Page images
PDF
EPUB

plicit sanction of the whole, seeing that done. The evasive nature of the recog; The privy council had already “ agreed” nition of the Book of Discipline showed to the rest; or whether it might not be the unchanged hostility entertained by the held that every part was excluded except king and the nobility against a system what was expressly mentioned. The of moral and religious discipline too pure former view must have been that which and uncompromising to find favour in was entertained by the Church, and the estimation of dissolute, haughty, and which not merely every man of candour worldly-minded men. That the enforcewill entertain, but which also every clear ment of ecclesiastical discipline would still reasoner will see to be necessary, other- be resisted, was therefore abundantly apwise the act is self-contradictory and ab- parent, notwithstanding the evasive sancsurd. But still, the ambiguity of the act tion of the act of parliament. And it was in that respect has given occasion to the equally evident that, by the rigid retenlegal sophist, in several periods, to bring tion of lay patronages, the king and the forward specious objections against the nobility were determined to keep posdiscipline of the Church of Scotland, on session of the means whereby they might the plea of its wanting full statutory au- either corrupt the Church, or contrive to thority. Another decided evil was the hold fast her patrimony within their sacclause which half prohibited the Assem- rilegious grasp. bly from meeting except when the time But although there thus remained these and place of its next meeting had been strong elements of antagonism between appointed by his majesty or his commis- the king and the Church, there was no sioner; its own authority being enough urgent reason why they might not have only when neither the king nor his re- continued in a state of dormancy for an presentative was present. This after- indefinite length of time.

That the wards enabled the king repeatedly to sus- Church did not wish to urge matters to pend its meetings altogether; and, when an immediate contest, was evident from it did meet without his previous appoint- the very fact of her receiving the act ment, gave some colour to his hostile 1592, defective as it was, without oppo. proceedings against its leading members. sition, and even with gratitude. And But the most injurious part of the act had the king been sincere in his expres1592 was that which imposed upon both sions of friendship and estimation, he the Church and the people the intolera- needed not to have provoked hostility by ble yoke and enslaving fetters of lay pa- an early and harsh enforcement of the tronage. How fatal the “ binding and harmful powers which that act enabled astricting" clause has been to the Church, him to retain. Their mere existence in her whole subsequent history testifies, the statute-book ought to have been and perhaps no period more so than the enough to satisfy him that the Church present.

could not, even were she disposed, make The reader will perceive that these de- any dangerous encroachments upon his fects in this enactment left the Church cherished prerogatives. And had they still exposed to danger on the very points been allowed to remain solely as latent on which she had been always most but complete preventive checks against fiercely and perseveringly assailed. The any sudden democratic movement of the freedom of the Assembly, and its right Church, the whole of what even his to meet for the discharge of its important jealousy of his arbitrary prerogative duties whenever necessity required, had deemed necessary might have been peacebeen gainsaid by Secretary Lethington in fully secured ; and when that jealousy Queen Mary's days; had been questioned had subsided, he might have removed by the Regent Morton, and had been for these defects from the enactment, and a time neutralized or overborne by King thereby perfected the constitution of the James, during the period of the tulchan country, by the harmonious agreement bishops. This was again placed in peril, and mutually supporting connection of and that too, by a regular legislative enact- Church and State; exerting themselves ment, on the strength of which the king in their respective spheres, undisturbed might proceed to greater severities and by mutual jarrings and suspicions, for more plausibly than had been formerly the advancement of the great end of both

--the promotion and the security of the The preceding remarks we have civil and sacred welfare of the nation. deemed it expedient to make, for the purSuch was not, however, to be the case. pose of placing before our readers clearly A short time was sufficient to show that the position of the Church after the passJames had caused the elements of strife ing of the great charter of 1592, and the to be retained in the act 1592, expressly dangers still to be apprehended from the for the purpose of putting them into ex- defects of that enactment, and the perniecution on the earliest opportunity, for cious elements which it contained.' But the overthrow of a Church whose prin- we must now resume the narrative, and ciples, spirit, and discipline were too trace the progress of events. sacred, independent, and pure, to suit the The act 1592 almost took the Church taste and comport with the habits of a by surprise. The ministers had striven monarch at once crafty and despotic, and so long for a legislative rat:fication of the of courtiers both avaricious and dissolute. liberty of the Church, of General AssemIt may seem strange that James, who had blies, Synods, and Presbyteries, and of experienced so much treachery on the discipline, and had met so many disappart of his nobility, and been exposed to pointments, evasions, and direct violations personal danger from their factious and of the most solemn promises from the daring attempts; and, on the other hand, ruling powers, that though they continhad found such constant fidelity to his ued to strive, they seem almost to have cause, and zeal in his behalf, in every ceased to expect success. They appear time of peril, from the Church, notwith- to have acted on the great general prinstanding his injurious treatment of it,

