The principal acts of the general assembly, convened at Edinburgh, May 23, 1799.
I. Sess. 1, May 23, 1799.—The King's Commission to David Earl of Leven and Melville
produced, and ordered to be recorded.
The General Assembly, &c.
II. Sess. 1, May 23, 1799.—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. We have thought fit again
to constitute and appoint our right trusty and right well-beloved cousin, David Earl
of Leven and Melville, to be our Commissioner, and to represent our royal person in
the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.
The manner in which he has heretofore executed this high office, his attachment
to ourself, and his affection for the Church, fill us with assurance that he will adequately answer every purpose of the trust with which he is invested.
We do most solemnly repeat our determination to maintain and preserve the
Church of Scotland in the complete enjoyment of all its just rights and privileges;
and we are firmly persuaded that the conduct of the Church, and the proceedings of
the General Assembly, will continue such as to merit our approbation, and to increase
more and more that paternal love with which we unceasingly regard you.
At a time when the very principles of religion and morality are denied by some,
and confounded by others; in these perilous days, when wicked men have derided
every thing which is grave, just, and holy, we esteem it a duty to express our satisfaction at the unabating zeal and exemplary piety which distinguish the Church of
Scotland; and also to exhort you to undeviating perserverance in the same.
We charge you to be instant at all seasons in seeking after truth, in defending,
teaching, and spreading it; remembering that the eyes of the whole Church and
nation are upon you, and that your brethren look to the decisions of the General Assembly as rules to guide them in all matters of doctrine and discipline.
More particularly, we call upon you to aid, by precept and example, the cause of
religion and virtue in the world, to dispel the dangerous delusions of an arrogant and
vain philosophy, and of science, falsely so called, and to direct the minds of the people
over whom you individually exercise the pastoral care, to the revealed will of Almighty
Finally, we desire your prayers to the Supreme Disposer of all events, that he will
be pleased to prosper all our designs for the good of the Church of Scotland, and the
advancement of the Christian religion, to avert from these kingdoms those errors
which have brought ruin and desolation upon those who have embraced them. To
his Almighty protection we commend you; and so we bid you heartily farewell.
Given at our Court at St James's, the 17th day of May 1799, in the thirty-ninth
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 25, 1799.—The General Assembly's Answer to the King's most gracious
Most Gracious Sovereign,
The letter which it hath pleased your Majesty to address to this meeting of the
General Assembly of the Church of Scotland was received with the most profound
respect and gratitude.
We account ourselves highly honoured by the representaion of the royal person
in our General Assemblies, as the gracious symbol of the connection between the
Church and the State. We have beheld with much satisfaction, in many preceding
years, this high office committed to a nobleman, whose warm attachment to your
Majesty, whose hereditary affection for the Church of Scotland, whose steady regard
to religion, and whose many amiable virtues, render him eminently qualified to answer every purpose of the trust with which he is invested: And we receive your
Majesty's renewed appointment of the Earl of Leven and Melville as a pledge of the
paternal love with which you have unceasingly regarded us.
We rely, with entire confidence, upon the solemn assurance of your Majesty's
determination to maintain and preserve the Church of Scotland in the complete
enjoyment of all its just rights and privileges; and we shall study, upon all occasions, to conduct ourselves in such a manner as may entitle us to hope for the continuance of your royal approbation.
Your Majesty's donation of L.1000, for the propagation of Christian knowledge in
the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, was received with the sincerest gratitude, as
a renewed instance of your persevering attention to the religious interests of the
people committed to our care; and it shall be our endeavour to apply it with fidelity
to the pious purpose for which it is bestowed.
