David Hay Fleming
The Discipline of the Reformation Part 2
Copyright © 1997 Naphtali Press
The reformers distinguished three classes of sins, First, those that were capital, and therefore deserved both excommunication and death. In this class were placed, willful murder, adultery, sorcery, witchcraft, conjuring, charming, giving of drinks to destroy children, and open blasphemy, as if any renounce God, deny the truth and the authority of His holy Word, railing against His blessed sacraments. Second, those that did not fall under the civil sword, and yet deserved public repentance. This class included, fornication, drunkenness, swearing, cursed speaking, chiding, fighting, brawling, and common contempt of the order of the Church, breaking of the Sabbath, and such like. Of these some are more heinous than others. Third, those that are less heinous, and yet deserve admonition, as wanton and vain words, uncomely gestures, negligence in hearing the preaching, or abstaining from the Lord’s table when publicly ministered, suspicion of avarice or of pride, superfluity or riotousness in cheer or raiment, these and such others, that of the world are not regarded. Persons who had committed any sins of this latter class, were to be admonished privately “by one or two of those that did first espy the offence; which, if the person suspected hear, and give declaration of amendment, then there needs no further process: but if he contemn and despise the admonition, then should the former admonishers take to themselves two or three faithful and honest witnesses, in whose presence the suspected offender should be admonished, and the causes of their suspicion declared, to whom if then he gives signification of repentance and promise of amendment, they may cut off all further accusation; but, and if he obstinately contemn both the said admonitions, then ought the first and second brethren to signify the matter to the ministers and elders in their session, who ought to call the offender before the complainers, and accuse him as well of the crime as of the contempt of the admonition.” (( Order of Excommunication and Public Repentance. ))
No one can fail to perceive how faithfully the Master’s command (Matt. 18:15-17) was hereby obeyed. For private admonition, three excellent rules were laid down. “First, that our admonitions proceed of a godly zeal and conscience, rather seeking to win our brother than to slander him; next, that we be assured that his fault be reprovable by God’s word; and finally, that we use such modesty and wisdom, that if we (?he) somewhat doubt of the matter whereof we admonish him, yet with godly exhortations he may be brought to the knowledge of his fault.” (( Order of the Ecclesiastical Discipline. )) If the offender when called before the session, acknowledged his offence, and was willing to satisfy the brethren before offended and the session then present, then there was no further publication of his offence. But if he declared himself disobedient to the session, then next Sabbath both the crime, and the order of admonitions passed before were publicly declared to the church, and, without naming the person, he was admonished to satisfy in public that which he refused to do in secret. If he showed himself penitent before the next Sabbath, and satisfies the minister of the church, and the brethren that were before offended in their assembly, then next Sabbath, without naming him or causing him to compear, the minister, by command of the session, declared his repentance and submission. On the other hand, if he was not penitent, then next Sabbath he was named, and his offences and stubbornness declared. After this, no satisfaction could be received except in public, and not even there, until he had humbly required it of the session. If he continued stubborn, then on the third Sabbath, he was publicly charged to satisfy the church for his offence and contempt, under the pain of excommunication. “Thus a small offence or slander may justly deserve excommunication, by reason of the contempt and disobedience of the offender.”
Before considering the second class of sins, it may be as well to refer more particularly to two of this third class, viz: non-attendance on public worship, and abstaining from the Lord’s table. From the old Record of West Anstruther, we learn that visitors were regularly appointed to look after those who absented themselves from public worship, and the following extract shows how stubborn and perverse parishioners were dealt with.
4 April, 1598. “The magistrates yet again desyred to tak ordor with Sandie reid & the rest that was absent fra the kirk the last Sabeth.”
