Page images

mentaries are framed, but it is first necessary to give some account of the work itself and of the author.

The pains bestowed by Mr. Sharpe have thrown some light on the obscure events of Mr. James Kirkton's life, of which the following is an outline. He was a presbyterian clergyman, and as he seems to have subscribed the Solemn League and Covenant in 1648, he is conjectured to have been one of the antediluvian ministers of his persuasion, that is, such wbo‘had seen the glory of the former temple, and were ordained before the Restoration. In this capacity he was settled as minister in the parish of Mertoun, in Berwickshire, from which he was expelled as a recusant after the Restoration. In the year 1671, we find him engaged in a controversy with the quakers, who then had some proselytes of rank in the south of Scotland. Kirkton did not avail bimself of the earlier indulgence which permitted some of the presbyterian clergy to exercise their ministerial functions, and accordingly fell under the lash of power for keeping conventicles. He was trepanned into a house by one Captain Carstairs, whose view seems to have been to extort money from him, or otherwise to deliver him up to government as a recusant preacher. In this emergency, Kirkton was delivered by the forcible interference of his brother-in-law, Mr. Baillie of Jerviswood, who was afterwards subjected both to fine and imprisonment for having drawn his sword upon the occasion, and who finally suffered death for his supposed share in what is called from his name Jerviswood's conspiracy ; being the Scottish branch of the Ryehouse plot. Kirkton, after his rencontre with Carstairs, was outlawed, and obliged to fly to Holland. In 1687 he again returned to Scotland, and condescended to avail himself of the benefit of King Janies's toleration; a circumstance which probably, for a time, sullied the purity and corrupted the savour of his doctrine in the opinion of the ultra-presbyterians. After the year 1688, Kirkton, with the other ousted ministers, was restored to his church at Mertoun, which he speedily exchanged, to exercise his functions in the Tolbooth church of Edinburgh. Here he continued till his death, in September, 1699. A son survived him, who fell off from his path-and a daughter, of whom her father is reported, in a ludicrous and scandalous work, to have said from the pulpit, I have been this whole year of God preaching against the vavity of women, yet I see my own daughter in the kirk even now with as high a cockup as any of you all.'* These cockups were a sort of hat or cap turned up before; and, whatever truth there may be in the anecdote, so far as Kirkton is concerned, were certainly subjects of great scandal to the godly of that period, as the following passage witnesseth. * Scotch Presbyterian Eloquence.

" I remember

* I remember about thirty years ago, when cockups were in fashion, some of them half-yard high, set with wires, a solid serious Christian gentlewoman told me she was going to a friend's wedding; her comrades cojistrained her to put herself in dress; she was uneasy in her mind, and thought she was not herself through the day: when she came home, before she changed herself, she went to her closet to bethink herself how she' had spent the loose time, as weddings and fairs are for the most part, and few that keep a bridle: hand to their spirits at such times; after some thoughts, she went to prayer; her conscience challenged her so sbarply, that she rose bastily, plucked it off, and threw it from her, saying-Thou, nor no such thing, shall ever come on my head or body, that I dare not pray with. () that all gracious praying souls, who have a mind for heaven, would take good heed what their Bible

says, and notice this and such like instances, and lotbe, bate, and abhor the sinful, vain, fool fashions of the day, that the perishing world are ambitious ot! - Life and Death of Alexander Peden, published by Patrick Walker, 1727.-p. 145.

The same author informs us, in a passage that shews to what extent the vice of profane swearing had attained in Scotland, that Mr. Kirkton used to preach against it with a zeal certainly more laudable than that which he displayed against cockups. The note of his sermon appears to have escaped Mr. Sharpe. The whole passage illustrates the truth of the French proverb, Jurer comme un Ecossois.

