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together with her Book of Discipline, set forth all the distinctive principles and doctrines of this church. These books she calls her subordinate standards, because held in subordination to the Bible, the supreme standard of the church of Christ.
The following formula of questions, proposed to private members on their admission to fellowship in the church, will give a brief but pretty distinct view of the principles and religious practices of this church:
1. Do you believe the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament to be the Word of God, and the only rule of faith and practice ?
2. Do you profess your adherence to the Westminster Confession of Faith, Larger and Shorter Catechisms, Form of Presbyterial Church Government, and Directory for the worship of God, as these are received and witnessed for by us, in our Declaration and Testimony, for the doctrine and order of the church of Christ ?
3. Do you profess your resolution through grace to continue in the faith, according to the profession you now make of it, and to be subject to the order and discipline of the house of God; to be diligent in your attendance on public ordinances, teaching and sealing, according to your profession, on secret prayer, on family worship, as you may have opportunity, (to be used if the applicant be a head of a family,) in keeping up family worship daily, morning and evening, and to perform all other duties incumbent on you, according to this profession, in whatever station you may occupy in life; and that you will make conscience of promoting the knowledge of Christ, and his truths, as by other means, so more especially by a holy and spiritual conversation, consistent with your profession ?
kirks is an evil and bondage, under which the Lord's people and the ministers of this land have long groaned; and that it hath no warrant in God's word, but is founded only on the common law, and is a custom popish, and brought into the kirk in time of ignorance and superstition; and that the same is contrary to the Second Book of Discipline, in which, upon solid and good ground, it is reckoned among the abuses that are desired to be reformed, and contrary] unto several acts of General Assemblies; and that it is prejudicial to the liberty of the people and planting of kirks, and unto the free calling and entry of ministers unto their charge: and the said estates being willing and desirous to promote and advance the reformation foresaid, that every thing in the house of God may be ordered according to his word and commandment, do therefore, from a sense of the former obligations, and upon the former grounds and reasons, discharge for ever hereafter, all patronages and presentation of kirks, whether belonging to the king or any laic patron, presbyteries, or others within this kingdom, as being unlawful and unwarrantable by God's word, and contrary to the doctrine and liberties of this Kirk; and do therefore rescind, make void, and annul all gifts and rights granted thereanent, and all former acts made in Parliament, or in any inferior judicatory, in favour of any patron or patrons whatsoever, so far as the same doth or may relate unto the presentation of kirks;" making it a penal offence, under any pretext, to give or receive such presentation. And Presbyteries were prohibited from admitting to trials for ordination any candidate upon any such presentation.
It may here be remarked, that this act was in full accordance with the doctrine of the Church of Scotland, from her first organization under the doctrines and principles of the Reformation from Popery. In the first Book of Discipline, drawn up by John Knox, we find the following rule: “No minister should be intruded on any particular kirk, without their consent.” The same principle is asserted in the Second Book of Discipline, adopted in 1578, and in force until 1610. This principle is also repeatedly recognised in the Directory of the Westminster divines.
The above Act of Parliament continued in force in the Church of Scotland until the year 1712, or the 11th of Queen Anne, when the doctrine of patronage was again revived by Act of Parliament, in the Church of Scotland, to the great grief of at least most good men in her. Many of these not only opposed the reviving of patronage to the last, in the General Assembly, but entered their solemn protest against it in the Assembly. The exercise of the right of patronage, at this time restored to the patrons, was for some time used with mildness, and the wishes of the congregations were generally consulted by the patrons. But men greedy of power and gain, were not long restrained by principles of moderation.* Cases soon arose, where the patrons altogether disregarded the wishes of the people and church courts were soon found corrupt enough to sustain them in it.
A flagrant case of this kind occurred in the parish of Kinross, in the bounds of the Presbytery of Dunfermline. Sir John Bruce the patron, gave the presentation to a Mr. Robert Stark, a very unpopular nominee, to whose ministry, the body of the people could not be induced to submit. This case, according to a late historian, was one of the most scandalous intrusions that ever was made in a Christian congregation.f The Presbytery positively refused to take any steps towards Mr. Stark's ordination. The Synod of Fife, to which the Presbytery of Dunfermline belonged, with the aid of the Assembly, resolved, however, to settle him at all hazards. This case came
, before the General Assembly in May, 1732, and it, together with similar cases, which were now becoming more frequent, led to the adoption of an act at that meeting of the Assembly, “anent planting vacant churches,” in which the doctrine of patronage was recognised, and such settlements as that of Kinross were approved.
This act gave great offence to many godly people, and was regarded as violating the long received principles of the church.
