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 principall acts of the generall assembly, conveened at Edinburgh, 1647.
Sess. 2, August 16, 1647, post meridiem.—Act allowing the Half of the Ministers in the Presbyterie of Zetland only, with their Ruling Elders, to keep the Provincial Assembly.
The General Assembly, understanding that the whole members of the Presbyterie of Zetland, adjoyned to the Provincial of Caithnes and Sutherland upon weighty considerations by the preceding Assembly, cannot be present at the meetings of that Provincial, without great prejudice to the particular congregations within that Presbyterie, and many other inconveniences—that isle being of great distance from land, and the passage from and to the same being uncertaine and dangerous; Doe, therefore, declare and ordaine, That the whole ministers and elders of the Presbyterie of Zetland shall not be tyed hereafter to come to the meetings of their said Provincial; but that the half of the number of the ministers, with their ruling elders, shall be onely obliged to keep the meetings of the said Provincial Assembly in time coming.
Sess. 15, August 20, 1647, ante meridiem.—A Declaration and Brotherly Exhortation of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland to their Brethren of England. (fn. 1)
The conscience of our dutie to God obliging us to give a testimony to his truth, and to the kingdom of his Sonne Jesus Christ, now so much resisted and opposed by many, and so little owned by others—the landable custome and example of correspondency between neighbouring churches, exhorting, encouraging, and (in case of publike scandal) admonishing in love one another, as well as single brethren ought to admonish one another in love, in the case of private offence—our nearer relation and more special affection to our brethren of England, making us to sympathize with them in their danger and affliction as our own, both kingdomes being united as one entire body in one Covenant, for pursuing the common cause and ends therein expressed—yea, common reason and experience itself teaching us that we have no cause to conceive our religion, the liberties of this Church, or our selves, to be in a condition of safety when ever the enemies of our religion and liberties are growing to a prevalency in the neighbour kingdom. Any one of these considerations, much more all of them together, cry aloud upon us to break our silence in this present juncture of affaires; yet we hope to expresse our selves both concerning the present dangers and present duties, as in a conscionable and brotherly freedome, so in a fair and inoffensive way; for we have no pleasure nor purpose to provoke any person or party whatsoever, nor to encrease, but to endeavour the allaying and composing of the present unhappy differences. If any shall offend at our discharging our conscience and doing our duty, yet we shall rather chose to take our hazard of that, then of displeasing God by neglect of duty. But we hope better things then to be misunderstood or misinterpreted by such as desire a candide interpretation of their own actions or expressions.
First of all, whatsoever the present discouragements, difficulties, of dangers are, or whatsoever for the future they may be, we cannot but commemorate, to the glory of God, and we doubt not it shall be remembred to his glory in the Church throughout all ages, how great a salvation his mighty hand and outstretched arme hath wrought for these three kingdomes—how he stirred up the spirits of his people in this kingdome ten yeares ago, to begin to shake of the yoke of Prelaticall tyrannie, and of Popish ceremonies obtruded upon us, contrary to the lawes of God and men—how he led us on from so small beginnings, and from one degree to another, till we were united in a National covenant—how he gave us a banner to be displayed for the truth, and so blessed us in the prosecution of that Covenant, that the King's Majesty was graciously pleased, upon the humble petitions of his loyal subjects in this nation, to indict a General Assembly and Parliament, for healing the grievances of Church and State respectively, as likewise to grant his royal consent for confirming and ratifying by acts of Parliament our National Covenant, and the government and liberties of this Church. After which the new troubles raised against us by the malice and treachery of our enemies did occasion the first expedition of this nation into England, (upon which followed the calling of the Parliament there, and the large treaty,) and, in the issue, the return of that army was with an olive branch of peace, and not without the beginnings of a reformation in England; in which work, while the Parliament was interrupted and opposed, and a bloody war begun with great successe on that side which opposed the Parliament and the begun reformation, from whence also did accrew great advantage to the Popish party,(whereof the cessation of arms concluded in Ireland may be in stead of many testimonies,) commissioners were sent hither from both Houses, earnestly inviting and perswading to a nearer union of the kingdomes, and desiring assistance from this nation to their brethren in that their great distresse; and this, by the good hand of God, produced the Solemne League and Covenant of the three kingdomes, to the terrour of the Popish and Prelatical party, our common enemies, and to the great comfort of such as were wishing and waiting for the reformation of religion, and the recovery of just liberties. And although, for the conjunction of the kingdomes in Covenant and armes, (being a speciall means tending to the extirpation of Popery, and strengthening the true reformed religion,) this kingdome hath been invaded and infested by the bloody Irish rebels, aided and strengthened by some degenerate and perfidious countreymen of our owne; although, also, in England there were not wanting incendiaries, who, hating and envying nothing more then the union of the kingdomes in such a Covenant, were very vigilant to catch, and active to improve, all occasions of making divisive motions, and creating nationall differences; yet God hath been graciously pleased to break our enemies' strength at home, when it was greatest, and to guide us through these jealousies and differences, formented by disaffected persons, between the kingdomes; so that, in stead of a splitting upon these rocks, (the thing hoped for by our enemies,) there was a peaceable and friendly parting; since which time God hath further blessed our army at home, to the expelling of the enemie out of our own borders. Nor can we passe in silence the happy progresse which hath been made in the reformation of the Church of England. He that hath brought the children to the birth, can also give strength to come forth; and he whose hand did cast out Prelacie and the Book of Common Prayer, (although strongly rooted in standing lawes,) and who inclined the Parliament of England to owne no other church government but the Presbyterial, (though it be not yet fully settled according to the Word of God and the example of the best reformed churches,) can as easily incline, when he thinks good, both the king and them, and the body of that kingdome, to a thorow and perfect reformation. He that made the Assemblies and Parliaments of both kingdomes to agree upon one Directory for the Publike Worship of God, can also, when he will, make an agreement in the other parts of uniformitie, Confession of Faith, Form of Church Government, and Catechisme; in all which there hath been also a good progressc made in the reverend and learned Assemblie of Divines through the good hand of God so long upon them.
Having now seen so much of God, both in the beginning and progresse of this his great work, and his hand having done so wondrous things for his people in their greatest extremities of danger; and having discovered and defeate the plots of enemies, making them fall even by their own counsels, these things we resolve to keep still fixed in our hearts, and as memorials before our eyes, that remembring the works of the Lord, and the years of the right hand of the Most High, we may neither want matter of praises and thanksgivings, nor experience to breed hope. Although the building of the house of the Lord in England be not yet after so long expectation finished, and now also the work ceaseth, yet we doe from our hearts blesse the Lord for the laying of the foundation, and for so much progresse as hath been made in the work; having still confidence in the Almighty, to whom nothing is impossible or too hard, that every mountaine which doeth or shall stand in the way shall become a plaine, and that the head-stone shall be brought for with shoutings of joy, "Grace, grace unto it."
Neverthelesse, we are also very sensible of the great and imminent dangers into which this common cause of religion is now brought by the growing and spreading of most dangerous errours in England, to the obstructing and hindering of the begun reformation, as namely, (beside many others,) Socinianisme, Arminianisme, Anabaptisme, Antinomianisme, Brownisme, Erastianisme, Independency, and that which is called (by abuse of the word) Liberty of Conscience, being indeed liberty of errour, scandall, schisme, heresie, dishnouring God, opposing the truth, hindering reformation, and seducing others; whereunto we adde those Nullifidians, or men of no religion, commonly called Seekers: Yea, we cannot but look upon the dangers of the true Reformed religion in this island as greater now then before, not onely for that those very principles and fundamentals of faith which, under Prelacy, yea, under Popery itself, were generally received as uncontroverted, are now, by the scepticisme of many sectaries of this time, either oppugned or called in question; but also, because in stead of carrying on the reformation towards perfection, that which hath been already built is in part cast down, and in danger to be wholly overthrown through the endeavours of sectaries to comply with many of the Prelaticall and Malignant, and even the Popish party; and their joyning hand in hand, and casting in their lots, and interweaving their interests together in way of combination against the Covenant and Presbyteriall government; yea, the unclean spirit which was cast out, is about to enter againe, with seven other spirits worse then himselfe, and so the latter end like to be worse then the beginning.
