Acts of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland 1638-1842. Originally published by Edinburgh Printing & Publishing Co, Edinburgh, 1843.
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The principal acts of the general assembly, convened at Edinburgh, May 21, 1835.
I. Sess. 1, May 21, 1835.—The King's Commission to the Right Honourable Lord Belhaven.
Note.—A Committee on Church Accommodation or Extension had existed for several years prior to 1834; but it was now only that the Committee was placed on a permanent footing, and its object adopted as one of the Schemes of the Church. The following notice respecting this appears in the Abridgment of the Proceedings of 1834:—
"The General Assembly called for the Report of the Committee on Church Accommodation, which was given in and read by Dr Brunton, the Convener. It was moved, seconded, and agreed to that the Assembly approve of the Report of the Committee on Church Accommodation, and resolve, in terms of the recommendation embodied in that Report, that a permanent Committee be formed, on the model of the Committee for Propagating the Gospel in Foreign Parts; and that the Assembly enjoin all ministers of Parishes, and all ministers of Chapels of Ease throughout the Church, to recommend the subject from the pulpit, and take measures for collecting at the church doors, and furthering subscriptions for carrying the wishes of the Assembly into effect, and instruct the Committee to act on this injunction, to ascertain precisely, by communicating with the different Presbyteries, the state of Church Accommodation throughout the country, and to mature a plan for the most beneficial distribution of the funds which may be so collected, to be reported to next General Assembly. The General Assembly re-appoint the Committee, with additional members. The Assembly returned thanks to the Convener, and through him to the Committee, and at his request, appointed Dr Chalmers to be Convener."—Ed. 1843.
II. Sess. 1, May 21, 1835.—The King's most gracious Letter to the General Assembly.
III. Sess. 3, May 23, 1835.—The General Assembly's Answer to the King's most gracious Letter.
IV. Sess. 3, May 23, 1835.—The General Assembly's Address of Thanks to the King.
Most Gracious Sovereign,
We, your Majesty's faithful and loyal subjects, the ministers and elders of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, beg leave to approach your Majesty with the renewed assurance of our attachment to your person and government.
The rapid increase of population, especially in the manufacturing and commercial districts of Scotland, having rendered essentially necessary the increase of the means of religious instruction and parochial superintendence, we have observed, with the most lively gratitude, that this very important subject has engaged your Majesty's paternal regard, and that, in the speech from the throne, at the opening of the present Parliament, your Majesty has commended it to the attention of the House of Commons.
We beg leave to express to your Majesty our deep-felt conviction of the urgent necessity of adopting some efficient measure for extending the means of spiritual improvement, and our earnest desire and hope that your Majesty's government may continue to have this subject under their serious consideration, and may devise such plans as shall, under the Divine blessing, issue in the religious and moral improvement of the people under our care.
That your Majesty's paternal desire to afford to your subjects more extended access to the ordinances of Divine worship may be speedily realized, and that you may
be blessed abundantly with all spiritual and heavenly blessings, is the earnest desire
May it please your Majesty, your Majesty's most faithful, most dutiful, and most loyal subjects, the Ministers and Elders of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.
V. Sess. 10, May 30, 1835.—Commission of the General Assembly to certain Ministers and Ruling Elders for discussing Affairs referred to them.
VI. Sess. 10, May 30, 1835.—Commission to some Ministers and Ruling Elders for the Reformation of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, and for Managing his Majesty's Royal Bounty.
VII. Sess. 7, May 27, 1835.—Act and Order as to Synod Books.
The General Assembly, on calling for the different Synod Books of this Church, find that many Synods are not in the practice of sending up their books to the Assembly, as, by many former Acts, they are required to do. The General Assembly hereby do enact and ordain, that Synods shall in future be careful to cause their books to be regularly transmitted to every Assembly.
VIII. Sess. 10, May 30, 1835.—Act in favour of the India Missions.
The General Assembly did, and hereby do, nominate and appoint the Committee for the Reformation of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, and for Managing his Majesty's Royal Bounty, to be a committee of this Assembly for the propagation of the Gospel in foreign parts, and for managing the funds subscribed and given for that purpose, with the whole powers conferred by former Acts of Assembly, and with power also to appoint a sub-committee of their number, consisting of nine, for more effectually furthering the great end in view;—of the general committee, fourteen are hereby declared to be a quorum, whereof nine are to be ministers; and of the subcommittee to be appointed, five are hereby declared to be a quorum. That the committee shall hold stated monthly meetings for dispatch of business, in the Trustee's Hall, on the first Tuesday of every month, at three o'clock, with power always to adjourn, as shall be needful; and to meet on all occasions when urgent business shall demand. And the said general committee are hereby enjoined and required, through their sub-committee, to attend to the instructions and regulations formerly approved by the General Assembly for the propagation of the Gospel abroad; with power to make and carry into effect such further regulations as to them may seem most benefical, such further regulations to be submitted to next Assembly. And the said general committee are hereby appointed to report their diligence, and that of their sub-committee, in calling forth the benevolence and support of the Christian public of Scotland,—their prudence in the expenditure of the funds obtained;—and, generally, their management, and the success of their operations in foreign parts. Farther, the General Assembly recommend to the favourable consideration of the committee the subject of the Memorial from the Missionaries at Bombay, leaving to the committee the time and manner of extending their countenance and pecuniary support to that object, and warmly recommend their efforts to the prayers and pecuniary assistance of the people of Scotland.
