Index for Chapters XXI-XXIX

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Chapter XXV: The Service Book

Mr. Crighton was a man of peculiar character, and having taken part with those who were anxious for the introduction of the new service-book and other innovations, he soon found himself in a very unpleasant position. The Presbytery deemed it their duty to take up a strong position against the new liturgy. They drew up a supplication against it to the Council, and appointed one of their number to support their petition, and “to advise and consult with the rest of the brethren, or other good christians that shall happen to be present in Edinburgh or elsewhere, concerning such a wise and fair course as shall be thought fit and expedient to be taken concerning the service-book presently urged.” The “supplication” is in many ways interesting. It has been ignorantly supposed that the Church of Scotland has always been opposed to forms of prayer, whereas forms of prayer were in constant use for nearly a century after the Reformation, and their lawfulness was never doubted. [3] This supplication from Paisley is one of the many proofs that might be adduced to show that the Church was not opposed to any liturgy, but only to the particular liturgy that was forced upon it, and which was strenuously resisted chiefly on account of what were believed to be its doctrinal errors, and what was known to be its origin. We give the supplication to the Council in full :—

“Unto your Lordships, &c.—We, the brethren of the presbyterie of Paislay, notwithstanding that hitherto, partlie in respect of our vacation in tyme of harvest, partlie in respect we did not apprehend or suspect that the charge given to us to buy the service-book did stretch further than our own private perusing of it for our better information, that we may give our judgements touching the fitness thereof to be received and embraced in our Kirk, we have been too negligent in supplicating your Lordships, with the rest of the clergy and other well affected christians. Yet perceiving now, partlie by the proclamations made in December, 1636, partlie by his Majesty's declaration of his pleasure thereanent, it is his Majesty's will that the said book of service shall be presently embraced and perused throughout this whole Kirk and kingdome, we cannot but think ourselves bound in conscience to joyne with the rest of our brethren and other good christians in supplicating your Lordships most humblie to deal with his Majesty that he would be graciously pleased not to urge upon his good and loyal subjects the said service-book after such a fashion, in our judgement contrary to the practice of this Kirk and kingdom, wherein, so far as we know, nothing of this kind bath been established without the consent of the General Assembly and Parliament. And, seeing we have had a liturgie established by authority, wherewith we have been bred and educated ever since the Reformation, and the same not abolished, and the liturgie now urged seemeth to us in sundrie particulars to be different from that we have embraced and professed, it would please his Gracious Majesty to use such a fair course, without impeachment to the good and peace of the Church, and without grief and offence to the consciences of his Majesty's most loving and loyal subjects.”

Things had gone too far to be stayed by any such supplication. The bishops drew upon them the wrath of the Church as supporters of the new liturgy, and the Church declared them no longer necessary in a christian commonwealth. The question of the lawfulness of the service-book, wearing a surplice, and kneeling at the holy communion became merged in the higher one of the lawfulness of Episcopacy. The Covenant was drawn up as the basis of the ecclesiastical polity of Scotland, and Presbytery declared supreme. The agitations of the time were strongly felt in Paisley. A solemn fast was kept upon a Sunday
[4] throughout the Presbytery [5] for “removing the sins of the land, especially the contempt of the gospel, which hath provoked God to permit innovations to creep in upon the Church, and that it would please him to save this Kirk of Scotland from all innovations of religion, and that peace with the profession of the present religion may with liberty be entertained.”

[3] A very prevalent feeling exists in the Church of Scotland for a “Book of Common Order” similar to that used so long after the Reformation, and a book has been published by the “Church Service Society” bearing that name. Those who desire such an aid to public worship are really “standing in the old paths,” and walking in the ways of the fathers of the Church.
[4] A most unusual day for a fast.
[5] Ordered by the Presbytery on 24th May, 1638.