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, May 4 1715.
I. Sess. 1, May 4, 1715.—The King's Commission to John Earl of Rothes produced, and ordered to be Recorded.
The General Assembly of the ministers and ruling elders of this national Church, being convened and constituted, there was produced to them by the Right Honourable John Earl of Rothes his Majesty's Commission, sealed with the seal appointed by the Treaty of Union betwixt the two kingdoms of Scotland and England to be kept and used in Scotland in place of the Great Seal of Scotland, appointing him his Majesty's High Commissioner and Representative in this National Assembly; which Commission being publicly read with all due honour and respect, the General Assembly ordered the same to be recorded in their Registers, ad futuram rei memoriam, the tenor whereof follows:—
II. May 4, 1715.—The King's most gracious Letter to the General Assembly, them by his Majesty's Commissioner.
Right Reverend and well-beloved, we greet you well. We are so well satisfied with the proofs the Church of Scotland have given of their steady adherence to the Protestant succession in our family, the loyalty and affection they have shown to our person and government, and their constant zeal for the Protestant interest, that we very willingly countenance with our authority this first Assembly of our reign. We have made choice of our right trusty and entirely beloved cousin, John Earl of Rothes, to be our Commissioner, and to represent our royal person in this Assembly, believing that none can be more acceptable to you than he, who, upon all occasions, has eminently distinguished himself for the interest of the Protestant succession and of the established Church of Scotland. We cheerfully embrace this opportunity of assuring you that we will inviolably maintain the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, her rights and privileges, as we engaged to do upon our accession to the crown, and will protect her from any illegal insults and encroachments being made upon her of what kind soever.
Nothing can be more acceptable to us than the promoting of true piety, suppressing of vice and immorality, and preventing the growth of Popery, as we have declared in our royal proclamation; and we doubt not but you, on your parts, will do every thing that can contribute thereto.
We earnestly wish that the vacant churches may be supplied with men of learning and probity; and we recommend to you to take effectual care, on your parts, to do every thing that may tend to so good and pious an end; and, in all your actings, to study unanimity and charity, and make our people sensible of the blessings they enjoy, and of the bad consequences any kind of divisions would have to the present tranquillity as well as to their future happiness.
We have had such satisfactory accounts of your former good conduct, us gives us full confidence that you will act in such a manner as we shall have reason to be satisfied with you. So we bid you heartily farewell.
III. May 6, 1715.—The General Assembly's Answer to the King's most gracious Letter.
May it please your Majesty,
It was with a particular joy and satisfaction that we received the gracious letter with which your Majesty was pleased to honour us. We esteemed your peaceable accession to the throne of these nations, upon the demise of our late Sovereign Queen Anne, so great a blessing, that we were fervent in our prayers to God for it; and we can never be thankful enough for the merciful return he hath given to our requests; for it is to your Majesty, under God, we owe the preservation both of our holy religion and our valuable civil liberties; and we must have been betrayers of both if we had not been zealously concerned for the succession in your Royal Family; and though your Majesty, in your great goodness, is pleased to express a kind resentment of our firm adherence to it, yet we presume not to plead merit upon the account of that, to which both duty and interest did oblige us; but your Majesty's countenancing us with your authority gives us no small comfort, and engageth us to thankful acknowledgments of your royal favour to us, and to be concerned to manage ourselves so as not to lose the happiness of the good opinion your Majesty is pleased to have of us.
We cannot but look upon it as a signal proof of your Majesty's favour to us, that you honour us with such a noble person as the Earl of Rothes to represent your Majesty in our Assembly. None could have been more acceptable to us than he, who, in all turns and changes of affairs, did, with a peculiar zeal, stand up for the Protestant succession as the true interest of his country, and who was never either afraid or ashamed to manifest his unbiassed affection to our Church; and we hope that there shall be nothing in our management that shall give him the least uneasiness in the discharge of the duties of his high trust.
The solemn engagement your Majesty did cheerfully come under at your first accession to the crown, to maintain inviolably the rights and privileges of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, of which you have the goodness to give us renewed assurances, as also protecting us against all illegal insults and encroachements being made upon us, of what kind soever, leaves us no place for doubts and fears as to any success that our enemies may have in their designs against us, under your Majesty's happy government; and obligeth us to all the returns of gratitude and duty that we are capable of.
