Proceedings Against the Episcopalians, pp.278-319.

[Narratives from Criminal Trials Contents]

   It will readily be inferred from the tone of the declarations and testimonies of the persecuted Presbyterians, that when they got the upper hand, Episcopacy would receive scant toleration from them. From the adoption of the Covenant down through the period of the civil wars, the great leaders abjured “a lawless toleration;” and the Scottish commissioners, assembled at London in 1645, alarmed by the growth of Independency, emphatically protested thus: 

   “We detest and abhor the much-endeavoured toleration. Our bowels are stirred within us, and we could even drown ourselves in tears when we call to mind how long and sharp a travail this kingdom hath been in for many years together to bring forth that blessed fruit of a pure and perfect Reformation; and now, at last, after all our pangs, and dolours, and expectations, this real and thorough Reformation is in danger of being strangled in the birth by a lawless toleration that strives to be brought forth before it.” 

   Even the erudite Principal Baillie, a scholar and a courtier, was equally clear. Among certain positions or first-principles for the guidance of himself and his coadjutors, he sets down the following: 

   “That the Covenant of Scotland rejects absolutely all kinds of Episcopacy; that the Covenant of the three kingdoms is expressly for rooting out of all prelacy – not the tyranny alone of that office. That the Royalists would be well content to keep in any imaginable kind of Episcopacy, being assured, in their own time, to break in pieces and rend all the caveats we can put on it; for it’s necessary to hold to that ground wherein all here does agree, and to which the Royalists themselves are on the point of yielding. That no Episcopacy here is tolerable, as being a mere human invention without the word of God, which, wherever it lodged, has been a very unhappy guest. The total extirpation of it would be applauded and congratulate without any distractions or any reservations, or else nothing would be spoke of that point.”1 To show how long this spirit lingered among the Presbyterian community, we find the associate Presbytery, a body whose present representatives profess high and just notions of religious freedom, in their act renewing the solemn league and Covenant in 1743, setting down the following as among the causes of God’s wrath towards their country: 

   “Our iniquities and backslidings have increased more and more; particularly when, by the treaty of union with England, in the year 1707, we were incorporated with our neighbours of England upon terms opposite to, and inconsistent with, our Covenant union with them; in regard, the maintenance of the hierarchy and ceremonies of the Church of England is made, by the said treaty, a fundamental and essential article of the union of the two kingdoms; and thus, with our own consent, the antichristian hierarchy, and a superstitious worship in England, have all the security that human laws can give them; whereby this whole nation hath again, not only given openly up with their solemn Covenant engagements to the Lord, but also involved themselves in the guilt of consenting to, and thereby approving of, the antichristian hierarchy and superstitious worship in England.  *   *   * 

   “Further, a short time after the above incorporating union, particularly in the year 1712, an almost boundless toleration was granted, whereby a door was opened to gross corruption in principle, which always brings along with it looseness in practice; and in consequence of this toleration, the superstitious and corrupt worship of the Church of England is set up in all the corners of this land.” 

   Thus a small sect, severing itself from the Established Church of Scotland, denounces, among the sins which have caused it to isolate itself in its own purity, not only the toleration of Episcopal worship in Scotland, but the acknowledgment of this antichristian system in the neighbouring country of England. 

   From such a deep-rooted intolerance, spreading over a century, one naturally expects, that after such an event as the Revolution, when the professors of such opinions have, after a bloody persecution, got the upper hand, there will be a bloody retaliation. Many things, however, concurred to soften the fall of Episcopacy. In the West country, where “the wild Whigs” abounded, the offensive clergy were “rabbled,” as it was termed, and driven forth with much indignity, but little absolute cruelty. The spirit which the Presbyterian party had called over from Holland was of a kind, not, as they afterwards found, submissively to obey, but calmly and firmly to rule them – to restrain their domination, and moderate their ardour. Among his early heterogeneous levies, William came in contact with a deputation from the Established Church of Scotland, such as Charles and James had made it; but his discernment showed him, at once, that he and they could have no cause in common. Another deputation of a different kind waited upon him, in the hope that he would aid them in “exterminating Episcopacy;” but extermination was not a word in his vocabulary, and the zealots returned home much mortified and a little angry. 

   The Revolution parliament immediately passed “an act abolishing prelacy,” and another “restoring the Presbyterian ministers, who were thrust from the churches since the first day of January, 1661.” These provisions were followed by an act “ratifying the confession of faith, and settling Presbyterian Church government,” which re-appointed the Confession as the fundamental charter of the Established Church of Scotland, and gave authority to the judicatories to “purge” the parish churches and the universities of those who refused to conform with the Presbyterian polity. The hierarchy was thus effectually destroyed, and no one assumed any ecclesiastical superiority over his fellow. The bishops, refusing to conform to the new system, of course lost their temporalities, and found it necessary to live in caution and obscurity, adopting their rank only towards their few devoted adherents. Many of the clergy, like their nonjuring brethren in England, and after a principle of religious heroism, which has been from time to time exhibited by the clergy of every branch of the Christian Church, quietly resigned themselves to their lot. They performed their clerical duties for those who required them, and lived thankfully on such bounty as their adherents could afford to offer them. 

