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Reign of Charles I. page 22

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This famous document began by a clear exposition of the tenets of the reformed Scottish church, and as solemn an abjuration of all the errors and damnable doctrines of the pope, with his "vain allegories, rites, signs, and traditions." It enumerated the antichristian tenets of popery: the denial of salvation to infants dying without baptism; the receiving the sacrament from men of scandalous lives; the devilish mass; the canonisation of men; calling on saints departed; worshipping of imaginary relics and crosses; speaking and praying in a strange language; auricular

confession; the shaveling monks; bloody persecutions; and a hundred other abominations. All these were made as great offences against the Anglican, hierarchy, which was fast running back into those "days of bygone idolatry," The various classes, "noblemen, barons, gentlemen, burgesses, ministers, and commons," bound themselves by the covenant to defend and maintain the reformed faith before God, his angels, and the world, till it was again established by free assemblies and parliaments, in the same full purity and liberty of the Gospel as it had been heretofore.

On the 1st of March, 1638, the church of St. Giles, which had witnessed so lately the hasty flight of the bishops, was thronged with the covenanters of all ranks and from all parts of the country. The business was opened by a fervent prayer from Henderson, and then the people were addressed in a stirring harangue by the earl of Loudon, the most eloquent man in Scotland, The effect was such that the whole assembly rose simultaneously, and with outstretched arms, amid torrents of tears, swore to the contents of the covenant- That done, they turned and embraced each other, wept, and shouted aloud their exultation over this great victory, for such they felt it, in the united energy and religious dedication of the nation.

Dispersing to their various homes, the delegates carried the fire of this grand enthusiasm with them. Over moor and mountain it flew, across the green pastoral hills of the south, through the dark defiles of the Highlands, and to the sea-swept isles. Thousands continued to pour into the capital to add their signatures to the covenant; and in every parish on the Sunday the people streamed to listen to the fiery harangues from the pulpits, and to give in their names, with the same tears, emotions, and mutual embraces as in Edinburgh. It was soon found that except in the county of Aberdeen, the covenanters outnumbered their opponents in the proportion of one hundred to one.

Nor did these determined reformers readily admit of any dissent or lukewarmness. Where they found any opposed or inert, they roused them by threats, and often by blows and coercion. Some they threw into prison, and some they set in the stocks for refusing to sign. The catholics were those who principally stood aloof; but these were not calculated at a thousand in all Scotland. Of such they entered the names in a list, and made calculations of their property, with a view to confiscation. In Lanark and other places the contending factions came to blows before the lists were filled up. Active subscriptions were levied for the maintenance of the cause, and before the end of April there was scarcely a single protestant who had not signed the covenant. The bishops had fled to England, and all Scotland stood ready to fight for its faith.

Here was a spectacle which would, have shown the folly of his career to any other monarch; but all reason or representation was wasted on Charles. Traquair entreated him, before plunging into war, to listen to the counsels of his most experienced Scottish ministers; but Charles seldom listened to anything except his own self-will, or any person except his fatal counsellors, Laud and Wentworth, He is said on this occasion to have consulted with a small council of Scotchmen living in England, which had been formed by James on his accession to the English throne, and in accordance with their advice, and in opposition to that of the council in Scotland, he resolved on suppressing the covenant by force.

In May he sent the marquis of Hamilton to Scotland, with orders to endeavour to soothe the people by assuring them that the liturgy and canons should only be exercised in a fair and gentle manner, and that the High Commission Court should be so remodelled as to be no grievance. If these promises did not satisfy them, as Hamilton must have known they would not, for Charles's promises were too well known to be of any value, he was to resort to any exercise of force that he thought necessary.

On the 3rd of June he arrived at Berwick, and sent to the nobility to meet him at Haddington, but no one appeared except the earl of Roxburgh, who assured him that anything but a full revocation of the canons and liturgy was hopeless. On reaching Dalkeith he was waited on by lord Rothes, who, on the part of the covenanters, invited him to take up his abode in Holy rood, as more convenient for discussion.

Hamilton objected to enter a city swarming with covenanters, and where the castle was already invested by their guards. These, it was promised him, should be removed, and the city kept quiet, on which he consented; and on the 8th of June he set forward. But he found the whole of the way, from Musselburgh to Leith, and from Leith to Edinburgh, lined with covenanters, fifty thousand in number. There were from five to seven hundred clergymen collected; and all the nobility and gentry assembled in the capital, amounting to five thousand, came out to meet and escort him in. All this he was informed was to do him honour, but he felt that its real design was to impress him with the strength of the covenant party.

Being settled in Holyrood, Hamilton received a deputation of the heads of the league, and asked them what they required to induce them to surrender opposition. They replied that in the first place they demanded the summons of a general assembly and a parliament. They then renewed the guard at the castle, and doubled the guards and watches of the city. The preachers warned the people to be on their guard against propositions. They informed the marquis that no English service book must be used in the royal chapel, and they nailed up the organ as an abomination to the Lord. They then waited on him, requesting him and his officers to sign the blessed covenant, as they hoped to be regarded as patriots and Christians. The ministers whom the oppressions of Wentworth had chased oat of Ulster to make way for the Anglican service were there, inflaming the people by their details of the cruelties and broken promises of Charles and his lord-lieutenant in Ireland.

