THE REVOLUTION SETTLEMENT OF THE CHURCH OF SCOTLAND:
Its provisions, in several respects, inconsistent with the approved Principles of the Second Reformation—Derogatory to the Headship of Christ—Incompatible with the Spiritual Independence of the Church, and the privileges of her members.
TO many persons it may seem a somewhat ungenerous task, to enter, in present circumstances, upon a rigid examination of the Revolution Settlement of the Church of Scotland. The struggles in which the General Assembly is engaged against the Erastian encroachments of the civil power,—and which may be regarded, we trust, as the earnest of a thorough vindication of the prerogatives of Christ as the Head of the Church, and of the privileges of his ransomed people, as well as the prelude of a glorious triumph for the cause of truth and righteousness in these lands,—these struggles are certainly fitted to enlist in her favour the sympathies and the prayers of all right-hearted men. To those who have all along professed adherence to the distinguishing principles of the Second Reformation,—who have felt themselves bound to make costly sacrifices in their behalf,—and to whom, as a body, the last century and a half has been a period of anxious, arduous, and almost unaided effort for the maintenance of the crown rights and prerogatives of Messiah the Prince,—it is in no small degree gladdening and encouraging, that the principles of ancient confessors and martyrs are now beginning to be more highly prized, and that a spirit of resistance to the Erastian encroachments of the secular power, has at length made its appearance. We regard it as one of the most promising signs of the present times, that we have it in our power to acknowledge the decided improvement in orthodoxy, spirituality, and faithfulness, which is going on within the pale of the Scottish Establishment;—still, it must not be forgotten, that the changes which have as yet taken place are more of a personal and practical, than of a constitutional kind: and that the advocates of non-intrusion, and Church independence, continue to cling with persevering tenaciousness to the Revolution Settlement of 1688, while they denounce the recent decisions of the supreme civil tribunal as a gross and reckless infraction of the charter of the Establishment. It may be that these courts have pushed their authority to the utmost limits of constitutional law, and in some instances even gone beyond it; but, though strongly denied by some, we think it clear as noon-day, that these courts, and these alone, are the legitimate and constitutional interpreters of the civil statute-book. It matters not that the statutes in question relate to ecclesiastical affairs,—that does not constitute the ecclesiastical court the proper interpreter of their provisions. They are civil laws, enacted by the legislature of the realm, and the civil courts are, therefore, their legitimate expounders. The ecclesiastical court is competent to interpret and apply ecclesiastical law only.
While, therefore, we warmly approve, to a great extent, of the abstract principles advocated by the reforming party in the Established Church, and earnestly desire their success in endeavouring to throw off a yoke which neither we nor our fathers were able to bear, we cannot but deeply regret, that they should take their stand on ground which, according to the most favourable construction it can bear, is but equivocal and unsatisfactory; and which, according to our honest and settled conviction, must be entirely relinquished, ere the church can go forth erect, unshackled, and free, “fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners.” She must go a step beyond the era of the Revolution, and search for a broad, firm, and solid basis, in the annals of the Second Reformation. From amid the ruins into which the Stuarts converted that glorious work, and in which the settlement of William and Mary left it, she must gather the tried principles of saints and martyrs, and exhibit them with energy and faithfulness, as in the days of old. And when we lift up our feeble testimony against the grievous errors and defects of the constitution of the national church, as arranged and fixed at the period in question, and fearlessly proclaim our conviction of its utter inadequacy to protect the rights of Christ, and the privileges of His people, we are sustained by the consciousness, that, whatever motives may be imputed to us, and whatever opinion may be formed of the propriety of our measures, we are only attempting to discharge a duty which we owe to the Head of the Church, and doing what we can, in our own sphere, to achieve a complete and honourable independence for the Church of Scotland.
In entering on this subject, we are reminded that it is not now to be discussed for the first time. The position which the Reformed Presbyterian Church has been compelled to occupy, as protesting against the Revolution Settlement, has naturally tended to render her members familiar with its provisions. And, besides the prominence which is given to the question in her subordinate standards, it has called forth, from time to time, a variety of other publications. It cannot, therefore, be expected, that in treating of it now we should widely deviate from the facts and arguments which have already been employed. Truth can well bear repetition; nor can we ever hope to accomplish any important object, especially when we have to contend with popular prejudices and long-established systems, without the most determined and untiring iteration.
We shall endeavour, in the outset, to give a brief sketch of the circumstances which led to the Revolution Settlement, as necessary to a correct and comprehensive view of the subject.
The Reformation of 1638 was one of the noblest triumphs ever achieved by truth and right principle over tyranny, corruption, and error. Opposed by the civil power, and by the adherents of an ecclesiastical despotism, the Church nobly asserted her independent jurisdiction,—exercised her authority in the face of royal interdicts,—abolished Prelacy as a branch of Antichrist,—renewed her covenant engagements,—adopted measures for promoting sound pastoral instruction and scriptural education throughout the land,—exercised a vigorous discipline,—strove by means of the solemn League, and otherwise, to advance uniformity of religion in the three kingdoms,—and finally succeeded in breaking asunder the antichristian yoke of Patronage, and in establishing an ecclesiastical directory for the calling and induction of ministers. We do not mean to affirm that the Second Reformation was in all respects perfect, or that every individual measure then adopted is entitled to our unmingled admiration and applause; but we do contemplate the leading principles developed in the constitution and administration of the Church of that period, with the reverence due to divine and eternal truth; and we do regard the successful efforts of the illustrious men of the Covenant, to establish and advance the kingdom of Christ, with unfeigned gratitude to Him who, by his Spirit, enabled them, in a few short years, to render the Church of Scotland the purest and most perfect ecclesiastical establishment that ever existed,—the fairest daughter of the Reformation,—an invaluable blessing to many souls,—a pattern for the imitation of future generations,—and an earnest of a coming time, when the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Anointed.
The usurpation of Cromwell, and the troubles in which the kingdom was then involved, operated as a check to further improvement, especially in England, and thus hindered the accomplishment of those objects on which the hearts of the Reformers were fondly set. Yet, though it is not to be directly ascribed to the measures pursued under the Protectorate, but rather to the exertions which had been previously made to arrange and settle the polity of the Church, religion appears to have flourished remarkably during that period; and a cotemporary historian expresses his belief, “that there were more souls converted to Christ in that short period of time, than in any other season since the Reformation, though of treble its duration; nor was there ever greater plenty and purity of the means of grace, than was in that time.” Such was the countenance bestowed by the Head of the Church on the exertions of the Covenanters, to uphold and extend His kingdom! Such were the happy effects of the Second Reformation!
But the impediments which, under the Cromwellian sway, had been thrown in the way of the work of the Reformation, were but the ominous shadows which coming events had east before them. A period of ruin and disaster ensued, from the effects of which the Church has never fully recovered, and the remembrance of which calls up everything that is base, cruel, and treacherous, on the part of the oppressors, and all that is magnanimous, devoted, and enduring, on the side of the oppressed. The Restoration of the Second Charles was the signal for an atrocious assault on the sacred edifice of the Second Reformation. And without pretending to enter, with any degree of minuteness, on the measures resorted to during his infamous reign, which our limits and design forbid us to attempt, let it suffice briefly to show, that, in a variety of ways, the Presbyterian Church was overthrown and destroyed.
I. The Church was overthrown as an Establishment. All Acts which had been passed in favour of Presbyterian government were rescinded, and Prelacy, which is much more congenial to the principles and feelings of arbitrary and Erastian princes, was ratified as the established religion of the land. To accomplish this end, there were two Acts passed, which deserve to be particularly mentioned;—the first of these rescinded the meeting of Parliament held in 1649, by which the Westminster Confession of Faith had been ratified, and Church Patronage abolished—declaring it to have been an unlawful usurpation, and all its Acts to be null and void;—and the second, by a bolder and more reckless stretch of power, annulled, at a single stroke, all Parliaments which had been held since 1640.[1.] These were the infamous Acts Rescissory, which the Revolution of 1688 retained in the Statute-book of the realm, and which are still deemed worthy of this high distinction.
II. The Church was overthrown by a still more direct invasion of her constitution and polity. It was quite competent to the civil power to rescind all the civil laws by which the Church had been established, and thus to dissolve her connection with the State. But Charles, having assumed supremacy “over all persons, and in all causes,” ecclesiastical as well as civil, did, by virtue of this blasphemous prerogative, enter within the hallowed precincts of the house of the Lord, and, with a hardihood and a daring in which he was not surpassed by ancient heathen kings who plundered and desecrated the temple of Jerusalem, destroyed the carved and costly work which had been framed and erected by the wisdom and piety of former years. Not only were the National Covenant, and the Solemn League, which the Church had embodied in her constitution, declared unlawful, but the famous Assembly held in Glasgow in 1638, was, in the same Act, denounced and annulled as an “unlawful and seditious meeting,” and all acts done therein, or by virtue thereof, were held to be void.[2.] This measure, like the Acts Rescissory, continues to form a part of the Statute-law of the land.
III. Another measure by which the Presbyterian Church was destroyed, was the forcible ejectment of her ministers from their charges. Many of them continued to disregard the enactments of the state, and refused to acknowledge the office and authority of the diocesan bishops; and, consequently, an order was passed in council, grounded upon an act of the preceding session of parliament, by which all ministers who had entered on their cures since 1649—when patronage was abolished—and had not received regular presentations, or who should not have received collation from bishops, were ordained to be deprived of their stipends due for the past year, to leave their dwellings with their families, and to reside beyond the bounds of their respective presbyteries. Nearly four hundred ministers chose rather to yield to the dictates of truth and conscience, than comply with the commands of the council, and, amid the severities of a most rigorous winter, went forth from their comfortable homes, and their bereaved and sorrowing flocks, to endure poverty and reproach for the sake of Christ; and, while the stations from which they had been unrighteously and cruelly driven were occupied by a set of ignorant, illiterate, and immoral hirelings, the severest restrictions were imposed on their ministerial freedom, and personal liberty.[3.] By such means was the vineyard of the Lord laid waste and desolate; its hedges were broken down, and the wild beasts of the field devoured it; and the daughter of Zion was pursued into the wilderness, where, clothed in sackcloth and ashes, she bewailed her miserable condition, and wrestled with her Lord for support and deliverance.
