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A history of Scotland from the Roman occupation (Volume 2) online

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poning the September Assembly to May 1606, and thought of trying
to gain the consent of the king, but abandoned that idea. They
appointed a solemn fast, a favourite form of agitation. James
Melville wrote an apology. The law of 1592, that golden Act, not
being, perhaps, quite to his purpose, he averred that Christ " gave
the keys of the kingdom of heaven " to pastors, doctors, and elders.
The nineteen, then, who assembled at Aberdeen, " had the warrant
and power of Jesus Christ so to do," an argument of the force of
which, when Cromwell came, we may say solvitur ambuiando. James


did now fix a General Assembly for the last Tuesday of July, mean-
ing, doubtless, of the year following (1606), but by accident or
design the year was not specified. The prisoned brethren were
summoned for October 24 to hear themselves charged with seditious
assembling. They declined the jurisdiction, as Black had done in
1596. They were remitted to their prisons, while a Papist was
merely banished the country, a thing " very evil taken by all good
men." The Gunpowder Plot, occurring on November 5, caused the
afflicted to think that James would cease to pursue Puritans and
preachers. But the king is said to have remarked that, while the
Papists sought his life, the preachers sought his crown.

Early in 1 606 Mar and Dunbar were sent down to try the prisoners,
a task which Dunbar sought to escape from by working privately with
the accused, through a minister. " Never so light a confession " of
error would satisfy James. They were not to be moved. Next day
they were told, before the Council, that if they would " pass from "
the Assembly and declinature, "for the time and place," resuming
their case again when they pleased, they might go free. They asked
leave to consult the Presbyteries ; this was not granted. The
prisoners were indicted of treason. They had counsel ; Mr Thomas
Hope acquitted himself well. They argued that to decline the
Council's jurisdiction was not treason ; Mar and two others alone
upheld them in this distinction. The King's Advocate, Hamilton,
according to James Melville, threatened the jury ; and Mr Forbes
" horribly threatened " the Council and nobles present. He also
dwelt on Joshua and the Gibeonites, and on Saul, whose sons were
hanged, " the quhilk he applyit to the king." This was not, perhaps,
very tactful. Under these spiritual and temporal threats the jury,
worked on by the Council (who said that capital punishment was
not intended), found the prisoners guilty by a majority of nine to
six (or of seven to six). They were taken back to prison, their
sentence being deferred. ^^

There is a point in this trial usually omitted by modern historians
(who side with the Kirk), but frankly put forward by James Melville.
The King's Advocate threatened the jury, all men of family and
land, that, if they acquitted the accused, " he would protest against
them for error wilfully committed, and so their life, lands, and goods
to fall into the king's hands." Hamilton's argument, according to
Melville, ran that it was proved treason to decline the jurisdiction ;
the jury had only to decide whether the accused had declined it


If Hamilton really urged that to decline the jurisdiction was, legally,
treason, the Council soon gave the lie to his statement. But, while
we detest the threats to the jury, modern historians usually ignore
the counter threats of Mr Forbes. He was a preacher, therefore
one of those to whom Christ had given " the keys of the kingdom
of heaven . . . and power of retaining and remitting sins."^^
Melville believed this, Forbes believed it, probably many of the
jury believed in this wild claim to the keys of St Peter. On the
strength of this doctrine, so absurd that it is practically overlooked
by historians, Mr. Forbes " threitneing most terribill, maide all the
heireris astonischit, and their hairis to stand." ^^ Manifestly, here
was undue influence used by the party of the preachers just as
much as by the party of the Crown, and expressly directed, in part,
against the king. The jury were assured, by Mr Forbes, that if
they condemned him and his friends, they were God's perjurers,
and broke the solemn Covenant with the Almighty. What they
had to decide was merely a question of fact. But James was
entangled in the meshes of the Covenant which he had subscribed,
and caused all to subscribe. This Covenant, a fancied arrange-
ment between man and Omnipotence — a spiritual bargain — was to
overshadow Scotland till the Prince of Orange refused to have any
concern with it. So long did the spiritual power overrule, or try
to overrule the State, by the sanction of " horrible threatenings "
which caused the hair of all who heard them to stand on end with

Dr M'Crie says, "of what avail are innocence and eloquence
against the arts of corruption and terror." Both parties used " the
arts of terror." To glide over all this, and all that it implied, as
an amiable error of pleasing enthusiasts, is to misread history.
These claims had to be put down. The ministers must be driven,
and finally were driven out of this position, or at least out of the
practice of using it against the freedom of the State and the
individual. Only six preachers were at this time condemned under
the law, whether rightly or wrongly interpreted.