Placed in the perilous days so well described in your Majesty's most gracious letter, when the very principles of religion and morality are denied by some, and confounded by others; and when wicked men have derided every thing which is grave,
and just, and holy, we have unspeakable consolation in thinking that we live under
the reign of a Prince, whose exemplary piety adorns the throne; who condescends
to mention, with approbation, the zeal of the Church of Scotland, who calls us by
his authority to an undeviating perseverance in the discharge of our duty, and assures us of all the encouragement and support which the circumstances of the times
We listen, with the most profound respect, to the solemn charge which we receive
from your Majesty. And it is our determined resolution, that, in compliance with
that charge, and in fulfilment of the duties of our sacred office, we will, through
the strength of the Lord Jesus, be instant at all seasons in seeking after truth, in
defending, teaching, and spreading it; that we will labour, by precept and by example, to aid the cause of religion and virtue in the world; that we will endeavour
to dispel the dangerous delusions of an arrogant and vain philosophy, and of science,
falsely so called; and, in all our ministrations, will direct the minds of the people
over whom we exercise the pastoral care to the revealed will of Almighty God, as
the only infallible standard of truth, and perfect rule of manners. We feel the
sacred obligations of which your Majesty is graciously pleased to remind us, that
arise from our being, in the words of our great Master, "a city set upon an hill;"
and we look up to Him for those influences of his Spirit, which may enable us so to
frame our decisions, that they may secure the respect of our brethren, and may guide
them in all matters of doctrine and discipline.
Conscious that our exertions, however unremitting and well directed, are of none
avail without the blessing of Heaven, we cease not to offer our fervent prayers to
the Supreme Disposer of all events, beseeching him to avert from these kingdoms
those errors which have brought ruin and desolation upon all who have embraced
them. We bless the Lord our God, who, because he loved us, hath raised up a
succession of princes in the illustrious House of Hanover, to be the nursing-fathers
of his Church. We pray that it may please Him to prosper all your Majesty's designs for the good of the Church of Scotland, and the advancement of the Christian
religion. And, relying upon His Almighty protection, we trust, that, under the wise
and vigorous administration of your Majesty's government, our ecclesiastical establishment, which has been cherished with warm affection by the people of Scotland,
and which has been the means of diffusing amongst all ranks the knowledge and
the principles of pure and undefiled religion, shall be preserved from being shaken
by external violence, or undermined by the machinations of secret foes.
That the best blessings of Heaven may descend upon your Majesty, upon our
gracious Queen Charlotte, upon the Prince and Princess of Wales, and all the Royal
Family; that your Majesty may long continue to reign in the hearts of a pious, loyal,
free, and happy people; and that, after swaying the British sceptre for many years
with felicity and renown, you may be received into those regions where an unfading
crown awaits the faithful, are the 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 General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.
Signed in our name, in our presence, and at our appointment, by
William Moodie, Moderator.
IV. Sess. 3, May 25, 1799.—Address to his Majesty on the present Situation of Public
Most Gracious Sovereign,
We, your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Ministers and Elders of the
Church of Scotland met in the General Assembly, beg leave to approach the throne
with sentiments of the most affectionate attachment to your Majesty's person and
Beholding with reverence the conduct of Providence, in the permission of those
calamitous events which, for years past, have afflicted and desolated so many of the
neighbouring nations, we feel the most lively gratitude to Almighty God, when we
contemplate the prosperous condition of Great Britain. Preserved by the wisdom
of your Majesty's councils from the traitorous attempts made to disturb its internal
tranquillity, this happy country flourishes even in the midst of war, and communicating to its allies a portion of its own vigour, it has been justly regarded as the
great bulwark raised by Divine Providence, for resisting the progress of those destructive principles which threatened the total subversion of religion and good government in every quarter of the world.
We are sincerely grieved to learn that there are still among us men insensible to
the inestimable blessings we enjoy; but we trust that their numbers are daily decreasing; and your Majesty may be assured that the Church of Scotland, faithful
to her duty, will, in her proper sphere, co-operate zealously with the civil power in
counteracting their insidious designs. We have reason to think that the blessings
of your Majesty's paternal government, aided by the salutary restraints imposed on
the licentious, have already produced a favourable impression on the minds of many
of our fellow-subjects, who were formerly discontented. And we are persuaded
that the great body of the people under our charge, notwithstanding the artful endeavours employed to agitate and divide them, continue firmly attached to the religious and civil constitution of their country, and deeply interested in whatever
may have any tendency to strengthen its security, and to transmit it unimpaired to
the latest posterity.