IX. Sess. 9, May 29, 1835.—Act on the Calling of Ministers. (fn. 1)
The General Assembly declare, That it is a fundamental law of this Church, that no pastor shall be intruded on any congregation contrary to the will of the people; and, in order that this principle may be carried into full effect, the General Assembly, with the consent of a majority of the Presbyteries of this Church, do declare, enact, and ordain, That it shall be an instruction to Presbyteries, that if, at the moderating in a call to a vacant pastoral charge, the major part of the male heads of families, members of the vacant congregation, and in full communion with the Church, shall disapprove of the person in whose favour the call is proposed to be moderated in, such disapproval shall be deemed sufficient ground for the Presbytery rejecting such person, and that he shall be rejected accordingly, and due notice thereof forthwith given to all concerned; but that, if the major part of the said heads of families shall not disapprove of such person to be their pastor, the Presbytery shall proceed with the settlement according to the rules of the Church: And farther declare, that no person shall be held to be entitled to disapprove as aforesaid, who shall refuse, if required, solemnly to declare, in presence of the Presbytery, that he is actuated by no factious or malicious motive, but solely by a conscientious regard to the spiritual interests of himself or the congregation.
X. Sess. ult., June 1, 1835.—Overture and Interim Act, with Regulations for carrying into effect the Act of Assembly on the Calling of Ministers. (fn. 2)
Whereas the General Assembly have declared, enacted, and ordained, in terms of their Act, passed into a law of the Church on the 29th May 1835, on the subject of the moderating in of calls; and whereas it is necessary, for regulating the forms of proceeding under that Act, that some precise and definite rules should be laid down, it is overtured, That the General Assembly do, therefore, with the consent of a majority of the Presbyteries of this Church, declare, enact, and ordain, that the following directions and regulations shall be observed:—
1. That when a presentation shall be received by the Moderator of a Presbytery, he shall, within two days after it comes to his hand, call a meeting of Presbytery, to take place not less than eight, nor more than twelve, days from the date of such intimation; provided that no meeting of Presbytery shall have been already fixed to take place within three weeks; and that, if such meeting has been appointed, he shall merely give notice that the presentation has been received, and will be laid on the table at that meeting.
2. That when the presentation is so laid on the table of the Presbytery, they shall, in the first place, ascertain that in the vacant parish a roll of the male heads of families, being members of the congregation and communicants in the church, has been regularly completed, in the manner herein after directed; and that having done so, they shall proceed in terms of the 4th Regulation, after expressed.
3. That in case a roll has not been so completed, they shall, at that meeting, appoint one of their number to act as moderator, with the elders of the parish, to constitute a kirk-session, or where there are no elders, two or more of their own number to act as a kirksession, in making up a roll, in terms of the Regulations hereby enacted; and in such a case, they shall not then appoint a day for moderating in a call, but shall adjourn to another day of meeting, not more than fourteen days thereafter, ordaining a roll, duly attested, to be then produced to them; at which meeting, if the roll shall be completed, approved of, and countersigned, it shall be competent to fix a day for moderating in a call: it being hereby farther provided, that in no case shall the day for moderating in the call be fixed until the roll shall have been completed to the satisfaction of the Presbytery.
4. That when any Presbytery shall be prepared to appoint a day for moderating in a call to the person presented, they shall appoint one of their own number to preach in the church of the parish on a day not later than the second Sabbath thereafter; that he shall, on that day, intimate from the pulpit that the person presented will preach in that church on the first convenient Sabbath, so as it be not later than the third Sabbath after such intimation, and also on some other Sabbath; and that he shall, at the same time, intimate, that on another day to be fixed, not later than the next Friday after the day last appointed for the presentee to preach, the Presbytery will proceed, within the said church, to moderate in a call to such person to be minister of the said parish, in the usual way; but that the Presbytery, if they deem it expedient, may appoint the presentee to preach oftener than twice, provided that the day for moderating in the call be not more than six weeks after that on which it was appointed.
6. That if no special objections be stated, and if there shall not be dissents by a major part of the male heads of families, being members of the congregation, and in full communion with the church, according to a list or roll to be made up, and regulated in manner herein after directed, the Presbytery shall sustain the call, and proceed to the trials and settlement of the presentee, according to the rules of the Church.
7. That if any special objections to the settlement of the person presented, of whatever nature such objections may be, shall be stated to the Presbytery; and if such objections appear to be deserving of deliberate consideration or investigation, the Presbytery shall delay the farther proceedings in the settlement till another meeting, to be then appointed, not later than eight days thereafter, and give notice to all parties concerned then to attend, that they may be heard.
8. That if the special objections so stated affect the moral character or the doctrine of the presentee, so that, if they were established, he would be deprived of his licence, or of his situation in the Church, the objectors shall proceed by libel, and the Presbytery shall take the steps usual in such cases.
