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 pricipal acts of the general assembly, convened at Edinburgh, May 18, 1820.
I. Sess. 1, May 18, 1820.—The King's Commission to George Earl of Morton produced, and ordered to be recorded.
The General Assembly, &c.
II. Sess. 1, May 18, 1820.—The King's most gracious Letter to the General Assembly, presented to them by his Majesty's Commissioner.
Right Reverend and well-beloved, we greet you well.—The numerous proofs which your former meetings have afforded of their constant and unshaken adherence to the succession of the crown of this realm in our family, and to the general interests of the Protestant faith, and of the wisdom, prudence, and moderation which characterize your National Church, have induced us most cheerfully to countenance with our royal authority your approaching Assembly. And it is with the utmost sincerity and good-will that we take this first opportunity of renewing to you, in our own person, the assurance which we have heretofore given to you, in our vicarious character, of our fixed purpose and unalterable resolution to continue to the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, the same countenance and support which it has received from our royal ancestors, and to maintain it in the full enjoyment of all its rights and privileges as by law established. Not only the general tenor of the councils of your Church, but the recent address of the Commission of the last General Assembly, inspire us with the most entire confidence in your loyalty, and in your attachment to our person and government; and we enjoy the most firm belief that you meet together with the best disposition to co-operate, with all the means you can command, for the happiness of our reign, and to further the true interests of the Church whose ministers you are. In whatever may tend to those important and laudable ends, you may be assured of our free and ready concurrence. On your part we are well persuaded that no pains have been or will be spared to inculcate on your respective flocks the duty of subordination to their temporal rulers, and the necessity of obedience to the lawful magistrates. Equally contrary to the ordinances of God, and to the laws of man, are the treasonable attempts to subvert the happy constitution of our kingdom, by which some parts of this favoured Island have been recently disgraced; and we are convinced, that while we, through our civil magistrates, administer justice in mercy for the suppression of these disorders, you will no less strive to counteract them, by enforcing their utter inconsistency with the precepts of the Gospel. Being well satisfied of the loyalty, integrity, and zeal for our service of our right trusty and right well-beloved cousin, George Earl of Morton, we have appointed him to represent our royal person in this Assembly. You have already had experience of his ability for the discharge of this important trust, and we are persuaded that the affection and concern for the Church of Scotland which you have observed in him, cannot fail to render our choice of him most acceptable to you. Not doubting that charity, brotherly love, and unanimity, will characterize your resolves, and will bring your proceedings to as happy a conclusion as those of any former Assembly, we commend your deliberation to the guidance of Almighty God, and so we bid you heartily farewell.
Given at our Court at Carlton House, the 29th day of April 1820, in the first year of our reign.
By his Majesty's Command,
Addressed thus—To the Right Reverend and Well-beloved, the Moderator, Ministers, and Elders, of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.
III. Sess. 3, May 20, 1820.—The General Assembly's Answer to the King's most gracious Letter.
May it please your Majesty,
The gracious letter which your Majesty has been pleased to address to this Assembly has been received by us with all due honour and respect.
Maintaining that unshaken adherence to the succession of the British Crown in your Majesty's Illustrious House, and that regard to the interests of the Protestant faith, which your Majesty vouchsafes to approve in former Assemblies, we rejoice that our meeting is countenanced by your royal authority. We receive, with entire confidence and gratitude, the renewed assurance of your Majesty's fixed purpose and unalterable resolution to continue to our National Church the same support with which it hath been honoured by your royal ancestors, and to maintain it in the full enjoyment of all its rights and privileges, as by law established. The paternal kindness which our Church has already experienced from your Majesty, while administering the government, in the name and on the behalf of your revered and beloved father, is the surest pledge to us of the advantages which we hope to enjoy under your Majesty's reign.
