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 1, 1729.
I. Sess. 1, May 1, 1729.—The King's Commission to David Earl of Buchan produced, and ordered to be recorded.
II. Sess. 1, May 1, 1729.—The King's most gracious Letter to the General Assembly, presented to them by his Majesty's Commissioner.
III. Sess. 3, May 3, 1729.—The General Assembly's Answer to the King's most gracious Letter.
IV. Sess. 3, May 3, 1729, ante meridiem.—Act renewing the Recommendation of the last General Assembly in favour of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge.
There was brought into the General Assembly, from their Committee for Bills, the petition and representation of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge, showing that the foresaid Society having formerly, from time to time, given an account to the General Assembly of the state of their affairs, and having, since the last General Assembly, caused print the present state thereof, and sent copies to all parishes, Presbyteries, and Synods, in Scotland, do now present a copy of the same to this Assembly, whereby it appears that the number of their schools is seventy-eight, and the number of scholars are near 3000; and the Society are about erecting more schools.
As to the school erected upon the fund left by the deceased John Raining, merchant in Norwich, it is in a flourishing condition, having therein, at the last visitation, 101 scholars; and the Society are using their endeavours for recovering what remains unpaid of that fund.
Many places are yet needing and petitioning for schools, but the Society's funds do not allow thereof; and divers of the masters do complain of the smallness of their salaries, and the Society are convinced that they need augmentations; but the expenses of furnishing books, postage, and other incidents, are so great, that the Society are much straitened how to answer the demands on them; and therefore did, for increasing their funds, grant a commission this year to divers noblemen, persons of honour, ministers, and other worthy and charitable persons in England, to be correspondent members, in order to obtain donations, and for negotiating the Society's affairs there; which commission is printed in the foresaid state.
The Society, considering that the coming of the Kingdom of our Lord and Saviour is what all sincere believers wish and pray for, and that it has pleased God to put it in the hearts of many in his Majesty's dominions to contribute their endeavours, and to bestow of their worldly substance for advancing the knowledge of Christ in places needing the means thereof, both at home and abroad; and notonly does our gracious Sovereign countenance it, but also out of his royal bounty gives yearly a considerable sum for that end; and Protestant powers abroad are concerning themselves in this laudable design, by sending missionaries to healthen nations, and with good success.
The Society, by their committee, did therefore apply to the reverend ministers of the Presbytery of Edinburgh to appoint a sermon on the foresaid subject, in the High Church of Edinburgh, the first Thursday of January yearly, being the day of the anniversary meeting of the foresaid Society; and that these sermons be for confirmation of people in the truth of the holy Christian religion, and the excellency thereof, and in the faith of the great promises made for spreading the knowledge of Christ; and the ministers of the foresaid Presbytery did very cordially agree thereunto; and that when the Society shall invite any of their number, the Presbytery should lay their appointment on him to preach that sermon; and left it to the Society to apply to the venerable Assembly to have their allowance to invite any minister of this National Church, who may conveniently be had, to preach that sermon annually.
It has been a great satisfaction and encouragement to this Society, that as their erection was at the earnest desire of the General Assembly, so they have still had the concurrence and approbation of the Established Church, and by the pious zeal and great care of the ministers thereof, considerable sums have been brought in to the Society, so that their present fund is upwards of L.9000 sterling, besides what of Mr Raining's mortification is already paid in, and divers other legacies by charitable persons, liferented and yet resting. But, at the same time, the Society cannot but represent that there are many ministers and parishes in Scotland who never, to this day have given any thing to the Society's funds. The Society are unwilling to be more particular in this matter, being hopeful those concerned will lay it to heart, and with their first conveniency contribute, but are resolved to prepare, in order to be laid before the next General Assembly, a full list of parishes in every Synod and Presbytery in Scotland deficient in contributing; and, therefore, humbly craving to the effect after mentioned.
The General Assembly, having heard and considered the foresaid representation and petition, they did, and hereby do, renew their former recommendations to deficients in contributing to the Society's funds, and do earnestly entreat them yet to in contribute cheerfully to so excellentand Christian an undertaking, and to send their donations in the terms of the eighth Act of the last General Assembly, to Mr Joseph Cave, merchant in Edinburgh, the Society's treasurer. And the Assembly recommends to any minister of this Church whom the Society's shall invite, yearly to preach a sermon at their anniversary meetings suitable to the occasion; and likewise, recommends to the several Presbyteries where the Society's schools are or may be settled, to visit them frequently, and give them all encouragement, and to report to the said Society the state of their charity schools, according to the rules laid down by them in the foresaid printed state of the Society.
