After severe persecution failed to crush the Covenanters, the government tried a softer approach – indulgences and accommodation. In August 1667, most of the army that had been oppressing the Covenanters was sent home.
Indulgences were offered to ministers who hadn’t caused trouble. However they would have to agree to not do certain things, such as preach against the idea that the king had power over the church. Charles II offered 3 different indulgences between 1669 and 1679. The strict Covenanters never accepted them – not just because of what they would have to have agreed to do, but because they believed that preaching the gospel was a command of God, and not something that they could only do with the permission of the king. Every time a new indulgence was brought in, stronger punishments were also brought in for those who refused them. Those who went to conventicles could be put in prison as well as fined, and from 1670 anyone found organising or preaching at a conventicle would be put to death.
The Accommodation was a real attempt by Robert Leighton, Bishop of Dunblane, to bring Presbyterians and Episcopalians together. In 1670, Leighton and 6 other Episcopalians travelled to the west of Scotland to try and get the people to accept a mix of Presbyterianism and Episcopalianism. Gilbert Burnet, professor of theology at Glasgow university, was one of those who was sent. He later wrote how amazed he was that the common people were able to argue so clearly about how the church should be organised, and that they were able to back up all their answers with the Bible. Even the poorest of the people, and servants, were able to give answers to these important churchmen.
The accommodation therefore didn’t work as the people knew what they believed and why they believed it. However the indulgences split the Covenanters, as some accepted them and some didn’t.
J. G. Vos, The Scottish Covenanters (Edinburgh, 1998 ), pp 88-97.
Ian B. Cowan, The Scottish Covenanters 1660-1688 (London, 1976), pp 71-81.
Gilbert Burnet – A history of his own time (6 vols, Oxford, 2nd edn, 1833), i, 280, 535.
Hugh Ouston, ‘Leighton, Robert (bap. 1612, d. 1684)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, Sept 2004; online edn, Jan 2008