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 14, 1719.
I. Sess. 1, May 14, 1719.— Act appointing the King's Commission to John Earl of othes to be Recorded.
II. The King's most gracious Letter to the General Assembly, presented to them by his Majesty's Commissioner, 14th May 1719.
Right Reverend and well-beloved, we greet you well. Under the full assurance of the constant zeal and affection of the Church of Scotland to our person and government, we do, with great willingness, countenance your General Assembly at this time, being confident that you will now meet with the same good disposition, and conduct yourselves with that temper and unanimity as you have hitherto done.
You may most firmly assure yourselves of our ready and cheerful concurrence in whatever methods shall be taken for the promoting true religion and piety, the discouraging profaneness and immorality, and for the preventing the growth of Popery.
The differences which have for some time been among you on account of the oaths, I hope, shall now be happily removed, and I must recommend it to you to be upon your guard against the practices of such as would endeavour to raise unhappy divisions among you, there being nothing that can tend more to your honour and welfare than concord and brotherly love.
We have again made choice of our right trusty and well-beloved cousin, John Earl of Rothes, to represent our person in this Assembly, whose known abilities to discharge that trust, together with his former services therein, will, we doubt not, make him acceptable to you. And so we bid you heartily farewell.
III. Sess. 3, May 16, 1719.— The General Assembly's Answer to the King's most gracious Letter.
May it please your Majesty,
The great honour done us by your Majesty's most gracious Letter, and your royal goodness in condescending to signify your satisfaction with former General Assemblies, adds new life and vigour to that constant zeal and affection to your Majesty's person and government, which the members of this Church reckon their duty and their glory, and lays us under the strongest obligations to conduct ourselves with that temper and unanimity that becomes us; and to endeavour, in the best manner we are able, to approve ourselves to God and to your Majesty.
The great encouragement we have, by your Majesty's assuring us of your ready and cheerful concurrence in whatever methods shall be taken for promoting true religion and piety, the discouraging profaneness and immorality, and preventing the growth of Popery, renders us inexcusable, should we be wanting on our part to exert ourselves to the utmost towards obtaining these good ends.
Your Majesty's extraordinary condescension in taking care to have the differences amongst us, on account of the oaths, happily removed, is an unparalleled instance of royal goodness, for which we can never be sufficiently thankful; and as it gives us the comfortable prospect of happy effects to follow upon it, so it calls us to guard ourselves, with the strictest care and watchfulness, against the practices of such as would endeavour to raise unhappy divisions amongst us, and whatever may lessen that concord and brotherly love, which tends so much to the honour and welfare of this Church.
The Earl of Rothes his steady adherence at all times to the interest of the happy Revolution and Protestant succession, his great zeal for your Majesty's service, his good affection to the Church of Scotland, the proof he has formerly given of his eminent abilities for discharging the high trust wherewith he is now clothed, render your Majesty's choice of him to represent your Royal person in this Assembly most acceptable to us.
That Almighty God may plentifully enrich your Majesty with his best blessings, and
advance your glorious designs for the happiness of your own people, and the good of
the whole Protestant interest; that his watchful Providence may be your protection,
and return you in safety to Great Britain; that he may eminently bless their Royal
Highnesses the Prince and Princess of Wales, their Royal offspring, and all your
Royal Family; that as He has signally appeared in defeating the attempts of your
Majesty's enemies, so He would continue his goodness in supporting your righteous
cause, bless and direct your councils, and prosper your arms for preserving the quiet
of your dominions, and restoring the peace of Europe; and that, after a long and
prosperous reign on earth, your Majesty may be crowned with immortal glory in
Heaven, are the most fervent prayers of,
May it please your Majesty, your Majesty's most faithful, most obedient, and most loyal subjects, the Ministers and Elders met in this National Assembly of the Church of Scotland.
IV. Sess. 4, May 18, 1719.—Act for preventing the Growth of Popery, for Encouragement of Ministers, and the Settlement and Provision of Schools.