Your Majesty's pious concern for suppressing vice and immorality, and preventing the growth of Popery, cannot but endear your royal person and government to all truly wise and good man; and, we hope, shall bring down blessings from heaven upon your Majesty and your Royal Family, and prevent judgments from God upon your people. And we have good grounds to be assured, that, under your Majesty's auspicious reign, such shall be employed as shall faithfully execute the laws against Popery, and all such practices as are a stain to the Christian profession, and against which your Majesty hath signified your displeasure in your royal proclamation.
We are deeply sensible of the necessity of a holy and well qualified ministry, for advancing the great ends of the gospel of our Redeemer; and that profane churchmen are one of the greatest plagues that either a church or civil society can have: And we shall not be wanting in using our utmost endeavours to answer what your Majesty can expect of us, in our present circumstances, as to this matter.
We should be unworthy of your Majesty's favour, if we had not a dutiful regard to what you are in your great goodness pleased so kindly to recommend to us, even with a respect to our own interest, as to charity and unanimity. We are, Sir, very sensible that it must be a great unhappiness, especially to religious societies, to be plagued with divisions; and, therefore, we look upon ourselves as under peculiar obligations to be aware of them. And we beg leave to assure your Majesty, that, as we have unanimously at all times witnessed our hearty zeal and affection for the Protestant succession in your royal family, so it is our firm resolution to testify, by all methods proper to be taken by us, the sense that we have of the wonderful goodness of God, in blessing us with so good and wise a Sovereign, and to possess all under our charge with just impressions of the mercy of the overruling God, in bringing your Majesty to the throne, which hath confounded the hopes of enemies to the true interest of these nations, and given a comfortable prospect of great advantages to the Protestant churches at home and abroad; and it shall be our care to manage ourselves so in all our proceeding in this Assembly as it may appear that, next to our duty to God, it is our sincere desire to approve ourselves to your Majesty, in bringing this Assembly to such as issue as shall show our hearty concern for the honour and quiet of your government.
That your Majesty may be always under Divine protection and conduct, and may
be long preserved for the defence of the true Protestant religion, the welfare and
prosperity of all your dominions, and of this Church in particular, that their Royal
Highnesses the Prince and Princess of Wales, and their royal issue, and all your
royal family, may be highly favoured of God, and long preserved for public blessings
in the world, and that there never may be wanting one of your royal progeny to
sway the sceptre of these nations; and that all designs against our happy settlement
under your Majesty, the peace of your government, and the security of the Protestant
succession in your royal line, may be brought to nought, is, and shall be, the constant
and fervent prayer of,
May it please your Majesty, your Majesty's most faithful, most obedient, and most loyal subjects, the Ministers and Elders met in this General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.
IV. Eodem die. Act appointing the Oath taken by his Majesty, for maintaining the Church of Scotland, to be Recorded.
The General Assembly, for the satisfaction and encouragement of the ministers and other members of this Church, thought fit to cause read openly, from the books of the last Commission, where the same stands recorded, the solemn engagement that his Majesty came under upon his first accession to the crown, to maintain inviolably the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government, rights, and privileges, of the Church of Scotland; and they ordered the same to be also recorded in the books of Assembly; the tenor whereof follows:—
At the Court of St James', the 22d of September 1714, present, the King's most excellent Majesty, Lord Chancellor, Lord Archbishop of York, Duke of Somerset, Duke of Northumberland, Duke of Bolton, Duke of Devonshire, Duke of Marlborough, Duke of Montrose, Duke of Roxburgh, Duke of Kent, Marquis of Lindsay, Marquis of Dorchester, Marquis of Annandale, Earl of Derby, Earl of Pembroke, Earl of Suffolk, Earl of Northampton, Earl of Manchester, Earl of Stamford, Earl of Sunderland, Earl of Clarendon, Earl of Anglesey, Earl of Carlisle, Earl of Radnor, Earl of Nottingham, Earl of Rochester, Earl of Abingdon, Earl of Wharton, Earl of Cholmondely, Earl of Mar, Earl of Loudon, Earl of Findlater, Earl of Orkney, Earl of Oxford Earl of Portmore, Earl of Orrery, Viscount of Townshend, Lord Bishop of London, Lord Paget, Lord Berkelely, Lord Guilford, Lord Somers, Lord Halifax, Lord Guernsey, Lord Mansell, Lord Trevor, Lord Lansdown, Lord Bingley, Lord Coningsby, Mr Bromley, Mr Boyle, Mr coke, Lord ch. J. Parker, Sir John Holland, Sir Richard Onslow, Mr Smith, Mr Verson, Mr Erle, Mr Hill.
