English Popish Ceremonies: Historical Introduction
by Roy Middleton
Copyright © 1997 Naphtali Press
The Scottish Presbyterian Church has from time to time been adorned by young ministers who were outstanding witnesses for Christ in their day and generation. Andrew Bonar in his Memoir of one of these young men — Robert Murray M’Cheyne — has this most instructive footnote: “It is worthy of notice how often the Lord has done much by a few years of holy labour. In our church George Gillespie and James Durham died at thirty-six; Andrew Gray when scarcely twenty-two. Of our witnesses, Patrick Hamilton was cut off at twenty-four and Hugh McKail at twenty-six. In other churches we might mention many, such as John Janeway at twenty-three, David Brainerd at thirty and Henry Martyn at thirty-two. Theirs was a short life, filled with usefulness and crowned with glory. Oh to be as they.” (( Andrew A. Bonar, ed. Memoir and Remains of Robert Murray McCheyne (1892; rpt. London: Banner of Truth, 1966), pp. 25-26 ))
George Gillespie, according to Principal John Macleod, was “one of the mighties of his age which was so fertile in massive heroic figures in the field of evangelical Christian theology.” (( John Macleod, Scottish Theology in Relation to Church History Since the Reformation (Edinburgh, 1943), p. 80. )) His brief ministry stamped an indelible impress on the Westminster Confession of Faith, particularly those chapters dealing with ecclesiology. More was wrought by him in eleven years, for the good of the Reformed churches, than most men accomplish in a lifetime. Gillespie seems to have been unknown until 1637 when, at just twenty-four years of age, his book, A Dispute Against the English Popish Ceremonies, burst like a bombshell on the Scottish ecclesiastical scene. The subject he dealt with was the burning question of the hour, and his treatment of it brought him, in one bound, to the forefront of the polemic divines of his age. William M. Hetherington, the editor of his collected works, observes, “his first work . . . dazzled and astonished his countrymen by the rare combination it displayed of learning and genius of the highest order.” (( W. M. Hetherington, “Memoir,” prefixed to The Works of Mr. George Gillespie (Edinburgh, 1846), Vol. I, p. ix. )) From then until his death, Gillespie held an undisputed position of authority among the distinguished band of men, led by Alexander Henderson, who delivered the Scottish Church from the grip of prelacy. The true significance of Gillespie’s Dispute Against the English Popish Ceremonies will only be fully appreciated when it is seen against the background of the struggles of the Scottish Church in the years following the death of John Knox in 1572, and the part Gillespie’s family played in that contest.
At the Reformation, the Scottish Church contended chiefly for the honor of Christ in His priestly and prophetic offices, against the corruptions of the papacy. Soon after the Reformation she would be called upon to struggle for the glory of Christ’s office as King of Zion, against the encroachments of both the civil power and prelatic ambition. Even before the death of Knox an attempt had been made to alter her form of government. In 1572 a convention of superintendents and other ministers met and, through the influence of Regent Morton, were induced to consent to the retention of the titles Archbishop and Bishop and to the advancement to these positions of qualified persons from the ministerial ranks. The 1572 General Assembly condemned the innovation. The Regent’s object in restoring the Episcopal offices was, by means of a private bargain with the Prelate, to divert ecclesiastical revenues to himself and other noblemen.
The men who accepted Bishoprics under such a disgraceful pact were derisively dubbed “Tulchan Bishops;” a tulchan was a calf’s skin stuffed with straw which the country people set beside the cow to induce her to give her milk more freely. “The Bishop,” it was said, “had the title, but my Lord had the milk.” These nominal Bishops had neither episcopal ordination nor any share in the government of the church. Their sole object was to deliver up the ecclesiastical revenues to the nobility. The introduction of these nominal prelates not only threatened the future peace of the church, but gave rise to the confusion which saddened the last hours of John Knox, whose dying voice was raised in opposition to the innovation.
