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Aberdour and Inchcolme
Lecture 12


Ministry of Mr. Alexander Scot—Lord Morton's protest against his admission—Ebenezer Erskine’s testimony to Mr. Scot’s excellence— Acts of Kirk-Session pointing to pastoral diligence, in reference to education, morality, and care of the poor—John Stevenson has his ruinous house rebuilt—Troops in the Castle give much trouble—The Jacobite rising in 1715 tells severely on the parish—The Communion season in 1718, with tent-preaching on the Castle green—Mr. Scot’s death— Wealth of the box—Revenue derived from mortcloth dues—Banking business of the Kirk-Session—Glance at general condition of the Church—The ‘Marrow’ controversy—Balance of parties in the Presbytery—Story of the forced settlement of Mr. John Liston—Lord Morton’s high-handed measures—Protest of Ebenezer Erskine and others—Ordination of Mr. Liston by a ‘ Riding Committee ’—Mr. Nairne’s sermon and ill-chosen text—Alienation of the people from the Church of their fathers—The dreary period that followed—Strange case of discipline—Elders deserting, and parents going elsewhere for baptism—John Millar deposed from the eldership—Strange mendicancy on the part of the Session—A badge for beggars within the parish—Begging cripples carried away on a 'slead’—Collections made in Mr. John Liston’s time—Mr. Robert Liston appointed colleague and successor—Fulness of secular details in Minutes—The mort-cloths—The minister’s travails in getting a church bell—Notices of times of dearth—Condition of the parish, its inhabitants and industries, at the close of the eighteenth century—Mr. Liston chosen Moderator of General Assembly—Dr. Bryce becomes minister of the parish—The Volunteer movement—Notable persons connected with Aberdour.

We have now traced the fortunes of our village and neighbourhood from the twelfth century down to the close of the seventeenth. The notices of it in the earlier centuries, as might have been anticipated, were meagre, being chiefly incidental references found in the charters of the Monastery of Inchcolme and papers belonging to the Morton family. Yet few as they are, these notices we have found to be far from uninteresting. For they tell us that as far back as the year 1178 the village of Aberdour existed, and had its church under the charge of the Canons of Inchcolme; and no one can say how much further back the history, - both of church and village, might have been traced had authentic documents been preserved. In that case, we doubt not, its church would have been identified as an early settlement of the Culdees, and the village, in some form or other, might have been descried far away in the misty period of the Roman occupation. In the absence of written documents one may indeed exercise a large discretionary power in conjecturing what may have been, and then the difficulty is not how far to go, but where to stop. In the humbler domain of history to which we confine ourselves, it is something to be able to point to evidence which proves the church of St. Fillan of Aberdour to have been in existence in the twelfth century. And it is something to be able to point to such names as those of Vipont and Mortimer, and Randolph the Regent of Scotland, as the owners of our old Castle ere the lordly Douglases possessed it and its surrounding domain. Beginning our investigations in those old times, we have found our way by easy stages down to the close of the seventeenth century, as I have already said. We have traced the rise and growth and fall of the Monastery, and its offshoot, the Hospital of St. Martha, renowned for the shelter it gave to the many pilgrims who came from afar to get healing from the waters of St. Fillan’s Well. We have seen the old church pass from the hands of Roman Catholic priests to the care of Reformed pastors. We have marked the changes that came over the population, as early Reformation times gave place to declension, both in Church and State, under the kingcraft and tyranny of James the Sixth; and how these in their turn stirred up longings for freedom, and led to heroic actions, which ushered in the times of the Covenant—the first half of which was a period of life and progress, the latter half a season of darkness and blood. At length, however, the Revolution Settlement came as a morning of joy after a night of weeping, and the land had rest. Speaking more particularly of the parish, and the labours of the ministers and elders in it, from the period of the Reformation down to the time when the Session Record begins in 1649, we have, with the aid of such side-lights as were available, tried to reproduce the men and manners of the time. And then, availing ourselves of the Record of the Session’s labours, we have endeavoured to glean from it what it tells of the work of ministers and elders, in the various departments of their official duty, down to the close of the seventeenth century. In resuming our narrative, and bringing it to a close in the present lecture, I may as well forewarn you not to expect the same fulness of details in the Record of the Session’s labours as we have had in the past. The eighteenth century was a tame one, compared with that which preceded it, and much of what was done by the Session has been recorded in the briefest manner. Still I think we shall find it worth our while to survey the annals of the eighteenth century; and for various reasons I do not at present intend to prosecute these investigations beyond the close of that century.

The first minister of Aberdour, on the traces of whose labours we come at the beginning of the eighteenth century, is Mr. Alexander Scot, the successor of Mr. David Cumming. Mr. Scot was a student of the University of Edinburgh, and was licensed by the metropolitan Presbytery on 3d September 1701. The right of the patron to present to the charge having lapsed, Mr. Scot was called by the Presbytery, and ordained 24th September 1702. This settlement it appears was in direct opposition to the wish of the Earl of Morton, but his opposition in the circumstances did not avail much. His Lordship was, however, determined to let his sentiments be known, for, on the day fixed for the ordination, he openly protested against Mr. Scot’s admission. Notwithstanding this, it must be said that Mr. Scot was an excellent man, and proved himself to be a pastor of the right stamp. Indeed, with all desire to estimate as highly as possible the various ministers of Aberdour who have come under our notice, it must be said that, in our estimation, he holds a higher place than any one of the whole line, from the period of the Reformation down to the close of the eighteenth century. Speaking of Mr. Scot’s labours, the celebrated Ebenezer Erskine, in a paper which I have been fortunate enough to discover among the Wodrow mss. in the Advocates’ Library, Edinburgh, and to which I shall afterwards more particularly refer, says:— ‘When it’s considered that the said congregation [at Aberdour] did enjoy the blessing of the Rev. Mr. Scot his faithful and painful [painstaking] ministry about the space of twenty years, and were privileged with many solemn Communions, with which, and the Christian, serious, tender carriage of that people on the said occasions, sundry reverend ministers within this province have expressed their great satisfaction, we may conclude the number of serious seekers of God is much increased there, and that this people do more deserve the character and privileges of a Christian congregation than formerly.’ It is delightful to have this testimony, from such a competent and thoroughly reliable source, given at the close of Mr. Scot’s ministry. And although the Minutes of Session all throughout his ministry lack the fulness that could be desired, they yet point to just such a ministry as Ebenezer Erskine has sketched in the above extract. The cause of education engages the attention of Mr. Scot and his elders, from time to time, the attendance of the poorest children at school not being neglected. The staff of elders is gradually brought up from eight to sixteen, and their office is not experienced to be a sinecure. They are regularly questioned by the minister, at the meetings of Session, in reference to the state of morality and religion in their several quarters, and abuses of various kinds are firmly and earnestly dealt with. The following extracts will give some idea of the manner and spirit in which the Session acted in reference to such matters:—

July 2, 1704.—‘It’s enacted, this day, that those who are found to absent themselves from the ordinances, as also those who shall be found drinking on the Lord’s day or otherways, as also those who sell ale to such drinkers, are to be censured, as the minister and elders think fit; and the minister is desired to make intimation of the said Act from the pulpit, the next Lord’s day.’

