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UNITED PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH (of Scotland)

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Originally appearing in Volume V27, Page 609 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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UNITED PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH (of Scotland). This Presbyterian organization, merged since 1900 in the United Free Church of Scotland (see above), was formed in 1847 by the union of the United Secession and Relief Churches. The general causes which led to the first great secession from the Church of Scotland, as by law established in 1688, are indicated • in the article SCOTLAND, CHURCH OF. Untied Its immediate occasion rose out of an act of assembly secession of 1732, which abolished the last remnant of church. popular election by enacting that, in cases where patrons might neglect or decline to exercise their right of presentation the minister was to be chosen, not by the congregation, but only by the elders and Protestant heritors. The act itself had been passed by the assembly, although the presbyteries to which it had been previously submitted as an overture had disapproved of it by a large majority; and in accordance with a previous act (1730), which had taken away even the right of complaint, the protests of the dissentient majority were refused. In the following October Ebenezer Erskine (q.v.), minister of Stirling, preached a synod sermon, in the course of which he took occasion to refer to the act in question as in his opinion unscriptural and unconstitutional.' Some of his expressions were objected to by members of synod, and it was resolved that he should be censured for them. This judgment, on appeal, was affirmed by the assembly in May 1733, whereupon Erskine protested to the effect that he held himself still at liberty to teach the same truths and to testify against the same or similar evils on every proper occasion. This protest, in which he was joined by William Wilson (169o—1741), Alexander Moncrieff (1695—1761) and James Fisher (1697-1775), ministers at Perth, Abernethy and Kinclaven respectively, was regarded by the assembly as contumacious, and the commission of assembly was ordered to procure its retractation or to proceed to higher censures. In November accordingly the protesting ministers were severed from their charges, their churches declared vacant, and all ministers of the Church prohibited from employing them in any ministerial function. They replied by protesting that they still adhered to the principles of the Church, though now obliged to " make a secession from the prevailing party in ecclesiastical courts." In December 1733 they constituted themselves into a presbytery, but for some time their meetings were devoted al-most entirely to prayer and religious conferences. In 1734 they published their first " testimony," with a statement of the grounds of their secession, which made prominent reference to the doctrinal laxity of previous general assemblies. In 1736 they proceeded to exercise " judicial powers " as a church court, published a " judicial testimony," and began to organize churches in various parts of the country. Having been joined by four other ministers, including the well-known Ralph Erskine, they appointed Wilson professor of divinity. For these acts proceeding. were again instituted against them in the assembly, with the result that, having disowned the authority of that body in an " act of declinature," there were in 1740 all deposed and ordered to be ejected from their churches. Meanwhile the members of the " Associate Presbytery " and its adherents steadily increased, until in 1745 there were forty-five congregations under its jurisdiction, and it was reconstituted into an " Associate Synod." A violent controversy arose the same year respecting the religious clause of the oath taken by burgesses in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Perth (" I profess and allow with my heart the true religion presently professed within this realm and authorized by the laws thereof "), and resulted in April 1747 in a " breach," when two bodies wexe formed, each claiming to be the " Associate Synod "; those who condemned the swearing of the burgess oath as sinful came to be popularly known as "Antiburghers," while the other party, who contended that abstinence from it should not be made a term of communion, were designated " Burghers." The Antiburghers not only re-fused to hold further friendly conference with the others, but ultimately went so far as to pass sentences of deposition and the greater excommunication on the Erskines and other ministers who held the opposing view. The Associate (Antiburgher) Synod held its first meeting in Edinburgh in the house of Adam Gib (q.v.) on the loth of April 1747. It grew with considerable rapidity, and in 1788 had ninety-four settled charges in Great Britain and nineteen in Ireland, besides a presbytery in America. For purposes of organization it was formed in that year into four provincial synods, and took the name of " The General Associate Synod." The " new light " controversies as to the province of the civil Magistrate i The passing of the act was certainly unconstitutional; it was rescinded in 1734, " because not made according to former acts."
End of Article: UNITED PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH (of Scotland)
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