-ciple, that for the discharge of known that with such strong and repeated proofs duty man is responsible--for success which was the more trustworthy party, he is not; and that therefore their duty he could still favour the schemes of the was to continue their exertions, and leave treacherous and selfish aristocracy, and the result to God, in whose hands are the distrust and persecute the faithful and issues of all events. Yet they have been disinterested Church. But it has always censured for accepting a measure which been the fault and the misfortune of kings fell so far short of what they sought to and statesmen to give their countenance obtain, and which contained elements to sycophants and mercenary tools, whom capable of being roused into the most they can manage and employ for any pernicious activity. But it should be conpurpose, however guilty and base, rather sidered that men who are very far above than to men whose principles are too lofty taking expediency as their rule in matfor them to comprehend, and whose in- ters of duty, may, with a safe conscience, tegrity is beyond their power to move. accept of a measure comparatively deAnd James knew well that he could fective, for which they could not have mould and bias his courtiers by the arti- striven ; regarding it as, though not a fices of that “kingcraft” in which he satisfactory, and consequently not a final thought himself a most accomplished settlement, yet, upon the whole, a great adept; but that in the high-souled minis- advancement towards a better state of ters of the Presbyterian Church, when matters than had previously existed, and met together in their own free General containing a ratification of the most esAssembly, he encountered men whom sential of their own leading principles. neither his arts could blind nor his threat- Such appear to have been the sentiments enings overawe. Hence his determina- of the most active and influential of ihe tion to retain, even in the act recognising ministers when this very important act and ratifying the liberty of the Church, was passed ; and while they disapproved a seeming innocuous clause, by which of those points in it which have been spe he might be able to prohibit the meetings cified, still, as it went beyond their geneof the Assembly, whenever he appre- ral expectation, they received it with joy hended from it a decided opposition to and gratitude. It may be mentioned also his schemes; or to call it together when that, between the passing of the act and he should have succeeded in corrupting its being publicly proclaimed, the eneits members by means of the patronage- mies of the Church attempted to deny. enforcing clause.

that any such measure either had been or would be enacted by the parliament; council

, they testified to the genuineness and their very hostility and opposition of the signatures, and confessed the nawould tend to secure for it the more ready ture and extent of the conspiracy. It and cordial acceptation by all who were was, indeed, one of a most perilous and friendly to the Church.*

flagrant character. The king of Spain A very short time elapsed, after the was to have landed thirty thousand men passing of this act, when the Church had on the west coast of Scotland, part of again occasion to show that her intrinsic whom were to invade England, and the powers had not been fettered by an act remainder, in concert with the forces which professed to ratify her freedom; and which the three earls promised to have that to enter into a solemn compact with in readiness, were to suppress the Prothe State was not to lay aside her native testants, and to procure the re-establishspiritual independence, and to assume a ment of the Romish religion in Scotgilded yoke. "Towards the end of the land. * year 1592, the jealousy of all sound- [1593.] The privy council and the hearted Protestants, and especially of the ministers of Edinburgh having thus reministers,—those vigilant guardians both ceived proof positive of the dangerous of the purity of religion and of the pub- conspiracy existing in the kingdom, islic welfare,—was strongly excited, partly sued letters calling upon the well-affected by the known presence and activity of to hasten to the capital, for the purpose priests and Jesuits within the kingdom, of consulting what steps were to be taken and partly by indefinite intimations of in a matter of such a formidable characdanger from abroad. The sense of im- ter. At the same time they earnestly bepending peril, the more alarming on ac- sought the king, who was at the time abcount of its unascertained character and sent, to hasten to Edinburgh, and aid his extent, alarmed the country in general, faithful subjects in the defence of the but seemed to give no uneasiness to the commonwealth. The Earl of Angus, king. An extraordinary meeting of the unaware that the conspiracy had been ministers was convoked in Edinburgh detected, happening to come to the capion the 15th of November, and measures tal at the same time, was seized and comwere framed calculated to provide for the mitted to the castle. Upon his majesty's safety of the Church and kingdom, by arrival, instead of thanking his people exerting the utmost vigilance for the de- for the zeal and vigilance which they tection of the popish machinations; and had displayed in behalf of the religion to these measures the king gave his ap- and liberties of the country, he broke out probation.

