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 9, 1723.
I. Sess. 1, May 9, 1723.—The King's Commission to Charles Earl of Hopetoun 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 Charles Earl of Hopetoun, 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 the 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. Sess. 1, May 9, 1723.—The King's most gracious Letter to the General Assembly, presented to them by his Majesty's Commissioner.
III. Sess. 3, May 11, 1723.—The General Assembly's Answer to the King's most gracious Letter.
IV. Sess. 3, May 11, 1723.—To the King's most Excellent Majesty, the humble Address of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.
May it please your Majesty,
The greatful sense of the goodness of God, in blessing us with such a gracious Sovereign, and the duty and loyalty toward your Majesty, which so justly fill our hearts, oblige us to show the deepest concern for every thing that affects the safety of your Majesty's person and government; and, therefore, though with the greatest satisfaction we do understand that the Commission of the late General Assembly did, according to their duty, present a humble address to your Majesty, upon occasion of the happy discovery of the late horrid conspiracy, which address we heartily approve, as expressing the most sincere thoughts of our minds; yet we cannot omit laying hold of this first opportunity of our meeting in a General Assembly, to declare, in the most public and solemn manner, our utmost detestation of that most wicked and execrable design, and to express our great joy that it hath pleased God to assist your Majesty in making a seasonable discovery thereof.
A design so bloody and detestable in itself, and so pernicious and fatal in its consequences, raises in our hearts the greatest horror and indignation. We have for a long time observed, with astonishment, the restless and impudent malice of your enemies, endeavouring to misrepresent your Majesty's just and gracious administration, in order to diffuse their own disaffection to your person and government into the minds of others of your Majesty's unwary, though well-meaning subjects. With this view have they charged upon your reign those evils to which none but themselves gave rise. They have set forth the most innocent, necessary, and prudent steps of your administration in the falsest and blackest colours, and have even denied and ridiculed your royal goodness and mercy, to which multitudes of themselves, and of their nearest relations, owe their very lives and unaccountable fondness to have your kingdoms again enthralled under all the miseries of Popery and arbitrary power.
Your enemies are abundantly sensible, that there is no accomplishing this their most wicked desire, so long as the throne is filled by a Prince so wise and steady in all his measures, and so powerful a protector and guardian of the Protestant religion, and the liberties of his people, as your most sacred Majesty. But, how shall we express our amazement and just indignation, that any of your Majesty's subjects, especially such as call themselves Protestants, should have contrived to destroy your Majesty's sacred person and your royal family, and to cut off many of your best servants and subjects, by the complicated wickednesses of perjury, murder, and parricide, in order to set a Popish Pretender upon your throne? This we look on as striking at the root of the religion and liberties of a Protestant and free people, and of all that is valuable and dear to us, both as men and Christians, and as a horrible evidence to what barbarous wickedness an incurable malice can drive men of abandoned spirits.
Had God, for the sins of your kingdoms, permitted this hateful conspiracy to take effect, it must have been attended with such a dismal train of fatal consequences, as makes our hearts to tremble: And, therefore, while, with hearts full of joy and thankfulness, we adore the wisdom and goodness of our gracious God, in discovering and disappointing such an execrable design, permit us, Great Sir, with the greatest loyalty and most dutiful affection, to congratulate your Majesty upon the success of your prudent and watchful administration in this matter.
The opening up so much of this deep-laid plot, and tracing it through so many of its various mazes and windings, the stripping it of those vails of darkness which were so industriously spread over it by men of the most artful cunning, and the deliverance thereby wrought for your Majesty's sacred person and your royal family, and also for the dearest privileges of all your faithful subjects, and of this Church in particular, will, we hope, be remembered by latest posterity, to the honour of God, and as one of the glories of your Majesty's most auspicious reign.