Amidst the general satisfaction with which we contemplate the state of the country,
we embrace, with peculiar pleasure, this first opportunity which our meeting affords
us of congratulating your Majesty on the splendid naval victories gained in the course
of last year by your Majesty's arms at the mouth of the Nile, and on the coast of
Ireland, under the conduct of Lord Nelson and Sir John Borlase Warren—victories
honourable in the highest degree to the good and gallant men by whom they were
achieved, highly conducive to the national security, and most important in their consequences to the general issue of the war. And while our devout acknowledgments
rise to the Lord of Hosts, from whom alone cometh wisdom and strength, on account
of the brilliant events, which, under your Majesty's more immediate administration,
have contributed so much to the advantage of the common cause; we have beheld
also, with the most grateful satisfaction, the rapid tide of victory which has followed
of late the arms of your Majesty's allies on the Continent. And we cherish the hope,
that, by a continuation of success, your Majesty will be soon enabled, in concert with
your allies, to bring this arduous contest to a termination, glorious to our country,
and salutary to the general interests of Europe.
That Almighty God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, may protect your Majesty's person, direct your councils, and prosper your administration; that He may
bless our Gracious Queen, their Royal Highnesses the Prince and Princess of Wales,
and all the Royal Family; and that, after reigning long with wisdom and felicity, over
a free, happy, and grateful people, you may receive that crown of righteousness which
fadeth not away, are the earnest prayers of,
May it please your Majesty, your Majesty's most dutiful, most faithful,
and most obedient subjects, the Ministers and Elders met in this
General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.
Signed in our name, in our presence, and at our appointment, by
William Moodie, Moderator.
V. Sess. 5, May 28, 1799.—Declaratory Act of the General Assembly of the Church of
Scotland, respecting Unqualified Ministers and Preachers.
The General Assembly, having received overtures from many Synods, which propose that some effectual regulations shall be made in order to prevent persons not
duly qualified from being employed to preach the Word, and to dispense the other
ordinances of the Gospel in the congregations under the care of the Church; considering that the rules laid down by the Apostles of our Lord require from all who
are invested with the solemn trust of committing the ministry of the Word to others,
prudence and strictness in the trial and judgement of those whom, in the exercise of
that trust, they pronounce faithful and apt to teach; considering that the laws of this
Church, in conformity to the rules of Scripture, have prescribed a certain previous
course of education, as necessary for all the probationers thereof, and have directed the
Presbyteries of this Church to employ inquiries and trials of various kinds, in order
that they may be fully satisfied concerning the literature, sound doctrine, and steady
attachment to our constitution in Church and State, of those who apply to them for
a licence to preach the Gospel; and considering further, that the judicial proceedings of the General Assembly, in particular cases, have interpreted and enforced those
laws; do hereby enact and declare, that it is agreeable to the constitution, the laws
and the decisions of this Church, that no probationer, who has obtained a licence
without the bounds of this Church, or who has not obtained a licence from some
Presbytery of this Church; and no ordained person, who did not obtain his licence
from a Presbytery of this Church, or who, either by going without the bounds of the
Church to obtain ordination, although he was not called to a particular congregation
in another country, or by any other part of his conduct, has forfeited the licence
which he had obtained, shall be held qualified to accept of a presentation or a call
to any parish in this Church, or to any Chapel of Ease connected therewith. And
the General Assembly do hereby enjoin all the Presbyteries of this Church, if a presentation or a call to any such probationer or ordained person, as is described in this
Act, shall at any time be given in to them, instantly to pronounce a sentence refusing to sustain such presentation or call, and declaring it null and void.
And further, the General Assembly, considering that it is of the greatest importance to the interests of true religion, to the sound instruction of the people, to the
quiet of their minds, and the peace of the Church and State, that unqualified persons,
who intrude themselves into the ministry of the Word, shall not receive any countenance from the ministers of this Church; more especially in the present times,
when men, who avow their hostility to our ecclesiastical establishment, and their
contempt of all the rules which the wisdom of our ancestors framed upon the model
of Scripture, for the orderly dispensation of the word and sacraments, are traversing
all the districts within the bounds of this Church, and attempting to alienate the
minds of the people from their established teachers; considering also, that it is essential to the unity and good order of the Church, and implied in the fundamental principles of Presbyterian government, that no minister shall presume to set up his individual judgment in opposition to the judgment of those to whom, at his ordination,
he promised subjection in the Lord; and that every minister shall consider himself
as answerable to his Presbytery for the manner in which all the parts of Divine service
are performed during his incumbency, within the stated place of worship provided
by law for that congregation which is committed to his care; do hereby discharge
and prohibit, under pain of such censures as the judicatories of this Church may see
cause to inflict, all the ministers of this Church, and the ministers of all Chapels of
Ease connected therewith, from employing to preach upon any occasion, or to dispense any of the other ordinances of the Gospel, within any congregation under the
jurisdiction of this Church, persons who are not qualified, according to the laws of
this Church, to accept of a presentation, and from holding ministerial communion in
any other manner with such persons. And the General Assembly do hereby enjoin
all the Presbyteries of this Church to attend to any transgression of this prohibition
which may occur within their bounds, and to summon the minister who is reported
as being guilty of such transgression to answer for his conduct.
