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extraordinary great darkness." To us, looking back
on these matters with the cultivated indifference of
the present day, it seems strange that the provisions
of those articles should have excited so much commo-
tion even upon earth. They enjoined the attitude of
kneeling at the Communion, permitted private bap-
tism on necessary cause, insisted on the rite of con-
firmation, and required the due observation of holy
days. What was there in all this to give such dire
offence ?

"To see how deep these simple rules of ecclesiastical
ceremonial or ritualism cut into the prejudices of a large
portion of the community, it may be proper to glance back
at some conditions peculiar to the Eeformation in Scotland.
The stranger in a Scotch Presbyterian church generally
remarks that the form of sendee seems to have no other
ruling principle save that of antagonism to the forms of all
the churches which have adhered, in whole or in part, to
the traditional ceremonial of the Church of the middle ages.
Where in these the suppliant humbly kneels in prayer, in
Scotland he stands straight up, with his head erect, as if he
would look the Giver of all in the face, and demand what he
prays for. Then in the celebration of the sacrament of the
Atonement, while in other churches the ceremonies are


adjusted so that the communicant shall appear as a sup-
pliant humbly receiving the great boon at the hands of
those authorised to render it, in the ministration of the Lord's
table in Scotland, scrupulous care seems to have been taken
to give the whole as much as possible the aspect of a mis-
cellaneous party assembled for convivial enjoyment round a
hospitable board." Vol. vi. p. 323.

In contrast with this it may not be out of place to
quote the passage in which Lord Macaulay traces the
spirit of compromise which pervaded the ceremonial,
as well as the creed, of the Church of England.

" Utterly rejecting the doctrine of transubstantiation, and
condemning as idolatrous all adoration paid to the sacra-
mental bread and wine, she yet, to the disgust of the Puritan,
required her children to receive the memorials of divine
love, meekly kneeling upon their knees. Discarding many
rich vestments which surrounded the altars of the ancient
faith, she yet retained, to the horror of weak minds, a robe
of white linen, typical of the purity which belonged to her
as the mystical spouse of Christ. Discarding a crowd of
pantomimic gestures which, in the Eoman Catholic worship,
are substituted for intelligible words, she yet shocked many
rigid Protestants by marking the infant just sprinkled from
the font with the sign of the Cross. The Roman Catholic
addressed his prayers to a multitude of saints, among whom
were numbered many men of doubtful, and some of hateful,
character. The Puritan refused the addition of saint even
to the apostle of the Gentiles, and to the disciple whom
Jesus loved. The Church of England, though she asked for
the intercession of no created being, still set apart days for
the commemoration of some who had done and suffered
great things for the faith. She retained confirmation and
ordination as edifying rites : but she degraded them from
the rank of sacraments. Shrift was no part of her system.
Yet she gently invited the dying penitent to confess his
sins to a divine, and empowered her ministers to soothe the
departing soul by an absolution which breathes the very
spirit of the old religion." l

1 History, vol. i. pp. 53, 54.


The time when such a system could be adopted by
the Scotch Eeformers, if it had ever existed, was long
past. In England it readily found acceptance, favoured
by many peculiarities in the origin and early develop-
ment of the Reformed Establishment. Devised by
unenthusiastic statesmen the English Church polity
was given to a people naturally averse to extremes,
with whom there were no memories of a recent and
desperate contest to rouse suspicion of its compro-
mising spirit or hatred of the traces it bore of the
august superstition which they had so long revered.
And, while much was lost, sufficient of the tem-
poralities was retained to maintain with propriety the
observances which that polity required. The decent
church, the stately cathedral, the wealth and dignity
of the superior clergy, gave appropriateness to some
measure of ceremonial splendour. In Scotland none
of these influences were at work. Hence the rude
simplicity of the new rites may be rested on grounds
more intelligible than a love for the semblance of
" convivial enjoyment/ 7 or a disposition to demand
rather than to supplicate the favour of the Deity.
There Protestantism took its shape, not from the hands
of statesmen, but from the hands of zealots who,
hardly victorious in their long struggle with Popery,
could tolerate nothing that reminded them of their
formidable foe. The Church, despoiled by greedy
magnates, had no longer the means of maintaining
any stateliness of ceremonial. Nor, had these means
existed, would they have been so used. The crying
sin of the Roman Catholic Church had been idolatry ;
and everything that recalled her observances was held
to savour of idolatry. The worship of the heart must
be independent of all outward seeming. Even the
ordinary attitude of devotion was rejected as unneces-
sary when approaching Him who seeth in secret ; as