June 15, 1712.—‘This day, sermon being preached anent the duties of elders, after Divine service in the forenoon, William Weems of Cuthilhill, John Bell [in Aberdour], John Russell [in Bucklyvie], William Whyte [in Mountquhey], were ordained elders. They were exhorted to be vigilant in their duties, in repressing of vice and cherishing virtue; and to set up the worship of God in their own families, and to press others in their several quarters to do the like.’ The elders ordained four years later—making sixteen in all—were John Turnbull, in Bucklyvie; Alexander Henderson, in Couston; Robert Livingston, in Torryhills; Robert Moyes, James Cousin, Alexander Bell, and Archibald Davidson, in Aberdour.

Feb. 7, 1717.—‘This day the minister did recommend it to the elders that each of them, in their several quarters, should see to the putting to school of the young ones, that were capable of learning, and to bring a list of those that were not at any school to the Session.’

Feb. 26, 1717.—‘Some of the members of the Session gave in an account that all the youth in their quarters, that are capable of learning, are at school. Others were again desired to bring in a list of any that could not read within their bounds.’

Jan. 2, 1718.—‘This day the Session allowed six pounds Scots to a poor man, called John Walls, in the north part of the parish, who teaches some poor ones who are not able to come to the head school.’

Other extracts with a similar tone pervading them might be given, but these will suffice regarding the departments of work to which they refer.

The period of Mr. Scot’s ministry seems to have been a prosperous one, not merely as regards the domains of religion and morality, but also in as far as temporal matters were concerned. A list of paupers is given in a Minute of October 1717; and there are only eleven in the parish— the allowance to each of them being sixpence fortnightly ! There are, however, occasional glimpses of ways in which extra aid is bestowed. Thus on December 14th, 1718, the following Minute occurs:—‘This day the distressed condition of several poor folk in the parish was represented to the Session, and to them was distributed as follows: Colline Hunter, a poor sick child, was allowed seven pence per week, till he should recover. Item, John Walls, a poor dying man, in the north end of the parish [he whom we saw engaged in teaching poor children there, a year before this date], was allowed two pounds. Item, John Meldrum, a poor man, was allowed a crown, “to help him to an horse.” Item, Christian Robertson, a blind woman, was allowed a pound.’ The following Minute gives us a striking instance of the way in which a case of great destitution was met in Mr. Scot’s days : Sept. 18th, 1719.—‘This day John Stevenson appeared before the Session, with a petition representing his afflicted and necessitous condition, his house being ruinous, and himself left a widower with five young children, all naked, for the most part, and himself an old man, altogether unable to do any thing, either for the sustentation of his family, or the rebuilding of his house. The Session taking this to their serious consideration, did think it meet that his case should be laid before the congregation, in the words of his own petition, that so every one might give something towards his relief, and that on the Sabbath following.’ It gives a pleasing view of the neighbourly spirit existing in our parish at that time, when we find that, on the following Sabbath, ninety-nine pounds Scots were raised for relieving the necessitous condition of John Stevenson and his family, and for rebuilding his ruinous house. These objects, it should be noticed, were to be secured in a business-like way, a committee of elders being appointed to see the money laid out to the best advantage.

During Mr. Scot’s ministry, as on former occasions, the troops quartered in the Castle gave the Session much annoyance, many cases of discipline arising from their misbehaviour. An examination of some of these cases brings to light unmistakable evidence of the contamination of manners which resulted from their presence in the village. In one of these cases a question arises whether or not one of the dragoons, named Dunbar, is a married man ; whereupon the minister of Dalkeith is written to, and in answer says that there is a woman there who calls herself Margaret Dunbar, ‘in the English fashion.’ According to the Scotch fashion, I need hardly say, married women still went by their maiden name.

The great occasion which led to the quartering of so many troops in the Castle at this time, was the Jacobite Rising in 1715, when the Earl of Mar embarked on his foolish and bootless attempt to overthrow the Hanoverian dynasty, in favour of the old Pretender. This movement told severely on our neighbourhood. It could hardly fail to do so, when Burntisland was in the hands of the rebels. Francis Stuart, the brother of the Earl of Moray, was implicated, to some extent, in the movement, and so were the laird of Kilrie and Colin Simpson of Whitehill, both of whom were heritors in the parish. Some strange scenes were witnessed both at Auchtertool and Burntisland at that time; but we can only notice the fact that, from August 23d, 1715, till February 8th, 1716, no meetings of Kirk-Session at Aberdour are minuted. In the Record the words occur, An interruption occasioned by the Rebellion and troubles in this country.' It shows in what an unsettled state the parish was, when for six months the Session had to suspend their meetings.

Owing to the want of details in the Minutes during the time of Mr. Scot’s ministry, I cannot speak with confidence as to the frequency with which the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper was ministered in the parish. Apparently it was not oftener than once a year; and although the date fluctuates a little, August is the month in which we find it most frequently observed. Communion Fast-days begin to appear in 1710. On August 10th, 1718, six men were appointed to ‘keep the doors’ of the church on the Communion Sabbath. On another occasion, two years later, the elders are appointed to wait at the kirk-doors and Castle gate, in their turns; and in connection with this observance of the Sacrament, the singular notice occurs, that the sum of nineteen shillings and sixpence was given for glasses broken at the Castle green at the Sacrament. It is evident that the tent was pitched, on such occasions, on the Castle green, which explains the provision made for elders being at the Castle gate. On October 28th, 1720, Henry Stocks, the village wright, gets nine pounds eighteen shillings Scots for putting up and taking down the tent at the Communion, erecting the tables, and mending the south dyke.

Mr. Scot died in the month of February 1721, in the forty-eighth year of his age, and the nineteenth of his ministry. He met with his Session for the last time on 8th December 1720; and on the 22d of February 1721 Mr. Henderson of Dalgety presided. It gives one a striking view of the temporal prosperity of the parish at this time, to learn that, when the Kirk-box was opened in the presence of Mr. Henderson, there was found in it, of money 674, 18s. 8d., and of bonds no fewer than seven, of which one was for 100 marks, two of 100 Scots each, one of 24 Scots, and one of 12 sterling. This was evidently the great period for the accumulation of poor’s money in the parish of Aberdour. Nor is this prosperous condition hard to be accounted for. The coal trade was at that time giving full employment to a great many, and this not only at the north end of the parish, where the pits were, but to those who were employed in carting the coal to the harbour, those who loaded the vessels there, and to the skippers and others who traded between the harbour and Leith. The shipping trade was evidently extensive; and the music of the loom, however harsh in the ears of modern amateurs, told of money-making in double-quick time. And there cannot be a doubt that the population must have stood high, and that money must have been plentiful in the village at that time, for during the last three years of Mr. Scot’s ministry there was handed in to the Session, of mortcloth dues alone, no less a sum than 150, 19s., being at the rate of 50 a year. The income from this source alone, calculated for the whole period of Mr. Scot’s ministry, would give no less a sum than ^1000 Scots; and they who bear in mind what a pound Scots could purchase at the time will be the first to acknowledge how large a sum this is. If it is asked whether the money thus accumulated was allowed to lie and rust in the box, the bonds we have just referred to give a decided negative to that supposition. The Session evidently did a large stroke of banking business. Lending money on good security, and at good interest, they made a handsome thing of it, and as if a spring of molten gold had been tapped in the bottom of the box, it was gradually filling. Indeed, I much fear this state of matters proved an entanglement to good Mr. Scot and his Session, and that the amount of their banking business with the ‘gold that perisheth’ interfered somewhat with the higher kind of trading with which the Master had charged them.

