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the sawdusty areas of official appointments. Whatever
delights may be reaped by " parties " and contestants in
such melees, to the ministers immediately concerned in
them, winners or losers, there is no question that the
fires of the conflict are as the fires of the stake. The
degradation to morals, not to mention lofty spiritual
tone of mind, is immense. That such things must be
is an enduring grief to many.

As illustrating in some measure the character of a
distinguished historical personage, and the methods of
a Scottish ministerial election two hundred years ago,
we treat this vacancy in Channelkirk Church in some
detail. The records of Earlston Presbytery are our
authority and guide throughout.

The bugle note of battle was first sounded on the 7th
October 1697. ^^ Earlston Presbytery, "this day Adam
Knox and another of the elders of Chinelkirk, having

N



194 HISTORY OF CHANNELKIRK

commission from the elders of Chinelkirk, produced a
petition to the Presbytery, desiring Mr John Story might
be allowed to preach again to them to satisfy the non-
residing heritors, and that one of their number might be
sent to moderate in a call to him," Candidates had
already been heard in a calm, decent manner, and Story
had excited some enthusiasm in the discriminating bosoms
of the wise elders, who rather thought " he might do."
But the troublesome " non-residing heritors," always a
blister to Channelkirk susceptibilities, would have none
of him till they had heard him, and so comes this petition
that he might be allowed to preach again. "The Presby-
tery, taking the said petition to their consideration, refuses
the desire thereof at this time, in regard Mr Charles
Lindsay has not as yet preached to them."

It is at this point that the match is applied to the bon-
fire. This Charles Lindsay, as it turns out to be later,
is the favourite and nominee of the Earl of Marchmont.
Now the Presbytery look with great respect on his lord-
ship, and for the time being put this enthusiasm on the
part of the elders for John Story into a bath of cold water.
The elders had come thirteen miles with their petition,
and we can fancy that their prejudices were not formed
in favour of his lordship's protege whose interest had non-
plussed their scheme, nor would they spread through the
parish when they returned home a very favourable view of
how these sacred matters were judged in high quarters.
His lordship had a renowned name, of course ; he was a
zealous churchman, a white-hot Presbyterian, a great lawyer,
a power at the king's court, and a leader in the realm.
Why should not his choice obtain sway in an insignificant
country parish like Channelkirk ? He had set his heart



THE VACANCY 195

on Charles Lindsay. Let the Presbytery take note, and
be good enough to bend their acts and processes accordingly.
Should not all elders be humble and wise, and take light
and leading from Marchmont?

The high and wise patron is, we venture to think, the
best solution for ministerial elections ; and the bishop in
the church to guide and appoint is, perhaps, as genuine a
growth of human nature and human needs as is the king
in the nation or the parent in the home. But the people
will not always have this man to reign over them, and
by the old rebellious gate Satan enters and claims his
world. He had evidently glanced in upon Channelkirk
enthusiasts. Strange rumours had got afloat. The people's
choice was to be set aside for that of the Lord High Chan-
cellor. The Presbytery also seemed to be colluding with
his lordship. They, the humble farmers and jobbers in
an unheard-of parish, were to be eaten up without grace
or blessing by the powers above in matters ecclesiastic !
A belief gained currency that Lord Marchmont had
drenched two of the elders with his "plan," and had ob-
tained their co-operation and that of some of the heritors
in giving a call to Mr Charles Lindsay. Here was a
minister to be thrust upon them without due honour
and respect given to ruffled bosoms, glowing to embrace
John Story ! Thereupon the parish became a mass of
troubled water ; but what kind of an angel had gone down
is not recorded, neither is it said whether healing virtues
were found in the midst. The people were helpless, too,
or nearly so, for, as has been noted, power to elect a minister
lay not with them in those days, but with the heritors of
the parish and the elders in the church. Notwithstanding,
the force of public opinion is a strongly determining factor



196 HISTORY OF CHANNELKIRK

in this "planting of Chinelkirk." It is apparent at every
turn of the process.

