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LIFE

OF

ARCHBISHOP LEIGHTON.

In an age when the study of Theology was the universal and leading pursuit, and amounted almost to a passion, ROBERT LEIGHTON was a pre-eminent Theologian; not so much from his acquirements in that species of Literature, in which, however, he was deeply skilled, as from the delightful examples he exhibited in his life and writings, of a religion he cordially believed, and as far as his apprehensions extended, faithfully copied. Hewas not free in his conduct from the errors of humanity, but he was one of the very few, who err on the lovelier side; his amiability of temper, and purity of principle, led him to carry, among men of sterner stuff, the proposals of Charity which he professed, farther than either accorded with the situation he held, the rights that were in peril, or the temper of the times. It therefore happened to him, as must happen to all placed in similar circumstances, that his character was viewed by his contemporaries in extremes; and as posterity do not easily get rid of the feelings of their ancestors, it has even in our own days been looked at in very different lights.

Men have no right to visit the sins of the fathers upon the children, yet it is no indefensible propensity to esteem the seed of the righteous, to feel grief for them when they leave the paths of their progenitors, and if they have descended from persecuted parents, and join their persecutors, to address them as the prophet dià Jehoshaphat, “Shouldst thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the Lord ? therefore there is wrath upon thee from before the Lord : nevertheless there are good things found about thee."

That such sentiments should have been entertained, respecting the subject of this memoir, by many excellent men in Scotland, will not appear strange when the cruel infliction his father Dr Alexander Leighton underwent is considered ; and however his own mind might have felt justified in the change, it was not to be expected that Presbyterians, who were themselves suffering for the same cause, which they were fully persuaded was for righteousness' sake, could be easily convinced of the strength of those reasons, which influenced the son of such a father, to leave their ranks, and join their opponents.

Dr Alexander Leighton was descended, it is said, of an ancient family in Forfarshire, whose chief seat was Ulys-haven, or C'sen, but the fact is as obscure as it is unimportant; it is certain that he was one of the numerous host of confessors who bore testimony against the enormous abuse of Prelatic power in his day, and suffered severely for it.

As was not uncommon in these times of persecution, although a minister of the Gospel, he had also studied medicine, and afterwards practised it in London during the reign of James I. and early in that of Charles I. where he also exercised his ministry, but whether to any stated congregation does not appear. Warmly attached to Presbyterian principles, he took part in the violent and dangerous controversies then agitating England, and published a work entitled, “ An Appeal to the Parliament, or Zion's Plea against the Prelacie: The summe whereof is delivered in a Decade of Positions. In the handling whereof the Lord Bishops and their appurtenances are manifestly proved, both by divine and humane lawes, to be intruders upon the previledges of Christ, of the King, and of the Commonweal: and therefore upon good evidence given, she hartelie desireth a judgment and execution-printed in the year and moneth wherein Rochelle was lost, 1628.” The style of the book is in perfect accordance with what unhappily is the general style of polemics, and such as we have seen exemplified, even in our own day, when men allow their passions to intermingle with their controversies : yet it was not more virulent, if it was as much so, as many of those which appeared on the opposite side.

For this work he was brought to trial, and the arguments of the book, which plainly proved that an overgrown, ambitious, and tyrannical prelacy, was not the ministry appointed by Christ in his church, were it seems aggravated by the imprint, as marking his dissatisfaction to government,-it being the general belief, that if England had interfered in behalf of the French Protestants, Rochelle would have been saved from the hands of the Papists; and by the book being also decorated, according to the fashion of the day, with two hieroglyphical cuts explanatory of the subject, the first a burning lamp, supported by a book and two armed men guarding it; the legend, not remarkably elegant, explained the meaning:

Prevailing prelats strive to quench our light,
Except your sacred power quash their might.

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The other represented an elder bush growing out of a ruinous tower, from whose branches a parcel of bishops were tumbling, one of them with a strong box in his hand,—the legend,

The tottering prelates with their trumpery all,
Shall moulder down like elder from a wall.

