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land, in order to prevent the infection of them.
As to the act of assembly 1732, concerning the method of planting vacant churches (which was then but an overture) they shew their dislike to it, as it gives much power to Jacobite and disaffected heritors in the settling of parishes, which is not agreeable to the Scriptures and our known principles: but (say they) it cannot be turned to a standing act, unless the generality of presbyteries consent to it, which they hope is not to be expected
in this case.
Now, though the evils above complained of were manifest grievances, and the brethren's representation concerning them was drawn up in a humble and modest strain, and signed by 42 worthy ministers, and several of them old reverend fathers, and was presented in a dutiful manner according to order; yet it is to be regretted that it was not allowed so much as hearing by the assembly; which obliged the petitioners to protest, and published their paper to the world. Likewise there was a petition of the same nature from many hundreds of elders and Christian people given into that assembly, which had the same fate. This strange conduct of that and preceding assemblies towards many godly ministers and people, did exceedingly stumble many, lessen the regard which wont to be paid to general assemblies, and pave the way to the schism which soon followed upon it. Yet the assembly 1732 did not stop here, but proceeded to turn the overture anent [regarding] planting of churches into a standing act, tho' evidently disagreeable to the mind of presbyteries, and the general opinion of the church: which increased the ferment thro' the land to a higher pitch than ever. Alas! this was not like the conduct of our old suffering fathers,
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who dreaded a schism in the church like fire, and were careful to prevent and crush it at the first appearance. But when God hath a controversy with a church or people, and designs to bring a stroke upon them, he ordinarily leaves their leaders to infatuate measures, so as they have neither skill nor will to take any wise step to ward off the blow.
That act of the ass. 1732 did greatly inflame this poor church for two or three years: but seeing at that time unanswerable arguments were brought against it in several pamphlets and sermons then published, to which we adhere, and seeing like wise it was repealed by a subsequent assembly, as contrary to the mind and rules of this church, and prejudicial to it; we shall not here insist much upon the evil of it. Only in regard there are many dissatisfied with the repealing of it, and alledge it was the same with the act of parliament 1690, for which the church had great regard for many years, we shall shew the manifest difference that is betwixt them, both in the words, and the sense which was put upon them.—The act 1690, runs thus;
"That in case of the vacancy of any particular church, and for supplying the same
with a minister, the heritors of the said parish (being protestants) and the elders are
to name and propose the person to the whole congregation, to be either approven or
disapproven by them; and, if they disapprove, that the disapprovers give their
reason, to the effect the affair may be cognosced [pronounced] upon by the
presbytery of the bounds, at whose judgment, and by whose determination, the calling and entry of a particular minister is to be ordered and concluded."
The act 1732 being notour, we shall not resume the words, but observe the difference in these things;—1mo, The act 1690
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is by a civil court, the act 1732 by an ecclesiastical; and tho' it might be expected that the latter would in their acts keep closer by the rule of the word than the former, yet the act 1732 is more distant from that rule than the act of 1690, in regard the act 1732 tends more to spoil congregations of their rights, and countenance intrusions upon them, than the act 1690 doth.—2do, By the act 1690, the heritors and elders are only impowered to name and propose a person to the whole congregation; but, by the act 1732, they are impowered to elect and call one to be minister of the parish.—3tio, According to act 1690, the election was not to be held as finished until the man was proposed to the congregation and their approbation had; and, if they disapproved, the affair was to stop as unfinished until the presbytery give their judgment whether to proceed further in it or not; but the act 1732 holds the election as finished by the votes of the heritors and elders, and the man to be legally elected and called to be minister of the parish, before the consent of the people be asked.—4to, By the act 1690, and another soon past after to explain it, all unqualified or disaffected heritors were excluded from voting; but, by act 1732, all heritors whatsomever, whether hearers or not, were allowed to vote, if they were not professed Papists: so that, in many parishes where the disaffected heritors were supernumerary to the other, they had power to thrust in a minister upon a well affected congregation.—5to, For what appears from the words of the act 1690, the heritors and elders might have acted as distinct bodies in the nomination, and the bone might have had a negative upon the other therein, and so the heritors’ nomination would not be valid without the concurrence of the body
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of the elders; for by the act the man was to be named by the elders as well as by the heritors: but, by act 1732, it was expressly provided that the heritors and elders should elect in a conjunct body; so that, considering the superior number and influence of heritors in most places, ministers might be chosen where the eldership and whole body of the congregation reclaimed, as frequently has happen.—6to, The act 1790 and the act 1732 differed prodigiously as to the sense and meaning put upon the words thereof. The execution of the act 1690 being intrusted to presbyteries, the sense they then put
upon the approbation of the congregation, and the Reasons of the disapprovers, was far from the late sense put upon them: by their approbation the church then understood their judgment concerning the candidate's gifts of preaching and prayer, that they judged them suitable to their capacities, and adapted to their edification; and if the body of the congregation disapproved the man nominate, and gave for their reasons, that his gifts were not edifying to them, nor suited to their capacities, and that they could not in conscience consent to his being their minister: such reasons, given by a knowing well disposed people, were then judged sufficient to stop the affair, lay aside competing candidates, and to proceed to a new election. But, by the sense put upon the act 1732, no reasons or objections could be received but against the man’s life or doctrine; and, if the people did not prove error or immorality against him by witnesses, they must receive him as their pastor: so that by this sense the people had no more interest or concern in the settlement of their pastor, than these of any other congregation; which is most absurd, and different from the sense of the act 1690.
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Our noble patriots at the revolution being sensible of the violent intrusions which had been made upon parishes under Prelacy and Patronage, they did in the year 1690 restore Presbyterian government, abolish patronages, and put the peoples' rights under the guardianship of Presbyteries, who then took special care of them, according to our known principles; so that their settlements gave general satisfaction. Our judicatories then understood the act 1690 as designed to deliver parishes from the intrusions made upon them under patronages, and to restore them to their primitive liberty according to the word of God. This is evident from the assembly 1712 their approving the commission's address to the queen against patronages, in which are these words: Whereby your majesty may plainly perceive the act 1690 abolishing patronages must be understood to be a part of our Presbyterian constitution, secured to us by the treaty of union for ever; and that the parliament 1690 was sincerely desirous only to restore the church to its just and primitive liberty in calling ministers in a way agreeable to the word of God. That this was the sense put upon the act 1690, appears also from the form of calls then constantly made use of by the church, which is printed in our larger overtures, and runs thus: We the heritors and elders of the parish of have agreed, with the advice and consent of the parishioners, to invite, call &c. No call could then be received without that clause, of the consent of the parishoners. No doubt the words of the act 1690 might have been perverted to the peoples’ hart in some hands: but the church being allowed to explain and execute that act agreeably to their known principles as they then did; the people continued easy
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under it, as finding their rights safe, their consent always necessary, and no intrusions made upon them. This consent of the people, in settlements, hath been judged necessary by this church in all periods since the reformation.
