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, March 10, 1703.
I. Sess. 1, March 10, 1703.—The Recording of the Queen's Commission to James Earl of Seafield, Lord High Chancellor of this Kingdom, for representing her Majesty in this Assembly.
The General Assembly of the ministers and ruling elders of this National Church, being convened and constituted, there was produced to them by James Earl of Seafield, Lord High Chancellor of this kingdom, her Majesty's commission, under the Great and Privy Seals thereof, making and constituting him her Majesty's High Commissioner and representative in this National Assembly; which commission being publicly read, with all due honour and respect, the General Assembly appointed the same to be recorded in their registers, ad futuram rei memoriam, the tenor whereof follows:—"Anna," &c.
II. Eadem Sessione.—Her Majesty's gracious Letter to the General Assembly.
Her Majesty's High Commissioner presented her Majesty's most gracious Letter directed to this General Assembly, which was publicly read, with all due honour and respect, and is appointed to be recorded in the registers of this Assembly, the tenor whereof follows:—
Reverend and well-beloved,
We greet you well. The time appointed by our proclamation, dated the 5th day of February 1703, for the sitting of the General Assembly now approaching, we have made choice of our right trusty, and right well-beloved cousin and counsellor, James Earl of Seafield, our High Chancellor, to be our Commissioner to this Assembly, of whose fidelity, sufficiency, and zeal for our service, we have had good experience or several occasions, and especially he having been very acceptable to a former Assembly We earnestly recommend to you to be solicitously careful of what may advance the interest of the Reformed Protestant Religion, and for suppressing the growth of Popery. We renew the assurance given by us for protection of the Presbyterian government, as that which we find acceptable to the inclinations of our people, and established by the laws of the kingdom. We are confident that you will act in this Assembly so as we shall have new reasons to be satisfied with you and your conduct; and that you will carry so with others of the Reformed Protestant Religion, albeit differing from you in forms of Church policy, that by your meekness and charity they may be the more inclined to live peaceably and dutifully under us, and in brotherly love and respect towards you and the Established Church; wherein, if they fail, we shall recommend to our Privy Council to proceed diligently in censure against such delinquents; but we hope better things of them. We likewise recommend to you the placing of well qualified ministers amongst the remoter Highlanders and Islanders, we looking upon that as the greatest and best mean of rooting out the Popish errors, immoralities, and profanity; and withal, we shall give directions to our Privy Council for the exact application of our royal authority and laws to these good ends; and so we bid you heartily farewell.
III. Sess. 4, March 13, 1703, ante meridiem.—The General Assembly's Answer to the Queen's gracious Letter.
May it please your Majesty,
After the afflicting death of our late Sovereign, King William, of ever blessed and glorious memory, by whom, and under whose happy government, through the favour of God, we enjoyed many signal blessings never to be forgotten; your Majesty's happy succeeding in the throne of this your ancient kingdom, was a most comfortable relief; and since your accession to the crown of your royal ancestors, the ministers of this National Church have constantly, both in their public and private addresses to God, heartily blessed and praised his holy name for setting over us your Majesty, a Protestant Queen, to be a nursing-mother to this Church.
And we do offer to your Majesty our humble and hearty thanks, for allowing to us the countenance and protection of your royal authority in this National Assembly; and that your Majesty hath been pleased, in your gracious letter to us, (which was received and read with all duty, honour, and respect,) to refresh and encourage us, by renewed assurances of your protection of the Presbyterian Government of this Church, so happily established, as agreeable to the Word of God, which we are persuaded will endear you more and more to the hearts of the generality of them who fear God, and are truly faithful to your Majesty's interest and government in this land.
Your Majesty's entrusting the Earl of Seafield, the Lord High Chancellor of this your ancient kingdom, to be your Majesty's Commissioner to represent your royal person in this Assembly, is very acceptable to us, he being of approven ability, fidelity, and loyalty, and of whose kindness this Church hath had good experience.
