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Isaiah liv. 2.—“Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch
forth the curtains of thine habitations : spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes."
DESUMING the discussion of the subject upon IV which we were engaged last Sunday—we have now arrived at our third epoch—the epoch of THE REVOLUTION of 1690.
It was on the Fast Day appointed by the General Assembly, and sanctioned and enjoined by the Privy Council, to be kept on January 7, 1691, that Lawrence Charteris, then minister of Dirleton, having conformed to the Revolution Settlement, in a public discourse addressed to the people of his parish, thus expressed his sentiments :
“All who are wise and have a right sense of true religion, cannot but see there has been a great defection among us; ... a defection from the life of God and the power of religion, and from the temper and conversation which the Gospel requires of us.” But whereas the Act ordering the Fast had expressly named the introduction of Prelacy at the Restoration as one of the șins for which the nation had cause to be humbled and to repent, to this Mr Charteris demurred. “I cannot think,” he went on to say, “ that the settling of an imparity among the officers of the Church is to be looked upon as a defection, or that it is a thing in itself unlawful, or that it was of itself introductory of the abounding of wickedness and scandals in the Church. This I may with the greatest confidence affirm, that religion never flourished more in the world than it did when and where there was an imparity among the officers of the Church. And this I know, that some famous Protestant Churches do allow Episcopacy, and continue to this day under that form of government.” And then, turning the tables upon the members of the Assembly who had appointed the Fast, for the gross unfairness they had thus displayed, he reminded them that they had “passed over many sins of those of their own way, ... whereof some are almost proper to them. How many of them are proud, fierce, covetous, turbulent, seditious, and ungovernable ! ... Not a few of them seem to place all religion in a zeal for their proper opinions, and in running separate courses from those who are not of their own persuasion. Many of them are of a factious, schismatical, and uncharitable temper, and have, by their bitter and indiscreet zeal, been prompted to such inhuman, barbarous, and cruel actions, which have been so much the more scandalous, as being acted under the colour and pretence of religion. These and suchlike should be confessed ingenuously and mourned for.” (21)
It was under the circumstances, and in great measure through the instruments thus described, that the Revolution Settlement—involving once more the rejection of Episcopacy and the substitution of Presbytery—was brought about.
But how was it brought about? It cannot be doubted that the immediate cause—though commonly, for obvious reasons, not put so prominently forward as it ought to be the immediate cause was the action, the independent action, of the bishops themselves. They dashed to the ground the cup of goodwill and mutual support unreservedly presented to their lips by the Prince of Orange. It was soon after he had arrived in England that, in speaking to the Bishop of Edinburgh, Dr Alexander Rose, who had gone up to London as commissary and representative of his brethren at that anxious crisis, and had been summoned by the prince to an interview at Whitehall, the latter expressed “a hope that the Scotch bishops would be kind to him, and follow the example of England.” To which the bishop replied: “ Sir, I will serve you as far as law, reason, and conscience shall allow me.” At this, we are told, the prince not unnaturally broke off the conversation and turned himself away. It is Dr Rose himself who has recorded the occurrence ; (22) and from this and other details, given in the same document, there can be no question as to the meaning both of the prince's words and of the bishop's answer. Had that answer been such as William had looked for, and might naturally have expected, there is good reason for supposing that Episcopacy in this country might have retained its hold, and that Scotland would have been Episcopalian at the present day. For though William himself had Presbyterian predilections, they were not of such a kind as to lead him to lay stress upon them in comparison with his political interests; and it is equally certain that his knowledge of the relative strength and balance of parties in this country was already quite sufficient to have prevented him from making any such implied overture to Bishop Rose and his brethren, unless he had felt assured that his cause would be at least as safe, if not safer, in their hands than in the hands of the Presbyterian leaders, who he knew would be only too ready to welcome and espouse it in case the bishops refused to do so. Under such circumstances, it is idle to speak of any deeply rooted or largely predominant feeling as then existing in this nation in favour of Presbyterianism, such as to demand the settlement which the new sovereign, thus thrown into the arms of the antiPrelatist and anti-Stuart party, out of regard to the necessities of his position, was constrained to adopt.
It has been customary with the writers of our communion to look only to the brighter side of the conduct which our bishops pursued at, and subsequently to, the crisis of the Revolution; to represent them as noble champions of a chivalrous loyalty, as devoted confessors and sufferers for conscience' sake. But who that has studied the intricacies of human character can close his mind to the thought that motives of a less laudable kind may have been at work, almost unconsciously to themselves, in leading them to take up and to adhere to that disastrous course? Motives derived from a sentiment of a narrow nationality, because the Stuarts were of Scottish blood; motives derived from the selfish sentiment that it was the Stuarts who had befriended Episcopacy in the past, and from the suspicion that they alone could be depended on to befriend it in the time to come; motives derived from a feeling of jealousy towards England, which had taken its own course, without consultation with the Scottish Parliament; motives, in short, allied more or less to the short-sighted policy which, on this side the Tweed, so long and obstinately opposed the union of the two countries, which has proved so beneficial to them both, but especially to the more northern country. But whatever may have been the motives by which Bishop Rose and his brethren were mainly actuated, we cannot but remark with regret that, even when the Stuart family had openly renounced the cause of the Reformation, the bishops and their adherents