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 10, 1739.
I. May 10, 1739.—The King's Commission to John Earl of Hyndford produced, and ordered to be recorded.
II. Sess. 1, May 10, 1739.—The King's most gracious Letter to the General Assembly, presented to them by his Majesty's Commissioner.
III. Sess. 3, May 12, 1739.—The General Assembly's Answer to the King's most gracious Letter.
IV. Sess. 9, May 19, 1739.—Act concerning the Ministers who have Seceded from the Church.
The General Assembly, having considered the libel drawn up by the Commission of the last Assembly, and executed, in pursuance of an Act of the Assembly, against Messrs Ebenezer Erskine at Stirling, William Wilson at Perth, Alexander Moncrieff at Abernethy, James Fisher at Kinclaven, Ralph Erskine at Dunfermline, Thomas Mair at Orwell, Thomas Nairn at Abbotshall, and James Thomson at Burntisland, ministers; together with the appearance of the said defenders before this Assembly; and that after the Moderator, in name of the Assembly, had signified to them, "That though they were called here to answer to a libel, the Assembly were very loath to be obliged to proceed upon it; and that if the said defenders would now show a disposition to return to the duty and obedience they owe to this Church, the Assembly was ready to forgive all that was past, and to receive them with open arms;"—the said defenders, instead of accepting or being thankful for such lenity, produced, and offered to read as their answer a paper, entitled, "Act of the Associate Presbytery, finding and declaring that the present judicatories of this National Church are not lawful nor right constituted courts of Christ; and declining all authority, power, and jurisdiction, that the said judicatories may claim to themselves over the said Presbytery, or any of the members thereof, or over any that are under their inspection; and, particularly, declining the authority of a General Assembly now met at Edinburgh, the 10th of May 1739." Upon which the Assembly caused the said libel to be read, and then permitted the said defenders, byt he said Mr Thomas Mair, who spoke as the mouth of them all, to read the said paper, and thereafter to give in the same, to which all the defenders declared their adherence; whereupon they were ordered to withdraw, after being directed by the moderator to attend when they should be again called upon by the Assembly; and they having been this day again called, and not compearing, the General Assembly found, and hereby find, the said libel relevant to infer deposition; and do find the same also proven, in its most material articles, by the said paper, produced by them as aforesaid; and, particularly, finds it, by the said paper, proved, that the said defenders have seceded and separated from this Church, and have taken upon them to associate themselves into a presbytery, and, as such, have framed and published, and do adhere to the pretended Act, Declaration, and Testimony, libelled; wherein they endeavour to assign the grounds of their unreasonable and irregular conduct, and take upon them to condemn this Church, and the judicatories thereof, for their proceedings, and to cast many groundless and calumnious reflections upon her and them. And, further, find that the said defenders, by the paper given in to this Assembly, have had the unparalleled boldness to appear before the highest judicatory of this Church, to which they had vowed obedience, and, instead of answering for themselves as pannels or defenders at the bar, pretended to appear as a separate, independent, and constituted judicatory, and to read or pronounced an act of theirs, condemning this Church, and the judicatories thereof, upon several groundless pretences, and to decline the authority of the same; and that they have further, in presence of the Assembly, by their said paper, taken upon them to speak in most injurious, disrespectful, and insolent terms concerning the highest civil authority:—Therefore, the General Assembly do find and declare, that the said defenders, for the offences so found relevant and proven, do justly merit the highest censures of this Church, and particularly that of deposition; but in respect that in this Assembly, before they proceeded to call the said defenders, an inclination had been expressed by several members not to proceed to a final sentence against them at this time, but to forbear the same yet another year, in order to give them a further time to return to their duty, and to render them still more inexcusable if they should persist in their unwarrantable separation; and though, from their behaviour at their appearance, and the paper given in by them, there is little hope left of their being reclaimed to their duty, but they seem determined to continue in their most unwarrantable and schismatical courses, and, as far as in them lies, to ruin and destroy the interest of religion in this Church, this Assembly have thought fit to forbear inflicting the just censure upon them at this time, and to refer the same to the next General Assembly, to which this Assembly do earnestly recommend to inflict the censure of deposition, without further delay, upon such of the said defenders as shall not, betwixt and that time, either in presence of the Commission to be named by this Assembly, or of the ensuing General Assembly, retract the said pretended Act and Declinature, and return to their duty and submission to this Church. And the Assembly further recommend to all the members of this Assembly, and particularly such of them as shall be members of the next Assembly, there to urge and insist for their compliance with this recommendation, which this Assembly cannot allow themselves to doubt will be granted, as it will then be absolutely necessary, for the interest and credit of this Church, that the foresaid censure be pronounced and inflicted against such of the said defenders as shall then be persisting in their separation. And, in respect the said defenders have not appeared, though called, this diet, the Assembly order their Commission to cause cite them again to appear before the next Assembly, to abide the judgment thereof upon the said libel, and the said paper given in by the defenders instead of an answer; to which Assembly the said libel and process is hereby continued and referred as above. And as to one of the defenders, Mr James Thomson, minister at Burntisland, who was not contained in the Act of the last Assembly, the General Assembly, without determining on the objection offered by his parish to the citation of him, did agree and resolve, that their Commission do cite him, de novo, to answer to the next Assembly for the matters contained in the said libel and paper given in by him and the other defenders. And, to the end the like schismatical and divisive courses, which have so much disturbed the peace and quiet of the Church and of the country, and are so very contrary to serious religion and godliness, may be, for hereafter, effectually discouraged and prevented, the General Assembly ordains all Presbyteries and Synods strictly to observe the 6th Act of the Assembly, 1708, entitled, "Act for Suppressing Schisms and Disorders in the Church," by which "It is strictly enjoined, and peremptorily appointed, that all the Presbyteries and Synods take particular notice of all their