These, which were grating subjects in the days of Charles to the members of the English Hierarchy, and not over pleasant in the days of George IV. * will scarcely be deemed any palliation of the conduct of the Star Chamber, in their treatment of the author, even although it was under the influence of the Bishops.

• Vide Pearson's Life of Archbishop Leighton, prefixed to the last London edition of his Works, 1828.

He was arrested early in 1629, hurried to a wretched cell in Newgate, low, damp, and without light, except what was admitted, along with the rain, from an aperture in the roof, overrun with rats and other vermin. Here he lay from Tuesday night till Thursday at noon, without food, and for fourteen days endured solitary confinement in this miserable hole; while his house, in his absence, was rifled, his books destroyed, and his papers carried off. After sixteen weeks' captivity, he was served with an information of the crimes with which he was charged, but he was sick and unable to attend, and from the nature of his disorder, a fitter object of compassion than punishment, for the skin and hair had almost wholly come off his body.

Yet though thus afflicted, this aged, infirm divine, was condemned to a punishment the stoutest ruffian could hardly have endured, which some of the lords of court conceived could never be inflicted on a dying man, and was only held out as a terror to others : it was—to bé degraded as a minister, to have his ears cut off, his nose slit, to be branded in the face, to stand in the pillory, to be whipped at a post, to pay a fine of L.1000, and to suffer imprisonment till it was paid ; the which when Archbishop Laud heard pronounced, he pulled off his hat, and holding up his hands, gave thanks to God, who had given the church victory over her enemies !

And it was mercilessly inflicted. On the 29th of November, in a cold frosty day, he was stripped, and received thirty-six lashes with a trible cord, after which he stood during a snow-storm two hours halfnaked on the pillory at Westminster, was branded on one cheek with a red-hot iron, had one ear cut off, and one side of his nose slit: On that day se’ennight, ere his sores were healed, he was taken to the pillory in Cheapside, and underwent the remainder of his sentence. He was then carried back to prison, and shut in for upwards of ten years until the meeting of the Long Parliament: when released from his miserable confinement, he could hardly walk, see, or hear. The Parliament reversed all the proceedings against him, and voted him six thousand pounds for his great sufferings and damages, and in 1642 gave him an appointment. He died about 1649.

Dr Leighton had two sons, the eldest Robert, the second Elisha ; and two daughters, the eldest Sapphira, the other Mrs Rathband, of whom nothing more is known. ROBERT was born in the year 1611, in London, according to the account of the late Rev. G. Jerment, his first regular biographer, to whose labours succeeding writers of his life have been under great, though rather unacknowledged obligations ; and Dr Burnet tells us, “ he was sent to his father to be bred in Scotland.” The year when he was sent thither, or how his education was conducted till he became a student in the university of Edinburgh in 1627, forms a blank in his life, which cannot now be filled up. He attended the different classes till 1631, when he took the degree of Master of Arts; and it deserves to be noticed, that the professors during that period were chiefly men who were attached to the mongrel, semi-episcopal, semi-presbyterian latitudinarianism, which was the court religion of the time in Scotland. He had early imbibed a decided aversion for

the whole frame of the Church of England—and no wonder ! but the mixed system of Episcopacy then taught in the Scottish school, which allowed of a Synod of Presbyters with a permanent presiding Bishop, similar to what Mosheim thinks was early introduced into the Christian church, appears to have been the pivot on which his young mind rested the balance between the opposing systems, for it does not appear he had then decided. The circumstances of his family not permitting him to apply to the ecclesiastical courts for license, he went abroad.

Burnet, to whose brief notices we are chiefly indebted for any account of young Leighton, says, “ From Scotland his father sent him to travel.” How his father, who was previously immured in his miserable habitation, found the means to do so, we are left to conjecture, He travelled several years in France, and resided some time at Douay, where he had relatives ; he is here reported or supposed to have fallen in with some religionists, " whose lives were framed on the strictest model of primitive piety;" but as in his writings he has repeatedly declared his opinion to be, that the Church of Rome is utterly antichristian, it is not at all probable, that the practice of the monks there had much, if any, influence in abating his veneration for the “presbyterian platform;" at least, he embraced the first opportunity of return. ing to Scotland, and accepting a presbyterian charge.

