Bessie Grahame had been committed, it would seem, under suspicions of no great weight, since the minister, after various conferences, found her defence so successful, that he actually pitied her hard usage, and wished for her delivery from prison, especially as he doubted whether a civil court would send her to an assize, or whether an assize would be disposed to convict her. While the minister was in this doubt, a fellow named Begg was employed as a skilful pricker; by whose authority it is not said, he thrust a great brass pin up to the head in a wart on the woman's back, which he affirmed to be the devil's mark. A commission was granted for trial; but still the chief gentlemen in the county refused to act, and the clergyman's own doubts were far from being removed. This put the worthy man upon a solemn prayer to God, " that if he would find out a way for giving the minister full clearness of her guilt, he would acknowledge it as a singular favour and mercy." This, according to his idea, was accomplished in the following manner, which he regarded as an answer to his prayer. One evening the clergyman, with Alexander Simpson, the kirk-officer, and his own servant, had visited Bessie in her cell, to urge her to confession, but in vain. As they stood on the stairhead behind the door, they heard the prisoner, whom they had left alone in her place of confinement, discoursing with another person, who used a low and ghostly tone, which the minister instantly recognised as the Foul Fiend's voice. But for this discovery, we should have been of opinion that Bessie Grahame talked to herself, as melancholy and despairing wretches are in the habit of doing. But as Alexander Simpson pretended to understand the sense of what was said within the cell, and the minister himself was pretty sure he heard two voices at the same time, he regarded the overhearing this conversation as the answer of the Deity to his petition—and thenceforth was troubled with no doubts either as to the reasonableness and propriety of his prayer, or the guilt of Bessie Grahame, though she died obstinate, and would not confess ; nay, made a most decent and Christian end, acquitting her judges and jury of her blood, in respect of the strong delusion under which they laboured.
* Satan's Invisible World, by Mr. George Sinclair. The Author was Professor of Moral Philosophy in the University of Glasgow, and afterwards minister of Eastwood, in Renfrewshire,
Although the ministers, whose opinions were but too strongly, on this head, in correspondence with the prevailing superstitions of the people, nourished, in the early system of church government, a considerable desire to secure their own immunities and privileges as a national church, which failed not at last to be brought into contact with the king's prerogative; yet, in the earlier part of his reign, James, when freed from the influence of such a favourite as the profligate Stuart, Earl of Arran, was, in his personal qualities, rather acceptable to the clergy of his kingdom and period. At his departing from Scotland, on his romantic expedition to bring home a consort from Denmark, he very politically recommended to the clergy to contribute all that lay in their power to assist the civil magistrates and preserve the public peace of the kingdom. The king, after his return, acknowledged with many thanks the care which the clergy had bestowed in this particular. Nor were they slack in assuming the merit to themselves for they often reminded him in their future discords that his kingdom had never been so quiet as during his voyage to Denmark, when the clergy were, in a great measure, intrusted with the charge of the public government.
During the halcyon period of union between kirk and king, their hearty agreement on the subject of witchcraft failed not to heat the fires against the persons suspected of such iniquity. The clergy considered that the Roman Catholics, their principal enemies, were equally devoted to the devil, the mass, and the witches, which, in their opinion, were mutually associated together, and natural allies in the great cause of mischief. On the other hand, the pedantic sovereign, having exercised his learning and ingenuity in the Demonologia, considered the execution of every witch who was burnt as a necessary conclusion of his own royal syllogisms. The juries were also afraid of the consequences of acquittal to themselves, being liable to suffer under an assize of error, should they be thought to have been unjustly merciful; and as the witches tried were personally as insignificant as the charge itself was odious, there was no restraint whatever upon those in whose hands their fate lay, and there seldom wanted some such confession as we have often mentioned, or such evidence as that collected by the minister who overheard the dialogue between the witch and her master, to salve their consciences, and reconcile them to bring in a verdict of Guilty.
The execution of witches became, for these reasons, very common in Scotland, where the king seemed in some measure to have made himself a party in the cause, and the clergy esteemed themselves such from the very nature of their profession. But the general spite of Satan and his adherents was supposed to be especially directed against James, on account of his match with Anne of Denmark—the union of a Protestant princess with a Protestant prince, the King of Scotland and heir of England, being, it could not be doubted, an event which struck the whole kingdom of darkness with alarm. James was self-gratified by the unusual spirit which he had displayed on his voyage in quest of his bride, and well disposed to fancy that he had performed it in positive opposition, not only to the indirect policy of Elizabeth, but to the malevolent purpose of hell itself. His fleet had been tempest-tost, and he very naturally believed that the Prince of the power of the air had been personally active on the occasion.