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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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ment was virtually sealed.

The Convention of the Estates of the realm, summoned
by William, met in March 1689. It consisted of one
hundred and fifty members, of whom nine were bishops.
When the resolutions declaring the throne vacant, and inviting
William and Mary to ascend it, were proposed, only nine
members voted against them. Of the nine, seven were
bishops. When these resolutions had been carried, and the
Claim of Right adjusted, three delegates of the Convention
— the Earl of Argyll, Sir John Dalrymple, and Sir James
Montgomery, were sent to London, empowered to offer the



The Revolution Settlement. 237



crown to William and Mary, and to tender to them the
coronation oath. Argyll read the words of the oath, which
they, with uplifted right hand, repeated after him, clause by
clause. At the last clause, William paused, for it bound him
to root out all heretics and enemies of the true worship of God.
' I will not,' said he, ' lay myself under any obligation to be
a persecutor.' On the commissioners' replying that no such
obligation was involved, ' In that sense, then, I swear,' said
William ; and the ceremony was concluded.

The incident was significant. It announced that the era
of the Covenant was past ; that the sword of the civil power
was not again to be drawn at the bidding of the Church, or
employed in ecclesiastical feud. This was gall and wormwood
to the Cameronian remnant, who looked with indignation on
the progress of a revolution which was to achieve results so far
below the height of their Utopian principles, and which they
felt they could neither control nor arrest. ' They held excited
meetings and used violent language ; but the dragoons no
longer dispersed their conventicles, and their stern military
spirit was judiciously allowed to expend itself in legitimate
warfare. The " Cameronian " regiment, eight hundred strong,
was drafted from their ranks, and under the gallant Cleland
played a noble part in retrieving the disaster of Killiecrankie.
The main body of the grim religionists, thus reduced in aggres-
sive strength, and no longer stimulated by persecution, watched
in sullen acquiescence the progress of events. They had done
their work. Their injuries, their martyrdoms, their passionate
protests, their inextinguishable vitality, their armed resistance to
a " tyrant's and a bigot's bloody laws," had been powerful agents
in producing the Revolution. But in the political settlement
which followed it, the remnant of the Covenanters and the
Protesters had no part ; nor indeed were they fit to have any.'
The General Assembly, at its first meeting, received their
three remaining ministers into the Church. The fighting strength
of the Societies themselves was dispersed, or absorbed into the



238 iSV Giles^ Lectures.



army. The ideal of a Covenanted Reformation faded away.
The Dutch king was hopelessly unlike the hero of a new
crusade against Popery, Prelacy, and profaneness. I question
if a sharper iron of angered and embittered disappointment
entered into the heart of any Prelatist or Royalist, in these
days of revolution, than that which pierced the proud, though
fanatical, spirit of the Cameronians. To them, as they saw
the Covenant quietly ignored by Laodicean politicians, while
lukewarm Churchmen calmly looked on, it was small comfort
to know that their old foe. Prelacy, fell in the same convulsion
which ingulfed the ark of their testimony.

The Convention denounced Prelacy : the Parliament abolished
it ; but it did nothing more. Episcopacy was put down ; but
Presbytery was not set up. Nothing was done to evict the
Episcopal incumbents, unless they shewed disloyalty by refusing
to pray for the new king and queen, for which refusal one
hundred and seventy-nine of them were expelled by the Privy
Council. No steps were taken to call a General Assembly. A
General Assembly indeed, such as the clergy in the North
clamoured for, would have been too wholly Episcopal to be
safely summoned. It was not till June 1690, that the Act was
passed ratifying the Confession of Faith ; settling Presbyterian
Church government ; and vesting that government in those
ministers who had been ousted since ist January 166 1,
and such other ministers and elders as they might receive
into co-operation with themselves. ' This famous Act was
not passed without some difficulty and opposition. When
the House was about to consider the article which ratified
the Confession of Faith, the Duke of Hamilton moved that
the Confession itself "be read all over with a distinct and
audible voice."' The Laird of Craignish preposterously pro-
posed that this should be done on the Lord's Day, if done
at all. The Duke's motion was adopted, and the long
Confession was read. When the reading was finished,
it was proposed that the Catechism and the Directory for