   In Edinburgh, and probably in other parts of southern Scotland, they gradually opened retired, and almost secret places of worship. In other parts of the country, however, particularly in the Northern counties, the change was not so immediate and striking. The bishops with their seats in parliament, and the other Church dignitaries, no longer existed, and the clergy were bound to take the oaths to government, and ostensibly hold by the discipline and polity of the Presbyterian Church. When, however, as sometimes happened, all the clergy and all the laity of a district were disposed to Episcopacy, it was impossible to enforce the new system. There was no bishop with a seat in parliament over them, but the clergy were not less in heart and general practice the same who had belonged to the diocese, though their parishes formed parts of a Presbyterian synod and presbytery. It served to render their recusancy less conspicuous, that even when Episcopal the Church of Scotland did not authorise the use of a liturgy, save in that signal and alarming instance where the service-book sent northwards by Laud and Wren produced, as its reactionary fruit, the national Covenant. 

   Thus, through a great portion of Scotland north of the Forth and Clyde, the clergy remained immovable and unchanged. In any attempt to force on them the government oaths, there was an awkwardness from this, that the more zealous part of the Presbyterians refused to take them. A still more zealous portion had at once cast off the Establishment as a filthy rag. When they saw that there was actually a government in the land, which, though it professed to leave the Church undisputed master of the spiritual field, yet kept it within its own bounds, and would not permit it to dictate what these bounds should be, they at once abjured such miserable erastianism. These were the “hill men,” as they were termed – the Cameronians and other intense bigots, into whose souls the iron of persecution had entered along with stubborn spiritual pride and intolerance. They had been the real sufferers, and when the crown seemed to be within their grasp, it was the sic vos non vobis; and careful self-seekers, who had not borne the burden and heat of the day, were set in their place. Exciting themselves to a higher and higher pitch of discontent and unreasonableness, a portion of these intractable fanatics leagued themselves with the Jacobites to overturn the Revolution settlement. Others, a degree less unreasonable, took the benefices open to them in the Established Church, but soon began to spurn at the parliamentary imposition of oaths, and in fact formed a large portion of the Church, who would not, it was clear, submit to them. This gave a hold to the remnant of the Episcopal clergy in the North, who were externally precisely in the same position – both were nonjurants. 

   On one occasion, at least, there was an early attempt made by the Episcopalians of the nature of synodical action in competition with the judicatories of the Established Church. A committee had been appointed by the General Assembly to proceed to the North, and enforce adherence to the confession of faith. They met at Aberdeen, the stronghold of Episcopacy. In the year 1694, there was held, in King’s College, a meeting “of the ministers of the diocese of Aberdeen, together with delegates from the dioceses of Murray, Ross, Caithness, and Orkney.” They appointed some of their members to meet the committee of the assembly, and “present to them some queries or proposals concerted by them at their said meeting, relating to the ecclesiastic authority and jurisdiction of the said committee, and to demand answers and resolutions thereunto.” The committee of course declined to answer queries which, as they said, “strike at the root of Presbyterian government, and the present establishment thereof;” and the Episcopal clergy, on their part, find, that “for maintaining the liberties of the national Church, and for many other reasons moving us thereto, which we are resolved in due time to publish to the world, we find ourselves obliged unanimously to testify against the pretended ecclesiastic authority of this committee, and to protest against all their proceedings in the character of an ecclesiastic judicatory, and to appeal to their Majesties King William and Queen Mary, as supreme judges, under God, within these dominions, and to the next lawfully-constitute and orderly called General Assembly of this national Church.”2 

   A very wise measure was passed in 1695, making an inclined plane to let the remaining Episcopal clergy slide into the Presbyterian Establishment. Those of them who had retained their benefices, were permitted to remain in them provided they took the oaths. They were not to license or ordain successors, or perform any other but strictly pastoral functions. But, on the other hand, they were not bound, unless they thought fit, to become members of the Presbyterian judicatories. Such an act was, no doubt, far more efficacious in dissolving the remains of the old Episcopal Establishment than the penal statutes. Still, a considerable portion of the old body beheld the accession of Queen Anne. 

   The privy council of Scotland, in the last few years of its existence, was troubled with applications from the Presbyterian Church courts to expel the “intruders,” as the Episcopal remnant were termed; and the latest of the solemn acts on this point bears date on the 20th March, 1706, and follows, in the minute-book, the appointment of a commission to treat of the union. It is levelled against persons having no authority from or within the Church, “but pretending warrant from the late exauctorate bishops.” It states, that they get possession of the keys of the parish churches, and make use of them for their illegal purpose; and when proceedings are carried against them in the civil courts, “they do either remove only to the border of the neighbouring parish, and there continue their functions, or boldly proceed as if no sentence had passed on them.” The sheriffs of counties are directed to aid in the suppression of these disorders, and especially, where the keys of churches are illegally detained, to cause new ones to be made. The “exauctorate bishops” are, at the same time, “discharged” to grant any warrant or licence, “as they will be responsible upon their highest peril.” Many picturesque accounts might be given of the resistance of the peasantry, in Episcopalian districts, to the efforts of the ecclesiastical authorities – not always very heartily seconded by the judicial – to enforce the supremacy which the state had conferred on the Presbyterian Church; but they do not properly belong to the present occasion. North of the Grampians, there were Episcopalian ministers still holding their benefices at the accession of George I. 

