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


What scandals were investigated by Kirk Sessions—Insolence to, or slander of any member of Session—Disrespect for the rules or ordinances of the Church— Drunkenness—Broils and bickerings—Theft—Murder—Sabbath breaking-Impurity—Witchcraft—Cursing—Heresy—Schism and Secession—Taking the bond.

In last Lecture we considered the mode of inquisition adopted by Kirk-Sessions long ago in dealing with scandals. We saw that, for the purpose of Sessional supervision, each parish was divided into a number of districts, and that each district was assigned to the care of a particular elder, who was required to report to the Session what scandals and misorders existed within the bounds of his charge. People coming to a parish were required to bring with them testimonials, and on leaving a parish they were required, if they wished to have the benefit of Church privileges and to escape the inconvenience of Church censures, to take testimonials with them. When scandals were reported to Kirk Sessions, the parties delated were summoned to appear before the Session; and when guilt was denied, witnesses were examined on oath. In certain cases, where proof of guilt was not established, but presumptions of guilt were not removed, persons accused were, with the sanction of the Presbytery, allowed to take an oath of exculpation, either before the Session in private or before the whole congregation, as was thought best, and then they were assoilzied and treated as innocent.

In the present lecture we have to consider the different forms of scandal that Kirk Sessions condescended or thought it their duty to take cognisance of.

It is plain that if I were to draw materials from all available sources this lecture might be expanded to the dimensions of a cyclopaedia. I propose, therefore, to confine myself in this lecture very much to what is contained in our own parish records, and by this means I shall more truly and faithfully shew what Church rule actually was in an average Ayrshire parish long ago. I shall however refer occasionally both to the laws of the Church and to the records of other Sessions than our own, so as to shew to what extent the discipline in Mauchline conformed to general usage.

The practice of Kirk Sessions at the present day is to take up no cases of scandal but such as are forced on their attention and are of such gravity that they cannot be overlooked without bringing reproach on the Church. Kirk Sessions now-a-days consider that it is not for edification that they should be officiously zealous in the exercise of their judicial authority, and that the reformation of manners in a parish is more likely to be promoted by pulpit counsel and social education than by the pains of infamy and censure. But Kirk Sessions long ago took a different view of their duty. To overlook a fault was in their opinion to connive at sin, and had a tendency to harden the sinner in his iniquity. All offences, therefore, of word and deed—such as cursing and swearing—defamation and falsehood—uncleanness and drunkenness—fighting and stealing— Sabbath breaking and venting of heresy—were taken instant notice of by Kirk Sessions, and when proved were visited with quick and sharp censure. The scandals mentioned in our records—scanty as these records are compared with the records of larger and more wicked parishes—as having come under the notice and reproof of Mauchline Kirk Session, are so many and miscellaneous, that it is no easy task to bring them all under review, and many of them are so paltry that there is risk of their recapitulation proving very tedious.

To shew, however, what was the kind of discipline exercised long ago by Kirk Sessions, I must, though it be at the risk of proving tedious, enumerate all the different sorts of charges, frivolous as well as serious, that Kirk Sessions were in the way of receiving and investigating.

Kirk Sessions, in the first place, were very careful to maintain their own dignity and good name. Any word or action that could be construed as an intentional insult to the Session, as a shew of contempt for their authority, or as a slander on any of their members, was promptly resented. And in this matter all kirk sessions were much alike, whether north of the Tay or south of the Tay, and whether urban or rural. In 1645 a man, whose name, Malcolm Fleming, betokened international pedigree, was by the General Kirk Session of Edinburgh fined in 40 merks for some act of incaution or unrestraint, which is vaguely and dubiously described as a "misbehaviour that escaped him in presence of the Session"! No liberties, it will thus be seen, were allowed to be taken in the Session's presence. In last lecture it was stated that on one occasion a man was called to account by the Kirk Session of Mauchline, for alleging that some of the elders drank the poor's money. The slander, for of course it was a slander, was simply the hasty utterance of a passionate man who wished to avenge himself on some members of the Kirk Session for the zeal they had shown in inquiring into some parts of his own conduct which could not bear investigation. And there are on record several other instances of similar speeches, made under similar circumstances, against one or more of the elders of this parish, or all of them together. These speeches, although foolish and unworthy of notice, were all declared scandals by the Session, and the utterers of them were brought to book. In 1674 and 1675, one Adam Reid was twice over summoned to the Session and rebuked for "cursing and railing on ye elders." In 1707 another case of similar misconduct was reported to the Session. The culprit, in this instance, was a woman whose quarrels with a neighbour had been the subject of ecclesiastical inquisition. She had been found in the wrong and she thereupon accused the Session of injustice, and went the further length of calling one of the members a Judas Iscariot. The last occasion on which, so far as I have observed, the Session of Mauchline took notice of any outside speeches made against themselves was in 1735, during the ministry of Mr. Maitland. And it was one of those speeches which so far overshoot the mark that they might be laughed at and let alone. The railer had been provoked by the Session's refusing him a token of admission to the Lord's Table, and he gave vent to his wrath by calling the whole Session—"ane and a'—a pack o' villains." Such ebullitions of bucolic temper, it will now be admitted on all hands, were scarcely worthy of serious consideration, and when kirk sessions condescended to take notice of such petty faults, we may be sure that in their high ecclesiastical state they did not eat the bread of idleness. Prior to the date at which our Session Records begin, there were people in Mauchline Parish faulted by the Church for their disrespect, both to the Kirk Session and minister. The records of the Presbytery of Ayr shew that in December, 1646, George Campbell of Brigend, in Mauchline,-compeared before the Presbytery and "wes gravely challenged for his wicked miscarriage against Mr. Thomas Wyllie, his minister, and against the Session of Mauchline and magistrat there. The Presbytery appointed a letter to be written to the Commission of the Kirk for joyning in supplication with the parochinars, that order may be taken with the said George." A few months later, "Robert (George ?) Campbell, in Mauchline, compeared in sackcloth for abusing his minister, Mr. Thomas Wyllie, both in speech and carriage, and was ordained to satisfie in sackcloth in the Kirks of Machlin, Gaston, Tarbolton, Uchiltrie, and Cumnock, and thereafter to compeir before the Presbytery." [Such penitential tours were not uncommon in the seventeenth century, and the discipline they constituted was called " circular .satisfaction."] But in respect of slandering their spiritual rulers, Mauchline people were no worse than their neighbours. In Fenwick records there is notice of a man's being delated to the Session of that Parish in 1646 for "calling one of the elders a mansworn slaverie loon."

It is not to be supposed, however, that the carefulness shewn by kirk sessions to maintain and vindicate their own good name was caused either entirely or chiefly by jealousy of their personal honour and dignity. They considered that reflections on themselves were reflections on the service in which they were engaged, and that contempt for the officers of the Church would lead to, if it did not spring from, contempt for religion. We find, accordingly, that kirk sessions were particularly strict in seeing that no slight, or appearance of slight, should be shewn towards any religious ordinance. Twice over at least there are notices of men's being summoned before the Session, in Mauchline, for returning small pieces of coin instead of tokens to the elders at the communion table. On one occasion a farmer gave a farthing instead of a token, and on another occasion a young lad gave a sixpence instead of a token. Both of these acts could have been done by mistake, and the wonder is that some such mistakes did not occur at every sacrament. The tokens were small round pieces of lead : some were about as thin as a sixpence, and others were about the thickness of a farthing. But it was just within the bounds of possibility that the substitution of a coin for a token was a device for obtaining, or helping some one to obtain, an unauthorised privilege. Indeed, it was not unusual for persons under scandal to force, or fraudulently find, their way to the Lord's table. In the year 1775, at a meeting of the Kirk Session after the communion at Mauchline, it was reported that a woman under scandal had been seen at the communion table, and that she had a token. Her name was on the list of those to whom tokens were to be refused, and yet she had obtained what it was minuted she was not to get. There was another person whom the Session were surprised to see at the sacrament that year, and it was resolved that he should be asked to tell the Session how and where he had procured his token. And incidents like these occurred in other parishes. As far back as 1647, when the Covenanted Church was in the height of her pride and purity, a man was called before the Session of Galston for "giving a ticket to a strange unknown woman, to whom the minister refused a ticket for manifold reasons"; and the said woman was also called before the Session "for taking a ticket from ------, and coming to the Lord's table." At a still earlier date than that, namely, in 1634, a man was taken to task by the Kirk Session of Galston for "breech of the act set down anent these qho keipit not their tickets but gave them to uthers," and having pled guilty he was ordained "to mak his repentance and peye 10s." [*The Kirk Session of Galston in 162S " statut and ordained that quhatsumever persone quha hes the credit of the keiping quhat the kirk orders upon the com-amnion daye, that brings in or admittis any persones quha ar reflectabill to this kirk or disobedient to the same in any wayes, without the consent of the haill Sessioune, sail pay 10 to the use of the kirk."]

When a man presented a coin, therefore, instead of a token, it was deemed necessary for the Session to take notice of the matter formally and officially, so that all the congregation might know that the Lord's table was not to be approached without a Sessional pass. Wodrow mentions in one of his books a strange, and for the moment a very painful scene, which occurred at his own communion at Eastwood, in the year 1711. Two or three English soldiers presented themselves at that communion, and one of these came forward without a token. He happened to be seated near the upper end of the table, within whispering reach of Wodrow himself. He was seen by Wodrow to have no token, and he was desired by Wodrow to come out to the churchyard for a moment's private conference. He was then asked outside why he had presumed to seat him-.self at the Lord's table without a token of admission. "In my native country," said the man, "there is no such custom as you refer to, and if I have given offence it was not of intention, but in ignorance of Scottish ways." Wodrow then examined him at the church-door regarding his knowledge of the gospel and his faith in Christ, and being well satisfied with his answers gave him a token and told him he might go forward to the next table. The position that Kirk Sessions took up was this, —All our discipline, in its main provisions, at least, is of divine authority, and we ourselves are solemnly ordained to rule for Christ in Christ's Church, and we dare not therefore let either our discipline or our ordination suffer contempt at the hands of any profane or ignorant person.

