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 Generall Assembly, holden at St Andrews and Edinburgh, 1641.
Sess. 1, July 20, 1641.
John Earle of Weymes, his Majestie's Commissioner, presented his Majestie's Letter to the Assembly, whereof the tenor followeth:—
Trustie And Welbeloved, Wee great you well. It is no small part of our royall care and desires, that the true reformed religion, wherein by the grace of God wee resolve to live and dye, be settled peaceably in that our ancient and native kingdome of Scotland, and that the same be truly taught, and universally received and prosessed by our subjects there of all degrees. For preventing of all division and trouble hereafter, wee did intend in our own royall person to have been present at this Assembly, but conceiving it to be unfitting to detaine the ministers from their particular charges till the time of our coming to the Parliament, we have resolved to make knowne unto you by these, and by our Commissioner, that in the approching Parliament it is our intention, by our authority to ratifie and confirm the Constitutions of the late Assembly at Edinburgh, that they may be obeyed by all our subjects living in that our kingdome; and that we will take into our royall consideration by what meanes the churches belonging to our presentation, when any of them shall happen to vaik, may be best provided with well qualified preachers: Like as we are not unwilling to grant presentations unto such as in these times of trouble have entred into the ministerie, providing they have been examined by the Presbyteries, and approved by them. Because we want not our own feares of the decay of learning in that Church and kingdome, we intend also to consider of the best meanes for helping the schooles and colledges of learning, especially of divinity, that there may by such a number of preachers there, as that each parish having a minister, and the Gospel being preached in the most remote parts of the kingdome, all our subjects may taste of our care in that kinde, and have more and more cause to blesse God that we are set over them. And, finally, so tender is our care, that it shall not be our fault if the churches and colledges there flourish not in learning and religion; for which royall testimonie of our goodnesse, we require nothing upon your part but that which God hath bound you unto, even that you be faithfull in the charge committed unto you, and care for the soules of the people; that you study peace and unity amongst yourselves and amongst the people, against all schisme and faction; and that you not only pray for us, but that you teach the people, which we trust are not unwilling to pay that honour and obedience which they owe unto us, as his Vicegerent set over them for their good; wherein we expect you will by your example goe before them. Which hoping you will doe, wee bid you farewell. From our Court at Whitehall, the 10th day of July 1641.
Sess. 3, July 28, 1641.—Act approving the Overtures of the Assembly at Aberdene, for ordering the Assembly-House.
The overtures for ordering the Assembly-house, given in to and approved by the Assembly of Aberdene, the 29th July 1640, Act Sess. 2, were openly read, and again approved by this Assembly, and ordained to be kept the whole time thereof.
Sess. 5, July 30, 1641.—Act anent old Ministers bruiking their Benefices.
The Assembly having considered the supplication given in by Doctor Robert Howie, Provest of the New Colledge of St Andrews, whereby he craved that (notwithstanding of his dismission of his charge) he should not be prejudged of his full provision and maintenance during his life time, the Assembly thinks it fit and necessary that his provision and maintenance should not be diminished, but that he should injoy the same fully, as of before, during all the dayes of his lifetime, and craveth his dismission to be only but a cessation from his charge, because of his age and inability; and declares that old ministers and professors of divinity shall not, by their cessation from their charge through age and inabilitie, be put from injoying their old maintenance and dignity. And recommends this and others the like things, concerning the estate of that Universitie of St Andrews, to the Parliament, and the visitation to be appointed from the Assembly and Parliament. And likewise, the Assembly being informed that the said Doctor Howie hath been very painfull in his charge, and that he hath divers papers which would be very profitable for the Kirk, therefore, they think fit that the said Doctor Howie be desired to collect these papers which doeth concerne and may be profitable for the use of the Kirk, that the samine may be showne to the visitors of the said Universitie.
Sess. 8, August 2, 1641, à meridie.—Act against sudden receiving Ministers deposed.