Had our modern voluntaries been alive then, they would doubtless have protested against this; but our Reformers understood thoroughly the nature, duties, and ends of the civil and ecclesiastical powers, they knew wherein they agreed, and wherein they differed, and were always careful to distinguish between the power of the sword, and the power of the keys. They held that all the actions of the civil magistrate even when employed about ecclesiastical matters are in their own nature essentially civil; that it belongs not to the ministry to compel the disobedient, and that any compulsion, in or about ecclesiastical matters, is not from the nature of ecclesiastical power, but is adventitious from without, to wit, from the help and assistance of the magistrate. To the supposed case of a Christian convert coming from China to a country or city where there are many Churches, Samuel Rutherford answers; “One congregation more than another cannot compel the China-convert to be a member of their congregation; but if he be baptized and profess, the godly magistrate may compel him to hear the word, and receive the seals in the place he resides, so it be a sound Church. The magistrate cannot compel him to faith and heart duties, but he may compel him to external profession; . . . the ruler cannot compel a man to love his neighbor, but he can compel him to the external duties of love, and punish him, if against love he beat or kill his neighbor,. He cannot compel any to the faith but if one come to years desert his faith professed in baptism, both the Church and the magistrate may punish him as a runaway. . . . The magistrate makes no rule of constitution of Churches, nor any ecclesiastical rule, as Mr. H[ooker] saith. But it follows not, therefore he cannot impose it, when it is made. The magistrate makes not the hearing of the Gospel to be lawful; but it follows not, ergo, as the preserver of both the tables of the law, he may not command Christian subjects to hear the Gospel: yea, to me it’s most probable, he may compel heathen people lawfully conquered to desist from idolatry, blaspheming of Christ, and to hear the Gospel.” (( Rutherfurd’s Survey of the Survey of that Summe of Church-discipline, penned by Mr. Thomas Hooker, 1658, pp. 282, 283. )) In treating on this point, James Durham refers to the difference between constraining a circumcised or baptized people to worship God in the purity of ordinances, as they have been engaged thereto; and the constraining of a people to engage and be baptized, which were not formerly engaged. And after pointing out how Josiah caused the people to stand to the covenant, and having removed all idolatrous worship, made Israel to serve the Lord, he says: the magistrate “might order them to keep the ordinances, and in going about them to keep the rule, because that is but a constraining of them in the means whereby religion worketh, and making them, as it were, to give God a hearing, leaving their yielding and consenting to him, when they have heard him, to their own wills, which cannot be forced; yet it is reason, that when God cometh by his ordinances to treat with a people, that a magistrate should so far respect his glory and their good, as to interpose his authority to make them hear.” (( The Dying Man’s Testament to the Church of Scotland. Ed. 1740, p. 228. )) Even the English Brownists of the sixteenth century held that Princes “ought to compell al their subjects to the hearing of God’s word in the publique exercises of the Church: yet cannot the Prince compell any to be a member of the Church, or the Church to receive any without assurance by the publique profession of their owne faith, or to reteine anie longer, than they continue & walke orderly in the faith.” (( A plaine Refutation of M. Giffard’s Booke intituled, a short treatise gainst the Donatistes of England. 1591. Preface to the Reader. )) Though the Parliament of 1567 discerned and declared that all “that refusis the participatioun of the holy sacramentis as thay ar now ministrat, to be na memberis of the said Kirk within this realme now presently professit, swa long as they keip thame selfis so deuydit [i.e. divided] fra the societie of Christis body;” (( Booke of the Universall Kirk. App. p. 89. )) and though those suspected of Papistrie were admonished to subscryve the Confession of Faith and “participat the communione,” yet the Reformers “were very far from approving of the promiscuous admission of persons of all descriptions to the peculiar privileges of the Church of Christ.” (( M’Crie’s Life of Knox, p. 205. See also prop. 16. )) They were certainly anxious that every grown up person should communicate, but not unless they were qualified to examine themselves, and led a life becoming the gospel. “There was nothing in which the Scottish Reformers approached nearer to the primitive Church than in the rigorous and impartial exercise of ecclesiastical discipline, the relaxation of which, under the Papacy, they justly regarded as one great cause of the universal corruption of religion.” (( Ibid. p. 251. )) And the three chief causes for exercising this discipline were, that the vile should not be numbered among God’s children, that the good should not be infected by companying with the evil, and that those, thus corrected or excommunicated, might be ashamed of their faults, and so through repentance come to amendment.
According to the ninth head of the First Book of Discipline, the Lord’s supper was to be administered four times a year, but never “without examination passing before, and specially of them whose knowledge is suspected,” for such as “be so dull, and so ignorant, that they can neither try themselves, nor yet know the dignity and mystery of that action, cannot eat and drink of that table worthily. And therefore of necessity we judge, that every year at the least, public examination be had by the ministers and elders, of the knowledge of every person within the kirk; viz., that every master and mistress of household come themselves, and their family, so many as be come to maturity, before the minister and the elders, and give confession of their faith. If they understand not, nor can not rehearse the commandments of God’s law, know not how to pray, neither wherein their righteousness stands or consists, they ought not to be admitted to the Lord’s table.” (( Suspension from the Lord’s table is sometimes called the publican’s excommunication, and is commonly (though not properly) called the lesser excommunication, to distinguish it from excommunication proper, which is the cutting off of a member, and which in contradistinction is called the greater excommunication. )) If such an examination were made now, how the churches would be thinned!
