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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day's contest as decisive with respect to the Church of Scot-
land ; when, to their inexpressible joy, they were relieved by
the return of the packet, countermanding the dissolution of the
Assembly. Next to the establishment of Presbytery in Scot-
land, no act of King William's administration endeared him so
much to the Presbyterians as this.'

This incident, as I have remarked elsewhere, marked a crisis
in the history of the Church. Henceforth the Presbyterians
believed in William's honesty and good-will, as they had not
believed before. They were now convinced of his firm inten-
tion to maintain Presbytery, and of their own secure position.
Conscious of a confirmed power, they were able to use it with
greater generosity. The Assembly proceeded to receive, and
empowered its Commission also to receive, the Episcopal
clergy who should apply for reception upon the reasonable terms
recently approved by Parliament. Those who thus conformed
were amicably admitted. Many of those who would not con-
form were allowed, and even entitled, under the protection of an
Act of the Parliament of 1695, to remain, and to officiate in
their parishes, though debarred from a place in the Presbyteries,
Synods, and Assemblies, in which the Presbyterian government
was vested. The waste and empty places were gradually reached,
and filled up. In the north, force was no longer employed to

77?^ Revolution Settlement. 249

expel Episcopal, or to intrude Presbyterian, incumbents. The
complete organisation of one homogeneous establishment was
left to the healing and restoring influences of time. That no
harsh pressure was used to hasten the action of these, and that
the policy and practice of the Church were vastly more lenient
after the Revolution than after the Restoration, is sufficiently
attested by the fact that even as late as 17 10 there were one
hundred and thirteen Episcopal ministers, of whom nine had not
even taken the prescribed oaths to government, still ministers of
parishes ; and that the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper was not
celebrated in Aberdeen, according to the Presbyterian use, until
the year 1704. The Episcopal Church, as a Church, was now,
however, practically broken up. Those of its clergy who con-
formed were henceforth politically powerless, and were merged,
more or less completely, in the Establishment. Those who kept
aloof, and who maintained a furtive relation to the surviving
bishops of the deprived Episcopate, became, in the natural
development of their original tendency, a body of political
dissidents, whose bond of union was primarily Jacobitism, and
only in a far inferior degree. Episcopacy. The lonely exile at
St Germain's was the true source of the Scotch Episcopacy
of the eighteenth century. The Scotch Episcopacy of the
nineteenth has no longer any sympathy with, in few cases
has it any knowledge of, its own historical ancestry. It retains
no relic or recollection of its old Scotch simplicity of ritual, and
of its Calvinistic creed. It acknowledges no admiration of the
royal absolutism, to which it owed its temporary establishment.
It has adopted the English Articles, and has clothed itself
with all the forms of Anglicanism of which it could lay
hold. It owes its vitality now to causes which did not
exist, and were not even thought of in 1694; but it is still,
as it has always been, essentially an alien on Scottish soil;
and in any of the great movements of thought, whether theo-
logical or political, exercises but little influence. That mid-
night interview of Carstares and William decided that, for evil

250 St Giles' Lectures.

or for good, Scotland in future was to be emphatically Presby-

Since that critical year of 1694, there has been no break in
the regular annual meetings of the General Assembly, under
the sanction of the sovereign, as represented by the Lord High
Commissioner. There has been no attempt to subvert the
arrangement by which — the Moderator and the Commissioner
each naming the same day for its next meeting — the independ-
ence of the Church and the prerogative of the Crown are
mutually recognised and adjusted.

