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that he walked with God, or rather, as in some cases, that
God walked with him, and that all the "degrees of God's
wrath " were at his disposal whensoever he should be moved
by the spirit, to draw upon them either to advance the cause
of righteousness or to crush a blasphemous enemy. The
parish was practically his regality, short of the power of life
and death, and no king or kinglet ever swayed a sceptre so
supremely over his subjects as did the Scotch minister over
the people "within the bounds." He did not hesitate to
set aside laws and injunctions coming " from above," if they
were unsuitable to his " views," or ran counter to those passed
within his own sessional parliament. He had God's word
to back him : all else he defied. And the conviction of the
minister was the belief of the people. With few exceptions
the parish upheld him in his decisions. Docilely they
followed him, as sheep, whithersoever he, as shepherd, might
lead them. And if there had been no opposing belief to his


in the Scotland of 1650, when our records open, parish life
and parish character would have developed and flourished
after their genus, and have passed away peacefully according
to the course of nature.

The centre of this ecclesiastical system, the General
Assembly, never had, perhaps, respect adequate or power
sufficient given to it to cope with the various forces nominally
under its command. And where there is no central authority
of sufficient dignity in wisdom, piety, learning, or power,
equal to commanding the respect and obedience of men,
nothing but anarchy and misrule can prevail. The Reforma-
tion of 1560 overwhelmed the central ecclesiastical authority
of the land. But nothing so universally binding was put
in its place. True, there was a purer spiritual life, and a
more reasonable faith asserted once more, but the application
of this to externals was not so calmly and orderly adjusted
as could have been desired. When Knox died in 1572, and
Andrew Melville came to the front with his *' Divine right
of Presbytery," all the elements of Scottish life slowly assumed
the condition of inflammability, and the combustible and
explosive stage was merely a question of time. For if there
exist side by side with this belief in the "divine right of
presbytery " a not insignificant party whose conviction holds
all for the " divine right of episcopacy," if royalty, for example,
should also be convinced of its own " divine right " to uproot
this system of presbytery from the land, and plant "divine
right of episcopacy " in its place, is it not clear that combus-
tions must ensue, and something like Civil War take place ?
There was at work also the active agency of the spirit of
revenge. We do not need to say that this was actually the
state of matters prevailing in Scotland in 1650, and for many
years previous to it. King James VI. and I. and Charles


his son after him, would have their episcopacy forced upon
Scotland ; Scotland as strenuously, respecting herself and
her liberty, declared for divine right of presbytery, and this
she would have, and nothing else. And force met force in
the field, and saint met saint at the Throne of Grace and
spilt blood, and counterpetitioned and counterlawed each
other in the name of the Most High through most of the
seventeenth century.

For the same principle and conviction is found at the
root of the mad doings of the " killing time." That cultured
and civilised men, some of them of high breeding, should
deliberately and coldly imbrue their hands in the blood of
a helpless peasantry for the mere pleasure of the thing,
is what no sane person can now conceive. But when
men believe that one form of religion is God-designed and
divinely ordered, and that another system of worship is
superstitious and contrary to Scripture, they will only
think that they do God service when they put down the
one and establish the other, even at the heavy cost of much

1650 is the year that saw Cromwell cross the Tweed at
Berwick, march round by the east coast, Dunbar and Mussel-
burgh, and confront the forces of the Scotch in Edinburgh.
The year before he had settled the question of the " divine
right of kings " by executing King Charles I., and his con-
victions were just as free on the question as to the divine
right of episcopacy or presbyterianism. The arms to the
man who can use them, was his belief; the throne to the
man who can rule ; and the pulpit to the man who can
preach. It is the natural truth of the matter, and therefore
carries with it the true right of the divine. But Scottish
ministers everywhere held this as blasphemy, and defied him.


