« EelmineJätka »
other. The false believer and his false faith were regarded with the same feelings, and visited with the same condemnation. The common idea seems to have been that there could be no religion beyond the pale of Presbytery. Had not the apostles founded a Presbyterian Church when they founded the Christian Church? Could not Presbytery claim a jus divinum? Was not its polity right, and all others wrong? Was not Prelacy but a rag of Popery; and was not the Pope Antichrist? Were the Sacraments properly administered, were souls likely to be saved, in a Church which had no Scripture warrant for its constitution and government? The Covenant helped to make notions narrow already narrower still. In order to be a good Christian, it was necessary not merely to be a Presbyterian, but to be a Covenanter; and there is reason to dread, that among the vulgar, many must have imagined that swearing to this Covenant was to be included in that other and better covenant which is ordered in all things and sure.1
But the Presbyterians had an honest desire to extend to others the blessings they themselves enjoyed. They were zealous for the conversion of England. The General Assembly had actually signed a League with puritanic England, which tacitly implied that an army was to be marched across the border to assist in overturning Episcopacy and building up Presbytery. The martial and the religious spirit combined as they did during the period of the Crusades. Then Palestine was to be rescued from the Moslem ; now, England was to be rescued from the bishops. In the one case, as the other, religious enthusiasm was superadded to natural courage, and armies marched to battle believing themselves doing the work of Heaven. But Christianity always appears to disadvantage when wielding the carnal weapon; and ecclesiastical councils hardly appear to be discharging their proper functions when arming nations and churches against one another. But such was the temper of the time, that there
1 See Wodrow's History, vol. i. p. 269, and note by the Editor, Dr Robert Burns.
The high pretensions of the Church at this period are seen from the General Assembly's answer to the Paper sent from the Honourable Committee of Estates, of the date July 28, 1648. Among other things they say, “As to their Lordships' other desire of our demonstrating from the Word of God that the Kirk hath interest in the undertakings and engagements in war, and what that interest is, we had thought that point to be without controversy in this kingdom, not only in respect of Kirk and State, their joining and co-operating (each in their proper sphere) in the former expeditions of this kingdom into England, but also because the very confer
would have been no war unless it had been invested with a religious character; and the parliament would not have acted apart from the General Assembly. The soldiers of Cromwell's army got drunk in taverns with religious sign-boards suspended at the door; the Scottish nation got drunk with blood under banners inscribed with Christ's Crown and Covenant.
Presbytery had not yet learned toleration. It had no idea of dividing with other forms of faith the empire of the land. It must be sole and supreme. Its voice now was different from what it had been when fighting its sore battle against Popery and Prelacy. It had conquered in the strife, and, like other conquerors, it would brook no rival. Every man in Scotland must be a Presbyterian and a Covenanter.1
If any man, however great or good, refused to sign the Covenant, he was at once deprived of his living, and even driven from his home without mercy or remorse. Among others, Dr John Forbes of Corse, Professor of Divinity in King's College, Aberdeen, and author of Irenicum, Theologia Moralis, and other learned works which have gained the praise of Rivetus, Vossius, and Döllinger, was compelled to flee the country in 1644, because he could not in his heart bring himself to sign the Covenant. He protested that he was sound in regard to the Popish, Arminian, and Socinian controversies, but that was not enough. “Surely,” says Spalding, “this was ane excellent, religious man, who fearit God, charitable to the poor, and ane singular scholar; yet he was put fra his calling, his country and his friends, and all for not subscryving our Covenant, to the grudge and grief of the best.” He went to Holland “to remain in thir dolorous days.” 2 Thus one of the lights of the age was put out. Others received still harsher ences which have been between committees of Kirk and State, concerning the undertaking and engagement, doth plainly suppose an interest of the Kirk in such affairs.” (Peterkin's Records, pp. 505, 506).
In every document of the time we have instances of the persecuting spirit of the Covenanters. The following are taken from John Nicholl's Diary : -" At this tyme, also, my Lord Linton wes excommunicate and wardit (imprisoned) for taking in marriage the Lord Seytoune's relict, dochter to the late Marques of Huntlie, scho being excommunicate for
“At this tym.e, and sundry yeiris befoir, many persones were trublit for not subscryving the Covenant, and ministeris deposit for the same. Mr Gawin Stewart, minister of Dalmellingtoun, not onlie deposit fra his ministrie, bot he debarrit ab agendo in all his actiones and causis civill for recovery of his
dettis. Lykewayis James Macaulay, goldsmith, wes not only excommunicate for refusing to subscryve the Covenant, bot
at his death, his corps dischargit to be bureyit in the churchyaird.' Spalding's Troubles, vol. ii. p. 190.
treatment, being excommunicated while living, and refused burial in the churchyard when dead.
But however much we may reprobate these fanatical measures, it is amazing how much unanimity was produced by the pressure of penal laws; how quickly Popery had disappeared ; how quickly Episcopacy was disappearing ; and how entirely the land was Presbyterian. Not content with the universality of its dominion in Scotland, it aspired to the same universality of dominion in England. It would not do to say that some Englishmen conscientiously preferred Episcopacy, and others Independency: were not Episcopacy and Independency forms of error, and must not every error be destroyed ? If Presbytery had prevailed, it is not likely that freedom of religious opinion would even yet have been known. But the little stone was already hewn out of the mountain which was to break in pieces the huge image of iron and of clay. Oliver Cromwell was soon to preach toleration with a drawn sword in his hand.
