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I have heard of no particular acts of oppression, and I believe I may venture to say, neither has any of your lordships, as we must all have done, if any such had been. But, my lords, can riots proceed from no other cause but from oppression in the magistrate? Have people no other motives to rebellion but the suggestions of despair? I believe, my lords, we may find from the history of past times, that they have always had, and from the experience of the present, that they still continue to have other motives.
“ This riotous and rebellious spirit of theirs does not proceed from any oppression of the governors or civil magistrates of that country, as has been strongly insinuated, but from a few fanatical preachers lately started up in that country, who, by their sermons and other ways, instil into the minds of the vulgar and ignorant such enthusiastical notions as are inconsistent with all government, by making sedition and rebellion a principle of their religion. From this cause, I am inclined to think, the tumult at Edinburgh proceeded, and to this is owing that ill judged fidelity of the guilty toward one another, by which the secret before the execution was made impenetrable, and by which the discovery of the persons concerned has since been rendered impossible. But of the inhabitants of Edinburgh, I am convinced, there are very few tainted with these principles, because they seldom or never hear such doctrine."*
A more false, or a more pernicious speech has seldom been uttered in any assembly, than the above by his grace of Argyle. The clergy of all descriptions were innocent of the murder of captain Porteous; and if any portion of them was more innocent than another, it was the seceders, whom his grace must have had an eye upon, and an intention to render odious to the government, when he described them as a few fanatical preachers, lately started up. So far from being men of that description, they were among the oldest and most venerable of their order, men of excellent plain sense, of the most approved loyalty, and highly respected among the best and most judicious of their brethren. The speech, however, had its effect, not in staying the bill, but in bringing forward an absurd clause
* Life of John, Duke of Argyle, pp. 316, 317.
for discovering the actors in the murder of captain Porteous, which, as a punishment for their insinuated fanaticism, all the ministers of Scotland were ordained to read during the time of divine service, on the first Sabbath of every month, for a whole year, * under the penalty of being declared incapable of sitting or voting in any church judicatory, which was to be executed against them by the civil judges of Scotland. This act became a sad snare to the church of Scotland, and involved her still deeper in the trammels of state, which had already fettered her energies, and given a cast to her movements, that had much more of the aspect of an earthly kingdom, than of that which has been declared not to be of this world.
After going through the .commons, where it met with con
*" The most part of ministers in many synods and presbyteries, tho' they scrupled not to condemn the outrageous insult of the mob as murder, yet they had not freedom to read the said act, because they judged the penalty foresaid to be properly a church censure, seeing by it ministers would be divested of the power of church government and discipline, which is given them by the Lord Jesus Christ, the head of the church, and is as essential to their office as preaching or dispensing the sacraments. Now, for the civil magistrate to assume the power of the keys, or, of inflicting church censures, which Christ hath put in the hands of his own officers, they judged a manifest encroachment upon Christ's headship over his church, and contrary to the word of God, and the confession of faith they had subscribed, chap. xxx. par. 1, 2, and chap. xxiii. par. 3. And for ministers to become the magistrates' heralds, to proclaim this law upon the Lord's day in such a solemn manner, would be an homologating of this encroachment, and a consenting to this erastian power of the magistrate. Likewise they judged, to approve or concur with a law so prejudicial to the doctrine and discipline of this church, as established by laws civil and ecclesiastical, would be to give up with fundamental securities, and act contrary to the solemn engagements ministers come under to maintain the doctrine and discipline of this church, and do nothing prejudicial thereto. Besides, they did not think it agreeable to the office of those who were ambassadors of the gospel of peace, to become heralds or executors of this or any sanguinary law; especially when they apprehended there were several things in it inconsistent with justice and equity, besides the erastian penalty aforementioned. These and other arguments set in a clear light in several pamphlets published at that time, determined us to join with those who bore testimony against the reading of the foresaid act, and to run the bazard of all its penalties. And we wish the light of all the ministers of Scotland had been the same with ours in this matter, which would have prevented much division and stumbling that different practices have occasioned.” -Willison's Fair and Impartial Testimony, p. 88.
siderable opposition, the bill was returned to the lords, and passed with some alterations; the city was left in possession of her charter, of her gates, and of her guards; but the lord provost was declared incapable of holding any office, a mulct of two thousand pounds was imposed upon the city for the use of captain Porteous' widow,* and some clauses for discovering the persons concerned in the murder were added, all of which were unavailing, no one of these murderers ever having been found out.