Hamilton saw that it was useless to publish Charles's proclamation, but wrote, advising him to grant them their demands, or to lose no time in appearing with a powerful army. Charles replied, desiring him to amuse the covenanters with any promises that he pleased, so that he did not commit the king himself. He was to avoid granting an assembly or parliament, but he added, "Your chief end being now to win time, they may commit, public follies until I be ready to suppress thorn." The marquis, therefore, endeavoured to spin out the time by coaxing and deluding the covenanters. He promised to call a general assembly and a parliament, and redress all their grievances. When pressed too closely, he declared that he would go to London himself and endeavour to set all right with the king, but this was part only of the plan of gaining time, whilst Charles was pre-, paring a fleet and army, But the Scotch were too wary to be thus deceived. They had information that troops were raising in England, and they made also their preparations, At the same time they waited on the marquis professing the most unabated loyalty, but resolute to have free exercise of their religion, Hamilton promised to present their address to the king, and set out on the 4th of July for England. He informed Charles of the real state of the country, and that the very members of the privy council were so infected by the covenant that he had not dared to call them together. But Charles was not to be induced to take any effective measures for pacifying the public mind of Scotland, His instructions to the marquis were to amuse the people with hopes, and even to allow of the sitting of a general assembly, but not before the first of November. He was even to publish the order for discharging the use of the service book? the canons, and the High Commission Court, but was to forbid the abolition of bishops, though the bishops were for the present not to intrude themselves into the assembly. They were, however, to be privately held to be essentially members of the assembly, and were to be one way or other provided for till better times.

These half measures were not likely to be accepted, but they would serve Charles's grand object of gaining time, and the marquis arrived with them in Edinburgh on the 10th of August. Three days after his arrival the covenanters waited upon him to learn how the king had received their explanations, and the marquis assured them with much grace and goodness; but when they heard that the bishops were not to be abolished, they treated his other offers with contempt, and Hamilton once more proposed to journey to England, to endeavour to obtain a full and free recall of all the offensive ordinances Before taking his leave, as a proof of his earnestness, he joined with the earls of Traquair, Roxburgh, and Southesk, in a written solicitation to his majesty to remove all innovations in religion which had disturbed the peace of the country By the 17th of September Hamilton was again at Holyrood. On the 21st he received the covenanters, and informed them that lie had succeeded; that the king gave up everything, that an assembly was to be called immediately, and a parliament in the month of May next. That the king revoked the service book, the book of canons, the five articles of Perth, and the High Commission. The delighted covenanters were about to express their unbounded satisfaction and loyal gratitude, when the marquis added that, his majesty only required them to sign the old confession of faith as adopted by king James in 1580 and 1590, This single reservation broke the whole charm; their countenances fell, and they declared that they looked upon this as an artifice merely to set aside their new bond of the covenant.

In all Charles's most solemn acts the cloven foot showed itself. Even when seeming most honest, there was something which awoke a distrust in him. He was not sincere, and he had not the art to look so. In any other monarch the positive assurance that the innovations on the religion of Scotland should be abandoned, would have settled the matter at once; but Charles had so utterly lost character for truth and good faith, that it was believed throughout the country that he was still only deluding them, and seeking time ultimately to come down resistlessly upon them. And we know from his own correspondence preserved in the Strafford Papers that it was so. These words addressed to Hamilton, "Your chief end is to win time, that they may commit public follies, until I be ready to suppress them," are an everlasting proof of it. Besides, they had ample information from friends about the court in England that this was the case, and that in a few months the king meant to visit them with an irresistible force. The people of England were suffering too much from the same species of oppression not to sympathise warmly with the Scotch patriots, and to keep them well informed of what was going on there. We find it stated in the Hardwicke State Papers that the government was very jealous of the number of people who went about England selling Scotch linen, and it was recommended to open all letters going betwixt the countries at Berwick.

The covenanters therefore determined to hold together and be prepared. On the 22nd of September, 1638, the marquis of Hamilton caused the royal proclamation to be read at the market-cross at Edinburgh, abandoning the Anglican service and the High Commission Court; but as it required subscription to the old confession of faith, there was no rejoicing on the occasion. There were two particulars in this proclamation which fully justified the Scots in refusing to comply with it. It stated that the vow of the covenant was unauthorised by government, and therefore illegal, and it professed to grant a pardon for that act to all who signed the confession, which would' have acknowledged that the nation had been guilty of a crime in accepting the covenant, a thing they were not likely to admit, for in that case they could not have refused the readmission of the very liturgy against which it was at war. They therefore published a protest against it, founded on these reasons.

The marquis having obtained the signature of the lords of the secret council to the new bond, which Charles had previously signed, though it contained many clauses repugnant to Arminianism, issued the proclamation for the meeting of the assembly in Glasgow on the 21st of November, and for that of the parliament on the 17th of May next. In a few days after the lords of the council published an act discharging the book of common prayer, the book of canons, &c., and called for the subscription of all his majesty's subjects. The municipal bodies, the ministers, and the people hastened to thank the council, and to express their joy in the revocation of the obnoxious orders, but they refused to sign the confession.

The marquis wrote to Charles, informing him of the determined spirit of the people, and advising him to hasten his military preparations. He also represented to him the protests of the bishops against the holding the assembly; but the king bade him persist in holding it, so that he might not appear to break faith with the public, and thus precipitate matters, but to counteract the effect of the assembly by sowing discord amongst the members, and protesting against their tumultuary proceedings.

But the Scots did not give Hamilton much time for such machinations before the meeting of the assembly. They were warned by a trusty correspondent - notwithstanding the waylaying of the post was carried into effect - that vigorous preparations were making to invade Scotland. There were arms for twenty thousand men, including forty pieces of ordnance, and forty carriages; but the writer did not believe they would get two hundred men for the service, such was the desire of all parties - nobles, gentry, and people - for their success, which, if obtained, he said, would lead many of all ranks to settle in Scotland for freedom of conscience. He added that Wentworth had made large offers of assistance to the king from Ireland, but that the Irish were themselves so injured, that he doubted any great help from Wentworth against them; yet if Charles could muster sufficient force, they might expect no terms from him but such as they would get at the cannon's mouth.

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