William Chambers.

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

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During the whole period which has been under our consider-
ation, the economical resources of the country, as well as litera-
ture, science, and art, were almost entirely neglected. Yet
we shall err, I believe, if we deem it to have been either an
unnecessary or unfruitful period. Nations, like individuals,
cannot live by bread alone, or by the truths of science and the
comforts and charms of art alone. Nations, like individuals,
if they will only look thoughtfully over their histories, will not
fail to acknowledge that the times which they could least have
spared have been their times of affliction.





By the Rev. Robert Herbert Story, D.D., Minister of Rosneath.

T F Episcopal benediction and subserviency could have saved
■*• King James VIL, he would have been saved from the
consequences of his own fanaticism and tyranny. Two days
before the Dutch deliverer landed atTorbay, the Scotch bishops
were engaged at Edinburgh in concocting a letter to the king,
whom they poetically addressed as 'the darling of heaven,'

^ The authorities for the period of the Revolution and the Union, to which
the general reader may be referred, are Wodrow's History of the Sufferings,
Analecta, and Correspondence ; Dalryniple's Memoirs ; Burnet's History of
His Own Time ; Defoe's Memoirs of the Church of Scotland ; with the
recent histories of Mr Hill Burton and Dr Cunningham. So much of the
same gi-ound is traversed in the present writer's William Carstares : a
Character and Career of the Revolutionary Epoch, that at two or three points
short passages therefrom have been adapted to the uses of this lecture.
Readers, who wish to make a more minute acquaintance with the period, may
consult the Coltness Collections ; the Caldioell Papers ; the Leven and Melville
Papers ; t\iQ Lockhart Papers; the March mont Papers; and the Carstares
State Papers.

2 26 Sf Gibes'' Lectures.

assuring him of their unquenchable loyalty, praying God to
give him 'the hearts of his subjects and the necks of his
enemies,' and promising to do their best to promote in all
his subjects *an intemerable and steadfast allegiance' to his
Majesty ' as an essential part of their religion.' The prayers of
the right reverend fathers in God did not obtain for his Majesty
the two impossible gifts they besought ; nor could all the
devotion of their order avail to thwart the will of a nation,
whose strongest passion, burning most strongly in its noblest
hearts, was a zeal for liberty — for liberty of conscience and
of life. At the root of the long struggle against the
manifold misgovernment of the Stuarts, as of all the least
practical fanaticisms of the Hillmen, with their visionary
Covenant, lay a deep conviction of the human right of
personal freedom and personal responsibility, compared with
which all assertions of divine right, whether of kings or prelates,
were weak as water — strong for a time, no doubt, in the
possession and unscrupulous use of brute force, but weak in
all elements of moral strength, the only strength that endures,
because having in it some measure of that will of God which
' abideth for ever.' King James fell in spite of his bishops'
prayers ; and his system of absolutism in Church and State fell
with him. The convulsion which overthrew him was not a
political revolution merely. It was an upheaval and change of
the whole national life. The motive power in it was a religious,
more than a political, force. It is not too much to say that of
all the factors in the Revolution of 1688, Scottish Presbytery
was the most radical, the most indomitable, the most tri-
umphant ; Scottish Presbytery, not simply, or mainly as the
opponent of Prelacy, but as the representative and champion of
the rights and liberties of the people.

Since those days in the summer of 1639, when the Scots
arrny under Leslie encamped upon Dunse Law, until the hour
that saw King James a refugee in France, the Ark of the Cove-
nant of civil and religious liberty had been guarded by the

The Revolution Settlement. 237

strong hands of that inextinguishable Presbyterian remnant,
whom no diplomacy could cajole, and no persecution extirpate.
Liberty, dear to them, as to all people of their blood and race,
was specially dear because the possession of it was bound up in
the same bundle with the most sacred treasures of their religion.
What the Pilgrim Fathers had crossed the Atlantic to find
beyond the seas, they were resolved to attain at home — freedom
of life and thought ; above all, ' freedom to worship God.'
Their detestation of a certain order in the Church was no
jealousy of hierarchical rank. It grew up in them and possessed
them, too wholly perhaps, because they saw in that order the
most offensive stumbling-block in the way of the triumph of
their noble cause.

