The Reign of James I (Continued) page 6
This free form of the Scottish church had always been extremely repugnant to James's despotic notions. Even when he professed to admire its constitution as the purest and most perfect on earth, he was writhing under its authority; and no sooner did he ascend the English throne than he avowed his real opinion of its inconsistency with monarchy. The hierarchy of England delighted him; he regarded it as the surest bulwark of the throne, and bishops he seemed to regard as the guarantees of royal security. "No bishop no king," was his favourite motto; and the hatred of presbytery which he expressed at Hampton Court led him to seek its utter overthrow in Scotland. He knew the sturdy materials that he had to deal with in the Scottish ministry and people, who had driven out his mother in their hatred of Catholicism; yet this did not deter him from endeavouring to plant episcopacy as firmly in Scotland as in England. He looked on the spirit and form of the Scotch church but as one remove from republicanism in the state; and his first step, taken in 1605, was a bold one, being no less than to assume the right to prorogue the general assembly at will. This was at once annihilating the theocratic constitution of the assembly, and placing the king at its head. This measure was carried out by Sir George Home, the lord treasurer of Scotland, afterwards earl of D unbar. The ministers, though prorogued, met again in defiance of the royal fiat, but were dissolved again and again. The ministers from nine presbyteries still boldly met in assertion of the paramount right of the church, at Aberdeen, called themselves "an assembly," appointed a moderator, and before dissolving at the command of the council, adjourned their sitting to a fixed time that year.
Thirteen of the most prominent clergymen were immediately arrested on the charge of having violated the act of 1584, "for maintenance of the royal power over all estates." The jury was packed by Dunbar, and six of the most refractory were condemned as guilty of high treason, and banished for life. They retired into Holland and France, and were followed thither by numbers of their admirers. Meantime, at home, undaunted by this lawless exercise of power, the clergy offered up prayers for their exiled brethren, whom they boldly proclaimed from their pulpits as martyrs to the freedom of the faith; and unsilenced by the menaces of the court, loudly warned the people of the impending danger to the church.
But James, with the true blind hardihood of a Stuart, went on, and appointed thirteen clergymen to the ancient abolished bishoprics, and gave them precedency in the synods and assembly. The clergy refused to submit to their authority, and as they were unsupported by the ancient reverence, treated their assumed dignity with contempt. But James went on to repeal the act which had confiscated the episcopal estates, endowed the bishops, and made them moderators of both synods and presbyteries within their own districts. He erected two courts of high commission, and, indeed, gave them a power such as their predecessors had never possessed. In 1610 three of these bishops went to England, and received episcopal ordination from the English prelates, and on their return conferred it on their colleagues. And finally in 1612, it was enacted by parliament that all general assemblies should only be appointed by the crown; that the bishops only should present to livings; that they should admit no one who would not first take the oath of supremacy to the king, and of canonical obedience to the bishop; that they should possess the power of deprivation and the right of visitation, each in his own diocese.
Thus James had suppressed the constitution of the church which he had formerly blessed God that he belonged to, declaring it "the sincerest kirk in the world," and placed over the groaning people that episcopacy which they abhorred, and had destroyed with so much blood and trouble; and as in all such cases, he carried the new rigour far beyond the old. He placed the archbishops of St. Andrews and Glasgow at the head of his tyrannical high commission courts, and either of these prelates, with four colleagues, were to constitute a quorum, from whose decisions there was no appeal. All schools and colleges were subjected, as well as the clergy, to their visitation. The despotism was complete; James thought he had crushed presbyterianism, and fixed episcopacy on a rock for ever. He was never more deceived: he had only closed down the safety valve, ere long to produce an explosion which should hurl his family to destruction.
Yet these changes had not been effected without symptoms of resistance, which would have made a wiser monarch pause. At one time he had summoned to London five prelates and eight ministers, as it appeared, to convince them of the reasonableness of his proposed changes by his presumed invincible eloquence. The ministers refused their consent to any of his proposals, declaring that they were delegated to hear and report, not to decide. He demanded of them that they should ask pardon for praying for the banished ministers; and asked them whether he had not the right, by his royal authority, to appoint, suspend, and prevent their meetings. Whether, in fact, he did not possess absolute power, as king, over their persons and proceedings, both civil and ecclesiastical, as well as the right to summon them at will and punish them.
