AS nothing but a Charity agreeable to its Divine Original, could move you, to be so solicitous to know the present Afflicted State of the Episcopal Clergy in Scotland; so nothing but your. Command could have obliged me to this short, and plain account of it.
Upon what Ground the present Parliament of Scotland have thought fit to abolish Episcopacy out of that National Church, I will not at present strictly enquire into: Only I may be allowed to say, without offence, That since this Parliament has not judged convenient to abolish it, as a Government either Antichristian, or contrary to reason, or Scripture, or Antiquity, or the Universal opinion of Protestant Churches abroad, or Learned Men in all Ages; but only as contrary to the Inclination of the People, and (as such) a Grievance. It may be considently hop'd, That when Presbytery, or the Usurped Authority of Presbyters without Bishops, shall become a Grievance to the People, (for what has been so heretofore, may be hereafter) and so contrary to their Inclination, that then, and in that Case, Episcopacy may for the same reason by Authority of another Parliament be restored again. This is no new thing, for before this Revolution, Episcopacy in Scotland has been abolished twice by Act of Parliament, but so was also Presbytery; It's now abolished the third time, and so Presbytery may be. But with this difference, That Presbytery was never setled by Law in Scotland, but when either our Kings were involv'd in Intestine broils, or when the Civil Government was under some great convulsion occasion'd most ordinarily by the practises of that Party, which put them under a kind of necessity, (not choice) to allow it. But no sooner did either our Kings, or the Government reassume their just freedom, and vigour, but as soon was Episcopacy both restored and established by Law. So that Episcopacy having been always setled in our Church in time of peace, or at the Restoration of it, May it please God to restore peace to the State, that order in the Church may be it's happy effect. And may we make better use of these two blessings, then we have done hitherto.
But as for the inferiour Clergy of Presbyters, who were received into the protection of this Government, first by a Declaration from the Prince of Orange in January 1688/9. And in April thereafter by a Proclamation of the Convention of Estates. By which Proclamation and Declaration all persons whatsoever were strictly forbid upon the highest pains to molest, disturb, or by any manner of way interrupt or hinder the Clergy in the exercise of their Ministry, and peaceable possession of their Livings, They demeaning themselves as it became peaceable and good men. As for them, I say, to be turned out of their Churches in so great numbers, may justly make strangers think these men guilty of hainous villanies and crimes, which have provoked the Government against them, and obliged it to turn them out of their Livings, and forbid them all exercise of their Ministry, to declare their Churches vacant, and to order themselves and families to remove from their dwelling-houses in the middle of winter.
To Set then this matter in its true light, it will be necessary to look a little back upon some things which happened before the proceedings of the Privy Council against the Episcopal Clergy.
Be pleased therefore to know, that there have been Ministers turned out and deprived since the beginning of this Revolution, by, and under a threefold Authority.
The first turning out was by the Authority, or rather Violence of the Rabble in the Western and Southshires only.
The Second was by a Committee of the Convention of Estates during the Interval betwixt the Convention and turning it into a Parliament.
The third was by the Privy-Council since the first Adjournment of Parliament.
As for the first turning out by the Rabble, it being executed in a time when the Government of the Nation was in a manner quite dissolved, there is less wonder, that disorders of that kind fell out, then it is accountable why they should not be redress'd now, upon this Governments assuming its Authority, and having Power to make it self obeyed.
But before I give you the true matter of fact of this highly presumptuous, and unparalell'd attempt of the Rabble upon Ministers, It will be first convenient to set before you the then State of those Western Shires in matters of Religion; What was their behaviour towards the Clergy Established by Law, as also how they stood affected to the Presbyterian Ministers then Tolerated by King James to hold Meeting-Houses.
And first, Tho' it must be confessed that the Western Shires of Scotland have been, and are, the most disaffected Party of the Kingdom to Episcopal Government, and have suffered much for the Rebellions which their prejudices against it occasion'd; yet it's as true, that before the last Indulgence granted by K. James An. 1687. they were Universally in a good Understanding with their Ministers, tho' not in that degree as the Relation betwixt Minister, and People doth require it, being more in shew then affection. For tho' they came generally to Church, and owned that they had overcome their Scruple of Conscience of not having freedom to hear them Preach, yet they still separated themselves from partaking of the Holy Communion when offered: Making it a greater matter of Conscience to receive that Sacrament from their hands, then the other of Baptism for their Children.
