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 20, 1813.
I. Sess. 1, May 20, 1813.—The King's Commission to Francis Lord Napier produced, and ordered to be recorded.
II. Sess. 1, May 20, 1813.—The Prince Regent's most gracious Letter to the General Assembly, presented to them by his Majesty's Commissioner.
III. Sess. 3, May 22, 1813.—The General Assembly's Answer to the Prince Regent's most gracious Letter.
IV. Sess. 3, May 22, 1813.—Address of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland to his Royal Highness George Prince of Wales, Regent of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
May it please your Royal Highness,
We, his Majesty's most faithful and loyal subjects, the ministers and elders of the Church of Scotland, met in General Assembly, gladly embrace this opportunity of approaching the throne with sentiments of sincere affection and attachment to your Royal Highness and his Majesty's government.
We deeply regret the continuance of that malady with which our venerable Sovereign has been visited, so painful to the feelings of your Royal Highness, and all those who recollect the wisdom, rectitude, and benignity of his Majesty's character and reign. It is, however, our consolation, under this afflicting dispensation of Providence, that the reins of empire and held by a Prince, whose matured wisdom and experience have prepared him for the duties of his high station, and that under the regency of your Royal Highness we continue to enjoy the same just, mild, and paternal rule.
We congratulate your Royal Highness on that success and glory which have been obtained by his Majesty's armies, and those of his allies, in the Peninsula. We hope the time is not far distant, when the brave and high-minded inhabitants of Spain, rescued from the tyrant's grasp, shall reap, in the establishment of their independence, the fruit of all their heroic sacrifices and exertions.
In those important and memorable events which have taken place in the north of Europe, in the defeat and destruction of the best appointed and most numerous armies which were ever led forth to overwhelm a nation, we recognise the hand of that good Providence which has interposed to disappoint the designs of cruel ambi tion, and "restrain the wrath of man." We rejoice to behold nations, who had been dazzled by the false glory, and dispirited by the great success of their presumptuous oppressor, roused and encouraged by his discomfiture and disgrace, and, having experienced his odious and intolerable despotism, that they have risen, with one heart, to shake off the galling yoke.
We trust that the great and generous efforts which are now making in behalf of suffering humanity will, by the blessing of Almighty God, be crowned with complete success, and that general liberty and national independence being secured, our country, and harassed Europe, shall at length be permitted to enjoy a safe, honourable, and lasting peace.
That Almighty God may protect and bless your Royal Highness; that He may
direct and prosper his Majesty's government under your anspices; that the justice,
wisdom, and moderation of your administration may secure to you the affection and
loyalty of all the subjects of the British empire; that Princes of the same illustrious
House, formed after the example of our Sovereign, may, to the latest posterity, sway
the scepture of the United Kingdom; and that, after a long and prosperous reign on
earth, you may obtain a more glorious and permanent crown in Heaven, are the sincere and fervent prayers of,
May it please your Royal Highness, his 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. 7, May 27, 1813.—Petition to both Houses of Parliament respecting the Political Privileges of the Roman Catholics.
To the Right Honourable the Lords Spiritual and Temporal of the United Kingdom
of Great Britain and Ireland in Parliament assembled, the humble Petition of the
Ministers and Elders of the Church of Scotland, met in General Assembly,
That observing that there was lately under the revision of the legislature, and may again come under their revision, that part of the public law of the state which subjects Roman Catholics to certain disabilities; your petitioners are deeply impressed with the conviction, that they should be wanting in duty to that great and loyal body of his Majesty's subjects which compose the National Church of Scotland, of which they are the representatibes, did they fail to express to your honourable House the deep interest and concern they must ever take in all discussions and measures which have for their object to innovate upon the laws which our forefathers in their time deemed necessary for securing to the people of these realms the blessings of civil liberty and of the Protestant religion.
That your petitioners have at all times felt the utmost anxiety that religious toleration should be preserved inviolate; and at a period so full of peril to the security and independence of the empire, are aware of the peculiar importance of removing every ground of disaffection, of diffusing universally sentiments of genuine patriotism, by opening to all classes of his Majesty's subjects the paths of honourable ambition, and affording them all the consequence which property, talent, or successful industry, bestow.
