There was no regular civil administration of justice, or enforcement of criminal laws. This meant that those committing crimes were largely unpunished, unless dealt with by the church courts, so the Presbyterians assumed responsibility for the administration of both criminal and civil law.
They prosecuted all sorts of criminals, concerned themselves with brawling families, and breaches of the peace, and in every church the Kirk-session exercised (peculiar) jurisdiction in dealing with breaches of moral law.
The church was a house of prayer, where the gospel was preached, and where civil and ecumenical issues occupying the public mind could be explained. But it was far more than that! Within the church building, Sunday after Sunday, delinquents performed penance and were rebuked and admonished before the congregation.
Each church had a 'serker' or searcher, whose duties were almost the same as those of a Roman Inquisitor. Their job was to seek out those who in any way flaunted or broke civil or moral standards. Cases which would now be brought before a Police or Sheriff court, were reported to, and judged by the session.
April 15th 1690: Elders were appointed to go through ale-houses in the Clachan and district after ringing of the last bell on Sunday afternoon, to see if any people could be found drinking there. They also checked houses to look for residents not attending church.
accost a member of the congregation, saying, "Jamie, ye'll bring a cart o' coals the morn."
Perhaps the price of silence for some small misdemeanor?
On June 4th 1690, a public intimation was made from the pulpit, to heads of families, that no new servants be received into houses from other congregations without testimonials. Testimonials were also issued to people wishing to obtain employment, get married, or even move to another district. For example,
July 25th 1691 - Janet Provan, appeared and required a testimonial. Found to be free of public scandal, she was granted her testimonial.
Margaret Forsyth, appeared, demanding a testimonial to go to Ireland.
It appears that the use of Testimonials ensured the Church had maximum power and social control.
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