I, George, King of Great Britain, France, and Ireland, Defender of the Faith,
&c., do faithfully promise and swear, that I shall inviolably maintain and preserve
the settlement of the true Protestant religion, with the government, worship, discipline, right, and privileges, of the Church of Scotland, as established by the laws
made there, in prosecution of the Claim of Right, and particularly by an act, entitled,
"Act for Securing the Protestant Religion and Presbyterian Church Government,"
and by the acts passed in the Parliaments of both kingdoms for union of the two
kingdoms. So help me God.
On the 22d day of September, in the year of our Lord 1714, at his Majesty's
palace at St James', his Majesty, in his first general council, did take and subscribe
the oath above written in presence of the Right Honourable the Lords of the privy
Council, hereafter subscribing, viz., Couper, C. Somerset, Northumberland, Devonshire, Bolton, Marlborough, Montrose, Roxburgh, Kent, Lindsay, Dorchester, Annandale, Derby, Pembroke, Suffolk, Northampton, Manchester, Stamford, Sunderland,
Clarendon, Anglesey, Carlisle, Radnor, Rochester, Abingdon, Cholmondely, Mar,
London, Findlater, Orkney, Oxford and Mortimer, Portmore, Orrery, Townshend,
John London, Paget, Berkeley, Guilford, Somers, Halifax, Guernsey, Mansell,
Trevor, Lansdown, Coningsby, Bingley, W. Bromley, H. Boyle, T. Coke, T. Parker,
F. Holland, Rich. Onslow, F. Smith, Ja. Vernon, Tho. Erle, F. Hill.
Edward Southwell, Cler. Concilii.
Whereas by an act of Parliament made in Scotland, entitled, "Act for Securing the
Protestant Religion, and Presbyterian Church Government," which is made part of another act, entitled, "Act Ratifying and Approving the Treaty of Union of the two
Kingdoms of Scotland and England;" and of another act passed in England, in the fifth
year of the late Queen, entitled, "An Act for the Union of the two Kingdoms of
England and Scotland;" it is provided, "That after the decease of her late Majesty,
the sovereign succeeding to her in the royal government of the kingdom of Great
Britain shall, in all times coming, at his or her accession to the Crown, swear and
subscribe that they shall inviolably maintain and preserve the settlement (mentioned
in the said act) of the true Protestant religion, with the government, worship, discipline, right, and privileges of the Church of Scotland, as established by the laws of
that kingdom, in prosecution of the Claim of Right." And his most sacred Majesty
having this day, in his first general council, taken the oath according to the form used
by the law of Scotland, and subscribed the same in two several instruments, is pleased
to order, as it is hereby ordered, that one of the said instruments which is hereunto
annexed, containing the said oath, taken and signed by his Majesty, and witnessed
by the Lords of his Majesty's most Honourable Privy Council then present, be transmitted to the Court of Session to be recorded in the Books of Sederunt, and afterward
to be forthwith lodged in the Public Register of Scotland; and that the other of them
remain among the records of the Council, and be entered in the Council Book;
and that all persons concerned do take notice hereof, and govern themselves accordingly.
V. Sess. 8, May 12, 1715.—Act for Encouragement of Preachers to be sent to the North, the Highlands, and Islands.
The General Assembly, finding it expedient for the furthering of the Gospel, that the ordinary allowances payable to preachers, sent from time to time by the General Assemblies of this Church, or commissions thereof, to supply vacant churches, or in order to be settled in the North, the Highlands, and Islands, be punctually paid; do therefore appoint, that in all time coming, the ordinary allowances payable by the acts of Assembly to such preachers be paid next to the stated annual charges of the Church, and before any other claim or demand whatsoever that shall be made out of the Church's public money.
VI. May 12, 1715.—Act for Preventing of Division in the Church.
The General Assembly, considering the representation of the heritors of the parish of Lesmahagow, concerning the irregular and disorderly practices of some elders and people in that parish, in withdrawing from ordinances dispensed by the Reverend Mr Robert Black, one of the ministers of the said parish, and others who have taken the Oath of Abjuration, when appointed by the Presbytery to supply that church: And considering also how inconsistent such a practice is with the rule of God's Word, whereby we are enjoined to exercise mutual love and charity, and to maintain the unity of the Sprit in the bond of peace, and contrary to the Acts of Assembly of this Church, particularly the sixth act of the General Assembly, anno 1713, and the eighth Act of the General Assembly, anno 1714; and considering how prejudicial this is to the peace and unity of this Church, and how much it obstructs the success of the Gospel, the General Assembly do therefore seriously, and in the bowels of the Lord Jesus Christ, exhort and obtest all concerned in that and other parishes, to forbear and avoid those disorders, which are so prejudicial to peace and unity, and do so much obstruct the success of the Gospel; and the General Assembly having now transported Mr Black from Lesmahagow, do hereby order and appoint the Presbytery of Lanark to give all brotherly assistance and encouragement to the Reverend Mr Thomas Linnen, under such a weighty charge, and particularly, that they punctually supply the vacancy by members of their Presbytery without distinction, the more effectually to dispose the people to their duty. And the General Assembly further considering, that the distinguishing course taken by ministers in the choice of their assistants at the celebration of the holy sacrament of the Lord's Supper, which ought to be the bond of unity and love among Christians, does exceedingly contribute to the confirming people in their unjust prejudice against ministers, and in their divisive practices—do therefore earnestly obtest all the ministers of this Church carefully to guard against this, as they would not be found to lay a stumbling-block before the people.
