Posts Tagged ‘Church of Scotland’

Without the authority of synods, it is impossible to preserve unity

September 14, 2013

We have another reason to add, and it is borrowed from lawless necessity; for without a subordination among ecclesiastical courts,and the authority of the higher above the inferior, it were utterly impossible to preserve unity, or to make an end of controversy in a nation. A particular congregation might happily end questions and controversies betwixt the members thereof, and so keep unity within itself (and not so neither, if the one half of the congregation be against the other), but how shall controversies betwixt several congregations be determined if both of them be independent? how shall plurality of religions be avoided?how shall an apostatizing congregation be amended?

It is answered, (1.) If a particular congregation neglect their duty, or do wrong to another, the civil sword may proceed against them to make them do their duty. (2.) A particular congregation ought ,in difficult cases, to consult with her sister churches; for so much reason dictates, that in difficult cases, counsels should be taken of a greater number. (3.) Sister churches, when they see a particular congregation doing amiss, out of that relation which they have to her, being all in the same body, under the same head, may, and ought to admonish her, and in case of general apostasy, they may withdraw that communion from her which they hold with the true churches of Christ.

But these answer are not satisfactory. The first of the magreeth not to all times; for in times of persecution the church hath not the help of the civil sword: a persecuting magistrate will be glad to see either division or apostasy in a congregation; but so it is, that Christ hath provided a remedy, both for all the evils and diseases of his church,and at all times. The church (as was said before) is a republic, and hath her laws, courts, and spiritual censures within herself, whether there be a Christian magistrate or not.

The second answer leaveth the rectifying of an erring congregation to the uncertainty of their own discretion, in seeking counsel from a greater number. And, moreover, if this be a dictate of reason, to ask counsel of a greater number when the counsel of a few cannot resolves, then reason, being ever like itself, will dictate so much to a congregation,that they ought to submit to the authority of a greater number when their own authority is not sufficient to end a controversy among them.

To the third answer we say, That every private Christian may and ought to withdraw himself from the fellowship and communion, either of one man or of a whole congregation, in the case of general apostasy. And shall an apostatizing congregation be suffered to run to hell rather than any other remedy should be used beside that (commonly ineffectual)remedy which any private Christian may use? God forbid.

What I have said of congregations I say also of classical presbyteries: How shall sentence be given betwixt two presbyteries at variance?How shall a divided presbytery be reunited in itself? How shall an heretical presbytery be reclaimed? How shall a negligent presbytery be made to do their duty? How shall a despised presbytery have their wounded authority healed again? In these and such like contingent cases, what remedy can be had beside the authority of synods?

George Gillespie, An Assertion of the Government of the Church of Scotland in the Points of Ruling Elders, and of the Authority of Presbyteries and Synods, Edinburgh, Scotland, [1641], p. 157


The Church of Scotland General Assembly on the forbidden practice of holy-days

November 26, 2012

The General Assembly taking to their consideration the manifold abuses, profanity, and superstitions, committed on Yule-day [Christ-mass] and some other superstitious days following, have unanimously concluded and hereby ordains, that whatsoever person or persons hereafter shall be found guilty in keeping of the foresaid superstitious days, shall be proceeded against by Kirk censures, and shall make their public repentance therefore in the face of the congregation where the offence is committed. And that the presbyteries and provincial synods take particular notice how ministers try and censure delinquents of this kind, within the several parishes.

— General Assembly, Church of Scotland, Act for Censuring Observers of Yule-day, and other Superstitious days (1645).


Rev. Robert Shaw on the sole headship of Christ and the Scottish Reformation

January 18, 2012

“The Church of Scotland, at the era of the Reformation, nobly asserted, and practically vindicated, the sole headship of Christ. This was especially the grand and leading principle of the Second Reformation; and it was in the way of contending for the royal prerogatives of Christ, as her alone king and head, and resisting the Erastian encroachments of aspiring princes upon her spiritual liberties, that many of her sons suffered bonds and exile, and shed their blood in fields and on scaffolds. Though the sole headship of Christ is explicitly asserted in our Confession of Faith, yet it is deeply to be regretted that this vital principle was not more effectually guarded in the Revolution Settlement. The Act 1592, upon which the Church was erected at this time, contained no acknowledgement of the headship of Christ; and it was not formally asserted by any act of the General Assembly. Though a regal supremacy was neither directly claimed by the Crown nor conceded by the Church, yet it was not long till it was virtually exercised. The meetings of the General Assembly were repeatedly dissolved and prorogued by the sovereign; and, in 1703, when the Assembly had prepared the draft of an act for the purpose of asserting the supremacy of Christ, the intrinsic power of the Church, and the divine right of the Presbyterian government, it was abruptly dissolved by her majesty’s commissioner, without any recorded protest. “But ecclesiastical independence was still more invaded, and spiritual interests more effectually subjected to secular dominion, by the restoration of the power of lay-patrons, after it had been repeatedly abolished. The power of patronage, when it is of any real effect in the settlement of the vacant churches, flows from the same spring with the ecclesiastical supremacy, and can neither be vindicated nor condemned, but on the same principles with it; and is indeed, when exercised by the Crown, a branch of it.” Without referring particularly to those recent struggles of the Church to vindicate her spiritual independence, which have issued in the disruption of the Scottish Establishment, there is nothing, it may be remarked, more clearly evinced by these events, than the determined resolution of the State to retain and exercise an Erastian power over the Church. But the Christian people of Scotland have given the most unequivocal proofs of their continued and firm attachment to the sole supremacy of Christ as “king in Zion”—a truth in defence of which their ancestors “loved not their lives unto the death.” They cannot contend or suffer in a nobler cause. Those who assume a headship over the Church of Christ, are guilty of an impious usurpation of his prerogatives; and his faithful subjects are bound to display their loyalty to him, by asserting his sole right to reign and rule in his own Church, and by giving no countenance to a claim so degrading to the Church, and so dishonouring to her alone king and head.”

Robert Shaw, The Reformed Faith:  An Exposition Of The Westminster Confession Of Faith