Leighton, Robert

, sometime bishop of Dunblane, and afterwards archbishop of Glasgow, son to the preceding, was born at London in 1613, but educated at the university of Edinburgh, where his talents were not more conspicuous than his piety and humble temper. He afterwards spent some time in France, particularly at Doway, where some of his relations lived. Our accounts, however, of his early years, are very imperfect. All we know with certainty of the period before us is, that when he had reached his thirtieth year, in 1643, he was settled in Scotland, according to the presbyterian form, as minister of the parish of Newbottle, near Edinburgh. Here he


It was when Dr. Leighton received sentence that archbishop Laud, then in court, is said to have takem off his cap, and returned thanks to God. This story has-been repeated in all the histories of the time, and whether true or not, must have, if only a current report, added heavily to his un popularity. The sentence itself, however, could not fail to make a deep impression on the minds of a people already taught to be dissatisfied with the government, and to thirst for that vengeance which fell upon Sti afford, Laud, and lastly on the king himself,

| remained several years, and was most assiduous in discharging the various duties of his office. He did not, however, conceive it to be any part of that office to add to the distractions of that unhappy period, by making the pulpit the vehicle of political opinions. His object was to exhort his parishioners to live in charity, and not to trouble themselves with religious and political disputes. But such was not the common practice; and it being the custom of the presbytery to inquire of the several brethren, twice a year, “whether they had preached to the times?” “For God’s sake,” answered Leighton, “when all my brethren preach to the times, suffer one poor priest to preach about eternity.” Such moderation could not fail to give offence; and finding his labours of no service, he retired to a life of privacy. His mind was not, however, indifferent to what was passing in the political world, and he was one of those who dreaded the downfall of the monarchy, and the subsequent evils of a republican tyranny, and having probably declared his sentiments on these subjects, he was solicited by his friends, and particularly by his brother, sir Elisha Leighton, to change his connexions. For this he was denounced by the presbycerians as an apostate, and welcomed by the episcopalians as a convert. In his first outset, however, it is denied that he was a thorough presbyterian, or in his second, entirely an episcopalian; and it is certain that his becoming the latter could not bo imputed to motives of ambition or interest, for episcopacy was at this time the profession of the minority, and extremely unpopular. His design, however, of retiring to a life of privacy, was prevented by a circumstance which proved the high opinion entertained of his integrity, learn ing, and piety. The office of principal in the university of Edinburgh becoming vacant soon after Leighton’s resignation of his ministerial charge, the magistrates, who had the gift of presentation, unanimously chose him to fill the chair, and pressed his acceptance of it by urging that he might thereby be of great service to the church, without taking any part in public measures. Such a motive to a man of his moderation, was irresistible; and accordingly he accepted the offer, and executed the duties of his office for ten years with great reputation. It was the custom then for the principal to lecture to the students of theology in the Latin tongue; and Leighton’s lectures delivered at this period, which are extant both in Latin | and English, are very striking proofs of the ability and assiduity with which he discharged this part of his duty.

After the death of the king, Dr. Leighton sometimes visited London during the vacations, but was disgusted with the proceedings there, and particularly conceived a dislike to the conduct of the independents as well as to their form of church-government. He made several excursions, likewise, to Flanders, that he might observe the actual state of the Romish church on the spot, and carried on a correspondence with some of his relations at Doway, who were in popish orders; but with the exception of some Jansenists, of whom he entertained a favourable opinion, his general aversion to popish divines and popery appears to have been increased by his experience abroad.

When Charles II. after the restoration determined to establish episcopacy in Scotland, Dr. Leighton was persuaded to accept a bishopric. This his presbyter! an biographers seem to consfder as a part of his conduct which is not to be reconciled with his general character for wisdom and caution. They deduce, however, from the following circumstances, that he did not enter cordially into the plan, and was even somewhat averse to it. “He chose the most obscure and least lucrative see, that of Dunblane; he disapproved of the feasting at the time of consecration, and plainly testified against it; he objected to the title of Lord; he refused to accompany the other Scotch bishops in their pompous entry into Edinburgh. He hastened to Dunblane; did not accept of the invitation to parliament, and almost the only time he took his seat there Whs for the purpose of urging lenity toward the presbyterians he detested all violent measurespersecuted uo man, upbraided no man; had little correspondence with his brethren, and incurred their deep resentment by his reserve and strictness; acknowledged that Providence frowned both ou the scheme and the instruments; and confined himself to his diocese.

All this might be true, and yet not interfere with the conclusion, that Dr. Leighton saw nothing in the character and olrice of a bishop which could hinder the success of the gospel; on the contrary, bishop as he was, for which these biographers cannot forgive him, he exhibited such an example of pious diligence as could not be exceeded by the divines of any church and although during | his holding this sec, the presbyterians were persecuted with the greatest severity in other dioceses, not one individual was molested in Dunblane on account of his religious principles. But as he had no power beyond his own boundaries, anil could not approve the conduct of Sharp and others of his brethren, he certainly became in time dissatisfied with his situation, and it is possible he might be so with himself for accepting it. In an address to his clergy, in 1665, not four years after his settlement at Dunblane, he intimated to them that it was his intention to resign, assigning as a reason, that he was weary of contentions.