It is also to be presum'd, tho' not much to their credit, that there was more of constraint, for fear of Penal Laws, then a willing mind in this little Conformity they yielded in coming to Church, all which soon appeared.
For in the next place, upon K. James his Declaration of Indulgence, or Tolleration to Dissenters, the People in those Western Shires run immediately into it, accepted of it, and shew'd a great zeal to build Meeting-Houses, to call Presbyterian Preachers to these Meeting-Houses, and to contribute for their Maintenance.
With this State of Affairs they seem'd so well satisfy'd, that they made Addresses of thanks to King James, in terms, which were no less acceptable to the then Court, than Scandalous to all Judicious Protestants in both Kingdoms. But these Addresses having been Printed and Published in Gazetts, I shall take no more notice of them.
They were often told by wise Men, that they were running a course in accepting of that Tolleration, most destructive to the Interest of the Protestant Religion, and that it would be much safer for them to continue in their Parochiall Churches as by Law Established, since every thing that weakened that fence, tended to the letting in of the Popish Party, which in time might destroy us both; that Tolleration being granted in both Kingdoms in order to bring in Popery, and by the means and favour of Papists at Court obtain'd and managed.
Tho' many, yea most of the Inferiour People of these Western Shires at the first went into this snare, yet the Persons of greatest Quality and interest among them, did not so soon comply: And for the other Shires in Scotland, in some there were not above two Meeting-Houses in the whole Shire, in others none at all, which, by the by, is a kind of demonstration, how little fond the Generality of the Nation was then of that way, and how the inclination of the People was then set, now so much talked of.
But next, to show you how the Presbyterians stood affected to one Another, and among themselves, be pleased to know: That there was a Presbyterian Party then in the West, of the meaner sort of the People indeed, truly Acting more consequentially to the Presbyterian Principle and Practice in former times, who (for all that was done) would not accept of this Tolleration given by King James; But did openly by their Sermons and Pens declare their dislike of it, and said much more bitter things against their Indulged Presbyterian Brethren, who had accepted this Tolleration, than against the Clergy Established by Law. Where-ever these Preachers came, they carryed great numbers of the People after them, and would Preach neither in Church nor Meeting-House, but in the open Fields, for which they were called Field-Preachers.
This boldness the then Government found it self obliged to take notice of, and they fell upon a Method to suppress it, which in all appearance had done it effectually, if the Scene of Publick Affairs had not been changed by this Revolution. It was, by giving Commissions to such Gentlemen in each Shire, as were reputed leading men of that persuasion, or at least much favouring that way, To hold Circuit-Courts within their own districts, and upon seizing any of these Hill-Men, or Field-Conventiclers, to punish them as the Law ordained. This was a Stratagem of the then Statesmen, to cleave that Party with a wedge (as we say) of their own Wood. But that nothing was effectually done is to be attributed to this great change of our Affairs.
Now to return to the Account of the Ministers being turn'd out by the Rabble. Upon the certain News of the Prince of Orange's landing in England, King James called all his standing Forces in Scotland to his Standard in England. This did directly break our Government, it left the Nation without Defence, and gave all discontented People a favourable opportunity to execute their resentment, as their passions and Interests moved them, and none having greater and more violent then these Hill-men, or Field-Presbyterians, they prosecuted them with equall fury and disorder.
The First Commotion that appeared was amongst these Hill-Men, or Cameronians, (so called from one of their Leaders, and a Preacher, Cameron) They Assembled themselves in the Night time, and sometimes in the day, in small bodies armed. And in a hostile way went through the Countries, forced their entry into private Mens houses, against whom they had any private quarrell, but most ordinarily into Ministers Houses, where they with tongue and hands, committed all outrages imaginable against the Ministers, their Wives, and Children; where having eat and drunk plentifully, at parting they used to carry the Minister out of his House to the Church-yard, or some publick place of the Town, or Village, and there expose him to the People as a condemned Malefactor, gave him strict charge never to Preach any more in that place, but to remove himself and his Family out of it immediately; And for the conclusion of all this Tragedy, they caus'd his Gown to be torn over his head in a hundred pieces, of some they spared not their very cloaths to their Shirt. When they had done with the Minister, they call'd for the keys of the Church, lock'd the doors and carryed the keys with them; And last of all they threw the Ministers furniture out of his house in many places, as the last Act of this barbarous Scene.
