A True Narrative of the Proceedings of the Presbytery of Kirkcudbright against one of their number; and that to the sentence of deposition; to which is added the Grievances.
 [Anonymous, in 1704. This reprint is from a copy in the possession of William Macmath, Esq., F.S.A., Edinburgh. It lacks the title-page. Above the first page is the italicized sentence—"Presbytery is no friend to itself in its unjust censures and sentences."]
Albeit a good name is rather to be chosen than riches, yet how difficult is it either to obtain it, or preserve it when got! And that because of Satan’s emissaries, whose tongues he employs to the disgrace of religion and the contempt of the godly; and that by opprobrious speeches and heart-piercing words, with which there is a sycophanting age that is not a little acquainted. Such, I mean, as love to carry the bell of popular applause to fright those demons and creatures of darkness (as by them they are judged), who would either amuse [distract or interrupt] them or yet disturb them, in the peaceable exercise of such an occupation, as would make them twofold more the children of wrath than what they were.
But as it is a task insuperable for any to engage to stop the mouths of all those who are maliciously set to cry down the innocent and up themselves; so I, for my part, shall, never undertake it, unless they will promise to meet me at that bar that has judgment running down as waters, and righteousness as mighty streams. And there, a just cause will advocate for itself without any interlocutor.
But this I say, with reference to those who are as busybodies, raising and spreading reports to the keeping up of contention and engendering strife. Yet, seeing there has been a way pathed by the libel and sentence, for strangers and wayfaring men to walk with slanders, and the balbutiating [stammering or misleading] words of "schismatic and separate," it is necessary to satisfy the traveller so far, as to represent true matter of fact; for intentions comes not within the sphere and horizon of judicii mentis discursivae, [i.e., the judgment of the reflecting mind] and so cannot be the grounds of a sentence or yet of a censure, but at the bar of a man’s own conscience. Therefore, my purpose herein is to present the case as truly it is, without prevaricating in a jot, so far as memory serves.
And for the better knowledge of this affair, I shall premise some considerations, and then give answer to all the particular grounds upon which he was sentenced. And this I do the rather because though he had pursued after peace, yet there is no signs of obtaining it, or yet the calumnies and aspersions to cease; though I believe, by this time, for what evidence he has given both of patience and condescension, [concession] impartial persons might safely construct that he loves not to be called the Son of Contention, or yet Discord.
Therefore, in the first place, (1). I premise, that there is not one article of the libel separately, or all completely considered, that, in the judgment of any impartial person, will bear the censure or sentence of deposition, as will afterwards appear, and that either materially or formally. For, if we may speak as to the formality of the Presbytery’s procedure, he could never be charged with contumacy, and summary excommunication cannot be warranted without contumacy, or frequent relapses into the same sin. And wherein doth summary deposition differ from summary excommunication? Yea, in my judgment, the sentence of deposition ought to be as deeply considered (if not more) as excommunication. Now, as to the summariness of this sentence, the Presbytery had it not 48 hours under their consideration. [And there is nought here said, but what is agreeable to the expressions of some of the members]. And, he was no panel, till he received the libel and citation, which was but 17 days before they passed their sentence. And, they never took it one Presbytery diet to their consideration. And, of 15 ministers, there was six absent when the sentence passed;[1] so that there was but 7 (besides Moderator and Clerk) of the whole Presbytery present. And if the libel had been weighty, or yet the person chargeable with contumacy, the accusers would have had more for their vindication. But while otherwise, as shall be made evident, what can they say in their own defence?
(2). That he was not (as the libel testifies) accused, nor yet cannot, of unsoundness in the faith either as to doctrine or otherwise, or yet of an unchristian scandalous carriage, unbecoming the ministry, or thirdly, of supine negligence towards those amongst whom he laboured, or fourthly, of the want of a competency of gifts and aptness to teach, suiting the abilities of the people amongst whom he used his endeavours. All which his auditors are obliged to say, and none of his accusers can win beyond it and speak truth. And it is known, that the Presbytery judged so, and expressed themselves so.
(3). Notwithstanding of what endeavours has been used secretly, and otherwise, by self-seeking men, to alienate the hearts of the people from him; yet the design and intentions of such were so far crushed through the goodness of God, that there was nothing seen but amity between them and him, and at this time nought to the contrary. As for those who can betray their Master with a kiss, and say, Is it I? they have their Master to reckon with. And if they answer Him, I ought not to condemn them.
(4). None of his accusers or others can say, What is this new doctrine whereof thou speakest? But on the contrary, he taught that which has been, should be, and will be, if ever we expect our God to dwell graciously in the midst of us, and the priests to have the Urim and Thummim inscribed on their breastplate, and we to have the encomium or praise that is said of Zebulun, Blessed art thou, O Zebulun, in thy goings out, and Issachar, in thy tents.[2]
(5). As such a sentence ought not to be passed on such slender grounds, so likewise, there is this to be said, that there is not an article of the libel, but what, by conference, privately and in open Presbytery, with the ministers, and the probation of witnesses to the contrary, were found false and of no weight, and that before a sentence passed. As shall be made appear.
(6). There has been no documents, nor convincing arguments, brought from the Word of God, to evince the equity of this sentence, though the Presbytery’s vindication, and Christian satisfaction, required it; notwithstanding that this was often sought. But if what is said in the second premise [i.e., that nothing was libelled, which properly inferred deposition] be true (as none can contradict it and speak truth), then all the arguments they can produce will never prove their sentence to be just. And an extract of the sentence could not be had till some months passed over, and yet they would have everyone believe, by an implicit faith, that what they have done is just.
(7). That he never taught, privately nor publicly, separation from the doctrine and faith of the Church of Scotland, or any part of the attained-to work of Reformation, as all that knew can witness. Yea, the contrary was seen, that it was still towards the purity of both doctrine, worship, discipline, and government, that he bended; and never, Laodicea like, to commend or allow of a lukewarm temper. So that there is no grounds why he should be branded with a "separate," or yet "schismatic," till it be once proven that he hath either separated or divided from the truth. And those who can mockingly say, that their Church is come to nought, they would know whether they Speak for God or man. If they speak for God, it cannot be but with grief that small beginnings are so quickly crushed. But it’s no new thing! And if they speak for man, they should take heed, that the vengeance of God give not them a set, that they shall not so easily recover.
(8). That it is more than evident from the Presbytery’s confession, that the libel was not ground to found a sentence of deposition upon, when, after it was publicly read, and he accordingly publicly accused, they were willing to pass from all, without so much as a public rebuke. And yet they will stand on the top of it now, and tell you that he was justly deposed. Now, where, according to the fifth premise, [i.e., that not one article of the libel was proved] they got the grounds for their sentence, let any person judge.
(9). Albeit he is most sadly branded with lies and aspersions, by both the libel and extract of the sentence, that he should have uttered publicly both of the Presbytery and this National Church, as also which he should have expressed in papers; yet, though often sought, that justice he could not have as an extract of these ties and aspersions. How then should he be convinced of the truth of this, or how should such injuries be suffered to go? This he cannot but say, That it’s not fairplay to stab a man behind his back.
(10). That the reason of his declining before a sentence passed, was because he judged the Presbytery acted tyrannically and partially, the libel not deserving such a sentence, as was said by their own confession; and there being others [viz., Messrs. Reid and Tod] who were as deeply engaged as he was in anything he could be charged with. Whereby it would seem they were more set to exalt pride, humour and passion, and make them the ruler, than that reason and equity should take place. And that he was indiscreetly dealt with, let the reasons in the protest and declinature [i.e., the protest and declinature given in at the meeting on December 28 by Macmillan] testify, together with what was expressed of him and the people, and that by upbraiding them with perjury. So that it was not the authority, but the exercise of the authority, which he declined. The amendments of the libel before the Presbytery’s subscription, after that it had been several days in his custody, may discover the Presbytery’s partiality, though there were no more; unless they can prove that the rest fell from the Grievances. Whereas, in the libel, he is held as the only person that had offered the Grievances, and the other two blotted out. But does not their agreement with the rest, since the sentence passed, evince also their partiality? And yet it is known that if the presbytery had dealt impartially, he had been reckoned as accidens, and not as proprium, which could be very well instructed, [expounded] but hereby I am not an accuser of the Brethren.
(11). That he had neither a direct nor an indirect hand in the people’s paper, [3] or any way else, so far as he remembers. And when by the Presbytery he was required if he would own it, answered, that he would neither own it nor disown it. And I hear none that can tell, if their paper was twice read over; which if it was not, his answer is not to be wire-drawn, as it is by the Presbytery. For it was in his absence that that paper was given in, and so far as he remembers, it was not read over to him before they asked his judgment. To which it may be subjoined, that whatever is not contained in the libel is so extraneous to the grounds of a sentence, that in the judgment of all thinking men they will be ridiculed, that makes it one. Otherwise, a minister must suffer for all the faults of his parishioners. And what a braw thing it were for the delinquent to have his pastor in the same condemnation! How few ministers should there be, sometimes, to judge the rest, though innocent!
(12). That the rise and grounds of the controversy betwixt the Presbytery, the rest, and him, was the "Grievances." As is manifest (1) from the peace and concord that there was before these grievances came in agitation, though it is granted that the Oath and Bond [i.e., the oath of allegiance to Queen Anne] were that which brought the rest on foot; (2) from the bad treatment that was found from once the "Grievances" were offered, as is evident from the first reasons of protest and declinature, as I suppose [viz., that the Presbytery took no steps to redress the Grievances.] (3) from the Synod’s Act anent those who offered the "Grievances," which Act makes it evident, though there were no more; (4) from the memorandum (they will not let it be called a libel, though it had the effects of a libel, viz., censure), [4] given in to the Presbytery (I shall not say given down by the Presbytery, though none can think the contrary) by the Synod, where, according to the Presbytery’s confession, there are some of the "Grievances" particularly specified, for which the offerers are to be censured; (5) from Mr. Andrew Cameron’s words, in his "Letter to the parishioners,"' approved by many of the ministers of the Presbytery, and I doubt not but by all, though maybe not judicially; where he looks upon it as a slight, in offering grievances to them, "where," says he, "we bare with their indiscretion in that." But how was it borne? With meekness and patience? Yea, the contrary has appeared, and maybe more afterwards; (6) from the great pains that .was taken, and the speedy despatch that was made, to have these "Grievances" at the Commission. But for what was it? To have them redressed? No, but that the grieved might be accused as troublers of the peace of their Israel. And that was evident, that it was not for redress, in what one [This refers to Cameron.] of them said, that before he had carried them out, he had rather undergone censure; (7) from the Presbytery’s epilogue subjoined to the end of their "Answers to the Grievances," [5] where they tax the persons who offered them, with separation and division. And why? What is the matter? Had the Presbytery received aught declaring a separation? Sure, nothing at all. Now, let all these things be considered, and see whether or not the rise of the controversy was from the "Grievances." And has not their practice declared this to all beholders, with those that offered the "Grievances," that they were that which displeased them?