For securing the happiness of that reign, and for furthering the true interests of the Church whose ministers we are, we shall eagerly avail ourselves of all the means which we can command; we shall inculcate on our flocks the duty of subordination, and of obedience to lawful magistrates, and shall anxiously and affectionately warn them, how contrary alike to the laws of God and of man are those treasonable attempts against our happy constitution, by which some parts of this favoured Island have been recently disgraced. While your Majesty, through the civil magistrates, administers justice in mercy for the suppression of these disorders, it shall be our earnest endeavour to counteract them, by enforcing their utter inconsistency with the precepts of the Gospel.
The re-appointment of the Earl of Morton to represent your royal person in this Assembly is rendered most acceptable to us, by the experience which we have had of his ability for the discharge of that important trust, and of his affectionate concern for the welfare of our Church. We humbly hope that the Lord High Commissioner will be able to make a favourable report to your Majesty of the spirit by which our deliberations are guided.
We receive with gratitude, and shall employ with fidelity and zeal, your Majesty's royal donation of L.2000, for the promotion of religious knowledge in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.
That Almighty God, by whom kings reign, may abundantly bless your Majesty,
that He may make your reign long and prosperous, and may, at the last, bestow upon
your Majesty a crown of glory, are the prayers of,
May it please your Majesty, your Majesty's most faithful, most obedient, and most loyal subjects, the Ministers and Elders of this General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.
Signed in our name, in our presence, and at our appointment, by
Thomas Macknight, Moderator.
IV. Sess. 3, May 20, 1820.—Address of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland to his Majesty.
Most Gracious Sovereign,
We, your Majesty's most faithful and affectionate subjects, the ministers and elders met in the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, while we participate cordially in the expressions of duty and respect which have been tendered to your Majesty by the Commission of last Assembly, are eager to embrace this opportunity of our first meeting, to offer our condolence to your Majesty on the lamented death of our late beloved Monarch,—to congratulate your Majesty on your auspicious accession to the throne of your ancestors, and to express our attachment and loyalty to your Majesty's person and government.
In reviewing the reign of our late venerable Sovereign, we delight to dwell on the pre-eminent excellence of his character. We offer our fervent thanks to Heaven for the manifold blessings which we enjoyed under his beneficent away, and feel the remembrance of his virtues an additional tie of affection and duty to the Prince who now inherits his throne.
In the solemn constitutional pledge which your Majesty has so early given of maintaining our rights and privileges, and the assurance of your royal countenance and protection to our Church, which your Majesty has been graciously pleased to renew repeatedly to its representatives, we recognise the kind and paternal spirit of that Illustrious House which has been so long the ornament and safeguard of our country, and find encouragement to anticipate confidently every benefit which our National Establishment can derive from the reign of a patriotic Monarch.
We sympathize deeply in the universal grief which has been excited by the death of his Royal Highness the late Duke of Kent, immediately preceding the demise of his revered father; and we beg leave to offer to your Majesty the tribute of our heartfelt condolence on that mournful event. Our prayer is, that, under every deprivation, your Majesty and all the Royal Family may be visited with the consolations of Heaven, and supported by the assured hope of that blessed immortality, in which separation and sorrow shall be unknown.
The scenes of tumult, disorder, and outrage, by which the commencement of your Majesty's reign has been disturbed, have afflicted us with deep mortification and regret. Those insidious arts which, by disseminating impiety, discontent, and treason, have undermined the faith of the ignorant, aggravated the sufferings of the poor, and disturbed the peace of society in various parts of the kingdom, are regarded by us with unmixed abhorrence. We trust in the blessing of the Most High, on your Majesty's wise and vigorous counsels for repressing every instance of conspiracy, rebellion, and blasphemy, and guarding against their recurrence. We observe with awe and affliction the working of that spirit of impiety and unbelief, which, spurning the authority of the Almighty, and denying the truths of the Gospel, has led to insubordination, to the deliberate contrivance and perpetration of most atrocious crimes, and to appalling obduracy of heart, even in the last moments of life. It is our consolation to be assured, that the spirit which we deplore is confined to a small portion of the people of Scotland, and that the great body of those under our charge have continued stedfast in their faith and loyalty; and we pledge ourselves to your Majesty, that no exertion shall be wanting on our part to preserve and cherish in their hearts piety towards God, submission to the laws, and attachment to the unrivalled constitution under which they have the happiness to live.
