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, convened at Edinburgh, May 23, 1782.
I. Sess. 1, May 23, 1782.—The King's Commission to George Earl of Dalhousie produced, and ordered to be recorded.
II. Sess. 1, May 23, 1782.—The King's most gracious Letter to the General Assembly, presented to them by his Majesty's Commissioner.
III. Sess. 1, May 23, 1782.—The General Assembly's Answer to the King's most gracious Letter.
IV. Sess. 1, May 23, 1782.—The General Assembly's Address to his Majesty on the present situation of Public Affairs. (fn. 1)
May it please your Majesty,
We, your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the ministers and elders of the Church of Scotland, met in National Assembly, beg leave to embrace this first opportunity of approaching the throne, with our respectful congratulations upon the success with which it hath pleased Almighty God to crown your Majesty's arms.
Convinced that we owe our existence and protection, as a National Church, to the stability of that government under which we live, we take a warm interest in the train of striking events which, in the course of Divine Providence, we have been called to behold; and it is our constant study to cherish and diffuse sentiments of loyalty amongst the people with whom we are connected. With the heartfelt satisfaction natural to subjects of a free state, we have heard of the important advantages lately gained by your Majesty's arms in Europe, in Asia, and in America. We admire the gallantry and good conduct displayed by the commanders employed in your Majesty's service, both at home and abroad, by which the designs of your combined enemies against some of our most valuable settlements have been in a great measure defeated. Relying upon the wisdom and vigour of your Majesty's councils, we look forward with the most pleasing hopes to the salutary consequences of the glorious victory obtained in the West Indies; and we life our souls in devout and thankful acknowledgments to the Lord of Hosts.
That the blessing of heaven may continue to attend your Majesty's councils; that
your enemies, feeling in every quarter of the globe the force of the British arms, may
be disposed to listen to reasonable terms of accommodation; that He who ruleth in
the kingdoms of men, who gives to the sword its charge, and who alone can command it to return to its scabbard, may enable your Majesty speedily to accomplish
the paternal wish of your royal breast, by restoring to your people the blessings of
an honourable and lasting peace; that you may long sway the sceptre over a united,
grateful, and happy people; and that the Crown may descend with undiminished
splendour, through your illustrious family, to the latest generations, are the daily and
earnest 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.
V. Sess. 9, June 1, 1782.—Commission to some Ministers and Ruling Elders for the Reformation of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, and for Managing his Majesty's Royal Bounty for that end.
The General Assembly did, and hereby do, nominate and appoint the Rev. Dr Joseph M'Cormick, minister of the Gospel at Prestonpans, their Moderator, all the ministers who are members of the Presbytery of Edinburgh, &c.; to be a committee of this Assembly for the reformation of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, for promoting the knowledge of true religion, suppressing Popery and profaneness, and for managing the royal bounty for these ends, according to, and in terms of, his Majesty's grant to this Assembly. In prosecution of which purposes, the committee are to appoint preachers and catechists to go to such places as they shall find, upon due information, to be the most proper, according to his Majesty's design, expressed in his warrant; and, in so doing, that they have particular regard to such parishes in South Uist, Small Isles, Glencoe, Harris, the countries of Moidart, Glengarry, and Lochaber, and the other parishes of the Synods of Glenelg and Argyle, which the committee shall find, by reason of the vast extent, by the prevalency of Popery and ignorance, and other unhappy circumstances, to be in the greatest distress. And they shall take care that the persons they employ be certified, and found, upon due trial, to be properly qualified for these respective offices, of good abilities for the same, of a pious life and conversation, prudent, of undoubted loyalty to his Majesty, and of competent skill in the principles of divinity, and particularly in Popish controversies: Such preachers and catechists being hereby appointed to be subject to, and under the inspection of, the Presbyteries of the bounds to which they are sent, who are to take care that the orders of the committee be duly observed by them. And the preachers are also appointed to catechise, and both they and the catechists to instruct the people from house to house, and to visit the sick; and, in all their labour, among the people, to be careful to teach them the principles and duties of the true Christian Protestant religion, and the obligations they are under to duty and loyalty to our Sovereign King George, and obedience to the laws. And the committee are empowered to give them such instructions, as to their work and behaviour, as they shall judge meet; which instructions the preachers and catechists are hereby ordered to obey. The General Assembly do further appoint the said committee to have a particular regard, in their proceedings, to the regulations agreed upon by the committee of the Assembly for managing the royal bounty, on the 30th of September 1730, approven by frequent Assemblies; and