Before taking this step, however, he had the courage to try the effect of a fair representation of the state of matters to the king, and notwithstanding his natural diffidence, went to London, and being graciously received by Charles, detailed to him the violent and cruel proceedings in Scotland protested against any concurrence in such measures; declared that being a bishop he was in some degree accessary to the rigorous deeds of others in supporting episcopacy, and requested permission to resign his bishopric. The king heard him with attention, and with apparent sorrow for the state of Scotland; assured him that lenient measures should be adopted, but positively refused to accept his resignation. Leigbton appears to have credited his majesty’s professions, and returned home in hopes that the violence of persecution was over; but, finding himself disappointed, he made a second attempt in 1667, and was more urgent with the king than before, although still without effect.

It may seem strange that Leighton, who was so disgusted with the proceedings of his brethren as now to think it a misfortune to belong to the order, and who had so earnestly tendered his resignation, should at no great distance of time (in 1670) be persuaded to remove from his sequestered diocese of Dunblane, to the more important province of Glasgow. This, however, may be accounted for to his honour, and not to the discredit of the court which urged him to accept the archbishopric. The motive of the king and his ministers was, that Leighton was the only man qualified to allay the discontents which prevailed in the west of Scotland; and Leighton now thought he might have an opportunity to bring forward a scheme of accommodation between the Episcopalians and Presbyterians, which had been for years the object of his study, and the | of his heart. The king had examined this scheme, and promised his aid. It had all the features of moderation; and if moderation had been the characteristic of either party, might have been successful. Leighton wished that each party, for the sake of peace, should abate somewhat of its opinions, as to the mode of church-government and worship; that the power of the bishops should be reduced considerably, and that few of the ceremonies of public worship should be retained; that the bishop should only be perpetual moderator, or president in clerical asemblies; and should have no negative voice; and that every question should be determined by the majority of presbyters. Both parties, however, were too much exasperated, and too jealous of each other to yield a single point, and the scheme came to nothing, for which various reasons may be seen in the history of the times. The only circumstance not so well accounted for, is that Charles II. and his ministers should still persist in retaining a man in the high office of bishop, whose plans they disliked, and who formed a striking contrast to his brethren whom they supported.

Disappointed in his scheme of comprehension, archbishop Leighton endeavoured to execute his office with his usual care, doing all in his power to reform the clergy, to promote piety among the people, to suppress violence, and to soothe the minds of the presbyterians. For this last purpose he held conferences with them at Glasgow, Paisley, and Edinburgh, on their principles, and on his scheme of accommodation, but without effect. The parties could not be brought to mutual indulgence, and far less to religious concord. Finding his new situation therefore more and more disagreeable, he again determined to resign his dignity, and went to London for that purpose in the summer of 1673. The king, although he still refused to accept his resignation, gave a written engagement to allow him to retire, after the trial of another year; and that time being expired, and all hope of uniting the different parties having vanished, his resignation was accepted. He now retired to Broadhurst, in Sussex, where his sister resided, the widow of Edward Lightmaker, esq. and here he lived in great privacy, dividing his time between study, devotion, and acts of benevolence, with occasional preaching. In, 1679 he very unexpectedly received a letter, written in the king’s own hand, requesting him to go to Scotland and | promote concord among the contending parties, but it does not appear that he complied with his majesty’s pleasure. It is certain that he never again visited Scotland, nor intermeddled with ecclesiastical affairs, but remained quietly in his retirement until near his death. This event, however, did not take place at Broadhurst. Although he had enjoyed this retirement almost without interruption for ten years, he was unexpectedly brought to London to see his friends. The reason of this visit is not very clearly explained, nor is it of great importance, but it appears that he had been accustomed to express a wish that he might die from home, and at an inn; and this wish was gratified, for be died at the Bell-inn, in Warwick-lane, far apart from his relations, whose concern, he thought, might discompose his mind. He was confined to his room about a week, and to his bed only three days. Bishop Burnet, and other friends, attended him constantly during this illness, and witnessed his tranquil departure. He expired Feb. 1, 1684, in the seventy-first year of his age. By his express desire, his remains were conveyed to Broadhurst, and interred in the church; and a monument of plain marble, inscribed with his name, office, and age, was erected at the expence of his sister.

Archbishop Leighton is celebrated by all who have written his life, or incidentally noticed him, as a striking example of unfeigned piety, extensive learning, and unbounded liberality. Every period of his life was marked with substantial, prudent, unostentatious charity; and that be might be enabled to employ his wealth in this way, he practised the arts of frugality in his own concerns. He enjoyed some property from his futher, but his income as bishop of Dunblane was only 200l., and as archbishop of Glasgow about 400l.; yet, besides his gifts of charity during his life, he founded an exhibition in the college of Edinburgh at the expence of 150l. and three more in the college of Glasgow, at the expence of 400l. and gave 300l. for the maintenance of four paupers in St. Nicholas’s hospital. He also bequeathed at last the whole of his remaining property to charitable purposes. His library and Mss. he left to the see of Dunblane. His love for retirement we have often mentioned; he carried it perhaps to an excess, and it certainly unfitted him for the more active duties of his high station. Although a prelate, he nnver seemed to have considered himself as more than a | parish priest, and his diocese a large parish. He was not made for the times in which he lived, as a public character. They were too violent for his gentle spirit, and impressed him with a melancholy that checked the natural cheerfulness of his temper and conversation* As a preacher, he was admired beyond all his contemporaries, and his works have not yet lost their popularity. Some of them, as his “Commentary on St. Peter,” have been often reprinted, but the most complete edition, including many pieces never before published, is that which appeared in 1808, in 6 vols. 8vo, with a life of the author by the Rev. G. Jerment. Of this last we have availed ourselves in the preceding sketch, but must refer to it for a more ample account of the character and actions of this revered prelate. 1


Life, as above. Burnet’s Own Tinaas. Laiug’g Hist, of Scotland^ &e.