They stood by the Covenant and compelled Charles II. to
come under its obligations before they would permit him to
reign. He was secondary in their estimation to the Covenant
which declared for presbyterianism. The most characteristic
feature of this Covenant was its repudiation of prelacy. Prelacy
to them was the handmaid of popery, and both were black
superstition in the eyes of men who believed in the divine
right of presbyterianism. Round this central principle
religious fury raged throughout the land. But Cromwell
principally wished to prevent the Scots from setting up
Charles II. in the room of his father, who had but lately
expiated his crimes on the block. And with this in view,
when Charles II. landed at the mouth of the Spey in June
of 1650, he hurried from Ireland to London, from London
by Berwick to Edinburgh, to frustrate their intentions.
" Cromwell's host caused great excitement. At the ap-
proaching of this English army, many people here (Edin-
burgh), in the East parts and South, were overtaken with
great fears." " 22 July 1650 being ane Monday, the English
Army, under the Commandment of General Oliver Cromwell,
crossed the water of Tweed and marched into our Scottish
Borders to and about Aytoun, whereof present advertisement
was given to our Committee of State, and thereupon followed
ane strict proclamation that all betwixt 60 and 16 should
be in readiness the morn to march both horse and foot."
"During the lying of thir twa armies in the fields all the
cornes betwixt and twa or three miles be west Edinburgh on
both sides were destroyed and eaten up. Meat and drink
could hardly be had for money, and such as was gotten was
fuisted and sauled at a double price," *

This picture of terror and desolation over all the east and
* NicoU's Diary.


south finds corroboration in our records in the quotation we
have given above. Nothing was sacred, not even kirk
treasuries, to the plundering soldiers. The meagre details
we have of their visit to Channelkirk are touched with pathos
as well as sacrilege. The kirk session had met, and on
settling the year's accounts after September ist, when the
hostile armies were fronting each other at Dunbar, and two
days before the defeat of the Scottish host, there was found
the sum of ;^42, 4s. 4d. Thirty-six shillings had been paid
"to the Presbytery for James Murray," who was doubtless
a probationer fighting his way through the university with
such assistance, and twenty-four shillings more went " to the
poor smith of Ugston," and the rest fell into the hands of
the marauders. The precise date of their robbery is not
given, but there is an inferential hint given us in the blank
left after July 21st, which was Sunday. Cromwell came
across the Tweed on the Monday following, viz., the 22nd,
and there is no service in church on the subsequent Sunday,
July 28th. "Aug. 4" is the next entry. This might lead
us to imagine that the soldiers had scoured Lauderdale and
Channelkirk poor's box about that date. No doubt, the
helpless people would be thrown into great consternation,
and church attendances would be forgotten in the desire to
escape with precious life. The " box " which was broken
open so ruthlessly had also its romance. Six years after-
wards, there is a homely consideration given to the old
friend who was not to be discarded though desecrated,
and so —

" April 23. After the sermon the clerk brings to the session
the old box that was broken. The session sends it to the
smith that he may mend it and make a key for it. The
smith accordingly mad a key for qk (whilk) he gets 6 sh.


The session by vot (deliver) the box to Alexander Riddell
and the key to Adam Somervell, elders." It resumes its
wonted dignities also, for " qk day they put into the box the
four dayes collections, April 6, April 13, April 20, April 23 :
qk day they reckon wt Alexr. Riddell, and finds he hes
3 lib. 8 sh. qk is not yet distribut, qk they ordere to be put
into the box."

We can only express the regret that time has not handed
down to us this venerable object of the English soldiers'
regard, and can only surmise that the care over the church
possessions has not always risen to the level of the kirk
session of 1656.

While the battle of Dunbar was being decided on national
issues, the local difficulties of Channelkirk parishioners were
being settled by similarly rough methods. The minister
records that a month previous to Cromwell's invasion " Patrick
Haitly payd for drinking and reproaching Alexr. Riddell of
Hartsyd on the 20th of Jun, 56 sh." Pat's brother James
"on 2 Aug. 1650" pays "for himself and Margt. Simson
£7, I OS. for a more serious fault, although to reproach an
elder, such as Riddell was, did not pass in those days as a
slight misdemeanour.