On January 22 James wrote to the Council. He had to answer
what was to be done with the condemned six, what with their
fourteen associates. The six were to be kept au secret in the
closest solitary confinement, as in the Bastille. A declaration was
to be published expressing James's ideas. He was always ready to
grant a General Assembly; he had just appointed one for July.


What he objected to was unlawful conventicles. The matter in
hand was a riot, and nothing " spiritual." The other brethren, the
king said, must be tried as the six had been. The Council in
Scotland stood aghast. They had done their best. They had now
a precedent, "never befoir decernit" — never settled — for making
declinature of jurisdiction rank as treason. But they had provoked,
as they knew, the discontent of the subjects of all degrees — noble,
gentle, and simple ; Mar had expressed his disgust. They wished
that James was in Scotland, then he would understand the
thoroughly mutinous temper of the country. The Council, many
of them at least, would not .attend at a new trial. Some had
already passed beyond their bounds as judges, it was confessed, to
secure the late success. The jury were become objects of hatred,
and would not serve again, " as a company of led men." A new
jury would not be bound to agree with the old, so the precedent
did not count for much. The Council had been in despair of
securing a conviction in the former case. A fire had been kindled
that was running over the whole country. There was danger that
" the greatest power of every estate " would be drawn to the party
of the preachers. " We have in rigour (the like whereof was never
before done), convicted of treason the principal workers of this
business." Some of the Council would personally explain to James
in London the nature of the imperilled situation. ^^

James acquiesced, and did not push his Cadmeian victory further.
His method, an extreme stretch of the very doubtful letter of the
law, had aroused every Scot from the noble to the cottar. He had
created the sentiment which, under his ill-fated son, united every
class and rank for a while under the banner of the Covenant. The
great nobles were suspicious of the bishops, both of their political
influence and of their chance of regaining alienated ecclesiastical
lands. The Scottish administration, especially Dunfermline, loved
the bishops no better. Archbishop Spottiswoode is said not only
to have complained to James of Dunfermline's enmity to the
Episcopal order, but to have accused him of encouraging Forbes
before the Assembly at Aberdeen.^^ James bade the Council
investigate these charges (February-June 1606), and examine Forbes
as to his alleged encouragement by Dunfermline. Forbes was very
cautious in his evidence as to Dunfermline, who himself took a
high line of denial, and James finally let the matter pass.^^ Spottis-
woode congratulated himself that Dunfermline was induced, by his


recent danger, to be more favourable to the endowment of the
bishops. James's prelates, not yet full-fledged or even ordained,
had already accumulated all the materials of the bishops' wars.
In October the six ministers were banished, under pain of death
if they returned, and with threats of death against any who
followed their example. Their companions were exiled to remote
isles. It is almost surprising that no mutiny occurred in the

James for eight years (1602-1610) kept proroguing the General
Assembly, which had a clear legal right to meet annually. He was
threatening death for a refusal of jurisdiction which the ingenuity of
lawyers could scarcely twist into treason. He proceeded to cut
down by imprisonment and exile on the flimsiest pretexts, and by the
most craven methods, the remaining leaders of the Kirk. He also
trafficked with the ecclesiastical constitution in new and unprincipled
ways, and, if he did not actually succeed in bribing some of the
ministers, he sent money for that purpose. The leading idea of
the ministers was the result of uncritical study of Scripture, and
was inconsistent with a free State. But the men themselves were
of courage dauntless, in morality unimpeachable, wedded to an
honourable poverty, often refined classical scholars, in adversity
cheerful, and, if often tactless and overbearing, they were now the
victims of a power as absolute as that which they claimed, and
moreover, mean, arrogant, and unscrupulous. In contrast with the
preachers the bishops were shamefully pliant, and, though really
far from rich, the splendours of their attire in riding to Parliament
seemed to contradict their complaints of poverty. None of them
resisted James as did Abbot, Archbishop of Canterbury, when the
king tried to practise violence on his conscience in the disgraceful
" Nullity " case of Essex. In private life bishops like Spottiswoode
may have been excellent men, and his final sufferings deserve our
pity. But the prelates were instruments of royal caprice, they were
courtiers, their whole situation was deplorable, and it is no marvel
that Scotland remained, quite apart from the right or wrongs of the
abstract question between Prelacy and Presbyterians, determined to
endure no more bishops.