IV. The defection of many contributed to the total destruction of the Presbyterian Church. There were persons who from the first yielded to the measures of the civil power, by conforming to the prelatic establishment imposed on the nation; and even many of those who by their resistance to the arbitrary enactments of the state, and the readiness with which they went without the camp bearing the reproach of Christ, afforded promise of unbending firmness and integrity, fell at length into the snare of the fowler, and violated their solemn vows. Cruelty and cunning prevailed over constancy and faithfulness. So long as the adversary resorted to fines, imprisonment, banishment, and death, for the purpose of hindering the hated conventicle, and of reducing the covenanters to entire subjection, his measures proved abortive; but when he had recourse to a crafty and jesuitical diplomacy, decked his crown of blasphemy with the deceptive symbols of’ kindness and clemency, and assumed the false and alluring smile of royal favour, his policy prevailed. The gilded halt accomplished what the furbished sword, the torturing rack, and the fatal gibbet, never could have done. The Indulgences of Charles, and the Toleration of James, succeeded in bringing many on bended knee before the throne of the royal supremacy, who had sworn allegiance to the Lord Jesus Christ, as the only king and head of the church.
We wait not at present to examine the schemes just mentioned, but simply refer you to their terms and provisions, confident that there is no person in the slightest degree acquainted with the scripture doctrine of Christ’s headship over the church, but must at the first glance be convinced that those ministers who accepted of them, and acted upon them, virtually relinquished the distinctive principles of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, and homologated the impious pretensions of the king.[4.] Alas! that there should have been so many who prostrated their Sacred office before the accursed idol of the royal supremacy; and that Christ, whose right it is to reign, should have been so deeply wounded in the house of his friends! Alas! that there should have been so few, in that day of sore and grievous trial, to stand with unflinching faithfulness in behalf of the royal prerogatives of the Redeemer, and of that liberty with which He hath made his people free.
The grand design of these measures was to carry division into the ranks of the covenanters, so that those who would not be decoyed into the snare might offer a feebler resistance to the strong hand of violence, and be more easily overcome. Indeed, in the Toleration of James, the anathematized and persecuted conventiclers—the men who continued faithful to their solemn engagements—were expressly excepted from the clemency so liberally extended to all others, and were ordered to be prosecuted with the utmost rigour of law.[5.] The scheme was wonderfully and lamentably successful; it proved the source of discord and division; additional odium was heaped on those who would not yield, and the furnace of their fiery trials was heated seven times more than before. And when we consider the source whence these indulgences directly and avowedly flowed—the conditions, equally unworthy of ministers of the gospel, and of free citizens, which they exacted—the violation of sacred vows which the acceptance of them involved—and the direful consequences that resulted from them, it is not surprising to find the martyrs, in their dying testimonies, with one voice lifting up their solemn protestations against the indulgences and the indulged.[6.]
From this brief and simple statement of facts, it must appear that the Presbyterian Church of Scotland was totally shattered and destroyed. The only pleasing object on which the eye can rest in the dark and gloomy picture which that period presents, is a small, scattered, and persecuted remnant, who, amid unequalled hardships, continued faithful to the covenanted reformation. Call them by what name you choose—the party with which [Richard] Cameron, [Donald] Cargill, and [James] Renwick were identified, were the true and only representatives of the Covenanted Church of Scotland;—and I appeal to the terms of the Solemn League, to the dying testimonies of the martyrs, and to the verdict of impartial history in support of this assertion. They renounced allegiance to the tyrant that oppressed the church, and persecuted unto the death her precious sons; but they have too good grounds for so doing in his faithless and wicked breach of the compact which seated him on the throne, and in the remorseless cruelties which he perpetrated throughout the land. In the Solemn League they had sworn to almighty God to defend the king’s person and authority only “in the preservation and defence of the true religion and liberties of the kingdom,” which, together with the subsequent expulsion of the Stuarts from the British throne, forms an ample and triumphant vindication of their conduct in this particular.
But the trials to which their constancy and perseverance exposed them were truly dreadful; and the recollection of the savage barbarities inflicted on them is sufficient to fill the mind with horror. A fierce and ruthless soldiery scoured the country, insulting, plundering, and destroying as they listed, the best and holiest in the land. The seat of authority and judgment was desecrated by men who set equity and mercy alike at defiance; mocked at all that is sacred; and laughed with fiendish cruelty at the most affecting spectacles of human woe. The prisons were crowded with Christ’s freemen; and the scaffolds were drenched with their precious blood. The mountain solitudes, hallowed by the prayers, the fastings, and the martyrdom of the righteous—the gloomy dungeon, which witnessed their sighs, and tears, and wrestling, in behalf of a persecuted church, and a covenanted land—the rocky islet of the ocean, in which they were doomed to languish in tribulation, “for the word of God, and the testimony of Jesus Christ”—the friendly retreats of foreign lands, to which they fled for shelter, and from which their tearful sympathies in behalf of Scotland and her sufferers were wafted homeward by the winds of heaven—the sandy sea-beach, whose rising tide closed its unconscious waters over the struggling, stake-bound members of the Saviour’s body—and the places of public thoroughfare, where the heads of a [James] Guthrie, a [Richard] Cameron, and a [Archibald Johnston, Lord] Warriston, withered in the winds; and where the warm and quivering heart of the valiant [David] Hackston was exhibited, with cruel derision, on the point of the executioner’s knife, “a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men”—these all are ready to make the most tremendous disclosures of a nation’s guiltiness, as yet unrepented of, and unatoned.
Of late, it has been very common for parties of diverse sentiments and denominations to appeal to the spirit and examples of the Scottish martyrs, in support of their respective views and objects; and we have observed in particular, that various organs of the Established Church have even gone the length of claiming these martyrs as peculiarly her own. It is highly gratifying to witness a change of spirit which these claims indicate; for many years have not yet elapsed since an entirely different tone prevailed in regard to them, among the ministers and members of the Establishment. But, at the same time, we cannot allow that the Revolution Church has any rightful claim to enroll them in her calendar; or that she at all holds, in common with them, the peculiar principles for which they died. They occupied far different ground from either the churchmen or the voluntaries of the present day. They not only protested against the ecclesiastical supremacy of the crown, but the great bulk of them also renounced all civil allegiance to the reigning prince, because he had laid waste and desolate the covenanted reformation, and given such terrible proof, that of the qualifications requisite in the ruler of a christian people he was entirely destitute; and in support of their principles they jeoparded their lives unto the death in the high places of the field; while the indulged, from whom they widely differed in their principles and conduct, were fawning with abject servility under the bewitching smiles of courtly favour. “Their standard on the mountains of Scotland,” says an eloquent writer, “indicated to the vigilant eye of William, that the nation was ripening for a change. They expressed what others thought, uttering the indignation and the groans of a spirited and oppressed people. They investigated and taught under the guidance of feeling, the reciprocal obligations of kings and subjects—the duty of self-defence, and resisting tyrants—and the generous principle of assisting the oppressed. These subjects, which have been investigated by philosophers in the closet; and adorned with eloquence in the senate; were there illustrated by men of feeling in the field. While Russell and Sydney, and other enlightened patriots in England, were plotting against Charles, from a conviction that his right was forfeited, the Cameronians in Scotland, under the same conviction, had the courage to declare war against him. Both the plotters and the warriors fell; but their blood watered the plant of renown, and succeeding ages have eaten the pleasant fruit.” O tell us, ye eulogists of the Scottish martyrs, whether ye are prepared to take your stand on the ground whereon they stood, and whereon they fell, by refusing countenance and active support to civil rulers who trample in the dust the covenanted work of reformation, and are closely leagued with the Romish Antichrist, that we may rightly understand your meaning, and form a proper estimate of your professions. And meanwhile, we take the liberty most distinctly and emphatically to assure you—and we appeal to their own public declarations and dying testimonies, for the truth of what we say—that had these confessors not magnanimously chosen the ground which the Reformed Presbyterian Church has been endeavouring, for a century and a half, to maintain, and by which she is distinguished from all others, their heads would never have rolled on gory scaffolds, nor would the grey memorials of their martyrdom have imparted so sombre and hallowed an aspect to the sequestered dells, and heath-clad hills, of our fatherland. To us, therefore, belong alike the odium and the honour of identity with them; we have long borne the one, and we may surely now be permitted, without the charge of arrogance or presumption, to claim a share in the other. “Seeing that many glory after the flesh, we will glory also.”
All that has now been said, has an intimate and important bearing on the point in hand; for it is necessary to a right understanding of the Revolution Settlement of the Church of Scotland, that we clearly and correctly see the exact state to which the Presbyterian Church of the Second Reformation was then reduced. The gallant vessel, which had spread her canvass to the propitious gales of heaven, and had been manned by skilful and brave-hearted mariners, was overtaken by the rude and boisterous hurricane, and rendered a total wreck; while such as continued to cling to her shattered fragments, were tossed hither and thither on a dark and stormy sea. Such was the state of matters in Scotland, when the Prince of Orange landed on our shores, and ascended the British throne.
It shall then be our object, in the next place, to inquire how far the Presbyterian Church was restored to the position which she occupied before the restoration of Charles, and how far the principles of the Second Reformation were revived and exemplified.