That the God by whom kings reign, and in whose hand is the breath of all mankind, may confirm your Majesty's health and preserve your life;—that He may establish your throne, and crown your measures with success;—that He may scatter all
your foes, and baffle every attempt to disturb your government;—and that, after long
blessing a free and happy people in your reign, He may at last exalt your Majesty
to an incorruptible crown, are the sincere and fervent prayers of,
May it please your Majesty, your Majesty's most loyal, most dutiful, and most obedient subjects, the Ministers and Elders of this General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.
Signed in our name, in our presence, and at our appointment, by Thomas Macknight, Moderator.
V. Sess. 9, May 27, 1820.—Commission of the General Assembly to certain Ministers and Ruling Elders for discussing Affairs referred to them.
The General Assembly, &c.
VI. Sess. 9, May 27, 1820.—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.
The General Assembly, &c.
VII. Sess. 9, May 27, 1820.—Report of the Committee appointed to class the Returns from Presbyteries of the Examination of Schools.
The Report of the Committee to class the Returns from Presbyteries of the Examination of Schools was called for, and being produced, was read as follows:—
"The Committee appointed to consider the Returns of Presbyteries, relative to the Schools within their respective bounds, have to report to the General Assembly,
"1st, That the following Presbyteries have transmitted reports from the schedules prepared by order of the last Assembly, viz., Aberbrothock, Aberdeen, Dunbar, Dunfermline, Fordoun, Jedburgh, Kirkaldy, Lanark, Langholm, Lauder, Meigle, Paisley, St Andrews. And that the uniformity and fulness of the returns from these thirteen Presbyteries is highly satisfactory.
"2d, That returns in the same, or in some similar form, have been transmitted from the following Presbyteries, viz., Biggar, Dalkeith, Dundee, Dunoon, Dumbarton, Ellon, Garioch, Forfar, Haddington, Irvine, Lorn, Penpont, Perth, Selkirk, Strathbogie. And that these fifteen reports being drawn up on the same or a similar plan with that of the printed schedule of last Assembly, are satisfactory, in respect of the information which they present, though less uniform in size, and less easy for the purpose of reference.
"3d, That short reports, or notices of examination, have been transmitted from the following Presbyteries, viz., Aberlour, Ayr, Brechin, Fordyce, Lochmaben, Peebles, Turriff, stating generally on the backs of the commissions that the schools within these Presbyteries were examined. These reports are, indeed, more or less satisfactory, and some of them detail the names of the schools, the number of scholars, and the branches taught; others give only the names of the schools. One Presbytery merely sends a note, stating that several of the schools have been visited.
"4th, That the separate reports of the parishes have been transmitted by the Presbyteries of Abertarff and Stranraer, in place of the respective abstracts which ought to have been prepared and sent up from these two Presbyteries; but that, as parish reports, most of these are carefully drawn up according to or near the general plan; though it is obvious that a committee of Assembly could not examine and do justice to so many, if all the separate parishes were to report; and also, that it is of importance for Presbyteries to examine them, and to make up their own returns to the Assembly.
"5th, That except the above thirty-seven Presbyteries, all the others have omitted to send up reports, or, if sent, they have not been delivered to the Assembly and their committee, which, after all the orders on that subject sent out from year to year by the Assembly, after the preparing of regular schedules for this purpose, and while the great importance of regular examinations and returns is apparent to, and confessed by every one in any degree acquainted with the subject, appears to furnish matter equally of regret and surprise.