Andrew Melville, the successor of Knox, boldly though respectfully denied these propositions, asserting the freedom of conscience, and its immunity from the power of any earthly potentate. When pressed by some slavish Scottish lords to conform, he said, "My lords, I am a free subject of Scotland, a free kingdom, that has laws and privileges of its own. By these I stand. No legal citation has been issued against me; nor are you and I in our own country, where such an inquisition, so oppressive as the present, is condemned by parliament. I am bound by no law to criminate or to furnish accusations against myself. My lords, remember what you are; mean as I am, remember that I am a free-born Scotsman, to be dealt with as you would be dealt with yourselves, according to the laws of the Scottish nation."
This was noble and patriotic language; but Melville had to deal with a vain despot, who declared himself above all laws. He insisted on their attending the royal chapel to hear the preaching of his bishops. The plain presbyterian Scots were scandalised at both what they saw and heard there: at the ceremonies, the gilded altar, the chalices, and tapers; but above all, at the slavish doctrines of those courtly preachers. The Scotch ministers did not hesitate to express their contempt and indignation at the whole spectacle, and Melville ridiculed the entire service in a Latin epigram. For this audacity James summoned Melville before his privy council; but the preacher's blood was now chafed beyond restraint, for he and his colleagues, though they were impatient to get away from what they considered this idolatrous scene, where the conduct of the bishops and clergy was by no means edifying, were compelled by him to stay. So far from expressing any regret for his satire on the royal mode of worship, he denounced in the strongest terms the whole system of the Anglican church, and in his excitement seized the surplice of the primate, and shook angrily what he called the Romish rags of the archbishop of Canterbury.
James committed him to the Tower for his contumacy, where he kept him four years, and then banished him for life. He went to reside at Sedan, and died abroad in 1620. His nephew, James Melville, was shut up at Berwick, and died six years before his uncle; the rest of the preachers were banished to remote districts of Scotland, wide apart from each other.
Soon after the completion of this disgraceful suppression of religious liberty in Scotland, the earl of Dunbar, James's instrument in these proceedings, died, and his different offices were occupied by relatives of Carr, then the favourite, who ruled, so long as Carr was in power, with a rigour more infamous than that of Dunbar himself. Nor was the condition of the catholics one whit better than that of the presbyterians; indeed, the French ambassador, Broderic, declared that it was worse than that of the English catholics. In 1616 a Jesuit of the name of Ogilvie was put to death; the prisons were filled with recusants: every catholic nobleman was compelled to receive a protestant minister into his house, and was informed that unless he conformed to the Anglican church, he must suffer forfeiture of his estates. The persecutions of the earls of Huntley, Angus, Errol, and many others, are related at length by Balfour.
To put the finish to this great and daring change, James determined to make a journey to Scotland himself. On leaving that country he assured his Scottish subjects that he would visit his ancient capital at least once in three years: fourteen years had now elapsed without his redeeming his word, his poverty having hitherto presented an insurmountable obstacle. But he had now consented to yield up the cautionary towns, Brill, Flushing, and Rammekens, for 2,728,000 florins instead of 8,000,000, which were due to him. He had been induced to this by his necessities and the persuasions of secretary Winwood, who was said to have received £29,000 from the Dutch for his services on the occasion. James now discharged some of his most pressing debts, and obtained a loan of £96,000, with which he set forward to Scotland in the spring of 1617.
On the 7th of June parliament assembled, and James, by his sole authority, excluded such of the representatives as he knew were hostile to his great object of establishing the English church in all its forms and in all its authority, as the state church of Scotland for ever. But the peers, alarmed lest he should restore to his pet church all the lands of which they now were in possession, rejected the lords of the articles whom he recommended. To win over these nobles, James invited them to a secret conference, in which he assured them that no revocation of these lands should be made. Reassured on this head, the peers were ready to vote as he pleased, and he opened parliament in one of his vaunting speeches about his power, in which he told them that "he had nothing more at heart than to reduce their barbarity to the sweet civility of their neighbour: and if the Scots would be as docible to learn the goodness of the English as they were teachable to limp after their ill, then he should not doubt of success; for they had already learnt of the English to drink healths, to wear coaches and gay clothes, to take tobacco, and to speak a language which was neither English nor Scottish.''