These things premised, I shall proceed to the articles of the Libel, and rehearse true matter of fact; for, as was said, intentions cannot be grounds of sentence, neither is it by these that the criminal comes to be condemned.
I. Then, as to the first four Articles of the Libel, he cannot own them. Not that he fears them; but First, because, as he alleges, his words are quite perverted to another strain, as in all conferences with the ministers he shewed, and they cannot charge him with prevarication, from the first to the last. Secondly, when he uttered these words (as is said ,in the Libel), he was neither desired to subscribe to what he had said, as is usual in the case of a panel, or yet interrogated first or last, if he would adhere to them. How then should they bear faith against him? Thirdly, the ministers that conferred with him, November 3, 1703, concerning these Articles, found him then what he is yet; to whom he told his own expressions, but could not own theirs; who then enquired if he would pass from the informality of what he did that day, in the which he shall have expressed himself as in the Libel: answered that he was willing to recede or resile from it entirely, altogether. Fourth, as was needful, he being unclear in that matter, the Presbytery Clerk, though required before a sentence passed, never solemnly attested the authenticness of these records. Now then, should such expressions be fixed upon him as his deed, or yet be in the articles of a Libel, since nothing of this can be denied? And his ingenuity [i.e., ingeniousness] to the Presbytery in other things, whereof he was accused, leaves no room to suspect him here. And, albeit he had expressed himself so as they say, yet no ground of a sentence, since he had so far retracted as to disown these expressions as his. Fifth, the Libel and Extract clashes one against another. The Libel says he refused to give reasons; the Extract says he gave the Oath of Allegiance to the Queen as cumulative to other defections. Now, here is not only a contradiction, but a downright disingenuity, unless they had proposed to sentence him on the Extract, and not on the Libel. For if justice had been given, their reasons should have been in the Libel, that so he might have all fairplay. Sixth, the Extract follows not the Libel in order in these four articles, as it does in the rest. And since he called them in question as his words, the Extract and Principal herein should have been most exact. From what is said, it is needless to set down his expressions which at that time he uttered; and any that pleaseth may have them afterwards.
II. As to the 5th Article, there is none of the ministers will say, that in all their conferences with him about it, but that he expressed himself with respect to the Constitution. And it was told some of them so, by them that heard him. And the Libel testifies so much by his own acknowledgments. And the law of nations grants that a man be the interpreter of his own language. So that there is no ground to censure here, and hold out pique and prejudice. But, besides, since the Presbytery knew that his thoughts, far less his expressions, never centred on that, that they preached not faith and repentance, it is a downright censuring upon the "Grievances," as this comes in amongst them, of going back with the Constitution to the year 1592. And though it should be said that the Church was rightly constitute then, it is answered that in gradu positiva it’s granted, but comparativo it’s denied. Because she attained no more afterward. So that the Presbytery’s censuring herein clearly shews that it was the "Grievances" that displeased them. And they aggravate the telling of the truth to a calumniating the whole Church, as they say in their Extract. And who would have thought that the Presbytery would have censured any for telling the truth? And though they were not ignorant of his mind herein, as above, and that before a sentence passed; yet, nevertheless, it is a proven article with them. I only add what the prophet Nahum says, Chap. I., 2nd and 3rd verses—God is jealous, etc.[6]Only this more, that because truth is spoken, therefore it’s proven that is good; and because it’s spoken therefore the speaker should be condemned. That is not our Lord’s way, neither was it ever preached by his apostles. And the native consequence of this Article is, that a minister for speaking truth should be condemned, and so condemned, that he should preach no more truth. We had need to pray that the Lord would avert such judges, or rather such judgments. For it is a clear truth, and a great evil too, that the Church went near a hundred years back.
III. As to the 6th Article, which was that he kept not the Synod’s Fast—he was absent some Presbytery days, and from two Synods. This is another of their proven articles. And though they had reasons for all, [i.e., excuses for all absences.] yet nothing less will satisfy than deposition. But what partiality here, when others were guilty of the same things, as well as he; and yet they were not deposed. But can this be an article for censure, when they had reasons for all, before a sentence passed, as soon as he was enquired at, as shall be made evident by and by. As to the Synod’s Fast, it was told them that he was so distressed in body upon the Monday, that he could not prepare for the Tuesday; second, according to the Extract, he read the causes and kept a Fast afterwards; third, when this was judicially proven, it was answered by a brother, that there was some of the brethren that did not observe the day more than he, and yet was not censured.
As to his absence from some Presbyteries, which in the Extract are called four, first, it is observable that the Libel and Extract does not charge him with a trampling upon the Presbytery’s authority, in refusing to give reasons when sought for, save in the first four articles, where the Libel and Extract clashes one against another, as was shown. And the first two diets fall in with these four Articles, and so are answered already. Thirdly, as to the third diet, the Presbytery knew he was out of the bounds, and was necessarily detained upon the Tuesday, whereof he sent them notice, though it was slighted, as he afterwards told when enquired. Fourthly, as to the fourth diet, though mentioned in the seventh Article, yet I shall answer it here. The reason of his absence, for this diet, is mentioned in the Libel; which is, not finding satisfaction in the Presbytery’s answers to the "Grievances," as the reply will shew. And from this they draw their inference, that he resolves to be resolute in separating from the Presbytery, and that he expects a paper to come out shortly, that will warrant his so doing. All that I shall say upon this is, that I shall not greatly wonder, though one man that has but two eyes, draw his inferences wide, when so many eminent lights runs so far away with theirs. That maxim, that vis unita fortior [i.e., "Union is strength," or "Two heads are better than one."] never failed till now! But that the reader may know, that the reason given ut supra was not so very contemptible, let this at the same time suffice, that in defending the Oath of Allegiance, they grant the Magistrate a right to dispose of ministers’ benefices as he pleaseth. So that, consequently, it is by the Magistrate, and not by the Word of God, that ministers have a right to their stipends. This, their assertion, Mr. Rutherford proves, is contrary to the Word of God, Acts of Parliament, and General Assemblies, in a little book entitled A Testimony to the Truth of Jesus Christ.[7]
As to his absence from two Synods, the ministers are not ignorant that he preached none for two Sabbaths immediately preceding the one in April; and for the other, the Libel tells what is the reason of his absence, though curtly; his being gravelled at some harsh expressions, that were uttered at several occasions. And though the Libel omits the expressions, yet he judicially told them, which were—"There are three gone out from us, because they were not of us; but they have left Christ behind;" and—"The Devil hath casten a circumference about, till at length he had come to this place, where he is beginning to play his pranks in employing his emissaries." This was understood by the hearers of them who had offered the "Grievances." And—"They had spit on the Confession of Faith, and were of the mildew of hell." All which the auditors applied to them who had offered the "Grievances." And the Libel says nought in opposition to it, but rather in confirmation of it, while it says he reckoned himself gravelled with what was spoken against Separatists. Now, to what party can such expressions be applicable, but to those who had denied the faith and turned apostates? And dare they say that either the Cameronians or yet Hebronians, [8] has done so? And their auditors can witness that it was neither Malignants, Prelates, Papists, nor Atheists, that they were speaking of. To whom, then, could they be applied by those who were auditors but to the persons above said? And if they be such (as God forbid), they should have been deposed wholesale; alogether!
IV. For their 7th Article, which is in part answered already, and from his reason which he gave (as above) for that diet’s absence, they draw a subconsequence, which is this, that it was contrar the protest and agreement. Whereby he comes to be sadly accused as a breaker of promises and ordination engagements. Now, their eighth Article being of the same size with the most uncharitable drawn consequences of this, which is the weightiest thing they have to charge him with, which, if according to what they say, is so indeed; wherefore, I shall endeavour to satisfy the reader herein without evasions.
The 8th, as I said, is the same with the seventh, except in so far that the eighth Article says, that he should have said to some of his parish, that the Presbytery and he were agreed, and on the Sabbath after, said, that for aught he could see, no such agreement would yet be.
Now, as is promised, I shall endeavour to satisfy the reader in the truth of this matter. Only, let it be minded (1) that the Presbytery will not say, that he came under any sinful engagements to them; and if he did, there is no law that requires the keeping of them: (2) that all compacts and covenants, as they are mutual and stipulatory, binding each party conditionally to the performance of what they have engaged—that then, and in that case, the party-breaker frees the other, that is, the party-observer, of what he otherwise might have sought, by virtue of the compact that is the breaker: (3) that though a person may precipitantly utter his thoughts at one time, which afterwards he sees convenient to alter, yet here is no contradiction, but only a correction. And if this should be denied, it should either place man in a state of perfection, that he could not err; or then degrade him below a beast, that when he fell in the mire, he should use no means for his own recovery. So this I take to be his case, and that what he said, upon the Sabbath, was but a correction of what he had before so rashly spoken. Wherein he is rather to be commended, than disapproven. For, for his saying that there was no agreement like to be, and censuring therefor, is the height of tyranny, because it is a lording over the conscience, and this most cruel—that a person shall not have liberty to express his thoughts of what is in controversy, without the hazard of such a sentence. For grant he had used such an expression as "clubbing," yet it is not words but things that, in such sentences, is chiefly to be considered. As for example, though a man should say he will strike his neighbour, yet is he to be punished, for his so saying, as he that is actually guilty? But now, the substance of the expressions bears that there had been a difference, and that it was yet like to continue. And because he said so, therefore he is to be censured! This says, on the matter, that, be it right or wrong, if he jump not with us in all things, we will depose him. What is this, but the tying up of the conscience? Which yet is more evident, when all that they have done must be acknowledged as just, or then, they will tell you, they cannot in conscience join with him, or yet recommend him to others to be joined with. And if he speak, when required, in opposition to this, they will protest against him. I know not if it was ever so in any criminal court, that the panelled might not give answers to what he was interrogated upon, without being protested against. Yet it was so with him. All that I shall say of this is, that these sort of mercies are cruel. But right or wrong, let every one judge.
