William Chambers.

The Scottish church from the earliest times to 1881 to which is prefixed an historical sketch of St. Giles' Cathedral online

. (page 23 of 37)
Online LibraryWilliam ChambersThe Scottish church from the earliest times to 1881 to which is prefixed an historical sketch of St. Giles' Cathedral → online text (page 23 of 37)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

spend the rest of his years in study and devotion at Broadhurst
in Sussex.

The lull in the storm was brief and partial. Lauderdale was
the real master of the situation, and he had other ends in view
than the peace of the Church or the good of the nation. Under
his leading, the Parliament of 1670 passed several atrocious Acts

The Covenant. 213

against conventicles. Death and confiscation of goods for
whoever preached at them ; ruinous fines for whoever attended
them ; imprisonment or banishment for all who refused to reveal
what they knew regarding them ; five hundred merks reward to
any one who captured a conventicle preacher; and severe
penalties for having a child baptised by an outed minister, or
for being absent for three successive Sabbaths from the parish
church, were the terrors now fulminated by law over the land.
There was no slackness in the application of the law. Magis-
trates were held responsible for conventicles within their burghs.
Heritors were punished for meetings on their grounds. Heads
of households had to answer for the church attendance of their
dependants. Arbitrary and enormous fines were laid upon
offending individuals and districts accounted disaffected. They
were a most lucrative source of revenue to Lauderdale and his
associates, who fattened and rioted on the miseries of their
country. Persons who failed to appear when cited by the
Council were intercommuned ox outlawed. In 1675, letters of
intercommuning were issued against one hundred individuals.
To give food, drink, or shelter to those thus excommunicated,
or to hold intercourse with them by word or writing, was a
criminal offence. Then, as if worthily to crown all this,
Lauderdale, in 1678, actually let loose on the West some,ten
thousand soldiers, of whom six or seven thousand were
Highland clansmen. For three months the Highlanders
pillaged at pleasure. They might have done so longer had
they not, fortunately perhaps, been unable not only to dis-
tinguish between meum and tuum, but between the friends and
enemies of the government. The wonder is, considering the
animosity which then existed between Highlanders and Low-
landers, that they did not murder as well as plunder.

And yet, notwithstanding all these devices and eftbrts of the
government, conventicles were not put down. On the con-
trary, the very means employed to suppress them converted
them into truly formidable assemblages. Small private meet-

2 14 Sf ales' Lectures.

ings, little local gatherings, had to be abandoned ; but in their
place sprang up large armed conventicles to which people
came from great distances, at which many wore weapons and
were ready to repel force with force, and which were addressed
only by the most resolute of the Covenanting preachers — men
who saw in King Charles and his ministers only the enemies of
King Jesus — who would hear of no compromises, who regarded
the indulged as traitors, and attendance on their ministry as
a sin, and in whose discourses pathetic and fervent offers of the
Gospel were mingled with stern denunciations of their rulers and
the prelates. Conventicles of this sort were found to have
strong attractions. A passion for their excitements grew up and
spread. No government, of course, can be reasonably blamed
for attempting to suppress armed conventicles. The condem-
nation of the government of Charles II. is that it so acted as to
create them.

The tempers of the persecuted had by this time become
embittered and dangerous. The Covenanters were from the
first, on the whole, a stern and harsh race of religionists. They
never acknowledged, either in theory or practice, the principle
of toleration of others, although they perceived so clearly their
own right to liberty. In the days of their ascendency they had
slaughtered, imprisoned, and despoiled their opponents, on the
ground that it was a plain dictate both of Scripture and of
conscience that those who resisted the cause of Christ should
be punished by the law. The Protesters, in particular, had
always vehemently contended against leniency towards non-
Covenanters. It was, accordingly, only too natural that many
of the harassed field-conventiclers should come to the con-
clusion that their persecutors might righteously be cut off with-
out law, and that no mercy ought to be shewn to the active
enemies of the truth. It was by a band of men possessed with
this conviction that Archbishop Sharp was murdered on Magus
Moor, near St Andrews, on 3d May 1679.