VII. May 13, 1715.—Act for Preferring Students having the Irish Language to Bursaries.
The General Assembly, considering how needful it is to encourage hopeful students having the Irish language, in order to their being useful in the Highlands and Isles, where Popery abounds, do therefore enjoin all the Synods and Presbyteries of this Church, to prefer such students to their bursaries when they vaik, and punctually to pay them their provisions; and to take trial of their proficiency; and to mark their diligence herein in their books: And appoints the visitors of Synod and Presbytery books to take particular notice how the Acts of Assembly concerning bursaries are observed, and report the same; and further, the General Assembly instructs and requires the Commissions of the Assemblies of this Church to see to the observation of the said acts, and to inquire after such students, and recommend them to bursaries; and they do hereby renew all the powers given to former Commissions in this matter.
VIII. May 13, 1715.—Act appointing a Committee for preserving the Purity of Doctrine, and for considering the Process, Mr James Webster against Mr John Simson.
The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, for preserving and maintaining the purity of the doctrine of the Church of Scotland, and for bringing the process, Mr James Webster against Mr John Simson, to an issue, did resolve to appoint a committee of thirty ministers and six ruling elders, twenty-one being a quorum, whereof eighteen to be ministers, to meet at Edinburgh, the third Wednesday of July next to come, and to continue de die in diem, and to adjourn themselves to what time and place they think fit, with power to them to make inquiry into whatsoever shall be found necessary for preserving and maintaining the purity of the doctrine of this Church; and, particularly, to take the foresaid process into their consideration, and to do whatsoever they shall find necessary, to prepare a full and distinct state thereof, to be reported to the next General Assembly, together with the Committee's Overture thereupon, in order to a final decision by the Assembly: And, in order to these ends, the General Assembly appoints the said committee to observe the following instructions, 1mo, That the committee draw out the libel, representation, and other papers, whatever is found erroneous, or charged by Mr Webster on Mr Simson as error, laying the same down in certain distinct propositions. 2do, That they class the propositions under distinct heads; such as, First, Those which are contrary to the Word of God, Confession of Faith, Catechisms of this Church. Secondly, Those which are controverted amongst orthodox divines, and not determined by our Confession of Faith and Catechisms. Thirdly, Such as are not clearly contained either in the Scriptures or the writings of orthodox divines, and that the committee proceed according to the weight and import of those propositions so classed. 3tio, That the parties being called, Mr Simson be interrogated what of these he acknowledges, what he denies, and what he qualifies: And that Mr Webster be interrogated what evidence by writing, witnesses, or both, he can produce to prove the propositions denied or qualified, which the committee shall think fit to admit to probation. 4to, That Mr Simson, in the first place, be allowed to adduce witnesses for his exculpation, providing always, that whatever orthodox sense or alleviations it be found he has given of propositions advanced by him, Mr Webster be also allowed to prove that he uttered these propositions charged in a heterodox sense, if he think fit so to do. 5to, That when any article of the libel or exculpation is circumstantiated with time and place, and persons present, that either party be allowed to cite and examine the whole witnesses present, at that time and place, upon the whole facts and expressions, in so far as they concern the charge and exculpation. 6to, That n order to a clear representation to the Assembly, the committee be careful to distinguish betwixt those things taught by Mr Simson in the school, and those emitted by him in private conversation. And, 7mo, The General Assembly hereby empowers their said committee to receive informations against any ministers or teachers of this Church, concerning any thing not agreeable to the doctrine or form of sound words received in this Church, and to examine any books or pamphlets published by any minister or teacher within this Church, containing any thing not agreeable to the said doctrine and form of sound words, and to call those concerned, and in an orderly way make what inquiry is necessary to ripen the same, and prepare an overture thereanent to the next General Assembly. The above overture and instructions being agreed to, the General Assembly did next resolve to remit, and hereby do remit, to their Committee for Overtures, the nomination of the above mentioned committee of thirty ministers and six ruling elders, who are to examine these matters, to be done by them in the manner following, viz., that each member of the foresaid Committee for Overtures give in to it a full list subscribed with his hand of the persons who he thinks should be of that other committee, consisting of any ministers and elders of this Church, who are not either libellers or libelled in this process, especially of such professors of divinity as are ministers, the members of the Presbytery of Glasgow, and the witnessess in this cause, not excluded: And these lists being compared, and the persons therein contained being marked, that the said number of thirty ministers and six ruling elders of those contained in the said lists, who shall be found to have the greatest number of votes, shall be made the members of the above mentioned committee, and be reported as such to the General Assembly at their next meeting.