But then, as to these agreements which they speak of the breach of, whereby to the people he is rendered so odious, that the ministers (as they say) tells them, that he is not to be believed the word he speaks, which is a most heavy charge; yet I hope, as shall be made manifest, that is a most gross reflection. Therefore, I shall, for the reader’s satisfaction, set down the agreements first and last, which were communed publicly before a sentence passed. And in the protest and declinature, his reasons are set down for speaking, as the Presbytery says, contrar the agreement, although his reasons were never sought by the Presbytery; and as themselves know, that when they made enquiry into his words, yet never into the causes, which ought to have been as well as the other, or then they could not be reckoned just in their judgment. Then secondly, I shall set down what he has to say for his own vindication. And from all, let it be judged, whether or not people has grounds so to accuse him.
Then, as for that which the Presbytery speaks of, August 13, 1703, it is as follows:—
"This our Protestation, being for the exoneration of our consciences, is not to be interpreted a separation from the Church of Scotland, but to have these our Grievances redressed in an orderly way. And hereby, we agree to concur in our capacity for redress of the same; and in other duties according to the Word of God and Covenanted Work of Reformation."
This is all, as to this time, which was subscribed by all the three.
The other agreement, which they speak of, was November 3, 1703, which is, That he was willing to recede or resile from what he did the first day alone; and enter in with Messrs. Reid and Tod at the Presbytery at Wells, where the "Grievances" were offered, and adhere to the Protestation as above; which was all he would engage to. Whereupon, after that it was communed in open Presbytery, he was dismissed for a considerable space. And after he was called in, there was a paper read to him, shewing that he had passed from all that he did the first day, and ever since. To which he replied, that that was to pass from the "Grievances" entirely. Whereupon he sat down, after that he had told them he would add here no more than what he had already said. Upon which, he was inquired, if he owned his ordination engagements. Answered, that he did; for he knew no sinful engagements that ever he came under, and if he did he disowned them. To this there was no subscribing. [i.e., no signatures were adhibited to these statements.] Now, this is all that the ministers and others has to charge him with, as a person most dissolute and loose.
Now, in the next place, let us hear what he has to say for himself. Then, in the 1st place, it is to be remembered that they could not charge him with a breach of the Protest, till this last agreement, which they spoke of, was made; as is evident from their records, and from his being with them at prayers and privy censures the day before this agreement. 2nd. That the rise of that agreement, November 3, 1703, was not from the breach of the Protest, as is evident from his joining with them as above. 3rd. The occasion, then, of this agreement was that the Presbytery looked not upon that part of the Protest, as above, a sufficient enough tie upon the protesters, as is evident from what is said; there being no breach of it on his part, he being every day with the Presbytery that they met, till this new agreement they speak of. 4th. The Presbytery themselves loosed him from the obligation of the Protest; and that, first, by their seeking, from Presbytery to Presbytery, new terms of agreement, which was superfluous if they had looked upon the Protest as sufficient; secondly, by their saying, in open Presbytery, that the "Wild Folk," as they term them, would say that they would not separate from the Church of Scotland, Now whatever ground they had, from other expressions, for saying so; yet it gives no ground to quarrel at that part of the Protest which they once accepted of, because this is not a quarrelling at a breach on the protester’s part, but a quarrelling with themselves that had accepted of such terms of agreement. Now, how can they charge him with the breach of this agreement? It is most ridiculous, considering what is said, unless that they look upon the "Wild Folk’s Church" and theirs as all one. And that cannot be, because themselves makes the distinction, in saying the "Wild Folk" would say as much, and yet not reckon themselves to own their Church; which is fairly in it. So consider how little ground they have here.
Then, as to the other agreement, November 3, 1703, as above, First, it is to be remembered that the ground of the breach of this agreement was taken from his saying that there was no agreement like to be, though it was expected. Second, the Presbytery never enquired into the reasons why he so spake (as was said), though they had a considerable time to do so before the sentence was passed. For though he set them down in the Protest, yet they were never sought by the Presbytery. Third, that after they had read to pass from all he did the first day and ever since, that he replied (as above), that it was a passing from the "Grievances," and these terms he would not adhere to. Fourth, that new emergencies arising from the Presbytery’s part (as shall appear) destructive of the agreement will never, in the judgment of any, involve him in the breach thereof. Though they should say that he knew of those things before, yet he may safely say that he had them not under serious consideration till afterwards. And yet he opposed such terms in the meantime, as he alleged them destructive of the "Grievances," and acquiesced to what he had formerly said, and judged that therewith they had been satisfied. Fifth, they could not rightly charge him with the breach of this agreement till once they had known the causes. For, albeit that agreement had been under an oath, he might warrantably have spoken all that he said, and holden by it, till a better understanding had been of the matter, and whether or not such measures as they took was destructive of that which had been in debate, to wit the "Grievances," and by him it is judged yet to be so, and then was also. So that the grounds for his saying that he judged there could be no agreement yet were (1) the Libel, or call it Memorandum, given by the Synod to the Presbytery, containing several things concerning those who had offered the "Grievances," for which they are to be censured, and that for speaking publicly against the "Grievances," as particularly the Oath of Allegiance.
Now that it was the "Grievances" that offended them, it is yet more clear if we consider (1) that he was with the Presbytery in prayers and privy censures, where they had nothing more to charge him with, than any of the Presbytery; (2) the present moderator declared this, only with the exception of the "old business"; (3) they had the Act in custody, in the. meantime, that allowed the Presbytery that if these three who offered the "Grievances" did not answer the Presbytery satisfyingly, both as to doctrine and practice, that they should call for assistance from neighbouring Presbyteries, or then a Synod pro re nata, or then a Committee of the Commission of the Kirk, and judge as they saw cause: and this was another reason for his so speaking. Which Act was given down by the Synod; (4) that when he was appointed to intimate a Visitation, he was no panel, having neither a libel nor under citation; (5) that when he objected to the correspondents being present at an orderly Visitation, it was answered by the Presbytery that they walked conform to the Synod’s Act as above. A third reason for his speaking so was another Act, which seeks the renewing the National Covenant without the Solemn League; the evil of which is held forth in the Protest.
There was an impracticable and unprecedented method, by way of censure, taken with one of those who offered the "Grievances," as if a person were to give satisfaction in another congregation than where the scandal was committed.
The Act for calling assistance from neighbouring Presbyteries has in it that either these three were contumacious to the Presbytery both as to doctrine or practice (which cannot be); or that it was merely upon the account of the "Grievances." There will no person get a third. [i.e., alternative]
Now, from what is said, how can he be accused of the breach of this agreement? Who sees not that there was grounds sufficient for all that he said? And till the Presbytery declare and shew the contrary, both as to such Acts and their practice with him, he has just ground to challenge them with the breach of this agreement, and that to an egregious height, unless that they judged he had passed from the "Grievances," and look upon it as his sin for offering them.
So, reader, thou may see that there is not the least shadow to challenge him as they do. But how perform they their part, which they promised at the Assembly? What was redressed there that was wrong? The breach of this engagement is not noticed! I shall only add that truth has a time fixed and set, and innocency also, when they shall get up the head in despite of malice, violence, and oppression. And to conclude, if justice and truth might plead for themselves, there would be no grounds for a sentence, or yet for calumnies and aspersions. But I proceed.
V. For the 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th, as they were referred to the probation of witnesses, [and] were, when tried, found false, as the Extract proves; yet they will have 9 and 11 proven, the one substantially, the other eventually. As to the Ninth, they prove it as to the substance. But how can this be? For the witnesses denied, that ever they heard such expressions as are in the Libel; and he never confessed them.
But what is the crime? That after he had said there was no agreement yet like to be, that though they should all leave him, he resolved to stand where he was for a season. His reasons for so saying are as above, for it was all at one time spoken. Now, what is their inference from this? It is, that he accuseth the ministers for not standing to the truth; to which I would answer, that, if the Presbytery accuse themselves, he ought not therefore to be condemned. For since he had not such expressions, the world cannot prove them to he his, unless by the subornation of false witnesses.
It would seem, that when this sentence passed, Justice her handmaid Mercy had been like Baal’s God—not within cry! Otherwise, she would have said, Why smitest thou thy fellow-servant? Or then, Why sittest thou to judge according to law, and commandest to smite contrary to law?
As to the Eleventh, they prove it eventually, this is, neither physically nor morally, and so no probation; no more nor a judge accusing a parent of homicide proves him to be guilty, because his child testifies to the judge that he will own the relation of a child to a parent, accuse as he will, and that because he is not convinced of anything to the contrary. And the same way, this article is proven. For, because his people would adhere to him, though they [i.e., the Presbytery] accused him, till they saw grounds for their doing otherwise; or, which is almost the same, because his people condemns him not; therefore, by their law, he is guilty—an odd sort of probation, I must confess.
As for the people’s paper, it is answered on the 7th premise. And because they make it the fourth ground of his sentence, I shall only add a passage further of a minister, not far from the bounds, who when delated for drunkenness (and, as is alleged, guilty), his exculpators is ready to swear he was not guilty, and the minister always denies the act. Now, I ask these judges, guilty or not guilty? Guilty, he cannot be, because he denies, and his exculpators swear it. No! says the judge here; guilty he is, because they both deny it; for there’s a compact betwixt them! Then, I answer, that according to this law, he got not justice when he was not deposed. Now, consider what sort of ground this is for a censure. For, according to our laws, it is held as a maxim, that licet cuilibet protestare vel supplicare, ["Any man may protest or petition to a court."] without censure. But this is more strange, that he should be censured for a protest of theirs!
VI. For the 13th article, it is, as they say, proven. But how is it proven? No otherwise than by a suspense of the judgment. And any that has common sense may see it is no more. And yet, with them, it is proven, for which, as they say, he is to be censured.
If it had been a delation against him; though neither confessed nor proven, yet it would have had some weight by [i.e., compared with] what it has here, though they had said it was proven because it was a delation. For then, they might have said, he was delated, therefore proven. But it is not a delation, but an interrogation, as—"Will ye bide by what you said in public, contrar the agreement?" [The 7th and 8ih articles tell of this.] Answered, he was not ripe to tell his judgment yet. "Will ye subscribe to exercise your ministry orderly?" Answered, he would give no answer that night. Therefore, by them, this article is proven! And not only so, but he calumniates the whole Church! [See for this, Extract, page 14].