One of the strangest chapters of the history of Aber-dour is that on which we now enter, dealing with the incidents which occurred immediately after the death of Mr. Scot. The parish had at length enjoyed the benefit of the labours of a minister Evangelical in creed and devotedly pious in character; and labouring as he did for nearly a score of years, time had been given him for making more than a surface impression on the people of Aberdour. That such an impression was actually made we have already shown on the authority of the Rev. Ebenezer Erskine, who, when he made the statement, had for many years been minister of Portmoak, in the neighbouring Presbytery of Kirkcaldy, and so had ample opportunity of knowing the state of affairs in Aberdour. It comes to us with all the greater force when we find such a man speaking, as he does, of the blessing the parish enjoyed under the faithful and painstaking ministry of Mr. Scot, and it also gives a high value to the testimony borne to the solemnity of the Communion seasons at Aberdour, and the serious and tender demeanour of the congregation on these occasions. The natural wish of every earnest heart in glancing along the line of the history of the parish up till this time, must be that Mr. Scot’s successor may be a man of like spirit, who will take up his work, and carry it forward to a still more prosperous issue. This was evidently what the great bulk of the people wished, but how sadly they were frustrated in their desire we have now to relate.

Before doing this we must, however, take a glance at the general condition of ecclesiastical matters in Scotland at the time. Patronage had been virtually abolished at the Revolution Settlement, when it was enacted that the heritors and elders were ‘to name and propose the person to the whole congregation, to be either approven or disapproven by them;’ but it was restored again by the Tory Government in 1712. For a considerable time, however, a numerous body of the ministers in the Church regulated their proceedings in such a way that the patron’s rights were not allowed to set aside the rights of the people, or the regulations laid down in the Standards of the Church on the subject. A tide of worldliness and indifference to the sound Evangelical doctrines which had so greatly distinguished the Covenanting times had, however, now set in; and along with this the rights of the Christian people in the calling and settlement of ministers came to be disregarded. Those who are acquainted with the history of the period are aware how the ‘Marrow Controversy’ was raging about the time of Mr. Scot’s death. This controversy, I may state in a sentence, was one which arose regarding a book characterised by Evangelical views, and designated the Marrow of Modern Divinity—a work written by Edward Fisher of Oxford in the sixteenth century, and republished at the time with which we are dealing, with the view of recalling Scotchmen to sounder views of Gospel truth than those which had begun to be generally entertained. And so far had the Church of Scotland declined from Evangelical views, that, in 1720, the teaching of this book was condemned by the General Assembly; and there was a most marked contrast between the severity shown to those who had been instrumental in spreading these views, and the tenderness shown to others who had espoused Pelagian or even Arian error. It soon became evident that those who treated such errors so tenderly were not the men to respect the God-given rights of the Christian people; and among the cases in which these rights were most thoroughly trampled under foot, hardly any one was more flagrant than that of Aberdour.

Public attention was at that time a good deal turned to the Presbytery of Dunfermline, to which Aberdour belonged. Some able defenders of Evangelical truth and the rights of the Christian people were found in it; of whom Ralph Erskine, minister at Dunfermline, was one. It so happened that, at the time of Mr. Scot’s death, the Presbytery was nearly equally divided on these questions. There were at that time fourteen charges within its bounds ; Aberdour was vacant; four of the ministers were either sick or dying, and so could not attend the meetings of Presbytery ; four of the remainder held the Marrow doctrine, and five were opposed to it. In this way it became a serious question with the leading party in the Church on what side the minister might be who should be settled at Aberdour. If he should be on the Evangelical side, the parties in the Presbytery would be equally balanced; and if in the meantime any of the anti-Marrow men should be removed to other charges, the Evangelicals might have a positive majority. In point of fact, when Mr. Hepburn of Torry-burn was called to New Greyfriars Church, Edinburgh, this matter of the balance of parties in the Presbytery was so prominently before the eyes of the General Assembly, as to lead them to enact that, in the event of Mr. Hepburn being translated, the Presbytery of Dunfermline were not to ordain his successor, except with the consent of the Synod of Fife. The bearing of all this on the Aberdour case will speedily appear. Listen, meanwhile, to a sentence or two from Ralph Erskine on this matter. ‘The disposition of the judicatories,’ he says, ‘too evidently appeared, whenever any student or candidate was supposed to be tinctured with the Marrow, that is, a Gospel spirit. There was no quarter for such ; queries upon queries were formed to discourage them and stop their way, either of being entered on trials or ordained into churches; while those who were of the most loose and corrupt principles were most favoured by them. These things are too notour to be denied; and these were some of the sad and lasting effects of the foresaid Acts of Assembly [regarding the Marrow controversy], and the sad occasion of planting many churches with men that were little acquainted with the Gospel, yea, enemies to the doctrine of grace.’ It was in these circumstances that the vacancy in the charge at Aberdour was to be filled up.

Let me now give you a simple narrative of the facts of the case.

A few months after Mr. Scot’s death we have the following Minute of Kirk-Session :—

June 25, 1721.—‘John Millar and John Davidson were appointed to attend at Dunfermline, the next Presbytery, to get a hearing of Mr. Thomas Kay, Mr. Thomson, and Mr. Don.’

