Preached before the General Assembly
which sat at Glasgow anno 1638,
On occasion of pronouncing the sentence of the greater excommunication against eight of the bishops, and deposing or suspending the other six.
By Mr. ALEXANDER HENDERSON,
moderator of that and several subsequent assemblies.
With a Postscript on the present decay of church-discipline.
Printed by JOHN GRAY and GAVIN ALSTON.
Sold by them at their printing-house in Jackson’s close, and by
W. GRAY bookseller in the east corner of the Exchange.
IT must be observed in justice to the venerable author of the following sermon, that by the journal of the general assembly 1638, he had only allowed him from the evening of the preceding day to study that sermon. His thoughts, amidst such a multiplicity of work as was then on his hand, behooved also to be much perplexed; and his sermon, though subjoined at the end of that journal, seems only to have been taken down in the time of delivery by an amanuensis. Yet mank as such a fragment is, it seems worthy of being preserved; and the same will, it is hoped, prove useful not only for vindicating the practice of that assembly, but also for stirring up others to attempt a faithful discharge of the like duty, upon grounds equally relevant, as necessary not only for reclaiming the impenitent, but also as an indispensable testimony to the truth of our LORD’s dominion over the church.
PSALM cx. 1.
The LORD said unto my LORD,
Sit thou at my right hand,
until I make thine enemies thy footstool.
FOR taking up the meaning of this text, we need only have recourse to a commentary that the LORD himself makes upon it in the gospel [Mark xii.26.]: for he asked of the Pharisees concerning the Messias, Whose son is he? they answered, The son of David. He replies, If he be the son of David, How is it then that David by the HOLY GHOST calls him his LORD? And so we have here a testimony of the SPIRIT speaking in David a thousand years before CHRIST came in the flesh, that the WORD would be made flesh, and that he would set up his tent and tabernacle amongst us; for so is the word that is used in the 1st of the gospel according to John rendered; and that amongst the children of men, he should drink of the brook, i.e. stiff bitter things, as is expressed afterward in the psalm; and that he having done so, would be exalted above all creatures in heaven, and in the fullness of his glory and majesty sit down at the right hand of the Father, and should from thence rule and dispose upon the affairs of his church magnificently and mightily, according to the worthiness and excellency of so great a King and so glorious a Majesty, till at last all his enemies, both foreign, and intestine or domestic, should be brought low, and made his footstool; and as they had trodden upon the holy blood of the SON of GOD, he should tread upon them, and poor shame and confusion upon them, and utter banishment from his face forever.
Right Honourable and Well beloved, we are but short-sighted naturally; we look upon persons and things that are present, and cannot look afar off to things that are past, neither have we a very great prospect to look forward to things that are to come. And as our sight is short, so it is weak also: if we but look upon things here below, our eyes are soon dazzled with the splendor of them, although, when all is done, their luster be not great; we cannot get in with our sight to things that are above. But if we will take the right view of this text, it would help us both in the one and in the other; for you see it leads from that which is past, to that which is to come.
The LORD said. This hath an eye to the time to come. There is a time coming when all the enemies of GOD, the most proud and insolent of them, shall be made the footstool of GOD, shall be brought low, and made base and contemptible. And it helps us to lift up our eyes from things on earth to things above, especially to CHRIST himself, who is in the highest heavens, at the top of glory and majesty, the right hand of the FATHER. The LORD said unto my LORD, Sit thou at my right hand, &c.
In these words, beloved, we may see three parts, which determine our method of speaking. The first is the calling and ordination of CHRIST unto his kingdom: The LORD said unto my LORD. The second is the dignity and glory to which he is exalted in his kingdom: Sit thou at my right hand. The third is that glory and triumph that shall be manifested in him at last: And his enemies shall be made his footstool. I shall speak very shortly of these, because ye know preaching is not this day’s principal exercise.
We begin with the first, the calling and ordination of CHRIST unto his kingdom: The LORD said unto my LORD. Here ye would look first unto the saying, and then unto the persons: The LORD said to my LORD. Ye know we use to observe, that there be two sorts of speech or sayings: one that is secret within our breasts, and which we keep in silence within ourselves, as long as we think convenient; another is the expression of our thoughts, when we think meet to make them known. Ye know there is one uses to be called λόγος ενδιάθετος προφορικός [Footnote 1]. Like unto these two, there is in the LORD, (1.) His purpose, counsel, and decree, kept secret within himself. (2.) There is the expression, or the manifestation and proclamation of his purposes and decrees unto the children of men, after what manner, and in what measure it seems good unto his wisdom. Of the first the 2d psalm speaks, I have anointed him to be King; and there the reason is given, Thou art my Son, &c.; then there is the revelation of it, I have declared the decree. Many times was this said before CHRIST’s coming in the flesh, and the prophets are full of it. I need not spend time on it, especially in such an audience as this. Now, this is laid down as the ground The LORD hath said: his decree, prophecy, and predictions, are laid down as a ground of this princely office of the kingdom of CHRIST, and of that high glory and dignity to which he is exalted; for what the LORD has said, it must be done of necessity.
There is a very great difference between the sayings of men, and the sayings of GOD: for man’s sayings are nothing else but the expression of his thoughts and affections of his mind; but when the LORD speaks, he not only expresses what he will have done, but also there is an effectual power accompanies his saying, that cannot be resisted, but must of necessity come to pass.—Again, when we speak, we must speak to them that are, and that have ears to hear, and understanding to conceive, or else our speech is in vain. But when the LORD speaks, it is otherwise; he speaks to them that are not, and makes them to be; he speaks to them that have nothing of the second creation, and by his Spirit he creates it in them; by his speech, he makes darkness to be light; he speaks to them that are dead in sin, and by his Spirit puts life in them, new sense and understanding.—Thirdly, Our speeches and sayings have need to be confirmed by reasons and arguments; and therefore we support them as strongly as we can. But when it pleases GOD to speak, he speaks so as he need no argument: he bids a man leave his trade, and follow him; and the man will never ask the reason, because he convinces him fully, and persuades him irresistibly.—Fourthly, It is in vain for us to speak to any that have no ability or power to do what we desire. But the LORD will bid them do that has no power, because with the commandment, he infuses strength for the performance of it.
