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Old Church Life in Scotland
Appendix D.—Presbyterial Visitations of Parishes


With the view of shewing how these visitations were conducted, I subjoin the following accounts of visitations of the parish of Mauchline in 1642 and 1723. They are extracted from the records of the Presbytery of Ayr, and they afford specimens of Presbyterial action, both when there was nothing amiss and when there was much amiss in a parish.

Presbiterium Machlinense, 16th Maii, 1642—The qlk day after preaching as wes appointed, and after incalling of the name of God. Mr. George Young, minister, being removed, Mr. James Bonner, moderator, enquyred the Session then present if they had anything to object against the doctrine, discipline, life, or conversation of their minister. The Session all in one voyse approved the said Mr. George in all things.

"Thairefter, the said Mr. George being called in and the Session's approbation declared unto him, the said Mr. George was demanded if he had any objection against the members of the Session, and he affirmed he had nothing to say of them bot good.

"And, further, the said Mr. George declared, as he was requyred, that he preached twyse on the Sabbath, and every Twysday once, sumtyme by preaching and sumtyme by catechising, and declared the frequent meeting of the people to that effect.

"And, further, he declared that publict prayers wer used and reading of the Scriptures morning and evening, and that familie exercise wes also observed.

"The Session books were presented, visited, and approven. Being demanded concerning his glebe, manse, and maintenance, the said Mr. George produced ane decreet of the Lords, dated ye twentie-eighth of January, 1635, wherein it wes found that the said Mr. George had allowed unto him fourtie bolls victualls, belonging of old to the minister of Machlin, and of moneye thrie hundreth pundis and ane hundreth merks, sixty of the same with this provision, except the heritors suld cause carie to his house yearlie ane laid of coales and peitts for every merkland in the parochin, the said coales and peitts being provydid and trysted before, upon the said Mr. George his proper expenses. Moreover, the said Mr. George declared that Mr. John Gemmell, thair reader and scholmayster, had demitted his places, and that the Session had agreed with Mr. John Grey, son lawfull to umqle Mr. James Grey, minister at Newmylnes, for supplying of that charge, whereunto the Presbyterie condiscended also.

"Machline, 12th September, 1723.—This day, according to advertisement givin, Mr. John Dickson, probationer, preached from Gal. v. 18, also Mr. John Fergushill delivered his popular sermon from John xiv. 21, likewise Mr. Maitland preached from Rom. viii. 14; all which discourses were approven. And Mr. Maitland being asked if he made intimation of this meeting to all concerned, he told he did. He was asked if he had anything to object against his eldership or people, and said he had nothing. And, he being removed, the eldership were called in, upon which there appeared six, and they were asked the usual questions as to their minister visiting the paroch. They told he had not visited the whole of it since the celebration of the Lord's Supper about three years ago, except once, after which time he visited some parts of it and not others, but that he has not catechised it since the said time, and that they have weekly sermons very unfrequently. The minister being recalled, he and they were asked the usual questions, and particularly as to their session book, which was required to be produced now ; to which it was answered that their register is yet in Mr. Blackwood, their late clerk, his hand, as was represented last visitation, and that he has not given it up, and that severall of their minutes were carried off by anorher clerk since his time, and others of them are in Mr. Gilchrist, their last clerk, his hands, which they will gett up. As to their register which Mr. Blackwood has, the clerk is to write to him to give up the book to Mr. Maitland, and Mr. Orr is to be present when he gives it, to hear about an aledged claim Mr. Blackwood pretends to be resting him, and the Session of Mauchline is to order the filling up of their register from what minutes they have and can recover (which they are to be at pains to gett), and where there is want of minutes, that they record the reason of that want in the book. As to the sum that is restand to the Session by Ballachmile, [He seems to have fallen into pecuniary difficulties, for we find "John Reid. of Ballochmyle, advocate, prisoner in the Tolbooth of Ayr, 30th April, 1720." Paterson's History of Ayrshire, 553.] they tell they proceeded against him as to personall diligence, but had done nothing so as to affect his reall estate with others of his creditors; and so it appears that there is no expectation of recovering it, which negligence the Presbytery disprove, and do intimate to them their former resolution thereanent for the said negligence, viz., that they might be pursued for the said sum. As to the fifty merks mentioned in the last visitation due by John Colvill, they inform it is since uplifted by them, and is applied for the use of the poor of the paroch. As to the uttensills for the Sacrament, it is so as it was last visitation. They being removed, the heritors and heads of families were called in, and there compeared a great number of both these, and being asked the usual questions as to their minister and the elders, they answered that their minister was often absent from his charge, and they often wanted publick ordinances, and that he does not enter so soon to publick worship on the Lord's day as were desirable, much of the Sabbath being thereby idly and sinfully misspent, and generally they complained that he had not visited and catechised the paroch save once these three years. There was no complaint against the elders. The fabrick of the kirk is in good condition. The Presbytery called in Mr. Maitland, but delayed to enquire into the said complaints, there being some persons of note waited on who wanted to have their affairs discussed.

"The Presbytery entered on the consideration of what was aledged against Mr. Maitland by his Session and people, and the same being read to him, he answered that he had been often under much indisposition of body and that he had fallen under sundrie difficulties in his affairs that obliged him to be often abroad contrair to his inclination, which had hindered him to gett the particulars of visiting and catechising his people and to dispense public ordinances more than he intended, which he had formerly acquainted the Presbytery of when called on to an account by them. And as to that of his being long in entering to publick ordinances on the Sabbath, he acknowledged it was a fault, but that it was often owing to his indisposition of body, and that he would endeavour to help it in time coming.

"And he being removed, the Presbytery found from some members present that the said difficulties that occasioned his avocation were true and that he was put (to) a necessity of it. But that he should be exhorted to amend these things, viz., to visit families and catechise his people in order to the celebration of the Sacrament, which has been much omitted, and that he enter earlier to public ordinances on the Sabbath, and that he observe to have week dayes' sermons according to former manner, and that the session register be filled up in order to be revised. And, being called in, he was accordingly exhorted to these things, and the Presbytery is to enquire afterwards how these things are observed."


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