9. That if the special objections relate to the insufficiency or unfitness of the presentee for the particular charge to which he has been appointed, the objectors shall not require to become libellers, but shall simply deliver in writing their specific grounds for objecting to the settlement, and shall have full liberty to substantiate the same; upon all which the presentee shall have an opportunity to be fully heard, and shall have all competent means of defence: That the Presbytery shall then consider these special objections, and, if it shall appear that they are not sufficient, or not well-founded, they shall proceed to the settlement of the presentee, according to the rules of the Church; but if the Presbytery shall be satisfied that the objector or objectors have established that the presentee is not fitted, usefully and sufficiently to discharge the pastoral duties in that parish, then they shall find that he is not qualified, and shall, within two days thereafter, intimate the same to the patron; it being always in the power of the different parties to appeal from the sentence pronounced by the Presbytery, if they shall see cause.
10. That if, at the meeting for moderating in the call, dissents are tendered by any of the male heads of families, whose names stand on the roll above referred to, without the assignment of any special objections, such dissents shall either be personally delivered in writing by the person dissenting, or taken down from his oral statement by the moderator or clerk of the Presbytery.
11. That if the dissents so lodged do not amount in number to the major part of the persons standing on the roll, and if there be no special objections remaining to be considered, the Presbytery shall sustain the call, and proceed to the trials and settlement, according to the rules of the Church.
12. That if it shall appear that dissents have been lodged by an apparent majority of the persons on the said roll, the Presbytery shall adjourn the proceedings to another meeting, to be held not less than ten free days, nor more than fourteen, thereafter.
13. That it shall not be competent to receive any dissents without cause assigned, except such as shall be duly given in at the meeting for moderating in the call, as above provided; but it shall be competent to any person who may have lodged a dissent at that meeting to withdraw such dissent at any time before the Presbytery shall have given judgment on the effect of the dissents.
14. That in case the Presbytery shall, at the second meeting appointed, find that there is not truly a majority of such persons on the roll dissenting, they shall sustain the call, and proceed to the trials and settlement, according to the rules of the Church.
15. That in case the Presbytery shall, at that meeting, find that there is a majority of the persons on the roll dissenting, it shall be competent to the patron or the presentee, or to any member of the Presbytery, to require all or any of the persons so dissenting to appear before the Presbytery, at a meeting to be appointed to take place within ten days at farthest, at some place within the parish, and there and then to declare in terms of the Resolution of the General Assembly; and if any such person shall fail to appear after notice shall have been duly given to him, or shall refuse to declare in the terms required, the name of such person shall be struck off the list of persons dissenting, and the Presbytery shall determine whether there is still a major part dissenting or not, and proceed accordingly.
16. That if the Presbytery shall find that there is at last a major part of the persons on the roll dissenting, they shall reject the person presented, so far as regards the particular presentation, and the occasion of that vacancy in the parish; and shall, within two days thereafter, intimate this their determination to the patron, the presentee, and the elders of the parish.
17. That if the patron shall give a presentation to another person within the time limited by law, the proceedings shall again take place in the same manner as above laid down; and so on, in regard to successive presentations within the time.
18. That if no presentation shall be given, within the limited time, to a person from whose settlement a majority on the roll do not dissent, or who shall not be excluded in consequence of special objections, the Presbytery shall then supply the vacancy, tanquam jure devoluto.
19. That cases of settlement by the Presbytery jure devoluto shall not fall under the operation of the regulations in this and the relative Act of Assembly, but shall be proceeded in according to the general laws of the Church applicable to such cases. But every person who shall have been previously rejected, shall be considered as disqualified to be inducted into that parish on the occasion of that vacancy.
20. That in order to ascertain definitively the persons entitled, at any particular time, to give in dissents, every kirk-session which has not already made up a roll of the male heads of families in conformity to the enactment of last General Assembly, shall, within three months of the rising of this present General Assembly, make up a roll of the male heads of families who are members of the congregation, and who are, at the date thereof, and have been for at least twelve months previous thereto, in full communion with the Church. And, lest any doubt should arise as to who are heads of families, it is hereby declared, that the term includes unmarried men and widowers, as well as married men, provided they occupy houses of which they are proprietors or tenants, and eldest sons when their fathers are deceased, provided they are of the age of 21 years or upwards, and reside in the same house with their mothers.
21. That the roll so made up shall be open to inspection by any parishioner or member of the congregation, for the space of one week, and thereafter shall be authenticated by the moderator and session-clerk, and then transmitted to the Presbytery; and after being inspected by the Presbytery, and countersigned on each page by the moderator, shall be returned to the kirk-session, and form part of its record for the foresaid purposes.
22. That the said roll shall be revised and re-adjusted immediately after the occasion of dispensing the sacrament in the parish which shall have last preceded the 22d of November in each year, and shall be re-transmitted to the Presbytery before the expiry of the first week of December.