Craig’s Catechism was afterwards written and adopted as the form of examination before the communion. (( It was customary at the Reformation, for the congregation to convene on the Tuesday before the March Communion, for redressing grievances and reconciling those at variance. Calderwood’s Hist., 1678, pp. 722-803. )) Those who withdrew themselves for a long period from the society of Christ’s body and from the participation of the sacraments; or those who had been partakers with the Reformed Church in doctrine and sacraments, and returned back again to Popery, or gave their presence to any part of their abominations, were deemed worthy of excommunication, albeit not so summarily as those who committed capital crimes. They were first called and exhorted to repentance, and their danger pointed out to them. If the offender heard, then a day was appointed for his public repentance, but if he continued stubborn, then next Sabbath his defections and stubborn contempt were declared, and this advertisement being given on two Sabbaths, the sentence of excommunication might be pronounced on the third. There were other persons who, while professing “the veritie of the Gospell,” yet under the pretence of deadly feuds refrained from the Lord’s table. The General Assembly of 1595 ordained all Presbyteries to charge these persons within their table; and in caise they be obstinate and refuse, to proceed with the censures of the Kirk against them.” But this rider was put upon the ordinance, “it being always considerit be the Presbytrie, that if there be any infirmitie or hinderance of conscience that refuses, in that caise the said Presbytrie shall travell with the said persones to bring them to their deutie and participatione of the said table, granting with good advyce and discretione some reasonable tyme as to resolve themselves.” (( The Booke of the Universall Kirk, p. 414. ))
Sins of the second class, if known, were not suffered in any person, but the offender was called before the session, where his sin and trespass were proved and “aggreged,” so that his conscience might feel how far he had offended God, and what slander he had raised in the kirk. If he showed himself penitent, then a day was appointed, when the whole kirk convened, that he might testify his repentance in presence of all. But the session only admitted him to public repentance after having examined him sharply regarding his fear and terror of God’s judgments, his hatred of sin and grief for the same, and his sense and feeling of God’s mercies. If found ignorant of these, he was diligently instructed, “for it is but a mocking to present such to public repentance, as neither understand what sin is, what repentance is, what grace is, nor by whom God’s favor and mercy is procured. Then after that the offender shall be instructed in the assembly, so that he have some taste of God’s judgments, but chiefly of God’s mercies in Christ Jesus, he may be presented before the public church upon a Sunday after the sermon, and before the prayers and psalm.” (( Order of Excommunication and Public Repentance )) The minister in presenting him declared his crime, its heinousness, and his readiness “to witness and declare his unfeigned repentance, the thirst and the care that he hath to be reconciled with God through Jesus Christ, and with you his brethren, whom he hath offended.” Public repentance was then proved to be the institution of God, and not the invention of man. From our Master’s “commanding that if any have offended (( It is hardly necessary to explain that the word offend as used in the Bible, and by our Reformers does not mean to displease. “Scandal or offence is not the grieving or displeasing of my brother; for peradventure when I grieve him or displease him, I do edify him. Now edification and scandal are not compatible; but scandal is a word or deed proceeding from me, which is, or may be, the occasion of another man’s halting, or falling, or swerving from the straight way of righteousness.” English Popish Ceremonies, Part ii ch. 8, sect. 2. )) his brother, (in what sort soever it be), that he shall go to him and be reconciled unto his brother,” it was argued, that if the offending of one brother required this, much more did the offending of a multitude require it; for, that woe, which Christ pronounced against every man that offends the least one within His church, remains upon every public offender, until he let the offended multitude understand his unfeigned repentance. The minister then pressed the congregation to consider, in the fall and sin of this their brother, the corruption that lurked in themselves, and “how prone and ready every one of us is to such and greater impiety, then shall we in the sin of this our brother accuse and condemn our own sins, in his fall we shall consider and lament our sinful nature, also we shall join our repentance, tears, and prayers with him and his, knowing that no flesh can be justified before God’s