This was the most General Method when the Minister was found at home, but in case he was absent, they entred his house, made Intimation of their Will and Pleasure to his Wife and Servants, bidding them tell him, to remove from that place: if they found not a ready obedience, they would return and make him an example to others.
This course went on in the Months of December, Ianuary, and February, 1688/9, by which were turn'd outword of their Livings all the Ministers of the Shires of Aire, Renfrew, Clidsdale, Nidsdale, and most of Annandale and Galloway, to the number of about two hundred.
The news of these great disorders coming to the ears of the Prince of Orange, who by this time had accepted the exercise of the Government of Scotland, untill the sitting down of the Estates of that Kingdom, which met on the 14th of March, 1688/9. As also his Highness was humbly apply'd to by the oppress'd and miserable Clergy of these Shires; by one of their number Commissioned and sent up with a full information of their Case, and therewith a Petition to his Highness for his help and protection in this their sad distress. In the mean time the regular Gentry not willing to be alltogether run down by this furious rabble, began to bestir themselves for their own and the Clergies defence, particularly the members of the Colledge of Justice at Edenburgh (to their eternall glory) took up Arms and form'd themselves in such a body as soon daunted the Phanatick Rabble at Edenburgh. This occasioned the publication of a Proclamation commanding all Persons to lay down their Arms in that Kingdom, and therewith their Animosities, and cruell Resentments, ordaining also that all Ministers thus violently ejected should return to their respective charges, and so continue without Molestation, untill the setling of the Government by the Convention of Estates, and in a word, that all things of that nature should be restored, as they were in the month of October preceeding.
Upon this Proclamation the Gentlemen of the Colledge of Justice (not knowing what it is to oppose the least shaddow of Authority) laid down their Arms, and all the good people in the Kingdom (especially the Ministers) look'd for nothing but a dutyfull complyance with so just and seasonable a command: But to the astonishment of all men, this did not allay our troubles, but by accident did encrease them, which fell out after this manner following.
When the Magistrates of Glasgow had ordered one of their Ministers to preach before them upon the Sunday immediately following the publication of the Prince of Orange's Proclamation, The Rabble of that City got first into tumultuary Assemblies on the Streets, and then to arms, surrounded the Church, when the Minister was in the Pulpit, fired in upon the best and most respected Inhabitants of the place, and at length violently broke open the Church-doors, which they within had shut upon themselves upon their approach, and when they had forc'd their entry into the Cathedrall Church, they beat many, wounded some, and dispersed the whole Congregation without making distinction of Age, Sex, or Quality.
An account of this so high contempt of Authority, and against Laws, both divine, and humane, was sent up to the Prince of Orange, by the Magistrates of Glasgow, with their information of the affairs, attested by their Subscriptions: but no remedy could be possibly apply'd at that time, for the Dyet of the meeting of Estates, drawing so near, upon which meeting the Prince's exercise of the Government ended, & nothing being able to repress these disorders committed by an armed force in contempt of that Authority, except a greater force, and the shortness of the time, as was pretended, not allowing that to be sent down, all was referred to the meeting of the Estates, who being met, instead of calling these Hill-men to an account for the disorders committed by them upon Ministers, these very men coming arm'd to Edenburgh, were admitted as guards to that meeting, and had the thanks of the house given them for their good Service, and are still a part of the standing forces of that Kingdom.
Upon all this, the afflicted Ministers saw clearly there was nothing left for them, but to suffer patiently the good will of God, which they have done, without the least publick complaint, waiting with all Christian submission for a reparation of their wrongs from the justice of God, and till those in Power shall be graciously pleased to commiserate their condition, since they and their poor Families are in very hard and pinching circumstances, having been turn'd out of their Livings, and Properties in the midest of a hard winter, and suffer'd not only the spoiling of their goods, but some the loss of their Children, and many marks and bruises in their own bodies; and now are in a state of desolation, not knowing where to lay their heads, or to have bread for themselves or their Families.
