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The Protestation, Declinature, and Appeal of Mr. John Macmillan, minister of the Gospel at Balmaghie...


The Protestation, Declinature, and Appeal of Mr. John Macmillan, minister of the Gospel at Balmaghie...

James Dodson

Balmaghie Church

Balmaghie Church

The Protestation, Declinature, and Appeal of Mr. John Macmillan, minister of the Gospel at Balmaghie, and Mr. John Macneil, Probationer and Preacher of the Gospel, sent to the Commission of the Kirk at Edinburgh, the 29th of September, 1708.

[Reprinted from a tract of 8 pages, probably issued in 1708, with the note—“Inclosed in a line to Nicol Spence, and by him delivered to the Commission, September 29, 1708.”

Nicol Spence was “Sub-Clerk” of the General Assembly. The Commission responded to this Appeal by an Act dated October 1, 1708, voiding Macneil’s license to preach, and threatening both him and Macmillan with the highest Church censures, if they continued their “gross and sinful practices.” The Appeal was Macmillan’s response to a citation to appear before the Commission.]

We, Mr. John Macmillan, present minister of the Gospel at Balmaghie, and Mr. John Macneil, Preacher of the Gospel, being most odiously and invidiously represented to the world as schismatics, separatists, and teachers of unsound and divisive doctrine tending to the detriment of Church and State, and especially by ministers with whom we were embodied, while there remained any hope of getting grievances redressed:

Therefore, that both ministers and professors [of religion] may know the unaccountableness of such aspersions, let it be considered that this backsliding Church (when we, with others, might have been big with expectations of advancement in Reformation) continued in their defections from time to time, still, as occasion was given, evidencing their readiness to comply with every new backsliding course, instance that of the Oath of Allegiance and Bond of Assurance to the present Queen: which additional step to the former gave occasion to our unhappy contentions and divisions:

And now at this time, for the glory of God, the vindication of truth and of ourselves (as conscience and reason obligeth us), to make evident to the world the groundlessness of these aspersions and calumnies as renters [renders] and dividers, and particularly in the Commission’s late odious and malicious libel, wherein are contained many gross falsehoods, such as “swearing persons not to pay cess,” and “travelling through the country with scandalous persons in arms,” which, as they are odious calumnies in themselves, so they will never be proven by witnesses:

And as to our judgment anent the cess we reckon it duty in the people of God to deny and withhold all support, succour, aid, or assistance, that may contribute to the upholding or strengthening the Man of Sin, or any of the adversaries of truth (as the Word of God instructs us), or for supporting any in such a way, as tending to the establishment of the kingdom of Satan, and bringing down the kingdom of the Son of God. In a course tending this way, how deeply these nations are engaged (contrar to the Word of God, and our indispensable oaths and covenants, whereby these lands were solemnly devoted to God) is too palpable and plain, especially in the sinful terms of the late God-provoking, religion-destroying, and land-ruining Union. We judge it most necessary to give to the world a brief and short account of our principles in what we own or disown, referring for larger and more ample information, to several protestations and testimonies given by some of the godly heretofore at different times and places. And hereby, that truth may be vindicated and our conscience exonered,——

We declare to the world our hearty desire to embrace and adhere to the written Word of God, contained in the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament, as the only and competent rule and adequate umpire of faith and manners, and whatever is founded thereupon and agreeable thereunto, such as our Confession of Faith, Larger and Shorter Catechisms, Directory for Worship, Covenants National and Solemn League, the Acknowledgments of Sin and Engagements to Duties, Causes of God’s Wrath, and the ordinary and perpetual officers of Christ’s appointment, such as Pastors, Doctors, Elders, and Deacons; and the Form of Church Government commonly called Presbyterian.

Next, we declare our firm adherence to all the faithful contendings for truth, whether of old or of late, by ministers and professors, and against whatever sinful courses, whether more refined or more gross; and particularly, the public Resolutions, Cromwell’s usurpation, the toleration of sectaries and heresies in his time, and against the sacrilegious usurpation and tyranny of Charles II., the unfaithfulness of ministers and professors in employing with him, and accepting his Indulgence first and last; and in a word, to everything agreeable to the matter of this our testimony, as it is declared in page 25 and 26 of the Informatory Vindication, printed anno 1687.

