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Old Church Life in Scotland
Lecture IV.—Church Discipline in Olden Times


Institution of Kirk-Sessions—Calderwood's opinion—A Session in Mauchline soon after Reformation—Constitution of Kirk-Sessions—The Moderator—Elders— Their Election and Ordination—Subscription of Confession of Faith—Functions of Kirk Sessions—Discipline—Monk's views and Dr. Hill's statement— Complaints against Sessions for over-rigidness—Sessional inquiries: how instituted—All rumours reported—Libellers and consignations—Special districts for elders—Perambulations—Testimonials—Evidence taken—Oath of Purgation—Session's watchfulness over their own Members—Privy censures—Presbyterial visitations.

BEFORE proceeding to describe the way in which Kirk Sessions in former times exercised their functions, it will be proper to state a few particulars regarding their institution and constitution.

The question, when were Kirk Sessions instituted as courts in the Church of Scotland, is one that has received different answers from different writers. It is quite certain that from the date of the Reformation there were in most parishes what might be termed ecclesiastical boards, which consisted of the minister and a number of elders, and that these ecclesiastical boards were to all practical intents and purposes Kirk Sessions, and were so designated. In the very year of the Reformation, John Knox and others drew up a form of ecclesiastical policy for Parliament to establish; and in this form of policy, which is commonly called the First Book of Discipline, elders are referred to as office-bearers in the Church, and it is said that their office is "to assist the ministers in all publicke affairs of the Kirk." Then in 1592, when the Presbyterian government was established in the Church by Act of Parliament, Kirk Sessions were invested by the civil power with certain privileges and authorities. The words of the Act are, "Anent particulare kirkis. Gif they be lauchfully rewlit be sufficicnte ministeris and sessioun, they haif power and jurisdiction in their awin congregation in materis ecclesiasticall." And that this really meant that Kirk Sessions were to be regarded as separate Church courts, is made evident by the tenor of the Act 1690, for settling Presbyterian Church government anew, after it had been twice over subverted by Prelacy. In this Act of 1690 the government of the Church, as ratified and established in the former Act of 1592, is expressly declared to be "by Kirk Sessions, Presbyteries, Provincial Synods, and General Assemblies."

But a strange incident occurred at the Westminster Assembly in the end of 1643, or the beginning of 1644. The Scots Commissioners at that Assembly drew up a paper wherein they "asserted a congregationall eldership for governing the private affairs of the congregation." Such an eldership they evidently supposed, and never imagined that any one could doubt the fact, was part of the established order in the Church of Scotland. They maintained also that it was founded on Scripture. But when Calderwood the historian, who was reckoned a great authority on questions in ecclesiastical law, although a cranky man, and singular in many of his opinions, heard of this Act of the Commissioners, he wrote them a letter, in which he sharply censured their conduct. "Our books of discipline," he said, "admit of no Presbyterie or Eldership but one;" and an acknowledgment of Congregational Eldership, he added, will be a great step towards Independency or Congregationalism, as opposed to Presbyterianism. [It is very strange that Calderwood, in his own history, should speak of the Session or consistorie of the Kirk of Edinburgh. And this he does in quoting the terms of an appointment made by the General Assembly in 1562.—Vol. II., 207. In 1573 John Row was complained of to the Assembly for solemnising a band of matrimony irregularly, and he replied that "he did nothing but (without) the command of the Session of his Kirk and my Lord Ruthven, a special elder of the said kirk."Book of Universal Kirk," 134.] Baillie, who records this incident, states that Henderson felt the force of Caldenvood's criticism, and that all the Commissioners at Westminster were in a peck of troubles about it. On the ground of this letter of Caldenvood's, some subsequent historians maintain that it is uncertain whether Kirk Sessions in the Church of Scotland were originally distinct and constituted courts, or only committees of Presbyteries.

Calderwood's opinion is very strange in many ways. It is at variance with the terms of the Act of Parliament 1592, and it was at variance with the commonly received opinion in the Church at the date of his writing. But it is particularly strange in this respect, that only three years before he wrote his letter the Parliament of Scotland had passed an Act ratifying all the conclusions of the famous Assembly of 1639—granting, in short, to the Covenanters of that period every thing they desired—and in that Act it was expressly provided that not only should General Assemblies be kept yearly, but "also that Kirk Sessions ... be constitute and observed according to the order of this kirke." This was an Act passed with the view of satisfying the Covenanters in every point, and yet Calderwood would fain have made the Covenanters quarrel with it.

The probable explanation of Calderwood's argument is this. Just as the Covenanters of 1638 maintained that the Book of Canons and Service Book thrust on the Church by the King and his Council were not lawfully imposed, because they were imposed without the consent, approval, or antecedent judgment of the Church, so in the Acts of Parliament establishing Presbytery, nothing was to be held as part of the Church's constitution, if it had not been previously declared so by the Church herself. The measure of the Church's liberty might be defined by Act of Parliament, and people might, in matters indifferent, comply with ordinances they did not wholly approve; but the constitution of the Church was to be ascertained from the acts and declarations of her own Assemblies, and from these alone. Calderwood therefore, I suppose, argued, that if you want to find out the Church's doctrine in regard to questions of discipline and government, you must look neither at the terms of Acts of Parliament which she submits to as the best she can get. nor at her custom and practice based on laws she had no hand in making, but at the words of her own authorised documents. And in the book of policy known as the Second Book of Discipline, which was not only drawn up, as Knox's book was, by a few individuals, but was passed by the General Assembly, there are, as Calderwood states, only four recognised courts in the Church ; and although the fundamental court is so vaguely defined that it looks nearly as like a Kirk Session as a Presbytery, it was, nevertheless, in respect of its functions, a Presbytery and not a Kirk Session. But as was said before, Kirk-Sessions were, notwithstanding Calderwood's opinion, popularly considered from the earliest times, and were in 1592 declared by Act of Parliament to be courts of the Church. [The Second Book of Discipline seems to say that the office-bearers of a single kirk or congregation may be constituted a particular eldership of separate presbytery, but that, as a rule, there should be several kirks included in a Presbytery. The Act of Parliament 1592, on the other hand, seems to give congregational jurisdiction to particular kirks within Presbyteries, when these kirks are lawfully ruled by ministers and Sessions. Regarding erection of Presbyteries see Appendix A,]

But something more may be gathered from Calderwood's letter. That letter shows unmistakeably that the Covenanters, from 1638 to 1651, were not very anxious about the extension of popular rights and privileges in the Church. They were zealous against Erastianism and Episcopacy,—they impugned the authority in the Church of Kings and Parliaments, Bishops and Lay Patrons,—but it was not with the view of setting the Church on a popular basis. They wanted all ecclesiastical power conferred not on the Church members, but on the Church officers. They were furious in their invectives against Popery, but their ecclesiastical polity was to a large extent founded upon the Popish system. With them Presbyter was Priest writ large, and Calder-wood feared that enormous evils—all the evils of Congregationalism—would result from the institution of Kirk Sessions as Parochial Courts of the Church. The Westminster Assembly did not concur in Calderwood's views. The conclusion to which it came was that " for officers in a single congregation, there ought to be one at the least both to labour in the word and doctrine and to rule; it is requisite also that there should be others to join in the government: and that these officers are to meet together at convenient and set times for the well ordering of the affairs of the congregation, each according to his office."

The Records of the General Assembly shew that from a date close to the Reformation there were Elders as well as a Minister at Mauchline. In 1567 "the minister and ane part of the elders of the Kirk of Machlin" gave in a complaint to the General Assembly. This complaint, which is interesting as an illustration of the state of ecclesiastical law at the time, set forth that whereas "the brethren of the Kirk of Machlin had be the just law of God pronounced the sentence of excommunication against John Spottswood of Foulde (or Fowler), sometyme an elder of the said Kirk, for the horrible crime of adultery committed be him. Not-thcless Sir William Hamilton of Sanquhair, Knight, now ane elder of the said Kirk, plainly maintaineth the said John in his house, to the great sclander and offence of God his law."The outcome of this complaint was that the Assembly "ordained ane letter to be sent to the said Sir William," requiring him in the name of the eternal God, and as he looked to reign with Jesus Christ for ever, to remove from his society that wicked person, John Spottiswoode, otherwise the censures of the kirk would be used "alsweel against the maintainor as the committer of manifest crymes."

With these remarks on the institution of Kirk Sessions in the Church of Scotland, I pass on now to speak of the constitution of Kirk Sessions long ago. At present Kirk Sessions are composed of a minister and a quorum of ruling elders.

There must be a minister present at all meetings of Kirk Sessions. This minister (if there be only one present) acts as moderator, and both opens and closes the meeting with prayer. If at any alleged meeting of Kirk Session the minister, or an authorised ministerial substitute, did not preside, the alleged meeting would be declared no meeting, and all its acts would be pronounced null and void. It would seem, however, that this rule about a minister's sitting as moderator in all meetings of Kirk Session, was not in the first period of the Church of Scotland's history universally observed. Wodrow states with surprise that on looking over the Session Records of Ayr he found that in Mr. Welsh's time, when the minister was absent, an elder, and particularly one called MacKerrell, was designated moderator. [There was nothing unprecedented in this matter which so surprised Wodrow. The like occurred at later periods. On the 8th March, 1658, the Kirk Session of Aberdeen minuted that " in respect of Mr. Andro Cant, Moderator, his long sickness and infirmity, they did appoint George Meldrum, one of their number, Moderator, till it should please God to enable the said Mr. Andro to moderate himself." And this George Meldrum was not the person of that name who was at that time a regent in the University, and shortly afterwards one of the Ministers of Aberdeen; for on the Session's election of this regent Meldrum, in December, 1658, to be one of the city ministers, "George Meldrum, one of their number (was appointed) to acquaint the said Mr. George with the said call, etc."] In reality there was not cause for very great surprise at this circumstance. Although, as the Act ot Assembly 1638 implies, it was the ancient and well understood practice in the Church for ministers to moderate their Sessions, yet all that is said on the subject in the Westminster Form of Church Government, approved by the General Assembly in 1645, is that "is most expedient that in these meetings (of Kirk Session) one whose office is to labour in the word and doctrine do moderate in their proceedings." It is not said to be requisite, but only expedient, that a minister should preside at meetings of Kirk Session. In the year 1600 a schoolmaster was elected moderator, and sat as moderator of the Presbytery of Glasgow; and it is well known that George Buchanan, the famous scholar, who was neither a pastor nor doctor, once sat as moderator in the General Assembly. [Originally there was no Moderator in even the General Assembly. The first appointment of Moderator in the Assembly was in 1563, and the minute of Assembly on the subject was as follows,—"It was proposed be the haill Assemblie that ane Moderator should be appointed for avoiding confusion in reasoning, but that every brother should speak in his own roome."] In the Records of Mauchline Kirk Session there is no minute to show that any meeting of Session was ever formally constituted with prayer by an elder; but there are several minutes of Session so worded as to lead one to think that the elders occasionally met as a Session in the minister's absence, and transacted pieces of business that did not involve a judicial deliverance.