In July the Red Parliament, so styled from the colours of the
robes of the nobles, met at Perth under the presidency of Dunbar.
The Assembly appointed for July was prorogued to May 1507, and
other prorogations followed. James's excuse was that he had


summoned certain leading ministers, including the two Melvilles, to
meet him in England. The Red Parliament passed an Act declaring
the king's supremacy "over all estates, persons, and causes." The
Act of Annexation of the temporalities of the bishops (1589) was
rescinded. The bishops were now ten, including the warlike
Andrew Knox, who took George Ker with the Spanish blanks.
The ministers protested against the episcopate, but the commis-
sioners of the General Assembly refused to review the " caveats "
which limited the bishops in every direction. Andrew Melville made
his way into the Parliament and spoke with his wonted freedom.
The jealousies between the bishops and the nobles, owners of their
temporal estates, were prominent.^^ Little of a constitution as
Scotland had ever possessed, in this Parliament it dwindled. It
may be remembered that in the angry talk between Ruthven and
Mary Stuart, while the blood of Riccio yet reeked on the palace
floor, Ruthven charged Mary with having herself nominated the
Lords of the Articles, the Supreme Committee of all Estates, for
the Parliament that was to forfeit Murray. In the Red Parliament
James nominated the Lords of the Articles by letter, and his list
was quietly accepted.^^ The strife between the bishops and the
nobles required, so the Council informed James, very earnest and
delicate handling. The nobles were bought to consent to the
restoration of the ancient bishoprics by " seventeen new creations
of spiritual prelacies in temporal lordships," says James Melville,
which Mr Gardiner interprets as the carving out of the Crown
property of " no less than seventeen temporal lordships for the
nobility." so

James's next move was to summon the two Melvilles and six other
brethren of Fife and Lothian, to London, where they arrived at the
end of August 1606. James's conduct as regards these men was
inept, inquisitorial, and violent. He harassed the ministers with
questions as to their views of the Aberdeen affair, v.-hich Andrew
Melville practically remitted to the General Assembly. Unluckily
Melville was a man of ungoverned temper, and he addressed Sir
Thomas Hamilton, the King's Advocate, as " the accuser of the
brethren " (Kan/yo/aos rQ>v d8eA<^wv) that is, the devil. " I'e God, it
is the develis name in the Revelatioune ! " cried the king, as the
source of the Greek flashed upon his memory. James Melville
does not cite the Greek, Spottiswoode does. Melville was carried
into his indiscretion while inveighing against Hamilton for favouring


Catholics. It is needless to dwell on the sufferings of the ministers
whose " brains were stuffed full of wine and music " on one occasion,
without more solid food. They had to listen to tedious anti-presby-
terian sermons from bishops, and now should have known what
Huntly, Errol, and Angus endured from the sermons of the brethren
inflicted on them. The humourless cruelty of that age must ever
be admired. Many such torments were invented to " drive time,"
and keep the brethren away from a new device of the king's, a
clerical convention at Linlithgow.

