« PreviousContinue »
by the suffrage of many generations, and was now rendered doubly sacred by the misfortunes that had overtaken his house, and the exile and sorrow to which errors and crimes not his own had subjected him. The English Jacobites were abetted by a powerful body in the church, which at this time, foolishly for itself, sanctioned all their absurdities. The Scotish Jacobites had the whole weight of sacerdotal authority against them, with the exception of a few vagabond priests, two or three revenueless bishops, and as many curates, as obscurity or insignificance, had protected from the ruin that had already overtaken their brethren. The Scotish church had distinguished herself all along, for zeal in behalf of the protestant succession, and now, when that succession had been so far secured, and she was in hopes of being rewarded for her constancy, by the redress of those grievances, which, in consequence of that very constancy, she had been made to endure, to have stopped short in her career, would have been, if not a neglect of duty, a miserable want of policy. She was happily, however, not so disposed, and if she had, the kind attentions of his majesty, could scarcely have failed to awaken her to better feelings, and a higher sense of duty; for we find him thus addressing the General Assembly, which met at Edinburgh, on the fourth day of May, 1715, by his commissioner, John earl of Rothes : “ Right Reverend and well beloved, we greet you well. We are so well satisfied with the proofs the church of Scotland have given of their steady adherence to the protestant succession in our family, the loyalty and affection they have shown to our person and government, and their constant zeal for the protestant interest, that we very willingly countenance with our authority, this first assembly of our reign. We cheerfully embrace this opportunity of assuring you, that we will inviolably maintain the presbyterian church of Scotland, her rights and privileges, as we engaged to do, upon our accession to the crown, and will protect her from any illegal insults and encroachments being made upon her, of what kind soever. Nothing can be more acceptable to us, than the promoting of true piety, suppressing of vice and immorality, and preventing the growth of popery, as we have declared in our royal pro
clamation, and we doubt not, but you, on your parts, will do every thing that can contribute thereunto."
The answer of the assembly to these cheering professions is too long to be inserted here; but the first paragraph is too striking and important to be omitted :-“ May it please your majesty-It was with a particular joy and satisfaction, that we received the gracious letter, with which your majesty was pleased to honour us. We esteemed your peaceable accession to the throne of these nations, upon the demise of our late sovereign, queen Anne, so great a blessing, that we were fervent in our prayers to God for it; and we can never be thankful enough, for the merciful return he hath given to our requests, for it is to your majesty under God, we owe the preservation both of our holy religion, and our valuable civil liberties; and we must have been betrayers of both, if we had not been zealously concerned for the succession in your royal family; and though your majesty in your great goodness, is pleased to express a kind resentment of our firm adherence to it, yet we presume not to plead merit upon the account of that, to which both duty and interest did oblige us; but your majesty's countenancing us with your authority, gives us no small comfort, and engageth us to thankful acknowledgments of your royal favour to us, and to be concerned to manage ourselves, so as not to lose the happiness of the good opinion your majesty is pleased to have of us.
“ The solemn engagement your majesty did cheerfully come under, at your first accession to the crown, to maintain inviolably the rights and privileges of the presbyterian church of Scotland, of which you have the goodness to give us renewed assurances, as also protecting us against all illegal insults and encroachments being made upon us, of what kind soever, leaves us no place for doubts and fears, as to any success that our enemies may have in their designs against us, under your majesty's happy government, and obligeth us to all the returns of gratitude and duty that we are capable of.”+
The assembly proceeded to record his majesty's oath for
* Printed Acts of Assembly, 1715.
maintaining the church of Scotland, with the names of all the noblemen and gentlemen, who were witnesses of this his majesty's royal act. At a fature sederunt, they passed an “act concerning the grievances of this church, from toleration, patronages,” &c. with a memorial on behalf of the church of Scotland, which, unhappily to this day, in all its most material points, remains unattended to.* This assembly also found it necessary to make
* At Edinburgh, May 14th, 1715, Sess. 10. The committees for instructions and overtures, having had under consideration the grievances this church lies under from patronages, from the toleration as it stands, the hardships imposed upon Scotsmen in office in England and Ireland, and the prejudice done to this church, by the differences that have arisen about the oath of abjuration; and having also considered what the commission of the late General Assembly had done with respect to these, and particularly a memorial which they had drawn about the same, and sent to members of parliament; the committee for overtures gave it as their opinion, that the said memorial did fully express all that was necessary upon these heads; and, therefore, they laid the said memorial before the General Assembly, with an overture as to the management thereof. And which memorial and overture being heard and considered by the General Assembly, they did approve thereof, and agree thereto, and ordained it to be held as the deed and mind of this assembly, as follows:
Memorial for the church of Scotland, by the General Assembly.