The General Assembly, taking into their serious consideration the extraordinary growth of Popery in several places of Scotland, do, for preventing thereof, exhort and enjoin all Presbyteries and particular ministers, and Kirk-sessions, to have a watchful eye on the Papists within their bounds, and to take up lists of their names, and to send the same to the Commission of the General Assembly, to be laid before his Majesty's Advocate, or to be otherwise used by the Commission as they shall see cause; and that the said Presbyteries, ministers, and Kirk-sessions, be at all pains to reclaim Papists, and that they observe what is enjoined for that end, by the 8th Act of the General Assembly, anno 1707; and suchlike, that Presbyteries, in whose bounds there are Papists, do give in informations against them, according to the 11th Act of the General Assembly, 1714; and the General Assembly likewise appoints Presbyteries to hold visitations in those parishes where Popery abounds, and inquire into the circumstances thereof, the number of catechisable persons therein, how many of them are Protestants, and how many Papists, and who of them are apostates; as also, what is the length and breadth of such parishes, and what the real rent, and also the valued rent of each heritor extends to, that so it may be known where new erections are practicable, and how much each parish may afford toward the maintenance of schools, conform to law. And, further, the General Assembly appoints that at these visitations the churches and manses be also inspected by tradesmen in a legal manner; and that where ministers do want glebes, grass, or other accommodations, the course prescribed by law be followed; and that an extract of what is done in the premises be sent to the procurator and agent for the Church, that diligence may be taken out thereon, according to law. And, in like manner, where schools are wanting in any parish, the General Assembly hereby appoints that Presbyteries make legal intimation to the heritors and parishioners to meet on a certain day, and at a certain place, to stent themselves for a salary to a schoolmaster, and for the needful accommodations for him, as is appointed by 5th Act Parliament 1st, Charles I. anno 1633, and 26th Act, Sess. 2d, Parliament King William, anno 1696, and that they appoint a committee to meet with them; and if the heritors and parishioners, and, failing the heritors, the most part of the parishioners, do meet, they may proceed to stent, and also to proportion the money laid on; but if they either meet not, or, being met, do fail in settling a salary and providing a house for the schoolmaster, then, and in that case, the Assembly appoints the Presbytery to present a petition to the Commissioners of Supply, or any five or more of them, with an extract of the valued rent of the parish, and crave that the Commissioners may, in the terms of the foresaid Acts of Parliament, settle a school; and if the Commissioners refuse or shift the doing of it, that instruments be taken against them, and thereupon a process be commenced before the Lords of Council and Session, who have already, in the like cases, provided salaries and houses for schoolmasters. And if, when all this is done, the heritors will not call a qualified schoolmaster, the General Assembly appoints and requires the Presbytery, after the expiring of one year, to order intimation to be made from the pulpit to the heritors and parishioners to meet upon a certain day, in order to elect and present one to be schoolmaster; and if at that time they do it not, the Presbytery is appointed to present one; and, after edicts duly published with respect to him, to admit and settle him. And, lastly, where competent stipends are not provided in parishes where Popery abounds, or where the stipends are paid in small parcels, the General Assembly appoints the Presbytery concerned to cause draw up a state of these stipends, how, and by whom they are paid, and also an account of the real rent of each heritor in such parishes, and send the same to the procurator and agent for the Church, who, upon receipt thereof, are ordered to commence processes for settling of competent stipends to the ministers, where the same is not already done; and the Assembly appoints the expenses of processes for settling of stipends and schools in parishes where Popery abounds, to be borne out of the Church's public money.
V. Sess. 5, May 19, 1719.— Representation of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge, with an Act thereupon.
