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THE CORRUPTIONS OF THE SCOTTISH CHURCH.
'Weep, mother mine, and veil thine eyes with shame,
BISHOP ELPHINSTONE died at Edinburgh on the 25th of October 1514. In his last days all desire, except for the 'life of the world to come,' had gone. When those near him thought he might recover: 'I look for health which shall never end,' he said; 'henceforth earthly cares are over. As I have lived to this day, so would I die, a Christian.'1
Among the other good deeds of the great Bishop of Aberdeen were the foundation of St. Mary's College, afterwards known as King's College, in his episcopal city, and his refusal of the Archiepiscopate of St. Andrews: an edifying lesson to a clergy who were not ashamed to expend their years and their energies in quarrelling which of them should be accounted the greatest. After his death, in 1514, his body was taken to his beloved Aberdeen, and buried in the College Chapel. The successor of Elphinstone was Gavin Dunbar, Archdeacon of St. Andrews, and Dean of Moray.
1 Boece, Aberdon. Episcop. Vita, pp. 73-77; Grub, vol. L p. 409.
Till his death in 1532, he fulfilled an excellent episcopate, and completed several of the good works of the holy Elphinstone. The first Principal of St. Mary's College was Hector Boece, the author of a very voluminous and imaginative History of Scotland. He received his earliest education at Dundee, and when invited to Aberdeen he was lecturing on philosophy in the University of Paris. There were several other names pre-eminent in the history of the literature of this generation. Gavin Douglas, the successor to the saintly Brown in the see of Dunkeld, cultivated his classic studies among the mountains of his beautiful diocese, and produced a metrical translation of the AZneid; John Bellenden, archdeacon of Moray, who executed the ponderous task of translating Boece's History into his native language; John Mair wrote a History of Scotland, and Alexander Mylne, abbot of Cambuskenneth, the lives of the Bishops of Dunkeld. But he whose clever pen was most significantly influential to his times was Sir David Lindsay of the Mount, and in simple honest verse he sent biting homethrusts to many a guilty conscience. For the world was 'very evil; and priests prouder than the proud, and worldlier than the world,' stood with presumptuous desecration at the altar of God. An illegitimate son of James IV. had been settled in the Primacy of the Scottish Church. He was eighteen years of age, and his father having a conscience had written to Pope Julius II. craving that an approved person 'may take the superintendence of the tender Archbishop.' Upon his four illegitimate sons James V. bestowed the rich abbeys of Coldingham, Kelso, Holyrood, and St. Andrews, and court favourites and infants were the frequent recipients of the greatest monastic revenues. Pluralities were boundlessly multiplied, and benefices given in commendam were kept vacant during the life of the commendatory, so that large parishes were left neglected. More than a hundred years before, one of the earliest reformers within the Church of England had applied to the non-resident clergy of all grades the words of Prov. vii. 19: 'The goodman is not at home, he is gone a long journey: he hath taken a bag of money with him, and will come home at the full moon.'—(Vulg.) When the harvest moon comes, says the preacher, and the barns are full, then these beneficed men will be at home. At other times they live far enough off from their parishes, going even to the gate of the Pope himself, and not forgetting to carry their bags of money, which they spend in luxurious living and bribery, or, still worse, in usury. 'O bishops of Christ !' he goes on to say with no little eloquence, 'O princes of the Church! O shepherds of shepherds! arise, for the love of Jesus, and bring them back to their pastures, each one to his own ecclesiastical fold. . . . Compel all who have care of souls to return to their flocks, to visit their sheep, to live among them, to feed and to teach the people of God." This passionately earnest appeal was as applicable to the clergy of the Scottish Church in the sixteenth century.
Into the popular faith in the Sacraments—those blessed channels whereby the human nature is united to the Divine —the devil had poured the poison of 'blasphemous fables and vain deceits.' The Holy Eucharist was now so exclusively pleaded for the souls of the departed, that those in their earthly probation were forgotten, and its reception as the spiritual food and sustenance of the Christian was comparatively rare. 'Moreover, a divorce in thought had practically taken place between the Sacrifice of Christ and the applicative and commemorating Sacrifice, so that the souls were thought to be succoured by masses, to the exclusion of
1 The Reformation of the Church of England, by the Rev. J. H. Blunt, pp. 7, 8.
the thought of that adorable Passion, which was pleaded in and by those masses.'l
Many persons spent hours in toiling and praying that those dear ones who had been taken from them might soon be released from the 'painful and horrible sojourn' of purgatory; but their prayers for Christian graces to themselves were slovenly and mechanical, and their alms-deeds for the pure love of God were few. Not only did purgatory, in effect, supersede hell in the theology of that age, but 'the salvation of souls came to be considered as a matter connected with the intermediate state alone, rather than with this. life. Men provided that they might be prayed for after they were dead, and thought it unnecessary to avoid sin while they were living.'s The last moments of many an unholy life were occupied in making a dying bargain with some greedy priest, that for so much money so many masses should be said, to shorten sufferings whose immense duration might be anticipated by the guilty conscience. The whole penitential process for the renewal of the soul sinning after baptism had become specially mutilated and corrupted, and a system, which was an abuse of indulgences, or of the power to relax penance for sins, was now in full practice. A long time previously we have seen the beginning of this evil. On specified conditions of money or of personal service, men fancied they were forgiven not only their past misdeeds, but likewise whatever evil they might afterwards commit. It was easier for the rich man to burden his estate, and the poor man to perform some disagreeable penance, that masses might be said for their souls when they died, than it was to live chastely and peaceably, to be always worthy to receive the sacred Body and Blood of Christ for the
1 Bishop of Brechin on The Thirty-Nine Articles, vol. ii. p. 310.
2 The Reformation of the Church of England, p. 32.
strengthening and refreshing of these souls, and from time to time to undergo the searching discipline of self-examination and confession. We have seen our Church in her child-like days, when healthy developments of Christianity as the simple but majestic lives of St. Columba or St. Aidan proved that 'faith was fresh of hue ;' and we have passed through those ages to whose faith and love the dilapidated ruins of St. Andrews and Melrose still testify, and remind us how liberally men gave of their best to God, and of how assiduously the naked were clothed, the hungry fed, the ignorant instructed, and of how wisely the treasures of human knowledge were preserved by devoted souls, who, for the kingdom of heaven's sake, had given up all. But now the sad spectacle must be faced of many a neglected diocese, whose bishop lived in unabashed violation of the seventh commandment, who cared to know very little of the Holy Bible, who rarely preached; of parishes where the pastor and congregation imitated their bishop; whilst all endeavoured to compensate for such behaviour by doing something for the souls of their deceased friends, or by making provision for their own welfare hereafter, by devotion to popular relics, by addressing themselves to images with a perilous veneration ; while if any one became nervous about his soul he went on a fatiguing pilgrimage, and had recourse, not to earnest repentance and an honest confession, followed by the glorious absolution: 'Our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath left power to His Church to absolve all sinners who truly repent and believe in Him, of His great mercy forgive thee thine offences; and by His authority committed to me, I absolve thee from all thy sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost;' but to the 'questionarius,' or 'spiritual pedlar' who hawked about indulgences through town and country, and who being liberally remunerated liberally absolved—'from all thy sins, how