The Kirk Session is made up chiefly of "such as are commonly callit ciders." [This phrase is of very old standing. It occurs in a list of articles read and allowed by the Assembly as meet to be proponed in the year 1582. A phrase very like it occurs also in the Westminster Form of Church Government.] But the word elder needs to be explained. In the Church of Scotland ciders and presbyters mean the same thing. [It is only fair to say that while this statement undoubtedly represents what was the doctiine of the Church of Scotland regarding elders and presbyters at one period, it is declared by some eminent authorities to be not the Church's doctrine now. Principal Campbell says, "We reject the theory that the lay rulers of the Church are in the proper sense presbyters or elders." He adds that in the Westminster Assembly a proposition was brought forward that "therebe other presbyters who especially apply themselves to ruling, etc.," but that the Grand Committee excluded the word presbyters, and even the word elders, and said, "some others besides ministers." He says further that when the question about naming church governors came up for decision in the Assembly, "whether to call them ruling elders or no," it was at last determined to adopt the phrase "such as in the Reformed Churches are commonly called elders." This proposition did not satisfy Gillespie, the chief exponent of the views of the Church of Scotland, who moved, but without success, that the Assembly itself call them ruling elders. It is plain that Gillespie's motion indicated the views that prevailed north of the Tweed, and the adoption of the Westminster generalities does not imply repudiation of the old historical doctrine of the Church. Dr. Sprott says, "The Westminster Assembly definitely rejected what is called the presbyter theory of the office, and regarded them (.the elders) merely as laymen representing the laity in the government of the Church." There is not a word in the Westminster Form of Church government about the elders "representing the laity," or about their election by the laity as representatives. Their mode of appointment, their ordination, and their usual designation, support the presbyter, and militate against the representative theory.] Elder is just the English word for presbyter, and presbyter is the Greek word for elder. A Presbyterian Church accordingly means a Church that is governed exclusively by presbyters or elders, and in which there is no prelacy or prclation or precedence of one presbyter over another of the same kind. All the courts of the Church might with perfect propriety be called either Presbyteries or Elderships. The General Assembly might be called the general or "haill" Presbytery of the Church, the Synods might be called Provincial Presbyteries. Presbyteries used to be called sometimes the particular Elderships, and sometimes the classical Assemblies, [See Appendix A.] and Kirk Sessions might be called the Parochial Presbyteries: because, as has been said, each of these Courts is composed exclusively of Presbyters, or, what is the same thing, of Elders. [In the General Assembly the proportion of ministers to elders is as three to two or thereabouts. In Synods and Presbyteries the number of elders is nominally the same, or nearly the same as the number of ministers. But it was otherwise once. In 1582 the General Assembly declared that "the number of such as are associat to the Elderschip (Presbytery), for discipline and correction of manners, that are not Pastors nor Doctors, who travelleth not in the word, be not in equal number with uthers but fewer—the proportion as the necessity of the Elderschip craves." The same Assembly declared also that the attendance of ruling Elders at Presbyteries was not to be very imperative. "Concerning such elders as verses not in the word," the Assembly said, "thair resort to the Presbytrie shall be no farther straitit but as the weightinesse and occasion, upon intimation and advertisement made be the Pastors and Doctors, shall require, at quhilk time they shall give their godly concurrence."] But there are two kinds of Elders in the Church of Scotland. There are those that not only exercise authority and take part in government, but labour in word and doctrine. These are the Ministers or Pastors, and the Doctors of Divinity. The other class of Elders have no license to preach, or administer sacraments or solemnise marriages. Their office is simply to rule, and for that reason they are called ruling Elders. There is a common notion, however, that the ruling Elder is some specially important personage in the Kirk Session,—some one that in virtue of higher rank, special office, or commanding influence, is exalted over the other Elders. This is not the case. All Elders are ruling Elders. Ministers, too, are ruling Elders, but they are something more. They are Elders that both rule and preach. And yet although these facts are as plain as the Shorter Catechism to every person that has given the least attention to the constitution of the Church, they have not always been understood by Church officials. In the records of this Parish the Elder appointed to represent the Session in the Presbytery and Synod is more than once designated the ruling elder. On the 21st Sept., 1691, for instance, it is minuted that "Kingincleugh is chosen by the Session to be ruling elder for half ane year ensuing," and on the 10th July, 1692, it is minuted that " the vote of the session this day appoints Ballochmyle to be ruling elder until the next Synod." And the use of this peculiar phraseology was not confined to the Kirk Session of Mauchline. In the Session Records of Rothesay it is stated that in 1658 one of the members of Session was "chosen ruling elder for the next Presbytery." Occasionally, too, one person was chosen by the Session of Rothesay to be ruling elder for the Presbytery, and a different person to be ruling elder for the Synod. [At one time it was the practice at Galston for the Kirk Session to nominate two or three of their number to keep the Presbytery by turns. In 1639 no fewer than five members of the Galston Session were so appointed commissioners, as they are termed in their minute of appointment, to the Presbytery. Lockhart of Barr for the first two turns, Cessnock for other two turns, and so on.]

At one period ruling ciders were elected annually, and held their office for only one year. In the First Book of Discipline, compiled by Knox and others, it is said that the election of ciders and deacons ought to be made every year "lest of long continuance of such officers men presume upon the liberty of the Kirk." But it is added that "it hurteth not that one be received in office more years than one, so that he be appointed yearly thereto by common and free election." In the Second Book of Discipline which was agreed to by the General Assembly in 1578, very much under the guidance of Andrew Melville, "the eldership is declared to be a spiritual function as is the ministeric, and Eldars anis lawfully callit to the office and having gifts of God meit to exercise the same may not leive it again." Since that date elders have, as a rule, held their office for life, or till deposition or resignation. But that rule has not been uniformly observed in Kirk Sessions. In 1653 it was minuted by the Kirk Session of Fenwick that "the whole elders and deacons do resolve and voluntarily condescend to lay down their charges, and to submit per vices to be determined by the voices of the remanent eldership whether presently to take up the exercise of their office or to surcease from it." The elders then retired separately from the room, and a vote regarding their continuance in office was taken in their absence. Some were voted to continue, and others were politely informed that they might "surcease, and be eased of that burden for a while, according to their own desire."

In old times the form of ordination of elders was very simple. In 1689 four elders were ordained in Mauchline Church, and the following is the minute of their ordination:— "Being all four present before the Session, and being spoken to by the Minister in presence of the Session, they did all of them accept of the said office, whereupon the Minister took their oaths for their faithfulness in the said office of being elders and deacons in the said Parish, and so did admit and ordain them thereto." It is in like manner minuted in the Galston records for 1639, that certain persons whose names are given, were "admittit and received elders before the Congregation, and sworne to be faithful and upright in their calling." Sometimes, however, in these old days, the ordination service was conducted with considerable pomp and show of solemnity. In the printed records of the Kirk Session of Stirling, it will be found that in 1628,—that is, in a time of Episcopacy— the officer was directed to warn the Elders against Sunday next to sit in the merchants loft, and there to hold up their hands before the congregation, in sign and token of fidelity in the office of the eldership for one year to come. The special engagement entered into by elders at their ordination two hundred years ago, it will thus be seen, was faithfulness in the exercise of their office, and possibly a return to that simplicity would be hailed by many good men at the present day as a movement in the right direction. [In 1582 the General Assembly approved the order used at Edinburgh as "ane general order of admissione to the office of Elders." Universal Kirk, p. 250, article 10. This order or form is said to have "consisted of a short address, a prayer to be read, ending with the Lord's Prayer and the rehearsal of the Belief." Spalding writes, in 1644, that "upon Sonday the nth Aug. oure elderis wes chosin in the Kirk of Sanct Maucher befoir the pulpit. Bot Mr. William Strathauchin, Minister, be himself and by (without) thair knowledge, had dravvin up certain articles in wreit quhilk he causit everie Elder to stand up and swear with his hand halden up, . . whiche the Elders and deaconis wondred at, neuer seeing ihe like befoir. Yit they war, man be man, sworne to the samen, suppose against thair willes, and that the minister and thay both knew thay war unhabill to keip the for-said aith. Yit suche wes the pryd ofourc minister to thrall menis consciences efter his fantasie."]