Among the sins named by St. Paul as excluding people from the kingdom of God, drunkenness is mentioned. It may be presumed, therefore, that drunkenness would be one of the scandals that Kirk Sessions would visit with censure, and so it was. The Church of Scotland never went the length of Jonathan the son of Rcchab in forbidding the use of either wine or ale or alcohol, and she never made total abstinence from intoxicating liquors a pre-requisite for Church membership. Her principle has always been that men should never in zeal for any cause that seems good in their own eyes, go beyond what Scripture has commanded or prohibited, never exclude whom God has not ordered to be excluded, nor curse whom God has not cursed. [The Galslon Records of 1640 describe the two kinds of censurable drinking as "excessive and exorbitant drinking in the day tyme," and "extraordinarie drinking after ten hours at even."] But she denounced all untimeous and excessive drinking, and forbade publicans to supply drink at unseasonable hours. In the year 1675, there was a publican named Campbell brought before the Kirk Session of Mauchline ; and the minutes state that, "being convict, by his own confession and the deposition of one witness, of selling ale until the four hours in the Sabbath morning, he was appointed to be rebuked publicly," that is, in the presence of the congregation, the following Sabbath. And in 1702 "the Session," I quote verbatim from the records, "appointed the minister to give a public rebuke to all the brewers in the toun for selling drink beyond the ordinary time of the night." What was counted the ordinary time of night in 1702 was probably ten o'clock. At least it is stated in the Records of the Burgh of Aberdeen that in 1601 the magistrates issued an order that no ale nor wine should be sold after that hour, and in Caldcr's squib we read of a man's being called before the Kirk Session "for drinking after the ten hour bell." 

[It may be staled that there was an old Act of Parliament which ordained that "na man sail be found in taverns after nine hours at night and the bell, under the pain of prison, and gif the aldermen or baillies puttes them not to prison they shall pay 50 shillings."—Regiam Majestalem, Part 2nd, p. 58. In 1646 the Kirk Session of Fenwick ordained that "if any be found drinking in any change-house within the parish after nine hours al night, they shall acknowledge the same publicly before the congregation and pay ane merk, as also ye seller of the drink to give satisfaction in like manner." The Kirk Session of Galston in 1634 caused proclamation that wherever " hostlers within the parochine sells drink or keips people drinkand in their house after ten hours at even alher upon ye Sabbath night or oulk night, they sail undeily the censure and acts of the kirk in penaltie and repentance." In 1720 the Galston Session appointed " lhat the bell be rung al 6 in the morning and at 9 at night, ye drum co go al 5 in the morning and at 10 at night." An old ballad says,—

"There were four drunken maidens
Together did convene,
From twelve o'clock in a May morning
Till ten rang out at e'en,
Till ten rang out at e'en,
And then they gie'd it ower."

Elders' hours is a phrase that has long been in use to designate ten o'clock at night, and the most probable way of accounting for the phrase is that ten o'clock was the hour at which people were sent home by the elders from the ale-house.]

But it was not merely the sellers of ale that the Kirk Session came down upon. It was stated in last lecture that in 1755 two elders were rebuked in the Session for drinking after elders' hours. Neither of these elders was alleged to have been the worse of drink, but they were said to have created scandal by the length of time they sat at their potations. And while untimeous drinking was censured, much more was excessive drinking. Our records contain many entries of rebukes for drunkenness, especially when aggravated by swearing or violent conduct. One extract will suffice to shew what was the practice of the Kirk Session when a case of drunkenness was reported. And to prevent its being supposed that the instance adduced was in any way exceptional or antiquated, I shall quote from a minute of comparatively recent date. In 1772 "James Craig (I purposely change the name) being charged with the sin of drunkenness, was called and compeared, and acknowledged his guilt and his sorrow for it, Declared also his resolution to behave well in time coming."

As a rule, people accused of drunkenness were very civil to the Kirk Session, and like Mr. Craig were ready to profess any amount of sorrow for their sins, and to promise good behaviour for the future. There were exceptions to that rule, however, as there are to most rules. One whose conduct formed very marked exception to that rule, was Agnes Ronald, better known to the readers of Burns's poems as Poosie Nansie. Agnes had the privilege of receiving many admonitions from the Kirk Session, but to no purpose. In 1773 it was reported to the Session "that Agnes Ronald, wife of George Gibson, is habitually drunk, troublesome to her neighbours, and frequently disturbs the sober passengers." Agnes was summoned, therefore, to appear before the Session and give an account of herself. And she was not reluctant to make appearance. She did not need to be bidden twice, and when she came to the Session she was quite at her ease, and had her mind made up what to say. The minute states, "compeared Agnes Ronald, and declares before the Session that she is resolved to continue in her disorderly way." And as if that were not plain enough speaking, she more pointedly "declared her resolution to continue in the sin of drunkenness!' Such a declaration would have flabbergasted many a Kirk Session. Poor Mr. Maitland would have been thrown into "consternation" for months if such a speech had been made to him. But Mr. Auld was of sterner stuff, and his equanimity was not disturbed by Mrs. Gibson's vapouring. He did not even condescend to reply to her insolence, but got it minuted that "the Session, considering the foresaid foolish resolution and expression, do immediately exclude her from the privileges of the Church until she shall profess her repentance." When, if ever, she was induced to profess repentance, I have not noted; but I have observed that for year? and years her name appeared regularly on the list of those to whom tokens of admission to the Lord's table were to be refused.

Occasions sometimes occurred on which stronger measures than those I have indicated were adopted by Kirk Sessions in their laudable desire to reclaim drunkards from their evil habits. In 1646, a man at Galston was found the worse of drink after having promised to abstain from the use of intoxicating liquors. He was thus guilty of a breach of promise, as well as of an act of intemperance, and he was accordingly made " to sit down on his knees before the Session and confess his fault." The Kirk Session of Fenwick had to deal with a similar case the following year, and with the delinquent's own consent they entered on their register, that if found guilty of drunkenness again he would be made to stand in the joggs at the kirk door, and afterwards in the public place of repentance within the kirk, and pay for penalty the sum of 40s., with duplicate every time that the offence should be repeated. Sometimes, however, Sessions were so baffled in their dealings with these habituals that they had to invoke Presbyterial wisdom for advice and Presbyterial authority for correction. In 1710 it was minuted by the Presbytery of Ayr that an inebriate whose name was mentioned had been "frequently guilty of drunkenness since the time he promised to the Presbytery to amend his life," but that Lord Cathcart and others had "taken some course to oblige the said David to live more soberly." And very strict inquisition was made by Presbyteries into all sins of jollity. In 1693 a probationer within the bounds got a surprise one morning in being taken to task by his reverend fathers for "drinking and learning others to drink healths." Singular words of wisdom, too, were occasionally emitted by the culprits who were brought in their sober senses before the Presbytery to answer for outbreaks of insobriety. A philologist from Cumnock made a statement in 1697 that might have immortalised a German. He comprehended the wide significance of the word intemperance—as applicable to words of haste and deeds of violence, as well as to states of intoxication—and on hearing his charge read over therefore he confessed himself guilty of "intemperance, and particularly of drunkenness."

Besides drunkenness, all the other common kinds of immorality, such as swearing and fighting and purloining, were taken strict cognisance of by Kirk Sessions. Many of the cases of cursing and beating reported in the earlier pages of our Parochial records were of such a domestic nature that it might have been better if they had been overlooked. A quiet word in season by the elder of the district when he went his monthly rounds might have done more good than a citation to the Kirk Session. But these old broils and bickerings, although they ought perhaps to be buried in oblivion, had occasionally a humorous aspect, and great is the temptation to unearth one or two of the least unmentionable of them. In 1682 Jean Campbell and John Campbell, it does not matter of where, were summoned to answer to a charge of scolding and railing. Both parties, mentibus consciis recti, innocent as doves, presented themselves before Mr. Veitch and his covenanting elders. Jean smiled at the charge when it was intimated to her, and explained that she had only "reproved John for lowsing a beast and letting it goe amang the corn." John, on the other hand, assured the Session that all the extent of his delinquency was calling Jean "an ill-favoured blade," for putting on him the blame of a cow's misdeeds. At the present day we are sometimes shocked to read in the newspapers of cruel and cowardly cases of wife-beating, but two hundred years ago some married women were more than able to take care of themselves, and be-pommeled husbands had to creep for shelter under the wing of ecclesiastical protection. [Mr. Burton in his History of Scotland quotes an interesting account of the people of Scotland sent to Ferdinand and Isabella by Don Pedro de Ayala in 1498, in which the following sentences occur:—"The women are courteous in the extreme. I mention this because they are really honest, though very bold. They are absolute mistresses of their houses, and even of their husbands, in all things concerning the administration of their property, income as well as expenditure." In the records of the Kirk Session of Ayr for 1605, in John Welsh's time, there is a minute regarding a delinquent, who is described as "ane verie vitious woman, . . quha in face of Session threatened her guidman."—Select Biographies, Wodrow Society. Galston wives too were delated (1694) for "unchristian behaviour towards their husbands and children," and even (1647) " wronging their goodfathers by casting peas at their faces,"] In 1672, Jean Edwards appeared before the Kirk Session, and, "partly by her own confession (for she gloried in her shame), and partly by witnesses that were sworn, was convict of frequent scolding, cursing, swearing, and fighting with her husband, Hew Smith, and beating of him." For these unwomanly practices, Jean was ordered "to be publicly rebuked and suspended from the sacrament of the Lord's supper." And the merry wives of Mauchline were not content with rattling tattoos on the backs of patient husbands, but they now and again had bouts with each other. As recently as 1773 information was lodged with the Session that a woman in the village had attacked her mother-in-law, and "had wounded her in the head by a stroke with the iron tongs." And tongs were not the most lethal weapons that the Amazons of Mauchline flourished in the days when our great-grandfathers were under petticoat government. In 1777 a report came to the ears of the Session that "Kitran Angus had threatened to stick Robert Gibb with a grape." Kitran was instantly called to account, but when the charge against her was announced she jauntily told the Session that she had not meanly taken any undue advantage of her antagonist, for " if she had a grape he had a flail/' It is devoutly to be hoped that Kitran and Robert came to be thankful to the mercy of an over-ruling Providence that they were both spared to compear before the Kirk Session, and that nothing worse befell them than a well-merited rebuke. The weapons of their warfare were fearful, but the story of that warfare has its moral. Passion in its fury overleaps the mark. Had Kitran been content to brandish a broom, and Robert to use a whip, each might have left on the other's person enduring marks of degradation. But their vaulting ambition, in its scorn of things familiar, moved them to lay hold of weapons, destructive and deadly enough in all conscience, but too unwieldy for dexterous handling.