It is a good ground that is brought here of the exaltation, dominion, and dignity of CHRIST, The LORD said unto my LORD, Sit thou, &c.; for he having said it, who can say against it? who can resist it? The powers of hell, nor any powers in heaven, or in earth, suppose they were all joined together, cannot obstruct him. If the LORD hath said it, it must come to pass; CHRIST must be exalted, and his kirk established also. Ye know, that in the 2nd chapter of Daniel, the prophet speaking of the kings of the earth, prophesies of another kingdom that JESUS will set up; and he sets it up with this promise and quality, that it shall never be destroyed; he that sets it up, shall uphold it; as sure as it is once exalted, and set up, it shall never be destroyed, albeit the devil, and all his accomplices and sophisters, with all their wit, were against it: Dan. vii.13, 14, I saw in the night-visions, and behold, one like unto the SON OF MAN, came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the ANCIENT OF DAYS, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominions, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed. Luke i.33, He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever, and of his kingdom there shall be no end. And Acts ii.36, He hath made him both LORD and CHRIST. Then, beloved, let us build upon this ground against all the devices, stratagems, and conspiracies of the world: certain he is LORD and KING, and he shall endure so world without end.
It were a good thing for us, if we could learn to take up the conjunction that is between GOD and his Son JESUS CHRIST in his kingdom. I speak it, beloved, for this cause, that there is a kind of natural theology that men pride themselves in, that they gather partly from the works of GOD, which a natural man may observe and consider, and partly from natural reason. But this is not all, we must take heed, that although it cannot be denied, that there is a natural sort of theology, yet we must advert, that there is no natural kind of Christianity: for the natural man, by looking on all the works of GOD, and blowing up the sparks of nature all that he can, shall never be able to know CHRIST, or receive him, before it be revealed and proclaimed in the gospel; nay, when he hears it, he will condemn it for the greatest foolishness in the world. Therefore we would not please ourselves with this natural knowledge of GOD, but seek to know GOD in CHRIST. This is true Christianity. He that knows not CHRIST, knows not GOD; he that resists CHRIST, fights against GOD; he that believes not in CHRIST, please himself as he will, he believes not in GOD; and he that obeys the voice of CHRIST, obeys the voice of GOD. I am assured many men, both in church and commonwealth, and many that preach theology, and perhaps Christianity to others, consider not this, but please themselves in a natural sort of knowledge, and they go easily through with their forms; and all because there is nothing in nature to oppose the work they are about: but the children of GOD find a great difficulty; the infidelity of their heart, and other like ills, fight against it.
Had the men who are to be censured and excommunicated, the knowledge of JESUS CHRIST, notwithstanding that some of them preached him often, and all of them sometimes; I verily believe they could not have gone on so long in this course, and stood it out with such obstinacy and contumacy. Therefore let us learn, by their example, to search for the knowledge of GOD through CHRIST: for they are so joined together, as there can be no separation; and as they are joined betwixt themselves, so they must be joined in our knowledge. It is not possible for you to know GOD but by the knowledge of his SON. And if we know not the consolation, virtue, and power of CHRIST, we cannot know the comforts, power, and virtue of GOD himself, but must remain strangers to the knowledge of GOD; for there is no comfort, virtue, nor power for life everlasting, but only through CHRIST himself.
The LORD said unto my LORD. You see here again, that the ground of the calling of CHRIST, unto his princely office is from the saying of GOD: The LORD said unto my LORD. As he was called of GOD to be a Prophet and a Priest; so it was GOD that called him also to be a King. These three offices are all lawful offices in themselves. And likewise he was lawfully called unto it; for the LORD said it. And these two things, beloved, are necessary for a man that undertakes a calling. One is, that the office itself be lawful, and have warrant from GOD, that the LORD has said, I will be served in such a place, and in such a function and calling. 2. When the office itself is lawful, a man must be lawfully called unto it. For ye know there is a difference between these two: sometimes the office may be lawful, and the man not lawfully called to that office; and sometimes it comes to pass, that men are called to unlawful offices; not that any man can be lawfully called to an unlawful office: and this is especially true in church-men, and the office-bearers of the church. GOD hath permitted greater diversity of offices, and administration of these offices, to be in the commonwealth, than in his kirk; because in the government of a state or commonwealth, there may be sundry forms of government, and administration of justice, and all lawful. Kings may have governors and others acting under them; but it must not be so in the house of GOD. All the offices in GOD’s house, from the highest to the lowest, if I may lawfully say highest and lowest, must have a warrant from GOD; and men cannot say they are called of GOD, except their calling be from GOD, and have warrant from divine authority.
Beloved, I put no question but there are divers amongst us that have had no such warrant for our entry to the ministry as were to be wished. And although the calling itself be not only lawful, but laudable, necessary, and commended of GOD; yet, alas! how many of us have rather sought the kirk, than the kirk has sought us? how many have rather gotten the kirk given to them, than they have been given to the kirk for the good thereof? And yet there must be a great difference put between these that have lived many years in an unlawful office, without warrant of GOD, and therefore must be abominable in the sight of GOD; and these who, in some respects, have entered unlawfully, and with an ill conscience, and afterwards have come to see the evil of this, and to do what in them lies to repair the injury. The one is like a marriage altogether unlawful, and null in itself; the other is like a marriage in some respects unlawful and inexpedient, but that may be mended by the diligence and fidelity of the parties in doing their duty afterward; so should it be with us who entered lately into the calling of the ministry: if there were any faults or wrong steps in our entry, as who of us are free, acknowledge the LORD’s calling of us, if we have since got a seal from Heaven of our ministry, and let us labour with diligence and faithfulness in our office, and particularly to be faithful in this, to get them expelled and put out of the church whose office is not from GOD, such as these men against whom we are to proceed with the censures of the kirk.