to take care that Presbyteries, and others concerned, observe the same, which they are hereby ordered to do; particularly, the Assembly ordains the several Presbyteries to insert in their registers the committee's appointments of their designations, salaries, and stations of the several missionaries, and to have an exact regard thereto, in all the letters they shall write about the said missionaries, and in giving of certificates to them; and to direct all their letters, concerning missionaries in their bounds, only to the moderator of the committee; which letters shall be signed, at the appointment of the Presbytery, by the moderator or clerk thereof: And the Assembly does discharge any payment to be made of the salaries of the missionaries, except upon receipts from the missionaries themselves, and upon certificates from the Presbyterties, bearing that they have served for the time mentioned in the receipts. And that every catechist who receives a salary from the royal bounty, on condition that the parishioners or gentlemen of the district shall pay a certain sum in aid of such salary, shall insert, in the body of his receipt to the cashier, a declaration that he has received the particular sum specified; and that the attestation of the Presbytery shall, in like manner, bear that the catechist has received the stipulated sum which the committee make the condition of his appointment; it being understood by this resolution, that the several stations, with regard to which such conditions were originally made by the committee, when no such declaration of the catechist, or attestation of the Presbytery, as is now proposed, is received by the cashier, shall be afterwards suppressed by the committee, though the catechist shall, notwithstanding, receive the salary for the time he is certified to have performed his duty. That a journal of the itinerant's labours in the ministry of the mission committed to him be written on the back of the Presbytery's certificate, and signed by him, as the ground on which the Presbytery have granted him said certificate. The General Assembly do also empower the said committee to apply, for the purposes above mentioned, what may remain of the last year's royal bounty not disposed of, by reason of any of the missionaries not fulfilling the appointments laid upon them; and that they are to keep a register of their proceedings, and likewise distinct books of accounts how the foresaid money is disposed, which shall be patent to any concerned who please to inspect the same. Of the persons above named as members of this committee, five are declared to be a quorum, whereof three are to be ministers; but it is hereby appointed, that at the quarterly meeting of the committee, in which the scheme or establishment of missionaries for the ensuing year is to be approved and determined, not less than fourteen shall be the quorum, whereof nine shall be ministers; and the said committee are appointed to have their general meetings at Edinburgh, the first lawful day after the adjournment of each of the four stated diets of the Commission of the General Assembly, within the Assembly Aisle, at ten o'clock forenoon, except that day shall fall to be Saturday, and then the meeting shall be upon Monday 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 needful and convenient: 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 to take their advice and assistance; and also to correspond with the Synods and Presbyteries concerned. They are likewise instructed and empowered, as they shall see cause, to apply to the government, or any magistrate, for assistance and support in carrying on the design of the commission now given to them. And the General Assembly do appoint Mr William Robertson, Advocate, Procurator for the Church, and receiver of the foresaid royal bounty, to pay out the same as he shall be directed and ordered by the foresaid committee, and according to their rules. And the said committee are appointed to examine the accounts of the distribution of the royal bounty, and lay the same before the Lords Commissioners of his Majesty's Treasury, or the 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 out thereof for that year, but by the quorum of at least fourteen, whereof nine to be ministers; and in case any complaint shall be made against any of them on the scheme, it shall not be determined the first ordinary meeting that the same is offered, but it 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 complaint, and those concerned be required to send to the said committee a just account of the matter against the next meeting. And it is further appointed, that after the yearly scheme of missionaries on the royal bounty is settled, in manner above directed, and notice thereof given by letters to the Presbyteries concerned, such Presbyteries shall send up to the said committee their answer to these letters at farthest with their commissioners to the General Assembly, if the same be not done sooner; and that the committee, at their first meeting after the General Assembly, shall endeavour to complete the next year's scheme themselves; and if they cannot complete it, they shall name a sub-committee of their number for that purpose, who are to lay their draught thereof before a subsequent meeting, which is appointed to meet as soon after the rising of the Assembly as possible. And empowered the committee, at their first meeting, to reject any petition for a new station, in case they shall find sufficient objections against it; and that the said committee, in making up the scheme of missionaries, &c., do not exceed the sum in the grant.