We are extremely sorry that we have cause to aggravate these evils from the crying sin of breach of Covenant, whereof if we should hold our peace, yet, according to the Word of the Lord, other nations will say, and many among them do say, Wherefore hath the Lord done thus unto this people? and what meaneth the heat of this great anger? and they answer one another, "Because they have forsaken the Covenant of the Lord their God." We would not be understood as if we meant either to justifie this nation, or to charge such a sin upon all in that nation. We know the Covenant hath been in divers particulars broken by many in both kingdomes—the Lord pardon it and accept a sacrifice; and we doe not doubt but there are many seven thousands in England, who have not onely kept themselves unspotted, and retained their integrity in that businesse, but doe also mourne and groane before the Lord for that sin of others; yet we should but deny our own sense and betray the truth, if we should not resent so great a sinne and danger, as is the breach of a solemne Covenant, sworn with hands lifted up to the Most High God; which breach, however varnished over with some colourable and handsome pretexts, one whereof is the liberty and common right of the free people of England, as once Saul brake a covenant with the Gibeonites, "in his zeal to the Children of Israel and Judah;" yet God could not then, and cannot now, be mocked; yea, it is too apparent and undeniable, that among those who did take the Covenant of the three kingdomes, as there are many who have given themselves to a detestable indifferency or neutralitie, so there is a generation which hath made defection to the contrary part, persecuting, as far as they could, that true Reformed religion, in doctrine, worship, discipline, and government, which by the Covenant they ought to preserve against the common enemies—hindering and resisting the reformation and uniformity which by the Covenant ought to be endeavoured—preserving and tolerating those cursed things which by the Covenant ought to be extirpate, heresie and schisme—encroaching upon, yea offering violence unto the rights, priviledges, and authority of magistracie—protecting and assisting such as by the Covenant ought to have been brought to condigne triall and punishment—and persecuting those who by the Covenant ought to be assisted and defended—endeavouring also a breach in stead of a firme peace and union between the kingdomes, so that there is not any one article of the Solemne League and Covenant which hath not been sinfully and dangerously violated before God, angels, and men. Now, if a Covenant for the preservation and reformation of religion, the maintenance and defence of liberties, was justly thought a fit and excellent mean, not only to strengthen and fortifie the kingdomes against the common enemie of the true Reformed religion, publike peace, and prosperity; but also, "to acquire the favour of Almightie God towards the three kingdomes of England, Scotland, and Ireland," as is expressed in the Ordinance of the Lords and Commons for the taking of the Covenant, dated February 2, 1643; surely, then, the authors and chief instruments of the breach of that Covenant are to be looked upon as those who strengthen the hands of the common enemie, and provoke the wrath of Almighty God against these kingdomes: Yea, if this Covenant was the "soveraigne and only meanes of the recovery" of these embroiled bleeding kingdoms, as is expressed in the Exhortation of the Assembly of Divines to the taking of the Covenant, approved and ordered to be printed by the House of Commons, the despising, refusing, and casting aside of that remedy must needs render the disease much more desperate. And if by the Declaration of both kingdomes joyned in arms, anno 1643, such as would not take the Covenant were declared "to be publike enemies to their religion and countrey, and that they are to be censured and punished as professed adversaries and Malignants," who seeth not now a strange falling away from these first principles and professions among these who either magnifie and cry up, or at least connive at and comply with such as have not taken the Covenant, yea, are known enemies to it, and cry down such as are most zealous for it?
In this case, while in the neighbour kingdom, the staves of beauty and bands, covenant and brotherhood, are broken by many, the horne of Malignants and sectaries exalted, the best affected born down, reformation ebbing, heresie and schisme flowing; it can hardly be marvelled at, by any person of prudence and discretion, if we be full of such feares and apprehensions as use to be in those who dwell near a house set on fire, or a family infected, especially being taught, by the sad experience of these Prelatical times, how easily a gangrene in the one-half of this island may spread through the whole; knowing also the inveterate and insatiable malice of the enemies of this cause and Covenant against this Church and kingdome; which we cannot be ignorant of, unlesse we would shut our eyes and stop our ears.
Our present purpose leadeth us to touch somewhat of the proceedings of the army in England this summer, so far as religion is therein concerned. As we are confident divers have gone along with them in the simplicity of their hearts—and we presume not to judge the thoughts and intentions of any, it being God's owne prerogative to bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and to make manifest the counsels of the hearts—so it cannot be denied, that upon these passages and proceedings hath followed the interrupting of the so much longed-for reformation of religion, of the setling of Presbyteriall government, and of the suppressing of heresies and dangerous errors, (which works the Parliament had taken in hand,) the retarding and delaying the relief of Ireland, the sowing of the seeds of another war in England, the strengthning of the hand of the Malignant and Episcopall party, the weakening and wounding both of magistracy and ministery; in all which, whether the army be blamelesse and innocent from ministring occasion to so great evils, or whether there be not cause for them to repent and do the first works, and to practise more of that love, moderation, and meeknesse of spirit, and of that zeal against Malignants and Prelaticall persons, which they have from the beginning professed, and the want whereof (when suspected in others) they did so much censure; or whether there be such a thing among them as adjoyning with those against whom, and against those with whom the Covenant was taken;—we leave them in all these to the search and examination of their own consciences, that they may stand or fall unto God. For our part, we cannot conceive how the proposals of that army for setling of a peace, do in point of religion consist with the Solemn League and Covenant, or with the propositions of peace formerly agreed upon by both kingdomes; there being so considerable omissions of divers materiall desires contained in those former propositions, concerning the abolition of Prelacy—concerning the injoyning of the taking of the Covenant by all his Majestie's subjects, under such penalties as the Parliaments should agree upon—concerning the setling of religion in England and Ireland according to the Covenant, in such manner as both Houses of Parliament shall agree on, after advice had with the Assembly of Divines concerning the setling of uniformity between the Churches of God in both kingdomes, according to the Covenant, in such manner as shall be agreed on by both Houses of the Parliament of England, and by the Church and kingdome of Scotland, after advice had with the divines of both kingdomes—also concerning an act of Parliament to confirm the calling and sitting of the Assembly of Divines: All which, with some other particulars concerning religion, expressed in the former propositions, if they should now be omitted in the setling of a peace, the progresse already made, not only in the Assembly of Divines, but in the Houses of Parliament in set ling Presbyteriall government, with the Confession of Faith, yea, the Directory of Publike Worship, (though agreed upon by the Assemblies and Parliaments of both kingdomes,) shall be but so much lost labour. But, beside these omissions, it may be justly doubted, whether there be not in these proposals of the army somewhat for Episcopacy and against the Covenant; for we cannot understand the eleventh proposall in any other sense, but that it supposeth the continuance of the ecclesiastical office of Bishops or Prelats, as well as of any other church officers, and taketh no more from the Prelats but coercive power or jurisdiction, extending to civil penalties, which, indeed, belongeth to no ecclesiasticall officers. In the twelfth proposall, we do not see how it can avoid or shun the toleration of Popery, superstition, heresie, schisme, profannesse, or whatsoever works of darknesse shall be practised by such as dispise the publike worship of God in the Church, and have the most unlawfull and wicked meetings else where, under a profession of religious duties, exercises, or ordinances. From the thirteenth proposall, we can make no other result, but that in stead of enjoyning the taking of the Covenant, under such penalties as the Parliaments in their wisdome shall agree upon, the former ordinance of Parliament, enjoyning the taking of it is desired to be repealed; and then what may be the danger of those that have taken, or shall take, an oath of that kinde, not enjoyned nor ratified by authority, we leave it to be judged by those who know best the lawes of that kingdome.
