Page images

the aforesaid subscription to be unlawful and sinful. And do warn, and in the name of the Lord charge all the members of this kirk to forbear the subscribing the said act and declaration, much more the urging of the subscription thereof, as they would not incur the wrath of God and the censures of the kirk. ..... They likewise enjoin all the members of this kirk to forbear the swearing, subscribing, or pressing of any new vaths or hands in this cause without the advice and concurrence of the kirk, especially any negative oaths or bands which may any way limit orrestrain them in the duties whereunto they are obliged by the national or solemn league and covenant. ... And ordains that presbyteries . . .. synods, or the commission .... be careful to proceed against and censure the contraveners of this act?” They were not always so tender of the consciences of churchmen and loyalists, whom, in the depih of their hatred, they branded with the infamous mark of malignants, when they forced upon them the unlawful and impious oath of their covenant, and which brought such fearful calamities upon the church, the king, and the three kingdoms.

On the 31st of July, being their twenty-first session, the Assembly issued a “declaration concerning the present dangers of religion, and especially the unlawful Engagement in war against the kingdom of England; together with many necessary exhortations and directions to all the members of the kirk of Scotland.” In which, amongst many other things, they say“the wars of God's people are called the wars of the Lord .... .... It was the best flower and garland in the former expeditions of this nation, that they were for God, and for religion principally and mainly. But if the principal ends of this present Engagement were for the glory of God, how comes it to pass that not so much as one of the desires for the safety and security of religion in the said Engagement is to this day satisfied or granted ; but on the contrary, such courses taken as are destructive to religion ? And if God's glory be intended, what meaneth the employing and protecting in this army so many blasphemers, persecutors of piety, disturbers of divine worship, and others guilty of notorious and crying sins ? Again, how can it be pretended that the good of religion is principally aimed at, when it is proposed and declared that the king's majesty shall be brought to some of his houses in or near London, with honour, freedom, and safety, before ever there be any security had from him, or so much as any application made to him, for the good of religion? What is this but to postpone the honour

1 Johnston's Collections, 377-79.

2 G


of God, the liberties of the gospel, the safety of God's people, to a human interest, and to leave religion in a condition of uncertainty, unsettledness, and hazard, while it is strongly endeavoured to settle and make sure somewhat else ?

2. Suppose the ends of this Engagement to be good (which they are not) yet the means and ways of prosecution are unlawful, because there is not an equal avoiding of rocks on both hands, but a joining with malignants (episcopalians], to suppress sectaries, a joining hands with a black devil to beat a white devil; they are bad physicians who would so cure one disease as to breed another as evil or worse. That there is in the present Engagement a confederacy and association in war with such of the English, who, according to the Solemn League and Covenant, and declarations of both kingdoms, 1643, can be no otherwise looked upon but as malignants and enemies of reformation and the cause of God, is now made so manifest before sun and moon, that we suppose that none will deny it; and it is no less undeniable, that not only many known malignants, but diverse (that is, the king's most loyal friends], who joined in the late rebellion within this kingdom are employed, yea, put into places of trust; all of which how contrary it is to the word of God, no man can be ignorant who will attentively search the Scriptures.

4. .... Instead of endeavouring to extirpate popery and superstition without respect of persons (as is expressed in the covenant), there is in the late declaration of the committee of estates a desire of the queen's return, without any condition tending to the restraint of her mass or exercise of popery; we do also conceive there is a tacit condescending to the toleration of'superstition and the Book of Common Prayer in his majesty's family .... neither can we conceive how the clause concerning the extirpation of prelacy can consist with endeavouring to bring his majesty with honour, freedom, and safety, to one of his houses in or about London, without any security from him for the abolition of prelacy, it being his known principle (and publicly declared by himself shortly after he went to the Isle of Wight), that he holds himself obliged in conscience, and by his coronation oath, to maintain archbishops, bishops, &c. Can it be said that they are endeavouring to extirpate orelacy, who, after such a declaration, would put in his majesty's hand an opportunity to restore it ?

5. ..... All which considered, as we could not, without involving ourselves in the guiltiness of so unlawful an Engagement, yield to the desire of the army for ministers to be sent to attend them, so we do earnestly exhort, and, in the name and

authority of Jesus Christ, charge and require all and every one of the members of this reformed kirk of Scotland, .... that they do not concur in, nor in any way assist, this present Engagement, as they would not partake in other men's sins, and so receive of their plagues; but that, by the grace and assistance of Christ, they steadfastly resolve to suffer the rod of the wicked, and the utmost whi h wicked men's malice can afflict them with, rather than to put forth their hand to iniquity. ... We do also exhort and charge, in Christ's name, the Prince of pastors, all the joinisters within this kirk, that in no ways they be accessory to this sinful Engagement, but in all their conferences and reasoning, especially in their public doctrine, as they would eschew the wrath of God, due for a violated covenant, and as they would escape the censures of the kirk; and let all presbyteries be watchful within their bounds, and carefully, wisely, and zealously inflict ecclesiastical censures 1."