There are one or two items which occur in 1653 which
may be interesting to the curious. A lock for the kirk door
cost twenty-two shillings, for instance, Scots money ; " build-
ing a door up of the church, 28 sh.," " 2 soldiers' wives get
1 2 sh.," " lime for the kirk " costs 18 sh., while there was " given
for casting of ten thousand divvets for the kirk, ^7," and
there was " given to craftsmen to lay them on and to sparg
the lym, ;^9," Mr Liddell was evidently busy having his
church put in good repair. Perhaps this was the first attempt
to put right the shameful condition of this place of worship


complained of so loudly by Liddell's predecessor, Cockburn.
" Divvet " renovation was better than none. Cockburn
grieves that "the parishioners cannot get rowme in the
kirk, the quir (choir) being doune." This was in 1627. We
are persuaded that nothing had been done to remedy matters
till this year of grace 1653. The great lords had seized the
kirk lands and kirk advowsons, and were indifferent whether
kirks or ministers sank or swam. Liddell appears to have
been suaver in his manners than Cockburn, who doubtless
had a Celtic preference for speaking his mind, and perhaps
got less attention from the heritors on this account. But the
fact of payments of £7 and £(^ for divots and labourers puts
them entirely aside. The work, for most part, must have
been undertaken by the parishioners themselves, and paid
for out of the kirk collections. Perhaps it was the more
satisfactory way of doing it.

There are not many other items in Liddell's record
which would be of general interest. There are the recurring
" poor " who receive help, and there is a significant entry " To
a cripl and to a prisoner, 4s.," which shows that war was at
the doors. We have also ample proof of the curious custom
of consigning a sum of money into the session's hands when
a marriage took place. This last item is fully explained by
the following : —

" Robert Halliwell being to be proclaimed for marriage with Jeannie
Halliwell, consigned two dollars that the marriage should be consumat,
and that there should be no promiscuous dancing and lascivious piping ;
which two dollars was delivered to Alexander Riddell in Hartsyd, July 8,
1655, to be kept till they should be redelivered — 5 lib. 10 sh.

"Sept. 30, 1655. — Whilk day Alexr. Riddell redelivered to Robert
Halliwell his two dollars whilk he consigned, and his bro.-in-law,
Richard Sclater, becaime caution that if his daughter was brought to
bed before the ordinar tyme, he should pay the penalty and cause her
satisfie the church."


It is unnecessary to say that this was a condition of social
affairs which, in their relationship to the Church, and kirk
sessions in especial, was prevalent during the seventeenth
century over all Scotland. The kirk records of churches,
the registers and minutes of presbyteries and synods,
collections of sermons, and the Acts of the General Assembly,
bear ample testimony to this statement. Festivals, penny
bridals, christening assemblies, or merry-makings in any
shape, were frowned upon by the officials of the Church as
pertaining to sinfulness.* The John Baptist ideal of life,
as viewed through a lurid atmosphere of sin and all its
attendant sacrifices and suppressions, took a deep hold of
the Scottish religious nature, and the loftier one of Christ
with its clearer heaven of forgiveness, and the happy union
of the human and divine affections, was almost wholly
obscured. Still, the natural wells of human feeling had not
totally dried up, for nothing is more persistently prominent
in these records than the sympathetic dole of money or goods
given to the poor. Again and again the "poor man in
Greengelt," whose name was Andrew Johnston, the "poor
smith in Ugston," and various others are relieved by the
kirk session's benevolence. "James Alin and his motherless
children " are never left out, and even the stranger has his
share. In the bleak days of January 1657 "the session thinks
fit to distribut 40 sh. (illings) to the 3 poor people in the
parish, because the wether is foul and they cannot travel."
Here is also an illustration of how the Scotch love of educa-
tion was fostered and fed, " Feby. 15 (1657) collected 7 sh.
whilk was fully distribut to James Alin's two sons, to pay
their quarterly stipend to the schoolmaster." James was a
widower, and needed, for some reason, considerable assistance
* See Buckle's History of Civilisation^ vol. iii.

THE MINISTP:RS and their times 173

from the session, and, as we see, his two boys were obtaining
their education out of the " collection " plate. But not only
scholars : the school, also, and the schoolmaster seem to have
been sustained out of the same intermittent source, as far
as we can make out from mangled words, blurs, and frayed
leaves. " 1659, May 29th, Adam Somerville, boxkeeper, by
warrant of the sessione, depursed fyve pounds to Will Milcum
(Malcolm?) in Netherhouden to (roof?) a house — for the
schollers to learn in." Some years afterwards this temporary
building would seem inadequate for its purpose, for on 25th
Nov. 1 66 1 "the elders met and unanimously decided to pay
the builders of the scole for that work, and to pay for the
timber out of kirk money which Adam Somervell has in
keeping. And they thought a schoolhouse for the school-
master " The necessary words to complete the sentence

are beyond our ability to decipher, but enough is given to
support the conclusion that the session had raised a school
for the parish and contemplated a schoolhouse also. They
purpose, however, to use means to get back the money from
the heritors. We trust they succeeded.

