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The Four Last Years. .



“THE Tory Ministry,” as it was termed, of the reign of Queen Anne, left behind it the elements of a long polemical and political squabble in Scotland. The Protestants there were divided into three bodies, having strong marks of incompatibility with each other. There was the Episcopalian community in the north-east, strong in wealth and rank. By English nomenclature they would have been assigned to the High Church party ; but they went farther in the same direction than that party, and if their political creed could have been brought forth into the light, it would have revealed, in almost every instance, the deadly blot of Jacobitism. There was the comfortable Presbyterian Establishment standing between that unorthodox and unconstitutional body on the one side of it, and on the other side the remnant of those who proclaimed the Solemn League and Covenant as still binding on all the three realms of England, Scotland, and Ireland. The first clashing of these elements was the work of the most moderate of the three-the Established Church ; and those who began and taught it the lesson of restlessness, had occasion bitterly to lament that they had opened the flood-gates.

An Episcopal clergyman, named Greenshields, bringing his orders as a clergyman from Ireland, had settled in Edinburgh, where he ministered to a congregation of his own persuasion. He made his advent conspicuous and offensive by bringing with him the English liturgy; for, ever since the attempt of Laud and his party to force a liturgy, in which Popish tendencies had been detected, on the people of Scotland, even the old simple liturgy of Scotland, sanctified by the name and approval of John Knox, had fallen aside and been forgotten.

Here, then, in a Presbyterian community, was a clergyman using a service unsanctioned by the National Church ; and so the local authority of that Church, the Presbytery of Edinburgh, put him on trial, and “discharged” him, as an unqualified intruder, from acting the part of clergyman within their bounds. The clergy, however, had only spiritual weapons, and these could touch neither him nor the building used by him. The presbytery applied to the magistrates, who sentenced Greenshields to imprisonment; and their judgment was confirmed by the Court of Session.

Then came a momentous question. After a long

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constitutional struggle, Scotland had, in the seventeenth century, secured what was called “remeid of law” to the Estates—an appeal from the king's judges in the Court of Session to the representatives of the people in Parliament. Would an appeal now lie to the British Parliament established by the Union ? An appeal was brought. It found its way into the usual channel of appeals to the House of Lords; and there, in the tribunal dignified by the presence of the English bishops, all that had been done to put down Greenshields was reversed.

This reversal was a historical event, making, in conjunction with two Acts of Parliament, a historical crisis in Scotland. In the south-western counties troublesome mobs of fanatics had, to use a term brought in at the time, “rabbled” Episcopalian clergymen who had ventured among them. An Act, avowedly to remedy this, was passed; but, with thorough English unconsciousness of offence, it touched very sensitive nerves in the religious life of the Presbyterian clergy and their sincere followers. The clergy were required to take the Test and Abjuration Oaths as public officers, and were also required, at each religious service, to pray


words for her most sacred majesty Queen Anne, and the most excellent Princess Sophia.” Now, as it happened, there were no men more zealous in the support of the Protestant succession than these clergy and their followers; but, at the same time, there were none who so heartily abjured the right of the State to impose religious tests; and in this instance, the calling up of the line of succession unfortunately brought it under the close notice of the Scots Presbyterians, that the Act bringing the Princess Sophia into the line brought her in under a limitation of the succession to members of the Church of England.

The other of the two offensive measures was An Act to restore the patrons to their ancient rights of presenting ministers to the churches vacant in that part of Great Britain called Scotland." In England the advowson or advocation — the collating to the benefice—was a relic of the easy life that the established religion, as administered by the affluent Church of England, enjoyed. The great landowners—they might be peers or baronets also, but their claim to local dignity and power was rooted in the soil—had, in old times, founded churches, and had fallen into the practice of giving the church founded by an ancestor the services of a clergyman in the person of a younger son of the house. It was a decorous and convenient arrangement-providing duties as well as emolument to a younger son, and keeping him near the paternal hearth. In the strifes, religious and secular, that had shaken Scotland, no such accommodative adjustment had been permitted to grow, and

patronage ” had come to be denounced as an outrage on the sacred rights of “the Christian people.” Lay patronage had been abolished by an Act of the year 1690. The terms of this Act, when now examined, are obscure, and in some measure contradictory. One part of it withdraws the patronage, and creates what was called the “harmonious call” by certain laymen, recommending to the ecclesiastical court a successor to a vacancy. The Act of 1690, however, fixed a price to be paid to the patron : it was to be 600 merks — a trifle above £33 in modern money.


appears that the patron could abandon the patronage and claim the money ; and, on the other hand, that he could be compelled to sell the patronage at its parliamentary price. Vested rights created under this Act were respected by the Act of 1712, and the patrons did not recover the patronages for which they had drawn compensation.

The Act against Occasional Conformists got its way through Parliament under the new influences coming into effect on the 12th day of March 1712. It is an Act curiously interwoven and parenthetical, as if it had been drawn with an effort to raise difficulties in the way to the discovery of its meaning. Even its title is elaborate and dubious, seeming to hide its intolerance under a proclamation of the furtherance of toleration. It is called “An Act for Preserving the Protestant Religion, by better securing the Church of England, as by law established; and for confirming the toleration granted to Protestant Dissenters by an Act intituled ' An Act for exempting their Majesties Protestant subjects, dissenting from the Church of England, from the penalties of certain laws, and for supplying the defects thereof; and for the further securing the Protestant succession, by requiring the practisers of the law in North Britain to take the oath, and subscribe the declaration therein mentioned.'”1

The person, whether he have occasionally conformed or not, who holds a Government or corporation office, is disqualified by the Act if he afterwards attends a conventicle. The conventicle is defined to be a meeting of ten persons occupied in religious ceremonial or worship other than the English Prayer

1 10. Anne, c. 2, British Statutes, iii. 445.

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