Page images
PDF
EPUB

to represent him, but Hamilton begged to be excused ; and the Earl of Traquair, the Lord Treasurer of the kingdom, was appointed to the difficult, though honourable post.

It was the 12th of August before the Assembly sat down. The Covenanters had agreed to humour the king, and waive all mention of the Assembly of 1638, but its principal acts were to be brought forward and passed. Upon the 17th, an act was accordingly passed, in which, after a long preamble, it is ordained, “ that the Service-Book, Books of Canons and Ordination, and the High Commission, be still rejected; that the Articles of Perth be no more practised; that Episcopal government, and the civil powers and places of kirkmen, be holden still as unlawful in this Kirk; that the pretended Assemblies at Linlithgow in 1606 and 1608, at Glasgow in 1610, at Aberdeen 1616, at Perth 1618, be hereafter accounted as null and of none effect; and that, for preservation of religion, and preventing all such evils in time coming, General Assemblies, rightly constitute, as the proper and competent judge of all matters ecclesiastical, hereafter be kept yearly and oftener pro re nata, as occasion and necessity shall require ; the necessity of these occasional Assemblies being first remonstrate to his Majesty by humble supplication; as also that kirk-sessions, presbyteries, and synodical assemblies, be constitute and observed according to the order of the Kirk.” 1

When this act was about to pass, and it was known that the High Commissioner was willing to give it his consent, the General Assembly became jubilant with joy. The old men especially, who remembered the heyday of Presbytery forty years ago, could not refrain from weeping, and must have felt like the aged Jews, when they saw the second temple rising from the ground, and wept when they thought of the glory of the first. "Old Mr John Row," so the chronicle runs, “being next called upon, said—I bless, I glorify, I magnify the God of heaven and earth, that has pitied this poor Church, and given us such matter of joy and consolation, and the Lord make us thankful, first to our gracious and loving God, and next obedient subjects to his Majesty.” “Mr John Wemyss being called upon, could scarce get a word for tears trickling down along his grey hairs, like drops of rain or dew upon the top of the tender grass, and yet withal smiling for joy.” 2 So far well. Thus, for the second time, did the Covenanters

1 Acts of Assembly 1639, in Peterkin's Records. 2 Peterkin's Records, pp. 251, 252.

A.D. 1639.]

THE KING'S LARGE DECLARATION.

27

[ocr errors]

throw down the walls of Jericho. Unhappily, they proceeded still farther. They not only renewed the Covenant, with an explanatory clause, but ordained that all should be compelled to swear to it; that it should be especially administered to all Papists and others suspected of disaffection to the good cause ; and that the Privy Council should be requested to superadd civil pains to ecclesiastical censures in cases of reluctance. The Covenant was no longer a bond of brotherhood, but an instrument of oppression ; designed at first to work out civil and religious liberty, it was now to be employed to coerce the consciences, and do violence to the faith of the down-trodden Papists and Prelatists. Strange inconsistency ! The Covenanters knew full well that it was wrong for the Episcopalians to touch a hair of their head; but they knew not that it was wrong for them to compel Episcopalians to swear to a Covenant they abhorred, with outlawry before them in case of refusal.

Other parts of the Assembly's procedure equally exhibited the fierce intolerance which, strangely enough, kept fellowship with so much piety. The king had quite recently published his “ Large Declaration,” in which he had traced the history of the troubles in Scotland, and attempted to vindicate his own conduct in regard to them. This treatise bore the king's name as its author, but it was known to have been written by Dr Balcanquhal, Dean of Durham, a Scotsman by birth. It gives most of the manifestoes which were issued on both sides with perfect fairness, and is therefore invaluable to the historian; and though it tells its story in such a way as best to justify the king, and throw the whole blame of the troubles on the Covenanters, it is difficult to detect in it any positive untruths. It would not be easy to mention any narrative published by the opposite party more candid, more dispassionate, or more truthful. Yet

, undeterred by the royal name on the titleAssembly condemned the book “as dishonourable to God, to the Kirk, to the kingdom, and as stuffed with a huge number of lies.” This being determined, the Assembly next proceeded to decide what should be done with the delinquent Balcanquhal, when the following speeches were made :

“Mr Andrew Cant said It is so full of gross absurdities, that I think hanging of the author should prevent all other cen

"The Moderator answered—That punishment is not in the hands of Kirkmen.

7

e-page, the

sures.

“ The Sheriff of Teviotdale, being asked his judgment, said -Ye were offended with a Churchman's hard sentence already; but truly I could exccute that sentence with all my heart, because it is more proper to me, and I am better acquainted with hanging.

“ My Lord Kirkcudbright said—It is a great pity that many honest men in Christendom, for writing little books called pamphlets, should want ears; and false knaves, for writing such volumes, should brook heads."

This looks like a grim joke, but be this as it may, the Assembly went to the utmost extent of its power, by petitioning the king to have the book suppressed, and Dr Balcanquhal visited with exemplary punishment.1

The Assembly of 1639 imitated the spirit and carried out the intention of the Assembly of 1638, by deposing a long list of ministers, whose chief fault seems to have been their dislike of the Covenant, and their attachment to Episcopacy. Some of them were charged with Arminianism, with Popery, with immorality, but it would seem that these crimes were confined to the Prelatists, and that very little proof sufficed for a verdict of guilty.