Whilst church affairs were in the state just described, the cause of truth was revived by the arrival in Scotland of another champion of Reformation orthodoxy: a man who deserves a place in the annals of the Scottish Church next to Knox — Andrew Melville (1545-1622). This accomplished scholar and divine had been residing for a decade on the Continent, where he enlarged the learning he had acquired at home, and which had earned for him a very high reputation in the literary world. It was not long before Melville was called to lend the powerful aid of his talents to the Church’s struggle against prelacy. He played a leading role in the production of the Second Book of Discipline, which was approved by the General Assembly of 1578. The Second Book of Discipline defined the biblical standard of church government as being by Kirk Sessions, Presbyteries, Synods, and General Assemblies. It would allow no superior office in the Church above that of the minister of the gospel, or teaching presbyter. There was not to be a pastor of pastors.
It was also in 1578 that Regent Morton resigned and was replaced by the twelve year old King James VI of Scotland. From the beginning of his reign, James fell under the influence of two unprincipled courtiers, the popish Duke of Lennox and a notorious profligate who afterwards became the Earl of Arran. They fed him with the most extravagant notions of kingly power, and with the strongest prejudices against the Scottish Church and its strict discipline. To these impressions made on the youthful mind of James may be traced the troubles which distracted his rule in Scotland.
James’ reign may be said to have had an auspicious commencement when, in 1581, to the gratification of the Scottish Church, he signed one of the most famous “covenants” or “bonds” that were to become landmarks of this period of the Church’s history. The National Covenant of Scotland was simply an abjuration of popery and a solemn engagement, ratified by oath, to support the Protestant religion. Whilst the King’s subscription of this covenant had the effect of quieting the public mind, it did not prevent the royal favorites secretly prosecuting their own designs. In May 1584, Parliament overturned the independence of the Church by ordaining that no ecclesiastical assembly should be held without the King’s consent, and that all ministers were to acknowledge the bishops as their ecclesiastical superiors. These Acts were called by the people of Scotland the “Black Acts.”
The man who accepted the title of Archbishop of St. Andrews was Patrick Adamson. His sister, Violet, was the mother of George Gillespie’s grandfather, Patrick Simson, Minister of the gospel in Stirling. In consequence of the Black Acts, the ministers around Stirling were required to acknowledge Adamson as Bishop of St. Andrews on pain of losing their stipends. Although some did acknowledge Adamson, Simson refused to do so, even though Adamson was his uncle, asserting that Prelacy was repugnant to God’s Word, and that we must not subscribe to institutions forbidden in scripture. (( John Row, The History of the Kirk of Scotland from the Year 1550 to August 1637 (Edinburgh: Wodrow Society, 1842), pp. 422-23. See also David Calderwood, The History of the Kirk of Scotland (Edited by Thomas Thomson; Edinburgh: Wodrow Society, 1845), Vol. IV, pp. 209-18, and Vol. VIII, pp. 276-81. ))
After a brief respite in 1592, the tide quickly turned against the Reformed faith. Jesuits were flocking back to Scotland, and eminent Protestants were murdered. The Earl of Moray was murdered by a professed papist, the Earl of Huntly, but the King, motivated by either fear or policy, refused to act against the murderers. When the Church excommunicated Huntly, James was said to have burst into a rage. A few days later, Gillespie’s grandfather, who was one of Andrew Melville’s associates, (( When Andrew Melville was in the Tower of London, and in straitened circumstances, due to his finances being exhausted, Simson organized a collection for him in Scotland. See Thomas M’Crie, Life of Andrew Melville in Works of Thomas M’Crie (Edinburgh, 1856), Vol. II, p. 317. ))preached before the King on Genesis 4:9, “And the Lord said unto Cain, where is Abel thy brother? And he said, I know not: Am I my brother’s keeper?” The preacher, turning to the King before the congregation, said, “Sir I assure you, in God’s name, the Lord will ask at you where is the Earl of Moray your brother?” The King, resenting the public rebuke, spoke out before the congregation: “Master Patrick, my chamber door was never closed to you; ye might have told me anything you thought in secret.” Simson replied, “Sir, the scandal is public.” After the service, he was summoned to appear at the castle, so Gillespie’s grandfather went to see the King with the “Bible under his arm.” (( Row, History of the Kirk, pp. 144-45. D. C. MacNichol, Robert Bruce (London: Banner of Truth, 1961. John Colquhoun, “Sketch of the Life and Times of George Gillespie,” in Free Presbyterian Magazine, Vol. 93, pp. 277-78, Colquhoun’s “Sketch” is contained in Vol. 93, issues 9, 10, 11, 12, and Vol. 94, issue 1. ))
The secret of James’ antipathy to Presbyterianism was his ambition to be regarded as the head of the church, an office to which Presbyterianism stands directly opposed. The King’s sentiments on this subject were revealed in two publications published around this time. The first of these, The True Law of Free Monarchies, is an unvarnished defense of arbitrary power, which contains his favorite maxim, “No Bishop, no King.” A second treatise, Basilicon Doron, argues that parity among ministers is irreconcilable with monarchy. With principles such as these, it is not difficult to see why the King and the Reformed Church were at variance.