The cases of theft that came before the Kirk Session of Mauchline, I am happy to say, comprise a very light calendar. Neither in number nor enormity were they much of a reproach to the parish. The notice that was taken of them, however, shows how rigorous was the Church discipline. In 1757 a woman was delated for stealing coals out of the minister's close—in 1773 a man was delated for abstracting a hive of bees from the cooper's garden—in 1774 a woman confessed that at last fair she had lifted a jug from a pewterer's stall, but only, she said, for the inspection of a friend who wished to purchase a jug—and in 1777 there was entered on the list of those to be excluded from the Lord's supper the name of Jean Mitchell, "for stealing a hen as alleged." [In 1773 the Kirk Session declared themselves unanimously of opinion that "George Gibson keeps a very irregular house, and that his wife and daughter (Poosie Nansie and Racer Jess) are guilty of resetting stolen goods, knowing the same to be stolen,"] These are, if not all, at least the principal cases of theft that, so far as I have noted, were ever reported to the Kirk Session of Mauchline. And there is a sorrowful story to tell about Jean Mitchell, the last-mentioned of the Mauchline thieves. Although guilt had never been brought home to her, and she was only "alleged" to have stolen a hen, yet for five years her name was placed on the black list of those that were to be debarred from communion, with the same words each year appended to her name, "for stealing a hen as alleged." And what is more sad to state, the scandal was never removed during her lifetime, for in the records of the year 1782 there is a stroke drawn through her name and her alleged offence, and on the margin of the book is written the word that can never be recalled or deleted, "dead." The impression left on my mind from reading old Session Records, is that the people of Ayrshire long ago were wonderfully free from sins of covetousness. The charges of theft that came before Kirk Sessions were far fewer and more paltry than I expected to find, and there was often great sensitiveness exhibited under accusations of dishonesty. In 1633 there was an honest man, for I cannot doubt that, both in the ancient and the modern sense of the word, he was honest, that could get no sleep to his eyes nor slumber to his eyelids, because a prating and malicious neighbour had said of him, "Thow wes followit out of Loudoune with stolne yairn" Would that more people now-a-days were distressed with such reproaches!

It will not surprise any one to be told that in our extant Session Records there is no case of murder, because if such a thing as murder had happened in the parish we might have expected that "hanging of the author should have prevented all further censures." There was, however, a case of murder in this parish, which was taken up by the Church courts, and apparently by them alone. [In 1648 the General Assembly enacted that for the sin of murder people should make public profession of repentance fifty-two Sabbaths, in case the magistrate do not his duty in punishing the crime capitally.] The murder was committed in 1642, which was nearly thirty years before the date of our oldest extant minute of Kirk Session. There is no reference to the murder, therefore, in our Session Records; but in the records of the Presbytery of Ayr there is a full account of the ecclesiastical procedure that was taken against the murderer. In the month of June, 1642, the Presbytery ordained "Mr. George Young, minister at Mauchline, to summond from pulpit Mungo Campbell, sone to Hew Campbell in Netherplace, to compeir before the Presbyterie to be holden in Ayr, the 20th July next to come, to answer before them for the cruel and un-naturall murth^ring and killing, in the town of Machling, of John Campbell in Mossgavill, as wes gravely related by the said Mr. George." This pulpit citation was disregarded by Mr. Mungo, more probably from fear than from disrespect, and we may presume it had to be renewed oftener than once. At length, on the 12th April, 1643, was minuted in the Presbytery book that Mungo Campbell, being called and not compearing, "Alexander Peden, his brother-in-law, presented a supplication in his name, subscribed with his hands, wherein was declared the willingness of the said Mungo to give obedience and satisfaction to the Presbyterie, if possiblie he might compeir befoir them without hazard of his life. The quhilk supplication being read and considered, the Presbyterie fand themselves satisfied with the samen, and therefore appointed Mr. George Young and William Campbell of Hollhouse to speak the partie offen-dit, and to deal with them, to give assurance not to persew the said Mungo till he gave signes of his public repentance as he suld be enjoyned." If Mungo was troubled by a sense of sin at all, he was at least not shamed by it into good conduct, for the next account we have of him in the Presbytery records states that to his former transgression he had added recent iniquity. In November, 1645, "report was made," so runs the minute of Presbytery, "that Mungo Campbell in Machlin, who this long tyme hes lyen under the scandall of murther, not yet satisfied, hes fallen in ye sinnc " that always implies a partner in guilt. "The Presbytery, considering the hynousnes of the said scandalls, thought meit that they shuld be represented to the nixt ensuing Synod at Hamilton, thaire to be advysed upon, for course taking with him thereanent." Synodical authority, combined perhaps with a sense of the inconvenience of long continued isolation from society, induced Mungo at last to make peace with the Church, and it is to be hoped to seek peace also with his Maker. In September, 1646, therefore, he appeared before the Presbytery " in the habite of sackcloth, and in all humility confessed the unnatural murther and killing of John Campbell, his cousin-german. As also he confessed his frequent falls in . . . (sins of affection) sensync. The Presbyterie, considering thereof, ordained the said Mungo to compeir in the habite of sackclothe in the Kirk of Machlin in the place of public repentance two Lord's dayes till the Presbytery advyse at thair nixt meeting what further order shall be enjoyned to him." After this he was directed to make a tour of some half-dozen neighbouring kirks in sackcloth, on successive Sabbaths, and ultimately, in December, 1646, he was referred to the Session of Machlin, and his minister, Mr. Thomas Wyllie, to be received by them " betwix and the next Presbyterie, he giving sufficient signs of repentance." Some may perhaps think that Mungo was let off lightly for such a crime as murder, but it depends altogether on the constitution of a man's mind whether he would consider public execution, or public humiliation in sackcloth for three months, the greater ordeal.

Of what may be termed common offences, the one that, next to impurity, figures most prominently in our Session Records, and I may say in all Kirk Session Records, is Sabbath breaking. In last lecture it was explained how Kirk Sessions came to be so stringent in maintaining the sanctity of the Sabbath. I have now to shew how rigorous and vigorous the Kirk Session of this parish was in putting down every form of Sabbath desecration. In the Appendix to Principal Lee's Lectures on the History of the Church of Scotland, there is an interesting abstract of the cases of Sabbath breaking that came before the Kirk Session of St. Cuthbert's, Edinburgh, from 1587 to 1699. This abstract shows what a great variety of both works and games were, during the period in question, engaged in on Sundays, and complained of in Kirk Sessions as breaches of the Sabbath.

[Among the forms of Sabbath desecration for which people were delated to the Kirk Session of Fenwick, I have noted the following in the records of that parish.

In the records of the Kirk Session of Ayr for 1604 and 1605, we read of people's being delated to the Session for "playing at ye carts on Sabbath," and for "playing at the coppiehoall in the kirk door on Saboth."

Long ago there was a good deal of Sabbath profanation in Galston, and some queer instances of it might be cited. For example, in 1705, a man was delated for causing a dog to catch a sheep, and calling witnesses to prove that the sheep was his. The Session, it may be said, however, did their best for a hundred years by rebukes and penalties to restrain the evil. In 164S they appointed two elders to "visit the town and gatesyd on the Sabbath night about seven hours, and see that none be in toune except the inhabitants thereof." They prohibited on the Sabbath all journeying, all blocking or niffering, and all drinking, "passing an hour after both sermons."]

were the shearing of corn and the stacking of corn—the baking of bread and the selling of milk—the pulling of peas and the staking of peas—the carrying of parcels—and the subscription of bonds. Among the pastimes detailed were dancing and football, bowls and pennystones, fishing trout and catching laverocks. There is not such a large and varied table of Sabbath sins to be found in the records of this parish, but there are still a few not unnotable instances of what was held to be Sabbath profanation. Between 1670 and i63o there were several cases of people's being charged before the Session with playing at the " pennystone " on the Lord's day, but so far as I have noticed there is no other game that the parishioners of Mauch-line have, ever since 1669, been alleged to have played on the Sabbath. In 1675 two men of the name of Campbell were "delated for travelling to Glasgow on the Sabbath day, and for bringing a cow from Eaglesham on the Sabbath," and for these offences they were subjected to a public rebuke. The same year five persons were delated in the Session for bringing home herrings on Sunday. In 1703 a woman confessed to the Session that she "was almost washing yearn on the Sabbath," but she wished to exculpate herself of such a dreadful approximation to sin by alleging a mistake in her reckoning of the days of the week. There arc mistakes, however, and mistakes—mistakes that are innocent and mistakes that are culpable—mistakes that are excusable and mistakes that are inexcusable—and the Kirk Session held it inexcusable that any person in this parish should not know Sunday from Saturday. Strange to say, a similar mistake was made by a married couple in Mauchline Parish so recently as 1777. One John Hunter and his wife went to the harvest rig and cut corn till they were checked by a neighbour that was better versed in the calendar. In 1780 a strange complaint and an equally strange counter-complaint were sent in to the Kirk Session. The complaint was by a man who alleged that a woman whom he named had paid him a visit in men's clothes, and told him several falsehoods. The counter-complaint of the woman was that her accuser had been guilty of sundry "immoralities, particularly of profaning the Sabbath by employing a barber on that day.'' For this particular offence the barber was of course as much to blame as the man whose beard had been trimmed, and indeed rather more so, for he had previously been brought to book for the same offence, and had been made to sign a bond, which still stands in the Session records, that he would never again exercise his craft on the Sabbath. But what signifies a bond to a man without a conscience? The barber had been too long accustomed to do evil to take kindly to well-doing. Both the restraints and the services of the Sabbath were irksome to him. In 1781 he was reported to have become "negligent in his attendance on ordinances," and the minister was instructed to speak to him on the subject. In 1784 his negligence was again commented on, and he was named in the Session along with a gentleman widely known from his connection with Burns, as requiring to be admonished of his sin, and warned to beware of a presumptuous approach to the Lord's table.

