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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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authorities, whom we addressed on the subject. Early in 1879,
while still engaged in restoring the southern aisles, we made an
offer to the Town Council and Magistrates, and to the Edin-
burgh Ecclesiastical Commissioners, to restore the whole of
this ancient, historical building at our own expense, provided
we were put in possession of the nave not later than Whit-
sunday 1880. The offer was entertained by the citizens, and
steps were taken to secure its acceptance.

The first thing done was to procure an Act of Parliament to
sanction the removal of the West St Giles' Congregation. By
this Act, obtained in August 1879, ^^^ which received the
approval and support of government, it was stipulated that
upon payment of ;!^io,5oo, the West St Giles' Congregation
should be bound within a year to vacate the building and
provide a new church for themselves. Thereafter a Committee,
under the auspices of the Lord Provost, Magistrates, and
Council, was formed to collect subscriptions for the purpose
of fulfilling the condition of the Act of Parliament.

As the proposed restoration was national and unsectarian
in its object, the Committee was composed of gentlemen of
different rehgious denominations, and through their instrumen-
tality, as at Whitsunday 1880, contributions to the amount of
about ;^52oo were received or promised. There being, how-
ever, still a large deficiency, we, on being applied to, were
induced to extend the time for collection for one year — namely,
till Whitsunday i88i — but only on condition that if the full sum



Si Giles' Cathedral Church.



irequired should not be then collected, our offer was to be with-
drawn, and was not to be renewed. Along with this offer a
proviso was made which it is necessary to explain.

There being no official authorities in the form of a dean and
chapter who could regulate various matters connected with
St Giles' in its complete state, we made a stipulation to the
following effect — That to facilitate arrangements for the erection
of monuments to distinguished Scotchmen in St Giles', to
regulate the introduction of coloured-glass windows, and for
managing the interior of the building after the restoration,
the Town Council would be expected to concur in appointing
a committee of management, which we had formerly specified
for these special purposes.

It would be needless to recount the various steps taken, some
of them under difficulties, to gather subscriptions sufficient to
complete the required sum of ;z^ 10,500. It is enough to say,
that the Magistrates and Council, assisted by Mr Robert Adam,
City Chamberlain, made a decisive effort for the purpose in
February 1881, and were materially aided by an auxiliary
Committee composed of leading members of the Church of
Scotland, headed by the Right Hon. Lord Justice-General.
These united efforts were so successful that there can be no
doubt the entire sum required will be obtained by the appointed
date, Whitsunday 1881. As regards the stipulation above hinted
at, it has been amply secured by the united consent of the
Magistrates and Council, the Kirk Session of the High Church,
and the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. All that remains to be
done is to pay the money; after which it will be a mere
matter of adjustment when the West St Giles' Congregation
will remove, and the work of restoring the nave be allowed
to proceed. One thing is certain : when the keys of this part
of the building are put into our hands, not an hour will be lost
in commencing this important undertaking. And may God
grant us life and health to carry it to a successful issue.

w. c.

Ixii



iS/ Gilei Cathedral Church.



Postscript.— As preparatory to the required restorations in the
nave and transepts, Messrs Hay and Henderson, architects, have
made a thorough survey of St Giles', embracing measurements of
every part, with the view of making a set of plans, elevations, and
sections of the whole fabric. By this means specifications will be
drawn up of what is intended to be done, or what may be properly
attempted. Such specifications will be submitted to the pubUc
authorities.



NOTE,

THE MEMORIAL WINDOWS IN ST GILES'.

St Giles' is known to have possessed at least some coloured-glass windows
previous to the Reformation, but they had long since disappeared ; and
their re-introduction required a new and special effort. The windows
throughout the Church are uniform in style and character. They
may be described as a blending of the perpendicular and flamboyant
styles of Gothic art, with cross bars or transoms dividing the windows
into upper and lower lights. They are therefore well adapted for
admitting illustrations of different subjects, or of a subject in several
parts. On the occasion of restoring the choir, the introduction of
stained glass received the attention of a special Committee. The design
entertained was that all the windows in the choir should refer exclusively to
events in the history of Our Lord. This plan has accordingly been carried
out, by the gifts of private individuals. The subject of each window was
prescribed. No heraldic or extraneous devices were allowed to be introduced.
But the donors were permitted to place a memorial inscription of a single
line at the foot of their respective windows. The result has been entirely
satisfactory.

