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, April 14, 1709.
Sess. 1, April 14, 1709.—The Queen's Commission to David Earl of Glasgow produced, and ordered to be Recorded.
The General Assembly of this Church being constituted, there was produced to them, by the Right Honourable David Earl of Glasgow, her Majesty's commission, scaled the 11th day of April current, with the Seal ordained to be kept and used in Scotland in place of the Great Seal of Scotland, and of the same tenor with former commissions, appointing him her Majesty's High Commissioner and representative in this Assembly; which commission being publicly read with all due honour and respect, it is by order of this Assembly recorded in their books, ad futuram rei memoriam.
II. Eadem Sessione.—Her Majesty's gracious Letter to the General Assembly.
III. Sess. 3, April 16, 1709.—The General Assembly's Ansuer to her Majesty's most gracious Letter.
IV. Sess. 4, April 18, 1709, ante meridiem.—Act concerning People's Behaviour in time of Divine Worship.
The General Assembly, considering the great reverence and holy fear that is owing to the infinitely glorious and holy God by his rational creatures, especially when they are employed in acts of immediate worship, such as prayer and praise; do, therefore, seriously recommend it to persons of all ranks, that, considering in whose presence they are, and with what deep humility the glorious God is to be adored by sinful men, they would forbear bowing, and other expressions of civil respect, and entertaining one another with discourses, while divine worship is performing, and holy ordinances are dispensing; and that as to this matter, people carefully observe what is enjoined in the first head of the Assembly's Directory for the Public Worship of God in this Church, entitled, "Of the Assembling of the Congregation, and their Behaviour in the Public Worship of God;" and ordains this to be intimated in the several congregations of this Church.
V. Sess. 4, April 18, 1709, ante meridiem.—Act concerning Planting the Highlands, and Probationers having the Irish Language.
The General Assembly, considering that several probationers who have lived in he Highlands in their childhood, but through disuse have lost much of the Irish anguage, yet upon application thereto have soon recovered it, and have been very useful, and that some probationers, who, in their younger years, have lived in the Highlands, and had the Irish language, and can still speak it, do, notwithstanding, excuse themselves from preaching in that language, whereby the acts of Assembly are eluded; therefore, and in order to the more effectual planting of the Highlands, the General Assembly does appoint and ordain that when any Presbytery is to take a young man under trial, who hath lived for some time of his younger years in the Highlands, or where the Irish language is generally spoken, they write to that Presbytery in whose bounds he hath lived the said time, to make inquiry whether such a person hath the Irish language, or might soon acquire it, and upon report that he hath it, or may soon acquire it, that he be sent to supply in the Highlands, as one that hath the Irish language; and if the Presbyteries receiving such men on trials shall neglect the premises, and settle any in these circumstances in a congregation having only the English language, the Assembly certifies such Presbyteries that they shall be censured, and the person so settled shall be transportable to any Highland congregation that shall call him, and shall be liable to be sent as a supply to the Highlands, notwithstanding any such settlement; and the General Assembly does empower their Commission to, be named by them to receive complaints from any Presbytery or parish in the Highlands, who shall find themselves leased in this matter, and to put this present Act in execution in all points.
VI. Sess. 5, April 19, 1709, post meridiem.—Act and Recommendation for furthering the Design of propagating Christian Knowledge.
