Page images
PDF
EPUB

remedy for this.” Leighton proposed a treaty for the accommodation of the existing differences, and for changing the laws which upheld and protected the episcopal order. “He saw both church and state were rent; religion was like to be lost; popery, or rather barbarity, was like to come in upon us; and therefore he proposed such a scheme as he thought might have taken in the soberest men of presbyterian principles; reckoning that if the schism could be once healed, and order be once restored, it might be easy to bring things into such management that the concessions there to be offered should do no great hurt in the present, and should die with that generation. He observed the extraordinary concessions made by the African church to the Donatists, who were every whit as wild and extravagant as our people were ; therefore he went indeed very far in the extenuating the episcopal authority; but he thought it would be easy afterwards to recover what seemed necessary to be yielded at present?." Leighton proposed to gain the presbyterians by concessions, a policy which cost the first Charles both his crown and his head. He proposed the uniting of presbyters with the bishops in the church courts, and that the bishop should only act as the chairman or president, which is exactly what the puritanpapists proposed in the beginning of their schism; and that all causes should be determined, both in matters of jurisdiction and ordination, by a majority of the presbyters, without respect to the bishop, who was to bave no negative voice. He proposed that the laws should be altered to correspond with this scheme. He also thought it more decent to ordain all incumbents at the parish cburch where they were to serve, after solemn fasting and prayer, rather “ than to huddle it up at their cathedrals with no solemnity, and scarce with common decency." This is a silly innuendo, for Knox and his coadjutors left the Scottish bishops few cathedrals in which to huddle up their ordinations—an expression that smells rank of Mess John. Those who were to be ordained were to be at liberty to declare that they looked upon the bishop only as the head of the presbyters : and a treaty was set on foot to try to persuade the presbyterians to accept of these conditions.

ACCORDING 10 bishop Burnet's description of the bishop of Dunblane, he seems to have been a good specimen of a Pharasee ; for he stood aloof from all his brethren, as being more holy than they were, and too pure to associate with them. He seemed to resent the independence of the primate

[ocr errors]

and the other bishops, because they would not submit to be ruled and directed by his councils in this business of the accommodation ; so that under all the external appearance of humility and self-denial with which Burnet has invested his character, his ambition may be discovered. His enmity to the primate and his brethren was increased by their firm opposition to his crotchet of establishing presbytery with the retention of a nominal episcopacy; and this seems only the maturity of his early education, for the author of Zion's Plea had carefully cducated his son, as Burnet observes, to a perfect hatred of the church," that he was bred up with the greatest aversion imaginable to the whole frame of the church of England 1.” This may be called an accommodation; but it appears rather an attempt to presbyterianise the church by a side wind. The laws for the protection and establishment of the church were to be repealed or altered, to accommodate the presbyterians; and to depress and insult the episcopal auihority the church was to yield up all her rights, the bishops were to retain little more than the name, and, in effect, presbytery was to have been established by law. “ If,” says Mr. Salmon, “our author has not sufficiently demonstrated himself to be a presbyterian in heart, though not in habit, let the impartial world judge: nor will any mar. hereafter surely wonder to find all the lies and calumnies.forged by the presbyterians, of the sons of episcopacy, collected and published to the world in this posthumous work [Own Times]; and had our author not forgot himself sometimes, and discovered the weakness of the brethren, we should have soon seen this precious collection of calumny and slander preferred to the bible itself by that censorious secta."

LEIGHTON was very desirous that a treaty should be entered into upon the basis of the ACCOMMODATION, as it was called; but the earl of Kincardine opposed any treaty, because “ they were a trifling sort of disputatious people, that loved logic and sophistry.” He proposed, therefore, to carry concession as far as it was reasonable or expedient, and to pass a law accordingly, when he supposed the presbyterians would submit when they could not help themselves. In this proposal Leighton fully agreed; but Lauderdale would not give his concurrence, and as for the hierarchy and the body of the clergy, it was never considered necessary to ask their consent, or even their opinion. Lauderdale is represented to have said " a law that did so entirely change the constitution of the church, when it came

1 Burnet's Own Times, i. 502-508.

2 Impartial Examination, i. 594.

to be passed and printed, would be construed in England as a pulling down of episcopacy; unless he could have this to say in excuse for it, that the presbyterians were willing to come under that model 1.” Tweeddale proposed to grant leave to some of the outed ministers, by an act of the king's indulgence, to go and serve in those parishes that were vacant; but this was opposed by Leighton, who thought nothing would bring the presbyterians to treat so much as the hopes of being again suffered to return to their former benefices; but if once they were admitted they would reckon it a victory, and grow stubborn.

