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, holden and begun at edinburgh, october 16, 1690, and ending the 13th day of november next thereafter.
I. Sess. 1, October 16, 1690, post meridiem.—The Meeting of the General Assembly, and the recording of their Majesties' Commission to John Lord Carmichael, for representing their Majesties therein.
This day, being a day of solemn fasting and humiliation, the General Assembly of the ministers and elders of this Church did, after sermons, (in the forenoon by Mr Gabriel Cuningham, Moderator of the last General Meeting, and in the afternoon by Mr Patrick Sympson, Moderator of the preceding General Meeting,) convene in the Assembly-House at Edinburgh, according to the indiction of an act of the current Parliament, dated the 7th day of June last, and directions given by the late General Meeting of the ministers and elders of this Church; and after prayer, there was produced to them by a noble Lord, John Lord Carmichael, their Majesties' commission for his being their Majesties' High Commissioner and Representative to this General Assembly, dated at Kensingtoun, the 10th day of October 1690, which was with all due respect publicly read; and Mr Gabriel Cuningham, Moderator for the time, did, in the Assembly's name, represent to his Grace how great a mercy it was to this Church and kingdom that their Majesties had countenanced this Assembly with their authority, and honoured it with a representative of their royal persons, and the Assembly's great satisfaction with their Majesties' choice of a person so well qualified and so acceptable to this Assembly, to represent their Majesties therein. To whom his Grace was pleased to give this return, that it was his firm resolution, in the capacity wherein their Majesties had now put him, to lay out himself for their Majesties' service and the good of the Church. The Assembly appointed the said commission to be recorded in their books, ad futuram rei memoriam; the tenor whereof follows:—
Gulielmus et maria, Dei Gratia, Magnæ Britanniæ, Franciæ, et Hiberniæ, Rex et Regina, Fideique Defensores, Omnibus probis hominibus, ad quos præsentes literæ nostræ pervenerint, salutem. Quandoquidem per actum, in secunda sessione currentis hujus nostri Parliamenti, expeditum, de stabiliendo Ecclesiæ regimine, in antiquiore hoc nostro Scotiæ regno; primum Ecclesiæ illius Generalem Conventum, Edinburgi, tertio die Jovis, mensis Octobris instantis, teneri ordinavimus: Nos autem (rebus magni momenti alio vocantibus) in dicto Conventu interesse nequimus: Abunde vero cupidi, ut idem Generalis Conventus, ad religionem veram reformatam melius firmandam, pietatem et sanctitatem propagandam, pacem itaque et unitatem, in dicta ecclesia, et hoc nostro antiquiore regno acquirendam; methodo debita et regulari, observetur: Cumque testimoniis perplurimis et probatis, nobis abunde satisfactum sit, de præclaris animi dotibus et fide eximia, fidelissimi et dilectissimi nostri consiliarii, Joannis Domini Carmichael, quibus ad summæ fiduciæ munus infra expressum, debite et exacte obeundum et excercendum, usque quaque est adaptatus: Noveritis igitur nos nominasse et constituisse, sicuti per hasce nostras patentes literas, nominamus et constituimus eundem Joannem Dominum Carmichael, Supremum nostrum Commissionarium, quoad effectum infra expressum: Damus pariter et concedimus illi, sacram nostram personam et authoritatem regiam repræsentandi, ac pro nobis præsentiam faciendi, locumque nostrum in subsequente Generali Conventu, tanquam Commissionario nostro, in hunc effectum specialiter constituto, tenendi: Omniaque alia ad imperium et munus commissionarii, pro Generale Ecclesiæ Conventu peragendi, tam plene, adeoque libere, in quovis respectu, quam quilibet alius ejusdem muneris et characteris fecerat, seu quovis tempore retroacto facerc potuerat, atque adeo sicuti nosmet ipsi personaliter præsentes possemus, plenissimam et amplissimam nostram potestatem et commissionem. Quæquidem omnia et singula, a dicto Joanne Domino Carmichael, in hac nostra commissione prosequenda, legitime facienda, nos firmiter approbamus, rata habemus, et habituri sumus. Omnibus et singulis insuper antedicti Conventus, et Ecclesiæ pastoribus et presbyteris, ac cæteris quibuscumque hujus nostri regni subditis, cujuscunque ordinis seu conditionis, ut eundem Joannem Dominum Carmichael, tanquam Supremum nostrum Commissionarium, quoad effectum et modum supra mentionatum, agnoscant, colant, et dicto ipsius audientes se præbeant, stricte mandamus et imperamus. Et denique hanc nostram commissionem, a die quo magnum hujus regni nostri sigillum, presentibus est appensum, ac durante primâ dicti Generalis Conventus Sessione, aut usque donec hæc nostra commissio per nos revocetur continuare declaravimus, ac per præsentes declaramus. In cujus rei testimonium, præsentibus magnum sigillum nostrum appendi mandavimus, apud aulam nostram de Kensingtoun, decimo die mensis Octobris, anno Domini 1690, regnique nostri anno secundo.
II.Sess. 2, October 17, 1690, ante meridiem.—His Majesty's gracious Letter to the Assembly.