Obj. These who favour intrusions object,
"That, by act of ass., 1649, settlements might sometimes be made contrary to the inclinations of the majority of the people, if their dissent arose from causeless prejudices; and consequently that ministers might be settled against the mind of congregations, in case they had nothing to object against their life and doctrine."
Ans. We must certainly understand and explain the act 1649 by the known principles and practice of the church at that time, and by the 2nd book of Discipline, which the assembly 1649 and the whole church had several times sworn to in the national covenant. In that 2nd book our church doth three or four times declare for the consent of the congregation as necessary in settling of ministers, as also against intruding any man upon them contrary to their will; and doth affirm, that this order of settlement is according to the word of God, and the practice of the apostolical and primitive kirk. And that famous assembly 1638, which abolished Prelacy and restored Presbytery, did explain the national covenant as binding us to maintain the 2nd book of discipline, December 8th. Likewise the assembly did, within ten days after, expressly renew their declaration for the people's rights, by their act December 18th, viz. That no person be intruded in any office of the kirk contrary to the will of the congregation to which they are appointed.—And that the Presbyterians of that period were of the same mind, appears from the 8th act of parliament
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1640, by which they restored to presbyteries the patronages of these parishes which the bishops had possessed, but with this salvo of the interest of the parishes, That they be settled upon the suit and calling of the congregations, according to the acts and practice of this church.—And from the assembly 1642 their act, August 3d, for making lists of probationers for patrons to chuse upon; they appointed, that Presbyteries, with the consent of the most or best part of the congregation concerned, shall make up the list of six willing to accept.—And by the directory for the ordination of ministers, agreed upon by the assembly at Westminster, and approven by the general assembly 1645, the candidate is appointed to preach three several days, and to converse with the people among whom he is to serve, for the end that they may have trial of his gifts for their edification; and afterwards they were to signify their consent to the Presbytery as they found cause. From which it is evident, that church judicatories then allowed the people to judge of the suitableness of the candidate's gifts for their edification, and held their consent necessary to his ordination.—And that the assembly 1649 were of the same mind, is plain from their swearing to the 2nd book of discipline, which declares so strongly for the consent of congregations in settlements, which surely they would be careful not to contradict by their act. They indeed lodged the election in the hands of the session; but at the same time appointed them to use all possible tenderness for obtaining harmony in the congregation, and to proceed to a new election in case the major part of the congregation dissented from their choice, if their dissent was not grounded on causeless prejudices. Now these elders, who were the
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electors being the representatives of the people, and the most eminent in the parish for piety and knowledge, would doubtless previously consult the inclinations of the better sort, particularly the communicants, who are properly the members of the congregation; and, if they found that the most knowing and religious part of the congregation was
for the settlement, they might reckon that the causeless prejudices of others, not complete members of the congregation, were to be less regarded. We are firmly persuaded the church in that period were far from reckoning it a causeless prejudice against a man, if the most religious or knowing part of a congregation declared their dissent from the session's choice, because they found the preacher's gifts unsuitable for their edification; no, in that case, the session would have been appointed to make a new election. The people then were not confined to objections only against the life and doctrine of the candidate, but allowed to dissent from and object against the election itself, and give what reasons or grounds for it they thought proper; and, if the session could not satisfy them after all pains taken, they proceeded to a new election. All this appears from a known pamphlet, printed anno 1733, intituled, Account of the Method of electing a minister to the parish of Strathmiglo, in two instances in the years 1654 and 1655, in a letter to the minister there.—If it be asked, What is then to be meant by causeless prejudices mentioned in the act 1649? Ans. Any groundless or trifling objection against a man, because of his mean extract, low stature, bodily infirmity or blemish; or because of some groundless report, or the strictness of his walk, zeal for his principles, or the like: in which groundless prejudice the assembly might
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judge that ignorant and unreasonable people were not to be too much indulged; though at the same time they enjoin all possible tenderness in dealing with parishes to bring them to harmony, even then when a lesser part of the congregation dissent from the election without relevant objections.
But, lastly, Seeing this objection from act 1649 is commonly brought to countenance the intruding of men who force themselves in upon reclaiming parishes, by accepting and holding fast by presentations; we take this occasion freely to own, that a congregation's offence against a man for evident tokens of earthly mindedness, greed of filthy lucre, and unconcernedness for the success of the gospel, is not a causeless prejudice; as for instance, when there is a gospel door open for preachers to get access to parishes, for a man to despise that door, and chuse rather to enter by the door of a presentation and violence, and thereby endeavour to thrust himself in upon a congregation against their will, secure a title to their stipend so as no man else can have it, keep fast his hold against all persuasions and intreaties, keep the people long without gospel ordinances, bind the heavy yoke of patronage upon their neck, and hinder them from getting a minister whom they love and desire; now, when a man acts so directly against the interest of the gospel, the advantage of precious souls, and his own professed principles and engagements; and when a congregation dissents from his settlement upon these grounds; we cannot say their dissent is grounded upon causeless prejudices: nay, they are so well grounded, that the day hath been, when church judicatories would have stopt their mouths who would be guilty of such things.
Object. "Though it be wrong for preachers to
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take such methods, yet judicatories are under necessity by the law to settle them, or keep parishes vacant."—Ans. 1mo, Seeing intrusions into churches are contrary to Scripture, reason, and our professed principles, no laws or commands of men can oblige us to be accessary to them: for, seeing Christ commands us to do all for the edification of his flock, we must never act for its destruction, as intrusions manifestly are. Whenever human laws do clash with the Divine, it is indisputably better to obey God than man.
2do, There is no law yet in being, that obligeth us to intrude men into churches: for though there be an act past in 1712 for restoring patronages, yet it doth expressly reserve to the Presbytery and church judicatories the power of judging of the Presentee’s qualifications and fitness for the charge to which he is presented. Now, the power of judging of a man’s qualifications must not be restricted to these which render him fit for the ministry in general, but must be extended to qualifications necessary to make him fit for being minister of the parish to which he is presented; because a man may be fit and qualified for one charge, that is not so for another. Now, if a Presbytery do find that a Presentee is incapable of answering the design of a gospel-minister to a parish, and is in no condition to instruct or edify their souls, by reason of his offending them, or their incurable aversion to hear him, or submit to his ministry; they may safely judge that such a man is not qualified nor fit to be settled in that parish, and therefore may set him aside. And if in case of an appeal, the assembly affirm the presbytery's sentence, the law is most express and clear, that the cause must take end as the assembly doth discern, according to act 7.