Now, may it not be said, that "Truth is fallen in the streets and Equity cannot enter," when such articles are made the, grounds of a sentence; and not only so, but when such groundless calumnies and aspersions passes up and down current for truth? It’s just as if a man should say to his neighbour, "Sir, will you be drunk to-morrow?"
"I will not tell you!"
"Will you go to the Church and worship God on the Sabbath?"
"I will not tell you at this time."
"O," says his neighbour; "this man is a drunkard, an atheist, and a Sabbath-breaker!"
Ask the man how he knows that?
"Very well!" says he; "for, when I enquired if he would drink drunk the morrow and observe the Sabbath, he would not tell me! Therefore, he is both a drunkard, a breaker of the Sabbath, and an atheist!"
The application is easy.
But how find they out that he calumniates the whole Church? That I cannot see. It was a loss that such persons had not been sent on the search of Daedalus his clue, for I think they would soon have found it out! But let it be remembered for the future, that what lies and calumnies are casten upon his name by any, he will hold them as calumniators of the brethren till they make them out, and must challenge them as emissaries sent out on purpose by the Accuser of the brethren, to work him service. If any have aught to lay to his charge, they would take Christ’s way with it, in telling of it first to himself, and not behind his back; for by this way there is no possibility to get himself defended. Therefore, before any accuse him, first acquaint himself, and then, if he had nought to answer, blaze it abroad.
So much for the Libel. Now, what grounds can there be gathered from it worthy of censure or deposition; or by virtue of what law can they deprive him of his kirk? They say that there is an Act of the General Assembly that no deposed minister should return to the place in which he served when his sentence passed. To this I say, that there is no Act can be produced that can warrant the Presbytery in their procedure. And so, he ought not to be looked upon as one legally put from his charge. And therefore, the Act is of no force against him. Secondly, this Church hath no such Act declaring that a minister deposed cannot be reponed to the same place. And other Acts of Assemblies, till once they be by this Church attested as authentic and faithful records, cannot be put in execution against him. Ergo, thirdly, That Act was made against such as were compilers with malignants, as is clear from Act, Ass. 48, 441. But so it is, that this [i.e., "malignancy" under the act] cannot be laid to his charge. Ergo, that Act excludes all partiality in such like cases. But if he were not reponed to the same, instead of following of the Act, they would walk directly contrar to it in reponing others that were otherwise chargeable of such things as could never be imputed to him, and enemies to our religion besides. But some may say that they would rather live beside a lax Episcopalian than a bigot Presbyterian. Answer—I have no reason for this if it were not for a cloak to laziness, and to have themselves commended as somebody.
But now I shall proceed to examine the rest of the grounds for their sentence, though (as was said) what is extraneous to the Libel can in no judicatory be the grounds of a sentence. For a man, if justice be observed, must have a libel, that he may know what to answer when accused. For it is not the process the judge draws up after the sentence is passed, that the criminal is to be condemned by (for that is Jedburgh Law!), but that which he receives before a sentence. And if this method had been observed with him I cannot see how they could have drawn up twelve sheets of a process in twenty-four hours’ space, as they say they have. Yea, which is more, I dare appeal to the Presbytery if they had a quarter of a sheet of a process before the Libel was drawn up. And he was never under process till he received it. And that sheet of a Libel might have been comprehended in the eighth part of it if they had pleased, and to as good purpose as it was. What way, then, it is risen to twelve sheets, might be to any wise man another Oedipus his riddle. Such bugbears may fright ignorant persons that know not the matter, but no judicious person will be much annoyed thereat. And I think strange what confidence such can pretend to, considering the emptiness of the grounds for a sentence, that says to persons they might as well hear Gibb [A notorious fanatic of the time.], if he is alive, who burnt the Bible, and that he [Macmillan refers to himself.] is going to hell and taking the congregation with him; and he is not to be believed in a word he speaks, which on the matter is, that he is worse than an infidel, Turk, or barbarian. But it is not to be thought that wise folk speaks this, far less ministers. And so they are but some night-dreamers that fancies such things. Yet no doubt the report of such fancies and figments makes him full of tossings to and fro till the dawning, etc.
But then, as to the third ground for the sentence (for two are mentioned already—the Libel, as you have heard, and the People’s Paper), it is this, That he went in to preach before a quorum of ministers came to the kirk, whereby they deem that he evinced misregard to the Presbytery. If we shall consider a little, we shall see what a gin [trap] they set for him here, so that go what way he will, they have him entangled, and they may draw the net any way they please to their own advantage.
First, then, when he was appointed to intimate the Visitation and preach, he was no panel, being neither under process nor yet citation. For he had received no Libel. According to this appointment, if he had not preached, they might have said he misregarded the Presbytery. After this appointment he received a summons and a Libel to answer such a day, but no appointment to preach. Now he is in the room of a panel, and if he preaches they may reckon him a misregarder of the Presbytery, because he had not received their warrant, in this circumstance, to preach. So now, what way he will, they may catch him. Yet he both intimated the visitation and preached, and it is probable that there was more than a quorum before he preached any. For he left two within, [i.e., the manse] and there was one without, and several more within a musket-shot before he entered the kirk-door, and before he preached any they were generally convened. But thirdly, there was nought like a Visitation observed, either with the people, or yet with him. For they were never inquired at, how they pleased either his doctrine or walk, and if he was diligent in his pastoral duties; neither did they inquire at him, how he pleased [i.e., were pleased with] the people. So, since the Visitation was not called for by the parishioners, considering what is said, it was but only one pretended. And this shews yet more that it was the "Grievances" they wrought upon. If he had been a malignant, or yet a prelatic, it is probable they had advised better. And yet such a distance they keep from him, that if they have rashly called him brother, they will quickly cry peccavi! They have committed a horrid crime, and they must have pardon!
The fourth ground for their sentence is, that he refused a very reasonable and Christian accommodation, very condescending, and according to the principles of this Church, and former agreement, November 3, 1703 (as above), Answer—That this was according to that November 3 is a downright mistake, not to say worse of it. For in that there was a promise on the Presbytery’s part to concur for a redress of the "Grievances," in that there was none but to pass from the Libel. And yet all the redress that’s gotten is only dressing [verbal chastisement] of them that offered them! At that, there was no Libel; at this, there was. At that, he was not publicly accused; at this he is. At that the accommodation was acceptable till the deceit was found out; at this, it was never, as shall appear shortly and upon good grounds.
First then, this Christian accommodation which they speak of, was before they entered with the parishioners on the probation of the Libel as it was. So, the Presbytery sought a subjection to that which, on probation, was found false. And so [it is] no Christian accommodation to subject [to submit] to lies. For there was no exception in this accommodation, as to the Libel when found true or false, that then they would accommodate. Secondly, it is probable, [capable of proof] that he sought oftener than once, that the witnesses might be called and the Libel proven; which gave no ground to say, that he refused to be under their correction. Thirdly, the Presbytery cannot say, that he refused to subject to their admonition when proven; and that was the cause, as many can attest, why he refused that paper of agreement, because, after he was publicly accused, the Libel being publicly read, and he before cited to appear, they were willing, upon his subscription to be under their direction, to leave him neither condemned nor vindicated. This was yet more clear from what one of them said. Says he, "Subscribe that, and then we have done." Now where was the Visitation then? So hereby, the accommodation was most unchristian, for there was no brotherly love in it, to leave him hanging like a herring in the net. And for them to make their own fault his punishment, and a ground of his sentence, is most unjust. For, to put the best side of this agreement, either, first, they saw nought in the Libel worthy of a rebuke, which I think may be safely yielded, considering what is said; or, then, which is worse, that communion with them on any terms was acceptable enough, and might be so to the congregation. Now, how should this be the grounds of a sentence, when he would have these reproaches wiped off, before he accepted of the accommodation? Will any condemn him herein, because he affected that which was best, and say that, therefore, he should be sentenced? And sure, it cannot be thought that rational men will do it, unless they be dreaming.
The fifth ground for their sentence was his protest and paper which he gave in, which, they say, is stuffed with falsehoods, and gross aspersions on both Presbytery, Synod, and National Church. This is weighty indeed if it be proved. But how prove they it? It is thus, as if a man should write to another his mind of the affairs of the country, and according to the best information he had, write nothing but truth. The man that receives this accuseth the other of high treason, and without ever acquainting him further, sentenced him to death by the law. The man knows nought of this till his neighbour acquaints him that he is sentenced. He enquires, for what? They answer, for what he wrote to his neighbour. The man cannot correct himself, for the sentence is passed. But, he says, there is no justice in the case. Now just so is the matter with him, so that his paper cannot be the ground of a sentence. For he may as boldly aver that it is stuffed with truths as they that say it is stuffed with lies, till once he be convicted of them. For to this hour, they have never given him yet a discovery of these lies. But that he may neither lie under such a calumny, or yet seem to decline that which he knew to be truth, he yet again desires to be informed what these lies and aspersions are. And if that be denied, he cannot but believe that they are all truths. And, on the other hand, he is so far persuaded of the truth of things contained in this paper of his, that he rejoices in the making of it the grounds of a sentence. And he is convinced that there is not a downright nor yet designed lie in it all upon the matter. There may be some words misplaced, or left out, that should be in; but that spoils not matter of fact.
Now, these being the grounds of the Presbytery’s sentence, according to their own confession, any may see what weight they bear, and whether or not one orderly tried, called, and settled in the ministry, can be justly sentenced upon the grounds above-mentioned. For (without glorying he speaks it), besides his orderly call and admission to the ministry, he has, in the time of his exercise of it hitherto, so exercised himself (though through many infirmities and like unto some other men), as to have alway a conscience void of offence towards God and man; as also, in some measure, to follow the Apostle’s rule, at least to endeavour it, 1 Tim., iii. 2-10; Titus, i. 6-9; that so, the ministry might not be blamed. And he is bold in his God to charge his accusers to challenge him with the contrary, and say that, according to the apostle’s rules, negatively considered, and conscientiously applied, he was sentenced. How then should such sentences be looked upon as binding? Because every such sentence, that is reckoned as binding, must be founded and bottomed upon the Word of God; that is, there must be such sins committed as the Word of God forbids, such duties slighted and neglected as the Word requires, such an unfitness for the office as that he is unfit to teach; [9] and lastly, such pains taken for his reclaiming, wherein he is wrong, as the Word of God enjoins. For a man must not be reckoned an offender for a word. It is after the second and third admonition that an heretic is to be rejected (Titus iii.)