We bless God, who puts it in your royal heart, and bless you in the name of the Lord, that you recommend to us, that which is so much our duty, to be solicitously careful of what may advance the interest of the Reformed Protestant Religion, and for suppressing of the growth of Popery, and the placing of well qualified ministers amongst the remoter Highlanders and Islanders, which your Majesty is pleased to say, on good grounds, that you look upon as the greatest and best mean of rooting out the Popish errors, immoralities, and profanity. We shall endeavour to apply ourselves to these things as our great work, and do humbly supplicate your Majesty, according to your gracious promise, that it may be recommended to your Majesty's Privy Council, and all inferior magistrates, that your good laws may be exactly applied for these good ends, and vigorously executed, especially against Popery and immorality.
Your Majesty also is pleased to recommend to us to behave with meekness and charity toward those of the Reformed Religion, albeit differing from us in forms of Church policy. We own meekness and charity to be the duty of all, especially of pastors and office-bearers in the church of Christ, and shall, through grace, follow after these things as we have hitherto done. But we wish that all the differences were merely about Church policy, (though even for this we be sorry,) and that there were no difference about our confession of faith towards God, and our duty towards your Majesty.
We are encouraged by the law of the land, and do rely on your Majesty's gracious promises, that all practices and endeavours which tend to the subversion or prejudice of the established government of the Church, shall be discouraged and restrained; and it shall be our endeavour, by the grace of God, so to act in this Assembly, that we may approve ourselves to God and to your Majesty, and to give such new proofs of our duty and loyalty, that your Majesty may never have cause to repent of your royal favour showed to this Church.
That God may long preserve your sacred person, direct and prosper your councils,
make you a blessing to your own people, and a defence to all the reformed churches;
that, while war continueth, God may bless your forces, and those of your allies, both
by sea and land, with success; that in due time you may be a blessed mean to restore
the peace of Europe; and that religion and righteousness may flourish in your days,
is and shall be the prayer of,
May it please your Majesty, your Majesty's most faithful, most obedient, and most humble subjects, the Ministers and Elders met in this National Assembly of the Church of Scotland.
IV. Sess. 7, March 18, 1703, ante meridiem.—Commission to some Ministers and Elders for Planting Vacant Kirks in the North, the Highlands and Islands, and other Affairs remitted to them.
The General Assembly, considering that there are yet some vacant churches on the North side of Tay, and in the Highlands, as likewise several weighty affairs which this Assembly cannot overtake, do therefore find it needful that there be a commission granted to some ministers and elders for planting these vacant churches, and doing what shall be referred to them, concerning the Highlands and Islands, and other matters; and for that end, do hereby nominate, commission, and appoint, Messrs Thomas Thomson at Old Machar, &c., to be commissioners of this General Assembly, to the effect before and after mentioned; with full power to the said persons, or their quorum, which is hereby declared to be any twenty-one of the said commissioners, whereof fourteen are always to be ministers, to meet and convene within the Assembly-House at Edinburgh, the first day after the dissolution of this Assembly, at ten hours in the forenoon; and afterwards to meet the first Wednesdays of June, September, December, and March, and oftener, when and where they shall think needful and convenient, with power to the said Commission to choose their own Moderator; and suchlike, the General Assembly fully empowers and authorises their said Commissioners, or their quorum, to cognosce and finally determine, as they shall see cause, in every affair referred, or to be referred to them, and to do every thing contained in, and conform to the instructions given to them by this General Assembly. And, finally, with power to the said commission to advert to the interest of the Church on every occasion, and that the Church do not suffer or sustain any prejudice, which belongs to them to prevent, as they will be answerable to the next General Assembly; and they are hereby strictly prohibited and discharged to meddle in any other matters than what are herein committed to them; declaring also, that in and for all their actings they shall be accountable to and censurable by the next ensuing General Assembly of this Church. And, lastly, declares that this Commission shall continue until the next meeting of the General Assembly.
V. Eadem Sessione.—Instructions by the General Assembly to their Commission.
That this Commission, as often as they shall see cause, apply to the Government, or any magistrate, for their countenancing of and concurring with the judicatories of the Church, in what the law allows, and for putting in execution the laws against Popery and profaneness, and seeking redress of grievances, particularly the contempt of the censures of the Church inflicted upon scandalous persons, and for settling vacant congregations, and regulating the poor, by providing maintenance and labour for them, and to meet when the Parliament sits.
