Acts: 1839

Pages 1092-1098

Acts of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland 1638-1842. Originally published by Edinburgh Printing & Publishing Co, Edinburgh, 1843.

This free content was digitised by double rekeying. All rights reserved.


In this section

The principal acts of the general assembly, convened at Edinburgh, May 16, 1839.

I. Sess. 1, May 16, 1839.—The Queen's Commission to Lord Belhaven.

Victoria, &c.

II. Sess. 1, May 16, 1839.—Her Majesty's Letter to the General Assembly.

Victoria, R., &c.

III. Sess. 3, May 18, 1839.—The General Assembly's Answer to the Queen's most gracious Letter.

May it please your Majesty, &c.

IV. Sess. 10, May 24, 1839.—Commission of the General Assembly to certain Ministers and Ruling Elders for discussing Affairs referred to them.

The General Assembly, &c.

V. Sess. 10, May 24, 1839.—Commission to some Ministers and Ruling Elders for the Reformation of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, and for Managing her Majesty's Royal Bounty.

The General Assembly, &c.

VI. Sess. 8, May 23, 1839.—Act in favour of India Missions.

The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland did, and hereby do, nominate and appoint the ministers of the Presbytery of Edinburgh, and the following elders, who are members of Assembly, viz., James Stark, Esq., &c.; to be a committee for the propagation of the Gospel in foreign parts, and for managing the funds subscribed and given for that purpose, in any manner of way; with power also to appoint a subcommittee of their number in Edinburgh, consisting of nine, for more effectually furthering the grand object in view. Of the general committee nine shall be a quorum, and of the sub-committee three are hereby declared a quorum. The general committee shall hold stated monthly meetings for dispatch of business, with power to meet on all occasions when business shall demand. And the said general committee are hereby enjoined and required, by themselves, and through their sub-committees, to attend to the instructions and regulations formerly approved of by the General Assembly for the propagation of the Gospel abroad, with power to make and carry into effect such farther regulations, and to adopt such measures as to them may seem most beneficial; such farther regulations, and the measures adopted, to be submitted to next Assembly. And the said general committee are hereby appointed to report their diligence and that of their sub-committees, in calling forth the benevolence and support of the Christian public, their prudence in the expenditure of the funds obtained, and generally their management, and the success and extent of their operations in foreign parts. The General Assembly renew their former recommendations to the ministers throughout the Church, that they continue their exertions, and put forth farther exertions in aid of the funds of the mission, and earnestly recommend that in every parish there be a collection yearly on behalf of this most important cause.

VII. Sess. 10, May 24, 1839.—Act anent the Representation of Presbyteries.

The General Assembly, having taken into consideration the Overture from the Presbytery of Glasgow, on the Representation of Presbyteries in the General Assembly, and having heard an application from the Commissioners of the Presbytery of Edinburgh to the same effect, did, and hereby do, enact and declare as follows:—

"Whereas, by the 5th Act of Assembly, 1694, and the 6th Act of Assembly, 1712, and the 19th Act of Assembly, 1835, appointing the number of representatives for Presbyteries, a proportion is observed between the number of ministerial charges in each Presbytery and the number of its representatives, yet the regulations contained in the said Acts are no farther expressed than to allow eight ministers and four ruling elders as the representatives of each Presbytery whose members exceed forty-two; the General Assembly, according to the design of said Acts, enact and declare, that in future every Presbytery, the ministerial charges in which shall exceed forty-eight, shall send to the Assembly nine ministers and four ruling elders; and every Presbytery whose ministerial charges shall exceed fifty-four, shall send ten ministers and five ruling elders: And further, that in every case in which a Principal or a Professor of Divinity in a University shall be entitled, in virtue of his office in such University, to a seat in the Presbytery of the bounds, (the said Principal or Professor not holding at the same time a cure of souls within the Presbytery,) the office of such Principal or Professor shall be held, as far as regards the number of representatives to be elected by the Presbytery, to be a ministerial charge. The General Assembly, at the same time, instruct the Presbyteries of Edinburgh and Glasgow to take into their early consideration the propriety of adopting measures for their speedy division respectively into Presbyteries, of an extent fitted for the most effectual execution of the peculiar duties of these Courts."