Now to the bar of God’s Word, the infallible rule, and to the rules therein laid down, he challenges all those that hold the sentence to be just, that from that Word they condemn him, before they hold him guilty. For it is not .Church censures or sentences that condemns, binds, or absolves, but the Word. And the Church, herein, can do nought but, declaratively from the Word, declare the person absolved or bound. And in this, the current of all sound divines agrees, whereof several might be instanced, but passing others, see Turretine, Vol. III, de Potestate Ecclesiastica, page 330-332. And as it is otherwise, their sentence is not to be obeyed. Hence, the apostle argues, "whether it be better to obey God than man, judge ye." For, as there are rules laid down in the Word, whereby a minister is to be examined, tried, and proven, before he can enter the ministry; so, likewise, there are rules laid down in the Word, by which he is to be examined, tried, and proven, before he can justly be thrust from the ministry. Otherwise, their sentence is void and null of itself. [10] And so we argue against the Papists, that says, the sentences of their Councils are absolute. Which is denied; that they are any otherwise absolute, and so nowise binding, but as they agree to the Word of God; And though they object Matt. xviii. 17 (If he hear not the Church, etc.); yet it is denied, that this place will prove the Councils’ absolute power. For Maccovius says, upon the place, that the words are not simply to be understood of all things (page 232, Quaestio decima). But the meaning, says he, is—if he hear not the Church, scilicet, in that which is manifest and clear from God’s Word, then etc. Haec sunt ejus verba:—"Sed si non audierit, scil. in re manifesta et clara ex lege Dei." And he adds, "agit ibi Christus de offensis privatorum, nihil autem de dogmatibus fidei et morum."
And so, the orthodox holds, that there is no sentence binding upon the conscience, but what is founded upon the Word. And if it were not so, the Word of God should not only be inverted, but perverted and wrested, because it should not be said that the Church is builded upon the foundation of the prophets and apostles, but the prophets and apostles builded upon the foundation of the Church. If it should be objected, who is to be judge of such sentences as the Church may pass, whether right or wrong? Answer—neither Pope nor Council, but the Word, "To the Law and the Testimony; and if they speak and act not according to these, let them not be heard!" And whither but to this judge Peter and John appealed, when deposed by the chief priests, suo more? And to the same judge, doubtless, they appealed, who looked not upon their deposition to be valid. When, but by a controverted Assembly? [11]
What ground is there to look on the deposition of a Presbytery to be valid, when upon unjust grounds, and so rashly proceeded in, that they waited not on Presbytery diet for advice, albeit of five parts there was not three present. Look back to the first premise, so that any may see they have walked informally, rashly, and unwarrantably in their procedure, which is not a little manifest from the non-observance of the Acts of the Church, though there were no more; where there was nothing like a following the instructions laid down by the Assemblies, even with respect to the Presbytery’s form of procedure, as can be proven. For, Assemb. 1690, Act 15, Instruction 7, it is there statute, that the Commission proceed in matter of censure very deliberately, and this with the late conformists; so that none may have just cause to complain of their rigidity; and that they shall not proceed to censure but upon relevant libels and sufficient probation. And, Ass. 1694, Act II., they say that "if any ministers within the bounds of the Church, of what persuasion so ever, shall be accused or informed against of any scandal, error, supine negligence, or insufficiency; then the said Commission shall make inquiry thereinto, cite parties, lead witnesses, take depositions, and do any other thing that may clear matter of fact against them; and report the same, and their diligence therein, to the next General Assembly." Now, will a Presbytery be wise above an Assembly in this? Or may they follow any other order in their procedure with one of their members? And if not, then their procedure with him is most unaccountable; where there was none of these things, as above, could be laid to his charge, nor yet this form of procedure followed. And see Ass. 1697, Act 16, Instruction 13.
And, albeit he himself should say (which I am confident he never will), that the sentence was just; yet it is not a whit the juster, unless it be so by the Word of God. And Poole’s Annot., Matt. xvi. 19, says that "Christ binds not himself to confirm the erroneous actions of men, either as to excommunications or absolutions." And the Dutch Annotations say, upon the same place, that "ministers’ sentences are no otherwise valid than according to God’s command." So, Aaron’s Rod Blossoming; pag. 331, taken out of the Confession of Helvetia, says—"If the minister dealt not in all things as his Lord hath commanded him, but pass the limits and bounds of faith, then the Lord doth make void that which he doeth." And Poole’s Annot. on Matt, xviii. 18, says—"If therefore any be cast out of any Church for professing or standing to any truth of the Gospel, or because he will not do what is sinful, we must not understand them bound in heaven, though they be bound on earth." Nor have any such excommunications any terror in them. How forcible are right words! But these arguings, what do they reprove? The Church is not, by this text, made infallible, nor is the Holy God by it engaged to defend their errors. And Poole on Lev., chap. xxvii., ver. 13-14, says—"For if the priest determined most unrighteously and unreasonably, as suppose an hundred times more than the value of it, I suppose no man is so void of sense as to say they were all bound to stand to the priest’s determination in that case. Even as in case a man’s leprosy were notorious and unquestionable, if the priest should thro’ partiality pronounce him clean, this did not make him clean. And therefore all these passages of Scripture, which leave things to, and command men to acquiesce in, the determination of the priest or priests, are to be understood with this exception, that their determination he not evidently contrar to the revealed will of God, to which priests are subject and accountable. Otherwise, if the priests had commanded men to profane the Sabbath day, this would have acquitted them from the obligation of God’s command of keeping it holy; which are impious and absurd to affirm." And the Harmony of Confessions, page 15, of the Confession of Helvetia, says—"Wherefore, seeing that the doctrine of the prophets and apostles is confirmed of God, the sentence of no man, nor of any assembly of men, is to be received simply, without trial, for the oracle of the Holy Ghost; but it is to be laid to the rule of the prophets’ and apostles’ doctrine, that that which agreeth therewith may be acknowledged, and that which is contrary thereunto may be confuted." And the same book, page 256, of the English Confession, says "And touching the keys, wherein they may either shut or open the kingdom of heaven, we say with Chrysostomus, that they are the knowledge of the Scriptures; with Tertullian, we say, they be the interpretation of the law; and with Eusebius, we call them the Word of God." And page 260, of the Confession of Augsburg—"But when as they teach or determine anything contrary to the Gospel, then have the Churches a commandment of God which forbiddeth obedience to them. Mat., vii., ‘beware of false prophets.’ ‘And if an angel from heaven should preach any other Gospel,’ Gal. i." And Mr. Durham says, Revel.,[A Commentary upon the Book of Revelation.] page 62, that Messrs. Cotton, Norton, and Hooker, acknowledge that casting out of a Church is but to proceed upon clear scandals of a gross nature, convincingly made out, and not otherwise. How then, a fortiori, may an argument be formed in his defence, in not subjecting to such a sentence, where none of the above-mentioned things can be made the grounds of the sentence! And what an argument is it against them who proceeded without such clear and manifest grounds! And how they will answer it, I know not.
If any should say that this is not applicable to his case, because this casting out was from all Church privileges: answer, it is the same with him qua minister, though with respect to the unjustness of the grounds, it amounts to no more than what it did to the poor man that was casten out of the synagogue, whom Christ did receive. And Turretine, .Vol. III., page 324, De Potestate Ecclesiastica says—"Albeit that pastors have not a nomothetic power properly so called, or a power of making laws that can bind the conscience; nevertheless, they have a power of making Canons and Ecclesiastical Constitutions, for better order and decency. Which Constitutions, albeit they are to be observed for the conservation of good order, nevertheless they bind not but upon the account of scandal and contumacy." And does not our Confession of Faith say, chap. 31, par. 3, that, "The decrees and determinations of Synods and Councils, if consonant to the Word of God, are to be received with reverence and submission." So that it is clear that the Word is always the judge. And if it were not so, our faith should stand in the wisdom of man, contrar 1 Cor., ii. 5. And not only so, but man should have dominion over our faith, opposite to 2 Cor., i. 24. Hence, the Confession says; in the same fore-cited place, that "Synods or Councils are not to be made the rule of faith or practice." And if it were not so, how could we obey that precept, 1. Thess., v. 21—"Prove all things; hold fast that which is good;" or yet follow the practice of the Bereans, Acts, xiv. 11, who were commended for their searching the Scriptures daily, "whether these things were so?" And if the Bereans might do so, and [be] commended for it, after they had heard a Paul preach, how much more warrantably may we do it after the Act of a Presbytery, or yet of a General Assembly! So, they which either teach the doctrine, or such as embrace it, to wit, to believe because the Church has said or done it—they are in a dangerous case. And if there were any pastor that should say, "because the Church hath ratified such a sentence, therefore it is to be obeyed;" such ought not to be a minister out of Rome; for it is their doctrine. And it is to be feared that many hearers hath drunk in not a little of this poison, that because the Church hath done it, therefore it is enough! Though I be not to degrade from the Church that reverence that is due unto her, or yet to have her just decrees slighted or misregarded, yet I would have all persons follow the Bereans’ practice. And none that is orthodox in the faith will win beyond this.
And have we not had precedents in the Church of Scotland that unjust sentences are not to be obeyed? whereof several instances might be given. And what is more confirmatory of this, than what is said in the nullity of the pretended Assembly at St. Andrews and Dundee, page 5, where they say (this was in the year 1651) [12]—"We protest, that whatsomever Acts, Ratifications, Declarations, Sentences, Censures or Commissions, that shall be made or given out by them, be null and void," etc. So now, quod convenit multis, convenit uni eodem genere et specie. And is there not so much declared by this Church, Ass. 1690, that unjust sentences was not binding where, Act 13, they declare all sentences past against any ministers by any Church judicatory upon the account of the differences among Presbyterians from the year 1650 till the re-introduction of Prelacy, to be of themselves void and null? Now, when it is declared by an Assembly that a deposition, though passed by an Assembly (as their Act will bear), is void and null of itself when passed upon the account of differences; how then can the Presbytery stand upon the head of their unjust sentence, when upon the same account and top[ic] with their own Acts? This is most unaccountable. And the judgment of the Assembly in this is most evident, that in matters that are controverted no such sentence is valid in itself. And that sentence, which is so, is never binding. And the Assembly declaring it to be so will never make it otherwise, to wit, to have been binding. Now, consider what is said. What way will they defend themselves that say a sentences though unjust, should be obeyed? If the thing be considered qua tale, as really unjust, and striking at the overturning of a direct precept, by setting such a block in the way as that of an unjust sentence, to the hindering of the person from giving obedience to such a command (as by office he is required to do), as that of a minister’s being "instant in season and out of season" (all physical and moral impediments removed) in this case, I cannot see how such sentences, either of suspension or yet of deposition, should be obeyed. And albeit the spirit of the prophets is to be subject to the prophets, it is always in things lawful, and in the Lord; otherwise, the subjection should be illimited. And so the fifth Command is to be understood, with respect to the subjection that is due to superiors by inferiors, that it is in things lawful, and "in the Lord" (Eph. vi. 1).