actively evil, because so the inward reality is forgotten
in the external form. Moreover, at this time, Popery
was not only hated in Scotland, but feared. The
contest was too recent, and had been too arduous, for
all alarm to have subsided. Popery still held its
ground in the north ; and a belief became general
that the faithless Stuarts were experimenting upon
Scottish forbearance, with the ulterior view of at last
restoring the old faith in ED gland.

Ignorance, or rather the half-knowledge which is
worse than ignorance, came to aid prejudice. Popery
was declared to have sprung from paganism. The
"Yule vacane" was denounced as having been origi-
nally a festival in honour of the Scandinavian Jol ;
the surplice had been taken from the priests of Isis,
and was thus one of the abominations from which the
people had fled into the desert. In the temper in
which the people then were, fancies like these found
ready credence, and exercised a powerful influence.

Such were the motives which animated the resis-
tance to the Articles of Perth. James, after a struggle,
gave way ; showing in this, perhaps, wiser " king-
craft" than in any other action of his life. Laud, then
rising into note, urged persistence ; but the king not
only disregarded his evil counsel, but opposed himself
to Laud's promotion, hardly yielding on the latter
point to the solicitations of Buckingham. He gave
his reasons in a remarkable statement, quoted by
Mr. Burton with the true comment that, if we
knew nothing else of James, the sagacity therein dis-
played would entitle him to be classed among the
wisest of rulers.

" The plain truth is that I keep Laud back from all place
of rule and authority, because I find he has a restless spirit,
and cannot see when matters are well, but loves to toss and
change, and to bring things to a pitch 'of reformation floating


in his own brain, which may endanger the steadfastness of
that which is in a good pass, God be praised. I speak not
at random. He hath made himself known to me to be such
a one ; for when three years since, I had obtained of the
assembly of Perth to consent to five articles of order and
decency in correspondence with this Church of England, I
gave them promise, by attestation of faith made, that I
would try their obedience no farther anent ecclesiastical
affairs, nor put them out of their own way, which custom
had made pleasing to them, with any new encroachment.
Yet this man hath pressed me to invite them to a nearer
conjunction with the liturgy and canons of this nation ; but
I sent him back again with the frivolous draught he had
drawn. It seemed I remembered St. Austin's rule better
than he : ' Ipsa mutatio consuetudinis, etiam quce adjuvat
utilitate, novitate perturlat.' For all this he feared not
mine anger, but assaulted me again with another ill-fangled
platform to make that stubborn Kirk stoop more to the
English pattern. But I durst not play fast and loose with
my word. He knows not the stomach of that people ; but I
ken the story of my grandmother the queen-regent, that
after she was inveigled to break her promise made to some
mutineers at a Perth meeting, she never said good day, but
from thence, being much beloved before, was despised by
her people."

Charles I. succeeded to his father's throne, some
short while after these words were written for his
guidance, in the spring of 1625. From the first he
disregarded them, and threw himself into the wild
schemes of Laud. At this point Scottish history
again assumes an interest which extends far beyond
Scotland. In the anti- papal conflict Scotland was
the proposed battle-field of the contending forces of
Europe. Now her sphere of action is less extensive,
but the part she plays becomes more decisive and more
dignified. Her ecclesiastical politics combine with
her secular, and both flow on together in one great
stream, bearing with it the liberties of England.



