Page images

fore our being deprived of his ministerial performances, must undoubtedly be very moving and afflictive to us, and that the putting the foresaid act [the act of suspension] to execution, we are afraid will in all likelihood be attended with very lamentable circumstances, confusions and disorders too numerous and tedious to be here rehearsed, and that not only in this place in particular, but also in the church in general.”* The kirk session, and the town council of Perth, presented each a representation in favour of Mr. William Wilson, as did the presbyteries of Dunblaine and Ellon, praying the commission to wait at least for the instructions of another assembly. But the commission, full of the spirit of the assembly that had appointed it, was deaf to all admonition, refusing to read, or allow any of these representations to be read, with the exception of a small portion of that from the presbytery of Stirlingot

Two pretty full representations were prepared for the commission by the brethren themselves, one by Messrs. Erskine and Fisher, as appellants from the sentence of the synod of Perth and Stirling, and another by Messrs. Wilson and Moncrief, as protestors against that sentence, both of which they gave in under form of instrument, insisting upon it as their right to choose the way of making their defences, which was by writing. Mr. Erskine was with much difficulty allowed to read his, but Messrs. Wilson and Moncrief could not obtain the like indulgence, so they delivered it, as to substance, in speeches at the bar. These representations were for substance nearly the same as some of their previous papers which we have already laid before the reader, but they were extended, and contained protestations against any censure that might be inflicted upon them, on account of their inability to recede from the protest which they had given in to the late assembly, and against any intrusions that might be made upon their ministerial labours, or upon their congregations, in consequence of such a censure. And, in regard they were not convicted of departing from any of the received principles of the church of Scotland, or of counteracting their ordination vows and engagements, they protested that it

Representation of Ebenezer Erskine, &c. pp. 73, 74.

+ Ibid.

should be lawful and warrantable for them to exercise their ministry as hitherto they had done, and that they should not be chargeable with any of the lamentable effects that might follow upon the course taken with them.

The commission, however, suspended them from the exercise of the ministerial function in all its parts, whereupon they gave in the following protestation :“ We hereby adhere to the protestations taken by us before this court for ourselves, and in name of all the ministers, elders, and members of the church of Scotland, and of all and every one of our respective congregations adhering to us, bearing that this sentence is in itself null and void, and that it shall be lawful for us to exercise our ministry as hitherto we have done, and as if no such censure had been inflicted-and that if in consequence of this sentence, any minister, or probationer, shall exercise any part of our pastoral work, the same shall be held and reputed as a violent intrusion upon our ministerial labours. And we do hereby protest for extracts of the papers given in by us, and of the whole of the commission's procedure against us—and hereupon we take instruments. Ebenezer Erskine, William Wilson, Alexander Moncrief, James Fisher.” Several elders from their respective sessions also gave in protestations against the sentence, testifying their adherence to their ministers.

To this sentence of suspension, neither Mr. Erskine nor his adherents paid the least regard, and when they were brought before the commission in November, and interrogated with respect to the obedience they had paid to the sentence of the commission in August last, each declared for himself that he had exercised all the parts of his ministerial office, as if no such censure had been passed upon him. Applications in their behalf were still more numerous to this meeting of the commission than they had been to the last, and they had the advantage of those that had been made to the last in that they were read, but they were equally ineffective as those that had preceded them. Though delay was urged by all these representations, and many of the members of the commission were anxious to comply with the prayer of them, it carried by the casting vote of the moderator, the Rev. Mr. Gowdie of Edin

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

burgh, to proceed immediately to inflict a higher censure upon the four suspended ministers, which was done on the 16th of November, 1733, to the following effect:“ The commission of the General Assembly did, and hereby do loose the relation of Mr. Ebenezer Erskine, minister at Stirling, Mr. William Wilson, minister at Perth, Mr. Alexander Moncrief, minister at Abernethy, and Mr. James Fisher, minister at Kinclaven, to their said respective charges, and do declare them no longer ministers of this church. And do hereby prohibit all ministers of this church to employ them, or any of them, in any ministerial function. And the commission do declare the churches of the said Mr. Erskine, Mr. Wilson, Mr. Moncrief, and Mr. Fisher, vacant, from and after the date of this sentence. And appoints that letters from the moderator, and extracts of this sentence be sent to the several presbyteries, within whose bounds the said ministers have had their charges, appointing them, as they are hereby appointed, to cause intimate this sentence in the foresaid several churches any time betwixt and the first of January next. And also that notice be sent by letters from the moderator of this commission to the magistrates of Perth and Stirling, to the sheriff, principal of Perth, and Baillie of the regality of Abernethy.”