No person was so abhorred by the Covenanters as the

The Covenant. 215

Primate. They believed him to have basely betrayed the
Presbyterian Church ; to have been the chief instigator of the
cruel measures taken against the faithful ; to be a sorcerer and
a man of flagitious life. In this belief there was much
exaggeration. He meanly deserted the Presbyterian cause,
but proof is wanting that he betrayed it. He took a pro-
minent part in the enactment and execution of the laws passed
against the Covenanters, but his influence in this connection
was not nearly so great as that of several of the lay lords.
The history of the period would probably have been little
different if he had never been born. His private life was
irreproachable ; the statements to the contrary are plainly
calumnious fabrications. He was not a moral monster; nor
was he a man to be morally admired. He was self-seeking,
scheming, unforgiving ; he was too pliant where principle was
concerned, and too persistent where mere interest was con-
cerned ; he fawned on the strong, and was unsympathetic
towards the weak. His assassination had been attempted as
early as 1668 by a fanatic named Mitchell; and one of the
individuals who took part in his murder on Magus Moor con-
fessed to have twice previously sought an opportunity to
slay him. The circumstances connected with that murder
are known in their minute details, but willingly we turn away
from so foul a deed so foully done. The assassins — of whom
Hackston of Rathillet and his brother-in-law, Balfour of
Kinloch, better known as Burley, were the leaders — escaped
to the West and joined themselves to those who approved
of their action.

On the 29th of May — the anniversary of the Restoration —
some eighty horsemen, headed by Robert Hamilton, brother
of Sir William Hamilton of Preston, entered Rutherglen,
extinguished the bonfires blazing in honour of the king,
denounced and burned the Acts of Parliament in favour of
Episcopacy, and afiixed to the market-cross a document
entitled * The Declaration and Testimony of the true Presby-

2i6 Sf Oiks' Lectures.

terian Party in Scotland,' Three days afterwards — June i —
these and other armed men to the number of several hundreds,
among whom some, such as Hackston, Balfour, Hall of Haugh-
head, and young William Cleland, possessed decided capacity
for fighting, were at a large conventicle at Drumclog, when
John Graham of Claverhouse with his dragoons came upon
them. But, as he himself writes, his meeting with them was
'very little to his advantage.' Although a trained soldier, he
was new to this kind of work — probably underrated the martial
qualities of his opponents — certainly fought rashly and in
ignorance of the nature of the ground — and was outgener-
aled, and so badly beaten, that he had to flee on a wounded
horse, hotly pursued, leaving thirty-six troopers dead, while
the Covenanters lost only three of their number. Mr Robert
Hamilton, who commanded the Covenanters, was of quite
the same way of thinking as the murderers of Sharp. It
appeared to him to be plainly the Divine will that ' Babel's
brats ' should be destroyed. He put to death with his own
hand one of the prisoners, and was greatly grieved that,
contrary to his express orders, five others were let go. The
Covenanters, hopeful that the hour of deliverance was near,
flocked from all sides to his standard. Ere a week elapsed,
he had, according to his own account, ' betwixt five and
six thousand horse and foot drawn up on the moor besouth
Glasgow, all as one man and of one mind, to own the Rugland
testimony against all opposers.' They were not long ' as one
man, and of one mind.' Bitter dissensions broke out among
them regarding the Indulgence, although none of the indulged
ministers joined them. Their camp was a scene of ecclesiastical
wrangHng. They appear to have been on the point of breaking
up into two parties and separating, when they learned that the
Duke of Monmouth, with an army twice as strong as their own
in numbers, and vastly superior in all military respects, was close
at hand. No one among them, probably, was capable of
handling with soldierly efficiency so large a body of men as

Tlie Covenant. 217

seven or eight thousand. Mr Hamilton, their nominal com-
mander-in-chief, was certainly quite incompetent for such a
task. Yet he must havelhad a strong expectation of victory,
seeing that he allowed a banner to be carried which bore on it
in scarlet letters the words, * No quarter for the active enemies
of the Covenant,' and had a large gibbet erected in the midst of
his camp, with a cartful of new ropes at the foot of it. No
opportunity, however, presented itself either for the refusal of
quarter or the use of the gibbet and rope. The Covenanters
acted at Bothwell with such a want of sense and vigour, that,
had it not been for the brave fighting of the three hundred
under Hackston at the bridge, the affair of June 22, 1679,
might have been called a rout, but could not have been called a
battle. Had the merciless Dalziel, and not the humane Mon-
mouth, commanded the royal forces, it would in all probability
have been a massacre. About four hundred persons were slain
in flight ; above a thousand were taken prisoners, of whom seven
were executed, while the others were confined for months in the
Greyfriars Churchyard ; and then those who consented to acknow-
ledge the rising in which they had ^been engaged as rebellion,
and to promise to keep the peace in future, were released,
while those who refused were shipped off to the plantations.