VI. Sess. ult., June 3, 1782.—Commission to some Ministers and Ruling Elders for discussing Affairs referred to them.
VII. Sess. 7, May 30, 1782.—Act Declaratory concerning Moderation of Calls.
Upon a motion, That the resolution of Assembly respecting the moderation of calls should, for the satisfaction of all concerned, be converted into a declaratory Act, and printed amongst the Acts of Assembly, the General Assembly agreed thereto, without a vote; and in terms of said resolution, did, and hereby do, declare, that the moderation of a call, in the settlement of ministers, is agreeable to the immemorial and constitutional practice of this Church, and ought to be continued. (fn. 2)
VIII. Sess. 7, May 30, 1782.—Act respecting the Licensing of Probationers.
The General Assembly, having taken into their serious consideration the danger that ariseth to this Church, and to the souls of people, by licensing any to preach the Gospel who are not duly qualified, according to the rules laid down in the Holy Scriptures; and considering that the several Acts made by former Assemblies on this subject lie so scattered, in many separate articles, at great distances from one another, that the directions therein given were in danger of being overlooked by Presbyteries, did collect what appeared to them most material in former Acts, and transmit the same, in form of an overture, to Presbyteries; and now finding, by report from their Committee for Overtures, that a majority of Presbyteries have agreed to turn the same into a standing law of the Church, the General Assembly, after reasoning, resolved, by a very great majority, to turn the said overture into a standing law of the Church, and accordingly did, and hereby do, enact and ordain, that the following regulations shall be strictly observed in all time coming:—
1mo, That no Presbytery admit any person to probationary trials but such as are found to be of good report, of sufficient learning, of sound principles, of a pious, sober, grave, and prudent behaviour, and of a peaceable disposition, and well affected to the government in Church and State, and of whom they have sufficient ground to conceive that they shall be useful and edifying in the Church, and that careful inquiry be made thereanent; and that, without respect of persons, such as are esteemed to be light and vain in their behaviour, proud, worldly-minded, or unacquainted with the power of practical godliness, be kept back from that sacred work.
2do, That none be admitted to trials in order to be licensed, but such as have produced to the Professor of Divinity, at the time of their being enrolled, either a diploma of Master of Arts, or a certificate, bearing that they have gone through a full course of philosophy at the College, and who have either given close attendance on the Divinity Hall for the space of four years, from the time of their names being entered upon the roll of the Presbytery as students of divinity; or, if their circumstances did not permit them to give close attendance on the Hall, have continued to prosecute the study of divinity for six years, and have in that time delivered the usual number of discourses. Provided also, that at the time of their being admitted to trials they are twenty-one years of age complete.
3tio, The General Assembly, considering the reproach that may be brought on religion in general, and particularly on this Church, by the unworthy behaviour of such as follow the study of divinity, do earnestly recommend to the Presbyteries, Professors of Divinity, and ministers and members of this Church, to keep a watchful eye on such students during the terms above specified. And further, that when any student comes to attend the Professor of Divinity in any university, he shall produce to the professor, and to the minister of the parish where he is to reside during the time of his attendance on the profession, a testimonial from the minister of the parish from whence he comes; and when he leaves the profession, he shall carry back testimonials, from the minister of the parish, of his grave and suitable behaviour becoming his character; and from the professor, testimonials certifying the same, and also his regular attendance on the diets of the profession, and the time he has attended. And when any Professor of Divinity shall think fit to recommend a student, in order to probationary trials, his testimonials shall certify his proficiency in his studies and his moral character.