James delighted in achieving his aims by policy rather than by violence. In a series of stealthy, wheedling, and disgraceful manoeuvres, which he dignified with the name of kingcraft, he succeeded in overcoming the Presbyterian polity. His first gambit was to request that the Assembly delegate some of their number with whom he might consult, respecting affairs in which the Church had an interest. The Assembly rashly complied, appointing fourteen ministers to act as commissioners for the Church. “This,” says James Melville, “was the very needle that drew in the Episcopal thread.” (( Thomas M’Crie [the younger], The Story of the Scottish Church from the Reformation to the Disruption (1875; rpt. Glasgow: Free Presbyterian Publications, 1988), p. 90. ))
The following year, the King took another step in his grand design. He prevailed upon Parliament to declare the Bishops to be the third estate of the kingdom, and to enact that such pastors as it pleased him to raise to the dignity of Bishops would have a right to vote in Parliament. The next step was to prevail on the church courts to allow their commissioners to enjoy this privilege. Whilst the commissioners seem not to have been unwilling to comply with the royal request, the more clear sighted in the Assembly saw through the stratagem and protested against it. They saw the intention was to introduce a prelatic order and subvert Presbyterianism, and to achieve this in a quiet and imperceptible way. At length, in March 1598, in an Assembly summoned to meet at Dundee, a bribed church court decided, by a majority of ten, that the ministry was the third estate of the realm and should have a vote in Parliament; two years later, Bishops were appointed to the vacant Sees of Ross, Aberdeen and Caithness. The triumph of James was not complete, however, as long as the General Assembly continued to manage the affairs of the church. It would require another decade of maneuvering before he gained the victory he so earnestly desired.
In March 1603, Queen Elizabeth I died, and James succeeded to the crown of England. The time had now come when he would no longer be thwarted in his ecclesiastical designs by the strictness and firmness of the Scottish ministers. The flattering servility of the English Bishops inflated his vanity to an extravagant degree, and made him more determined to subvert the Presbyterian Church and erect prelacy on its ruins. By 1606, church affairs had reached such a state that a Protestation was presented to the Scottish Parliament, meeting at Perth on July 1st, regarding the introduction of prelacy. John Colquhoun says of this Protestation, “it is as clear a piece of reasoning as is to be found in all the annals of the Church of Scotland.” (( Colquhoun, “Sketch,” in Free Presbyterian Magazine, Vol. 93, p. 277.)) The author of the Protestation was Patrick Simson. The first two signatories were those of Andrew and James Melville. Among the other signators is Gillespie’s father, John Gillespie, Minister of the gospel at Kirkcaldy. In this Protestation, Simson expounds a doctrine his more eminent grandson would use so effectively in his Dispute Against the English Popish Ceremonies and at the Westminster Assembly. Listen to Simson expound the Regulative Principle, as he addresses the Scottish Parliament:
” . . . Remember that God hath set you to be nursing fathers of his kirk, craving at your hands that ye should maintain and advance by your authority the kirk which the Lord hath fashioned by the uncounterfeited work of his own new creation . . . . But not that he should presume to fashion and shape a new portraiture of a kirk, and a new form of divine service which God in his word hath not before allowed: because that were to extend your authority further than the calling ye have of God doth permit. As namely, if ye should (as God forbid) authorize the authority of Bishops and their pre-eminence above their brethren, ye should bring into the kirk of God the ordinance of man, and that which the experience of the preceding ages hath testified to have been the ground of great idleness, palpable ignorance, insufferable pride, pitiless tyranny, and shameless ambition, in the kirk of God, and finally have been the ground of that unchristian hierarchy which mounted upon the steps of pre-eminence of Bishops until that man of sin come forth, as the ripe fruits of man’s wisdom, whom God shall consume with the breath of his own mouth . . . .