V. Sess. 14, May 12, 1729, post meridiem.—Act Dividing the Presbytery of Lorn, and erecting a new Presbytery in Mull.
The General Assembly, having had laid before them a petition of the Presbytery of Lorn, concurred with by the Synod of Argyle, setting forth the great extent of the bounds of that Presbytery, and the distance at which sundry of the parishes in it do lie from the Presbytery seat, and that travelling in that country, both by sea and land, is very difficult, which often stops the members of Presbytery from meeting, and other personsconcerned from attending their diets, and occasions much expenses and trouble; and, for a remedy of this, in some measure, proposing the erection of another Presbytery therein—as the said petition and Act of the Synod, both read in Assembly, more fully bear. And the General Assembly, having considered the premises, and judging the present situation of the said Presbytery very inconvenient, and a great obstruction to the exercise of discipline, as well as an hinderance to the ministers in their work, they being thereby frequently detained long from their parishes; do, therefore, hereby disjoin the said Presbytery and parishes after named, and erect the same into two Presbyteries, in manner following, viz., the whole parishes within the Isles of Mull, Tiree, and Coll, and the country of Ardnamurchan, Sunnard, and Morven, consisting at present of six ministerial charges, into one Presbytery, to be called the Presbytery of Mull; and ordains, that their ordinary place of meeting be at Arros in Mull; and the parishes of Lismore and Appin, Ardchattan and Muckairn, Kilmore and Kilbride, Kilbrandon and Kilchattan, Kilninver and Kilmelfort, part of the old Presbytery of Lorn, with the parishes of Kilchrennan and Dallavich, and Innishall and Clachandysart, now in the bounds of the Presbytery of Inverary, into another Presbytery, consisting at present of seven ministerial charges, to be continued under the name of the Presbytery of Lorn; and appoints that their place of meeting be for ordinary at Kilmore. And the Assembly ordains the foresaid two Presbyteries to have their first meetings respective at the places above mentioned, upon the first Wednesday of July next; and they declare both the said Presbyteries to be still a part of the Synod of Argyle, as formerly, and to have the same powers and privileges which any other Presbytery have, by the Word of God and constitutions of this Church. And, lastly, the General Assembly ordains that the records and papers formerly belonging to the old Presbytery of Lorn remain with the new Presbytery of that name, but that they may be patent to the Presbytery of Mull, and that they have all necessary extracts therefrom, as they shall require the same.
VI. Sess. 15, May 13, 1729, ante meridiem.—Act concerning Mr John Simson, Professor of Divinity in the College of Glasgow.
The General Assembly, considering how necessary it is that the process which hath so long depended, concerning Mr John Simson, Professor of Divinity in the College of Glasgow, should be brought to an issue, such as may tend to the preservation of the purity of the doctrine and of the peace of this Church; and being now to give their determination in it, do observe, with great pleasure and thankfulness, that God hath so happily directed all the judicatories of this Church which have had this process under their consideration, that there hath not appeared the least difference of sentiment; but, on the contrary, there hath been the most perfect and unanimous agreement among them, as to the doctrine of the glorious Trinity, and the proper Supreme Deity of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, according as the same is revealed in the Holy Scriptures, and contained in our Confession of Faith and Catechisms.
And they having maturely and seriously considered all that hath been found rele vant and proven against the said Mr John Simson by the two last preceding Assemblies, together with all that hath been offered by him, for alleviating the censure that ought to be inflicted for the same; and having also considered the declarations given in by him to the two former General Assemblies, and to this, wherein he owns the orthodox doctrine concerning those great and fundamental articles of our holy religion, and disclaims and renounces all those errors, and erroneous or suspicious ways of speaking which he had been charged with, and declares himself exceedingly sorry for the offence he had given, by such ways of expressing himself. And though the said Mr John Simson hath constantly disowned that ever he held, or deliberately taught, the gross errors whereof he was accused, yet many members of this General Assembly declared it to be their opinion, that the uttering such things, and making use of such expressions, as have been found against Mr Simson, was such a fault in a minister, especially in one of his station, who had the care of the education of youth designed for the holy ministry, as deserved no less than the censure of deposition; and other members, in respect of the alleviations found in the course of the process, and of the declarations made by Mr Simson, having, on the other hand, given it as their opinion, that he ought to be treated with more tenderness; and the General Assembly being desirous to avoid going to extremities on either side, but to give such a decision in the matter as may give just and reasonable satisfaction on all hands, and preserve peace, both among the members of this Assembly, and among all the other ministers and members of the Church, find that the foresaid Mr John Simson, by what hath been found relevant and proven against him in this process, and also by his neglecting so many opportunities, as he had during the course thereof, of giving satisfaction to the judicatories of this Church, when called to do so, as to the soundness of his faith concerning those important articles about which he was called in question, had given such offence as renders it not fit or safe that he should further teach as a Professor of Divinity in this Church: Therefore, the General Assembly did, and hereby do, ratify and confirm the sentence of the last Assembly, suspending the said Mr John Simson from preaching and teaching, and all exercise of any ecclesiastical power or function, until another General Assembly shall think fit to take off this sentence; and also give it as their judgement, that it is not fit or safe that he be further employed in teaching divinity, and instructing of youth designed for the holy ministry in this Church.
And that the judicatories of this Church may have no more trouble about this process, the General Assembly have thought fit, that, for peace's sake, this whole affair concerning Mr Simson should rest here.
VII. Sess. 16, May 13, 1729, post meridiem.—Commission to some Ministers and Ruling Elders for Reformation of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, and for Management of the King's Bounty for that end.