I. The first thing which merits our attention here is, the measures adopted for the establishment of Presbytery, at the period in question. The proper province of the state, in establishing the church, is simply to receive from her the constitution which she has framed and enacted by her own intrinsic and independent authority, and at her special request, and after mature and serious consideration, to append to it the civil sanction—a sanction which bestows no ecclesiastical authority, but merely gives effect to it so far as civil consequences are concerned. These separate and independent functions were exercised by the church and the state respectively, in the period of the First Reformation. The church held her first General Assembly in 1560, by virtue of her own proper authority, under Christ her Head; arranged and fixed her constitution and her standards; and presented them to the civil power, by which they were so far ratified. The same principle of ecclesiastical independence was specially guarded at the era of the Second Reformation; for though the concurrence of the state was earnestly sought, the church did not at all feel herself shackled from its refusal, as the proceedings of the famous Assembly held in Glasgow in 1638 will abundantly testify. She abolished Episcopacy, as contrary to the word of God, and as the “wicked hierarchy of the Roman Antichrist”—settled her own constitution and subordinate standards—and then applied for and obtained the sanction of the state, giving civil effect to the measures which she had independently adopted. But this simple and beautiful order was exactly inverted in the Revolution Settlement of the church. She did not, at that period, present her constitution to the civil power; but the civil power enacted it, independently of her authority. The church, indeed, was not in a capacity to be consulted, when the measures affecting her government were gone into by the state; for she was in a condition of complete disorder and disorganisation, without a constitution, and without courts. The settlement was purely civil and secular; as no party bearing an ecclesiastical character was consulted in the matter. The celebrated “Claim of Rights,” presented by the Estates of Scotland to William, on his accession to the throne, was the only basis of the arrangements made in regard to the government of the church. In that deed, the abolition of Prelacy was craved, because a “great and unsupportable grievance and trouble to the nation, and contrary to the inclinations of the generality of the people”—not because it was contrary to the word of God, or inconsistent with the constitution of the church and the nation as settled in the reforming period—and upon that ground only was Prelacy abolished, and Presbyterian church government ratified. In the year 1640, Prelacy was repudiated by the state, upon the ground of the constitution and acts of the church, in which it had been abolished as contrary to the word of God;[7.] but at the Revolution, neither Prelacy nor Presbytery was measured by such standards at all—while the state assumed the power of abolishing, in the act 1689, not merely the establishment of Prelacy, but “all superiority of any office in the church of this kingdom, above presbyters.” It was surely the province of the church herself, to declare what office should be abolished in her, and what retained.
It will not do to tell us, that in the act 1690, settling Presbyterian church government, it is said, “The King and Queen’s Majesties, and the three Estates of Parliament, conceiving it to be their bound duty, to settle and secure the true protestant religion, according to the truth of God’s word, as also the government of Christ’s church within this nation, agreeable to the word of God;” for besides these expressions being sufficiently vague, their variety is also remarkable. The protestant religion is settled and secured, “according to the truth of God’s word;” but the government of the church is spoken of as something distinct from the true protestant religion, and is ratified as “agreeable to the word of God.” Now, it is well known, that such is the language invariably employed by Erastians, in regard to the government of the Church. The Erastian party in the Westminster Assembly were ready to admit that Presbytery was “agreeable to the word of God,”[8.] while they maintained that it had no higher claims in this respect than other forms. Erastians of the present day hold exactly the same language. According to them, whatever form of government is, in the language of the Act of Settlement, agreeable “to the inclinations of the generality of the people,” or is taken by the state under its fostering care, is also “agreeable to the word of God.” And what other construction can be given to this clause in the statute 1690, especially since it appears, that while Presbytery was considered “agreeable to the word of God” in Scotland, Prelacy was deemed equally, if not more so, in England and Ireland? Neither the word of God, nor the voice of the church, was duly heard and consulted, in the Revolution Settlement.
Does any person ask, Did the state not repeal the obnoxious Acts of Charles, which rescinded all laws enacted in favour of the Presbyterian Church during the Second Reformation, as well as the Parliament which passed them? We answer, No. King William and his parliament left the chasm as they found it. They found all recognition of the Presbyterian Church during that period obliterated from the Statute Book, save in the dark and dismal pages which recorded the unrighteous deed; and instead of making any attempt, or manifesting any inclination to undo those guilty acts, they retained them in all their validity and force, and revived the Act 1592, passed in the period of the First Reformation; and, with the exception of the clause relating to patronages, which was reserved for future consideration, constituted it the charter of the Established Church of Scotland. The General Assembly of 1690, held after the government of the church had been thus settled, offered no objection to the course pursued, even though the king, as if to prevent the possibility of misapprehension in the matter, distinctly informed them in his letter that he had concurred with his parliament in enacting such a frame of church-government, “as was judged to be most agreeable to the inclinations of his subjects;”[9.] and so manifested their acquiescence in the cool, deliberate, and studied insult paid to the church of the Second Reformation. We are, therefore, warranted in affirming that whatever affinity the Revolution Church may bear to the church of the First Reformation, she is cut off, with her own consent, from all participation in the glory of the period between 1638 and 1649. That era was to her forbidden ground, and tamely did she acquiesce in the interdict. Though not once consulted as to the character and terms of her charter, she submissively bowed in token of her humble acceptance of what the state was pleased to grant; and by so doing, surrendered the glorious birthright of her independence, and compromised the inalienable prerogative of Christ, as “Head over all things to his body the church.”
It will not do to say that individual ecclesiastics Were consulted on the subject of the government and constitution of the church; for inasmuch as the church was at that moment in a state of disorganization, these could have no more power to act than a citizen of France, not possessed of credentials from his government, could have to appear and act in their behalf at the court of the British Sovereign. [William] Carstares, who was appointed chaplain to their majesties for Scotland, and afterwards became Principal of the university of Edinburgh, probably exerted more influence in the matter than any other individual. He was the “guide, philosopher, and friend,” of the Prince of Orange [i.e., William]; but he was too much of a courtier and political intriguer, to be the best possible counselor in ecclesiastical affairs; and if any person but peruse the memoir of his life, prefixed to his “State Papers,” we feel persuaded that he will rise from the task with the conviction that he was in the highest sense of the terms a moderate, and an erastian. Yet so great was the influence which he put forth in the transactions of that period, that he was jocularly styled “Cardinal Carstares”—a title which would naturally lead one to look for the Pope in the person of his master the king. With regard to him the historian says,[10.] that “although a presbyterian, he was a political one, and never appears to have entered into the original sentiments of the presbyterians; he viewed a religious establishment as too much an engine of state; and although he thought the form of Presbytery best adapted for Scotland, and, perhaps, from the force of education, the best form of church government, yet that spirituality in its essence—the supreme headship of Christ in his church, for which so much blood was shed, he appears to have considered as a subject of secondary moment.” King William was not likely to arrive at very accurate conclusions under such a guide; indeed, his own sentiments on ecclesiastical affairs, formed upon the practice prevailing in Holland, coincided very closely with those of Carstares. “His great object,” says Dr. M‘Cormick, [11.] “was to have the same form of church government established over the whole island. And although, in this event, presbytery would have been more agreeable to his own principles than episcopacy, yet an union of the two churches, upon any reasonable terms, was so very eligible, and points of dispute betwixt the two, in his estimation so very trifling, that, could the Church of England have been brought to lower their terms of communion, so as to comprehend the bulk of the non-conformists in that kingdom, he was fully determined never to abolish Episcopacy in Scotland. And it was not till he found that all attempts towards a comprehension in England would probably be rendered ineffectual by the violence of the high church party, that he yielded to the establishment of presbytery in Scotland.” Even after Prelacy had been abolished in Scotland, to which he had with considerable difficulty been prevailed upon to consent, “he still kept sight of his favourite object, which was an entire union between the two kingdoms, both in church and state. For this reason he absolutely refused to give his assent to an act which was proposed by some of the rigid presbyterians, asserting that presbytery was the only form of church government agreeable to the word of God. For the same reason he suggested his own doubts in regard to the act 1690, with respect to the reformation by means of presbyters, in order to prevent anything from being introduced into that Act of Parliament which might have a tendency to obstruct the union of the two churches in some future period. Whereas, by resting the establishment of church government solely upon the inclinations of the people, he established a precedent which might afterwards be improved for promoting that union.[12.]
Here, then, we have the grand secret of the whole affair. Presbytery was settled at the Revolution in such terms as would not prevent the Church of Scotland from being easily transformed, on some future occasion, into a Prelatical establishment.
II. The next point deserving our consideration is, the ratification of the doctrinal standards of the Church of Scotland. The Church herself is alone competent to enact her Confession. This is a purely spiritual duty, to be performed under the authority of the Lord Jesus, the alone King in Zion. If the State impose on her a Confession of its own, or alter in the slightest degree the one proposed by her for its sanction, then she cannot acquiesce without proving unfaithful to her Lord, sacrificing her spiritual independence, and degrading herself to the level of a secular institute. In the First Reformation, the Church enacted her Confessions, and Books of Polity, in the exercise of her own intrinsic and spiritual powers. In the Second Reformation too, the Church pursued a similar course. By her own independent deed, she enacted the Westminster Confession of Faith, Catechisms Larger and Shorter, Form of Church government, and Directories for public and family worship. It is well known, moreover, that the Confession and Catechisms, after their adoption by the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in 1647, were presented by that venerable body to the State for its sanction, which was accordingly obtained. The Directory for public worship was also ratified by the State; and it is worthy of remark, that the Acts of Parliament, in which these symbols received the civil sanction, expressly recognised the competency of the deeds of the Assembly adopting them, and ratified these Acts themselves;—so that the Confession must have been sanctioned by the State, as an instrument which had been previously approved and adopted by the Church, and according to the exact sense in which she had embraced it.
Now, in 1690, the Confession of Faith, the only ecclesiastical standard then sanctioned by the State, was ratified in the same parliamentary deed which settled Presbyterian Church government. Had the grand Act Rescissory been then repealed, the Confession would have stood ratified in terms of the Act 1649. But this, according to the scheme of the Revolution Settlement, would have been a capital blunder; and the statesmen of that day were too wary, and had too strong a dislike to the Second Reformation, to propose such a step. They, therefore, ratified the Confession anew; and in doing so held no consultation with the Church, and received no representation of her views and wishes,—it having been deemed much more convenient to have the whole affair determined, previous to her being organised and constituted. There therefore could not be, in the Act 1690, any recognition of any Act by which the Church had ever adopted the Confession, in the exercise of her own spiritual, independent, and intrinsic authority. The Revolution Church never passed any such deed, either before or since the ratification of the Confession by the State; nor was it possible for the Revolution Parliament to recognise the Act of the Church of the Second Reformation, adopting the Westminster Confession, so long as the Acts Rescissory stood unrepealed.