This their Case ought the rather to be commiserated; there being no Authority upon earth, that can be so much as pretended, by which they suffer, except that of the Rabble. They were never since that time either cited, accus'd, or condemn'd before any Judicature for any fault or crime, so that in common Justice they have still a right in their Persons to those Livings of which they had quiet and Legal possession, before these troubles, and if the wisdom of the Nation in the next Session of Parliament shall judge it either fit or convenient to remove them from these their Livings, That Law determining this affair, if any such shall be made, can only take place from the date of it, it cannot look back, and make men guilty before it was Enacted, so that still it must remain without controversy, that whatever may be determin'd to be done with the Ministers for the time to come, they have still a just and unquestionable title to their Livings, until a Sentence pass against them which is not yet done.
This being their Case, it's not to be imagin'd that there will be found any man of reason, or ordinary quality, who will so much as open his mouth, in favour of these violent, and Illegal extrusions in the next Session of Parliament, for it's well known to all, how at the time, when this Tragedy was acted, none of these Presbyterians, who are now in Power, did either avowedly own, or openly countenance these proceedings, but did publickly condemn them, so that what was morally evill in its originall, time cannot make good, nor will good men either defend or countenance. Whatever may be said for some inconveniences which might have happened in that Country, so fermented with passion and prejudice, if these Ministers had been ordered to return to their charges there by the present Government, yet it's certain when men are innocent, they ought not to suffer, and therefore as was just now intimated untill the wisdom of the Nation shall determine this matter, they ought to be look'd upon as Legall possessors, tho' violently extruded.
But that which no doubt will seem very extraordinary to any unbyassed thinking man, is, that these Presbyterian Preachers, who so heartily thanked Kind James for the liberty of their Meeting-houses, with extraordinary and fulsom strains of flattery, thereby approving the dispensing Power without reserve, (which was the Stile of our Scots Tolleration) And did disown these cruell proceedings against the Episcopall Clergy, yet they would never consent to Preach against such disorders, tho' often desir'd so to do, by wise and discreet men; yea, which is more, these same (as they called themselves moderate) Presbyterian Preachers, in a little time after, very confidently took Possession of the Churches of the Orthodox Ministers thus thrust out of their dwelling houses, and Glebes, without the least Title, or right to them, except what flow'd from the consent of some Phanatick People who own'd them, and their Meeting-houses, which was a Notorious Encroathment, not only upon the Property of the Legal Incumbents, but also upon the right of Patrons, not as yet taken away by Law.
For when the rest of the Episcopal Cleargy who were in quiet possession of their Churches, and in good Understanding with their People, were Allarm'd, with the hard usage of so many of their brethren thrust out in the midst of a severe Winter by this yet greater and more violent storm in the West, with their Wives and Children, to seek shelter from these their brethren.
This gave such a damp, and rais'd such a just apprehension in their Spirits, what might be the sad and Tragical event of unparallell'd proceedings; that it's no wonder many of them were provok'd to think that the great design of some within the Kingdom, who appeared so zealous for this Revolution, was more to destroy the Clergy and the whole Episcopal Order, then to settle the Kingdom upon its Just and Antient basis, or to preserve our Religion, Liberties, and Properties as by Law then Established.
This Apprehension grew yet more strong when they saw that the Convention of Estates, did not take the Ejected Ministers of the West into their Protection, by their Proclamation, which was extended only to those who were in the Actual Exercise of their Ministry; By which it was plain enough, that all those Ministers, who had been violently turn'd out by the Rabble in the Western-shires were still to be kept out, and the advantage the Privy-Council has taken from that Proclamation, of late, to stop the course of Justice, from giving them access to their Tithes and Stipends due to them, is a sufficient Indication, how some incline to treat them, if the ensuing Session of Parliament be not more savourable.
This was the prospect of Affairs, and the temper mens minds were in towards the Clergy, when the Convention of Estates, having for faulted K. James, declared K. William and Q. Mary, King and Queen of Scotland.