This session his Majesty's gracious letter direct to this General Assembly was
publicly read and heard with great respect, and appointed to be recorded in the
books of the Assembly; the tenor whereof follows:—
Reverend, trusty, and well-beloved,
Our concern for the good of our ancient kingdom hath been such, that we have left nothing undone that might contribute to the making of it happy: And, therefore, having been informed, that differences as to the government of the Church have caused greatest confusions in that nation, we did willingly concur with our Parliament in enacting such a frame of it as was judged to be most agreeable to the inclinations of our good subjects; to which, as we have had a particular regard, in countenancing this Assembly with our authority, and a representative of our royal person, so we expect that your management shall be such as we shall have no reason to repent of what we have done. A calm and peaceable procedure will be no less pleasing to us than it becometh you. We never could be of the mind that violence was suited to the advancing of true religion; nor do we intend that our authority shall ever be a tool to the irregular passions of any party. Moderation is what religion enjoins, neighbouring churches expect from you, and we recommend to you. And we assure you of our constant favour and protection in your following of these methods, which shall be for the real advantage of true piety and the peace of our kingdoms. Given under our royal hand, at our Court at Kensingtoun, the 10th day of October 1690.
III. Sess. 4, October 18, 1690, post meridiem.—The Assembly's Answer to his Majesty's gracious Letter.
May it please your Majesty,
Your gracious letter, direct to the ministers and elders met here in the Genera Assembly of the Church of Scotland, was read and heard among us with all joy and thankfulness, that the rising and shining again of the royal favour upon this long afflicted and distressed Church could possibly inspire: For, as your Majesty's concern for the good of this your ancient kingdom hath indeed been such, as nothing can impair the happy state whereunto you have restored it, save the want of the due sense and understanding of so great a mercy; so we do most heartily acknowledge, that through your Majesty's care and kindness, the Church of Christ therein doth equally partake of the same blessing. It was the sad confusions, that differences as to the government of the Church had caused in this nation, that, according to your Majesty's first declaration for our relief, moved our gracious God to raise up and prosper you to be our glorious deliverer for effectuating the Re-establishment that we now enjoy; so that we are persuaded, that it is not more agreeable to the inclinations and conscientious persuasions of all within this kingdom, who are best affected to your Majesty's person and government, than it is acceptable to God, and will be your Majesty's perpetual peace and satisfaction. Nor are we less sensible of the particular regard your Majesty professeth towards us on this occasion, in countenancing this Assembly with your authority, and a representative of your royal person, for which we most humbly acknowledge your gracious favour; especially that it hath pleased your Majesty to fix your choice upon a person so well qualified and so acceptable to us. And now, great Sir, after so many and so great mercies and favours received from God and your Majesty, we hope we may with confidence assure you, that our management shall be such as your Majesty hath so just reason to expect, and shall never give you cause to repent of what you have done for us. The God of love, the Prince of peace, with all the providences that have gone over us, and circumstances that we are under, as well as your Majesty's most obliging pleasure, require of us a calm and peaceable procedure. And if, after the violence for conscience sake that we have suffered, and so much detested, and these grievous abuses of authority in the late reigns, whereby through some men's irregular passions we have so sadly smarted, we ourselves should lapse unto the same errors, we should certainly prove the most unjust towards God, foolish towards ourselves, and ungrateful towards your Majesty, of all men on earth. Great revolutions of this nature must be attended with occasions of complaint, and even the worst of men are ready to cry out of wrong for their justest deservings; but as your Majesty knows these things too well to give us the least apprehension of any impressions evil report can make; so we assure your Majesty, as in the presence of God, and in expectation of his dreadful appearance, that we shall study that moderation which your Majesty recommends, as being convinced that it is the duty that religion enjoins, and neighbouring churches do most justly expect from us; desiring in all things to approve ourselves unto God as the true disciples of Jesus Christ, who, though most zealous against all corruptions in his Church, was most gentle towards the persons of men; and to maintain as much as in us lies peace and concord with all the Reformed Churches: As likewise, to comply in all obsequious duty, with all that your Majesty enjoins for the real advantage of true piety and the peace of all your kingdoms. Heartily wishing that God, who has graciously brought back your Majesty's person in safty from your late, no less generous than dangerous expedition, for his cause and truth, with joyful success may still preserve your Majesty and our most gracious Queen, granting you long life, health, and prosperity, and may establish your throne, and bless your government, to the glory of his great name, the good of all his churches, and the welfare of all your people. Which shall ever be the earnest prayer of,
May it please your Majesty, your Majesty's most faithful, most obedient, and most humble subjects.
IV. Eadem Sessione.—Appointment of a Diet to be kept by the Assembly for Prayer
The General Assembly appoints Monday next, betwixt eight and twelve o'clock in the forenoon, to be set apart for prayer, by the members of this Assembly; and recommends to all the members to meet in the Assembly-House for that end, at eight o'clock in the morning.
V. Sess. 9, October 25, 1690, ante meridiem.—The Proceedings of the Assembly anent Mr Thomas Lining and others.
The General Assembly having received a report from the Committee of Overtures, anent two papers given in to the said Committee, and subscribed by Mr Thomas Lining, Mr Alexander Shields, and Mr William Boyd, who had followed some courses contrary to the order of this Church; whereby "The said Committee, out of their ardent desire of union in the Church, recommend to the Assembly the reading of the shorter of these two papers, in which the forenamed persons oblige themselves, after the exhibiting of the larger paper, (which they offer, as they profess, for the exoneration of their consciences,) and laying it down at the Assembly's feet, to be disposed upon as the Assembly should think fit, that they shall, in all required submission, subject themselves, their lives and doctrine, to the cognizance of the respective judicatories of this Church, and equally to oppose schism and defection in any capacity that they should be capable of. But the said Committee judgeth the reading of the larger of the said two papers in full Assembly to be inconvenient, in regard that though there be several good things in it, yet the same doth also contain several peremptory and gross mistakes, unseasonable and impracticable proposals, and uncharitable and injurious reflections, tending rather to kindle contentions than to compose divisions. Nevertheless, the said committee gives it as their opinion that the foresaid offer of the above named persons, their subjection and obedience to the authority of this Church in their respective judicatories, contained in the said shorter paper, should be entertained and accepted of by the Assembly, and they received into communion with this Church, according to their several capacities."
