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agency is concerned, the fittest. Of the Highland Churches, which possesses this character most distinctly?"
The writer pauses for a reply. It does not fall within the scope of these pages to attempt to furnish one. But that such a question should be put to-day, by a leading organ of Scottish popular opinion, and after three centuries of dominant Protestantism, is a fact of deep significance; and no thoughtful observer of the signs of the times will deny that it is one which applies to other districts than the Highlands, and to other countries than Scotland.
Of one thing at least we may be certain. If it be designed in the providence of God that the Scottish people are ever to return again to the unity of that faith which was wrested from them in the religious convulsions of the sixteenth century, it will be the logic of facts, and no merely sentimental arguments, that alone will work this new revolution. Whether or not the Church be superior to history—and the dictum, violently as it has been assailed, is not without its true side—she has at least no reason to be afraid of history, or of what history has to teach. The present illustrious occupant of St Peter's chair has shown his own undoubted conviction on this head, by throwing open the unrivalled treasures of the Vatican Library to scholars of every creed. It will only be a further illustration of the same truth, if the newly awakened interest in the past religious history of our native land—itself one of the most remarkable signs of the age in which we live—lead our countrymen to see that the Catholic Church of to-day is one and identical with the Church of St Ninian, St Columba, and St Margaret, and to appreciate that marvellous continuity which is one of her most striking characteristics.
The impartial researches of such scholars as Cosmo Innes, Robertson, and Skene, and the publication of those ancient records which are almost the only trustworthy authorities as to the early history of our country, have already done much to dispel longstanding prejudice, and to throw a clearer light on the history of pre-Reformation Scotland. More still will be gained if those who are interested in the subject will cease to regard it as a mere battle-field for ecclesiastical contention, and will endeavour to see the Church of our ancestors as it really was, and as they find it described in the most authentic sources of information—namely, the contemporary or nearly contemporary chronicles of the times.
The disputes between Episcopalians and Presbyterians as to which of those religious bodies could most justly claim legitimate descent from the Church of St Columba, have found their proper destination in the limbo of forgotten controversy. But the theory is still maintained in certain quarters that the apostle of the Picts and his devoted followers, if not aliens from Rome in faith and doctrine, yet acknowledged neither the mission nor the jurisdiction of that See which more than a century before
had sent forth St Ninian to plant the faith in his native Galloway. The following pages do not touch the question controversially; but the detailed account contained in them of the tenets and practices of the Columban Church, and of the life and death of its holy founder, will enable the unprejudiced reader to form his own opinion as to the probability that these saintly missioners, penetrated and imbued as they were with the essential spirit of the Catholic Church, were yet aliens and schismatics from that Church and her earthly head. He will at least demand some conclusive proof that the Church of Celtic Scotland occupied so unique a position of isolation from the whole of Christendom, and will hardly consider it furnished by the oft-cited fact that a Scottish bishop on one occasion refused to reform the traditional calendar of his Church at the bidding of a youthful and somewhat intemperate opponent.
No writer treating at any length on the ecclesiastical history of Scotland during the first seven centuries could afford to ignore or neglect the laborious researches of Dr Skene; and it will be seen that the author has largely availed himself of them in these pages. For the Reformation period of our history, the careful, and on the whole impartial, work of Tytler has been frequently consulted; while great use has also been made of the recently published State Papers of the reign of Henry VIII., especially those bearing upon Scotland.
Special pains have been taken, as will be seen, to give a clear and detailed account of the efforts made by the Scottish hierarchy, by conciliar statutes and other means, to stem the progress of error, and reform the discipline of the Church. The decrees of the various Councils, which are of such primary importance as the official evidence of the action taken by the leaders of the Church in those momentous times, are for the most part translated from the valuable but now somewhat inaccessible work of Mr Robertson on the Statutes of the Scottish Church.1
Historians of the Reformation have, in truth, done but scant justice to the attitude of the representative Scottish Churchmen during the fifty years which preceded that event. The difference was very remarkable between the parts played by the bishops and clergy of England and of Scotland in the political and religious struggles which accompanied the ecclesiastical revolution of the sixteenth century. Whilst in the former country the whole of the hierarchy, with one solitary exception, truckled to the lust and greed of their tyrannical king, the Scottish bishops stand out, in strong contrast to the venality and corruption of a degenerate nobility, as the invariable champions of national independence, and of the national religion with which it was so intimately connected. Whatever may have been the faults of their private characters—and not even the malice of their enemies could sully the fair fame of a Kennedy,
1 Statuta Ecclesia Scoticarue. (Bannatyne Club) 1866.
an Elphinstone, a Reid, or a Dunbar—their public virtues were unquestionable; and James the Fifth, than whom, with all his personal defects, no truer patriot ever wore the Scottish crown, showed his sense and wisdom by placing the fullest confidence in their counsels.
Volumes I. and II. of the present work bring the ecclesiastical history of our country down to the eventful year 1560, in which the ancient faith was swept away by the venal vote of a packed assemblage of greedy nobles, and was forced henceforth, like the Church of the first three centuries, to hide her head among caves and mountains. The remaining portion of the History (which it is hoped will be ready for publication in the course of next year) covers, of course, a widely different period in the annals of the Church—a period of persecution, of obscurity, wellnigh of extinction, ending, however, with the record of a revival hardly less remarkable than the work of destruction consummated in 1560, and with the reassemblage of a National Council of the Scottish Church for the first time after an interval of three hundred and twenty years.
The name of Dr Bellesheim, to all who are acquainted with his erudition, research, and indefatigable industry, is a guarantee for the trustworthiness of the records which he has brought together in the following pages. The work of the translator, it may be added, has not been confined to a mere rendering of the original text. Such topographical and per