The General Assembly, taking into their serious consideration the instructions given by the last Assembly to their Commission, to give all due assistance and encouragement to any proposals to be made for propagating the knowledge of God and our Lord Jesus Christ in the North, the Highlands, and Islands, and foreign parts of the world; and that the said Assembly had appointed a Committee to receive in reports from Presbyteries of the advances made in the subscriptions for promoting the foresaid design, and to act and manage in that matter under the inspection and by the direction of the foresaid Commission; and the General Assembly having heard the report of the said Commission, that there are now very considerable advances made in the said subscriptions; and her Majesty having, by her royal proclamation, dated the 18th day of August last bypast, with the advice of her Privy Council, approven of and recommended the foresaid charitable design, and declared her resolution to grant her letters patent for erecting the subscribers into a society and corporation for managing that affair; and the General Assembly, considering that the glory of God, and the advancement of the kingdom of Christ, in the eternal salvation of the immortal souls of people, are deeply interested in this truly pious and glorious design, and that the zeal and forwardness of others, both in England and the United Provinces, in carrying on such a work, hath been blessed of God with wonderful and comfortable success; does, therefore, with all earnestness, beseech and exhort all the people of this National Church to contribute their best endeavours, in their stations, to promote this noble and excellent undertaking; and, particularly, that in zeal for the glory of God, and in pity and compassion toward many thousands in this Church and nation, especially in the Highlands and Islands, who live in barbarity and ignorance, and toward so great a part of the world as is this day perishing for lack of knowledge, they would cheerfully embrace this precious opportunity of honouring the Lord with their substance, and making to themselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness. And the Assembly does seriously recommend to the ministers and elders of this Church to go through their respective parishes on such days as the several Presbyteries shall appoint, and receive and collect subscriptions for or contributions of money from such persons whose hearts God shall incline thereunto; and that ministers take occasion, on a Sabbath before they begin this work, to read and intimate this act from the pulpit to their respective congregations, and to exhort, excite, and stir up their people to sub scribe or contribute, according to their ability, on this occasion. And the Assembly does hereby recommend to the several Presbyteries within this Church to be careful to promote the taking subscriptions and making collections for the end foresaid, within their respective bounds, so soon as conveniently can be; and where parishes are vacant, that they appoint some of their number to preach, and intimate this act, and join with the elders of such parishes, if any be, or with such of the heritors or parishioners as will assist in taking subscriptions and making collections as is above expressed; and that the several Presbyteries do, without delay, call for and take in reports from all the ministers within their bounds, containing a particular account of the subscribers, and sums subscribed for, and money collected in each parish, and send an extract thereof, subscribed by their moderator and clerk, to the Clerk of the Commission of this Assembly; and thereafter, upon advertisement from the said Commission, send in the principal subscriptions and money collected, to be delivered to any person whom the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge, when constituted, shall appoint to receive the same, upon his receipt thereof. And the General Assembly does hereby instruct and empower their Commission to be appointed by them, to promote by all proper means the foresaid glorious design of propagating Christian knowledge; and appoints the agents of the Church to dispatch printed copies of this act to all the Presbyteries of this Church, for the ends foresaid.
VII. Sess. 5, April 19, 1709, post meridiem.—Act concerning the Better Attendance of Members on the General Assembly.
The General Assembly, finding that some Presbyteries send not their full representation to General Assemblies, and that some commissioners from Presbyteries do not attend conform to their commissions, does, therefore, strictly enjoin all the Presbyteries of this Church to send their full representation to Assemblies; and that they make choice of such as are able to attend, and whom they have reason to believe will give due attendance: And with respect to such as are chosen commissioners to General Assemblies, who wholly absent themselves from the Assembly, the Clerk of the Assembly is hereby appointed to send their names to their several Presbyteries and Synods; and the Assembly ordains, that for the first fault they be censured by their Presbytery, and that the censure be recorded in their Presbytery books; and for the second fault, that they be censured by the Synod of their bounds, and the censure recorded in their Synod books; and that for the third fault they be suspended by their respective Synods or Presbyteries, conform to the Act, Session 27, ult. August 1647, entitled, "Act for censuring Absentees from the General Assembly." And in case it shall happen that any of the persons chosen to represent Presbyteries shall fall sick, or have any other lawful excuse for not attending the Assembly, the General Assembly appoints, that in due time they acquaint the moderator of their Presbytery therewith, and the moderator is hereby empowered to call a meeting of the Presbytery pro re nata, in order to make choice of other fit persons in their room; and if the Presbyteries or Synods shall find cause to sustain the excuses offered by their said commissioners, the Assembly ordains that what is offered by way of excuse be also recorded in their books; and as to such persons as shall withdraw from Assemblies before the dissolution thereof, the Clerk of the Assembly is ordained to send an account thereof to their Presbyteries, that they may, as they see cause, admonish them therefor.
