Index for Chapters XXI-XXIX

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Chapter XXVII: The Curates

“Leighton stood
Alone 'mong men of wrath and blood
In the dim twilight of the day
That dawned, uncertain, on his way;
Nor might he comprehend
Whither its strifes would end.
He comprehended not ; but tried
To quiet now the wrath and pride,
To heal when there was hope, to pray
When hope of healing died away.
                             —W. C. Smith.

WE have now come to a period in our story which it is not pleasant to contemplate. The spirit of the Covenanters, as we have seen, was essentially a persecuting spirit. With them, every one must be a Presbyterian or a Covenanter, and no one had a right to be anything else. The spirit of the Episcopalians, who succeeded them in the Establishment, was equally a persecuting spirit, but as they had the arm of the secular power more under their control than their predecessors, that spirit manifested itself in a more open and in a more repulsive form. The Covenanters fulminated excommunications, and would have proceeded to more serious measures if they had possessed the power. The Episcopalians had the power—the whole civil power of the kingdom—and they used it. Neither party could suffer a rival. Both were equally intolerant. But the one was on the popular, the other on the unpopular side; and while those belonging to the one party have come down to us glorified as martyrs and the champions of religious liberty, those of the other have been held up to execration, as if they monopolised all the intolerance, bigotry, and fierceness of the age. The latter, certainly, had a considerable share of these; but they had by no means an exclusive possession of them. This is perhaps the most that can be said in their favour. For their opponents, it must be pleaded, that they exhibited in their sufferings nobler qualities than they exhibited in their prosperity, and the trials through which they passed enlist our sympathy in a way the men themselves never could have done.

Soon after the accession to the throne of Charles II., it was clearly seen that he had not taken kindly to the Covenanting lessons that had been forced upon him when in Scotland in the time of his adversity. One measure after another was passed re-establishing Episcopal government, the Covenant was declared treasonable, and all in offices of trust who had ever taken it were required solemnly to abjure it. Bishops were consecrated for the Scottish Sees. All who had been admitted to livings during the Presbyterian period were required to seek institution to them from the Bishop; and as many in the west delayed to do so, a Privy Council, held in Glasgow, declared their livings forfeited, and ordered the ministers to be removed from them by a certain date.

The two ministers of the Abbey shared in the consequences of this decree. Both Mr. Dunlop and Mr. Stirling had to resign their charge, and a Mr. William Pierson took their place as curate of Paisley. The outed ministers continued for a time to hold conventicles in the neighbourhood of the town, to which their old parishioners flocked, leaving the Abbey deserted. Such meetings were soon interdicted, and those who attended them severely fined. As these gatherings were popular throughout Renfrewshire at this period, the fines received by Government were considerable.
[1] The trials of the time fell very heavily upon the ministers of whom we have had glimpses in the course of our story, while they sat in the plenitude of their power as a Presbytery in the Abbey, a terror to all offenders.

They were faithful to their convictions. Of the sixteen who composed the Presbytery, only two conformed to the new order of things.
[2] They went through many hardships. “They were not only deprived of their livings in time to come, but of the last year's stipend for which they served, and in the winter season (Dec., 1663) obliged, with sorrowful hearts and empty pockets, to wander, I know not how many miles with their numerous and small families, many of them scarce knew whither. But the Lord wonderfully provided for them and theirs, to their own confirmation and wonder.”

[1] In the course of a very few years, the fines paid by twelve gentlemen in the county, according to Wodrow, amounted to £368,000. Sir George Maxwell of Newark was fined £91,000 ; the Laird of Duchal, £84,000 ; Cunninghame of Camcuran, £15,833 ; Maxwell of Dargavel, £18,900; Sir George Maxwell of Nether Pollok, £93,600.—Ch. Hist. of Scotland by Cunninghame, Vol. IL, p. 200.
[2] The two conforming ministers were Mr. Taylor of Greenock, and Mr. John Hamilton of Innerkip. Those who gave up all were Mr. Alexander Dunlop, Mr. John Drysdale, and Mr. Jas. Stirling, all of Paisley ; Mr. John Stirling, Kilbarchan ; Mr. Patrick Simpson of Renfrew ; Mr. Hugh Smith of Eastwood ; Mr. William Thomson of Mearns ; Mr. William Thomson of Houston; Mr. James Hutcheson of Killalan ; Mr. James Alexander of Kilmalcolm ; Mr. Hugh Peebles of Lochwinnoch ; Mr. James Wallace of Inchinnan, and Mr. Hugh Wallace of Neilston.