The zeal of Mr. Auld in enforcing Sabbath observance has, as we all know, become historical, and that zeal has been attributed to " pique and ill-nature." It will be seen, however, from what has been said, that Mr. Auld's conduct in reference to Sabbath observance was all of a piece throughout the whole course of his ministry. His zeal for the Sabbath did not begin in the days of Burns, and it was not confined to his dealings with any one particular person. It was also, whether we may think it expedient or not, in strict conformity to both the written law of the Church and the immemorial action of the Kirk Session in the parish as far back as our records extend. And it was nothing unusual a hundred years ago. The same strict discipline as he exercised was exercised in many other parishes, both in the neighbourhood and at a distance. In the Parish of Lumphanan a man in 1785 was taken to task by the Kirk Session for going to see his mother on a Sabbath day, and carrying a stone of meal to her. He refused to admit that that conduct was any breach of the Sabbath, and for his obstinacy in maintaining that view, he was, the present minister writes to me, solemnly excommunicated. The Sabbatarianism of Mr. Auld and the Kirk Session of Mauchline, between 1784 and 178S, was just part of the religious spirit of the age, and if that Sabbatarianism seems to us rigid and oppressive, illiberal and inexpedient, it must be allowed to have at least the virtue of logical consistency. There was also something grand and dignified in the conduct of these old Sabbatarians. They had none of the frivolity of our modern pleasure-seekers, who seem to think that duty consists in denying ourselves nothing that is pleasant and enjoyable. They surrendered freely and unreservedly a whole day in seven to their Maker, and it may be questioned if in that act they did not display a statelier and purer pattern of Christian life than those people who boast of their enlarged views and their wide humanitarian sympathies.

It might be expected that I should here enter at large into the successive dealings that the Kirk Session of Mauchline in the clays of Burns had with Mr. Gavin Hamilton in regard to alleged Sabbath breaking. These dealings have been much commented on by some of the poet's biographers. It would occupy too much space, however, in this lecture, to detail the tedious controversies that arose out of the action which the Kirk Session thought it their duty to take in this matter. 1 may here state summarily that the charges brought against Mr. Hamilton, not all at once, but on different occasions specially libelled, were—irregular attendance on divine ordinances, setting out on a Sabbath day on a journey to Carrick, habitual if not total neglect of family worship in his own house, and giving orders for a dish of new potatoes to be dug on a Sunday forenoon. Whatever may be said or thought of the particular circumstances under which these charges were made, and of the spirit and temper in which they were made, there can be little doubt that all the offences specified were matters that, both by law and custom, fell under the Kirk Session's cognisance.

[On the one hand the Kirk Session maintained that they were merely executing the laws of the Church—which is true—and on the other hand Mr. Hamilton and his friends alleged that pique and ill-nature were at the bottom of their zeal —and quite possibly their zeal may have been associated with baser feelings. Where is there absolule purity? Burns has stated the question concisely from Mr. Hamilton's point of view.

"An honest man may like a glass,
An honest man may like a lass;
But mean revenge and malice fause
He'll still disdain;
And then cry zeal for gospel laws,
Like some we ken."]

In 1733 the Presbytery of Ayr passed and minuted a special resolution that "each minister shall deal privately with such of their people as neglect to worship God in their families, and that prophane the Lord's day by absenting themselves from ordinances, or that travels on it by journeying"; and that "an account of their success be enquired in next privy censures." In 1755 the Presbytery again, "considering the too frequent profanation of the Lord's day by unnecessary travelling and absenting from public worship, resolved to have the proper remedies of this growing evil."

[Brodie of Brodie wrote in his diary in 1653:—"Lord, for a blessing. And put it in their hearts to do for the Lord and to set family duty on foot again in this parish in every yeoman's house and other man's, and in Forres, and to debar from sacrament these that worship not God in their family." In 1604 the Kirk Session of Aberdeen ordered family worship to be made twice a day in every house. The General Assembly passed an Act of similar tenor (not identical) in 1694, and again in 1711 and 1819.

The Synod of Galloway in 1671 (during Episcopacy), "taking to their serious consideration the great profanation of the Lord's day by people assuming to themselves a liberty needlessly to travel, yea, to begin their journeys on the Lord's day, . . . publicly testify against the samen, and warn their people to abstain therefrom, with certification that such as shall be found guilty shall be censured for the same."

In 1731 two people were brought before the Presbytery of Ayr for gathering nuts on a Sunday.]

By far the most notable case of Sabbath desecration that ever came before the Kirk Session of Mauchline was one that occurred six-and-thirty years before Mr. Auld's settlement in the parish. It was mentioned in this lecture that one of the forms of Sabbath desecration taken notice of by the Kirk Session of St. Cuthbert's, Edinburgh, was the subscription of bonds. In 1649 several persons were, for writing out, subscribing, and being witnesses to a bond on the Lord's day, severally rebuked and fined by that Session twenty shillings each. In Mauchline there was a similar case in 1706. The bailie of the burgh (whose name was John Baird), the clerk of the burgh, the treasurer of the burgh, and the officer of the burgh—all the civil dignitaries and officials in the town—the administrators of the law and the custodians of the public peace—were that year cited to appear before the Session " for attesting a man to be a soldier with the young laird of Kerse, the last Lord's day, betwixt six and seven o'clock in the morning." All the parties honourably obeyed the citation, and frankly acknowledged the act with which they were charged. But this acknowledgment brought the Session of a sudden to their wits' end. They were not quite prepared for such a denouement. They were at a loss what to do. They did not know what censure to inflict. If they had been brought before Caesar and been condemned by Caesar to the stocks, they could have lifted up their testimony and declared their joy at being thought worthy to suffer. But they were placed in a far more embarrassing position than that. Caesar was brought before them, and Caesar had pled guilty to their impeachment, and the question was what to do with Caesar. In one of his letters Baillie writes:—"I know of no people that have so much need of a Presbytery as the people of London.' The Kirk Session of Mauchline, in their dealings with Caesar, felt the same necessity—the necessity of a Presbytery to guide them in their difficulties and strengthen them in their weakness. They minuted, therefore, that "the manner of rebuke is to be delayed till the next Presbytery—till the Session get the mind of the Presbytery." As a rule, Presbyteries indicate their wisdom by judicious reserve, and remit cases to Kirk Sessions to be dealt with according to the laws of the Church—leaving Sessions where they were, when Sessions don't happen to know the laws of the Church—but in this case the Presbytery of Ayr was more communicative, and gave express injunction that the Sabbath breakers should be rebuked publicly in face of the congregation. Only people that have sat in chairs of state can imagine the astonishment of the Mauchline bailie when he got notice of this finding. "My conscience!" he exclaimed, "are the magistrates and officers <>f this burgh to be marched off some Sabbath morning from the Council Chambers to the repentance stool, and to be set down there alongside of half-a-dozen limmers, as if we had been all in the same transgression? This would not only make municipal dignity ridiculous, but would subvert all civil authority in the parish." A consultation of the burgh officers was held, therefore, and the Presbytery were supplicated to relax their sentence. But when Presbyteries have a duty to perform, they despise threats and entreaties alike. They take their stand on Scripture and conscience, and refuse to resile. And so the Presbytery told the Mauchline supplicants that in matters of discipline there could be no respect of persons, and that the sins of magistrates were not less but more hurtful to the public than the sins of common people. The Presbytery, therefore, so runs the entry in our Session Records, adhered to their former appointment, "that ye fornamed persons be rebuked publicly the nixt Lord's day." When next Lord's day came the parish dignitaries did not appear in the place of rebuke, and "the appointment of the Session and Presbyterie" was continued till the following Sabbath. During the intervening week the dignitaries made another effort to get the rigour of the Presbytery's sentence modified. They sent in to the Session on the Thursday a humble petition, entreating to be rebuked in private, and to have the rebuke signified to the congregation next Lord's day, by the minister's "calling on their names, and them owning that they were in fault." The upshot was, that on Sunday "the fore named persons were called on before the whole congregation, and confessed they were faulty, and sorrie for the same, and promised a more circumspect life." The Session, it will thus be seen, carried their point, and enhanced their victory with moderation, by treating the subject Caesar with all the respect and courtesy due to his rank and title.

It need scarcely be said, for it is a matter of public notoriety, that a very large part of the contents of Kirk Session Records is taken up with cases of impurity. But on this subject I do not mean to say much. There is one entry, however, in the scroll minutes of the Mauchline Session for 1788, so very extraordinary, that, partly because it is extraordinary, and partly because it has been seen by literary men interested in the writings and history of Burns, and may therefore,any day come to the light without proper explanations, I can scarcely pass it over. In Mr. Auld's time it was customary for the Session to hold a special meeting every year, before the administration of the Lord's supper. The purpose of this meeting was to go over the "examine roll," and to make out a list of persons under scandal. This list, in 1788, was what most people would think very large, and there had been a considerable talk in the neighbourhood about the prevalence of impurity in the parish. The Session-Clerk, however, was a man of peculiar notions. He did not like to hear of the parish getting an evil name, and he thought that prattling people were making too much ado about the moral and spiritual condition of the congregation. At the foot of the list of " persons under scandal since last sacrament," he entered, therefore, a private postscript of his own, which, if it were not outrageously absurd, might be thought very improper. "N.B.," says the clerk, "notwithstanding the great noise, there are only twenty fornicators in this parish since last sacrament!" At this ridiculous entry in a church register where sin was meant to be called sin, Americans and Frenchmen have laughed till the foundations of their midriff threatened to give way, and stolid Scotch divines, who were too much scandalised to laugh, have lifted up their spectacles in blank wonderment, and looked and stared. In point of fact, however, the list of persons under scandal, in 1788, was unusually large, and so far from its being lightly thought of by Mr. Auld and the Kirk Session, it lay very heavy on their minds. The annotation was the Session-clerk's own, and it was not copied into the extended minute. The Session-clerk, too, was not, although Dr. Chambers erroneously says he was, a member of the Kirk Session. On the contrary, he was a man loaded with reports, and it was just all he could do to keep himself in his office of Session-clerk. And what the Kirk Session thought about the "noise " that was in the district, is made very plain by a warning or admonition against the sin of uncleanness, which they drew up at that date, and ordered to be read from the pulpit, and to be engrossed in the records as a testimony in all time coming to their zeal for the cause of pure religion. In this admonition, which is still extant in the minute book, the Kirk Session specially acknowledge and deeply lament the prevalence of the sin in question, both over the country at large, and in this parish particularly—they declare the sin to be one that brings "many woes and sorrows on men and women both now and for ever,"—they "warn, obtest, and beseech, in the name of God, every person, man and woman," to maintain the honour and purity of their Christian profession by avoiding every approach to that scandalous iniquity ; and then they conclude with a statement of sundry resolutions they had passed, with the view of making people feel more seriously than they had yet done the social and pecuniary consequences of transgression in that line. [To prevent even the appearance or suspicion of evil, the Kirk Session of Fenwick in 1653 caused intimation to be made from the pulpit, that "no young women shall live alone without fitting and beseeming company." Finding "that none excepted against this resolution when it was intimated the Session afterwards ordained "the same to be in full strength and effect as it is enacted." In 1654 several women were suspended from the sacrament, as the phrase is, for living alone. Forty years later, in 1694, information was made to the Session and minuted that a man in the parish " transgresseth an act of the Session publicly intimated, by living in a house with a young lass his alone, contrary to order." Entries of a similar kind may be found in the Galston records.]

