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The Reformation. A trouble of the kirk in the Mearns
Aberdeen Journal


January 17, 1913.
The Reformation. A trouble of the kirk in the Mearns.

It may be doubted whether the greatness of the work of the Reformers and the Presbyterian kirk in its early years are adequately realised or appreciated. The Papists had first of all to be contended with, churches supplied, stipends secured, and then the King and Bishops in the attempt to set up Episcopacy.

In 1560 Papacy was abolished, and the Reformers held the first General Assembly on the 20th December of that year, at which the Laird of Tullyvaird and Fethercairne was present as Commissioner for the Kirks of the Mearns.

The Assembly even at the first meeting took up the question of dealing with the Papists, and a watchful eye was kept on them and those who frequented their company. The language used regarding them and their faith is always vigorous, and at times strongly picturesque.

In 1538 the Assembly presented an “humblo suto” to the King craving that the Lairds of . . . '. Glenbervie younger, and others ex-conununicat Papists should be called before tho King and Council, and such things laid to their charge as they were guilty of, that the penalties might be execute against them. In the “Grieves of the Kirk” presented at the same time it is complained that Jesuits are suffered to pollute the land with idolatry, and that they and traffickers against the true religion and also their maintainers had special credit and favor at Court and Session. A number are mentioned by name who repaired commonly, with others named, to Young Glenbervie, excommunicat, “Where they have their house Mass at pleasure.” It was farther complained that ”William Douglass, sonne to the Laird of Glenbervie, has caused unbeset at syndrie tymes Mr George Gladstanes and Andrew Myllne, with armit men at their house, and lying in wait for them about their houses, and were it not tho relief of God and good men had taken their lyves.” Mr Gladstanes was minister of St Cyrus and Mr Myllne of Fetteresso.

This Mr William Douglas, “Young Glcnbervie,” became Earl of Angus on the death of his father in 1591, and was one of the conspirators who invited the King of Spain to invade Scotland, which they undertook to deliver up to him. Angus was imprisoned in the Castle of Edinburgh, but escaped. Row, the kirk historian, says there was but verio small pains taken to search out the fearful dangers might possiblie and probablie ensue upon this horrible unpanalelled treason, and far less any civil punishment inflicted; but the Kirk of God did their part for they found them to be Appostats, blasphemous enemies to God's glory, and unnatural traitors to the King and all the professors of God’s blessed word. The leaders (including Angus) were excommunicated and delivered over to Satan by the Synod of Fife at St Andrews, September, 1593, presided over by the redoubtable James Melville. This sentence was unanimously ratified by the General Assembly on 9th May, 1594, and all the pastors in the realm ordered to intimate it solemnly at their Kirke. Notwithstanding Row's statement, it appears that Graham of Fintry was executed for this treason, and the King, with certain of his nobles, in March, 1592, entered into a mutual bond for defence of the liberty of true religion, the Crown, and Country, and the pursuit of the chief authors of the Conspiracy.

On 5th March, 1597, Lady Angus petitioned the Assembly desiring that certain of the Ministry might be appointed to confer with the Earl and resolve his doubts. The Ministers of Angus and Mearns were so appointed, and to confer with him anent 10 of the articles on which the Earl of Huntly was to be tried. On 14th May the Brethren of the Mearns gave in their report, showing that they had enjoined the Earl to remain at Barras to attend upon the hearing of tho doctrine in the Kirk of Kinneff, and to attend conferences at Conveth (Laurencekirk) and Aberluthnott, which he had faithfully observed; he acknowledged tho Kirk of Scotland to be the true Kirk, and was ready to become a member thereof, and to participate in tho Sacraments; he solemnly promised by word and writ to remove all Jesuits, etc. from his company and lands, and had already done so; he desired absolution, and thereafter was ready to swear and subscribe the confession of faith; that he would satisfy for his apostacy in his own Parish Kirk, and there ratify said promises; that he never meant to harm any man for obeying the laws, but if any will complain he will grant satisfaction, albeit in very truth, as all the country knew, he had sustained great loss “qwhilk he has the kirk to meine”; he is content to provide stipends for his kirks as soon as absolvit and restored to his living—will most willingly take a minister and entertain him in his own house, and confessed he most justly deserved to be excommunicated. The Commissioners were required to see these promises carried out, and empowered to grant absolution and receive him again into tho bosom of the Church. In the Assembly of 1593 the whole form of the absolution, satisfaction, and the articles were appointed to be registered in the assembly books.

In 1601 the Assembly ordained Messrs James Law (afterwards Bishop of Orkney and Archbishop of Glasgow) and John Spottiswood (afterwards Archbishop of St Andrews) to await upon the Earl that he and his family might be confirmed in the truth and the enemies debarred from their company. In the following assembly (1602) it was reported that the Earl did neither resort to the hearing of the word nor participate in the Sacraments, but on the contrary entertained professed enemies to the religion. Mr Law was appointed to await continually upon tho Earl for another quarter of a year. James’s succession to the throne of England, and the strong attempts to foist Bishops on the Church, caused the meetings of the Assembly to be irregular, and no trace of a report by Mr Law appears, but in the Assembly of July, 1608, it was testified that there was no appearance in the Earl of conversion from his errors, but rather by all evident tokens he was more obstinate and obdurate in heresic of papistry which he had formerly abjured, and the Assembly therefore ordained the sentence of excommunication to be pronounced, conform to the censures of the Kirk with all possible diligence betwixt then and the 18th September. The Earl went abroad, and died in devout retirement at Paris in 1611.

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