The period between this year and that of the Union is not
marked by any special interest. The Assembly of 1694 began
a process {which was continued, with intervals, up to 17 11)
of exacting, with a growing stringency, from both ministers and
elders subscription to the Confession of Faith. An overture
approved by this Assembly contains the earliest draft of the
formula, which was subsequently required from ministers and
elders ; and which, originally devised with a view to scare
undesirable Episcopal applicants, or, at least, to entrap them
into professions of orthodoxy, has bequeathed an embarrass-
ment to the Church in days when no such safeguards are
required. Orihodox zeal took a more untoward form, when it
prompted the sacrifice on its cruel altar of a foolish lad of
eighteen, who had rendered himself amenable to a savage law
of Charles II., by spouting some juvenile irreverences about
certain doctrines of the Church. A great deal has been made
of his execution, as an index of the relentless and persecuting
temper of the Presbyterian clergy. Lord Macaulay, in particular,
has described their part in Aikenhead's unhappy fate, v/ith much
rhetorical exaggeration, and says, 'Wodrow has told us no blacker
story of Dundee.' The lad, it must be remembered, was con-
demned, not by the Church, but by the High Court of Justi-
ciary ; and recent investigation has proved that the voice of the
clergy was by no means raised so unmercifully and unanimously
against him, as the eloquent historian has represented.

The Rei>ohition Settlement.


That the spirit of the dominant reb'gion, as embodied
in the clergy of the Revolutionary Epoch, was somewhat
harsh, intolerant, and narrow, it would be vain to deny.
Persecution does not favour the growth of 'sweetness and light.'
Breadth of Christian culture and charity is not developed under
penal laws. ' The ministers of the Revolution,' as Mr Hill
Burton justly says, ' were no more a fair specimen of the literary
fruit of the Presbyterian system, than the fugitives of a routed
force are a fair specimen of the discipline and morality of an
army.' Nor were they a fair specimen of that noble type of
character, of which the Church had since the Reformation pro-
duced many shining examples, in which unselfish patriotism
and varied learning illustrate personal piety and charity. It
says much for the statesmanlike ability and governing power of
Carstares, that out of the somewhat rough materials, that lay to
his hand, he was able to build up the fabric of the restored
Church so skilfully as he did, and to keep so steadily to the
rule of ' Moderation.' It says much for the substantial reason-
ableness and good principle of the clergy — despite their defects
in culture, in tolerance, in the ' philosophic mind ' — that amongst
a people which still believed in witchcraft there were no serious
outbreaks of religious bigotry ; that in a country seething with
Jacobite intrigues, and national discontents, and preyed upon
by a gigantic pauperism, there was no explosion of political or
social disorder. The earlier fathers and leaders of the Church,
of whom you have heard, reckoned among their number many
men of marked genius, learning, and literary power. There is
no greater name than Buchanan's among the names of the
European scholars of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.
Melville, Baillie, Rutherford, Calderwood, Gillespie, were all
learned divines and accomplished men of letters; and there
were many of the same class and character among the Church-
men of the first half of the seventeenth century. But we
find no such names in the roll of the Revolution clergy.
The greatest man among them, Carstares, was a good scholar,

252 Sf Giles' Lectures.

and had enjoyed the advantage of the best training that
Holland — that generous nurse and shelter of Presbyterianism
• — could afford him; but his destiny and the bent of his
mind led him to the region of diplomacy and politics —
ecclesiastical and secular — and not of literature. The most
prolific writer of the period, Wodrow, cannot take high rank
among scholars and authors. The theological and literary
dearth is not relieved by the superabundance of contro-
versial pamphleteering — of all forms of literary activity the
most barren and unedifying.

Yet it is to the Church at this era of intellectual sterility —
as far as its literature is concerned — that we owe the measures
which have done more than any other to develop the intel-
lectual life of our country. Public education had been neg-
lected during the internecine strifes of Prelacy and Presbytery.
Now, however, the Assembly and the Parliament found time
and opportunity to carry out, at last, one long-postponed
portion of Knox's great scheme of Education. Since the
Restoration, no effort had been made to establish the system
of parochial schools : but the Church of the Revolution
was not content until Parliament had passed an Act com-
pelling the heritors of every parish to erect and endow a parish
school ; which was followed by an Act of Assembly enjoining
Presbyteries to see this law obeyed. It was duly carried out,
and the result was soon apparent. ' It made,' says Mr Lecky,
in his England in the Eighteenth Century, ' the average level of
Scotch intelligence superior to that of any other part of the
Empire.' Now that the system, which brought such good for
our forefathers, has been superseded by another, it is well to
remember that they owed it to the Church of the Revolution.

