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THE BISHOPS IMPEACHED.
and were to be intruded upon presbyteries now only to swamp them; and that by “erroneous in doctrine or scandalous in life,” was simply meant, refusal to take the Covenant, which was to be considered as a sufficient ground for excluding a man from the Assembly. These charges were no doubt partly true ; but when party-spirit runs high, violent and unjustifiable courses are ever resorted to. It is not in man to do otherwise. However this may be, the great majority of the presbyteries succumbed to the dictation of the Tables ;' but a few refused to adopt their commission, or to libel their uncovenanting brethren, and made a struggle to exclude elders from voting in the election of their clerical commissioners.
But it had been resolved that the bishops should be brought to the bar of the Assembly, and how was this to be done? The usual way was to lodge an information with the moderator and clerk of the last Assembly; but the Covenanters were not disposed to recognise the moderator and clerk of the detested Assembly of 1618. They asked the Commissioner in his own name to grant a process against them, and cite them to appear; but this his Grace declined to do, as contrary to all precedent. They next requested the judges to grant such a process; but they replied that they could not grant a process for the appearance of any but those against whom an action had been brought, and whose causes were within the jurisdiction of their court.2 They next resolved to bring the matter before the Presbytery of Edinburgh, which they justly expected would not be so squeamish. A complaint was therefore drawn out and signed by a long list of noblemen, barons, burgesses, and ministers, charging the bishops with having violated the conditions upon which they received their bishoprics; with preaching Arminian and Popish doctrines; with having exercised the powers of diocesan prelates; with having given their aid to bring in the Court of sederunt runs in the name of “the moderator and brethren,” from which we may infer that no elders sat. In 1638 no fewer than nineteen elders suddenly appear, all of whom are named in the sederunt. Some curious information regarding the interference of the Tables with the presbyteries will be found in the Appendix to Baillie's Letters and Journals.
1 "The Tables in Edinburgh wrote to them,” says Baillie, “that thirtynine presbyteries already had chosen their commissioners, as they were desired; that the rest were in doing ; that they heard of none who were unwilling.” (Vol. i. p. 107.) Baillie elsewhere, however, refers to refractory presbyteries. Some such cases are also mentioned in the Large Declaration, and in the Proceedings of the Assembly.
Large Declaration, p. 208.
High Commission, the Book of Canons, and the Liturgy; and, finally, with being guilty “of excessive drinking, whoring, playing at cards and dice, swearing, profane speaking, excessive gaming, profaning of the Sabbath, contempt of the public ordinances and private family exercises, mocking of the power of preaching, prayer, and spiritual conference, and sincere professors; besides, with bribery, simony, selling of commissariats' places, lies, perjuries, dishonest dealing in civil bargains, abusing of their vassals, and of adultery and incest, and many other offences.” 1 A black and fearful catalogue of crimes ! The presbytery did not distress itself with any nice questions as to its jurisdiction in such a matter, but sustained the complaint ; referred it to the approaching General Assembly; ordered it to be read in all the pulpits on the ensuing Sunday; and thus prostituted places which ought to be sacred to that charity “which rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth,” for spreading among the people these abominable calumnies against men, many of them venerable for their piety, learning, and years, and whose only real crime was, that they were bishops. The sin was aggravated by being perpetrated on a Communion Sunday, and almost over the symbols of our redemption.2
The day for the meeting of the Assembly approached. On Friday, the 16th of November, the westland gentlemen came pouring into Glasgow. Lord Eglinton and other noblemen came, attended by their friends and vassals. On the following day, the stream of commissioners and their retainers set in from the east. The prices of houses and beds were rising ; but it soon began to be seen that the western metropolis had already a capacity to lodge Council, Session, Parliament, and General Assembly.
On the afternoon of Saturday, it was known that his Grace the Lord High Commissioner, accompanied by many of the Lords of the Privy Council, was approaching the city, and some of the Covenanted noblemen went out to meet him, and courteous speeches were exchanged. The Covenanters protested they would ask nothing but what was right and reasonable, and the Commissioner declared that everything that was right and reasonable would be granted. The three following days were spent by both parties in preparing for the encounter.
1 This document is given in the Large Declaration, pp. 209-19.
2 Sir Thomas Hope's Diary, recently published by the Bannatyne Club. See also Large Declaration.
THE GLASGOW ASSEMBLY.
It was on Wednesday, the 21st of November, the Assembly was to meet. It met in the Cathedral Church. That noble pile stood then just as it stands now, and as it had stood for centuries before. It rose solemnly from amid the gravestones of many generations, pointing back to the time when good Bishop Jocelyn laid the foundations of its peerless crypt. Beyond the Molendinar Burn, so famous in ancient story, the rocky eminence was covered with scraggy firs, which is now the thickly-peopled “ city of the dead.” Commissioner, magistrates, nobles, barons, burgesses, ministers, came crowding into St Mungo's Church. None had gowns; many had doublets, swords, and daggers; and the jostling, thrusting, and squeezing was such, that honest Baillie declares that if men had behaved in his house so rudely as they did in the house of God, he would have turned them down stairs. In this respect, at least, this Assembly of our Church must have resembled one of those great Ecumenical Councils of the East, still so greatly revered, which settled some of the highest mysteries of our faith amid tumult and uproar.