23. That the said list or roll, as last revised before the vacancy in the parish, where a roll has been duly made up, revised, and authenticated, shall be the only roll for determining the persons entitled to be reckoned in any dissents to be offered, in the manner above set forth, against the admission of any presentee to be minister, in the moderating in a call, provided that it shall not be made to appear that they, or any of them, have ceased to be members of the congregation.
24. That in all cases in which the roll has been regularly made up, revised, and authenticated, before the vacancy, such roll shall be held to be conclusive as to the parties entitled to dissent in the moderation of a call for supplying that vacancy; and it shall not be competent to state any objections against it.
25.That in case any appeal shall be taken against any judgement or proceeding of the Presbytery, previous to the time when they are prepared either to proceed to the settlement, or to declare the presentee to be disqualified, and reject the presentation, such appeal shall not sist procedure; but the Presbytery, if they resolve to proceed to the settlement, shall delay doing so till the appeal be discussed; and, if they reject the presentee, it shall be still competent to him to discuss the merits of any appeal which may have been duly entered.
26. That in the districts of Orkney and Zetland, the Synod of Glenelg, and the Synod of Argyle, the number of days appointed by this Act, with regard to meetings and for other purposes, shall be double the number above provided.
27. That the regulations in this Act shall be applied to all cases of vacancies in which the Presbytery has not already appointed a day for moderating in the call; but the General Assembly hereby renew and continue the Interim Act, with regulations, enacted and transmitted by last Assembly, in regard to all cases in which the day for moderating in the call may have been already appointed; declaring it to be still in force as to all such cases, but no others.
28. That the Presbyteries of the Church are hereby enjoined to use all diligence to see that the regulations hereby laid down are duly observed and followed out; and also to use their utmost endeavours to bring about harmony and unanimity in congregations, and be at pains to avoid every thing which may excite or encourage unreasonable exceptions in people against a worthy person, who may be proposed to be their minister.
The General Assembly, in transmitting this revised and amended overture for regulating the due execution of the Act of Assembly on the Calling of Ministers, now passed into a Standing Law of the Church, think it of importance that the people of the parishes in Scotland should not be misled as to the nature and effect of that Act. It gives to them a negative voice against the intrusion of any minister into the parish whom they are compelled, under the solemn sanction of their conscientious belief as Christians, uninfluenced by any extraneous consideration, to declare to be unfit for the ministry in that parish. But the Act is not intended to confer any rights of a different nature; and any attempt to wrest it to other purposes must defeat its object, and injure the fair interests of the people, which it is meant to protect. All canvassing and caballing, therefore, for obtaining the appointment of a particular person to be minister, and all combination beforehand for that purpose, are inconsistent with the principle of the Act, and ought to disable every man who acts with a due regard to his Christian character, whatever may be his opinion on the law of patronage, from conscientiously declaring in the terms which may be required of him. The Act has been proposed, and after much deliberation passed by the whole Church, for the benefit of the people, according to the view taken by the movers of it, of their rights under the existing law. But, in order that it may have any chance of producing such benefit, it must be fairly acted on by the patrons, the Presbyteries, and the people—each party using the rights, and discharging the duties belonging to each, with the honest and single purpose of obtaining a good and faithful minister for the parish. It is only when this spirit shall duly influence all the parties, that any measure devised by the General Assembly of the Church can be expected to accomplish the great ends for which it is intended— the spiritual edification of the people, their peace, happiness, and prosperity, and the strength and stability of the Church of Scotland.
XI. Sess. ult., June 1, 1835.—Act on the Form of Process.
The General Assembly, on the Report of the Committee on the Returns to Overtures, that a majority of Presbyteries have approved of the Overture on the Form of Process, pass the same into a Standing Law of the Church.
The General Assembly therefore did, and hereby do, resolve, enact, and ordain, that when a Presbytery shall resolve to libel a minister or probationer, a complaint or appeal may be taken against such resolution; but neither that complaint or appeal, nor any other, either when the Presbytery or any other party shall be libeller, shall prevent the cause from going on till the relevancy shall be determined, so that all such complaints and appeals, and the judgements on the relevancy, if appealed from, may be disposed of at the same time.
XII.Sess. ult., June 1, 1835.—Overture on the From of Process. (fn. 3)
The General Assembly called for the Report of the Committee on the From of Process, which was given in by the Procurator. The General Assembly agree to transmit as an Overture to Presbyteries the first Thirteen Resolutions for their consideration.
29th May 1835.
The Committee on the Form of Process, having taken into their consideration the subject of the mode in which trials of causes may be most advantageously conducted, with a view to the due administration of justice, are humbly of opinion, that this important end would be far more effectually, correctly, and expeditiously attained, by having the questions of fact arising in certain classes of cases tried by Commissions of Assembly, specially appointed for the purpose; instead of being left to be decided by the ordinary judicatures of the Church. Without entering into detail, the committee may observe, that they have been led to this conclusion chiefly by the following considerations: 1st, That the time of the Assembly no longer admits of their deciding all the questions which come before them under the present system of procedure; and are every year under the necessity of remitting many of those causes to the ordinary Commission of Assembly, which is well known to be a very uncertain and undefined body; 2d, That a small committee, chosen by the Assembly, (every member of which must act under the feeling of individual responsibility,) will, from hearing the evidence delivered in their own presence, and from the opportunity thereby afforded them of judging of the demeanour of the witnesses, be much better qualified to judge of the weight and importance which should be attached to their depositions, than courts of review, who have the evidence presented to them only in a written shape, can ever be; 3d, That Presbyteries will, to a considerable extent, be relieved from the necessity of acting as prosecutors and judges in the same cases; and, 4th, That much vexation and delay will be saved by the change now recommended.
