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up, says Willison, " pious and experienced ministers, with sincere intentions, to have matters settled upon a better footing if possible. Now it would have extremely strengthened their hands, in their good designs to redress grievances and advance reformation, if the four brethren had tabled (laid) their complaint before them, and represented what they would have the Assembly to do to satisfy them ; but this they declined to do, though they were all in the town at the time.” The Assembly of 1734 repealed several obnoxious acts of Assembly, “ because they were found hurtful to this church.” They reversed the settlement of a minister who had been forcibly placed at Auchtermuchty by the commission. They declared the sentences of the commission to be reversible. They reviewed and contracted the powers of that court of delegates, and prohibited it from forcibly settling a presentee, where the local synod or presbytery opposed it. They empowered the commission to address the king and parliament for relief from patronage. They empowered the synod of Perth and Stirling to restore the four ejected brethren to their charges, and the communion of the church. And they enacted, “ that due and regular ministerial freedom is still left entire to all ministers." In July of the same year, the synod “ did take off the sentences pronounced by the commission of the General Assembly of 1733, against the foresaid four brethren, declaring the same of no force or effect for the future :” and so “ did unite and restore them to ministerial communion with this church, to their several charges, and to the exercise of all parts of the ministerial function therein."
A door was now opened for the seceders to have returned to communion with their established brethren. They debated the subject accordingly. The result was, “ that though they owned some parts of grounds of their secession to be removed, by the repeal of the foresaid acts, 1730 and 1732, yet they found the principal ground of it remaining, unremoved, yea rather aggravated by the Assembly, 1734. So that they could not accede to the judicatories in a consistency with, or without falling from, the testimony they had given.”+ In their “ Reasons of Non-accession,” published in May, 1735, they say: " When matters were come to such a pass that we were excluded from keeping up a proper testimony against the defections and backslidings of the prevailing party, in a way of ministerial communion with them ; we judged it our necessary duty, for this and other reasons, to make a secession from the judicatories of the established church : and since the Lord, in his adorable providence, permitted the judicatories to thrust us out at a time when a course of defection was carried on with a high band; it will therefore be necessary, for the vindication of our present conduct, to inquire if the Assembly, 1734, have at • Willison's Testimony, &c., p. 81.
# Reasons of Non-accession,
least so far removed the grounds of our secession, that we may, in a consistency with the testimony we have emitted, accede unto the judicatories of the church, and join in ministerial communion with them.”
At same time with their reasons for non-accession, the seceders made some proposals for the removal of some of those difficulties which stood in the way of their reunion. Not, however, as being all that they wanted, but “ if they were done, we might have the comfortable prospect of a pleasant and desirable unity and harmony with our brethren ; in concurring with them, according to our weak measure, in all other necessary steps towards a further reformation.” The substance of their proposals was as follows:-“ That there should be a seasonable warning against the infidelity and gross errors prevailing; a proper assertion of the truth, in opposition to Mr Simson's Arian heresy; and express condemnation of his other gross and dangerous errors; an inflicting of the highest censure of the church upon William Nimmo, for the bold and daring attack upon the whole of divine revelation, if found proven against him; and an inflicting of the same censure on Mr Campbell, and Mr Wallace, one of the ministers of Edinburgh, for gross and pernicious errors vented by them, upon these errors being found proven against them; that the act of Assembly, 1733, concerning Mr Erskine and his three brethren, should be declared rescinded;—and all that had followed thereupon declared null and void in itself; and the ministers enjoined to give faithful warning against the prevailing corruptions of the times: that the act of Assembly, 1733, concerning some brethren in the presbytery of Dunfermline, should be also rescinded; and ministers declared at freedom to dispense sealing ordinances to such as could not submit to the ministry of intruders; that the acceptance of presentations should be declared contrary to the principles of this church; probationers accepting of them to be deprived of their license; ministers, for such a transgression, to be suspended, and, if tenaciously adhering, deposed ; and an act passed against any settlement, in time coming, without the call and consent of the majority of the congregation, who are admitted to full communion with the church in all her sealing ordinances: that all presbyteries should be strictly enjoined to use due caution and tenderness in the licensing of young men; and an act be passed against the dangerous innovation both in the method and strain of preaching; and that, in the grounds of a national fast, there should be an acknowledgment of the great guilt of this land ; and in having gone on into such a course of backsliding, contrary to the word of God, and to the obligations those lands are under to promote reformation, by our covenants, national and solemn league; with a full and particular enumeration of the steps of defection made in our day."*
Reasons of Non-accession, p. 50.
The seceders thought, at the end of two years, that they had still grounds of complaint. Forcible settlements still continued. Mr Campbell was dismissed from the bar of Assembly without censure, although his published opinions were erroneous. They therefore resolved to act in a judicial capacity. They determined to administer divine ordinances to such as should apply for them. They agreed to settle their terms of fellowship, and assert the genuine principles and attainments of the Church of Scotland. For which purpose, in 1736, they published a judicial testimony; likewise an enlargement of their former testimony on the doctrine of grace, in which they explained and vindicated the difference between the law and the gospel, and the motives and grounds of evangelical obedience. This was in opposition to the acts of the General Assembly respecting the Marrow of Modern Divinity, and the legal strain of preaching that had become common. They also renewed and swore to the solemn league and covenant. They, at same time, emitted a declaration of their principles respecting the civil government. Many of those who recognised the covenant as a fundamental principle, had not only refused to communicate with the establishment, but to acknowledge the civil government, or to obey the magistrates. These people continued some time without ministers. They were at last joined by Mr Macmillan, a minister of the establishment. The associate presbytery accordingly condemned their principles. Mr Nairn, one of the seceders, dissented from this position, and defended the principles of the covenanters, because the magistrates were deficient of those qualities required by the covenant. He asserted that none but a covenanted presbyterian could be the lawful sovereign of this realm. He accordingly separated from the seceders ; and, joining Mr Macmillan, these two constituted the REFORMED PRESBYTERY.
