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 3, 1716.
I. Sess. 1, May 3, 1716.—Act appointing the King's Commission to John Earl of Rothes to be recorded.
The General Assembly of the Ministers and Ruling Elders of this National Church of Scotland 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, of the same tenor with the commission granted by his Majesty to the foresaid Earl last year, constituting him his Majesty's High Commissioner and Representative in this Assembly; which commission being publicly read with all due honour and respect, is, by order of this Assembly, recorded in their books, to remain therein ad futuram rei memoriam.
II. The King's most gracious Letter to the General Assembly, presented to them by his Majesty's Commissioner, May 3, 1716.
Right Reverend and well-beloved,
We greet you well. The fresh proofs you have given us, during the course of the late unhappy and unnatural Rebellion, of your firm adherence to those principles on which the security of our government, and the happiness of our subjects do entirely depend; and the accounts we have from time to time received of your great care to infuse the same into the people under your charge, do engage us to return you our hearty thanks, and to renew to you the assurances we have formerly given you, of our unalterable resolution to maintain the established government of the Church of that part of our kingdom of Great Britain, in the full enjoyment of all just rights and privileges. For this end, we have thought fit to countenance your meeting together at this time, and again to make 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, whose singular zeal for our service, and the interest of his country, by which he has always distinguished himself, as well as his faithful discharge of the same high trust on the last occasion, will, we doubt not, render him acceptable to you. And as we have nothing more in view than promoting true religion and piety, the restoring the peace and quiet of the country, that all our subjects may have it in their power to be happy under our administration, and easy with regard both to their religious and civil concerns, your concurring on your parts to the carrying on of these laudable ends, and your answering these our just views, for the public tranquillity, both of Church and State, is what we earnestly recommend to you; and the confidence we have in your prudence and moderation is such, as leaves us no room to doubt but that we shall have full satisfaction in your conduct. So we bid you heartily farewell.
III. May 5, 1716.— The General Assembly's Answer to the King's most gracious Letter.
May it please your Majesty,
We accept, with the greatest thankfulness, your Majesty's royal favour, in continuing to countenance our Assemblies, and the honour of your gracious letter to us. The notice your Majesty is pleased to take of our behaviour, upon occasion of the late unhappy and unnatural Rebellion, as it greatly heightens our satisfaction in having been enabled, by the Divine assistance, to exert ourselves in any way answerably to our duty to your Majesty, so it puts us under new obligations to lay out ourselves, as we have access, to advance the interest of your Majesty's government, upon the peace and prosperity whereof the preservation of our holy religion and our own safety, under God, do entirely depend; and particularly, we judge ourselves most strictly bound to continue our endeavours to impress the minds of the people under our charge with a sense of their happiness under your Majesty's wise and good administration, and of the strictest ties they are under, by laws divine and human, to all the duties of loyalty and fidelity to your Majesty, their only rightful and lawful Sovereign.
That your Majesty should have, in your great condescension, put so high an honour upon us, as to give us thanks for doing what was our unquestionable duty and interest, is a proof of that distinguishing goodness which makes so bright a part of your Majesty's princely character.
We cannot sufficiently express the grateful sense we have of your Majesty's goodness in giving us repeated assurances of your unalterable resolution to maintain the established government of your Church, in the full enjoyment of all just rights and privileges; which gives us full hopes, that in due time we shall obtain redress of the grievances that we were brought under before your Majesty came to the throne, and which were laid before your Majesty by a memorial from the last Assembly.
Your Majesty's choice of the Earl of Rothes to represent your royal person in this Assembly is a particular instance of your Majesty's royal favour to this Church. The extraordinary zeal he hath shown upon all occasions for the Protestant succession, by the part he acted, both before your Majesty's happy accession to the throne, and in the time of the late Rebellion, and his wise and kind conduct in the last Assembly, render him most acceptable to us.
Your Majesty having nothing more in your view than the promoting of true religion and piety, and making all your people happy under your administration, leaves us utterly inexcusable, should we not on our part concur, as we have access, for advancing those great and noble ends, since we are, in the great goodness of God, by a very peculiar providence, under the influence of a prince, who is so great a pattern and encourager of piety and virtue.
We should be wanting to the duty we owe to God, and to the best of kings, if we did not endeavour, by our deportment, to answer the just expectations your Majesty is pleased to have of our prudence and moderation in this Assembly.