Now I come to speak of the persons: The LORD said unto my LORD. If ye will cast your eyes upon the words, ye will perceive, that there are three ranks of persons here. There is, 1. THE LORD: he that was, and is, and shall be for ever. 2. There is MY LORD, JESUS CHRIST, who after a special manner is the King and sovereign Lord of his kirk, whom he has redeemed with his own blood. 3. There is a king here, David, who calls him my LORD: The LORD said unto my LORD: David calls CHRIST his LORD. And I may add a 4th, which may be understood by analogy, and that is the people of GOD under David. And thus ye shall draw out the line the full length, and make the subordination perfect, consisting, 1. Of the LORD above, to whom there is no match or equal, whose will is an absolute law unto all. And although men curiously dispute, if there be any cause, ground, or reason of the will of GOD, there is no question but in GOD himself there is a reason; but looking downward to us, the highest reason is the will of GOD: he who is divine and unsearchable Wisdom, is a rule for himself of his own commandments, but for us there is not another reason but his will; for he stands absolute in his sovereignty, none above, nor any equal to him. 2. Then the next degree comes, he who is here called my LORD, JESUS CHRIST the Son of GOD, whose will is full and perfect, conform to the supreme will of GOD: and there can be no more a division between the will of CHRIST and the will of GOD, than there can be a division of two natures in the person of JESUS CHRIST. Now, as these two are sure, 1st, The sovereignty of GOD in his will; and 2dly, The Son of GOD perfectly conform to him; were it not a happy thing, if kings, and princes, and superior powers, would all strive to have their laws and actions, especially and principally in the worship of GOD, conform to the will of JESUS CHRIST, and these to stand in their own place of subordination under JESUS CHRIST; and then the fourth will come in very well, to wit, the people of GOD: first the LORD; then JESUS CHRIST his Son; next the king, prince, or supreme magistrate; and the people under them submitting themselves to their king and prince. And thus ye may perceive the right line in the course of government, and the right way of subordination; and there is no other right way beside this. And whenever men begin to go out of line, and forget their own subordination, then these that are under them become no way subject to them, because they go out of the right order; but they must look to them that are above them, and hold their eye on these, and so they will keep the right line. “He that follows me,” says CHRIST, “must forsake father and mother;” then when the father and mother go out of line, we must not follow them, because we are bound to subordination unto GOD. In like manner, if a prince or a magistrate who had such subordination from GOD, depart out of the line, and command things unlawful, shall the people obey them, and go out likewise from under the line? No, no; whoever departs out of this line, cannot have peace and protection of GOD, and the sweet influences that comes down alongst to all that keep themselves under this line; for the blessing of GOD comes down the straight line of subordination, and they keeping the line are sure to get a blessing. So did Daniel, he held his eye upon this line; and when Darius the king goes out of the line, he is forbidden by the GOD of heaven to follow the king, but directs his eye upon the line to JESUS CHRIST. Beloved, it is now counted jarring contention, and a turbulent humour, for men to refuse subjection to everything that superiors please to command: but ye may see clearly what is obedience, and what is disobedience; it is not obedience to follow the humours of men, that goes out of this line; but this is obedience, when they obey them that are above them in the line. Therefore we should look to two things, when we hold our eye on this virto. 1. We should consider whether these that are above us have their calling from GOD or not; and if they be our lawful superiors: and if not, then have they no place in this line; for there is here GOD, CHRIST, king, and the people; and so unlawful superiors have no place here. 2. If they be our lawful superiors, look if their commandments be lawful: for insofar as their office is unlawful, they go out of the line; and if they be unlawful superiors, we owe them no obedience; and this day’s work is to delete the names of such superiors out of this line. Again, when our lawful superiors, to whom we owe obedience, command what is unlawful, we are not bound to obey them. Therefore let all and every one of us, as we would that the drops of the sweet influences of GOD’s Spirit should come down upon us, hold ourselves under the line, otherwise the blessing shall full upon them that keep the line, but never a drop upon these that are transgressors, or goes out of it.
We come, in the next place, to speak unto the dignity and dominion unto which our LORD JESUS is exalted: Sit thou at my right hand. As I told you before, it is not my purpose to enter upon any large discourse, especially on this which is so amply expressed in the scripture, viz. the sitting of CHRIST at the right hand of GOD. Only a word or two, so far as concerns the present purpose. 1. You see it is said here, Sit thou at my right hand, or, as is expressed in the 5th verse, is at thy right hand; which seems to be opposite, for here CHRIST is at the right hand of GOD, but there GOD promises to be at the right hand of CHRIST. And this is very comfortable to consider, if we take it up right; for man is in a twofold condition that is very different. Sometimes he is at peace and quietness, rest and ease, and in glory and honour; and then in this case the right hand is the best place. I need not clear this; for I think many here understand it perfectly. Sometimes, again, man is in trouble and distress, in great danger and fear, and then it is otherwise; he has need of one to be at his right hand to help him, as in the 5th verse. And this is very comfortable, that in the time of trouble and distress, the LORD is at thy right hand to keep thee, and guard thee with his right hand. But when the time of honour, reward, and recompence comes, then the LORD, as he sets down his Son at his right hand, so he will give everyone their own degree, honour, and glory. And this was it that GOD promised to Abraham, I will be thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward, to defend thee, and be at thy right hand in the time of all thy troubles and distress, and will not desert thee. Again, on the other part, when the time of honour and recompence comes, I will be thy right reward, and will set thee on my right hand as sheep, when the goats are left. This is not the ambition and pride of church-men, in striving at the right hand of kings, &c.: No, no; and yet this hath been the ground of meikle [a great deal of] woe and mischief to the church of GOD. Ye will find, and it is worthy of observation, that seldom or never almost does our LORD speak of his cross, and of his sufferings in the gospel, unto his apostles and disciples, telling them that he is to suffer, but his disciples propone this question, What place shall we have in thy kingdom? imagining an earthly kingdom; which surely was a prognostication, that the ambition and pride of kirk-men should be the greatest enemies that ever the cross of CHRIST should have. And it is not possible for men, when the pride of their heart and ambition are seeking their own greatness, and wealth, and honour in the world, and how to make their houses great after them, and how to make their children live in delight and wealth; I say, it is not possible they can esteem of the cross of CHRIST as they ought to do. Such church-men as these, if CHRIST were here in the flesh again, would think they would be rather his masters than his servants, because they aspire after dominion and dignity, and have only a natural sort of theology, whereof I did speak before, but are ignorant of Christianity. Therefore let us strive in all our troubles, to have the LORD on our right hand, as in the 5th verse of this psalm, that he may guard us against troubles.