In the records of the General Assembly we find a good many acts anent witches and charmers, and we know that at one period the Church shewed extraordinary zeal in the detection and punishment of such evil doers. It may be asked, therefore, if there is no case of witchcraft to be found in the Kirk Session Records of this parish. Dr. Chambers, in his Domestic Annals of Scotland, states that, on the 8th May, 1671, Marion M'Call, spouse to Adam Reid, in Mauchline, was tried before the Justiciary Court in Ayr for "drinking the good heath of the Devil," [It is to be feared that this profane toast was not uncommon among irreligious and ill-conditioned people. As recently as 1710 an ex-schoolmaster of Galston was accused in the Session inter alia of " having moved the drinking of the Devil's health."] and being found guilty of that profanity, was ordered to be taken to the Market Cross of Edinburgh "to be scourgit be the hangman from thence to Netherbow, thereafter to be brought back to the Cross and have her tongue bored and her cheek burned, and not to return to Ayrshire on pain of death." The barbarity of this sentence is horrible. It may be admitted to have been a very unladylike and blasphemous toast, that Mrs. Reid, sitting over her cups proposed, but a much milder punishment might have sufficed for all the harm she did. In the eye of the law, however, Mrs. Reid's offence was witchcraft. It was, to quote as nearly as possible from a book on the old criminal law of Scotland, an act of treason against God, in preferring to the Almighty his rebel and enemy, and in thinking the Devil worthier than God of being served and reverenced. It may be asked then, if there is any reference to this case of witchcraft in our Session Records? The trial at Ayr took place in May 1671, and our Records date back to December, 1669. Strange to say, there is no reference in our Records to this case of witchcraft. [The Presbytery records at this date are avvanting.] We have seen that in 1674 and 1675 there was an Adam Reid censured on two separate occasions for cursing and railing on the elders. If this man be the Adam Reid that had Marion M'Call for wife, as the name would lead us to infer, we can say with certainty that the witch's husband was both a profane man and an habitual drunkard, for both his profanity and his drunkenness are expressly referred to in the Session Records.

But although in our Records there is no notice of Marion M'Call's toasting the health of the enemy, there is a case of scolding, cursing, and fighting, in 1673, which looks very like a sequel to the case tried in Ayr. The names of the parties in this scolding match were Reid, and one of them is said to have been a daughter of Marion M'Call's. Some of them are called "witchgets," and some are accused of handling articles that were bewitched. The whole story is of the earth earthy, but the following points will suffice to shew the gist of the case. The two principals on the one side were Elizabeth (or Isobell) Boswell and her daughter, Marion Reid; and the adversaries on the other side were John Reid and Janet Reid. The ball was opened by Marion Reid, who accused Janet of having " drunk five mutchkins of wine." Marion admitted to the Session that she had used the words complained of, and said further that her authority for the statement was Janet Reid's own mother, Marion M'Call. Janet Reid had not the self-restraint to listen unmoved to Marion's impeachment, but retaliated with the retort courteous, that she at least never "drew any man's ale, and that she never took a fey apron off the dyke.'' This was the skirmish between the light weights in the combat, but the real tug of war had to come. Marion Rcid and Janet Reid were but in their maidenhood. The one was under the wing of her mother, and the other had her brother beside her. Neither of the guardians could stand to see injustice or injury clone to one of near kin. The old lady and the gentleman accordingly went at it with a will. Isobell Boswell, the mother of Marion Reid, fell on John, the brother of Janet Reid, and both cursed and beat him, and in particular called him by the elegant epithet of "witchget." John's patience seems so far to have been commendable that he never raised a hand against his assailant, the "guidwife of Drumfork," as she is designated; but he was accused of calling her witch and something worse. There had been a nice distinction, however, in John's speech which the old lady, as she thumped on his back, had not observed. John did not call her a witch or any thing worse,—but only that she lied like a witch or something worse,—an important distinction, showing that John was cautious in his use of terms and aimed at accuracy in his defamation. Enough was elicited by the confessions of the parties to warrant public censure all round, but Kirk Sessions in those days were not content with scratching the surface of scandals. They probed to the very core. Witnesses accordingly were summoned and evidence was led. All the witnesses deponed that there was a lively interchange of compliments between the parties, and that it was difficult to say which had the advantage. One witness summed up the whole case and the philosophy of it by saying that she thought both the guidwife of Drumfork and John Reid were drunk,—which it is very likely they were,— and that the one cried up "witchget," and the other cried down "liar like a witch." The story is not one to be dwelt on for edification, but it nevertheless conveys instruction of a kind. We are sometimes told to look back to the days of the Covenant and the persecutions as being days specially distinguished for all that is pure and lovely and of good report. It is quite plain, however, that in the days of the Covenant, as well as in the days before the flood, men not only prayed and held up holy hands, nothing doubting, and contended to death for principles they held as dear as life, but some ate and drank, cursed and swore, did not marry and get married as they should have done, and both fought with and defamed each other like Turks and Trojans.

Although there is no famous case of witchcraft in our Session Records, there are several cases of people complaining that they were called witches, said to be connected with witches, or accused of actions that were thought to infer witchcraft. In the year 1707 two women named Jean Reid and Jean Gibson came to words. It was alleged that in this altercation one of the damsels called the other witch and witch-bitten. The Session got wind of the scandal and summoned both parties to compear on a charge of slander. Jean Gibson gladly responded to the summons, and complained of Jean Reid for saying that "her (Gibson's) parents went both to the hollow pit, and that corbies conveyed them thither." Jean Reid, at a subsequent meeting of Session, stoutly denied the charge as stated by her accuser, but confessed that she had once on provocation said to Jean Gibson, "There were not corbies on my grandfather's lum-head, as there were on your father's when he died." This statement, however, was considered by the Session to bear the construction put on it by Miss Gibson, for it was part of the current superstition in those days that Satan occasionally assumed the form of a corby, and consequently when corbies were seen fluttering about the lum-head at the time of a death in the house an obvious inference was suggested. But while defamation is never justifiable, there are many evil thoughts that people would keep to themselves if they were not provoked to express them. And so Jean Reid argued that what she had said about the corbies was excusable, because it was said by way of retort. She had been bidden by Jean Gibson "go home and see her luky climb the walls." The whole case between the two Jeans was simply an affair of temper and dialectic talent, and would not have occupied a modern Kirk Session two minutes. But it actually occupied the Mauchline Kirk Session, in 1707, several months. Witnesses were called and put upon oath. Evidence was heard, and the more evidence that was led made confusion all the more confounded. It was on the 8th June that the two women were first cited to attend the Session. On the 4th August "Ballochmyle was appointed to attend the next Presbytery and......was directed ... to consult the Presbytery anent the affair." On the 31st August a committee of Session was instructed to confer with the parties and bring them to some reconciliation. On the 7th September the committee reported that the parties were irreconcilable, and the Session ordered the witnesses to be cited and examined anew. It was not till the 28th December that the case was brought to an end, and it ended in both parties being sessionally rebuked for so much of the slander that each was proved to have uttered. [Apropos of this superstition about the corbies, the following sentence from the close of Thackeray's lecture on the first of the four Georges may be quoted :— " It is said George promised one of his left-handed widows to come to her after death, if leave were granted to him to revisit the glimpses of the moon, and soon after his demise a great raven actually flying or hopping in at the Duchess of Kendall's window at Twickenham, she chose to imagine the King's spirit inhabited these plumes and took special care of her sable visitor. Affecting metempsychosis—funereal royal bird ! Mow pathetic is the idea of the Duchess weeping over it ! When this chaste addition to our English aristocracy died, all her jewels, her plate, her plunder, went over to her relations in Hanover. I wonder whether her heirs took the bird, and whether it is still flapping its wings over Herrenhausen!"]

There is an old saying, that it never rains, but it pours. And it certainly very often happens that when one scandal breaks out in a district two or three others of similar character follow soon afterwards. Old philosophers and divines would have accounted for this circumstance by saying, that when Satan comes in force to any particular locality, he puts two or three people on the same track of mischief. Perhaps the modern scientific farmer would say in his lecture at the Corn Exchange that all sin and all cattle disease are the results of special atmospheric conditions, and that all persons and animals within the sphere of the vitiated atmosphere are under influences, that if favoured by suitable subjective congenital receptivities, will result in violent disorganisations ! Laying aside, however, these philosophic explications as being too profound for ordinary understandings, it is a curious fact that while Jean Reid and Jean Gibson were raking up their ancestral traditions, and associating each other with the father of falsehood, there were other cases of reputed witchcraft jumbling the judgment of the Mauchline Kirk Session. A young damsel complained to the Session that her feelings were injured by the slander of a great lout who averred that on a certain Sabbath evening she had frightened him. How the sprightly little lass should have felt aggrieved by an accusation which seemed to reflect more on her accuser's courage than on her modesty requires to be explained. We must get at the facts of the case, therefore, and the best way of doing so will be to give the man's own statement, verbatim, when he was called before the Kirk Session. He declared, so runs the minute, that "he came to the Kirk on a Sabbath, and going through the Muir home he heard a person say to another, ' hold afore.' He looked again and saw a person at his foot, and he judged it to be Bessy Pethin. He asked her where she was going this time of night. After which he came to Barheipe land foot, he heard the sound of a fair, and then he heard a dog after a sheep. He says he knew or he thought it to be her by her voice and garment." What it may be asked could be the meaning or wherein could lie the slander of such a rigmarole of nonsense? A sentence from the Table Talk of Luther will probably enable us to answer these questions. "The Devil," says Luther, "is so crafty a spirit that he can ape and deceive our senses. He can cause one to think he sees something which he sees not, that he hears thunder or a trumpet which he hears not." The man meant, therefore, to say that enchantment and sorcery had been used upon him, and that Miss Bessy Pethin, who had perhaps jilted him or rebuffed his advances, was the agent of the fiend in that diabolic business. Hence Bessy's distress about the damage that might be done to her good name, both in the world generally and in the matrimonial market particularly. And hence her righteous determination not to be squashed by the calumnies of a despised or rejected suitor. She made a Session case of the story, therefore, and the case, as presented to the Session, seemed a very hard nut to crack. There was, of course, such a thing in the world as sorcery,—no man who believed in spiritual existence could deny that fact,—and although sorceresses were usually old and hagga-d beldames, they were not necessarily so. Lucifer had transformed himself into an angel of light, and there consequently was nothing in Bessy's youth or beauty to make it impossible that she could have been the agent of the evil one. Witnesses were called, therefore, and evidence formally taken. The case was then referred to the Presbytery, and the Presbytery shewed what a grand divine institution a Presbytery is. It evinced no hesitation or dubiety in coming to a deliverance, and it spoke with no uncertain sound, It at once declared the man guilty of fabricating lies, and ordered him to be rebuked publicly. [The Presbytery of Ayr seems always to have had, on good grounds of course, plenty of self-reliance and a high opinion of its own superior wisdom. In 1699 the Presbytery instructed its Commissioners to the Assembly "to propose that some be appointed to supervise the press at the printing of the Acts of Assembly, because of ill grammar which is to be found in them and also some unnecessary letters are added."]