This great bus'ness being over they next Emitted a Proclamation bearing. That whereas K. James had forfaulted his right to Govern that Kingdom, they therefore forbid any publick Prayers to be made for him, and Ordained that in all time coming, the Ministors should pray for K. William, and Q. Mary, as King and Queen of Scotland, ordaining also that this Proclamation be read, upon the next Sunday after Publication by all the Ministers of Edinburgh, and in all other parts of the Kingdom on such certain Sundays, as are therein appointed, with certification, that who-ever should not read the said Proclamation and pray for the King and Queen as therein design'd, should be deprived of their Churches and Benefices.
Upon the not Obeying of this Proclamation it is, that all the Ministers of late, have suffered, and do suffer at this day, and therefore that falls next under Consideration.
And first of all, it's here more especially to be remarked, that this Proclamation being Published in Common Form at Eleven a Clock in the Forenoon on a Saturday, did not appear in Print till about Seaven that Night. So that the Ministers of Edinburgh who were required to read it to their People after Sermon next Morning, had no notice, nor Copies of it given them, untill about ten at Night upon Saturday, or Eight in the Morning on Sunday; which in a matter of so vast moment, as to translate Allegiance formerly sworn to one King, and in so short a time, to resolve to preach it due to another, without so much as knowing the reasons and grounds upon which the Convention had proceeded to for fault King James, was to require a peice of blind obedience, which with so much reason, we abhor in Papists, neither had King William and Queen Mary then accepted of the Crown. So that what the Convention required could not be supposed, so soon and easily done, by Men who either make Conscience in taking such an Oath, or resolve to keep it.
Here to this purpose, I cannot but give you an excellent Passage, which I sind in a Paper bearing for Title, A Vindication of the Procedings of the Convention of the Estates in Scotland. They are the very first words in that paper.
The Dethroning of a King (saith that Author) and the Setling the Crown upon the head of a new Soveraign, is certainly a Matter of so great weight, of such vast importance and concern, that it requires the most serious and deliberate, the most calm and imprejudic'd minds to determine it; a hasty and undigested resolution, if in any case dangerous, would unquestionably in this prove fatall and remediless:
Thus he very judiciously: Now if this be reasonable, as surely it is, then the requiring so hasty and precipitate obedience from Ministers in this point, cannot but appear very hard, and therefore if this Author had been consequentiall to his own rule, he had certainly said something in favour of the Scots Clergy, upon whose skirts he has lately sit so hard.
There is another Consideration in this Case which ought very much to alleviate, if not excuse the supposed guilt of Ministers in the Country, who did not read the Proclamation; and that is, it was not delivered to most of them in due time. Not the first, for the Sheriff-clerks who (I remember well) were order'd to send them to the respective Ministers in their severall districks, did not for the most part deliver these Proclamations till the day appointed for reading them, was past. How universall this neglect of those Officers was, I will not positively assert; but sure I am, most of the Ministers turn'd out by the Privy-Council had this Legal defence for themselves, that they receiv'd it not in due time to read it; and that it was not in the second place deliver'd in due form is also clear, for whereas in all times preceeding, such publick Papers which were to be read after Divine Service, were allways transmitted to the inferior Clergy by their respective Ordinaries, and the order of Bishops not being then abollished, but still a third Estate of Parliament, they were not obliged in law to take notice of a publick Paper which came not to their hands in the accustomed Legal manner.
Moreover it is well known how in England the strongest heads and pens have been employed of late to clear this point of Allegiance as now required. And how many severall Topiques have been made use of to prove the Subjects discharged from their first Allegiance, and yet how many in England eminent both for Character and Conscience are still doubtfull of the point, which sufficiently shows, that the matter deserv'd and requir'd a considerable space of time for deliberation. Which not being given in Scotland, to the Clergy there, any one may easily judge what anxieties, doubtings, and uncertainties such a weighty affair would create in the Spirits of honest and well-meaning men. Surely tho' this has not, it seems excus'd, in rigour of Justice, it will surely much alleviate their supposed crime, in the judgement of all ingenious and good men, who make the measures of their dealings with others, such as they would that other men in like cases should take with them.
But to make the matter yet more favourable of their side, There are some, who tho' they did not read the Proclamation, yet have prayed for K. Will and Q. Mary conform thereunto, whereby they answer'd the ends of it to all intents: yet these have been condemn'd to the same fate, with those who out of Conscience refused to do either. Which proceedure is not a mark of any tenderness or charity to reclaim men, who are supposed to be wrong, but looks rather like a design to ruine them in spite of their Complyance.