The Assembly ordaines, That ministers who are deposed either by Presbyteries, Synods, or Generall Assemblies, or committees from Assemblies, for the publike cause of the reformation and order of this Kirk, shall not be suddenly received againe to the ministerie, till they first evidence their repentance both before the Presbyterie and Synod within the bounds where they were deposed, and thereafter the samine reported to the next ensuing Generall Assembly.
Sess. 9, August 3, 1641.
The Overtures underwritten, concerning the Universities and Colledges, of this kingdome, to be represented by the Generall Assembly to the King's Majesty and Parliament, being openly read, the Assembly approved the said Overtures, and ordained them to be recommended to the Parliament.
First, Because the good estate both of the Kirk and Commonwealth dependeth mainly upon the flourishing of Universities and Colledges, as the seminaries of both, which cannot be expected unlesse the poore meanes which they have be helped, and sufficient revenues be provided for them, and the same well imployed: Therefore, that out of the rents of prelacies, collegiat or chapter-kirks, or such like, a sufficient maintenance be provided for a competent number of professors, teachers, and bursers in all faculties, and especially in divinitie, and for upholding, repairing, and enlarging the fabrick of the colledges, furnishing libraries, and suchlike good uses, in every universitie and colledge.
II. Next, for keeping of good order, preveening and removing of abuses, and promoving of pietie and learning, it is very needfull and expedient that there be a communion and correspondencie kept betwixt all the universities and colledges; and, therefore, that it be ordained that there be a meeting once every year, at such times and places as shall be agreed upon, of commissioners from every university and colledge, to consult and determine upon the common affairs, and whatsoever may concerne them, for the ends above specified, and who also, or some of their number, may represent what shall be needfull and expedient for the same effect to Parliaments and Generall Assemblies.
III. Item, That speciall care be had that the places of the professors, especially of professors of divinity, in every university and colledge, be filled with the ablest men, and best affected to the Reformation and order of this Kirk.
Sess. 10, August 4, 1641.—Act against Impietie and Schisme.
The Assembly, seriously considering the present case and condition of this Kirk and Kingdom, what great things the Lord hath done for us, especially since the renewing of our Covenant, notwithstanding our former backsliding and desertion; and if we shall either become remisse in the duties of piety, or shall not constantly hold and keep our religion, unto which we have bound our selves so straitly and solemnly, what dishonour we doe unto the name of God before men, who have their eyes upon us, and how great judgements we bring upon ourselves: Upon these and the like considerations, the Assembly doth finde it most necessary to stirre up themselves, and to provoke all others, both ministers and people, of all degrees, not only to the religious exercise of publike worship in the congregation, and of private worship in their families, and of every one by themselves apart, but also to the duties of mutuall edification, by instruction, admonition, exhorting one another to forwardnesse in religion, and comforting one another in whatsoever distresse; and that in all their meetings, whether in the way of civill conversation, or by reason of their particular callings, or any other occasion offered by divine providence, no corrupt communication proceed out of their mouth, but that which is good, to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers: And because the best means have been, and may still be despised or abused, and particularly the duetie of mutuall edification, which hath been so little in use, and so few know how to practise in the right manner, may be, upon the one part, subject to the mocking of ungodly and wordly men, who cannot endure that in others which they are not willing to practise themselves, and, upon the other part, to many errors and abuses, to which the godly through their weaknes may fall, or by craftinesse of others may be drawn into, such as are error, heresie, schisme, scandall, self-conceit, and despising of others, pressing above the common calling of Christians, and usurping that which is proper to the pastoral vocation, contempt or misregard of the publike means, idle and unprofitable questions, which edifie not, uncharitable censurings, neglect of duties in particular callings, businesse in other men's matters and callings, and many such others, in doctrine, charity, and manners, which have dolefully rent the bowels of other kirks, to the great prejudice of the Gospel.