The following is a list of the Memorial Windows ifi the choir. They were
executed by James Ballantine and Son, under the honorary supervision of
R. Herdman, R.S.A.

First Window. — The Nativity, and Holy Family ; the Presentation in the
Temple ; The Flight into Egypt ; Disputation with the Doctors. — In
memory of James Monteith, merchant, Calcutta, died 1872. Erected by his
brother, Duncan Monteith, 1874.

Ixiii



S^ cues' Cathedral Church.



Second Windotv. — The Baptism of Our Lord ; the CalHng of the Apostles ;
First Miracle at Cana ; Healing the Sick. — In memory of James Richardson,
merchant, Edinburgh, died 1868. Erected by his widow and children, 1875.

Third Window. — Christ blessing little Children ; Stilling of the Tempest ;
Healing of the Blind ; Raising of Lazarus. — In memory of Dean of Guild
Lorimer, who perished when rendering help at a fire in 1865. Erected by
his widow and family.

Fourth Windoiv. — Christ's Entry into Jerusalem ; Christ purging the
Temple ; Christ commending the poor Widow at the Treasury ; Christ
preaching daily in the Temple. — In memory of Robert Stevenson, Engineer
to the Northern Light-houses, died 1850. Erected by his sons, 1875.

Fifth Window (East gable). — The Last Supper ; Christ's Agony in the
Garden ; Betrayal ; Bearing the Cross. — Gift of William Law, Lord Provost
of Edinburgh, 1869 to 1872.

Sixth Windoiv (Great East Window). — The Cnicifixion, with numerous
figures ; Ascension, with eleven apostles grouped. — Presented by the
Right Hon. Sir James Falshaw, Baronet, Lord Provost of Edinburgh, 1872
to 1877.

Seventh Windoiv. — Angels announcing the Resurrection to the Marys at
the Sepulchre ; the Appearance of Our Lord to Mary Magdalene, to
St Thomas and the Disciples. — In memory of Robert Smith, S.S.C., died
1875. Erected by his relatives and friends.

Eighth Window, being first in south wall. — Parable of Good Samaritan ;
Parable of Prodigal Son. — In memory of James Webster, S.S.C, died 1879.

Ninth Windoiu. — Parables of the Ten Virgins, and of the Talents. — In
memory of Alexander Clapperton, merchant, Edinburgh, died 1849, and
Anne Hume, his wife, died 1873. Erected by their sons, John and
Alexander Clapperton, 1876.

THE CLERESTORY WINDOWS IN CHOIR.

These windows ai^e appropriated to the arms of the Craftsmen of Edin-
burgh. Those of the Wrights and Masons, Painters and Glaziers, Baxters,
and the High Constables, are already put up.



Window in the Moray Aisle representing the assassination of the Earl
of Murray, and the preaching of his funeral sermon by John Knox. — Pre-
sented by the present Earl of Moray. This admired window has also been
executed by James Ballantine and Son.
Ixiv



ST GILES' LECTURES.



FIRST SERIES— THE SCOTTISH CHURCH.



LECTURE L

HEATHEN SCOTLAND TO THE INTRODUCTION
OF CHRISTIANITY.

By the Rev. James Cameron Lees, D.D., St Giles' Cathedral
(High Kirk), Edinburgh.

T T has, as some of you know, been proposed to have a series of
Lectures upon Scottish ecclesiastical history from the earliest
times down to the present day, to be given by various well-
known ministers in this ancient church. It is to be hoped that
this course will be both interesting and instructive. The lectures
are delivered here without infringing upon our ordinary hours
of public worship, and will I believe be thoroughly in accord-
ance with the spirit of the day of rest and prayer. Nothing
surely can have a more religious tendency, and be more calcu-
lated to awaken in the mind sentiments truly religious than to
trace the progress of Christianity in our land from the barbarism
of the prehistoric age, to the light and civilisation of the
present day; from where it triumphed over heathen temples and
overthrew the shrines of heathen gods, to its influence in our
own time, and its power as a chief factor in the civilisation