4to, The General Assembly do appoint and ordain, that no Presbytery admit any student to probationary trials, except such as have resided within their bounds for the space of six months, or do produce to them sufficient testimonials from the Presbyteries in whose bounds they have lived, or for the most part resided, expressing that it is the desire of these Presbyteries that these students should be entered upon trials. And such students as come from abroad shall produce satisfying testimonials from the professors under whom they studied; and the time of their being abroad shall be accounted a part of the six years; but none of these students shall be entered upon trials for the space of half a year after they come to Scotland.
5to, When any student is proposed to a Presbytery, in order to be taken on trials, the proposal shall lie on the table till the next ordinary meeting, before they give judgment therein, that diligent inquiry may be made, and information had, concerning the said student's qualifications and behaviour; and the Presbytery shall be alone when the proposal is made and judged on. And the General Assembly enjoins all students to take all opportunities of cultivating an acquaintance with the ministers of the Presbytery where they reside, and where they are to pass trials.
6to, When the Presbytery, after serious inquiry and mature deliberation, shall agree to take the proposed candidate on trials, they shall examine him strictly and privately, in order to enable them to judge whether he possesses the piety, knowledge, abilities, and other qualifications necessary for a preacher of the Gospel.
8vo, The General Assembly do also appoint and ordain, that the terms above specified being expired, and testimonials produced, and previous trials taken, in manner above directed, the Presbytery, before they prescribe any part of public trials, shall write letters to all the Presbyteries within the bounds of the Synod, acquainting them with their design, two months at least before sitting of the Synod; and at the next meeting of the Synod they shall also acquaint the Synod thereof, and obtain their special judgment and advice in that particular. And, that the members of the said Presbytery and Synod may be ripely advised thereanent, the General Assembly appoints the said letters to be duly and carefully transmitted to the several Presbyteries, and that intimation thereof be publicly made at the first diet of the Synod, to lie on the table till the second, or some subsequent diet, and then particular inquiry be made whether any person have anything to object against the student's being entered on trials for preaching the Gospel. Provided always, that in any part of this Church when Synods meet but once a-year, a student may be proposed to the Synod half a year sooner than would have been competent if the Synod had met twice a-year.
9no, The General Assembly recommends to Presbyteries that, before any student is entered on trials, the engagements required by Act 10th of Assembly, 1711, of such as are to be licensed, be read to them; and that the Presbytery take promise of them, that they will subscribe to and particularly observe the same, in case the Presbytery see cause to license them; and that this promise be recorded in their books.
10mo, The General Assembly appoints the public probationary trials of students, who are to be licensed probationers, to be the following, viz.:—1. The catechetic trials to be renewed in presence of the Presbytery, and that previously to all the other parts of public trials; 2. A homily in English on a Scripture text; 3. An exegesis in Latin on a controverted head of divinity, and sustaining a thesis and dispute thereon; 4. An exercise and addition; 5. A lecture on a large portion of Scripture; 6. A popular sermon on a particular text of Scripture; 7. A trial on chronology and Church History, especially the history of our own Church; Lastly, A trial on their knowledge of the Greek and Hebrew languages.
11mo, The General Assembly, judging it fit that the same method shall be followed in all Presbyteries, as to questions put to and engagements taken of probationers when licensed; and that the said probationers should not only give sufficient proof of their piety, literature, and other good qualifications for the sacred ministry, but also come under the strictest engagements to adhere to and maintain the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government of this Church,—do, therefore, enact and appoint, that the questions appointed by Act 10th, 1711, be put to all such as pass trials; and likewise that they shall subscribe the Formula set down in the said Act, before they be licensed to preach the Gospel. And the General Assembly strictly prohibits the licensing any person whatsoever, who shall not give explicit and satisfying answers to these questions, and subscribe the said Formula; and discharge any Presbytery to make use of any other questions or Formula.