The dead are never far from the kirk, and the records
make frequent reference to them as a matter of course.
" Given to John Burrek (or Burrell), for mending the hoa and
speid and shool for making the graves, 20 sh." The " mort
cloth," large and small, is also a source of revenue to the
session, ;^i, 6s. 46., and 13s., being the respective sums ex-

The village, and south of the parish, being cut off from
the church by Mountmill Burn and Headshaw Burn, it was
necessary to have a bridge across them for accommodating
the people. We have therefore such allusions to it as this :
"Sept. 30, 1655. Appointed to be a day for a voluntar


contribution for building a bridge, the elders at the kirk door
collected 8 lib. 3 sh." " Oct, 7. Collected half-croun 30 sh.,
from those that were absent the former day for building the

This bridge would seem to have been over Mountmill
Burn (then Airhouse Water) near to the top of the old glebe
in the Haugh, where the old road from Oxton, crossing from
near Parkfoot, sloped down to the foot of the Kirk-brae, up
which the present road to the church still lies. There was no
stone bridge then at Peasmountford — the situation of the
present stone bridge, near the railway, over Mountmill Burn
— and it was really a ford through the water at that place.
The mark of the old road is still visible across the slope
opposite the Kirk-brae. Collections for this bridge are made
at different times up till November of 1655.

Reference is sometimes made to sums collected
" appointed for the rest of the house-meal," " given to mak
out the house meale," which may have accrued to the minister
when the stipend fell short in bad harvests.

The money in use has the names of pounds, shillings, and
pence, but " rix dollars," and " dollars " and " doits " are
common. Bad money was rife. "May 30, 1658. The elders
find that Adam Somervell has in the box counted by him
52 sh,, all which being for the most part ill copper, the
minister and (four) elders hav gotten it put off their hand,
and good money for it, which they delivered into Adam

Needless to say, the Lord's Supper was an affair of almost
superstitious regard. All its simplicity and clearness of
brotherly purpose was as completely buried out of sight by
Presbyterians as it ever was by Romanists, The feeling of
" Boo-man," with which children are horrified, was called up


whenever the season of its observance came round. The awe
and trembling with which savages regard eclipses of sun
and moon had its counterpart in the most holy yet most
natural of all the observances of the Christian religion.
"March 15, 16, and 17, 1662 — At which tyme the congrega-
tion meet for hearing sermons to prepare them for the Lord's
Supr and to stir them up to be thankfull for that ordinance."
An artificial and unwonted excitement of mind due to
rhetorical whipping and frequent services was considered
the correct spirit in which to break bread in commemoration
of Christ. The simple majesty of the act, resting upon the
natural faith and feelings of the sincere heart, was over-
whelmed by whirlwinds of words and a feverish atmosphere.
But we may not blame them who, in our present-day observ-
ance of the same holy rite, lull our souls into delectable moods
by such helps as low, sweet voicings, low lights, tremulous
murmurs, mysterious fingers, smooth faces, half-shut eyes,
grave gyrations, and all the varied machinery of pious cantrip
and devout incantation.

The last entry made by Liddell has kindly reference to
his predecessor which has been noticed in its place. Liddell
was called to the Barony Church, Glasgow, in 1662, and by
Act of Parliament, 4th July 1661, received ^100. He had
done splendid work during his twelve years in Channelkirk, and
was well worthy of his promotion to so honourable a position.
The building or repairing of the church, and the building of
school and schoolhouse were doubtless done under his direc-
tion and initiative, and where these two necessaries of civilised
life were provided, little else was required in a district so
completely rural, and moving in such circumscribed circum-
stances. He closes his record with " Laus Deo ! " He would
be nothing loth to leave the silent hills, with their loneliness