But now we come to give account, how the Proclamation, and the certification therein was executed by the Government against the Delinquents.
No sooner were the Commissions sent up by the Convention of Estates to make offer of the Crown of Scotland to K. William and Q. Mary, but they adjourned themselves. Having first appointed a Committee of their number to sit at Edenburgh till their return, and they having received Information from the Presbyterian party, in and about Edenburgh, that some Ministers had not read the Proclamation upon the day assign'd, and had not pray'd for K. Will. and Q. Mary, which was no great wonder, considering what's said before, what Scruples so great a point, as translating Allegiance was apt to create, and that they had so little time to be cleared of them, yet an Order was Issued forth, to cite them to appear before the said Committee, who being cited, did appear, and tho' they pleaded Scruple of Conscience and want of time, yet were by formall Sentence of the said Committee depriv'd of their Livings, and their Churches declar'd vacant immediately without any regard had to their just defence.
As this fell out upon these who liv'd in Edenburgh or places next adjacent, so some of them were depriv'd before King William and Queen Mary had accepted of the Crown, or taken the Coronation-Oath, which the claim of Right required as Indispensibly necessary in order to their being own'd as Sovereigns: This one of the Recusant Ministers urg'd at the Bar in defence of himself and Brethren, but to no purpose.
This course continued untill the Convention was turn'd into a Parliament, which makes up the Second Period of depriving Ministers propos'd in this discourse, viz. those that were turn'd out by the Authority of the Convention of Estates.
The Third, and last Period, is, of those who have been turn'd out by the Authority of the Privy-Council since the first Adjournment of Parliament.
A stop having been put to any further Prosecution of the Ministers by the Committee of Estates, and as they with joy were willing to believe, by King William's Order and Command, this whole matter of depriving was laid aside, and men began to think themselves happy, or lucky, who had escap'd the first tryall, hoping there was to be no further enquiry made after such a disobedience which had so many Circumstances to alleviate the guilt, if not quite extinguish the Memory of it, they hop'd at least that the favourable things in their Case, would have been proper grounds for a new King to forgive what had pass'd before his Entrance upon the Government; and the lenity and tenderness shew'd to Persons obnoxious enough in other trusts under him about the same time, inclin'd the Episcopall Clergy to expect the like, when their case should come to be duely and impartially represented; for seeing his mercy extended to Out-laws and Criminalls of the Grossest Sieze, they who are Gods Ambassadors doubted not to pertake of it, their escapes, if such they may be called, being only in points very dubious and material.
And for a good time they seem'd not to be mistaken of their hope, for during the whole Session of Parliament, no mention was made of any further proceedings against them. Yea, one thing gave no small encouragement: That when the Act of Parliament pass'd for obliging all persons in Civill and Military Capacities to take the Oath of Allegiance, the Clergy were not comprehended in that Act, and tho' it were once mov'd in the house, that the Oath should be put to them as well as to others, yet did not obtain; This made many believe that Peace and Settlement were really in their prospect, and that all designs of ripping up the old quarrell for not reading the Proclamation, were quite laid aside, and more tender measures to be us'd, which are certainly the most effectuall in such Cases.
But there are some who thought, the true reason why at that time the Clergy was not ordain'd to take the Oath of Allegiance, was more out of respect to the Presbyterian Preachers, than the Episcopall Ministers: for those of their own party in the Parliament, who best knew their inclination that way, had reason to fear, they might Scruple at the same Oath, not upon the grounds which others went upon, but because their Modell of Church-Government was not setled by Law, they would not come under Allegiance to this King till first he had done their business. And it's presumable enough, by what many of them have since dropt in their Sermons and other discourses; if this Oath had been put to them as to others in Secular trusts, they had discover'd more of partiality to their Interests, then of Loyalty to K. William: for it may by the Covenant will be by some requir'd to be renu'd, before they think their Allegiance either due, or right placed.
But no sooner was the Parliament adjourn'd and severall of the Chief Nobility gone to the Country, then a Proclamation was emitted, (Surprizing enough because not expected) by the Privy-Council, which did in express terms, to use the words of it, Invite and Allow Parishioners and other hearers, to inform against Ministers who had not read the Proclamation of the Estates, and prayed for King William and Queen Mary, for the one could not serve without the other.