Besides, in the Act 1592, when the Act of 1690 revived and confirmed, as the grand Charter of the Establishment, the civil magistrate is clothed with authority to appoint the time and place of the meeting of the Assembly. It “declares that it shall be lawful in the kirk and ministers, every year, at least, and oftener, pro re nata, as occasion and necessity shall require, to hold and keep General Assemblies; providing that the king’s majesty, or his commissioners with them to be appointed by his Highness, be present at each General Assembly before the dissolving thereof, nominate time and place when and where the next General Assembly shall be holden;” and it is only when neither the King nor his Commissioner is present in the town where the Assembly is being held, that it is lawful for them to appoint their next meeting. But in the Act of Assembly 1647, while it is admitted that, in an unsettled state of the Church, it is lawful for the magistrate to convene the ministers of the gospel “to consult and advise with them about matters of religion,” it is declared, that this “ought not to be done in Kirks constituted and settled;” and that assemblies may be held “by the intrinsic power received by Christ, as often as it is necessary for the good of the Church, in case the magistrate withhold or deny his consent.” Here, then, we find the Charter of the Establishment at variance with the Act of Assembly 1647; and the Act of Settlement which revived the one, cannot, therefore, by any possibility, be construed into a recognition of the other.
We are quite aware that an attempt has been made by several writers on the present position of the Church, to vindicate her independence in the matter of her Confession, by a reference to the Act adopting it in 1647; but such an argument only serves to place the Erastianism of the Revolution Settlement in the strongest light; while in itself, it is wholly unworthy of men embarked in a great and righteous cause. For, if the privileges and obligations conferred by that Act be recognised by the Revolution Church, she must also be considered as holding herself bound by the deeds of the Second Reformation, embodying the National Covenant and Solemn League into the constitution of the Church,—deeds which, though rescinded by the State, have never been ecclesiastically repealed; and she must also be regarded as continuing to recognise the Directory of 1649, anent the election of ministers, as still in force,—a measure passed by the Church after patronage had been abolished by the State, and annulled only by the Acts Rescissory of Charles. But all these, it is too notorious, have gone into long desuetude, and have there. fore been practically renounced.
It is maintained by certain writers on the Church controversy,[13.] that a statutory recognition of the Confession, as previously belonging to the Church by her own proper deed, is contained in the following words of the Act of Settlement:—“Likeas they, by these presents, ratify and establish the Confession of Faith, now read in their presence, and voted and approven by them as the public and AVOWED CONFESSION OF THIS CHURCH;” and peculiar emphasis is therefore laid on them by printing them in italics and capitals. “We have no objection whatever, that the words, ‘as the public and AVOWED CONFESSION OF THIS CHURCH,’ should be blazoned forth in this attractive style, were it to serve no other purpose than to fix attention on the extreme ambiguousness of the expression. It forcibly reminds one of the vaticinations of the ancient oracle, which were so cunningly contrived and expressed, that whether the particular event in question proved fortunate or adverse, the response might bear a construction consistent with the fact, and thus the credit of the unseen and mysterious power be maintained unimpaired in the estimation of its hood-winked votaries. And notwithstanding all the ingenuity—legal and clerical—which has been expended on this point, we humbly conceive that ample room is still left for raising the question, Whether, according to the terms of the Act, are we to understand that the State ‘voted and approved’ the Confession, because it was the ‘public and avowed Confession’ of the Church; or was it declared to be the ‘public and avowed Confession’ of the Church, because it was ‘voted and approven’ as such by the State? We are constrained conclude, notwithstanding the ambiguousness of the expression, that it was pronounced to be the ‘public and avowed Confession of the Church,’ because it was first ‘voted and approven’ as such by the Parliament. The terms of the Statute do not run—‘they ratify and establish the public and avowed Confession of this Church, now read in their presence, and voted and approven, as containing, &c.” but they are as follows:—‘They ratify and establish the Confession of Faith, now read in their presence, AND VOTED AND APPROVEN BY THEM, as the public and avowed Confession of this Church.’ Besides, it is worthy of notice, that this construction is supported by the well-known Erastianism of William and his Parliament, and is in perfect harmony with all the ecclesiastical arrangements of that memorable era,—while the other interpretation is at variance with both. The attempt to show from the expression in question, that in the Act of Settlement Parliament acknowledged the Spiritual Independence of the Church, might be tolerated in the pleadings of a lawyer straining every nerve in his client’s behalf—although it would be very hazardous to his case to adduce such an argument in its support; but such a plea becomes quite unseemly when put forward by grave and learned divines.”
But furthermore, the Act of Settlement does not ratify the Confession of Faith, as originally adopted by the Reformed Church of Scotland. It was embraced by her in the state in which she received it from her Commissioners to the Westminster Assembly, in which it was prepared. But, in 1690, instead of being ratified entire, its doctrinal articles alone were sanctioned, and the Scripture proofs omitted. These proofs were, to all intents and purposes, an integral part of the instrument; they were considered so by the Westminster Assembly, and the English Parliament;[14.] and they were adopted as such by the Church of Scotland in 1647. But the Revolutionary Parliament of William and Mary mutilated the document by omitting them. It will not do to say, as we have heard it done, “that as all the chapters are ratified and transferred to the Statute-book, the omission is of little consequence,—the Scripture·proofs not being, in every instance, the most appropriate that could be employed.” Had the alteration been effected by the judgment and authority of the Church, such a statement might, perhaps, have some weight in it. But what right had the State—even though the change were an improvement—to alter, in the most minute particular, the Confession of the Church? It could not do so without an assumption of power that does not belong to it, and seriously encroaching on the spiritual jurisdiction of the Church. Nevertheless, this mutilated Confession was “voted and approven” by it, “as the public and avowed Confession” of the Church then established; and it is well that the Act, so ratifying it, has at least the honesty to speak of it, neither as the “Westminster Confession,” nor as the Confession of the Church of Scotland before the Restoration, but simply as the Confession “now read” in the presence of Parliament, and as “containing the sum and substance of the doctrines of the Reformed Churches.” It is true, that the Confession distinctly recognises the Headship of Christ over the Church, and declares that He “hath therein appointed a government in the hand of Church officers, distinct from the civil magistrate;” but at the same time, we cannot avoid the conclusion, that these very doctrines were violated and overborne by the State in the Act of Settlement, and that the Church, by receiving from the State the form of government, and Confession thus ratified, without any complaint or remonstrance, and without adopting them in the exercise of her own intrinsic powers, homologated this unwarrantable stretch of authority, surrendered the dearest rights of the daughter of Zion, and humbled herself at the feet of the secular power.
III. In the next place, we shall advert to the interference of the state, in the Revolution Settlement, with the discipline of the church, and the constitution of her judicatories. All persons acquainted with the history of the period, are aware that at the commencement of the Second Reformation, the Church, in the exercise of her own inherent authority, determined in whose hands the keys of government should be placed, and adopted vigorous and decisive measures for inflicting merited censure on the adherents of Prelacy, as well as on all who were immoral in their lives, or erroneous in their doctrine.[15.] But, at the Revolution, the state took this matter under its own control. The Act of Parliament 1690, declares “that the church government shall be established in the hands of, and exercised by, those presbyterian ministers who were outed for non-conformity to prelacy since the first of January, 1661, and such ministers and elders only as they have admitted or received.” Here, then, the state appointed the rulers of the Revolution Church,—thus sustaining itself as the source of ecclesiastical authority. The Presbyterian Church, be it recollected, was then in a state of total disorganization, without a constitution, and without courts, so that it is obvious that it was constituted anew and reorganized at the dictation of the civil power.
But this is not all; the question still remains to be considered, Were all these persons worthy of the station to which they were elevated? Nearly thirty years of change, temptation, and trial, had elapsed since 1661; and we may well enquire, Were there none among all these ministers and elders, who, by defection, and participation in the prevailing iniquities of that dark and dreadful period, had forfeited their right to the exercise of ecclesiastical power and privilege, until, at least, they should give glory to God, and satisfaction to His church, by repentance and confession? Why, it is a notorious fact, for the proof of which we appeal to all history, that these state-appointed church governors chiefly consisted of men who had receded from their former solemn engagements—“men who had not only espoused the cause of the public Resolutions, but had complied with the wicked oaths imposed by the government of the second Charles, and bound themselves, as many of them did, to abstain from preaching, at a time when the faithful exhibition of the truth was much required, and remarkably blessed—men who had accepted the indulgences granted by Charles, and so eagerly embraced the jesuitical toleration of James—thus virtually taking out a new commission for the exercise of their ministry, from the corrupt and debasing source of a royal supremacy,” and what is still worse, men, whose hands were red with the blood of the saints, and martyrs of Jesus. Such were the persons who, together with a few ministers, now returned from exile, were constituted the governors of tile Revolution Church, and composed her first General Assembly; and they all engaged in the exercise of the functions with which they were vested, “without having afforded any evidence of repentance, or offered one expression of contrition for their former sins.” Nay, that Assembly positively refused to hear read the larger paper presented to them by [Alexander] Shields and others, as well as that given in by the United Societies, complaining of these grievances in the constitution of the Church.[16.] Where defection had so very generally prevailed, it could scarcely have been expected that such representations and remonstrances would lead to any other result. But it is peculiarly worthy of notice, that [Alexander] Shields, [Thomas] Linning, and [William] Boyd, who had, till about that period, been faithful to the covenanted cause, were admonished by the Assembly, on their being received into the communion of the Revolution Church—a fact equally discreditable to both parties.[17.]
