Page images
PDF
EPUB

CHAP. 19.

SOLEMN LEAGUE AND COVENANT

341

A

ops. Other riots ensued; the flames of civil war were kindled throughout Great Britain ; monarchy and episcopacy were overthrown, and presbyterianism was re-established with new vigour, 1648.

During their struggle the Scotch renewed in 1638, their subscription to their confession of faith or national covenant, made soon after the formation of the General Assembly, in which they condemned all episcopal government and forms, and solemnly bound themselves to resist all innovations in religion. And in 1643 they formed with the Puritans of England and Ireland, THE SOLEMN LEAGUE AND COVENANT, in which they abjured Popery and combined for mutual defence.

The Scotch presbyterians never loved Cromwell, for he favoured the independants; and, for some attempts to restore the king, they felt his vengeance; yet they flourished much during the protectorate.

At the restoration, episcopacy was re-established. Sharpe, an apostate from presbyterianism, was made archbishop of St. Andrews. An act was passed, obliging all the ministers of Scotland to receive a presentation to their livings from their lay patrons, and institution from the Bishops. Two hundred. churches were shut up in one day. The exiled ministers preached in conventicles and fields 10 great multitudes ; but the king's troops were sent against them and their adherants, and the greatest severities were used to force them into the episcopal church. Awful were the scenes that were transacted. At length, by royal indulgence, the ejected ministers were allowed to fill some of the pulpits, but this was not accepted by numbers who, under Richard Cameron, and from him called Cameronians, fought in defence of their principles.

At the revolution, episcopacy was abolished in Scotland, and presbyterianism firmly established. The commissioners from a convention of the states declared to the king, " That prelacy and the superiority of any office above presbyteries, is and has been a great and unsuportable burden to this nation, and contrary to the inclinations of the generality of the people, ever since the reformation ; they having reformed popery by pres. bytery, and that prelacy ought to be abolished.” An act was accordingly passed in the Scotch parliament, abolishing episcopacy and the pre-eminence of any orders in the church above that of presbyters.

At the union of Scotland and England, the Scotch demanded the firm establishment of presbyterianism, as the unalterable form of government in the church of Scotland; which was

[ocr errors]

granted by the parliament of England. A clause was also inserted in the articles of union, providing that “ po test or subscription should ever be imposed within the bounds of the Scotch church, contrary to their presbyterian establishment.” By these acts, the Episcopalians of England consented that presbyterians should reign in the north, while Presbyterians also consented that episcopacy should be established in the south.

But the Scotch were soon chagrined and cast down; for as they enjoyed toleration in England, the English were resolved that the Episcopalians should enjoy the same in Scotland, and carried a bill to this purpose through the parliament, forbidding the secular power to touch any but Papists and blasphemers.

It had ever been a fundamental principle of presbyterianism, that the parishes had a right, from Scripture, to choose their own pastors; but a bill was passed in parliament in the reign of Queen Anne, entitling a lay patron to nominate the minister; thus introducing to the churches men whose chief recommendation was subserviency to some rich patron, who might be of infidel sentiments, and wounding the consciences of a large portion of the church of Scotland, and producing lasting dissensions.

In 1712 was passed in the British Parliament, the abjuration oath ; and it was required not only of all who held offices, but of all the clergy. As it included the approbation and support of episcopacy, and prevented their seeking any further reformation, but few ministers would take it, though the refusal exposed them to a fine of five hundred pounds. This was for a long time very harrassing and distressing to the Scotch churches.

A great excitement was produced in the Scotch church in 1913, concerning a book entitled “ The Marrow of Modern Divinity," which was viewed by many as heretical; and shortly after, by the opinions of Professor Simpson, who was considered an Arian. But greater internal commotions were excited in 1732, by the secession of Ebenczer Erskine and a numerous body of ministers and christians, from the communion of the established church, because of the law of patronage. For preaching boldly against this, Mr. E. and four other ministers were deposed by the general assembly from the ministry. They then formed themselves into a distinct body, called the Associated Presbytery, and being popular men, and having a popular cause, they rapidly increased, and in 1745 formed three Presbyteries under one synod. But they fell into a violent contention respecting the burgess oath, in some of the royal boroughs of Scotland, and split into two parties, called Burghers and Anti-Burghers.

CHAP 19.

DISTINGUISHED MINISTERS.

343

About the same time arose the Glassites, or Mr. Robert Glass and his followers who plead for independency; but who united with Robert Sandeman, of England, in his peculiar views of faith,* and become a very narrow and exclusive sect.

In 1752 arose the presbytery of relief; established to afford relief to parishes which had ministers imposed on them by their patrons against their choice.

The Scotch have been a very intelligent and pious people. They have adhered remarkably to the great doctrines of the reformation. The Sabbath they have rigidly observed. To catechetical instruction they have attended more strictly than any part of the Christian church. Some of their ministers have been pious and eminently faithful men. Others have attained to high rank in the literary world. Among them may be mentioned Robert Fleming, Thomas Halyburton, Thomas Boston, J. M’Laurin, the Erskines, Dr. Robertson,s Dr. Mc Knight, Walker, ** Campbell,tt and Dr. Blair, as some of the most distinguished. The age of George I. is commonly viewed as the period of brightest glory; for the Scotch church then enjoyed great peace and quietness, had many learned men, and a great body of devoted Christians in her bosom. In 1742 a powerful and extensive revival of religion commenced and spread wide in the Scotch churches. It was a season of great solemnity and deep spirituality. The churches walked in the fear of the Lord and the comforts of the Holy Ghost. But the Seceders did not favour it, being actuated too much by the spirit of secession.

