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whom we have already made mention as the founder of a sect still known by his name. These peculiar views this assembly did not think “ inconsistent with his being a minister," they accordingly restored him to the “ character of a minister of the gospel of Christ;” notwithstanding of which, they declared “ he was not to be esteemed a minister of the established church of Scotland, or to be considered as capable of being called and settled therein,” till he shall renounce these peculiar views.* If he was assured, however, that he was a minister of the gospel of Christ, it could affect him but little whether he was acknowledged a minister of the church of Scotland or not.
The assembly was again convened on the eighth of May, 1740; the Rev. George Logan, one of the ministers of Edinburgh, moderator, John, earl of Hyndford, commissioner. On the motion of the moderator of the last assembly, the court proceeded, on the twelfth, to consider the recommendation of last assembly, concerning the seceding brethren; and on the fifteenth, finished that long continued process, by solemnly deposing them from the office of the holy ministry, in the following terms :-" The General Assembly, pursuant to their resolution of the twelfth instant, resumed the consideration of the process against the eight seceding ministers, and having caused them to be again called, and none of them compearing, nor any person for them, the assembly caused to be read the minute of their proceeding in this affair on Monday last, and also that of the last assembly of May nineteenth, 1739, and then proceeded to consider, whether, upon the libel found relevant to infer deposition, and proven as to its most material articles, by the last General Assembly, against the whole ministers therein named, and again found relevant and proven by this assembly, in so far as concerns Mr. James Thomson, upon the new libel executed against him, in pursuance of the said act of the last assembly, this assembly should proceed to inflict the said censure of deposition, and after full reasoning upon the expediency thereof, and prayer to God for direction how to judge in this weighty affair, and for his blessing on such decision as the assembly should come to, it was agreed to put
• Index to Printed Acts of Assembly, 1759.
the question, Depose or not? And rolls being called and votes marked, it carried by a very great majority, depose. And, therefore, the General Assembly, in respect of the articles found rele. vant and proven against the persons therein and hereafter named by the last and this Assembly, as aforesaid, did, and hereby do, in the name of the LORD Jesus Christ, the sole king and head of the church, and by virtue of the power and authority committed by Him to them, actually DEPOSE Messrs. Ebenezer Erskine at Stirling, William Wilson at Perth, Alexander Moncrief, at Abernethy, James Fisher at Kinclaven, Ralph Erskine at Dunfermline, Thomas Mair at Orwell, Thomas Nairn at Abbotshall, and James Thomson at Bruntisland, ministers, from the office of the holy ministry, prohibiting and discharging them, and every one of them, to exercise the same, or any part thereof, within this church in all time coming, and the assembly did, and hereby DO DECLARE all the parishes or charges of the persons above named, vacant, from and after the day and date of this sentence, and ordains copies hereof to be sent to the several presbyteries of Stirling, Perth, Dunkeld, Dunfermline, and Kirkcaldy, and the said respective presbyteries are hereby ordered to send copies hereof to the kirk sessions of Perth and Dunfermline, and session clerks of the other respective parishes hereby declared vacant, to be communicated to the elders. And the assembly appoints that letters be wrote by their moderator to the magistrates of the respective burghs concerned, with copies of this sentence, and the assembly recommends to the presbyteries within whose bounds the parishes or charges now declared vacant do lie, to be careful in using their best endeavours for supplying the same during the vacancy, and for promoting the speedy and comfortable settlement thereof."*
From this sentence fifteen ministers and four elders entered their dissent, and their reasons were ordered to lie in retentis, and it was referred to the commission to determine in any process for the speedy settlement of any of the parishes vacant by the sentence deposing the seceders.
There was laid before this assembly an appeal from a sen
* Acts of Assembly, 1740.