1. That all cases relative to the settlement of ministers, licensing probationers, or involving in any way questions of heresy or false doctrine; as also, all cases with regard to schools, or other matters in which the Presbyteries have a civil jurisdiction, should be excepted from the proposed regulations, and shall be determined as at present by the Presbyteries of the Church, and be subject to the usual rules with regard to appeals to the Superior Courts.
3. That where both parties shall acquiesce in the determination of these matters by the Inferior Courts, the proceedings before those courts shall be transmitted to the clerk of Assembly, for the purpose of abiding the directions of the House as to further procedure.
4. That after all the preliminary matters before mentioned shall have been finally determined by the judicatories of the Church, the trial of any points of fact necessary for the decision of the cause shall be by special Commission of the General Assembly.
6. That the Assembly shall first fix the time and place of trial, and shall then proceed to the appointment of the Commission; for which purpose the names of thirty-six members, who may not be objected to, or excused on account of health, business, inconvenience, or otherwise, at the discretion of the Assembly, shall be taken by ballot; there being always two ministers for one lay elder; from which number each party shall be entitled to strike off one name alternately, the libeller or pursuer beginning, till the whole number is reduced to sixteen, it being always understood that the number of ministers retained on the roll shall never be less than eight; and the sixteen members so chosen, with one clergyman, to be named by the Moderator of the Assembly, as preses or moderator, shall form the Commission for the trial of the case.
7. When the place of trial is fixed at any other place than Edinburgh, the ballot shall be taken from the members of Assembly from such adjacent Synods as may be fixed by the Assembly, with the exclusion of the Presbytery in which the case may have originated.
8. In the event of the unavoidable absence of any of the members, thirteen shall be a quorum; but no other excuse for absence shall be sustained than a medical certificate, on soul and conscience, of incapacity to attend on account of ill health.
9. When the trial is held in Edinburgh, the Procurator shall be bound to attend as assessor to the Commission; and when it is held at any other place, the Commission may, if they please, have power to appoint an assessor for themselves at the expense of the parties, when it is not convenient for the Procurator to attend.
10. At the trial the Commission shall appoint a clerk, and an officer or officers, also at the expense of the parties, to assist in the conduct of the case. The evidence shall be given vive voce, and shall not be taken down at length in writing; but the preses or moderator, or the assessor, shall take notes of the same, and of any points of law which may occur during the trial. Presbyteries, when they are the prosecutors, shall be entitled to act by a counsel and agent, or one or more of their own body, appointed by them as a committee for the purpose. The accused shall have the privilege of reply. The moderator, or, if the committee shall require it, the assessor, shall sum up; and the majority of the Commission shall decide; the moderator having no vote excepting in case of equality.
11. It shall not be competent to appeal against the finding of the Commission, excepting on the ground of misdirection in point of law. Such appeal shall only be competent to the next General Assembly; and the party desiring to appeal shall intimate his intention to that effect, according to the present practice of the Church, and shall lodge his reasons of appeal with the clerk of Assembly within one month after the date of the judgment. If he fails to do so, he shall be held to have fallen from his appeal, and the case shall be disposed of accordingly.
12. The facts having been determined by the Commission; and the appeal, if any, on questions of law having been disposed of, or fallen from, the moderator of the Commission shall forthwith intimate the judgment to the Presbytery in which the cause originated, by causing the clerk to send an extract of it to the moderator and clerk of Presbytery, whereupon the Presbytery shall proceed, according to the rules of the Church, to summon the party accused, and pronounce sentence in terms of said judgment.
XIII. Sess. ult., June 1, 1835.— Standing Orders to be observed as to the Business of the General Assembly.
The Procurator, as Convener of the Committee on the Form of Process, then submitted a series of Resolutions on the subject of making Motions and putting the Vote, and also on the Printing of Papers; and the Assembly agreed to convert these into Standing Orders of the House.
2. When a motion is duly seconded, and in possession of the House, it shall not be competent to make any alteration upon it, excepting in the shape of an amendment, or second or third motion, as the case may be, regularly proposed to the House, unless it shall be consented to by the mover and seconder of any other motion or amendment then before the House.
3. The person who makes the first motion shall have a right to reply; after which the debate shall be held to be definitively closed; and no other person shall be entitled to speak, excepting with regard to the manner of putting the vote.
6. When there are three motions, the first question shall be, whether the second or third motion shall be put as the amendment against the first; and the second question shall be, whether the first motion or the amendment so fixed shall be the determination of the House.
7. When there are more than three motions, the first question shall be, whether that last proposed shall be put as the amendment, and so on till only three remain, when the procedure shall be as prescribed in Article 6.