One thing more we cannot passe, that whereas, in the armie's declaration or representation to the Parliament, dated June 14, 1647, they mention their brethren of Scotland as having proceeded in the vinidication and defence of their just rights and liberties, much higher then that army hath done; we are necessitated to say this much for clearing of these proceedings in this nation reflected upon. They of this Church and kingdom who joyned together and associated themselves in this cause, first by humble petitions, and afterwards by covenant, were so far from slighting or breaking that Covenant which was taken, that it was the special visible character by which the friends of the cause were distinguished from the enemies thereof, and they were so far from crying down the ministery and ecclesiasticall Assemblies, or from disobeying any orders or commands of Parliament, that a Generall Assembly of the Church and a Parliament were two chief heads of their petitions and desires at that time, when they had neither; and when they had obtained a Generall Assembly and Parliament, they chearfully submitted to both respectively.
And now the dangers of religion in this island being so great, as there hath been lately a solemne humiliation throughout this land, upon occasion of these great and growing dangers; so, we cannot but still look upon them as matters of frequent prayer and humiliation to our selves, as well as our brethren in England, there being much sin in both kingdomes procuring all this evill, and justly deserving these and heavier judgements. And as we desire, in the first place, to be humbled for our own sins, and the sins of this nation, so we trust our brethren will be willing to be put in minde of the necessity of their humiliation and repentance for the nationall sins of that kingdome; which we shall wish rather to be sadly considered by them then expressed by us. One thing we are confident of, that God hath had a speciall controversie against his people of old, for the sin of a broken Covenant, and unwillingnesse to be reformed and purged according to the word of the Lord; and that till these sinnes were acknowledged and repented his controversie did not take an end. We are no lesse confident, that the godly and well-affected will, in tendernesse of conscience, timely search out, weigh well, mourn for, and study to remove, all the causes of the Lord's present controversie against that nation. What the Honourable Houses of Parliament have to be humbled for, and to reform or amend, they have been (and we trust still are) put in minde by such as are ambassadours to them in Christ's stead, at their solemn humiliations. For our part, as we have alwayes mentioned them in our prayers, with thanksgivings also in their behalfe, so we now must humbly beseech the Lord to direct and blesse them, and in their present difficulties to keep them by his grace from all sinfull compliance, especially from establishing iniquity by a law; to shew them why he contendeth with them, that the true cause of his controversie may be removed, and that the glory of his name, the kingdome, crown, and scepter of his Son Jesus Christ, with his word, lawes, ordinances, trueth, ministers, may be yet more set by in their eyes, that they also may finde a further performance of the word of the Lord: "Exalt her, and she shall promote thee;" and "Them that honour me, I will honour."
We shall now, by the mercies of God, and in the bowels of Jesus Christ, earnestly beseech all those, of whatsoever quality or condition, in England, who have entred into the same League and Covenant with us, and especially the Houses of Parliament, the city of London, and Assembly of Divines, that, with sound humiliation, fervent prayer, and making sure their peace with God, they may joyne all care, faithfulnesse, and zeal, to hold fast the profession of their faith without wavering, against the many heresies and errors of these times; that they may, according to their places and callings, endeavour to the utmost of their power to prevent or hinder the laying aside or slighting of the Covenant, the re-establishment of Episcopacy, and the toleration of Popery, Prelacy, heresie, schisme, superstition, or prophannesse, and not suffer themselves, directly or indirectly, by whatsoever combination, perswasion, or terrour, to be divided and withdrawn from that blessed union and sacred Covenant, either to the contrary side, or to a neutrality in this cause, which so much concerneth the glorie of God, the good of the kingdomes, and the honour of the King; but all the dayes of their lives zealously and constantly continue therein, against all opposition, and promote the same according to their power, against all lets and impediments whatsoever; which things both they and we have solemnly, and in the sight of God, sworn unto. And as we desired them to rest confident of the constancy of their brethren in this nation, in adhering to that Covenant, in all the articles thereof, which we shall, by the grace of Christ, (without which we are nothing,) sincerely, really, and constantly, pursue and promote, so far as concerneth our places and callings—using our utmost endeavours towards the suppression of those errors which have so dangerously hurt religion in this island; so, we expect confidently the like of our brethren in England united in Covenant with us, and that what ever they may have cause to fear, or be called to suffer, yet the Lord will so strengthen them by his grace, as that they may be able to say, "All this is come upon us, yet have we not forgotten thee, neither have we dealt falsely in thy Covenant." And here is the wisdome and patience of the saints, to choose affliction rather then iniquity, to do duty in the worst of times, and to trust God with events, and in so doing, to hope to the end, and wait upon the Lord, until he plead their cause, and execute judgement for them; so shall they be more purified, and not made blacker, (as, alas! some are,) but whiter in times of tryall.
More particularly, we do desire that Presbyteriall government may be setled and put in practise throughout that kingdom, according to the Word of God and example of the best reformed churches; for without this we know no other proper and effectuall remedy against the present dangers of religion there, or for purging the Church from scandals, which are destructive either to sound doctrine or to godlinesse; and herein we are confident the experience of all the reformed churches will bear witnesse with us. Nor do we doubt but in England also time and experience will more and more commend, not only the beautifull order, but the great utility, yea, necessity of this government, and dispell all the clouds of aspersions and prejudices which it lieth under among such as know it not, who ought, therefore, to beware of speaking evill of the things they understand not. Yet we would not have our zeal for Presbyteriall government misunderstood, as if it tended to any rigour or domineering over the flock, or to hinder and exclude that instructing in meeknesse them that oppose themselves, which the apostolicall rule holds forth; or as if we would have any such to be intrusted with that government as are found not yet purged, either from their old profannesse, or from the Prelaticall principles and practises, which were but to put a piece of new cloath unto an old garment, and so to make the rent worse; or to put new wine into old bottles, and so to lose both wine and bottles. Yea, who knows whether this may not be one of the causes (and not the least) why the present reformation succeeds the worse, even because of so little repentance, either for the profannesse or Prelaticall errours and corruptions of divers who have acted in it; neverthelesse, the right hand of fellowship is to be given to all such as bring forthe fruits meet for repentance, whatsoever their former errours or failings were. And to our great joy, we understand that there are many learned, able, godly, and prudent ministers in that kingdome, fit to be imployed in that government, together with such able and pious men as are to be joyned with them in the capacity of ruling elders. It shall be a part of our prayers, that the Lord of the harvest may send forth many more labourers in that kingdome, where the harvest is so great and the labourers so few proportionably; and in the meane while, that such as he hath already thrust out may not be unemployed, as to the point of discipline and government.
Nor, lastly, doth our zeal for the Covenant and Presbyteriall government abate or diminish any thing at all from our loyalty and duty to the King's Majesty, although incendiaries and enemies spare not to reproach this Church and kingdome with disloyaltie. Yet such calumnies will easily be repudiate by all who will examine the whole course of the publike proceedings in this nation in reference to the King, and particularly the Declaration of the Parliament of this kingdome, dated January 16, 1647. Wherefore, passing all such calumnies, which cannot but be hatefull to God and good men, we do clearly and candidly professe, that the Covenant and Presbyteriall government are so far from hindering or excluding our duty to the King, that it is thereby very much strengthened and supported; for our giving to God what is God's, doth not hinder us, but help us, to give unto Cæsar what is Cæsar's. And we earnestly wish his Majestie's royall heart may be graciously inclined to the just desires of his good subjects in both kingdomes, and to that happy settlement of truth and peace, religion and righteousnesse, which may be as well for the establishment of his own throne as for the good of his people.
Now the Prince of Peace himself grant his afflicted people, tossed with tempests, and not comforted, a safe and well grounded peace, bring light out of the present darknesse, and order out of all these confusions—give unto all who are waiting for the consolation of Israel "good hope through grace, comfort their hearts, stablish them in every good word and work,"—make his cause to triumph at last over all opposition, and the enemies foot to slide in due time; and so put a new song of praise in the mouths of his people. Amen.