members, preachers, or others under their inspection; and if they find any ministers or others to fall into irregularities, or schismatical courses, that they duly call them to an account, and censure them according to the merits of their fault, even to deposition of ministers and elders, and to apply to the Commission for their advice, as they shall see cause." And, without derogating from the generality thereof, the Assembly ordains all Presbyteries, to whom any minister shall presume to give in a secession or separation from this Church, forthwith to give notice thereof to the moderator of the Commission of Assembly for the time, and to instruct the thembers of their Presbytery, who shall be members of such Commission, to ask the opinion and direction of that Commission at their first diet after offering such secessions; to the end that, if such Presbyteries cannot, in the meantime, prevail with the brethren who shall so presume to secede, to retract their secession, such brethren may be forthwith proceeded against, according to the above Act of Assembly; and what opinions and directions of the Commission for the time, as Presbyteries shall receive, agreeable thereto, these Presbyteries are hereby strictly enjoined to follow the same. And in case any Presbytery, to whom such secession or separation shall be given in, shall fail in their duty in the premises, the Assembly ordains the Synods within whose bounds they may lie, without delay to do therein as they shall think fit, agreeable to the above Act of Assembly. And in case such Synods shall fail in their duty, the Assembly ordains the Commission to be appointed by this Assembly to take such matters into their own congnizance. And in all such cases the Presbyteries, Synods, or Commission to be appointed by this Assembly respectively, if they cannot quickly reclaim such seceding brethren, are hereby ordained to proceed against them, by way of libel, to the sentence of deposition. And the Assembly appoints that a short state of the proceedings of the judicatories of this Church, with relation to the foresaid ministers, setting forth the gentle methods used for reclaiming them, and their undutiful behaviour to this Church, be drawn up by a committee to be named for that effect, and printed, and copies thereof to be transmitted to each Presbytery: And that all the ministers of this Church shall be careful to exhort the people, both publicly and privately, to guard against all divisive courses, "and to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace," as they would consult the true interest of serious religion, and the quiet of their country.
V. Sess. ult., May 23, 1739.—Commission to some Ministers and Ruling Elders for discussing Affairs referred to them.
The General Assembly, taking into their consideration that there are divers affairs which they cannot overtake, do hereby nominate, commission, and appoint, the Rev. Mr James Bannatyne, minister at Edinburgh, their Moderator, &c.; to be commissioners of this General Assembly, to the effects after mentioned; with power to the said commissioners, or their quorum, &c. (Same as immediately preceding years, with this addition, viz.) And the General Assembly do enjoin their Commission, that in passing their sentences, and in ordering the execution of the same, they strictly observe the 12th Act of Assembly, 1736.
VI. Sess. ult., May 22, 1739.—Commission to some Ministers and Ruling Elders for Reformation of the Highlands and Islands, and for Managing his Majesty's Royal Bounry for that end.
The General Assembly do hereby nominate, commission, and appoint, the Rev Mr James Bannatyne, minister of the Gospel at Edinburgh, their Moderator, &c.; to be a committee of this Assembly for Reformation of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, for promoting the knowledge of true religion, suppressing of Popery and profanity, and for managing of the royal bounty given for these ends, according to, and in terms of, his Majesty's grant to this Assembly, and the 6th Act of the late As sembly, and whole Acts therein mentioned, and in Acts formerly made and referred to in the Commissions granted to former committees; any seven of the persons above named are declared to be a quorum, whereof some to be ministers; but it is hereby appointed, that at the quarterly meeting of the said committee, to be held after the rising of the Commission in August next, when the scheme or establishment of missionaries for the year ensuing shall be approved and determined, nine ministers and five ruling elders at least shall be the quorum. And the said committee are appointed to have their meetings at Edinburgh, in the Hall of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge, the last Thursday of every month, at three o'clock in the afternoon, and also the first lawful day after the adjournment of the four stated meetings of the Commission of the General Assembly, at ten o'clock forenoon, except when it falls to be on Friday or Saturday, and then the meeting is to be on the Monday following next thereafter, at the said hour; with power to the said committee to adjourn themselves to such times and places, as they shall find most convenient and needful; and they are to keep a correspondence with the Commission of the General Assembly, and the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge, and their committee of directors, and take their advice and assistance. And the General Assembly do, by these presents, nominate the said Mr William Grant, Advocated, his Majesty's Solicitor, and Procurator for the Church, to be receiver of the foresaid royal bounty, and to pay out the same as he shall be directed and ordered by the said committee, and according to their rules. And the said committee are appointed to examine the accounts of the distribution of the said royal bounty, and lay the same before the Right Honourable the Lords Commissioners of his Majesty's Treasury, or Barons of his Majesty's Court, of Exchequer, and to report their diligence to the General Assembly, to whom they are to be accountable. And it is agreed that no person once employed and inserted in the scheme shall be struck our thereof for that year, but by the quorum of, at least, nine ministers and five ruling elders; and in case any complaint shall be made against any of them on the scheme, it shall not be determined at the first ordinary meeting that the same is offered, but shall lie on the table till another meeting, and, in the meantime, the person complained of, and the Presbytery of the bounds wherein he officiates, shall be acquainted of such a complaint, and those concerned be required to send to the said committee a just account of the matter against the said next meeting. And it is further appointed, that after the yearly scheme of missionaries on the royal bounty, in manner above directed, and notice thereof given by letters to the Presbyteries converned, such Presbyteries shall send up to the said committee their answers to these letters, at farthest, with their commissioners to the General Assembly, if the same be not got done sooner; and the committee, at their meeting in May, shall name a sub-committee of their number for preparing the next year's scheme, who are to lay their draught thereof before the said meeting immediately after the Commission in August.