Kirkton, James (DNB00)

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KIRKTON, JAMES (1620?–1699), Scottish divine and historian, was born about 1620. He graduated at the university of Edinburgh in 1647, and was ordained and admitted to the second charge of Lanark in 1655. He was afterwards translated to Mertoun in Berwickshire, and was deprived in 1662 on the restoration of episcopacy. Under the indulgence granted in 1672 he was appointed as minister of Carstairs, but he refused the appointment and went to England. In 1674 he was denounced as a rebel for holding conventicles, and in June 1676 he was seized in Edinburgh by a Captain Carstairs, but was rescued by his brother-in-law, Robert Baillie of Jerviswood [q. v.] He declined an invitation to become one of the ministers of the Scottish church in Rotterdam, but during the height of the persecution he and his family took refuge in Holland, and remained there till the proclamation of the Toleration Act of 1687. He then returned to Scotland, was appointed at a meeting of presbyterian ministers to officiate in Edinburgh, and preached to a large congregation in a meeting-house on the Castle Hill till the revolution, when he was reinstated in his former parish of Mertoun, and was one of the ministers appointed to ‘purge’ the university of Edinburgh of professors disaffected to the new government. In 1691 he was admitted minister of the Tolbooth parish, Edinburgh, and remained there till his death, which took place in 1699. Wodrow describes him as a ‘minister of great zeal, knowledge, and learning, a most curious searcher into the natural, civil, and ecclesiastical history of Scotland,’ and as a ‘most successful and sententious preacher of the gospel;’ but, according to episcopal pamphlets of the time, he was ‘the comedian of his party,’ and his sermons were ‘the chat of the tavern’ and ‘the divertisment of the young people.’ Kirkton married Grissel, daughter of George Baillie of Jerviswood, and had three sons, and a daughter who married Dr. A. Skene, besides other children who died young. Kirkton published two separate sermons in 1698 and 1699, and wrote a ‘History of Mr. John Welsh, Minister of the Gospel at Ayr,’ with whom he was connected by marriage. He left in manuscript ‘The Secret and True History of the Church of Scotland from the Restoration to the year 1678,’ which was edited, with biographical sketch and notes, by Charles Kirkpatrick Sharpe, and published in 1817, Edinburgh. The manuscript was of great service to Wodrow in compiling his ‘History of the Sufferings of the Church of Scotland,’ but he tones down Kirkton's stories, some of which are coarse and scurrilous. The book contains a panegyric on the church of Scotland during the commonwealth, which later historians have characterised as a ‘romance and an enthusiastic fable.’

[Scott's Fasti; Wodrow's Hist. of the Suff. of the Church of Scotland; Scots Presby. Eloq.; Pitcairn's Assembly; m'Crie's Knox, biog. sketch by Sharpe.]

G. W. S.