In the next place, I inquire whether, or not, may not the case happen, that a Church should turn very corrupt, both as to doctrine and worship, and some one or other, for testifying against this, should be suspended, yea deposed, as in the case of Athanasius? Should, therefore, the publication of the purity of the doctrine and worship be penned up by an unjust sentence? And if, in this case, obedience should be given thereto, might not God justly plead with such as a keeper-back of his counsel, and punish them with the same blindness that others are in, because he set not the light on a candlestick, but put it under a bushel? Secondly, whether, or not, he that preaches, after an unjust sentence, can be rightly charged with contumacy, more than a child refusing obedience to a parent, in an unlawful command, can be charged with disobedience? And if, till once the matter be examined and tried by the Superior Judicatory, that they can ratify what the inferior has done: whethers or not, they are more chargeable of disorder, who passes their sentence after an appeal, and not suffering the superior judicatory to make the decision who is right and who is wrong? And if the superior judicatory partake of this disorder, who (as was said) ratifies the sentence before they hear what the sentenced has to say for his own vindication; whether, or not, such things considered, are the judicatories more guilty of disorder, than he that continues in the exercise of this ministerial office as formerly, after the sentence is passed?
But now, as to those who hold, that an unjust sentence should be obeyed, because of order; to this I says that if a controversy or debate should fall in between a judicatory and a member thereof, and if the member think himself cruelly dealt with, so that the laws in their severity are overstretched; and he appeal to a superior,—the judicatory ought also to sist their process, and likewise appeal, or at least wait till he follow out his, who has appealed. And here, no sentence passes, and order is kept up. But this cannot be in the case of a superior judicatory. Therefore, if they should pass a sentence unjustly (for only of such sentences we always speak, for there is none that ought to debate against subjection to a just sentence)—the person has no other refuge, but to follow his duty as formerly; as also, if he has expected redress, but could not attain it; for so it may happen. Secondly, if the judicatory have passed their sentence rashly and unjustly, they ought speedily to retract, and thereby also order is kept. For unjust sentences are no order, but disorder, and a subjection herein is a subjection to men’s disorders. And yet, in this case, I cannot see how they can be charged with opening a door to anarchy and confusion, who disobey an unjust sentence, more than a child or servant that disobeys the unlawful command of parent and master. For, suppose a parent or master, should discharge their child or servant from worshipping of God duly and orderly, are they to forbear their duty till they get redress from the judge? or is there no way for them to know whether the command be just or not, or whether they will be guilty of disorder or not, if they shall disobey? For, if the child or servant disobey, then it may be said they make themselves the judge. And not only so, but there is such disorder here, that the child and servant turn umpires and abandon their former relation. And both of them are as strictly tied to subjection, as a member is to the judicatory whereof he is a member. Yet in the case, I see not that either child or servant needs wait the determination of the judge; because the Word of God decides the matter clearly. And if it were not so in matters of duty, then it would be the same with the Church of Rome, to believe as they believe. Or will any say, that child or servant are herein guilty of disorder? And if they will, they roll the blame upon God, as the author of this disorder, who hath commanded it to be so, viz., to prefer the commands of God before the commands of men; and it should be so.
But, lest I should be mistaken, I confine not within the limits of this unjust sentence such sentences as may be passed; even clave errante, that is, though the scandals are not judicially proven, so that the person cannot be legally condemned; yet there is such a fama clamosa of a minister, either as to his doctrine of being unsound in the faith, and broaching some new error, either as to doctrine, worship, etc., in the House of God, or yet of a scandalous practice and carriage, which things can scarcely fall out but they may be proven; and if that judicature should pass their sentence without clear probation, which is clave errante in them, and so evil;—yet if the minister be such as seeks the glory of God and the welfare of souls, and being conscious to himself how much hurt such a scandal may do in the Church of God, though innocent, that it is safer to subject and wait the superior judicatory’s determination, and that though unjustly wronged. Yea, though the superior judicatory should ratify it, he should subject upon the grounds above said, if he cannot, to the conviction of impartial persons, get himself clearly vindicated. And this way he understands the subjection that is to be given to an unjust sentence, in that Paper at the Commission, and not otherwise. And as it condemned his own practice in preaching after the sentence passed, he was weak in saying so, because he cannot be charged with those things as above said. So that such sentences, as pass on a minister to whom none of the forementioned things are applicable, as they are void and null of themselves, so no subjection due to them. And of such sort he reckons those which may pass upon a minister for following of his duty. And although it should not be granted, that it is for following his duty he is sentenced; yet when no other thing is alleged, it is evident. And all that any can say in opposition to this is, only till redress be had from superior judicatories. For I believe none will say that when redress is sought and not obtained, that in this case an unjust sentence shall be obeyed. Because this were to make the power that judicatories have absolute indeed. Therefore, those who upon this pretence opened their mouths upon him before cannot but shut them now, when redress has been sought for but not had. And all they have to charge him with is disorder, according to the Commission’s Act, 1704. And to exculpate himself of this he charges all that hold him guilty of disorder to accuse him in preaching and practising anything that has not been already attained and practised in the Church of Scotland, and that in her best reformed settled times. And if they shall call this disorder, let them answer what is said, Deut. iv. 9-10—"Only take heed to thyself, and keep thy soul diligently, lest thou forget the things which thine eyes have seen, and lest they depart from thine heart, all the days of thy life, but teach them thy sons, and thy son’s sons." And 2 John, 8—"Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought."
In the last place, because he is rendered so odious in the bounds, as he is informed, and that by both ministers and others, for what he did at the Commission; by ministers, I say, because, as he hears, they asperse him with that of disowning what formerly he owned:—therefore, it is needful that something be said here, also that persons may see they have not so much ground to accuse him as they say. Though if they have any, they have too much, which he is heartily sorry for. But that he declared what formerly he owned, and reckoned it a great sin, is a downright and manifest untruth. And he charges those who spread this, and knew the truth of the matter, to hold up their face, and say, "Lord, thou knowest I speak nothing but truth, when I said, he acknowledged it as his sin in doing what he has done!" And it is known what litigation there was about that word sin. And he, seeking after peace, was willing to take with it as a fault and a wrong step of procedure, that he said he would not see the Presbytery for some days, while he had not then formally laid down reasons (which you will find more clear in the first four articles), as also, his declining before a sentence, though he had told his reasons therefor to the Committee, which are set down in the tenth premise. And likewise, it was told concerning that expression of "every other thing," [13] that in a complex matter, as there might be some things bad, so likewise some things good; and that in open judgment, when that Paper was given in and subscribed. Yea, he is so far from disowning what he owned (though maliciously aspersed), that, as he looked upon the "Grievances" as just, so through affiance of the Divine Spirit, [he is resolved] to adhere thereto, and that upon all hazards. As for the justice he met with, he leaves that to a farther judgment, and so passes it without any other reflection. And for what subjection he then promised judicatories in the Lord, the obligation is nowise binding, because he is not put in a capacity to perform his office, the cause and ground of the obligation. For how can he, as to his office, be accountable to the judicatory for the exercise thereof, when he is not by them allowed to exercise the same? For, as the obligation came under the consideration of his being reponed to the office; so the judicatory’s not reponing makes void the obligation, that it is nowise binding upon him. And none will oppose this, but such as are priest-ridden, who will say anything. It is a good saying, which divines have, that an obligation de rebus impassibilibus, as well as illicitis, non abligat jurantem ad sui observationem; et quum aufertur ratio formalis juramenti, juramentum cessat ratione eventus. [14] And this holds; for tollitur causa, tollilur effectus. But this being so clear in itself, it is needless to demonstrate it further.
But then, a few words as to that, that his defences could not be heard by the superior judicatory, because they were not given in before a sentence passed; and then I have done.
Then, as to this, first, if it be minded what is said in the fifth premise, or yet of that judge, for the Lord: this argument will have little or no weight, and especially amongst those where justice is regarded, because readily such will look more to the materiality of the cause than the formality of the procedure. Secondly, grant there had been an omission here, yet is that a sufficient ground to deny a man a hearing in his own defence, when the matter is referred to a superior judicatory? And whether or not, if he who in a law plea should take advantage of his neighbour because of such an informal step, and thereby should wrest from him his goods, and cheat him out of his estate—could he not but be reckoned a breaker of the tenth command, and called covetous? I cannot see but he might, And sure he followed not with the general rule herein, to do to others as he would have them do to him. Such advantages in law, quirks in matters of weight, I judge is not fair play. And if any may use them, they should be left to lawyers who judge for reward, etc., not to ecclesiastic persons who ought to be no such judges. But thirdly, if an error in the formality spoils the cause that it cannot have a hearing, then there would be no necessity for superior judicatories to address to, that the matter may be righted. For there is not a party, but they will strive to give their own cause the best representation that they can; and if superior judicatories may not dive into this, they may be reckoned cyphers. May not persons, if they please, pretend one informal step or another, or something else against their opposite, for bettering their own cause, and hereby the wronged and oppressed should never get a hearing? What sort of justice must this be, to proceed from a superior ecclesiastic judicatory? Felix, an heathen, would give more justice, who could tell a Paul that he could not be heard till his accusers were present, and both of them face to face. And says not the Wise Man, Prov., xviii. 17, that "He that is first on his own cause seemeth just, but his neighbour cometh and searcheth him out?" And how is this, but by the judge? Much more as to this might be said; but I forbear, because any unbiassed person will never reckon it a valid ground to have denied him a hearing, under the consideration of such a supposed informal step.
So, judging by this time, the reader may be satisfied with what is said, though much more might have been said; yet, since there is a deduction of the whole (though briefly) and true matter of fact, a capite ad calcem, from the beginning to the end, I shall satisfy myself therewith, and so do thou.