The Church of Scotland had always been Calvinistic. John Knox had been a scholar of Calvin, and stereotyped, in the confession which he presented to the Scotch parliament, the lessons he had learned at Geneva. Calvinism became more than ever a vital article in the creed. Many of the Episcopal clergy, following in the wake of Laud, had professed themselves Arminians, and the stern Presbyterians were strongly repelled from everything that was associated with Episcopacy. They cast out every man who was charged with having uttered an Arminian sentiment, and made an uncompromising Calvinism the badge of their party. But besides this, Calvinism is native to the Scottish mind. The land which has produced so many metaphysicians could scarcely content itself with the plausible but unphilosophic system of Arminius. Calvinism appeals to the pure intellect, though in some of its tenets it may offend the feelings. Arminianism appeals to the feelings, and to gratify them, in many of its principles it violates reason. The Scotch cast of intellect led it to adopt the former, recognising it as the apotheosis of order and law.
Scottish piety is, and ever has been, in many respects peculiar, and this peculiarity has arisen partly from the character of the Scottish mind, and partly from the history of the Scottish Church. It is intellectual rather than devotional. In this we see the Scottish mind. It pours contempt upon all outward forms, and this is probably to be traced to its struggles with
Episcopacy. Some of these characters were at this very period written upon the Scottish heart, and burned deeply into it by the persecutions which followed.
Under the excitement of the period, superstition and fanaticism increased. The persecution of unhappy old women charged with witchcraft had greatly abated; but it was now revived. Stringent acts of Assembly were passed against charming and sorcery ; and we read with horror that, in Fife alone, and in the course of a few months, upwards of thirty persons charged with witchcraft were burned to death. The Assembly testified their astonishment and regret at the extraordinary increase of witches, not knowing that it was the increase of superstition which saw witches where no witches were. A new crusade was also begun against the architectural and artistic remains of the Papal Church, which were ordered to be destroyed as the monuments of idolatry; and pity it was so; but still we have no tears to waste upon the destruction of altars and altar-screens, when we think of the temple of the human body thus cruelly burned. 1 A.D. 1643.
Presbytery was now required to hold its own
in the Assembly of Divines at Westminster. This celebrated Assembly was called together by an ordinance of the English parliament, under the pressure of the Scotch demand for uniformity; and though prohibited by a royal proclamation, it met on the ist of July 1643. It consisted of a hundred and twenty-one divines and thirty lay assessors; and, a few months after its first meeting, it was joined by six commissioners from the Church of Scotland, who were welcomed by the proloquitor in a set harangue, and afterwards took an important part in the debates. The Scotch commissioners were Alexander Henderson, Robert Baillie, Samuel Rutherford, and George Gillespie, ministers; and Lord Maitland and Sir Archibald Johnstone, elders.
We have already seen Alexander Henderson recognised as the leader of the Scotch Church, and as deserving his proud position by his great abilities, and a moderation of sentiment unknown to many of those with whom he associated. His spare form, thoughtful face, and small peaked beard, gave him
Peterkin's Records, p. 279. Baillie, vol. ii. p. 88. The Assembly of 1643 gives specific directions as to how witches are to be dealt with. See Peterkin, p. 354:
* Neal's History of the Puritans, vol. ii. The Earl of Cassillis and Mr George Douglas were also nominated by the Assembly as commissioners, but they do not appear to have gone to London. See Peterkin, p. 359.
the appearance of a man devoted to study, fasting, and prayer. Robert Baillie had recently been brought from the parish of Kilwinning, to be Professor of Divinity in the University of Glasgow. He was an able linguist, and a lover of books; and, like most such men, fonder of penning his thoughts quietly in his study, than of uttering them amid the excitement of debate. Always amiable though somewhat changeful in his moods, he generally meant well
, but he never had sufficient energy of character to think and act for himself, and accordingly he floated like a piece of drift-wood with the stream. “Letters and Journals” furnish us with some pictures, as lifelike as photographs, of the principal actors then on the stage of affairs, and not unfrequently give us a peep of what was passing behind the scenes. It is the book of all to be read by those who would understand the period of the Covenant. Samuel Rutherford had many of the attributes of an eloquent man, and his letters, purged of indecencies, are yet read by many with delight. His style often seems an echo of the Old Testament prophets : sometimes he emulates the lofty sentiments of Isaiah, and sometimes he pours out his feelings in the dulcet strains of the Song of Solomon : but in many cases the wax of his wings appears to melt, from his ascending too near to the sun, and he comes rapidly down into the mire. Unfortunately, he appears to have thought that obscenity was no longer obscene when clothed in religious drapery, and hence we frequently meet in his writings with expressions which the coarseness of the times does not altogether excuse. the age of Howe, Baxter, and Milton. His “ Lex Rex,” published about this time, is in many respects an able and scholarly treatise on constitutional law; but he appears to go beyond Buchanan in his ideas of liberty, and to approach indefinitely near to republicanism. George Gillespie had already distinguished himself by a book against the Anglican ceremonies, and is confessed to have acted no mean part in the discussions at Westminster. His “Aaron's Rod Blossoming shows that he had carefully studied the subject of debate; but his subsequent history proves that he was a man of a violent temper and extreme views. Sir Archibald Johnstone was a thorough lawyer and a keen partisan: he was not merely Presbyterian, but democratic; and consequently strongly disliked by the king. His nephew, Bishop Burnet, tells us "he would often pray in his family two hours at a time, and had an unexhausted copiousness that way.” Lord Maitland was at this time a high-flying Covenanter; but we shall after