But the discipline of the church was interfered with and controlled by the state, in another form. It was made an essential principle of the Revolution Settlement, that all actual incumbents, who held charges under Episcopacy, should be allowed to retain their livings, simply on taking the oaths to the government of king William; and in 1693, an Act of Parliament was passed, entitled, an “Act for settling the quiet and peace of the church,” for the purpose of admitting these curates to a share in the government of the established church. Now, while it was decidedly objectionable in the state thus to tamper with the discipline of the church, by originating a scheme for receiving into her communion and government the sworn supporters of prelacy, it still farther assumed an erastian power, and lorded it over God’s heritage, by devising and fixing the terms on which they should be admitted. That Act did “statute and ordain that no person be admitted or continued for hereafter, to be a minister or preacher within this church, unless he, after having first taken and subscribed the oath of allegiance, and subscribed the assurance in manner appointed by another act of this present session of Parliament, made thereanent, do also subscribe the Confession of Faith, declaring the same to be the confession of his faith, and that he owns the doctrine therein contained, to be the true doctrine, which he will constantly adhere to; as likewise, that he owns and acknowledges presbyterian church government, as settled by the foresaid 5th Act of the 2nd Session of this Parliament, to be the only government of this church, and that he will submit thereto, and concur therewith, and never endeavour, directly or indirectly, the prejudice or subversion thereof: and their majesties, with advice and consent foresaid, statute and ordain that uniformity of worship, and of the administration of all public ordinances, within this church, be observed, by all the said ministers and preachers, as the same are at present performed and allowed therein, or shall hereafter be declared by the authority of the same; and that no minister or preacher be admitted or continued for hereafter, unless he subscribe to observe, and do actually observe the foresaid uniformity.” And, in reference to the curates, this Act withal declared, “that if any of the said ministers, who hath not been hitherto received into the government of the church, shall offer to qualify themselves, and to apply in the manner foresaid, they shall have their majesties’ full protection, aye and while they shall he admitted in manner foresaid.” These provision scarcely require a word of comment. Who, we ask, is the proper party, by which terms of admission to the communion of the church, and to the office of the holy ministry, ought to be prescribed? Most unquestionably the rulers of the church, on whom the power of the keys of the kingdom is conferred by the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet here we have the civil magistrate determining the qualifications requisite in those who apply for ordination and license in the church of Scotland; and declaring that no minister or preacher, by whom the conditions prescribed by him are not observed, shall “be admitted, or continued for hereafter.” He mixes up ecclesiastical qualifications with civil tests, and imposes them on all applicants, for a spiritual office,—thus encroaching on the sacred domain of Christ’s house, and, in the spirit of the man of sin, “shewing himself in the temple of God.” Here we have the erastianism of the Revolution Settlement exhibited in the most naked and repulsive form, and the church unrighteously robbed of her spiritual independence.[18.]
At first, the church manifested some reluctance to receive the curates into her bosom, but was at length fairly concussed into the measure by the civil power;[19.] and in the course of a few years, she boasted of it as a “pregnant instance of her moderation,” that hundreds of them had been admitted “on the easiest terms.” “Many of these curates had taken possession of the places from which other and better men had been violently ejected; they had all solemnly sworn that the government of the church is an inherent right of the crown, and some of them, by basely acting the part of spies and informers, had contributed not a little to the sanguinary oppression under which the land groaned;” yet they were admitted without having been “required to express any condemnation of Prelacy, or to avow any contrition for the guilty part which they had acted during the preceding bloody period;” and all this, because the state had prescribed the conditions on which they should be received. It is not at all wonderful that these time-serving hirelings should have been permitted, in the providence of God, to prove the bane and the infamy of the church; for they swelled into an overwhelming majority the moderate party, who ruled her councils with iron sway for more than a century, and have blackened the page of her history with their cruel and unrighteous proceedings.
IV. Again; in the Revolution Settlement the state stretched forth its hand to control and regulate the worship of the house of God. This appears from that part of the statute 1693, already quoted, in which their majesties, with the consent and advice of parliament, did “statute and ordain, that uniformity of worship, and of the administration of all public ordinances within this church, be observed by all the said ministers and preachers as the same are at present performed and allowed therein, or shall be hereafter declared by the authority of the same.” It is indeed desirable that uniformity of worship should prevail throughout the church; but by whose authority ought this to be required and regulated? Undoubtedly by the authority of the church herself, under the guidance and control of the word of God; and the church of the Second Reformation exhibited a bright example of this important principle, in adopting her Directories for Public and Family Worship. But here we find the state issuing a mandate, requiring uniformity of worship, and of the administration of all the public ordinances of religion, at that time in use, and which might afterwards be declared by its “authority.” And, in perfect consistency with this statute, we find that another Act of Parliament was subsequently passed, “for making more effectual the laws appointing the oaths for security of the government, to be taken by ministers and preachers in Scotland,”[20.] in which they are required to pray, in express words, for his majesty and the royal family. The manner in which national fast days have been usually appointed, is also fitted to evince the erastian power assumed by the state, in relation to the worship of the house of God. We do not here by any means object to the appointment of national fasting, provided its object be legitimate, and due means be employed to secure its proper observance; but we do protest against the erastianism of the state in enjoining such services, without previously consulting with the church, or allowing her an opportunity of calling into exercise her own authority to reference to the matter. And to the same unwarrantable power, assumed by the civil magistrate, we must also ascribe those “Orders in Council,” which recently summoned the ministers of the Church of Scotland to offer public thanksgiving to God for certain auspicious events deemed to be of national importance and interest. What can be more spiritual in its nature than the worship of the Most High, and the administration of the public ordinances of the gospel? In this matter, if in any, the ministers of religion ought to be governed solely by the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is “given to be head over all things to the church;” and the civil magistrate should, therefore, be plainly and distinctly told, as was king Uzziah in the days of old, “that it appertaineth not unto him to burn incense unto the Lord;”[21.] and the devotions of the sanctuary ought to be jealously and scrupulously guarded against all such intrusive interference, on the part of the secular power.
V. But still farther; the independence of the church was invaded in the matter of the meetings of her Assemblies. In the Act 1692, which was revived and confirmed in 1690, as the Magna Charta of the Establishment, the king claims the power, when present in person, or by his commissioners, of appointing the time and the place of the next meeting of the Assembly; and, in the exercise of the authority thus vested in him, he summoned, in the Act of Settlement, the first assembly of the Revolution, church. The power, thus constitutionally vested in the crown, is quite incompatible with the headship of Christ and the independence of His church; and it may be employed to prevent and defer the meetings of the Assembly for any length of time. Nay, it appears to us that if the civil power is at liberty thus to interfere with and control the meetings, of the ecclesiastical courts, no good reason can be shown why it may not also review, interdict, and rescind the sentences of these courts. “Take from us the liberty of Assemblies, and take from us the gospel,” said Knox to secretary Maitland. That this provision of the Act of Settlement is not to be construed into a mere stately parade of idle form, which can involve no practical consequences of an of an improper kind, appears from the fact, that the Assemblies of the Established church have actually been again and again dissolved, prorogued, and interdicted by the Sovereign—the church yielding with the most undutiful and humiliating submission to these repeated acts of tyranny and wantonness.[22.] Far otherwise did the church of the Second Reformation act; she claimed, and exercised, in this matter, the liberty bestowed on her by Christ her head. Her views on the subject are expressed in the act 1647, adopting the Westminster Confession of Faith, in which she puts forth a caveat against an erastian construction of a certain portion of that standard. And in the year 1640, the state passed several Acts in which provision was made for the independent jurisdiction .and regular meetings of the General Assembly, and which must be regarded by all acquainted with them as very far in advance of the grand charter of 1592.[23.] Nor can we avoid an allusion here to the noble display which the church of that period gave of her fidelity and freedom, in the first Assembly held in 1638, when the king’s commissioner having, in his master’s name, dissolved the Assembly, and discharged them from proceeding farther, under the highest penalties—Alexander Henderson, their distinguished Moderator, exhorted them “to be zealous toward their Lord, and to maintain the liberties and privileges of His kingdom;” while, with remarkable devotedness, all remained firm, unshaken, and united, and proceeded, in bold defiance of the frowns and menaces of the monarch, with the grave and important business for which they had assembled.
VI. The next point which claims our attention in the settlement of the Revolution Church, is the manner in which the question of church patronage was disposed of, and the enactment which was framed to regulate the calling and induction of ministers. In 1649, towards the close of the Second Reformation, lay patronage was entirely abolished by the state; and the parliament evinced a very accurate acquaintance with the proper limits of its own authority, and due respect for the exclusive jurisdiction of the church in spiritual matters, by leaving her free and unfettered to devise such a measure as she might consider fit, for giving effect to the popular voice. The Assembly, accordingly, enacted the Directory of 1649, which, whatever may be its defects and imperfections, possessed this grand qualification, that it was an ecclesiastical law, passed by a spiritual court, in reference to a purely spiritual matter and was therefore completely free from the slightest taint of erastianism. It is well known that with the Restoration of Charles, patronage was restored, and the Parliament of 1649, by which it had been abolished, rescinded. In 1690, when the Act 1592 was revived and confirmed, “that part of it relating to lay patronages” was expressly excepted, and appointed to be afterwards taken into consideration. Accordingly, an Act was soon passed, in which Parliament did “statute and declare, that the heritors of the 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 in their reasons to the effect the affair may be cognosced upon by the presbytery of the bounds.” Where there was no land-ward parish, the patronage was vested in the magistrates and town council, and kirk session of the burgh; and it was ordained “that in lieu and recompense of the said right of presentation, hereby taken away, the heritors and life-renters of said parish, and the town council for the burgh, should pay to the said patrons the sum of six hundred merks.” Now we object, to this provision: 1st, Because it prescribes both a civil and religious qualification for the exercise of a spiritual duty—the heritors and the town council being associated with the kirk session in “naming and proposing the person to the whole congregation:” 2d, Because the qualification of their being “protestants, required in the heritors, is so very loose and indefinite, that it admitted of Episcopalians and Independents—of persons of immoral conduct, and of men of almost every shade of sentiment and character: 3d, Because it gave the congregation only a negative power—the power of offering objections, not of addressing a. positive call to the object of their free and conscientious choice—thus depriving them of the privilege which unquestionably belongs to the members of the church of Christ: 4th, Because, in order to avail themselves of this provision, a pecuniary compensation was to be made by the parish to the patron, which implied that it was not the scriptural and inalienable right of the people to elect their own ministers: 5th, Because in devising and enacting this measure, instead of annulling the Act Rescissory, and acknowledging the competency of the arrangements both of church and state in 1649, in reference to this matter, the parliament homologated that infamous deed; and the church, by acquiescing in this scheme, instead of falling back on the ecclesiastical Directory of 1649, which had never been repealed by any competent authority, virtually acknowledged the power of the state to suspend and rescind ecclesiastical laws: 6th, Because this enactment was passed without consulting with the church upon the subject—the whole affair having been arranged and determined three months before the General Assembly was allowed to meet: 7th, Because we utterly and most vehemently deny the competency of the state to frame any regulations for the church on this subject, however extended the basis on which they rest. It is fatal—irremediably fatal—to this measure, that it was a civil directory, imposed on the church in relation to a spiritual privilege. The secular element is as clearly introduced here, as in the law of patronage itself; and we behold, the civil power intruding itself through this element into the sanctuary, and reaching the symbol of its authority even to the altar of the Living God.