But your petitioners cannot be insensible to this peculiarity in the situation of the Roman Catholics, that they maintain a certain intercourse with a foreign hierarchy and observe a certain submission to a foreign Pontiff, which may prove hostile to our ecclesiastical constitution, and is generally involved in political connections unfriendly to British prosperity. They know also full well, how prone human nature is to corruption and superstition; and how powerfully the Roman Catholic creed, and the confidential intercourse with the priesthood by auricular confession, tend to subjugate the worthiest characters, and to discipline and mould them into instruments for promoting the purposes of their sect.
If, therefore, your honourable House, and the other branches of the legislature, deem, in your wisdom, that the exigency of the times is such, as to authorise any change in the system of securities adopted at the Revolution, that glorious era from which these nations date the blessings of freedom, order, religious toleration, and political prosperity; your petitioners trust and pray that the almost caution and prudence will be exercised; that none of the bulwarks of the constitution, ecclesiastical or civil, be on any account exposed to hazard; and that effectual precautions be adopted, to exclude foreign influence from the councils of the state, and the administration of the government, and to maintain this happy land impreganable, as heretofore, to foreign innovation, foreign intrigue, and foreign corruption.
While your petitioners cordially express their reliance on the wisdom of Parliament, and their full conviction that the rights and privileges of the Church of Scotland will continue to enjoy the protection of Parliament, they presume to annex to their petition a solemn declaration, in which they pledge themselves before God, to your honourable House and to their country, that they will discharge, with fidelity and vigilance, the duties incumbent upon them, as office-bearers in that Protestant Church which was established in Scotland at the blessed reformation from Popery; and will continue to cherish in the minds of the people committed to their care those principles of religious liberty which are incorporated with the British constitution, and which are the glory of this Protestant land.
VI. Sess. 9, May 29, 1813.—Commission of the General Assembly to certain Ministers and Ruling Elders for discussing Affairs referred to them.
VII. Sess. 9, May 29, 1813.—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 to that end.
VIII. Sess. ult., May 31, 1813.—Act respecting the Licensing of Probationers.
The General Assembly having taken under their serious consideration the great danger to which the interests of religion and of this Church may be exposed, by licensing any to preach the Gospel who are not duly qualified for that important trust, do hereby enact and ordain, that in all time coming the following regulations shall be strictly observed:—
I. It is hereby enacted, that no student shall be entered upon the roll of any Professor of Divinity, unless he shall produce to the said Professor a certificate from the minister of the parish in which he has his usual residence; or, in his absence, or during a vacancy in said parish, from some neighbouring minister, bearing that his character is suitable to his views; together with a diploma of Master of Arts, or certificates from the several Professors of Philosophy under whom he had studied, from which it may be clearly ascertained, that in some University or Universities he had gone through a full course of philosophy, in some winter sessions of College preceding that in which the certificates are produced.
II. The General Assembly do likewise hereby ordain, that all students who have been enrolled by Professors of Divinity, in the manner prescribed by this Act, shall continue to prosecute the study of Divinity for the term of six sessions. Provided always, that if any student hath given regular attendance in the Divinity Hall during three sessions, his course shall be considered as completed in four sessions; and that if he hath given regular attendance in the Hall during two sessions, his course shall be considered as completed in five sessions. And the Assembly do further ordain, that in each of these cases students shall be enrolled by the Professors during the several sessions of their respective courses, and deliver in the Divinity Hall, in the manner herein afterwards provided, an exegesis in Latin on some controverted head in Divinity, a homily in English, an exercise and addition, a lecture on some large portion of Scripture, and a popular sermon, together with such other exercises as the Professors shall think proper to prescribe. And the Assembly further enact and declare, that a student is entitled to apply to the Professor for his certificates that he may be proposed for trials, and that the preliminary steps may be taken by the Presbytery, during the currency of the last session of his course, as above described; with this limitation, that if the said last session is to be claimed as a session of regular attendance, he shall, towards the conclusion thereof, obtain a new certificate of his attendance during its currency, and produce the same to the Presbytery or Synod.
III. Professors of Divinity are required to attend, as much as circumstances may permit, to the conduct of such students as are under their care; and, as far as they find it practicable, to insist that every student shall deliver his first discourse sometime during his second session at the latest, and the remainder of his discourses at such periods as may enable him to deliver the whole of them before the end of January of the last session of his course.