IX. Sess. 10, May 14, 1715.— Act concerning the Grievances of this Church from Toleration, Patronages, &c.
The Committees for Instructions and Overtures, having had under consideration the grievances this Church lies under from Patronages, from the Toleration as it stands, the hardships imposed upon Scotsmen in office in England and Ireland, and the prejudice done to this Church by the differences that have arisen about the Oath of Abjuration; and having also considered what the Commission of the late General Assembly had done with respect to these, and particularly a memorial which they had drawn about the same and sent to Members of Parliament: The Committee for Overtures gave it as their opinion, that the said memorial did fully express all that was necessary upon these heads; and, therefore, they laid the said memorial before the General Assembly, with an overture as to the management thereof. And which memorial and overture being heard and considered by the General Assembly, they did approve thereof and agree thereto, and ordained it to be held as the deed and mind of this Assembly, as follows:—
The Church of Scotland being restored at the happy Revolution, was, by the Claim of Right, and acts of Parliament following thereupon, established in its doctrine, worship, discipline, and government, and that this legal constitution and establishment might be unalterably secured, it was declared to be a fundamental and essential condition of the Union, and accordingly ratified in the Parliaments of both kingdoms: But the zeal of the Established Church of Scotland for, and their steady adherence to, the Protestant succession, did expose them to the resentments of a disaffected party; and likewise, they account themselves aggrieved by some acts passed in the Parliament of Great Britain; as, 1mo, By the act granting such a large, and almost boundless, toleration to those of the Episcopal persuasion in Scotland, while the liberty allowed to Protestant Dissenters in England, who had always given the most satisfying proofs of their undoubted zeal and good affection to the Protestant succession, was retrenched: And though the Church of Scotland hath an equal security in a legal establishment with that of England, yet there is a vast inequality as to the toleration of the respective Dissenters. In Scotland, the toleration doth not restrain the disseminating the most dangerous errors, by requiring a Confession of Faith, or subscription to the doctrinal articles of the Established Church, as is required of Dissenters in England; it also weakeneth the discipline of the Church against the scandalous and profane, by withdrawing the concurrence of the civil magistrate. It is also an inequality and hardship upon the Established Church of Scotland, that those of her communion who are employed in his Majesty's service in England or Ireland, should be obliged to join in communion and conformity with the Church of England; whereas conformity to this Church is not required (nor do we plead that it should be) of members of the Church of England, when called to serve his Majesty in Scotland, who here enjoy the full liberty of Dissenters without molestation; and the common and equal privileges of the subjects of the United Kingdom, stipnlated by the Union, claim the same liberty to the members of the Church of Scotland, when employed in his Majesty's service in England or Ireland. 2do, By the act restoring the power of presentations to patrons, the legally established constitution of this Church was altered in a very important point; and while it appears equitable in itself, and agreeable to the liberty of Christians and a free people, to have interest in the choice of those to whom they entrust the care of their souls, it is a hardship to be imposed upon in so tender a point, and that frequently by patrons who have no property nor residence in the parishes; and this, besides the snares of simoniacal pactions, and the many troubles and contests arising from the power of patronages, and the abuses thereof, by disaffected patrons putting their power in other hands, who as effectually serve their purposes, by patrons competing for the right of presentation in the same parish; and by frequently presenting ministers settled in eminent posts to mean and small parishes, to elude the planting thereof; by all which, parishes are often kept long vacant, to the great hinderance of the progress of the Gospel.
The General Assembly, considering the circumstances of the Church of Scotland,
with respect to the Oath of Abjuration, as they are fully represented in the humble addresses of the Commission and General Assembly, held anno 1712, copies whereof
are herewith transmitted, do humbly and earnestly entreat that suitable remedies
may be thought of.