This law was not of long duration. In 1711 it was repealed, and patrons were restored to their “ancient rights.” But we confess ourselves altogether unable to see any great difference, in point of principle, between the act of William and Mary, and the act of Queen Anne. If you grant that it is competent for the state to enact laws for regulating the spiritual affairs of Christ’s house, you must also admit that it has the power of altering and annulling them, of rendering them more or less stringent, as it sees cause. The act of 1690 professed indeed, to abolish patronage, and the act of 1711, to restore it; but the hateful stamp of erastianism is equally borne by both,—both flow from the same source, and they encroach alike on the spiritual jurisdiction of the church of Christ. In one respect, we are disposed to think the Act of William and Mary was even more objectionable than that of Anne, inasmuch as in it the state openly, positively, and unceremoniously enacted all the regulations bearing on the election of the ministers of the sanctuary. And yet—what is to us perfectly surprising—this same state directory is held up by many of the opponents of patronage in the present day, as a matchless model for the imitation of the statesmen of Queen Victoria; while a certain member of parliament [24.] has recently informed the church and the country, that he intends to attempt legislating on the subject, and to copy, in his proposed Bill, as closely as may be, the provisions of this statute. We trust, however, and we think we can discern certain encouragements to the belief, that the progress of the controversy will lead to clearer and sounder views in reference to a measure equally objectionable in its principle and details—a measure in which the state still reserved to itself an erastian control over the. election of ministers of the gospel.
VII. Once more; in the Revolution Settlement of the Church of Scotland, the Federal transactions of our ancestors were neither revived nor recognised. The church of the Second Reformation embodied in her polity the National Covenant and the Solemn League, while they were also recognised in the civil constitution of the kingdom. These Covenants were however condemned, denounced, and publicly committed to the flames under the reign of Charles. The government of William and Mary left them where they found them; and there they continue to lie, violated, trampled down, and almost forgotten, till the present day. Notwithstanding, the church entered into connexion with the state, as if perfectly satisfied that the recognition of these solemn vows formed no condition of the alliance. And although efforts were made by various persons to induce the church to recognise and revive these solemn engagements, in the exercise of her own authority, she obstinately refused to comply, and even proceeded the length, in various instances, of inflicting censure on those who persisted in calling her attention to this important duty.[25.] We are aware that there are many ministers and members of the Established church, who entertain a high veneration for these ancient deeds, and even avow belief in their descending obligation, while they justify their continuing in their present connexion on the ground that the church has ever positively condemned the Covenants. But are there not such things as “detestable neutrality,” and indifference in regard to a cause, which are tantamount to open hostility? Did not our Saviour so teach us when he said, “He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad?”[26.] Nay, did not the Church of Scotland, by admitting of her establishment on terms which excluded a recognition of the Covenants, and in the knowledge that they had been repudiated and trampled down by the state, acquiesce, to all intents and purposes, in the Act Rescissory? Did she not, by submitting to the oaths so warily imposed on her, and by pledging and inculcating allegiance to authorities which, “in many important particulars, were constituted on the very principles, and invested with the very powers, against which the Covenanters had contended even to death,” practically contravene and renounce our National vows?[27.] Did not the church, by becoming a party to the treaty of union between Scotland and England, which proceeds upon the total overthrow of the covenanted uniformity, guaranteed in the Solemn League, positively repudiate the public engagements of the Reformation, and help to prolong and perpetuate their disgrace? And, moreover, to us it would be gratifying to know whether the Church of Scotland dare, without an entire upbreaking of her relations to the state, acknowledge the obligation of our National Covenants. To us it would not be in the least surprising, were she to venture on such a step, to see the Acts Rescissory, stained as they are with the best and holiest blood of a persecuted church, fetched forth once more from their dark repository, and wielded against her with tremendous effect. An Engagement has recently been entered into, in defence of her liberties, by ministers and members of the church, which we cordially hail, in so far as it indicates the return of a better spirit, and may be deemed the auspicious precursor of a more solemn, unexceptionable, and comprehensive bond; but we deeply regret that in it there is no acknowledgement of the obligation, or the breach, of former vows; though, at the same time, it is difficult to understand how this could consistently be embodied in a document, which clings to the forlorn hope of the “Revolution” and the “Union,” and declares that at these eras “the liberty of the church was finally achieved.”
It would be improper not to mention, that at the Revolution, the Act of Supremacy, together with a variety of other most obnoxious and persecuting Statutes, was repealed. But it is worthy of remark, that it was rescinded simply because “inconsistent with the establishment of the Church government then desired;” nor could it have been abrogated, as contrary to the Word of God, and a most daring and blasphemous usurpation of the prerogatives of Christ, so long as the title “Head of the Church” continued, as it still does, written on the British crown. However happy the changes which, in many respects, were then effected, the constitution was by no means thoroughly purged from the old antichristian leaven; and how far a civil supremacy has been virtually exercised in regard to ecclesiastical arrangements in Scotland, let what we have said suffice to shew.
It has sometimes been pled, in palliation of the Revolution Settlement of the Church, that the Presbyterians were at that time placed in circumstances of extreme difficulty, and that they accepted of a “State constitution,” because they really “could not help themselves.”[28.] Their difficulties, it is undeniable, were very trying; but to these they had greatly contributed, by placing themselves, through previous defections, in a most unfavourable position for obtaining a proper arrangement of their ecclesiastical affairs. And, besides, in this apology it is distinctly admitted, that they were not allowed to exercise any power in the matter, which is all we are now contending for. But surely they could, had they chosen, have acted otherwise;—they could, as in duty bound, have magnanimously declined the terms devised by the State for the establishment of the Church, and insisted on a full recognition of the proceedings and attainments of the Second Reformation, as indispensably requisite to the settlement of the question;—they could have enacted, that the Presbyterian form of Church government is of divine right and original;—they could have ratified anew the Westminster Confession and other standards, or expressly declared their adherence to the Acts adopting them in the Reforming period;[29.]—they could have determined and declared the independence of the Church in spiritual matters, and the freedom of her Assemblies from state control;—they could have resolved to adhere to the solemn vows formerly sworn, and to promote, by all the means in their power, the ends contemplated in these sacred deeds;—and they could have refused to admit the curates, on the terms prescribed by the civil power. All this they ought to have done; and if the State would not have admitted of their establishment on such conditions, they should have hearkened unto God, more than unto men, and, as others did, have chosen father to be free. Had they acted thus, instead of “conferring with flesh and blood,” and yielding to the dictates of a false and ruinous expediency, who can tell but God would have smiled on their fidelity, and, pleased with their ways, have “made their very enemies to be at peace with them.”
But they were pleased to act otherwise; and, by forgetting, in their deference to the wishes of earthly rulers, the allegiance due to the Lord Jesus Christ, they prepared the way for a long century of darkness, tyranny, and misrule; and laid the foundation of those grievous trials on which the Church has now entered. They shunned the struggle, and succumbed. The conflict and the honour awaited men of a better spirit, and of other times; and the important question has yet again to be decided, What are the terms on which a connexion between the Church and the State is warranted by the Word of God? The crown of Christ cannot always be trodden down, dishonoured, and desecrated, beneath the feet of mortal man; nor can the daughter of Zion, born to freedom, continue much longer to wear the degrading badges of captivity and bondage. She has already begun to shake herself from the dust. On the first return of wakefulness, she, as was most natural, fancied herself free; but her incipient attempt to walk forth at liberty, made her feel the painful restraint of her shackles, and the unfeeling iron entered into her very soul. The oppressor, vaunting in his might, and with many insults and menaces, has been labouring to tighten her chains; and it may be that even new fetters are in process of being forged, to render her thraldom more secure.[30.] But we fondly trust, that He who “proclaims liberty to the captives, and the opening, of the prison to them that are bound,”—and who, having summoned Lazarus from the bed of death,—commanded to “loose him, and let him go,”—will inspire her with energy divine, strike off the galling yoke wherewith she is bound, take away her unseemly garments, and clothe her with change of raiment. And then may we hope to realize to some extent the vision of the Christian poet:—
“How fair the daughter of Jerusalem then!
How gloriously from Zion hill she look’d!
Cloth’d with the sun, and in her train the moon,
And on her head a coronet of stars;
And girdling round her waist, with heavenly grace,
The bow of mercy bright; and in her hand,
Immanuel’s cross, her sceptre and her hope.”