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parl. 1567, which act is confirmed by act 1. parl. 1581; and this act is again ratified by act 1. parl. 1592, which act is ratified by act 5. parl. 1690, and stands still in force, being not only ratified by the union, but also confirmed by queen Anne's law in 1712 for establishing patronages. And as the general assemblies of this church have been always before 1612 in Possession of the foresaid power, so well secured to them by law; so also, since that time their sentences concerning all presentations have been submitted to and held as final. From which it is evident, that judicatories are under no force by law to make intrusions or violent settlements. Why then should church-men, who ought to be guardians of the church's liberties, go about to destroy them by violent proceedings? Is it not soon enough for church courts to take such destructive courses, when the parliament makes new laws obliging them to it?
But, to return to the state of the church anno 1732: this was a very critical time to her, and most afflicting to many of her best friends, by reason of the stretching of church authority; the intrusions made upon parishes; the disregarding of remonstrances and petitions of a godly remnant both of ministers upon many parishes: and the refusing to record ministers’ dissents with their reasons against such deeds. These proceedings were grieving to the hearts of honest ministers, and provoked many to go to pulpits and testify against them, particularly at the opening of synods, and other occasions; and severals of them printed their sermons, as a testimony against these prevailing evils. Though this was very offensive to many of
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our leaders, and to the court chaplains (whose number was then increased) yet none was so much noticed as the reverend Mr. Ebenezer Erskine minister of Stirling, whose turn was to preach at the opening of the synod at Perth in October 1732. The synod judged him censurable, and appointed him to be rebuked for his sermon, because in it he had impugned the acts and proceedings of the assembly, and had used some strong expressions against the judicatories and ministers of this church, which they reckoned indecent. Upon which Mr. Erskine appealed to the assembly 1733, who affirmed the synod's sentence, and rebuked him at their bar. Whereupon Mr. Erskine, with three other ministers, gave in a paper protesting against the assembly's sentence, viz. Mr. Wilson at Perth, Mr. Moncrieff at Abernethy, and Mr. Fisher at Kinclaven; and they all protested for liberty to testify against the act of assembly 1732, or the like defections. This protestation the assembly 1733 could not bear with.
As it was very unwise in the synod to proceed against Mr. Erskine for his sermon in such a judicial manner, so it was in the assembly to resent the protestation as they did. Informer times such protestations were not reckoned so criminal as now. Mr. Hunter minister protested against the assembly at Edinburgh 1586, for relaxing Mr. Patrick Adamson from the sentence of excommunication without signs of repentance; and Mr. Andrew Melvill and Mr. Thomas Buchanan adhered to his protest, Mr. John Davidson minister at Prestonpans protested against the assembly at Dundee 1598, for allowing ministers to vote in parliament in name of the kirk, where the king was present. Mr. James Melvill protested against the assembly their meeting
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at Holy rood house 1602, where the king was present. Mr. David Calderwood protested against assembly 1649, for enacting the directory for election of ministers. Yet none of all these were censured for their protestations: neither do the house of peers censure these who protest against their proceedings. Likewise, the Twelve brethren, who were rebuked by assembly 1720 for impugning the act of assembly 1720 against the Marrow, offered their protestations against the censure; as did Mr Gabriel Wilson against the admonition of assembly 1723: yet none of these were censured for their protestations. And doubtless it had been greatly for the interest and peace of the church, that assembly 1733 had followed the example of their wise predecessors. But now their authority must be screwed up higher than at former times: wherefore the assembly, without hearing the four protesting ministers any further before them, did summarily proceed to appoint their commission in August thereafter to suspend them, if they did not retract their protestation, and show their sorrow for the same; and to proceed to a higher censure, if they disobeyed the said sentence.
Accordingly the commission in August did suspend all the four brethren for adhering to their foresaid protestation. And, upon their acting contrary to the suspension, the commission in November determined to proceed presently to a higher censure against them, and would not delay it until March, though the assembly's act allowed it. This decision was carried only by Mr. Goudie the moderator his casting vote.—And it is to observed, the commission went on in this forward and hasty procedure against the four brethren,
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notwithstanding of the earnest applications and intercessions of many synods presbyteries, kirk sessions, magistrates and others through Scotland in their behalf, pleading that the commission might delay them, spare them, or deal tenderly with them. The sentence which the commission came to against the four protesting ministers was, to loose their relation from their respective parishes, and declare them no longer ministers of this church, and prohibit all ministers of this church to employ them. And they declared their charges vacant from the date of this sentence.
As the judicatories at this time seemed to act with much heat and severity, in order to support or screw up their authority; so we must own that the four brethren seemed to shew no little humour and stiffness in opposing their authority, and despising their sentences: for they would give no ear to their friends, who dealt with them to show some subjection to the judicatories as to their fathers and superiors; and though they were just now abusing their church power, and unwarrantably provoking their children, yet some regard is to be shewn to their authority, even when so doing, as we to our natural parents, though correcting us in an arbitrary way; according to Heb. xii. 6.—As to Mr. Erskine, though he was contending for the truth, many of his friends wished that he had not used such asperity and tartness of expression about the ministers and judicatories of the church as he did; and many of the leading men in judicatories said, This was the only thing they quarreled in his sermon: but Mr. Erskine would make no acknowledgment or submission of any sort, though even Mr. Wilson and Mr. Moncrieff said in their reasons of dissent, that they do not pretend to justify
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his modes of expression in that sermon; and they grant that in several cases it is most proper to use soft and modest expressions in maintaining of truth.—We do not see that it would have been any loss to the truth the four brethren appeared for, that they had all shewed more respect to the supreme authority of the church in their conduct than they did; particularly, though they had forborn to protest, as they did in express words, against the sentence of the assembly as Unjust, and against and censure they should inflict on them as null and void of itself; and if, upon their being suspended, any minister or probationer should preach in their parishes, the same should be held as intrusion upon their charges. And as they protested, so they submitted not to the sentence for one day; though many worthy ministers have formerly submitted to unjust sentences of this sort, to shew their regard to the authority of lawful judicatories of a church, which they owned as a true church: and this is approven by the most orthodox and judicious divines of the Presbyterian persuasion. Again, the brethren had the more encouragement to have submitted for a time, that they had reason to expect the next assembly would take off the sentences, consider their complaints, and do them all manner of justice; and this they might have looked for, from the interposition of so many synods and presbyteries with the commission of their favours.—And though offended at them for their contemning the authority of the church, yet there was a great plurality in the assembly 1734 for restoring them to their charges and the communion of the church; and neither that nor any subsequent assembly did ever approve the commission who past the hard sentences against them.