XIV. Sess. ult., June 1, 1835.—Act for alterina the Day of Meeting of the Synod of Glenelg, and of the Synod of Lothian and Tweeddale in May.
XV. Sess. ult., June 1, 1835.—Act on the Examination of Students residing beyond the Bounds of this Church, before their entrance on the Study of Divinity.
On the Report of the Committee appointed to class Returns to Overtures, that a majority of Presbyteries had approved of this Overture, the General Assembly pass the same into a Standing Law of the Church.
The General Assembly therefore did, and hereby do, resolve, enact, and declare, that students not resident within the bounds of the Church of Scotland, who have finished a course of philosophy in any of the Universities of Scotland, may, previous to their enrolment as students of divinity, be examined by the Presbytery within whose bounds the University at which they have studied is situated, either at the end of the last session of their course of philosophy, or immediately before the commencement of their first session in divinity.
XVI. Sess. ult., June 1, 1835.—Overture anent a Hebraw Exercise.
XVII. Sess. ult., June 1, 1835.—Overtures anent the Annual Examination of Students of Divinity.
XVIII. Sess. ult., June 1, 1835.—Overture for the Examination of Students on the Catechetical Standards of the Church.
XIX. Sess. ult., June 1, 1835.—Declaratoty Act for Explaining the Acts relative to the number of Commissioners sent from Presbyteries.
Whereas, by the 5th Act of Assembly, 1694, and the 6th Act of Assembly, 1712, appointing the number of representatives for Presbyteries, there is a proportion observed between the number of ministerial charges in each Presbytery, and the number of its representatives, yet the regulations contained in the said Acts are no farther expressed, than to allow six ministers and three ruling elders as the representatives of each Presbytery whose number exceeds thirty, the General Assembly, according to the design of said Acts, do declare and appoint, that in future every Presbytery, the ministerial charges in which shall exceed thirty-six, shall send to the Assembly seven ministers and three ruling elders; and every Presbytery whose ministerial charges shall exceed forty-two, shall send eight ministers and four ruling elders; and, farther, that in every case in which a Principal or Professor of Divinity in a University shall be entitled, in virtue of his office in such University, to a seat in the Presbytery of the bounds, (the said Principal or Professor not holding at the same time a cure of souls within the Presbytery,) the office of such Principal or Professor shall be held, as far as regards the number of representatives to be elected by the Presbytery, to be a ministerial charge.
XX. Sess. ult., June 1, 1835.—Overture on New Churches. (fn. 4)
The General Assembly called for the Report of the Committee on New Churches, which was given in by Dr M'Farlan, and read. The Assembly approve thereof, and agree to transmit the same to the Presbyteries for their consideration, with a view of its being converted into a Standing Law of the Church.
1st, They shall cause to be cited, in the usual form, all parties having interest,—namely, the minister and kirk-session of the parish in which the new church is to be built, the heritors of the parish, and in royal burghs the magistrates, allowing an interval of at least ten free days between the date of the citation and the day for entering on the consideration of the petition.
2dly, In every petition for a new erection, the petitioners shall be required to state explicitly and minutely the number of persons who may be accommodated in the intended church, the sum subscribed for its erection, the persons or corporate body in whom it is proposed to invest the property, the wished-for mode of electing the minister and other office-bearers, the provision made for keeping the church in repair, for defraying the expense of communion elements, and all the other circumstances with which the Presbytery may deem it necessary for them to be acquainted; and the constitution shall contain regulations as to these matters, and shall prescribe the bounds of the parish to be erected, the Presbytery abstaining carefully from giving decree for a new erection when there is not a reasonable prospect of the church being permanent.
3dly, The Presbytery shall make such arrangements as may appear to them to be adapted to each particular case. They shall, however, in all cases, require that, by the title-deeds, the church shall be inalienably mortified as a church in connection with the Church of Scotland, and that the building and ground shall not be subject to be made liable for the debts of the church or chapel.
7thly, It shall be provided in all constitutions, that whensoever a permanent endowment, of not less than L.100 per annum, shall be secured by act of Parliament, allocation out of the teinds, or mortification by the heritors, the whole collections at the church-doors shall be paid into the poor's funds of the parish, notwithstanding any special provision thereanent in the constitution, but subject to such deductions as are competent by law, in the case of ordinary parish churches.
8thly, When the terms of the constitution shall have been settled, and the requisites above mentioned complied with, the Presbytery shall pronounce a deliverance erecting the church into a parish church, and the district into a parish ecclesiastical, in which the minister shall exercise all the functions of a parish minister, agreeably to the Act of Assembly, 1834, and sanctioning the constitution agreed on; provided always, that where the Gaelic language is to be used in the church, the Presbytery shall not assign to it any exclusive parochial district to the whole of the inhabitants of which the minister shall be pastor, but thall assign certain limits to all the Gaelic inhabitants, in which it shall be his peculiar duty to minister, and of such of whom as join his congregation, he and his session shall have the exclusive spiritual jurisdiction, subject to the review of the superior judicatories of this Church.