We adore the blessed God, who, in great mercy to us, hath brought your Majesty
to the throne, and appeared so gloriously in behalf of your just cause, giving you
victory over your unprovoked and ungrateful enemies; and, to our amazement,
blessed your councils and arms with such speedy success in restoring peace and tranquillity, that the remotest places and islands are represented in this Assembly. That
the same God may long preserve your royal person in health and safety; that he may
enrich your Majesty, and your royal family, with all the blessings of His grace and
oodness here on earth; and after a long and prosperous reign, crown you with immortal glory, are the earnest prayers of,
May it please your Majesty, your Majesty's most faithful, most dutiful, most obedient, and most humble subjects, the Ministers and Elders met in this National Assembly of the Church of Scotland.
IV. Sess. 4, May 7, 1716.—Act for furthering the pious Design of the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge.
"Unto the very reverend the Moderator and others, the reverend and honourable members of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, The Petition of the Committee of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge, humbly showeth—That we, by our address to the late General Assembly did lay before them a distinct account of the diligence, success, and progress of the Society, and obtained from them a pressing recommendation for a public contribution toward the further advancing of the Christian undertaking of the Society, by furnishing their scholars with necessary books, and settling of more schools in those places that want the same; but the breaking out of the late unnatural Rebellion did put a stop to the prosecuting of that recommendation. We think this late insurrection has given a convincing evidence how hurtful the rudeness and ignorance of the common people in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland has proven, and may yet prove, to the commonwealth, if care be not taken to cure it; for it is obvious that this did, and will still make them fit tools in the hands of their Popish and Jacobite chieftains and landlords, for carrying on their rebellious projects of overturning our happy establishment: whereas, were those poor people more impressed with the right notions of a Deity, and were better acquainted with the principles of our holy religion, that teaches obedience, next unto God, unto supreme lawful authority; were they, by being inured to virtue, and by education, in honest employments, freed from the pinching straits of extreme poverty, which occasions their slavish subjection to their masters, they would not so blindly go in to the measures of their imperious landlords or superiors; and the procuring all these advantages is the plain design and palpable tendency, and will be the certain effect of the care of the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge, if it be duly encouraged: And it is hoped, that all the true lovers of our holy religion, and of their king and country, will need no other argument to induce them cheerfully and liberally to contribute to so noble and Christian an undertaking than this, to make of a poor, rude, and ignorant people, now dangerous and hurtful to the nation, profitable members of the commonwealth. And the Committee does not doubt but as our Church has, in all her Assemblies, shown a great readiness to forward the design of the Society, so now, when, through the mercy and goodness of God, that dangerous Rebellion is suppressed, this venerable Assembly will find themselves called and encouraged to continue the same pious and Christian zeal.
"May it therefore please this Venerable Assembly, to cause read the said Act and Recommendation, and to renew the same, appointing all Presbyteries to cause intimate the foresaid Act from the pulpits within their bounds, and to send in their contributions to the treasurer of the Society; and also a Report of their diligence to the Commission of the General Assembly, betwixt and the first day of January next.
The General Assembly having heard and considered the foresaid petition, and opinion of their Committee for Bills thereupon; and having caused read the said Act and recommendation of the late General Assembly in favour of the foresaid Society, did, and hereby do, renew the same, and did unanimously recommend a public collection at all the church doors within Scotland, (except the churches of Edinburgh,) upon the third Lord's Day of August next; and that the said collection be in Edinburgh at such a time, and in such a manner, as shall be thought most proper by the magistrates of the said city, and committee of the Society. And the General Assembly appoints the money thus collected to be forthwith lodged by the several ministers in the hands of the moderators of their Presbyteries, who are desired to keep an exact account of what they receive, and from whom, and when; and the said moderators are desired to send up the said money as it comes to their hands, together with a copy of the said accounts, to Mr George Watson, merchant, the Society's treasurer, with all convenient diligence, to be disposed of for the uses expressed in the said Act and recommendation of the late General Assembly; and appoints that Act, together with these presents, to be read at the intimation of this collection, from the pulpits, on the Lord's Day preceding the said collection. And the General Assembly earnestly desires all ministers and others who have subscribed, and have not paid in what they subscribed for, to send in the same to the Society's treasurer; and appoints the several Presbyteries to see to the effectual prosecution of this recommendation within their respective bounds, and to report their diligence herein to their Synods, and also to the Commission of this Assembly, betwixt and the first day of January next. And, further, the General Assembly appoints their Moderator, and others of their number, who are members of the foresaid Society, at their first general meeting, to give them the hearty thanks of this Assembly, for their great concern and unwearied diligence in advancing so noble an undertaking, and to show them that this Assembly did most unanimously and cordially grant the desire of the foresaid petition.