W. Carstares, Moderator.
And the General Assembly recommended to all their members to use their best endeavours with friends at London, that the ends of the addresses of the Commission and General Assembly, 1712, and Act of the General Assembly, the 14th May that year, concerning the Oath of Abjuration, may be obtained; and most humbly desired his Majesty's High Commissioner, that he would be pleased to use his good offices for that end.
The General Assembly did appoint this memorial to be put in the hands of their Commission, and did enjoin them to use all proper and due means to obtain redress, and particularly at their first meeting, to send the same to the Duke of Montrose, principal Secretary of State, most humbly entreating his Grace to take a fit opportunity to acquaint his Majesty thereof.
X. Sess. 11, May 16, 1715.—Commission to some Ministers and Elders for preserving and maintaining Purity of Doctrine, &c.
The which day the Committee for Overtures reported, that they having taken in from each of their members subscribed lists of such as they thought fit to be of the committee for preserving and maintaining the purity of the doctrine of this Church, and examining and considering the process at the instance of Mr James Webster against Mr John Simson; and made an exact scrutiny, in pursuance of the Assemoly's appointment upon Friday last, the 13th of May current; they found that the following persons had the majority of votes, and, therefore, they returned them as the members of that committee, viz., the Rev. Mr William Carstares, Principal of the College of Edinburgh, Moderator, Mr James Haddow, Principal of the New College of St Andrews, Mr Thomas Linnen, minister at Lesmahagow, Mr William Hamilton, Professor of Divinity in the College of Edinburgh, Mr Thomas Blackwell, Professor of Divinity in the Marischal College of Aberdeen, Mr David Anderson, Professor of Divinity in the King's College at Aberdeen, Mr William Mitchell, minister at Edinburgh, Mr John Anderson at Dumbarton, Mr Andrew Cameron at Kirkcudbright, Mr James Ramsay at Kelso, Mr John Hunter at Ayr, Mr William Wishart at Edinburgh, Mr James Smith at Cramond, Mr John Currie at Haddington, Mr John Gray at Glasgow, Mr John Ritchie at Old Kilpatrick, Mr Andrew Rodger at Galstoun, Mr Alexander Lauder at Mordingtoun, Mr John Hamilton at Glasgow, Mr Robert Horsburgh at Saltpreston, Mr John Brand at Borrowstounness, Mr George Turnbull at Tyningham, Mr James Alston at Dirleton, Mr Thomas Black at Perth, Mr James Cuthbert at Culross, Mr William M'George at Pennycook, Mr George Chalmers at Kilwinning, Mr Allan Logan at Torryburn, Mr William Miller, and Mr John Flint, at Edinburgh, Ministers; Sir Hugh Dalrymple of North-Berwick, Baronet, Lord President of the Session, Adam Cockburn of Ormistoun, Lord Justice-Clerk, Mr John Clark, one of the Barons of Exchequer, Sir James Stuart of Goodtrees, his Majesty's Solicitor, Colonel John Erskine of Carnock, and Dr Alexander Dundas, physician, Ruling Elders. The said report being thus made, parties were called and compeared, and Mr James Webster repeated his former declaration, that he would not farther state himself as a pursuer in this matter, having already sufficiently exonerated himself, as he alleged. And Mr John Simson repeated his answers, alleging, that Mr Webster was obliged to make out his charge, under pain of censure; whereupon they were both removed. And the General Assembly having heard and considered the said report and nomination, did approve thereof; and hereby do commission and appoint the thirty ministers and six ruling elders above named, to convene here at Edinburgh, within the Assembly-House, upon the third Wednesday of July next to come, at ten o'clock forenoon, for their first diet, and to proceed according to the powers and instructions formerly agreed upon and approven by this Assembly, the said 13th day of May current, in all points.
XI. May 16, 1715.—Commission to some Ministers and Ruling Elders for discussing divers Affairs referred to them.
The General Assembly, taking into their consideration that there are divers weighty affairs which they cannot undertake, do nominate and appoint their reverend brethren, Messrs William Carstares, Principal of the College of Edinburgh, and one of the ministers of that city, their Moderator, &c.; to be Commissioners of the General Assembly, to the effect after mentioned, with power to the said persons, &c. (their powers were the same as in the preceding year.)
XII. May 17, 1715.— Act recommending a Public Collection for the use of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge.