   In the southern districts of Scotland, where Presbyterianism and Revolution sentiments were beyond all question supreme, the nonjurors remained quiet and cautious during the reign of King William. Their entire severance, however, from all concern in the passing interests of the age – their political extinction – taught them to associate all their future plans and hopes with the fall of the Revolution settlement, and the restoration of the Stuart dynasty. Before the end of William’s reign, sufficient time had elapsed to make this a fixed sentiment, and Jacobitism was almost a creed of Scottish Episcopacy. This distinctly antagonistic position was somewhat modified by the accession of Queen Anne. The one absorbing sentiment of the queen’s narrow intellect was devotion to the Church of England, as the only true Church. Would she not, therefore, surely look with an eye of pity on the impoverished and struggling members of the same family in the North? – such were their natural expectations. Then, on the other hand, was she not a Stuart, who deserved their good-will and amity, if she could not command their entire loyalty? 

   The epoch seemed propitious to the humbled priesthood, who began gradually to emerge from their hiding-holes into the open day. Their restoration to light was accompanied by a new feature. It was deemed well to strengthen all the external marks of alliance with the Church of England, not only for the sake of the protection of that powerful body itself, but to propitiate the queen. Thus the English liturgy was introduced into a few of the churches. Some people received this change as indicative of loyalty, since it was a departure from the ways of the Scottish Jacobite Episcopalian Church, and an adoption of the forms of the loyal Church of England. The Presbyterian ministers, however, looked on the new ceremonial with strong disfavour, as a step towards Popish idolatry. They watched the nature of these rites, and observed that the clergy who performed them either omitted praying for the queen, or did so in an equivocal and suspicious manner. When the negotiations of Hook brought Admiral Forbin to the Frith of Forth, to support the Jacobites, they thought they saw an appearance of extreme exultation and insolence in the aspect of the nonjuring clergy. 

   Towards the end of February, 1707, the Scottish privy council, drawing towards the conclusion of its existence, received an injunction from Whitehall to see to the security of the kingdom, and the preservation of the public peace. The council, in their deliberations, found, that in order to accomplish this, it was necessary to suppress the public meetings of those who, under pretence of divine worship, invited such ministers to officiate as the law had prohibited – not having qualified themselves by taking the oaths, praying for the queen, &c.; and instructions were issued to proceed against offenders. 

   Acting under these instructions, the procurator-fiscal of the city of Edinburgh brought a libel, or accusation, against eighteen Episcopal clergymen, who, “shaking off all fear of God, and regard to her majesty’s authority and laws, or to the public peace and security of the country,” preached publicly without praying for her majesty, or taking the oaths, “whereby they manifestly discover their disaffection to her majesty’s government, and do what in them lies by such practices, in not regarding or observing public fasts and thanksgivings, to keep up a wicked faction against her majesty’s government and the peace and security thereof.” When brought before the magistrates on this charge, they started some technical objections to the form of procedure. They then pleaded, that the statute required them to pray for King William and Queen Mary, as king and queen of this realm, “of which act we are libelled as contraveners, because we do not, as is alleged, pray for her Majesty Queen Anne. It is answered – first, that the persons for whom public prayers are ordered by the said act to be made, are dead, and the act must die with them in consequence. Second, it is invidious for our pursuer to bring our prayers into the accusation, seeing he cannot allege against us any words or expressions that bewray contempt of authority or disrespect to their persons. We pray for the whole royal family. We are none of those who despise dominions, or speak evil of dignities; and, therefore, cannot conceive upon what ground this part of the accusation against us is founded; especially, seeing there is no form of prayer, in relation to this particular, imposed by any law; and where there is no law, there can be no transgression.” On the matter of the oath, they pleaded that it was only intended to apply to clergymen, as lucrative public officers, and ought not to include those who enjoyed no benefices. 

   The sentence of the magistrates was, that the accused were “to desist from keeping of any meeting-houses within the city of Edinburgh, &c., and from preaching or exercising any part of the ministerial function within the same, in all time coming, under the pain of imprisonment.” One of them, having made some remarks construed “to import his great contempt to the queen and her authority,” was forthwith imprisoned. This occurred in March; and in June, 1708, the municipal authorities were again roused to action, by being informed that their prohibition was disregarded. In some instances, the city guard were placed at the doors of the places of worship to prohibit entrance; but, partly in meeting-houses, partly in their own dwellings, these nonjuring clergy still performed their functions. Unwilling, apparently, to drive matters to extremity, the provost of the town desired to have a meeting with them. They were asked if they would undertake to abandon the performance of their functions, “to which they all unanimously made answer, that it was a demand with which they could not comply, and that they would not bind themselves up from doing the duties of their calling in any part of the Christian world.” They stated, that they were bound “to obey God rather than man” – probably the very text which the magistrate himself was thinking of when he determined to suppress their prelatic preaching. On the 17th of July, a portion of them were committed to prison, there to remain until they should comply with the injunction against them.3 It is stated by De Foe, that after the danger from a French invasion, united with a Jacobite rising, had passed away, the Presbyterian citizens of Edinburgh were disposed to good-humour; and that those of the imprisoned Episcopalians who yet held out against compliance, were permitted to leave their prison. A new element, however, was now brought into the dispute. As the union was held to fuse the whole empire together, there was supposed to be nothing to prevent the clergy of the Church of England and Ireland from officiating in Scotland. It appears, that some Episcopalian citizens of Edinburgh believed that in this manner they might meet all the difficulties of their position. It was said, casually, that as there were some official people connected with the revenue, and other government departments, who had now come from England to reside in Scotland, and it was natural that now many inhabitants of England would come northward, while Scotsmen went southward, – it was fair that the English should be permitted to follow their religious observances in peace, under their own clergy. If the English inhabitants of Edinburgh, or any other Scottish town, had liberty to attend a place of worship so ministered to, of course native Scotsmen could do so likewise. Arrangements were accordingly adopted to procure the services of a clergyman from England or Ireland. 