The schism which was on the point of breaking out at
Bothwell, split altogether the Covenanting ranks soon after-
wards, and was widened and aggravated by the grant of a new
indulgence on terms which none of the extreme party could
regard without abhorrence. This party now stood strictly and
sternly apart from those of more moderate views, and uncom-
promisingly proclaimed and carried out its own principles.
Donald Cargill was its oldest leader ; Richard Cameron, his son
in the faith, supported it with a fervent zeal and heroic courage
which led to its being called Cameronian ; young James Renwick
caught up its banner when it dropped from Cameron's dying
hand, and guided its Secret Societies mth a rare genius for
organisation and government.

2i8 Sf Gz/es' Lectures.

Never did men cling more consistently and tenaciously to
their creed, or suffer more for the sake of conscience than the
members of this party— the Hillmen, the Wanderers, the Faithful
Remnant, the Wild Whigs, the Cameronians, &c., as they were
variously designated. Whatever may have been their faults,
their fidelity to conviction has been seldom equalled in the
history of the world. Nor can there be any reasonable doubt
as to the chief source of their steadfastness and strength. It is
impossible to read the reports of their sermons, or any of the
writings which they penned, without being impressed by the
obvious sincerity, thoroughness, and assuredness of their faith
in God and Christ — by the directness, self-consciousness, and
closeness of their sense of communion and personal relationship
to Jehovah. There may be differences of opinion as to how
far their piety was at various points enlightened, but a denial
that their piety was singularly real and operative must be trace-
able either to ignorance or to religious unsusceptibility.

They were not content merely to resist certain measures and
defy certain commands of the government They entirely
renounced allegiance to it. They held themselves to be bound
by none of its laws. They declared war against it. They
proclaimed that the king, by his covenant-breaking, vicious life,
and tyrannical rule, had \ forfeited the throne. They taught
that he and other persecutors might justly be put to death.
Hackston of Rathillet, until his capture at Ayrsmoss, was
a leading man among them, the honoured companion of
Cameron and Cargill. Their preachers hesitated not to repre-
sent God as calling upon persons of all ranks and classes to
imitate Jael and Ehud, by executing judgment on the wicked
rulers of the time. Mr Forman expressed the same doctrine
clearly and concisely by an inscription on his knife: 'This is
to cut the throats of tyrants.' Most of the party were willing
to die rather than acknowledge the killing of Sharp to have
been murder, or that it would be a crime to kill the king and
his brother.

The Covenant. 219

These resolute men took the steps which they considered
requisite to make known their position towards the govern-
ment. When Hall of Haughhead was killed in a scuffle at
Queensferry, 3d June 1680, there was found on his person an
unsigned paper, the rough draft of a public declaration, in
which the king and his associates in the government were
solemnly rejected, monarchy repudiated, and an administration
of God-fearing judges proposed. On the 21st of the same
month, twenty men, amongst whom were Donald Cargill,
Richard Cameron and his brother, and Hackston, entered
the old burgh of Sanquhar on horseback, rode with drawn
swords to the cross, and there proclaimed : ' We, for ourselves
and all that will adhere to us, the representatives of the true
Presbyterian Church and covenanted nation of Scotland, do,
by these presents, disown ' Charles Stuart, who has been
reigning, or rather tyrannising, on the throne of Britain these
years bygone, as having any right, title to, or interest in the
crown of Scotland, or government, 'as forfeited several years
since, by his perjury and breach of Covenant with God and His
Kirk, and by his tyranny and breach of the fundamental rules
of government in matters civil. . . . Also we declare a war
with such a tyrant and usurper, and all the men of these
practices, as enemies to our Lord Jesus Christ and His cause
and covenant. . . . And we hope, after this, none will
blame us, or ^offend at our rewarding those that are against
us as they have done to us, as the Lord gives opportunity.'
Just a month afterwards — July 22 — Cameron was slain and
Hackston taken prisoner by the dragoons of Bruce of Earlshall
at Ayrsmoss. Two months later, at Torwood in Stirlingshire,
Cargill 'excommunicated, cast out of the true Church, and
delivered up unto Satan,' King Charles, the Duke of York, the
Duke of Monmouth, the Duke of Lauderdale, the Duke of
Rothes, Sir George Mackenzie (King's Advocate), and Thomas
Dalziel of Binns. In January 1682, a band of fifty armed
Society men entered Lanark, burned the Test and Succession