presence, if judgment proceed without mercy.” After dwelling on God’s readiness to pardon, and the benefit arising from not being ashamed thus to humble ourselves and confess our offences, the offender was solemnly charged to consider earnestly with what mind and heart he was presenting himself, and was reminded that his sin would not separate him from his God, nor from His mercy in Jesus Christ, if repented of; but that hypocrisy and impenitence are nowise tolerable before His presence. The offender then protested before God that he was sorry for his sin, and unfeignedly desired God to be merciful unto him, and that, for the obedience of His dear Son our Lord Jesus Christ. The minister then said: “we can only see that which is without, and according to your confession judge, leaving the secrets of the heart to God, who only can try and search the same; but, because unfeigned repentance for sin, and simple confession of the same, are the gifts of God, we will join our prayers with yours, that the one and the other may be granted to you and us.” The merciful and everlasting God, who sent His only Son to suffer, “not for the just, but for such as find themselves oppressed with the burden of sin,” was then besought to touch and move their hearts that they might come to a true knowledge of their sins; but chiefly, that He would move the heart of this their brother, and theirs also, that he and they might condemn sin without hypocrisy, and attain to the assurance of mercy. That he might be granted repentance of heart, and sincere confession of mouth, to the praise of God’s name, to the comfort of the Church, and to the confusion of Satan. And that they might not only be kept from falling into horrible crimes, but receive grace to live holy and innocent lives, that men seeing their good works might glorify God. The prayer being finished, the minister turned to the penitent brother, asking him, as he had heard what was his duty towards the Church which he had offended, and the affection and care of the Church towards him, that he would openly and simply confess his crime, and give them a testimony of his unfeigned repentance. The penitent then openly confessed his crime, whatever it was, desiring God’s mercy, and prayed the Church to call to God for mercy with him, and desired to be joined again to their society and number. But if the penitent was confounded with shame, or unable to speak distinctly to the comfort and instruction of the Church, the minister made repetition, and on the penitent answering that this was his confession and belief, the minister asked the congregation if they required any thing more for their satisfaction, and for reconciliation of that brother. No contradiction being made, the minister charged the penitent that as the Spirit of Jesus Christ had confounded the devil in that he to the glory of God had openly condemned himself and his impiety, and had implored grace and mercy, and as this strength, submission and obedience, was the gift of the Holy Ghost, that so he would acknowledge it to be given unto him by Jesus Christ, and take heed lest, at any time, he was unmindful of this great benefit, and again fall into such or more horrible crimes; and that he would resist the devil, live in sobriety, be instant in prayer, and unfeignedly commend himself to God who would give him the victory over sin, death, and Satan, by means of our Head and sovereign champion, Jesus Christ.
The congregation were next admonished to take this their penitent brother for an example: first, in being unfeignedly displeased in their own hearts at their own sins; secondly, that they would confess their offences in the sight of God, imploring grace and mercy for them; and lastly, that if any of them should hereafter publicly offend, they would not refuse to satisfy the Church of God. They were further charged to remit and forget all offences which they had conceived by his sin and fall; to accept and embrace him as a member of Christ’s body; and not reproach or accuse him for any offences of the past. And that he might be assured of their good will and reconciliation, hearty thanks were rendered unto God for his conversion and repentance. The thanksgiving being finished, the minister asked the penitent if he would be subject to the discipline of the Church, if he after offended; on being answered in the affirmative, the minister said in manner of absolution: “If thou unfeignedly repent thy former iniquity, and believe in the Lord Jesus, then I, in His name, pronounce and affirm that thy sins are forgiven, not only on earth, but also in heaven, according to the promises annexed with the preaching of His word, and to the power put in the ministry of His Church.” Then the elders and deacons, in the name of the whole Church, took the reconciled brother by the hand, and embraced him, in sign of full reconciliation. After singing part of the 103rd Psalm, the congregation was dismissed with the benediction.