The Revolutioji Settle jnent. 239



Public Worship should come next. But this was too much
for the wearied senators ; the reading of the Confession was
voted to be enough, and the Catechism and Directory were
passed over, and so escaped embodiment in the Act. At
various points the Duke of Hamilton offered an opposition
to the Bill, in the interests of a more indulgent treatment of
the Episcopal ministers, which did not fail to rouse the
suspicion of being dictated by resentment at Melville's prefer-
ment to the commissionership, quite as much as by real charity
and liberality. At last, before the House divided on the article
which, with undeniable injustice, proposed to confirm the
ejections by the "rabble," the Duke's temper gave way.
"The vote should stand," he cried, " approve or not approve
the deed of the rabble ; " and when the article had passed, " he
was sorry," he said, " that he should ever have sat in a Scottish
Parliament where such naked iniquity was established into a
law;" and, much in wrath, he marched out of the House,
followed by several other members. As soon as he was gone,
it was proposed to pass the whole Act i7i cumulo. A voice
was heard : " Fie ! make haste ! despatch, lest he return again,
and create more trouble." It came from a Presbyterian
minister, who had made his way into the house, and in the
excitement of the moment called out to the members near
him. The hint was taken. The whole Act was approven,
and laid on the table to await the royal assent. It erred, as
the legislation of the Parliament of the Restoration had erred,
in an assertion and in exercise of powers which, even though
tempered by William's impartial tolerance, were too harsh and
absolute. The extreme measures of the Restoration were sure
to beget a reaction of like extremes when the oppressed gained
their opportunity of becoming oppressors ; and the knowledge
of the near danger of Jacobite plots, which might overthrow the
still insecure fabric of the Revolution, disposed William's
Scottish supporters to be more jealous and rigid than their
master.'



240 St Giles' Lectures.



The legislature, having settled the government and creed of
the Church, next adjusted its Patronage. The patronages were
taken from the old patrons, and conferred upon the heritors and
elders — in burghs, on the Town Council and elders — reserving
to the congregation the right of laying objections to a presentee
before the Presbytery, with whom should rest the decision of
their validity. Now that Patronage, in its old sense, has finally
been abolished in the Church, it is unnecessary to occupy time
in criticising this stage in its chequered history. We cannot
fail to see, however, that this settlement of it involved all the
elements of that conflict between the Presbytery, the people,
and the civil law, which came to its crisis in 1843.

The ground was now cleared for the meeting of a General
Assembly. The clearance had been effected, in the most
Erastian way, by the authority of the State alone. As in
earlier crises of her history, secular policy had ruled the destiny
of the Church, without her own assistance or consent. It is
one of the ugliest features of the epoch, and worst signs of the
generally low standard of the national religion, that it was
obviously thought unsafe to trust the settlement of Church
affairs to Churchmen. Such was the suspicion of their principles
— of their patriotism — of their integrity; such the dread of
their rancorous jealousies — of their lust of power — that the
clergy of neither persuasion found the politicians ready to
hand over to them the settlement of their own affairs, until
there was comparatively little left to settle. The politicians
themselves — we may remark in passing — were, as a ruJe,
singularly corrupt and untrustworthy. The very bench of
justice was defiled with bribery, favouritism, and servility.
The religious contentions of the Church, or some other equally
noxious cause, had been fatal to a high tone of public or private
morality.

The General Assembly met on i6th October 1690 — for the
first time since Cromwell's dragoons had interrupted its debates
thirty-seven years before — and was once more the Supreme



The Revolution Settie}ne?it. 241



Court of an Established Church. It met in no very good
humour. It had been made to wait the pleasure of the king.
Though the Presbytery, which it represented, had been
established as agreeable to the Word of God, the Prelacy,
which it supplanted, had been deposed on no higher principle
than because it was contrary to the inclinations of the people.
The older members, who had been outed or exiled or ruined
under Prelacy, and who still retained some of the 'protesting'
zeal of earlier times, felt it chilled by the king's message recom-
mending, above all things, * Moderation.' ' Moderation,' said
the royal letter, delivered by the Commissioners to the Assembly,
' is what religion enjoins, neighbouring churches expect from
you, and we recommend to you.' This word, much needed as
it was, and not yet of evil omen, was no doubt chosen by
the king's confidential adviser and friend, the cautious, wise,
and liberal Carstares.