" 4thly. - Their dreadful unheard of ways of swearing the devil's free volunteers,-crying to damn their souls for Christ's sake, and others for his glory's sake, which are to be heard in our streets; others wagering their bottles of wine, who to outstrip in greatest oaths; others, when their comrades are going for England, request them, as their best service and news, that if there be any new-coined oaths, to write and send them down, for the old ones in Scotland are become stale. Many have changed the holy and blessed name of God to Gad, one of his sinful mortal creatures; yea, some called presbyterian ministers, who affect the English cant, follow their bellish example even in their pulpits, which struck me with consternation and filled me with indignation, to hear the holy name of God so irreverently mentioned, or rather blasphemed, and many tender souls complaining of it to me, declared that it made their hearts to quake. The reverend, sententious old Mr. James Kirkton said in his pulpit in Edinburgh, that swearing was not a saint's sin, for it was not possible that a saint of God could be guilty of it habitually,'-- Ibidem, p. 140.

The same biographer, (the zealous Patrick Walker,) who puts so severe a construction upon the affectation of correct English pronunciation, gives us another specimen of Mr. Kirkton's preaching, which, if correct, will confirm the charge his editor has brought against him of prejudice and credulity:

It was one of the sententious sayings of the Rev. Mr. James Kirkton, in his pulpit in Edinburgh, insisting upon Scotland's singular pri

I 14


[ocr errors]

vileges above all other churches for a long time," that there had been ministers in Scotland that had the gift of working miracles and prophesying, which he could instruct: and that he had heard French, Dutch, English, Irisli, and other ministers preach, and yet there have been and are ministers in Scotland that preach much more from the heart and to the heart than any he bad ever heard.'”Life of Daniel Cargell, p. 34.

From all we know of the author, he seems to have been a serious and well-meaning man, not superior certainly to the prejuciices of his time and sect, and credulous therefore in what flattered them, but incapable of perverting the truth so far as it was known to him, and having opportunities as a clergyman of eminence in bis party, and from his connexion with a man of talents and fortune like Jerviswood, to collect much accurate information,

The · Secret History of the Church of Scotland' unfortunately only embraces the period betwixt the Restoration and the year 1678, when, as we have seen, the reverend author was compelled to fly to Holland. Mr. Sharpe has added something to the narrative by printing the account of the murder of Archbishop Sharp, by James Russell, one of the actors.

In reviewing the history of the church of Scotland, it will not be expected that we should draw a parallel between its discipline and that of England. We believe that the doctrines of boih in spiritual matters, unless perhaps upon some very dark and abstruse points of divinity, coincide with much exactness. However great therefore the external difference in respect to government, it will be now readily granted by Christians of both persuasions, that each church contains and teaches that which is essential to salvation. And touching the points of external discipline in which they differ, we shall not perhaps greatly err in supposing that different kinds of church-government may suit a wealthy and a poor country, one where the reformed doctrines were introduced peaceably and under the authority of the civil ruler, and another in which those by whom the Reformation was received were necessarily obliged to plead their cause in arms and assert their liberty of conscience in opposition to Roman catholic rulers. The great Shepherd of our souls, who, through all his works, bas led us to seek our spiritual good by the means best adapted to our relative situations, has been pleased, from the very commencement of the Restoration, in both kingdoms, to make so wide a distinction betwixt England and Scotland that as the attempt to introduce the Presbyterian form of church government into the former would have been like insanity; so in Scotland, such was the aversion and so absolute the overthrow not only of the Roman Catholic doctrines, but of all rights, privileges, and property belonging to the national church, that it be


came a matter of absolute necessity to establish a more popular and less expensive form of church government.

In England, the rule adopted by Queen Elizabeth was to preserve all that could be saved of the old fabric, transferring the supremacy of the church from a foreign priest to the domestic and natural sovereign, and renouncing those vain superstitions and human devices with which a long tract of usurpation and priestcraft had darkened the lustre of the true religion. Not only the graduated ranks of the clergy and their former means of support were carefully assured to them, but many circumstances of dress and ceremonial were retained, some as laudable and decorous, some as indifferent, yet proper to be kept up, lest an alteration, in itself very extensive, should be rendered violent by being urged farther than was absoJutely necessary. Even in assuming the supremacy of the church, Elizabeth was anxious to guard against the misconstruction of such perverse persons as contended that she challenged the authority and power of ininistry of divine service, protesting that she challenged nothing more than the sovereignty and rule, under God, of all her native subjects, ecclesiastical or temporal, of whatsoever class or religious belief.