For the last half century the leading clergy and laity have departed from the simplicity than is in Christ, having been spoiled through philosophy and vain deceit. The General Assembly

* 56 That justifying faith is a mere act of the understanding, a merely speculative belief." Mr. Sandeman removed to America in 1764, ånd gathered a church on this principle, at Danbury, Ct. Mr. Glass died at Dundee, 1773.

+ A most able opponent of the Deists. He was a professor of Divinity at St. Andrews.

Minister of Etterick, author of " Human Nature in its Foarfold Estate ;" one of the most useful books in the Christian world. Died 1732.

Principal of the University of Edinburgh, and author of History of Scotland and Charles V. Died June, 1793.

|| Author of the Harmory of the Gospels, and a new translation of the Epistles.

** An eminently evangelical minister, in Edinburgh.

** Professor of Church History at St. Andrews, and author of a discourse on miracles. Died, 1757.

has presented a considerable majority approving sentiments and practices in opposition to which the ancient covenanters would have laid down their lives. Ministers selected by patrons have been placed over many of the churches against their consent, driving most of their pious members into the churches of the Seceders. But the state of the church has lately been improving.

The confession and catechism of the church of Scotland are strictly Calvinistic. Every minister is assisted in the govern"ment of his own church by a body of ruling elders. This body forms the kirk session. The next judicatory is a presbytery, composed of a few neighbouring ministers and delegates of elders. The next, a provincial synod. The highest is the General Assembly, composed of delegates from each presbytery, and commissioners from the universities and royal boroughs. This Church has 15 provincial synods comprising 78 presbyteries. Of the dissenting presbyteries there are 42. Its president is a nobleman appointed by the king.

ENGLISH DISSENTERS. The original Puritans, who were strict presbyterians, and the Independents, who followed Brown and Robinson in their views of church government gained a legal toleration in the revolution of sixteen hundred and eighty-eight. But as their cause had much declined from the restoration of Charles II., they entered into an union in 1690, comprised in nine articles, for selfpreservation, and have since been considered as one, though they still differ in church government.

Their day of brightest glory was the age of Cromwell. Some of their ministers were the most learned, pious, faithful and powerful men with which the Church of God has ever been blessed. Among these stood pre-eminent,

Richard BAXTER. He was born at Rowton, in Shropshire, Nov. 12, 1615. His father was a farmer; and, because of his low circumstances, Richard never went to a university. His mind was early impressed with the importance of securing the salvation of his soul. Under near views of eternity from ill health, he read the old Puritan writers ; and, with a spirit of ardent piety inflamed and directed by them, he entered at twenty-one the service of the Episcopal church at Dudley. But disliking some things there, he became assistant to an aged minister at Brignorth. From thence he removed in 1640 to Kidderminster, where he preached the Gospel with great success. There, ignorance and profanenéss

CHAP. 19.

BAXTER, OWEN.

345

had long reigned triumphant. Scarce a house was to be found in which there was family worship. When he left it in 1642 scarce one in which there was none. His labours there were interupted by the civil wars, and he retired into a garrison and preached for two years to the parliament soldiers. He then became chaplain in the army and followed the camp, until a dangerous illness compelled him to retire to Kidderminster, where he remained fourteen years. The act of uniformity separated him from the established church. A bishopric was offered him if he would remain, but he refused it. Forbidden to preach in public, he did good as he had opportunity, and for this he was subjected to repeated exactions, fines, imprisonment and loss of goods. Once he lay in prison two years. The close of life he spent in London, and when no longer able to go abroad he preached in his own hired house. He died, 1691, in the 76th year of his age

In his person Baxter was tall and thin, with a remarkable expressive countenance. To talents of the first order and ardent piety he united an energy of character seldom found. He preached incessantly when he could, and with great power, and he published four folios, fifty-eight quartos, forty-six octavos and twenty-nine duodecimos, besides single sermons. His Saint's Rest and Call to the Unconverted have been the most useful of uninspired books. His last words were " I bless God I have a well grounded assurance of my eternal happiness and great peace and comfort within.9*

Another very distinguished divine of that period, sometimes called the oracle of the independents, was,

JOHN OWEN, D.D. He was of Welsh extract and was born at Haddam, 1616. He went to the University of Oxford, but, disgusted with the superstitious rites of Archbishop Laud, he left College; and forsaken by his friends, he took refuge with the parliament party. Here God met him by his grace, and constrained him to devote his great talents to his glory. For five years he was in deep spiritual anguish. Under his burden he went one day to hear Mr. Calamy, an eminent dissenting preacher, when a stranger

[ocr errors]

* This eminent divine felt confident he could reconcile Arminianism and Calvinism. While he allowed the strict doctrine of election in regard to the saved, he supposed that others have common grace, by improving which they might obtain saving grace. He supposed also that a saint might possess so small a degree of saving grace as again to lose it. His system has been called Baxterianism, and has been adopted by many who were unwilling to be classed with Calvinists or Arminians.

« PreviousContinue »