IV. When a student is proposed to any Presbytery, in order to be taken upon trials, the Presbytery shall be alone, and the motion for that purpose shall lie upon the table till their next ordinary meeting. In the meantime, the Presbytery shall appoint the member, by whom the student has been proposed, to lay before the said meeting the certificate or certificates in favour of the student that are specified in the third paragraph of the fifth section of this Act; to desire him to attend the same, and to inform him that, previously to the meeting, he ought, as far as circumstances may permit, to wait on such ministers of the Presbytery as have not formerly had an opportunity of conversing with him in private.
3d, No student shall be admitted to trial, unless he produces to the Presbytery a certificate or certificates from the Professor or Professors of Divinity, under whose tuition he hath studied. bearing that he hath prosecuted his studies, and delivered his discourses in the manner prescribed by this Act; and that his conduct, as far as it consists with the knowledge of the said Professor or Professors, has been in every respect suitable to his views in life. And the General Assembly do likewise hereby enact, that the Presbytery shall record at full length the said certificate or certificates in their minutes. And it is hereby enacted and declared, that the student, having lodged such certificate or certificates, shall be entitled to obtain extracts of the same if demanded.
4th, No Presbytery shall receive any student upon trials, unless they are satisfied that he is of good report; sound in his principles; pious, sober, grave, and prudent in his behaviour; of a peaceable disposition; and well affected to the happy establishment in this kingdom both in Church and State. And that the Presbytery may proceed with all due caution, in a matter of such peculiar importance, they shall not agree to the motion in behalf of the student, unless his residence, during the year preceding, has been chiefly within their bounds, or he shall produce sufficient estimonials from the Presbytery, in whose bounds his residence has chiefly been during that term, bearing that his character is such as is described in the immediately preceding sentence of this paragraph, and recommending him in those respects to the Presbytery before whom the proposal is made, as a proper person to be entered upon trials.
5th, The Presbytery shall not agree to the motion in favour of the student, unless they are satisfied that he has made a competent degree of proficiency in those several branches of knowledge, which are necessary to enable him to be an useful preacher of the Gospel. And the General Assembly ordain, that the Presbytery, in order to procure full information in this respect, shall examine the student strictly and privately on his knowledge of the Greek and Latin languages, and of philosophy and theology.
6th, If, after these preliminary steps have been taken, the Presbytery shall be of opinion that the student is duly qualified in these several particulars, they shall record this opinion in their minutes, and order their clerk to write letters to the several Presbyteries within the bounds of the Provincial Synod, two kalendar months at least before the meeting of the same, informing them of the Presbytery's intention to take the student upon public trials; and bearing that the certificate or certificates in his favour, which are required by this Act, have been regularly laid before them. But it is hereby provided, that within the bounds of such Synods as meet only once ayear, a student may be entitled to have these circular letters written half a-year sooner than would be otherwise compentent.
VI. The General Assembly do likewise hereby enact and declare, that at the request of the student, it shall be competent to any Presbytery to transfer the receiving of the public trials, or any parts thereof, certifying to the Presbytery to which the transference is to be made, that the various preliminary steps have been taken according to the directions of this Act; and that such parts of the public and private trials as have been already gone through have been received with approbation.
VII. If a student have studied, either in whole or in part, in Protestant Universities, which are not within the bounds of this Church, he shall, when he is proposed to any Presbytery for trials, be required to produce satisfying testimonials from the Professors of Divinity in said Universities; and the time which these Professors shall certify to have been employed by him in studying Divinity under their tuition, shall be computed in the same manner as if he had prosecuted his studies in any of the Universities within the bounds of this Church. But it is hereby provided, that no student, in such circumstances, shall be admitted even to those private trials, which are appointed to be taken before the writing of the circular letters, sooner than six kalendar months after his arrival in Scotland.
VIII. The General Assembly ordain, that if a Presbytery propose to take a student upon public trials, and have, with that view, written the circular letters, as is herein required, public intimation thereof shall be made at some diet of the next meeting of the Provincial Synod, which shall not be the last diet thereof. And the Presbyteryclerk is hereby required to transmit to the Synod-clerk an extract of the certificate or certificates laid before the Presbytery in favour of the student, in order that the same may be produced at this diet of the Synod. And it is likewise hereby ordained. that at some subsequent diet of the Synod, particular inquiry shall be made whether any of the members of the court has any objection to offer against the student being entered upon public trials; and that the Synod then, taking into consideration the extract produced, and the whole of the case, shall judge of the expediency of allowing the Presbytery to admit the student on trials; or if, in any case, the Presbytery-clerk shall fail to transmit the extract of the certificates above mentioned, the student may produce to the Synod, by himself, or by any member of the court, the extract of the same, which by this Act he is entitled to obtain.