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When the sentence of the commission in November 1733, loosing the relation of the four brethren from their charges was past; many protested against it, as did the four brethren themselves, who also appealed to the first free, faithful and reforming general assembly of the church of Scotland. Had they sisted [stayed the proceedings] here, they had done well! but they went a great deal further, by making secession from the judicatories of this church, and in a short time after constituting themselves into a distinct judicatory for licensing preachers, and ordaining ministers, wherever they should find encouragement. At the same time they protested they would still hold communion with all who were true Presbyterians, and groaned under, and wrestled against, the evils they had been complaining of. This was then their declared resolution, though, alas! they soon departed from it. At first they seemed to be determined to continue in ministerial communion with many worthy ministers they had been formerly intimate with, though these had not freedom to secede as they had done, nor go all their lengths: and Mr. Erskine, in his answers to the synod, owned that there was still a body of faithful ministers in the church of Scotland, with whom he did not reckon himself worthy to be compared. Which body had the truths contended for heart, together with the peace of the church, as well the four brethren. And, seeing the case was such, the brethren ought in justice to have communicated counsels with that faithful body of ministers, who were willing to meet with them at the ensuing assembly, before they had taken two such strong steps as their secession and constitution: which uncommon steps, they might easily see, tended greatly to affect that whole body, yea,
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even to divide and rend them asunder, together with the people who should adhere to them respectively, in case that faithful body should not have light to go into all the measures of the four brethren. Whatever thoughts the brethren might have about the union of the church in general, it might have been expected they would have shewed something of concern for the union of that faithful body of ministers, for whom they did then profess a great regard.—Moreover, since they had appealed for redress to the first faithful general assembly they should have delayed any such extraordinary steps until the meeting of the next assembly then approaching, and so have kept the matter entire until the whole case was laid before them; which the brethren themselves should have been ready to do. For, considering how sensibly touched the whole church was with their case, and what preparations were making for the approaching assembly, the brethren could not be sure but it might prove the reforming assembly they had appealed unto. O what dreadful calamities to the church might have been prevented, had the four brethren continued praying, and deliberating upon the foresaid two steps until the meeting of the assembly in May 1734; and not have so precipitantly seceded from the national church, and constituted themselves into an Anti presbytery, by which means, alas! they became too much engaged in honour to persist in their separation, whatever steps the assembly should take to redress their grievances; and we know not if there was an assembly since the revolution, more willing to do it than the assembly 1734, had the brethren applied to them for it, as they were urged by many to do.
The whole church had been so much alarmed by the arbitrary proceedings of former years, and the
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present threatened confusions, that there came up to the assembly 1734 from all parts, and even the remotest, many pious and experienced ministers, with sincere intentions to have matters settled upon a better footing if possible. And, upon trial, the plurality of the assembly was found to be upon their side, to the great joy of the friends of peace and truth. Now, it would have exceedingly strengthened their hands in their good designs to redress grievances and advance reformation, if the four brethren had tabled their complaints before them, and represented what they would have the assembly to do for to satisfy them; but this they declined to do, though they were all in the town at the time. But notwithstanding of this discouragement from the brethren, and the mighty opposition of great men, ruling elders, who had a strong party in the house to support them; the assembly, in the short time they had, did all that was in their power to satisfy the friends of reformation, and to put a stop to violent settlements and the prevailing evils of the time; and they were zealously inclined to have done much more, if their time and the situation of their affairs could have allowed. Particularly, they renewed and strengthened the old acts of assembly, which were made to be barriers and fences of our constitutions against innovations such as these made by ass. 1639, ass. 1697, ass. 1700, and ass. 1705. And they rescinded the 7th act of ass. 1730, which hindered members to testify against wrong deeds of judicatories, by recording their reasons of dissent; because the said act was not made according to the foresaid rules and barrier-acts. And, upon the same account, they repealed the 8th act of ass. 1732, anent [regarding] the method of planting vancant churches; and because it gave
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too much countenance to violent settlements, and too much power to disaffected heritors, and was unfavourable to the liberties of the people. They reversed the settlement of a minister made by the commission, at Auchtermuchty, against the will of the congregation, and of the Presbytery of the bounds; and by that decision they declared the commission's sentences reversible. Also they brought the commission under several new regulations, and discharged them to execute any settlements of churches when the presbytery or synod of the bounds declined to do it. They impowered their commission to address the king and parliament for relief from patronages; which they did, though in vain. Also they impowered the synod of Perth and StirIing to restore the four ejected brethren to their charges and the communion of this church; Which they did very soon after the assembly, without requiring any acknowledgments from them. And, to facilitate their return, the assembly sincerely designed in act for removing their apprehensions, that, by the late sentences past against them, they were laid under greater restraints than before as to their ministerial freedom in testifying against acts and deeds of the church: wherefore, for the satisfaction of the four brethren, and all others, the assembly made an act, declaring, That due and regular ministerial freedom is still left entire to all ministers. They also appointed a committee to draw up an overture for an act to give directions as to the right preaching of the gospel, and to restrain the legal preaching and moral harangues of many not so agreeable thereto. This had been several times attempted in former years, but still dropt, till now that the assembly formed and referred the overture to their commission to ripen it
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They also referred it to their commission to appoint a national fast, which had been long neglected, that all ranks might mourn for the prevailing evils and defections of the church and land; which they did immediately after the rising of the assembly. This ass. 1734 was a singularly faithful and reforming assembly, who did very much in a short
time, against great opposition, to rectify what was wrong, and put matters upon a better footing.—They gave remarkable checks to violent settlements, and relief to several parishes oppressed by them; for at this assembly methods were concerted to get sealing ordinances to these persons who submitted not to them, from other ministers they chused to apply to. As this assembly turned out one minister violently settled, so they were ready to have cast out others, if complaints had been regularly tabled before them. Their time of sitting did not allow them to consider and provide remedies for
every thing amiss, and particularly for that wrong act of ass. 1733, concerning the presbytery of Dunfermline and their behaviour toward the minister that was forcibly settled at Kinross, wherein the said assembly threaten high censures against these who refuse to own him as minister of Kinross, or who admit of any of that parish to sealing ordinances without his consent. This was plainly oppression, and a very high strain of church authority, to settle ministers contrary to the rules of the word and of the church, and then oblige presbyteries to receive them, and people to submit to them. But the assembly 1734 gave a seasonable check to such oppressive courses; and for the people of Kinross, it was afterward referred to the synod of Fife to do what was proper for their relief, who thereupon allowed them the benefit of church-privileges
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wherever they should think fit to ask them. And letters were written to presbyteries in other places, to indulge people in such circumstances in the like manner.