The General Assembly of the church of Scotland, was convened at Edinburgh on the twelfth day of May, 1737. The Rev. Niel Campbell, principal of the college of Glasgow, moderator, William, marquis of Lothian, being again commissioner. It might have been expected that this assembly would have done something to vindicate the Scotish church from the scandalous aspersions that had been thrown out against her ministers, and the glaring encroachment that was at this very time making upon her liberties by the British parliament, respecting the affair of captain Porteous; but alas ! the few feeble efforts she had made at reformation were already at an end; the moderates ashamed of any appearances to that effect in the three last assemblies, and roused by the insinuations and the taunts of parliamentary orators, had mustered all their strength, and the feeble constitutionalists were at once flung back into a state of real insignificancy, from which they have never, with one or two solitary exceptions, to this day been able to emerge.
It had been declared by the late assembly, to be, and always to have been a principle of the Scotish church, that the pastoral relation between a minister and a congregation could not be warrantably established without the consent of the congregation. The same assembly, however, over the belly of their own act, had appointed the presbytery of Stirling to proceed to the settlement of Denny, though the whole congregation was reclaiming. This order, the presbytery, trusting to the general principle, had ventured to disobey, and a complaint from an heritor or two, probably non-residing ones, brought the
* The widow was prevailed upon to accept of £1500 in full of the £2000 voted her by the parliament.
affair again before the assembly, which appointed a committee of twenty-one members, “ to propose a proper overture on the whole affair, for maintaining the authority of the General Assembly of this church, in a manner most consistent with peace and edification.”
This overture was brought in next day, “and by a vote approven, whereby the assembly declare their dissatisfaction with the conduct of the presbytery of Stirling, in neglecting or refusing to obey the appointment of the assembly, 1736, and do again order and enjoin that presbytery to proceed to the trials and settlement of Mr. James Stirling, as minister of Denny, and finish the same, before the first of September next, as they will be answerable to the next assembly, and in case he be not then actually settled, the synod of Perth and Stirling are appointed, at their meeting in October next, to take him upon trials, and proceed so as to finish the settlement before the first of March next, providing that it shall not be lawful for the synod to put any question, whether they shall obey this appointment, but that any ten or more ministers thereof do proceed as above directed, whether any others of the synod concur with them or not, or notwithstanding that others, or even the greatest part then present, should oppose the execution of this act; and in case the synod or such number of them as above mentioned, shall not before the first of November next, enter upon trials the said Mr. Stirling, or before the first of March next finish the same, the assembly empower a special commission of this General Assembly to convene at Edinburgh, in the Old Kirk Isle, on the third Wednesday of November or March, respectively, with power to adjourn themselves as they shall think fit, in order to take trials, and ordain Mr. Stirling as minister of Denny; and Mr. Stirling is ordered to present himself before the presbytery of Stirling at their meeting in June next, or before the synod, or special commission at Edinburgh, respectively, in order to undergo his trials, and that the application of himself, or of any heritor or elder of Denny, to the synod, or moderator of the commission, representing that the presbytery or synod have not ordained or taken him upon trials, shall be sufficient evidence, whereupon the synod or special commission are to proceed, as above directed, and
the presbytery, synod, or foresaid commission, Care] to endeavour to persuade the parishioners of Denny to submit to Mr. Stirling's ministry.”
The members of this special commission were afterwards named, “any seven to be a quorum, five of them being ministers, with power to cause Mr. James Stirling to be enrolled in the presbytery books, and the presbytery clerk ordered to attend with the books at Denny, the day of the ordination, and upon application to either of the clerks of assembly, that they send letters to convene the committee."*
Many other arbitrary and cruel settlements were made by this assembly, though not all equally glaring as the above, viz. at Perth, Duffus, Monikie, Madderty, &c. &c. in all which cases, presentations and heritors were considered every thing, the congregations nothing, yet, apparently ashamed of the decision of the late assembly with regard to professor Campbell, they passed and printed an act explanatory of the former one, wherein, “ for satisfaction to all concerned, this assembly does declare, that as the last assembly, in their act, say, that they gave no judgment or formal sentence upon the report of the committee, and therefore could not be constructed to adopt any of his (Campbell's] expressions; so this assembly do steadfastly adhere to the doctrine of our church upon that head, expressed in our standards, particularly in the answers to that question in our Shorter and Larger Catechisms, “ What is the chief end of man?” They also recorded the dissent of some members from the decision respecting the parish of Denny, and of George Gillespie, in the case of Madderty; but they made a reference to the commission, to prepare an overture for the next assembly, to be transmitted to presbyteries, for determining whether such dissents should be recorded or not !
The principal thing that occupied the attention of the public at this time, was an open breach in the royal family. The princess of Wales bad advanced to the last month of her pregnancy, before the king and queen were informed of her
# This might be maintaining the authority of the assembly; but there was not surely one member of that assembly so deplorably stupid, as to suppose that it was consistent either with peace or edification.
† Acts of Assembly, 1737.