And if there be any to object against the truth of what is said, he is ready, upon fair and timeous warning, to answer them. And (passing all reflections of reponing some Episcopalians to their former charge, though deposed by a Synod for Arminian tenets) since he has shewn himself so far against acting singularly or loving to do so; and that, by waiting redress, and shewing his willingness to have peace with truth kissing each other, and to concur to his. power for getting these things redressed that are grievous and offensive:—But since nothing in this can be obtained without such stretches as conscience will not allow, as an acknowledgment he suffers justly, and so [was] sentenced justly, and with all the "Grievances" laid aside, and grievous to be spoken of; therefore, he resolves, in the strength of the Lord, to preach the Gospel as formerly, and to take and accept invitation for that end where he may have it, [15] lest he should bring himself under that woe the apostle speaks of, Woe to me if I preach not the Gospel!—nothing hindering.


Footnotes:

[1] The Presbytery minutes, 28, 29, 30 December, 1703, shew that three sederunts were held. At the first, December 28, only 2 ministers, out of the 15 competent to sit as judges, are marked absent. At the second, December 29, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., 2 more are noted as having withdrawn. At 5 p.m. same day, 2 more failed to appear. Final judgment was therefore passed by 9 ministers. At the first sederunt, 12 elders were present. They remained to the close of the meeting; but next day, only 4 attended. There were also 2 ministers as correspondents from the Presbytery of Wigtown. The court which gave sentence consisted therefore of 11 ministers and 4 elders, out of a possible 17 ministers and 16 elders. Macmillan’s contention is that sentence was given by a minority of the Presbytery.—Ed. [back]