The temper of this great Churchman's nature had been
tested by a long course of political vicissitude and personal
trial, of adversity, imprisonment, and exile. He had stood the
cruel torture of the thumbscrews with patient courage, and had
baffled the inquiries of his torturers with rare discretion. His
sterling honesty, his diplomatic skill, his varied experience, and
large sagacity, had long secured to him the thorough esteem
and confidence of William. His influence was predominant
in the settlement of the Scotch ecclesiastical affairs. He had
been by William's side in Holland during all the delicate
negotiations which preceded the invasion of England. He had
crossed with him in the same ship from Helvoetsluys to Tor-
bay. He had conducted, at the head of the army, the religious
service which consecrated its first day's occupation of English
soil. His counsel had guided the king through the critical
time when the balance of policy wavered between Episcopacy
ai%d Presbytery; and he had revised, along with William, the
drafts of the Act for the re-establishment of the Church. And
now he came to Edinburgh, armed with the king's instructions,

p



242 St ales' Lectures.



\vhich were but the embodiment of his own ideas, to keep a
watchful eye upon the doings of the resuscitated ecclesiastical
court.

Upon the whole, the Assembly acted calmly and fairly on
the advice of the king. It was inevitable that among men, the
older of whom had borne the brunt of the persecution, the
younger of whom had been either trained in Holland in
enforced exile, or had exercised a fugitive ministry in defiance
of the law, there should be some bitterness of feeling and
warmth of prejudice. But these were held in check, partly by
the influence of Carstares, partly by a common-sense, which
convinced its possessors of the practical folly of indulging
personal fanaticisms, or straining after unattainable ideals. The
Covenant was dropped by the Assembly, as it had been dropped
by Parliament. There was no anathematising of Prelacy as
Satanic, or glorifying of Presbytery as divine. The ministers
of the Covenanting remnant were, as I have already said,
received into communion, on the one hand ; and, on the other,
full liberty to stay in their parishes was extended to all such
Episcopal curates as should subscribe the Confession, and
promise allegiance to the Presbyterian government. High-flying
Churchmen would have liked much more rigid exclusions —
much more dogmatic assertions of divine right — much sharper
discipline. But ' men must take what they can have in a
cleanly way, when they cannot have all they would,' wrote Lord
Melville, the Secretary of State, to Lord Crawford, president
of the Parliament, a stanch Presbyterian, with a keen eye and
a tight grip for the rents of abolished bishoprics.

A moderate Presbyterianism, tolerant of rival theories and
systems, a Church established on liberal and comprehensive
principles, and not on extreme dogmas and rigorous exclusiveness,
was all that was practicable ; and what was practicable was what
was most desirable. The devout theocratic imaginations of
John Knox, the haughty Hildebrandism of Andrew Melville,
the Judaic intensity of the leaders of the Covenant, had all



The Revolution Settlement. 243



passed away. It was a tamer and less heroic time than theirs
— a time, not for the vehement assertion of absolute claims,
or the desperate maintenance of imperilled causes, but for the
quiet and patient reconstruction of a system of religion and
framework of society, disordered and ruptured by long years
of insolent oppression and exasperated resistance, of conflicting
jealousies and misunderstandings, during which hearts had
grown bitter and consciences perverse.

To prosecute this work of reconstruction, the Assembly, ere
it rose, appointed two Commissions, the one for the regions
lying to the south, and the other for those lying to the north, of
the Tay. These Commissions, in virtue of the powers con-
ferred on them by the Assembly, and by the Act of Parliament
which had authorised the Assembly to correct the disorders of
the Church by a system of visitations, were to go through the
country, purging out all obnoxious ministers. Although an Act
of the Revolution Parliament had taken what most people felt
to be its sharpest sting from ecclesiastical discipline, by for-
bidding, for the future, any civil penalty to follow a spiritual
sentence ; yet the powers of this executive of the Assembly
were very real, and extended to deposition from function and
benefice. To the south of the Tay the visitation proceeded
without disturbance or scandal. It was not so in the north.
The moderation of the Assembly was not reflected in the
Commission ; and the Presbyterian fervour, which had bridled
itself in Edinburgh, ran riot through the northern provinces,
driving out ministers, shutting up churches, stirring evil and
sectarian passions, under the cloak of enforcing ministerial
purity and efficiency. Where the incumbent was Episcopal,
it is to be feared charges of negligence, or immorality, or
heterodoxy, were only too readily framed and sustained.