VIII. Sess. 11, May 25, 1839.—Act anent Re-union with Seceders.

The General Assembly, on the Report of the Committee for classing Returns to Overtures, having found that the Overture anent Re-union with Seceders has received the approbation of a majority of the Presbyteries of the Church, did, and hereby do, enact the said Overture into a Standing Law of the Church, as follows:—

Whereas proposals have been made by the Associate Synod for a re-union with the Church of Scotland, and a considerable number of overtures have been sent at the same time to the General Assembly from the Synods and Presbyteries of the Church favourable to that object; and it has been ascertained by a Committee of the General Assembly, that the course of study required for a long time past of students in divinity in connection with said Synod is quite satisfactory, and that their ministers and elders do firmly adhere to the Westminster Confession of Faith, the Larger and Shorter Catechisms, and other Standards of our Church; and whereas the members of the Associate Synod do heartily concur with us in holding the great principle of an Ecclesiastical Establishment, and the duty of acknowledging God in our national as well as our individual capacity; and we, on the other hand, do heartily concur with the members of the Associate Synod in confessing the great obligations under which we lie to our forefathers in the year 1638, and several years of that century immediately following, and the duty, in particular circumstances, of uniting together in public solemn engagement in defence of the Church, and its doctrine, discipline, and form of worship and government; and whereas our brethren of the Associate Synod have declared their willingness, in the event of a re-union, to submit to all the laws and judicatories of this Church, reserving only to themselves the right which the members of the Established Church enjoy of endeavouring to correct in a lawful manner what may appear to them to be faulty in its constitution and government.

The General Assembly, with the consent of the Presbyteries of this Church, enact and ordain, that all the ministers of the Associate Synod, and their congregations, in Scotland, desirous of being admitted into connection and full communion with the Church of Scotland, be received accordingly, and that the following rules be strictly observed by the Presbyteries of this Church relative to this subject:—

1. Ministers of the Associate Synod and their congregations shall be received into connection with the Presbyteries in whose bounds their churches are situated, on their laying before the said Presbyteries respectively a representation or memorial, subscribed in name of the kirk-sessions of said congregations, by their moderator, or other person appointed by them; and if there be managers of said congregations, by the preses of said managers, or other person in their name and by their authority, as also by the preses of a meeting of the members of the congregation, setting forth the desire of said ministers and congregations to be received into connection with the Church of Scotland. On such representation or memorial being presented, the Presbytery shall, subject to the condition after specified, receive and admit the memorialists; and in the event of the Presbytery's refusing to do so, it shall be competent to the memorialists to appeal to the General Assembly.

2. On the reception of a minister and congregation of the Associate Synod into connection with a Presbytery of this Church, the managers of said congregation, or the kirk-session and deacons, if managers, shall forthwith take the steps necessary for procuring a constitution for the newly admitted church, and having a territorial district assigned thereto.

3. Every ministe of the Associate Synod, at his admission as a member of Presbytery, and every ruling elder of said Synod, before taking his seat as a member of Presbytery, or Synod, or General Assembly, shall subscribe the Westminster Confession of Faith, and the Formula of the Church of Scotland, and shall enjoy all the rights and privileges of ordained ministers and elders of the Church of Scotland.

4. The integrity of the kirk-sessions and existing congregations of the Associate Synod admitted into the Church of Scotland, and the right of said kirk-sessions to grant sealing ordinances to the present members of their said congregations, though not residing within the bounds of the parish which may be allotted to them, shall be distinetly and practically recognised by the other kirk-sessions and the Presbyteries of this Church;—provided always, that this provision shall in no respect apply to non-residents who are not at the date of this Act members of the existing congregations as aforesaid.

5. Presbyteries shall not, at or after the admission of ministers of the Associate Synod and their congregations into connection with the Church of Scotland, require and provision to be made for the said ministers by the managers of said congregations different from existing arrangements; but the laws now in force in this Church or hereafter to be enacted, shall be observed with regard to all future intrants.

6. The licentiates or probationers of the Associate Synod shall be received and treated as other probationers within the bounds of the Presbytery, on their making application to the Presbytery to that effect, and on their subscribing the Westminister Confession of Faith, and Formula of the Church of Scotland, and shall be held equally capable with them of receiving a presentation, or of being elected and called to a vacant congregation within the bounds of this Church.