Likeas, the above named persons having compeared in presence of the Assembly, and judicially owned and adhered unto their shorter paper; and the Assembly having heard the above written report of the Committee of Overtures, concerning both the said papers, as also the said shorter paper read in their presence, the General Assembly, after mature deliberation, did unanimously, and without a contrary vote, approve the above written report and opinion of the Committee of Overtures, in the hail heads thereof; which being intimated to the forenamed persons, they acquiesced thereto. Upon all which, the following act was made:—
Act anent Mr Thomas Lining and others.
Whereas Mr Thomas Lining, Mr Alexander Shields, and Mr William Boyd, have presented to this Assembly two papers, one containing the expressions of their purpose and promise of being subject to the authority of this Church as formerly constituted, and now restored, in its several judicatories, the other offered for the exoneration of their consciences; which paper, containing their submission and subjection, did, after the exhibition of the other to the Assembly, become binding upon them, according to the promise therein made. Likeas, after that other and longer paper had been read before the Committee of Overtures, it was exhibited to and received by the Assembly, together with the reasons from the said Committee why it should not be publicly read in full Assembly. Which reasons being duly considered, and the said other paper of submission and subjection publicly read, and judicially owned by the forenamed persons, in presence of the Assembly; the Assembly did conclude, by one single vote, that the foresaid longer paper should not be read; and that the abovenamed persons should be received into the fellowship of this Church, on the terms of submission and subjection contained in the shorter paper: And after passing of the said vote, and that they were gravely admonished by the Moderator to walk orderly in time coming, in opposition to all schism and division, it was declared to them by the Moderator, in the name of the Assembly, that the Assembly did receive them into the fellowship of this Church, to enjoy the privileges thereof, and perform the duties therein, whereof they are or shall be found capable. Whereupon, and at their desire, it was ordained that this act should be made, and an extract thereof given to them in good form. Follows the tenor of the said shorter paper:—
"To the Moderator and remanent Members of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.
"Right Reverend and Honourable,
"With the greatest earnestness of longing we have desired, and yet with a patience perhaps to excess, we have waited for an opportunity to bring our unhappy differences (of which all parties concerned are weary) to a happy and holy close; and for this end, to have access to apply ourselves to a full and free General Assembly of this Church, invested with authority and power, in foro divino et humano, to determine and cognosce upon them. The want of which, an Assembly constituted in that vigour to which, through the mercy of God, this venerable national Synod hath arrived, hath been the greatest let and impediment of our composing these differences, in a way, wherein not only we, but all of the same sentiments, would acquiesce. Now, having obtained this much longed and long prayed for privilege, we cannot forbear any longer humbly to accost and address this venerable Assembly, with a free and ingenuous representation of our minds and desires. The scope of which is, to represent these things which have been most stumbling to us, for the exoneration of our consciences; and to declare our design, after we have exhibited our testimony against these courses, which we understand to have been corruptions and defections in this Church, and laid it down at the Assembly's feet to be disposed of as their Wisdoms shall think fit, that we shall, in all required submission, subject ourselves, our lives and doctrine, to the cognizance of the judicatories of this Church, and shall equally oppose schism and defection, in any capacity that we shall be found capable of. And here, by these presents, we bind and oblige ourselves faithfully to live in union, communion, and entire subjection, and due obedience in the Lord, to the authority of this Church, in her respective judicatories; as witness our hands at Edinburgh, the 22d day of October 1690.
VI. Sess. 11, October 28, 1690, ante meridiem.—Act anent Ministers that observe not the Public Orders of the Church.
The Assembly recommends it to Presbyteries to take notice of all ministers within their bounds, whether the late conforming incumbents or others, who shall not observe fasts and thanksgivings indicted by the Church; or who shall be found guilty of any other irregular carriage, in administrating the Sacraments in private, or celebrating clandestine marriages, without due proclamation of bans, and to censure them accordingly.
VII. Sess. 12, October 29, 1690, ante meridiem.—Act approving several Overtures.
"For retaining soundness and unity of doctrine, it is judged necessary that all probationers licensed to preach, all intrants into the ministry, and all other ministers and elders received into communion with us, in church government, be obliged to subscribe their approbation of the Confession of Faith, approven by former General Assemblies of this Church, and ratified in the second session of the current Parliament; and that this be recommended to the diligence of the several Presbyteries, and they appointed to record their diligence thereanent in their respective registers."
"That it be recommended to Presbyteries to take special notice what Papists are in their bounds, and that they take pains to reclaim them, and to advert how their children are educated; and if need be, to make application to the civil authority concerning them."
"That the celebration of marriage without due proclamation of bans, according to order, three several Sabbaths in the respective parishes, be discharged; and that it be recommended to Presbyteries to censure the contraveners."
"That it be recommended to Kirk-Sessions and Presbyteries carefully to put in execution the Acts of former General Assemblies against profanation of the Lord's day, and particularly by unnecessary sailing and travelling."
The General Assembly, after mature deliberation, approves of these Overtures, and recommends and appoints accordingly; and ordains the same to be observed, and to have the force and strength of an Act and Ordinance of Assembly.
VIII. Eadem Sessione.—Act approving the Associations of Presbyteries.
The General Assembly allows and approves of the ministers of different Presbyteries their associating in Presbyteries, ay and until the vacancies of the said Presbyteries be filled; and declares them to have the authority and power of Presbyteries respectively; and that, notwithstanding that according to the old platform, the said ministers do reside in the bounds of different Presbyteries.