Likewise, we declare our adherence unto the testimony against the abominable Toleration granted by the Duke of York, given in to the ministers at Edinburgh by that faithful minister and now glorified martyr, Mr. James Renwick, January 17, 1688; and to whatever wrestlings or contendings have been made, or testimonies given, against the endeavours of any, in their subtle and sedulous striving, to insinuate and engage us in a sinful confederacy with a malignant interest and cause, against the Word of God, our Solemn League and Covenant, and testimony of this Church.

Next, we bear testimony against persons being invested with royal power and authority in these covenanted lands, without a declaration of their hearty compliance with and approbation of the National, Solemn League and Covenants, and engagement to prosecute the ends thereof, by consenting to and ratifying all Acts and Laws made in defence of these Covenants, agreeable to the Word of God, and laudable Acts and practice of this kirk in our best times.

Moreover, we bear testimony against all confederation and association with Popish prelates and malignants, contrary to the Word of God and our solemn engagements: the magistrates’ adjourning and dissolving of Assemblies, and not allowing them time to consider and expedite their affairs: their appointing them diets and courses of fasts, particularly that of January 14, and the Thanksgiving August 26, anno 1708, which is a manifest encroachment on, and destructive to, the privileges of this Church: their protecting of Curates in the peaceable exercise of their ministry, some in kirks, others in meeting, houses;[1] yea, even in the principal city of the kingdom, if qualified by swearing the Oath of Allegiance: their not bringing unto condign punishment enemies to the Covenant, and cause of God, but advancing such to places of power and trust. All which we here bear testimony against.

Next, we bear testimony against lukewarmness and unfaithfulness in ministers anent the corruptions and defections the Church was guilty of in the late times, not yet purged and removed by censures and otherwise, as was duty; and their not leaving faithful and joint testimonies against all the encroachments made upon the Church, by the civil powers, since the year 1690. And we bear testimony against the settling the Constitution of this Church, according as it was established in the year 1592. And the ministers’ not testifying against this deed seems to import a disowning of all that Reformation attained to betwixt 1638 and 1649 inclusive: at least, cowardice in not daring to avouch the same, or their being ashamed to own it, because many famous and faithful Acts of Assemblies, especially about the year 1648, would have made them liable to censure, even to the length of silencing and deposition, for their defection and unfaithfulness during the late times of the land’s apostacy—particularly, their weakening the hands and discouraging the hearts of the Lord’s suffering people, by their bitter expressions, and aspersions cast on them for their zeal and tenderness, which would not allow them to comply with wicked, arbitrary, and bloody counsel, as many of them did: their not renewing the Covenant, buried for upwards of fifty years by the greatest part of the land, contrar to the former practice of this Church, especially after some grosser steps of defection: their receiving of perjured Curates into ministerial communion without Covenant ties and obligations, and evident signs of their repentance, contrar to the former practice of this Church: their receiving some lax tested men and Curates’ elders, into Kirk offices, without some apparent signs, at least, of their repentance in a public appearance, contrar to the former practice of this Church in such like cases, evident by the Acts of the Assemblies: their not protesting formally, faithfully, and explicitly against the Magistrates’ adjourning and dissolving of Assemblies, and recording the same, contrar the practice of this Church in our reforming times: (we are not concerned to notice the protestation of some few persons at particular times, seeing their precipitancy and rashness, in this matter (as they accounted it), was afterward apologized for, and that it was not the deed of the Assembly): their not asserting, in any explicit and formal Act, the divine right of Presbytery, and the intrinsic power of the Church, though often desired by many private Christians and some several members; their not confirming and ratifying the Acts of the Assemblies, that were made in our best times, for strengthening and advancing the work of Reformation, contrar to the former practice of this Church: their admitting, in many places, ignorant and scandalous persons to the Lord’s Table, contrar to the Acts of former Assemblies: their not protesting against the present sinful confederacy with papists, malignants, and other enemies of religion and godliness, contrar the Word of God and former practice of this Church: their offensive partiality in their respective judicatories, as to some particular members, whereby the more lax and scandalous are overlooked and passed, by, and the more faithful and zealous are severely dealt with and handled, contrar the rule of equity and the former practice of this Church: their refusing and shifting [evading] to receive and redress the people’s just and great grievances, and little regard had to prevent the giving offence to the Lord’s people, and small endeavours to have these things removed that are stumbling and offensive to them, contrar to the apostle’s rule and practice, who became all things to all men, that by all means he might save some: their not declaring, faithfully and freely, against the sins of the land former and latter, without respect of persons, contrar to that express precept—“Set the trumpet to thy mouth, and show my people their transgressions, and the house of Jacob their sin.”