In the year 1690 it was ordained by the General Assembly that "all elders received into communion with us in Church government, be obliged to subscribe their approbation of the Confession of Faith . . . and that this be recommended to the diligence of the several Presbyteries." In 1700 this Act of Assembly was re-enacted with two important additions : first, that both ministers and ruling elders put their signatures likewise to what is commonly known now as the Formula; and secondly, that they do so before next General Assembly. The Presbytery of Ayr were at great pains in 1701 to get the Confession of Faith signed by ministers and schoolmasters, but it was long after that date before much zeal was shewn in urging the subscription on Elders. In 1726 the Presbytery reported some progress in the matter, but the whole progress amounted to this:—that the Kirk Sessions of Straiton and Ayr had signed the Confession, and most of the brethren had elicited from their Sessions a declaration of willingness to sign. It was nevertheless reported to the Presbytery in 1733 that there were still a good many Kirk Sessions that had not signed the Confession, and that this omission did not arise from inattention, but from scruples, is made plain by what occurs iu the minutes of Presbytery the following year. It is there stated that the brethren who had not yet prevailed on their Sessions to sign the Confession of Faith, "reported that they are using diligence to gett it done, and that members of Session are perusing it in order to sign it with judgment." It may be mentioned, however, that at that date there was a great commotion over the whole kingdom about the subscription of creeds. There were numbers of people that on principle objected to sign any confession of faith, whether they concurred in its doctrines or not. Wodrow in his letters refers repeatedly, and with much distress, to this movement for "opposing Confessions and exalting reason under pretence of search after truth." In one letter he says there are great divisions in England and Ireland on the subject, but he adds, with obvious gratefulness and satisfaction, that subscription "being required by our reverend Parliament keeps us (in Scotland) free from these flames." And what Wodrow says about the state of public feeling over the country in 1725, and for years after, will probably explain how it happened that the Church Courts in Scotland were at that time so urgent in requiring from all officebearers in the Church a subscription of the Formula, while at the same time so many Kirk Sessions were slow and reluctant to subscribe.

The functions of Kirk Sessions were at one time much more numerous than they are now. In the words of the First Book of Discipline, it fell to Kirk Sessions to take cognisance of all the public affairs of the Kirk within the bounds of their Parishes. They not only administered discipline,—rebuked and censured, kept the keys of the church, admitted into membership and expelled from membership,— but they took charge of the poor, looked after education, and superintended arrangements for burial. In short they were, in a very wide sense of the words, the local authority in their respective Parishes.

In this lecture, and in the next two lectures, I shall confine myself to the subject of Church discipline.

As we all know, there have during different periods been different forms of government in the Church of Scotland. Episcopacy and Presbytery have each been established twice over at least. The discipline of Episcopacy is understood to have differed considerably from that of Presbytery, but even under Presbytery itself discipline has undergone much change.

A very memorable statement was once made by the celebrated General Monk in reference to Church government and Church discipline. This was in the spring of 1660, when people were much concerned lest an attempt should be made to set up Episcopacy again in Scotland. General Monk, who was at the head of affairs in the kingdom, was sounded on the subject, and he wrote to his questioners that he considered Presbytery the best expedient for healing the bleeding divisions of these poor nations, "so it be moderate and tender." And the Presbyterianism that has for long existed in Scotland has been "moderate and tender" both in profession and in practice. The accepted theory of Presbyterian discipline is nowhere better stated than in Dr. Hill's view of the constitution of the Church of Scotland, which was published about the beginning of the present century. "In that temperate exercise of discipline which the general practice of the Church of Scotland recognises as congenial to her constitution, care is taken," says Dr. Hill, "to avoid every appearance of intermeddling officiously with those matters that fall under the cognisance of the civil magistrate: no solicitude is ever discovered to engage in the investigation of secret wickedness: counsel, private admonition, and reproof, are employed in their proper season, and the public censures of the Church are reserved for those scandalous sins which bring reproach upon religion, which give offence to the Christian society, and which cannot be overlooked without the danger of hardening the sinner, of emboldening others to follow his example, and of disturbing and grieving the minds of many worthy Christians."

[The following contrast between Episcopal and Presbyterial discipline will be found in Baillie's Dissuasive, 1645, and may perhaps surprise some people who have been taught to consider Presbytery as tyranny, and Episcopacy as loving kindness. " Episcopal courts were never fitted for the reclaiming of minds,—their prisons, their fines, their pillories, their nose-slittings, their ear-cuttings, their cheek-burnings, did but hold down the flame to break out in season with the greater rage. But the Reformed Presbytery doth proceed in a spiritual method, evidently fitted for the gaining of hearts: they go on with the offending party with all respect and at so much leisure as can be wished, appointing first the fittest Pastors and Elders in the bounds to confer and instruct him in private : if this diligence do not prevaile then they convent him before the consistory of his congregation : there by admonitions, instructions, reproofs, and all the means appointed in the gospel, they deal with him in all gentleness, from weeks to months, from months often times to years, before they come near to any censure, and if so it fall out that his insuperable obstinacy force them to draw out the terrrible sword, their proceeding here also is so exceeding leasurly and full of sensible grief and love to the party, of fear and religion towards God, that it is a singular rarity among them to see any heart so hard as not to be mollified and yeeld before that stroke be given. Excommunications are sc strange in all the Reformed Churches, that in a whole Province a man in all his life will scarce be witness to one, and among them who are cut off by that dreadful sword, very few do fall in the State's hand to be troubled with any civil inconvenience," pages 7, 8. The Acts of Assembly, especially one in 1643, anent using civil execution against excommunicate persons, shew that the Church was less mild than Baillie represents her to have been. In the Assembly of 163S Henderson the Moderator said, "Anent our cariadge toward excommunicat per-sones I thinke civill affairs may be done with them,—a naturall duelie done to them, but civill dueties verie sparinglie." The theory of the Presbyterians, however, was that spiritual courts should inflict nothing but spiritual censures, and that Magistrates only should inflict fines and imprisonment.]

But while this statement expresses the doctrine on Church discipline that has been held by the Church of Scotland for many, many years, the discipline administered in the Church of Scotland in ancient times was not what most people would consider either tender or moderate. It is proper to remark, however, that people's notions of tenderness are constantly changing, and that in every age there have been men who have maintained that the discipline of the Church in their own day was tender enough. Robert Douglas, one of the Scots Worthies, and one of the worthiest of them all, could not brook the insinuation of Monk that the discipline of the Church of of Scotland had ever been over-rigid, and yet in Douglas's time censures of the severest character were frequently witnessed. And not only was the discipline of the Church at one period what would be counted over-rigid by us in the latter part of the nineteenth century, but it was complained of for being so by people who lived in the time of its rigour. Both Episcopalians and Latitudinarians have uttered loud and fierce denunciations of its severity. One Episcopalian author says, " Every parish had a tyrant who made the greatest lord in the district stoop to his authority. The kirk was the place where he kept his court, the pulpit his throne or tribunal from which he issued his terrible decrees, and twelve or fourteen sour, ignorant enthusiasts, under the name of elders, composed his council. If any, of what quality soever, had the assurance to disobey his orders, the dreadful sentence of excommunication was immediately thundered out against him, his goods and chattels were confiscated and seized, [At one time excommunication inferred civil penalties, but by an Act of Parliament passed soon after the Revolution, "no civil penalty such as escheat of movables or caption doth now follow on the sentence, so that the liberty and estate of Church members are not endangered by it, nor do they depend upon churchmen." See Pardovan. One of Wyclif's demands was that imprisonment for excommunication should cease (Green). And Baillie says that even when excommunication inferred civil penalties, very few excommunicated persons fell into the State's hands to be troubled with civil inconveniences,] and he himself being looked upon as actually in the possession of the Devil, and irretrievably doomed to eternal perdition, all that convened with him were in no better esteem." That, of course, is the language of a partisan, and must be largely discounted, but still it shows that Presbyterian church discipline was complained of for over-rigidity. A recently deceased historian, who, in an unfinished work, has left behind him a wonderful monument of his learning and philosophic genius, but who, unfortunately, wrote under the strong bias of irreligious prejudice, and with a bitterness and rancour which strangely belied his professions of ultra-liberalism, says, that "when the Scotch Kirk was at the height of its power, we may search history in vain for any institution which can compete with it, except the Spanish Inquisition." And it may be added that in the letters of Burns the same word inquisition is rightly or wrongly applied to the Kirk Session of Mauchline Parish only a hundred years ago.

It lies beyond the scope of this lecture either to assail or defend old institutions. My object is simply to tell what was done in old times, so that we may see what the character of these times was. It will not be out of place, however, to remark that, as a rule, institutions represent the spirit of the age in which they flourish, and as times change institutions change also. And there is no doubt of the fact that both two hundred years ago and one hundred years ago, the manners of people were much ruder than they are now. Certain virtues may have been more conspicuous than they arc now, but there was also a much greater amount of coarseness prevalent. More rigid methods of discipline accordingly were needed to deal with the iniquities that abounded. Gentle admonition touches only gentle minds, and where there is a hard hide there needs to be a sharp censure. It must be remembered, too, that in olden times far less was done than is now, by the civil authorities, to restrain and prevent disorder. The Church, among other good offices, was expected to save the nation police rates. She had not only to shew men what is good, but she had to keep down the unruly, and to bring the thoughts of people's hearts into subjection to the laws of Christian duty. And whatever the Church may be or may do, whether she is tender or rigid, whether she punishes or passes over transgressions, she will always have enemies and detractors to speak evil of her procedure. When her discipline was strict she was called intolerant and tyrannical, now that her discipline is milder she is said to have lost her power and influence, and is blamed for leaving the masses to perish in brutality and atheism. There is no form of action on the part of the Church that will stop the mouths of gainsayers. All that the Church in her discipline can do is to seek men's good in the way that experience shews to be most practicable.