[2] Cameron accuses Macmillan here of a mistranslation. In the Authorised Version, it is "Rejoice, Zebulun, etc.," Deut. 33, 18.—Ed. [back]

[3] Handed in during Macmillan’s absence at the meeting on December 28, and signed by 87 persons.—Ed. [back]

[4] This refers to a memorandum from the Synod read in Macmillan’s hearing on November 2, 1703: after which the Presbytery resolved, for peace sake, to pass all "bygone misbehaviours" of Macmillan.—Ed. [back]

[5] Read at meeting of Presbytery, August 17, 1703.—Ed. [back]

[6] Nahum I., 2-3—"God is jealous and the Lord revengeth: the Lord revengeth and is furious: the Lord will take vengeance on his adversaries, and he reserveth wrath for his enemies. The Lord is slow to anger, and great in power, and wilt not at all acquit the wicked"—Ed. [back]

[7] A Testimony to the Covenanted Work of the Reformation, by Samuel Rutherford; 1661. This is probably the "little book" referred to.—Ed. [back]

[8] Hebronians. This must be Macmillan’s coinage to indicate the adherents of Hepburn of Urr, with whom, at this time, he had some relations. The ordinary name was Hebronites.—Ed.[back]

[9] Mr. Trail says (Morning Exercise, Sermon 9th), that "it is hard to determine this competent fitness, for necessities of the Church may extend or intend this matter. But in general, there must be (1) a competent knowledge of Gospel mysteries: (2) a competent ability of utterance to the edifying of others." And this is aptness to teach, which the a apostle requires, 1 Tim. iii. 2. This is one mark that Jesus has sent him, or at least this may satisfy the man’s conscience. There is other three he mentions, as "(1) When a man singly designs the great end of the ministry, God’s glory, and Man’s salvation: (2) a conscientious diligence in all the means of attaining fitness for this work: (3) the savour of a man’s ministry on the hearts and consciences of others. For a single testimony, given by ministers and Christians, that the Word dispensed by the man is savoury, and hath effect on the conscience, is a great confirmation that he is sent by Christ." Thus far he. [back]

[10] Whatever be objected here as to schism, unless they prove the 7th premise to be false, it’s not worth a fig. [back]

[11] See for this [John Brown, of Wamphray] Apologetical Relation, page 311, par. 4. [back]

[12] The quotation is from the Protestation made by the Anti-Resolutioners, whose leader was James Guthrie of Stirling, executed June 1, 1661.—Ed. [back]

[13] "Any other thing in my way that hath given offence,"—see Hutchison, The History of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in Scotland, 1680-1876., p. 145. The reference is to the paper subscribed by Macmillan at the Commission in July, 1704.—Ed. [back]

[14] "An obligation regarding things impossible, as well as unlawful, binds not the person engaging, to observe the same; and as soon as the condition of the engagement is taken away, the engagement itself lapses by circumstances."—Ed. [back]

[15] On 5th April, 1704, a letter was read from Macmillan, at the General Meeting of the United Societies, desiring a conference. It is clear that he had decided, as he says above, to "take and accept" a call from them. This was given on October 24, 1706.—Ed.[back]


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