This General Invitation coming from such an Authority to a hot sort of People, had a very ready Obedience pay'd to it; For one or two of the meanest of a Parish, and sometimes the Agents of the Faction in several Places, borrowed Mens Names without their knowledge, to fill up their Citations, and either of these were thought sufficient to accuse their Minister, upon which, Summons were issued out to cite them to appear at Edenborough within 6 or 10 days, before the Privy-Council. Whereupon has followed the depriving of such as came before them, and had not read the Proclamation. And this has outed almost all the Parochial Clergy in the Shires of Marsh, Tiviotdale, the three Lothians, Fife, Striveling-shire, Perth-shire, and some in Aberdeen-shire, Murray, and Rose, amounting (as I am credibly informed) to the number of above two hundred, which was all they could possibly dispatch in so short a time.
Their whole Process went upon two Points. The first was, whether they had read to their People on the day Appointed the Proclamation Emitted by the Convention of Estates? The Second whether they had pray'd or did pray for King William and Queen Mary?
As to the first, their defences were, that they never received it, or that it came not to their hands till the day appointed to read it was pass'd: Or lastly, that it was not Legally delivered to them as the Order for Publick Prayers used to be, viz. by Orders from their Ordinaries. But none of these defences were sustained in their Case.
As for the Second point of Inditement, viz. whether they prayed for K. William and Q. Mary, all cited were not Guilty, for there are several Instances of Ministers who had pray'd and promised to pray for K. William and Q. Mary, who yet were turn'd out of their Livings, and continue depriv'd to this day.
'Tis not deny'd that there are very many who cannot come this length, being still under the power of their former Scruples in the matter of Allegiance. As for these, tho' they are persons of peaceable principles, and practices, and are ready to submit to the will of God, and the Command of Superiors, yet all that's pleaded for them is only favour and Indulgence: And if a delay for some longer time to consider Maturely upon these matters could be allow'd, it would be very acceptable, & very becoming these to grant, who have so loudly exclaim'd against Persecution for Conscience sake, and cryed up so much moderation, and thanked King James for Tolleration. But what may they expect, when others who were willing to obey and did acknowledge the present Government in all that is requir'd, were yet turn'd out of their Places and Properties by the Rabble, to whom no redress is made, tho' humbly supplicated by those Sufferers. In France it self, if a man renounce his Religion, he saves his Life and fortune, (tho' that be indeed a base bargain) yet the mercy of this severity is all that's desired here.
Oh! when will these things be seriously considered and effectually redressed by the Government? And when shall such a temper be happily fal'n upon, as may quiet the minds and secure the persons of all good, pious, and peaceable Protestants?
I thought to have ended here, and given you no further trouble upon this Melancholy Subject, but that I hear of a plausible pretext given out to you in England, for this sharp handling of the Scots Clergy, which is, that there is no advantage taken of any Minister who is willing for the time to come to pray for King William and Queen Mary, if he be otherwise of approved integrity in life and Doctrine: But that the strictness us'd is only against Scandalous persons, and so by this means they are more easily turn'd out of the Church than they should be by a Legal Tryal upon such an Accusation. And since this pretense is made use of in England to their disadvantage, where the truth of this matter is not yet so well known, I must needs say something to it.
And first, it's not ordinary for Men of vicious Lives, or loose Principles in the Church, (as they pretend the depriv'd Clergy to be) to make great scruple in disputable matters, especially when the Penalty is the loss of their Estates, they being generally too forward to comply with what's uppermost, and prosperous.