"6th, That an extra column on the left of the printed schedules, to contain the population of the respective parish, and the insertion of the Presbytery's designation at the top, would be of use in case of any new impression of the schedules; and that for the purposes of uniformity and facility of reference, they should all be of the same dimensions, or nearly so.
"Lastly, The committee are perfectly satisfied, that not only will there be more attention given to the important duties of examination of schools, in order to the construction of the Assembly reports now required, from one meeting of this Supreme Court to another, but that, by means of these uniform returns, as soon as they are generally made up and received, the most satisfactory means will be at the command of the Assembly for constructing a national report on a subject of the highest interest and consequence.
"The committee beg leave to report further, that as the continuance of the high superintendence of this Court appears to have already produced very happy effects, and the faithful attention of Presbyteies and ministers is essential to their continuance; and as it seems to be necessary for the success of these measures that a strict inquiry be made into the nature and extent of the returns, it may contribute to ensure correct returns, if the General Assembly shall be pleased to recommend and enjoin:—
"1st, That every Presbytery of this Church give precise instructions to the respective ministers to have schedules prepared for these returns, according to the from approved and transmitted by the General Assembly, inserting the name of the parish at the top, and the population, according to the last return thereof, in a column at the left hand of the schedule: And that returns be made from every parish to the respective Presbytery, on or before the day of election of their representatives to the Assembly.
"2d, That from these parish returns the Presbytery shall cause to be duly made up and revised by themselves, a general return from the Presbytery, to comprehend the substance of what is contained in the reports from parishes.
"3d, That every Presbytery of this Church take care to have such returns made up and transmitted to the Agents for the Church on or before the first week of the sitting of the General Assembly, to whom they will be answerable.
"4th, That these recommendations and injunctions be inserted in the printed Acts
of Assembly for this vear. or communicated in any other way the Assembly may be
ficient supply of printed schedules for the respective Presbyteries, on which, or according to the forms of which, these returns may be made.
The Assembly approve of this report, and of the additional recommendations which the committee propose to be given by the Assembly upon this subject; and, in pursuance thereof, the Assembly enjoin their clerks to see that the said recommendations be inserted in the printed Acts of this Assembly; together with a recommendation that the Presbyteries be particularly careful to see that in all the schools within their bounds the children be duly instructed in the principles of religion; and that in the schedule there be an additional column, to certify whether or not the teachers have qualified to government.
VIII. Sess. 9, May 27, 1820.—Report of the Committee on the Reference from the Presbytery of Fordoun.
The committee of the General Assembly appointed to consider the reference from the Presbytery of Fordoun, and the case of the vacant parish of Arbuthnot, humbly report to this Assembly:
That many highly important interests are involved in this reference, and that it well deserves the most serious consideration, that while the patronage of Arbuthnot, or any other parish, continues during a vacancy to be the subject of litigation in civil courts, and the parish remains without a settled minister, there must be many difficulties and interruptions in the preaching of the Word, the administration of the sacraments, the management and support of the poor, the inspection of schools, the visiting and examining the parishioners in general, and the administering of consolation to the afflicted and the dying; besides the general neglect of the civil interests connected with the parish and the cure of it, especially those which relate to the church, the manse and offices, the school-houses, and the glebe: And as other cases of the same description with that of the parish of Arbuthnot are known to exist, and some have already been of long continuance, it appears the more necessary to submit some general and effective measures.
The committee, therefore, beg leave to suggest,
1st, That the General Assembly authorise the Procurator and Agents for the Church to look into the case of this parish of Arbuthnot, and into such other cases as may exist at present, or occur hereafter, involving circumstances of protracted vacancy, occasioned by litigation betwixt contending patrons; that they watch over the progress of the respective processes, and endeavour to prevent improper or unnecessary delays.