Now, this sitting at the right hand of GOD is a very high degree of majesty, glory, and dominion, given unto CHRIST above all the creatures, above all the angels; for they all acknowledge him to be King and Lord. To adventure on describing what particulars this doth contain, were a forgetting myself, and those to whom I am speaking. Only I must say, a pity it is, and lamentable, that he being exalted after so bitter sufferings, and so great abasement, we should not ascribe to him his own due, his majesty, and glory, and dominion, as we ought; and that we cannot learn to entertain communion between him who is at the right hand of GOD, and our souls; for surely there is a communication between him and every believing soul: A pity it is, I say that it should be so insensible to us, or we so senseless, that we cannot conceive or apprehend it. O what a comfort it were to us to have the beams of that Sun of righteousness with light and heat refreshing our souls; and that we would acknowledge his dominion and government in our hearts! This were very comfortable, if we were not strangers to this communion with CHRIST, but were sending up our desires to heaven, and receiving answers from our Advocate. The men of this age are gone so far on, that they think this authority and dominion of CHRIST is exercised over the visible church only in secret, and spiritually; but for the government thereof in the external order, they imagine it is committed unto men, especially to civil men, and their authority, which seems to me to be not very far from blasphemy: for it is strange, that any man should imagine the LORD would have his own house without order, that holds all the world in order, and exercises a particular providence in ordering every creature, and subjecting them to one another; for there is a perfect government to be learned out of the word of GOD; and ye must not dispute what ye think the best form whereby our church should be ruled, or that any country may reduce the government to another form. But it is the question, What government CHRIST and his apostles have set down? Neither is it to be questioned, whether it agrees with reason or not; but whether it agrees with the pattern shown in the mount. And this right government that he hath established, if we had eyes to see it, we would perceive it to be the most orderly, and the most beautiful and amiable thing in the world, that any lover of wisdom would be enamoured with it. And surely if wisdom could be seen with bodily eyes, it would have many lovers: so if this government that Christ hath established in his church, were seen with the eyes of the soul, it would have many to reverence it. But I may not now insist to speak of the order and government of the church of GOD. 2. As the order is beautiful, so is it powerful to keep out many corruptions. And surely it is not possible that CHRIST’s kingdom can be ruled with another order than CHRIST has established in his house. And surely heresy and false religion, and an enumeration of all evils, will come into the house of GOD, if that be not ruled according to his word. And, 3. As it is powerful, so it is profitable for advancement of piety, religion, and righteousness. And I am sure these that have not seen assemblies before, will understand how profitable this assembly is unto our church, when every man is heard patiently till he speak his mind; and then is a contribution of every gift in a nation joining together, and making up a composition of an assembly. Let it be judged by any man, whether the Episcopal power be likest GOD’s own order in his house; and I put no question but the kirk of Scotland will be found to be the church of CHRIST, and the Antichristian church shall be found to acknowledge it. 4. As it is a beautiful, a powerful, a profitable order; so it is very pliable also, or of such a nature, that it can well agree with monarchical government, or any other sort of government in a commonwealth. Therefore it is but a false aspersion cast upon this order and government of the house of GOD, to say, that it is an enemy to monarchical government, while as there is none so suitable thereto as it. O, say they, there is nothing but confusion in presbyteries where there is an equality. To these we would say, Are not the senators of the college of justice all equal? and are not the privy-counsellors equal? And shall we say, because they are equal, they cannot consist with monarchical government? Nay, presbyteries, synods, provincial and general assemblies, may as well stand with monarchy, as the college of justice, the council, or any other judgment-seat: yea, in all these there is a parity, and yet it occasions no confusion. They will say, there are some few that rule all the rest, and that is Episcopal tyranny; which, alas! is a great mistaking of the gifts of GOD; for when GOD furnishes one with gifts above another, why should not use be made of that gift for the good of the whole church of GOD?
Now for the time to come: Till I make thine enemies thy footstool. Because I am loth to detain you, I will speak but a word of this by way of application, rather than explanation. You know, beloved, besides the professed enemies of CHRIST, he hath intestine and domestic enemies. And these men that we are to sentence this day, and to give out the censure of this reverend assembly upon, have proven themselves the enemies of GOD, and of his Son JESUS CHRIST, these many years bygone. We may say boldly, they have been the greatest enemies that CHRIST has had in this kingdom. For, 1. They have been friends to the enemies of CHRIST, the Antichrist. Who is Antichrist, but the proudest and most opposite enemy that CHRIST has? They would not let him be called the Antichrist. 2. They have been friends to the Antichristian church; for they would not have the Roman church called Antichristian, but have disputed for her, and maintained affirmatively, that she is the true church. And ye all know how Papists, and the supposts [subjects] of Antichrist, have been preferred to honest ministers, the servants of JESUS CHRIST. 3. They have proceeded according to the principles that the enemies of CHRIST have followed since the beginning; for you see in the first chapter of Exodus, how the enemies of GOD did with his people, Come, say they, and let us deal wisely, lest they multiply and increase. They began with a piece of very barbarous cruelty against them, and used the utmost of their power against the people of GOD, never considering whether they were the people of GOD or not, nor considering that their multiplication was from the blessing of GOD. And such have these men done in times past, striving by all means possible that the people of GOD should not multiply, using all the policy and wiles they could, whereby there should be no more any people of GOD in the land, but only a number of naked professors; for there was no man that professed the power of religion, but he was ridiculed and mocked as a Puritan. Ye know, in the 9th chapter of the Judges, there is a maxim or principal rule of policy laid down, Whether is it better for you, that all the sons of Jerubbaal reign over you, or that one only reign over you? And this is commonly opposed unto us, It is better, say they, that bishops rule, than that every minister be a bishop and ruler; and therefore they proceeded according to that craft men did propose before them. But now, blessed be our LORD, that has taken the crafty in their own snare. Therefore, since we see it clearly, that they follow such rules as GOD’s enemies have kept from the beginning, shall we not count them our enemies? And I add a 4th, Surely they that are friends to the world, and follows the world, are enemies to CHRIST. And it is clear in their practice that they have followed the world; for what is the world? nothing but these three things, the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life. Now, if any man will impartially consider their proceedings, ye shall find, that they have followed the world, and the lust of their eyes: for they think if any man be eminent in gifts above others, or, in the course of their philosophy, quicker than others, and then acquire a better gift of learning than others, and better expressions, &c.; such an one must not lie in the dust of contempt with his brethren; nay, he must have pre-eminence. And, 2dly, Then they must have better fare than ordinary, and fairer houses, &c. than others. And then, after that, they begin to despise the calling of the ministry as a base thing; and they can not abide to sit three or four hours catechising a number of landwart [rural] people; and they choose rather to attend the court, or some nobleman. And thus, as before they followed the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life; so now they follow the lust of the flesh. And it is these three that has made so many ministers to become unprofitable and rotten members, such as these men are whom we are this day to cut off. But time being spent, I will proceed no further, but go on to the pronouncing of the sentence of this honourable and reverend assembly against the pretended prelates.