"Unto the Right Reverend and Honourable, the Moderator and remanent Members of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, the Committee of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge humbly represents—That the venerable Assemblies, and other judicatures of this Church, having all along showed so much zeal for the advancement of the Society's undertaking, they find themselves bound in duty, in the Society's name, to make a public acknowledgment of it; and for the encouragement of the Church to continue her kind assistance to the Society in their work, to lay before this venerable Assembly a short account of the success with which it has pleased God to bless their endeavours, and to show them, that not only did a multitude of charitable people, of all ranks, contribute liberally in the ordinary public collections, but divers persons have, beside their first donations in common with others, mortified considerable sums to the Society's stock, whereby it is now increased to upwards of L.7000 sterling; and the Society and their committee have not only taken care to lay out this on good and unquestionable security, but have, upon the yearly annual rent thereof, erected, and have determined instantly to erect, to the number of forty-two, schools in such places of the Highlands and Islands as appeared to them, from the best informations, to stand most in need of their assistance, viz., Kintail in Strathnaver, Braccadale in Isle of Skye—this school was formerly at Snizort; Hirta, alias St. Kilda, a far remote island, where the Society maintains a minister, who is also schoolmaster; Glenmuick in Braemar; Monaltry there; Harray in Orkney; Abertarff in the Shire of Inverness; Tomnavillan in Banffshire; Shapinshay in Orkney—an Island; Westray there; Kildonan in the Shire of Sutherland; Mull—an Island; Laggan in Badenoch; Strowan in Atholl; Kilmorack in Ross; Lochearn in Perthshire; Glenladnoch there; Glenarchna there; Tillichon in the Shire of Moray; Culphern there; Drummoyn there; Tillidivie there; Brae of Balquhidder in Perthshire; Strathyre there; Lochearn there; South Ronaldshay in Orkney—an Island; North Ronaldshay there; Bracklain in Perthshire; Collintogle there; Bridge of Turk there; Evie in Orkney; Orphire there; Rivan in Banffshire; Hoy in Orkney; Gremsay—an Island there; Tombowie in Dunbartonshire; Ardlewig there; Coverclet there; Clashmore there; Port in Stirlingshire; Firth in Orkney; Auldearn in Moray: From the greater part of all which places, the Society do from time to time receive most encouraging accounts of a multitude of scholars, and almost surprising advances in their learning.
"But there being applications made in favour of a great many other places beside these above mentioned, that greatly want the means of Christian education, the Society are earnestly solicitous to have them as speedily supplied as may be; but their present stock being capable to sustain no more schools than they have already established; and the committee being informed that there will be a balance remaining in the hands of the General Assembly of the money that was due to the Church, upon the fund of the equivalent, after payment of all the Church's debts stated upon that fund, which was set apart by the last Assembly for advancing the knowledge of God in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, they do, with the greatest submission, propose to this venerable Assembly, that the foresaid balance may be employed toward the erecting and maintaining charity schools in those places where Popery does most abound.
"The committee do own, that they were likewise informed, that the late Assembly had in view to maintain probationers as catechists, with the said money in such places; but their main design being the promoting of the knowledge of Christ, this present Assembly will still find themselves at liberty to follow those means that are most likely to reach that end; and the committee are very hopeful that the venerable Assembly will soon be of the mind that the erecting of charity schools, where not only the first foundations of the knowledge of the principles of the reformed Protestant religion will be firmly and solidly laid, and at leisure inculcated in the minds of the rude and ignorant, especially the younger sort; but the seeds of knowledge thus sown will be preserved by the scholars, their being taught to read the Holy Scriptures, the fountain of all truth, will be a much more probable way to advance the knowledge of Christ, and root out the Popish errors, than the overly instruction of an itinerant catechist, who cannot be supposed to have time enough to make his scholars understand distinctly the full meaning of the very terms in which the mysteries of our holy religion are expressed, without which his teaching can be of little use; especially if it be considered that the teachers of the charity schools do really perform all the work that such catechists can do, except it be to ease the minister of some diets of preaching; for the charity schools being commonly set up in places remote from the parish church, these schoolmasters do upon the Lord's Days, by the minister's direction, read the Holy Scriptures, and other good and pious books to the people, do sing Psalms and pray with them, and catechise them; and in the summer time, when the parents are obliged to remove their children from the schools to their sheilings, for herding their cattle, the schoolmaster may be enjoined to travel to and fro amongst those sheilings, and instruct the people.
"The venerable Assembly will please further to consider what difficulties occur in getting preachers having the Irish language, sufficiently qualified to be catechists, according to the scheme set forth in the act of the late Assembly, when, notwithstanding all the encouragements given by the Assemblies of this Church to students having that language, there cannot be as many found as to supply the vacancies in Highland congregations, when the same fall out.