The which day, there was a petition presented to the General Assembly for the committee of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge, showing, that the said Society had, for the space of six years, been prosecuting the noble design of their erection, and had done what they could to obtain the concurrence and assistance of charitably disposed persons; and that full representations of the state of their affairs had been yearly given in to the venerable General Assemblies of this National Church; letters had been written to the reverend Synods and Presbyteries, to the Justices of Peace at their Quarter Sessions, Sheriffs of Shires, and to the several Royal Burghs in Scotland; and that correspondents had been nominated in the several shires, and also in divers places abroad, by which means the Society had got in, and laid out on interest, as a stock, the sum of L.6000 sterling and upwards; and that the said Society, upon the interest of this stock, had erected twenty-four charity schools, and are about to erect more; but being obliged to furnish books, paper, and other necessaries for these schools, which does amount to a considerable sum, and the rate of annual rents being now reduced by law to five per cent., and some of the Society's annual rents not being punctually paid, the Society are not in case to answer the necessary demands of divers Presbyteries and ministers, with relation to settling of schools and furnishing books; and seeing the Society neither will nor can diminish any of their stock, and that it is hoped many who have already contributed, as well as others, will contribute to enable the Society to furnish their scholars with books, and to settle a greater number of small itinerant schools in remote glens and places in the Highlands and Islands, where Popery and ignorance abounds, and otherwise to carry on this good and hopeful design, which has been already so much countenanced of God in a very signal manner; for in some of these schools already settled there are forty, fifty, sixty, seventy, and in one of them upwards of a hundred scholars. And the said committee have had very satisfying and comfortable accounts of their progress in learning to read and write, and in learning of arithmetic, in so much, that, in some of these places where the schools are settled, the generality of the children, who knew not a letter when they came to these schools, have, within a short time thereafter, read the Bible distinctly, and repeated the Shorter Catechism in the churches, and answered the questions gravely and distinctly, to the great satisfaction of the congregations; and the said committee have had accounts from some of the ministers of those parishes, where these schools are fixed, that their parishes, which were the most, ignorant in the country, would become the most knowing, through the blessing of God upon the great pains and care taken by the schoolmasters, (who are under the inspection of the Presbyteries and ministers of the bounds,) and that it is thought the youth trained up in some of these schools, through the same blessing of God, will be among the first that will yield a cordial reception to the Gospel; and that some of these young ones, children of Popish parents, are come to that length that they will by no means hear a Popish priest; that in some of these schools married persons are learning to read, and servants, male and female, were quitting service for a time and attending the school: That in divers of these places where superstition and Popery abounds, there was an earnest desire among people after Christian knowledge; and several other instances could be given, but the said committee were unwilling to take up the venerable Assembly's time, seeing any who desired further information might have the same in an account of the rise and progress of the said Society, printed by itself, and other papers of the Society; and, therefore, craving to the effect after mentioned. The General Assembly having heard and considered the said petition, and the opinion of their committee for bills thereupon, and finding that very satisfy ing reports of the Society's diligence had been made to former Assemblies by such as, at the Society's desire, were appointed to inquire into their management, and to inspect their books; the General Assembly did unanimously, and hereby do, recommend a public collection at all the church doors in Scotland, upon such days as the several Presbyteries and magistrates of burghs shall think fit, any time betwixt and the first day of January next to come, for buying books to the Society's scholars, and settling more schools; and appoints that the money so to be collected be sent in timeously to Mr George Watson, merchant in Edinburgh, the Society's treasurer, to be disposed of for the uses mentioned in the above narrated petition, as the Society shall judge most conducive to the furthering the instruction of the poorer sort, who are not in case to board themselves at any distance from the places of their residence, and advancing the other pious ends of their erection. And the General Assembly finding that the recommendations of former Assemblies, in favour of the said Society, have not been duly observed by divers Presbyteries and ministers, they did, and hereby do, renew the same; and do appoint that the said acts and recommendations of former Assemblies in favour of the Society be read in those congregations where the same has not been done; and the Assembly earnestly desires ministers and others, who have subscribed, but have not paid in what they subscribed for, to send in the same with all diligence to the Society's treasurer; and also appoints the account of the diligence and success of the Society in their pious undertaking, as above narrated, to be read at the intimation of this collection from the several pulpits on the Lord's Day. And, lastly, the General Assembly appointed the Rev. Mr William Carstares, their Moderator, Mr William Mitchell, and Mr James Haddow, members of this Assembly, to be present with the said Society at their next general meeting, and give them the Assembly's thanks for their great concern and unwearied diligence in advancing so noble a work, and show them that the Assembly did unanimously grant the desire of their petition.