In this insulting speech the king might have included himself both as to clothes and language; but these were small matters in comparison with those which he had in view. He brought in a bill to enact that what the king might determine upon regarding the church, with the concurrence of the bishops and a certain number of the clergy, should be good in law. At this proposition the clergy were instantly in arms, and presented so determined a remonstrance against it, that he became afraid, and gave it up, saying, it was unnecessary to give him that by statute which was already his by authority of the crown. He managed, however, to carry a bill adding chapters to the bishoprics, regulating the appointment of bishops, and also one for converting the hereditary offices of sheriffs into annual ones, which he would thus be able to influence. Never, surely, with a spirit so essentially cowardly, was there a monarch so ingrained with the bigotry of absolutism, or who so perseveringly laboured to annihilate every liberty of the subject, and leave the nation a base and soulless heritage of the crown. But the nation had a soul which was not thus to be satrapped and trodden into a horde of serfs; and though James escaped to a quiet tomb, it took a terrible vengeance on his children, whom he had inoculated with his incorrigible lust of absolutism.
As nothing more was to be obtained from parliament, the uncouth tyrant wended his way to St. Andrews, where he had planned a severe retribution for the remonstrant clergy, from a more obsequious tribunal. There the clergy having assembled at his summons, he singled out Simpson, Ewart, and Calderwood, who had signed the remonstrance which baulked him of his full intentions, and brought them before the High Commission Court, and condemned Simpson and Ewart to suspension and imprisonment. Calderwood, who by his influence and ability excited most of all his dread and resentment, he banished for life. Having thus given the clergy a sharp lesson, he now announced to them that it was his will that the whole ritual of the English church should be adopted in Scotland in five articles, the name of which afterwards became famous, namely: - 1st, That the eucharist should be received in a kneeling and not in a sitting posture, as had been hitherto the mode in Scotland. 2nd, That the sacrament should be given to the sick at their own houses when they were in danger of death. 3rd, That baptism should, in like cases, be administered in private houses. 4th, That the youth should be confirmed by the bishops. 5th, That the festivals of Christinas, Good Friday, Easter, Ascension Day, and Whit Sunday, should be observed in Scotland just as in England. These commands were received with unequivocal marks of displeasure by the clergy, but the fate of the three remonstrants availed to keep them silent for a time, and James regarded his plans as fully accomplished; but anon the clergy fell on their knees and implored him to refer the five articles to the general assembly of the kirk. James for some time refused to listen to them, but on Patrick Galloway assuring him that matters should be so managed that all should go right, he consented.
He then kept his Whitsuntide in the English fashion, with all his crouching prelates and courtiers around him, and afterwards took his way homeward, in the full persuasion that he had succeeded in his object. Time told a very different tale; nor was he himself long in perceiving that though he had overawed, he had not subdued the sturdy Scottish clergy, Scarcely had he reached England when he learned that the Scotch, both clergy and laity, were loud in denouncing the administration of the eucharist in private houses as a remnant of popery; the revival of the festivals of Christmas as the return to the ancient Saturnalia; and those of Easter and Whitsuntide as the renewal of the feasts of the Jews. And on the 24th of November the clergy, in their assembly at St. Andrews, confirmed none of the five articles except that of the administration of the sacrament at the houses of the sick, provided that the sick person first took an oath that he or she did not expect to recover, James was highly enraged. He ordered the observance of the five articles to be commanded by proclamation, and withdrew the promised augmentations of stipend from the clergy. Nor did James give way in the slightest degree. The next year he managed the assembly so far, through lord Binning, as to carry the articles by a majority of eighty-six against forty-one; and in 1621, three years later, he obtained an act of parliament enforcing these articles on the repugnant spirit of the people. Dr. Laud, whose name we now meet for the first time, afterwards to become so notorious, even urged James to go further lengths; but his fatal advice was destined to act with more force on the next generation.
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