Some formidable difficulty appears to have arisen, for in the month of October of that year, the Minutes of Session bear that ‘it was agreed unanimously that James Bell and Alexander Henderson should attend at Dunfermline, to address the Rev. Presbytery for supply, and ask their advice anent the comfortable settlement of this parish.’ From time to time similar notices appear, until, in May 1723, two years and three months after Mr. Scot’s death, it is intimated that Mr. John Liston has been ordained minister of Aberdour. These are very meagre notices, but I shall now attempt to fill up the gaps. You have observed the request of the Kirk-Session to the Presbytery, that the congregation should have a hearing of Mr. Thomas Kay, Mr. Thomson, and Mr. Don. It would appear that from the first Mr. Kay was the object of the people’s choice ; but James, the sixth Lord Morton, who had protested against the ordination of Mr. Scot, found a successor of similar views in his brother, Robert, the seventh Earl. His Lordship had resolved that Mr. John Liston should be minister of the parish ; and having presented him to the charge, he had the courage to ask the Presbytery to ordain the presentee without the formality of a call. It was scarcely to be expected that a Presbytery which counted among its members such men as Ralph Erskine, and Samuel Charters of Inverkeithing, would consent to this proposal. In point of fact, the Presbytery refused to do it, ‘ as not agreeable to Presbyterian principles.’ And, now, what was to be done? It was necessary to get something of the nature of a call, if Mr. Liston’s settlement was to be proceeded with; and it remained to be seen what the complexion of that call would be, and how the Church Courts would deal with it. And even at this distance of time we know a good deal about that call. The day fixed for the moderation came round. Two candidates were proposed,—Mr. Thomas Kay and Mr. John Liston. In favour of Mr. Liston there appeared Lord Morton, the patron; several heritors, of whom we shall speak presently; two of the elders, and seventeen heads of families. In favour of Mr. Kay there appeared one heritor, nine elders, and nearly the whole body of the people, including many who were feuars, with the exceptions which I have just stated. From this you will see that it was very much a case of Patron and Heritors versus the People. And very questionable tactics had been resorted to in order to swell the list of the heritors. The laird of Kilrie and Colin Simpson of Whitehill had been out in the Rebellion of 1715, and so were civilly disqualified for voting, yet the names of both appeared in favour of Mr. Liston’s call. Moreover, it was known that the laird of Kilrie had not given warrant to any one to append his name to the call; and Colin Simpson, with considerable forethought as to the civil consequences of his disloyalty, had, it was reported, already sold his land to the Earl of Morton. Fagot votes, too, even in ecclesiastical matters, would seem to have been in vogue at that time, for Sir James Holburne of Menstrie and Otterston, and his son, both voted as heritors, on the ground that they were proprietors of a part of the lands of Couston, called Delmyre, a small enclosure without so much as a house on it. And Sir John Henderson ofFordell appeared to register his vote, in favour of Mr. Liston, on the ground that he (Sir John) was proprietor of that same pendicle. It was objected at the time that this was unfair; but the defence was forthcoming, in lieu of a better, that it did not belong to a Church Court to decide on the question of the validity of claims of a civil kind. On this ground a hundred persons might have appeared, and registered their votes as heritors owning the same property, and no objection have been taken. It was urged further, that as the Earl of Moray and Sir John Henderson had ceased to belong to the Church of Scotland, they could not legally sign the call; and it was argued that, as the two Orroks of Balram seldom entered a Presbyterian place of worship, a similar objection stood in their way. This combination of the heritors, to thrust on the people a minister whom they did not wish, and who therefore was little likely to do them good, does little honour to these men. And it looks ill on the part of the Church, when we know further that the Presbytery of Dunfermline were not allowed to preside, in accordance with the usual mode of procedure, at the moderation of the call. That which was once only feared by the leaders of the Church had now evidently taken place,—a preponderance of Evangelical influence in the Presbytery,—and a Committee of Synod are intrusted with the management of the call. The Committee evidently see everything in the light which the heritors’ wishes shed on it; and it is a trying day for the people of Aberdour. ‘And how' you will ask, ‘did they behave?’ The great bulk of them, it must be said, demeaned themselves calmly and circumspectly, so as to win the respect of the onlookers; but the truth must be told,—this was not the case with all. ‘One sinner' the proverb tells us, ‘destroyeth much good.’ And when the sinner is a rude and boisterous one, the amount of good destroyed is frequently very great. That there were persons of this type at the exciting meeting in the old church of Aberdour on the occasion referred to is undeniable; and even at the risk of being thought ungallant, it must be said that those who signalised themselves most in this way were of the gentler sex. On delicate ground like this I am glad to give place to such a courtly man as Ebenezer Erskine, who probably was present on the occasion, or at least had ample opportunity of knowing the true state of matters. Hear the minister of Portmoak: ‘It cannot be denied that the congregation of Aberdour is Christian, having right to choose their own pastor. Indeed, the carriage of a few women at the moderation, and the day thereafter, was very unchristian and offensive, and therefore justly testified against by the Reverend Synod; but this cannot be laid to the charge of the elders or body of that people, especially when they witnessed their detestation and abhorrence thereof, as was declared before the Reverend Synod.'

What, now, was the result of all these strange proceedings ? The call to Mr. Liston, secured in this extraordinary way, went up to the Synod, not at one of its ordinary meetings, but one called for the occasion. A full statement of the facts of the case was made, on the side of the congregation, by their good friend Ebenezer Erskine, who was supported by Mr. William Moncrieff, minister at Largo, and Mr. George Gillespie, minister at Strathmiglo, a grandson of the celebrated minister of that name in Covenanting times. But it did not avail. The leading party in the Church had forgotten the traditions of the First and Second Reformations. They had placed themselves on the inclined plane of worldly policy and doctrines devised by men ; and they made short work of the objections urged by the congregation and those who spoke on its behalf. They ordered a committee of their number—one of the ‘Riding Committees,’ as they came to be called—to repair to Aberdour and ordain Mr. Liston, which was accordingly done, as the following extract from the Session Record shows:—

May 7, 1723.—‘This day Mr. John Liston, preacher in the Presbytery of Linlithgow, was ordained minister of Aberdour by a Committee of the Synod of Fife. Mr. Nairne, minister of Anstruther, preached the ordination sermon, on 1 Thessalonians, chapt. v., verses 12 and 13.’ The words that formed the subject of Mr. Nairne’s sermon on that memorable occasion are as follows: ‘And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you; and to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves.’ A beautiful and solemn text this is; and we trust Mr. Nairne’s sermon was in some measure worthy of it. But, even at this distant date, we protest against the selection of it, as altogether inappropriate to the occasion, and, in the circumstances, fitted to do dishonour to the Word of God. He would have found a text far better suited to the occasion in John x. i: ‘Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.’