XIII. Sess. 12, May 17, 1715.— Act against Popery and Profanity.
The General Assembly appoints that his Majesty's proclamation against profanity, as also the abbreviate of the laws against immorality, be read from the pulpits of all the churches of Scotland, upon the first Lord's Day of August next; and renews the 5th Act of the General Assembly, anno 1714, "For the better Execution of the Laws against Profaneness;" and also the 11th Act of that same General Assembly, entitled, "Act for procuring the better Execution of former Acts against Popery, and for preventing the Growth thereof."
XIV. May 17, 1715.— Act discharging Prelatical Preachers, and some who profess to be Presbyterians, and separate from this Church, to exercise Church Discipline.
The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, beign informed that Elizabeth Salmon, who was convened before the Presbytery of Kirkaldy for uncleanness, did judicially declare that Mr Colin Mackenzie of Rossend was the father of the child she had brought forth; whereupon the Presbytery ordered the said Mr Colin Mackenzie to be cited to compear before them at their next meeting, the 26th day of this month; and it being farther represented that Mr David Blair and Mr David Middleton, in conjunction with Mr William Duguid, and Mr James Guthrie, prelatical preachers, have taken upon them to convene the said Mr Colin Mackenzie of Rossend three times before them the last week, and have given him an oath of purgation, which was read in the meeting-house of Burntisland, intimating that the said Mr Colin Mackenzie is to swear that oath in the said meeting-house next Lord's Day, for removing the scandal; and considering that this is an illegal encroachment upon the discipline of the Church, which may prove of dangerous consequence, the Gene ral Assembly orders the Presbytery of Kirkaldy to proceed against the said Mr Colin Mackenzie of Rossend, according to the rules of this Church, notwithstanding of any thing these prelatical preachers have done, or may do, in that affair. And, further, the General Assembly discharges these prelatical preachers to proceed any further in that matter, as they will be answerable; and appoints this to be intimated to them by the officers of this Assembly, and refers it to the Commission to take care that the Assembly's authority be not contemned in this case. And the Assembly does appoint this method to be observed in the cases of scandal when any others, either Episcopal preachers, or such as pretend to be Presbyterian ministers, but do separate from this Church, take upon them to exercise discipline.
XV. Sess. 12, May 17, 1715.— Act for prosecuting some, who, professing to be Presbyterians, do separate from this Church; and an appointment concerning Papists and Episcopal Intruders.
The General Assembly, taking into consideration the representations made to them concerning the irregularities of Mr John M'Millan, late minister at Balmaghie, Mr John Taylor, late minister at Wamphray, both now deposed, Mr John M'Neil, and Mr John Adamson, pretended preachers, Mr John Hepburn, minister at Orr, and Mr James Gilchrist, minister at Dunscore; they do refer it to their Commission, at their first meeting, to take the irregularities of the foresaid persons under their consideration; and, if the said Commission think fit, the General Assembly does empower them to summon the said Mr John M'Millan, Mr John Taylor, Mr John M'Neil, and Mr John Adamson, before them, and to proceed to further censure, or apply to the civil magistrate against them, as shall be thought most fit. And as to the said Mr John Hepburn and Mr James Gilchrist, the Assembly appoints the Presbytery of Dumfries forthwith to cause cite them before them, to answer for their irregular practices; and, if need be, to summon witnesses, and take depositions in that matter, and thereafter, either to proceed to sentence, or refer the affair to the said Commission, as they shall see cause; and they empower the Commission to proceed to censure as they shall think fit. And the General Assembly hereby declares that the said Mr John Hepburn and the parish of Orr are under the inspection of the Presbytery of Dumfries; and the Assembly makes void all acts made formerly to the contrary. And the Assembly instructs their Commission, if need be, to apply to the civil government for suppressing the disorders of the said Mr John M'Millan, Mr John Taylor, Mr John M'Neil, Mr John Adamson, Mr John Hepburn, and Mr James Gilchrist, and also for punishing such as are guilty of solemnizing marriages clandestinely, and contrary to law; and appoints Presbyteries to send in timeously full informations to the Commission, that the same may be laid before the Government.
The General Assembly appoints Presbyteries, and the several brethren in those countries where Popery abounds, or where Episcopal preachers do intrude into parislies, churches, manses, or glebes, to send up to the Lord Justice-Clerk, and his Majesty's Advocate and Solicitor, particular informations, containing the facts, parties' names, the circumstances of the transgression, such as time, place, &c., with lists of the witnesses, their names and designations, that can prove the said facts.