Thus did the faithful body of ministers (of whom Mr. Ebenezer Erskine did speak) use their utmost strenuous endeavours in the assembly 1734, and in the meetings of their commission, and in after assemblies, to get the door opened, stumbling blocks removed, and the way paved for the return of their four brethren to communion with them as before. Yea, they got ministers sent up year after year to London, to solicit the king and parliament for relief from patronages. And when honest ministers were in this manner travelling, sweating, labouring and struggling, even above their strength, to get things that were wrong, reformed and rectified; it was extremely afflicting to them, that the four brethren, with whom they had formerly taken sweet counsel, would by no means return to their assistance, though invited and pressed to it; but, instead of that, would be still disparaging their actings, and misconstructing their most sincere intentions. Notwithstanding of this discouragement, they continued struggling, and doing all they were able, to promote reformation in the assembly 1735 and assembly 1736: still hoping the four brethren would bethink themselves, and cease from their dividing course. And though that honest body of ministers could not get all done which they designed, yet they got several good things carried; such as an act for better regulating the commission, and limiting their powers; an act against intrusion of ministers, and declaring it to be the principle of this church, That none should be intruded into any parish contrary
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to the will of the congregation. How happy were it if this act were observed, and the foresaid principle maintained and adhered unto! Some things also were done at this time for the relief of those parishes that had been intruded upon; and an excellent overture was agreed upon, with respect to evangelical preaching, which was transmitted to presbyteries, and their consent to it was obtained; so that after long dependence it was got enacted by assembly 1736, May 21st, act 7th, in which they recommend to ministers and preachers to warn their hearers against any thing that tends to Atheism, Deism, Arianism, Socinianism, Arminianism, Bourignianism, Popery, Superstition, Antinomianism, or any other errors: And that they insist in their sermons upon our sinful and lost estate by nature, the necessity of supernatural grace, and of faith in the righteousness of Christ, without which the best works cannot please God: And that they make it the great scope of their sermons to lead sinners from a covenant of works to a covenant of grace for life and salvation and from sin and self to precious Christ our Surety and Saviour.—And as they are to press the practice of all moral duties, so also to shew the nature and excellency of gospel holiness, without which no man can see the Lord: and, in order to attain it, they are to shew men the corruption and depravity of their nature by the fall, their natural impotence for, and aversion to, what is spiritually good; and to lead them to the true and only source of all grace and holiness, viz. Union with Christ by the holy Spirit's working faith in us, and renewing us more and more after the image of God: and that they must count all their best performances
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and attainments but loss and dung in point of justification before God, and to make it their it great desire only to be found in Christ their Surety, clothed in his righteousness, which is infinitely perfect and law-biding; and to make gospel subjects their main theme and study, &c. And they recommend to all professors of divinity, to use their best endeavours to have the students under their care well acquainted with the true method of preaching the gospel as directed by this act; and appoint presbyteries at their privy censures to enquire concerning the observation of this act.
—This is a short abstract of that excellennt act, which godly ministers had been intent about for many years past, in order to give some check to the legal way of preaching, and the loose moral discourses of several preachers, to the neglect of the true preaching of Christ and him crucified, introduced by many of the younger clergy.—However long this act had been delayed, yet it was most seasonably past in 1736, when a little before there had been a great noise of Deism spreading among the students of divinity at Edinburgh; and one of them, Mr. William Nimmo, had delivered a discourse in the divinity-hall, March 1735, to the prejudice of the Christian revelation; for which he was extruded by the masters, and excommunicated by the presbytery of Edinburgh.
But seeing there is no great reason to fear that the foresaid excellent act concerning preaching is but little noticed and observed by many, and that there is in this church and land very much of a legal or moral way of preaching, exclusive of Christ and to the neglect of the peculiar doctrines of Christianity; and seeing the church of God, and the souls of men, to be in the greatest danger
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from this airth: we judge it our duty to give plain and open testimony against this sort of preaching, and to declare for the true gospel way of preaching Christ and him crucified, which ought to be the great study of every gospel minister, as it was of the apostle Paul, I Cor. ii. 2.
We grant that morality, or obedience to the moral law, is an excellent thing, and absolutely necessary to be studied by every true Christian, seeing God requires it, and without morality and true holiness no man can see the Lord; but then it must be preached, otherwise by a gospel-minister than by a moral philosopher: Why? It must flow from gospel-principles, be performed in a gospel-manner, and be pressed mainly, by gospel motives and arguments. But it must be sad indeed, when there is almost as little of Christ or an evangelical strain to be found in the sermons of Christian preachers, as in the discourses of Seneca, Plato, Socrates, or other Heathen moralists.
This Christless way of preaching morality is an inlet to Deism and Infidelity: for, when men are accustomed to hear moral sermons with little of Christ in them, they are apt to think there is but little difference between them and the discourses of moral Heathens; and therefore they may be good enough, and win to heaven by their morality, without Christ or his righteousness.—O how natural it is for men to go about to establish a righteousness of their own, with a view to be saved by it, and to neglect that new righteousness which the eternal wisdom of God hath established as alone sufficient for it! And therefore they need often to be called, after their utmost lengths in moral attainments (which are but poor and wretched at best) to renounce them all, and go to the imputed
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righteousness of Christ, to wit, the obedience of his holy life, and his sufferings unto death, for justification and salvation.
Morality is a desirable thing, when kept in its due place; but, when allowed to
possess the place of Christ's righteousness, imputed to us, it is a soul-ruining thing, and the greatest hindrance of the soul's coming to Christ, and of its entering into heaven. God will have us come entirely off from the old bottom of a covenant of works, and from resting upon any thing done by us, or wrought in us for acceptance with God; and look only for attaining to it by believing on him whom God hath sent, and resting upon his righteousness only: nothing of ours must be added to it, otherwise we mar it. Though faith be required of us as the mean or instrument whereby we receive and apply Christ and his righteousness, and also true repentance and sincere obedience are required as evidences and fruits of our faith; yet neither faith, repentance or obedience, nor all of them together, are any part of our justifying righteousness in the sight of God, nor are they the foundation of our acceptance, or of our title to eternal life: Christ must be all our righteousness, or nothing. So that none must think to be saved partly by his own obedience, and partly by Christ's in order to make up his defects; but we must be saved wholly by the complete morality and obedience of Christ imputed to us. Our proud natures must be humbled and changed, and must be brought to submit to accept of an entire new clothing, instead of our own righteousness; for the glory of God will not allow the least place to this in our justification, he will have all boasting excluded for ever.
Quest. "Seeing morality and the duties of the
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moral law are to be preached and pressed, in what manner then must we do it?"