into peevish and ill-timed complaints of The necessity and the wisdom of these their conduct in seizing the Earl of Anprecautions became very soon evident. gus, and in convoking the lieges without Andrew Knox, minister of Paisley, hav- his previous command, which he resented ing received secret intelligence respecting as a grievous encroachment upon his

pres one of the popish emissaries, hastened to rogative. They answered, as such meu the island of Cumray, accompanied by a might have been expected to answer, number of Glasgow students and some

66 That it was no time to attend on warnneighbouring gentlemen, and seized ings when their religion, prince, country, George Ker, brother of Lord Newbattle, lives, lands, and all were brought into as he was on the point of embarking for jeopardy by such treasonable dealings." Spain. A number of letters were found But when their whole proceedings were in his possession from priests in Scot- detailed, and the full nature and extent land ; and several blanks subscribed by of the conspiracy made known to him, the popish Earls of Huntly, Errol, and his petulant fume passed off, he called Angus, with a commission to William Angus " a traitor of traitors," and deCrighton, a Jesuit, to fill up the blanks, clared that the crine of the conspirators and address them to the persons for was too great for his prerogative to parwhom they were intended. Graham of don, promising to proceed to trial of the Fintry was soon afterwards apprehended; accused 6 with all diligence and seand being both examined before the privy verity." Melville's Diary pp. 198, and 201.

* Melville's Diary, 205; Calderwood, pp. 275-280.

#

James now thought it necessary to act ment of his majesty, intimating that he with at least the appearance of sincerity. could not with honour see that provision A proclamation was issued, specifying infringed; and further, requested them the general nature of the detected con- to make an act prohibiting any minister, spiracy, and commanding all who hated on pain of deposition, from uttering in subjection to foreign tyranny to abstain public any animadversions on the con from intercourse with popish priests, on duct of his majesty or the privy council

. pain of treason; and to hold themselves The Assembly agreed to the provision in readiness to defend the country, “as of the act 1592, it being reserved to them they should be certified by his majesty, to meet on their own authority, provided or otherwise find the occasion urgent."' his majesty or his commissioner were And as some suspicion of the king's sin- not present, and ordained that no cerity had been excited by his first ex- minister “utter any rash or irreverent pression of displeasure with the prompt speeches against his majesty or council, zeal of his people, he thought proper to but that all their public admonitions propass an act of council, prohibiting all ceed upon just and necessary causes, in. from attempting to procure the pardon of all fear, love, and reverence, under pain the conspirators

. "The nation immedi- of deposition."* These proceedings ately testified its delight with the king's could give little satisfaction to either conduct, by framing and extensively sub-party, and indicated but too plainly a scribing å bond in defence of religion mutual distrust, likely ere long to come and the government, and preparing zeal- to an open rupture. Some steps were ously to protect and support the king and taken by that Assembly to prevent furthe public peace. The king marched ther dilapidation of Church property, and northwards against the conspirators; but for the enforcement of discipline and the they merely concealed themselves from maintenance of public morality and immediate apprehension ; and the king, peace. notwithstanding his own act of privy The parliament met in July, and procouncil, received favourably those who ceeded with the trial of the popish lords; were sent to intercede in behalf of the but Ker had been permitted to escape a detected traitors.

short while previously; and the parliaThe General Assembly met at Dun- ment listened to the offers of submission dee on the 24th of April, according to made by the conspirators, and rejected their own previous arrangement, and the bill of attainder against them, on the without waiting to be called together by pretext of want of evidence. Great and his majesty. The proceedings of that general was the dissatisfaction caused by Assembly, although of no great moment, this injudicious lenity to men guilty of furnished' sufficient indication of the repeated acts of treason; and strong susgrowing jealousy between the king and picions arose in the minds of many that the Church. The Assembly appointed his majesty's own attachment to the Procommissioners to present to the king an testant faith was but hollow and insinaddress and petition, containing several cere. The synod of Fife, at its meeting articles in regard to which they craved in September, determined to take such - redress. One was, that he would adopt steps as were competent to it, as a church strong measures for the suppression of court