Before the deed was done by the Synod, which to a large extent blighted the religious prospects of the parish, which rendered the great mass of the people disaffected to the Church of their fathers, and created a rankling feeling of injury in their breasts to the heritors who had forced on the settlement, Ebenezer Erskine, and those brethren who along with him espoused the cause of the congregation at Aberdour, tabled a clear, able, and dignified protest against the Synod’s decision. This paper, to which I have been much indebted in drawing up the narrative I have now laid before you, is too long to read, and, from its technical character, would, I fear, prove wearisome to a general audience, but I shall give you its closing sentences:‘ The Synod having now voted the approbation of that call, and ordered Mr. Liston’s settlement thereon, notwithstanding the weighty objections offered against it, and the opposition of the eldership and body of that congregation, we fear the deed of the Synod (though not so intended by them) may be interpreted as an homologation of the usurped powers of Patrons, or may prove a dangerous precedent for countenancing Heritors and others who may incline to invade the Rights and Liberties of the Church, and obtrude ministers on Christian congregations without their call, yea, against their mind, in direct opposition to the Word of God, our Books of Discipline, and Standing Acts of the General Assembly. And, considering that ministers of the Gospel and Church Judicatories are bound by many sacred ties to maintain and defend the Rights and Liberties of Christian Churches, and of Christian Congregations, and that we are under strong apprehension of the bad consequences of this sentence, not only in the parish of Aberdour, but elsewhere : Therefore we now beg leave hereby to protest that we are not chargeable with them, and that this sentence shall not be impleaded as a precedent in time coming.’ These words read like a prophecy, and the sad forebodings they express proved only too well grounded. From one infatuated step to another the dominant party in the Church proceeded, till they refused even to receive such a protest as this, which saved the consciences of those who were not chargeable with the wrong done. And when the domain of conscience was thus ruthlessly invaded, Ebenezer Erskine led the way to the formation of the Secession Church, in which the rights of the Christian people and the inviolability of the consciences of ministers could both be preserved. The forced settlement at Aberdour proved one of the wedges by which the old Church of Scotland was rent in twain. This case, moreover, explains the fact, otherwise so inexplicable, that, when Dissenting MeetingHouses were opened in Burntisland and Inverkeithing, the church-going inhabitants of Aberdour flocked eastwards and westwards, and connected themselves with these congregations. The story is told that, on a certain Sabbath-day, a servant at the manse said to the minister’s wife that the whole people of the village seemed to be flocking to Burntisland. ‘ And did you notice,’ was the reply, ‘ whether they were carrying the stipend on their back?’ ‘No,’ said the unsophisticated damsel; ‘I did not see that.’ ‘Then,’ rejoined the matron, ‘let them go!’ According to this view, little was lost if the stipend were but saved. Miserable standard! The people were carrying with them a sense of the oppression that worldly-minded heritors and hireling pastors had imposed; they were also carrying the principles of their persecuted forefathers, which had been bought with blood; and they were carrying with them an unsullied conscience, which no amount of money can purchase.

There is no more dreary period in the whole ecclesiastical annals of the parish than that which refers to the incumbency of the elder Mr. Liston—for, as you are no doubt aware, he was succeeded by his son, Mr. Robert Liston. Let me glean from the Session Record such notices as demand comment. We have no written statement by means of which we might discover what the doctrines were which the elder Mr. Liston preached to the small body of parishioners who still waited on his ministry 3 and there are hardly any Acts of Session that bear directly on the question of practical religion. Occasionally, however, we have gleams of light that do reveal something of the kind. Here is an extract from the Record, so peculiar in its way that we have seen almost nothing, of that or any other period, to match it:—

August 30, 1724.—‘It being reported that David Allan, Robert Thomson, and John Reid had broken the Sabbath-day by stealing apples on that day, they were cited, and compearing they all acknowledged that it was only eleven of the clock on Saturday night, and that they were very sorry it should so have happened, and promised never to border so near on that day again; and were exhorted to carry as Christians, to behave themselves as those that know that God will not let them go unpunished that break His day, without serious repentance.’

Now we may well be excused if, after reading this extract, we exclaim, with Trinculo, ‘What have we here?’ Three boys have been guilty of the theft of apples—a breach of the Eighth Commandment; and it is alleged that this crime has been aggravated by the circumstance that the theft was committed on the Sabbath—thus involving a breach of the Fourth Commandment. The boys, however, deny that it was on Sabbath that they stole the apples—the deed was done no nearer Sabbath than eleven o’clock on Saturday night. And yet, although the theft is admitted, there is not a word said to them regarding the sin of stealing. It looks as if Mr. Liston and his three elders had seen nothing very far amiss in the act of theft, provided that it did not occur on the Sabbath, or very late on Saturday night, and so bordering near ’ the sacred day. The boys, too, you will have noticed, are not asked, and do not promise, not to steal again; they only engage that, should they go a-pilfering again, they will keep at a respectable distance from the Sabbath. Finally, they are exhorted to carry as Christians,’ which, in the light of the context, they are entitled to regard themselves as doing, if they are so self-denying as not to do what is wrong on Sabbath. Anything more confused than this, either in an intellectual or moral point of view, it is hardly possible to conceive, in connection with the proceedings of a court of conscience.

There is not a word in the Minutes about the ministration of the Lord’s Supper from the time of Mr. Liston’s ordination, in 1723, till the year 1728. The same may be said of the period from 1736 to 1742; and, when regular notices appear, it is evident that the observance occurs only once every alternate year. There are many evidences, throughout both these periods, of deep disaffection to Mr. Liston’s ministry. At one time several heads of families are cited before the Presbytery for going to Dunfermline to get baptism for their children. At another time, it is enacted by the Session, that the poor who absent themselves from the parish church and from pastoral examinations shall get no allowance from the poor’s fund. And, in 1738, there are frequent notices of elders who have ‘deserted,’ as it is called; by which we are, no doubt, to understand that they have gone off to join the Dissenters. In this connection we may say that some of the elders who remained would not have been greatly missed had they taken their departure, if we may judge of their qualifications from the following instance:—

January 2, 1743.—‘This day the Session was informed that John Millar, one of the members thereof, did, on the 24th of the last month, throw down Hugh Marshal, another of the members of the Session, from a chair in William Anderson his house, and threatened to beat him, with a staff in his hand, and said twice [using a profane oath] that he would beat him and all that were with him.’ The Session, being much moved at this, appointed another diet to consider the affair, and that John Millar should be cited to compear before them on the 9th instant.

The 9th instant came, and with it came John Millar, acknowledging all that had been laid to his charge, with the exception of the oath, which he rather thought he did not use. But ‘the Session having considered the affair, were all of the mind that he deserved deposition.’ Accordingly they did depose him from being an elder in the parish; and ‘this being intimate to John, he departed.’

A few notices of the management of the poor at this time may be interesting. There is a singular entry, of date June 21st, 1724—that is, within a year from the time when Mr. Liston was settled as minister of the parish. It runs as follows:—‘This day it was thought fit that some application should be made to the Sessions of Dalgety and Burntisland, that they may contribute something, as they can spare, for the relief of our poor, since our poor are daily increasing here.’ Now, we are naturally led to inquire what the meaning of this can be. That the poor were daily increasing in the parish at the time may be taken for granted, seeing the Session tell us that such is the case. But the question remains whether they had no funds of their own to meet the increasing demand thus caused, that they should go a-begging from other parishes. Little more than three years had passed since the time we marked a great accumulation of money in the Box. Was this store now exhausted? Far from it. Many of the bonds in favour of the Session are still lying in the Box; for the Minutes show that the interest is regularly coming in. And there is the same evidence to show that, since Mr. Liston’s settlement down to the date of this strange Minute, no less a sum than 850 marks have been lent at interest. Stranger still, within two months from the date of the begging Minute, other 400 marks are lent on interest. And, to crown the whole, in the course of a few years after this, the Session purchase three houses from Andrew Moyes for the sum of 1550 marks. It is easy to tell from what source these accumulated funds mainly came: it was from mort-cloth dues. The inhabitants of the parish seem to have attached vast importance to the velvet covering under which the dead were carried to their long home. I mentioned that, during the last three months of Mr. Scot’s ministry, the mortcloth dues amounted to about 50 a year. During the first three years of Mr. Liston’s ministry, the amount raised from this source was 199, 17s., or little short of 70 a year. And yet in the face of such facts, Mr. Liston, in concert with the other members of Session, went a-begging from the parishes of Dalgety and Burntisland! This was not the way to elevate the cause of morality in the parish, or to keep alive the spirit of independence.