But Secondly, I dare confidently averr that after enquiry made, it will appear, that there are many of as great Integrity, Piety, and Learning as are in the Church involv'd, without distinction, in that Common fate. And I dare appeal to the whole Nation to make good against them such Scandalls, as their Enemies have thought fit to blacken them with, in places where they are not known. The Original of all this clamour about the Immorralities of the Clergy, at first arose from the too hasty Planting of Churches in the West, upon the Restoration of the Government in Anno 1662. by which many Young, Men were preferr'd, for whom the prejudiced People could not be brought to have that Veneration and respect, that they had had for their old Preachers which were deprived for Nonconformity. This prejudice, together with the Imprudent Conduct of some of these young Men begot a contempt of them, which was carryed by far much too high, for Universally these Ministers were complain'd of, as the occasion of the Western Peoples withdrawing from their Churches. But upon Bishops Leightons coming to the See of Glasgow, and bringing with him to those parts some very good Men and choice Preachers, against whom the People could have no Objection, an Experiment was made to remove, if possible, that Exception, yet he found this also ineffectuall: The Aversion being more rooted in the Interest of a Party, then in the supposed Immoralities of the Clergy. And therefore by his singular Example of Piety and Devotion, of Humility and Acts of Charity, by his frequent Visiting and Preaching in Country Churches, thereby taking occasion to converse more intimately and conveniently with the Ministers, he sow'd a blessed seed in their hearts, gave them juster Notions of the Duties of the Pastoral Charge, and thereby through the blessing of God became a burning and shineing light in those parts, the Impression whereof remains upon the Consciences of many to this day. But passing this,
It had been a far more fair and Equitable way, and as much to the Honour of the Government, as the disgrace of the guilty to have Invited People to Accuse their Ministers upon the head of Scandall, and after Evidence thereof, (if they had found any) to have Proceeded and deprived, rather than Promiscuously to have Condemn'd the Righteous with the wicked. It is true their Libells were generally stuft'd with a great many Scandalous and vitious practices alledged against them, (a malicious design to expose them to the present Age, and to blacken them upon Record to the future) but it is as true that when the Ministers came to the Bar, the Scandalous and Immoral part of the Libell was wholly omitted by their Judges, altho' the Ministers themselves craved for their Vindication in those Points to be particularly Tryed upon them, but the Sentence passed against them upon the two heads before mentioned, and yet in the Accounts they sent to Court, the Immoralities of the Ministers Lives, which were only pretended in the Summons, but never spoke of in the Tryal, were represented as the great Grounds of their Deprivation; but it were far more easy to give the true reasons, for truth tells best, and its this.
The Presbyterian Preachers in Scotland of the old Standing who only can pretend to be own'd in any Church-Meeting, (if the Government should think fit to call one) are but very few in Comparison of the Episcopal Clergy now in Place. It was highly debated amongst them, what should be their behaviour if the Parliament restored them to their Churches, from which they were put out in the year 1662. They could not think it adviseable to meet in Presbyteries by themselves, since in some Presbyteries, they would make but two in number, and in some but one, in others none at all. So that if they should joyn with the Regular Clergy in such Presbyteries, they might reckon to be out-voted in all businesses, & so signify just nothing, Nay, if a National Synod should be call'd, they would be at the same loss, for the Members thereof Chosen by Presbyteries behoov'd to be Episcopal Men, the Plurality by far of Voters being of that way. So to take off all difficulties attending this matter. It seem'd to be the most plausible & effectuall way, to make as many Vacancies as was possible, and that also before the meeting of the next Session of Parliament, least other measures should then be taken, And for this design the premunire of not reading the Proclamation seem'd next to Rabbling, the fittest and shortest Expedient.
I call it shortest, because it was not possible to make greater dispatch for Vacancies, then it occasion'd, for a dozen of Ministers were ordinarly turn'd out in a Forenoon, and as many more, sometimes, in an Afternoon. So that this Method made clear way for the Presbyterian Brethren to be the greater part in all Ecclesiastical Assemblies, and by Consequence to carry any thing they please there. Hereby also they have a fair opportunity of setting out young Vagrants to take possession of the Vacant Churches, by which the number of their Preachers dayly encrcase.
Thus you have the Present State of the very much Afflicted Clergy in Scotland represented faithfully, and with as much brevity as the matter will allow, for tho' much more might be added upon this Subject, yet since you desired no more, but a plain and generall Narrative, I here give it according to my Ability.
However it shall please Divine Providence to order Affairs in our National Church, this you in England may be assured of, that her Enemies, are yours also, and it is some comfort to us that those of that way are not like to prevail so far over you, as they have done already over us. And therefore that God may prosper and preserve the Church of England, restore ours to some Order and Decency, And Settle the Three Kingdoms upon such Righteous Foundations as may Establish our Temporal and Eternal Peace, is the dayly Prayer of,
Your Most Humble Servant.