Though “the Form and Order of Public Repentance” is only given above in outline, every one must be struck with the manner in which faithfulness and tenderness are combined. But, if an offender when first summoned before the session was found to be stubborn, hard-hearted, or without any sign of repentance, then he was demitted, with an exhortation to consider the dangerous estate in which he stood, and was assured that, if no other tokens of amendment of life were found in him, they would be compelled to seek a further remedy. If within a certain space, he shewed his repentance to the ministry, then he was presented to the kirk; but if he continued impenitent, then the kirk was advertised, that such crimes were committed among them, as had been reprehended, and the persons provoked to repent; the crime was mentioned, but not the person, and the congregation was required “earnestly to call to God to move and touch the heart of the offender, so that suddenly and earnestly he may repent.” (( First Book of Discipline. Seventh Head. )) If he still continued impenitent, on the next day of public assembly, both his name and his crime were notified to the kirk, and it was put to them, if in their judgments such crimes ought to be suffered unpunished among them, and his nearest and most discreet friend was requested to endeavor to bring him to the knowledge of himself, and of his dangerous estate, and all were commended to call to God for his conversion. On the third Sabbath the minister asked if the impenitent had declared any signs of repentance to one of the ministry, if he had, then after examination, if repentance appeared both for his crime and his long contempt, he was presented to the kirk, to make public satisfaction; but if neither the accused nor any one in his absence signified his repentance, then he was excommunicated.
Sometimes the offender did not even appear before the session when cited, if so, it was ordained that, “summons ought to pass to the third time; and then, in case he appear not, the church may discern the sentence to be pronounced.” (( The order of Excommunication. )) The following entry from the old Record of W. Anstruther shows how contumacious offenders were compelled to appear before the session.
17 March 1594. “Katrin & bessie gilgours called, compeired not, therfor the magistrats desyred to impreson them till tysday.” (( The following extract shows the reciprocal manner in which the elders and magistrates acted: 9 March 1591. “Because of the great contempt of magistrates, & disobedience to them, be ignorant & orderles persones heirfore it is statut & ordeined be the session that whosoever sall be convict in this offence, sall be debarrit fra all benefit of the kirk, till they have satisfied according to the ordinance of the counsell of the town, and session of the kirk.” In the extracts quoted in this article from the Records of W. Anstruther, contracted words have been extended, though otherwise the spelling has been adhered to. ))
As the kirk-session met every Tuesday, the object in imprisoning these offenders till next Tuesday is obvious. It is noticeable that both in this, and the preceding extract, the magistrates were desired, &c. The reason of this in principle, has been already given, and in practice the Church courts did not inflict civil punishments. “The parliament, or the magistracy of particular burghs enacted punishments of a corporal kind, against certain crimes which were ordinarily tried in the Church courts. Some of these existed before the Reformation, and some of them were posterior to it; but the infliction as well as the enacting of them, pertained to the civil magistrate (Knox, p. 269). In the minutes of several kirk-sessions, however, the sentences inflicting them, are found recorded along with censures, properly ecclesiastical.” (( M’Crie’s Life of Knox. Note D D D. )) “In boroughs, it was the almost invariable custom to have some of the elders chosen from among the magistrates. This circumstance, connected with the nature of the offences usually tried, and the punishments decreed against them, by the legislature, led to that apparent confounding of the two jurisdictions, which is apt to strike those who happen to look into the ancient records of kirk-sessions, as an anomaly, and a contradiction to the principles of the Presbyterian Church.” (( M’Crie’s Life of Melville, 2nd. ed., vol. I. p. 335. )) In the buik of the Kirk of Canagait, in all instances in which any civil penalty is added, this form of expression is used: “Thairfoir the baillies assistane the assemblie of ye kirke ordanis” &c., (( Ibid. note G G. )) “By cap. 27, parl. 11, James vi., it is enacted that, troublers of the kirk, or who raise any fray therein, or in the kirkyard, in time of divine service, be punished by loss of all their moveables. If the magistrate be present, no doubt, he may ordain the disturbers to be removed, and secured, till they find bail to answer therefor.” (( Pardovan’s Collections, Book 3, Title 6, Sect. 4. )) Another explanatory proof, from the greatest authority on the matter in modern times, will suffice for this point. “I have” says Dr. M’Crie “in my possession (extracted from the records of a kirk session) a commission, granted by the sheriff-depute of Berwickshire, appointment of such an officer in parishes within which no ordinary magistrate resided.” (( Life of Knox, note D D D. )) This explanation must be kept in view, and it must not be forgotten that our Reformers had not only difficulty in getting Parliament to make laws for the suppression of vice, but in getting them to enforce them after they were made.