IX. Sess. 15, October 31, 1690, ante meridiem.—Act against Ministers removing out of this Church.
The General Assembly does hereby appoint that no ministers, who have actual standing and absolute relations to any charge in the Church of Scotland, shall remove out of the kingdom, without the consent of the respective judicatories of this Church.
X. Eadem Sessione.—Act anent the Administration of the Sacraments.
The General Assembly, considering that the two Sacraments that Christ hath appointed under the New Testament, viz., Baptism and the Lord's Supper, are his solemn ordinances, and seals of the covenant of grace, (which is held forth in the preaching of the Gospel,) and that in the use of them the parties receiving them are solemnly devoted and engaged to God, before angels and men, and are solemnly received as members of the Church, and do entertain communion with her; and that by the authority of this Church, in her former Assemblies, the private use of them hath been condemned: As also, that by allowing the private use of the same, in pretended cases of necessity, the superstitious opinion is nourished that they are necessary to salvation, not only as commanded duties, but as means without which salvation cannot be attained. Therefore, the Assembly hereby discharges the administration of the Lord's Supper to sick persons in their houses, and all other use of the same, except in the public assemblies of the Church; and also, do discharge the administration of Baptism in private, that is, in any place, or at any time, when the congre gation is not orderly called together to wait on the dispensing of the Word. And appoints that this be carefully observed, when and wherever the Lord giveth his people peace, liberty, and opportunity for their public assemblies. And ordains this present act to be publicly intimated in all the churches.
XI. Sess. 24, November 11, 1690, post meridiem.—Act approving Overtures anent the Irish Bibles, &c.
"1. That a letter of thanks be written to these concerned, whether in this or our neighbour nation, for their care of and liberal charity towards the Highlanders of this kingdom, in their so liberally contributing for the said Irish Bibles, &c.; and that Mr David Blair be appointed to write the said letter in the name of this Assembly.
"2. The whole money so charitably contributed being expended, Therefore, and for making up of the same, and for defraying of the necessary charges of transporting the said Bibles, &c., to Scotland, it is thought most needful that there be an advance of one thousand pounds Scots, and that their Majesties' Privy Council be supplicated for as much of some vacant stipends of parishes where the King is patron as will make up the said sum for the ends foresaid.
"3. That it be recommended to the kirk-sessions, heritors, and others concerned in the Highlands, to see the Act of Parliament anent erecting of schools in every parish duly executed, and the funds established by law for the same made effectual.
"4. That it be recommended to the agent for the Kirk to receive the foresaid sum, and to disburse the same, at the sight of Mr John Law and Mr David Blair, for the said use; and also to receive the books above mentioned, being three thousand Bibles, one thousand New Testaments, and three thousand Catechisms, from London.
"5. That the several Synods who have Highland parishes in their bounds appoint one of their number to receive their proportion of the said Bibles, New Testaments, and Catechisms; and that, in order thereto, the ministers and elders having interest in the Highlands, present in this Assembly, shall meet and appoint some to receive these Bibles, &c., and proportion the number that each parish shall have thereof.
"6. That it be recommended to the ministers concerned in the Highlands to dispatch the whole Paraphrase of the Irish Psalms to the press. And if the principal copy can be recovered, to expede the same; but that any other copy they have be revised by the Synod of Argyle, and, being approven by them, that the same be printed."
XII. Sess. 25, November 12, 1690, post meridiem.—Act anent a Solemn National Fast and Humiliation, with the Causes thereof.
The General Assembly, having taken into their most serious consideration the late great and general defection of this Church and kingdom, have thought fit to appoint a day of solemn humiliation and fasting, for confession of sins, and making supplication to our gracious God to forgive and remove the guilt thereof; in order whereunto, they have ordained the confession of sins, and causes of fasting following, to be duly intimated and published; recommending it most earnestly to all persons, both ministers and others, that every one of us may not only search and try our own hearts and ways, and stir up ourselves to seek the Lord, but also in our stations, and as we have access, deal with one another in all love and tenderness, to prepare for so great and necessary a duty, that we may find mercy in God's sight, and he may be graciously reconciled to our land in the Lord Jesus, and take delight to dwell among us.
Although our gracious God hath of late, for his own name sake, wrought great and wonderful things for Britain and Ireland, and for this Church and nation in particular, yet the inhabitants thereof have cause to remember their own evil ways, and to loathe themselves in their own sight for their iniquities.
Alas! we and our fathers, our princes, our pastors, and people of all ranks, have sinned, and have been under great transgression to this day; for though our gracious God shewed early kindness to this land, in sending the Gospel among us, and afterward in our reformation from Popish superstition and idolatry; and it had the honour, beyond many nations, of being, after our first reformation, solemnly devoted unto God, both prince and people; yet we have dealt treacherously with the Lord, and been unstedfast in his Covenant, and have not walked suitably to our mercies received from him, nor obligations to him. Through the mercy of God this Church had attained to a great purity of doctrine, worship, and government; but this was not accompanied with suitable personal reformation, neither was our fruit answerable to the pains taken on us by word and work. We had much Gospel preaching, but too little Gospel practice; too many went on in open wickedness, and some had but a form of godliness, denying the power thereof; many also, who had the grace of God in truth, fell from their first love, and fell under sad languishings and decays; and when, for our sins, the anger of the Lord had divided us, and we were brought under the feet of strangers, and many of our brethren killed, and others taken captive and sold as slaves, yet we sinned still; and after we were freed from the yoke of strangers, instead of returning to the Lord, and being led to repentance by his goodness, the land made open defection from the good ways of the Lord; many behaved as if they had been delivered to work abomination; the flood-gates of impiety were opened, and a deluge of wickedness did overspread the land. Who can, without grief and shame, remember the shameful debauchery and drunkenness that then was ? And this accompanied with horrid and hellish cursing and swearing, and followed with frequent filthiness, adulteries, and other abominations; and the reprover was hated, and he that departed from iniquity made himself a reproach or prey. And when by these, and such like corrupt practices, men's consciences were debauched, they proceeded to sacrifice the interest of the Lord Jesus Christ and privileges of his Church to the lusts and will of men—the supremacy was advanced in such a way, and to such an height, as never any Christian church acknowledged—the government of the Church was altered, and Prelacy (which hath been always grievous to this nation) introduced, without the Church's consent, and contrary to the standing acts of our National Assemblies, both which the present Parliament hath (blessed be God) lately found; and yet, nevertheless, of the then standing Ministry of Scotland many did suddenly and readily comply with that alteration of the government, some out of pride and covetousness, or man-pleasing, some through infirmity or weakness, or fear of man, and want of courage and zeal for God. Many faithful ministers were thereupon cast out, and many insufficient and scandalous men thrust in on their charges, and many families ruined, because they would not own them as their pastors.