   It might naturally be supposed that the introduction of the English liturgy accompanied this project; but it appears to have been used, occasionally, before the union. It was now, however, that it came chiefly under general notice; and while the popular passions excited by the union were still alive, the project of introducing an English clergyman, with his English service, was viewed as the commencement of a series of national humiliations, which would end in the subjection of the Scottish people to the English Church and the English laws. Nor did it by any means tend to reconcile them to the innovation, that just as the parliament and privy council – the badges of national independence, had been removed, a set of harpies of revenue-officers, who knew not the national customs, and performed their functions with the insulting rigidity of foreign invaders, had swarmed into Scotland, and were the very individuals for whom the “innovations in worship,” as they came to be called, were provided. It seemed as if the prophecy of the fiery Lord Belhaven, still ringing in their ears – predicting the downfal of all their fondly-cherished institutions, with their “national Church, founded upon a rock, secured by a claim of right, hedged and fenced about by the strictest and pointedest legal sanctions that sovereignty could contrive,” – were about to be fulfilled. 

   It is probable that a clergyman originally ordained for the English Church, might have for various reasons been reluctant to hold so troublesome an appointment. The person on whom it fell was a certain James Greenshields, who had been ordained, in 1694, by a Scottish bishop, but who had officiated as a curate in Ireland, and came from that country accredited by the Archbishop of Dublin. 

   The method of proceeding first adopted against Greenshields was certainly one of the oddest ever devised for accomplishing an ecclesiastical victory. The dean of guild being an officer who has authority in questions about the destruction or perversion of edifices, proceedings were raised in his court, professedly at the instance of the landlord from whom Greenshields had hired his meeting-house. It was set forth, that “the petitioner having set a dwelling-house, in Stewart’s-court, to Mr. James Greenshields, preacher of the Gospel, at the agreed rent of six pounds sterling; and true it was, that the said petitioner did set the same allenarly for a dwelling-house for the accommodation of the said Mr. Greenshields, and his wife, and seven children, which he, at taking, told he had to possess the same, &c.; yet notwithstanding whereof, as the petitioner was informed, the said Mr. Greenshields has not only, to the petitioner’s great hurt and prejudice, inverted the order of his said house, by removing the partitions thereof, though fixed both to the top and floor, but also, to the prejudice of the petitioner’s other houses, he set up a public meeting in the said house, whereby, and by the down-taking of the partitions, the house itself and hail land was thereby in great danger, and the hail other tenants did threaten to remove, unless the said meeting be shut up.” The proceedings further bear, that “the dean of guild and his council having visited the house above mentioned, they found, and hereby find, that the partition being removed, and new seats and a pulpit put up therein, contrary to the agreement with the petitioner, they ordained the seats presently to be removed, and the partitions put up, and the house to be put in the condition it was formerly.” 

   This impediment was easily overcome, and Mr. Greenshields, with somewhat increasing popularity within his limited circle, procured accommodation elsewhere. There were no means of proceeding against Greenshields under the statutes, for he had qualified, and duly prayed for the queen and the Princess Sophia. Whatever proceedings were directly taken against him, it was found, must be, in the first place, ecclesiastical. By way of initiative, a petition to the commission of the General Assembly was prepared, and in a few hours signed by several hundreds of the citizens. The petitioners said: “To our very great surprise, several of the Episcopal clergy, prompted and instigated thereunto by the Jacobite party, who are equally disaffected to the civil as to the ecclesiastic constitution, have of late not only erected meeting-houses in this city, after the Scots Episcopal way, but also, in several places here, have set up the English service, which, as it is contrary to our Establishment, and very grievous and offensive to us and all others who are well-affected to her majesty and the present Establishment, so it will prove of fatal and dangerous consequence to the Church, if not speedily remedied.” 

   The commission of the General Assembly sits for performance of those functions which it is authorised to undertake by the Assembly, during the long interval between the annual sessions of that body. The preceding Assembly had, according to uniform practice, left an instruction “that the commission, as often as they shall see cause, apply to the government, or any magistrate, for their countenancing or concurring with the judicatories of the Church in what the law allows, and for putting in execution of the laws against Popery and profaneness, and seeking redress of grievances, abuses, and disorders committed contrary to the established doctrine, worship, discipline, and Presbyterian government of this Church.” 

   On this instruction, the commission directed the presbytery to proceed against Greenshields. They served an order on him to attend, “to give an account of yourself; you being a stranger here, and presuming, at your own hand, without the authority of any judicatory, to exercise the office of the holy ministry publicly upon the Lord’s-day, and convening people to hear you.” The manner in which, according to the record of proceedings, he met the charge was, that being a clergyman of the Church of England, he was desirous, as such, to officiate to those of the same persuasion. “And since, by the union of the two kingdoms,” he continued, “I do believe that the Episcopal Church of Scotland is now incorporate with the Church of England, and that, though Presbytery is the legal Establishment of North Britain, yet I find that there is no law against those of the communion of the Church of England to exercise their worship in a private manner, and without intruding into any church or glebe of any minister established by law; and therefore I do not think myself subject or liable to any censure of any ecclesiastical judicatory in North Britain, but only in so far as to give an account that I am lawfully-ordained minister, and free of any scandal that may incapacitate me for such an undertaking.” 

