Index for Chapters XXI-XXIX

Previous page

Chapter XXIV

Chapter XXIII: Discipline

“October 9, 1606.—The which day, in respect there was suspicion of plague within the parochin of Merns, so that the parochiners cited were hinderit to compear before the Presbyterie, therefore the brethren thocht it expedient to desiset any further process against the said parochiners, while it should please God to relieve them of that suspition.”

The Presbytery had no cases of witchcraft before them at this early period. These appear considerably later on; but charming, and other deeds of darkness, particularly when accompanied by the sale of quack medicines, are strongly denounced.

“Sep. 16, 1602.—Anent the sclander givin by Gavin Stewart, burges of Paslay, in prostrating himself before Martha Pinkertoun upon his knees, craving the health of Gavan Ralstoun, younger of that Ilk, fra her as was allegit, the said Gavan compearing, as he was lawfully summond, to answer for the sclander aforesaid, conffessit that he gaed to the said Martha, and said to her (it is said thou hast taken the health of this man Gavin Ralstoun fra him, the which if thou hast done I pray thee, for God's sake, give him again), but he denyit any humiliation to have been made upon his knees, or lifting of his bonnet. Therefore, and in respect of the said Martha's affirmation, the brethren has summond the said Gavan, and ordained also the said Martha to be summond before them in the Kirk of Paslay the last day of this instant, for puttin tryall taken in the said cause.

“Nov. 27, 1620.—Mr. Andro Hamiltoun, minister at Lochwinzeoche, informed the Moderator and brethren of the Presbyterie of Paslay of a heinous sclander of Andro Robesoune, suspected of charming, making and applying of sawes [salves] to diverse diseases, he being altogether unlearned, seducing thereby the common people ; and in respect of his ignorance endangering the lives of thaim to whom they were applyed, the brethren ordained Mr. Alex. Hamiltoun to cause summond the said Andro Robesoune to compear before them the next Presbyterie day.”

“Dec. 11.—Compeared Andro Robesoune, parochiner of Lochwinzeoche, against whom the brethren had allegit sundry accusations of charming, and making and applying sawes for blasting, and ill winds, for the which as for grounds the said Mr. Alex. had onelie common report, and no evidence of his charming. Notwithstanding, the said Andro confessit he made sawes and gave them to sick persons, whereby the brethren alledged the people might be seduced and deceived, as also in respect of his ignorance he endangered their lives, they therefore prohibited and interdicted the said Andro, as likewise he of his ain accord submitted himself to the interdiction, that in no tyme comeing he should make or give these kind of sawes under the pane of fourtie pounds, toties quoties.”

“Ap. 25, 1629.—The brethren, resenting that Andro Robesoune had yet continued to give sawes, and was suspect of charming, notwithstanding his interdiction, ordain Mr. John Lawe to cause him to appear before them this day 15 dayes.”

“20th June.—Compeared Andro Robesoune, who yet denyed that he had contravened the Act of Presbytery. The Moderator charged the brethren to give a proof of their dilligence for tryall against him the next Presbyterie day, and ordain the baillies to cause the said Andro to find sufficient caution, under the payne of five hundred merks, to compear the said day.”

Robesoune, when called, did not compear. He seems to have fled the country, and the case was stopped.

These extracts might be largely extended, but those we have given are sufficient to shew what was the discipline of the Kirk in the years succeeding the Reformation, and how strict was the surveillance the clergy exercised over all within their jurisdiction. The people lived under an iron rule. If the Priests chastised them with whips, the Presbyters used scorpions. The days for such a rule, it may perhaps be thought, are past for ever; but it is the tendency of all ecclesiastical bodies to descend from the sphere of the spiritual to that of the secular, and were a powerful and united Church set up in Scotland again, as some seem anxious to see, scenes not unlike some of those to which we have referred would probably be re-enacted. Men would have to submit to the tyranny of ecclesiastics, or give up public profession of religion altogether. A powerful Church becomes, almost in the nature of things, antagonistic to civil liberty.