Those liberties were never before or since so endan-
gered as they were by the policy of Charles. After
the decision in favour of ship-money, Strafford's plan
of " Thorough" bid fair for success. But a few years'
peace, and the ship-money would have maintained a
standing army ; and the liberties of England would
have been as the liberties of Spain. At this crisis an
act of " insane bigotry " changed the whole aspect of
affairs. The use of Laud's liturgy was forced upon
Scotland. Patient under much, the Scotch people
would not tolerate that the public worship of God
should be profaned, as they thought, by a prela-
tical service. Constitutional resistance in Scotland
was impossible. But they were a turbulent and
unruly race : as prompt to appeal to the God of
battles as the English had been two centuries before.
Their rebellion, and invasion of England, brought upon
Charles a war expenditure, and forced him to meet his
Parliament. But for that, it is very possible he might
have continued to govern without a Parliament, as he
had done for eleven years ; and, ere the close of his
reign, accomplished his cherished design of trans-
forming the English Constitution into a despotism.
With the union of the crowns it might have been
confidently anticipated that the independent action
of Scotland would end. And suchj unquestionably,
would have been her fate but for the ecclesiasti-
cal innovations of Charles. The fierceness of the
passions which they roused elevated Scotland to
a prominence and influence altogether dispropor-
tionate to her real power ; and, at the crisis of
1640, enabled her to determine the political future
of the Empire.

" Of the two states united, the small state had ardour and
strength sufficient to drag the large state along with it ; for
Scotland began the contest which, after becoming so mernor-


able in British history, influenced the fate of the whole
civilised world." 1

The whole of this long struggle, from its beginning
with the resumption of the Church revenues in 1625,
down to the final outbreak in 1640, is narrated by
Mr. Burton with remarkable vigour. He has vividly
realised to himself the ever- varying story; and he
therefore tells it with perfect sequence, and in true
proportion. The narration occupies the greater part
of the sixth and seventh volumes; and though minute,
as the theme deserves, is never dull or prolix, often
strikingly novel and forcible. The writer rises to an
unwonted command of the picturesque when he de-
scribes the renewal of the Covenant in Greyfriars'
Churchyard under the shadow of the castle-rock, or
the meeting of the great assembly of 1638 in the
Cathedral of Glasgow a meeting of hardly less histor-
ical moment than the meeting of the Long Parliament
itself, but for which, indeed, it may well be doubted
if the Long Parliament would ever have met at all.

The contest between Episcopacy and Presbyterian-
ism, which had been carried on with varying fortunes,
but not, heretofore, with irreconcilable bitterness, or
beyond hope of a peaceful settlement, came to a swift
decision in this storm. Under the forcing power of
oppression, Scotland had in three years become more
violently Presbyterian than in the seventy which had
preceded. The whole Episcopal hierarchy was over-
thrown, the bishops were deposed, not a few of them
excommunicated; and the Presbyterian system of
Church Courts formally reconstructed. In 1640 these
proceedings were ratified by the Estates, who also
adopted the Covenant, and imposed it, under civil
penalties, on the whole community.

Our limits forbid our following Mr. Burton through

1 Burton, vol. vii. p. 281.


the details of this great national crisis ; it presents,
however, one or two features deserving of special

The popular impression is that the Scotch rebelled
rather than submit to the use of any recognised form
for the conduct of public worship. This is a mistake.
The Scotch had then no aversion to a liturgy ; on the
contrary, they had long been familiar with the use of
one. In 1557 the Lords of the Congregation had
agreed that in parish churches the English liturgy of
Edward vi. should be adopted. In 1560 that was
superseded by the Book of Common Order, commonly
known as Knox's Liturgy, of which Mr. Burton 1 gives
an interesting account, describing it as " less ritualistic
in character than the English Common Prayer." The
book, no doubt, had some enemies. There were con-
gregationsj even at that date, which rejected it in
common with all forms of prayer. On the other hand,
there were congregations who preferred the English
Prayer-book, and were permitted to use it undisturbed.
It is when we contrast such liberality in the national
temper with the fanaticism into which oppression and
persecution drove the Scotch^ that we are able truly
to appreciate what evil may be wrought by misgovern-
ment. On the whole, we may safely conclude that
the Book of Common Order was popular throughout
Scotland. It was used at morning service in the very
church where, in the afternoon of the same day, the
introduction of Laud's liturgy roused the wrath of
Jenny Geddes. What the Scotch objected to was the
substitution for their own service-book of a new one
and a worse one. Nay, Laud's liturgy differed, for
the worse, not only from the Book of Common Order,
but even from the English Prayer-book. And in this
they suspected nor can we pronounce their suspicions

