It is one thing for Christ to be feeding among the lilies (Song 2:16), and so granting His gracious presence to His people in the means of grace in the world. It is a different matter, however, when He comes to gather His lilies from the garden of the Church below, taking them to be with Himself according to His promise: “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:3). Such a lily was gathered by the Saviour, in the death of Miss Peggy Nicolson, in December of last year, at the ripe age of 92 years.
She was born in the district of Braes, in the parish of Portree, on the Isle of Skye. Her father, Donald Nicolson, who was an elder in the Church, also acted as a lay-missionary in both Braes and Broadford. To this writer’s recollection, he was a dapper little man of pleasant appearance, and highly respected by the people of God in the Island. Peggy was therefore brought up in the atmosphere of true piety, but this had no effect upon her until she was awakened by the Spirit of God to a true sense of her sins. This awakening in her case must have been very sharp, for she said, “All I could see was eternity filled with judgement, and the conviction that I was going to hell, and no sign of Christ anywhere”. Unlike many of our modern evangelicals, who do not believe in an eternal hell, she had no doubt about its existence. But then she was receiving teaching from above, to which, for all their profession, they are complete strangers.
Of His people, the Saviour declares, “It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God” (John 6:45). She spent some time trying to please God with her own supposed good works, but this came to an end when she was taught, “By the works of the law shall no flesh be justified” (Gal 2:16). She felt herself now to be truly in need of a Saviour. Through the grace of God she found such a Saviour in the words: “But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:19). The light she got on this truth, to put it in her own words, was: “I saw that all I needed for the eternal salvation of my soul was to be found in Christ”. She therefore came to rest in Him by faith, and thus being united to Him, was saved in Him with an everlasting salvation.
As she lived in Braes, she belonged to the Portree congregation. On one occasion, when at the Communion in Staffin, a strong desire arose in her soul to obey the command of her Saviour, “This do in remembrance of Me” (Luke 22:19). The fact that the Staffin congregation was a different one from her own gave her concern as to whether it was right to go before the Kirk Session in Staffin to obtain this privilege, or should she wait until the Portree Communion and go before the Session there. Her desire was still very strong and, as she was walking down the road, she met the late Rev Finlay MacLeod, who was assisting at the Staffin Communion. When she mentioned her predicament to him, he advised her to go before the Kirk Session in Staffin to see what they would say to her. She acted on this advice and, as she was well known, she was warmly welcomed and placed on the communion roll.
Ever since taking up a public profession, she was concerned lest she should bring reproach upon the Cause of Christ by anything she might say or do, and even at 90 years of age she expressed this fear. At Gairloch Communion, on another occasion, she was particularly tempted on this very point. On the Monday, Rev D N MacLeod, Ullapool, took the service, in the course of which he said, “As you leave Gairloch today, you may be tempted that you will bring reproach upon the cause of Christ, but you must not fear, for the keeping of your profession is not in your hands, but in the hands of the One whose death you have kept in remembrance”. Peggy went on her way rejoicing.
She was a well-known figure at communion seasons for many years. Before the War, she and the late Margaret Sutherland, who passed away to her eternal rest shortly after her, were often mistaken for one another, due to a resemblance in personal appearance. There was a greater similarity to one another, however, in a spiritual sense. Both were very bright and intelligent Christians who delighted in the gospel, so that both could say, “How lovely is Thy dwelling-place, O Lord of hosts, to me! The tabernacles of Thy grace how pleasant, Lord, they be!” (Ps 84:1). As she looked after her godly father in their home in Balcharn, Lairg, Margaret had an excellent library of books of the old Divines. These she read with care and became a very well-informed Christian. As well as being pious, she was very talented in many other ways, as her equally talented friends, Mrs M Tallach, Glasgow, and Miss Eliza MacKenzie, Inverness, appreciated. The loss of the prayers of such godly women, at a throne of grace, can only be understood by those who enjoyed their spiritual fellowship. Although, like David, their prayers are ended, we must never forget that there is One who ever liveth to make intercession for His own.
Peggy and her godly sister Morag were in the Portree congregation, when the present writer was inducted there in 1948. In the 1950s they moved to Inverness. After the death of her sister, and after her own health began to fail, she went into Ballifeary Home. She was very happy there and most appreciative of the care and kindness shown her by the Matron and staff.
She was one who could say, “The habitation of Thy house, Lord, I have loved well” (Ps 26:8). Some years ago she heard a sermon on Ephesians 3:17-19. Speaking of her experience on that occasion, she said, “I was so full of the love of Christ and joy in His salvation that I would gladly have been taken to heaven from the pew”. The time to depart had not yet come, however, but we believe that when it did come she was ready to go to be with Christ, which is far better.
To her relatives we offer our sincere sympathy. May they be followers of those who are now inheriting the fulness of joy at God’s right hand.
“Behold, the daughter of the King all glorious is within;
And with embroideries of gold her garments wrought have been.
She shall be brought unto the King in robes with needle wrought;
Her fellow-virgins following shall unto Thee be brought.
They shall be brought with gladness great, and mirth on every side,
Into the palace of the King, and there they shall abide” (Ps 45:13-15).
(Rev) Donald MacLean