An excuse for revisiting Raeburn’s portrait of his friend Robert Walker, is this quotation from one of his sermons.
Too many of those who make a profession of religion … indulge themselves in a bitter, censorious disputation, more allied to peevishness than either to virtue or religion … their conversation is gloomy, their countenances and manners forbidding. From such unfortunate examples, it is too often rashly concluded, that the nature of religion itself is harsh, melancholy and severe.*
These days we have perhaps lost much of the gloominess, though covid and climate change do tempt some to adopt that attitude. What seems to persist is the censorious disputation which can become bitter. Let us pray for the grace to see ourselves as we are in relation to others, and to step back from disputation that divides and brings the Church into disrepute.
Perhaps each one of us needs time to be alone with God and nature as Robert is here. Not much skating this winter in Kent, but walking is always available, free of charge, to set the spirit free.
*See The Skating Minister, by Duncan Thomson and Lynne Gladstone-Millar, Edinburgh 2004, p33.