“The kingdom of Christ, the office-bearers and the laws thereof, neither should nor can suffer any derogation, addition, diminution, or alteration, besides the prescript of his holy word, by any inventions or doings of men, civil or ecclesiastical: and we are able, by the grace of God, and will offer ourselves to prove that the bishoprics to be erected are against the word of God, the ancient fathers and the canons of the kirk, the modern most learned and godly divines, the doctrine and constitution of the kirk of Scotland since the first reformation of religion in this country . . . .” (( Row, History of the Kirk, pp. 425, 428. The full protestation is printed by Row, pp. 424-430. Cf. Calderwood, History of the Kirk of Scotland, Vol. VI, pp. 485-493. ))
As an old man, Gillespie’s grandfather was asked by a woman, “Sir, what shall we say when news comes hereafter that Mr. Patrick Simson is become a bishop?” He paused a little, and answered, “Lady, I am a weak and sinful man, and also much given to the world, as any other, and dare not say but that I may be also easily drawn away to any evil course; but when that day comes, say that I confessed I had fallen away from Christ and from his truth in that point.” (( Row, History of the Kirk, p. 440. ))
The petition was unsuccessful and persecution was unleashed on the leading ministers. John Welsh of Ayr, son-in-law of John Knox, was confined in a miserable dungeon in the Castle of Blackness for fourteen months and then banished to France. Robert Bruce was banished to Inverness — then a remote part of Scotland. Andrew Melville was confined in the Tower of London for four years and then banished to France, where he died in Sedan in 1622. (( Hetherington, “Memoir,” in The Works of Gillespie, p. xiii. MacNichol, Robert Bruce, pp. 140-49, contains an account of Bruce’s period in Inverness. For Melville, see M’Crie, Life of Melville, pp. 279-347. ))
With Melville in the tower, and the flower of the Scottish ministry banished out of Scotland, the court and the Bishops, in a series of General Assemblies between 1606 and 1618, succeeded in gaining complete ascendancy, and in so doing disfigured the Scottish Church. In December 1606 James summoned an Assembly to meet at Linlithgow and went so far as to name the persons who were to be sent by the Presbyteries. In this packed Assembly he succeeded in his design of introducing a prelatic element into the constitution of the Church by the appointment of constant moderators in each presbytery. The design of this innovation was clearly perceived. A contemporary writer expressed it thus, “The constant moderators were (as was said at that time) the little thieves entering at the narrow windows to make open the doors to the great thieves.” (( Course of Confomitie, p. 30; cited by M’Crie, Story of the Scottish Church, p. 99. ))
Spiritual decline now gathered pace; the Glasgow Assembly of 1610 — a church court corrupted by intimidation and bribery — introduced the whole prelatic system of church government. Bishops were to be moderators of diocesan synods, and the power of excommunicating and absolving offenders and of ordaining and deposing ministers was to be conferred upon them in their respective dioceses. It would be absurd to consider this convention as a free and lawful General Assembly of the church. Royal missives were sent to the presbyteries, nominating the individuals whom the Bishops had previously selected as the most likely to favor their designs. The bribery practised was shameful. Golden coins called “Angels” were so plentifully distributed among the ministers that the gathering was called, by way of derision, “The Angelic Assembly.”
