Index for Chapters XXI-XXIX

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Chapter XXII: The New Order

In 1578 a remarkable man, Thomas Smeaton, was induced, after much persuasion, to come as minister to Paisley. He was famous for his learning, had travelled much, and was respected for his many private virtues. He was more successful than his predecessors. Lord Claud had been obliged to fly for his life, and the new Commendator was favourable to Protestantism. Smeaton was gentle and kindly in his manner, and these qualities, conjoined with his earnestness, possibly won for him a certain amount of respect. He was held in high esteem throughout the Church, and was more than once made Moderator of the General Assembly. “Mr. Thomas,” says his biographer, “was verie wacriff and painful, and skarslie tuk tym to refresh nature. I haiff seen him oft find fault with lang dinners and suppers at General Assemblies, and, when uthers were thereat, he would abstain, and be about the penning of things (wherein he excellit, bathe in language and form of letter), and yet he was nocht rustic, nor austere, but sweet and affable in companie, with a modest and naive gravitie. Very frugale in food and reyment, and walked maist on foot ; whom I was verie glad to accompanie whiles to Stirling, and now and then to his kirk for my instruction and comfort. He lovit me exceeding well, and wald at parting thrust my head into his bosom and kiss me.” [7] Smeaton remained only two years in Paisley, and in 1580 was made Principal of the University of Glasgow.

The next minister of whom we have any notice is one of much more energy and determination than his predecessors. Mr. Andrew Knox came from Lochwinnoch to Paisley in 1585, about the time of Lord Claud's return from banishment.
[8] Lord Abercorn, the son of this nobleman, sat frequently in the General Assembly as an elder, [9] and as the old lord probably wished to spend the evening of his days in peace, Mr. Andro Knox had it all his own way. [10] He put down with a strong hand any opposition to the Church established by law, and any “Papist” must have found Paisley a disagreeable place of residence during his incumbency. He produced outward conformity by the measures he adopted, though it is probable that many clung in secret to the old faith. No parishioner was allowed to absent himself from the Abbey Church in time of sermon, and especially from the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper. The parishes of Renfrewshire were erected into a presbytery in 1590, and after that the Catholics of Paisley got little rest—certainly no mercy. They were excommunicated, fined, imprisoned, or compelled on their knees publicly to acknowledge their sin. Many ladies of rank in Renfrewshire, whose husbands had conformed, remained attached to the old faith ; but they were treated with little deference. [11] Old Lady Claud Hamilton, driven to despair by the persecution to which she was subjected by Mr. Knox and his coadjutors, wrote a letter to King James, imploring him to interfere in her behalf. [12] “These four years past,” she says, “I have been subject to a vehement payne, arising from distillations and humours in my head, with a continual toothache, giving me sic torment as scarce I have half-an-hour's release by night or by day, and notwithstanding, to aggravate my payne, I am summoned by the Church to confer and attend on the Presbyteries and other dyets, upon what suspects I know not, for I have never been proved repyning nor disobedient to the least of his Majesty's laws. I hope his Majesty, who hath always had a gracious regard to me and mine, will not think me unworthy in my extreme of sickness.” The records of the Presbytery shew with how strong a hand any one who ventured on non-conformity was put down. The usual rule was for the Presbytery to instruct the minister of the parish to summon him for the first time; then, if contumacious, for the second; and, if he still continued so, for the third time. The minister was then directed to proceed to the first admonition, then to the second, and afterwards to the third. If the offender still remained obstinate, he was to be prayed for the first time, then the minister was afterwards to proceed to the second and third prayer. If the person continued still impenitent, excommunication followed, and he was delivered over to Satan for the destruction of his body, that his soul might be saved in the day of the Lord. Many of those so delivered over would have taken it very lightly if civil consequences had not followed, and imprisonment, banishment, and other penalties been inflicted. [13]

[7] Melville's Diary, p. 58, where a very full account of Smeaton is given.
[8] Andrew Knox was the second son of John Knox of Ranfurlie, in the parish of Kilbarchan.
[9] Book of Universal Kirk.
[10] As superior of Paisley, Lord Claud allowed Knox to build a house for himself in the High Street of Paisley, but the minister got into trouble and litigation with his neighbour in building it.
[11] Lady Glencairne, Lady Duchal, and others, who were terribly badgered.
[12] Letters to James VI., Ban. Club, date 1st Sept., 1610.
[13] Town Council Records, Jan. 24, 1622, “Enacted, that nae houses be let to persons excommunicate, and that none entertain them in their houses, under the pain of ten punds.”