But what was to be done? Marchmont had got his
" call " made out, it would seem. The Presbytery might be
smuggled into a consent ! What were distracted elders to
do ? After due deliberation, they agreed to petition the
Presbytery. Thereupon the canvass over the parish began.
Names were hurriedly adhibited, and all was hustled into
due form, and breathlessly presented to the Presbytery
before the wily chancellor's trick took effect. " Presbytery
(Nov. 7, 1697), i'"^ the sixth month of the vacancy, finding no
such call tabled before them, delays the consideration of the
petition, and appoints it to be in retentis" All the same,
the call was in existence. The reverend conclave seem to
have known the fact, but while willing to conciliate his lord-
ship, they could not ignore weighty considerations on the
popular side. His lordship's methods were also, to their
mind, somewhat dictatorial. Was the great chancellor going
to overlook the Presbytery as well as the elders, and give his
Charles Lindsay the call by himself? The Presbytery has
its suspicions.

Meantime, Adam Scott, John Thorburn, and Thomas
Tod, are also eager to have " a day " at Chinelkirk with a
view to the vacant pulpit. This being granted, Thorburn
plays his part there so well as to shift poor Mr Story from
his pedestal in the admiring hearts of the elders. " Put not
your trust in" — elders, Story might well have said. So on
24th February 1698, at Earlston Presbytery, there is "a
petition fra the Kirk-Session of Chinelkirk, presented and
read, desiring a minister may be sent from the Presbytery to
moderate in a call to Mr John Thorburn to be their minister."
See, saw ! One down, the other up !



THE VACANCY 197

The Presbytery, evidently very sick of the tedious busi-
ness, appoints three ministers to meet with the heritors and
elders, and gives them power to moderate in a call. One of
their number is appointed to give intimation hereof from
Channelkirk pulpit to all concerned. But before this can be
done, the High Chancellor again complicates matters. He
desires that Charles Lindsay may be heard at Channelkirk
yet another time. Would the Presbytery not concede this
to him ? The Presbytery concedes ; his name and piety being
potent. Intimation of a call is therefore delayed, and an
angry protest comes from Channelkirk. The angry breeze
there is becoming a howling storm. But between Lord High
Chancellors, heritors, elders, and people, all at variance, what
is the sedate Presbytery to do? On 6th October 1698 — the
terrible year of harvest failure, of wild winds, rains, and
snowstorms ; when great part of the corn could not be cut,
and people died in the streets and highways, some parishes
losing more than half their inhabitants — " the Presbytery," in
the eighteenth month of the vacancy, " finding great difficulty
in planting of the Church of Chinelkirk, by reason of the
difference betwixt the heritors of the said parochin, and the
elders, and the body of the people, refers the planting of the
said Church to the Synod." The poor distracted Presbytery
flings up its impotent hands in despair, and hustles the load
on to the back of the court above it. May the Synod have
joy of it ! This might be politic, but it was not furthersome.
For the Synod did not appear to have clearer light. The
Lord Chancellor was the terror. All might go well if his
infatuation for Charles Lindsay would cease and determine.
For be it known that Synods and Presbyteries cannot very
well stand haughtily up against a Lord High Magnate ; such
a friend of the Church, too, and so favoured by a Protestant



198 HISTORY OF CHANNELKIRK

Prince of Orange. The Synod cautiously would like to know
if his lordship's love for Lindsay cannot be dried up by some
desiccative process, and warily appoints ways and means to
ascertain. But the matter on trial was too deterring to
awestruck " brethren " who undertook this function, and
therefore, when the 24th of November comes, report is heard
in Presbytery that the Synod has done nothing. The
appointments have twirled off on gusts of official wind, and
the poor Presbytery is plunged again in anguish dire.

Well ? Refer it to the Commission this time. Presbytery
must wash its hands of the case somehow. In the Com-
mission's keeping — Commission being a kind of ecclesiastical
Court of Chancery — it is snug and safe.

Two years of this pious embroilment pass away, and June
1699 brings an additional complication. The chancellor's
call to Charles Lindsay, which so alarmed petitioners from
Channelkirk, and which the Presbytery found nowhere on
their table in November 1697, ^ow flutters out of its state
of hibernation, and alights with golden wing on every pro-
minence the Presbytery possesses. No doubt of it this time ;
and the alarms of Channelkirk elders one and a half years
ago appear not to have been out of place. The Lord High
Chancellor, through James Deas, advocate of Coldenknowes,
presents a call to Mr Charles Lindsay, "subscribed by
some of the heritors and elders " of Channelkirk, " which call
being read, the presbyterie found themselves difficulted in
regards there was formerly given to the presbyterie a sup-
plication subscribed by the plurality of the elders and body
of that people wherein they intimate their dissatisfaction
with, and aversion from having the said Mr Charles to be
their minister." But even if Channelkirk people and their
petition could be overlooked, the " presbyterie " has yet more



THE VACANCY 199

serious objections. " The said call was not moderate at the
appointment and by the direction of the presbyterie ! " The
Chancellor verily then did purpose to override their reverend
court ! But the worm thus turns upon the wily high-planning
Ulysses of Marchmont, and will show him that it has pre-
rogatives and powers ! A proud spirit which does not live long.
For after having hissed so much in the forensic ears, refuge
is again taken within the jungle of the General Assembly's
Commission, to which both call and case are referred with
blessings.