and irresponsiveness, for the excitement and honours of such
a city as Glasgow. It is said to be one of the severest trials
the human spirit can pass through, to be trained in the emula-
tion and vigour of student life, in cities and where societies
thought and feeling are raised to their best levels, and in
touch with the noblest sentiments of all ages, then to be com-
pelled to slog along in the muddy ways of country life, with
its torpid thought, inarticulations, crude manners, raw re-
venges, and frozen faiths. A man may quite realise it to be
his duty to bend his nature to these extremes, for he usually
has first gone from the country to the university, but the
change is too abrupt in either case, and, if it were possible,
some medium between the feast and the fast, the turkey and
the turnip, might be more agreeable. Liddell had doubtless
been in Aberdeen all his life, previous to his career at
Channelkirk, and twelve years' experience, which brings
much from his people's affection to help a country minister,
had not quenched his joy to return once more to a wider field
and a loftier society. The records of the Barony Parish yield
nothing concerning him. His name occurs repeatedly in the
" Munimenta " * of the University, but only in formal entries,
as consenting to deeds in his capacity of Dean of Faculties,
and such like. He held the office of dean from 1665 -1674.
He was elected in October of 1674, "by unanimous consent
and common vote of all the moderators," Professor of
Theology in Glasgow University, and took the oath. His
successor, Alexander Rosse, was elected in 1682, so that he
must have died about the middle of that year. The election
is on the 27th of September, and the chair is said to be vacant
by the death of Mr David Liddell, " lait professor thair." He
does not seem to have published any work.
* Maitland Club Publications.


Walter Keith — 1663-1682

The minister who succeeded David Liddell in Channel-
kirk was named Walter Keyth. He comes upon the scene
under different auspices from those attending his predecessor,
and leaves it with a totally different character. Episcopacy
began to grow powerful once more, and Presbyterians
trembled for their sacred ark. The Scottish Parliament
which met on ist January 1661, truculently forsook all the
principles which had modelled the laws of the former years,
and proceeded to not only pass some which were abhorrent
to Presbyterians, but abolished those which had hindered
Episcopacy from gaining the ascendency. The famous
Rescissory Act of 1661 fell like a death-knell on the
Presbyterian polity, and Episcopacy practically then came
into force. The Marquis of Argyle was executed in the
same year, and James Guthrie, minister of Stirling, some-
time of Lauder, perished on the scaffold, both bowing to
influences which were flowing adversely to the Presbyterians.
Samuel Rutherford was marked for the same doom had not
death snatched him from that fate. King Charles II. wanted
Episcopacy, and took measures to effect his purpose.
Ministers who had been ordained between 1649 and 1660
had been chosen by the kirk-session alone, the congregation
having right to complain to the Presbytery if they were dis-
satisfied. All these ministers were now proclaimed as
having no right to their livings. Here was change with a
vengeance. But a deeper wrong was inflicted because
offered under an insidious and immoral temptation. All
of these ministers who should consent to receive institution
at the hands of a bishop, and obtain presentation from
the patron, were to be continued in their parishes, churches,




manses, and emoluments as before. Hundreds, of course,
scouted the terms, and were driven forth to starve, or eat
the bread of charity. But the vacant pulpits had to be
filled, and from the north, which had always been an
Episcopalian preserve, "came a crowd of candidates, as
droves of black cattle are now brought from their wilds
to be fattened on the richer pastures of the south. The
parishes were filled, but many of them by men infamous
for their immoral lives, almost all of them by men despicable
for their talents and learning." *

Walter Keith seems to have been one of this "crowd,"
or related to it in some way, and all the characterisation
which we have quoted appears to fit him very well.

The year that brought Keith to Channelkirk was one
of much division throughout Berwickshire. The Presbytery
of Earlston consisted of nine parishes, but six of these
were true to Presbyterianism and against Episcopacy.
These were : —

Gordon — John Hardie, A.M.

Legerwood — William Calderwood, A.M., who along with his wife and
servant took refuge in Channelkirk parish after 1663, though he
continued to preach to his people in Legerwood, now and then,

Merton — James Kirkton, A.M., author of The Secret History of the

Online LibraryArchibald AllanHistory of Channelkirk → online text (page 14 of 50)