The industrial and commercial life of Scotland, which had
long been paralysed by the distractions of the country, began to
revive after the re-establishment of the National Church, but
had scarcely grown into any strength or stature, when it was
stupefied by the crushing disaster of Darien. The only hope of

The Revolution Sdilemcnt 253

its renewal lay in a union with England. Social and political
ambition, commercial enterprise, and the desire to secure the
Protestant succession to the throne, all pointed in the same

The Church had no liking for closer connection with
Prelatic England ; but wise Churchmen knew that Estab-
lished Presbytery had nothing to lose by being made a part
of the constitution of the United Kingdom, and put under
the protecting wing of the stable legislature of Great Britain.
The Church's interests, in prospect of the Union, had often
engaged the Scottish Parliament ; and Belhaven and his friends
had been zealous to maintain that the treaty offered no security
to the Church adequate to the danger which she would incur.
The Jacobites eagerly tried to fan the flame of discontent and
apprehension ; but the great majority of the clergy were wise,
and were wisely counselled by Carstares, who after William's
death had come to Scotland to be the Principal of the Univer-
sity of Edinburgh, and minister of this ancient church. They
refused to be led away by the zeal of injudicious allies
or the false sympathy of covert foes. The Commission
of the General Assembly, which, in virtue of its ordinary
powers, continued to act when the Assembly was not in
Session, represented the Church during the progress of the
treaty with calmness and dignity ; and in its addresses to
Parliament temperately stated those points in the measure
which were considered defective. The Commission com-
plained of the English Sacramental Test as the condition
of holding civil and military ofhce, and urged that no oath or
test of any kind, inconsistent with Presbyterian principles,
should be required from Scottish Churchmen. They recom-
mended that an obligation to uphold the Church of Scotland
should be embodied in the Coronation Oath. They repre-
sented the necessity of a ' Commission for the Plantation of
Kirks and Valuation of Teinds ; ' and they concluded their
fullest and most formal representation with an intimation

2 54 »S'/ Giles^ Lectures,

that knowing, as they did, that twenty-six bishops sat in the
House of Lords, which, on the conclusion of the treaty would
have jurisdiction in Scottish affairs, they desired to state,
with all respect, but all firmness, that it was contrary to the
Church's ' principles and covenants ' that ' any Churchman
should bear civil ofiices and have power in the Common-

These representations had due effect. The bench of bishops
of course could not be removed. The operation of the Test
Act in England could not be meddled Avith, though its scandal
and injustice were undeniable ; but as a kind of equivalent for
this grievance, and to guard the Scotch universities and schools
against the dreaded infection of Prelacy, it was enacted that
eveiy professor and teacher should, ere his admission, subscribe
the Confession of Faith as the confession of his faith, and
bind himself, in the Presbytery's presence, to conform to the
discipline and worship of the Established Church. It was
provided that the unalterable establishment and maintenance
of the Presbyterian Church should be stipulated by an Act
prior to any other Act that should ratify the treaty, and should
then be embodied in the Act of ratification ; and that the first
oath the British sovereign should take, on his accession, and
before his coronation, should be an oath to maintain ' the
government, worship, discipline, rights, and privileges of the
Church of Scotland.' The minor points, as to kirks and teinds,
were satisfactorily disposed of, and the Church saw her firmness
and moderation crowned with an adequate success.

A General Assembly had been held in the spring of 1707,
ere yet the Act of Union had come into operation. There is
no reference to the Union in its printed records ; and we may
conclude that its leaders, finding that their brethren would not
bless the treaty, thought it best to pass it by in silence. Their
patriotic calmness and self-control were highly appreciated by
the government ; which was well aware that had the clergy
thrown their influence into the same scale with the popular

The Revolution Settlement. 255

passion and hatred of the Union, it never could have been

By the time the Assembly of 1708 met, the ancient
Parliament, which the ecclesiastical Convention had so often
controlled, so often withstood, had passed away for ever.
With the demise of the Scottish Legislature much of the
strength and glory of the Supreme Court of the Church
departed. The Assembly could never again expect to influence
the British, as it had influenced the Scottish, Parliament.
The leaders of Scotch political life, attracted to St Stephen's,
and exposed there to all the influences of English society and
of a powerful and predominant Episcopacy, were no longer
likely to take their seats as elders in the Scotch Church court,
and to lend their weight to its deliberations.