Sess. 19, August 24, 1647, ante meridiem.—Act for observing the Directions of the Generall Assembly for Secret and Private Worship, and mutuall Edification, and for cersuring such as neglect Familie Worship.
The Generall Assembly, after mature deliberation, doth approve the following rules and directions for cherishing piety, and preventing division and schisme, and doth appoint ministers and ruling elders in each congregation to take speciall care that these directions be observed and followed; as likewise, that Presbyteries and Provinciall Synods enquire and make tryall whether the said directions be duly observed in their bounds, and to reprove or censure (according to the quality of the offence) such as shall be found to be reproveable or censurable therein. And to the end that these directions may not be rendered ineffectuall and unprofitable among some, through the usuall neglect of the very substance of the duty of family worship, the Assembly doth further require and appoint ministers and ruling elders to make diligent search and enquiry in the congregations committed to their charge respectively, whether there be among them any family or families which use to neglect this necessary duty; and if any such family be found, the head of that family is to be first admonished privately to amend this fault; and, in case of his continuing therein, he is to be gravely and sadly reproved by the session; after which reproof, if he be found still to neglect family worship, let him be, for his obstinacy in such an offence, suspended and debarred from the Lord's Supper, as being justly esteemed unworthy to communicate therein till he amend.
The Directions of the Generall Assembly for Secret and Private Worship, and mutuall Edification, for cherishing Piety, for maintaining Unitie, and avoiding Schisme and Division. (fn. 2)
Besides the publike worship in congregations, mercifully established in this land in great purity, it is expedient and necessary that secret worship of each person alone, and private worship of families, be pressed and set up; that with nationall reformation the profession and power of godlinesse, both personall and domestick, be advanced.
I. And, first, for secret worship, it is most necessar that every one apart and by themselves be given to prayer and meditation, the unspeakable benefit whereof is best known to them who are most exercised therein. This being the meane whereby, in a special way, communion with God is entertained, and right preparation for all other duties obtained; and, therefore, it becometh not only pastors within their severall charges to presse persons of all sorts to performe this duty morning and evening, and at other occasions, but also it is incumbent to the head of every family to have a care that both themselves and all within their charge be daily diligent herein.
II. The ordinar duties comprehended under the exercise of pietie, which should be in families when they are conveened to that effect, are these: First, Prayer and praises performed, with a speciall reference as well to the publike condition of the Kirk of God and this kingdome as to the present case of the family, and every member thereof. Next, Reading of Scriptures, with catechizing in a plaine way, that the understandings of the simpler may be better enabled to profit under the publike ordinances, and they made more capable to understand the Scriptures when they are read; together with godly conferences, tending to the edification of all the members in the most holy faith, as also admonition and rebuke upon just reasons from these who have authoritie in the family.
III. As the charge and office of interpreting the holy Scriptures is a part of the ministeriall calling, which none (howsoever otherwise qualified) should take upon him in any place, but he that is duly called thereunto by God and his Kirk; so in every family where there is any that can read, the Holy Scriptures should be read ordinarily to the family; and it is commendable that thereafter they confer, and by way of conference make some good use of what hath been read and heard; as, for example, if any sin be reproved in the word read, use may be made thereof to make all the family circumspect and watchfull against the same; or if any judgement be threatned, or mentioned to have been inflicted in that portion of Scripture which is read, use may be made to make all the family fear lest the same or a worse judgement befall them, unlesse they beware of the sin that procured it; and, finally, if any duty be required, or comfort held forth in a promise, use may be made to stirre up themselves to imploy Christ for strength to enable them for doing the commanded duty, and to apply the offered comfort; in all which the master of the family is to have the chif hand, and any member of the family may propone ane question or doubt for resolution.
IV. The head of the family is to take care that none of the family withdraw himself from any part of family worship; and seeing the ordinar performance of all the parts of family worship belongeth properly to the head of the family, the minister is to stirre up such as are lasie, and traine up such as are weak to a fitnesse for these exercises. It being alwayes free to persons of qualitie to entertain one approven by the Presbytery for performing family exercise; and in other families where the head of the family is unfit, that another constantly residing in the familie, approven by the minister and session, may be imployed in that service, wherein the minister and session are to be countable to the Presbyterie. And if a minister by divine Providence be brought to any family, it is requisite that at not time he conveen a part of the family for worship secluding the rest, except in singular cases, specially concerning these parties, which (in Christian prudence) need not, or ought not to be imparted to others.
V. Let no idler who hath no particular calling, or vagrant person, under pretence of a calling, be suffered to perform worship in families, to or for the same; seeing persons tainted with errours, or aiming at division, may be ready (after that manner) to creep into houses, and lead captive silly and unstable souls.
VI. At family worship a speciall care is to be had that each family keep by themselves; neither requiring, inviting, nor admitting persons from divers families, unlesse it be these who are lodged with them, or at meal, or otherwise with them, upon some lawfull occasion.
VII. Whatsoever hath been the effects and fruits of meetings of persons of divers families in the times of corruption or trouble, (in which cases many things are commendable, which otherwise are not tolerable,) yet when God hath blessed us with peace and the purity of the Gospel, such meetings of persons of divers families (except in the cases mentioned in these directions) are to be disapproved, as tending to the hinderance of the religious exercise of each family by itself, to the prejudice of the publike ministery, to the renting of the families of particular congregations, and (in progresse of time) of the whole kirk, besides many offences which may come thereby, to the hardning of the hearts of carnall men, and grief of the godly.
VIII. On the Lord's day, after every one of the family apart, and the whole family together, have sought the Lord (in whose hands the preparation of men's hearts are) to fit them for the publike worship, and to blesse to them the publike ordinances, the master of the family ought to take care that all within his charge repair to the publike worship, that he and they may joyne with the rest of the congregation; and the publike worship being finished, after prayer, he should take an account what they have heard, and thereafter to spend the rest of the time which they may spare in catechising and in spirituall conferences upon the Word of God; or else (going apart) they ought to apply themselves to reading, meditation, and secret prayer, that they may confirme and increase their communion with God; that so the profit which they found in the publike ordinances may be cherished and promoved, and they more edified unto eternall life.
IX. So many as can conceive prayer ought to make use of that gift of God; albeit these who are rude and weaker may begin at a set form of prayer; but so as they be not sluggish in stirring up in themselves (according to their daily necessities) the Spirit of prayer, which is given to all the children of God in some measure. To which effect they ought to be the more servent and frequent in secret prayer to God, for enabling of their hearts to conceive, and their tongues to expresse, convenient desires to God for their family. And, in the mean time, for their greater encouragement, let these materialls of prayer be meditated upon, and made use of as followeth:—
They are to pour out their souls to God, in the name of Christ, by the Spirit, for forgivenesse of sins, for grace to repent, to believe, and to live soberly, righteously, and godly, and that they may serve God with joy and delight in walking before him.
They ought to pray for the Kirk of Christ in general—for all the reformed kirks, and for this kirk in particular—and for all that suffer for the name of Christ,—for all our superiours, the King's Majesty, the Queene, and their children—for the magistratcs, ministers, and whole body of the congregation whereof they are members, as well for their neighbours absent in their lawfull affaires, as for those that are at home.
The prayer may be closed with an earnest desire, that God may be glorified in the comming of the kingdome of his Son, and in the doing of his will; and with assurance that themselves are accepted, and what they have asked according to his will shall be done.
X. These exercises ought to be performed in great sinceritie without delay, laying aside all exercises of worldly businesse or hinderances, notwithstanding the mockings of Atheists and profane men; in respect of the great mercies of God to this land, and of his severe corrections wherewith lately he hath exercised us. And, to this effect, persons of eminency (and all elders of the kirk) not only ought to stir up themselves and their families to diligence herein, but also to concurre effectually, that in all other families where they have power and charge the said exercises be conscionably performed.