Some moderns, anxious no doubt to escape from everything like Erastianism, seem to forget that God’s ordinance of Magistracy “is wholly intended for the preservation of mankind, the punishment of vice, and the maintenance of virtue.” For example, Dr. Ross in his very valuable book on Pastoral Work in Covenanting Times (pages 174, 175) in referring to the General Assembly of 1648, recommending “every congregation [or parish] to make use of the 9 Act of Parliament of 1645, at Perth, for having Magistrates and Justices in every congregation, and of the 8 Act of the said Parliament against Swearing, Drinking, and mocking of Piety, and all other Acts of Parliament for restraining or punishing of Vice; particularly for the better restraining of the sin of whoredom, that each Magistrate in every congregation exact,” &c., (( Records of the Kirk of Scotland, pp. 511,512. )) says, “We are not defending the principle involved in this procedure, we are merely explaining the meaning of the allusion.” So far is Dr. Ross from defending the principle that he really condemns it, for he goes on to say that, “The strength of Christian discipline lies in tender yet faithful dealing with the conscience of the offender, and it is always to be regretted when a court of Christ’s Church seems to attach importance to anything inflicted in the way of punishment, as this is ready to take the place of true penitence and its fruits. In an ill-regulated family a hasty word or an angry blow sometimes takes the place of serious rational dealing with an offending child, but this short and easy method is not followed by satisfactory results. And there is an evident analogy between parental discipline and that administered by a Church Court.” This is no doubt plausible, but is altogether fallacious. For Dr. Ross entirely overlooks the fact that the General Assembly of 1648 propounded these as “CIVILL REMEDIES,” over and above the “Domestick Remedies,” and “Ecclesiastick Remedies,” for the grievous and common sins of the land. Can he think it wrong in the civil magistrate to punish swearing, drunkenness, mocking of piety, and whoredom as civil crimes; seeing that he believes “the profession of witchcraft is a crime that should be punished in some way or other by the civil magistrate?” (( Pastoral Work in the Covenanting Times, p. 196. )) And has he a right to assume that the magistrate necessarily punishes in haste or anger? Still more, though Church discipline is of a fatherly nature, this, instead of proving his point, proves the very opposite, for a parent is sometimes constrained to chastise his erring child; and we have inspired authority for saying, “He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes.” It should rather be regretted that the means then adopted for suppressing vice have not been more faithfully carried out. Every person in this kingdom is bound by the Solemn League and Covenant to endeavor in their several places and callings the extirpation of “profaneness, and whatsoever shall be found to be contrary to sound doctrine and the power of godliness.” The best commentary on this is “The Acknowledgment of Sins and Engagement to Duties,” (1648), which says: “We shall be so far from conniving at, complying with, or countenancing of malignancy, injustice, iniquity, profanity, and impiety, that we shall not only avoid and discountenance those things, and cherish and encourage these persons who are zealous for the cause of God, and walk according to the gospel; but also shall take a more effectual course that heretofore, in our respective places and callings, for punishing and suppressing these evils; And faithfully endeavor, that the best and fittest remedies may be applied for taking away the causes thereof, and advancing the knowledge of God, and holiness and righteousness in the land.” The following proposition has been often assailed, but is nevertheless impregnable. “Every member of the church (and so also the faithful and godly magistrate) ought to refer and order his particular vocation, faculty, ability, power and honor, to this end, that the kingdom of Christ may be propagated and promoted, and the true religion be cherished and defended: so that the advancement of the gospel, and of all the ordinances of the gospel, is indeed the end of the godly magistrate, not of a magistrate simply: or (if ye will rather) it is not the end of the office itself, but of him who doth execute the same piously.” (( One Hundred and Eleven Propositions, Prop. 69. ))
As relapse into open sin was held in abhorrence, trilapse was still more so. It was accordingly ordained by the December Assembly of 1564, that the Superintendent should give those who relapsed “the third tyme in any kinde of cryme, sic as fornication and drunkenness,” “sic injunctions as they think may make the offence to be holden in horror. But chiefly that they compel the offender to satisfie the Kirk where the offences were made moe dayes nor ane, as the Superintendent shall think good.” (( Booke of the Universall Kirk, p. 27. )) And in such cases they required very decided evidence of true penitence in the offender, before he was allowed to make public repentance. In 1596 an offender, who had relapsed the third time, and who after being seriously dealt with by the kirk-session of West Anstruther without showing signs of sincere repentance, was ordered to be shut up within the steeple for twenty days, to see if the Lord would work repentance in his heart.