And, alas! it is undeniable there hath been under the late Prelacy a great decay of piety, so that it was enough to make a man be nicknamed a fanatic if he did not run to the same excess of riot with others.
And should it not be lamented, for it cannot be denied, that there hath been in some a dreadful atheistical boldness against God, some have disputed the being of God and his Providence, the Divine authority of the Scriptures, the life to come, and immortality of the soul, yea, and scoffed at these things.
There hath been also an horrid profanation of the holy and dreadful name of God, by cursing and swearing. Ah! there hath been so much swearing and forswearing amongst us, that no nation under heaven hath been more guilty in this than we; some by swearing rashly or ignorantly; some falsely, by breaking their oaths, and imposing and taking ungodly unlawful oaths and bonds, whereby the consciences of many have been polluted and seared; and many ruined and oppressed for refusing and not taking them.
The land also hath been full of bloody crimes, and cities full of violence, and much innocent blood shed, so that blood touched blood; yea, Sodom's sins have abounded amongst us; pride, fulness of bread, idleness, vanities of apparel, and shameful sensuality filled the land.
And, alas! how great hath been the cry of oppression and unrighteousness. Iniquity hath been established by a law; there hath been a great perverting of justice, by making and executing unrighteous statutes and acts; and sad persecutions of many for their conscience towards God.
It is also matter of lamentation, that, under this great defection there hath been too general a fainting, not only amongst professors of the Gospel, but also amongst ministers; yea, even amongst such, who, in the main things, did endeavour to maintain their integrity, in not giving seasonable and necessary testimony against the defections and evils of the time, and keeping a due distance from them; and some, on the other hand, managed their zeal with too little discretion and meekness.
It is also matter of humiliation, that when differences fell out amongst these who did own truth, and bear witness against the course of defection, they were not managed with due charity and love, but with too much heat and bitterness, injurious reflections used against pious and worthy men on all hands, and scandalous divisions occasioned, and the success of the Gospel greatly obstructed thereby, and some dangerous principles drunk in. And after all this, there were shameful advances towards Popery; the abomination of the mass was set up in many places, and Popish schools erected, and several fell to idolatry.
And though the Lord hath put a stop to the course of defection, and of his great mercy given us some reviving from our bondage, yet we have sad cause to regret and bemoan that few have a due sense of our mercy, or walk answerable thereto; few are turned to the Lord in truth, but the wicked go on to do wickedly. And there is found amongst us to this day shameful ingratitude for our mercies, horrid impenitency under our sins; yea, even among those who stand most up for the defence of the truth; and amongst many in our armies there is woful profaneness and debauchery. And though we profess to acknowledge there can be no pardon of sins, no peace and reconcilation with God, but by the blood of Jesus Christ, yet few know him, or see the necessity and excellency of the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ; few see their need of him, or esteem, desire, or receive him as he is offered in the Gospel; few are acquainted with faith in Jesus Christ, and living by faith on him, as made of the Father unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption; and few walk as becometh the Gospel, and imitate our holy Lord in humility, meekness, self-denial, heavenly-mindedness, zeal for God, and charity towards men; but as there is even until now a great contempt of the Gospel, a great barrenness under it, so a deep security under our sin and danger, a great want of piety toward God, and love toward men, with a woful selfishness, every one seeking their own things, few the things of Christ, or the public good, or one another's welfare; and, finally, the most part more ready to censure the sins of others than to repent of their own.
Our iniquities are increased over our heads, and our trespasses are grown up unto the heavens; they are many in number, and heinous in their nature, and grievously aggravated, as having been contrary to great light and love, under signal mercies and judgments, after confession and supplication, and notwithstanding of our profession, promises, and solemn vowing, and covenanting with God to the contrary.
Have we not, then, sad cause of deep sorrow and humiliation ? and may we not fear, if we do not repent, and turn from the evil of our ways, and return to the Lord with all our hearts, that he return to do us evil, after he hath done us good, and be angry with us, until he hath consumed us?
Let us, therefore, humble ourselves by fasting and praying;—let us search out our sins, and consider our ways, and confess these and our other sins with sorrow and detestation;—let us turn unto the Lord with fasting and weeping, and with mourning;—let us firmly resolve, and sincerely engage, to amend our ways and doings, and return unto the Lord our God with all our heart, and earnestly pray that, for the blood of the Lamb of God, our sins may be forgiven, and our backslidings healed, and we may yet become a righteous nation, keeping the truth, that religion and righteousness may flourish, and love and charity abound, and all the Lord's people may be of one mind in the Lord; and in order to all these, that the Word of the Lord may have free course and be glorified, and that the preaching of the Word and dispensing of the sacraments may be accompanied with the wonted presence, power, and blessing of the Spirit of the Lord;—that the Lord would preserve and bless our gracious King and Queen, William and Mary, and establish their throne by righteousness and religion, and grant to these nations peace and truth together; and for that end, bless and prosper his Majesty's councils, and forces, by sea and land, and these of the princes and states his allies, for God and his truth;—that inferior rulers may rule in the fear of God, and judges be clothed with righteousness; and that many faithful labourers may be sent out into the Lord's vineyard; and they who are sent may find mercy to be faithful and be blest with success; —that families may be as little churches of Christ; and that the Lord would pour out his Spirit on all ranks of people, that they may be holy in all manner of conversation, and God may delight to dwell amongst us, and to do us good.
