Pages v-vii

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 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.