Almost another twelvemonth goes by, during which time
letters, and petitions, and arguments fly thick between
Marchmont, Earlston, and Channelkirk ; the " case " mean-
while "depending." At last, on 19th September 1700, in
the fourth year of the Armageddon, devout and vociferous
John Veitch, of Westruther, " reports that the Commissioners
from this presbyterie spake to the members of the Commis-
sion of the General Assembly to whom the Chinelkirk affair
was committed, and that they gave this return — that the
Chancellor had got up his call, and that they would meddle
no further in that affair."

So : the Commission was as timid as the Synod to face the
pious lion of Marchmont. The Presbytery could do no more.
Stagnation and ineptitude were to prevail. All the Church
courts shuddered to thwart Lord Marchmont, and to all
appearance the people of Channelkirk would have to accept
his nominee with the best grace possible. Yet, perhaps not !
The people themselves, while Church courts were laboriously
doing nothing, took the matter up and bethought them of a
counterplan to his of Marchmont. Election, be it re-
membered, lay with heritors and elders only. Now, if new
elders could be got to any considerable number, the votes



200 HISTORY OF CHANNELKIRK

might not fall out so conveniently for Charles Lindsay !
Who knew? Another petition, then, gets rolled down its
thirteen miles to Earlston Presbytery, beseeching for new
elders for Chinelkirk. Eight names are submitted as those
of quite capable men. Nowadays, the necessary two can
scarcely be got, as though God did beseech them by us ; but
it is another matter when there is guerilla warfare to enforce,
and a lofty lord to humble. Sweet are then the duties and
honours of an elder. Pious is he, and fit beyond words.

But the wily and wary Chancellor gets wind of the plot,
and counterpetitions against these elders, and again menac-
ingly urges Charles Lindsay. Presbytery tearfully wrings its
hands and implores delay, and sends post-haste one of its
number to the Commission of Assembly for their advice.
Presbytery bethinks itself, however, that notwithstanding its
inability to " plant " a minister, the " making of" elders need
not stretch its strength so much, and so quietly, yet ventur-
ously, shuffles along with that matter, hearkening with its
deaf ear to the roar of the lion. Elders are therefore
diligently ridden steeplechase over the stiles that obstruct
their path. Attendances, characters, catechism, family be-
haviour, doctrinal soundness- — all are found most excellent.
Bang, then, go they into the most holy place. And now,
let the Lord High Chancellor consider his ways !

In the intervals of controversy, and through rifts in the
battle smoke, we discern that three probationers among
many attain a certain distinction and favour in Channel-
kirk quarters, and something may come of it : James Gray,
Henry Home, and William Knox are their names. The
elders were ordained in March 1701, and on 3rd April
Thomas Brounlies, one of them, requests the Presbytery to
grant "a hearing of Mr Wm. Knox and Mr Wm. Keith."



THE VACANCY 201

Keith is a son of the notorious "curate of Chinelkirk," of
whom we have already heard somewhat. Presbytery sends
Knox, and in May, two heritors and two elders desire
the Presbytery to moderate in a call to one of the three —
Home, Gray, and Knox. So sick are they of the whole
tangled matter, that they will thankfully accept any one
of these, the more cheerfully, too, because Lindsay, the
hated Chancellor's nominee, is not one of them. But ever
sleepless " Patrick, Earl of Marchmont, Lord High Chan-
cellor, one of the heritors of the parish of Chinelkirk,"
pounces down upon the cowering Presbytery once more,
and frightens it into another fit of " delay." Still later in
the same month, a more urgent appeal comes from heritors
and elders of Chinelkirk to call one of the three, and still
another letter from the menacing Chancellor, The poor
Presbytery is at its last gasp in such a state of matters.
But as the ages testify, light dawns at the darkest hour.
The Presbytery, like the ox driven desperate, lolling out
its tongue in its " forfoughen " and prostrate condition,
with the goads of heritors, elders, people, and a pious
Chancellor thrust into it, recalls some virility to its help,
screws itself up to act, if possible, and fixes a day, loth
of June, for a meeting of all concerned at Chinelkirk "to
try if they can be brought to agree unanimously upon one
to be their minister." Unanimously ! The Presbytery
in its weak state sees visions and dreams dreams, A
minister unanimously agreed upon by a Presbyterian
electorate !