Thus the late and ineffectual effort of loyalty on the part of the parliament was vehemently opposed by every method in the power of the General Assembly, on account of the obligations of the covenant, which has been justly called a bond of rebellion. Although the consciences of the churchmen and loyalists had been most cruelly oppressed by the presbyterians, yet this Assembly, among other arguments against the Engagement, desire that it may be " considered deeply, how fearful a thing it is to oppress the consciences of their brethren !” and in one of their papers, addressed to the parliament in their 22d session, they assert, that the attempt to assist the king was a “ most unlawful and sinful Engagement, to be repented of and forsaken by all that have any hand in it, as they desire to make their peace with God 2.” And although loyalty was ever on their lips, by which means they deceived many at the time, and have boasted of it ever since, yet Joyalty was not only contrary to their principles and the spirit of the covenant, but their acts and declarations completely gave the lie to their hypocritical professions. In their “ declaration and exhortation to their brethren in England” they shew their hypocrisy unequivocally :-“ And albeit we acknowledge ourselves bound and are still resolved to preserve and defend his majesty's person and authority, in the preservation and defence of the true religion and liberties of the kingdom, yet it is unto us matter of very great sorrow and grief that so many in our land should so far join in malignant designs, and that there should be found amongst us who have undertaken and are now putting

[merged small][ocr errors]

in execution an unlawful war, promoving their ends, and opposing and making void (so far as in them lies) the ends of the covenant!." Again, in their answer to the letter of the Westminster Assembly, they say, “we are confident you will not cease to give a public testimony for Christ both against sectaries and all seducers who prophecy lies in the name of the Lord, and against malignants and incendiaries, the prelatical and popish faction, who now again bestir themselves to hold up the rotten and tottering throne of antichrist, and are (whatever they pretended) the real enemies of reformation."

The Assembly was not content with the opposition to the Engagement which they endeavoured ineffectually to excite at home, but they insulted the king himself, by intruding their insolent advice and reproaches under the name of“ the humble supplication of the General Assembly of the kirk of Scotland, met at. Edinburgh, August 12th, unto the king's most excellent majesty ;" in which, after insulting him with their condolence, they say,“ We are very sensible of your majesty's suffering and low condition (lowards which they themselves had so powerfully contribute:l], and do not in the least measure approve, but from our hearts abhor, any thing that hath been done to your majesty's person contrary to the common resolutions of both kingdoms: Yet shall it be your majesty's wisdom in this, as in all that hath befallen you these years past, to read the righteous hand of the Lord writing bitter things against you, as for all your provocations, so especially for resisting his work, and authorising by your commission the shedding of the blood of his people, for which it is high time to repent, that there be no more wrath against you and your realms. .... If your majesty had been pleased to hearken to our counsel hereanent some years ago, the blood of many thousands, which now lies upon your majesty's throne, might have been spared; prelacy, &c. sects, and schisms, which are now grown to so great a height in England, might have been extirpate; and your majesty sitting in peace in your own house, reigning over your subjects with much mutual contentment and confidence! And if your majesty shall yet search out and repent of all your secret and open sins, and, after so many dear-bought experiences of the danger of evil counsel, be now so wise as to avoid it, and to hearken to us, speaking you in the name of the Lord, we are confident by this means your majesty may yet be restored, and a sure and firm peace procured 3.”

" Johnston's Collections, 406. ; Ibid. Session 26, 2d August, 412.

3 Ibid. 437-410.

In this document insult and delusion are ingeniously mixed with keen upbraidings and sarcasm. From the strong delusion under which the presbyterian ministers themselves laboured, they believed the atrocious lie that the guilt of blood lay on the king's head, whereas it unquestionably rested on themselves and on their guilty partisans, who had precipitated the nation into rebellion. He was not the first to draw the sword; but, when he did, it was in defence of his loyal people, of the just laws of the kingdom, of the rights of conscience, and of the church, which the presbyterians had sworn to extirpate. His guilt manifestly laid in his unhappy concessions to the religio-political factions in both kingdoms, which deprived him of all power both legislative and executive.

The Assembly passed a number of acts and overtures besides those above noticed ; and they agreed to and authorised the Larger and Shorter Catechisms “ as agreeable to the word of God, a necessary part of the intended uniformity in religion, and a rich treasure for increasing knowledge among the people of God.” They condemned a pamphlet respecting Mr. Henderson, which shall be afterwards noticed ; they ordained that, before communicating for the first time, every one should take the oath of the covenant, and also all students at matriculation; and yet they were remarkably sensitive on the point of forcing their own consciences, when required to do any thing to which they themselves had not a mind. They ordered the ministers to give in a list to the commission of the kirk of all papists, that they might be extirpated according to the covenant. Last of all, they passed an act ordaining “ that no minister, deposed for malignancy, shall enter into the congregation of any other minister who also hatlı been deposed for malignancy and compliance, as said is?." A new commission of the kirk was appointed, consisting of the same persons as before, always placing the marquis of Argyle at the head of the lay-elders; and, lest the commission should not be able to reach all the episcopal clergymen whom they meant to depose, the Assembly appointed three riding conimittees, under the name of visitors, one of which was to depose the clergy in the presbyteries of Stirling and Dunblane; anotherin Dunse and Chirnside; and the third in Caithness and Orkney. And, to make sure work, it was enacted, that if any of the clergy whom they deposed should obtain any part of their stipend which might be due, the committees were empowered to excommunicate them. That neither abilities, reputation, nor piety, should be any protec

Johnston's Collections, 442.

« PreviousContinue »