We humbly presume, upon this occasion, to assure your Majesty of the continuance of our loyalty and affection, and of all that duty and fidelity which is owing from the most faithful subjects to the best of Kings; and that we will use our utmost endeavours to instil into the people among whom we have charge, the same sentiments of duty and loyalty to your Majesty's person and government, and the same zeal for the Protestant succession in your royal family, which we ourselves esteem it our great happiness to entertain.
May the same wise and merciful God, who brought you so seasonably to the throne,
and who hath hitherto so graciously preserved your sacred Majesty, continue His
watchful care over you. May He lay open to the very bottom, and effectually disappoint, all the dark and malicious designs of your enemies, and turn their counsels
into foolishness. May the crown, wherewith He hath adorned your royal head, sit
long and easy and flourishing upon it. And may all your subjects be made sensible
of the valuable blessings which they enjoy under your happy government. May He
eminently bless their Royal Highnesses the Prince and Princess of Wales, and their
offspring, and make them the happy instruments of much good to the world, and to
the Church in their day. May Protestant Sovereigns, of your royal line, always inherit your crown, and these illustrious qualities with which your Majesty does now
adorn it. May you be long honoured to do eminent service to God on earth, and at
length enjoy a great reward in heaven. So pray,
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.
V. Sess. 3, May 11, 1723.—Additional Directions to Visitors of Books, besides those mentioned in the 4th Act of the General Assembly, 1713.
1. That the visitors of Synod-books take notice if the Acts of Assembly concerning licensing probationers be observed, particularly, that none be entered on trials till they have studied divinity the usual time, and produce ample testimonials, and the advice of the Synod be taken, and the questions appointed by Act of the General Assembly read to them before trials; and that none be entered thereon until they have resided an half-year at least, immediately before, in their bounds. And that the whole particulars in the 5th Act of the General Assembly, anno 1705, 10th Act of the General Assembly, 1711, and 6th Act of the General Assembly, 1714, be punctually observed; and that all give satisfying answers to the questions, and sign the Formula contained in the foresaid 10th Act of the General Assembly, 1711, and no other, according to the 10th Act of the General Assembly, 1717; and that licences bear the same.
2. If due care be taken for preserving purity of doctrine, according to the 9th Act of the General Assembly, anno 1717, Acts 5th and 8th of the General Assembly, 1720, and 7th Act of the General Assembly, 1722.
4. That they take notice of the diligence of Synods and Presbyteries, in observing the 11th Act of the General Assembly, 1714, 13th Act of the General Assembly, 1715, 8th Act of the General Assembly, 1717, 4th Act of the General Assem bly, 1719, and 7th Act of the General Assembly, 1720, for procuring the better execution of former acts against Popery, and for preventing the growth thereof, by taking up yearly lists of their names and designations, and giving in copies of the same to the Justices of the Peace, or other Judges competent, and to the Synods; and if their diligence herein be recorded.
5. If all Ruling Elders have signed the Formula contained in the 10th Act of the General Assembly, 1694, and if Presbyteries, at their privy censures, inquire into the behaviour of their members, and if all Ruling Elders and Deacons in their bounds keep family-worship, and observe the other particulars mentioned in the 9th Act of the General Assembly, 1722, and if deacons be ordained in every parish, as is appointed by Act 7th Assembly, 1719.
6. That they remark the diligence of Synods and Presbyteries, with relation to reading the King's Proclamation, and abbreviate of the Acts of Parliament and General Assembly against Immorality, and giving suitable exhortations, according to the 5th Act of the General Assembly, 1714.
VI. Sess. 5, May 14, 1723.—Act concerning the Election of a Representative from the University of Edinburgh in the General Assembly.
The General Assembly did, and hereby do, enact and declare, that the right of election of a representative in the General Assemblies of this National Church, from the University of Edinburgh, is only in the professors, principal, regents, masters, and others bearing office in the said University; that is to say, the chancellor, rector, and dean of faculty, if any such there be, exclusive of all others; and discharge the Clerk of the General Assembly, in all time hereafter, to receive in any commission to any person, or to insert any person's name in the rolls of Assembly, as a representative from the said University, in succeeding Assemblies, whose commission is given otherwise than is appointed by this Act.