And while we pray for ourselves, let us not forget our brethren in foreign churches, with whom, alas! we had too little sympathy; nay, let us pray that all the ends of the earth may see the salvation of God;—and that he would bring his ancient people of the Jews to the acknowledgement of Jesus Christ;—and that he would hasten the ruin of Romish Babylon, and advance the reformation in Christendom, and preserve and bless the Reformed Churches;—that he would pity his oppressed people, the French Protestants, and gather them out of all places whither they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day;—and that he would be the defence, strength, and salvation of any of his people who are in war or danger, by infidel or Popish adversaries, in Europe or America;—and, in particular, that the Lord would be gracious to Ireland, and sanctify to his people there both their distress and deliverance, and perfect what concerneth them;—that he would convert the natives there to the truth, reduce that land to peace, and appoint salvation for walls and bulwarks to Britain.
For all these causes and reasons, the General Assembly hath appointed the second Thursday of January next to be observed in all the congregations of this Church and nation as a day of solemn fasting, and humiliation and prayer; beseeching and obtesting all, both pastors and people of all ranks, to be sincere and serious in humiliation and supplication, and universal reformation, as they would wish to find mercy of the Lord, and have deserved wrath averted, and would obtain the blessing of the Lord upon themselves and posterity after them; and that the Lord may delight in us, and our land may be as married to him. And ordains all ministers, either in kirks or meeting-houses, to read this present act publicly from the pulpit, a Sabbath or two before the said day of humiliation; and that the several Presbyteries take care that it be carefully observed in their respective bounds. And where, in regard of vacancies, the day hereby appointed cannot be observed, the Assembly appoints the said humiliation to be kept some other day with the first convenient opportunity; and appoints the Commission of Visitation to apply to the Council for their civil sanction to the observation thereof.
XIII. Eadem Sessione.—Act anent Sentences past against Ministers from the year 1650, &c.
The General Assembly does hereby declare all sentences past against any ministers, hinc inde, by any Church judicatory upon the account of the late differences among Presbyterians, from the year 1650 till the re-introduction of Prelacy, to be of themselves void and null, to all effects and intents: And, sicklike, the General Assembly hereby recommends to the respective Presbyteries to take care that such of these ministers, as are not otherways disposed of by the Church, return to the exercise of their ministry in their respective congregations; and also hereby recommends to the civil magistrate that the said ministers may have the legal maintenances and stipends where they served.
XIV. Sess. 26, November 13, 1690, post meridiem.— The Assembly's Letter to his Majesty.
May it please your Majesty,
The happiness we have had by your Majesty's influence, as an instrument in the hand of God towards us for good, and the countenance you have given us in holding this National Assembly of the Church of Scotland, doth encourage us to make application again to your Majesty; that as, in our answer to your gracious letter direct to us in the entrance of this Assembly, we engaged to your Majesty that in all things that should come before us we would carry with that calmness and moderation which becometh the ministers of the Gospel of peace, and which your Majesty did so effectually recommend to us; so now, in the close of this our Assembly, we presume to acquaint your Majesty, that, through the good hand of God upon us, we have in a great measure performed accordingly; having applied ourselves, mostly and especially, to what concerned this whole Church, and endeavoured, by all means ecclesiastical and proper for us, to promote the good thereof, together with the quiet of the kingdom, and your Majesty's satisfaction and contentment. And God hath been pleased to bless our endeavours, in our receiving to the unity and order of this Church some who had withdrawn, and now have joined with us and promised subjection; and in providing for the propagation of religion, and the knowledge of God, in the most barbarous places of the Highlands, which may be the surest way of reducing these people also unto your Majesty's obedience; and especially in regulating the ministers of this Church, after so great revolutions and alterations; for we have, according to the use and practice of this Church, ever since the first reformation from Popery, appointed visitations both for the southern and northern parts of this kingdom, consisting of the gravest and most experienced ministers and elders, to whom we have given instructions about the late Conformists, that none of them shall be removed from their places but such as are either insufficient, or scandalous, or erroneous, or supinely negligent; and that these of them be admitted to ministerial communion with us, who, upon due trial, and in a competent time for that trial, shall be found to be orthodox in doctrine, of competent abilities, of a godly, peaceable, and loyal conversation, and who shall be judged faithful to God and to the government, and who shall likewise promise to own, submit unto, and concur with it. We have also taken care, that all persons who shall be found to have received wrong, in any inferior judicatory of this Church, shall be duly redressed. Other things, which are not of so universal a concern, we have delayed till the next General Assembly. This account, great Sir, we look upon ourselves as obliged to give unto your Majesty, for that great goodness you have been pleased to express, in giving such countenance to this Assembly, and in appointing such a Commissioner to represent your royal person, who hath been in all his conduct in this affair most acceptable unto us. That God may bless your Majesty and our most gracious Queen with all blessings, which concern both this life and the life to come, is the earnest prayer of,
May it please your Majesty, your Majesty's most faithful, most humble, and most obedient subjects and servants.