To us it is no pleasant task to be constrained to speak as we have done of the constitution of the Revolution Church; and far be it from us to feel any satisfaction in the trials that encompass her, and the gross and cruel tyranny to which she is subjected. In the portentous cloud, however, that is thickening around her, and by which she is admonished to “remember whence she has fallen, and repent and do the first works,” we behold displayed the blended colours of the bow of the covenant, and our spirits are revived and cheered with the hope of a happier day. The principles of the Scottish Reformation are beginning to emerge from a long obscurity; and terrible though the struggle may be, we are confident that they shall ultimately prevail. They are graven on the rock of eternal truth, and therefore cannot die. Let men forget and relinquish them,—the Lord will keep in remembrance his own cause. Let them be misrepresented by the ignorant, and vilified by their adversaries;—He who reigns as king in Zion shall yet highly honour them. Let the pseudo-historian labour to elevate the character of a Montrose to that of a patriot and a martyr, and malign the holy men who proved faithful to their country, their church, and their God; and let the lying spirit of romance weave the fantastic crown of chivalry for the guilty head of a [Graham of] Claverhouse, and pour forth its unhallowed ridicule on those noble and devoted witnesses whom he hunted to the death,—all such efforts will only serve, as they have heretofore done, to arouse to action the faithful friends of truth, and to gather them, in goodly array, around their ancient banner, to the confusion and dismay of all their foes. “His enemies will I clothe with shame, but upon Himself shall his crown flourish.”
1592, c. 116, being the first Act of the 12th Parliament of James VI. holden at Edinburgh, June 1592.
Ratification of the Liberty of the True Kirk; of General and Synodal Assemblies; of Presbyteries; of Discipline. All laws of Idolatry are abrogated. Of Presentation to Benefices.
“OUR Sovereign Lord, and Estates of this present Parliament, following the lovable and good example of their predecessors, has ratified and approved, and, by the tenour of this present Act, ratifies and approves all liberties, privileges, immunities, and freedoms whatsoever, given and granted be his Highness, his Regents in his name, or one of his predecessors, to the true and whole Kirk presently established within this realm, and declared in the first Act of his Highness’ Parliament, October 20, 1579: And all and whatsoever Acts of Parliament and statutes made of before by his Highness and his Regents, anent [concerning] the liberty and freedom of the said Kirk; and specially the first Act of the Parliament holden at Edinburgh, October 24, 1581, with the whole particular acts there mentioned, which shall be also sufficient as if the same were here expressed, and all other Acts of Parliament made sensyne [since then] in favour of the true Kirk: And suchlike, ratifies and approves the General Assemblies appointed by the said Kirk; and declares, that it shall be lawful to the Kirk and ministers, every year at least, and oftener, pro re nata, as occasion and necessity shall require, to hold and keep General Assemblies: Providing, that the King’s Majesty, or his Commissioners with them to be appointed be his Highness, be present at each General Assembly before the dissolving thereof, nominate and appoint time and place when and where the next General Assembly shall be halden; and in case neither his Majesty nor his said Commissioners beis [are] present for the time in that town where the said General Assembly beis [is] holden, then, and in that case, it shall be lawful to the said General Assembly by themselves, to nominate and appoint time and place where the next General Assembly of the Kirk shall be kept and holden, as they have been in use to do these times bypast. And also ratifies and approves the Synodal and Provincial Assemblies, to be holden be the said Kirk and ministers twice each year, as they have been, and are presently in use to do, within every province of this realm; And ratifies and approves the Presbyteries and Particular Sessions appointed by the said Kirk, with the whole jurisdiction and discipline of the same Kirk, agreed upon be his Majesty, in conference had by his Highness with certain of the ministers convened to that effect; of the which articles the tenour follows:—Matters to be entreated in Provincial Assemblies: These Assemblies are constitute for weighty matters, necessary to be entreated by mutual consent and assistance of brethren within the province, as need requires. This Assembly has power to handle, order and redress, all things omitted or done amiss in the particular Assemblies. It has power to depose the office-bearers of that province, for good and just cause, deserving deprivation. And generally, these Assemblies has the whole power of the particular elderships whereof they are collected.—Matters to be entreated in the Presbyteries: The power of the Presbyteries is to give diligent labours in the bounds committed to their charge, that the kirks be kept in good order; to inquire diligently of naughty and ungodly persons; and to travel [labor] to bring them in the way again, by admonition, or threatening of God’s judgments, or by correction. It appertains to the eldership, to take heed that the Word of God be purely preached within their bounds, the sacraments rightly ministered, the discipline entertained, and ecclesiastical goods incorruptly distributed. It belongs to this kind of Assemblies, to cause the ordinances made by the Assemblies, Provincials, Nationals, and Generals, to be kept and put in execution, to make constitutions which concerns το πρεπον [the decorum, or accommodation to circumstances] in the Kirk, for decent order in the particular kirk where they govern; providing that they alter no rules made by the Provincial or General Assemblies, and that they make the Provincial Assemblies foresaid privy of the rules that they shall make; and to abolish constitutions tending to the hurt of the same. It has power to excommunicate the obstinate, formal process being led, and due interval of times observed.—Anent [concerning] particular kirks, if they be lawfully ruled by sufficient ministry and session, they have power and jurisdiction in their own congregations in matters ecclesiastical. And decrees and declares the said Assemblies, Presbyteries, and Sessions, jurisdiction and discipline thereof aforesaid, to be in all times coming most just, good, and godly in the self, notwithstanding of whatsoever statutes, acts, canon, civil, or municipal laws, made in the contrary. To the which and everyone of them these presents shall make express derogation And because there are divers Acts of Parliament, maid in favour of the Papistical Kirk, tending to the prejudice of the liberty of the true Kirk of God, presently professed within this realm, jurisdiction, and discipline thereof, which stands yet in the books of the Acts of Parliament, not abrogated, nor annulled: Therefore his Highness and Estates foresaid has abrogated, cassit [voided], and annulled, and be the tenour hereof, abrogates, cassis, and annuls all Acts of Parliament made by any of his Highness’ predecessors for maintenance of superstition and idolatry, with all and whatsoever Acts, Laws, and Statutes, made at any time, before the day and date hereof, against the liberty of the true Kirk, jurisdiction and discipline thereof, as the same is used and exercised within this realm.” Follows an enumeration of acts passed in the reign of former sovereigns, which are hereby repealed, and the act proceeds.—“Item, the King’s Majesty, and Estates foresaid, declares, That the 129th Act of the Parliament holden at Edinburgh, May 22, 1584, shall no wise be prejudicial nor derogate anything to the privilege that God has given to the spiritual office-bearers in the Kirk, concerning heads of religion, maters of heresy, excommunication, collation or deprivation of ministers, or any such-like essential censours, specially grounded and having warrant of the Word of God. Item, Our Sovereign Lord, and Estates of Parliament foresaid, abrogates, cassis, and annuls the Act of the same Parliament, holden at Edinburgh the said year, 1584, granting commission to Bishops, and others judges constitute in ecclesiastical causes, to receive his Highness presentations to benefices, to give collation thereupon, and to put order in all causes ecclesiastical, which his Majesty and Estates foresaid declares to be expired in the self, and to be null in time coming, and of none avail, force, nor effect. And therefore ordains all presentations to benefices to be direct to the particular Presbyteries in all time coming, with full power to give collation thereupon, and to put order to all matters and causes ecclesiastical within their bounties, according to the discipline of the Kirk; providing the fore-said Presbyteries be bound and astricted to receive and admit whatsoever qualified minister presented be his Majesty or laic patrons.”
1690, c. 6, being the fifth Act in the second Session of the first Parliament of William and Mary, holden at Edinburgh, April 26, 1690.
Act ratifying the Confession of Faith, and settling Presbyterian Church Government, June 7, 1690.
“OUR Sovereign Lord and Lady, the King and Queen’s Majesties, and three estates of Parliament, conceiving it to be their bound duty, after the great deliverance that God hath lately wrought for this Church and kingdom, in the first place, to settle and secure therein the time Protestant religion, according to the truth of God’s Word, as it hath of a long time been professed within this land; as also the government of Christ’s Church within this nation, agreeable to the Word of God, and: most conducive to the advancement of true piety and godliness, and the establishing of peace and tranquility within this realm: and that by an article of the Claim of Right, it is declared, that Prelacy, and the superiority of any office in the Church above Presbyters, is, and hath been, a great and insupportable grievance and trouble to this nation, and contrary to the inclinations of the generality of the people ever since the Reformation, they having reformed from Popery by Presbyters, and therefore ought to be abolished: likeas, by an Act of the last session of this Parliament, Prelacy is abolished. Therefore, their Majesties, with advice and consent of the said three estates, do hereby revive, ratify, and perpetually confirm all laws, statutes, and Acts of Parliament, made against Popery and Papists, and for the maintenance and preservation of the true reformed Protestant religion, and for the true Church of Christ within this kingdom, in so far as they confirm the same, or are made in favours thereof. Likeas they, by these presents, ratify and establish the Confession of Faith, now read in their presence, and voted and approven by them, as the public and avowed Confession of this Church, containing the sum and substance of the doctrines of the Reformed Churches—which Confession of Faith is subjoined to this present Act. As also, they do establish, ratify, and confirm the Presbyterian Church government and discipline: that is to say, the government of the Church by Kirk-Sessions, Presbyteries, Provincial Synods, and General Assemblies, ratified and established by the 114 (116th) Act, Ja[mes] VI. Parl. 12, anno 1592, entitled, Ratification of the Liberty of the True Kirk, &c., and thereafter received by the general consent of this nation, to be the only government of Christ’s Church within this kingdom; reviving, renewing, and confirming, the foresaid Act of Parliament, in the whole heads thereof, except that part of it relating to patronages, which is hereafter to be taken into consideration; and rescinding, annulling and making void, the Acts of Parliament following.” Follow the titles and dates of divers Acts of Parliament. “With all other acts, laws, statutes, ordinances, and proclamations, and that in so far allenarly as the said acts, and others generally and particularly above mentioned, are contrary or prejudicial to, inconsistent with, or derogatory from, the Protestant religion and Presbyterian government now established; and allowing and declaring, that the Church government be established in the hands of, and exercised by, these Presbyterian ministers who were outed since the 1st of January 1661, for non-conformity to Prelacy, or not complying with the courses of the times, and are now restored by the late Act of Parliament; and such ministers and elders only as they have admitted or received, or shall hereafter admit or receive. And also, that all the said Presbyterian ministers have, and shall have, right to the maintenance, rights, and other privileges by law provided to the ministers of Christ’s Church within this kingdom, as they are, or shall be, legally admitted to particular churches. Likeas, in pursuance of the promises, their Majesties do hereby appoint the first meeting of the General Assembly of this Church, as above established, to be at Edinburgh, the third Thursday of October next to come, in this instant year 1690. And because many conform ministers either have deserted, or were removed from preaching in their churches preceding the 13th day of April 1689, and others were deprived, for not giving obedience to the act of the estates, made in the said 13th of April 1689, entitled, “Proclamation against the owning of the late King James’ and appointing public prayers for King William and Queen Mary;” therefore their Majesties, with advice and consent foresaid, do hereby declare all the churches deserted, or from which the conform ministers were removed or deprived, as said is, to be vacant; and that the Presbyterian ministers exercising their ministry within any of these parishes, (or where the last incumbent is dead,) by the desire or consent of the parish, shall continue their possession, and have right to the benefices and stipends, according to their entry in the year 1689, and in time coming, ay and while the Church as now established take further course therewith. And to the effect the disorders that have happened in this Church may be redressed, their Majesties, with advice and consent foresaid, do hereby allow the general meeting, and the representatives of the foresaid Presbyterian ministers and elders, in whose hands the exercise of the Church government is established, either by themselves, or by such ministers and elders as shall be appointed and authorised visitors by them, according to the custom and practice of Presbyterian government throughout the whole kingdom, and several parts thereof, to try and purge out all insufficient, negligent, scandalous, and erroneous ministers, by due course of ecclesiastical process and censures; and likewise for redressing all other Church disorders. And further, it is hereby provided, that whatsoever minister, being convened before the said general meeting, and representatives of the Presbyterian ministers and elders, or the visitors appointed by them, shall either prove contumacious in not appearing, or be found guilty, and shall be therefore censured, whether by suspension or deposition, they shall ipso facto be suspended from, or deprived of, their stipends and benefices.