XI. Besides the ordinary duties in families, which are above mentioned, extraordinary duties, both of humiliation and thanksgiving, are to be carefully performed in families, when the Lord by extraordinary occasions (private or publike) calleth for them.
XII. Seeing the Word of God requireth that we should consider one another to provoke unto love and good works, therefore, at all times, and specially in this time, wherein profanitie abounds, and mockers, walking after their own lusts, think it strange that others run not with them to the same excesse of riot, every member of this Kirk ought to stir up themselves, and one another, to the duties of mutuall edification, by instruction, admonition, rebuke, exhorting one another to manifest the grace of God, "in denying ungodlinesse and worldly lusts, and in living godly, soberly, and righteously in this present world," by comforting the feeble-minded, and praying with or for one another; which duties respectively are to be performed upon speciall occasions offered by divine providence; as namely, when under any calamity, crosse, or great difficultie, counsel or comfort is sought, or when an offender is to be reclaimed by private admonition, and if that be not effectuall, by joyning one or two more in the admonition, according to the rule of Christ, "that in the mouth of two or three witnesses, every word may be established."
XIII. And because it is not given to every one to speak a word in season to a wearied or distressed conscience, it is expendient that a person (in that case) finding no ease after the use of all ordinary means, private and publike, have their addresse to their own pastour, or some experienced Christian; but if the person troubled in conscience be of that condition, or of that sex, that discretion, modestie, or fear of scandall, requireth a godly, grave, and secret friend to be present with them in their said addresse, it is expedient that such a friend be present.
XIV. When persons of divers families are brought together by divine providence, being abroad upon their particular vocations, or any necessary occasions, as they would have the Lord their God with them whithersoever they go, they ought to walk with God, and not neglect the duties of prayer and thanksgiving, but take care that the same be performed by such as the company shall judge fittest; and that they likewise take heed that "no corrupt communication proceed out of their mouth, but that which is good, to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace to the hearers."
The drift and scope of all these directions is no other but that, upon the one part, the power and practice of godlinesse among all the ministers and members of this Kirk, according to their severall places and vocations, may be cherished and advanced, and all impietie and mocking of religious exercises suppressed; and, upon the other part, that under the name and pretext of religious exercises, no such meetings or practices be allowed, as are apt to breed error, scandall, schisme, contempt or misregard of the publike ordinances and ministers, or neglect of the duties of particular callings, or such other evils as are the works not of the Spirit, but of the flesh, and are contrary to truth and peace.
Act against such as withdraw themselves from the Publike Worship in their own Congregation.
Since it hath pleased God of his infinite goodnesse to blesse his Kirk within this nation with the riches of the Gospel, in giving to us his ordinances in great purity, liberty, and withall a comely and well-established order: The Assembly, in the zeal of God, for preserving order, unitie, and peace in the Kirk, for maintaining that respect which is due to the ordinances and ministers of Jesus Christ, for preventing schisme, noysome errours, and all unlawfull practices, which may follow on the people's withdrawing themselves from their own congregations, doth charge every minister to be diligent in fulfilling his ministerie—to be holy and grave in his conversation—to be faithfull in preaching, declaring the whole counsell of God—and as he hath occasion from the text of Scripture, to reprove the sins and errours, and presse the duties of the time, and in all those to observe the rules prescribed by the Acts of Assembly; wherein if he be negligent, he is to be censured by his own Presbytery. As also, ordains every member in every congregation to keep their own paroch kirk, to communicate there in the Word and Sacraments; and if any person or persons shall hereafter usually absent themselves from their own congregations, except in urgent cases, made known to and approven by the Presbytery, the ministers of these congregations whereto they resort shall, both in publike by preaching, and in private admonition, shew their dislike of their withdrawing from their own minister; that in so doing, they may witnesse to all that heare them their due care to strengthen the hands of their fellow-labourers in the work of the Lord, and their detestation of any thing that may tend to separation, or any of the abovementioned evils; hereby their own flock will be confirmed in their stedfastnesse, and the unstable spirits of others will be rectified. Likeas, the minister of that congregation from which they do withdraw shall labour, first by private admonition, to reclaim them; and if any, after private admonition given by their own pastour, do not amend, in that case the pastour shall delate the foresaid persons to the session, who shall cite and censure them as contemners of the comely order of the Kirk; and if the matter be not taken order with there, it is to be brought to the Presbytery: for the better observing whereof, the Presbyteries at the visitation of the severall kirks, and Provinciall Assemblies in their censure of the severall Presbyteries, shall enquire hereanent; which inquirie and report shall be registrate in the Provinciall books, that their diligence may be seen in the General Assembly.
Sess. 22, August 26, 1647, post meridiem.—Approbation of the Proceedings of the Commission of the preceding Assembly.
The Generall Assembly, after mature deliberation, do ratifie and approve the whole Acts and Conclusions of the Commissioners of the preceding Assembly for Publike Affaires now tryed and examined; declaring that they have proceeded therein with much zeal, wisdome, vigilance, and according to their Commission.
Sess. 23, August 27, 1647, ante meridiem.—Approbation of the Confession of Faith.
A Confession of Faith for the Kirks of God in the three kingdomes, being the chiefest part of that uniformity in religion, which, by the Solemne League and Covenant, we are bound to endeavour; and there being accordingly a Confession of Faith agreed upon by the Assembly of Divines sitting at Westminster, with the assistance of Commissioners from the Kirk of Scotland; which Confession was sent from our Commissioners at London to the Commissioners of the Kirk met at Edinburgh in January last, and hath been in this Assembly twice publikely read over, examined, and considered; copies thereof being also printed, that it might be particularly perused by all the members of this Assembly, unto whom frequent intimation was publikely made to put in their doubts and objections, if they had any; and the said Confession being, upon due examination thereof, found by the Assembly to be most agreeable to the World of God, and in nothing contrary to the received doctrine, worship, discipline, and government of this Kirk; and, lastly, it being so necessary and so much longed for that the said Confession be, with all possible diligence and expedition, approved and established in both kingdoms, as a principal part of the intended uniformity in religion, and as a special means for the more effectual suppressing of the many dangerous errours and heresies of these times: The Generall Assembly doth, therefore, after mature deliberation, Agree unto and Approve the said Confession, as to the truth of the matter, (judging it to be most orthodox, and grounded upon the Word of God:) and also as to the point of uniformity, agreeing, for our part, that it be a common Confession of Faith for the three kingdomes. The Assembly doth also blesse the Lord, and thankfully acknowledge his great mercy, in that so excellent a Confession of Faith is prepared, and thus far agreed upon in both kingdomes; which we look upon as a great strengthing of the true reformed religion against the common enemies thereof. But lest our intention and meaning be in some particulars misunderstood, it is hereby expressly declared and provided, that the not mentioning in this Confession the severall sort of ecclesiasticall officers and assemblies shall be no prejudice to the truth of Christ in these particulars to be expressed fully in the Directory of Government. It is further declared, that the Assembly understandeth some parts of the Second Article of the Thirty-One Chapter only of Kirks not settled or constituted in point of government; and that although in such kirks a synod of ministers and other fit persons may be called by the magistrate's authority and nomination, without any other call, to consult and advise with about matters of religion; and although likewise the ministers of Christ, without delegation from their churches, may of themselves, and by vertue of their office, meet together synodically in such kirks not yet constituted, yet neither or these ought to be done in kirks constituted and settled; it being alwayes free to the magistrate to advise with synods of ministers and ruling elders, meeting upon delegation from their churches, either ordinarly, or being indicted by his authority occasionally and pro re nata, it being also free to assemble together synodically, as well pro re nata as at the ordinary times upon delegation from the churches, by the intrinsical power received from Christ, as often as it is necessary for the good of the Church so to assemble, in case the magistrate, to the detriment of the Church, withhold or deny his consent; the necessity of occasionall Assemblies being first remonstrate unto him by humble supplication.
Sess. 25, August 28, 1647, post meridiem.—Act for Revising the Paraphrase of the Psalmes brought from England, with a Recommendation for Translating the other Scripturall Songs in Meeter.