The government of the Scottish Church was thus completely subverted in its external aspect. The crown was now determined to see whether with equal ease it was possible to introduce the ceremonies of the English Church. James ordered repairs to be made to the chapel of Holyrood House in Edinburgh. An organ was put in place and English carpenters began to set up statues of the twelve apostles made of carved wood and finely gilded. The people began to murmur, “First came the organs, now the images, and ere long we shall have the mass.” In the King’s chapel, the English liturgy was ordered to be read daily. The communion was taken in a kneeling posture, and for the first time since the Reformation, Holyrood echoed with the sounds of choristers and instrumental music. In November 1617 the King called a meeting of the clergy at which he proposed Five Articles of conformity to the English Church. These Articles, following further bribery and intimidation, were approved at a meeting in Perth in August 1618 and have become known in history by the name of the Five Articles of Perth. The Articles were: 1. Kneeling at Communion; 2. The observance of holy days: Easter, Pentecost, and Christmas (the idolatrous Saturnalia of the Romans which was adopted as a popish festival); 3. Episcopal Confirmation; 4.Private Baptism; 5. Private Administration of the Lord’s Supper. (( For a modern discussion of the history and significance of these articles, see Ian B. Cowan, “The Five Articles of Perth,” in Reformation and Revolution: Essays Presented to Hugh Watt, D. D. , D. Litt. (Edited by D. Shaw; Edinburgh, 1967), pp. 160-77. ))
The Reformed Church in Scotland viewed these innovations with horror. Kneeling at communion was, in its view, just one step away from the adoration of the visible elements. Popish days of human invention diminished respect for the Christian Sabbath. Confirmation had no warrant in scripture, and the practice of private baptisms and communions was fitted to revive the Romish notion that unbaptized infants were excluded from heaven and that the reception of the consecrated host before death was essential to salvation.
John Gillespie asked his father-in-law, Patrick Simson, what his opinion was of the holy days which the Bishops had enjoined to be kept. Simson replied by repeating in Greek the words of scripture: “Ye observe days, and months, and times and years. I am afraid lest ye have lost Christ . . . .” Then he added, “As the Lord fed Elias in the wilderness, so hath he me all my lifetime. I bless the Lord I never touched the Ark of God with my finger, let be [let alone] shake it.” In a sermon he preached on December 25, 1617, an ordinary preaching day, just after the Five Articles had been proposed, Simson proved that the 25th was not the date of the incarnation and that the observation of such days was unlawful and superstitious.
After the last sermon Simson ever preached a brother in the ministry asked him, “Sir, now ye grant ye are weak, and I fear ye abide not long among us, what say ye now of the estate of our kirk?” He answered, holding up both hands above his head, “Alas! I see all the dunghill of the muck of corruption of the kirk of England coming on upon us and it will wreck us, if God send not help in time.” (( Row, History of the Kirk, pp. 432, 436-37. )) Thomas M’Crie informs us that Patrick Simson died almost broken-hearted when the Perth Articles were agreed upon. (( M’Crie, Story of the Scottish Church, p. 124. )) John Gillespie and several others were summoned before the High Commission which met in Edinburgh on the 24th January 1620 — a prelatic invention, that was called the Scottish Inquisition — for their refusal to confirm the Acts of the Perth Assembly of 1618. They were dismissed with a warning that if they did not conform they would be deposed. (( Calderwood, History of the Kirk of Scotland, Vol. VII, pp. 411-13. ))
When George Gillespie’s father and grandfather made their stand against the imposition of the English ceremonies, he was a boy of just five years of age. The Perth Assembly was the last General Assembly of the Church of Scotland for twenty years. The next one would be the famous Glasgow Assembly of 1638; Alexander Henderson would be the Moderator and George Gillespie one of the preachers. The agenda would be the overthrow of these popish innovations and depositions of the Bishops. A new chapter would have begun in Scottish Christianity.