It is altogether an error to believe that preference for a
non-liturgical service was implied in the popular enmity to
the Prelacy, which got its death-blow in 1688. The error owes
some of its vitality to the magic pen of Sir Walter Scott ; but it
is mainly traceable to that general ignorance of Church History,
which allows people to suppose that because the present service
of the Church of Scotland is non-liturgical, it has always been
so ; and that one of the chief differences between Episcopacy
and Presbytery is that the one does, and the other does not,
use forms of prayer. Like the Reformed Churches of the
Continent, our National Church possessed, as you have already
heard, its national Liturgy for nearly one hundred years after
its reformation. It surrendered that invaluable possession to
the sinister influence of English Puritanism ; and the Prelacy
of the Restoration made no effort to recall the unhappy
forfeiture. The Revolution found Scotland without a Liturgy
either among the established Episcopalians, or the disestab-
lished Presbyterians. ' We,' says Sir George Mackenzie, speak-
ing of the former — ' we had no ceremonies, surplice, altars, cross
in baptism, nor the meanest of those things which would be
allowed in England by the Dissenters, in way of accommo-
dation.' Such scraps of liturgical order as the use of the

2 28 S^ Giles^ Lectures.

Lord's Prayer and the Gloria Patri, the disuse of which had
vexed the soul of Henderson more than forty years before,
might be found among some of the Episcopahans ; but in
general, as far as ritual was concerned, there was as little to
distinguish the Presbyterian service from the Episcopal, as
there is, at the present day, to distinguish the service of the
average Free Church congregation from that of the average
parish church, perhaps not so much. In the parish churches,
at the date of the Revolution, the Sunday's service commonly
was begun by the precentor's reading, after the manner of the
earlier ' Reader,' two or three chapters of the Bible ; after
which the curate entered the pulpit, and a psalm was sung.
Then followed an extempore prayer, and a sermon, generally
unread. After the sermon there was a second prayer, con-
cluding with our Lord's Prayer. Then came another psalm,
and the benediction ; and this was all. In the meeting-houses
of the Indulged, the service was the same, except that the Lord's
Prayer had no place. The Holy Communion was administered
by the curate, as well as by the ' ouLed ' or the ' indulged '
minister, to recipients who sat about a table, and never thought
of kneeling. At prayer, the attitude seems to have been sitting
too. During the sermon, the Presbyterians were in the dis-
respectful habit of putting on their hats or bonnets. I do not
know if the Episcopalians exhibited the same irreverence, or
not. The prolonged services preliminary to the Communion,
on the Fast-day and Saturday — the lengthy ' preachings ' in
the church and from the ' tent ' on the Sunday, and the thanks-
givings of the Monday — were unknown among the Episcopalians,
as they were among the earlier Presbyterians. They originated
with the Protesters, and established themselves pretty generally
throughout the Church, soon after the Revolution.

The ritual of the conventicle was naturally subject to no
law. The order which I have described as that of the usual
Sunday's service, you will recognise as virtually in agreement
with that prescribed in the Book of Common Order and in the

TJte Revolution Settlement. 229

Westminster Directory, which is the basis of our more comely
and elaborate usage in the present day. It lacked the liturgical
element common to the Reformed Churches, and it excluded
the people from that large share in the service, which adds
unction and power to the inflexible devotional forms of the
Anglican Church. Its weak point was the almost absolute
power it confided to the minister, who, knowing no guide and
no restraint except that of a general but not authoritative
custom, could deal with the service in all its constituent parts
pretty much as he chose. The traditions of clays when, filled
by Knox or Henderson, the pulpit had been a great political
force — of the times of persecution, when the most stirring call to
the defiance and resistance of a degrading tyranny had been
the voice of the outlawed preacher on the bare hillside —
were cherished in an age when preaching had lost its former
political importance, and when its fiery testimony for freedom
was no longer needed. The preacher still thought it fair
and right to discuss in the pulpit all questions of public and
local interest ] but when such discussion no more afliected
national policy or involved personal danger, the independence
which had before been courageous and noble could not retain
that character. The pulpit was too often degraded to the
uses of personal ill-will, sectarian spite, or professional intoler-
ance ; and, for a time at least, forfeited much of its power
to edify and elevate the public mind.

