Of the Protestant Church.
THE gross corruption of doctrine, the extreme indolence, the dissolute manners, and the barbarous cruelty of the Romish clergy in this kingdom, concurred to bring about the reformation of religion, which was established by parliament, anno 1560. From that time, the Romish regular clergy were suppressed, and the secular had no legal establishment.
The ecclesiastical history may now be divided into several periods, agreeably to the changes that happened, as presbytery or prelacy, alternately prevailed in the government of the church.
1st. From 1560, to 1572, presbytery was the form of the church government. Until the government should be deliberately settled, a few superintendants were appointed. These, however, could not, with any propriety, be called bishops. They had no episcopal consecration and they were accountable to the general assembly. When presbyteries were appointed, their office ceased.
General assemblies began to be kept in 1560, and were continued annually. How soon provincial assemblies were kept, it is not so easy to determine. The general assembly, in 1568, appointed that the members should be elected in the synod, from which it is probable, that synods were generally erected at that time. There were no presbyteries, such as they are now, within this period. But there were meetings for exercise very early. Congregational sessions were held from the beginning of the reformation, and exercised government and discipline.
2d, From 1572, to 1592, a sort of episcopacy obtained in the church. When the earl of Morton became regent, the popish bishops, who were allowed two thirds of the revenue during life, were generally dead. Morton had therefore an opportunity of gratifying his insatiable avarice. He obtained a grant of the temporalities of the archbishoprick of St. Andrews, and other noblemen were aiming at the like grants. They could not hope to enjoy these revenues directly with any colour of law: and therefore Morton got it agreed, in a meeting of some ambitious men of the clergy, and privy council, “that the name and office of archbishop, and bishop, should be continued, during the king’s minority, but subject to the spiritual jurisdiction of the assembly.” These bishops, introduced anno 1572, were, by way of ridicule, but justly, called Tulchan bishops. A tulchan is the skin of a dead calf, stretched on a frame of wood, and laid under a cow, to make her give milk. These bishops had the name, that by a private agreement, and the allowance of a small benefice, the dioceses might yield their milk, or revenues to the nobility.
The duke D’Aubigne introduced one of these tulchan bishops to the see of Glasgow, anno 1581, but, the simoniacal bargain, made betwixt them, becoming public, the new bishop was opposed by the assembly, and presbytery. This produced an outrage, which the reader will find detailed in the second chapter of this book.
The regent Morton further gratified his avarice, at the expence of the clergy. In the year 1561, a part of the thirds of the ecclesiastical benefices was allowed to the protestant clergy, for their subsistence, but this, in time, was very ill paid. Morton got the clergy to resign the thirds in his favour, and he promised duly to pay their stipendiary allowance; but he assigned three or four churches to one minister, with the stipend of only one church, and applied the rest to his own use.
The tulchan bishops had possession of the episcopal palaces; had their chapters and their consistorial, and regality jurisdictions; but they were only nominal bishops. They were consecrated by presbyters, and were subject to, and deposed by the assemblies. The government of the church was truly presbyterian, by assemblies, and synods. In 1581, the assembly declared the office of bishop, as then exercised, to have no foundation in the word of God; and presbyteries were erected throughout the kingdom. Notwithstanding this, the titular bishops continued till the year 1592.
3d, From 1592, till 1610, the church government was strictly presbyterian. The tulchan bishops having titles of honour, a seat in parliament, and revenues greater than the other clergymen, had neglected their spiritual employments, were despised and considered as profane; yet James VI’ would gladly have continued them; as they were slavishly devoted to his will. Presbytery, however, was established, in the most ample manner, by an act of parliament, anno 1592, and the church was divided into synods and presbyteries.
The king, on the other hand, wishing to restore the power of bishops, as a balance to the nobles in parliament, prevailed, by promises, and threats, with a majority of the clergy, to agree in the year 1597, and 1598, that some ministers should represent the church in parliament. After that, constant moderators were established in presbyteries. Upon his accession to the throne of England, he restored the temporalities of bishops, by an act of parliament, July 9th,1605, and granted them a seat in parliament. By bribing, banishing, intimidating, and imprisoning ministers, presbytery was overturned; and episcopacy was established, by the general assembly, at Glasgow, in the year 1610. “In the general assembly, held at Linlithgow, anno 1606, the earl of Dunbar distributed among the most needy and clamorous of the ministers, 40,000 merks, to facilitate the work, and obtain their suffrages. And, anno 1616, after the assembly was up, the earl of Dunbar paid 5000 l. Scots to the moderators of presbyteries, for bygone service.” Şir James Balfour’s M.S. Annals, Vol I.
4th, From 1610, to 1638, the government of the church was episcopal. During the life of James VI. the subordination of judicatories was kept up, and the bishops, afraid of general assemblies, kept within the bounds of moderation. When Charles mounted the throne, synods and presbyteries were continued, but assemblies were laid aside. The bishops, having no controul, became so odious, that all ranks exclaimed against them; and the king, finding it necessary to call a general assembly, at Glasgow, anno 1638, episcopacy was, at that assembly, condemned, and abolished.
5th, From 1638, to 1662, the presbyterian government was exercised in the fullest vigour. The king, by the necessity of his affairs, was made to ratify this change of government, in parliament, anno 1641. Although the clergy had complained, that the king, and bishops, wished to impose the English liturgy upon the church of Scotland; they, themselves, now wished, by the covenant, to impose the government and worship of the church of Scotland, upon the churches of England and Ireland.
General assemblies were annually kept until 1653. The assembly, that year, was dispersed, as narrated in chap. 5th of this book. From this time, there was no assembly till 1690.
6th, From 1662, to 1690, episcopacy was the form of government. The bishops were restored by the prerogative royal, and confirmed, in parliament, anno 1662. No general assembly was called during this period; but synods and presbyteries were allowed to meet, though under the name of Diocesian assemblies. The restoration of episcopacy was followed by a train of persecution and severities, almost unparalleled, against those who had complied with the usurpation, and against non-conformists. When James laid aside the mask, and shewed his design of introducing popery, the English bishops, and clergy, made a firm stand for the protestant religion, and heartily joined in maintaining it. But the Scots bishops were abject flatterers of the king, and seemed to wish for popery and slavery.
7th, From 1690, to the present time, presbytery has been established. In the year 1690, the presbyterian government was restored; and, that year, the general assembly met for the first time since 1653. The episcopal ministers generally conformed to the government, and were allowed to keep their churches, and benefices, during life.