VII. Sess. 8, May 17, 1723.—Act concerning the Form of Commissions from Burghs and Universities to their Representatives in the General Assembly.
The General Assembly, for the greater uniformity in commissions to members of the General Assembly, and attestations of the same, do, in the meantime, until the matter concerning commissions from burghs be further thought upon, appoint, that the rules and forms prescribed by the 8th Act of the General Assembly, anno 1695, Act 6th General Assembly, 1704, Act 9th General Assembly, 1718, and 4th Act General Assembly, 1720, in commissions from Presbyteries to their representatives in the General Assembly, be strictly observed in commissions to be given to representatives of Universities and Royal Burghs: And do appoint, that all commissions to members of the General Assembly, whether from Universities or Royal Burghs, and attestations of the same, shall be conceived in the terms prescribed by the former Acts above mentioned, mutatis mutandis.
VIII. Sess. 8, May 17, 1723.—Act concerning the Church's Public Money.
The General Assembly having had laid before them a report of the Committee appointed by the last Assembly for examining the public accounts, which was referred by the said Assembly to their Commission, together with the said Commission their judgment thereupon, and upon the several petitions and claims for money laid before the said Assembly; and having considered the several Acts of Assembly with relation to the disposal of the Church's public money, do find, that there are many demands made upon that fund which it will not answer for several years to come: And, therefore, the Assembly do resolve and appoint, that not only no more orders shall be granted by the General Assemblies of this Church, and Commissions thereof, until all the claims already stated be first paid; but also, seeing that now the vacancies in the North, the Highlands and Islands, are for the most part planted, and that when any vacancies shall happen in these places, it will be more asy to get the same planted than formerly it was, therefore, the General Assembly do hereby rescind and repeal the 5th article of the 8th Act of the General Assembly, held anno 1698, which relates to the allowances to ministers or probationers to be sent to the foresaid places, and likewise the 6th article of the 11th Act of the General Assembly, 1699, and the 5th Act of the General Assembly, anno 1715, in so far as concerns the said allowances.
IX. Sess. 12, May 18, 1723.—Commission to some Ministers and Elders for discussing divers Affairs referred to them.
The General Assembly, taking into their consideration that there are divers weighty affairs which they cannot overtake, do hereby nominate and appoint their reverend brethren, Messrs James Smith at Cramond, their Moderator, &c.; to be Commissioners of this General Assembly, to the effects after mentioned, with power to the said Commission, or their quorum, (the powers and instructions are the same as in the preceding year.)
X. Sess. 11, May 20, 1723.—Act enlarging the Time allowed by the 4th Act of Assembly, anno 1718, for contributing to the Fund for maintaining the indigent Widows and Orphans of Ministers.
The General Assembly, having heard and considered a proposal made by some of the contributors in the Synod of Lothian to the fund for maintaining the indigent widows and orphans of ministers, setting forth, that there are divers ministers, who have neglected in due time to pay in their decimas of their stipends, according to the 4th Act of the General Assembly, anno 1718, and are now desirous to contribute; but the receiving thereof is prohibited by the said act. And the said contributors being unwilling that any should be deprived of the opportunity of contributing to so necessary and charitable a fund, and therefore proposing, that any minister who pleases may be yet allowed another year to pay in the decima of their stipends, provided they pay in therewith the annual rent thereof from the time it should first have been paid. The General Assembly did, and hereby do, enlarge the time allowed by the foresaid Act of Assembly, for ministers paying in their contributions, in Synods, where no such contributions have yet been made, until the term of Whitsunday 1725, and as to such Synods, where the said contributions have in part been made, the General Assembly recommend to the ministers who have contributed, that they would willingly consent yet to admit such as shall pay in the decima of their stipends, to the ends above mentioned, betwixt and the term of Whitsunday next to come, 1724, with the annual rent thereof from the time it should first have been paid, to join with them in the foresaid pious and charitable design, upon the footing of the foresaid Act of Assembly made to that effect.