2. That when any of the ministers who served under the late Prelacy, whose lives and doctrines may render them useful to this Church, do apply for reception into a share of the government of the Church, the General Assembly do empower and recommend to their Commission to receive them, according to the 13th paragraph of the 16th Act of the General Assembly, anno 1697; and that the said Commission be careful to get due information from the Presbyteries where the said person applying does or did officiate, and for the time resides.
3. That this Commission, in disposing of her Majesty's gift to this Church, do particularly take care that the encouragement granted by the General Assembly, anno 1699, to probationers who are to go North to preach, be rendered effectual; and that they cause defray the extraordinary charges and expenses that several ministers of the North have been at in carrying on the planting of churches, and other public affairs of the Church there.
4. The said Commission is to cognosce, and finally determine in all references already made, or to be made, to them by this Assembly, and references and appeals for transporting ministers to the North and the Highlands and Islands, which shall be brought before them, according to the overtures made thereanent, anno 1699; and that transportations to any parish in these places, whether privileged by former Acts of Assemblies or not, be carried on, and that in the most expeditious way.
6. This Commission is to give advice and assistance to any Synod or Presbytery in difficult cases, as they shall be applied unto by them for that effect; as also, this Commission is empowered to proceed according to the 7th Act of the General Assembly, 1700, made in favour of the Presbyteries of Caithness, Orkney, and Zetland.
7. This Commission is empowered to inquire how ministers transported, or to be transported by the General Assembly, or their Commissions, have obeyed, or shall obey; and in case of disobedience, that they suspend the disobedient persons for three months; and in case they do not obey after these three months are elapsed, that then they be simpliciter deposed.
9. That the said Commission shall see to the effectuating, whatever shall be by this Assembly committed to them, concerning the Highlands and Islands and vacant churches in the North; for erecting schools, and what else may tend to the encouragement of religion and advancing of reformation in these places.
VI. Eadem Sessione.—Act anent the better Attendance of Members of the Commission.
The General Assembly, considering that the affairs referred by them to their Commission are of great moment and importance to the Church, do therefore require and ordain the members thereof to give all due attendance thereon, as they will be answerable and do hereby enjoin the several Presbyteries to send up such of their number as are members thereof to each quarterly meeting of the same; and do ordain the clerks of the Commission to record lists of the absents from each quarterly meeting, and from the meetings in time of Parliament, (without a reasonable excuse,) or who shall go away therefrom without leave first obtained, and send an extract of their names to the respective Synods, who are impartially to inquire into the reasons of their absence, and to censure them as they shall see cause, and make report thereof to the next General Assembly. And to this effect, that the clerks of the Commis sion do lay before that Assembly the lists of these absents; and the General Assembly recommends it to Presbyteries to supply the charges of the ministers who are members of this Commission, during their attendance thereon.
VII. Sess. 8, March 19, 1703, post meridiem.—Approbation of the Actings and Proceedings of the Commission of the General Assembly, anno 1701.
The visitors of the commission-book made report, that they had revised the records of the Commission of the Assembly, anno 1701, wherein they found that the Commission had been at great pains and diligence in the many and weighty affairs referred to them, and gave in their observations upon the said book; and the moderator having been a member of that Commission, removed from the chair, and Mr Alexander Hastie, at the desire of the Assembly, did moderate protempore. Then the General Assembly took under consideration the proceedings of the said Commission contained in their book, subscribed by Mr Thomas Wilkie, Moderator, and Nicol Spence, Sub-Clerk; and having heard the visitors' remarks thereon, together with the moderator of that Commission and members thereof, their answers thereto, it was put to the vote, Approve the proceedings of the said Commission, or not; and it carried in the affirmative: Therefore, the General Assembly did, and hereby do, approve of the actings and proceedings of the said Commission of the General Assembly, anno 1701, and appoints their clerk to attest the same at the end of the register of the said Commission.
