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Significant Scots
John Blackadder


BLACKADDER, JOHN, a distinguished preacher of the Line of the perrecution, was the representative of an ancient but decayed fainily—Blackadder of Tulliallan—and was born in the year 1615. He was nephew to principal Strung of Glasgow, and grand-nephew to the famous chorographer Timothy Pont. His theological education took place under the eye of the former of these eminent men, and having been duly licensed by the presbyterian church, then in its highest purity and most triumphant domination, be received a call, in 16 52, to the parish-church of Troqueer, in the neighbourhood of Dumfries. Previous to this period, he had married the daughter of a wealthy merchant of that town, named Haning. Mr Blackadder commenced his ministerial labours with a zeal which seems to have been singular even in those times. He, in the first place, gathered around him a very active body of elders, whom he set to work in every direction, upon the task of cultivating the religious mind of the parish. He also instituted a very strict system of moral discipline among his flock. Not content with the weekly sermons on Sunday, he instituted lectures on the ordinary days, which were attended by many persons from a distance. He also projected a plan for occasionally interchanging duty with the neighbouring parochial clergy, which was carried into effect within the entire limits of the presbytery, and is said to have been attended with the best results. The church at this time rested undisturbed under the sway of Cromwell, who gave it toleration in every respect except as a collective body; Mr Blackadder, therefore, found no bar to his progress, which was so exceedingly rapid, that in less than two years he had the satisfaction of seeing a thorough reformation in the devotional habits of his parishioners. Evil days, however, caine at last. In 1662, the episcopal form of church-government was forced by the restored house of Stuart upon a people who were generally repugnant to it. Mr Blackadder, so far from complying with the new system, employed himself for several successive Sundays in exposing what he considered its unlawfulness, and, in his own words, "entered his dissent in heaven" against it. The presbytery of Dumfries, upon which the influence of so zealous a mind was probably very great, gave a positive refusal to an order of the parliament to celebrate the anniversary of the restoration at a festival. A party of fifty horse was accordingly sent to bring the whole of this refractory band of churchmen to Edinburgh. On the day of their arrival at Dumfries, Mr Blackadder was engaged to preach in the town church. He was entreated not to appear in the pulpit, lest he should exasperate the soldiers against him; but instead of taking this advice, he desired the gallery to be cleared, in order that the military might attend his sermon. They did so, and listened decorously to the denunciations which he could not help uttering against all who had been concerned in the late religious defections. He, and some of his brethren, were next day conducted in an honourable captivity to the capital, where he underwent some examinations, but was speedily released, by the interest of his friends. He was now, however, obliged to demit his charge, in favour of an episcopal incumbent. On the last Sunday of October, he preached a farewell sermon to his attached flock.

"This," we are informed, "was a day of anxious expectation throughout the country, and made an impression on the minds of those who witnessed it never to be forgotten. The church of Troqueer stood (as it now does) upon a gentle cmi. hence on the banks of the Nith, commanding an extensive view of the surrounding country, which, in the neighbourhood of Dumiries, presents a delightful variety of local scenery. On the morning of that memorable Sabbath, Mr Blackidder had risen early from prayer and private communion. He stepped forth ~o meditate on the subject of the day. There was a gloom and heaviness in the itmosphere that seemed to correspond with the general melancholy. A fog, or ~hick haze, that covered the face of the earth, as with a grey mantle, had retired rrom the vale of Nith towards the mountains. As he paced his little garden with a slow and pensive step, his contemplations were suddenly interrupted by he tolling of the morning bells, several of which, in the adjacent parishes, were listinctly audible from the uncommon stillness of the air. These hallowed flumes, once the welcome sunsuons to the house of prayer, now sounded like ~he knell of their expiring liberties, reminding him how many of his brethren were, like himself, preparing to bid their last adieu, amidst the tears and blessings of their people. At this signal of retirement, he betook himself to the du~ies of the closet, to hold nearer intercourse with heaven, and fortify himself for Ihue solemn occasion.

"The people, at an early hour, had been straggling on the he~g1t, but kept aloof from the church, unwilling to put their minister to hazard by čonvening in. multitudes, which had been discharged a~ a breach of peace and good order. They collected by degrees in small scattered groups about the church-yard, occupied in dark conjecti~res, and waiting the minister’s approach with extreme anxiety. Mr Blackadder made his appearance with his wonted firmness and composure, and with the same placid serenity of countenance for which he was remarkabj.e. The audience was not numerous, but every feature appeared settled into a deep ajid earnest concern. Most of them were dissolved in tears, and at many parts of the discourse, there were loud and Involuntary bursts of sorrow.

"Towards the middle of the sermon, an alarm was given that a party of so!diers from Dumfries were on their march to seize him, and had crossed the bridge. Upon this he closed hastily, pronounced the blessing, and- retired to his chamber. The military surrounded the church-yard, and, as the peopie departed, they took down the names of all those who belonged to Dumfriee, or any of the other parishes, as the law had affixed a penalty of twenty shillings Scots on every person absent from his own church. They offered violence to none, and went away without entering the manse, being assured that no strangers were there. When they were gone, the minister assembled the remains of the congregation in his own house, and finished the sermon, ‘standing on the stair-head, both the upper and lower flat being crowded to the full.

"The people seemed very loath to depart, lingering in suspense about the door, expressing their oncern for his safety, and their wiffingness to shed their blood in his defence. Mr Blackadder conjured them to have regard to the peace of the country, and give no handle to their adversaries by any disturbance. ‘Go,’ said he, and fend impossible—the militia had gone already as worshippers. In 1674, lie was out. lawed, and a reward of a thousand merks was offered for his apprehension; but lie nevertheless continued to preach occasionally to large assemblages in the fields. What may appear surprising, he often resided in the capital, without undergoing any annoyance, and contrived, notwithstanding the imgratory nature of his life, to rear a large and well-instructed family. It does not appear that he approved of the insurrection of his friends, which was suppressed at Bothwell. Though engaged in duty immediately before this event, he fortunately was confined during the whole period of its continuance, by a rheumatism, and therefore escaped all blanie on that account. In 1680, he made a voyage to Holland, and settled his son at Leyden, as a student of medicine;’ a circumstance which proves that the persecution to which these clergymen were subjected was not uniformly attended by pecuniary destitution. After spending several months in Holland, he returned to Scotland, and, in the succeeding year, was apprehended, and confined in the state-prison upon the Bass. He remained here for four years, when at length his health declined so much, on account of the insalubrious nature of hi~ prison, that his friends made interest to procure his liberation upon the plea that he must otherwise sink under his malady. The government at first mocked him with a proposal to transfer him to Haddington or Dunbar jail, but at length, on a more earnest and better attested remonstrance, offered to give him liberty to reside in Edinburgh, under a bond for five thousand merks. Ere this tender mercy could be made available, he died in his islet prison, December, 1685, having nearly completed his seventieth year. John Blackadder lies interred in North Berwick church-yard, where there is an epitaph to his memory, containing, among others, the following characteristic lines :— Grace formed him in the Christian hero’s mould;

Meek in his own concerns—in’s Master’s bold;
Passions to reason chained, prudence did lead,
Zeal warmed his breast, and prudence cooled his head.
Five years on this lone rock, yet sweet abode,
Be Enoch-like enjoyed and walked with God;
Till by long-living on his heavenly food,
His soul by love grew up, too great, too good,
To be confined to jail, or flesh, or blood.


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