By the appointment of this general assembly, so solemnly convened, the like whereof has not been heard of at any time in this land that we know, there be divers censures to be inflicted upon these pretended bishops.
We shall first enter with the gravest and weightiest censure of excommunication. The general assembly hath declared, that they think the persons following worthy of this censure, viz. Mr. John Spottiswood, pretended archbishop of St Andrews; Mr. Patrick Lindsay, pretended archbishop of Glasgow; Mr. John Maxwell, pretended bishop of Ross; Mr. Thomas Sydserf, pretended bishop of Galloway; Mr. Walter Whiteford, pretended bishop of Brechin; Mr. David Lindsay, pretended bishop of Edinburgh; Mr. James Wedderburn, pretended bishop of Dumblane; and Mr. Adam Ballantyne, pretended bishop of Aberdeen.
I need not inform the honourable and reverend members of this assembly, for whose cause they are thus censured; for they are well acquainted with it. But for these that are not well acquainted with their outbreakings, I will cause read a paper unto you, at the hearing whereof I think your heart shall quake, your hair shall stand, and your flesh creep, when ye hear tell that Christians, let be church-men, who reckon themselves the chiefest and most eminent men in the church, and call themselves the pastor of pastors, should have fallen out in such foul acts as these are. (Here the preacher gave out of his hand an abstract of the proof against the bishops; which having been read publicly by the assembly-clerk, the minister proceeded). Thus ye see they have fallen foully, by their abusing and ruining the kirk, by their consenting to unlawful acts, and voting in parliament, without consent or warrant of the church; in not rendering an account of their proceedings to the church; in wareing [expending] on their riotousness and ambition the emoluments [earnings] of the church; in dilapidating their benefices; in neglecting the ministerial duties over a particular flock; in usurping and tyrannizing over all presbyteries, synodal and general assemblies; in suspending, depriving, fining, and confining faithful painful ministers; in relaxing excommunicated Papists, interditing morning and evening prayers, countermanding synods, and falsifying their acts, moderating and tyrannizing in general assemblies; in causing great disorder and confusion to fall out by their private marriages, without proclamation, even contrary to a Popish council at Trent; in troubling of professors for their maintenance of the doctrine and discipline of the church; in refusing to admit ministers, except they would first be deacons; in preaching heresy and corrupt doctrine, Popery, Arminianism, &c.; in exacting unlawful oaths of entrants, usurping of civil dignities before the peers of the kingdom; receiving consecration to the unwarrantable offices of Episcopacy; by tyrannizing over the laws, liberties, jurisdictions, persons and estates both of the church and church-men in the high commission; by bringing in innovations in the worship of GOD, such as the superstitious service-book, tyrannous book of canons, and book of ordination; by their loose and profane lives, their excessive and extraordinary drinking, filthy dancings, common swearing by the name of GOD, profaning of the Sabbath, profane speeches, and excessive gaming, contemning the public ordinances of the church, bribery, Simony, adultery, slandering of the church, and stirring up of authority against those who could not go alongst with them. For these, and many other gross transgressions and slanders, at length expressed and clearly proven in their process, which is not seemly to be named in this place; and instead of their repentance, adding to all these evils extreme contempt of this church, declining and protesting against this honourable, reverend and duly constitute assembly, they have incurred, and justly deserve this fearful sentence of excommunication.
Before we go to the pronouncing of this terrible sentence, the like whereof has not been heard in a land, because we never have heard of such matters in our kirk, you shall hear particularly the sentence which the assembly hath ordained to be declared and pronounced against the said pretended bishops.