However, it is a policy with a glimmering of good
in it, and on the loth of June 1701, this meeting does
take place at Chinelkirk. Lord Polwart was there, son of
the Chancellor, and the lairds of Trabroun, Johnstonburn



•202 HISTORY OF CHANNELKIRK

and Kirklandhill, the inflexible Chancellor himself being
also in the near neighbourhood, but not condescending to
mingle among the others, all of whom seemed favourable
to Mr Henry Home. But Sir James Hay, Lady Moriston,
the lairds of Cruixton, Heartsyde, Nether Howden, and
all the elders, save one, wished to have William Knox. No
unanimity possible here. The Lord Chancellor was ap-
proached and informed of this, and " my Lord Chancellor
gave a commission to signifie to the meeting that he was
sorry there was not ane union amongst them, and that there
was a call independent, which he would prosecute as far
as law would allow." He still clung to Charles Lindsay,
and dared them to thwart him. The old bombardment
of Presbytery took place as a consequence ; petitions,
letters, vociferations, tedious to every one, and the tedious
Presbytery found itself as usual " difficulted," craved delay,
and resolves to ask advice from several brethren of the Synod !
There was one other method not yet tried which a
Presbytery driven distracted might attempt, viz., to kneel
at the most High Chancellor's feet, and beseech him to
have mercy, and settle this dreadful election now going
into its five years of unchristian bitterness. This the
Presbytery contemplated doing. For when interminable
petitions to " moderate in a call " showered down from
Channelkirk, and interminable loquacious letters fluttered
in from Marchmont, the Presbytery, " with the assistant
brethren" — called in to strengthen the feeble knees and
uphold the weak hands — " having pondered the above
desire and letter," on 17th July 1701, "came to this re-
solution, that ane letter should be writtened in name of
the Presbytery to my Lord Chancellor, signifying their
deference to his lordship, and how willing they would be



THE VACANCY 203

to comply with his lordship's desire if the heritors, elders,
and body of the people were of his minde." On their knees,
then, they go before his lordship, very deferring, very
willing, very compliant, and yet, what can one do in the
teeth of heritors, elders, and the body of the people ?

Presbytery is pressed out of measure by such weighty
considerations, and falls back once more on "delay," not-
withstanding " that pressing instances were made daily
by the parochin for a minister to moderate in a call."
That is to say, " It was further resolved to delay this affair
till next Presbytery day, when the Presbytery shall grant
the desire of the said parochin unless they find a relevant
ground for a further delay. There was Scotch caution,
indeed ! But it was clear that if the Lord Chancellor, the
wordy, inextricable Patrick, should lower his brows over
the Presbytery before next " day," the parochin might find
its " desire " as unattainable as ever. This the wily Patrick
proceeds to do by the usual "letter." The "day" was
7th August 1 70 1. With the "letter" appeared, as usual,
the faithful petitioners from Channelkirk, " insisting in their
former desire." It is William Knox, too, probationer,
whom they always hold aloft on their shoulders as their
" Desire." He, to all appearance, is the favourite of the
people. " Let this man reign over us," they cry.

We know not whether the petitioners had been more
than usually urgent, or that some scintillations of gracious
concession had been made in his " letter " by my Lord
Patrick, or that, goaded beyond all suffering, the poor
presbyterial ox had pulled ropes, rings, and goads out of
its tormentors' hands and made off with them, but it is
clear that the "day" was a day of decision, and the final
summing up of a five years' battle was at hand.



204



HISTORY OF CHANNELKIRK



" The Presbytery considering the contents of foresaid
letters (the Chancellor's), and the instant desire of the
heritors and elders above mentioned, did appoint Mr
Robert Lever (Merton), to preach at Chinelkirk next
Lord's day, and there and then from the pulpit to make
publick intimation to the heritors, elders, and others con-
cerned in the calling of a minister to that parochin to
meet upon Thursday, the 23rd inst, for that effect."

The meeting at Chinelkirk took place, but not on the
23rd, as fixed, but on the 21st of September. The winding
up of the " last scene of all " cannot be better told than in
the words of the minute of Presbytery.