2dly, That the Assembly recommend to the several Presbyteries within whose bounds there is or may be a long vacancy in any parish, occasioned by contested claims of patronage, to endeavour, as far as possible, to furnish regular supplies of preaching at suitable intervals; and for this purpose, to employ licentiates of this Church, according as these Presbyteries may see proper and find convenient; to authorise the several ministers in their bounds to administer the ordinance of baptism within the vacant parish respectively, and to perform the other functions of an ordained minister therein, as the circumstances of the parish may require; and in case the heritors, elders, or parishioners, apply to the Presbytery for this purpose, that the Assembly recommend to them to exercise their constitutional power in dispensing the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper within such vacant parish, at such times, and under such arrangements, as the Presbytery shall find most proper.
3dly, That the Assembly authorise and recommend to the respective Presbytery, in which any case of long vacancy of the above, or any other description may occur, to take proper measures, as far as they can, for securing and preserving the civil interests of the vacant cure, especially in respect of the church, the manse and offices, and the glebe, and for attending to the poor, and to the schools of the vacant parish.
4thly, That if this report meet the approbation of the General Assembly, it be inserted in the printed Acts, or communicated in such a manner as may appear most
proper for the information and satisfaction of all concerned.
William Singer, Convener.
(The Assembly approved of the above Report, and of the Suggestions subjoined to it; and they authorised and enjoined in terms of the said Report and Suggestions.)—Ed. 1843.
IX. Sess. 9, May 27, 1820.—Overture and Interim Act for the more effectual Preventing Simony.
X. Sess. ult., May 29, 1820.—Act appointing the Diet of the next General Assembly.
The next General Assembly of this National Church is appointed to be held within the New Church Aisle of Edinburgh, on Thursday, the 17th day of May 1821.
Extracted from the Records of the General Assembly,
Andrew Duncan, Cl. Eccl. Scot.
Note.—In the Abridgment of the Assembly's Proceedings of this year, the following notice appears of a discussion which took place on the production of an Order of his Majesty in Council, respecting the public offering of Prayers for the King and Royal Family:—
"Upon a motion made and seconded, the Assembly called for the Order of his Majesty in Council, transmitted by Government to the Moderator of the last General Assembly, and communicated by the said Moderator to the members of the Church of Scotland, through the medium of the newspapers, respecting the prayers to be publicly offered up for the King and Royal Family. Dr Macfarlane accordingly laid before the Assembly the said Order in Council, together with a letter which accompanied the said Order from the Clerk of Council, which Order was read, together with the said letter. The deliberations of the Assembly upon this subject were opened by the following motion. viz.:—'That it be declared by the General Assembly, that no civil authority can constitutionally prescribe either forms or heads of prayer to the ministers and preachers of this Church; and that the Orders in Council, which have been issued from time to time, respecting prayers for the Royal Family, are inconsistent with the rights and privileges secured by law to our Ecclesiastical Establishment; but that as these Orders appear to have originated in mistake or inadvertence, and not in any intention to interfere with our modes of worship, the General Assembly do not consider it to be necessary to proceed farther in this matter at present. And the General Assembly embrace this opportunity of declaring the cordial and steady attachment of the Church of Scotland to their most gracious Sovereign, and to all the Royal Family; and of farther expressing their unqualified confidence, that, actuated by the same principles of loyalty and religion which have hitherto guided them, her ministers and preachers will never cease to offer up, along with their people, their fervent supplications to Almighty God, in behalf of a family to whom, under Providence, we are indebted for so many distinguished blessings, both sacred and civil.' In the course of the debate, another motion was made and seconded, 'That whereas the independence of the Church of Scotland, in all matters of faith, worship, and discipline, is fully established by law, the General Assembly finds it unnecessary and inexpedient to adopt any declaration, with regard to the late or any former Orders in Council, relative to prayers for his Majesty and the Royal Family.' And the vote being called for, it was agreed the state of the vote should be First or Second Motion; and the roll being called, and votes marked, it carried, by a great majority, Second Motion. And, therefore, the General Assembly did, and hereby do, adopt the said second motion as the judgment of the House. Against which judgment several members dissented."—Ed. 1843.