4. That it shall be competent for all parties to appeal, if they see cause, against the actings of the Presbytery; and appeals shall be taken directly to the General Assembly; but appeals on points not affecting the proposal for a new erection shall not sist procedure.
5. That it shall be competent for the trustees or managers, or the minister and session, to apply to the Presbytery for alteration in the constitution of all such churches already erected and constituted, or hereafter to be erected and constituted; and the Presbytery shall thereupon cause all parties interested to be cited, and after inquiring into the circumstances and grounds of the application, shall report the same to the General Assembly, who may sanction such alterations as are not inconsistent with the regulations hereby enacted.
7. That this act shall not be construed to extend to the case of rebuilding, or re-erecting on another site the churches of such parishes as are or may be established by decree of the Court of Teinds.
XXI. Sess. ult., June 1, 1835.—Act appointing a Day of Humiliation.
The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, having taken into serious consideration the prevailing sins of this land, did, and hereby do, in conformity with the frequent practice of this National Church, especially in its earliest times, appoint a day of humiliation, fasting, and prayer, to be universally observed throughout the bounds of the Church, on Thursday, the 23d day of July next to come, earnestly exhorting all ranks of men to unite together in confession, supplication, and intercession to the Almighty God, that, in fulfilment of his gracious promises to the contrite, he may be pleased to forgive us our multiplied and aggravated transgressions, and to turn away from us his threatened judgments. And the several Presbyteries of this Church are hereby enjoined to take care that the said day of humiliation shall be reverently kept; and all parents and masters are admonished to warn the members of their families, and especially the young, to beware of converting the time set apart for this devout and solemn exercise into a day of idleness and relaxation, lest, by neglecting to consider their ways, and to turn to Him who hath smitten, and who alone can heal, they provoke the vengeance of Heaven, and bring down on themselves swift destruction.
The General Assembly further ordains all ministers to read this Act from their pulpits on the Lord's Day immediately preceding the said 23d day of July, or on some other convenient day, with the Address hereunto subjoined.
Dearly Blloved Brethren,
We have appointed a day of humiliation, fasting, and prayer, to be solemnly observed throughout the Church of Scotland; and in virtue of that authority with which we are invested, we call upon you to suffer the word of exhortation.
We need not inquire in what respects, and to what extent, the former times were better than these. We have ground for believing that there have been periods when this portion of the United Kingdom was more distinguished than it is now for the attention of the inhabitants to the religious instruction of children, the careful reading of the Holy Scriptures, the duty of family devotion, and attendance on public ordinances, as well as the prudent, temperate, industrious, and peaceable habits, which are nourished and strengthened by the knowledge and love of the truth. But, without attempting to estimate the comparative de merits of this our day, and the ages which are past, it is sufficient cause of humiliation, that with us, even with us, are sins against the Lord our God, and that iniquity must prove our ruin, if, after having been weighed in the balances, and found wanting, we continue hardened and insensible, while God, by the voice of his Providence, is loudly calling us to turn to Him with all our heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning.
Far be it from us to lead away your thoughts from the manifest occasions of humiliation which exist within the Church to any of those which prevail without. Ill would it become a people laden with iniquities to fast for strife and debate, and to foster a spirit of variance, emulation, envying, and vain-glory, instead of the penitential exercises of self-denial and self-abasement. Let us seriously reflect, whether, as ministers, and elders, and members of the Church, we have, in any respect, left our first love, and let us remember whence we have fallen, and repent and do the first works, in which our fathers excelled, lest our offended Judge come quickly, and remove the candlestick out of its place.
If among us who bear the vessels of the Lord, and who have been allowed to keep the charge of his sanctuary, there has been any decline in the exercise of vigilant superintendence, and salutary discipline, and rightly dividing the word of truth,—if there has been any undue relaxation of labour, either in public teaching, or in the attentious which require to be paid from house to house,—if there has been less devoted ardour, or less persevering diligence, in feeding the flock of the Chief Shepherd, than was worthy of our vocation,—if we have not sufficiently commended the excellency of the knowledge of Christ, and the pleasantness and profitableness of a holy life,— if we have failed to make full proof of our ministry, by pureness, by knowledge, by long-suffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, by the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left,—it is now high time to awake out of sleep, and to cast the beam out of our own eyes, that we may see clearly to cast the mote out of the eyes of our brethren.