The establishment of Episcopacy had wrought as little change
upon the subordinate government of the Church as upon its ritual.
That court of the Church which has generally been regarded as
the most prominent feature of Presbytery — the Kirk-session —
lasted throughout the whole of the Caroline Prelacy. Not only
so ; but King Charles, moved possibly by a pious admiration of
the discipline of that court, had, on finding that the eldership
was not a popular oflice under the ' curates,' issued a proclama-
tion empowering them to make their own selection of elders in
their respective parishes, and ordering those so chosen to

230 Sf Gt'/es' Lediins.

accept ofifice, within fifteen days, 'under pain of rebellion.'
The second court of the Church, the Presbytery, continued to
hold its constitutional position and to discharge its ordinary
duties, with the exception — no doubt, a radical exception — of
ordaining candidates for orders. The Presbytery examined the
candidates, but referred their ordination to the bishop, who also
had the right of nominating the moderator. The Synods met
as usual, but under the presidency of the bishop. There was
no General Assembly. The ordinary parochial and Presby-
terial government of the Church went on, as though the
bishops had not existed. The restoration of Presbyterianism
required to make no alteration beyond abolishing the bishops,
and reopening the General Assembly.

Neither was it called to effect any change in doctrine.
The Westminster Confession, which had been accepted by
the General Assembly of 1647, ^^^d since that date retained,
without dispute, such ecclesiastical authority as that accept-
ance implied, and had never been repudiated or renounced
in any of the voluminous oaths which the government of
Charles demanded from the clergy. The Revolution found it
where the Restoration had found it. On the ritual, the sub-
ordinate government, and the doctrine of the Church, twenty-
six years of Prelacy had left no mark. If anything could add
emphasis to the national repudiation of that Prelacy, it is this
simple fact.

' What have I done to be so loved ?' said Louis XV. — Louis

* the well-beloved ' — when he rose from his sick-bed at Metz.
The poor perplexed bishops of the Stuarts might have asked :

* What have we done to be so hated ? ' as they gathered their
tattered skirts around them and fled into those coverts from
popular ill-will, which justified Dundee's sarcasm that they had
become ' the Kirk invisible.' I find the answer in the words of
the most dispassionate and sagacious of English historians —
Henry Hallam — who, reviewing the Scotch Episcopacy of the
seventeenth century, in calm and philosophical survey, says :

The Revolution Settlement. 231

* There was as clear a case of " forfeiture " in the Scots Epis-
copal Church as in the royal family of Stuart. ... It was very
possible that Episcopacy might be of Apostolical institution;
but for this institution houses had been burned and fields laid
waste, and the Gospel had been preached in wildernesses, and
its ministers had been shot in their prayers, and husbands had
been murdered before their wives, and virgins had been defiled,
and many had died by the executioner, and by massacre, and in
imprisonment, and in exile and slavery, and women had been
tied to stakes on the sea-shore till the tide rose to overflow
them, and some had been tortured and mutilated; it was a
religion of the boots and the thumbscrew, which a good man
must be very cool-blooded indeed, if he did not hate and reject
from the hands that offered it. For, after all, it is much more
certain that the Supreme Being abhors cruelty and persecution
than that he has set up bishops to have a superiority over

The representatives of a vicious system may sometimes be
able, by their own personal character, or genius, or merits, to
redeem their office from popular odium and contempt ; but the
prelates of 1688 had no such power. Of the twelve deprived
bishops, none could raise a voice to which the nation would
listen, or exert the slightest sway over the turbid currents
of revolution. There was not one of them round whom the
people of his own diocese, even, would rally. 'And shall
Trelawney die ? ' chanted the Mendip miners, when they heard
that James had sent their bishop to the Tower :

' Then twenty thousand under ground will know the reason why.'

The incarceration of all the bishops in Scotland would have
evoked no such loyal sentiment, in any region between Whit-
horn and Kirkwall. Not a hundred of their countrymen could
have been found to strike a blow for them. They fell, and no
one held out a hand to lift them up. They were hustled out
of Church and Senate, and no bade them stay, or said

i^ii St Giles' Lectures.

God bless them, as they and their hated order and tarnished
honours passed away.

