The extreme difficulty of obtaining a complete set of the Acts of the
General Assembly, unless at a very exorbitant price, has long rendered a
new and more compressed edition most desirable. Several years ago, the
matter was brought under the notice of the Assembly, who appointed a committee with the view of considering whether this important object might
not be attained. This committee was again and again renewed; but although it is believed that some progress was made in obtaining subscribers
to the intended work, nothing effectual was accomplished.
Impressed with the importance of having the Acts of the Church in a form
accessible, not merely to Kirk-Sessions and other Judicatories, but also to
the Office-bearers of the Church individually, and her Members in general,
and encouraged by the countenance so generally given to their Book of
"Styles," The Church Law Society have ventured to undertake the
publication of a new edition of the Acts.
At a meeting of the Society, held in May 1842, a committee, consisting
of the Rev. Mr Petrie of Kirkwall, Dr Cunningham of Edinburgh, Mr Pitcairn of Cockpen, Mr Omond of Monzie, and Mr Wood of Westruther,
with Mr James Crawford, jun., W.S., and Mr William Wood, Accountant,
was appointed for the purpose of taking the necessary steps for carrying the
work into execution. The committee imediately entered on their labours;
and having succeeded in completing the work, the Society has now the satisfaction of presenting, in one volume, the Acts of the General Assembly
of the Church of Scotland, from 1638 to 1842, inclusive.
As the proceedings of the Assembly do not constitute any part of the
law of the Church, and as a republication of them would have swelled the
work to an inconvenient size, and added very alargely to the expense,these
have been omitted in the present edition; and, in the Acts themselves, all
mere matters of form have been avoided, such as the Royal Commission,
the Sovereign's Letter, with the Assembly's Answer, the Commission for
discussing Affairs referred to them, and the Commission for managing the
Royal Bounty. In regard to these, however, nothing of importance is
omitted. The Royal Letter and Answer are always given when circumstances connected with the particular time, or with the communications
themselves, appear to invest them with more than usual interest. The
special Addresses to the Throne, of which there are may, are printed with
scarcely an exception. Any change in the terms of either of the Commissions
annually appointed by the Assembly is uniformly noticed. In
the earlier Acts, the names of the Ministers and Elders appointed as Commissioners are generally given, also in a few cases in subsequent years,
where, from particular circumstances, their insertion may be interesting
Notices are occasionally given, from the Abridgment of the Proceedings, of
important discussions which took place in the General Assembly.
In regard to the many Overtures which appear among the printed Acts
of the original edition, care has been taken in each case to ascertain whether an Act was ultimately passed on the subject;—if so, reference is
made accordingly, and the Overture is not printed; but where the Overture does not appear to have been enacted, the fact is stated in a note, and
the Overture itself is given at length.
Copious Indices have been appended to this Edition, which it is hoped
will add much to its value, as the want of these has long been felt. Besides a Table of Contents, which appears at the Commencement, there is a
full Index of Matter, an Index also of Proper Names, with Lists of Royal
Commissioners, Modersators, Clerks, Procurators, and Agents, from 1638 to
the present date.
In passing through the press, the work has been compared with the
Assembly's copy of the Acts, the use of which was kindly granted, and all
possible care has been taken to secure accuracy. It is earnestly hoped,
therefore, by those who have undertaken the work, that it will meet with
the approbation of the Office-bearers and friends of the Church; and that it
will not only be found a valuable acquistion in the conduct of the business
of our Ecclesiastical Judicatories, but that it will be instrumental in
making the history and actings of the Church of Scotland more generally
known and better understood.
Convener of Committee of Church Law Society.
15th May 1843.