2 Sf Gi/es' Lectures,

of the nineteenth century. We all know how deeply interesting
is the book of Acts, which tells of the commencement of the
Christian church, and its conflict with Roman, Greek, and other
religions. Every account of its progress since that time is a
sequel to that book, and shews us how the river of whose rise
that book tells has flowed onward, like the stream described by
Ezekiel, making waste places glad, and changing desolation and
barrenness into fertility. The history of the church in Scotland,
like that of the civil history of this same country, is full of
romance, of stirring scenes, and of most picturesque and weird
effects. These will doubtless be dwelt upon in turn ; but what
the devout mind will see and reverently admire is, that amid
many changes and overturnings there has been a steady progress
on the whole, and evidence of an overruling power causing all
things to work together for good. To be able to recognise
this, it is necessary to take a view, not of one portion, but of
the whole history of our country's faith, to review the causes
that have been at work for generations — to trace them in their
operation from age to age down to the present hour. All know
that Scotchmen have been made in great measure what they
are by their national religion ; its story, too little known, ought
therefore to prove attractive. That it will be so in the hands
of those who tell it I cannot doubt. It could not be told in a
more suitable place than in this church, with which so many
historic associations are connected.

I have been honoured by those who have instituted this
course by being asked to give the introductory lecture. It
seems to me that I can best discharge this duty by bringing
before y^u, so far as can be ascertained, the state of Scotland
at the advent of Christianity, when those influences, of which
subsequent lectures will give a full account, first began to
tell on our country, and which, reaching down to the present
day, have created and moulded our national and religious life.

The materials for forming an estimate of the state of pre-



Heathen Scotland. 3

Christian Scotland are of the very scantiest character. Few
monuments of those dark ages which preceded the coming
to our land of Christian teachers have come down to us. There
is almost nothing in the discoveries or treasures of archaeology ;
neither temple nor sacrificial knife nor altar, from which we can
glean an idea of what the religion of our Scottish forefathers
was. The little that we can learn is chiefly from Christian
historians, who describe the conflict of their religion with
heathendom, and who incidentally tell somewhat of those rites
and superstitions from which the first converts to the new faith
were delivered. But as these historians wrote after Christianity
had obtained a firm hold upon the country and people, it is
difficult to say how much of what they relate may be relied
upon. St Patrick, St Columba, St Cuthbert, are Christian
heroes whose lives are glorified with a halo of miracle and
romance. It is not easy to discriminate between what is legend
and what is fact in the story of their words and deeds. Some
slight knowledge of Christianity had apparently been previously
imparted through the Roman occupation, and also through the
preaching of St Ninian.

When Christianity first made itself felt as a permanent
power in these lands, the country we now call Scotland was
divided into four kingdoms. To the north of the line of the
Forth and Clyde lay the kingdoms of the Scots and Picts,
separated from one another by a mountain chain called by the
old writers, Dorsum Britannise or Drumalban. The kingdom
of the Scots comprehended generally what are now called the
counties of Argyll and Bute and Arran. That of the Picts,
those of Orkney and Shetland, Caithness, Sutherland, Ross,
Inverness, Perth, and Fife. The part of Scotland to the south
of the line of the Forth and Clyde was divided between two
other kingdoms — those of the Britons of Strathclyde, and the
Saxons of Northumbria. The territory of the Britons extended
southwards from the Clyde to the river Derwent in Cumber-
land. It comprehended part of Cumberland and Westmore-



4 Sf Giles^ Lectures.

land, and the counties of Dumfries, Lanark, Ayr, Renfrew, and
Peebles. To the east of this kingdom was that of the Saxons
or Angles, which included Northumberland, Berwick, Roxburgh,
East-Lothian, and perhaps Mid-Lothian, where then, as now,
there stood the strong fortified position that still bears the name
of the Saxon King Edwin — Edwinsbruch. Galloway was occu-
pied by a colony of Picts.^

The Scots were the descendants of a colony of Irish who in
the fifth century had settled along the western coast of Scot-
land, and who were in close connection with their mother-
country of Ireland. The Picts were the ancient Caledonians,
that fierce people of whom we have an account from the
Roman historians — men of red hair and large limbs, who had no
walled cities, who lived by pasturage and the chase, who fought
in chariots and painted their bodies with pictures of wild
animals, and who could stand for days immersed in the waters
of their marshes.^ The Britons were the native Celtic race, who
had been colonised by the Romans, and who called themselves
Roman citizens. They had received some knowledge of
Christianity at a very early period ; but apparently after the
withdrawal of the Romans they relapsed into Paganism.^
The Saxons were the Teutons from Hanover and Friesland,
who had made a settlement on the eastern coast, and who
were continually trenching on the territory of their neighbours.