On the 30th of August the Assembly closed its sittings. Traquair had shown himself very compliant; he gave his sanction to everything which had been done, and subscribed the Covenant; but for this he was sharply taken to task by his master. He had thought that the phrase “ unlawful in this Kirk," used in the Act of Assembly abolishing Episcopacy, would satisfy the king ; but the king argued that this was quite different from the words which he wished, “contrary to the constitution of this Kirk ;" and that if Episcopacy were allowed to be unlawful in the Church of Scotland, it might be held to be unlawful in the Church of England too. Already there was a feeling of uneasiness in regard to this. The same alarm was felt as when a neighbour's house is on fire. The parliament sat down on the very day after the Assembly

As the ecclesiastical Estate had no representatives, a difficulty arose in regard to the choosing of the Lords of the Articles; but it was got over by the Commissioner nominating the eight nobles who by law should have been nominated by the bishops. Several bills bearing upon the abolition of Episcopacy had passed the Articles, but were not yet brought up

1 Peterkin's Records, p. 268. · Letter, the King to Traquair, ist October 1639. Peterkin, p. 236.

rose.

A.D. 1639.]

ARCHBISHOP SPOTTISWOOD.

29

for the sanction of the Estates; and the time was protracted from day to day, and from week to week, while posts passed to and from London. On the 24th of October, the parliament was prorogued till the 14th of November, and on the 14th of November till the ad of June 1640, with nothing actually done. No marvel the Covenanters were indignant, and felt that they were mocked. The truth is, the king was irritated at some things which had been done in the Assembly, and did not wish them to be ratified in the parliament, as they assuredly would have been. He still clung to the hope of being able to restore Episcopacy, and did not wish to commit himself farther than he could help. It had been far wiser and honester had he yielded freely and at once to the wishes of his people. Had he done so, he would have saved both his life and his crown.

In December 1639, Archbishop Spottiswood disappeared from the stage where he had for thirty years been the principal actor. He died an old man, and an exile in England. He was the son of the venerable Spottiswood who was the first superintendent of Lothian, and one of the firmest pillars of the Reformation. Ambitious of preferment, he early devoted himself to the king and the Episcopal party, and got the reward of his services by being made first Archbishop of Glasgow, and afterwards Archbishop of St Andrews. He is disliked by Presbyterians as the chief agent employed by the king to force Episcopacy on the country, and though some of the violent measures of the court were taken against his better judgment, perhaps on that account his conduct is all the more reprehensible, as he

gave

them his active support. It were uncharitable to doubt his conscientious preference of Episcopacy to Presbytery, but it cannot be denied that he was willing to sacrifice his country's faith to his own ambition.

He has enriched our literature with a history of the Church, in which we are able to trace, very clearly, the character of the

We fail to discern any marks of genius; we never stumble upon a brilliant saying or a lofty sentiment; but we everywhere see the traces of sound judgment and diligent research. Upon the whole, he is candid and truthful, even when relating the debateable events in which he himself bore so conspicuous a part.

He of course tells his own story in his own way; but he seldom perverts a fact, more seldom still utters a falsehood, and was evidently free of all bigotry and fanaticism. He may be pronounced a liberal-minded and enlightened man,

Letter, the King to Traquair, 1st October 1639. Peterkin, p. 236.

man.

1

though he lived in stormy times, and unfortunately allowed himself to become the slave and tool of despotic power. When no longer able to defend himself, he was charged with crimes which no impartial person will believe. But we may believe that he imitated the freer manners at that time prevalent among the dignitaries of the English Church. He did not devote the Sunday to gloom. He loved a game at cards or at dice. He could be joyous over a glass of wine. The austere Covenanters were scandalised at these things, and hurled at him their great anathema maranatha; but Covenanters and archbishop are now alike in the grave, where “ their love, and their hatred, and their envy are perished," and let us therefore, so far as truth will allow, think well of the dead. 1

When the Earl of Traquair returned to London, A.D. 1640.

he carried with him a letter, which had fallen into his hands, in which the Covenanters solicited the assistance of the French King, as the ancient ally of their nation. Though greatly irritated by this, the king listened to a petition which they had transmitted to him, requesting permission to send some of their number to court to vindicate their proceedings. The Earls of Loudon and Dunfermline were accordingly despatched to London, and during the month of March 1640, the sovereign granted them several interviews, but at length declared that he saw no ground for ratifying the proceedings of the last Assembly. A few days afterwards the Earl of Loudon was taken into custody, and committed to the Tower upon a charge of treason, his name being one of those attached to the letter soliciting the assistance of the French King. Loudon pleaded that the letter, though written, had never been sent; that he had come to England under the royal protection, and was not amenable to an English tribunal for a crime committed in Scotland. These pleas were undoubtedly good in law, but Loudon was still detained in the Tower, and would probably have been brought to trial, had not the Marquis of Hamilton interfered. By his mediation, Loudon was liberated in the month of June, having entered into a private agreement with the king to do him what service he could in Scotland as the price of his liberty, and probably his life. This episode is made more curious by the fact, now

1 Burnet says of him " that he was a prudent and mild man, but of no great decency in his course of life.” History of his own Time, vol. i.

? See the documents in Peterkin's Records, p. 283. Also in Burnet's Memoirs.

p. 26.

« EelmineJätka »