VIII. Sess. 9, March 22, 1703, ante meridiem.—Address of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland to the Queen.
May it please your Majesty,
The entire confidence we repose in your Majesty's stedfast zeal for the true Protestant religion, and in the renewed gracious assurances we have from your Majesty to maintain and protect the Presbyterian government of this Church, as at present established, with the sense of the duty we owe to God, and to his Church in this nation, and to your Majesty, our undoubted and rightful sovereign, do embolden us in pursuance of those Christian ends recommended to us by your Majesty in the beginning of this Assembly, to lay before your Majesty, in all humble duty, those things that endanger the safety, and obstruct the success of religion, and trouble the quiet and peace of this Church and kingdom.
We humbly crave leave to represent to your Majesty, that our reformation from Popery was by Presbyters, whereby the Presbyterian government, in an equal parity, without any superiority among them, was at that time settled. And for this constitution and Church government the constant persuasion, zeal, and concern of the ministry and people of this National Church, is sufficiently known to your Majesty and to the world, God having always signally blessed the Presbyterian government of this Church and the discipline thereof, for the suppressing of prosaneness, and curbing of error in this your ancient kingdom.
Upon these considerations at the late happy Revolution, and for remedying of the many evils we had suffered, and preventing the like in time coming, the claim of right did declare against Prelacy, as a great and insupportable grievance and trouble to this nation, and for Presbyterian parity in this Church; and by the acts of Parliament thereon ensuing Presbyterian government is settled, as agreeable to the Word of God, and most conducive to the advancement of true piety and godliness, and the establishing of peace and tranquillity; and, therefore, to be the only government of Christ's Church within this kingdom.
And of this Government, as well as of the true Protestant religion, we have, through the infinite mercy of God, under the protection of our late Sovereign Lord King William, and of your sacred Majesty, enjoyed the peaceable and comfortable possession, with much concord and tranquillity.
Notwithstanding whereof, it is our extreme sorrow that we find ourselves constrained to represent to your Majesty, for your gracious help and relief, 1st, The extraordinary growth of Popery, and bold and insolent trafficking of Popish priests and Jesuits in several parts of this kingdom; and that not only by secret practices, but by avowed keeping of mass-meetings and houses, and insulting of some of our ministers, and daring even to set up schools, to the corrupting and poisoning of youth, and many other unaccountable attempts, as if in a Popish country, to the great dishonour of God, the violation of your Majesty's good laws, the increase of disaffection to your royal Government, and the grief and disquiet of the hearts of your faithful subjects.
2dly, Though we acknowledge ourselves to be unquestionably bound as Christians, and more especially as ministers of the Gospel of peace, to maintain charity and forbearance toward those who peaceably differ from us, and contain themselves within the just limits of sobriety and reason, yet we cannot but complain of the disorders of some of the Episcopal clergy, who, with a few of their abettors that have given as little evidence of their affection to your Majesty's Government as to the Established Church, transgress your laws by preaching, though not qualified to your Majesty's Government—by despising sentences of deprivation by the Privy Council, and deposition by Church judicatories—by invading settled churches—by intruding into vacant churches—and by irregular baptizings and clandestine marriages, and several other gross abuses; all which tend to the weakening and frustrating the good ends of discipline, the increase of licentiousness and irreligion, and the spreading of error and doctrine contrary to our Confession of Faith, ratified in Parliament.
And of these things we have, in the sincere discharge of our duty to God and your Majesty, drawn up a particular condescendence to be given in to your Majesty's Privy Council, whereof we have transmitted just doubles to your secretaries for your Majesty's better and more full information.
These being the heads of our grievances, wherein your Majesty sees how much the glory of God, the purity of religion, the obedience to your laws, the honour of your Government, and the peace and quiet of this Church and kingdom are concerned, we do, in all humility, most earnestly entreat that your Majesty will be pleased, in your royal wisdom and goodness, to appoint that the laws against Papists may be exe cuted with vigour by all the officers of the law, in all parts of the kingdom; and that all unwarrantable and illegal attempts of dissenters against the established government of this Church, and the peace of the kingdom, be punished and prevented according to law; and that a proclamation in your Majesty's name be issued out for that effect; and for the strict execution of the laws against immorality and profaneness in persons of all ranks; and that all magistrates and officers of justice give due and ready assistance as law ordains, for making the sentences and censures of the Church and its judicatories effectual.