The church of Scotland being restored at the happy revolution, was, by the claim of right, and acts of parliament following thereupon, established in its doctrine, worship, discipline, and government; and that this legal consti. tution and establishment might be unalterably secured, it was declared to be a fundamental and essential condition of the Union, and accordingly ratified in the parliaments of both kingdoms : but the zeal of the established church of Scotland for, and their steady adherence to the protestant succession, did expose them to the resentment of a disaffected party; and likewise they account themselves aggrieved by some acts past in the parliament of Great Britain; as 1mo, by the act granting such a large and almost boundless toleration to those of the episcopal persuasion in Scotland, while the liberty allowed to protestant dissenters in England, who had always given the most satisfying proofs of their undoubted zeal and good affection to the protestant suecession, was retrenched; and though the church of Scotland hath an equal security in a legal establishment with that of England, yet there is a vast inequality, as to the toleration of the respective dissenters. In Scotland, the toleration doth not restrain the disseminating the most dangerous errors, by requiring a confession of faith, or subscription to the doctrinal articles of the established church, as is required of dissenters in England; it also weakeneth the discipline of the church against the scandalous and profane, by withdrawing the concurrence of the civil magistrate. It is also an inequality
another act for preventing division in the church, respecting the oath of abjuration, which was probably equally ineffective as those that had preceded it. They also appointed a com
and hardship upon the established church of Scotland, that those of her cominunion, who are employed in his majesty's service in England or Ireland, should be obliged to join in communion and conformity with the church of England; whereas, conformity to this church is not required (nor do we plead that it should be) of members of the church of England, when called to serve his majesty in Scotland, who here enjoy the full liberty of dissenters without molestation; and the common and equal privileges of the subjects of the united kingdom, stipulated by the Union, claim the same liberty to the members of the church of Scotland, when employed in his majesty's service in England or Ireland. 2do, By the act restoring the power of presentation to patrons, the legally established constitution of this church was altered in a very important point, and while it appears equitable in itself, and agreeable to the liberty of christians and a free people, to have interest in the choice of those to whom they intrust the care of their souls, it is an hardship to be imposed upon in so tender a point; and that frequently by patrons, who have no property nor residence in the parishes; and this, besides the snares of simonaical pactions, and the many troubles and contests arising from the power of patronages, and the abuses thereof, by disaffected patrons putting their power in other hands, who as effectually serve their purposes; by patrons competing for the right of presentation in the same parish ; and by frequently presenting ministers, settled in eminent posts, to mean and small parishes, to elude the planting thereof; by all which, parishes are often kept long vacant, to the great hinderance of the progress of the gospel.
The General Assembly, considering the circumstances of the church of Scotland, with respect to the oath of abjuration, as they are fully represented in the humble addresses of the commission and General Assembly held in anno 1712, copies whereof are herewith transmitted, do humbly and earnestly entreat, that suitable remedies may be thought of.
W. CARSTARES, Moderator. And the General Assembly recommended to all their members to use their best endeavours with friends at London, that the ends of the addresses of the commission and General Assembly, 1712, and act of the General Assembly the 14th of May that year, concerning the oath of abjuration, may be obtained, and most bambly desired his majesty's high commissioner that he would be pleased to use his good offices for that end.
The General Assembly did appoint this memorial to be put in the bands of their commission, and did enjoin them to use all proper and due means to obtain redress, and particularly at their first meeting, to send the same to the duke of Montrose, principal secretary of state, most humbly entreating his grace to take a fit opportunity to acquaint his majesty thereof.-Acts of General Assembly, 1715.
mittee for the trial of professor Simson, on a charge of error, by the Rev. James Webster of Edinburgh-recommended a collection to be made at all the church doors, for the society for propagating christian knowledge—made “ An act against popery and profanity"_" An act discharging prelatical preachers, and some who profess to be presbyterians, and separate from this church, to exercise discipline;" and, “ An act for prosecuting some, who, professing to be presbyterians, do separate from this church,” &c. In this act, “ the assembly taking into consideration the representations made to them, concerning the irregularities of Mr. John Mackmillan, late minister at Balmaghie, Mr. John Taylor, late minister at Wamphray, both now deposed, Mr. John M‘Niel, and Mr. John Adamson, pretended preachers, Mr. John Hepburn, minister at Urr, and Mr. James Gilchrist, minister at Dunscore; they do refer it to their commission, at their first meeting, to take the irregularities of the foresaid persons, under their consideration; and if the said commission think fit, the General Assembly does impower them to summon the said Mr. John Mackmillan, Mr. John Taylor, Mr. John M‘Niel, and Mr. John Adamson, before them, and to proceed to further censure, or apply to the civil magistrate against them, as shall be thought most fit; and the assembly instructs their commission, if need be, to apply to the civil government, for suppressing the disorders of the said Mr. John Mackmillan, Mr. John M‘Niel, Mr. John Adamson, Mr. John Hepburn, and Mr. James Gilchrist,” &c. &c. We have already spoken of the differences between these venerable fathers of the dissenting churches of Scotland and the assembly. The consequences of this act were, the deposition of Mr. James Gilchrist, by the presbytery of Dumfries, in the same way some of the worthy men with whose names his is here associated had been before him, and the proclaiming some others of them, rebels against his majesty's government, which was followed with no particular effects, farther than confirming them in that course of opposition they had adopted, and probably strengthening their party, by additional numbers. The same act is concluded with a clause respecting papists and episcopalians, which, if meant as a classification with the foregoing, was a disingenuous