XV. Eadem Sessione.—Instructions to the Commission for Visitations on the South and North sides of Tay.
"1. That there be appointed by the Assembly a delegated number of the most experienced ministers and elders. This number to be forty ministers and twenty ruling elders, fifteen of them to a quorum, ten of these being always ministers; and that they, at their first session, choose their moderator and clerk; and for the sub-committee betwixt the quarterly meetings, nine to be the quorum, six of these being always ministers.
2. That the work of this commission for visitations be to take to their cognizance all references and appeals, and other things, which being stated before this Assembly, shall by them be specially referred to the said commission to determine the same.
3. That the commission give their opinion to all Presbyteries and Synods who shall apply to them for the same in difficult cases; and though Presbyteries shall not apply, yet, if the commission shall be informed of any precipitant or unwarrantable procedure of Presbyteries in processes, which may prove of ill consequence to the Church, the commission shall interpose their advice to such Presbyteries, to sist such procedure till either the Synod or next General Assembly take cognizance of it; if the said commission shall not find a present fit expedient to direct them for bringing the matter sooner to a right conclusion.
5. That this commission shall have power of visiting any ministers within the bounds of any Presbyteries on this side of the water of Tay, as they shall find need; and that this power reach Presbyterians as well as others.
6. That they shall be careful that none shall be admitted by them to ministerial communion, or to a share of the government, but such as, upon due trial, (for which the commission is to take a competent time,) shall be found to be orthodox in their doctrine, of competent abilities, having a pious, godly, loyal, and peaceable conversation, as becometh a minister of the Gospel, of an edifying gift, and whom the commission shall have ground to believe will be true and faithful to God and the government, and diligent in their ministerial duties; and that all who shall be admitted to the ministry, or shall be received to a share in the government, shall be obliged to own and subscribe the Confession of Faith, and profess their submission to and willingness to join and concur with the Presbyterian Church government.
7. That they be very cautious of receiving informations against the late Conformists, and that they proceed in the matter of censure very deliberately, so as none may have just cause to complain of their rigidity; yet, so as to omit no means of information; and that they shall not proceed to censure, but upon relevant libels and sufficient probation.
8. That this commission do not take on them to meddle with any thing not expressed in their commission; and that it be declared, that this commission is only given ad hunc effectum et pro præsenti Ecclesiæ statu.
The General Assembly approves these instructions for the said Commission for Visitations on the south side of Tay; and ordains the same also to serve for the Visitors that are to be appointed for the north.
XVI. Eadem Sessione.—Commission for Visitations on the South Side of Tay.
The General Assembly, considering that there are many important and weighty affairs, processes, appeals, and references, tabled before this Assembly, which the Assembly could not overtake for want of time to consider them maturely; does, therefore, nominate and authorize a commission of ministers and elders, for visitation of the whole Presbyteries on the south side of Tay, viz., Mr Hugh Kennedy, Mr John Veatch, Mr John Law, Mr Gabriel Semple, Mr Gilbert Rule, Mr James Kirtoun, Mr William Areskyne, Mr William Weir, Mr William Crichtoun, Mr John Anderson, of Perth, Mr Alexander Pitcairn, Mr Richard Howison, Mr George Campbel, Mr John Lawrie, Mr Archibald Hamiltoun, Mr Patrick Peacock, Mr John Spalding, Mr Michael Bruce, Mr Gabriel Cuningham, Mr Patrick Warner, Mr Alexander Forbes, Mr John Hutcheson, Mr William Eccles, Mr James Veatch, Mr Patrick Sympson, Mr Matthew Crawford, Mr William Legat, Mr Niel Gillies, Mr Thomas Forrester, Mr Andrew Mortoun, Mr Robert Duncanson, Mr John Bannatyne, Mr William Ker, Mr William Vilant, Mr Robert Rule, Mr James Frazer, Mr George Meldrum, at Kilwinning, Mr David Blair, Mr Samuel Nairn, Mr Edward Jamieson, Mr James Rymer, Ministers; and the Earl of Crawford, the Earl of Sutherland, the Viscount of Arbuthnot, the Lord Halcraig, the Lord Aberuchil, the Laird of Ormistoun, Sir John Hall, Provost of Edinburgh, Sir John Riddel, the Laird of Greenknows, Archibald Muir, late Bailie of Edinburgh, James M'Lurg, Dean of Guild, George Stirling, Deacon Convener, the Laird of Naughtoun, the Laird of Meggans, the Laird of Leuquhat, Sir Thomas Stewart, the Laird of Glanderstoun, the Laird of Lamingtoun, Provost Muir of Air, and the Laird of Grange Hamiltoun, Ruling Elders;—to meet for their first diet at Edinburgh the fourteenth day of November instant, fifteen of them being a quorum, whereof ten are to be always ministers; and of their sub-committee in the interval of their quarterly meetings, nine to be a quorum, six of these being always ministers, who only are to ripen and prepare matters for the quarterly meetings; and their next quarterly meeting to be at Edinburgh the third Wednesday of January thereafter; and their next quarterly meeting to be on the third Wednesday of April: And if afterwards the said commission shall think fit to appoint other quarterly meetings, they may do as they see expedient; with full power to them, and their sub-commission foresaid, to give warrant for citing parties upon fifteen free days. And the said commission being only appointed ad hunc effectum et pro præsenti Ecclesiæ statu, Therefore, the Assembly recommends particularly to the said commission to take cognizance of, and finally determine in the particulars following, specially committed and referred to them by this Assembly, viz., the purging and planting of the city