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Lay Morals

The Pentland Rising
'A cloud of witnesses lyes here,
Who for Christ's interest did appear.'
Inscription on Battlefield at Rullion Green.
Chapter 1. The Causes Of The Revolt
'Halt, passenger; take heed what thou dost see,
This tomb doth show for what some men did die.'
Monument, Greyfriars' Churchyard, Edinburgh,
1661-1668. {2a}
Two hundred years ago a tragedy was enacted in Scotland, the memory whereof
has been in great measure lost or obscured by the deep tragedies which followed
it. It is, as it were, the evening of the night of persecution--a sort of twilight, dark
indeed to us, but light as the noonday when compared with the midnight gloom
which followed. This fact, of its being the very threshold of persecution, lends it,
however, an additional interest.
The prejudices of the people against Episcopacy were 'out of measure
increased,' says Bishop Burnet, 'by the new incumbents who were put in the
places of the ejected preachers, and were generally very mean and despicable in
all respects. They were the worst preachers I ever heard; they were ignorant to a
reproach; and many of them were openly vicious. They . . . were indeed the dreg
and refuse of the northern parts. Those of them who arose above contempt or
scandal were men of such violent tempers that they were as much hated as the
others were despised.' {2b} It was little to be wondered at, from this account that
the country-folk refused to go to the parish church, and chose rather to listen to
outed ministers in the fields. But this was not to be allowed, and their persecutors
at last fell on the method of calling a roll of the parishioners' names every
Sabbath, and marking a fine of twenty shillings Scots to the name of each
absenter. In this way very large debts were incurred by persons altogether
unable to pay. Besides this, landlords were fined for their tenants' absences,
tenants for their landlords', masters for their servants', servants for their masters',
even though they themselves were perfectly regular in their attendance. And as
the curates were allowed to fine with the sanction of any common soldier, it may
be imagined that often the pretexts were neither very sufficient nor well proven.
When the fines could not be paid at once, Bibles, clothes, and household utensils
were seized upon, or a number of soldiers, proportionate to his wealth, were
quartered on the offender. The coarse and drunken privates filled the houses
with woe; snatched the bread from the children to feed their dogs; shocked the