Ans. If we would do it in an evangelical strain, and with success, we must 1mo, Press duty as the natural and necessary fruit of faith in a crucified Christ, and love to him, who suffered thus to satisfy for our sins, and to purchase to us the image of God and holiness which we had lost: and therefore let us represent the love mid sufferings of Christ in a lively manner to our people, in order to leave them to abhor all known sin, and to love Christ that thus loved us, and live to him that died for us; and pray earnestly for the Spirit of regeneration and sanctification which he had purchased for us: and this is the most effectual way to promote morality and holiness among them.—2do We must set before the eyes of our people the attractive charms and beauties of a crucified Jesus in all his offices, that they may get a view of his glory, as the Chief among ten thousand, and altogether lovely, and as the Pearl of great Price; that so the Desire of all nations may come to be the desire of their hearts, and they may count all things but dung and loss in comparison of a crucified Christ. And as we must recommend to them to close with him as their Priest and sacrifice to atone for their sins, so also to subject themselves to him as the lovely King of Zion, whose government is easy, his service pleasant, his commandments not grievous, and his rewards to obedient subjects unspeakably great. The whole precepts of the moral law are the laws of this King; but, to all his willing subjects, he makes his yoke easy and his burden light.—3tio, We must enforce duties from a principle of love, and of gratitude to Christ for his love. It should not be so much authority, as grateful love to Christ, that
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should constrain us to live to his glory, to study holiness and constant obedience to his commands; and this we should do, as we should approve ourselves to be Christ's discipIes, and as we would enjoy communion with him here, and be accepted of him at his appearance to judgment.—4tio, We should direct our people to perform duties by the grace and strength of the Lord Jesus Christ our Head, Surety and Treasurer. We must be united to him by faith, as our Head of influences, and derive all our life and strength for duty out of his fulness. Alas! this direction is little minded by many of our moral preachers, whose discourses generally seem to proceed upon the supposition of the strength of our natural powers, as if we had no natural impotence or enmity to what is good, nor been at all disabled by the fall.—5tio, We must persuade men to leave sin, and perform duty, by the terrors of Christ's coming to judgment, and the wrath of the Lamb, that will then be intolerable to all who slight his grace and disobey his laws.—3tio, When we press duties, let us put our hearers in mind, that all our duties and good works have no worth or merit before God; they are not our justifying righteousness, nor can they come in any way to share in this matter with Christ’s righteousness; they are only accepted of God through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ: and that, after we have done all, we must say, we are but unprofitable servants; and our main desire is to be found in Christ, not having our own righteousness, which at best is but filthy rags, and can not be any skreen or covert to us before God.—7mo, Let us instruct our people, that through Christianity doth enforce morality by the strongest arguments, yet unregenerate morality will
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never please God. Till the heart be renewed, and the soul grafted in Christ the true Vine, the fruit will be always sour and unpleasant to God. A moral man, though he profess himself a Christian, is not really so, unless he be united to Christ, and look for daily influences from him to perform duties, and to the righteousness of Christ to cover him and all his duties; and be still saying, Though I could perform never so many duties, I should be lost and undone forever, if it were not for the righteousness and mediation of Christ my Surety and Saviour, in whom is all my hope and trust.—For all true holiness and acceptable morality is the proper result of the soul's union with the holy Jesus our living Head, who is the first and immediate receptacle of the holy Spirit and of all sanctifying influences for the use of his members; and out of Christ's fulness we must by faith receive them for our sanctification.
Let us make every subject we insist on point to Christ. If we discourse upon the attributes of God, let us consider them as they shine forth in Christ and his glorious undertaking;—If upon the blessings and promises of the gospel, let us consider them as the purchase of Christ’s blood:—If upon the providence of God, let us mind that the administration is put in Christ's hands, and he is Head over all things for the church; If we exhort to repentance and mourning for sin, let us direct our hearers to look to him they have pierced;—If to prayer, let us direct them to look to Christ, by whom only they can have access and success in this duty.
O how happy were it both for us and our hearers, if we did thus reduce every thing to Christ, and make him the main subject of all our sermons.
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and if the scope of them all were to persuade sinners to come to Christ, and all that profess him to live by faith on him, and make daily use of him! To this glorious person did all the prophets of the Old Testament give witness, and much more should all the ministers of the New.
Now, this way of preaching is surely the most excellent and preferable to any other way; Why? 1mo, The preaching of Christ crucified is the mean which God hath appointed for gathering in elect sinners to himself, and to which he promises his blessing. Hence it is that Paul saith, God makes the preaching of the cross and of Christ crucified the Power of God to them that are called: and though natural men count this way of preaching foolishness, yet it pleases God by this way to save them that believe, 1 Cor. i. 18, 21, 24.
2do, It was by this way of preaching among the Corinthians that the apostle Paul had such wonderful success in bringing them to Christ, 1 Cor. ii. 2. it was when Peter preached a crucified Jesus and the peculiar doctrines of Christianity to the people, that the Holy Ghost fell on them, and converted multitudes of them; as Luke observes several times, Acts ii. 36, 37. Acts x. 40, 44. It was not when he was preaching morality that the Spirit descended and gave success to the word.—Also he observes, when these preachers from Cyprus preached the Lord Jesus to the people of Antioch, the hand of the Lord was with them, and a great number believed, and turned to the Lord, Acts xi. 20, 21. 3tio, It is the preaching of a crucified Christ, that God in his wisdom hath pitched upon as the way to reform men from their vices, and to bring in virtue, godliness and good order into nations,
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cities and congregations. The Heathen philosophers and wise men had, for some thousands of years, tried all means which the powers of nature or reason could afford, to bring men to God and virtue, but in vain; for they remained still ignorant of God, and run further away from him into all abominable impieties.—Likewise in many places there are several masters of reason and eloquence, who excel in a sort of rational and moral way of preaching, exclusive of Christ ; but what success have they in it for converting souls? Alas! their people still sink in vice and corruption; all their fine reasonings cannot change the perverse will of one sinner. They may, perhaps, entertain two or three, or a few of their audience, who have a taste of the beauties of fine reasoning; but the body of the congregation remain untouched and asleep, so that all they hear is lost to them. Surely the value and usefulness of things are to be reckoned from their capacity and fitness to answer the end they are designed for: now the end of preaching is to win souls to Christ, so that these sermons are the most excellent that serve this design most; and these, we see, are the sermons which are fullest of Christ.—Alas! Christless moral sermons bring few off from their vices to the practice of morality, and far fewer into Christ. Such a way of preaching is a longsome unsuccessful method to reclaim and reform the vicious: whereas the short and effectual way to reform sinners, and make them moral, is to preach Christ to them; if you bring them to Jesus, you turn them from all their sins, and make them moral at once, yea, inwardly holy, which is more. O then, let us preach Christ above all things!