I have used the word inquisition in reference to Kirk-Sessions, or at least I have quoted that word as having been applied to Kirk Sessions by both an historian and a poet. Strictly speaking, inquisition means enquiry and investigation, and no one will deny that Kirk Sessions long ago were, and perhaps they still are, courts of enquiry. They enquired into all migrations into and out of the parish—into the ecclesiastical profession of all parishioners—and into all famas affecting the moral or religious character of the people under their jurisdiction. And what in this lecture I mean to set forth is the mode of inquisition that was adopted long ago by Kirk Sessions in general, and by Mauchline Kirk Session in particular. In next lecture I shall indicate the different kinds of offences that were taken notice of by Kirk Sessions, and in a subsequent lecture describe the censures and penalties that Kirk Sessions inflicted. How, then, we have to ask, did the Kirk Session conduct its inquiries or inquisitions long ago? It is quite clear that enquiries may be made either in a way that is oppressive and objectionable, or in a way that is inoppressive and unobjectionable. The extortion of confessions by thumb-screws and boots is an oppressive inquisition. But the Kirk Sessions of Scotland never made inquisition after that fashion. It must be admitted, however, that Kirk Sessions long ago were very inquisitorial and very zealous in their efforts to elucidate the mysteries of iniquity. Dr. Hill, as we have seen, says that "no solicitude is ever discovered by Kirk Sessions to engage in the investigation of secret wickedness." That for many a day has been the case, but it was not so always. One of the most marked distinctions between the procedure of Kirk Sessions in modern days and their procedure a hundred years ago or more, is that alleged cases of scandal are not taken up now unless there is a decided fama clamosa and some palpable facts to proceed on. But in olden times if either a minister or an elder happened to hear a word of calumny regarding a parishioner, the minister or elder, as the case might be, thought it his bounden duty to report to the Session what he had heard, and the Session thought it their duty to ascertain without delay whether the report was true or false, and then to deal as circumstances required. In the printed records of the Kirk Session of Aberdeen we find the elders, in 1568, sworn to secrecy regarding all that passed in the Session, and to faithfulness in delating all that they heard affecting the Christian character of people within their bounds. As shewing what the practice of Kirk Sessions was, I may mention that I have seen old minutes of Session (Galston, for instance, 1692) which commenced by stating that "enquiry being made if there were any public scandals known to any of the elders, it was reported " that some one had been seen under the influence of drink, or had been heard using profane words. Very strange enquiries, too, were at times ordered to be made by Kirk Sessions. It is minuted, for instance, in the Session Records of Mauchline that on the 15th August, 1697, "Alexander Baxter, an elder, was appointed to enquire if the woman that lived with Bryce Allan was his wife or not, as also anent Andrew Rob, whether he was a thief or not, as was reported." It need not surprise any one to be told that Mr. Baxter himself was made very soon afterwards to suffer from calumny. A man sent to enquire into scandals about other people is almost certain, especially if he shews any zeal in his inquisition, to hear something said to his own discredit. Despite the greatest prudence in his walk and conversation, there will be something or other discovered which will be made the foundation for an unwarranted story. And so it happened with Mr. Baxter. In less than a twelvemonth after he had been sent to inquire into Andrew Rob's alleged theftous habits, a report reached the Session that Alexander Baxter, one of their number, "had resett some stolen goods which Allan M'Crac, a notorious thief, had brought to his house." It turned out on investigation that Mr. Baxter was perfectly innocent of the charge. Stolen goods were found in his house, and these goods had been left there by M'Crae, but of these facts Mr. Baxter was as ignorant as an unborn child. A daughter of Mr. Baxter's confessed that, in her simplicity, she had allowed a vagrant to leave his goods in her father's house, but declared she was not aware that the goods had been stolen. For her simplicity and incaution, however, she had to bear the brunt of a Sessional rebuke in her father's presence. Endless are the cases in which it is minuted in old records that this person and the other person was reported to have been guilty of some sin or another—cursing, swearing, drunkenness, and such like—and in every instance the report was thoroughly investigated. No rumour was disregarded, and no offence was deemed too frivolous to be enquired into. [Even the sin of penning or singing poetical squibs was duly cognosced, as the following curious entry in the Session Records of Ayr will shew:—'In case ony persoun or persouns at ony time sail find, heir or see ony ryme or cokalane, that they sail reveil the same first to ane eldar privatlie, and to na ulher, and in case they faille therein in reveiling of the same to any uther, that person sail be esteemed to be the authour of the said ryme, and sail be punished therefor conforme to the Acts of the Kirk and ye laws of ye realme."] In 1771 an unlucky lad in Mauch-line gave a sixpence instead of a token to the elder that was lifting tokens at one of the communion tables. The lad was a communicant admitted to the table on that occasion for the first time. The tokens were in size as like sixpences as possible, and the act of the lad was evidently a mistake for which none could be more sorry than himself in respect that it threatened to involve him in the loss of sixpence. The matter could not be overlooked, however. It was formally reported to the Session, and the lad was duly cited to compear before his betters and answer for his conduct. His innocence of any intention to profane the sacramental ordinance was made clear by his sorrow for the mistake he had made, and he was dismissed, but, like Mr. Baxter's daughter, with a Sessional rebuke for his carelessness, and with an admonition to be more observant in future. So much punctiliousness is what we would now-a-days account over rigidity. But whatever may be our opinion of the wisdom or expediency of such ecclesiastical fuss, we must do the worthy men that held office in the Church long ago, the justice to say that in acting as they did, they only did what they believed they were bound in Christian duty to do, and that their aim and object were to put away all evil and reproach from the Church, and to educate the people in strict and high notions of Christian life. Their chief function was well described in a minute of the Galston Kirk Session, in 1647, which stated that "the Session did consider they had need of some more elders for watching over the manners of the Congregation."

And it was not only sins of commission but sins of omission that kirk sessions took cognisance of. In the Records of Galston it is stated that in December, 1639, "the minister presentit ane book and red it in the ses-sioune quhilk is to be put in practice conforme to the Act of the General Assembly, intituled Familie Exercise, that everie familie sould have morning and evening prayers, publict and private reading, psalms and uther exercises of God's worship, as in the said buke is contcinit. And to this end, for the better ordering heirof, and that this service be not neglectit in families, it is thought meit that ilk elder within the paroche, in his pairtis nixt about him, have ane speciall care and charge hereof, and see what religion, what prayer, what reiding, and what uther exercise of God's service they use in their house." Indeed, so recently as 1700, the Synod of Glasgow and Ayr passed an Act, which was appointed to be read in all kirk sessions within the bounds, requiring among other things " that elders make conscience of visiting families within their districts, exhorting heads of families to set up the worship of God in their houses, reproving those who neglect it, and delating them upon their continuing neglect, etc." Kirk Sessions were even at pains, in some instances, probably in many, to promote Christian fellowship in their parish by means of district meetings for prayer and conference. In the year 1700, the Synod of Glasgow and Ayr recommended and enjoined such action, and in at least some parishes, of which Galston might be named as one, the Session, on this injunction, " did divide themselves into district societies, to meet the first Wednesday of each month, and spend the day in prayer and Christian fellowship."

But to return to the subject of delations, it occasionally happened that stories of misconduct turned out, on investigation, to be gross exaggerations of very paltry matters, and as injury was done to people by the circulation of such stories, the Session sometimes thought it necessary to undo such injuries by public intimation of the result of their enquiries. In 1702, for instance, a report reached the Kirk Session of Mauchline, that there had been some gathering in a house at the Pathhead of Ballochmyle. A formidable committee of Session was thereupon appointed to investigate the scandal, and this committee reported that " the people who mett only took a civil drink, and did no harm so as to raise such a talk." The minister was then desired by the Session "to intimate ye nixt Sabbath to ye people from ye pulpit," that the meeting at Pathhead had not been so bad as was supposed, and to "give a caveat to all to cause others bewar in time to come of the like sin." The intimation, it will be admitted, was a proper act of justice to the people at Pathhead, but as no sin had been committed on the occasion libelled, it may be said that the caveat was uncalled for. The Kirk Session seem to have thought, however, that a good admonition can never be applied untimeously, and that although people have not been in a fault they may possibly be on the way to one.

Very often parishioners brought charges against one another before the Kirk Session. These charges, whatever they were, always received attention. If one woman complained of being cursed or bewitched or defamed by another, the Session always gave an open ear to the complaint. But there was one salutary regulation that the Kirk Session adhered to in such cases. Every accuser had to table so much money as a pledge that the accusation would be proved, and the money so pledged was forfeited to the Session for pious uses in the event of its being found that the charge was either false or not proven. This pledge was called a consignation, [The word consignation was more frequently applied to another pledge which will be fully treated of in the lecture on marriages. But it was a general term equivalent to pledge, and used in reference to many things. For instance, in the Galston Records for 1633, there is an entry, "Margaret Smyth gave in ane bill upon Janet Richmond, and consignit her biil silver in ye minister's hands ;" and in another entry it is said that A. B. having given in a bill upon C. D., "his consignation was maid, and the witnesses were ordained u> be summened."] and the common amount of it was 40s. Scots. The following minute in our Parish Records, 1682, will give a good and clear specimen of the Session's mode of procedure in such cases:—"Bessie Edwards' supplication being renewed, and the particulars specifiet, it's admitted relevant, and she is appointed to consign 2 0s. 0d., and if she prove not the particulars laid to the delinquent's charge, she is to forfeit the 2 0s. 0d., and the names of the witnesses are to be given in to the Clerk against the next Session." The complaint of Miss Edwards was that she had been reviled by a neighbour with some railing speeches. In this case the consignation was not forfeited. The delinquent, as she is termed, confessed her fault, and was admonished "to carry more suitably in time coming." In many cases the consignation was forfeited, and lifted by the Session. For instance, in our Records, 1670, it is minuted that Janet M'Connell, having previously given in "ane bill of complaint against John Marshall, clerk, for calling her a witch, and with it having consigned fourteen shilling, nothing being proven by the witnesses, the Session declared her consignation forfaltit." In 1671 it was minuted that " Margaret Fisher, wyffe to W. Ronald in Hol-hous having gevin in a complaint of sclander against W. Anderson and Margaret------ his spous in Killoch, and upon their denyall, the sclander not being proven, the Session decernes the said Margaret to have forfaultit her consignation, 40s." The Records of Galston Session tell of a man that in 1643 gave in a bill against another man "for slandering his name anent ye selling of some silk buttons, which he alleadgit he had stolen or resett, . . . some long tailled buttons of silk which was upon the Laird of Cessnoch's clook the tyme that it was stolen." The slandered man, however, saw reason not to press his complaint any further in the face of facts, and allowed his consignation to be forfeited.