V. May 14, 1716, post meridiem.—Commission to some Ministers and Ruling Elders, for discussing divers Affairs referred to them.
The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, taking into their consideration, that there are divers weighty affairs which they cannot overtake, do nominate and appoint their reverend brethren, Messrs William Hamilton, Professor of Divinity in the College of Edinburgh, their Moderator, &c.; to be Commissioners of the General Assembly, to the effect after mentioned, with power to the said persons, &c. (Powers the same as in the immediately preceding years.)
VI. Sess. 12, May 15, 1716.—A congratulatory Address to the King, upon suppressing the Rebellion.
Most Gracious Sovereign,
We, your Majesty's most dutiful and most loyal subjects, the Ministers and Elders of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, cannot look upon ourselves as sitting again under your Majesty's most auspicious protection, after the late wicked Rebellion, which threatened us with the loss of so dear a blessing, without expressing our unfeigned thanks to the Almighty, and declaring to the world our inward joy for your Majesty's successes and our own deliverance.
Safe under your Majesty's happy government—we can look back on the blackest scenes of the late unnatural treason—we can see Rome, in league with the enemy of our Church and State, sowing the seeds of rebellion, souring the minds of heedless people with groundless jealousies, plotting the destruction of your Royal person, on which our happiness, with that of all the Protestant Churches, under God, doth depend, and breaking out at length into open war, with such multitudes of armed traitors as seemed for a season irresistible—and at the same time, we can view, with pleasure, heaven interposing in your Majesty's behalf and in ours, seating your Majesty so seasonably upon the throne, early disclosing the hidden treason, guiding your Majesty's steady councils, leading your victorious General, the Duke of Argyle, to the unexpected overthrow of such unequal numbers, and conducing him in the pursuit of the Pretender to your Crown, till, by an inglorious flight, he left our country free from the great dangers we were in by the Rebellion, and his deluded friends filled with confusion. Upon all which, we cannot but, with thankful hearts, acknow ledge our deep sense of your Majesty's wise and fatherly care for your loyal subjects, which neither the extraordinary rigour of the season, nor the fallacious proposals of the rebels, could divert from the necessary means of their speedy relief.
Great Sir, it is to us matter of particular thankfulness and joy, that, amidst so great difficulties and dangers, the ministers and members of this Church have, through the Divine favour, been helped to a firm and zealous adherence to your Majesty's person and government; and it is our firm resolution to persevere in our duty and loyalty to your Majesty, and to make it our constant and earnest request to our gracious God, that He may unite the hearts of all your subjects into a sense of their great happiness under the government of the best of kings.
May the same kind Providence that hath so signally watched over, and eminently blessed your royal person, continue to preserve your Majesty, bless your royal family, direct your councils, and make your reign over us long and prosperous; and, after your Majesty, may the crown of these kingdoms, and the defence of the Protestant religion, descend to your royal issue to latest posterity.
VII. May 15, 1716.—Act renewing the Commission and Powers given by the late General Assembly to their Committee for preserving and maintaining the Purity of Doctrine, and for considering the Process, Mr James Webster against Mr John Simson.