4to, If we look through the world, we will find
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it is only these ministers who preach Christ most, who have most success: and that the life and spirit of true religion rises or falls among a people, according as a crucified Redeemer is faithfully preached among them or not. And these acquainted with church-history observe, that when God is about to leave a people, and his glory to depart from his house, he usually gives them up to a lifeless and formal ministry, who neglect the preaching of Christ and the peculiar doctrines of the gospel, such as free justification by the righteousness of Christ, and inward regeneration by the Spirit of Christ; and do not inform their people that it is from a crucified Jesus the virtue must come for breaking the power of sin in the soul, and subduing it to God. No wonder our flocks look poor and lean, when we take no care to lead them into these green pastures of evangelical truths, but set before them the dry insipid stuff of a Heathenish morality, which can never feed them nor keep them in good liking! How can we expect assistance from Jesus Christ in our work, or the influences of his Spirit in preaching (upon which all our success depends) when we take no more notice of Christ in our sermons than the moral philosophers among the Heathens? Wo will be to this national church, if such a way of preaching shall prevail in it notwithstanding of the foresaid act of assembly, and a sound Confession of Faith, which all ministers subscribe to. God forbid that the church of Scotland become ever like the church of England in this respect, who subscribe to sound articles of doctrine, and never mind them more afterwards.
Likewise, as by the word of God ministers are bound to separate between the precious and the vile, the clean and the unclean, the sincere and the
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formalist; so, by the foresaid act.1736 concerning preaching, all ministers are appointed, in application of their sermons, to endeavour rightly to divide the word of truth, speaking distinctly to the various cases of their hearers, whether converted or unconverted, &c. Alas! it is to be feared, the making of this difference is too much neglected by many, both in dispensing the word and sacraments.
These and several other good things did the assembly 1736, but it is to be regretted they were not steady and uniform in their proceedings; for, while they discouraged and stopt some intrusions, they encouraged others: and they gave no small occasion of offence by their management in the affair of Professor Campbell at St. Andrews, who had vented several dangerous errors in his writings, such as his Oratio Academica, his Enquiry into the original of moral Virtue, his Discourse concerning enthusiasm, &c. wherein he asserts,
That men by their natural powers, without revelation, cannot find out the being of a God; That the law of nature is sufficient to guide rational minds to happiness; That self-love, interest, or pleasure, is the sole principle and motive of all virtuous and religious actions; That Christ's disciples had no notion of his Divinity before his resurrection, and before that they expected nothing from him but a worldly kingdom; and, during the interval between his death and resurrection, they looked on him as an impostor."
Likewise, while speaking against Enthusiasts, he utters several things very disparaging and reproachful to the work of the holy Spirit upon the souls of the people of God. These errors were brought before the assembly 1735, who referred them to their commission; and they appointed a committee
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to consider them, and prepare their report to the next assembly. Mr. Campbell laboured to give in sound and orthodox explications of these his positions, which the committee brought before the assembly 1736, with their remark and censures upon them, and the recommendations they judged fit to be given him. The assembly, upon hearing Mr. Campbell at great length, were of opinion that the committee's examining and stating the matter as they had done, was sufficient to caution against the errors charged upon Mr. Campbell, without giving any judgment or formal sentence upon the committees report ; only they recommended to him not to use doubtful expressions or propositions, which may lead his hearers or readers into error. This issue of the process many in the assembly and out of it were highly dissatisfied with, judging that Mr. Campbell did justly deserve a sharp rebuke for the many incautious and unsound expressions he hath in his writings, however orthodox his explications might be: and with these; we do heartily join. Though the assembly gave no judgment upon Mr. Campbell's positions or explications, yet severals would charge the assembly with adopting one of his errors; because, when he explained his positions concerning Self love he declared he meant no more but that our delight in the honour and glory of God was the chief motive of all virtuous and religious actions. Now (say they) this Delight is the same with Self-love or the desire of our own happiness, which is the error charged on him; yet the assembly dismissed him without quarrelling it. But this should be looked upon as a pure oversight in the assembly, through their not adverting to the import of the word DELIGHT, but taking delight in
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the glory of God, for the same with regard to the glory of God, because of their affinity. For when assembly 1737 was informed that severals had taken offence, as if the assembly 1736 had adopted some of Mr. Campbell's offensive expressions on the head of Self-love, they vindicated this church from that charge, by making an act, declaring that they do stedfastly adhere to the doctrine expressed in our standards on that head, particularly in the answers to that question in our Shorter and Larger Catechisms, What is the chief end of man?
In the year 1735 there was an essay made by an unknown hand to alter our Shorter Catechism, which was printed at London under the title of the Assembly's Shorter Catechism revised, and rendered fitter for general use. The reviser casts it into such a mould, as to make it agree with Arian, Socinian, Popish, and Arminian schemes of doctrine. As soon as it was publicly known in Scotland, the commission took it under their consideration, as the synod of Lothian had done before them, and past an act condemning it, and gave warning about it to all the presbyteries in this church, that they might be on their guard against the spreading and infection thereof. And would to God that our assemblies had in like manner given plain and faithful warning to all the corners and members of this church against Professor Simson and Professor Campbell's errors, and others which have been vented and spread in this church, and shewn to them their inconsistency with the Word Of God, and our Confession of Faith and Catechisms!—May God in his infinite mercy revive our zeal for all the truths therein contained, and against all sorts of error opposite thereto!
After all, it is to be regretted that the national
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church was not duly humbled by all these awful rebukes for her manifold defections and particularly for disregarding Christ's flock in settlements; neither did she amend her ways and doings, and turn to the Lord: wherefore we find the hand of the Lord stretched out against her still, and a new sharp trial carved out for her from an airth [probably "direction"] that none could have expected.—One Captain Porteous, that had been condemned to die for several murders, having obtained a reprieve by the interest of some great men, the mob rose up notwithstanding, and executed him at Edinburgh the 7th of September 1736. The king and parliament resented this affront so highly, that they framed a strange and extraordinary act for discovering the actors: and because some of the church's enemies suggested, without all ground, that the Scots clergy, at least a sett of them, encouraged the people in such mobbish actions, they appointed all the ministers of Scotland to read the said act in time of divine service in their churches every first sabbath in the month for a whole year, beginning in August 1737: and the penalty for the first negIect of reading it was, that they shall be declared incapable of sitting or voting in any church judicatory; and this was to be executed against them by the civil judges in Scotland. The most part of ministers in many synods and presbyteries, though they scrupled not to condemn the outrageous insult of the mob as murder, yet they had not freedom to read the said act, because they judged the penalty foresaid to be properly a church censure, seeing by it ministers would be divested of the power of church government and discipline, which is given them by the Lord Jesus Christ the Head of the church, and is essential to their office as preaching
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or dispensing the sacrament. Now, for the civil magistrate to assume the power of the keys, or of inflicting church censures, which Christ hath put in the hands of his own officers, they judged a manifest incroachment upon Christ's Headship over his church, and contrary to the word of God and the Confession of Faith they had subscribed, chap. 30, par. 1, 2. and chap. 23. 3. And for ministers to become the magistrate's heralds, to proclaim this law on the Lord's day, in such a solemn manner, would be an homologating [to approve or confirm officially] of this incroachment, and a consenting to this Erastian power of the magistrate. Likewise they judged, to approve or concur with a law so prejudicial to the doctrine and discipline of this church, as established by law civil and ecclesiastical, would be to give up with fundamental securities, and act contrary to the solemn engagements ministers come under to maintain the doctrine and discipline of this church, and do nothing prejudicial thereto.—Besides, they did not think it agreeable to the office of these, who were ambassadors of the gospel of peace, to become heralds or executors of this or any sanguinary law; especially when they apprehended there were several things in it inconsistent with justice and equity, besides the Erastian Penalty aforementioned. These and other arguments, set in a clear light in several pamphlets published at that time, determined us to join with these who bore testimony against the reading of the foresaid act, and to run the hazard of all its penalties. And we wish the light of all the ministers of Scotland had been the same with ours in this matter, which would have prevented much division and stumbling that different practices have occasioned.