, towards counteracting the injurious the popish party, and in the meantime lenity of the king and parliament. On that they should be excluded from all the ground that the Earls of Angus and public official situations, and denied ac- Errol had, when students at St. Andrews, cess to his majesty's presence. Another within the bounds of that synod, subwas, that his majesty would consider the scribed the Confession of Faith, and great prejudice done to the Church by thereby rendered themselves amenable the erection of the tithes of different pre- to its jurisdiction, and that Huntly had lacies into titular lordships. The king, murdered the Earl of Murray within its on the other hand, by his commissioner, bounds, the synod of Fife proceeded to directed the attention of the Assembly to pass the sentence of excom

nmunication that part of the act 1592 which required against these apostate conspirators, and its meetings to be held by the appoint

[ocr errors]

Booke of the Universall Kirk, pp. 385, 386.

sent intimation of what had been done. The conclusion of the trial was the

pass throughout the country. Intimation was ing of what was termed an “act of abolialso given, that a general meeting of tion,” by which the popish lords were commissioners from the different counties ordained to give satisfaction to the of the kingdom, consisting of noblemen, Church, and to embrace the Protestant gentlemen, burgesses and ministers, was faith, or else to leave the kingdom within to be held at Edinburgh on the 17th of a limited time; the process against them October. The king was extremely an- was dropped and consigned to oblivion ; noyed with these measures. They were and they were declared " free and unacso completely in unison with his former cusable in all time coming of the crimes declarations against the popish conspira- laid to their charge, provided they did tors, and so naturally, resulting from the not for the future enter into any treason bond of defence previously subscribed able correspondence with foreigners. with his concurrence, that he could not This arrangement was equally unsatjustly find direct fault with them, and yet isfactory to the Church and to the greater so contrary to his recent treatment of the part of the nation. It was well undertraitors that he could not approve of them. stood at that time, and might be still

, that With his usual craft, he attempted to the determined adherents of Popery tamper with several of the noblemen and could easily obtain absolution from Rome the ministers, to prevent the intimation for any oaths or concessions made to Proof the sentence of excommunication, and testants, provided they continued to plot also to impair the effect of the coming the destruction of the Protestant religion ; convention. Not succeeding in his and therefore, that to think of binding schemes, he again dissembled ; and be- such men with oaths and protestations, ing about to proceed to the borders to however solemn, was about as wise as to suppress some seditious and turbulent af- think of fettering a beast of prey with a fairs, he promised that he would show skein of rotten silk. Nor was it without no favour to the conspirators.

reason that James was himself distrusted. On the very same day on which this He had repeatedly broken his most solpromise was given, the king admitted the emn pledges, and brought his word into conspirators to his presence at Fala, and such suspicion, that the more earnestly made arrangements with them respect- he protested, the less he was believed. ing their trial. The convention appoint- Besides, the ruling motives of his whole ed commissioners to follow James to Jed- policy were well known to such men as burgh, and lay their complaints before Andrew Melville and Robert Bruce. him.

The reception given by his ma- They were aware of his secret interjesty to his faithful and zealous subjects course with England, for the purpose of was very different from that which he promoting his succession to the throne of had granted to the traitors a few days be that kingdom; and they knew that he fore. He termed the convention an un- would hesitate at nothing, however base lawful meeting, complained of the sen- and deceptive, which seemed likely to tence of excommunication, and even forward his views. He knew that there threatened to call a parliament for the was a strong popish party still in Engpurpose of overthrowing Presbyterian land, and he was desirous of conciliating and restoring Prelacy. When he had them and procuring their support, which expended his wrath in idle threats, he he sought to do by his lenient treatment grew calmer, and returned to the petition of his own popish rebels. To this it may of the commissioners a written answer, be added, that the political principles of containing promises sufficiently fair, but papists were more agreeable to a mo

It is unnecessary to dwell upon narch so devoted to despotic power and the wretched tergiversation of the king uncontrolled prerogative as James, than in this very important matter. A con- could possibly be the free spirit which vention of estates was held at Linlithgow lived and breathed in the Presbyterian in October, and arrangements were made Church of Scotland. For the same rea for the final trial of the rebel lords at son Episcopacy obtained his peculiar fa Holyrood-house in the following month. vour; as his cunning enabled him to

perceive, that he might more easily exer

as idle. *

Melville's Dairy, p. 208.

« EelmineJätka »