The kidnapped preachers were told they were to be "warded" in
bishops' houses, as if they had committed some offence. They had
been taken into the king's chapel, and the spectacle of unlighted
candles, closed books, and empty chalices on the altar moved Andrew
Melville to make a Latin epigram. He asked if the Church of England
was imitating the Purple Harlot (otherwise Scarlet Woman) of Rome,
with other rhetorical questions of a rather offensive character. To
such effusions a man may be driven by sermons, and Melville did
not publish the verses. But they reached James, and he seized his
opportunity, Melville was summoned to Whitehall, and "being
spoken to by the Archbishop of Canterbury," says James Melville,
"took occasion plainly in the face, before all the Council, to tell
him all his mind."^^ It was not "a piece of his mind," but all of
it, that Andrew bestowed upon the startled prelate. The sight of
two books, two chalices, and two candles had goaded him to an
extreme indignation. The Archbishop, he vociferated, was guilty
of all sorts of enormities, such as " setting up antichristian
hierarchy" and Sabbath breaking. He then seized Bancroft by
the sleeves and "shook them" (and perhaps the Archbishop),
" in his manner, freely and roundly " ; he had once laid hands on
the king "in his manner." He went on to call the sleeves "the
Beast's mark," and to declare himself Bancroft's enemy " to the
effusion of the last drop of all the blood in his body," that is,
if Bancroft was really the author of a certain antipresbyterian
pamphlet. These proceedings were rather in the style of the
Laird's Jock, or Kinmont Willie, than of a reverend professor of
St Andrews. Andrew was entrusted by the Council to the Dean
of St Paul's, with him to remain till the king's pleasure was known.
He was later transferred to the Tower, and, after four years of
captivity, was banished. He obtained a chair in the University of
Sedan, where he died. James Melville was relegated to Newcastle.


Melville had displayed the vehemence of his character, and the
intolerance with which he regarded all forms of Christianity except
his own. But he was imprisoned in and banished from a country
of which he was not a citizen by an inexcusable abuse of arbitrary
power. The motive was to keep him and his nephew James out
of Scotland, where the king was attempting new manoeuvres.
Between the end of 1606 and 16 10 he entirely succeeded in
getting for his bishops Episcopal authority. In 1607, as we
learn from Calderwood, a bishop dared not exercise authority, be-
cause his presbyters might turn again and excommunicate him,
like Adamson and Montgomery. It may seem strange that James
did not, through Parliament, deprive the brethren of this dan-
gerous weapon, excommunication, or at least deprive it of all civil
sanction. Perhaps he thought that it might prove useful against

The measures which he adopted may be briefly enumerated.
He had already cut down or broken under foot some thirty of the
taller thistles in the Kirk's kail-yard. The most eminent and
recalcitrant preachers were in exile, or far away in the Highlands
and islands, or confined, under supervision, to their own parishes.
In their enforced absence James summoned to Linlithgow, in
December 1606, a convention of preachers. It was not called as
a General Assembly, nor known under that name, till it had done
its work. Then James styled it by the solemn name of a General
Assembly : his opponents did not. The brethren were told that
they were to give "advice," not votes. The king had discovered
that, to put the brethren in good humour, there was nothing like
Catholic-baiting. The necessity and difficulty of smelling out
and denouncing Catholics and Jesuits was dwelt upon. Then it
was suggested that a per?nanefit clerical " agent " for these purposes
should exist in each Presbytery, or group of associated kirks. The
labourer is worthy of his hire, and the " agent " was to receive, as
such, jQioo (Scots) annually. Next, this agent might also be
perpetual or constant moderator of his Presbytery — taking the place
of a series of shifting moderators elected on each occasion. In
their own Presbyteries the bishops, or acting subordinates paid by
them, should be constant moderators.

This device threw most of the administrators of the Kirk into the
king's pay and power. About one hundred and thirty ministers were
present at this convention, and more than thirty nobles, including


Montrose, and the astute manager, Dunbar. Of these, Calderwood
informs us, one hundred and twenty-five were " corrupted " with hope,
fear, honour, or money, for many places of ;^ioo apiece were going.
Thus by an unanimous, or all but unanimous vote, permanent
moderators, who also served as anti-catholic "agents," were nominated
for every Presbytery.^- A number of unsummoned ministers were
present, and occasion was thereby taken to style the Linlithgow
convention a General Assembly. No formal recorded Act of the
meeting could be obtained and read for many months later, and,
when it did appear, it was looked on as forged and contaminated,
like Sprot's confessions in the Gowrie affair. Montrose and the
other managers were delighted by their success ; even the preachers
" who came of set purpose to oppose " were brought into the general
harmony. The meeting, and all the lords, heartily petitioned James
to allow Mr Bruce to leave Inverness and return to Kinnaird for
his health, but James was unmoved.^^ On January 3, 1607, James
issued a letter enforcing the decision of the Linlithgow convention.
Too many of the Presbyteries, he said, were "addicted to anarchy,"
and were apt to " refuse such a constant moderator as has been
concluded upon in the General Assembly." The use of these terms
was mere pettifogging. However, a Presbytery that refused a
constant moderator, or a moderator who declined to be constant,
must be "put to the horn " as rebellious.^''