and Presbytery of Edinburgh; the transportation of Mr Robert Wyllie to Hamilton; the processes of the heritors and people of Peebles; the processes of Mr Thomas Wood at Dunbar, of Mr Robert Spotswood at Abbotsrule, Mr John Bowes at Abbotshall, Mr Patrick Lyon at Kinghorn, Mr Symon Cowpar at Dunfermline, Mr William Crawford at Ladykirk, Mr James Orr at Huttoun, Mr Adam Peacock at Morbattle, Mr Daniel Urquhart at Clackmannan, Mr George Monro at Dollar, Mr George Shaw at Logie, Mr Alexander Ireland at Fossoway and Tillibole, Mr Robert Sharp at Muckart, Mr James Grahame at Dunfermline, Mr George Gray at Beith, Mr John Monro at Stirling, and Mr John Skinner at Bothkenner; the petition of the Magistrates of Perth and reference anent Mr John Anderson there; the processes of Mr William Alison at Kilbucho, and Mr James Coupar at Humbie; some references of the Synod of Merse and Teviotdale to the Assembly, viz., one anent Dr Canaries, and another anent Mr Kirktoun and Mr Jamison's returning to their charges, or else to demit; and a third anent Mr William Crawford deposed, to procure him some livelihood, because of his age and infirmity, and some others given in to the clerk therewith from the said Synod; the affair anent Mr Duncan Campbel and the parishes of Dunoon and Kilmunn; the process of Mr Robert Glasfoord at Auchterderen; the reference from the Presbytery of Stirling for advice anent Mr Patrick Coupar; the petitions of Mr William Hamiltoun and Mr Hugh Nisbet; the petition of Mr Alexander Strang, anent his clerk's fees. This commission is also to correspond with the State, anent fasts and thanksgivings, and their causes, if the occasions thereof fall out during the time of their sitting; also to take the monitory paper to consideration, and see what use is to be made of it; to consider what acts of Assembly are fit to be printed together, and order the same; to consider the Form of Process, being first revised by the Lord Aberuchil and the Lord Halcraig; and to apply to the Privy Council for their civil sanction to the observation of the fast. And this commission is to walk in all things according to the particular instructions given unto them by this Assembly, and in all their actings they shall be accountable to and censurable by the next General Assembly. And this commission to continue till the first of November next, or the diet that shall be appointed for the next General Assembly.
XVII. Eadem Sessione.—Commission for Visitations on the North Side of Tay.
The General Assembly, taking to their consideration the necessity of purging and planting of the churches on the north side of Tay, do, by their ecclesiastical authority, nominate, appoint, and authorise, their reverend brethren, Mr Hugh Kennedy, Mr John Law, Mr William Crichtoun, Mr Edward Jamieson, Mr Robert Rule, Mr James Rymer, Mr James Frazer, Mr Alexander Forbes, Mr John Anderson at Perth, Mr George Meldrum at Kilwinning, Mr Thomas Ramsay, Mr Andrew Bowie, Mr Robert Young, Mr William Legat, and Mr William Mackie, Ministers; and the Lord Viscount of Arbuthnot, the Laird of Meggins, the Laird of Naughtoun, the Laird of Leuquhat, and the Laird of Greenknows, Ruling Elders, to join with the ministers and elders in the north, after-mentioned, viz. Mr John Stewart, Mr James Urquhart, Mr Alexander Dunbar, Mr Alexander Frazer, Mr Thomas Hogg, Mr Hugh Henryson, Mr William Mackay, Mr Walter Dinnoon, Mr George Meldrum of Glass, Mr Arthur Mitchell, Mr William Ramsay, Mr Francis Melvil, and Mr John M'Culloch, Ministers; together with the Earl of Sutherland, the Laird of Brodie, the Laird of Grant, the Laird of Grange Dunbar, the Laird of Eight, the Laird of Culloden, the Laird of Dalfolly, the Laird of Park-Hay, Sir John Monro, Sir George Monro, Sir Robert Gordon of Embo, David Frazer of Mains, Mr John Campbel of Moy, Hector Monro of Drummond, Alexander Duff of and Robert Martyne of Burnbrae, Ruling Elders; to be a Commission for visiting the whole Presbyteries on the north side of the water of Tay, in planting vacant churches, constituting elderships in congregations, trying and purging out of insufficient, negligent, scandalous, and erroneous ministers, by due course of ecclesiastical process and censures, according to the particular instructions given them thereanent; and, for that effect, to have their first diet of meeting at Aberdeen the second Wednesday of March next, and thereafter to appoint their own diets and places of meeting, as they see expedient; with full power to them, or their quorum, being seven ministers and three ruling elders, to issue out warrants for citing of parties, upon fifteen free days, to cognosce, determine, and finally decide, in planting of vacant churches, constituting elderships, and trying and purging out all insufficient, negligent, scandalous, and erroneous ministers, conform to the particular instructions given them thereanent; they being always accountable to and censurable by the next General Assembly of this Church; and this Commission to continue till the first of November next, or the diet that shall be appointed for the next General Assembly.
XVIII. Eadem Sessione.—Commission for Mr Gilbert Rule and Mr David Blair, to wait upon his Majesty anent the Affairs of this Church.
The General Assembly, judging it expedient to send two of their number to Lon don, to attend his Majesty anent the affairs of this Church, does, therefore, nominate and appoint their reverend brethren, Mr Gilbert Rule, one of the ministers of the city of Edinburgh, and Principal of the College thereof, and Mr David Blair, another of the ministers of the said city, with all convenient speed to repair to London, to attend his Majesty for the end foresaid; and refers the instructions to be given them, and what other things concern their journey, to the Commission for Visitations on the south side of Tay appointed by this Assembly.
This Assembly being dissolved, and the next General Assembly appointed to be held at Edinburgh the first day of November next to come, the members were dismissed with prayer, singing of the 133d Psalm, and pronouncing of the blessing.