XI. Sess. 12, May 21, 1723.—Act anent Mr Gabriel Wilson, Minister at Maxton, his Sermon, preached before the Synod of Merse and Teviotdale.
The General Assembly having had under consideration a reference made by the Synod of Merse and Teviotdale to the Commission of the late General Assembly, and by them transmitted to this Assembly, containing some remarks of that Synod upon a sermon preached before them by Mr Gabriel Wilson, minister at Maxton, in October 1721; find three points of doctrine, wherein the Synod represent that he did not satisfy them as to his orthodoxy, viz. 1mo, That the moral law to a believer is divested of the curse or threatening of eternal damnation, and hath no other sanction but fatherly chastisement. 2do, That gospel or saving repentance is not necessary in a sinner, in order to the pardon of his sins in justification. 3tio, That assurance, or a man's persuasion, that he shall be saved by Christ, is of the essence of justifying faith. And the General Assembly having heard what was contained in the remarks of the Synod, and offered by them upon these three points of doctrine, and having also heard Mr Gabriel Wilson at full length thereupon, thought fit to appoint a committee of their number to converse further with Mr Gabriel Wilson, and prepare an overture upon the whole; and having heard the report of the committee, wherein they represented, that Mr Wilson pleads, that these points of doctrine are not expressed in his sermon; and that it was purely in obedience to the Synod's command, that he had said any thing about them before the Synod, or their committee. And as to the first proposition concerning the sanction of the law, he declared before the committee that he did not tenaciously adhere to that expression, that the moral law is divested of the threatening of eternal damnation as to the believer; and that all his meaning is, that a believer, by his union with Christ, is for ever delivered from the curse of the law, so that he shall never for one moment come under the sentence of eternal condemnation. As to the second proposition, he declared, that justifying faith and gospel repentance are inseparable both in their principles and exercise. And being asked, if he would own it as a truth, that God did never justify an impenitent sinner; he answered, that he could not express himself in these terms, or in any words that might seem to import that a sinner was justified by any works of his own; and that the cautioning against that was the main thing he had in his view, in expressing himself so as he did in his sermon, and to the Synod. And as to the third proposition, he declared, that he owned all that is contained in our Confession of Faith and Catechisms upon that head. And, at the same time, adhered to the answers given in to the Commission of the General Assembly, anno 1721, upon that point, by the twelve ministers then before them, of which he was one. And the committee in the report having further represented, that they having reasoned upon what Mr Wilson had laid before them, though they had not received satisfaction from him upon these points, yet, considering that all the foresaid three points had been under the particular consideration of the last General Assembly, and that they had passed an Act thereupon, and that this process concerning Mr Gabriel Wilson was commenced, and depending before the Synod of Merse and Teviotdale before that act; upon the whole, they declared their opinion, that the General Assembly should admonish the said Mr Gabriel Wilson, and prohibit and discharge him to use, by writing, printing, preaching, catechising, or otherwise teaching, either publicly or privately, any expression upon these three points of doctrine, that are inconsistent with, or contrary unto, the points of doctrine maintained in this Church, agreeable to the Word of God and the Confession of Faith and Catechisms thereof, and contrary to what was determined in the Act of the General Assembly, anno 1722, upon these subjects; and that he should be admonished to keep the form of sound words, and to beware of expressing himself upon any occasion, in such terms as may be of bad influence on Christian practice, or any ways tend to weaken the life and power of godliness, and be of dangerous consequence to the great interests of precious souls: which report of the committee the General Assembly having heard, and maturely considered, they did, and hereby do, agree thereto, and enact accordingly; and the said Mr Gabriel Wilson being called in, was admonished and prohibited by the Moderator in the terms of this act.