On this sentence being intimated to the four brethren, they read the following protestation, which they afterward gave in to the clerk, with instruments taken thereupon by every one of them :“ We hereby adhere to the protestation formerly entered before this court, both at their last meeting in August, and when we appeared before this meeting. And further, we do protest in our own name, and in name of all and every one in our respective congregations adhering to us, that notwithstanding of this sentence passed against us, our pastoral relation shall be held, and reputed firm and valid. And, likewise, we protest, that notwithstanding of our being cast out from ministerial communion with the established church of Scotland, we still hold communion with all and every one who desire with us to adhere to the principles of the true presbyterian covenanted church of Scotland, in her doctrine, worship, government, and discipline, and particularly with all who are groaning under the evils, and who are affected with the grievances we have been complaining of, and who are in their several spheres wrestling against the same. But in regard the prevailing party in this established church, who have now cast us out from ministerial communion with them, are carrying on a course of defection from our reformed and covenanted principles, and particularly are suppressing ministerial freedom and faithfulness, in testifying against the present backslidings of the church, and inflicting censures upon ministers for witnessing by protestations, and otherwise, against the same. Therefore, we do, for these and many other weighty reasons to be laid open in due time, protest that we are obliged to make a secession from them, and that we can have no ministerial communion with them, till they see their sins and mistakes, and amend them; and in like manner we do protest that it shall be lawful and warrantable for us to exercise the keys of doctrine, discipline, and government, according to the word of God, and Confession of Faith, and the principles and constitutions of the covenanted church of Scotland, as if no such censure had been passed upon us, upon all which we take instruments. And we hereby appeal to the first free, faithful, and reforming General Assembly of the church of Scotland," &c. &c.

A protestation was also taken against the sentence by the venerable Gabriel Wilson,* minister of Maxton, which was adhered to by Ralph Erskine, minister at Dunfermline, Thomas Mair, minister at Orwell, John Maclarine, minister in Edinburgh, Jo. Currie, minister at Kinglassie, Ja. Wardlaw, min

This protest ran in the following words :-“ I, Mr. Gabriel Wilson, minister at Maxton, do hereby, in mine own name, and in the name of all those that shall adhere to me, protest against this sentence of the commission, in the case of the four brethren; and that it may be lawful for me to complain of the said sentence, and of the several acts of assembly that have occasioned the same, to any subsequent assembly of the church of Scotland. As also, that it may be lawful for me, in a becoming manner, on all proper occasions, to bear testimony against the same, with all other defections and severities of this church in her sentences. And finally, that I may in the meantime, as in providence I shall find opportunity, hold ministerial communion with my said dear brethren, as if no such sentence had been past against them. Upon all which, I take instruments in the clerk's hands.


ister at Dunfermline, Tho. Nairn, ininister at Abbotshall. Of these, the two first and the last soon after joined the secession. Mr. Maclarine died in the month of June, 1734. Mr. Wardlaw, we suppose, also died shortly after this his public appearance in behalf of his brethren. Mr. Currie lived to be the most bitter enemy that has yet appeared against the seceders, wrote repeatedly against them, and was most learnedly and solidly answered by Mr. William Wilson of Perth. Mr. Gabriel Wilson, soon after this, wearied out with the contentious chicanery of church courts, withdrew from them altogether, having, along with Mr. Henry Davidson of Galashiels, an able and pious minister, formed at Maxton a church upon the independent plan, consisting of about twenty-four members, who regularly assembled upon the Sabbath evenings after the congregation in the parish church was dismissed, for he regularly preached to his parishioners, baptized their children, and visited and catechised their families, but did not dispense to them the ordinance of the supper. Whether it was from prudence, friendship, or indifference, has not been said, but so it was, Mr. Wilson continued in this practice, as did also his friend Henry Davidson, unmolested till his dying day. He died in the beginning of the year 1750.




« PreviousContinue »