VIII. April 25, 1709.—Act concerning a Fast.
The General Assembly, being sensible of the many evident signs of God's displeasure against this land, manifested by the unseasonableness of the weather, especially in seed-time, with the sad effects thereof in the present dearth and threatened scarcity, and the great loss of flocks and cattle in divers parts of the land, and by many spiritual plagues on all ranks, justly inflicted upon us by an holy and righteous God, for our great and manifold sins, committed against the clearest Gospel light, and most solemn engagements and deepest obligations to the contrary; and notwithstanding of the many signal mercies and remarkable deliverances that God hath been pleased to bless us with, the forgetting of which, and our unanswerableness thereto, is none of the least of our transgressions, does judge it necessary that a day be set apart for solemn prayer, fasting, and humiliation, before the Lord, for the causes above mentioned: And the General Assembly, finding it convenient at this time to refer it to the several Synods and Presbyteries, to name a day for this solemn duty, does ordain them, as soon as possible, to set apart a day for solemn public prayer, fasting, and humiliation, in all the churches within their respective bounds, upon the accounts foresaid: And the General Assembly recommends it to all the ministers of this Church to be most serious in holding forth to their people on that occasion the heinous sins of this land, both of the former and present time, and for their direction therein, they are hereby referred to the causes of former public fasts, especially in the years 1690, 1700, and 1701; and to exhort all ranks of persons to flee to Christ for peace and pardon, and to unfeigned repentance, thorough reformation, and fervent prayer to God, that he would be graciously pleased to pour out the Spirit from on high upon persons of all ranks, bless his ordinances with more success, remove all our distempers, heal our breaches, defeat all designs tending to the disturbing of the public peace, either by foreign invasion or intestine broils in favour of a Popish Pretender; that he would preserve and bless the person of our gracious sovereign the Queen, direct her councils, and favour her forces by sea and land with success, so as that this long, bloody, and expensive war, may issue in such a peace as shall be for the interest of the reformed religion, and for the relief and restitution of distressed Protestants in France and elsewhere, and of the just liberties of Europe, that he would bless the season, and crown the year with his goodness. And the Assembly ordains these presents to be read by all the ministers of this Church, from their pulpits, upon the Lord's Day before the day appointed by their respective Synods or Presbyteries for the observation of this fast; and for this end, that these presents be printed, that copies thereof may be in readiness for the commissioners from the several Presbyteries to take along with them.
IX. Sess. 12, April 26, 1709, ante meridiem.—Commission to some Ministers and Ruling Elders, for discussing several Affairs referred to them.
The General Assembly, taking into their consideration that there are several weighty affairs which they cannot overtake, does, therefore, nominate and appoint their reverend brethren, Messrs Thomas Vernour at Balmaclellan, &c., &c., to be commissioners of this Assembly to the effect 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 fifteen are always to be ministers, to meet and convene within the Assembly-House here at Edinburgh, the first day after the dissolution of this Assembly, at ten o'clock in the forenoon; and afterwards, the first Wednesdays of August and January next, and oftener, when and where they shall think needful and convenient, with power to the said commissioners to choose their own moderator. And suchlike, the General Assembly fully empowers and authorises their said commissioners, or their quorum above mentioned, to cognosce and finally determine as they shall see cause, in every matter referred or that shall be referred to them by any act or order of this Assembly, except it be otherwise restricted, and to do everything contained in and conform to the instructions to be given them by this Assembly, and to advert unto the interest of the Church on every occasion, that the Church, and present establishment thereof, do not suffer or sustain any prejudice which they can prevent, as they will be answerable; providing this general clause be not extended to particular affairs or processes before Presbyteries or Synods, that may not be of universal concern to or influence upon this whole Church: And the said commissioners are hereby strictly prohibited and discharged to meddle in any other matters than what are committed or referred to them as above mentioned; and in all their actings they are to proceed according to the acts and constitutions of this Church, and do nothing contrary thereto, or to the prejudice of the same; declaring, that in and for all their actings they shall be accountable to and censurable by the next General Assembly as they shall see cause, and this Commission is to continue and endure till the next General Assembly, and members are required to attend the diets of the said Commission, and absentees therefrom ordered to be noticed, according to the 17th Act of the General Assembly, 1706; and for the better securing of a quorum and attendance of members on the Commission, the General Assembly prohibits the Presbytery of Edinburgh, and other Presbyteries within twelve miles thereof, to meet any of the days or weeks appointed for the meetings of the Commission; and such of the members of these Presbyteries as are of the Commission are required all of them to give punctual attendance on the diets thereof, and Presbyteries at a greater distance, who have four or more members on the Commission, are to take care that at least two of them attend each diet of the Commission.
X. April 26, 1709.—Instructions to the Commission of the General Assembly.
1. That the 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, and abuses, and disorders, committed contrary to the established doctrine, worship, discipline, and Presbyterian government of this Church, the contempt of the censures of the judicatories thereof inflicted on scandalous persons; and that they assist Presbyteries and Synods in planting vacancies as they shall be applied to by them.
2. That when any of the ministers who served under the late prelacy, whose lives and doctrine may render them useful to this Church, shall apply for reception unto a share of the government thereof, the General Assembly do hereby empower and recommend to their Commission to receive them, according to the thirteenth paragraph of the 16th Act of the General Assembly, anno 1697, and that the foresaid Commission be careful to get due information from the Presbyteries where these persons applying did or do officiate, and for the time reside.