7. The students of divinity of the Associate Synod at the time of the passing of this Act shall, on producing certificates of their having finished their theological course, under the Professor of the Associate Synod, be taken on trials for licence by the Presbytery of the bounds. Those of the existing students of said Synod who have commenced, but have not finished their theological studies, shall complete their curriculum with him or in the Divinity Halls of the Scottish Universities; and their sessions of regular attendance on the lectures of the Professor of Theology of the Associate Synod shall be counted as sessions of regular attendance in the Divinity Hall.

8. Ministers and their congregations out of Scotland, belonging to the Associate Synod, and expressing their desire of being recongnised by the Church of Scotland as connected with her, shall be held as standing in the same relative position as ministers and congregations in England, Ireland, and the Colonies, whose connection with this Church has been acknowledged.

IX. Sess. 11, May 25, 1839.—Act anent the Establishment and Endowment of a Professorship of Biblical Criticism.

The General Assembly, on the Report of the Committee for classing Returns to Overtures, having found that the Overture anent the Establishment and Endowment of a Professorship of Biblical Criticism has received the approbation of a majority of the Presbyteries of the Church, did, and hereby do, enact the said overture into a Standing Law of the Church, as follows:—

"Whereas it is of the highest consequence to the character, influence, and efficiency of the ministers of this Church, that no branch of theological study shall be neglected or superficially cultivated; and whereas there is not at present any sufficient security or provision for having the study of Biblical Criticism conducted as an essential part of the theological course in any of our universities, the General Assembly direct that all practicable efforts shall be made for establishing a Professorship of that department of sacred learning in every one of the Universities of Scotland, and for having such professorship so adequately endowed, and the course of study generally so adjusted and arranged, that no increased expense shall be occasioned to students; and, farther, the General Assembly enact and ordain, that, after the institution and endowment of such additional chair for giving instructions in Biblical Criticism, all students of divinity in every university shall be required to give regular attendance on the lectures and other exercises during two years of their attendance at the Divinity Hall."

X. Sess. 11, May 25, 1839.—Act recommending Collections for the Four Schemes of the General Assembly.

The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, considering the obligation which lies on this Church to promote, to the utmost extent of the means with which God hath entrusted them, the progress of the Gospel of Christ among their own people, their brethren in the Colonies, and the heathen throughout the world; and considering, farther, how greatly their efforts have been impeded from a want of due arrangements for properly collecting the contributions of their several congregations, and confiding in their liberality and Christian zeal, were fit occasions regularly presented to them for contributing to the advancement of the four great Schemes now prosecuted by the Church, earnestly recommend to all the ministers of this Church, to make collections every year on behalf of each of these objects, viz., (1.) Education; (2.) Foreign Missions; (3.) Church Extension; (4.) Colonial Churches; upon the following Sabbaths, viz., upon the second Sabbath of July, the second Sabbath of October, the second Sabbath of January, and the second Sabbath of April, commencing this present year with the collection for the Education Committee on the second Sabbath of July; the collections for the other Schemes following in the order above written, viz., for Foreign Missions, on the second Sabbath of October; for Church Extension, on the second Sabbath of January; and for Colonial Churches, on the second Sabbath of April; and in future years in the same order, but commencing on the second Sabbath of July in each year with the Scheme next in order to that for which the collection had been made in the year preceding; as, for instance, in the year; 1840, with Foreign Missions, and so on, through the year, and from year to year; provided always, that whenever the celebration of the sacrament of the Lord's Supper happens to fall on any of the said Sabbaths, the collection shall be made on the Sabbath immediately preceding. And the Assembly direct that the Committees of Assembly for the several Schemes shall make up a joint state, &c. (The Act then proceeds in similar terms to that of last year.)