The mind and conscience of the country felt relieved when
they were gone. Men breathed more freely. It became
easier to believe in that old article of the Reformers' creed — a
divine government and a righteous Kingdom of Christ — when
the mean curate, with his weekly list of defaulters from his
Sunday's services, no longer sought the alliance of the sergeant
of dragoons to coerce his recreant flock ; when the victims of
the boot and the thumbscrew were no longer watched, during
their torture in the Laigh Parliament House, by the cruel eyes
of the right reverend fathers in God of the Privy Council.

The Scotch people had, at the time of the Reformation, and
for several years after it, no fanatical hatred of Prelacy — not even
any bitter jealousy of it. Knox himself exercised his ministry, for
a time, in the English Church ; and when asked by the Privy
Council to explain his refusal to accept the preferment offered
him by King Edward, he never alleged that Anglican Prelacy
was at the bottom of it. The early Scottish Reformers com-
municated, without scruple, in the Church of England, and in
their own worship used her Liturgy. The altered feelings of a
later age owed their birth to the fact, emphasised by the Duke
of Argyll in his Presbytery Exammed, that while the Scottish
Prelacy of the Regencies was without any principle, Scottish
Presbytery was not. ' It was founded on passionate conviction ;
and every opposition it encountered, springing from motives
less earnest than its own, tended to strengthen that conviction,
and give to all its principles additional value in its sight. If,
in the main, those principles were great and true positively,
every scrap of them appeared great and true by contrast.' This,
true of the earlier, was doubly true of the later. Prelacy. Its
existence had been an outrage on the liberties of a people
whose passion for liberty had sometimes raged with even too
fierce a flame. Its overthrow lifted the weight of a nightmare-
like oppression from the national breast.

The Revolution Settlement.

At the same time, we must not overlook the fact that,
by the end of the twenty-six years of the Carohne Prelacy,
the policy of the Stuarts and the bishops had not altogether
laboured in vain, or spent its strength for nought. Hanging,
shooting, torturing, banishing, imprisonment in foul dun-
geons, confiscation of goods, ruinous fines, all the agencies
of a reign of terror, had done their part. Persecution had
rooted out of the population thousands — how many thou-
sands, it is hard to tell now — of its best and bravest — had
cowed many into a sullen submission. Many others, moved
probably by dread of new changes, or under the influence
of the Court, or finding Episcopacy most in accordance with
their political principles, had become the partisans of that
form of government. The Revolution Settlement met with
little or no favour among the nobles and gentry, that had been
the minions or adherents of the Court; among the party
that hated popular rights, and believed in the jus divirmm of
kings ; and among the half-civilised Highland clans, many
of whom had no religion but their loyalty to their chief, and
among whose glens and islands the Reformation had left not
a few savage retreats, as wholly Papal as the passes of the
Apennines or the Pyrenees.

The only Lowland region (besides some districts of Aber-
deenshire, Banffshire, and Moray) where Episcopacy had
gained a decided hold on the general community, was that
which stretches from the Tay to the Dee, between the
Grampians and the ocean ; a region even then still liable
to the incursions of the Gael, and, except in the towns of
the sea-board, exhibiting but a moderate standard of civilisa-
tion. The country from the Tay to the Border — and espe-
cially the well-peopled and strong-minded west and south-west
— was enthusiastically Presbyterian, and rejoiced to see the
State renounce the ecclesiastical associate of regal despotism,
and prepare to restore its former establishment and endow-
ment to a free Church in sympathy with a free people.

^34 Sf Giles^ Lectures.

The populace in several districts, exasperated by the memories
of twenty-six years of outrage and injury, did not wait till the
orderly process of the law should expel the alien ' curate.'
Giving the rein to their own indignant sense of ill-usage, and in
the first turbulence of a recovered freedom, they took on them-
selves the work of driving the intruder from kirk and manse ;
in some cases with slight violence and insult, in none with
even an approach to the brutality with which the soldiery of
Dalziel and Claverhouse had harried the homes of the Cove-
nanters. This was that 'rabbling of the curates,' over which
their representatives and apologists may, to this day, be
heard to bleat and whimper. Never were enormous wrongs so
leniently retaliated. Never, in the day when power had passed
from the oppressors to the oppressed, was the oppression so
lightly revenged.