The Generall Assembly, having considered the report of the committee concerning the Paraphrase of the Psalmes sent from England, and finding that it is very necessary that the said paraphrase be yet revised; therefore, doth appoint Master John Adamson to examine the first fourty Psalmes, Master Thomas Craufurd the second fourty, Master John Row the third fourty, and Master John Nevey the last thirty Psalms of that Paraphrase; and in their examination they shall not only observe what they think needs to be amended, but also to set downe their own essay for correcting thereof; and, for this purpose, recommends to them to make use of the travels of Rowallen, Master Zachary Boyd, or of any other on that subject, but especially of our own Paraphrase, that what they finde better in any of these works may be chosen; and, likewise, they shall make use of the animadversions sent from Presbyteries, who, for this cause, are hereby desired to hasten their observations unto them, and they are to make report of their labours herein to the Commission of the Assembly for Publike Affaires, against their first meeting in February next. And the Commission, after revising thereof, shall send the same to Provincial Assemblies, to be transmitted to Presbyteries, that by their further consideration the matter may be fully prepared to the next Assembly; and because some Psalmes in that Paraphrase sent from England are composed in verses which do not agree with the common tunes, therefore, it is also recommended that these Psalms be likewise turned in other verses which may agree to the common tunes; that is, having the first line of eight syllabs, and the second line of six, that so both versions being together, use may be made of either of them in congregations as shall be found convenient. And the Assembly doth further recommend, that Mr Zachary Boyd be at the paines to translate the other Scriptural songs in meeter, and to report his travels also to the Commission of Assembly, that, after their examination thereof, they may send the same to Presbyteries to be there considered untill the next Generall Assembly.
Act recommending the Execution of the Act of Parliament at Perth, for uplifting Pecuniall Paines to be imployed upon Pious Uses, and of all Acts of Parliament made against Excommunicate Persons.
The Generall Assembly doth seriously recommend and ordaine, that Presbyteries diligently endeavour, that the ninth Act of the Parliament holden at Perth anno 1645, concerning the uplifting of pecunial paines to be imployed upon pious uses, may be put to due execution within their several bounds; and also, that the Acts of Parliament against excommunicate persons, especially the twentieth Act of the Parliament in March last, be also carefully execute; and that they cause use all diligence to that effect, and account hereof shall be required in Provinciall and Generall Assemblies.
Sess. 26, August ult. 1647, ante meridiem.—Act discharging the importing, venting, or spreading of erronious Books or Papers.
The Generall Assembly, considering how the errours of Independency and Separation have (in our neighbour kingdome of England) spread as a gangræn, and do daily eat as a canker, in so much that exceeding many errours, heresies, schismes, and blasphemies, have issued therefrom, and are sheltered thereby; and how possible it is for the same evils to invade and overspread this Kirk and kingdome, (lying within the same island,) by the spreading of their erronious books, pamphlets, lybels, and letters, and by conversing with them that are infected with these errours, except the same be timously prevented; Doe, therefore, in the name of God, inhibit and discharge all members of this Kirk and kingdome to converse with persons tainted with such errours; or to import, sell, spread, vent, or disperse such erronious books or papers: But that they beware of, and abstain from books maintaining Independencie or Separation, and from all Antinomian, Anabaptisticall, and other erronious books and papers; requiring all ministers to warne their flocks against such bookes in generall, and particularly such as are most plausible, insinuating, and dangerous: And to try carefully from time to time if any such bookes be brought into this countrey from England, or from beyond seas, (which is especially recommended to ministers on sea coasts, or towns where any stationers are,) and if any shall be found, to present the same to the Presbyterie, that some course may be taken to hinder the dispersing thereof: And hereby all Presbyteries and Synods are ordained to try and processe such as shall transgresse against the premisses, or any part of the same. And the Assembly also doth seriously recommend to civill magistrates, that they may be pleased to be assisting to ministers and Presbyteries in execution of this act, and to concurre with their authority in every thing to that effect.
Act for Debarring of Complyers in the First Classe from Ecclesiastick Office.
The Generall Assembly declares and ordaines, That no person who is guilty of compliance in the first classe mentioned in the Act of the preceding Assembly, shall be received in any ecclesiasticall charge untill the evidence of his repentance before the Presbyterie and congregation be reported to the Synode to which he belongs, and to the Generall Assembly, and their consent obtained for his bearing office. And if any such person be already received unto the eldership of any particular congregation, yet he shall not be admitted to be a member of any Presbyterie, Synode, or Generall Assemblie, untill (upon the evidence of his repentance) the consent and approbation of these judicatories respectively be obtained thereto.
Act for Pressing and Furthering the Plantation of Kirks.
The Generall Assembly, considering how the work of provision, plantation, convenient dividing, dismembring, better uniting or enlarging of parish kirks, is hitherto foreslowed, to the great prejudice of many ministers, many good people, and hinderance of the work of reformation, doth therefore ordaine, That all Presbyteries have speciall care that the present opportunity be diligently improved by all their members, as need is, before the Commission for Plantation of Kirks, as they would not be found censurable for neglect. And that every Presbytery send in to the next Generall Assembly the names of all their parishes, with declaration which of them have ministers, which not; what is the largenesse of the bounds; commodious or incommodious situation of each parish kirk; what is the number of communicants; what kirks are under patrons, what not; who are the severall patrons; what is the nature and quantitie of the present provision, or possible ground of further provision for competent maintenance where the same is not sufficiently provided already: As also, what parishes are united or disunited, or bettered already, and in what measure, by the said commission; that the Generall Assembly being acquaint therewith, may doe accordingly, both for censuring neglecters and finding out overtures for better furtherance of the work for time to come. Moreover, it is hereby ordained, That the next ensuing Provinciall Synodes crave account of the severall Presbyteries their diligence, and presse that they have it ready in writ to present to the Provinciall Synodes in April next to come, that so all may be in readinesse, and the full account made at the next Generall Assembly.
Act for Censuring Absents from the Generall Assembly.
The Generall Assembly, considering the absence of many commissioners in this and other preceding Assemblies, and that many of those present have gone from the Assembly before the dissolving thereof; therefore, for remedie hereof in time coming, doth ordaine, that hereafter every commissioner from Presbyteries and Universities who shall be absent from the Assembly without a reasonable excuse notified to the Assembly, or who being present shall go from the Assembly before the dissolving thereof without a licence, shall be suspended by the Assembly untill the Provinciall Synode next thereafter following.
Renovation of former Acts of Assembly for Triall and Admission of Expectants to the Ministerie.
The Generall Assembly doth hereby renew and confirme all former acts and ordinances for triall and admission of expectants to the ministery, especially the articles thereanent allowed by the Generall Assembly, 1596, and approven in the Assembly at Glasgow, 1638—the thirteenth article concerning the age of intrants to the ministery, and the twentie-fourth article concerning the triall of expectants, of an Act of the said Assembly at Glasgow, Sess. 23—and the Act of the Assembly at St Andrews, 1642, Sess. 7, concerning lists for presentations from the King, and the trial of expectants, &c.; ordaining Presbyteries to observe the same carefully in all time coming.
Sess. 28, Eodem die, post meridiem.—Renovation of the Commission for Prosecuting the Treaty for Uniformity in England.
The Generall Assembly, taking to their consideration that the treaty of uniformity in religion in all his Majestie's dominions is not yet perfected; therefore renews the power and commission granted by preceding Assemblies for prosecuting that treaty, unto the persons after named, viz.: Master Robert Douglas, Master Samuel Rutherfurd, Master Robert Baillie, Master George Gillespie, Ministers; and John Earle of Lauderdaill, John Lord Balmerino, and Sir Archibald Johnstoun of Waristoun, Elders, authorising them, with full power, to prosecute the said treaty of uniformity, with the Honourable Houses of the Parliament of England, and the Reverend Assembly of Divines there, or any committees appointed by them; and to doe all and every thing which may advance, perfect, and bring that treaty to an happy conclusion, conforme to the commissions given thereanent.