BUT THIS ACCOMMODATION was interrupted in its progress by the attempt of a presbyterian preacher to assassinate archbishop Sharp in the street. The name of the intended assassin was James Mitchel, whom Wodrow represents as a “good youth,” and “ a preacher of the gospel, and a youth of much zeal and piety;" who had shewn his piety by joining the rebels and acting in their service in the Pentland rebellion, and in consequence he had been excepted from the indemnity. He had gone to Holland after the defeat of his friends at Rullion Green, and remained there for some time, "nursing his wrath to keep it warm ;” “having not yet laid down arms, and taking the archbishop of St. Andrews to be the main instigator of all the oppression and bloodshed of his faithful brethren, took up a resolution in 1663 to dispatch him.” It was not, therefore, a sudden impulse, but a deliberate intention to commit murder, taken up as a principle of religion, nourished and brooded over for the space of five years; and this great sin, which they called by the delicate names of an incident, and an accident, was the genuine fruit of the covenant, which binds its followers to extirpate all bishops by the sword. On the afternoon of Saturday the 11th of July, the primate and the bishop of Orkney went out together from his brother's house, which was situate in the High-street, at the top of the Blackfriars Wynd, or Lane; and the archbishop had taken his seat in his coach, and was in the act of distributing some alms to the mendicants who had crowded round it. Just as bishop Honyman took hold of the door to assist himself into the carriage, he received the contents of the pious Mitchel's pistol in his arm, which broke it, and caused his death a few years after

1 Burnet's Own Times, i. 505-506.

? Burnet calls this crime " a strange accident," - Kirkton, “an unhappy accident,"—Wodrow, “ an unhappy incident,"'--Dr. Burns, his editor, the accident,"-Crookshanks, “ the attempt-this accident—and the righteousness of Providerce,"--and Hetherington, the last presbyterian authority, calls this atrocious attempt at murder“ an incident.

wards. The shot was designed for the primate, for whose appearance Mitchel had been waiting for some time; but it seems strange how one so near as to be close at the side of the carriage should have missed his aim, unless he had been unacquainted with the person of his victim, and had mistaken the bishop of Orkney for the primate. Mitchel ran down the lane, and into another, where he changed part of his dress, and immediately afterwards coolly mingled with the crowd in the High street; but the archbishop had got a distinct view of the assassin's features before he ran off. Wodrow and his copyists treat this execrable action with the most disgusting levity, which shows that their consciences have been so seared by the infernal obligations of the covenant, as to verify our Lord's prophesy that the time would come when it would be thought good and acceptable service to God to murder his servants. “The cry arose, a man was killed; and some rogues answered, it was but a bishop, and all was calmed very soon !” And it is even insinuated, as a circumstance betokening the fears of a guilty conscience, that “the two bishops made all the haste they could to the house where they had been 1.” It would have been singular stoicism if they had done otherwise, when one of them received a mortal wound, which all the surgical skill of that period was never able to cure, and which caused his death some years afterwards; for Keith says it affected his general health, and the bullet was poisoned.

BURNET exhibits his implacable hatred at the archbishop, by stating falsely that “ he was so generally hated that nobody endeavoured to apprehend the villain ;” and then he says he thought it but decent to go and congratulate him on this occasion, and the primate put on a shew of devotion, and said, with a serious look, “My times are wholly in thy hands, O thou God of my life ;" but this, he adds, was the single expression savouring of piety that he ever heard fall from him. And even this solitary expression would not have been recorded, had it not been for the purpose of defaming the primate, and insinuating that he was neither a religious nor a moral man; but considering the ill opinion that the primate entertained for him, evinced upon his trial for libelling the whole bench, and his own hatred against Dr. Sharp for declining to intercede for his uncle, the arch-traitor Johnston, and for refusing his impertinent advice, it is not reasonable to suppose that the primate would be on such intimate terms with Burnet as he wishes to be believed. But neither the primate's innocence nor character could screen him from the bishop of Sarum's malignity, nor “.the inhuman designs of the sons of Belial, who thought if they could once destroy him, his order would also follow.” We shall again meet with the “pious" Mitchel; meantime his character may be noticed, as a specimen of what that party reckon piety and zeal. He studied at the university of Edinburgh, where he took the degree of master of arts in 1656, and took the covenant at the same time, administered by the hands of Leighton, the principal; but was refused a license by the presbytery of Dalkeith on account of his ignorance. After the Restoration, some of the presbyterian brethren in Galloway licensed him, and he exercised his vocation among them for some time. He was recommended to the laird of Dundas as a private tutor and domestic chaplain, where it was discovered that he had entered into an adulterous commerce with the young wife of the aged gardener. In consequence he was dismissed, and he afterwards lodged in the same house, and associated with the execrable major Weir, who was pil. loried for unnatural crimes. He now frequented conventicles, and preached up the covenant, and was introduced as chapplain by Weir to a niece of sir Archibald Johnston, and the cousin of bishop Burnet, who was one of the greatest fanatics of that time, from whose family he joined the rebels at Pentland. Having been proclaimed a traitor he made his escape to Holland, where he remained till he came home to“ dispatch" the archbishop'.

1 Wodrow, ii. 115-116. - Burnet's Own Times, i. 508. — Crookshanks, i. 268.-Hetherington, 139.--Skinner, ii. 471.- Keith's Catalogue. - Scots Worthies, 304.-Salmon's Examination, i. 620.

A PRESBYTERIAN author calls this cool, deliberate, and longintended attempt at murder,“the righteousness of Providence," which marks their sympathy with the vile assassin, who is reckoned to this day one of their “worthies," and even a martyr. The privy council assembled immediately, and issued a proclamation for the assassin's apprehension, after which they addressed the following letter to the king to acquaint him with the dreadful assault on the two prelates,

“MAY IT PLEASE your sacred majesty,--As it hath not been our custom to give your majesty any unnecessary trouble ; so we could have wished that the wickedness of a desperate fellow had not given occasion to us in duty to acquaint your majesty with that which we know will not be pleasing to yon, and which we and all honest men do abominate.

i Scots Worthies, 303.-Ravillac Redivivus.

« PreviousContinue »