That God may long preserve your Majesty for the defence of the true Protestant
religion, the comfort of all the churches of Christ, and the welfare and prosperity
of this Church and kingdom, shall be the constant and fervent prayers of,
May it please your Majesty, your Majesty's most faithful, most obedient, and most humble subjects, the Ministers and Elders met in this National Assembly of the Church of Scotland.
IX. Sess. 9, March 22, 1703.—Act approving some Overtures concerning the Planting of Vacant Churches in the North, the Highlands and Islands, and supplying thereof with Ministers and Probationers, and promoting Religion and the Knowledge of God in these places.
1. That the Commission of the General Assembly be empowered to send ministers and probationers to any Presbytery in the North, or Highlands or Islands, and to take special care to find out and send thither probationers having the Irish language, when called for.
2. When any congregation in the Highlands shall call any minister, having the Irish tongue, settled in the Lowlands, that the commission be empowered to consider the affair, and determine therein as they shall see cause; and special regard is to be had to former acts of the General Assemblies thereanent.
3. That, during the vacancy of the kirks of the town of Aberdeen, the Synods of Lothian and Tweeddale, Glasgow and Ayr, supply the same quarterly, per vices, till the next Assembly; and that Mr Henry Shaw, minister of Cockburnspath, formerly appointed, do go thither against the first day of April next, from the Synod of Lothian, for the first quarter.
4. That the case of Brechin, and speedy planting thereof, be recommended to the special care of the Commission; as also, the planting of the vacant kirk of Inverkeillour and others, within the province of Angus and Mearns.
5. That the Presbytery of Dunkeld be declared to have the same privilege with the North and Highlands; and that the punctual supplying of the vacancies therein be recommended to the Synod of Perth and Stirling. And, particularly, that the Presbytery of Perth take the burden of supplying of two of these vacancies until the next Assembly; and that it be recommended to the Commission to send thither probationers having Irish, when called for, particularly one to the parish of Weem.
6. That the Commission be appointed and empowered to give all due encouragement to any proposals made, or to be made, anent erecting schools and libraries in the Highlands, and apply to the Government thereanent, as they shall see cause.
7. That the Commission be empowered, as they shall find convenient, to send some ministers having Irish, and others, to visit and supply the vacant kirks in the Highlands, and stay there for some time, especially in the summer season, and to catechise the people, and be at pains with them, to concur in advancing'a reformation; and, in order thereunto, to encourage the erecting of schools, and endeavour to prevail with parents to send their children to be taught to read; which ministers are, from time to time, to send an account of their diligence and success, and of the state of the country they are supplying in, to the Commission, especially anent Papists, that applica tion may be made to the Government thereanent.
8. That the Commission be empowered, when they get notice of students having Irish, fit to be entered on trials for the ministry, to recommend such students to Presbyteries, in order to pass; and when they pass, to send them to the Highlands, with the ordinary allowance: And this may prevent their being settled in Lowland congregations.
The General Assembly having heard and considered the overtures above written, they did, by their vote, and hereby do, approve thereof, and enact, ordain, and recommend according thereto in all points.
X. Eadem Sessione.—Act anent Reception of Converts from Popery.
The General Assembly, taking into their consideration the 18th Act of the General Assembly, anno 1700, entitled, "Act anent Regulating the Reception of such as come off from Popery," which appoints, that the reception of any that comes off from Popery to the communion of this Church should be the deed of a Church judicatory, do now declare, that by judicatories in the said act is not meant any below a Presbytery.
XI. Eadem Sessione.—Act for supplying and preserving the Registers and Papers belonging to the General Assemblies, Committees, and Commissions thereof.