It was of importance that the first Assembly that met in these
altered circumstances should choose as its president one whose
Presbyterianism and Churchmanship had stood keen tests, and
who yet enjoyed the confidence of the government, and had
been a promoter of the Union, and who, by the worth of his
character and dignity of his position, would do honour to the
Moderator's Chair. The choice naturally fell upon Carstares.

The queen's letter to the Assembly made no special reference
to the Union, although referring, in commendation, to the ' zeal
and affection ' which the Church had shewn, during the recent
attempt at a French invasion in the Jacobite interest. Neither
in the Acts of Assembly, nor in its address to the queen, is
the great change in the constitution of the nation named.
Carstares' opening speech is occupied with the threatened
invasion, rather than with the abolished Legislature and the
new condition of things. ' The Presbyterians of Scotland,' he
said, 'have too great a concern for the Protestant Churches,
and too great a detestation of Popery and tyranny, and see and
hear of too many dismal instances of French government, not
to have an abhorrence both of the designs of Versailles and the
pretences of St Germain's.'

256 S^ Gilei Lectures,

This avoidance of a subject which could not but be upper-
most in all men's minds indicates no indifference to it, nor any
unanimity regarding it ; it rather reveals a state of feeling and
opinion in which it was tacitly admitted that the subject could
not be approached without danger. National pride had been
too recently wounded, ecclesiastical jealousy too freshly
irritated, the practical effects of the Union, in Church and
State, in society and in trade, too little tested, to allow of any
body of Scottish Presbyterians giving it an unprejudiced dis-
cussion. Carstares' wisdom and moderation were rewarded
by, as they were reflected in, the dignified reticence of the first
post-Union Assembly. The predominating control of that
great Moderate party, which he had largely helped to con-
solidate, and which he now led — a control that was to last for
more than a century — was already established.

I have reached my limit. If, throughout this lecture, and
now at its close, I should be thought to have trenched too
much on the domain of civil history, it must be remembered
that the rights of the people were inseparably connected with
their Church's cause ; and that it was, in point of fact, the
sturdy Presbyterianism of Scotland, of which their Church was
the embodiment, that won the liberties of the Revolution, and
secured the blessings of the Union.




1707 TO 1800 A.D.^

By the Very Rev. John Tulloch, D.D., LL.D., Principal of St Mary's
College, St Andrews, and one of Her Majesty's Chaplains.

nPHE subject assigned me is a large one, requiring an extended
-*- canvas. In the short space allotted to me, I can only-
draw some of its salient features. It is, moreover, a difficult
and critical subject, stirring questions of which we have not- yet
seen the end, and bringing before us for the first time fully-
developed parties, whose rival influence has modified the whole
modern history of the Church of Scotland, and whose conflicts
and jealousies survive to the present time. I must therefore
not only work upon a reduced canvas, but with a very delicate
pencil. Whatever use these St Giles' Lectures may be, one of
their main intentions must be to soften, rather than to harden
ecclesiastical prejudices, and to make the controversies and

^ I wish particularly to express my obligations in the preparation of this
lecture to Dr Cunningham's Church History of Scotland, vol. ii., and Morren's
Annals of the General Assembly from 1739 to 1766 — the more so that I have
not given detailed references to either. I need not particularise my obli-
gations otherwise. They appear partly in the course of the lecture, which
has been completed with difficulty during illness, and makes no claim to

258 S^ Giles' Lectures.

asperities of the past a warning for our better guidance, rather
than a stimulus to our unspent feuds. The Lecturer must of
course say what he thinks ; but he must say it with discrimina-
tion, and in charity towards all.