And the Assembly ordain their clerk to transmit a copy of this Act, separately
printed, to each of the moderators of the Presbyteries of this Church, with an injunction to them to cause the same to be engrossed in the records of their respective
VI. Sess. 9, June 1, 1799.—Overture respecting the Attendance of Students on the Divinity
VII. Sess. 9, June 1, 1799.—Overture respecting the Course of University Education to be
observed by Students previous to their entering the Divinity Hall.
VIII. Sess. 9, June 1, 1799.—New Overture respecting the Licensing of Probationers.
IX. Sess. 9, June 1, 1799.—Commission of the General Assembly to certain Ministers and
Ruling Elders for discussing Affairs referred to them.
The General Assembly, &c.
X. Sess. 9, June 1, 1799.—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, &c.
XI. Sess. ult., June 3, 1799.—Pastoral Admonition, addressed by the General Assembly of
the Church of Scotland, met at Edinburgh, May 23, 1799, to all the People under
Dearly Beloved Brethren,
You well know that it has been prophesied in Scripture, that in the last days
perilous times were to come, when many false teachers should arise, scoffers walking
after their own lusts, and when men should turn away their ears from the truth.
The prophecy has been brought to our recollection by the subjects which, in the
course of the business of this Assembly, have come under our review. We have
contemplated, with devont reverence, events in the conduct of the Divine government, which appear to us to be a fulfilment of this prophecy; and, from a sense of
the dangers to which you are exposed by those events, we feel ourselves bound in
duty, and engaged by affection, to issue this fatherly admonition, which your ministers, in the name and by authority of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, will read to you from their pulpits.
It is too well known, that in a neighbouring country an evil and pernicious spirit
has arisen, which, like a pestilential vapour, has spread its malignant influence
over several surrounding States. The unhappy nation of the French, not content
with having first slaughtered their Sovereign, and overturned their own Government; not content with endeavouring, by acts of violence, to subvert the established
governments of other nations, and to introduce amongst them their own principles
of rebellion and anarchy; have also impiously attempted to wage open war against
the Christian faith. They have shut up thier churches, studied to abolish the memory of the Lord's Day, declared the belief of a future state to be an empty dream;
and by their emissaries, and their numerous publications, have sought to spread
everywhere abroad their Atheistical tenets, and to render every nation dissatisfied
with their own rulers, and with their own governments, both ecclesiastical and civil.
Hence has arisen that variety of books and pamphlets, containing the most impious opinions, and propagating the spirit of sedition and rebellion, which have
been disseminated with much care amongst all ranks of men in this land. While
such doctrines are abroad, and many, through ignorance or inadvertence, are in
hazard of being poisoned by them, the solicitude which we entertain for your welfare, in time and in eternity, has led us to warn you aginst the seduction of false
teachers. Now is the time, dear brethren, to show that you are not ashamed of
your blessed Saviour, and of his words, "earnestly to contend for the faith which
was once delivered unto the saints;" and to reject with contempt and indignation
that false philosophy, pregnant with lies, which has wrought so much mischief
amongst mankind. Listen not to any insinuations from those who seek to pervert
you from the sound and good principles you early imbibed; and beware, particularly,
that they instil not into your minds sentiments of disaffection to that wise and mild
government under which you live. Remember, with gratitude, that goodness of the
Almighty, which, when so many other nations have been distracted with civil
commotions, and laid waste by hostile devastations, has preserved you in tranquillity and peace, "every man under his own vine, and his own fig-tree," enjoying
with safety the fruit of his labours, under the protection of laws which afford
equal justice to the poor and to the rich. Instead of being captivated by that empty
sound of liberty, which has proved to be only another name for anarchy or tyranny,
let zeal for true religion ever remain in your minds, united with attachment to
our happy constitution, and with loyalty to that gracious Sovereign with whom Providence has blessed us.