During his absence on the continent, a series of events had taken place in Scotland, that had entirely overturned the Pseudo-prelacy, which he had left in power, and covenanted Presbyterianism, in the strictest sense that it ever was professed, was established instead, by the laws of the land, and in the affections of the people. Leighton was a man of peace, and when the struggle was at its height, he did not choose to mingle in the fray, but when the religious community were rejoicing in the acquisition of their freedom, and their favourite form of church-government, he came home to swell the triumph, and enjoy the gale. Accordingly on his return to Scotland, having been unanimously called by the congregation of Newbottle, a parish in the presbytery of Dalkeith, after passing through the usual course of trial for the ministry to the great satisfaction of his judges, he was ordained there on the 16th of December 1641, being then in the thirtieth year

The parish is delightfully situated on the banks of the Esk, among whose romantic scenery Leighton could enjoy the retirement he so much loved, and the residence of the Earl of Lothian in the Abbey within his bounds, a nobleman attached to the cause of religion, in whose family he might cultivate the advantages of elevated society, would add considerably to its charms. To the manner in which he filled the duties of a parochial minister, perhaps the obscurity in which this is involved may be considered the highest testimony. A person who afterwards arrived at such distinguished-eminence in such turbulent times, must have acted with more than ordinary diligence and circumspection, to have escaped blame, from such critical scrutinizers as he was exposed to. These duties were what men of modern times would shrink from, for they were the

of his age.

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entire business of a minister's life, what the word of God and the rules of his church enjoined, what his people expected, and what his co-presbyters practised themselves, and enforced on their brethren. Besides the services of the Sabbath, there were usually one or more lectures or sermons preached during the week; the parishioners were regularly visited from house to house, the whole as punctually examined, particularly the young, the instruction of whom it was an important part of the ministerial function to superintend; both by inspecting the schools, and inquiring into their progress in religious and useful learning, and by their visitations at their homes to watch over their moral training a species of education, the last especially, the fruits of which were abundantly manifest in the next generation, which was destined to bear the fiery trial of a twenty-eight years furnace. Leighton, whose delight was in his work, it may be easily imagined, would not abridge any of these necessary duties; and all his biographers concur in stating, that he was most assiduous in discharging the various branches of his sacred office. “ He diligently visited the poor of the flock, was ever to be found in the chambers of the afflicted, and at the beds of the sick or the dying. He promoted personal, domestic, social, and public religion, to the utmost of his power, by precept, example, and prayer."-One solitary anecdote remains of this interval.

It was, it seems, the practice of the Presbytery, to inquire of their members twice a-year, whether they preached to the times ? that is, whether they improved the serious and alarming circumstances by which they were surrounded, and at a period when the pulpit was almost the only medium through which the people could be informed of the state of public affairs, directed in the duty which they were required to pursue,—whether the ministers acted as faithful watchmen ? Leighton acknowledged the omission, but adroitly apologized for it, by say, ing, “If all the brethren have preached to the times, may not one poor brother be allowed to preach for eternity ?" a question which, had his co-presbyters been the zealots of a party, would have been received by any thing but approbation. And it is exceedingly doubtful, in times of dread import, like those in which he lived, or such for instance as the present, [1831,) when the wheels of Providence seem moving onward with accelerated motion, laden with events to which the mysterious voice of Prophecy calls our attention,-it seems more than doubtful whether the ministers of God are not liable to the rebuke, “ Ye can discern the face of the heavens, but can ye not discern the signs of the times?” when they keep silence, and do not “ preach to the times."

Two very different testimonies respecting the nature of Leighton's pulpit oratory have come down to us. “ His preaching,” says Burnet, “ had a sublimity both of thought and expression in it. The grace and gravity of his pronunciation was such, that few heard him without a sensible emotion. I am sure I never did. His style was rather too fine, but there was a majesty and beauty in it, that left so deep an impression, that I cannot yet forget the sermon I heard him preach thirty years ago. And yet with this he seemed to look on himself as go ordinary a preacher that while he had a cure, he was ready to em

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