With the cessation of the Scottish Parliament in 1707,
Scotland ceased to have a separate political history. It re-
mained in many respects still a distinct kingdom, especially in
those social and religious characteristics which are deeper than
any Acts of Parliament, which formal legislation may express and
ratify, but cannot directly alter. The people themselves were
distinct from their kindred across the Border; hardened into
an independent nationality by long struggle with influences
which they refused to accept, and having their independence
rooted in the passionate, if narrow love, which is always lavished
on that which has cost us dear. The judicial and administra-
tive system of the country which centred in the Court of Session
and its cognate functionaries, was distinct. And of course the
Church was distinct, secured by definite statute in 1690, and
again and very solemnly in the Act of Union. The Commissioners
for the Union had been precluded from treating 'of or con-
cerning any alteration of the worship, discipline, and government
of the Church as by law established in Scotland.' Whatever
was to be altered, the Presbyterian Church was not to be
altered. And so, while the ancient Parliament of the realm
disappeared, the Scottish Church not only remained untouched,
but was continued, in the emphatic words of the Act of Union,
' without any alteration to the people of this land in all succeed-
ing generations ; ' and the oath guaranteeing this settlement, as
is well known, is the first that is taken by a new monarch on
his or her accession to the throne.

Distinct as Scotland remained in national life at the begin-
ning of the eighteenth century, the Church, thus secured by
statute and the ' inclinations of the generality of the people, ever
since the Reformation,' naturally became the chief organ for the
expression of national feeling and activity. Such national diver-

The Church of the Eighteenth Century. 259

sities as existed were reflected in it, and came to a head in the
management of its affairs in the General Assembly. The
difficulties described in the previous lecture as to the Episcopal
clergy who remained within the Church, were prolonged into
this period ; and others were added arising out of the Union
and the natural influx of English officials which followed it.
In the east and the north — in Forfarshire, Kincardineshire,
Aberdeenshire, and even the far Ross-shire, where Presbyterian-
ism of an extreme type is now so conspicuously found,
Episcopacy possessed many entire parishes. In point of fact,
there were parts of the Highlands and Islands where Popery,
if not Paganism, still lingered; and to the acknowledgment
of this fact the Society for the Propagation of Christian
Knowledge owes its origin. It originated in the very year
of the Union, was fostered by the Church, and received royal
institution and sanction two years later. There are Highland
districts even now, as every one knows, where Romanism has
its contented and peaceful adherents. But in the beginning
of last century, and in the view of a National Presbyterianism
clothed with new statutory authority, such facts were naturally
.fitted to arouse anxiety. The terms of the Church's original
establishment called upon it to purge out all such erroneous
elements, as savouring of civil no less than of religious dis-
affection; and the royal letters addressed to the General
Assembly , emphasised the same duty of planting everywhere
vacant churches with sound Protestant ministers. This part of
its work, therefore, was expressly laid upon the Church ; and it
was no mere restlessness of zeal that impelled it to undertake
the task of Presbyterian propagandism, in the course of which
the visitors or agents of the General Assembly sometimes
met with what Wodrow calls 'very inhuman treatment from
those disaffected to the Establishment.' ^

The Church was only doing its duty in planting, so far as it

^ CorresJ)., vol. i., p. 216.

26o 6"/ Giles Lectures.

was able, Presbyterian ministers in the face of local opposition ;
but it was undoubtedly wrong in resisting the rights of free
worship and toleration to Episcopal clergymen like Green-
shields, who desired merely to meet and hold divine service
according to the forms of the Church of England. The per-
secution of Greenshields, from first to last, was a miserable
business, reflecting credit neither on the General Assembly nor
on the Magistrates of Edinburgh ; and the Tory Parliament of
Queen Anne, if not to be justified in much that it did, was
fully justified in securing by statute that the Episcopal Com-
munion in Scotland should not be disturbed in the exercise
of their religious worship. The Toleration Act of 1712 was
a statute of freedom, obnoxious as it was to the great body
of Presbyterians. It confined the ecclesiastical power to its own
sphere; and, while it left the Church its anathemas against
schism and ' innovations in the worship of God,' protected all
who chose to put themselves voluntarily beyond its pale from
all forcible interference. It is melancholy to think that even
the Church of Carstares did what it could to oppose such a law,
and that it can be said with truth by the modern historian that

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 26 of 37)