In October following, Mr. Ebenezer Erskine, minister at Stirling, in a sermon preached at the opening of the Synod of Perth and Stirling, condemned with freedom and plainness of speech some of the prevailing sins of that time, and particularly the act of the Assembly of May preceding, “ Anent the settlement of vacant churches, fc.," referring to the Kinross and other cases.
The Synod took offence at the freedom with which Mr. Erskine attacked the act and decisions of the Assembly, and immediately took measures to censure him for the sentiments uttered in the sermon. This was the beginning of a series of proceedings which led to the secession and organization of the Associate Presbytery of Scotland, which event took place on the 17th of November, 1733.
The reader will at once see the connexion between the secession and the proceedings of the church on the subject of patronage. The seceding brethren who formed the Associate Presbytery maintained, that in condemning patronage and the decisions of the judicatories
Struther's History of Scotland, vol. i. p. 599. + Frazer's Life of Ralph Erskine, p. 190.
sanctioning the settlement of ministers in congregations against the consent of the people, they were only acting in conformity with the acknowledged principles of the church. They accordingly bore a very decided testimony against patronage. In a similar manner the Associate Presbytery of Pennsylvania expressed their sentiments on this subject.
“ The revival of patronage was one of the evils which resulted to the church from merging the Parliament of Scotland into that of England, in 1707.
“ The members of the British Parliament, being generally of the communion of the Episcopal church of England, and one class of them dignitaries in it, it was not to be expected they would act the part of friends to the Presbyterian interest. Accordingly, in the year 1711 [1712 ?], when a party who entertained a deadly hatred against the English dissenters, and against the Church of Scotland, prevailed, the Parliament grievously injured both, and took from the people belonging to the latter, the liberty of choosing their own pastors; restoring to some men of rank, or to the crown, certain rights, which they claimed from the laws and customs of popish times, to provide for vacant congregations such ministers as they thought fit."*
There were, it is true, other causes of grievance at the same time that patronage was restored; but this was the most prominent, and the one which led to the secession and organization of the Associate Presbytery of Scotland, and that led to the organization of the Associate Church of North America. It may here be observed, that the main question at issue then, was precisely the same in all its important bearings, with the one which has issued in the great secession of 1843.
One other circumstance it may be necessary to state, in order to trace the origin of the Associate Church in this country to its proper source. In the year 1744 the Associate Presbytery of Scotland having greatly increased, it was judged necessary, for the sake of convenience, to constitute a Synod. But in the next year a controversy arose in the Synod, which issued in its disruption. The oath to be sworn by such as were admitted burghers, or freemen of towns in Scotland, had, in some places, this clause: “ Here I protest before God and your lordships, that I profess and allow with all my heart, the true religion presently professed within this realm, and authorized by the laws thereof, that I shall abide thereat, and defend the same to my life's end, renouncing the Roman religion called Papistry.”
Narrative, p. 28, 6th edition, W. 8. Young, Philadelphia, 1839.
The controversy turned on the point, whether it was consistent and lawful for dissenters, or those who had withdrawn from the national church, to swear this oath, knowing that it was the profession of religion in the national church that was intended by the government imposing the oath. Different sides of this question were advocated in Synod, and the disputes ran so high that, in 1747, the body divided, and each party claimed the name of the “ Associate Synod.” But the public soon affixed distinguishing epithets to each of the parties. Those who opposed the lawfulness and consistency of swearing the oath, were called Anti-burghers, and the advocates of the oath Burghers. It was with the former of these that the Associate Presbytery in this country was connected. The latter never had an organization in this country.
THE INTRODUCTION OF THE ASSOCIATE CHURCH INTO
At an early period of the secession, individuals approving of the principles of the secession emigrated to this country, both from Scotland and Ireland. These not finding here any denomination of professing Christians fully concurring with them in their views of religious faith and duty, and wishing still to retain the principles of the Church of Scotland in their primitive purity, they petitioned the Anti-burgher Associate Synod of Scotland, to send over some minis. ters of the gospel to their assistance.
In compliance with this petition, Messrs. Alexander Gellatly and Andrew Arnot were sent over.
The former with a view of permanently remaining in the country, the latter for a period of two years. They did not, however, reach the province of Pennsylvania, the particular place of their destination, until the year 1754. These brethren were authorized by the Synod to organize congregations, and to constitute themselves into a Presbytery, which they accordingly did in November, 1754, under the name of the Associate Presbytery of Pennsylvania. Notwithstanding the various difficulties which they had to encounter in their first labours, these brethren had the satisfaction of seeing the ordinary evidence of success attending their labours; in a short time there were urgent applications for their labours from different parts of Pennsylvania, from Delaware, New York, Virginia, and North Carolina.
Mr. Arnot returned at the expiration of his appointment, and Mr. Gellatly was removed by death in 1761; but the Presbytery continued to increase by the arrival of missionaries from Scotland, until the