The true spirit of Presbyterianism as it opposed Episcopacy in the dark days of the 1620s is illustrated by Mrs. John Welch. Her husband’s health was broken. Physicians in France told him that the only hope of recovery was to return to his native country. Mrs. Welch obtained an audience with the King, in order to petition him to allow her husband back into Scotland. James asked her who her father was. “John Knox,” she replied. “Knox and Welch!” he exclaimed, “the devil never made such a match as that.” “It’s right like sir,” said Mrs. Welch, “for we never asked his advice.” She then urged her request that he would give her husband his native air. After some abuse, the King told her that if she would persuade her husband to submit to the Bishops, he would allow him to return to Scotland. Listen now to the voice of Scottish Calvinism as Mrs. Welch, lifting up her apron and holding it towards the King, replied, “Please your majesty, I’d rather receive his head there!”
The Church of the Lord Jesus has always proved impossible to destroy. At the very time when prelacy and kingcraft were uniting for her destruction, the Divine Head of the Church was graciously supporting His bride amidst her trials, giving her life to endure them and hope for deliverance. “The bride shall yet sing in the day of her youth. The dry olive tree shall again bud and the dry bones shall live.”
The psalms so dear to the Scottish Church and so basic to public worship grounded on the Regulative Principle have this glorious promise:
- Thou shalt arise and mercy yet
- Thou to mount Sion shall extend
- Her time for favour which was set,
- Behold is now come to an end.
- Thy saints take pleasure in her stones,
- Her very dust to them is dear,
- All heathen lands and kingly thrones
- On earth thy glorious name shall fear.
- — Psalm 102:13-15 (metrical version)
The sufferings endured by the faithful ministers tended to make them objects of admiration. The godly drew a striking contrast between their conduct and that of the irreligious prelates. Mighty, however, as their influence was on the hearts of the people, One infinitely more mighty began to make His power felt in many districts of the kingdom. God was pleased to grant a time of religious revival. The power of vital godliness and living Christianity aroused the land, shining in its strength like a living fire. The first revival was at Stewarton, (( See John Gillies, Historical Recollections of Accounts of Revival, with Preface and continuation by H. Bonar (rpt. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1981), pp. 197-98. )) where the principal instrument used of God was the minister of the neighboring parish of Irvine, David Dickson. The impetus given by this revival continued from 1625 to 1630, when it was followed by a similar effusion of the Holy Spirit at the kirk of Shotts. (( Gillies, p. 197, 198. )) It was again noticeable that the human instrument who had the honor of originating the revival was not the minister of the parish, though a good man, but one of the faithful ministers who had suffered for non-conformity to the Prelatic innovations. The Lord signally upheld his word, “Them that honor me, I will honor” (1 Samuel 2:30).
Robert Bruce and John Livingstone were the assisting ministers at the kirk of Shotts communion in June 1630. The Sabbath had been such a day of blessing that the congregation knew not how to part on Monday without thanksgiving and praise. John Livingstone was prevailed on to preach. His text, “Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and an spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a new heart of flesh” (Ezek. 36:25-26). He preached initially for an hour and a half, and then continued for another hour in a strain of exhortation and warning.
Commenting later, on his experience at that time, Livingstone said he had, “such a liberty and melting of heart, as I never had the like in public all my lifetime.” (( Life of John Livingstone, p. 14. Cited in M’Crie, Story of the Scottish Church, p. 134. )) To this sermon, under the blessing of God, no less than five hundred people ascribed their conversion. Both these revivals were unscarred by the excesses which have brought discredit on similar scenes. The Word of God sank deep into the heart; the Most High was visibly preparing His Church by a copious effusion of the Holy Spirit for the struggles that were awaiting her, struggles in which George Gillespie was to play so honorable a part. We now enter into that glorious period of Scottish church history that is known as the Second Reformation.
Charles I succeeded to the throne of England in March 1625. He had imbibed from his father James the most extravagant notions of monarchical authority. He held as a point of religious rather than political faith that the King was superior to the law, either civil or ecclesiastical. Yielding himself to the influence of his popish Queen, and to the guidance of high church counsellors, Charles began a course of opposition to Parliament and people that led to his execution.