It is a dull, cold, dead period of the history of the parish with which we are now dealing, and although the truth must be told, we shall not linger over it a minute longer than we can possibly help. It is a curious glimpse of the state of the parish that we get in the following Minute:—

August 27, 1725.—‘This day some of our Heritors and their Representatives—viz.: the Laird of Cuthilhill, the Laird of Balram, Henry Stevenson of Templehall, Mr. Alexander Christie, for the Earl of Morton, met with the

Session, by desire of the Justices of Peace, to consider the case of the poor of the parish; there being so many sturdy beggars going, that few can serve them all, and a great many thefts, etc., committed by them. They at length came to this, that each poor person should have some badge or mark, having on the one side “Aberdour,” and on the other “Parish,” and that this badge is to be made of lead, and every poor person that begs, belonging to the parish, shall be acquainted not to go out of the bounds thereof, otherwise they will be proceeded with according to the Acts made against Beggars. The constables were also told to do their duty.’

Such a Minute as this shows us how it was practicable to keep the poor on such a pittance as was then doled out to them by Kirk-Sessions. It was evidently intended, in the case of all who could move about, that the allowance given should be supplemented by begging. And it was a very unusual thing indeed, for such as went a-begging, and had some amount of physical strength, to confine their operations entirely to their own parish. Instances occur in which a good deal of trouble was given to the parish authorities, even by cripples, who had taken it into their heads to wander about over a pretty wide area. A Minute, of date November 3d, 1723, tells us ‘the Session allowed Robert Fleming two marks Scots, to buy a slead to carry away the cripples that come to the town.’ We are not to suppose from this that wheeled conveyances were at that time entirely unknown in the parish; although a considerable amount of agricultural work was performed by means of sledges. But it was probably thought good policy on the part of the parochial authorities to adhere to the use of the ‘slead’ in transporting beggars. The roads were of course very rough; the main street of the village being at that time causeyed in the middle, in a similar way to what you may still see in the Coal-wynd. And as the ‘slead,’ laden with cripples, went bumping along, the honour of this mode of conveyance would far transcend its comfort. In addition to which, there falls to be considered the great tendency on the part of the travellers to fall off the sledge from behind, in going up a very steep hill; and the still greater evil of rolling off in front, while going down the hill on the other side. I most sincerely believe that a single ride on Robert Fleming’s ‘slead’ would, in the case of the soundest in limb among us, have been sufficient to cure us of any lingering desire for a repetition of the honour.

An old mode of conveyance suggests to our mind an old form of disease, referred to in the Minutes about the same time, when Robert Weems got five pounds Scots to help to nurse his child, ‘because his wife was weak, and sore distressed with an ague.’ Agues contracted in this country are, I suppose, nearly as rare now as native sledges. Before bidding good-bye to Mr. John Liston and his time, let me mention one or two little incidents, which show to what kind of foreign objects the people were sometimes asked to contribute of their means.

November 3, 1723.—‘This day the Session was informed that a collection had been made in other parishes for the poor distressed Protestants in Saxony; which they took into their serious consideration, and appointed that the recommendation of the General Assembly for that effect be read out of the pulpit the next Lord’s day, and that the Sabbath after shall be appointed for that pious contribution.’ The collection was made accordingly, and five pounds Scots contributed.

June 7, 1724.—‘This day a recommendation, from the Assembly and Presbytery, for a collection for building a kirk for the Presbyterians in New York, was read in the Session, and appointed to be read on Sabbath next.’ For this object four pounds were collected.

At another time, ‘Christian Fandy, a man skilled in Oriental languages, who has been cruelly used by the Turks,’ comes in for a collection of three shillings; while public works at home, just as we saw in the previous century, still get the contributions of the people in a congregational capacity. In this way, during Mr. John Liston’s time, there are collections in aid of the harbours of St. Andrews and Arbroath, the bridge over the Stinchar—a stream that Burns was by and by to render famous,—the Edinburgh Infirmary, and other similar objects. There is also a notice, in 1736, of the Society for the Propagation of Christian Knowledge. But one cannot help lamenting the indifference displayed to missionary effort among the heathen, notices of which, in those old days, are conspicuous only by their absence.

There is no reference in the Minutes to any interruption caused by the Rebellion of 1745, in which the young Pretender figured; although there must no doubt have been days of stirring interest connected with that season of turmoil.

Mr. John Liston died on the 17th of September 1764. I should perhaps have noticed at an earlier stage that he was the son of William Liston, farmer at Newliston, and that he was licensed by the Presbytery of Linlithgow, on the nth of September 1717. He had been presented to the parish of Kirkmahoe, by the Duke of Queensberry, in 1720, but this presentation did not take effect, and we have already seen that he was ordained minister of Aberdour in 1723. For ten years before his death he had the assistance of his son Robert as colleague and successor.

Mr. Robert Liston, thus referred to, had been a student of the University of Edinburgh, was licensed by the Presbytery of Dunfermline on 5th September 1753, and was ordained as colleague to his father on 2d April 1754. He was in many respects superior to his father, and reached the distinction of being Moderator of the General Assembly in the year 1787,—the last who filled the Moderator’s chair without having the degree of Doctor of Divinity. There is, however, little of much interest in the Minutes of Kirk-Session during his incumbency that makes it necessary for us to linger over them. They deal chiefly with details regarding the secularities with which the Session had to concern themselves, and cases of discipline, which, we regret to say, reveal a very low state of morality among the people. We have no Acts bearing on the spiritual and moral elevation of the people, such as those which distinguished the ministry of Mr. Donaldson of Dalgety, to which, in another series of lectures, I called your attention some time ago.1 Indeed, the religious condition of the people, which ought to be the paramount object of the Kirk-Session’s care, is hardly ever noticed. There are, however, a few matters of local interest, which, were they important enough, might be related with the greatest minuteness of detail. If any one wishes to immortalise himself by a description of the Aberdour mortcloth—the source of so much revenue in those days,—he will find the amplest materials for the task in these Records, the Genoa velvet that formed the staple of the article, the shalloon that was necessary in order to make it up with effect; and the fringes that gave the finishing touch of adornment to it. All these are detailed, and dwelt on with the most scrupulous care; and the number of the loops and buttons is told with as much exactitude as if they had belonged to the ephod of the High Priest in the days of the old economy. Or if any one wishes to acquaint himself with all the agony of mind which Mr. Robert Liston underwent in order to procure a decent church bell, in these Minutes will be found all the acts and scenes that go to form the tragedy: how he had, first of all, two small bells, which together weighed 197 lb.; and how, on no fewer than three inevitable occasions, the bells cracked after being re-cast; and how at length a bell of perfectly new metal was got, weighing 197I lb., at i8d. per pound, costing, with expenses, 17, 18s. 9d., or, deducting the value of old metal, 1, 7s. 5d.; and how the new bell was hung in the belfry; and how at length the belfry, following the example of the earlier bells, cracked; and how, after that, the bell was swung up on an old ash-tree. All this is told with such religious scrupulosity, that to repeat it would set your very ears a-ringing!