   The result was, that the presbytery “do find that the said Mr. Greenshields has, in high contempt of this Church Establishment by law, declined their authority; that he has exercised the ministry within the bounds of this presbytery, without their allowance, which is an unwarrantable intrusion; and introduced a form of worship contrary to the purity and uniformity of the worship of this Church, established by law. Wherefore, the presbytery did, and hereby do, unanimously prohibit and discharge the said Mr. Greenshields to exercise any part of the office of the holy ministry within their bounds, and recommend the magistrates of Edinburgh, and other judges competent, to render this sentence effectual.” 

   The presbytery transmitted their proceedings to the magistrates, who summoned Greenshields before them. They sanctioned the order of the presbytery, and dismissed him with the warning, that if he disobeyed it, he would be imprisoned. Afterwards, there was an “application made by the neighbourhood to the magistrates, and information given that, notwithstanding of the presbytery’s sentence, the said Mr. James Greensbields had continued in exercising the ministerial function within the city of Edinburgh, in his meeting-house.” As he did not deny the charge, he was at last ordained “to go to the prison and Tolbooth of this city, therein to remain, ay, and till he find caution that he should desist from the exercise of his ministry within this city, liberty, or privileges, in all time coming, or else that he should remove himself therefrom.”4 

   This being a decision by a civil court, Greenshields sought redress in the court of session. The proceedings had naturally roused the spirit of the friends of Episcopacy, who were previously lukewarm; and he was well backed. The obscure clergyman, occupying a place of worship in a dark alley for 6l. a year, became, as generally happens in such matters, a power in the state; and people looked with eager anxiety at the judicial battle. The cause had one bitter enemy on the bench, in the person of the well-known Lord Grange, who had just been appointed a judge, and who had his own designs to accomplish, by doing the will of the more exclusive party in the Church of Scotland.5 

   The presbytery and the magistrates had acted with little more guidance than their convictions and prejudices. In the court of session, it was necessary to look deeper into the legal warrants for such proceedings. Greenshields maintained, that even independently of his position as holding letters in the Church of England, he came under the act of 1695, which protected the clergy who took the oaths, even though they should not come within the scope of the Presbyterian polity. But he was met by the plea, that his ordination had been made by one of the “exauctorate” bishops; and the very law on which he founded, prohibited acts of clerical succession by those whom it tolerated. “And it is a vain imagination to think a deposed bishop retains the power to ordain, for that were to perpetuate the schism; and the nonjurant bishops in England do not so much as pretend to it; so that this volunteer is truly no Churchman at all, but a pure layman; and the consolidation with England is a sophistical notion, the union establishing the Presbyterians; and no other set of a Church has a legal being and existence here, but them only; and there needs no law condemning the English service, for the introducing of the Presbyterian worship explodes it as inconsistent.” “Some alleged,” says the same authority, “the want of a prohibitory law was not warrant enough; for if a Mahometan mufti should set up to teach the Alcoran in Edinburgh, it would be no excuse to him to say there is no law in Scotland against the Alcoran: others thought this comparison too wide.”6 The views of Grange, who was probably the author of the too-wide comparison, prevailed, and twice the court solemnly decided in favour of the presbytery, and in support of the imprisonment. Greenshields entered an appeal from the decision of the court of session to the House of Lords. Great changes, tending to favour his cause, had taken place before it was finally heard. When first brought in, we are told, that the House was too much occupied with the impeachment of Sacheverell to attend to it. Before it came on for judgment, the political wheel of fortune had turned. Sacheverell had made his triumphant procession; Mrs. Masham had driven away Sarah Jennings; Marlborough was checked in his career of victory; the treaty of Utrecht was projected, and Harley and St. John were masters of the cabinet. It was not to be supposed that the party which had become predominant, would permit a poor brother to wither in a Scottish gaol for supporting their principles and pretensions. 

   It appears, however, that even Harley was annoyed that such an incidental matter should occur to add to the causes of irritation in the Presbyterian party. “I answered,” says Lockhart, the Jacobite leader, “that I could assure him we were much mistaken, if any bad consequences happened from supporting Mr. Greenshields in his just plea, for the contrary was designed by those who pushed it. That the Scots Presbyterians were as much exasperate already as they could be, and had neither ability nor courage to give any disturbance; for their interest in the country was very small, as sufficiently appeared from the great majority of Tories in this parliament, which he knew was not owing to any assistance they got from the court, but arose wholly from the inclinations of the people. That as for himself (Harley), he had no reason to show them any favour, for they preached and prayed against him – nominatim, giving him over to the gallows and the devil from their pulpits; and I was confident – at least, hopeful, he would never give them reason to have a better opinion of him.”7 

   Appeals from the court of session to the British House of Lords were just beginning to come into practice; and it is probable that such a case as the present, showing the necessity of some protection against local prejudice and oppression, tended to give support to the partially-developed system. It was long ere it came to be the exclusive function of the law lords in the House to decide on these appeals from the courts below; and we have some curious insight into the influence brought to bear on this branch of the administration of justice in its infancy. Lockhart states, that the Scottish members of the Commons subscribed freely to enable Greenshields to conduct his case. “And when the day prefixed for discussing the appeal drew near, they divided themselves into several classes, to each of which was assigned a certain number of English lords, on whom they waited, and gave a true and clear representation of the case, which had so much weight, and produced such good effects, that the underhand dealings of the ministry were entirely baffled.”8 On the 1st of March, 1711, it was ordered that the sentence of the magistrates, and the decree of the court of session, be reversed. 