The General Assembly, taking into their consideration the great extent of many parishes in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, and that, by reason thereof, ignorance, Popery, superstition, and vice, do abound in many places therein, and that it has pleased our gracious Sovereign the King, out of his royal bounty, to bestow yearly the sum of L.1000 sterling, to encourage itinerant preachers and catechists to go to the foresaid Highlands and Islands, for assisting the ministers established there, in giving the people in those parts such instruction as is necessary to enlighten and arm them against the practices of many Popish priests that resort thither to pervert and seduce them from the profession and principles of the reformed religion; and the General Assembly being glad of such an opportunity of advancing the interest of religion and good of their country, under such favourable circumstances, with so great encouragement and assistance, and earnestly desirous to improve the same, and to promote his Majesty's pious design; and seeing they cannot do what is necessary in that matter during the short time of their continuing together, and that it is proper there be a standing committee of fit persons, such as may best attend and be most useful, appointed for this matter, to meet frequently in the intervals of the General Assemblies: The General Assembly do, by these presents, nominate, commission, and appoint, the Reverend Mr James Alston, minister of the Gospel at Dirleton, their Moderator, &c.; to be a committee of this Assembly for reformation of the Highlands and Islands, and for disposing upon the foresaid royal bounty for the ends above mentioned, and according to his Majesty's grant; and do hereby renew the powers contained in the fifth Act of the General Assembly, anno 1727, and eighth Act of the Assembly, in the year 1728, entitled, "Commission to some Ministers and Ruling Elders for Reformation of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, and Managing the King's Bounty for that end," and the several acts therein mentioned, which are held as here repeated; and any seven of the foresaid persons are declared to be a quorum, whereof four are always to be ministers. And the fore said committee are appointed to have their meetings in Edinburgh, in the Hall of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge, the last Thursdays of every month, at three o'clock in the afternoon, and also the first lawful day after the adjournment of the four stated diets of the Commission of this Assembly, at ten o'clock forenoon; with power to adjourn themselves to such times and places as they shall find needful, and with power to nominate ministers, preachers, and catechists, to go in mission to the foresaid parts; and such ministers as they shall appoint to go in mission are hereby empowered to act as members of Presbyteries and Synods while within their bounds, and keep sessions for discipline. And the General Assembly does hereby continue the forenamed Mr John Dundas of Philipston, Procurator for the Church, to be receiver of the foresaid royal bounty, and for laying out the same in the terms of his Majesty's grant, and according to the orders and directions of the foresaid committee; and the said committee are enjoined to take special care that the foresaid money be no otherwise disposed of than for the purposes contained in the royal grant, and not only that those who receive thereof be duly qualified in all respects for what they are to be employed in by the foresaid committee, but also that they do punctually serve for the same, according to the rules of the former committee, contained in their register, and be ordered and enjoined to observe the same; and the said committee are required, besides the register of their actings, to keep distinct books of accounts how the foresaid money is bestowed; and which books of accounts are to be patent to any concerned, who please to inspect the same; and the said committee are appointed to keep a correspondence with the Commission of this Assembly, also with the foresaid Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge, and with the Synods and Presbyteries concerned in the Highlands and Islands, and places in the North of this Church, and where Popery does abound; and the said Commission are empowered to concur with the said committee in their work, when applied unto for that effect; also, the said committee are ordained and empowered to state the accounts of their distribution of the foresaid royal bounty, and to lay the same before the Lord High Treasurer, or Commissioners of his Majesty's Treasury, or Barons of Exchequer in Scotland, according to his Majesty's royal pleasure expressed in the foresaid grant; and also to lay the same before the next General Assembly, with the register of their actings and proceedings. And, lastly, this committee are to continue till another committee be appointed in their room; and members, especially those in Edinburgh, are required to give punctual attendance on all the diets of this committee, and when they cannot do it to send their excuse; and the clerk of the said committee is ordered to keep an exact account of the attendance of members, and lay the same before the next General Assembly, in so far as the excuses for absence are not sustained by the committee.
VIII. Sess. 18, May 14, 1729, post meridiem.—Commission to some Ministers and Ruling Elders for discussing divers Affairs remitted to them.
The General Assembly, taking into their consideration that there are divers weighty affairs which they cannot overtake, so as to determine therein themselves, for want of time, do therefore nominate, commission, and appoint, the Rev. Mr James Alston, minister at Dirleton, their Moderator, &c.; to be commissioners of this Assembly, any thirty-one of whom are declared to be a quorum, whereof twenty-one are always to be ministers; with power to them 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, which commissioners are hereby ordained to 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, and oftener, when and where they shall think convenient; with power to them to choose their own moderator. And this General Assembly do hereby renew the powers granted by the late General Assembly to their commissioners by their Act, dated the 14th day of May last, entitled, "Commission to some Ministers and Ruling Elders for discussing divers Affairs referred to them," and the instructions therein mentioned in all points; and ordains this Commission to proceed according thereunto, and report to the next General Assembly.