But there are notices of other matters in the Minutes which are both interesting and important; and of such a nature are references to times of dearth and famine. The year 1757 was remarkable for the scarcity and dearth of provisions. In the month of May of that year the Session considered ‘the melancholy and crying condition of the poor in the parish,’ and agreed to purchase ten or twelve bolls of meal to be distributed among them. Mr. Liston wrote to Mr. Chambers, merchant in Edinburgh, about the matter; but he was unable to supply the meal. He informed the Session, however, that he had good ‘pease,’ which he could sell at twenty shillings sterling per boll; whereupon the Session ordered ten bolls. When the pease arrived, they were sent, in equal quantities, to the Upper and Nether Mills to be ground, and a list of needy people was made who were to receive a stated portion weekly.

The year 1773 was also a very trying one for the poor, and the funds at the disposal of the Session seem to have been inadequate to meet the great demand. With a view to show this, the Session prepared a statement of their income and expenditure, to be laid before the heritors. From this summary it appears that the Session’s income from land and house-rent amounted to 8, 3s. 4d.—sterling money, no doubt; and that the ordinary collections, with marriage and mortcloth dues, amounted to 13,—making in all 21, 3s. 4d. From this sum there fell to be deducted, for feu and vicarage* duty, Session-Clerk’s salary, Synod and Presbytery dues, and Beddel’s allowance, 3, 0s. 4d, leaving for the support of the poor 18. The Session, in submitting this summary, declare that ‘the necessitous have not been, and never are, half supplied by all that is in the Session’s hands to give.’ To Lord Moray’s credit it has to be said that he was the only one of the heritors who responded to this appeal, and he did so in a very substantial way, by giving twelve bolls of oats.

There was likewise much suffering among the poor in the years 1782-83. In addition to ten persons on the roll of paupers, there were nineteen getting occasional relief. The heritors did the poor a great service at this time by purchasing meal, and selling it considerably below the cost price.

A few years later the parish suffered from a visitation of a different kind. A species of fever made its appearance about the beginning of the month of June 1790, and continued, with little intermission, till January 1791. About a fourth part of the inhabitants suffered from it.

From the accurate and detailed Statistical Account of the parish, which Mr. Robert Liston contributed to Sir John Sinclair’s great work, it is possible, even at this distant date, to reproduce pretty fully the state of the parish towards the close of the eighteenth century. The Wester Village projected itself, at the east end of the main street, nearly down to the old bridge, and there the houses of the Easter Village began, and continued the line, sweeping round the north shoulder of the Castle knoll. Many of the houses on both sides of the Dour, but especially in the Easter Village, were of a superior kind, telling both of the desire for comfort, and the possession of the means for obtaining it. A good solid causey—although of a somewhat rough kind, as we have already hinted—had run throughout the entire length of the village, but before 1792 it had given place to a modern Macadamised road. And Mr. Liston, for one, does not approve of the change ; for he thinks it makes the houses on both sides of the street damp in winter, and chokes the people with dust in summer. You hear the rattle of the looms as, in imagination, you walk along the street. When all the shuttles are in full play, you may hear the click of thirty-six of them. You enter into conversation with one of the weavers, and find him a very intelligent man. Invited into his loom-shop, you see, without needing to ask, that the chief manufacture of the village is a coarse kind of linen cloth, and a species of ticking; and your friend the weaver tells you that about 530 of these webs are turned out of the village looms in the course of a year,—more than ten every week; and with his feet still resting on the treadles, and looking over his glasses at you, he says there are from seventy to eighty yards in each of these webs. Going out to the street, you hear the birr of ever so many wheels, by means of which the wives, or daughters, or sisters of the weavers, are preparing the pirns for their use, and you begin to see what a number of persons this weaving trade keeps busy and supports. Passing an open door, you see a woman spinning lint on the two-handed wheel. You ask her what she earns in the day at this kind of work, to which she replies, from sixpence to eightpence, according as she is more or less busy. What a number seem to be employed in spinning! But this is not all. As you pass along the bridge—long ago a ruin—on your way to the Wester Village, you see what a number of webs and hanks of yarn are spread on both banks of the burn for the purpose of being bleached; and the little stream purls none the less sweetly, and the trees look none the less fresh and beautiful, and the Castle none the less lordly, because the traces of industry are there, and the pleasant murmur of human voices, and the happy laugh of children. But you have not traced all the ramifications of the weaving trade yet. You see these fields of lint, with flowers of azure hue, which meet you at every turn in approaching the village. A good many of the inhabitants get employment there at different seasons of the year, although, perhaps, better-paying crops have now taken their place. And as the master weaver, who employs several hands, flourishes, he gets masons and carpenters to build new houses for him, or repair the old. You ask the masons who are busy at a new house what their wages are a day ; and the carpenters and they answer at the same time that their wages are alike—eighteenpence a day. You put the same question to a tailor who has stopped to speak to one of the masons, and he tells you that he works in the homes of his employers, and for a day’s sewing gets sixpence and his food.

You saunter down to the shore, and wonder that you see no carts conveying coals to the harbour. You are told that work at the parish coal-pits is suspended at present. Making inquiry as to the price of coal at the nearest colliery, you learn that it is sixpence for the load of eighteen stones. You have at length reached the harbour, and getting into conversation with a seaman standing by, you ask him how many of his craft there are in the village. He tells you that if all the vessels belonging to the village were hauled on shore at the ‘Auld Moorins,’ and a muster made of the seamen, there would be found about sixty of them. This, you conclude, must bring a good deal of comfort into the village; and the old wives are beginning to relish the tea and other dainties that their husbands or sons bring them; and there are a few things in the village which the exciseman would like to see, but will never be the better for knowing. Sauntering up in the direction of the main street again, you meet a farmer in the Coal-wynd, and puzzle him by asking how many of his class there are in the parish. He counts his fingers over several times, and tells you there are twenty-three, and that the real rental of the parish is ^2600. You would like to know what the arable ground in the parish brings, in the shape of rent. He tells you that forty shillings the acre is a fair price for the most of it; but some of it near the village is let at fifty shillings, and even as high as sixty-five. You wish to know how many ploughs there are in the parish. He owns himself fairly beat, but after a little conference with a neighbour farmer, who is met as he is going to the harbour, he informs you that there are fifty-eight, and that eighteen of them are drawn on the village acres, which extend westwards as far as the Dounans—Lord Moray’s avenue being as yet unformed. You put a few queries regarding the wages of agricultural labourers, and find that, when hired for short periods, their wages run from eightpence to fourteenpence a day; but when hired from term to term the wages of male farm-servants are from five to eight pounds a year, and of female servants from two to three pounds, with their food in both cases. You ask how many ale-houses there are in the parish, and discover that there are five. Finally, you are solicitous to know what the population of the parish is, and are assured that just two years ago—that is, in 1790—the Census was taken, when it was found that the number of inhabitants in the village was 840, and in the landward part of the parish 440— 1280 in all.