XI. Sess. 11, May 25, 1839.—Act on the Conversion of the Jews.

The General Assembly, having heard the Report of the Committee for Promoting Christianity among the Jews, approve of the same, and appoint the following ministers and elders, viz.; the ministers of the Presbyteries of Edinburgh and Glasgow, the Moderator, &c.; to be a committee for the above-mentioned object, of which Dr Macgill shall be convener, with former powers, and with power to adopt such measures as to them may seem necessary; and especially with power to take steps for sending a missionary or missionaries to the stations most promising: And the General Assembly recommend that collections be made throughout the Church for this very interesting object; and renew their recommendation to ministers to remember the cause of God's ancient people in the services of the sanctuary, and that special prayer be made for the Divine blessing on the steps now taken by the Church of Scotland.

XII. Sess. ult., May 27, 1839.—Act anent the Qualification of Representative Elders.

The General Assembly, on the Report of the Committee for classing Returns to Overtures, having found that the Overture anent the Qualification of Representative Elders has received the approbation of a majority of Presbyteries of the Church, did, and hereby do, enact the said Overture into a Standing Law of the Church, as follows:—

"The General Assembly, with consent of the Presbyteries of the Church, did, and hereby do, enact and ordain, That no ruling elder shall be deemed qualified to be chosen, or to sit as a commissioner in any Presbytery, Synod, or General Assembly, of this Church, who is not bona fide an acting elder in the congregation in which he holds office; and that in all commissions in favour of ruling elders, as commissioners to Presbyteries and Synods, it shall be certified by the kirk-session that the commissioner is bona fidean acting elder of their congregation; and that alongst with every commission in favour of a ruling elder as commissioner to the General Assembly, there be produced a certificate to the said effect by the kirk-session of which he is a member, otherwise the commission to be rejected: Declaring always, that the provisions of this Act shall not be construed to extend to the case of teaching elders, or theological professors in universities, inasmuch as their proper and peculiar function consists not in ruling in a particular congregation, but in teaching."

XIII. Sess. ult., May 27, 1839.—Overture and Interim Act, with Regulations for carrying into effect the Act of Assembly, May 29, 1835, on the Calling of Ministers. (fn. 1)


XIV. Sess. 11, May 25, 1839.—Injunction to Synods for visiting Presbytery Books.

The General Assembly did, and hereby do, call the attention of Synods to the injunctions contained in the Acts of Assembly, 1713, 1723, and 1838, (regarding the Collections for the Four Schemes,) as of great importance to the superintendence excrcised by the superior over the inferior courts of this Church; and they further enjoin all Synods to be very particular in visiting the records of all the Presbyteries within their bounds, and in seeing that each Presbytery discharge its duties to its members and its parishes, by a strict enforcement of the provisions of these Acts.

XV. Sess. ult., May 27, 1839.—Act appointing the Diet of next General Assembly.

The next General Assembly of this National Church is appointed to be holden at Edinburgh, on Thursday, the 21st of May 1840.

Extracted from the Records of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, by
John Lee, Cl. Eccl. Scot.


  • 1. This Overture and Inteim Act is in the same terms as that of last year, and the following notice respecting its re-transmission appears in the Abridgment:— "The General Assembly called for the Report on the Regulations as to Calls, which was given in by Mr Shaw Stewart, and read. It was moved, That the Report of the Committee be approved of, and that the Regulations be transmitted to Presbyteries for their consideration, and again passed into an Inteim Act. It was also moved, That the General Assembly disapprove of the Report, refuse to re-transmit the Regulations anent Calls, and to re-enant them as an Interim Act. The first motion having been withdrawn, it was also moved and seconded, That the General Assembly having declared, by its resolution on Wednesday last, that it is deeply impressed with the unhappy consequences which must arise from any collision between the civil and ecclesiastical authorities, and holding it to be their duty to use every means in their power, not involving any dereliction of the principles and fundamental laws of their constitution, to prevent such results, and having appointed a Committee for the purpose of considering in what way the privileges of the National Establishment, and the harmony between Church and State may remain unimpaired, with instructions to confer with the government of the country if they should see cause; and now feeling that it is inexpedient to take any step which may tend to embarrass the proceeding of the Committee then appointed, while they re-transmit the Regulations, and re-enact them into an Inteim Act, direct the Presbyteries to report all disputed cases to the next General Assembly. The vote being taken, it carried Second Motion, by a majority of 137 to 89. This deliverance having been intimated, Dr Bryce, Dr Cook, and other members, dissented, for reasons to be given in."—Ed. 1843.