At the present day it is quite customary, both in country and town parishes, to assign special districts to the charge of special members of Kirk Session. This arrangement is not supposed to be, nor is it really, made for any purpose of espionage, but with the view of securing that the wants of the sick and the poor shall be duly attended to. But the arrangement was at one period enjoined for purposes of discipline. In the year 1648 it was enacted by the General Assembly "that every elder have a certain bounds assigned to him that he may visit the same every month at least, and report to the Session what scandals and abuses are therein, or what persons have entered without testimonials."* And it was doubtless in consideration of the great amount of work that this Act of Assembly entailed on elders, that Kirk Sessions long ago comprised so many members. In the Records of Mauchline Parish for 16S4, there is given in one minute "a list of the elders the minister afterwards chused." This list comprises fifteen names, and although it is not quite clear from anything that subsequently appears in the register whether all the fifteen persons named were actually ordained and admitted elders, there were, at any rate, nine of them present at the first meeting of Session held after the list was drawn up. On the back of a small minute or rather scroll minute book, there is written out "the order that the elders are to collect for the poor and their names;" [The following entries in the Fenwick Records illustrate the old customs in regard to this matter, 1646—"The .Session nominates these persons following for elders, viz., for the lands of Rowallan (six names), for the lands of Polkellie (three names), for Fenwick (one name), for Craufordland (three names) for the lands of Raith (two names), for Ilartshaw muir John Paton in Meadow head." These sixteen were all ordained elders. In 1653 the same Session made formal appointment of tiieir "several quarters to the elders fur special oversight."] and in this order or memorandum, dated 1707, there are fifteen persons named and described as elders. Some of the biographers of Burns, among others Dr. Chambers, have stated that in the later years of Mr. Auld's ministry there were only three elders in this parish, and that they were men of discreditable character. This statement is simply untrue, and on what worthless authority it could have been made I cannot conceive. It is very difficult to make out from the Session Records how many elders there have been in the parish at different dates. The roll of elders is seldom entered in the Records, and the sederunts, or names of elders present at particular meetings of Session, are seldom given. In the time of Mr. Auld the Kirk-Session was probably not so large as it was at the dates 1684 and 1707, but that it never was reduced to three members is absolutely certain. In the year 1785, which was one of the four years in which Burns lived in the parish, the names of at least six elders may be clearly made out from two minutes of Kirk Session, which are both in print. The only period in Mr. Auld's ministry in which I could have thought it possible that the Kirk Session had dwindled down to a mere quorum, or little more, was at the time of his death. I find, however, from the Records of the Presbytery of Ayr, that at Mr. Reid's induction, in 1792, the Kirk Session comprised seven elders.

Less than might have been expected is said in our Session Records about the allocation of the elders to special districts in this parish ; but the fact of such an allocation is indicated more than once. In 1707, the year in which we have seen that there were fifteen elders in the parish, there is a minute which states that a woman who had been summoned to appear before the Session did not appear. The finding of the Session thereupon was, that the elder of the "quarter" to which the woman belonged be instructed to inform her that if she will not compear before the Session she must go to the Presbytery." On the Sacramental Fast in 1734 it was minuted that "tokens were given out to the elders to serve in the several quarters of the parish." There is no doubt, therefore, that long ago every elder in Mauchline Parish had his district assigned to him, and that by this means the whole affairs of the parish were brought very directly and very closely under the surveillance of the Kirk Session. [Kirkton, the Church historian, boasts of the perfection of discipline in the Church of Scotland in 1650 in these words—"No scandalous person could live, no scandal could be concealed in all Scotland, so strict a correspondence there was betwixt ministers and congregations." I may add that the Records of the Presbytery of Ayr .-how that it was common between 1640 arid 1650 for Presbyteries to send one of their members as a correspondent to neighbouring Presbyteries. There was constant correspondence of this kind between the Presbyteries of Ayr and Irvine.]

Sundry perambulations, too, used to be appointed by Kirk Sessions with the view of checking and correcting disorders. In Mauchline one or two elders were generally directed to attend the race and the fairs, and to report if anything censurable came under their notice. In January, 1702, for instance, three elders were told off " to goe through the faire and take notice of what immoralities they hear or see." Four years before that date it is recorded that two elders were in like manner instructed to take notice of any abuse that might occur at the race, and it is satisfactory to know that the elders reported in due course that they had gone to the race, and "heard nothing scandalous at it." And there was nothing exceptional in this procedure of the Mauchline Kirk Session. The same line of action was adopted at Galston, and with even greater zeal. In the beginning of last century and down to the end of at least the first quarter of that century, elders were appointed in Galston to visit all the alehouses in the village between nine and ten at night during the fair, and disperse those that were found drinking. And this was an old custom in Galston ; for as far back as 1640 I find it minuted that two of the elders were "ordained to go throw the clachan at ten at night and advertyse the minister, that the hour may be neir keiped." On the margin of an old minute in the Records of Galston these ecclesiastical scouts are called the "civillisers."

It was chiefly, however, for the detection of Sabbath desecration, that Sessional perambulations were appointed. There was nothing that gave the Church of Scotland more trouble in old times than the enforcement of Sabbath observance. Acts of Assembly, Acts of Presbytery, and Acts of Kirk Sessions were made ever so often for the repression of some form or another of Sabbath profanation. And the reason why the Church had so much difficulty in the matter was that the people, both under Popery before the Reformation and under Episcopacy after the Reformation, had been allowed and had been accustomed to great liberty on the Sabbath. Not only was corn-stacking at the end of a late harvest done without compunction as a reasonable work of necessity, but both corn milling and salmon fishing were carried on without any necessity whatever. King James himself, the first Protestant King of Scotland, one of whose titles was Defender of the Faith, was so zealous for Sunday liberty that he published a work called the Book of Sports, in which he specified a number of amusements and field exercises that he thought might be lawfully and innocently enjoyed on the Sabbath. When the Church awoke to a sense of the sanctity of the Sabbath, and to the binding duty of a holy resting all that day, even from such worldly employments and recreations as are lawful on other days, she found that she had a very arduous work to do in putting down Sabbath desecration. Both the importance of the work and the obstacles that lay in the execution of the work made her all the more zealous and stringent, therefore, in carrying out an inquisitorial and rigid discipline. Solemn denunciations of the sin of Sabbath breaking and solemn warnings of the consequences that would attend that sin were time after time issued from pulpits, and elders were deputed to scour the streets and enter the premises of publicans, to see if any in the parish were not remembering to keep the Sabbath holy to the Lord. In this parish such warnings and perambulations were of frequent occurrence. In 1672, at a meeting of Session in Mauchline, on the 26th March, "intimation was appointed to be made the next Sabbath day that people vaig not abroad on the Sabbath, and that they tak care that their children vaig not." On the 22nd February, 1676, it was further appointed "that the two elders who collect on the Sabbath shall goe through the town and search who are in the houses the tyme of sermon." And what resulted from these perambulations may be surmised from an entry that occurs fourteen years later in the Records. On the 7th September, 1690, two of the ciders "delated George Miller in Mauchline and his (wife) to the Session, for their selling aill and drinking it in their house with incomers, which they did find with them in the tyme of the forenoon sermon."

In 1699 a very important recommendation was minuted by the Presbytery of Ayr, that "each Session apply to and concur with the civil magistrate and principal leading men of the Paroch, that censors be appointed in each paroch to go about, visit, and delate delinquents for cursing, swearing, drunkenness, &c.: and where there is a town or clachan in the paroch that the censors go through the town or clachan and delate such as shall be found in taverns or ale houses in tyme of divine service ; as also on week days, especially on mercat or fair days, they go through the said town or clachan to notice and delate delinquents for the foresaid crimes; and likewise that the said censors or visitors go through the town or clachan and delate delinquents that are in ale houses at unseasonable tymes of the night." In other words, the Presbytery of Ayr in 1699 wished a rural police established, and it was doubtless because such a system of police supervision was not established that elders continued long afterwards to do police duty, and that this police duty was reckoned an important part of elders' work. As late as 1718 a complaint was made to the Presbytery of Ayr by the parishioners of Maybole that there was no delation in the Session "of immoralities on the streets and in taverns at untimely hours, in drinking, swearing, and the like . . . the instances thereof have been seen in private persons, and elders too, to the offence of some."

Another and a very effective means employed long ago for making kirk sessions fully cognisant of all the antecedents of their parishioners was the requirement of a testimonial from every person that came to live or even stay for a few months in the parish. This testimonial shewed whether the incomer was married or single, and whether he was under scandal or free from scandal. [The oldest entries about testimonials that I have seen in Session Records simply certify to the bearer's "civil carriage" for so many years or from birth. At later times they very often, if not always, stated what was the bearer's condition, married or single. In 1716 a man confessed to the Presbytery of Ayr "that he was guilty in forging a testimonial, adding Mr. M'Viccar, Minister at West Kirk in Edinburgh, his name to it, to bear that he was an unmarried person."] An Act of Assembly passed in 1648 made it imperative that "all persons who flit from one paroche to another, have sufficient testimonials," and this requirement was declared "to be extended to all gentlemen and persons of quality, and all their followers who come to reside with their families at Edinburgh or elsewhere." Ministers were over and above enjoined to advertise the minister to whose bounds their parishioners flitted, whether or not the emigrants left under scandal ; and for a long period this law was carried out with great strictness. The receiving and the granting of testimonials were regarded as formal sessional acts, and were duly recorded. In our own Session Records for 1672 there is a whole page filled with an account of testimonials granted and testimonials received. By this means it was made almost impossible for scandals to be covered. A sinner might flee from Barr to Banff, and settle down in a district where nothing was known of his family or his history, but if he brought no sufficient testimonials with him, he became in the eye of the Church a scandalous person. And if it should be found out where he had fled, a letter from the minister he left, let the minister and Kirk Session of the Parish to which he had gone know all about his sins and delinquencies.