Therefore, the Assembly, moved with the zeal of God against all abuses and corruptions, and according to their manifold obligations, most earnestly desiring and thirsting to promove the work of Reformation, and to have the comfort and power of true godlinesse sensible to every soul, and religion to be universally practised in every family, and by every person, at all occasions, doth charge all the ministers and members of this Kirk whom they doe represent, that according to their severall places and vocations, they endeavour to suppresse all impiety and mocking of religious exercises, especially of such as put foule aspersions, and factious or odious names upon the godly. And, upon the other part, that in the fear of God they be aware and spiritually wise, that under the name and pretext of religious exercises, otherwayes lawfull and necessary, they fall not into the foresaid abuses; especially, that they eschew all meetings which are apt to breed error, scandall, schisme, neglect of dueties and particular callings, and such other evills as are the works not of the Spirit but of the flesh, and are contrary to truth and peace; and that the Presbyteries and Synods have a care to take order with such as transgresse the one way or the other.
Sess. 14, August 6, 1641, à meridie.—Act anent Novations.
Since it hath pleased God to vouchsafe us the libertie of yearly Generall Assemblies, It is ordained, according to the Acts of the Assembly at Edinburgh, 1639, and at Aberdene, 1640, that no novation in doctrine, worship, or government, be brought in or practised in this Kirk, unlesse it be first propounded, examined, and allowed in the Generall Assembly; and that transgressors in this kinde be censured by Presbyteries and Synods.
Act Sess. 15, August 7, 1641.—Overtures anent Bursars and Expectants.
The Overtures underwritten, being openly read in audience of the Assembly, were approved, and declared by them to be Acts of the Assembly in all time coming to be observed respective, as the samine bears.
I. The Assembly thinks meet, for maintaining of bursars of divintie, that every Presbyterie that consists of twelve ministers shall maintain a bursar; and where the number is fewer nor twelve, shall be joyned with these out of another Presbyterie where their number exceeds. Where this course is not already kept it is to be begun without longer delay; and every Provinciall is ordained to give an accompt of their number of bursars that is constantly to be entertained by their province, at the next ensuing Generall Assembly.
II. No expectant shall be permitted to preach in publike before a congregation till first he be tryed after the same manner, howbeit not altogether with that accuracie which is injoyned by the act of the Assembly at Glasgow, 1638, which prescribes the order and manner of tryall that is to be kept with these who are to be admitted to the holy ministries; and none so tryed shall preach in publike without the bounds of the University or Presbyterie where he past his tryalls, till he first make it known to the other Presbyteries where he desires to be heard, by a testimoniall from the Universitie or Presbyterie where he lived, that he hath been of an honest conversation, and past his tryalls conform to the order here prescribed: Which being done in the meeting of the Province or Presbyterie where he desires to be heard, he is to be allowed by them to preach within the bounds of that Province or Presbyterie, without any further tryall to be taken of him.
III. Expectants being educate in a colledge that was corrupt, or under a corrupt minister, if they themselves have been known to have been tainted with error, or opposite to our Covenant and the blessed work of Reformation within this Kirk, the same order is to be kept in admitting them to the holy ministry, or to any place in the colledges or schooles of this kingdome, that was ordained to be kept in admission of these ministers who fled out of the countrey, and shew themselves opposite to our Covenant and Reformation.
Act Sess. 17, August 9, 1641.— Act against unlawfull Bands.
The Assembly, taking to their consideration the question proponed unto them concerning the Band, the copy whereof was presented before them from the Parliament, doth find and declare, that Bands of this and the like nature may not lawfully be made. By which declaration the Assembly doth not intend to bring any censure for what is past, and by the wisedome and care of the Committee of the Parliament is taken away, upon any person, who being required by the Moderator and the Clerk, shall, under his hand, declare before them, That as the Assembly doth finde that the subscribers are not astricted by their oath to the tenor of the said Band, so he findeth himself not to be astricted by his oath to the tenor thereof; but the intention of the Assembly is meerly to prevent the like in time coming.