Throughout the year 1607 the attempt was made to thrust these
constant moderators not only on the Presbyteries, but on the
Synods, or Provincial Councils of the Kirk. Wild scenes
followed, as at Perth, where Lord Scone (who had succeeded to
much of the Gowrie possessions) tried to force the Synod to his
will, sat in the moderator's chair, and locked the Synod out of the
church. They met in the open air, and the faithful of Fife met on
the sea sands in a day of heavy rain.^^ Many other Synods were as
contumacious ; nothing had been decided at Linlithgow, it was
said, as to Synodal moderators. Wherever there was a bishop, the
king declared, he was to be, ex officio, constant moderator of his
Synod. Men asked for a view of the Act of Linlithgow sanctioning
these novelties. On August 18, 1607, the Synods were presented
at last with the Act. In the Synod of Lothian the brethren who
had been at Linlithgow said that nothing had been arranged as to
Synodal moderators. ^^ The General Assembly, to have met at
Dundee, was prorogued to April 160S. James occupied the


interval in lopping the taller heads of the stubborn thistles. A
Stirlingshire minister, for "wandering about" and "general
Presbyterian restlessness " (as Dr Masson says), was confined to
his own parish. Four other opponents of constant moderators,
were shut up in Blackness. Calderwood himself, the erudite
historian, then a young minister at Crailing, was confined to his
very pleasant parish ; Sir Gideon Murray of Elibank looked after
the contumacious of the Jedburgh Presbytery. ^^

At last there was a General Assembly at Linlithgow at the
end of July 160S. Dunbar was in Scotland on this business,
when Sprot was tried and hanged for the Gowrie affair. The
time of the Assembly was cleverly filled up by the delightful
process of excommunicating Huntly, who had never really been
an earnest professor, " despite all the sermons that were in-
flicted on him." Other measures against Catholics were taken,
but the dispute of the king and the Kirk was deferred to a
more convenient season, mixed commissions being appointed to
consider matters. Uunbar is said to have brought ;^ 14,000 in
gold with him to this Assembly, whether it found its way into
clerical pockets may well be doubted. In May 1610, when another
General Assembly was coming on in June, the king certainly sent
10,000 marks to Dunbar for distribution among useful people.^^
This Assembly was packed, especially with ministers from the ex-
treme north (who, to be sure, had a right to be present). Spottis-
woode was Moderator, and Episcopacy was at last established.
The king's prerogative was acknowledged ; the disputed Assembly
of Aberdeen was condemned ; sentences of excommunication were
invalid unless ratified by the bishop of the diocese, who was also
to preside in trials for the deposition of ministers, and was to
inquire into the conduct of those in his see. Ministers, when
inducted, had to take an oath to the king and do homage for their
livings. The bishops, however, were still subject to the censure of
General Assemblies (as this odd kind of bishop from the days of
Morton downwards had ever been), and they still needed consecra-
tion by Episcopal hands, a rite implying the doctrine of apostolical
succession. James had nearly completed his edifice, soon he
crowned it, a building that did not endure for a generation. He
had asserted the freedom of the State (as represented by himself),
by what measures, how petty, how illegal, how cunning, and how
arbitrary, we have shown. ^^ This house was founded on the sand ;


the institution of these bishops was a mere trick of state-craft, and
was contrary to the conscience and the rooted ideas of every
sincere man in Scotland, CathoHc or Presbyterian. But James
had not yet interfered with the order of worship, the prayers were
still extemporary, or strings of formulae adhering to the memory of
the minister. There was no service-book, and the communion was
received sitting, in the old fashion of Knox. No particular change
irritated the ordinary parishioner; nothing was "read," a thing in-
expressibly odious to the Scot ; there were no responses, no vest-
ments, none of the provocations which had such strange power to
excite the fury of the multitude

The position of conscientious Presbyterians, like Calderwood,
was far from enviable at this period. They might preach and pray,
but it was dangerous to pray and preach on the politics of the hour :

Online LibraryAndrew LangA history of Scotland from the Roman occupation (Volume 2) → online text (page 51 of 60)