"And, to persuade the venerable Assembly to give all encouragement to the Society's undertaking, the committee lays hold on this occasion to inform them a little of their constitution and method of management; for, besides five general meetings of the whole Society yearly, their committee of fifteen, which by their patent is obliged to meet monthly, meets for the most part every week; and matters are so ordered by the Society, that this committee, upon any necessary emergency, is always convened upon half an hour's advertisement; so that the Society and their committees have more frequent occasions to inquire into the state of their schools, and diligence of their schoolmasters, than any Church judicatory can have to oversee their catechists; and for the Society's better direction, and more exact management, they keep a close and constant correspondence with the ministers of the parishes, and Presbyteries of the bounds within which their schools are settled; and when they find their schools do not prosper in one place, they, by the Presbytery's advice, do transport them to another. Many other instances could be here given to show the exactness of the Society's administration; but the same is so well known to a great number of the reverend and honourable members of this Assembly, that the committee forbears to give the Assembly the trouble now to mention them.
"May it therefore please this venerable Assembly to renew the recommendations of former Assemblies to Presbyteries and particular ministers, to deal seriously with well disposed persons, who have not yet contributed, to extend their charity for advancing the pious ends of the Society's erection, that they may be soon enabled to establish schools in those countries where Popery prevails, that do yet want the same; and, if the Assembly shall find any occasion for the Society's assistance in the way that they shall think fit to bestow the foresaid balance, the Committee does, in the name of the said Society, freely offer their service to the Assembly.
The General Assembly having discoursed fully upon the matter of the said representation, they did, and hereby do, appoint the excrescence of the Church's money upon the fund of the equivalent, that shall remain after payment of the Church's debts stated upon that fund, to be lodged with the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge, for erecting schools in the Highlands and Islands; and they declare that the receipt of the treasurer of the said Society to the procurator for the Church for the said remains, shall be a sufficient exoneration to him at his accounting for the said monies. And, further, the General Assembly renews all recommendations given by former General Assemblies in favour of the said Society, and do give the said Society and their committee hearty thanks for their great care and faithful management of the trust reposed in them.
VI. Sess. 5, May 19, 1719.— Act concerning the Qualification of Members of the Commission.
The General Assembly do resolve and appoint that all the members of the Commissions of this and subsequent Assemblies be qualified according to the Acts of Assembly, particularly the 9th Act of the last General Assembly, before they vote or act as such.
VII. Sess. 5, May 19, 1719.— Recommendation concerning Deacons.
The General Assembly recommends to all the ministers of this Church to take care that deacons as well as elders be ordained in such congregations where deacons are wanting; but declares that deacons, as such, shall have no decisive voice in calling of ministers, or in the exercise of Church discipline.
VIII. Sess. 7, May 21, 1719, ante meridiem.—Act for the right Management of the Church's Public Money.
The General Assembly, considering how unsuitable it is for the Church to engage their credit beyond what their funds are able to answer, therefore, to prevent this inconvenience in time coming, the General Assembly do hereby prohibit and discharge the applying of any of the said money toward the payment of the expenses of processes for stipends, except in parishes where Popery abounds, or such as shall be recommended both by the Presbytery and Synod to which the parish belongs, and the case laid before the Assembly, and their particular order given for that effect before the commencement of the process: And the General Assembly does re solve and declare, that for hereafter no new warrants or orders shall be granted for payment of any money to any person whatsoever, except to preachers sent to supply in the North for their allowances; and they hereby strictly prohibit and discharge the clerk of Assembly, or sub-clerk, to write out, or the moderator of this or subsequent Assemblies to subscribe, any orders or warrants for payment of any new grants out of the Church's yearly allowance, until all former debts already contracted by preceding Assemblies or Commissions be first paid. And, further, the General Assembly resolves and declares, that at no time hereafter any warrants for money shall be granted, until it be known that there is as much in the hands of the receiver of the Church's money as will be sufficient to answer the same; and they appoint the 7th Act of the General Assembly, anno 1712, to be punctually observed, and do require the procurator for the Church, when any demands for money come before the General Assembly or Commissions thereof, to acquaint them with the state of their funds, and to read the foresaid act, anno 1712, and this present act to them. And the Assembly discharges the committee chosen by each Assembly for auditing and revising the Church's public accounts, to propose the giving either of money, or precepts for money, exceeding that part of the year's allowance belonging to that Assembly which is free and unappropriated; and appoints them to bring their report first to the Committee for Overtures, before it be brought into the General Assembly. And the General Assembly also appoints the said committee for the public accounts to cause this present act, and any new regulations that shall be made about money, to be read to them yearly, and to reject all petitions and demands not in the terms thereof; and to report an account of any breaches that shall be made therein to the Assembly.