   Nearly at the same time, the Toleration Act of 1711, “was passed to prevent the disturbing those of the Episcopal communion in that part of Great Britain called Scotland, in the exercise of their religious worship, and the use of the liturgy of the Church of England.” In two or three instances – chiefly in Glasgow – the Episcopal places of worship, where the English liturgy was used, had been attacked by mobs; and the local magistrates had refused them protection. The Church, in England so powerful, was thus threatened by the rabble on the one hand, and the law on the other. It is observable in this act, that the clerical qualification necessary to the persons whom it protects is, that they “shall have received holy orders from the hands of a Protestant bishop;” it is not required that he should be a bishop of the Church of England. They required to produce their letters of orders to the justices at quarter sessions, to be recorded, and to take the oaths of allegiance and abjuration.9 The act contained a provision which became equally a stumbling-block to the Jacobites, and the more zealous of the Presbyterians – that every clergyman, whether of the Established Church or the protected Episcopal communion, must, on each occasion of divine service, “pray, in express words, for her Most Sacred Majesty Queen Anne, and the Most Excellent Princess Sophia.” 

   The rebellion of 1715 developed the strong Jacobite spirit which had been curdling in the Episcopalian Church, and the pacification was followed by a crop of prosecutions for the penalties leviable under the act. They were preceded by a letter, under the sign-manual, to the Court of Justiciary, referring to the existence of meeting-houses, where service was performed without prayers for the king and royal family; and requiring the court “to give strict orders for shutting up all such meeting-houses.” The court sent, in answer, their humble opinion that their forms did not allow such summary procedure, till after trial and conviction by due course of law; but the royal letter so stimulated the prosecutions, that twenty-five Episcopal clergymen in Edinburgh were brought to the bar at once, on the 11th of June 1716. One of them, named Cockburn, was exempted from the proceedings on producing his certificate of letters of orders from one of the “exauctorate” Scottish bishops; twenty-one of them were subjected to the statutory penalty of 20l. By the literal words of the act, the penalty was leviable only for omission of prayers for Queen Anne, in whose reign it passed; and Mr. Arnot – himself a lawyer – calls the sentence “palpably illegal; for, as this penal statute annexed the penalty of 20l. to the not praying for Queen Anne while living, it was repugnant to every rule of law, to every principle of liberty, to extend the penalty to the not praying for King George after she was dead.”10 

   But in the indictment against them, their offence was almost made one of commission as well as omission, for “pretending to use the liturgy of the Church of England, in virtue of the Act of Toleration, each of them in the day foresaid, or one or other of them, in their respective meeting-houses, wherein they did officiate as pastors, wilfully and contemptuously omitted every prayer, petition, or part of the said liturgy and service of the Church of England, where his majesty’s name, or the names of their Royal Highnesses the Prince and Princess of Wales, &c., are by authority expressly appointed to be named or mentioned; and in place thereof, made use of certain general and equivocal words, to the dishonour of God and true piety, and contrary to their profession of following and making use of the liturgy of the Church of England, and duty of praying for his majesty as supreme as supreme Christian magistrate, manifestly in contempt of his authority, and tending to excite sedition, and alienate the affection of his people from his majesty’s person and government, stirring up thereby his subjects to misliking seditious unquietness, and to cast off their obedience to his majesty, to their evident peril, tinsel, and destruction.”11 

   On the 4th of March, 1717, they were again brought to the bar on a similar charge, “indecent and unpastorial” being added to the terms of reproach which the indictment heaped on them. But there was a more serious new feature in this prosecution. One of the prosecuted clergymen had, as we have seen, been released on producing a certificate of ordination by a Scottish bishop. A resolution seemed now to be formed to question the legality of such orders. It was stated in the subsequent proceedings, that in the earlier stage the illegal source of the orders had been overlooked, the court having merely turned its attention to the statutory certificate from the quarter sessions, that letters of orders from a Protestant bishop had been produced. In the new indictment it was set forth, that the accused had received orders from persons calling themselves bishops in Scotland, which were illegal, “pretended orders from pretended bishops,” as they were termed. The crown, however, did not press for a verdict on this point, as the accused were found guilty of the omissions to pray for the king. It was, evidently, now in contemplation to extinguish this dangerous Jacobitical Scottish Episcopacy, and get its adherents, partly by force, partly by coaxing, attached in some form to the Church of England. In an act, however, passed in 1719, for fixing more distinctly the terms in which the Episcopal clergy were to take out their licences, and pray for the royal family, there was no provision for accomplishing the proposed end, which appears to have been suspended until the government received new provocation. 

   For some years the Episcopal clergy seem to have been left in comparative peace. An agreeable feature in the history of the times is the absence of any cruel popular outbreaks against them. In the West country, where the spirit of the more obdurate Covenanters still lingered, there was a faint, but only a faint, indication of popular restlessness. Wodrow mentions the concurrence of two moral phenomena in the year 1728: “Two things happen pretty singular, which twenty or thirty years ago would have been very odd in Glasgow – the setting up of an Episcopalian meeting-house, and public allowing of comedies.” The clergyman, named Wingat, who appears to have been a nonjuror, “was very uppish” to the magistrates. “A mob was threatened,” but did not come forth, though Glasgow had been for some years in a very turbulent state. “These two or three years,” says Wodrow, “there have been very strong efforts made to have public meeting-houses set up in the west and south of Scotland, where the greatest opposition was formerly made to Episcopacy; and this, no doubt, makes a great dash abroad, where things are magnified; and what the consequences will be to following generations, I tremble at the thoughts.” And if the honest zealot had lived to see the spruce ecclesiological edifices, duly Orientalized, with their stone altars, sedilia, credence-tables, lecterns, and rood screens, he would have probably deemed all his worst prophecies too sadly verified. 