"At Channelkirk, the 2ist day of August, 1701 years, the which day
after sermon preached by Mr Wm. Calderwood, Mr George Johnston,
Modr., Jo. Veitch, and Calderwood, and James Douglas, the ministers
appointed by the presbytery of Earlston to meet at Chinelkirk, to
moderate in a call to a minister for that parochin did meet accordingly,
and with them the Heritors and Elders following, viz. : —

'Patrick, Earl of Marchmont, Lord High Chancellor
of Scotland.

Lord Polwarth.

William Borthwick, Johnstonburn.

John Borthwick, Cruixton.

John Spotswood, Advocate.

Alex. Somervell.

James Aitchison.

Gilbert Aitchison.

Simeon Wedderston.
1^ George Somervaill.

James Waddell.
Thomas Brounlies.
John Lowdian.
James Taitt.
James Wedderston.
George Kemp.

V

" Mr George Johnston, Modr., did constitute the meeting with prayer.
Mr James Douglas was chosen clerk.



Heritors.



Elders.



THE VACANCY 205

" A motion was made by my Lord Chancellor, that all who were 'to
vote in calling a minister should take the oath of Allegiance, and sign
the Assurance, which oaths being read, the Allegiance was tendered by
the Lord Chancellor to the heritors and elders present, and sworne by
them, and the Assurance signed.

" The officer being appointed to call at the church door if there were
any heritors or others without who had right to vote in calling of a
minister to the parochin : Compeared Geo. Douglas, portioner of New-
tonlies, and delivered a commission to himself from Sir James Hay of
Simprin, and others mentioned in the said commission, empowering him to
vote for Mr Wm. Knox, preacher of the Gospell, to be minister at Chinel-
kirk. As also Mr Andrew Cochran, portioner to Andrew Ker of Moriston,
produced a commission from the Tutors of Moriston, and another com-
mission from Margaret Swinton, Lady Moriston, empowering him to vote
for the said Mr Wm. Knox ; which commissions were read, and it being
objected by the Chancellor against the said George Douglas and Mr
Andrew Cochran that they had no right to vote in calling of a minister by
virtue of their said commissions, in regard all heritors and others con-
cerned in calling of a minister are required to qualify themselves accord-
ing to law at the tyme of signing the call."

The matter of commissions having been adjusted, the
great event of the day transpired.

"The Moderator having asked the heritors and elders whom they
designed to call for their minister. Some were for calling Mr Henry
Home, others for calling Mr William Knox, and it being put to the vote,
which of the said two should be elected, the roll being called, the votes
split — seven voters being for the one, and seven for the other — and two
non liquet. Whereupon, after a little demurring, the Laird of Cruixton,
being one of the non Itquets, arose and demanded his letter directed to Mr
James Douglas to be communicat to a former meeting at Chinelkirk
signifying his assent and consent to the calling of Mr William Knox to
be minister there ; and upon the Moderator's reply that they had not the
letter, but the Presbytery Clerk, and that they were not the Presbytery —
did instantly vote for Mr Henry Home, and a call being produced be
my Lord Chancellor to the said Mr Henry, he did subscribe the same
with others, which being done, and George Douglas and Mr Andrew
Cochran called in, the meeting was closed with prayer."

Twelve months afterwards, five of the six elders protested

in due form "against the ordaining of Mr Henry Home

minister of Channelkirk," but the Presbytery " found nothing

of moment in this paper," and proceeded with his settlement,



206 HISTORY OF CHANNELKIRK

which took place at Channelkirk on 23rd September 1702, a
year and a month after his election to the vacancy. The
elders had greater reason to complain to the Presbytery con-
cerning Mr Home in the years following.

So ends the ecclesiastical Waterloo of Channelkirk. It is
impossible to review the deplorable state of Church matters
here laid bare in the hard and dry statements of Earlston
Presbytery minutes, without feeling that whoever was to
blame, the Church of Channelkirk was deeply injured in
its highest interests by such unseemly procedure. No doubt
it was a remote parish, and its inhabitants were few, but its
very weakness and want of influence should have commanded
consideration from those who had the control of its spiritual
welfare. Instead of this, there is evident in every step of the
clerical and unclerical processes, a wanton and selfish dis-
regard of the honour of religion, and the spiritual wants of
the people. Personal whim and arrogance cloud every
judgment and stamp every action ; and in order to obtain



Online LibraryArchibald AllanHistory of Channelkirk → online text (page 16 of 50)