and a large company of clergy and others, she said to him, “Mr. Skelton, 1 heard you preached in St. James's chapel when you were in London."_“Yes, madam, I did,"_“Well, sir, a lady, a friend of mine, who heard you, told me you preached very absurdly, talking of hell's fire, and such coarse subjects, as are never introduced in so polite a place.”—“Pray, madam, who is this lady, a friend of yours, that made these remarks con my preaching ?”—“ Such a lady, sir,” she answered, naming her. “Oh!” he said, “ she has a good right not to like sermons about hell's fire, for she is mistress to the archbishop of York, all London knows it.”
This bishop, whose lady was so learned, having a niece unmarried, some people advised Mr. Skelton to court her and marry her, observing that he would get a good living by it; but they could not prevail on him to seek preferment from a connexion with that lady.
However, the time of his being promoted above the humble office of a curate at length arrived. In the year 1750, a large living fell in the diocess of Clogher; and immediately on the vacancy Dr. Delany, and another bishop waited on bishop Clayton, and told him, that if he did not give Skelton a living now, after disappointing them so often, they would take him out of his diocess. The bishop then gave him the living of Pettigo, in a wild part of the county of Donegal, having made many removals on purpose to put him in that savage place, among mountains, rocks, and heath. In the living of Pettigo he succeeded a Mr. Lindsay, who was removed to Enniskillen. When he bad got this living he had been eighteen years curate of Monaghan, and two of Newtown-Butler, during which time he saw, as he told me, many illiterate boys put over bis head, and highly preferred in the church without having served a cure.
The name of the parish is properly Templecarn; but as the church is placed in the small village of Pettigo, the people by custom call it the parish of Pettigo. This village is situate on the extremity of the counties of Donegal and Fermanagh; a little river that runs through it, over which a bridge is built, separates these counties from each other. It has a sort of a market on Mondays, and some stated fairs in the year. Even then there was probably some culture about this village, but the parts of the county
of Donegal adjacent, and to a great extent, in which Mr. Skelton's parish lay, were mostly wild, mountainous, and covered with heath. The parish of Pettigo is fifteen miles long, and ten broad; of this he had the whole tithes, and had a glebe of a hundred and fifty acres situated in the county of Fermanagh. Yet, strange as it may seem, tithe and glebe did not on an average produce 2001. a-year. Possibly he might have collected a little more, had he been rigid in demanding his dues; though it is allowed that scarce a fourth part of the parish was arable. One Robert Plunket, brother to the dissenting minister, came with him from Monaghan, and got a cabin in Pettigo, with some land adjacent. He appointed him his tithefarmer, and also agreed with him for his diet and lodging.
The nature of the people was similar to that of the soil; they were rough, uncultivated, disorderly, fond of drinking and quarrelling. Mr. Skelton, by the account he heard of them, which, however, was greatly exaggerated, was really afraid they would kill him in that wild country, and therefore took with him from Monaghan, by way of servant, one Jonas Good, a great boxer, to defend him; a man of a decent family, who had a small freehold near that town, and yet consented to go with him through respect for his character. When he was agreeing with Jonas, he said to him, “I hire you to fight, at which I am told you are very clever." The man said he could do a little that way, that he had never served any one before but the king, but he would serve him too, he was so good a man. “Well, sir, you must fight bravely; when you see me laying down my hands, be sure do the same, then strike stoutly, and when I stop, stop you.” The man promised he would do so. To make him look more terrible, he got him a good horse, and a military saddle with holsters, in which he put two large pistols, and equipped him suitably in other particulars; though he did not dress him in livery, but in plain grave clothes. All this made his appearance decent and formidable, for he, was a large able-bodied man. In their travels he always rode before him to face the danger, and got all the bows, as the people mistook him for the master. Mr. Skelton gave it out through the country, to raise a terror of him,
that he could easily beat three or four men, which excited the envy of some malicious people, who way-laid Jonas at night, and beat him most shockingly.
His parishioners were sunk in profound ignorance. One could hardly have supposed, on viewing their manDers, that they were born and bred in a Christian country. Yet many of them were nominally Protestants. Mr. Skelton declared, they scarce knew more of the gospel than the Indians of America; so that, he said, he was a missionary sent to convert them to Christianity. Like others in a rude state, their chief study was to supply their natural wants, and indulge their gross appetites. The most of them seemed ignorant of the use of books, which they thought very few applied to but for some bad purpose. Mr. Skelton assured me, that soon after he came to Pettigo, he was reading one evening in his room by candlelight, with the window shutters open, and heard many people whispering in the street at his window, which brought him to the door to see what was the matter, when he found a whole crowd of people listening and watching him ; for it seems they thought he was a conjuror, he dealt so much in books. So true is the observation of Swift,
Thus clowns on scholars as on wizards look,
Such were the people whom he was appointed to instruct. To a benevolent clergyman like him, it gave concern, to see them in this state of ignorance and error. He had a wide field for improvement before him, and began to work immediately. He visited them from house to house; he instructed them late and early; he told them of Jesus Christ who died for their sins, whose name some of them had scarcely heard of before. In his journeys through the parish he took down the children's names, desiring their parents to Send them to church to be instructed in the catechism; and introduced the proof-catechism, such as he had already made use of at Monaghan. During the summer, while he was thus employed, he explained the catechism on Sundays before all the people, which served to edify both young and old. At this lecture or explanation he spent an hour and a half every Sunday the whole summer season. He gave the
people this instead of a sermon, as it seemed to please them better, being delivered without notes, and also remarkably plain and instructive. He was thus, like Job, eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame. When he had reason to suppose that the grown-up people were tolerably acquainted with their duty, by means of his public and private lectures and admonitions, he locked the church doors on a Sunday, when he had a large congregation, and examined them all to see what progress they had made under his care in religious knowledge. He would not intimate to them the day he intended to do this, well knowing if he did, that few or none of them would come. He thus endeavoured to work upon their shame, which is often a more powerful motive with men than the dread of temporal or eternal evils. In time, by his extraordinary care, he brought these uncultivated people to believe in a God who made them, and a Saviour that redemed them.
Sir James Caldwell's residence being at the extremity of the parish, he preached once in the month, on a Sunday, in his parlour, where he had a tolerable congregation, and used also to examine the people there in religion. He was once examining some persons of quality there, when one of them told him there were two Gods, and another three Gods, and so on. Such was their ignorance. One of them indeed, who had nothing to say, every question he was asked, made a genteel bow, in which he was better instructed than in religion.
In Pettigo the greater number of the inhabitants were poor Catholics, living in wretched hovels, among barren rocks and heath; of whom there were many real objects of charity, that required the assistance of the humane. In such a place the benevolent disposition of Mr. Skelton found full room for exercise; and, I may safely say, that no human breast ever had more genuine charity than his. His wonderful acts of goodness will be remembered for ages in that remote corner of the North, and be transmitted from father to son for successive generations. But a particular display of them is reserved for its proper place.
On his first coming there, he made an agreement with his hearers to give as much in charity in the church, as the