Our records tell that in 1671 a woman in this parish was "ordainit to be publicly declared a scandalous woman, and not to be owned for a parishioner till she produce a sufficient testimonial." In 1694 there was intimation made from the pulpit that none would be entertained within the parish unless they produced testificates. And following up this resolution, the Session, in April 1705, directed the church-officer to go to the Haugh and "tell Jean Kennedy and her mother to remove from this parish at the 1st May, because they can produce no testificates:" and to understand that in the event of their failing to remove by the time stated "the Session would apply to the civil magistrate." The Haugh seems to have been about that time infested with uncertificated visitors. In 1703 "Jean Wat, and the wife in the Haugh and her daughter, that lives in the house belonging to the holm, which William White possesses, was discharged from staying there because she could produce no testificat." And people were obliged to remove for that cause at the Session's order. In 1697 "George Petersone being called and compearing was interrogate if he had as yet gotten a testimonial as he was appointed. He answered he neither had got one nor expected to get one." He was then told that if he did not produce a certificate before Whitsunday the Session would apply to the magistrate. Whitsunday came, but George's testimonial was not produced, and the minister was therefore desired by the Session "to speak to the Sheriff Depute to take notice of Petersone so as to compel him to go out of the parish." And Mr. Petersone had to remove pretty quick, although it is difficult to see where he could go and fare much better. It was the 18th of July when the minister was instructed to speak to the Sheriff, and on the 27th July the minister reported to the Session that Petersone was off. As recently as 1777 there is notice in our records of a man that had come to this parish and had not brought with him any testimonials. He was not summarily ejected, as he might have been a hundred years earlier, but he was laid under censure, and although the faults for which he was censured were legion, it was minuted that one of these was "his bringing no testimonials of his christian character to this place, and the bad report of him from other parishes where he had resided." Instances beyond number might be cited in which kirk sessions and presbyteries enforced this law anent testimonials. In 1648 the magistrates of Ayr were politely requested by the Presbytery "to be careful that no person whatever, coming to dwell and make residence in that town, be receaved therein by any without testimonial from the minister of the Paroch from whence they came." In 1707 the Presbytery were informed that there was a family living at Cumnock which refused to give testimonials to the Session. The Presbytery thereupon ordered their Clerk to "write to the magistrate of the place, to oblige them to obtane ane, or that he remove them from thence." The Kirk Session of Fen wick, in 1691, forbade all landlords in the parish to let their lands or houses to any persons that had no certificates from their former place of residence, and when a landlord in 1692 declined at the Session's order to put away his cottar, the Session " resolved to commit the said (landlord) to the civil magistrate." In 1700 the elders of Galston were ordered to report every three months what persons had come into the parish, so that enquiry might be made if they had testimonials. And very chary were the Session of Galston in granting testimonials. All were refused that benefit who neglected the catechising. [It was not unusual at one time to call people before the Session "for harbouring a scandalous person" in their house, or to order people to remove from their house this and that scandalous person. In 1628 a woman appeared before the Session of Galston and "obleist her under the paine of 10 that she suld keip her house clein of all vagabonds and strangers in resetting thame without advyce of the Sessione."]

It often happened that when charges were brought against a man in the Kirk Session the person so charged denied his guilt. From the days of St. Peter downward, and perhaps in the days before St. Peter, it seems to have been natural for people to deny even with the vehemence of an oath whatever has been laid to their charge, till the accusation has been established by indubitable testimony. Whether this tendency has shown itself more strongly in Kirk Sessions than in other courts only those historically acquainted with the proceedings in different courts can tell, but there is nothing that to the reader of Kirk Session Records gives a lower notion of parochial morality than the effrontery with which people conscious of guilt have protested their innocence. When accusations were received by a Kirk Session, therefore, and guilt was denied by the persons accused, it became necessary, in many cases at least, for the Kirk Session to take evidence. This disagreeable duty is often evaded now-a-days, and with much advantage by the Kirk Session's delaying procedure till the question has been decided in the civil court; but in olden times Kirk Sessions were more self-reliant, and they entered upon and went through probations without scruple or misgiving. They cited witnesses, and witnesses were obliged under pain of censure to come forward after citation and give evidence. All evidence was required to be taken in a fair and an open way. The witnesses were examined in presence of the accused party, and the defender was at liberty to debic the moderator to put such cross questions as might invalidate the proof. It was expressly provided, however, that "no accused person is to interrupt the witnesses or speak during the time of deposition." From the earliest times, too, witnesses were put on oath by Kirk Sessions. In the Mauchline records we find that in 1671 a woman was convicted of scolding and cursing "partly on her own confession and partly by sworn evidence." Opening a more recent volume of the same records at random I find that in 1780 it was common for witnesses to be " solemnly sworn, purged of malice and partial counsel," and then interrogated. Occasionally it is minuted that both parties agree to accept a witness's "solemn declaration, instead of his oath for the present," and on such occasions the oath was dispensed with. In the " brulie minutes" for 1780 there is a curious sentence deleted, "Compeared Hugh Widrow, smith, and refuses to give his oath unless paid for his oath. The Session having considered the refusal look upon." Here the minute ends abruptly. The Session had evidently shewn their intention of regarding this refusal to be sworn as a greater offence than the pawky blacksmith was aware of, and on second thoughts Mr. Widrow agreed to take the oath without reward or fee. Whether there was an intentional touch of sarcastic humour in Mr. Widrow's refusal to take an oath, unless paid for it, my ignorance of his cerebral structure prevents me saying ; but the Session must have had their own thoughts at his extreme punctiliousness, for they had not long previously been calling him to book for being too free in the use of oaths, both to the dishonour of God and the terror of nervous neighbours.

As might be expected, cases have often occurred in which the evidence submitted to a Kirk Session did not clearly point to one conclusion or another, In these cases the accused did not as in criminal courts get the benefit of the doubt. The law of the Church was, and still is, that procedure must be sisted till Providence sheds further light on the case, or the oath of purgation must, with the sanction of the Presbytery, be administered to the accused. Long ago, processes before Kirk Sessions were occasionally sisted for ten, twenty, thirty, or forty years, the accused remaining all the while under scandal, and without the benefit of church privileges. In 1757, a man made application to the Kirk Session of Mauch-line for a testimonial of good behaviour. The man had been under scandal for thirty-eight years, and he had often offered and still offered to clear himself by the oath of purgation. The Session, however, had never thought proper to allow him to take the oath. As a last chance the man respectfully demanded either to be allowed to clear himself by oath or to be assoilzied without oath. The Session doubtless felt that whatever was the strict rule of law there was justice in this requisition, and so the man was allowed to take the oath and relieve himself of his long sorrow and long reproach. In the letters of Burns there is reference made to a man's being under the inquisition in Mauchline in 1786. Thirty-two years later, that is, in 1818, the same man appeared before the Kirk Session and requested absolution from the scandal that Burns refers to, and which at the time of investigation was left not proven. And the Kirk Session, in 1818, under the guidance of Mr. Tod, gave a deliverance that, whether in accordance with evidence or not, was at least in respect of sentiment and feeling worthy of a Christian court. "The Session," so ran the deliverance after a narrative of circumstances, "considering this whole affair, arc of opinion that James Bryan hath suffered greatly by being kept so many years from enjoying church privileges, and that his affair is long ago prescribed." [The following minute, however, will shew how exacting Kirk Sessions once were, and how cruel at times were even their tender mercies:—"Mauchline, 1736, January 11. The Session agreed to absolve Agnes------after a Sessional rebuke, she having stood twice publicly about nine or ten years ago, and think it would not be edifying that she appear publicly, she now being old and infirm, and it a scandahim sopiium " (that is, a scandal gone to sleep or fallen into oblivion).]

Kirk Sessions have been known to put all the people of a parish on oath in regard to their guilt or knowledge of misdeeds. It is minuted, for instance, in the Galston Records that on the nth October, 1635, "all the inhabitants of the Galstone being summondit against this day compeireit and purgeit themselves be their aith that nane of them tak, nor knew who tak, ane daill from ye kirk."

The form of process states that the oath of purgation is never to be administered without the sanction of the Presbytery. It is not to be administered, either, unless the presumptions of guilt are so great that nothing but the oath will remove suspicions of guilt, and unless, also, it is thought probable that the oath will remove suspicion and put an end to scandal The reasons for such extreme caution are obvious. Perjury is a very grievous sin, and there is temptation to commit perjury whenever people are allowed to swear for their own benefit. Hence the caution that was ordered to be used in the administration of an oath of purgation. The form of process was enacted by the General Assembly in 1707, but how much the spirit of its provisions appeared in the proceedings of Kirk Sessions at an earlier date may be gathered from the following cases. In 1696 a Mauchline man accused of a sin which inferred civil consequences was loud in his denial of guilt, and pressed to be permitted to clear himself by the oath of purgation. The minutes state,however, that "the Kirk Session, too much fearing he was guilty, did not admit him to swear." Again, in 1698 a man, described as a merchant in Kilmarnock, having his good fame and worldly credit traduced by a Mauchline belle, came to the Session under the pressure of injured feelings to declare his innocence. He offered, like a merchant and a gentleman, to give the oath of exculpation, but the Session considered, to use the words of their minute, "that it was not safe to be rash in taking his oath, and appointed both him and his accuser to be cited to the next meeting " for further examination. And the wisdom of the Session's caution in this instance was vindicated, for at the next meeting of Session the man being asked if he adhered to his denial of guilt, " paused a little, and being urged to give an answer "confessed to the guilt. In 1704 one James Millar appeared before the pulpit in Mauchline church after sermon and declared himself content to take the oath of purgation, which was read to him by the minister. The minister, however, was "in such a consternation he would not administer the oath till the next Lord's day." It is not made clear whether when next Lord's day came Miller failed to come forward or that the minister's consternation was not removed, but it is stated that the administration of the oath was postponed till the Sabbath following. On that second Sabbath Miller was allowed to take the oath, but with what solemnity on his part, and with what consternation on the part of the minister, may be imagined from the fact recorded, that the man had to go down on his bended knees before the congregation. In our records prior to 1707 several instances occur of people being positively refused the privilege of clearing themselves by oath. Sometimes a copy of the oath was given to a man that he might consider whether it would be safe and proper for him to swear according to its tenor. [There are several cases on record in the books of the Presbytery of Ayr in which persons offering to take the oath of purgation got a double or copy of it to consider. How dreadful the old oath, prior to 1707, was, will be seen at Appendix C.] In the Mauchline records of 1787 there is engrossed a copy of a curious protest and appeal by a man against a sentence of the Session appointing his accuser, a woman, to establish her charge by oath. In this singular document the appellant takes on himself to lay down to the Session the ecclesiastical law on the subject. "That law," he says, "requires men charged as he was to swear before the congregation after carrying a copy of the oath for twelve or more months, and surely," he adds, "no less occasion is necessary to be used before taking a woman's oath, many of whom would require great pains and diligence used to make them to understand the very nature of an oath." It is scarcely necessary to say that there never was such a law in the Church as was stated by this consequential man.

