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Significant Scots
James Bayne


BAYNE, (or BAINE) JAMES, A.M. a divine of some note, was the son of the Rev. Mr Bayne, minister of Bonhill in Dumbartonshire, and was born in 1710. His education commenced at the parish school, was completed at the university of Glasgow, and in due time he became a licensed preacher of the established church of Scotland. In consequence of the respectability of his father, and his own talents as a preacher, he was presented by the Duke of Montrose to the church of Killearn, the parish adjoining that in which his father had long ministered the gospel, and memorable as the birth-place of Buchanan. In this sequestered and tranquil scene, he spent many years, which he often referred to in after life as the happiest he had ever known. He here married Miss Potter, daughter of Dr Michael Potter, professor of divinity in the Glasgow university, by whom he had a large family. His son, the Rev. James Bayne, was licensed in the Scottish establishment, but afterwards received Episcopal ordination, and died in the exercise of that profession of faith at Alloa.

The reputation of Mr Bayne as a preacher soon traveled far beyond the rural scene to which his ministrations were confined. His people, in allusion to the musical sweetness of his voice, honoured him with the poetical epithet of "the swan of the west." He was appointed to a collegiate charge in the High Church of Paisley, where his partner in duty was the celebrated Mr Wotherspoon, afterwards president of the Nassau Hall College, Princetown, New Jersey. The two colleagues, however, did not co-operate harmoniously, although both enjoyed a high degree of popularity. Mr Bayne displayed great public spirit during his connection with the Established church, defending her spiritual liberties and independence in the church courts, and offering a determined opposition to the policy of the moderate or ruling party. The deposition of Mr Thomas Gillespie, of Carnock, the founder of the Relief church, made a powerful impression on his mind, and undoubtedly had a strong influence in inducing him to resign his pastoral charge in Paisley. But the immediate cause of that resolution was a keen dispute which took place in the kirk-session of his parish, respecting the appointment of a session-clerk. The session contested the right of appointment with the town-council; the whole community took an interest in the dispute; and the case came at last to be litigated in the Court of Session, which decided in favour of the town-council. Unhappily, Mr Bayne and his colleague took opposite sides in this petty contest, and a painful misunderstanding was produced betwixt them, followed by consequences probably affecting the future destinies of both. Mr Bayne refers to these differences in his letter of resignation, addressed to the Presbytery, dated 10th February, 1766:—" They (the Presbytery) know not how far I am advanced in life, who see not that a house of worship, so very large as the High Church, and commonly so crowded too, must be very unequal to my strength; and this burden was made more heavy by denying me a session to assist me in the common concerns of the parish, which I certainly had a title to. But the load became quite intolerable, when, by a late unhappy process, the just and natural right of the common session was wrested from us, which drove away from acting in it twelve men of excellent character." Mr Bayne joined the Relief church, then in its infancy, having, even whilst in the Establishment, held ministerial communion with Mr Simpson, minister of Bellshill congregation, the first Relief church in the west of Scotland. In his letter of resignation, already quoted, Mr Bayne assured his former brethren that the change of his condition, and the charge he had accepted, would make no change in his creed, nor in his principles of Christian and ministerial communion—"Nay (he adds), none in my cordial regard to the constitution and interests of the Church of Scotland, which I solemnly engaged to support some more than thirty years ago, and hope to do so while I live. At the same time I abhor persecution in every form, and that abuse of church power of late, which to me appears inconsistent with humanity, with the civil interests of the nation, and destructive of the ends of our office as ministers of Christ." On the 24th December, Mr Bayne accepted a call to become minister of the College Street Relief Church, Edinburgh, and his induction took place on the 13th February, 1766, three days after his resignation of his charge in Paisley. As his demission fell to be adjudicated upon by the General Assembly, in May of that year, his name remained for the present upon the roll of the Establishment, and so little did he yet consider himself separated from the communion of that church, that when the half-yearly sacrament of the Lord’s Supper came round in Edinburgh, soon after his settlement, after preaching in his own church in the forenoon, he went over in the afternoon, at the head of his congregation, to the New Greyfriars’ church, and joined in the ordinance with the congregation of the Rev. Dr Erskine. At the Assembly in May, Mr Bayne, in obedience to a citation, appeared at the bar, and was declared to be no longer a minister of the Church of Scotland, and all clergymen of that body were prohibited from holding ministerial communion with him. Mr Bayne defended the course he had taken in a review of the proceedings of the Assembly, entitled, "Memoirs of Modern Church Reformation, or the History of the General Assembly, 1760, and occasional reflections upon the proceedings of said Assembly; with a brief account and vindication of the Presbytery of Relief, by James Bayne, A.M., minister of the gospel at Edinburgh." He denounces, with indignant severity, the injustice of his having been condemned by the Assembly without a libel, merely for having accepted a charge in another church, "in which (says he), I presumed, they could find nothing criminal; for often had ministers resigned their charge upon different accounts, and justifiable; nay, some have given it up for the more entertaining and elegant employ of the stage, who were not called in question or found delinquents. This was a palpable hit at Home, the author of "Douglas," who sat in the Assembly as a ruling elder, to aid Dr Robertson in punishing Bayne. After a ministry of 60 years, Mr Bayne died at Edinburgh, on the 17th January, 1790, in his eightieth year. He was 24 years minister of the College Street Relief congregation, Edinburgh. His popularity as a preacher, his talents for ecclesiastical affairs, his acquirements as a scholar and a theologian, and his sound judgment and weight of character, gave him great influence; and it was mainly to his large and enlightened views that the Relief church was indebted for the position to which it attained, even during his lifetime, as well as for retaining, till it was finally merged in the United Presbyterian church, the catholic constitution on which it had been founded by Gillespie and Boston. Mr Bayne was an uncompromising opponent of whatever he considered to be a violation of public morality. In 1770 he published a discourse, entitled, "The Theatre Licentious and Perverted," administering a stern rebuke to Mr Samuel Foote for his Minor; a drama, in which the characters of Whitefield, and other zealous ministers were held up to profane ridicule. The dramatist considered it necessary to reply to Mr Bayne’s strictures, in an "Apology for the Minor, in a letter to the Rev. Mr Bayne," resting his defence upon the plea that he only satirized the vices and follies of religious pretenders. A volume of Mr Bayne’s discourse was published in 1778.


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