12mo, When any Presbytery, who, with the Synod's allowance, has entered, or who is about to enter, a student on trials, shall receive a letter from any Presbytery, showing their dissatisfaction with that student, and giving relevant grounds for the same, which they offer to verify to the Presbytery at their next meeting, the said student shall not be licensed until the matter be tried. And the General Assembly appoints Presbyteries who shall receive such letters anent students from any other Presbytery, to write a return with the first post after their meeting, acquainting them of their next diet.
14 mo, For the better observation of this Act, it is particularly recommended to the Professors of Divinity to communicate the contents thereof to their students, in a public meeting annually, at such time in the month of January as to them seems most convenient. And all Presbyteries and Synods are peremptorily appointed to observe the same in all its parts. And it is strictly enjoined, that visitors of Presbytery-books make strict inquiry how the several Presbyteries do observe the same.
IX. Sess. 7, May 30, 1782.—Overture anent the Ordination of Elders.
X. Sess. ult., June 3, 1782.—Act appointing the Diet of the next General Assembly.
The report of the committee appointed by last General Assembly, to consider regulations proposed by the Presbytery of Edinburgh for correcting some abuses complained of in the solemnization of marriages, given in and read. The Assembly approved of the report, and, agreeably thereto, did, and hereby do, enjoin a strict observance of said regulations.
1mo, That no marriage shall be celebrated, unless when there shall be produced to the minister a certificate, subscribed by the precentor or session-clerk, that the banns have been proclaimed; and every certificate must bear not only the names, but designations and places of abode, of the several parties.
2do, When the parties reside in two different parishes, there must be produced a certificate from the precentor or session-clerk of each parish, that the banns have been proclaimed in each parish church.
3tio, Until persons have resided for the space of six weeks complete within a parish, they are not to be considered as residenters, nor entitled to proclamation in the church thereof, but must be proclaimed in the church of the parish where their ordinary residence was previous to their proposed marriage.
4to, No precentor or session-clerk shall grant a certificate of proclamation in behalf of any parties, unless he can attest upon proper evidence, for which he shall be answerable, that they have resided for the space of six weeks within the parish; that they are unmarried persons, and not within the forbidden degrees of consanguinity.
That [here insert his name, designation, and place of abode,] and , daughter of , have resided in this parish for six weeks preceding the commencement of the proclamation; that they are unmarried persons, and not within the forbidden degrees of consangunity, has been certified to me, upon satisfying evidence, for which I shall be answerable; and that the above parties have been proclaimed in order to marriage, and no objection offered, is attested by.
That [here insert the bridegroom's name, designation, and place of abode,] has resided within this parish for the space of six weeks preceding the date hereof; and that he is an unmarried person, has been certified to me, upon satisfying evidence, for which I shall be answerable; and that he and , daughter to , of the parish of , have been regularly proclaimed in order to marriage, and no objection offered, is attested by .
6to, The ministers of the Presbytery of Edinburgh agree, that in future they will celebrate no marriage, except when the preceding regulations are strictly complied with; and the Presbytery enacts and ordains accordingly.
The Presbytery also appoints a copy of these regulations to be sent to all the ministers of the communion of the Church of Scotland, whose ordinary residence is within their bounds, with a letter from their clerk, requiring that they likewise shall comply with these regulations.
The Presbytery farther appoints a copy of them to be transmitted by their clerk to every kirk-session within their bounds, in order to their being inserted in the session-books; and the several kirk-sessions are hereby ordained to see them strictly carried into execution; and as irregularities have been chiefly complained of in the city of Edinburgh and suburbs thereof, the ministers of Edinburgh, and of the parishes immediately adjacent. are enjoined to be particularly attentive that their respective session-clerks do, in all respects, comply with the preceding regulations.