It is only in cases where there are strong presumptions of guilt that the form of process, 1707, allows the oath of purgation to be administered. In early times, however, Kirk Sessions were not always particular on this point, and oaths of exculpation were occasionally allowed, if not even required, when nothing but innocence should have been presumed. In 1680 a woman in Mauchline was slandered by a man, and the Session allowed her the privilege of clearing herself by oath before the congregation. Such a privilege as that came very far short of women's rights. It is monstrous to think that any person should need or be expected to disprove an unsupported accusation against him. The burden of proof clearly falls in justice on the accuser, and the civil law very properly allows people injured by false accusation the right of not only proving innocence but recovering compensation for damages.

While Kirk Sessions were so zealous and strict in looking after the morals of parishioners it ought to be mentioned that they were no less zealous and rigid in dealing with the members of their own courts. No fania supposed to have the slightest foundation was allowed to pass uninvestigated : and every accusation brought to the Session against an elder was thoroughly sifted, in the same way as an accusation against any other person would have been. And there are cases in the Parish Records in which accusations or reports against ciders were received by the Session of Mauchline. On the 29th May, 1698, it was minuted that "there being a flagrant rumour that J. R., one of the members of Session, should be guilty of theft, the Session took notice thereof, and caused summon several men who were presumed to have some knowledge of that affair, . . . and appointed the minister going to the Presbyterie that week to consult them about it." The case was called at next meeting of Session, and witnesses were examined "severally." One witness deponed that some corn found in the elder's house "by the searchers was very like to his (the witness's) in colour, quantity, and smell." Another declared "that he was very clear to depone upon oath, that some materials belonging to a plough, such as a team, tugs, and heme, found by the searchers in the elder's house were his." A third deponed that he and others had "tracked a horse's footsteps from the barn where the corn was stolen to the elder's house," and that when the house was searched "a lamb's skin was found in the bed-strae which was very like the skin of a lamb that another man wanted." The elder's statement in defence is not recorded, and the absence of that statement makes the Session's deliverance difficult for one to understand. If it were the case that either the elder had been guilty of theft or that the witnesses had been guilty of perjury, then undoubtedly one or other of the parties was amenable to church censure. But apparently such had not been the case. It seems as if the Session thought that the facts deponed to may have been true or been believed by the witnesses to have been true, and yet that the facts did not infer theft, for the deliverance of the Session was that "the thing was rather civil than ecclesiastick, and that the elder should be informed to pursue these persons who, as he said, had slandered him, before the civil magistrate." It is proper to remark that this case occurred during the incumbency of Mr. Maitland, who, whatever were his merits as a man and a preacher, was rather a feeble minister of justice. It was he that was in such a state of consternation in 1704 about giving the oath of purgation. And whether in the days of his stronger-nerved and more legal-minded successor, Mr. Auld, such a negative deliverance on a charge of theft against an elder would have been pronounced, is very doubtful. The Session would probably have found ways and means of making either the innocence or guilt of the elder more clear, not only to themselves, but to all future ministers and elders that should happen to see the record of the case. In 1708 a very painful incident occurred in the parish, which is brought out sufficiently clearly in the following minute of the Presbytery of Ayr, which I shall give verbatim, —"Compeired Robert Miller of Willoxhill, and gave in a petition wherein he desired the Presbytery would relax him from the sentence of minor excommunication and suspension from the office of an elder, which they passed against him upon his striking of a woman upon her refusal of a poynd, and the woman having dyed in a few days thereafter, her friends alledged the said stroak was the means of her death, as is recorded formerly. Withal, he produced an absolvitor under the Sheriff Principal's hand, who had made all search therein, and found nothing to evidence the said aledgiance, and the minister of Mauchline, in whose bounds he lived, told their Session found nothing to make the said aledgiance evident to them : and the Presbytery having considered the said petition, and the Session of Machlyne's account thereanent, did and hereby do absolve the said Robert Miller from the said sentence of minor excommunication, and they refer it to the prudence of the Session of Machlyne whether to invite him to officiat again as an elder or not."

What the Kirk Session did in this matter I cannot discover. The only distinct reference to the case that I have found in the Session Records is the following:—"May 2nd, 1708, Willocks-hill offeired ane petition to the Session in order to take away aspersion laid upon his name, as supposed to be accessory to the death of Janet Hudd, spouse to John Aird in Barloyse, and it's resolved therein to be carried to the Presbytery for an absolvitor, seeing they first passed a sentence upon him."

During the ministry of Mr. Auld there were at least four, but so far as known to me only four instances of an elder being brought up for censure in the Session for an act that inferred scandal. One of these instances was the case of the schoolmaster for an irregular marriage he had contracted, and which will be noticed in its proper place under the head of marriages. Another of the four instances occurred in 1747. It was the case of an elder, who was also Kirk Treasurer, and who was accused first of giving away, or allowing to be taken away, "part of his household plenishings," which he had assigned to the Session as payment in part of what he owed the Session; and secondly, of absenting himself from public ordinances ever since the Session had taken steps to recover from him what he owed. Both charges were admitted by the elder, who had been unfortunate in business, and, to keep the wolf from his door, had used the poor's funds, doubtless hoping that some day he would be able to repay all he had taken,—

"And look the whole world in the face,
For he owed not any man."

But these expectations were never realised. Deeper and deeper the poor man floundered in debt, and all hope of extricating himself died away. And his appropriation of the kirk money was and offence which could not be condoned or overlooked. Poor and heart-broken though he was, therefore, he was ruthlessly and of necessity deposed from his eldership. The third of the four instances referred to, occurred in 1774. In this case the elder and two of his sons were accused of having beaten a man in the Haugh with sticks and tongs and pint stoups, to the effusion of blood, and of having accompanied their blows with profane swearing. It transpired in evidence, that on the night of the February fair the elder had endeavoured to persuade an angry and presumably a half-drunk man to leave a house where a quarrel was being made up, and that on the man's refusing to go away peaceably, the elder, with the assistance of others, had turned him out. In the process of ejection some blows had been struck, but by whom was not clearly proved. It was deponed also that the elder, in the excitement of such an unusual scene, had given vent to some comminative words that are not expected to escape the well-guarded lips of ecclesiastical persons. After a full and patient hearing of the case, the Session found the elder, along with others, guilty of fighting. And although wars on a great scale, where thousands of men are mowed down like thistles, are often called righteous contentions and noble exhibitions of public spirit, a small scuffle between unarmed citizens, resulting in nothing worse than a black eye or a nasal hemorrhage, is always pronounced a very wicked and unchristian act. For the sin therefore of doing what in itself was proper, but was improper in being done by means of tongs and pint stoups, the elder was sentenced to be rebuked and to be admonished to behave better in time coming. But he thought himself a maligned and much injured man, and would not submit to the indignity of a rebuke. He was accordingly continued under scandal, and allowed time to reflect on his conduct. Two months later he came back to the Session and acknowledged that " he was not absolutely certain of his being guilty or not guilty, but if he was guilty in any respect he professed his sorrow for it, and likewise with respect to an expression just now uttered, viz.: Dear, keep me, he owns that it was rash and sinful."

This confession looks very like an artifice on the part of the accused to withdraw attention from the greater charge by a frank admission of the lesser. If such a ruse, however, was intended by him, it did not succeed. The order was renewed that he be rebuked and admonished. And although he was, on submission to this sentence, at once absolved from scandal, and "admitted to the privileges of a Christian," he was suspended from the exercise of his office as an elder, until the Session should have sufficient evidence of his being qualified by his after behaviour."

The last of the four instances I have noted of an elder being brought before Mauchline Session by delation or favia clamosa for a scandalous offence was that of William Fisher —Holy Willie, as he is called—for an instance of drunkenness in 1790. Of that case there is no record in the extant minutes of Kirk Session. But the reason of this omission can be clearly made out from what is stated in the Session Records two or three years later and from what appears in the Presbytery Records between 1790 and 1792. In 1790 the Session Clerk had been suspended from his office for some alleged fault, and that was at least the fifth charge of one kind or another which had been brought against him in the Church Courts. During the time that the legality of this dismissal was being contested at law, the proceedings of the Kirk Session were scrolled by an ad interim clerk whose papers have not been recovered. It is not unlikely that that ad interim clerk was Mr. Auld himself, for on a former similar occasion he so acted. Be that as it may, however, there is a blank in the Session Records from August, 1790, till September, 1792, and it was during this period that Fisher's frailty was brought to light The rebuke given to Fisher I discovered in a small manuscript volume in Mr. Auld's handwriting, which contains the admonitions, or the greater part of the admonitions, delivered to delinquents by Mr. Auld during the last twenty-five or thirty years of his ministry. [This interesting manuscript volume is in the possession of the Rev. John Ritchie of Langskle, Glasgow.] It contains, for instance, the public rebuke given to Burns and Jean Armour in 1786, and a rebuke that in 1782 was given to Janet Gibson, who figures in Burns' poems under the soubriquet of Racer Jess. And I may remark that while in Mr. Auld's manuscript book Fisher's offence is called "an instance of drunkenness," the admonition rather insinuates that by 1790 Willie had come to be too free in his habits. He was bidden shun bad company, avoid taverns as much as possible, and abhor the character of a tippler. He was reminded also that drunkenness is a bewitching sin, and he was exhorted therefore to seek wisdom from heaven to guide him, and grace to enable him to walk steadfastly in sobriety and holiness all his days. It is well enough known, however, that charges of a worse kind than drunkenness—charges of dishonesty and of pilfering the alms of the poor—have been made by Burns and Burns's biographers against Fisher, but of these alleged misdeeds there is no trace so far as I have seen, in any part of the Kirk Session records. And these records were carefully kept and have come down to us apparently entire from the date of Fisher's ordination as an elder till the Session's quarrel with their Clerk in 1790. Of course it is well enough known that cock and bull stories about elders appropriating the poor's funds have always formed part of rural gossip. The records of this parish tell of a man that was called to account by the Session in 1735, for saying that some of the elders drank the poor's money. That is just a sample of the idle fables that senseless or ill-conditioned people would make themselves and others believe. And William Fisher was the kind of man that people were apt to raise stories about. He was what was termed a great professor, not exactly in the sense of being a pretender, but in the sense of making his convictions known and his light shine in full blaze before men. He is spoken of by old people, whose parents knew him intimately, as a man of wonderful gifts in prayer, and we may suppose that both at sick-beds and at funerals his gifts would be conspicuously displayed. He was a zealous disciplinarian too, and was frequently sent by the Session on delicate missions of enquiry into famas affecting members of the congregation. As Antony said of Lepidus, he was—

"A slight unmeritable man
Meet to be sent on errands."