What with the number expelled by the Privy Council for
refusing to acknowledge William and Mary, and those extruded
on various pleas by the Commissions, the Church in the
north was stripped of a host of her clergy, whose places no



244 'S^ Gibes' Lectures.



new race of candidates had yet arisen to supply. In some
of the northern parishes, when substitutes for the deprived
incumbents were found, the people, resenting the loss of the
ordinances of religion through the expulsion of their old pastors,
resisted, and sometimes successfully, for months, and even
years, the induction of the new. At Inverness, for example,
which, though the capital of the Highlands, was then but
a wretched village of some five hundred thatched houses,
the people defied for no less than ten years the attempts of
the Presbytery to settle a minister among them. At Insch,
upon the parish falling vacant, the parishioners called an Episco-
palian curate, who did not even take the oaths to government,
but Avho remained in possession of the living for many years.
And these were not solitary cases.

Those Episcopal curates who had accepted the terms of
the government and remained in their parishes, were not
allowed to act as members of the Church courts. The
Presbyteries, accordingly, in the north, where Episcopacy was
strong, were mere skeletons. The whole Synod of Aberdeen,
comprising eight Presbyteries, had to concentrate itself into
one ; and even after the lapse of seven years, could only muster
sixteen clerical members. The desire to increase the strength
of the Presbyteries, no doubt, was one of the motives which
spurred the zeal of the Commission to substitute Presbyterian
for Episcopal parsons. But the bad blood engendered by the
process began to inflame the whole body of the Church and
State.

William was inclined to suspect the Commissioners of harsh-
ness and injustice, and to blame the general temper and policy
of the Presbyterians. The relations between the Crown and
the Church became strained. The annual meeting of the
Assembly was postponed by the royal command. The Church
grumbled at this interference with its right of convening at its
own pleasure. When at last the king summoned a meeting
for 15th January 1692, the members assembled in a some-



The Revolution Settlement. 245



what irritated and irreconcilable mood, which was not soothed
by the receipt of a royal letter urging them to admit the
Conformist Episcopal ministers into the Church courts, on
subscribing a simple formula, of which the king sent them
the draft. The Assembly consigned the formula to the con-
sideration of a committee — a method of indirect strangulation
still dear to the heart of that venerable court — and having by
the 13th of February done nothing else, was abruptly dissolved
by the Commissioner, who declined even to name a day for
its next meeting. This was a direct repudiation, by the Crown,
of the Church's claim of a right to hold its annual Assembly;
and also rendered impossible that harmonious coincidence by
which the Commissioner and the Moderator, each naming the
same day, evaded any conflict of jurisdiction or confusion of
dates. The Moderator, in spite of the Commissioner's refusal,
appointed the next Assembly to be held in August 1693. This
was a mere assertion of the Church's rights. AVhen the day
came, no attempt was made to hold an Assembly. Before the
critical date, Parliament had intervened with an Act 'for settling
the quiet and peace of the Church,' in which provision was
made for the summoning of an Assembly by the sovereign.
While, by this clause, the Act averted the impending danger of
a direct collision between the royal and ecclesiastical authority ;
by another, it provided for the admission to a share in the
government of the Church of those Episcopal incumbents who
should subscribe the engagements set forth in the Act. One of
these was the ' Oath of Assurance ' — a new declaration which
had been devised to circumvent those who made a distinction
between a king de facto and a king de Jure, and who were ready
to own William in the one sense, but not in the other. The
oath of assurance expressed allegiance to him as king both
de facto and de jure. No one was to sit in the Assembly unless
he had taken this oath.