The general assembly having heard the libels and complaints given in against the foresaid pretended bishops to the presbytery of Edinburgh, and sundry other presbyteries within their pretended dioceses, and by the said presbyteries referred to the general assembly to be tried; the said pretended bishops being lawfully cited, oftentimes called, and their procurator Dr. Hamilton, minister at Glassford, and not compeering, but declining and protesting against the assembly, as is evident by their declinature and protestation, given in by the said Dr. Robert Hamilton, which, by the acts of assembly is censurable with summary excommunication, entered into consideration of the said declinature; and finding the same not to be relevant, but, on the contrary, to be a displayed banner against the settled order and government of this kirk, to be fraughted with insolent and disdainful speeches, lies, and calumnies against the lawful members of this assembly, proceeded to the cognition of the said complaints and libels against them; and finding them guilty of the breach of the cautions agreed upon in the general assembly holden at Montrose anno 1600, for restricting the ministers voters in parliament, from encroaching on the liberties and jurisdiction of this kirk; which was set down with certification of deposition, infamy, and excommunication; especially for receiving of consecration to the office of Episcopacy, condemned by the Confession of faith, and acts of this kirk, as having no warrant nor foundation in the word of GOD; and by virtue of this usurped power, and power of the high commission, pressing the kirk with innovations in the worship of GOD; and for sundry other heinous offences and enormities at length expressed, and clearly proven in their process; and for their refusal to underly the trial of their reigning slander of sundry other gross transgressions and crimes laid to their charge: Therefore the assembly moved, with zeal to the glory of GOD, and purging of his kirk, hath ordained the said pretended bishops to be deposed, and by these presents doth depose them, not only of the office of commissionary to vote in parliament, council, or convention, in name of the kirk, but also of all functions, whether of pretended Episcopal, or ministerial, and declareth them infamous: And likewise ordaineth the said pretended bishops to be excommunicated, and declared to be of those whom CHRIST commandeth to be holden, by all and every one of the faithful, as Heathens and publicans; and ordains the sentence of excommunication to be pronounced by Mr. Alexander Henderson, moderator, in face of the assembly, in the high kirk of Glasgow, and the execution of the sentence to be intimated in all the kirks of Scotland, by the pastors of every particular congregation, as they will be answerable to their presbyteries and synods, or the next general assembly, in case of the negligence of presbyteries and synods.
After which the moderator said, You who are the congregation of GOD’s people are called of GOD to concur in this action. You have heard the ordinance and sentence that this reverend assembly have given out against the eight persons before named; and you may easily believe their warrant so to do, by the crimes you have heard, which have been proved to the full. If it had been needful, and that time would have admitted, you should have heard the haill [whole] process, whereof the crimes you have heard mentioned are but a small part; for, ever the further that we searched, the fouler guiltiness was found in them. And surely when any professor of the Christian religion, or member of the visible church, especially those who profess themselves ministers of CHRIST, be found guilty of such things as are laid to thir [these] mens charge; and add thereto contumacy, yea, great obstinacy, as these men have done, he deserves no less than excommunication, though it be a very terrible sentence. Ye know that the members of this assembly do nothing at their own hand; neither is it presumption that moves them to do it; for they are commanded of GOD; and being commanded, they dare not be so bold as refuse. As there is a necessity laid upon us to preach the gospel, so is there a necessity laid upon us to pronounce this sentence. Ye know in chapter 18 of Matthew’s gospel, our LORD’s commandment is, If he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an Heathen man, and a publican: That is to say, account him as a Turk [i.e., a Muslim], or a profane man, a stranger to the household of faith. And 1 Cor. 5, Paul commands the church of Corinth to cast out the unhappy man that had been guilty of incest. And we have the promise of JESUS CHRIST, who hath given us this authority, that what we bind on earth, shall be also bound in heaven. And for as mean [lowly] men as we ministers are, it shall be found, that our sentence shall be ratified; and those who will observe, shall see it, that we are sent to Glasgow to pronounce this sentence. Neither is this a new thing in the practice of the church; from the beginning this sentence was in use. When Adam fell into the great and high sin of disobedience against GOD’s first command, he was cast out of paradise, which was an emblem of the church of GOD. And you will find under the law, there are many particular precepts and statutes, excluding unclean and leprous persons from eating of the passover. All which represent by analogy this sentence under the gospel. In the New Testament there are several examples likewise. 1 Tim. i.20, Hymeneus and Philetus are registrate to the end of the world, and branded with a note of reprobation, whom Paul delivered unto Satan, that they might learn not to blaspheme. And you may not think but as we have commandment, promise, and practice for our warrant, there is also great necessity for it; for in such a case as this, GOD cannot be honoured otherwise. Were it not dishonourable to GOD, to have men guilty of such crimes going to the pulpit to preach to his people? yea, it were enough to make people loathe the articles of their faith, to hear such men as these take the covenant of GOD in their mouths [Psalm 50.16]: and therefore it is expedient that the church of GOD be purged of such foul scandals as it hath been polluted with in these men’s persons. And this is profitable likewise for the faithful, that they may learn to be wise and holy, and that they fall not into the same faults, lest the same censure come upon them. And truly if the LORD had directed to another remedy for these men, the kirk of Scotland would have been glad to use it; but there is no other known mean to keep them from the condemnation of the devil, for the mortifying of their flesh, and saving of their souls, than this.
And as you see it is warrantable, necessary, and profitable on the matter; it is likewise warrantable and necessary as to the manner. For these and the like faults, the bishops own tyrannous canons ordain excommunication to be pronounced ipso facto. Next, you that please to read the book of common order before the psalm-book, will find, that summary excommunication was appointed by the kirk of Scotland in some cases. But we are not to account this summary excommunication; for it is above a year since these men were summoned by the many supplications, bills, and complaints, that were given into the council-table for the superstition and idolatry they brought into the worship of GOD, for the tyranny they brought into the government of the church, and for the heresy they brought in upon doctrine; and so all this time they have got public warning from the kirk, And besides all this, they have given in a declinature and protestation against the kirk of Scotland, and obstinately refuse to hear her. And therefore they justly deserve to be accounted as Heathens and publicans.
It rests now, before pronouncing the sentence of this reverend and honourable assembly, that we should call upon GOD, that he may be pleased to join his divine approbation to that which we are to pronounce, that it may be seen by the world to be ratified in heaven.
GREAT LORD of the heavens and of the earth, who does in them both what seems good in thy own sight; great KING and LAWGIVER in thy own church; GOD eternal and glorious in thyself, but merciful and compassionate to thy people; we thy servants and children do again present ourselves before thy Majesty. (The concern of the congregation increasing as the awful part drew near, the amanuensis could not distinctly transcribe more of this very fervent prayer).
Prayer being ended, the moderator pronounced the sentence of excommunication in these words.