Superstition dies hard, and as recently as the year 1779 there was a complaint lodged in the [In the judicial testimony drawn up by the Seceders in 1742, one of the steps of defection and apostacy complained of, was the repeal of the penal statutes against witchcraft, "contrary to the express letter of the law of God—'thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.'"] Kirk Session of Mauch-line, by a merchant, against the wife of another merchant, for using maledictions that were regarded as savouring of witchcraft. No one now-a-days would think that a malediction has any power whatever. How, as Balaam said, can man curse where God hath not cursed. But in old times there was in Scotland a wide-spread fear of maledictions. The old Papist dreaded the curse of the Priest [Protestant presbyters as well as Popish priests often pronounced from the pulpit solemn curses which were thought to be prophetical. In 1605, John Welsh, the Presbyterian, thundered out a curse on Spotswood, who was one of the King's chief agents for the inbringing of Episcopacy into the Church. "I denounce," he said, "the wrath of an everlasting God against him, which assuredly shall fall unless it be prevented."] The Protestant Congregation, for many a day, not less truly dreaded the excommunication of the Church as the shutting of the kingdom of heaven against men. People even quailed under the imprecations of enraged and half-drunken beggars. To lie under a curse seemed a sore evil. And in criminal indictments for witchcraft, such averments as these were found,—"By your cursings and imprecations ye wrang and hurt man and beast, quhilk evil is brought to pass by the power and working of (Satan) your maister." The Mauchline merchant, therefore, was much aggrieved that the wife of his brother-in-trade had not only defamed him, but had said "that he would not thrive, and that all his cattle would die, with other predictions and expressions too tedious to mention." So far as the imprecations went, it turned out on evidence that the accused had expressed a wish that "George Merkland's cow might die as the other two had done which he had lost," and that her reason for expressing such an evil wish against a neighbour was the bad treatment she had got from Mr. Merkland and his family. The Session found that nothing had been proved to establish any serious charge, and the complaint was accordingly dismissed. The accused thereupon turned accuser, and lodged a libel "against Agnes Shaw, spouse to George Merkland, and against Jean Merkland, their daughter, for having said that she had killed two of their cows, and should be bled above the eyes," which was the commonly supposed way of making a witch powerless, and of undoing the evil she had done. The Session would fain have shelved the case, but the libeller forced them to go on. The evidence broke down, however,—especially Poosie Nansie's, who was one of the witnesses, but swore the wrong way, —and the libeller had to desert her cause. [How closely allied to witchcraft the practice of physick was supposed to be, may be judged from the following extracts from the Records of Rothesay Kirk Session :—1660. "The Session finding that there is a report throw the countrie that Jeane Campbell, wife to Robert M'Conachie, gangs with the faryes, appoints the elders to lak tryell thereof, and how the scandall raise, and to mak report to the next Session." It was found that there was no ground for the scandal, and this was intimated from the pulpit. The woman had had an illness and vomited her food, and she got a "salve to rub on her breast, which was good for comforting the heart against scunners." 1661. "Considering that the said Janet goes under the name of a witch or a deceiver by undertaking to heal desperate diseases by herbs and such like, the Session did discharge the said Janet, in time coming to use the giving of any physick or herbs to any body under the certification that she shall be esteemed a witch if she so do." A good deal of what was called witchcraft long ago would be called quack-doctoring now. In 1640 a well-meaning woman was accused by the Session of Galslon of charming and using such like devices "with sik bairnes and beasts and douges." In 1746 a "doctrix" was consulted in Galston about the recovery of a sick child. The "doctrix" attributed the child's illness to a neighbour who "had a bad eye, and could not help it." This neighbour was ordered to say, "God bless the child," and to surrender some of her hair to be used for a charm, which she did. In 1724 a Galston man was rebuked "for his scandalous and offensive behaviour in going to consult a supposed wizard in order to the discovery of goods stolen from him." The man justified his action, and "refused all conviction." His rebuke was therefore intimated to the congregation, and he was publicly pronounced a scandalous person.]

The whole story, as I have outlined it, was a miserable, paltry scandal, unworthy of repetition, but for the interest given to it by its association with Jean Merkland. This was the Mauchline belle whom Burns pronounced divine. We cannot but think it must have been true what the poet's brother said of these belles. They were invested with fictitious attributes. But no discredit to the poet for that. Well would it be for the world if there were more men in it to invest the earth with happy and purifying illusions—"the consecration and the poet's dream." The subject too has practical bearings. For assuredly if the genius of the poet has exalted and consecrated so much that was commonplace, and made the world look brighter and more joyous than it was, much might be done even by ourselves to augment the stock of happiness, if we would only turn away our own eyes and the eyes of others from what is least lovely in people's ways and manners, and bring into light what in their conduct and aims is best and purest and most praiseworthy. It is unquestionable that we all look through coloured glass, and well would it be if the glass we looked through were bright and roseate rather than blurred and muddy—in a word, that we were idealists and optimists rather than caricaturists and pessimists.

The remarks that have just been made on the subject of maledictions will serve to explain several matters regarding cursing. The words cursing and swearing are usually coupled together, and the acts of cursing and swearing very commonly go together. But the two things are still distinct. To swear is to take an oath or vow, and to swear profanely is to take a vow in a profane manner. [In old Session Records there is a distinction drawn between "sweiring and mansweiring." The former meant profanity and the latler perjury.] To curse is to invoke evil. And long ago cursing was sometimes regarded as a form of profanity, and sometimes as a form of sorcery or what approached to sorcery. For instance, there is an Act of the General Assembly of date 1699, intituled an act against profaneness, and in this act cursing as well as swearing is mentioned. There is little doubt that this is the common view taken of cursing. But cursing was sometimes looked upon as a more serious thing— an appointment of some one to divine wrath or misfortune. [Cursing in that case is rather a form of witchcraft than of profanity. Pardovan, the Church lawyer, in discussing the question—What acts are relevant to infer witchcraft ? says that "when threatenings are specified, bearing a promise to do a particular ill, and when charms are used to obtain its execution, and when it is known that the threatener had a preceding enmity against the person threatened," the acts libelled would seem to be relevant. But to this observation he appends a remark of his own which the common sense of modern times will heartily approve. It is safer to punish threatenings with some milder punishment than death, as crimen in sno gentre (that is, as a special offence, called by the proper name of threatening) and not as witchcraft."] And in our own Session Records we find one or two cases of cursing in this sense of the term. In the year 1677, one Agnes Reid was delated to the Session of Mauchline for flyting and scolding. Whether Agnes belonged to the witch family of Reids there is nothing in the records to indicate,.but it is a curious fact that a considerable number of the people that in Mauchline were long ago censured or delated for cursing and imprecating were of the name of Reid. Letting that pass, however, the misconduct of Agnes was inquired into by the Session. One witness, "John Adam, being sworn, deponed that he heard Agnes say that she should sit down on her bare knees every morning and give them God's curse that takes ye maling over yer heads." Janet Richmond deponed that she heard Agnes Reid " curse John Fisher and his wife and say God hunt them to death." This was a sample of cursing, not in the sense of profane levity, but in the sense of earnest, malicious imprecation. The sentence of the Session was that " Agnes Reid, being found guilty of cursing and fly ting, be rebuked publicly the next day." Another illustration of cursing in the sense of malediction is given in a minute of date 1675. Two women named Heleson Wilson and Bessie Morton were delated for flyting and cursing, and evidence was produced. " Jean Morton, sworne, depont that she saw Heleson Wilson sit down on her knees to curse Bessie Morton, but heard her not do it." The result was that the two women were both found guilty of the minor charge of flyting, and " Heleson Wilson confest intended cursing." They were let off, therefore, with a sessional rebuke and a certification that if they were found flyting again they would have to stand a public admonition.

[Similar cases of cursing may be found in other Session Records. For instance, in 1622, a man appeared before the Kirk Session of Dumbarton, and confessed, that in his passion of anger, he had " cursitt the Turks for no deteinning and holding of John Campbell, sailor, when the uthers of his companie wes takene, and that he had wissit that he nor nane of his companie sould evir cum home againe, and that he had wissit all Dumbartane to be in ane fyire." For these evil wishes and cursings he was ordained "to stand ane Sabbothe bairfootit and leggit in the haire goune at the Kirk door, betwixt the second and third bells, and thairafter in the public place of repentance in tym of preiching."

In 1659 acase of blasphemy, which was also very like a case of cursing, came before the Kirk Session of Rothesay. A man was accused of having said, "Let God either mend the weather or destroy it." The man denied he had said so, but admitted he had made the philosophic remark, "that if God would not mend the weather the earth would be destroyed." Proof that condemned the man was however forthcoming, and he was ordered to stand in sackcloth till he shewed signs of repentance.

The following cases of cursing appear in the Galston Records:—In 1657 one man alleged that another "sat doune on hisknies and wissed the judgment of God to come on him;" and in 1675 a woman confessed that she "malinsount" another woman, and "did it upon her bare knies." Even self-cursing was included under the sin of imprecation. A Galston woman had in 1652 to stand out of her seat in Church and submit to public rebuke for saying in her haste "the Divel tak her if ever she knew of such things."]