As soon as a Convention representing the true mind of the
mass of the nation was summoned. Prelacy was doomed. The
voice of righteousness and freedom was heard asserting the
people's ' Claim of Right' The Claim of Right formed the basis
of the Revolution Settlement ; and one of its clauses was, ' That
Prelacy and the superiority of any ofiice in the Church above
presbyters is, and hath been, a great and insupportable griev-
ance and trouble to this nation, and contrary to the inclinations
of the generality of the people, ever since the Reformation,
they having been reformed from Popery by presbyters ; and
therefore ought to be abolished.' This frank acknowledgment
of the will and welfare of the Christian people as a higher law
of Church polity than any jus divinum, royal or ecclesiastical,
must have struck terror into the hearts of the bishops, who
owed their existence to the king's will, and entrenched their
office behind the Church's tradition. The terror must have
deepened into despair when they found that the Parliament,
into which the Convention was transformed, passed, among
its earliest measures, an Act abolishing Scottish Prelacy —
which was succeeded by another abolishing Charles II.'s 'Act

The Revolution Settlemoii. 235

of Supremacy.' The first steps of the free representatives
of the people, acting in their constitutional capacity, were to
abohsh the office and order which had embodied ecclesiastical
tyranny, and to rescind the servile concession by which a former
Parliament had degraded itself to own the galling yoke of regal

We must, however, trace the stages of this history in more
exact and chronological detail.

William was essentially an Erastian. Born and bred a
Presbyterian, under the wing of that National Dutch Church,
which is Presbyterian to this day, he had no covenanting
enthusiasm for that, or for any form of Church government.
He wished to gain the crown of Scotland, and to rule the
Scottish people according to their own law, in Church and
State. Had their ecclesiastical constitution been reconcilable
with that of England, he would have been well pleased,
knowing that this reconciliation would have been a strong
element in that international union, which he foresaw must
ultimately be effected, if Great Britain was to hold its proper
place in Europe. As this reconciliation appeared to be impos-
sible, he prefen-ed that the nation should settle for itself what
form of Church government should be established. Its choice
would relieve him of an irksome responsibility, and would
transfer to other shoulders than his own the load of that
Anglican odium, which must follow the subversion of Episco-
pacy and triumph of Presbytery. Those exiles who had been
around him in Holland were all Presbyterians ; and had, no
doubt, represented their party in Scotland as the only one to
be consulted , or recognised. In London, William met many
representatives of Episcopacy, whose version of affairs in
Scotland opened his eyes to the diversity of feeUng and opinion
beyond the Tweed. The Episcopal party there, after all, was
stronger than he had supposed. He was beset by the perti-
nacious emissaries of both parties. Carstares introduced to him
an influential deputation of the Presbyterian ministers. Sir

236 Sf Giles^ Lectures.

George Mackenzie and Bishop Rose, of Edinburgh, attended
him on behalf of the Episcopalians. At this juncture, it is
evident William was inclined to waver between supporting
Episcopacy and supporting Presbytery. As I have said else-
where, the ecclesiastical settlement of Scotland perplexed
him. He saw that Presbytery had lost ground ; and he saw
also that Episcopacy was Jacobite and intolerant. He did not
wish to put it down ; but if it would not abjure Jacobitism and
intolerance, it must be put down. He had the promise of
hearty Presbyterian support. Rose might have given him a
promise equally gratifying, on behalf of the Episcopalians.
Those whom he represented were not the men to quarrel with
his policy, if its result should be to keep them in safe possession
of their sees. William, through Compton, Bishop of London,
intimated to Rose that if the Scotch bishops and clergy would
give him their support, he would give them his, and ' throw off
the Presbyterians.' Rose would not take the hint. At length
he was admitted to an interview. ' Are you going for Scot-
land ? ' asked William. * Yes, sir,' answered Rose, ' if you have
any commands for me.' ' I hope,' replied the Prince, ' you
will be kind to me, and follow the example of England.' The
bishop's answer was : ' Sir, I will serve you as far as law, reason,
or conscience shall allow me.' William turned on his heel
without a word ; and the fate of the Scotch Episcopal establish-

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 24 of 37)