tence of the synod of Lothian and Tweedale, laying aside a call by four heritors and three heads of families of the parish of Currie, to Mr. James Mercer, minister at Aberdalgie, to whom the magistrates and council of Edinburgh had given a presentation to be minister of that parish, with a reference by the said synod to the assembly as to some objections offered against the town of Edinburgh's right to the patronage of Currie, which, being heard, the assembly agreed, “ that there is sufficient evidence to infer that the city of Edinburgh have been, and are in possession of presenting as patrons of the parish of Currie;" and they appointed a committee “ to confer with parties, and prepare an overture touching the comfortable settlement” of that parish. This committee brought in a report, which, after some amendments, was approved, whereby “the assembly declare, that in respect of the difficulties attending the call to Mr. Mercer to the parish of Currie, they cannot proceed to settle him in that parish while these difficulties remain.” The diffi-, culties were, that the whole parish was in opposition to him, four heritors and three heads of families excepted, which in many cases would have been very easily surmounted; but Mr. Mercer was an obnoxious member, the victim of his own zeal. He it was who first moved a censure upon Ebenezer Erskine in the synod of Perth, and, of course, to him were imputed all the evils, real and supposed, that had flowed from that measure, which at once accounts for the little countenance he met with in the assembly. But this assembly went still farther than to discountenance an obnoxious brother; they recommended it to the magistrates of Edinburgh to allow the parish of Currie a leet of six to choose upon, and to bestow the presentation on him who should have the majority of heritors and elders. This recommendation the magistrates of Edinburgh had the good sense to comply with, and the parish of Currie was comfortably settled. Against this moderate sentence, however, Mr. George Gillespie, Mr. William Thomson, and Mr. Gordon of Ardoch, entered a dissent. In other cases of the same kind, particularly in the cases of Tranent and Ceres, the decisions of this assembly were, as usual, highly unfavourable to the rights of the Christian people.*
• Printed and Unprinted Acts of Assembly, 1740.
The insolence of the Spaniards had been for a number of years a source of perpetual complaint to the people of Great Britain, and the pacific disposition of the minister was at last obliged to give way to the popular feeling, and he condescended at length to issue letters of marque and reprisals against the ships of that nation. France, it was evident, would join issue with the Spaniards, and the states general, though they could not well avoid furnishing to Great Britain the succours stipulated by solemn treaties, declared that they would observe the strictest neutrality; but the nation, in general, was full of confidence, and prepared to meet the tempest with the most cheerful alacrity. The minister, seeing no alternative, prepared to take advantage of the state of public feeling, by which he was amply seconded in his preparations, and the opening scene of the war was more brilliant than he probably either expected or desired. One of the most determined adversaries of the pacific system of Walpole was admiral Vernon, a blunt, but bold and free speaker, who having stated in the house of commons how easily some of the Spanish possessions in the New World might be captured, was appointed to the command of a squadron in the West Indies, with the intention, it has been generally said, of bringing him, from being unable to surmount the difficulties that lay in his way, to repent of his vaunting speeches. If such, however, was the minister's intention, he was completely disappointed. Vernon, without losing a moment, sailed directly for Porto Bello, which he took with a force of only six ships, and demolished the fortifications, sending home the cannon which had been mounted upon them as trophies of victory. This exploit filled the whole nation with the most extravagant joy, and excited hopes which in the nature of things could never be realized, and consequently were the precursors of the most miserable disappointment.
The ensuing winter, 1739-40, was one of uncommon severity, and subjected the mass of the people to almost unprecedented privations. An excessive frost set in upon the 24th of December, which continued to the 20th of February, during which every kind of out-door, and the greater part of in-door labour was of necessity entirely suspended. The Thames was frozen over so strongly, that a multitude of tents were erected upon
in which the populace were entertained as if in the streets of an overflowing city. The product of the preceding harvest was much of it destroyed by the excessive cold, which was so extreme, that many persons were chilled to death by it; and the calamity was the more grievous, that fuel, from the entire stop put to river navigation, could not be procured at any price. Provisions were greatly enhanced in value, and difficult to obtain; and even water became a rare and high priced article in the streets of London. Many wretched families behoved to have perished, had not those of opulent fortunes been inspired with a more than ordinary spirit of liberality, which opened its hand not only to the professed beggar and the poor who frankly owned their distresses, but sought out with diligence, and relieved with secrecy, those more unhappy objects who, from false pride or ingenuous shame, endeavoured to conceal their misery. In Scotland, where there was less of a liberal spirit, as well as less for it to work with, the calamity was peculiarly severe. Meal, in that poor country, where there was little employment, and little to be had in return for it, wages scarcely averaging fourpence per day, rose to two shillings per peck, while it was bad in quality, and difficult to be obtained, the harvest having been late, and the winter early as well as severe. Most of the domestic fowls, many of the cattle, and even the wild animals were frozen to death. Great numbers of the people were frostbitten, the frost being so intense, as to destroy much of the furze, broom, and brushwood, with every kind of garden stuff which the country possessed.
The following year, in the early part of it at least, seems also to have been unpromising, for we find the General Assembly, which met on the fourteenth day of May, 1741, passed the following act:-“ The General Assembly taking into their serious consideration, and being deeply affected with the state of the land, by reason of the scarcity and famine we are groaning under, the dangerous and expensive war we are engaged in, with many other tokens of the Lord's wrath against us, and all these justly inflicted by a righteous God for our many sins, grievous backslidings, and provocations, did judge it their duty speedily to call persons of all ranks to humble themselves before the Lord, acknowledging our transgressions, and flying by faith and repentance to the