220 Sf Giles^ Lectures.

Acts, and published a declaration of their principles. In
November 1684, a celebrated Apologetic Declaration was
affixed to several market-crosses and parish churches in
Galloway, Dumfriesshire, Ayrshire, and Lanarkshire, in which
warning was given that all who took part in the work of
persecution would be regarded as enemies to God and His
covenanted work, and punished as such. ' Let not any think
that (our God assisting us) we will be so slack-handed in time
coming to put matters in execution, as heretofore we have
been.' ' Call to your remembrance, all that is in peril is not
lost, and all that is delayed is not forgiven.'

The strict Covenanters looked upon those Presbyterians who
were not prepared to go the same length as themselves as
time-serving and hypocritical. They denounced the indulged
ministers more frequently and more severely than the curates.
They represented attendance at their meetings as a sin no less
ruinous to the soul than theft or adultery. This was just what
was to be expected from men with their convictions and in
their circumstances. We ought, however, to beware of being
misled, as many have been, by their denunciations of the more
moderate brethren. The indulged ministers may have felt
quite as conscientiously that the preachers who held armed
conventicles and declared war against the government were
going too far, as these preachers felt that the ministers did not
go far enough. There was need for both parties. Just as the
Italy of our own generation required, in order to obtain her
unity and liberty, not only uncompromising and heroic enthusi-
asts like Mazzini and Garibaldi, not only martyrs like Ugo
Bassi and the brothers Bandieri, but watchful, calculating, and
prudent politicians like Cavour and his friends, so the Scotland
of the Restoration period needed, in order that she might be pre-
pared for and profited by the Revolution epoch, alike her idealists
and her moderates. The wandering Hillmen rendered services
which well deserve national gratitude; but if all the Presby-
terians of Scotland had been as they, Scottish Presbyterianism

TTie Covejiant. 221

would have rashly taken up the sword, and might have perished
by the sword. It is right to remember what we owe to them
for having resisted unto death the encroachments of the Civil
Power on the rights of the Church and the tyranny of the king
over the community ; but it is not right to forget that they also
strove for much which was unjust and unattainable. Cargill,
Cameron, Renwick, and their followers, entertained not a doubt
that it was God's will that all in these lands, from the king to
the peasant, should be made subject to the Covenants ; they
had no firmer conviction. Who can believe so now ? If the
course of Divine Providence, as traceable in the history of the
last two hundred years, afibrds any indication of the Divine
will, thai was Jiot the Divine will. To have imposed these
Covenants on the nation at the Revolution, or at any period
since the Revolution, could manifestly have only led to wrongs
and cruelties as great as were those against which the Cove-
nanters protested and struggled.

Charles II. died February 6, 1685. Few men have had such
opportunities of conferring happiness on others, and leaving
behind him a loved and honoured name, and few men have
been more richly endowed with the qualities fitted to secure
popularity and affection ; but through yielding to self-indulgence,
and allowing the lusts of the flesh to overrule the higher
principles of the spirit, he so wasted his advantages, so misused
his gifts, so degenerated in nature, so sank into the slough of
vice, that it is hard to find in history a life more painful to
contemplate, more ignoble, depraved, and mischievous than
his. The last year of his reign was, perhaps, that during
which the persecuted Presbyterians of Scotland suffered most.
Things came to such a pass that the most awful of judicial
functions, along with complete executive 'power, was intrusted
to common soldiers. On mere suspicion, men could be arrested
in the fields or on the highways by the humblest agents of the
government, and, on refusal or failure to answer in a particular
way certain questions, immediately shot. The transference of

222 St Giles^ Lectures.

the sceptre to the hands of his brother, James VII., brought
little improvement. The three years of this monarch's reign
were also 'killing times.' The Acts of indemnity and of
toleration which he published did not prevent, and were
not meant to prevent, the slaughter of Cameronians. Claver-
house, Grierson of Lagg, Bruce of Earlshall, and others, engaged
in that work with an activity and rigour which caused them to
be regarded as almost demons incarnate. That much which
passes for history in regard both to the persecutors and the
persecuted has no claim to the character must, I believe, be
admitted. The loads of martyrological tradition collected by
Wodrow and other writers require to be far more thoroughly
and critically examined and weighed than they have yet been
before historians can safely use them. The common estimate
of their historical worth appeajs to me to be far too high.
Leaving them altogether aside, however, there remains ample
evidence in the official records of the government itself, and
in the still extant letters of its agents and officers, that the
violence inflicted and the suffering endured in this period
of persecution were enormous.

