IT soon became quite plain that Charles, like his
father and grandfather before him, was bent on making Scotland Episcopalian.
The Presbyterians, seeing this, sent a minister called James Sharpe to
London, to beg the King not to force them to do what they thought was wrong.
But Sharpe betrayed those who sent him. He went over to the King's side,
and, soon after he came back to Scotland, he was rewarded by being made
Archbishop of St. Andrews.
Then Charles ordered all the ministers in Scotland to
become Episcopalian, or to leave their churches. Three hundred and fifty
left, rather than yield. So many churches were thus made empty, that there
were not clergymen enough to fill them. All kinds of ignorant men were then
sent as 'curates,' to preach to the people, instead of their ministers.
These men had 'little learning, less piety, and no sort of discretion,' and
the people would not listen to them. Rather than do that, they followed
their ministers into wild hills and glens, and there, among the heather and
the broom, they sang and prayed as well as in any church.
These meetings were called Conventicles. Conventicle
is formed from two Latin words, con, together, and venire, to come, so that
it means a coming together. To go to a Conventicle was against the law, and
those who did go, went in fear of their lives, for soldiers rode through all
the country looking for such meetings. When they were discovered, the people
were killed, tortured, fined, and ill- treated in every possible way.
Yet the Presbyterians would not give in. The more they
were persecuted, the more they clung to their own form of worship.
At first people went to the Conventicles unarmed, so
when they were discovered, they were scattered and killed without being able
to resist. But soon they began to arm themselves. Men went to these mountain
churches with guns in their hands, helmets upon their heads, and swords by
their sides. And while the minister preached and prayed, sentinels kept
watch, ready to give the alarm at the first sign of danger.
Among the lonely hills, under the open sky, the voices
of men and women rang out, and the words of the grand old psalms rose
straight to heaven :-
Unto the hills I lift my eves, from whence my help
Eve' to the Lord which framed the heavens, and made the deeps
He will not let my feet to slip, my watchman neither sleeps.
Behold the Lord of Israel, still His flock in safety keeps.
The Lord is
my defence, lie doth about me shadow east;
By day nor night, the sun nor
moon, my limbs shall burn nor blast.
He shall preserve me from all ill,
and me from sin protect;
My going in and coming forth He ever shall
Then suddenly there is a cry from the watchers.
Through the glen comes the glint of red coats, the gleam of steel.
The women fly for shelter, the men stand to their
arms. The echoes of the hills are awakened by the sound of shots, the clash
of swords, the cries of the wounded. Then silence falls again. All is over.
The soldiers ride away with their prisoners. The lonely valley is once more
still. Only on the trampled blood-stained heather, there lie those who have
walked through the valley of the shadow of death, those who have gone to
dwell in the house of the Lord for ever. Then when evening falls, sorrowing
comrades creep back to lay them in their last resting-place upon the lonely
Many a green spot among the hills was marked with
gravestones, many a peaceful Sabbath morning was turned into a day of
mourning and tears, and at last, maddened by cruelty and oppression, the
Covenanters broke into rebellion. They gathered an army, and about three
thousand marched on Edinburgh. But finding that the people there were arming
against them, they turned aside to the Pentland hills. There, at a place
called Rullion Green, they met the royal troops.
The Covenanters were weary with long marching. They
were hungry and wet. Most of them were but poor peasants, undrilled and
badly armed. But cruelty had made them frantic, and filled with religious
madness they faced the enemy, singing the seventy-eighth Psalm:-
Why art thou, Lord, so long from us,
In all this
Why doth Thine anger kindle thus,
At Thine own pasture
Lord, call Thy people to Thy thought,
Which have been Thine so
The which Thou hast redeem'd and bought
From bondage sore and
Lift up Thy feet and come in haste,
And all Thy foes deface,
at pleasure rob and waste
Within Thy holy place.
Amid Thy congregation
Thine enemies roar, O God!
They set as signs on every well
Their banners splayed abroad.
When wilt Thou, Lord, once cud this shame,
And cease Thine enemies strong?
Shall they always blaspheme Thy name,
And rail on Thee so long?
Why dost Thou draw Thy hand aback,
And hide it in Thy ]ap?
Oh, pluck it out, and be not slack
To give Thy foes a rap.'
The Royalists were led by General Dalyell—Bloody
Dalyell the people called him, because he was so fierce and cruel to the
Covenanters. He was a strange, savage old man. After the death of Charles i.,
be never cut his hair or shaved. his long white beard reached below his
waist, and his clothes were of so quaint a fashion that the children
followed him in the streets to stare at him, as if he were a circus clown.
He had fought in many foreign wars, and now with the psalm-singing was
mingled the sound of strange oaths as the armies closed.
The Covenanters fought with a desperate courage; twice
they beat back the Royalist troops. But the King's soldiers were mostly
gentlemen, well drilled and well armed. The Covenanters were wearied
peasants, and at last they gave way, and fled in the gathering darkness. Not
many were killed in this little battle, but the prisoners who were taken
were put to death with cruel tortures.
In vain Charles tried to crush out the spirit of
Presbyterianism. Middleton, who had ruled for Charles, had been cruel and
bad enough, but after him came the Duke of Lauderdale, a Scotsman, who made
for himself a name to be hated by Scotsmen. He was a big, ugly, coarse,
red-haired man. He hunted, and tortured, and killed the Presbyterians, and
all the time he was a Presbyterian himself!
A terrible Highland army, called the Highland Host,
was now raised and sent against the Covenanters. For three months these wild
mountain men did their worst. They robbed, plundered, and burned, until at
last even their masters grew afraid, and sent them back to their mountains
again. They went back loaded with spoil, as if from the sacking of cities.
Clothes, carpets, furniture of all kinds, pots and pans, silver plate,
anything and everything upon which they could lay hands, they carried off,
leaving their wretched victims penniless, homeless wanderers.
The cruelty and horror of the time at last grew so
bad, that a company of nobles and gentlemen went to London to speak to the
King, and to tell him of the dreadful things which were happening. Charles
listened to what they had to say; then he replied, 'I see that Lauderdale
has been guilty of many bad things against the people of Scotland, but I
cannot find that he has acted anything contrary to my interest.'
So the persecution still went on. Archbishop Sharpe,
the man whom the Covenanters had sent to plead with Charles, had become one
of their bitterest enemies. He helped and encouraged Lauderdale, and at
last, some of the Covenanters, maddened with cruelty and injustice, killed
him as he was driving along a road across a lonely moor.
Many of the Covenanters were sorry for this murder.
But they were all blamed for it, and had to suffer much in consequence. When
they had the chance, and the power, the Covenanters did other cruel and
wicked things. But they were mad, really mad, with suffering. They looked on
all who were not of the Covenant as the enemies of God, and sons of Belial,
and to destroy them was a holy work. So the unhappy years passed on. Now and
again, Charles seemed to try to be kind to the Covenanters. Men there would
come days even more cruel than those that had passed. Many poor wretches
wandered in wild places, living in holes and caves, many fled from the
country and took refuge in Holland. Still the days of battle and blood went
on—the 'killing time' it was called. At last, in 1685 A.D., Charles died.
Charles was clever, but he was a bad man and a bad King. How even his
friends regarded him you can guess from the following lines which were
written by one of them:-
Here lies our sovereign Lord the King
no man relies on,
Who never said a foolish thing,
And never did a wise