The language of the Scots, and probably also of the Picts,*
was that which is now known as the Gaelic. That of the
Britons still lingers in Wales. That of the Saxons or Angles is

1 The four old kingdoms are referred to by more than one early historian.
In a poem relating to the labours of St Columba, it is said :

' The people of Alba to the Ictian Sea,
The Gaedhil cruithneans, Saxons, Saxo-Brits.
Best of men was the man who went [to them].'

See also Bede, c. 14.

2 Dion Cassius. ^ Skene's Celtic Scotland, vol. i., p. 157.
* Mr Skene seems to have shewn this conclusively.



Heatheji Scotland. 5

represented by the English tongue. Each of these kingdoms
had its capital — a fortress of great strength, the seat of govern-
ment, where the king resided. The capital of the Scots was at
Dunadd, a rocky eminence near the Crinan Canal. That of
the Picts, at the commencement of the Christian period, was
near the mouth of the river Ness — probably the height called
Craig Patrick, near the modern town of Inverness.^ The
capital of the Britons was at Alcluith or Dumbarton, and that
of the Saxons at Bamburgh on the Northumbrian shore.

Between these races there was continual warfare. Like all
barbarians, they delighted in the chase and martial achieve-
ments. Their annals, such as they are, are the record of petty
feuds. The northern Caledonians hunted the deer, the boar,
and the wolf. They navigated lake and sea in canoes made
out of a hollow tree, such as are still occasionally dug up out of
the morasses ; or in boats made of wicker-work covered with
the skins of animals, like those that are still used in some parts
of the west of Ireland. They had advanced a certain stage in
civilisation. They had emerged from the stone and bronze age,
were conversant with the use of metals, and the Britons at least
had local government in a more or less organised form. Pro-
bably the nearest resemblance to the northern Scot may be
found in an African tribe of the present day, with its scattered
villages and head township strongly fortified, where the king
resides.

The religion of the two northern kingdoms, those of the Picts
and the Scots, seems to have been very much the same in
its character. We can only form an idea of what it was from
the history of the early Christian missionaries. Holding a high
place among both Scots and Picts, was a class of men called
Druids. They are mentioned frequently in the lives of St
Columba and St Patrick ; and in the ancient Celtic manuscripts

1 See Adamnan's account of St Columba's visit to King Brude.



6 Sf Giles^ Lectures.

which have come down to us from Irish sources, Druids appear
to have held a distinct position in connection with the rehgious
Hfe of the people such as it was. They resided at the residence
of kings, and they exercised great power in national affairs.
An order of priests bearing this name inhabiting Gaul and
Southern Britain has been described by the Roman historians
with considerable minuteness. These Druids, according to
them, presided at sacrifices ; they were instructors of the young,
and were judges in all matters of controversy. They took no
part in war, nor were liable to pay taxes. They made use of
the Greek letters in writing. They inculcated the immortality
of the soul and its transmigration into different bodies. They
taught the youths astronomy, and 'much about the nature of
things and the immortal gods.' They used rites of augury from
the slaughter of a human victim, and dwelt in dense groves in
remote places. They taught in caves or hidden forests, and
they burned or buried with the dead what was most prized by
them when living. They considered the oak as the emblem of
the Almighty, and the misletoe was regarded with peculiar
veneration. It was detached from the parent tree by a golden
knife, and carried home with imposing ceremony. Csesar and
also Pliny have a good deal to say of these mysterious persons
the Druids, and they still furnish material for much antiquarian
and historic controversy. Into such controversy we cannot of
course enter. All that we have to say is, there is no trace of
any such organised priesthood existing in Northern Britain as
the Roman historians describe.