1 Vol. v. pp. 63-70.


unreasonable an insidious design. That design was,
they thought, to establish Popery in England ; and
the present outrage was a cunning experiment on the
vile body of Scotland, to discover how much the people
would endure. The Scotch Commissioners so put
their case in the articles against Laud : " By this their
doing they did not aim to make us conform to Eng-
land, but to make Scotland first (whose weakness in
resisting they had before experienced in novations of
government and of some points of worship), and
therefore England, conform to Eome, and even in
those matters wherein England had separated from
Kome ever since the time of the Keformation." More
than all, perhaps, the people rose up against the mode
in which this Prayer-book was forced upon them. It
was the culminating point of a system of innovation
long and deliberately carried on ; it brought before
the people, in one tangible result, the meaning and
purpose of the misgovernment which for so many
years they had endured. As far back as 1636 Charles
had issued at his own hand, and enforced on the
clergy by his sole authority, a body of canons for the
governance of the Church. These canons contained,
it must be confessed, little that was really objection-
able, though they did enjoin certain forms which
savoured of prelacy ; but the flagrant illegality of the
mode in which they were imposed incensed the nation
far more than their substance. 1 Even the stanchest
Episcopalians murmured ; indeed, so high-handed
was the usurpation of authority, that it offended the

One of these canons, whatever may have been thought of it then,
would be highly approved by many Presbyterian congregations at the
present day. " Albeit the whole time of our life be but short to be
bestowed in the service of God, yet seeing He tempereth that work to
our weakness, it is ordained that preachers in their sermons and prayers
eschew tediousness, and by a succinct doing leave in the people an
appetite for further instruction, and a new desire for devotion."


priestly pretensions of the bishops hardly less than it
exasperated the declared opponents of the royal pre-

A strange zeal for special points of doctrine and
form moved certain of the Stuart race. James n.
"lost three kingdoms for a mass;" Charles I. raised
the rebellion which cost him his kingdom and his
head for a liturgy. It seems probable that, in matters
secular, he might, so far as Scotland was concerned,
have indulged his tyrannical nature with impunity.
Constitutional resistance was, as we have said, impos-
sible ; and the people would not readily have taken
up arms for any lighter cause than purity of worship.
So far as we can now judge they were animated by
no dislike to the person of the Sovereign even when
they delivered him up to his English subjects, in a
manner more illustrative of the national prudence
than of the national chivalry. Beyond doubt they
were not urged by hostility to the throne. They at
once proclaimed Charles II. as his father's successor ;
and opposed themselves, in support of the monarchy,
to the whole power of Cromwell. But the one thing
they could not away with, which they were resolved
to resist at all hazards and to the last, was aught
that savoured of Popery. And this was what they
believed to be thrust upon them.

At the same time, the people could not fail to
remark, as a symptom of the same policy, a subtle and
persistent system of encroachment on the privileges,
such as they were, of the Scotch Parliament. It is
difficult, indeed, to say whether hatred of the kirk or
love of despotic power was the leading motive with
the Stuart kings. Charles was, after a fashion, a keen
Episcopalian ; and James had a very natural dislike
for the austere and rude zealots who had so often
rebuked him and set him at naught. But no motive


could hold long sway in the infirm mind of James ;
and Charles, on an emergency, had no scruple in
giving his royal sanction to an Act declaring Epis-
copacy contrary to the Word of God. We suspect
that, on the whole, much as the Stuarts loved Epis-
copacy, they hated freedom more ; but their policy
was of a piece. The liberties of Scotland were at
that time involved in the independence of the Church,
and so could be, and were, attacked together.

The grievances of which the Scotch complained
may be gathered from the explicit statement which
they made of their demands on the eve of hostilities.
These were : the abolition of the Court of High Com-
mission ; the withdrawal and disavowal of the Book of
Canons, the Book of Ordination, and Laud's Service-
book; a free Parliament; and a free General Assembly.