The General Assembly, considering that they have not now time fully and deliberately to consider the points charged by Mr James Webster against Mr John Simson as error, and that it is necessary, for preserving the purity of doctrine and peace of this Church, that the same be thoroughly examined, and that the Assembly do what is proper for them at this time to hinder the spreading of error in this Church; therefore, the General Assembly do hereby enjoin the said Mr John Simson, and all others whatsoever, to forbear teaching, or any way venting the propositions charged by the said Mr James Webster against the said Mr Simson as error, and given in to this Assembly, until they be cogosced and determined by the judicatures of this Church. And the Committee appointed by the last Assembly having made some progress in their work, which they had not time to finish, being hindered therein by the late Rebellion; therefore, to the end that this affair may be fully tried and examined, the General Assembly does hereby renew the commission and instructions given by the late General Assembly to the ministers and ruling elders therein named; and do not only appoint such of the said persons as are yet alive to proceed according to the said commission and instructiuons, in examining the points remitted to them by the said last Assembly; but they do now also refer to their consideration the positions that have been laid before this said Assembly by the said Mr James Webster, and Mr Simson's answers thereto, and all other things relating to this affair; particularly they remit to the consideration of the said committee the following points that were reserved by them to be determined after the finishing of the principal cause, viz., that as to Mr Simson's publishing copies of the printed process, and the manner in which Mr Webster brought in the cause before this Assembly, by publishing in print his charge of error, in a postscript to the printed copies of Mr Simson's letters to the deceased Mr Robert Rowan, and Mr Webster's answers to this Assembly, when they desired him to class his propositions, and specify the articles of the Confession of Faith to which they were opposite. And the General Assembly do hereby empower the said Committee to give such directions to the said Mr Simson as they shall think necessary; and, in the mean time, until the matter be fully tried and examined by this Church, and the said Mr John Simson be convicted, the Assembly discharges all the ministers of this Church, either in preaching or by printing, to charge the said Mr Simson as guilty of error; but prejudice always to them to state the same propositions that are charged against him, and to refute the same by as strong arguments as they shall think fit. And the General Assembly appoints the said committee to meet for the ends above mentioned, and expressed in their former commission and instructions, at Edinburgh, upon Friday the tenth day of August next to come, at ten o'clock in the forenoon, in the Assembly-House, and to sit de di enb diem, until they have finished their work. And the Assembly do peremptorily require all the members of the said committee to give punctual attendance at all the diets of their meetings, as they would not be chargeable by this Church with all the bad consequences that may follow the delaying of this affair; and to the end they may have no excuse, the Assembly appoints the clerk to advertise all the members of the said committee by letters or otherwise, of the time appointed for their meeting, four weeks before the same approach; and do appoint the several Presbyteries, to which the ministers, members of the said Committee, do belong, to supply their churches by preaching during all the time that they are waiting upon the business hereby committed to them. And the Assembly appoints the said Committee to prepare and lay before the next ensuing Assembly a full and distinct report of their proceedings in the matter above committed to them. The Assembly having called parties to intimate the premises to them, Mr Simson compeared, and protested, That all these errors contained in Mr Webster's libel that are contrary to the Scriptures, and our Confession of Faith or Catechisms, he has never taught them as his opinion, or as truth, but has, on the contrary, refuted them, and is resolved, through the grace of God, still to forbear the teaching such errors; and, therefore, he did look upon the foresaid injunction only to import that he is not to teach such errors as several members of this Church have (by wrong reports that have gone through the land) imagined had been taught by him, for which the former part of this declaration, he hoped, would give sufficient satisfaction until the process be duly tried; for he was persuaded the venerable Assembly would not do any thing so contrary to the common rules of equity and justice, as to lay on him an injunction which did insinuate that he had taught any error before they had heard the cause, and found him guilty; and he protested further, That Mr Webster had succumbed in the probation of his printed libel, viz., his postscript to the printed copy of the letters to Mr Robert Rowan; and that, in case if this Assembly do not publish in their minutes what may clear this to the world, he protested, that he might have liberty to publish his own vindication. The General Assembly having heard this protest, they do hereby empower the said committee to suspend the said Mr Simson for such time as they shall think fit, in case it be found that be contravene the injunctions hereby given to him; and they remitted the consideration thereof to the committee appointed to consider the whole process.
VIII. Sess. 10, May 14, 1716.—Act for facilitating the Planting of the Highlands.
The General Assembly, considering the many vacancies that are now in the North and Highlands, they do discharge the planting in Lowland congregations preachers having the Irish language, especially such as have been educated upon the Highland bursaries, or the transporting to the Lowlands ministers planted in the Highlands without a particular allowance of the General Assembly.
IX. May 16, 1716.—Act empowering the Commission to send Committees to the Highlands, &c.
The General Assembly empowers their Commission to send committees to the North and Highlands, to visit the churches there, and consider the state thereof, and to purge and plant kirks; and which committees are to join the Presbyteries of the bounds they are sent to, and to assist them in their work.