IX. Sess. 8, May 22, 1719.— Act showing the Sin and Evil of Running Unentered Goods, and of the Perjuries at the Custom-Houses in Matters of Trade.
The General Assembly, taking into their serious consideration the many sins and scandals that are occasioned in this nation, especially upon the sea-coasts thereof, by the running of uncustomed goods, to the great discouragement and detriment of all fair traders; the multiplied perjuries that some shipmasters, merchants, and others, become guilty of in his Majesty's custom-houses, through this unlawful and unwarrantable practice, to the great dishonour of God, the reproach of the Christian name and character, and to the wounding and ruining of precious souls; the dreadful profanation of the Lord's Day that these impious courses do lead seamen, farmers, merchants, and others of their assistants to, in transporting and hiding of their goods on the Sabbath; and that all this is attended with horrid lying and dissimulation, with beastly drunkenness and stealing—the persons who help to carry off these unentered goods, and are disposed, through influence, friendship, and money, to lodge and conceal them, reckoning it a small offence and sin, if any, to take a share of them to themselves; and that such practices are sometimes the occasion of fighting, beating, slaughter, and blood, and do not a little lessen his Majesty's just revenues, that by the laws of God, and laws of the land, his Majesty's trading subjects (under his protection) are obliged to render to him for conscience sake, in obedience to the commands of God's holy Word, "That we should render to Cæsar the things that are Cæsar's, and to God the things that are God's, "Matth. xxii. 21; "And to give tribute to whom tribute is due, and custom to whom custom," &c., Rom. xiii. 7; do judge themselves bound, in duty and conscience, to warn all men of the sin, evil, and danger, of such courses; and they strictly enjoin all ministers, especially those whom the providence of God has fixed in sea-trading towns and places, to represent to the people and hearers the great impiety and monstrous wickedness of such methods to gain this world, to the endangering of their souls; and, as they have access, seriously to deal with the consciences of such as they have ground to suspect guilty in this matter, and to show to them the evil of their ways, earnestly beseeching and obtesting them, in the fear of God, and from the consideration of a future judgment, to abstain from such crying sins and deadly courses, that cannot but justly provoke a holy God to deny them success in their enterprises and undertakings, to lessen their means, and to send heavy judgments upon them; that are so contrary to divine laws, and inconsistent with Christians, their professions and engagements to the most high God; that have so plain a tendency to ruin their soulds, and to draw down the wrath of God upon them and theirs; and that serve so palpably to debauch the consciences and morals of so many in the country, and to involve others in guilt with themselves, by bribing and otherwise. And the General Assembly ordains this Act to be once read in all the churches in Scotland, and as often in particular parishes as the prudence of ministers shall direct.
X. Sess. 8, May 22, 1719.— Recommendation against Ahuses at Penny Weddings.
The General Assembly did, and hereby do, recommend to Synods, Presbyteries, and Kirk sessions, to see to the execution of the Acts of the General Assembly against abuses at penny weddings, and to apply to the civil magistrate for the execution of the laws against persons guilty of abuses and disorders on these occasions.
XI. Sess. 9, May 22, 1719, post meridiem.—Commission to some Ministers and Ruling Elders for discussing divers Affairs referred to them.