It is much to be lamented, that, while we are assaulted by false principles imported to us from abroad, there should of late have arisen among ourselves a set of
men, whose proceedings threaten no small disorder to the country. We mean those
who, assuming the name of missionaries from what they call the Society for Propagating the Gospel at Home, as if they had some special commission from Heaven, are
at present going through the land, not confining themselves to particular stations,
but acting as universal itinerant teachers, and as superintendents of those who are established the teachers of religion by the Church; intruding themselves into their parishes without any call; erecting in several places Sunday schools, without any countenance from the Presbytery of the bounds, the minister or heritors of the parish;
committing in those schools the religious instruction of youth to ignorant persons,
altogether unfit for such an important charge, who presume not only to catechise,
but also to expound the Scriptures; or to persons notoriously disaffected to the civil
constitution of the country; and connecting those schools with certain secret meetings, in which, as we are informed, every person is bound not to spread abroad any
thing that is said or done in the meeting, to the prejudice of any of the members;
into which no person is admitted without the consent of the whole of the members;
and which keep a correspondence with other societies in the neighbourhood. You
see the men, who by themselves, or their associates, conduct those Sunday schools
and secret meetings, bringing together assemblies of people in the fields, or in places
not intended for public worship; where, pouring forth their loose harangues, they
frequently take the liberty of censuring the doctrine or the character of the minister
of the parish; studying to alienate the affections of the people from their own pastors; and engaging them to join this new sect, as if they alone were possessed of some
secret and novel method of bringing men to heaven.
Hitherto, brethren, you have regarded a regular standing ministry as a Divine institution. You have been taught that the Lord Jesus Christ himself did not act in
a public character, without producing and proving a heavenly commission; that the
extraordinary endowments which he conferred upon his Apostles were their warrant
for appearing as the preachers of his religion; and that the evident connection between those endowments and the appointment of the first ministers of the word, is a
direction to Christians in all succeeding ages, to consider the office of public teachers
as a Divine ordinance, the exercise of which requires talents corresponding to the
importance and difficulty of the charge. You know that the Church of Scotland, in
conformity to these principles, prescribes a long course of education to those who are
trained for the holy ministry; and, in order to prevent the misapplication of literary
studies and talents, requires from all whom she licenses to preach the Gospel, the
most solemn engagements, that they will adhere to the Standards which she has published of her doctrine, worship, discipline, and government. But all this care and
solicitude concerning the ministry of the Word, which we and our fathers learned
from Scripture, is now ridiculed as unnecessary. The men who assume the character of missionaries declare that every man has a right to preach the Gospel; and they
are now traversing the whole country as evangelists, without any sort of authority,
without giving any public pledge for the soundness of their faith, or the correctness
of their morals, and without those advantages of regular education, and of preparatory knowledge, which, under every form of a Christian Church, ever since the age
of miraculous gifts, have been held as indispensably necessary for the useful and successful discharge of a Gospel ministry.