[1.] Aikman’s History, vol. iv. p. 478. Cook’s History, vol. iii. p. 233. Baillie’s Letters, vol. ii. p, 450.
[2.] Charles II. Parl. I. Sess. 2, Act 2. For preservation of his Majesty’s person, authority, and government.
[3.] Aikman’s History, vol. iv. pp. 502, 503. Cook’s History, vol. iii. p. 267. Naphtali, p. 100. Burnet’s History of His Own Times, vol. ii. p. 229.
[4.] Wodrow’s History, vol. ii. pp. 132, 134, 137. Cook’s History, vol. iii. pp. 309-314.
[5.] Wodrow’s History, vol. iv. p. 418. et. seq.
[6.] See the Cloud of Witnesses.
[7.] See Act of Assembly at Glasgow, Ses. 16, December 8, 1638. Also Act of Assembly at Edinburgh, Ses. 8, August 17, 1639. Ses Act 4, Parliament 1640.
 The proceedings of the Westminster Assembly clearly show that the Reformers considered the expression, “agreeable to the word of God,” as falling far short of an acknowledgement of the divine right of Presbyterian Church government. The proposition, “That the Scripture holds forth, that many particular congregations may, and by divine institution ought, to be under one presbyterial government,” was debated by them for thirty days. The Erastians did not object to Presbytery as a political institution, proper to be established by the civil magistrate, but they stoutly opposed the claim of a divine right. The Presbyterians, however, carried the question by a great majority. But when the subject came on for debate in the House of Commons, the Erastians and Independents prevailed in the division—it having been determined by them that the proposition of the Assembly should stand thus:—“That it is lawful and agreeable to the word of God, that the Church be governed by congregational, classical, and synodical Assemblies.” This numerical triumph of their opponents in parliament, proved a grievous disappointment to the Scottish Commissioners, and their friends in the Assembly; they alarmed the citizens of London with the cry, that the church was in danger; and they prevailed with the common council to petition parliament, that the Presbyterian discipline might be established, “as the discipline of JESUS CHRIST”—while the city ministers were also induced to present a similar prayer. See Stevenson’s History, Book III. chap. VII. All this proves that the phraseology, “agreeable to the word of God,” was deemed most unsatisfactory by the genuine Presbyterians of the Second Reformation—a fact which must have been well known in 1690, when the Act of Settlement was framed and adopted.
A recent movement in the United Secession Synod is also very instructive on this point. At its meeting held in Edinburgh, June 1840, the third Question in the Formula of Ordination, which ran thus:—“And is the Presbyterian form of church government,” &c., “the ONLY form of church government which you acknowledge as founded upon, and agreeable to the word of God,” &c. was altered so as to read as follows:—“Do you believe the Presbyterian form of government,” &c. “to be agreeable to, and founded upon the word of God.” This measure, carried by a narrow majority, was supported on the ground that the Question as it formerly stood, “created unnecessary difficulties in the minds of good men, who approved of Presbyterianism, and regarded it as scriptural, but were not disposed, or prepared to pass a judgment on other forms of government.” The obnoxious word, “only” has thus been expunged; and voluntary Seceders have shaken hands with Erastian churchmen. See United Secession Magazine for July 1840, pp. 418, 419.
[9.] Act of Assembly, Sess. 2, October 17, 1690, containing the King’s Letter. See also the Assembly’s Answer, Sess. 4, October 18, 1690.
[10.] Aikman, vol. v. p. 249.
[11.] Carstares’ State Papers, p. 43.
[12.] Carstares’ State Papers, p. 47.
[13.] The Present Conflict between the Civil and Ecclesiastical Courts examined; By the Rev. Andrew Gray, A. M. p. 81. The present Position of the Church of Scotland explained and. vindicated; By John Hamilton, Esq. Advocate. p. 33.
[14.] Stevenson’s History, Book III. Chap. ix. Baillie’s Letters, Vol. 2. p. 251. The Act of Parliament 1690, ratifying the Confession, contains these words:—“Which Confession of Faith is subjoined to this present act.” The thirty-three Chapters alone are subjoined; and we cannot resist the conviction, that the exclusion of the Scripture Citations from the Confession, in the Act of Settlement, formed part of a deep-laid and cunning scheme to avoid all statutory recognition of the divine right of Presbytery, so that the darling object of King William—the union of the Scottish with the English Establishment—might afterwards be more easily accomplished.
[15.] Proceedings of the Assembly held in Glasgow in 1638.
[16.] Faithful Contendings, p. 447. et. Seq.
[17.] Act of Assembly, 1690, anent Mr. Thomas Linning and others.
[18.] The Act passed in 1737, in regard to the death of captain Porteus, was in exact conformity with the above. It was ordered to be read on the first sabbath of every month for a twelvemonth, by the ministers from the various pulpits, “under the pain of being rendered incapable of sitting, or voting in any church judicatory, and the penalty to be enforced by the civil power.” Aikman, vol. vi. p. 301.
[19.] Plain Reasons, p. 32.—Aikman’s History, Vol. V. p. 304, et seq.
[20.] In 1718.
[21.] 2 Chron. 26:18.
[22.] In 1691—1692—1693—1694—1695, Plain Reasons, p. 22.
[23.] Act anent the ratification of the Acts of the Assembly. Also, Act Rescissory. The Act of Parliament, 1649, ratifying the Confession of Faith, also ratified the Act of Assembly adopting it, in which Act the Assembly claimed the exercise of independent authority in reference to their meetings.
[24.] R. Steuart, Esq, Member for the Haddington district of Burghs.
[25.] Plain Reasons, p. 49. et. seq.
[26.] Matthew, 12:30.
[27.] In 1648, the General Assembly passed an act, in which they “enjoined all members of the kirk to forbear the swearing, subscribing, or pressing of any new oaths or bonds, without advice and concurrence of the kirk; especially any negative oaths or bonds, which may any way limit or restrain them in the duties whereunto they are obliged by National or Solemn League and Covenant, and that with certification,” &c.
[28.] Dr. Burns’ Parliamentary Evidence. Church Patronage Report, p. 82.
[29.] It ought to be distinctly remembered that the Revolution Church has never, as yet [ca. 1840], by any express deed, adopted the Westminster Confession, or the Catechisms.
[30.] The above was written when a rumour prevailed that a Bill of uniformity was about to be introduced into Parliament by the Earl of Aberdeen.
The Duke of Argyll’s Bill has since made its appearance, and has been read a first time in the House of Peers; and though, in some respects, it must be acknowledged to be preferable to the Assembly’s Veto Act of 1834, it nevertheless proposes to confirm the civil rights of Patrons, mocks and insults the people by offering them only a beggarly negative power, presumes to determine the character and qualifications of those members of the Church who shall have the privilege of objecting to the Patron’s presentee, and invests the ecclesiastical courts with the power of pronouncing their objections, though offered by a majority of the male communicants, to be “factious and malicious,”—a power which may lead to a repetition of the outrageous scenes enacted by the Church courts in the eighteenth century. It is a futile attempt to reconcile two antagonist principles,—the power of the State in spiritual matters, with the Independence of the Church, and the dear-bought rights of her members,—and, like all similar experiments, must sooner or latter come to nought. Should it pass into a law, which is very doubtful, it may in the meantime cicatrise the wound occasioned by the fretting and vexing chain of erastian domination, but will leave the Church in bondage still. What will the approaching General. Assembly do? What will those ministers and elders do, who have declared against Patronage as an antichristian and unscriptural evil, and have been waging war with it throughout the length and breadth of the land? Will they waive their conscientious and scriptural objection, and “bow their shoulders to bear?” The only answer which we can at present return is, Fiat justitia, ruat coelum [Let justice be done, though heaven fall].