Sess. 18, August 9, 1641, à meridie.— A Letter from some Ministers in England to the Assemblie.
Right Reverend and dear Brethren, now conveened in this Generall Assembly' Wee most heartily salute you in the Lord, rejoycing with you in his unspeakable goodnesse, so miraculously prospering your late endeavours, both for the restoring and settling of your own liberties and priviledges, in Church and common wealth, (which we heare and hope he is now about to accomplish,) as also for the occasioning and advancing of the worke of reformation among ourselves; for which, as we daily blesse the highest Lord, sole Author of all our good, so doe we acknowledge your selves worthy instruments thereof. And for that (besides all other respects) doe, and ever shall, (by the help of God,) hold you deare unto us, as our own bowels, and our selves obliged to render unto you all due correspondence according to our power, upon all good occasions.
And now, (deare Brethren,) forasmuch as the Church of Christ is but one body,
each part whereof cannot but partake in the weale and woe of the whole, and of
each other part; and these Churches of England and Scotland may seem both to
be imbarqued in the same bottome, to sink and swim together, and are so near conjoyned by many strong tyes, not only as fellow-members under the same Head
Christ, and felow-subjects under the same King; but also by such neighbourhood
and vicinity of place, that if any evill shall much infest the one, the other cannot
bee altogether free; or if for the present it should, yet in processe of time it would
sensibly suffer also. And forasmuch as evills are better remedied in their first begining then after they have once taken deep root; therefore, we, whose names are
here under-written, in the behalf of our selves, and of many others, Ministers of the
Church of England, are bold to commend to your consideration (being met together
in this venerable Assembly) a difference of great concernment, which you may please
(in brief) thus to understand. Almighty God having now, of his infinite goodnesse,
raised up our hopes of removing the yoke of Episcopacie, (under which we have so
long groaned,) sundry other forms of Church-government are by sundry sorts of men
projected to be set up in the roome thereof; one of which, (amongst others,) is of
some Brethren that hold the whole power of Church-government, and all acts thereunto appertaining, (as election, ordination, and deposition of officers, with admission, excommunication, and absolution of members,) are, by Divine ordinance, in
foro externo, to be decreed by the most voyces, in and of every particular congregation, which (say they) is the utmost bound of a particular Church, endued with
power of government, and only some formalities of solemne execution to be reserved
to the officers, (as servants of the saids Church,) if they have any, or if none, then
to be performed by some other members, not in office, whom the said Church shall
appoint thereunto: And that every of the said particular congregations (whether
they consist of few or many members, and be furnished with officers or not) lawfully may and ought to transact, determine, and execute all matters pertaining to
the government of themselves, amongst and within themselves, without any authoritative (though not consulatory) concurrence or interposition of any other persons or
churches whatsoever, condemning all imperative and decisive power of classes, or
compound Presbyteries and Synods, as a meere usurpation. Now, because we conceive that your judgment in this case may conduce much, by the blessing of God,
to the settling of this question amongst us; therefore, we doe earnestly intreat the
same at your hands, and that so much the rather, because we sometimes hear from
those of the aforesaid judgment, that some famous and eminent brethren, even
amongst your selves, doe somewhat encline unto an approbation of that way of government. Thus humbly craving pardon for our boldnesse, leaving the matter to
your grave considerations, and expecting answer at your convenient leasure, we commit you, and the successe of this your meeting, to the blessing of the Almighty,
in whom we shall ever remain,
Your faithfull Brethren, to serve you in all offices of love.
London, July 12, 1641.