The General Assembly, having taken into their consideration that there are divers weighty affairs which they cannot overtake, do nominate, commission, and appoint, their reverend brethren, Messrs James Grierson, one of the ministers of Edinburgh, their Moderator, &c.; to be Commissioners of this General Assembly, to the effect after mentioned, with power to the said Commission, or their quorum, which is hereby declared to be any thirty-one of the said Commissioners, whereof twenty-one are always to be ministers, to meet and convene within the Assembly-House at Edinburgh, the first free day after the dissolution of this Assembly, at ten o'clock forenoon; and afterwards, the second Wednesdays of August, November, and March, next to come, and oftener, when or where they shall think fit and convenient; with power to the said Commission to choose their own moderator. And suchlike, the General Assembly fully empowers and authorises their said Commissioners, or their quorum, above mentioned, to cognosce and finally determine, as they shall see cause, in every matter referred, or that shall be referred to them, by any act or order of this Assembly; and to do every thing contained in and conform to the instructions given, or to be given, by this Assembly; and to advert unto the interests of the Church on every occasion, that the Church, and present establishment thereof, do not suffer or sustain any prejudice which they can prevent, as they will be answerable; providing this general clause be not extended to particular affairs or processes before Synods or Presbyteries, that are not of universal concern to or influence upon the whole Church. And it is hereby appointed, that what shall be determined at one diet of the said Commission, with relation to private causes, shall be unalterable by any other diet thereof, and shall stand and continue in force till disapproven by the General Assembly. And the General Assembly renews the instructions given by the General Assembly, anno 1717, to their Commission, and appoints the same to stand in full force, as instructions to the Commissioners above named, and to be observed by them in all points, as if the same were specially therein inserted; and that they inquire how the prohibition has been observed in the bounds of the Presbytery of Auchterarder, or elsewhere, whereby the using of the proposition emitted by that Presbytery, and condemned by the General Assembly, anno 1717, was discharged; and that they inquire into the publishing and spreading of books and pamphlets tending to the diffusing of that condemned proposition, and promoting a scheme of opinions relative thereto, which are inconsistent with our Confession of Faith; and that the recommenders of such books or pamphlets, or the errors therein contained, whether by word or print, be called before them to answer for their conduct in such recommendations. And the Commission are empowered to judge in cases of doctrine that shall be brought before them by appeals or references from Synods or Presbyteries; and they are likewise appointed to take care that impressions of the Holy Scriptures, of the Confession of Faith, and Catechisms, and of all other books relating to the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government of this Church, be correct. And the said Commissioners are hereby strictly prohibited and discharged to meddle in any other matters than what are committed and referred to them as above mentioned; and in all their actings, they are to proceed according to the acts and constitutions of this National Church, and to do nothing contrary thereto, or to the prejudice of the same; declaring, that in and for all their actings they shall be accountable to and censurable by the next General Assembly, as they shall see cause; and this Commission is to continue and endure until another Commission be appointed; and members are required to attend the diets of the said Commission, and absentees therefrom ordered to be noticed, according to the 17th Act of the General Assembly, 1706. And for the better securing of a quorum, and attendance of members on the Commission, the General Assembly prohibits the Presbytery of Edinburgh, and other Presbyteries within twelve miles thereof, to meet any of the days or weeks appointed for the meeting of this Commission; and such of the members of these Presbyteries as are on the Commission are required, all of them, to give punctual attendance on the diets thereof; and Presbyteries at a greater distance, who have four or more men bers on the Commission, are to take care that at least two of them attend each diet of the same.
XII. Sess. 9, May 23, 1719.— Act for promoting Religion and Learning in Universities and Colleges.
The General Assembly, considering how much it is their duty to do all that is in their power for promoting religion and learning in this Church, do hereby instruct their Commission carefully to advert to everything whereby they may contribute to the flourishing of the sciences and good literature, and to the propagating of religion and loyalty in universities; and, particularly, that they diligently inquire what privileges and interest the judicatories of this Church, or the ministers thereof, have by the constitutions of the several universities and colleges, and by the laws of the land, with respect to the settlement of the masters and professors in them, which the General Assembly hereby appoints their Commission, by all just methods, to maintain inviolably, and improve towards the promoting the foresaid interests of true piety and learning; and that, for this end, they receive and give all due encouragement to whatever applications may be made to them for this effect.