We wish to judge charitably of all men. We are willing to hope that amongst
these missionaries there are several worthy, well-meaning people, who have been
led astray by men more artful and designing than themselves. But it is impossible
not to perceive that the whole scheme, and the manner in which it is conducted, discover more of a spirit of ambition and vanity, and of a desire to claim a lordly dominion over your faith, than of the spirit of the Gospel, which is a meek, an humble,
and a peaceable spirit, and a spirit of order, not of confusion; and whatever may be
the intentions of some who have engaged in this scheme, the manifest tendency of
their proceedings is to foster the violence of a blind intemperate zeal; to unsettle the minds of many; to throw their principles loose, by distracting them with
novelties, and to make them become like "clouds without water, carried about of
You may have been led by curiosity to listen for a little to what these strange and
self-authorised teachers of religion have to say. But that any of you will give them
lasting countenance, or adhere to them as guides, forsaking, upon that account, the
Established Church, in whose principles you were baptized, and under whose wings
you have been bred up, we are persuaded better things of you than to believe or suspect. For, is it to be imagined, that any well-disposed and sober-minded Christians
could think of deserting those house of God, in which their fathers have so often
worshipped, and which have so often resounded with their own songs of praise, in order to follow up and down a sect of men, whom you know not whence they be ? Is
not the Church of Scotland, which has been distinguished by the testimony of many
generations for the purity of its doctrines, and the character of its ministers, worthy
of your most steady and zealous attachment; that Church, in defence of which your
forefathers fought and bled, and which has produced so many confessors and martyrs
in the cause of our common faith ? Much reason there is to suspect, that those who
openly profess their enmity to our ecclesiastical establishment are no friends to our
civil constitution; and that the name of liberty is abused by them, as it has been by
others, into a cover for secret democracy and anarchy. Persevere, therefore, in those
principles in which you have been bred, and which you have hitherto honourably
manifested. Beware, beloved brethren, of all who would shake your attachment to
the Established Church of Scotland. By diligently improving those stated means
of instruction which she provides for you, and always consulting the sacred Scriptures as your supreme rule, the path of duty will be clearly pointed out to you. But
those who "heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears," those who are con
tinually seeking new guides, wander into many unknown paths, which lead them into dangerous snares and errors.
In these giddy times, when the love of innovation so much prevails, and when the
spirit of innovation has broken forth in so many forms, listen "to the words of truth
and soberness. We speak as to wise men; judge ye what we say." Recollect
the counsels and the practice of your fathers; recollect your own experience of instruction and edification, under a well educated and regularly ordained ministry.
"Stand, brethren, in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good
way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls." And may God enlighten
and fortify your minds by his good Spirit, and, amidst all dangers, enable you to
"behave yourselves wisely in a perfect way !"
Subscribed, in name of the Assembly, by
William Moodie, D.D., Moderator.
XII. Sess. ult., June 3, 1799.—Report concerning Vagrant Teachers and Sunday Schools. (fn. *)
The General Assembly, upon considering that part of an overture from the Synod of
Aberdeen which respects Vagrant Teachers and Sunday Schools, having directed
a committee of their number to inquire into the existing laws which place schoolmasters and teachers of youth under the inspection and control of the Established
Church, and to report to the Assembly a statement of those laws, together with
their opinion concerning the most effectual method of preventing unqualified persons
from being employed in the important office of instructing youth: The committee accordingly gave in their report this day; and the same being read and considered, was unanimously approved of, and adopted by the Assembly, of which report the tenor follows:—
Your committee do not judge it necessary to enter into a minute detail of the
more ancient laws with respect to the power of the Church over all schools and
teachers of youth. The General Assembly of this Church, as early as the year 1565,
claimed it as their right that none should be permitted to teach publicly or privately,
but such as were tried by the superintendents or visitors of the Kirk, and found qualified. This claim was confirmed by an Act of Parliament, which was passed in the
year 1567, in the following words:—"Forasmeikleas, be all laws and constitutionis,
it is provided, That the zouth be brocht up and instructed in the fear of God and
gude manneris; and gif it be utherwise, it is tinsel baith of their bodies and saules,
gif God's Word be not ruted in them. Quherirfore, our Soveraign Lorde, with advice of my Lorde Regent, and the three estates of this present Parliament, has
statute and ordained, that all schules to burgh and land, and all universities and colledges, be reformed; and that nane be permitted nor admitted to have charge and
cure thereof in time coming, nor to instruct the zouth privatelie or openlie, bot sic
as sall be tryed be the superintendentes or visitouris of the kirk."
After the abolition of the office of superintendent, in the General Assembly, held
in the month of April 1581, certain articles were remitted by the Synod of Lothian
to that General Assembly, the fifth of which is, "That the trial and admission of all
masters of schools be now committed to the Presbyteries." The Act, 1565, already
noticed, is ratified and confirmed by the Act, 1581; and this Act, 1581, is again confirmed by the Act, 1592, which is the great charter of the Church, and which is confirmed by the Act of Security, 1707, cap. 6, and thereby declared to be an essential and
fundamental article in the Treaty of Union, into which it is accordingly engrossed, so
that the superintending power of the Church over all schoolmasters and teachers of
youth is clearly established by the most solemn acts of the legislature, and even by
the Treaty of Union itself.