Nothing could be a stronger coytrast to these cautious and deliberate measures than the progress of the Reformation in Scotland, which was literally brought in with a strong hand and av out-stretched arın. All was there prepared, not for a partial but for a total change, and the hierarchy, long previously undermined, subsisted only by the countenance of the sovereign. The Scottish prelacy, long before their final downfall, had become objects of envy and jealousy to the powerful and proud nobles. They saw with deep sentineuts of hatred Beatoun and other churchmen of mean birth raise themselves by talents and learning to places of honour and dignity which they considered as their own birthright, and held those by whom such offices were, as they conceived, usurped, in high contempt and hatred.

On the other hand, the dissolute lives and profound ignorance of the lower orders of the Roman clergy rendered them the scorn of the middling and lower classes in Scotland. The exactions of the church were resented by the inferior ranks; their lands were coveted by the nobles and gentry. Add to all this, the natural turn of the Scottish nation for metaphysical discussion, induced them to receive the doctrines of the Reformation with general interest and favour. And when it is recollected, that doctrines excellent in themselves and recommended by so many various passions and second causes were withstood by a feeble regency with the obnoxious assistance of a foreign power, it will not seem surprizing that the work of reformation in Scotland was carried through with an overbearing force, which left but few

vestiges vestiges of the ancient church against whom it was directed. Yet the form of church policy adopted by the Reformer John Knox, in 1560, in a mixed plan taken from the foreign churches of Geneva and Germany, not only admitted and enjoined a form of common prayer, but also a body of ten superintendents, whose office did not greatly differ from that of Bishops, saving that they were to be themselves preachers, and, to use the words of the Form itself, “were not to be suffered to remain idle as the bishops had done heretofore.' Thus it was apparently the purpose of Knox to retain something resembling, in appearance, at least, the ancient form of church discipline. He is said to have received a message on this subject by a monk called John Brand, afterwards a preacher, from the catholic archbishop of St. Andrew's, warning bim either to retain the old form of church-government, or put a better in place thereof before he shook the other. And it was, perhaps, in conformity to such advice, though coming from an enemy, that Knox, in his first Book of Discipline, endeavoured, too late, to save from dilapidation suc of the church revenues as had not yet been swallowed up by the secular nobles. He proposed that the church rents should be collected by officers called' deacons, and employed in support of schools and colleges. But this was rending the prey from the lion. The Earl of Morton treated the proposal as a 'devout imagination;' and this cold reception from one of the most zealous lords of the congregation was followed by the miscarriage of that part of the scheme. In fact, the regent, and the nobles whose interest it was necessary for him to consult, were in the act of using an indirect mode to possess themselves of the church-lands by soliciting and obtaining grants of them both in lease and in property from those who held them under title of bishops, deans and chapters, and other dignitaries of the Scottish church. How this game was played, and what arguments were used to induce the churchmen to this system of alienating the rights of their order, we learn from the following singular incident quoted by a contemporary annalist, Richard Bannatyne, the zealous secretary of John Knox.

The Earl of Cassilis, who from his great power in Ayrshire was usually called the King of Carrick, was desirous to obtain certain leases and grants of few affecting the lands of the abbacy of Crossraguel, in his neighbourhood. For this purpose he entrapped the abbot, Mr. Allan Stewart, in the month of October, 1570, to a small town over-hanging the sea, commonly called the Black Vault of Denure. Here, when the abbot expected to be treated with a collation, he was carried into a private chamber, where, instead of wine and venison, and other good cheer, he saw only a great barred chimney with a fire beneath it." In this cell the deeds were laid before him, and he was required to execute them. So


« PreviousContinue »