IX. If the Synod shall allow the student to be taken upon public trials, the Presbytery shall proceed therein with all convenient speed; and the Assembly appoint the following trials to be taken of the student, and in the order herein mentioned:—1st, Catechetic trials on Divinity, Chronology, and Church History; 2d, A trial on the Hebrew and Greek languages; 3d, An exercise in Latin, on some controverted head in Divinity; 4th, A Homily in English; 5th, An exercise and addition; 6th, A Lecture on some large portion of Scripture; 7th, A popular Sermon; it being understood, that if the Presbytery see cause, they may examine the student upon the subject of these several discourses.
1st, They shall deliberately and seriously take a conjunct view of the whole trials, and if they shall be of opinion that the student is not properly qualified to perform the duties incumbent upon a preacher of the Gospel, they shall by no means grant him a licence in his present circumstances.
3d, The Presbytery shall then propose to the student the questions that are appointed to be put to all who pass trials by Act 10th, Assembly, 1711, and require him to subscribe the Formula which is prescribed by the said Act. And the General Assembly strictly prohibit all Presbyteries from licensing any student to preach the Gospel who shall not give explicit and satisfying answers to these questions, and subscribe the said Formula.
XI. For the better observance of this Act, the General Assembly ordain, 1st, That it shall be printed among their other printed Acts; 2d, That it shall be printed by itself in some convenient from; 3d, That a copy of this separate edition shall be transmitted to each Professor of Divinity in the Universities of Scotland; and that the said Professors shall read the same in their respective Halls, once, at least, during every session, and at such times as they have reason to expect the attendance of the greatest number of students for that session; and, lastly, That a copy of the same edition shall likewise be transmitted to the Clerks of each Synod and Presbytery within the bounds of this Church; and that the said Clerks shall keep the same along with their minutes, and bring it up to each meeting of their respective courts for the use of their members.
IX. Sess. ult., May 31, 1813.—Overture anent the Ordination of Elders.
X. Sess. ult., May 31, 1813.—Recommendation, Injunction, and Queries, respecting Schools.
"That only fourteen Presbyteries have sent up reports to this Assembly, viz.:—Aberdeen, Brechin, Chirnside, Dalkeith, Dunfermline, Garioch, Haddington, Lanark, Langholm, Linlithgow, Lochmaben, Peebles, Strathbogie, and Turriff.
"In some of these reports very particular information is given; but this is not their general character, as there are others which do nothing more than mention the names of the parishes, the schools of which have been examined since last Assembly. There are no facts stated in any of them which require to be brought under the particular consideration of the Assembly. The committee have only further to remark, that several Presbyteries state their experience of the great and increasing advantage which results from the regular examination of schools, according to the instructions of the General Assembly."
The General Assembly agree to renew and re-transmit the injunction of the General Assembly, 1799, to Presbyteries respecting this business, which is in the following words:—"The General Assembly enjoin all the Presbyteries of this Church to report to the Assembly a list of all the schools within their bounds, specifying what is taught in each school, whether the schools be held on the Lord's Day, or on other days of the week; in what way the schoolmasters are supported or maintained; whether they act for themselves, or are employed by or under the direction of others; what number of scholars attend each school at the time of making the report; and, in general, whatever else shall appear to the Presbytery of importance respecting the schools within their bounds." The Assembly request that Presbyteries will pay particular attention to the above injunction.
At the same time, the Assembly took up the consideration of the overture from the Synod of Aberdeen anent parochial and other schools, which was read. And the Assembly appointed the queries contained in the said overture to be transmitted to Presbyteries along with the above recommendation and injunction. The queries are as follow:—
"1st, Is there a parochial school established in your parish, with sufficient salary and accommodation for the schoolmaster, in terms of Act, 1803? and if not, what are the reasons which have prevented compliance with the enactments of that statue?
"2d, Are there more than one parochial school established in your parish under the authority of the aforementioned Act? and if not, would it be eligible, and why, that there should be more schools in your parish?
And the Assembly direct the Presbyteries of this Church to take the said queries into their consideration at their first meeting after they shall come to their hand, and send up answers to the same to next Assembly.