Charles took part in this contest with his usual
weakness and duplicity. He issued a solemn decla-
ration assuring "all men" that he would not press
the Canons and Service-book but in a fair and legal
way ; and at the very same time he wrote to Hamil-
ton, the Lord High Commissioner, declaring that " I
will rather die than yield to those impertinent and
damnable demands." He threw away his only chance
of beating the Scotch when they first invaded Eng-
land ; thinking to ward off the danger by entering
into negotiations which, on his part, were a mere
pretence. Mr. Burton seems even to credit the story
widely believed at the time that the Irish rebel-
lion was secretly stirred up by the court, and that
Charles, when in Scotland in 1661, actually sent the
Irish rebels a Commission with the Great Seal of Scot-
land, authorising them to make war upon " all English
Protestants " within the island. When we remember
that, through ill-luck or treachery, all this miserable
faithlessness was known to his opponents, we cannot


but wonder at their long-suffering. It were beyond
the scope of this article to dwell upon the part played
by Scotland during the civil war her triumphs and
her humiliation. The secular affairs of Scotland dur-
ing this time and, indeed, ever since the accession
of James to the English throne really form part of
the history of England, and have been so regarded
by English historians. Mr. Burton, feeling this, has
treated them with brevity ; his reviewer may be per-
mitted to pass them over in silence. It seems better
to complete our sketch of the development of Scottish
ecclesiasticism ; worthy of attention both from its
peculiar features, and because of the influence which
it long exercised, and, to a considerable extent, still
exercises, over the people.

Few sovereigns have ever enjoyed nobler oppor-
tunities of beneficent legislation than Charles n. ; and
especially as touching the affairs of the Churches. In
England, wise and firm statesmanship might have re-
strained the fury of the restored Cavaliers ; might havs
redeemed the errors of Elizabeth; and, to the exclu-
sion doubtless of many zealots and fanatics, might
have embraced, within one liberal and expansive
Church, men, differing indeed in opinion, but differ-
ing in moderation and with mutual indulgence
such men as Usher on the one side, and Baxter on
the other. In Scotland a like work of peace and
reconciliation would have been more easy. For there
no powerful body of exiles had returned, thirsting for
revenge, resolute against concession. On the contrary,
the state of Scotch parties gave promise of a ready
compromise. The wild zealots of the West, though
protected, had been tamed by the administration of
Cromwell. And in the days of their power they had
so borne themselves as to have alienated the great
bulk of the people. Many even of the stern soldiers


who followed Leslie across the Tyne had cooled in
their zeal for the Covenant. For, in their minds, the
rebellion and the dream of three covenanted kingdoms
was now associated with the great overthrow of Dun-
bar, and years of alien domination. To the younger
generation the gloomy doctrines of a past time seemed
to fly away before the new day of peace and tolera-
tion which was dawning with the restoration of their
native princes. The aristocracy, secure in their pos-
session of the church lands, had forgotten their Cal-
vinistic zeal ; the clergy were anxious for rest, and as
a class thoroughly loyal. It would, then, we firmly
believe, have been a work of no great difficulty to
have devised a system of Church government,
partly Episcopalian, partly Presbyterian in form,
the establishment of which would have been wel-
comed by the whole nation, with a few insignificant

Unhappily, a very different course was pursued :
all idea of compromise was laid aside. The Cove-
nant was burned by the common hangman ; the
whole Presbyterian polity swept away ; the General
Assemblies, so dear to the people, closed ; Prelacy in
its strictest form established the bishops being re-
stored to more than their former power, if to less
than their former splendour 1 upwards of 300 clergy-
men turned out of their livings because they would
not deny the orders they held, and accept Episcopal
collation. To what we should ascribe this wanton-
ness of tyranny it is not very easy to discover. Sir
George Mackenzie gives a curious account of a solemn
Council on Scotch affairs, in which the question of
Episcopacy versus Presbytery was debated. 2 The

1 Kirkton describes the bishops of 1612 restrained by Church Courts
as " mere pigmies " compared with the bishops of the Restoration.

2 Memoirs, pp. 52-56.


establishment of Episcopacy was urged by Middleton

Online LibraryHenry H LancasterEssays and reviews → online text (page 6 of 38)