   There is no doubt that the Duke of Cumberland’s troops treated the Episcopal clergy with that brutality which they distributed among all who were deemed disloyal, and sprinkled even among many warm friends of the Hanover interest. It is extremely difficult at all times to keep a victorious military force from treating even those it is sent to protect as subdued enemies. Many of the Episcopalian meeting-houses were burned or dismantled in the general retribution, and several buildings of an architectural pretension considerably above the efforts made by the subdued Church for many subsequent years, are said to have been thus demolished. It was now, too, that the government determined, if possible, to exterminate the Scottish Episcopal Church, and drive its flock into the English sheepfold. An act was passed, strengthening the restrictions on Episcopal clergymen, and rendering more minute and complicated the regulations they were bound to observe. The act was made to apply to every clergyman performing service for five persons, besides the household; that being deemed a congregation, and making the worship public. The main provision of the act, however, was, that no letters of orders would be admitted as effective, “but such as have been given by some bishop of the Church of England or of Ireland.” As it was doubtful whether this had a retrospective effect, so as to make it exclude the clergy who had received ordination from Scottish bishops before the passing of the act, an explanatory statute was passed, making it positively retrospective. 

   As an instance of the operation of the statute, a short account may be given of the proceedings against Alexander Greig, John Petrie, and John Troup, tried before the sheriff of Kincardineshire, on the 5th of December, 1748. The principal witness was Richard Shaw, corporal in General Blakeney’s regiment, who went, by order of his lieutenant, to watch a house, which he knew to be a meeting-house, having often seen persons resort thither on Sunday. His description of the scene is curious: “When he went into the house, there were convened in one room about forty persons, young and old; and in the same room there was a closet, in which he saw Mr. Greig standing in an Episcopal habit, with a book in his hand, in which he was reading; and he heard him, in the reading, several times make mention of Paul the Apostle. There were only two women with Mr. Greig in the closet, the door whereof was open to the room.” This evidence was confirmed by that of three other soldiers. William Cooper, a tailor, said that he had often seen “convened and met together, in the next room to Mr. Greig’s, more than five persons over and above the household; which room was possessed by Jane Steven, for the purpose of hearing Mr. Greig, who was in a closet within his own room. He did not see him, but he knew him to be the preacher by his voice, and those in Jane Steven’s room made responses to him in the time of prayer. That he has heard Mr. Greig perform the whole of divine service after the form of the Church of England, and he never heard him pray for his Majesty by name, his heirs and successors, and all the royal family. That between the doors of the two rooms there was a plate, or basin, in which the persons convened put in offerings in money, intended for the use of Mr. Greig.”12 

   Such severities only fortified the victims up to the pitch of enduring them; and there might, from the domestic annals of this period, be gathered many affecting instances of the zealous devotion of these humble pastors. Thus, in the register of the Episcopal chapel of Muthell, in Perthshire, there is, of date 20th March, 1750, this entry by the clergyman: 

   “N.B. With such excessive severity were the penal laws executed at this time, that Andrew Moir having neglected to keep his appointment with me at my own house this morning, and following me to Lord Rollo’s house, at Duncrub, we could not take the child into the house; but I was obliged to go under the cover of the trees in one of Lord Rollo’s parks, to prevent our being discovered, and baptize the child there.”13 

   Among the numerous instances of penalties inflicted on these poor clergymen in the middle of the eighteenth century, one is remarkable from this peculiarity, that the punishment of the statute not being thought sufficient for the occasion, the accusation was extended so as technically to include other and more penal charges. In 1755, John Connachar, an Episcopal clergyman, officiating in Argyleshire, was brought to trial under the act. On a fuller examination of his case, however, the public prosecutor found that he could be proved to have celebrated several marriages, in such a manner as to subject himself to the operation of an act of the reign of Charles II., directed against the Covenanters. The accused was prepared with evidence that his conduct did not come within the avowed aim of the act, which was to punish those who celebrated marriages clandestinely and irregularly; he could adduce proof, in all cases, of the regular proclamation of banns. That which, however, would have been all-sufficient, had the law acknowledged him as a clergyman, was undermined by his legal disqualification. The statutory punishment to which he was subjected, was banishment from Scotland, under pain of death should he return to the country. He went to England, where he might live as he pleased, and be a living caricature of a penal law which made him a criminal, punishable with death, in one division of the empire, and an innocent man in the other.14 

   Possibly, when the state of civilisation, of political morality, and of the administration of justice, in the year 1755, is compared with their state in the reign of Charles II., it might be admitted that Episcopacy in Scotland can compete with Presbyterianism for the distinction of martyrdom; recentness being in some measure put in the balance against intenseness. The temper of the two Churches, however, is different. The Presbyterians delight in enumerating their sufferings from the wrath of the mighty; the Episcopal Church rather shuns any allusion to its adversity, and would be inclined to forget that it ever was humble and poor, or found it necessary to skulk and evade the law. 