3. That the said Commission use their utmost diligence for getting payment of the money gifted by the Queen's Majesty for defraying the public charges of the Church, and in disposing thereof, they are to take care that the public debts of the Church be first paid, according to an act passed in this Assembly thereanent, and to the instructions given to the Commission of the General Assembly, anno 1706, which are hereby renewed; and that the encouragement granted by the General Assembly, anno 1699, to ministers and probationers who go North, or to the Highlands and Islands, to preach, be rendered effectual; and likewise, that the said Commission cause defray the extraordinary charges and expenses that Presbyteries and ministers have been at, particularly in these places, in carrying on the planting of Churches and other public affairs of the Church there.
4. And the foresaid Commission is hereby empowered to cognosce and finally determine in all references already made or to be made to them by this Assembly; and in references and appeals for transporting ministers to the North, the Highlands and Islands, which shall be brought before them, according to the overtures made thereanent, anno 1699; and that transportations to any parishes in these places, whether privileged by former acts of Assembly or not, be carried on, and that in the most expeditious way, providing that the Commission do not meddle with sentences of Synods, excepting causes particularly referred to them.
6. The said Commission is empowered to give all due advice and assistance to any proposals that may be made to them about endeavours for reformation of manners, for the effectual curbing and suppressing of profaneness and vice.
8. The Commission is appointed to take special care to keep and maintain unity in the Church upon all emergencies, especially among the ministers thereof, and to gain such as separate therefrom, and to suppress error and schism in this Church, and prosecute the authors and spreaders of books and pamphlets tending thereto, as is by another act recommended to Presbyteries; and to take notice how any who have been censured by preceding Assemblies, or Commissions thereof, have carried, and to proceed to further censure, as the said Commission shall see cause. And further, the General Assembly does hereby renew the first paragraph of the 18th act of the General Assembly, 1706, concerning schism and disorders, and appoints the same to stand as an instruction to this Commission; and that they take notice of what misrepresentations may be made, either at home or abroad, of the doctrine, worship, or constitution of this Church, and that they take all decent and proper methods for the vindication thereof.
9. That the Commission endeavour to make effectual whatever hath been by this and preceding Assemblies agreed upon concerning the erecting of schools in the North, the Highlands, and Islands, and what else may tend to the advancement of religion and reformation in these places, as also to give all due assistance and encouragement to any proposals that may be made for propagating the knowledge of God, and our Lord Jesus Christ, in these and foreign parts of the world, and to apply to and correspond with the Lords of Council and Session about this design; and, if need be, to address her Majesty thereanent; and to write to Presbyteries from time to time to excite charitable persons in their bounds to contribute towards that design, and to correspond with the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge, when the same shall be established, in order to advance the said pious design; and Presbyteries are appointed to return accounts of their diligence in that matter to the said Commission. And further, it is referred to the Commission to use their endeavours for putting in execution the fifth Act of the Assembly, 1707, entitled, "Act anent a School in every Parish, and a Contribution thereanent;" as also the eighth Act of that same Assembly, entitled, "Act for Suppressing of Popery, and Preventing the Growth thereof;" and likewise the fifteenth Act of that same Assembly, entitled, "Act against Innovations in the Worship of God."
10. That the Commission have a special respect, so far as the present circumstances require, to the ninth Act of the General Assembly, 1703, concerning the Planting of Vacant Churches in the North, the Highlands, and Islands, and supplying thereof with ministers and probationers; and the Commission is hereby empowered to proceed according to the said Act, in so far as they shall find it needful.
11. That the said Commission receive and consider any representations or references that shall be made to them by Presbyteries and others concerned, about large and spacious parishes, and use all means proper for them for obtaining and rendering effectual, and preserving new erections in such parishes, or stipends to collegiate ministers thereto.
12. Seeing there is not a full report made to this Assembly concerning the libraries, Irish Bibles, Psalm-Books, and Catechisms, and about the state of the Church in the Highlands and Islands, and the remaining idolatrous Pagan and Popish superstitious customs in some places there, the General Assembly recommends to this Commission to prosecute the instructions given thereanent by the General Assembly, anno 1706, to their Commission, and to use all means in their power for extirpating these idolatrous and superstitious practices; and to take care that the charges of any who have been employed about the same be reimbursed out of the money given by her Majesty for these ends.
13. The General Assembly hereby empowers their Commission to give all due assistance to the several Universities and Colleges, when any minister is called to any office therein, and to receive appeals and references, and finally to determine in the same.
