Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Charteris, Lawrence

CHARTERIS, LAWRENCE (1625–1700), Scottish divine, the grandson of Henry Chateris the elder [q. v.], and a younger son of Henry Charteris the younger [q. v.], was born in 1625, and was educated at the university of Edinburgh, where he graduated M.A. in 1646. From 1651 to 1653 he was living within the bounds of the presbytery of Dalkeith, with or near to the saintly Leighton, then minister of Newbattle, who had been a pupil of Charteris's father. In September 1654 Charteris was called to be minister of the parish of Bathans (now Yester), in the adjoining presbytery of Haddington. The church of Scotland was now divided into two sections, the resolutioners and protesters. Charteris, upon his ordination, declared that he had not been a party to the protest. He could make this declaration sincerely, for he sympathised with the resolutioners, or moderate party. He hated strife, and, like Leighton, he probably preferred episcopacy. Upon the restoration of episcopacy in 1660 Charteris conformed, as did Leighton and the bulk of the Scottish clergy. He was in presbyterian orders, but, except in a few cases in the diocese of Aberdeen, there was no reordination of the parish ministers who had been appointed in the time of presbytery; only, to save the rights of patrons, those who had been admitted to benefices since 1649 were required to obtain presentation from the lawful patron, and collation from the bishop. Charteris had such collation in 1662, and for thirteen years longer he remained minister of Yester. Charteris was intimate and had great influence with Robert Douglas, Scougal, bishop of Aberdeen in 1664, Nairne, and Burnet. He disapproved of much in the action of the bishops, and of more in that of the government. In 1664 he joined with Nairne in a protest against his diocesan's deposing a minister without the consent of his synod; and in 1669, when the Scottish bishops were coerced into voting for a very Erastian act of supremacy, Charteris was 'one of the episcopal clergy who thought,' says Burnet, 'that it made the king our pope.' Nor in spite of strong pressure from his friend Leighton, now bishop of Dunblane, would he accept a bishopric. In 1670, however, when Leighton became bishop of Glasgow, Charteris consented to be one of six preachers whom Leighton sent to preach among the western whigs in support of an accommodation between presbyterians and episcopalians. In 1675 Charteris was chosen by the town council professor of divinity in the university of Edinburgh, at a salary of 1,600 marks and a house in the college. In that office 'he formed,' says Burnet, 'the minds of many of the young clergy both to an excellent temper and to a set of very good principles.' When, however, in 1681, under the government of the Duke of York, the severe test was imposed which practically made the king the absolute master of the church of Scotland, Charteris resigned his chair and retired into private life. Bishop Scougal of Aberdeen and most of his clergy also objected to the test, but they were generally satisfied with an explanation of it. Charteris, however, was followed 'by about eighty of the most learned and pious of the clergy,' who revered him as their teacher and guide, and 'left all rather than comply with the terms of that law.' Three years later he visited Argyll. and prayed with him on the day of his execution. In 1687 James II dispensed with the test, and in September 1688 Charteris was instituted to the parish of Dirleton in East Lothian, where, on taking the oath of allegiance to William and Mary, he remained till 1697. But he showed himself as independent as before. When in 1690 the privy council gave civil sanction to the fast appointed by the revived general assembly on account of such 'national sins' as the late establishment of prelacy, Charteris, while he obeyed the council and read the act of assembly from his pulpit, added a defence of episcopacy; said plainly that 'he did not see that the continuance of pastors to serve God and the church under the late settlement was to be looked upon as a defection for which they were to repent;' and even retorted on the now triumphant presbyterians for their 'factious temper' and 'bitter zeal.' In 1697 he retired on an allowance from his benefice, and died in Edinburgh in 1700, after enduring great suffering from stone, which he bore 'with the most perfect patience and submission.' Charteris was never married; he was of ascetic and studious habits, and distinguished for patristic and historical learning. Wodrow describes him as a man of great worth and gravity. Burnet's ascription to him of 'composed serene gravity,' the meekness of wisdom, and earnest practical religion, is justified by every line of the small but weighty works, 'On the Difference between True and False Christianity' (1703), and 'On the Corruption of this Age' (1704), which were published after his death. In the latter work (republished by Foulis, Glasgow, 1761) Charteris condemns the preaching at the celebration of the Lord's Supper, which Burns more effectually satirised in 'The Holy Fair,' and strongly pleads for the restoration of the public reading of holy scripture in the services of the church of Scotland. The catalogue of Scottish divines in Maidment's 'Catalogues' was drawn up by Charteris for his friend Sir Robert Sibbald.

[Presbytery Records; Burnet's History; Grub's Ecclesiastical History; Hew Scott's Fasti; Grant's History of the University of Edinburgh; Wodrow; Blair's Autobiography.]

J. C.