It is well known that the Church has been in the constant exercise of those
powers, by visiting and examining schools, and taking cognizance of the sufficiency
and qualifications of teachers. See the Acts of Assembly, 1638, 1642, 1649, 1699.
When Episcopacy was re-established, on the restoration of Charles I I., an Act was
passed, 1662, c. 4, by which it is, inter alia, enacted, "That none be permitted,
hereafter, to preach in public, or in families, within any diocese, or to teach any public school, or to be pedagogues to the children of persons of quality, without the
licence of the ordinary of the diocese."
Soon after the Revolution, the Act, 1693, c. 22, was passed, which declares, "That
all schoolmasters, and teachers of youth in schools, are and shall be liable to the
trial, judgment, and censure of the Presbyteries of the bounds, for their sufficiency,
qualifications, and deportment in the said office." This Act is declaratory of a right
which constitutionally belongs to the Church; and, accordingly, the various Presbyteries of the Church have been in use of exercising that power, not merely with regard to parochial schoolmasters, but to teachers of youth of all denominations and
descriptions. And the General Assembly, 1700, appoints all Presbyteries to take
special, particular, and exact notice of all schoolmasters, chaplains, governors, and
pedagogues of youth within their respective bounds.
By the Act, 1707, cap. 6, which is declared a fundamental and essential condition
of the Union, it is provided, "That no Professors, &c., or others bearing office in
any university or school within Scotland, be capable, or be admitted, or allowed to
continue in the exercise of their functions, but such as shall own and acknowledge the
civil government, and shall subscribe the Confession of Faith, and that they will conform themselves to the worship in use in this Church, and submit themselves to the
government and discipline thereof, and never endeavour the prejudice or subversion
of the same, and that before the respective Presbyteries of their bounds, by whatsoever
gift, presentation, or provision, they may be thereto provided."
By the Act 19th Geo. II. cap. 39, sect. 21, it is enacted, "That it shall not be
lawful for any person in Scotland to keep a private school, or to officiate as master or
teacher in any school, until the situation and description of such school is registered,
together with a certificate of the teacher being properly qualified according to law,
by taking the oaths to government; and any person who acts without such register
and certificate shall, for the first offence, suffer six months' imprisonment; and for
any subsequent offence, upon the conviction before the Court of Justiciary or Circuit, shall be transported for life." Severe penalties are also imposed upon any
parent or guardian, &c., who shall employ any such unqualified teacher. The same
Act also requires, that chaplains in families, and governors, tutors, and teachers of
children, shall take the oaths to government; and Sheriffs, &c., are required, from
time to time, to make diligent inquiry concerning any offences that shall be committed against this Act, and to cause the same to be prosecuted, for the first offence,
before themselves; and in case of any subsequent offence, to give notice of the same
to his Majesty's Advocate, who is required to prosecute the same before the Court of
Justiciary or Circuit Courts.
Schools in the universities and in royal burghs are excepted; also parochial schools,
and those established by the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge, and by
the General Assembly, or committees thereof.
To this statement of the laws, the committee beg leave to sub join their opinion,—
That the General Assembly shall enjoin all Presbyteries of this Church to be diligent
in exercising those powers which the laws of the land, and of the Church, have committed to them, with respect to the education of youth within their bounds; and particularly to call before them all teachers of youth, whether in parochial schools, or
schools of another description, and to take trial of their sufficiency and qualifications
in those branches of education which they profess to teach. And that the Assembly
shall recommend to the Procurator of the Church to give his advice and assistance to
all Presbyteries of the Church relative to this matter, and authorise him to carry on,
at the public expense, such processes as may appear to be necessary for enforcing the
sentences, or ascertaining the powers, of the judicatories of the Church relative to
schools; and that the Assembly shall request his Majesty's Advocate and Solicitor-General to concur with the Procurator in supporting the jurisdiction of the
Church. And farther, that the General Assembly shall enjoin all the Presbyteries
of this Church to report to the next 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.
XIII. Sess. ult., June 3, 1799.—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 22d day of May
Extracted from the Records of the General Assembly, by
Andrew Dalzel, Cl. Eccl. Scot.