In June 1633, he visited Scotland to receive the crown of that ancient kingdom. During the ceremony, Archbishop William Laud (1573-1645) insulted one of the Bishops who did not appear in full Episcopal costume. “How dare you, sir,” he said, “appear in this place without your canonicals.” On the following Sabbath, when an ordinary reader was about to commence a psalm, one of the Bishops pulled him from the desk. The service was continued by two English choristers in vestments who, with the assistance of the Bishops, performed the service after the English forms. (( Row, History of the Kirk, p. 363. )) In the Scottish Parliament, which met shortly after these incidents, Charles began his campaign as the champion of prelacy by proposing an act that empowered him to regulate ecclesiastical vestments.
Episcopacy had now been established in Scotland for thirty years and the antipathy against it was becoming every day more intense. The conduct of the prelates, especially the younger that had been obtruded over the flocks of banished ministers, filled the nation with indignation. A climate was being created that was explosive. This result came when a popish liturgy was forced on the Scottish Church. In the so-called Aberdeen Assembly of 1616, it was ordained that a new liturgy, or Book of Common Prayer, be written for the use of the Church of Scotland. The project was never carried into effect until it was revitalized by Archbishop Laud, who involved himself in the drawing up of the new book. Laud’s Liturgy at many points resembled a popish breviary. This was particularly the case with respect to the communion service, where he had borrowed the very words of the mass. The Archbishop required every minister to procure two copies of his liturgy for use in his congregation, on pain of deprivation. These actions brought the mind of the Scottish nation, into a state of alarm; reports quickly spread of the intention to introduce, into Scotland, Anglo-Popish worship.
The awakened pulpits resounded with denunciations of the tyranny of the Bishops in imposing such idolatrous worship on the Reformed Church of Scotland. The fateful day appointed for commencing the use of the new liturgy arrived, July 23rd 1637. The Dean of Edinburgh was to perform the service in the cathedral church of St. Giles after the form of Archbishop Laud’s Liturgy. As he began to read the service of the day, clad in his surplice, an old woman — Jenny Geddes — unable any longer to restrain her indignation, exclaimed, “Villain, dost thou say mass at my lug.” With these words she seized the stool on which she had been sitting and threw it at the Dean’s head. Others followed her example, and instantly the cathedral was in uproar and confusion. The Dean threw off his surplice and fled. The Bishop of Edinburgh ascended the pulpit to try to restore order. He was answered by a volley of sticks and stones and cries of, “A Pope, a Pope, Antichrist.” The defeated prelatic party were compelled to abandon the liturgy.
Such was the state of affairs when George Gillespie’s Dispute Against the English Popish Ceremonies Obtruded On the Church of Scotland was published. The book, published anonymously in Leiden, reached Scotland within weeks of the Jenny Geddes’ incident and provided the intellectual basis for the total rejection of the prelatic innovations. Nothing could have been more suited to the emergency. It encountered every kind of argument employed by the prelatic party. The defenders of the ceremonies had argued, variously, that the ceremonies were necessary, expedient, lawful, and indifferent. Gillespie in trenchant style divided his work into four parts, arguing against their necessity, their expediency, their lawfulness, and their indifferency. His case was presented with such extensive learning, acuteness and power of argument, as to completely demolish the positions of his prelatic antagonists. William Hetherington observes, “The effect produced by this singularly able work may be conjectured from the fact that within a few months of its publication, a proclamation was issued by the Privy Council, at the instigation of the Bishops, commanding that all copies of the book that could be found be called in and burned by the hangman. Such was the only answer that all the learned Scottish Prelates could give to a treatise written by a youth who was only in his twenty-fifth year when it appeared.” (( Hetherington, “Memoir,” in Works of Gillespie, p. xviii. )) J. H. S. Burleigh’s comments on the treatise are most instructive, considering Gillespie’s father’s and grandfather’s opposition to the Five Articles of Perth. Burleigh calls George Gillespie’s work, “a reasoned attack on the Perth Articles.” (( J. H. S. Burleigh, A Church History of Scotland (Oxford University Press, 1960), p. 215. ))