   In the case of Connachar, the judge, in charging the jury, said, that a person of his activity and diligence was “dangerous to our present happy Establishment.” This allusion expressed the true motive-spirit of the persecution. Connachar officiated in Glencoe, and the district so unhappily associated with the tragic history of the execution of James Stewart, for the murder of Campbell of Glenure.15 The clergyman was punished because he was a Jacobite, and all the proceedings against his class were directed to the suppression, not of the Episcopal religion, but of the Jacobite cause. Perhaps few people will count this a vindication of penal prosecutions for peculiar forms of worship. If there be any who do so, the answer to them is, that a well-regulated government will be able to protect itself from attack, without interfering with religious observances. That the Episcopalians had the option of joining with the Church of England, was no better vindication of the severities, than any other careless challenge to zealous religionists to be reasonable. People whose religion is interfered with are never reasonable, and never will be so. The Scottish Episcopalians had made, indeed, a considerable gulf between themselves and their English brethren, by adopting forms so different from the Anglican, that, on a late occasion, a clergyman who had been ordained in England, was excommunicated by a Scottish bishop for following the English and evading the Scottish form. 

   On the accession of George III., when terrors of Jacobite invasions died away, the poor humble Episcopal Church began to raise its long-drooping head. When Prince Charles-Edward died, in 1788, the Jacobites became loyal, by an ingenious fiction overlooking the fact that half the crown-heads of Europe still stood between George III. and the legitimate descent from the house of Stuart. About the same period a fortunate incident occurred. After the independence of the United States was acknowledged, the members of the Episcopal Church there were desirous of possessing a duly-authorised hierarchy. The English bishops disliked the republican connexion, yet thought it a pity that a branch of the Church should be cut off from the succession. They bethought them that they had a poor relation in Scotland, who might not be too fastidious to acknowledge and receive the upstart. Accordingly, after some diplomatic negotiations, certain American bishops were consecrated in Scotland. The Church of England did not forget this favour, and lent its influence to the passing of the act which, in 1792, relieved the Scottish Episcopalians from the penal laws. 

1  Baillie’s Letters and Journals, ii, 253. 

2  The Queries and Protestation of the Scots Episcopal Clergy, &c., by a Layman of the Church of Scotland. London, 1694. 

3  A Narrative of the late Treatment of the Episcopal Ministers within the City of Edinburgh, since March last, 1708, London. 

4  The case of Mr. Greenshields, 1710. 

5  Lord Grange was one of those vile, but fortunately rare characters, a perfect hypocrite, who led two distinct lives, the one immersed in the blackest vices, the other whitewashed with a thin covering of the purest piety. He joined, with extreme mystery and secrecy, in the hideous debauches of Lovat, and the other profligates of the day; hatching Jacobite plots with them, while he publicly professed the strongest Hanoverian and Presbyterian principles. The tragic romance acted by him towards his wretched wife, is well known. It is, perhaps, not quite so well known, that he attempted to kidnap his sister-in-law, Lady Mar; but, when carrying her across the Border into Scotland, he was pounced on by her sister, the Lady Wortley Montague, who, armed with a King’s Bench warrant, snatched the prey from his grasp. His object in seizing on the weak woman, who fortunately had a no less scrupulous protector, was purely mercenary. (See this incident brought out in Blackwood’s Magazine, for September, 1849.) Such deep duplicity could not pass unquestioned before men of the world, and despite his utmost art, people shunned Lord Grange, and shook their heads. To honest zealots like Wodrow, however, his ultra-religious enthusiasm was a sufficient passport; and the historian’s note-book is filled with wondrous relations of the apostolic piety of the venerated judge. Thus, in relation to a barber’s boy: “It pleased the Lord, as a great mercy to James Nesbit, to incline his nephew to a liking to what is good and serious, and my Lord Grange was the occasion of it, in some words dropped from him when the boy was shaving him.” We have the following curious account of this virtuous man’s attempt to suppress the circulating library established by Allan Ramsay the poet: “Ramsay has a book in his shop, wherein all the names of those that borrow his plays and books for 2d. a night, or some such rate, are set down, and by these, wickedness of all kinds are dreadfully propagate among the youth of all sorts. My informer, my Lord Grange, tells me, he complained to the magistrates of this, and they scrupled at meddling with it, till he moved that his book of borrowers should be inspected, which was done, and they were alarmed at it, and sent some of their number to his shop, to look through some of his books; but he had notice an hour before, and had withdrawn a great many of the worst, and nothing was done to purpose. This, with the plays and interludes come down from England this winter, dreadfully spreads all abominations, and profaneness, and lewdness.” – Analecta, iv., 516. Lord Grange’s brother, the Jacobite Earl of Mar, appears to have been a man of the same insincere and treacherous character, but, working in a different sphere, it took another shape. 

6  Fountainhall’s decisions, ii., 523, 549. 

7  Lockhart Papers, i., 347. 

8  Lockhart Papers, i., 348. 

9  10th Anne, c. 7. One of the rubrics of the act characteristically bears “This act shall not give any ease, &c., to Papists.” 

10  Criminal Trials, p. 388. The indictment mentions an order in council to pray for King George; but, of course, if Mr. Arnot’s very literal view of the statute be right, this would not enlarge its operation. Mr. Arnot seems to think it was an act of personal meanness for the lord-advocate, or public prosecutor, to pursue for the informer’s half of the penalty. 

11  Books of Adjournal, MS. 

12  Black Book of Kincardine. Stephen’s History of the Church of Scotland, iv., 336. 

13  Steph., iv., 346. 

14  See his case at length in the Scots’ Magazine for 1755, pp.207-313. 

15  See vol. i., p.73

Leave a Reply