Renovation of the Commission for the Publike Affaires of the Kirk.
The Generall Assembly, taking to their consideration, that in respect the great work of uniformity in religion in all his Majestie's dominions is not yet perfected, (though by the Lord's blessing there is a good progresse made in the same,) there is a necessity of renewing the Commissions granted formerly for prosecuting and perfecting that great work; doe, therefore, renew the power and Commission granted for the Publike Affaires of the Kirk, by the Generall Assemblies held in St Andrews, 1642, and at Edinburgh, 1643, 1644, 1645, and 1646, unto the persons following, viz.: Masters Alexander Casse, Samuel Douglas, Robert Knox, William Penman, James Guthrie, Robert Cuninghame, David Fletcher, Robert Lawder, Andrew Stevenson, Robert Davidson, David Calderwood, James Fleming, Robert Ker, James Fairlie, Oliver Colt, Patrick Sibbald, Andrew Ramsay, John Adamson, Robert Douglas, William Colvill, George Gillespie, Mungo Law, Andrew Fairfoul, George Lesly, Robert Lawrie, Alexander Spittle, Alexander Dickson, John Hay, Thomas Vassie, Ephraim Melvill, Patrick Scheill, Alexander Simmervail, George Bennet, Alexander Levingstoun, Robert Murray, Alexander Rollock, William Menzies, Alexander Ireland, John Friebairn, George Murray, Henrie Guthrie, William Justice, Robert Wright, Henrie Livingstoun, James Hammiltoun, George Gladstanes, Bernard Sanderson, Andrew Lawder, George Rutherfurd, John Levingstoun, George Hutcheson, John Bell, Hugh Mackaile, John Nevey, Matthew Brisbane, John Hammiltoun, Allan Ferguson, David Dickson, Zachary Boyd, Robert Ramsay, Robert Bailie, James Nasmith, Francis Aird, Robert Birnie, Thomas Kirkaldie, Evan Cameron, Robert Blair, Coline Adam, George Hammiltoun, Samuel Rutherfurd, Alexander Colvill, John Ramsay, James Martein, William Levingstoun, Thomas Melvill, John Smith, Frederick Carmichaell, Patrick Gillespie, Alexander Moncreif, John Duncan, James Sibbald, Walter Bruce, George Pittillo, Andrew Affleck, John Barclay, Thomas Peirson, William Rait, David Strachan, Andrew Cant, William Douglas, John Forbes, George Sharp, William Chalmer, Joseph Brodie, Alexander Simmer, Gilbert Anderson, William Smith, Ministers; and Archibald Marques of Argile, John Earle of Crawfurd, Alexander Earle of Eglintoun, William Earle of Glencairne, John Earle of Cassils, James Earle of Home, James Earle of Tullibairdine, Francis Earle of Bukcleuch, John Earle of Lawderdaill, William Earle of Lothian, James Earle of Finlatour, William Earle of Lanerk, James Earle of Callendar, Archibald Lord Angus, George Lord Brichen, John Lord Yester, John Lord Balmerino, James Lord Cowper, John Lord Barganie, Sir Archibald Johnstoun of Waristoun, Sir John Hope of Craighall, Arthur Areskine of Scotiscraig, Alexander Fraser of Phillorth, Frederick Lyon of Brigtoun, James Mackdougal of Garthland, Sir William Cockburne of Langton, Sir Andrew Ker of Greinheld, Sir Hugh Campbell of Cesnock, Sir James Levingstoun of Kilsyth, Sir Thomas Ruthven of Freeland, Sir Gilbert Ramsay of Balmayne, John Henderson of Fordell, Walter Dundas, younger of that Ilk, Sir William Scot, younger of Harden, Sir Lodovick Gordoun, Master George Winrhame of Libertoun, Alexander Levingstoun of Saltcoats, John Brisbane of Bishoptoun; Sir Robert Douglas of Tilliquhillie, James Pringle of Torwoodlie, Sir James Nicolsone of Coldbrandspath, William Ker of Newtoun, William Forbes, younger of Lesly, John Kennedy of Carmucks, Robert Arbuthnot of Findowrie, Alexander Brodie of Letham, Master Robert Narne, younger of Strathurd, Master James Schoneir of Caskeberrie, James Ruchheid, Lawrence Hendersone, James Stewart, David Douglas, John Jaffray, George Porterfield, John Semple, John Kennedy, William Glendinning, Master John Cowan, John Mill, Elders; giving unto them full power and commission to doe all and every thing for prosecuting, advancing, perfecting, and bringing the said work of uniformity in religion in all his Majestie's dominions to a happy conclusion, conform to the former Commissions granted by preceding Assemblies thereanent: And to that effect, appoints them, or any seventeen of them, whereof thirteen shall be ministers, to meet here in this city, in the afternoon at four hours, and thereafter upon the last Wednesdayes of November, February, and May next, and upon any other day, and in any other place, they shall think fit. Renewing also to the persons before named the power contained in the Act of the Assembly, 1643, intituled, "A Reference to the Commission anent the Persons designed to repaire to the Kingdome of England;" as likewise the power contained in the Act of Assemblie, 1644, Sess. 6, "For sending Ministers to the Armie." And further, in case delinquents have no constant residence in any one Presbyterie, or if Presbyteries be negligent or overawed, in these cases the Assemblie gives to the persons before named full power of censuring complyers and persons disaffected to the Covenant, according to the Acts of Assemblie; declaring always and providing, that ministers shall not be deposed but in one of the quarterly meetings of this Commission, with full power to them to treat and determine in the matters aforesaid, and in all other matters referred unto them by this Assemblie, as fully and freely as if the same were here particularly expressed, and with as ample power as any Commission of any former Generall Assemblies hath had or been in use of before, they being alwayes for their whole proceedings countable to and censurable by the next Generall Assembly.
Desires and Overtures from the Commissioners of Universities, and the Assemblie's Answer thereto.
I. The Commissioners of Universities represents to the Assembly, First, That the Overtures of the Assembly, 1643, for the visitation of schools, and the advancement of learning, are very much neglected.
III. That all the Universities be exhorted to send their commissioners instructed with answers to the Overtures agreed upon by the commissioners of Universities, and which from this meeting of their commissioners, shall be communicate to them, and this to be, when their commissioners come in Februar or March to the commission of the Kirk.
Sess. Ult., September 1, 1647.—The Assemblie's Letter to their Countreymen in Poleland, Swedland, Denmarke, and Hungarie.
Unto the Scots Merchants and others, our countrey people scattered in Poleland, Swedland, Denmark, and Hungary, The General Assembly of the Kirk of Scotland wisheth grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Althouch this Kirk of Scotland, whiles spoiled of her liberties under the Prelatical tyrannie, had much difficultie and wrestling to preserve the true reformed religion from being quite extinguished among ourselves; yet, since the mighty and outstretched arme of the Lord our God hath brought us out of that Egypt, and hath restored to us well constituted and free national Synods, it hath been our desire and endeavour to set forward the Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the purity of his ordinances, not only throughout this nation, but in other parts also, so far as God gave us a call and opportunity, and opened a way unto us. And among other things of this nature, we have more particularly taken into our serious thoughts the sad and lamentable condition of many thousands of you our countrymen, who are scattered abroad, as sheepe having no shepherd, and are, through the want of the meanes of knowledge, grace, and salvation, exposed to the greatest spirituall dangers, whether through ignorance, or through manifold tentations, to errors and false religions, or through the occasions and snares of sinne.