This enactment, so far from helping to settle the quiet
and peace of the Church, produced nothing but ill-will and



246 S^ ales' Lccinres.



clamour. It exasperated Presbyterian and Episcopalian alike.
What right had ' Csesar ' to make a civil oath the condition of
entrance to an ecclesiastical court ? Was it to be borne that a
king, by popular election, should wring from the exigencies of
an ill-used priesthood a renunciation of the sacred doctrine
of hereditary right ? The remonstrances of the clergy, however,
had no effect. The Assembly was summoned for the 29th
March 1694; and the Commissioner was instructed to exact
the oath, and if it was refused, to dissolve the Assembly. The
crisis was perilous. The Crown was inexorable ; the Church's
patience was exhausted ; the perfervid Scotch blood was stirred.
But for some averting providence, Church and State must come
into fatal collision, and the Revolution Settlement perish in the
crash. The averting providence took the shape of the Church's
best and wisest friend, William Carstares. Among the events
of a somewhat monotonous and unpicturesque period, the
episode of his interposition is sufficiently striking to excuse its
being once more related, in the words of his first biographer,
M'Cormick. The Commissioner, Lord Carmichael, he tells
us, had been assured by the clergy that they could not and
would not give in. He ' saw that all his attempts to bring them
to better temper would be vain and fruitless. At the same time,
he was sensible that the dissolution of the Assembly would not
only prove fatal to the Church of Scotland, but also to his
Majesty's interest in that kingdom. From a sincere regard
to both, therefore, he undertook to lay the matter, as it stood,
fairly before the king ; and, for that purpose, sent off a flying
packet, which he expected to return from London, with the
king's final determination, the night before the Assembly was
appointed to meet. At the same time, the clergy sent up
a memorial to Carstares, urging him to use his good ofiices, in
this critical conjuncture, for the preservation of that Church
which he had so active a hand in establishing.

' The flying packet arrived at Kensington in the forenoon of
that day upon which Carstares returned [he having been absent



The Rei'ohiiioit Settlement. 247



from Court]. But before his arrival, his Majesty, by the advice
of Lord Stair and Lord Tarbat, who represented this obstinacy
of the clergy as an act of rebelHon against his government, had
renewed his instructions to the Commissioner, and sent them
off by the same packet,

' When Carstares came to Kensington and received his letters,
he immediately inquired what was the nature of the despatches
his Majesty had sent off for Scotland ; and, upon learning their
contents, he went directly, and, in his Majesty's name, required
the messenger, who was just setting off, to dehver them up to
him. It was now late at night; and, as he knew no time was to
be lost, he ran to his Majesty's apartment ; and, being informed
by the lord-in-waiting that he was gone to bed, he told him it
was a matter of the last importance which had brought him at
that unseasonable hour, and that he must see the king.

' Upon entering the chamber, he found his Majesty fast
asleep, upon which, turning aside the curtain, and falling down
upon his knees, he gently awaked him. The king, astonished
to see him at so late an hour, and in this posture by his bed-
side, asked him what was the matter ? He answered he had
come to ask his life. "And is it possible," said the king, " that
you have been guilty of a crime that deserves death?" He
acknowledged he had, and then produced the despatches he
had brought back from the messenger. " And have you," says
the king, with a severe frown — " have you indeed presumed to
countermand my orders ? " Carstares begged leave only to
be heard a few words, and he was ready to submit to any
punishment his Majesty should think proper to inflict.' He
then entered into an exposition of the situation of the Church
in Scotland, and of the arguments against the oath, which
M'Cormick gives at length ; and at the close of which, ' the
king, having heard him with great attention, gave him the de-
spatches to read, and desired him to throw them in the fire ;
after which, he bade him draw up the instructions to the
Commissioner in what terms he pleased, and he would sign



248 Sf Giles' Lectures.



them. Carstares immediately wrote to the Commissioner,
signifying that it was his Majesty's pleasure to dispense with
putting the oaths to the ministers ; and, when the king had
signed it, he immediately despatched the messenger, who, by
being detained so many hours longer than he intended, did
not arrive in Edinburgh till the morning of the day fixed
for the sitting of the Assembly.

' By this time, both the Commissioner and the clergy were
in the utmost perplexity. He was obliged to dissolve the
Assembly ; they were determined to assert their own authority
independent of the civil magistrate. Both of them were appre-
hensive of the consequences, and looked upon the event of this



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 25 of 37)