To a certain class of people he must accordingly have been obnoxious, and all latitudinarians would naturally enjoy the pleasure of finding some little rent in his garments. Stories to his discredit would be eagerly received, not examined very carefully, industriously circulated, and adorned with exaggerations. Myths would eventually assume the form of historical facts. [There was no charge of dishonesty brought against Mr. Hamilton. He was simply complained of for declining to do one of two things—either pay to the Session the total amount of assessment laid on the heritors for support of the poor, or .shew what heritors had failed to pay their assessment. It was very common last century for heritors to decline payment of poor's rates. In 1737 the heritors of Galston gave orders that those who had not paid their stent for the year 1735-6 should be ] But whatever were his merits or demerits, it is to my mind simply incredible that any serious allegation of his tampering with the funds of the poor could ever have reached the ears of the Session without leading to a searching investigation. The rights and welfare of the poor were subjects on which Mr. Auld and his Session were zealous to excess. It was zeal for the good of the poor that first led Mr. Auld to quarrel with Mr. Gavin Hamilton, and it was probably owing to the way in which Mr. Auld displayed his zeal that Mr. Hamilton became remiss in his attendance on religious ordinances. And the noise that Mr Auld and the Session made for whole nine years about Mr. Hamilton's declinature to account for his incomplete return of poor's rates during the short time he collected the assessment, proves that if the Session had been cognisant of any fama, to which the slightest credit was attached, of an elder's appropriating parish or poor's funds, that fama would have induced a searching enquiry.f And there is no notice, as I have said, of any

In Cunningham's life of Burns it is alleged that the satire of the poet "made holy Willie think of suicide." It is not to be wondered at, especially if Willie was innocent of what Burns laid to his charge. It is indeed not impossible that the annoyance suffered by Fisher from the circulation of baseless slanders against him may have fostered his tippling habits, such fama regarding William Fisher in any part of the Session Records. The only person called to account by the Session of Mauchline for tampering with the poor's funds during or near to the time of Burns's connection with the parish was the kirk-officer, and his misbehaviour was not of a very flagrant kind. He was appointed by the Session to distribute the pensions to the paupers, and he deducted, out of each payment he made, a half-penny as recompense for his trouble. And for doing so he was very sharply reprimanded by the Session.

The Kirk Session of Mauchline were, if possible, more strict with their own members than with the rest of the community. Not only did they take up aM/amas and reports against elders, but every year, especially during Mr. Auld's ministry, they held two special meetings for prayers and privy censures, or, as it might be better expressed, for private censures of their own members.[Such meetings for privy censures date almost from the Reformation. See Records of Kirk Session of Aberdeen, 156S. There were also meetings of Presbytery for privy censures, and how these meetings were conducted the following minute from the records of the Presbytery of Ayr, of date 1723, will shew:—"After Messrs.--------had prayed by courses, and had given answers to the usual questions, they were removed two by two, and nothing being found but what was suitable, they were called in and encouraged to go on in their work." At other limes things unsuitable were found, and admonition was given.] The appointment of these meetings as a standing part of Sessional procedure in this parish, was minuted in December, 1752. Such meetings may have been held long before that date, but a formal resolution to hold them was then minuted and carefully adhered to. As far back as 1705 the Presbytery of Ayr instructed all ministers within the bounds to meet for prayer with their elders; and in "poynded and distrinzied." About the same date (1737) some of the heritors of the West Kirk Parish, Edinburgh, refused to pay rates on the ground of their being not legally exigible. In 1740 the Kirk Session of that parish instituted a prosecution of these heritors for payment, but the court decided in the heritors' favour. 1723 the following appointment was entered in the Presbytery records:—"In order to comply with the act of last Synod as to Sessions' observing a day for prayer and privy censures, the ministers of Air are to draw up a formula of questions to be put to members of Session." In 1752 the Presbytery once more appointed "that ministers and Sessions meet frequently for prayer, and be put on privy censures." This last quoted appointment explains the occasion of the minute of December, 1752, in our parish records, that I have referred to. Our Session minutes do not indicate the form of procedure gone through at these meetings for censure, but the law of the Church directed that the elders one after another should be removed, and when one was absent the others told tales about him, and declared if they had seen or heard of anything in his behaviour requiring rebuke.

It may be said that, as a rule, nothing worthy of censure was found against the elders, nor against the session-clerk, nor church-officer either; for the obvious reason that scandals about men in honourable positions are of rare occurrence. The common entry in the minutes was, "the elders were taken on privy censures and were approven of, likewise their session-clerk and officer were approven of." But there was occasionally an exception to this rule. In 1755 two of the elders of Mauchline were censured, one for entertaining a company in his house to a late hour, and the other for being in that company. It is certain, therefore, that no elder in Mauchline Parish, especially in Mr. Auld's days, could have been known by the Session to have committed any impropriety or breach of decorum without being taken to task for it, and having his misconduct placed on permanent record.

In addition to all these modes of inquisition for the discovery and correction of faults and misconduct, there was another still more formidable than any. This was the visitation of the Parish by the Presbytery. There is no notice of any such visitation of Mauchline Parish in our extant session records, but it would be erroneous to conclude from this fact that no such visitation ever took place. The records of the Presbytery of Ayr contain accounts of many such visitations at Mauchline, and in some instances the visitations were not very pleasant, especially in the days of Mr. Maitland's incumbency. The official reports of some of these visitations I shall give separately, but here I may state what was the general form of procedure adopted on all such occasions. [Appendix D.] First of all the minister, after having given auricular proof of his pulpit gifts, by preaching a sermon from "his ordinary text," was removed, and the elders were questioned about his ministerial diligence and manner of life. The questions that might be asked about him were, according to Pardovan, almost infinite 'in both number and variety. Among those that now-a-days would be thought most outrS were the following:—"Is he a haunter of ale-houses? Is he a swearer of small minced oaths, such as, before God it is so? I protest before God, or Lord what is that? Saw ye him ever drink healths? Is Saturday only his book-day or is he constantly at his calling? Doth he preach plainly, or is he hard to be understood for his scholastic terms, matter, or manner of preaching? What time of day doth he ordinarily begin sermon on the Sabbath, and when doth he dismiss the people? Doth he ever censure people for idleness, breach of promise, or backbiting? Doth he restrain abuses at penny weddings? Doth he carry any way partially so that he may become popular?" After the elders had been questioned regarding the minister, the elders were themselves removed, and heads of families were interrogated concerning the life and conduct of the several members of Session. The precentor and beadle were in like manner put under inquisition, and the full circle of inquiry was subsequently completed by removing heads of families and questioning minister and elders if they had any thing to say about the congregation generally, or about any individual members of it in particular. A great many other matters were inquired into,—such as the state of the church, manse, churchyard, church Bible, communion cups, the session registers, the number and names of books in the minister's library, and the provision made for the poor. Some of these inquiries were doubtless very proper and very useful, but the visitations were in many respects calculated to do a thousand times more evil than good. They encouraged a spirit of criticism, gave opportunity for the venting of calumnies, created bad feeling in the Parish, and in general produced all the mischievous effects that usually accompany or flow from vexatious interference. One cannot wonder that ministers winced a good deal under such inquisitorial visitations, and that they were tempted at times to reply somewhat tartly to remarks on their sermons, by alleging, as the minister of Maybole did in 1718, that "some tastes are more perverse and peevish than delicate." As an illustration of the tattling criticism that Presbyterial visitations evoked, the following account of what took place at the Kirk of Holyrood House, in June, 1583, may be adduced:—"John Brand, minister, being removed, it was asked if any person had aught to lay to his charge in respect of doctrine, office, life, or conversation. Inter alia, some persons accused him of negligence in seeking to reconcile people at variance. The said John being recalled, answered that with sundry trifling exceptions, the very contrary of that was the truth. And to justify his conduct in these exceptional cases, he added that as touching wives flyting, he found that by frequent reconciliation and removal of all fear of punishment, they were the more encouraged in their sin!" Previous to the Secession of 1843, when party feeling ran very high in the Church, the visitation of Parishes was resumed in some Presbyteries, and it is alleged was both carried on in a partisan spirit, and was made to serve party purposes.

In a previous lecture I indicated some of the complaints that were given in to the Presbytery of Ayr at Parochial visitations, and I may in subsequent lectures have occasion to indicate others. As the subject of this lecture is Church discipline, I may here state that objection was often taken by Parishioners to the way in which discipline was exercised. And, strange to say, it was to the laxity rather than the rigidity of discipline that objection was usually raised. In 1644 tne Parishioners of Craigie complained " that discipline was not particularly exercised, nor order taken with sundrie persons who absented themselves on the Lord's day from the public worship, but wer spending the day in sleiping and drinking or in going to uther kirks. Also that no order wes taken with beggars and tinkers fighting and drinking about the Kirk of Riccarton (then in Craigie Parish), not only on the week days but also on the Sabbath."

It will thus be seen what a strict and rigid system of supervision the Church in olden times exercised in every Parish. "The only complaint of profane people," said old Kirkton, "was that the government was too strict, and that they had not liberty enough to sin." It need not surprise us that remonstrances from the profane were occasionally heard.


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