Since the eight persons before mentioned have declared themselves strangers to the communion of saints, to be without hope of life-eternal, and to be slaves of sin: Therefore we the people of GOD assembled together for this cause, and I as their mouth, IN THE NAME OF THE ETERNAL GOD, and of his Son THE LORD JESUS CHRIST, according to the direction of this assembly, DO EXCOMMUNICATE the said eight persons from the participation of the sacraments, from the communion of the visible church, and from the prayers of the church; and so long as they continue obstinate, discharges you all, as ye would not be partakers of their vengeance, from keeping any religious fellowship with them; and thus give them over into the hands of the devil, assuring you in the name of the LORD JESUS, that except their repentance be evident, the fearful wrath and vengeance of the GOD of heaven shall overtake them even in this life, and after this world everlasting vengeance.
Beloved, let us not think that this fearful sentence is merely the wind of a man’s voice; surely these unhappy men shall find the truth of it. It is true, a further blindness of mind, and hardness of heart, is one part of the execution of this sentence; but it may be, that the LORD of heaven shall kythe [manifest] some sensible judgment upon some of them,[Footnote 2] whereby they may be made spectacles of his wrath, except they repent. Cain thought little when he was cast out from the face of GOD, that any evil should befall him; and surely in a lamentable case was he when he lived, and miserable were his offspring, and all that joined with him. So was it with cursed Ham, and his whole race; they were rooted out, and the judgment of GOD came on them. In like manner the fig-tree being cursed, it withered immediately away; and Ananias and Sapphira were struck dead at the first word of Peter. And though we do not say, that miracles will be wrought; for GOD can execute his judgments in an ordinary or extraordinary manner, as best pleaseth him; we have cause to be grieved that there are such rotten members in the body of this church: and truly it is ill with such members when they are cut off. We speak only from the visible church, because they declare themselves so obstinate to her, and acknowledge not their mother. And we mean only the destruction of the flesh, that their souls may be saved in the day of the LORD; for it is the earnest desire of our hearts, that the same may tend to their salvation. And I do verily believe that there are none here so willing to witness their excommunication, as they would be to receive them again to the society of the saints; and that the LORD may in mercy take the blot off them that is this day put upon them in justice.
Now you shall hear the sentence of the assembly on the rest of their colleagues.
“The general assembly having heard the libels and complaints given in against Mr. John Guthry, pretended bishop of Murray, Mr. John Graham, pretended bishop of Orkney, Mr. James Fairlie, pretended bishop of Lismoir, and Mr. Neil Campbell, pretended bishop of The Isles, to the presbytery of Edinburgh,” &c. as in the former sentence, till ye come to their being declared infamous. After which their sentence varies thus: “And likewise in case they acknowledge not this assembly, reverence not the constitutions thereof, obey not the sentence, and make not their repentance conform to the order prescribed by this assembly, ordains them to be excommunicated, and declared to be of these whom CHRIST commandeth, by all and every one of the faithful, to be held as Heathens and publicans; and the sentence of excommunication to be pronounced upon their refusal, in the kirks appointed, by any of these who are particularly named to have the charge of trying their repentance or impenitence; and that the execution of this sentence be intimated,” &c. as in the conclusion of the sentence before copied.
At the same time the moderator intimated the assembly’s sentence, deposing Mr. Alexander Lindsay, pretended bishop of Dunkeld, and Mr. John Abernethy, pretended bishop of Caithness, from their pretended Episcopal function, and suspending them from all ministerial function; but providing that if they acknowledged this assembly, reverenced the constitutions of it, obeyed this sentence, and made their repentance, conform to the order prescribed by this assembly, Mr. Lindsay should be continued in the ministry at St. Madoz, and Mr. Abernethy admitted to the ministry of a particular flock; otherwise if contumacy were added, they were to be excommunicated, as in the close of the sentence against the four last named.
After which the moderator’s strength being outwearied, he only added,
Now you may perceive how circumspectly this assembly have gone on, in giving out their judgment against these men, according to the degrees of their guiltiness. Neither have they judged according to the rumours or reports, nor yet by their own private knowledge; but have proceeded according to things that have been clearly proved, which makes us the rather be persuaded of GOD’s approbation of our sentence. Therefore let us again humble ourselves, and give thanks to our LORD for his presence with us, and entreat him for a further manifestation thereof, to the glory of his rich grace through CHRIST our LORD. Amen.
Postscript by another hand.
THAT the LORD JESUS CHRIST is a King, was foro humano [in the forum of man] the formal ground upon which he laid down his life; and that he is LORD and HEAD of his church, not only by graciously enabling all his saved ones to do that which is acceptable in his sight, but also by appointing external order and government in his church, separate from, and independent of the civil powers; and that the same should be exercised by ministers and elders in a Presbyterial parity, and with that impartiality and fidelity becoming stewards in their LORD’s house, are truths which many of our ancestors sealed with their blood; and which by all our church-rulers, as well elders as ministers, is at their admission still acknowledged to be jure divino [by divine law] binding upon them, and what they swear to practice, maintain, and defend to their life’s end.—How then the exercise of church-discipline should be so much neglected in a church who hold Presbyterian government as best calculated for suppressing vice and immorality, yea, in the metropolis of the kingdom, where so many of the thrones of ecclesiastic judgments are set, cannot be easily accounted for, and is truly grievous to many.