We have therefore thought it incumbent to us to put you in minde of the one thing necessary, while you are so carefull and troubled about the things of the world; and although we do not disallow your going abroad to follow any lawfull calling or way of livelyhood, yet, seeing it cannot "profit a man, although he should gain the whole world and lose his own soul;" and seeing you have travelled so farre, and taken so much pains to get uncertain riches, which cannot deliver in the day of the wrath of the Lord, and which men know not who shall inherit; we doe, from our affection to the salvation of your immortall souls, most earnestly beseech and warn you to cry after knowledge, and lift up your voyce for understanding, seeking her as silver, and searching for her as for hid treasures, and so play the wise merchants, in purchasing the pearl of price, and in laying up a sure foundation for the time to come, by acquainting your souls with Jesus Christ, and by faith taking hold of him whose free grace is now offered and held out to sinners, excluding none among all the kindreds of the earth who will come unto him. God forbid, that you should let slip the time and offers of grace, or neglect any warning of this kinde sent to you in the name of the Lord. We shall hope better things of you; and that knowing the acceptable time and the day of salvation will not alwayes last, but the Lord Jesus is to be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, taking vengeance on them that know not God and obey not the Gospel, you will the rather bestirre yourselves timely, and with all diligence to seek the Lord while he may be found—to endeavour that you may have among you the ordinary means of grace and salvation—to pray that God would give you pastors according to his heart, who shall feede you with knowledge and understanding—to consult also and agree among yourselves, with consent of your superiors, under whom you live, (whose favour and good will, we trust, will not be wanting to you in so good and necessary a work,) for setting up the worship of God and ecclesiasticall discipline among you, according to the form established and received in this your mother Kirk, and for a way of settled maintenance to pastors and teachers; which if you do, our commissioners, appointed to meet from time to time, in the intervall betwixt this and the next Nationall Assembly, will be ready (upon your desire made known to them) to provide some able and godly ministers for you, as likewise to communicate to you our Directory for the Publike Worship of God, and our Form of Ecclesiastical Government and Discipline, to gether with the Confession of Faith and Catechisme.
And, in the meane time, we exhort you that ye neglect not the worship of God in secret and in your families, and that ye continue stedfast in the profession of that faith in which ye were baptised, and by a godly, righteous, and sober conversation adorn the Gospel; and with all, that distance of place make you not the lesse sensible of your countrie's sufferings, both in respect of the just judgements of God for the sinnes of the land, and in respect of the malice of enemies for the common cause and Covenant of the three kingdoms, of which happie conjunction, notwithstanding we do not repent us, but by the grace of God shall continue faithful and steadfast therein.
This letter we have thought fit to be printed and published, that it may be with the greater ease and conveniency conveyed to the many several places of your habitation or traffique. Consider what we have said, and the Lord give you understanding in all things. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.
Act concerning the Hundred and Eleven Propositions therein mentioned.
Being tender of so great an engagement by Solemn Covenant, sincerely, really, and constantly to endeavour, in our place and callings, the preservation of the Reformed religion in this Kirk of Scotland, in doctrine, worship, discipline, and government—the reformation of religion in the kingdomes of England and Ireland in doctrine, worship, discipline, and government, according to the Word of God and the example of the best reformed Kirks—and to endeavour the nearest conjunction and uniformity in all these, together with the extirpation of heresie, schisme, and whatsoever shall be found contrary to sound doctrine; and, considering withall, that one of the speciall meanes which it becometh us in our places and callings to use in pursuance of these ends, is, in zeal for the true Reformed religion, to give our publike testimony against the dangerous tenets of Erastianisme, Independencie, and which is falsely called Liberty of Conscience, which are not only contrary to sound doctrine, but more speciall lets and hinderance, as well to the preservation of our own received doctrine, worship, discipline, and government, as to the work of reformation and uniformity in England and Ireland. The Generall Assembly, upon these considerations, having heard publikely read the 111 following Propositions, (fn. 3) exhibited and tendered by some brethren who were appointed to prepare articles or propositions for the vindication of the truth in these particulars, Doth unanimously approve and agree unto these eight generall Heads of Doctrine therein contained and asserted, viz. 1. That the Ministery of the Word and the Administration of the Sacraments of the New Testament, Baptisme and the Lord's Supper, are standing Ordinances instituted by God himself, to continue in the Church to the end of the world. 2. That such as administer the Word and Sacraments ought to be duly called and ordained thereunto. 3. That some Ecclesiasticall Censures are proper and peculiar to be inflicted only upon such as bear office in the Kirk; other censures are common, and may be inflicted both on Ministers and other Members of the Kirk. 4. That the censure of Suspension from the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper, inflicted because of grosse ignorance, or because of a scandalous life and conversation, as likewise the censure of excommunication, or casting out of the Kirk flagitious or contumacious offenders, both the one censure and the other is warrantable by, and grounded upon, the Word of God, and is necessary (in respect of divine institution) to be in the Kirk. 5. That as the rights, power, and authority of the Civill Magistrate are to be maintained according to the Word of God, and the Confessions of the Faith of the Reformed Kirks; so it is no lesse true and certaine that Jesus Christ, the only Head and only King of the Kirk, hath instituted and appointed a Kirk Government distinct from the Civill Government or Magistracie. 6. That the Ecclesiastical Government is committed and intrusted by Christ to the Assemblies of the Kirk, made up of the Ministers of the Word and Ruling Elders. 7. That the lesser and inferiour Ecclesiasticall Assemblies ought to be subordinate and subject unto the greater and superiour Assemblies. 8. That notwithstanding hereof, the Civill Magistrate may and ought to suppresse, by corporall or civill punishments, such as, by spreading errour or heresie, or by fomenting schisme, greatly dishonour God, dangerously hurt religion, and disturbe the peace of the Kirk; which Heads of Doctrine (howsoever opposed by the authors and fomenters of the foresaid errours respectively) the Generall Assembly doth firmely beleeve, own, maintaine, and commend unto others, as solide, true, orthodoxe, grounded upon the Word of God, consonant to the judgement both of the ancient and the best Reformed kirks. And because this Assembly (through the multitude of other necessary and pressing businesse) cannot now have so much leisure as to examine and consider particularly the foresaid 111 Propositions: Therefore, a more particular examination thereof is committed and referred to the Theologicall Faculties in the four Universities of this kingdome, and the judgement of each of these Faculties concerning the same is appointed to be reported to the next Generall Assembly. In the meane while, these Propositions shall be printed, both that copies thereof may be sent to Presbyteries, and that it may be free for any that pleaseth to peruse them, and to make known or send their judgement concerning the same to the said next Assembly.
Desires and Overtures presented from Presbyteries and Synods, with the Assemblie's Answer thereunto.
It is humbly presented to the Assembly, that the children of many of the ordinary beggars want baptisme, themselves also living in great vilenesse, and therefore desire that some remedie may be provided for these abuses.
That all students of philosophie at their entry, and at their lawreation, be holden to subscribe the League and Covenant, and be urged thereto; and all other persons as they come to age and discretion, before their first receiving the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper.
Whereas divers ministers want manses and gleebs, and others have their gleeb so divided in parcells, or lying so farre from their charge as the ministers are thereby much prejudged; we desire that this Generall Assembly will recommend it to be helped by the Parliament or Committee for Planting of Kirks, in the best manner that their Lordships can advise.
Whereas divers kirks were incommodiously united in corrupt times, we desire that the same be now dismembered and adjoyned to other kirks, or erected in kirks by themselves alone, and when the present incumbents agrees thereto, we desire the same to be recommended to the Parliament and Committee for Plantation of Kirks: provided alwayes, that the present ministers, who have laboured and indured the heat of the day, may enjoy the benefit of such parcells as are taken from them during their life.
The Assembly doth approve these two articles, and recommends to the Commissioners for Publike Affaires to assist any interested in the particulars for prosecuting the same before the Honourable Estates of Parliament, or the Commission appointed by them for Plantation of Kirks.
Recommendation to Presbyteries and Provincial Assemblies to consider and report on Matters formerly referred to them.
The Generall Assembly doe yet againe recommend to Presbyteries and Provinciall Assemblies to consider all matters formerly referred unto them by preceding Assemblies, and desires that their opinions concerning the same be reported in writ to the next Generall Assembly.