Lastly, we bear testimony against ministers’ sinful and shameful silence, when called to speak and act, by preaching and protesting, against this unhallowed Union, which, as it is already the stain, so we fear it will prove the ruin and bane of this poor nation; though some of them, we grant, signified their dislike thereof, before and about the time it was concluded. Yet there was no plain and express protestation, faithfully and freely given in to the Parliament, shewing the sinfulness and danger of this cursed Union, being contrar, not only to the honour, interest, and fundamental laws, and conditions of the kingdom, and a palpable surrender of the sovereignty, rights, and privileges of the nation; but also, a manifest breach of our Solemn League and Covenant, which was made and sworn with uplifted hands to the most high God, for purging and reforming the three nations from error, heresy, superstition, and profaneness, and whatever is contrar to sound doctrine, the power of godliness, and the purity of worship, discipline, and government in the same. And so it involves this nation into a most fearful perjury before God, being contrar to the first article of the Covenant, wherein we swear to contribute with our utmost endeavours, in our several places and callings, to reform England in doctrine, worship, discipline, and government. But by this Union, we are bound up for ever from all endeavours and attempts of this nature, and have put ourselves out of all capacity to give any help or assistance that way: as ye may see more fully in the late Protestation against the Union, published at Sanquhar, October 22, 1707.

Let none say, that what we have done here flows from ambition to exalt ourselves above others, for, as we have great cause, so we desire grace from the Lord, to be sensible of what accession [complicity] we have with others in the land, to the provoking of his Spirit, in not walking as becomes the Gospel, according to our solemn engagements. Neither proceeds it from irritation, or inclination (by choice or pleasure), to discover our Mother’s nakedness or wickedness, or that we love to be of a contentious spirit. For our witness is in heaven (whatever the world may say), that it would be the joy of our hearts, and as it were a resurrection from the dead, to have these grievances redressed and removed, and our backsliding and breaches quickly and happily healed. But it is to exoner consciences, by protesting against the defections of the land, especially of ministers. And seeing we can, neither with safety to our persons, nor freedom in our consciences, compear before their judicatories, while these defections are not acknowledged and removed, so we must so long decline them, and hereby do decline them, as unfaithful judges in such matters: in regard they have, in so great a measure, yielded up the privileges of the Church into the hands and will of her enemies, and carried on a course of defection contrar to the Scriptures, our Covenants, and the Acts and Constitutions of this our Church.

And hereby we further protest and testify, against whatever they may conclude or determine in their ecclesiastic courts, by Acts, Ratifications, Sentences, Censures, etc., that have been, or shall be, made or given out by them, and protest that the same may be made void and null, and not interpreted as binding to us, or any who desire firmly to adhere to the Covenanted Work of Reformation.

But let none look upon what we have said to be a vilipending or rejecting of the free, lawful, and rightly constitute courts of Christ. For we do acknowledge such to have been among the first most effectual means appointed of God for preserving the purity, and advancing the power, of Reformation in the Church of Christ. The sweet fruits and blessed effects whereof, this Church hath sometimes enjoyed, and which we have been endeavouring and seeking after, and are this day longing for.

We detest and abhor that principle of casting off the ministry, wherewith we are odiously and maliciously reproached, by those who labour to fasten upon us the hateful names of “schismatics, separatists, despisers of the Gospel.” But herein, as they do bewray their enmity to the cause we own, so, till they bring in their own principles and practices, and ours also, and try them by the Law and Testimony, the measuring line of the sanctuary, the Word of God, and the practice of this Church, when the Lord kept house with and rejoiced over her as a bridegroom over his bride, they can never prove us schismatics or separatists from the Kirk of Scotland, upon the account of our non-union with the backslidden multitude, ministers and others.

Finally, that we may not be judged by any, as persons of an infallible spirit; and our actions above the cognisance of the judicatories of Christ’s appointment: We appeal to the first free, faithful, and rightly constitute Assembly in this Church, to whose decision and sentence, in the things libelled against us, we willingly refer ourselves, and crave liberty to extend and enlarge this our Protestation, Declinature; and Appeal, as need requires.




SEPT. 24, 1708.


[1] “Some in kirks”—this refers to the fact that many Episcopal ministers still held manse and church at this date. Cunningham (I. 196) says 165 such were known at the Union.—Ed.