But yet we must do justice to these of a different
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light, so far as to own, that there were several pious and conscientious ministers who read this act, because of the quite different view they had of it from these who refused it; and seeing, by the tenor of their lives and actions, it appears they have acted uprightly and honestly in other matters, we are in charity bound to think they acted sincerely in this also. Their reasons for reading were; A sinful penalty in the act, should not hinder their reading those parts of the act which might be lawful; and they judged they were bound to read some parts of it, to warn their people of the danger of harboring or succoring the rioters.—And they did not look on the penalty scrupled at as any church censure, or Erastian incroachment upon Christ's Headship; and, as they judged, no more was meant by it, but that the non-readers should forfeit the magistrate’s protection in sitting in church courts; and that the magistrate, without assuming the power of the keys, might, by his civil power as magistrate, exclude or render ministers incapable of sitting in church-courts, by confining or banishing them. And they sincerely declare, that, if they had thought their reading of that act had in the least wronged the Headship of the King of Zion, they would rather have suffered the loss of their stipends, or any thing else. Now, charity obligeth us to believe pious men to be ingenuous in such declarations.
But, alas! notwithstanding of all these shaking dispensations, the church was not brought to a right sense of her sins and defections; and therefore the Lord’s controversy with her was not at an end: for we find the assembly 1738 continuing in former steps, and giving new offence to many in the church, by another decision in a process of
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error. The magistrates and town-council of Edinburgh having chosen Mr. William Wishart a minister at London to be Principal of their college, and having got a call to him also to be one of the ministers of the city, the presbytery of Edinburgh refused to concur with the said caIl, and charged him with venting several erroneous propositions in two of his printed sermons with respect to the power and office of the magistrate in religious matters, the liberty of Christian subjects, the subscribing of Confessions, the education of children, the influence of arguments taken from the awe of future rewards and punishments, his excessive charity to Heathens and others who reject the gospel offers and institutions, and the sinful and corrupt state of all men from their birth, &c. This affair being brought by appeals to the general assembly, and Mr. Wishart having made his explications, and given in a subscribed declaration of his adhering to the Confession of Faith, and the particular articles of it which his propositions seemed to oppose, and also of his disclaiming all errors whatsomever (whether charged upon him in the presbytery’s articles or not) that are contrary to the Confession of Faith, or any article of it; the assembly thereupon assoilzied [absolved] Mr. Wishart from the process against him, and also they sustained his call to, be one of the ministers of Edinburgh, and appointed the presbytery to admit him as such.
Here we cannot but testify against such soft proceedings, whether in the case of Professor Campell, Dr. Wishart, or others processed for error; seeing we judge it far from being sufficient to terminate a process for error, or to vindicate persons accused of it that they explain their words into a sound and orthodox sense, though perhaps
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contrary to the obvious meaning of them, according to the plain and ordinary acceptation of words; or that they profess their adherence to our Confession Of Faith, and its articles, which their tenets are thought to contradict. For a heretic, when in hazard of censure, may make a shift to put an orthodox sense upon his words, if that will save him, though it should be quite contrary to the common sense and meaning of them; and he may declare his owning the words of our Confession of Faith, and yet affix a sense and meaning to them directly opposite to the known sentiments and doctrine of this church: so that it is plain, such a loose superficial way of managing a process for error, is not an effectual way to suppress it. Wherefore we think it further necessary for that end, that these who are processed for venting error or unsound propositions, should particularly and directly renounce the erroneous tenets and principles charged upon them, upon account of their words, and the unsound sense which they naturally convey; and that they be at least rebuked for departing from the form of sound words, contained in the word of God, and our standards, which are framed agreeable thereunto. We see it is God's express command concerning such men, Tit. I. 13. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith. Sharp rebukes preserve soundness, but easy absolutions encourage error. No sooner is Dr. Wishart assoilzied, but he falls a recommending and prefacing books of bad character, such as Dr. Whitchcot's sermons, that savour of Socinianism, as the reverend Mr. Bisset of Aberdeen makes appear in a letter he hath lately published. Ah! how low must the case of this poor church be, when the head of the most frequented college in Scodand
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recommends such books impune [not yet punished] for college-students and preachers to form upon!
These and other proceedings of our assemblies, were very, gracious to many worthy ministers and others in this church; and the four succeeding brethren before mentioned, with other four, viz. Masters Nairn, R. Erskine, Mair, and Thomson, who afterwards joined them, took occasion from such actings to carry their secession and separation to very great heights, by licensing preachers, invading parishes, and preaching up separation every where; not sparing their best friends, nor these who dissented from the evils of the time, and took all regular methods to, testify against them; but charging the whole ministry with very black things. They also framed an Act and Testimony of many sheets, with very much of church authority in it, which they required all their followers to adhere to. Though we own there were many good things in it, yet there were also many mistakes in it, and misrepresentation of facts, very harsh and unsuitable expressions, and also bitter reflections against their brethren, and even our worthy forefathers, &c. These things being laid before the assembly, they appointed the ministers of the presbyteries and synods where the said brethren reside to be at all pains by conference, and other gentle means of persuasion to reclaim them; and to report their diligence to the commission, whom they impowered, if they should see cause, to take all proper steps to sist [stay] the said brethren before the assembly 1739.—Accordingly these eight brethren were libeIled and cited to the said assembly, who all compeared [appeared in court] before them, in the capacity of a constitute judicatory; and, instead of answering to their libel, they by their moderator read an act of their court,