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clergy could hardly find a home, or place of safety ; and poor Mr Skinner was for the most part a prisoner, either in custody or on his parole, uncertain how or when he might be called to undergo some heavier punishment. The writer of this memoir has often heard him tell, that on coming home one evening, from performing an occasional office in the way of his duty, he found his house in the possession of a military party; some of them guarding the door with fixed bayonets, and others searching the several apartments, even the bedchamber where Mrs Skinner was lying in of her fifth child, and little able to bear such a rude, unseasonable visit. No lenity was to be looked for from such unfeeling visitors, who pillaged the house of every thing they could carry with them, hardly leaving a change of linen to father, mother, or child in the family. The chapel with all its furniture was destroyed, and for several years the congregation could find no place to meet in for public worship but the clergyman's house, which not being sufficiently large, many of them were obliged to stand in the open air, during divine service. As this inconvenience, with other disheartening circumstances, was likely to operate on weak minds to the discouragement of episcopal principles, Mr Skinner was induced to write a small tract, which was printed in the year 1746, under the title of a “ Preservative against Presbylery,” chiefly designed for the instruction of the people under his immediate charge, and suited to the alarming apprehensions, which were then entertained, of the total extirpation of Scottish episcopacy, as far as human power could accomplish such an object.
The British Parliament, in the summer session of
1746, passed an Act, requiring all pastors, or ministers of Episcopal meetings in Scotland, besides other proofs of their loyalty, to register their Letters of Orders, and at the same time enacting, “ that, from and after the “ first of September that year, no Letters of Orders of “ any Episcopal minister in Scotland shall be admitted “ to be registered, but such as have been given by some
Bishop of the Church of England or of Ireland.” An invitation was thus held out to the registering their Letters of Orders within a limited time. But, to prevent their deriving any benefit from a compliance with this invitation, a subsequent Act was passed in May 1748, declaring " that no Letters of Orders, not granted by
some Bishop of the Church of England or Ireland, 6 shall, from and after the 29th of September 1748, be “ sufficient to qualify any pastor or minister of any
Episcopal meeting in Scotland, whether the same
were registered before or after the first of September “ 1746, and that every such registration, whether made s before or since, shall, from and after the said twenty“ ninth of September, be null and void.” “ Thus, in “ 1746 and 1748," says a writer in the Encyclopædia Britannica, “ two laws were enacted against the Scotch
Episcopalians, which, under the pretence of eradicat
ing their attachment to the house of Stuart, were so 66 contrived as to preclude such of their clergy as were “ willing to pay allegiance to the reigning sovereign, “ and to pray for the royal family by name, from reap“ ing the smallest benefit from their loyalty. The ex“ periment was tried by some of them *, of whom one
* See a list of them in the Scots Magazine for 1746, page 416.
“ venerable person, who was never suspected of undue 6 attachment to the house of Stuart, is still alive ; but . " he and his complying brethren had their chapels burnt, “ and were themselves imprisoned, as if they had been “ the most incorrigible Jacobites *."
The “ person” thus alluded to was Mr. Skinner at Longside, who, at the time when this article was written, had attained to a “ venerable" old age, and who, notwithstanding his readiness to comply with the terms of the act of 1746, till that of 1748 rendered such compliance of no avail, was, several years after, very unexpectedly apprehended, and committed to prison, in consequence of a warrant from the Sheriff Substitute of Aberdeenshire t. Not willing to give the court any trouble in calling evidence to prove his having been guilty of the offence with which he was charged, he emitted, before the Sheriff, a voluntary confession, acknowledging, that in the discharge of his professional duty, he had been in the practice of offi
* See Supplement to Encycl. Britan. vol. 1, p. 632, where the writer concludes his account of this matter with the following just and striking remarks;—– This was a kind of persecution, which, since the Reformation, “ had had no precedent in the annals of Britain ; a priest of the Church of “ Rome, by renouncing the errors of Popery, has at all times been qua“ lified to hold a living in England ; a dissenting minister, of whatever de“ nomination, might at any time be admitted into orders, and rise to the " highest dignities in the English Church; but while the laws of 1746 and “ 1748 remained in force, there was nothing in the power of a Scotch
Episcopal Clergyman to do, from which he could reap the smallest be" nefit;- by taking the oaths to government, he was not qualified to hold • a living in England, or even to enjoy a toleration in Scotland, and his « clerical character being acknowledged by the English Bishops, he could is not, by those prelates, be canonically re-ordained.”
+ See Scots Magazine for 1753, page 309.
ciating as a clergyman to more than four persons, besides his own family. In consequence of this confession, he was sentenced to six months' imprisonment, which commenced on the 26th day of May 1753, and ended on the same day in November. When liberated in course of law, and anxious to resume che care of his destitute flock, he felt the ties of duty as their faithful pastor, greatly strengthened by gratitude for their attention during his absence, to his wife and helpless family, which then consisted of six young children, all, under God, depending on him for their support. During his residence in a common prison, and suffering all the hardships of close con. finement, next to a humble trust in the divine goodness, his chief resource lay in the conversation of a few worthy friends, at the hours when they were allowed to visit him, and in the liberal supply of books which they had the means of procuring for him. These were his constant companions, when all others were excluded; and he has often been heard to say, that no six months of his life ever passed away with so little interruption to his studies, and his improvement, as the term of his legal imprisonment. The activity of his mind seemed to increase in proportion to his want of bodily exercise ; and though he amused himself now and then with some lighter productions of a poetical turn, yet the general bent of his thoughts lay towards more grave and serious subjects. As an instance of this, it need only be mentioned, that it was in prison he first conceived the idea of committing to writing his thoughts on the nature of that peculiar symbol of the Divine presence, which is known to the biblical scholar under the Hebrew title of the Shechinah.
For some years before and after his imprisonment, he applied most of his leisure hours to the study of the Hebrew language, that wonderful language, which“ is in “ itself instructive, and the words of which give us light “ into things in a manner different from those of any o. “ ther language in the world.”* In this fertile field, the first fruits of his labours, that were offered to the public, was “ a Dissertation on Jacob's Prophecy," (Gen. xlix. 10.) printed at London in the year 1757, and
humbly offered as a supplement to the Bishop of Lon“ don's admirable Dissertation on the same text ;" “ The
sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a Lawgiver “ from between his feet, till Shiloh come, and to him “ shall the gathering of the people be.” The common interpretation given of this passage does not come up to the patriarch's meaning, nor fix any certain determinate zra for the accomplishment of the prediction. The true sense of the text can be discovered only by looking into the Hebrew original, and examining every principal word contained in it, according to the use and application of it in other passages of the sacred records. Pursuing this method, as the best, if not the only way of finding out its true and proper meaning, the Author of the Dissertation now referred to, could discover no good
* So said one thoroughly acquainted with it. See an admirable " Let. ter on the Use of the Hebrew Language,” which the writer thus introduces: "You will want little persuasion to the study of the Hebrew " Language, when you know how valuable it is in itself, and what help “ you will find from the use of it in your other studies; for it will be of “ service to you as a critic, a mythologist, an antiquarian, a philosopher, " and a divine." See the works of the Rev. William Jones, M. A. F.R.S. voluine xii. page 225, &c.