XI. Sess. 12, April 26, 1709, ante meridiem.—Act for erecting Public Libraries in Presbyteries.
The General Assembly, considering how much it might tend to the advancement of learning, that public libraries were settled, at least one in every Presbytery, and many pious and charitably inclined persons having contributed toward that good design; and the Assembly being desirous to encourage and promote the same, does hereby earnestly recommend it to such of the Presbyteries of this Church as have not received any of the books sent for that end from England, to contribute amongst themselves, in order to lay a foundation for a library at each Presbytery seat; and also endeavour to procure collections in their several parishes, of more or less, according as their parishioners are able and willing to give and bestow for that end; and the General Assembly refers it to their Commission to use all endeavours to forward the execution of what is hereby recommended; and Presbyteries who have got a share of these libraries are desired to send accounts to the Commission of their receipt of them, where they are fixed, how they have observed the rules sent with these libraries, and what improvements they are making of them, and other things relating to the said libraries, enjoined to them by acts of former Assemblies and their Commissions.
XII. Sess. 12, April 26, 1709.—Act against Bourignionism.
The General Assembly, understanding that the dangerous errors of Bourignionism, already condemned by this Church, do, notwithstanding, abound in some places of this nation; does, therefore, earnestly recommend it to Presbyteries to use all effectual means to prevent the spreading of these and other errors, as is enjoined by the 10th Act of the General Assembly, held anno 1701, and other acts therein mentioned; and, further, does hereby instruct their Commission to use all suitable endeavours for that purpose; and, particularly, if there be any meetings of such as are tainted with these errors, that care be taken to suppress the same.
XIII. Sess. 13, April 26, 1709, post meridiem.—Act concerning the Larger Overtures about the Method of Procedure in Church Judicatories, and other Overtures mentioned in the 13th, 14th, and 16th Acts of the General Assembly, 1708.
The General Assembly, finding that many Presbyteries have not as yet returned their opinions as to the overtures and recommendation concerning probationers and intrants to the holy ministry, and the recommendation concerning competing calls, contained in the 13th and 14th Acts of the last Assembly, nor their remarks upon the larger overtures, concerning the method of procedure in ecclesiastical judicatories, which were transmitted to them by former General Assemblies; does hereby, of new, require and enjoin the several Presbyteries forthwith to take under their consideration the said larger overtures, especially the Second Chapter, Sections first, second, third, fourth, fifth, and ninth thereof; and Chapter Third, Sections first, se cond, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, twelfth, and thirteenth of that Chapter; and also the said other overtures and recommendations, and send in their opinions about the same to the Commission of this Assembly, against their meeting in August next; and the General Assembly recommends it to Presbyteries to take the methods which they shall judge most effectual, either by appointing diets in hunc effectum, or committees, to consider the said overtures, and report to the Presbyteries: and, to the end that the Assembly may be in the better case to consider these and other things of importance that may come before them, the General Assembly recommends it to Presbyteries to choose the wisest and most grave and experienced of their number to represent them in the next Assembly.
XIV. Sess. ult., April 27, 1709.—Act concerning Bursaries.
The General Assembly, having inquired how Synods and Presbyteries have obeyed what is enjoined by the 13th Act of the General Assembly, held anno 1704, entitled, "Act for bestowing Bursaries upon Students having Irish;" and, finding that some Synods and Presbyteries have been deficient in that matter, and judging it needful to continue the said act for some time, did, and hereby do, enjoin the several Presbyteries yet to collect and pay in their proportions of money for maintaining bursars in manner prescribed by the said act for bygone years; and Synods are appointed to see this done, and to record their diligence in this matter in their books, and bring an account thereof to the next General Assembly; and the General Assembly renews and revives the said act, and appoints the same to stand and be in force until the next Assembly; and, in the meantime, refers it to their Commission to think upon and prepare some overtures for the right application and management of the foresaid bursaries for the future, and report the same to the next General Assembly.
XV. Sess. ult., April 27, 1709.—Act concerning Ministers deposed or suspended, and Probationers silenced.
The General Assembly, considering that Church judicatories and congregations are and may be imposed upon by ministers deposed or suspended, and probationers whose licences are taken from them and declared null, for irregularities and misdemeanours, to the great prejudice of the interests of religion; does, therefore, appoint the several Synods and Presbyteries of this Church to send accounts from time to time to the Clerk of the General Assembly, of all ministers who are or shall be deposed or suspended, and probationers who are or shall be silenced by them: And the clerk is hereby ordered to lay the same before the General Assembly, or Commission thereof, at their first meeting after it comes to his hand, that due and proper methods may be used to make the same publicly known to all concerned.