How strange to think that this was really the state of the parish within the lifetime of some of the oldest men who are hearing me to-night—who, if they in their turn were questioned, could tell strange stories of the herring fishery at Aberdour and other places on the Firth, first discovered by old John Brown at Donibristle. But this, and other matters that come up along with it, are not within the period with which it is our business to deal. Yet, think of it again: all those busy looms are silent now, and they who plied them are silent too in the churchyard. There is no bleaching of webs or yarn now on the banks of the Dour. Where is the shipping of the place, and where the sailors? Where, it may be asked, is the trade of the place? and what is to become of the people when the trade is entirely gone?

Now I must say I do not cherish gloomy forebodings as the result of these questions being put. The aspect of village affairs has often changed during the past years. These changes are really due to general progress ; the next may be for the better. The exquisite beauty of the place must ever make it a popular resort in summer, and if its intensely interesting history were only known, and if the Monastery of Inchcolme, the Hospital of St. Martha, the old Church and Castle, and other interesting relics of the past, were only, to the mind’s eye, peopled with the forms that once made them instinct with life, a new charm would be added to the many which the neighbourhood already has.

But with all the interest which I have in the things of the past, and the lessons they are fitted to teach, I would on no account have them back just as they were. If all the ‘outs and ins’ of those old days had come as closely and fully before your eyes as they have come before mine, you would not sigh for them either. The good that characterised the past is often unconsciously exaggerated by the aged, while the disagreeable and the bad are forgotten. In many things we are far ahead of those who lived at the close of the eighteenth century. Shame on us, if this were not the case! But let us at the same time not forget that there are many noble lessons taught us in the annals of the past, by which we ought to profit.

Before letting the curtain fall on the Rev. Robert Liston, it should be mentioned that he died on the nth of February 1796, in the sixty-sixth year of his age, and the forty-second of his ministry; and his widow, who was a daughter of Mr. Henry Hardie, minister of Culross, died at the close of the year 1814. They had five sons and five daughters. Two of these sons became ministers,—Henry, at Ecclesmachan, and William at Redgorton. Robert Liston, the celebrated surgeon, was a son of the former, and descendants of the latter have also distinguished themselves. Mr. Liston was succeeded in the 'parish of Aberdour by the Rev. William Bryce, a son of the Rev. Alexander Bryce of Kirknewton. He was presented to the charge by George, Earl of Morton, and ordained in 1796. He had the degree of Doctor of Divinity from the University of St. Andrews in 1820, and held the appointments of one of His Majesty’s Chaplains in Ordinary, and one of the Deans of the Chapel-Royal. But, for various reasons, I am not to prosecute these researches further than the close of the ministry of the Rev. Robert Liston.

There are, however, a few things connected with that period which still demand a hasty glance. Near the close of last century the threatened invasion of Britain by the French called forth a burst of loyalty, which surprised even the friends of our country, and made her enemies look aghast. And this feeling of loyalty, in accordance with the genius of our countrymen, took a very practical turn throughout the length and breadth of the land, and found decided expression in our own parish. For, the formation of the Aberdour corps of Volunteers was only one of a thousand similar demonstrations that told of devotion to King and Country. The corps began to drill on the 31st of July 1798, when their services were declared to be accepted; and they were not disbanded till 1802. The officers of the corps were Captain Hugh Coventry, Lieutenant James Stuart, and Ensign David Cunningham; and the number of volunteers was seventy. I believe I am speaking to some who remember their evolutions in the ‘Volunteers’ Park,’ as it came to be called. I find that only six members of the corps are now (1863) alive, viz. James Law, Adam Brown, Gavin White, Robert M'Cartney, and Andrew Grieve. The motto on the colours is an admirable one: Fidens in am'mis, atque in utnimque paratus —Trustful in soul, and prepared for whatever may happen —a motto that has a still higher application, when used in reference to a still nobler kind of warfare.

There are a few names connected with Aberdour, either by birth or residence in it, which one likes to recall as reflecting honour on the place. I have already referred to the sons of the Rev. Robert Liston. From among the common people sprang George Bennet, who wrought at the trade of a carpenter in the village, ere the insatiable love of learning, which he unmistakably displayed, led him to college halls. He was a man of remarkable scholarly attainments, and had he published nothing more than his View of the Intermediate State, as it appears in the Records of the Old and New Testaments, the Apocryphal Books, in Heathen Authors, and the Greek and Latin Fathers, it would have given him a high place among scholars. Bishop Horsley says of this book, which was published in 1800, that ‘it is a work of various erudition and deep research.’ Mr. Bennet was a minister of the Gospel at Carlisle, and his son became minister of the parish of Closeburn in Dumfriesshire. It may not be known to all of you that a volume on Political Economy was written in our village by Mr. Syme, uncle of the distinguished surgeon and professor of that name. And I may recall the fact, mentioned at an earlier stage, and in another connection, that Mrs. Elizabeth Hamilton, authoress of Letters on Education, The Cottagers of Glenburnie, and other works, not only lived for a time in the parish, but drew from the neighbourhood many of the scenes depicted in the last-named book,—although we have no wish to claim the prototype of Mrs. M‘Clarty as a parishioner. James Stuart of Dunearn, a cadet of the Moray family, has some claim as an author on our notice. His name is unfortunately linked with the duel in which Sir Alexander Boswell fell at Auchtertool. Mr. Stuart long lived in our parish, at Hillside, the grounds of which he greatly beautified. After the melancholy incident to which I have alluded, he travelled in the United States, and afterwards wrote two volumes, giving a description of his wanderings. These volumes are specially inviting to those who know this neighbourhood, as objects of interest in America are frequently compared or contrasted with familiar objects in our own landscapes. There is another name that I must not pass over, for, although not an author himself, a descendant of his became famous as a theologian. In 1774 one of the Rev. Mr. Liston’s elders was Andrew Cunningham, gardener to Lord Morton at Aberdour Castle. He appears to have been a man of superior education, for we frequently find him acting as Session-Clerk. This Andrew Cunningham was the grandfather of Principal Cunningham of Edinburgh—one of the greatest theologians which our country has produced.

And now I have finished my self-imposed task of telling you something of what I have learned of the history of Aberdour and Inchcolme; and I confess that it is with some feeling of sadness that, after travelling with you through nearly seven centuries, my labours in this domain are over. What at one time was a somewhat obscure region has had some light shed on it, and what at first was to my mind a dim, uninhabited district, has been peopled with forms which look as if I had known them long. May I indulge the hope that it has not been entirely in vain that so many hours have been spent in trying to reproduce the past of our neighbourhood? It shall not have been in vain if to any considerable extent it helps on in the parish the causes which it has been my wish ever to keep prominently in view in my humble labours,—the cause of intellectual progress, the cause of social amelioration, the cause of moral purity, and the cause of religion.


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