—Is it because there are no objects of censure to be found amongst us? Alas! what meaneth the abounding of Infidel and profane writings, severals of them avowed by their impious authors? the almost total neglect of worship in families, an omission which many of our elders and deacons, and, which is still more shocking, even some of our ministers, are chargeable with? the forsaking of the week-day sermons, especially by ministers, unless when they have to preach? the audacious and perfidious profanation of the holy NAME of GOD? the shameful profanation of the LORD’s day, or at best confining the sanctification thereof to the walls of a church? neglect of relative duties? drunkenness, and fornication? yea, some instances of notour adultery? injustice, lying, and covetousness, with many other evils? and the admitting of many who are chargeable with one or more of these sins to partake of the seals of GOD’s covenant, without any evidence of their repentance? Are not the most of these abominations committed amongst us with little or no disguise? Are not persons guilty of any of them fit objects of church-censure? and are not church-rulers bound, both by precept and example, to censure such offenders according to the degree of their offence? None, from the lowest to the highest of our ecclesiastic courts, can pretend that they are obstructed by the civil powers from a due exercise of church-discipline. These do indeed tolerate what is called liberty of conscience in doctrinal matters to an amazing height; but so far are they from shewing any indulgence to the aforementioned vices, that any judicial check they meet with in this city, is by the magistrate only. To what then can the neglect of church-discipline be owing, unless to this, that the greatest part of our church rulers, though professing Presbytery, do not believe the censuring of offenders to be any part of their duty; but with the Erastians account this to be incumbent on the magistrate only? That this is their principle, is fairly deducible from their neglecting to practice what at their admission they professed to believe; for that faith and practice are inseparably connected is one of the fundamental maxims of theology. Where-ever faith in the habit is, the possessor of this blessed guest will be careful to add virtue, or a faithful discharge of the duty which he professes to believe thereto, as well knowing that it is vain to pretend to the faith of any principle, without shewing it by his works. To reason with men of this complexion, is, I know, unnecessary: they have their Bibles, their subordinate standards, and the writings of their renowned ancestors. If they believe not these, neither will they be convinced by anything that can now be offered. But for others, who, though carried down with the torrent, do yet prefer the welfare of our church to their own concerns, let them consider from whence we are fallen. When our church respected discipline as the LORD’s ordinance, she looked forth as Tirzah, comely as Jerusalem, and terrible as an army with banners: but now Zion’s haters are ready to cry out, that there is no king in her, and that her ruler is perished from the midst of her. It is true, we have had of late years much ado about discipline: but when we bring this to the touchstone of the LORD’s word; when we consider, that power is given unto church-rulers only for edification, and not for destruction; and reflect, that the objects of our late censures were not the graceless and profane, but the gracious; not the immoral, but those who were most exemplary for holiness of life; not those who wanted the image of GOD, but who had not the image of their censurers; we cannot view the exercise of such discipline in another light than a striving for the mastery, a cursing whom the LORD hath not cursed, and a proclaiming their own vengeance instead of the LORD’s vengeance, and the vengeance of his temple. Alas! may not the sorrowful song be taken up which was sung of old, Psalm lxxxix.40, 41, 42, 43, 44, Thou hast broken down all his hedges, thou hast brought his strong holds to ruin. All that pass by the way spoil him: he is a reproach to his neighbours. Thou hast set up the right hand of his adversaries: thou hast made all his enemies to rejoice. Thou hast also turned the edge of his sword, and hast not made him to stand in the battle. Thou hast made his glory to cease, and cast his throne down to the ground. Yet this is our rejoicing, that the Father hath set his King upon his holy hill of Zion; that he hath set him at his right hand, till he make his enemies his footstool; that he hath promised to beat down his foes before his face, and to plague them that hate him; and he hath sworn in his holiness, and will not lie unto David, that his seed shall endure for ever, and his throne as the sun before him. Encouraged by the faithfulness and power of this GREAT PROMISER, let the weak say, I am strong, and every opportunity be embraced of bringing church-discipline into reputation. Why should it seem a thing incredible to us, that GOD who raiseth the dead, will revive his decayed ordinances? The well-affected know one another, let them converse together, and consult on the most probable means of making this reformation universal; let them at least shew, that whatever others do, they desire to exert themselves in their sphere to utmost of their power, and to be free of the blood of all men.—The apostle Paul, in his epistle to the Romans, chapter 16, enjoins the marking of those who cause divisions and offences, contrary to the doctrine received, and to avoid them. Again, in his epistle to the Thessalonians, 1 Thess. 3.13, If any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. And the reason is given, 1 Cor. v.6, For a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump. The church of Ephesus is approved and commended by our LORD JESUS CHRIST for the faithful exercise of church discipline, Rev. ii.1, 2. Upon the other hand, the churches of Pergamos and Thyatira are reproved for their negligence in this matter, Rev. ii.12-20. Remissness in discipline, says the judicious Mr. Durham, in his commentary on these chapters, sheweth little zeal for GOD’s glory, little love to his people, and little respect to his ordinances. And awful are the judgments denounced by the LORD against those who make the people stumble at the law, by tolerating and conniving at sin, Mal. ii, But ye are departed out of the way; ye have caused many to stumble at the law; ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi, saith the LORD of HOSTS. Therefore have I also made you contemptible and base before all the people, according as ye have not kept my ways, but have been partial in the law.
[1.] [Here, Henderson is referring to the intersection of the word that can be spoken (λόγος προφορικός—which is the external word expressing an idea), and the inner word (λόγος ενδιάθετος—the internal word by which that idea is conceived). According to Plato, a real philosopher differs from an orator by having λόγος προφορικός that at the same time is λόγος ενδιάθετος; Ed.] [BACK]
[2.] It is manifest, (says the judicious author of the Fulfilling of the scriptures, Glas. edit. vol. 1. p. 392), how the LORD in his judgment did pursue that wretched man bishop Spottiswood, who subtilly endeavoured to overthrow the discipline and liberties of the church, and to set up Prelacy. By underhand dealing he got himself first thrust into Glasgow, and afterwards to be archbishop of St. Andrews; yea, at last was chancellor of Scotland, his eldest son a baron in Fife, and his second son president of the session, his daughter also married to Rosline, then a considerable baron. But let us see where this ends, and what an eminent example in all these respects he was of the judgment of GOD.—After his being excommunicated by the church anno 1638, he fled into England, where in great misery he died, His eldest son Sir John Spottiswood was sometime brought to beg his bread, which is known to many yet alive. His second son, who was president of the session, being taken at the battle of Philiphaugh, was beheaded at St. Andrews; his grandson, young Darzie, beheaded at Edinburgh. And for his daughter, who was married to Rosline, it is known how, quickly after, that estate was turned from that race.—And Mr. Robert Baillie says of all those excommunicated prelates, Historical collections for the year 1639, that they were dashed to pieces, and lying in the pit of shame and poverty in a strange land, pitied by none, and helped by very few; and that in such a scanty measure, as brings rather an increase of biting and tormenting disdain to their proud and prodigal stomachs, than any satisfying relief or redress of their state. [BACK]