The Assemblie's Answer to the English Ministers' Letter. (fn. 1)
Right Reverend and dearly beloved Brethren in our Lord and common
Saviour Jesus Christ,
Wee, the Ministers and Elders met together in this Nationall Assembly, were not a little refreshed and comforted by the good report which we heard of you, and others of our Brethren of the Kirk of England, by some of our Ministers, who, by the good providence of our Lord, had seen your faces, and conversed with you. But now yet more comforted by your letters which we received, and which were read in the face of the Assembly, witnessing your Christian love, and rejoycing with us in God, for his great and wonderfull work in the reformation of this Kirk, and in the beginning of a blessed reformation amongst your selves, and that you are so sensible of your communion and fellowship with us, and to desire to know our minde and judgement of that which some Brethren amongst you hold concerning Kirk-government.
We doe with our hearts acknowledge and wonder at the great and unspeakable wysedome, mercie, and power of our God, in restoring unto us the truth and puritie of religion, after many backslidings and defection of some in this Kirk, and desire not only to confesse the same before the world, and all other Christian kirkes, but also doe pray for grace to walk worthy of so wonderfull a love; we have been helped by your prayers, in our weak endeavours, and you have mourned with us (we know) in the dayes of our mourning; and therefore is it that you doe now rejoyce and praise God with us. Neither are we out of hope, but the same God shall speedily perfect that which he hath begun amongst you, that your joy may be full; which is the desire of our soule, and for which we doe now pray, and in our severall congregations will be instant at the throne of grace, for this and all other spirituall and temporall blessings upon the Kirk and kingdome of England, by name, expecting the like performance of mutuall love from you, and others equally minded with you, for your parts, till a common consent may be obtained, even that you will recommend the Kirk of Scotland by name in your prayers to God. Thus shall we be as one people, mourning and rejoycing, praying and praising together; which may be one meane of the preservation of unity, and of many other blessings to us both.
We have learned by long experience, ever since the time of Reformation, and specially after the two kingdomes have been (in the great goodnesse of God to both) united under one Head and Monarch, but most of all late, which is not unknown to you, what danger and contagion in matters of Kirk-government, of divine worship, and of doctrine, may come from the one Kirk to the other, which, beside all other reasons, make us to pray to God, and to desire you, and all that love the honour of Christ, and the peace of these Kirks and kingdomes, heartily to endeavour, that there might be in both Kirks one Confession, one Directory for publike worship, one Catechisme, and one Forme of Kirk-government. And if the Lord, who hath done great things for us, shall be pleased to hearken unto our desires, and to accept of our endeavours, we shall not only have a sure foundation for a durable peace, but shall be strong in God, against the rising or spreading of heresie and schisme amongst our selves, and of invasion from forraine enemies.
Concerning the different formes of Kirk-government, projected by sundrie sorts of men, to be set up in place of Episcopall hierarchie, which we trust is brought near unto its period, we must confesse, that we are not a little grieved that any godly ministers and brethren should be found, who doe not agree with other reformed Kirks in the point of government, as well as in the matter of doctrine and worship; and that we want not our own feares, that where the hedge of Discipline and Government is different, the doctrine and worship shall not long continue the same without change: yet doe not marvel much, that particular Kirks and Congregations which live in such places, as that they can conveniently have no dependencie upon superiour Assemblies, should stand for a kind of independencie and suprema cie in themselves, they not considering that in a nation or kingdome, professing the same religion, the government of the Kirk by compound Presbyteries and Synods is a help and strength, and not a hinderance or prejudice, to particular Congregations and Elderships, in all the parts of Kirk-government; and that Presbyteries and Synods are not an extrinsecall power set over particular Kirks, like unto Episcopall dominion, they being no more to be reputed extrinsecall unto the particular Kirks, nor the power of a Parliament, or Convention of Estates, where the shires and cities have their own delegates, is to be held extrinsecall to any particular shire or city.