But though the Assembly may have been somewhat disorderly at its downsitting, and not very canonical in its garments, it comprised all the rank, and wealth, and intelligence of the country. It consisted of 140 ministers, 2 professors not ministers, and 98 ruling elders from presbyteries and burghs. Of these ruling elders, 17 were noblemen, 9 were knights, 25 were landed proprietors, and 47 were burgessesall men of some consideration. The Earl of Montrose sat for Auchterarder, the Earl of Lothian for Dalkeith, the Earl of Cassillis for Ayr, the Earl of Home for Chirnside. Almost every name of note was there. At one end of the church a chair of state was provided for the Royal Commissioner. Around him were ranged the members of the Privy Councilthe Lord Treasurer, the Lord Privy Seal, Argyll, Marr, Moray, Glencairn, Lauderdale, Angus, Wigton, Perth, and others, their peers in pride and lineage. Right opposite to the Commissioner was placed a small table for the moderator and clerk. Along the centre ran a long table, at which sat the nobles and barons who were members of the Court, among
Baillie's Letters and Journals, pp. 118-24. See also Burnet's Memoirs of the Duke of Hamilton, p. 93.
The Sederunt of the Assembly remains. This analysis of it was made by Principal Lee, and is given in a note subjoined to Peterkin's Records of the Church. It may be noted, however, that 140 ministers was not a full representation of the whole Church.
whom might be discerned Rothes, Wemyss, Balmerino, Lindsay, Yester, Eglinton, Loudon, and many others, whose sole word was still law over large districts of Scotland. The ministers stood or sat behind, and did not, like the proud prelates, quarrel with earls for precedence. A gallery was assigned to young noblemen who were not members of the house; and in a gallery loftier still was a crowd of persons of humbler degree, among whom many ladies might be seen, some of whom had perhaps assisted to hoot unhappy prelates on the street, and now beheld with exultation the proud pageant of triumphant Presbytery. It must have been one of the noblest, strangest, most exciting spectacles that Scotland has ever seen.
The first day was occupied with devotional exercises and the production of commissions. On the second day, the Covenanters argued that the first thing to be done was to elect a moderator, as otherwise the Assembly could not be constituted. The royalists maintained, that preliminary to this the roll must be made up by an examination of the commissions, as without this it could not be known who were properly qualified to vote. Like to be foiled on this point, the Commissioner asked to be allowed to read a paper which had been handed to him by the bishops, before the moderator was chosen ; but he was instantly assailed by shouts of “No reading ! no reading !” Speeches and clamour were followed by protests, and these were multiplied with such industry, that Baillie declares every one was weary of them except the clerk, who with every protest received a golden coin. At length the ground was cleared, and Alexander Henderson, minister of Leuchars, was almost unanimously chosen as moderator. The choice was a good one. Henderson already stood at the head of his party, and even his enemies bear witness to his gravity and learning. The only circumstance which made some of his friends hesitate about raising him to the moderator's chair was, that by doing so they would lose his assistance in debate, and in debate he was allowed to be unrivalled. Archibald Johnstone of Warriston was afterwards chosen as clerk-a man of an acute intellect, well versed in the law, and thoroughly devoted to the Presbyterian party.
After the clerk was chosen, an interesting incident occurred. It was supposed that the ancient records of the Church had been lost; Johnstone now stood up, stated that by a strange chance they had come into his hands, and produced them to
i Baillie, vol. i. p. 124.
ACTS OF THE ASSEMBLY.
the house. Amid much rejoicing a committee was appointed to examine the documents thus lost and found, which closed its labours by declaring that they were the authentic records of the General Assemblies from 1560 to 1590. Several days were now spent in examining commissions, and many sharp skirmishes were fought, in which his Grace was generally compelled to encounter single-handed all the polemics, both lay and clerical, of the Assembly. It was the 27th of November before the real business of the meeting began. On that day, a declinature of the Assembly's authority was given in by the bishops and their adherents. It was read amid contemptuous whispers and smiles. On the next day the moderator put the question-Did the Assembly find itself a competent judge of the bishops? The Lord High Commissioner now declared, that though he did not object to the trial of the bishops for any particular crimes of which they might have been guilty, if the Assembly proceeded to the censure of their offices, he must withdraw, as he could not give the royal countenance to any such procedure. The Assembly showed unmistakeably its intention to proceed. Altercation ran high; angry words were exchanged; the Commissioner complained that he was crossed in everything, and finally he declared the Assembly to be dissolved, and rose to leave the house. While he was yet going, a protest was being read that his departure would not hinder the Assembly from finishing the work it had on hand.
Undismayed by the absence of royalty, and a proclamation at the market-cross, that all who should henceforth join in its sittings would be regarded as guilty of treason, the Assembly proceeded to business. It felt that the withdrawal of Hamilton was fully compensated by the presence of Argyll, "the gleed marquis," as he was afterwards
called, who now openly threwin his lct with the Covenanters; and gave them the weight of his great name, his wide possessions, and his diplomatic mind. They knew that in case of need he could bring five thousand claymores into the field, to help on the Covenanted work of Reformation. They passed an act declaring the Assemblies of 1606, 1608, 1616, 1617, and 1618, to have been so vitiated by kingly interference as to be null and void. They passed another act condemning the Service-Book, the Book of Canons, the Book of Ordination, and the Court of High Commission. They abjured Episcopacy and the Five Articles of Perth.
Large Declaration, p. 247.