Whatever may be the degree of belief put in the legends
respecting the character and even the designation of the
Druids — supposing we go the length of saying there were never
any such persons — we are confronted with certain tangible me-
morials existing to this day of a religious or ceremonial observ-
ance unrecorded in history. There they are, and as rational
beings we are invited to account for them. Most probably, as
we venture to think, these memorials are the significant relics of



Heathen Scotland. 7

a system of pagan worship which vanished on the introduction
of Christianity. We allude in a special manner to those mys-
terious circles and groups of stones of different dimensions, and
varied in their mechanical preparation, that are found in the
British Islands and in France, the Gaul of the Romans. The
grandest and most remarkable of these memorials is the well-
known Stonehenge in Wiltshire. Two others, less imposing,
but equally suggestive, are the standing-stones of Stennis in
Orkney, and of Callernish in the island of Lewis. Differing as
these circles do in some respects, they are clearly all of one
character. They have had the same meaning. They belong
to a people possessing a similarity in superstitious or symbolic
observance.

We are aware that the custom of fixing large stones in an
upright posture in the ground commemorative of men or im-
portant events is of prodigious antiquity in almost all nations.
Besides being found in Britain and continental Europe, these
monoliths are seen in Assyria, Persia, India, and Mexico. Such
memorials receive notice in the Old Testament. We read in
Judges, ix. 6, of Abimelech being made king 'by the pillar
which was in Shechem ; ' and in 2 Kings, xi. 14, of Joash, when
he was anointed king, standing * by a pillar, as the manner was.'
A like usage prevailed in ancient Britain when the king or chief
was elected. At Carnac in Brittany there is a surprisingly large
number of upright stones, not in circles, but in straight lines,
with a curved row at one end, while all around are seen
barrows and cromlechs. The whole had evidently been con-
nected with sepulchral, judicial, or other solemnities. In
Norway and the north-east of Scotland exist many rudely
sculptured stones which had been set up in a remote period of
paganism, but some of which had received carvings of Christian
symbols, such as the cross, after the diffusion of Christianity.

Let us not despise these rude testimonies, obscure though
they be, and of no recognisable value, according to ordinary
notions. There is something to touch the feelings in observing



8 Si Giles" Lectures.

these sculptured records of an extremely ancient heathenism.
There is, indeed, always matter for elevating emotion in con-
templating objects of human art which carry us back to the
far-reaching past, into what might be called the infancy of
mankind. Uncouth as they are, there is a sentiment of good
in these old stones. We can at least say that at first sight
of the gigantic monoliths of Stonehenge, we experienced feel-
ings of awe akin to those which usually occur on coming in
presence of the Pyramids. We saw before us the relics of
a huge work of art, exceUing all similar constructions in Britain,
and the age of which could not reasonably be deemed less
than three thousand years, a stretch of time that takes us
back to the era of Moses, the venerated lawgiver of Israel.
Nor, in looking at Stonehenge, standing as it does in melan-
choly solitude, were our emotions of a less solemnising nature
by knowing that we were within a few miles of that noble
Christian fane, Salisbury Cathedral, with its lofty and ex-
quisitely tapering spire piercing the skies, reminding us of an
eminent Scotsman and church dignitary, Bishop Gilbert Burnet,
the historian of the Reformation, and the eloquent advocate of
civil and religious liberty.

Reverting to those shadowy persons, the Druids, it is alleged
that one of them of considerable celebrity named Broichan,
resided at the court of the Pictish King Brude, and that the
Highland apostle St Columba had with him more than one
trial of strength, which has been duly recorded. ' On a certain
day,' says the biographer of Columba, * Broichan, while con-
versing with the saint, said to him : " Tell me, Columba, when
dost thou propose to sail?" The saint replied : " I intend to
begin my voyage after three days, if God permits me and pre-
serves my life." Broichan said : " On the contrary, thou shalt
not be able, for I can make the winds unfavourable to thy
voyage, and cause a great darkness to envelop you in its
shade." That same day, the saint, accompanied with a number
of his followers, went to the long lake of the river Nesa (Loch



Iteathen Scotland. ^



Ness), as he had determined. Then the Druids began to
exult, seeing that it had become very dark, and that the wind
was very violent and contrary. Our Columba called on Christ
the Lord, and embarked in his small boat; and while his
sailors hesitated, he the more confidently ordered them to raise
the sails against the wind. No sooner was this order executed,
while the whole crowd was looking on, than the vessel ran
against the wind with extraordinary speed.' ^ This is one
instance in which the magical pretensions of the Druids have
been specified. It is not the only one : the Christian teachers
seem constantly to have been in conflict with them, and are
represented as triumphing over their black art by means of the
miraculous powers they are supposed to have possessed. 'A



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 5 of 37)