The Kirkiad: or, Golden Age of the Church of Scotland

Archibald Bruce

Bruce was the author of an extended satire on the Moderate party of the Scottish national church. The following are excerpts from the poem, which was published in Edinburgh in 1774.

O how does Moderation shine
With fair and ever placid mien!
In ev’ry place, both near and far,
In pulpit, bench, and at the bar;
From barbers shops, and cobblers stalls,
To camps, and courts, and college-halls!
She smiles, with soft and winning air,
E’vn from the theologic chair;
There softens ev’ry harsher feature,
And dictates nought but pure good-nature.
Of Doctor Quidnunc ev’ry lecture
Holds up to view the charming picture:
He shuns the orbit systematic,
For motions new, and quite erratic.
Systems, and system-mongers, he
Thinks bear too hard on liberty.
At heretics he seldom snarls,
As those who love still to pick quarrels.
His thoughts with Limborck will comport
To-day; the next with Acts of Dort.
For neither side his blood he’ll warm;
Such trifling points can do no harm.
Of mongrel brood, nor one nor t’other,
A perfect linsey-woolsey brother.
No sentiments he will impose,
But lets each one his liking chuse.
He thinks it suits not with the chair
To tell with a dogmatic air,
What is the truth, or where it lies,
While ’tis a dispute ‘mong the wise.
To no more certainly he’ll rise,
Than – this affirms, and that denies.
He only wants the youths who hear him,
Inter sylvas quaerere verum,
With a true academic spirit,
To seek for truth, but ne’er come near it.
With indefatigable pains
He takes of evidence the grains,
And throws them in th’ opposing scales
So nicely, that no side prevails;
But leaves the case in statu quo,
Dangling in Equilibrio.
Or if the beam obliquely sways,
In the Probabile it stays.

Divines set free from party views,
Of ev’ry sort may pick and chuse:
All kinds of grain at once may knead
Into their batch, and make good bread.
Believe, and preach too what they please,
Nor run the risk of losing fees.
They need not pare a bold expression,
To make it hang with the Confession,
Which ev’ry novice knows is not
But like a supple broken bow:
Altho’ the times as yet run so
That none to benefice can go,
But thro’ this little prickly wicket;
(Since it must be, e’en boldly take it).
But soon this relick of our slav’ry,
Support of priestcraft and of knav’ry,
Which has maintain’d too long its station,
In this enlightened age and nation,
Shall root and branch be shov’d away
As soon as decently it may.

What mighty fools our fathers were
To raise such hubbub, din and war,
And lavish out their blood and treasure,
Zealous for forms above all measure!
To put themselves to so much pains
To forge their fetters and their chains!
What beauty could these bigots see,
In their fam’d uniformity;
When Nature’s works throughout declare,
Variety constitutes the fair?
Such puritanic days departed,
We’ve got their system quite inverted:
To ev’ry faith indulgent be,
Zealous for Multiformity.
Howe’er religions jar, no matter;
The more they vary, still the better:
So strains of music are more sweet,
When hautboys, pipes and fiddles meet:
Some high, some low; some hard, some shrill;
The ear of taste with rapture fill:
The mixed strains make harmony,
and dissonance is symphony.