It may perhaps appear strange that so much importance should have been attached to idle imprecations, as if they had had some mysterious and miraculous potency. But strange as it may appear, the fact is nevertheless certain, that such imprecations were supposed to have power and to prevail. In Luther's Table Talk, which has been already referred to in this Lecture, we have a good illustration of the popular superstition on this point,—" A man," says Luther, " had a habit, whenever he fell, of saying, Devil take me. He was advised to discontinue this evil custom lest some day the prince of darkness should take him at his word. He promised to vent his impatience by some other phrase, but one day having stumbled, the old expression escaped him, and he was killed upon the spot." We can see, therefore, why imprecations were made so much of at one time.

The laws of Moses ordained that whoever cursed his father or his mother should be put to death. And in the year 1661 the malediction of a parent was made a capital offence in Scotland. The act declared that any son or daughter above sixteen years of age, who cursed his father or mother, should be "put to death without mercie." It might have been expected, therefore, that some very special ecclesiastical act regarding the cursing of parents would have been in force in the Church of Scotland long ago. I am not aware that there was any, but my ignorance is not to be counted knowledge. The cursing of parents was, nevertheless, regarded and justly regarded by Kirk Sessions as a very abominable form of sin. In our Session Records there are several cases of people being called to account for cursing their parents. The language libelled in such cases as expressing "horrid imprecations," was just the kind of language that unfortunately is too often heard at the present day both at street corners and in playgrounds, in railway carriages and at Parliamentary elections. But it was not allowed to pass unnoticed by Kirk Sessions. In the year 1749 a shoemaker was delated to the Session of Mauch-line for undutiful behaviour to the minister and for cursing his mother. The minutes shew that it was the second of these offences that the Session considered the more serious, and what the Session thought of it may be inferred from the facts that the case was submitted to the Presbytery for advice, and the shoemaker was thereafter ordained to appear before the congregation, in the place of repentance, four several times, namely, on the first Sabbaths of July, August, September, and October. In a learned book, published in 1835, a Scottish antiquarian says, with an air of satisfaction, that "the gradual refinement of social intercourse has fortunately expelled those oaths and execrations, formerly so much incorporated with common converse, or they are heard very seldom from the temperate." I heartily wish that I were able to confirm that statement, but I fear that although the habit of profane swearing may be nearly expelled from some circles of society, it is not dying out in the country. On the contrary, in descending to a lower level of society, it has become more prevalent, and although in our old records we fall in occasionally with both naughty and blasphemous language, "unfit," as a respectable witness under examination by the Mauchline Kirk Session said, "to be rehearsed in Christian ears," the swearing of the present day being further down the social scale is more filthy and more brutal still [In the Records of the Presbytery of Ayr, I find that in 1644 a man "laitlie receaved in the Kirk of Machlin," compeared before the Presbytery for an infraction of the seventh commandment. "And as he wes gravely challenged, did confess the sinne of blasphemie in his drunkenness by taking the body, wounds, blood, and bread of God in his profane mouth, he was remitted to the Session of Machlin to satisfie the discipline of the Kirk." In 1650 another Mauchline man designated a "blasphemer" compeared before the Presbytery in sackcloth, and having humbly acknowledged his offence, was remitted to the Kirk Session of Mauchline.]

As might be expected, there are in our Parish Records several instances of people being brought before the Session on charges of heresy and schism. Ecclesiastically these are very grave offences, and for the "atrocity of their scandal" Kirk Sessions arc directed not to conclude processes anent them without seeking the advice of the Presbytery. In 1694 a man was delated to the Kirk Session of Mauchline for venting erroneous opinions on one of the fundamental doctrines of the gospel. The man was a person of indifferent character, and at the time he was delated for venting heresy he was under scandal for one of the sins of the flesh. He was so far straightforward that he did not deny having said the words imputed to him and that they bore a heretical construction, but he alleged they were spoken by way of mirthful argument. The Session would not accept that statement as a sufficient apology, and for his mirthful argumentation and his other offence conjoined he was ordered to compear "in publick four several Sabbaths successively."

In 1767 the Session had to deal with a very peculiar case of schism. The person charged with the offence was an elder, and the offence could not be overlooked for this reason among others, that it affected the question of the constitution of the Kirk Session. To retain the elder in the Session would have been absurd as well as wrong, but in order to strike him off the Session, the prescribed form of process had to be gone through. It is pleasant to say that all the proceedings in that unhappy business were conducted in the most friendly spirit. The elder had nothing to object to either the doctrines of the Church or the preaching of Mr. Auld. Nor had he any complaint against the Kirk Session of Mauchline for any thing he had ever seen them do. But he was not satisfied with the Presbytery of Ayr. He said that when sitting in the Presbytery as ruling elder he had seen members of Presbytery refuse to subscribe the Confession of Faith. This statement is so strange that I cannot but think the elder must have been under some misconception. The records of the Presbytery bear uniform testimony to the Presbytery's zeal and faithfulness in requiring subscription to the Confession of Faith from all office-bearers in the Church. [Not only did the Presbytery demand a subscription of the Confession of Faith, but for a while she insisted on the subscription of what is termed in the records, "the Act assertory of the divine right of Church Government by Presbyteries." This so-called Act bound subscribers to "constancy to the true principles of the covenanted work of Reformation in this land," and adherence to "Presbyterial government in opposition to . . . Prelacy." This was from 1705 to at least 1708 if not later. In 1717 the Presbytery of Auchterarder required their licentiates to subscribe in addition to the Confession of Faith a formula which the Assembly declared to be "unsound and most detestable," namely that it is- not orthodox to teach men that they must forsake sin in order to their coming to Christ and instating themselves in covenant with God.] But one or two things happened in the Presbytery that may have been misunderstood and misrepresented. In 1761 the Presbytery's subscription book was" lost, and a new one had to be got. In 1766 the new subscription book was lost also, and Mr. Dalrymple of Ayr, in moving that the clerk be examined on oath "as to what he knows about this affair," stated that "the loss of the old subscription book had given occasion to the inventing and spreading of several very injurious reports, and that these are likely to be revived and confirmed upon the supposed loss of the subscription book lately purchased." A student too was that year actually licensed to preach, without having signed the confession, but it was because the subscription book was not forthcoming ; and license was granted on the student's express engagement to sign the formula whenever it should be presented to him. After 1767, another thing happened which, if it had happened before that date (and something like it may have happened), would have completely explained the dissatisfaction of the Mauchline elder with what he saw in the Presbytery. Between 1770 and 1780 Mr. Dalrymple, who in 1766 seemed so concerned about the "injurious reports" that had arisen on the "loss of the subscription book," repeatedly objected to the subscription of the formula, on the ground that that subscription had never been legally enjoined by the Church. His contention, as appears from a minute of Presbytery, dated June, 1771, was that "the questions and formula of subscription contained in the Act of Assembly, 1711, were not regularly transmitted to the different Presbyteries in Scotland, or at least did not receive the consent of a majority of them, without which it can be no standing law of this Church." [For notice of Mr. Dalrymple see Appendix E.] I may mention here that the Presbytery of Ayr, while zealous in the matter of requiring subscriptions to the Confession of Faith from those that held office in the church, was kindly considerate and tender with all that were troubled with any difficulties or doubts in regard to any of the multitudinous articles embraced in the Confession. In 1750 the Presbytery minuted "that students may be allowed modestly to propone the difficulties that may occur to them as to their subscribing some articles in the Confession of Faith, and that the Presbytery may give their opinion as to the weight and importance of them, in order to their satisfaction and the candidate's." In connection with this matter a curious passage at arms occurred in 1771 between Mr. Auld and the Presbytery, which looks like a sequel to the case of schism in Mauchline four years before, and is not so well cleared up in the Presbytery records as one could wish. Mr. Auld was as rigid as a mast, and he was orthodox to the mast head. He would not stand evasive answers to plain questions, and if he got the least scent of heresy, or of views divergent from what he considered the inflexible standards of immutable truth, he would have a thorough exploration. At the licensing of a student in 1771 there had been some haggling over one or more of the questions that Mr. Dalrymple complained of for being unlawfully put to such as are to be licensed. The matter had been got over, however, and license was granted. But Mr. Auld, minister of Mauchline, dissented from the Presbytery's procedure, "because when the second question appointed to be put to candidates was put to Mr. S. he, in answer, declared that there were some expressions in the Confession of Faith, which he either did not understand or was not satisfied with, and when Mr. Auld insisted that the Moderator should ask Mr. S. what these expressions were, the Presbytery thought fit to refuse to put such a question, and he apprehended if such an answer were sustained by Presbyteries the same answer might be given to the Alcoran." This was the entry made on behalf of Mr. Auld, but the Presbytery, "in justification of themselves and of their licentiate, appointed it to be recorded that the question, as stated by Mr. Auld in his dissent, to be put to Mr. S., was not so proposed by him to the Presbytery, and that he had given an imperfect account of the res gestae in this matter."

If Mr. Auld misunderstood what he saw and heard in the Presbytery, and failed to perceive distinctions that made all the difference between regular and irregular procedure, much more may his elder in 1766 have done so. But, in justice to both Mr. Auld and the elder, it must be admitted that neither is the alleged non-subscription of the Confession before 1767, nor the answering of the questions in 1771 fully explained.

To return, however, to the case of the elder. If what he alleged was correct (but that must be held doubtful), the Presbytery had committed an irregularity, and could have been brought to book.

[In one of Burns' letters, of date 7th February, 1790, the following passag occurs, "You must have heard how the Rev. Mr. Lawson, of Kirkmahoe, seconded by the Rev. Mr. Kilpatrick, of Dunscore, and the rest of that faction, have accused in formal process the unfortunate and Rev. Mr. Heron of Kirkgunzeon, that in ordaining Mr. Neilson to the cure of souls in Kirkbean he, the said Mr. Heron, feloniously and treasonably bound the said Neilson to the Confession of Faith, so far as it was agreeable to reason and the Word of God." In regard to this case, the Clerk of the Presbytery of Dumfries has furnished me with full particulars from the Presbytery records. The ordination at Kirkbean took place on the 17th Sep., 1789, and the minute bears that Mr. Neilson gave satisfactory answers to the questions appointed to be put to such as are to be ordained. The clerk had not a copy of the Confession of Faith with him, but Mr. Neilson signed at next meeting of Presbytery. No notice of any irregularity in the procedure was taken till the 2nd Feb. 1790, when Mr. Lawson informed the Presbytery that Mr. Heron, in putting to Mr. Neilson the question, "do you sincerely own and believe the whole doctrine contained in the Confession of Faith," added the words mentioned above by Burns. Mr. Lawson then made a motion, and required that Mr. Heron should be heard on it, but Mr. Heron declared " he was there as a judge, and would not be interrogated as a party, that he was not ashamed of his conduct at Kirkbean, would not retract a word he had said, and would answer everything in its proper place." At their next meeting in April the Presbytery pronounced their judgment on the matter as follows, "Approve highly of the attention Mr. Lawson has paid to the standards of this Church, but considering the present circumstances of the case they do not judge Mr. Heron censurable, disapprove, however, of every deviation from the questions appointed by the law of this Church to be put to ministers at their ordination, and recommend to all the ministers of the Presbytery to pay due attention to these laws, and for that purpose appoint their clerk in all future cases to furnish the minister who shall be appointed to preside, with the Acts of this Church containing these questions." The irregularity would thus seem to have been not an intended disregard of the law of the Church.]