Our unanimous judgement and uniforme practice is, that, according to the order of the reformed Kirks, and the ordinance of God in his Word, not onely the solemne execution of Ecclesiasticall power and authoritie, but the whole acts and exercise thereof, do properly belong unto the officers of the Kirk; yet so that in matters of chiefest importance, the tacite consent of the congregation be had, before their decrees and sentences receive finall execution, and that the officers of a particular congregation may not exercise this power independently, but with subordination unto greater Presbyteries and Synods, Provinciall and Nationall; which, as they are representative of the particular Kirks conjoyned together in one under their government; so their determination, when they proceed orderly, whether in causes common to all or many of the Kirks, or in causes brought before them by appellations or references from the inferiour, in the case of aberation of the inferiour, is to the severall congregations authoritative and obligatorie, and not consultatory only. And this dependencie and subordination we conceive not only to be warranted by the light of nature, which doth direct the Kirk in such things as are common to other societies, or to be a prudentiall way for reformation, and for the preservation of truth and peace, against schisme, heresie, and tyranny, which is the sweet fruits of this government wheresoever it hath place, and which we have found in ancient and late experience, but also to be grounded upon the Word of God, and to be conforme to the paterne of the Primitive and Apostolicall Kirks; and without which, neither could the Kirks in this kingdome have been reformed, nor were we able for any time to preserve truth and unity amongst us.
In this forme of Kirk-government, our unanimity and harmony, by the mercy of
God, is so full and perfect, that all the members of this Assembly have declared
themselves to be of one heart, and of one soule, and to be no lesse perswaded
that it is of God, then that Episcopall government is of men; resolving, by the
grace of God, to hold the same constantly all the dayes of our life, and heartily wishing that God would blesse all the Christian Kirks, especially the famous Kirk of
England, unto which in all other respects we are so nearly joyned with this divine
forme of government. Thus having briefly and plainly given our judgement for
your satisfaction, and desiring and hoping that ye will beleeve against all mis-reports, that we know not so much as one man, more or lesse eminent amongst us,
of a different judgement, we commend you unto the riches of the grace of Christ,
who will perfect that which he hath begun amongst you, to your unspeakable comfort. Subscribed by our Moderator and Clerk.
Edinburgh, August 9, 1641.
The Assemblie's Answer to the King's Majestie's Letter. (fn. 2)
Most gracious Soveraign,
Beside the conscience of that duetie which we owe to supreme authority, we are not only encouraged, but confirmed by the royall favour and princely munificence, expressed in your gracious Majestie's letters, which filled our hearts with joy, and our mouths with praise, to offer up our prayers with the greater fervencie to God Almightie for your Majestie's happinesse, our selves for our own parts, and for the whole Kirks of this your Majestie's kingdome, which we doe represent, to serve your Majestie in all humble obedience, our faithfull labours for preserving trueth and peace amongst all your Majestie's subjects, and our example (according to your Majestie's just commandments laid upon us) to be a presedent to others in paying that honour, which by all lawes, divine and humane, is due unto your sacred Majestie, being confident that your Majestie shall finde at your coming hither much more satisfaction and content then can be expressed by
Your Majestie's most humble subjects and faithful servants, the Ministers and Elders, met together in the venerable Assembly at St Andrews, July 20, and Edinburgh, July 27, 1641.
Act anent the Kirk of Campheir.
The which day a motion was made in the Assembly, that it seemed expedient for correspondencie that might be had from forraigne parts, for the weal of this Kirk, that the Scots Kirk at Campheir were joyned to the Kirk of Scotland, as a member thereof: which being seriously thought upon and considered by the Assembly, they approved the motion, and ordained Mr Robert Baillie, Minister at Cilwinning, to write to Mr William Spang, Minister at Campheir, and Kirk-Session thereof, willing them to send their minister, and a ruling elder, instructed with a commission to the next Generall Assembly to be holden at St Andrews, the last Wednesday of July 1642, at which time they should be inrolled in the books of the Generall Assembly, as Commissioners of the Generall Assembly of Scotland from the Scots Kirk at Campheir.
The Assembly appoints the next Generall Assembly to be holden at St Andrews, the last Wednesday of July next, 1642.