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Although it may be received for a fact, that the subject of our memoir was descended from this ancient and respectable family, yet it has been found impossible to trace all the steps of his pedigree. The family itself had undoubtedly declined in wealth and eredit, before the birth of the individual who was destined to reflect upon it a new and transcendent lustre : for it is on record that, A. D. 1619, a part at least of its original estates had been alienated ; and in 1670, there is a grant under the great seal to Charles Maitland of Halton of the barony of Ullishaven, escheated to the king in consequence of John, earl of Dundee, dying without male issue.
The father of Archbishop Leighton was Dr. Alexander Leighton, a presbyterian clergyman of unhappy celebrity. In the reign of Charles I., he was sentenced by the Star-chamber, for a virulent attack upon episcopacy in a book entitled “ Zion's Plea against Prelacy,” to be whipt and pilloried, to have his ears cropt, his nose slit, and his cheeks branded. This barbarous punishment was rigorously inflicted; and to it were superadded, during a long imprisonment, such atrocious severities, as savoured more of vindictive malignity than of judicial retribution. No apology would be valid, or even decent, for cruelties which were revolting alike to justice, to humanity, and to religion. That the wretched sufferer, however, was of a cross, untowardly disposition, may be conjectured from his having brought himself under the lash of the law, in the preceding reign, by stubbornly refusing to abandon the irregular practice of medicine. There is a fact, moreover, not generally known, which may account for the excessive rigour with which his subsequent offences were visited. Not only was the book for which he was so severely handled outrageously scurrilous and inflammatory in its contents, but there were collateral circumstances attending its publication, that betokened a mischievous purpose in the writer. In the first edition no name is given either of printer or author ; and instead of the date in the usual way, we find, “Printed the year and moneth wherein Rochell was lost.” The frontispiece exhibits on one page a lamp burning, supported by a book, and guarded by two men with naked swords; which hieroglyphic is explained by the legend :
Prevailing prelats strive to quench our light,
Except your sacred power quash their might. On the other page is the representation of an antique dilapidated tower. Out of its ruins grows an elderbush, from the branches of which several bishops are falling, one of them holding in his hand a large box. This device is interpreted by the motto: at The tottering prelats, with their trumpery, all bellad od Shall moulder down, like elder from a wall, nobis watoto
was also share The place of Archbishop Leighton's birth has been much disputed. It is commonly believed that he was a native of London ; on the strength I imagine of Burnet's assertion, that he was sent from thence to be educated in Scotland. This, however, is inferring too much he may luheen carried up,
in his infancy, from Scotland to London, when his father settled in that city. Craig also claims him for her son: but this claim seems to rest solely on the fact of his director collateral ancestors having been considerable proprietors in that vil lage; a foundation too weak to sustain the hypothesis, which a virtuous solicitude to make out their affinity with so eminent a person has induced the inhabitants to raise upon it. To my mind there are unanswerable reasons for assigning that distinction to Edinburgh. In the inscription on his tomb-stone, Leighton is said to have died in his 74th year; and deducting 73 from 1684, the undisputed year of his decease, we shall have 1611 for the year of his nativity. The same amount is obtained by deducting 30, the number of his years when he took orders, from 1641, which is the date of that transaction. Now, bis father was at that time professor of moral philosophy in Edinburgh College*, and did not go up to London until two years afterwards t; and it is certainly to be presumed, not a shadow of evidence appearing to the contrary, that the son was born in the place wherein the father was then residing. He had one younger brother, of whom mention will be made hereafter, and two sisters ; one of whom was married to a Mr. Lightmaker, a gentleman of landed property in Sussex ; and the other to a Mr. Rathband, as appears from a single allusion in one of her brother's letters.
* Of this professorship I meet with the following notice, in a work entitled “ The Present State of Scotland," London, 1738. “ It (the Col, lege) was founded in 1580, by King James VI., upon a petition from the city for that end, to grant them a charter, with the privilege of an uni. versity. But the foundation was not perfected till 1582. The persons established by the foundation were, a principal or primare, four regents or masters of philosophy, &c.”—p. 62.
* See Chalmers' Biograph. Dict.
Of his early years we have only a scanty though a valuable notice. It appears from the unquestionable authority of his sister, that, from his tenderest age, his singular teachableness and piety endeared him greatly to his parents; who used to speak with admiration of his extraordinary exemption from childish faults and follies.
At college his behaviour was so uniformly excellent as to attract the notice of his superiors; and one of them, in a letter to Dr. Leighton, congratulates him on having a son, in whom Providence has made him abundant compensation for his sufferings. There is still in existence a humorous poem on Dr. Aikenhead, Warden of the college, which Leighton wrote when an undergraduate. It evinces a good-natured playfulness of fancy, but is not of a merit that calls for publication.
After taking his degree, Leighton passed several years in travelling, and in the studies proper to qualify him for future usefulness. It was his opinion, that great advantages are to be reaped from a residence in foreign parts; inasmuch as a large acquaintance with the sentiments of strangers, and with the civil and religious institutions, the manners and usages of other countries, conduces to unfetter the mind of indigenous prejudices, to abate the self-sufficiency of partial knowledge, and to pro
duce a sober and charitable estimate of opinions that differ from our own. Many years afterwards, he recommended a similar course to his nephew, alleging, that “ there is a very peculiar advantage in travel, not to be understood but by the trial of it; and that for himself he nowise repented the time he had spent in that way.”
During his stay abroad, Leighton was often at Douay, where some of his relations had settled. In this seminary he appears to have met with some religionists, whose lives were framed on the strictest model of primitive piety. Though keenly alive to the faults of popery, he did not consider the Romish church to be utterly antichristian ; but thought he discerned in it beautiful fragments of the original temple, however disfigured with barbarous additions, and almost hid beneath the rampant growth of a baneful superstition. Having learnt from these better portions of that corrupt establishment, that its constitutions were not altogether dross, he went on to discover that the frame of his own church was not entirely gold: nor did it escape him, that in the sweeping extermination, so clamorously demanded in Scotland, of all those offices of devotion which symbolized with the Roman Catholic services, some of the noblest formularies and most useful institutes of the primitive church would perish. It was probably from this time that his veneration for the presbyterian platform began to abate.
He was thirty years old before he took holy orders; and in deferring to so ripe an age his en