In 1790 the General Assembly found the conduct of a Presbytery in Forfarshire unjustifiable and deserving of censure in proceeding to settle a minister without requiring him to sign the Confession of Faith and Formula. And had the Mauchline elder complained to the Assembly in 1767 of the conduct of the Presbytery of Ayr in dispensing with subscriptions required by law, he would doubtless, if the facts he stated had been found true, have brought down censure on the Presbytery. But the elder took what he thought a simpler and less troublesome course. Instead of calling down fire from heaven on the offenders, he went to another church, and, in the words of our Session Records, "joined himself to the Seceding congregation." The Session, in dealing with him, proceeded with the greatest deliberation, and gave him ample time to reconsider his resolution, and to change his mind, if he saw fit. It was on the 5th of March, 1767, that proceedings against him were instituted, and on the 3rd December the following deliverance was minuted:—"Compeared John Smith. The Session having read to him the minutes relating to this affair, he was talked with in a friendly manner as to the reason and grounds of his secession from the Church, and his deserting his office of elder in this congregation, are unanimously of opinion that they ought to depose him of his office, but delay their final judgment till their meeting on the first Thursday of January." On the first Thursday of January the affair was delayed till the first Thursday of February, and what was done then we can only conjecture, for there is a blank in the records from 7th January to 3rd March. The Session plainly did not wish to take extreme measures—but extreme measures could not be averted.

The common way of dealing with seceders in Mr. Auld's day wis to let them alone. If people chose to separate themselves from the services of the Parish Church, they were allowed to do so, and depart in peace. But if they afterwards applied to the Kirk Session for testimonials they had to submit their conduct to investigation and scrutiny. [At an earlier date course was taken with dissenters. The following minute occurs in the records of the Presbytery of Ayr lor 170S :—" The Presbytery having gott an account from brethren of disorders committed in their bounds by Mr. Farquhar, did order their Clerk to write to the Clerk of the Commission that the said Mr. Farquhar, upon a Sabbath in one or other of the clays of April last, preached within the paroch of Galstone, and upon the Thursday thereafter he preached in the paroch of Dalgain without a call from the minister or eldership of these parodies." This minute may be explained by Act of Assembly 170S, No. VI., for suppressing schism, which states inter alia that the Assembly " refers the disorders and schismalical courses of Mr. James Farquhar, minister of Tyrie, &c, entirely to the Commission . . . hereby empowering the Commission to call these persons before them, and to censure them as they shall be found to deserve,"] In the year 1775, for instance, a shoemaker named Fisher applied to the Session for a testimonial of good behaviour, but the answer he got was that the "Session could not grant his desire until he gave them satisfaction as to the sin of schism, viz. : of following the Moravians and Burgers, etc., wherewith they are informed he is chargeable." Besides Mr. Fisher there was another schismatic in the Parish in 1775. This was John Richmond in Bargour. He seems never to have troubled the Session, and the Session seems never to have troubled him. His name was placed on the list of those to whom tokens were to be refused, and the reason of the refusal was stated to be schism, but I have failed to find any other notice of him in the Records. He was just quietly struck off the roll for a reason that the Session, if called upon, would be prepared to vindicate, but he was not subjected to any sort of scandal by a summons to appear before the Session. This is what we may call the beginning of that toleration which Mr. Tod, in his statistical account of the Parish, declared to be so pleasant a feature in the Parochial life fifty years ago.

[Religious tolerance, however, was but in its infancy last century. In 1769 a Dissenter in Mauchline committed suicide, and the Session Clerk had actually the malignity to exult over the occurrence. In the Register of Deaths he inserted in large text, as if announcing the immediate doom of dissent, " Hugh Campbell, A Seceder, cut his own throat. 3RD January." This extraordinary entry, standing out in great characters in the middle of a page, may be seen by any visitor at the Register House, Edinburgh.

Mr. Dun in one of his volumes of sermons (1790) says:—"We were most publicly told in the General Assembly 1784 that there were about 400,000 dissenters in Scotland. This seems to arise, 1st, From the degeneracy of the human heart ; 2nd, Men licensed to preach the gospel who might be very useful at Johnny Groat's house, but are very unfit for the High Church of Edinburgh, and yet they must be settled where the patron pleases." Dr. M'Kelvie shews clearly enough how dissent grew in Scotland. It was not from the gradual recogniticn of any religious or ecclesiastical principle, but from dissatisfaction with something or other in the Parish Church—the settlement of a minister—the singing of paraphrases—intimations from the pulpit of civil acts, etc., etc.]

There is only one other matter I have now to refer to. In 1680, a man named John Aird appeared before the Session of Mauchline and acknowledged his guilt and scandal " in taking the bond." The minute adds that he was rebuked and absolved. It is hard to say what category this offence should be placed under. Aird himself probably thought his taking the bond was an act of some kind of schism. The Bond was an Erastian document. It was drawn up by the Lords of Council in 1677 with the view of binding people to keep aloof from conventicles and have no intercourse with vagrant preachers or outed ministers. The excitement created by its publication and by the descent of the Highland Host to enforce subscriptions to it was indescribable. Papers were drawn up by Spiritual Independents to shew how illegal and sinful was its tenor, and several persons who had been persuaded to sign it made afterwards a solemn recantation of their deed and professed their sorrow for having ever put their names to so odious a paper. But it was nevertheless a bold proceeding on the part of the Session of Mauchline to administer rebuke to a man for signing a bond required by the State and to rccoid in their minutes that such a rebuke was given. It is not to be wondered at that Mr. Vcitch was sometimes called by his betters to account for his conduct. [In the account of Jarnes Veitch's ministry in Mauchline it is said that in 16S1 he was accused of having excommunicated people for signing the bond. The accusation had not been entirely groundless. He had rebuked people for signing the bond, and absolved them when they confessed their penitence. Apropos of .Spiritual Independence there is a very curious grievance referred to in the Presbytery Records. In 1715 the Commissioners to the General Assembly from the Presbytery of Ayr were instructed to represent to the Assembly "that addressing of the house of Peers in the common form is straitening to our consciences, and our refusing ought not to be improven against us."]

I may state, however, that in the time of the civil troubles political misconduct was a frequent subject of ecclesiastical censure. Common history tells how men like Montrose and M'Donald were excommunicated, and how their sentence of excommunication was publicly intimated over all the country, and the records of church courts tell how smaller offenders in the same or a similar line were dealt with. In 1646 the Church courts were particular vigilant in looking after political miscreants. The Laird of Underwood was that year brought to book by the Presbytery of Ayr " for taking of a protection for himself and family from the publict enemie." [Montrose's troops were in command of the country after the battle of Kilsyth, in August, 1645. ^nd Baillie says it was " marvellous how few handfuls of the enemy went through Ayrshire, etc., without any opposition, but a general submission of all who did not flee.'] To some people this might seem a common act of prudence, but it was not so accounted by the covenanting clergy, and the Laird was "remitted to his minister for tryal of his sense of that sinne," and on giving satisfaction he was to be "received in his own seat." The same year there was a man called before the Kirk Session at Fenwick "for making merchandise with the enemy," and another for "subscribing a bond with the enemy for protection." And the Mauchline people were as much cowed as their neighbours by the "handfuls" of Montrose's troopers. In September, 1646, the Minister, Mr. Thomas Wyllie, "wes desired by the Presbytery to intimat a day of publict humiliation to be kciped in the Kirk of Machlin for the whole Parochinars, for taking away the sinne of complying with the publict enemie, by taking a general protection from them." The Galston folks, too, were led into good deal of sin by the enemy's temptations. For buying plundered goods from the enemy, several persons in that Parish had to make public confession of a fault, and one man was ordained to " bring the goods to the kirk and let them lye there till they be owned." Another fellow was summoned to the Session for "slaying of a bull in the time of confusion." To that sin he was charged with adding the further sin of slander, in accusing another person of being art and part with him in the butchery. And so, for these two offences conjoined he had very properly to make public appearance in church, and pay the price of the bull.

After the Revolution, some of the sins and defections in the previous times of persecution were brought by the Church Courts to remembrance. In 1693 one Muir of Bruntwood compeared before the Session of Galston, and, having stated how in "the lait tymes" he had been induced to swear and subscribe the Test, "did publicly, before the Session and several others sitting with them in the Session, express the sense he had of that horrid sin, and his willingness to make profession of the same in the most public place of the church if it might be judged more for the glory of God, and if the Church had seen fit to lay down such a method for removing such scandals,"

This Test, it may be explained, was first appointed in 1681 to be subscribed by the occupants of certain offices, civil and military, and was again in 1685 appointed to be subscribed by all Protestant heritors and tacksmen over eighteen years of age. Under pretence of securing religion against the machinations of Papists and Fanatics, it opened, as Wodrow says, "a gap for Popery, by renouncing the national covenant, the great bulwark of Scotland against that wicked idolatry, and obliging the swearers to receive a Papist successor." Hence the public horror of the Test, and the public outcry against those that signed it, as well as the public demonstration made over all recantations of subscription. It need scarcely be said therefore that Mr. Muir was leniently dealt with, if not somewhat puffed up, by his Session for his declaration of contrition, and very soon afterwards his name was placed on a list of suitable persons for the Eldership in Galston.

It will now be seen that the old discipline of the Church had a wide range. The number and variety of offences that Kirk Sessions took cognisance of were well nigh infinite. And in next lecture it will be shewn that Kirk censures were both numerous and varied also.


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