And if among you, brethren, for whose souls we are bound to watch, there be any root of bitterness, any forgetfulness of God, any hatred of the light, any disrelish for the doctrine of grace, any preference of the things of time to the interest of the eternal world, any indulged disposition to dishonour the name of God, to profane his Sabbaths, to counteract the free course of his Word, to resist the operation of his Spirit, to yield to the influence of the ungodly and worldly lusts, which the grace of God teaches us to deny,—and thus, by carnality of mind, to live in a state of enmity against God,—be admonished even now, while it is called to-day, to consider your ways, to cast off all the unfruitful works of darkness, to loathe and renounce all the forms of intemperance which degrade the nature of man below that of the beasts that perish, to live soberly, righteously, and godly in the world, and to walk circumspectly before God, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
In the course of this Assembly our attention has been drawn to many painful facts, all of which must, in a great measure, be traced to neglect or remissness in the discharge of the great duties of our Christian stewardship. The result of all our inquiries impresses on us more and more the appalling consideration, that in all the most populous districts of the kingdom multitudes are passing onward to eternity, in utter ignorance of the only way of salvation, and many thousands of children are growing up to manhood, without being brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord; and we dare not acquit ourselves of the guilt of having failed to provide the means which it might have been in the power of our hand to employ, for averting or removing these growing evils. We have cause to blush and be ashamed when we reflect on the supineness which has too long and too extensively prevailed in the bosom of a Church which, even in its infant state, was so strenuous and so successful in lifting up the standard against all the varieties of error and ungodliness; and we desire to apply to ourselves, as well as to you, the exhortation to be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain and are ready to die. We have reason to fear that the example of indifference to the value of spiritual blessings has not originated with the lower orders; and if among them there be less now than formerly of the regular observance of the offices of a religious life, and less firm and ardent attachment to the principles of the Reformation, for which our fathers struggled and bled, we are constrained to own, that far less diligence and zeal have been exercised than the pastors and teachers of former generations were wont to manifest, in stirring up both the high and the low, without respect of persous, to the faithful performance of these sacred duties.
It is also a subject of serious lamentation that in our various colonies, peopled, as some of them are, to a great extent, with natives of Scotland, who were in their youth trained up in attachement to the doctrines and worship of this Church, there is so great a destitution of the opportunities of religious instruction, that many have become reconciled to the habit of living in a state of estrangement from all Christian fellowship, and have yielded to the temptation of casting off the restraints of piety, and foregoing the precious consolations of God,—while many others, holding fast the profession of their faith, and hungering for the bread of life, have been, year after year, imploring from us that brotherly aid which our hands have been too slack in rendering. And though we have not turned away our ear from their reiterated cry, we have neither pleaded so perseveringly as we ought with the Government, nor sufficiently stimulated the bounty of the wealthy, many of whom might have been willing to communicate to so good a work as that of providing instruction in righteousness to souls pining under the famine of the Word of the Lord.
Not less humbling is the reflection that in the vast regions of the East, whence wealth, with a train of luxuries, has flowed profusely into this land, so slow has been the progress of Christian truth, that even at this hour an hundred and thirty millions of human beings are said to bow the knee at the altars of idolatry; while no effort, except on a most minute scale, and during a very brief period, has been made by our Church to rescue these bond-slaves of superstition from the power of darkness, and I to translate them to the glorious liberty of the children of God. Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that there is hope in Israel concerning this thing; and that, though it be but as yesterday, the sons of the stranger have now begun to be taught to do the work of evengelists in their native land, and thus have we the gladdening prospect of seeing a seed raised up to serve the Lord, and to be accounted to him for a generation who shall come and declare his righteousness to a people who shall be born.
That our exertions have hitherto been so languid and inefficacious, may be regarded as a mortifying symptom of the littleness, if not the lack, of the faith which purifieth the heart to the unfeigned love of the brethren; and if it be so with us, we cannot too earnestly pray that God may be pleased to forgive our past omissions of duty, and to animate us by his grace, that we may henceforth abound more and more, both in the cultivation of personal piety, and in the labour of bringing others to the knowledge of that truth by which alone they can be sanctified and saved.
It may be also too justly laid to our charge, that in dealing with such as follow not with us, we have occasionally been less patient and peaceable, less gentle and conciliating, than becomes the followers of Him, who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; and if in this or in any other respect we have been verily guilty concerning our brethren, rather provoking one another than overcoming evil with good, let us resolve more strictly to judge ourselves, and more tenderly to exercise forbearance towards others, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves, that, following after charity and peace with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart, and avoiding questions and contentions which are unprofitable and vain, we may all come, in the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ.
In recommending such healing courses, we would by no means countenance any surrender of sound and stedfast principle. The wisdom that is from above, being first pure and then peaceable, constrains all who are under its influence to countend earnestly for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints; but they who are most valiant for the truth know well that it is more efficaciously conveyed from soul to soul when it is spoken in love, than when the unbridled tongue proclaims the vanity of its professions of religion by indulging in bitterness, and wrath, and clamour, and uncharitableness. These are not the fruits of the Spirit; nor is it to be expected that while such effusions of worldly-minded animosity are poured forth, truth will spring out of the earth, or righteousness look down from heaven. For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.
Humbling ourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, and endeavouring every man to understand his errors, and to know the plague of his own heart, let us lay aside the sin that doth so easily beset us, and come to the Throne of Grace with the sacrifice of a broken spirit, which God will not despise;—let us pray the Lord of the harvest that he may return and look down from heaven, and visit this vine, and the vineyard which his right hand hath planted, causing it to take deep root, and fill the land, and to send our its boughs to the sea, and its branches to the ends of the earth;—and let such of us as are keepers of the vineyard, watching on the walls of Zion, and seeing eye to eye, lift up the voice together, and continue instant in supplication, until the Spirit be poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness be a fruitful field, and the fruitful field be counted for a forest; and the work of rightousness shall be peace, and the effect of rightousness quietness and assurance for ever.