The General Assembly, taking into their consideration the great loss the Church hath sustained by the burning of several of their registers and some papers, in that dreadful fire which happened in the Lawnmarket of Edinburgh, upon the 28th day of October 1701, do, for making up that loss, as far as may be, and for the better preservation of their registers in time coming, enact and appoint that there be two authentic copies thereof, both subscribed by the Moderator and Clerk, one copy whereof to lie in the Clerk's custody, and the other copy to be sealed, and laid in some secure place in the New Church of Edinburgh, or where the General Assembly or Commission shall appoint: As also, that a subscribed extract of the proceedings of each General Assembly be sent, a little after the rising thereof, to the several Synods within this Church, to be by them recorded in a book; and all this to be done upon the public charges of the Church. And recommends to such persons as have any of the old registers or papers belonging to the General Assembly, Commissions, or Committees thereof, in their custody, to deliver up the same to the Clerk of the Assembly, to be by him kept for the public use of the Church; and that Ministers and Presbyteries be at pains in dealing with persons for that effect; and it is recommended to the Commission to gratify those who shall bring in to their Clerk any of the papers or registers foresaid, as they shall find such persons deserve.
XII. Eadem Sessione.—Act anent the Overtures concerning Church Discipline.
The which day, the Committee appointed by this Assembly for considering the printed overtures concerning the methods and forms of procedure in ecclesiastical judicatories, reported that they found that the committees appointed in the years 1698, 1699, 1700, and 1701, having received the remarks of some Presbyteries upon the said overtures, they compared the same with these overtures, and had made their own observations, deleting many superfluous overtures, amending others, and sometimes adding; and that the said Committee of this Assembly, having read part of the said overtures, with the observations and alterations of the said Committees, 1698, 1699, 1700, and 1701, do judge their remarks pertinent and judicious, and were of opinion that a committee should be chosen out of the bounds of the Synods of Lothian, Glasgow, and Fife, or any others the General Assembly shall please, yet to revise the said printed overtures, with the remarks, and cause transcribe and reprint them, with the alterations and additions, leaving out all superfluous overtures, sentences, and words; and that they be appointed to revise the two other chapters concerning Synods and General Assemblies, their Committees, and Commissions, not yet printed, and add the same to the printed overtures, and present the whole to the Commission of this Assembly, at their quarterly meeting in June next, that they may cause print and transmit the same to the several Presbyteries within this National Church, that the said Presbyteries may send in their opinions thereanent to the next General Assembly; which report being heard and considered by the General Assembly, they unanimously agreed thereunto, and accordingly nominate the Rev. Mr George Meldrum, Moderator, Mr William Crichton, Mr George Hamilton, Mr John Law, Mr David Blair at Edinburgh, Mr George Barclay at Uphall, Mr Robert Wylie at Hamilton, Mr John Stirling, Principal of the College of Glasgow, Mr Thomas Linning at Lesmahagow, Mr Archibald Hamilton at Cambuslang, Mr John Anderson, Principal of the Leonardine College of St Andrews, Mr John Anderson junior, minister there, Mr James Haddow, Professor of Divinity there, and Mr Hugh White at Larbert, Ministers; the Right Honourable Sir Hugh Dalrymple of Northberwick, Lord President of the Session, Sir James Stewart of Gutters, her Majesty's Advocate, Sir Colin Campbell, one of the Senators of the College of Justice, and Adam Cockburn of Ormiston, Ruling Elders; to be a committee for the effect foresaid; and the General Assembly refers to their Commission to name the time and place of the said committee's first meeting.
XIII. Act Reuniting the Parishes of Dalry and Carsphairn to the Presbytery of Kirkcudbright.
The General Assembly, having heard and considered a petition from Mr William Boyd, minister of Dalry, and Mr John Reid, minister of Carsphairn, craving that their said parishes might be reunited to the Presbytery of Kirkcudbright, from which they were disjoined by the 5th Act, General Assembly, anno 1699, and annexed to the Presbytery of Wigton; and having also considered the reasons for the said re-annexation of the said parishes, and answers made thereto for the Presbytery of Wigton, did, by their vote, and hereby do, again disjoin the said parishes of Dalry and Carsphairn from the Presbytery of Wigton, and reunite and again annex the same to the Presbytery of Kirkcudbright.