The hour of deliverance came at length. With the Revolu-
tion, night fled and day appeared. The main cause of the
Revolution was neither the sufferings nor the strivings of
the Presbyterians in Scotland or the Nonconformists in
England. It was fear of the spread and triumph of Romanism.
The nation bore with strange equanimity the evils inflicted
by the last two Stuart kings so long and in so far as they
were wrought in support of the arbitrary personal power of the
monarch and in favour of Episcopacy ; but as soon as there
appeared to be serious danger of the Royal Supremacy being
applied to the establishment of Romanism, all classes of the
people arose in determined antagonism, combining their powers
and efforts with wonderful rapidity, and with a force so irresist-
ible that William of Orange, instead of having to cut his
way to the throne of Britain, had merely to march to it in

The Covenant. 223

a triumphal procession. As soon as the Church of England,
alarmed at the measures taken by James in favour of Roman-
ism, turned suddenly and in its collective strength against
him, his fate was sealed. The action then taken by the Church
of England was what more than anything else insured the
fall of Episcopacy and the rise of Presbytery a second time
in Scotland. Even in Scotland, hatred of Romanism was a
much stronger passion than love of Presbytery \ immeasurably
stronger than admiration of the Covenants. The most servile
courtiers and cruel persecutors among the Scottish nobles and
judges shewed an independence and sensitiveness in regard
to Acts and measures constructively favouring Romanism
which were little to have been anticipated. The example
of Edinburgh itself is instructive. Throughout the whole
period of the persecution it sided with the Anti-Covenanters,
although the execution of a sufferer like young M'Kail might
cause an evanescent and exceptional outburst of human
sympathy. It turned out howling mobs to insult the prisoners
brought into it after the battles of Rullion Green and Both-
well Bridge. At the same time, it was intensely Protestant,
or, at least, intensely Anti-Romanist. Neither the presence
of the Duke of York nor fear of the fury of General Dalziel
could keep its students, aided by its apprentices, from
burning an effigy of the Pope ; its baker-boys would pelt
with mud a pervert Countess of Perth, and a mild attempt
of the authorities at punishment of the offence was followed
by manifestations of resentment which might have been more
usefully displayed in rescuing a martyr at the Grassmarket.
Long noted as one of the most turbulent towns of Europe, it
was exceptionally quiet from 1660 to 1690; but its one great
riot during the time was on occasion of the sacking and demoli-
tion of the Chapel-Royal at Holyrood, into which James had
introduced Roman Catholic worship. The nation was resolved
not even to tolerate Romanism. James was resolved not only
to tolerate but to favour it. Being the weaker party, he fell.

224 Sf Giles* Lectures.

On the fall of James, the outraged Covenanters and oppressed
peasantry of the west of Scotland rose in mobs and drove the
Episcopal clergy from their parishes. This ' rabbling of the
curates ' began on Christmas Day, 1688, and lasted for some
months. About two hundred persons were thus expelled. No
lives were lost ; but this must rather be ascribed to the curates
having almost no support, and consequently making scarcely
any resistance, than to the self-restraint of the rioters. In order
not to judge too harshly the ' rabbling of the curates ' in 1688,
we must remember the ejection of the ministers in 1661 ; but
in order not to judge of it too leniently, we must also remember
that the ejection of the ministers had been itself preceded by
the expulsion of the Episcopal clergy in 1639, and that one
reason why there were so few Non-Covenanters in certain
districts of the West was that the war-committees of the Cove-
nanters in 1640 had driven so many of them away and left them
nothing to which to return.

Online LibraryWilliam ChambersThe Scottish church from the earliest times to 1881 to which is prefixed an historical sketch of St. Giles' Cathedral → online text (page 23 of 37)