The seceding brethren were much displeased at the transactions of the General Assembly, respecting some professors who had taught and published doctrines inconsistent with the Confession of Faith. - They took occasion,” says Willison, “ to carry their secession and separation to very great heights by licensing preachers, invading parishes, and preaching up separation everywhere, not sparing their best friends, nor those who dissented from the evils of the time, but charging the whole ministry with very black things." For these causes, and also the testimony so often cited, the Assembly cited the seceding brethren to appear at their bar, in 1739. Accordingly, the whole eight brethren appeared in the capacity of a constituted court, headed by their moderator. But instead of answering to their indictment, the associate synod, by the ministry of their moderator, read an act of their own court. This act condemned the courts of the establishment, as not being lawful courts of Christ. Their moderator then, in the name of the secession presbytery, declined the authority
and jurisdiction of the General Assembly. They then withdrew from the bar, and the breach became irreconcilable. The Assembly then enacted, “that for their declinature, contempt, and schismatical courses, &c., they deserve deposition.” But to give them time for reflection, and to return to their duty, they forbore for one year ; and accordingly cited them to the bar of the Assembly of 1740. This citation the brethren held in due contempt.
The Assembly of 1740 therefore deposed the whole eight brethren, in these words: They depose them from the office of the holy ministry, prohibiting them to exercise the same within this church.*
The secession from the establishment had now become so considerable, that, before the year 1745, so many presbyteries had been constituted, in different parts of the country, that they were enabled to form a supreme court, or synod. The secession was now called the AssoCIATE SYNOD. But with their success, “ the leaven of prejudice and suspicion insinuated itself, soured their minds, and fomented any difference of sentiment which at first existed among them.”+ The period was now arrived when the seceders were to be divided into burghers and antiburghers. In 1745, the question of the lawfulness of burgess oaths was debated in the synod. The clause under debate was : “ Here I protest, before God and your lordships, that I profess, and allow with my heart, the true religion presently (at present) professed within this realm, and authorized by the laws thereof: I shall abide thereat, and defend the same to my life's end ; renouncing the Roman religion called papistry." The two Erskines, Fisher, and others, contended that it was the religion itself, and not its maladministration, to which they were required to swear : that they had not set up a new religion, but clave closely to what they had previously professed: that since they had solemnly approved of the doctrine, worship, discipline, and government ; since they had solemnly declared their adherence to the Westminster Confession : that by their ordination vows they had sworn to that very religion, doctrine, worship, discipline, and government, professed and established in the realm : that although they had objected to the manner in which the true religion is at present prosessed and settled : that though they had testified against the corruptions both in church and state : yet they had, but two years before, judicially declared the established religion to be the true religion itself. They had solemnly thanked God, “ that our religion has such security by the present civil government as no nation on earth enjoys the like.” Therefore “ the synod could not, without the most glaring self-contradiction, prohibit the swearing of the above clause, as in itself sinful for a seceder.” On the other hand, Messrs
* Willison's Testimony, pp. 91, 92.
+ Willison's Testimony, p. 58.
Moncrief, Mair, Gibb, and others, contended that this oath, being administered for the security of the establishment, was to be understood in the sense of the imposers. That the true religion, to which it referred, must mean the corruptions in its administration, from which they had seceded. That it not only contemplated the corruptions in the state religion, but in the state itself; which, by consequence, implied a departure from the whole of their testimony. In fact, it gave up the whole cause of their secession. And therefore the words “true religion, presently (at present) professed and authorized," might be applied indifferently to a true and a false religion. The synod of 1746 came to this decision: that “ those of the secession cannot, with safety of conscience and without sin, swear any burgess oath with the said religious clause, while matters with reference to the profession and settlement of religion continue in such circumstances as the present." The minority on this question protested against this decision. The bitter waters of controversy were now let loose, and violently agitated the whole body. In the synod of 1747, it was proposed, that the condemnatory decision of the former synod should, neither then nor afterwards, be a term of ministerial and christian communion ; and that this question be referred to presbyteries and kirk sessions. This question was considered disorderly. Members protested against it accordingly; but as the protesters did not vote, the motion was carried. Those inembers who supported the original decision subscribed a declaration and protest; in which they maintained, “ that, as the meeting had materially dropped the whole testimony, the lawful authority and power of the associate synod is devolved on a constituted meeting of those ministers and elders who had protested against the late vote, and such as should join them.” The synod was now divided into two separate and hostile bodies. Each division asserted that it was the majority; and each laid claim to the title and powers of the supreme court. The two divisions now constituted two distinct synodical courts. That which defended the burgess oath passed an act annulling their opponents' synod. Those who condemned the oath erected themselves into a synod, and excommunicated their antagonists. The two parties were denominated BURGHERS and ANTIBURGHERS. The latter were the most numerous. The former again s lit into two parties, in the year 1799, and were denominated the OLD Light and the New LIGHT BURGHERS. These, however, effected an union together in the year 1819. This union was not effected with unanimity. Nine ministers protested against the Basis of Union, and formed a separate synod, under the denomination of the ASSOCIATE SYNOD.
At the period of these secessions, the General Assembly seems to have been strongly influenced by the lust of power. It had screwed up its authority to a pitch of despotism which drove inany from the established