George Gillespie was the second son (( Gillespie had at least two brothers and a sister. His eldest brother was Captain John Gillespie, whilst his younger brother was Patrick Gillespie (1617-75), Principal of Glasgow University. See Dictionary of National Biography (D. N. B. ). Edited by L. Stephens and S. Lee; London, 1918, Vol. VII, pp. 1240-42. )) of the Rev. John Gillespie, Minister of Kirkcaldy, and of his wife Lilias, the daughter of the Rev. Patrick Simson, Minister of Stirling. (( Through his maternal grandparents, George Gillespie had several illustrious relations. We have seen that his great grandmother was Violet Adamson, sister of Patrick Adamson, the Archbishop of St. Andrews. Patrick Simson and the eminent Robert Rollock, Principal of Edinburgh University, were married to two sisters; Gillespie’s maternal grandmother was Martha Barron, whilst Robert Rollock’s wife was Helen Barron. See Row, History of the Kirk, pp. 433, 436. Select Works of Robert Rollock (Edited by W. M. Gunn; Edinburgh: Wodrow Society, 1849), Vol. I, p. xviii. )) He was born on January 21, 1613. With respect to the life of John Gillespie, we know little more than has already been recorded. John Livingstone, who whilst a boy heard him preach in Stirling, describes him, in a short note, as being a “thundering preacher.” (( John Livingstone, Memorable Characteristics; cited in Colquhoun, “Sketch,” in Free Presbyterian Magazine, Vol. 93, p. 276. )) As a child, George Gillespie gave no promise of that early brilliance that was to astonish Assemblies and Parliaments. Robert Wodrow of Eastwood, in his Analecta, says of him, “When he was a child, he seemed to be somewhat dull and soft like, so that his mother would have stricken him and abused him, and she would have made much of Patrick, his younger brother. His father, Mr. John Gillespie, Minister of Kirkcaldy, was angry to see his wife carry so to his son George, and he would have said, “My heart, let alone; though Patrick may have some respect given him in the Church, yet my son George will be the great man in the Church of Scotland. And he said of him when he was a-dying, George, George I have gotten many a brave promise for thee!” (( Robert Wodrow, Analecta (Maitland Club, 1843), Vol. III, p. 109. ))
Nothing has been recorded respecting Gillespie’s boyhood years; so we have no means of ascertaining where his early studies were prosecuted. It may have been in the Kirkcaldy manse or, as was often the case with families of ministers, in the parish school. In many of these local schools the academic standards were of a very high order, as is seen from the fact that so many Scottish youths found their way to university. Of one thing, however, we are sure, that the young Gillespie made good use of his opportunities, for he graduated from St. Andrews University in 1629, when he was just sixteen years of age. That he prosecuted his studies there with zeal and industry is evident; whilst at St. Andrews he was noted for his extensive learning and for being an “exceptionally brilliant student.” (( Donald Beaton, in a sketch of Gillespie, observes, “He is credited with having given evidence during his university course not only of more than ordinary mental power, but of genius. ” Free Presbyterian Magazine, Vol. 43, p. 121. )) In 1629 he received a bursary from the Presbytery of Kirkcaldy to aid his upkeep at St. Andrews. (( William Stevenson, ed. , The Presbyterie Book of Kirkcaldy (Kirkcaldy, 1900), p. 8. )) The Session of Kirkcaldy agreed to give him “as much money for his entertainment as Dysart [a neighboring parish] gives,” which was twenty merks. His appointment as the Presbytery bursar in 1629 suggests that after his graduation he remained at the university to study divinity. From May 1630 to September 1631, there are several references to him in the Kirkcaldy records as the bursar of theology.
Though we do not know the circumstances of Gillespie’s call to the gospel ministry, it appears that he intended to become a Minister from the outset of his career. When, however, he had completed his academic course and was ready for ordination, his progress was obstructed by a difficulty which, for a time, proved insurmountable. Having been brought up in a family that was by earnest conviction opposed to prelacy and popish ceremonies, and being himself conscientiously convinced that the Episcopal system of church government was a human invention, and not the Divine institution, the young Gillespie refused ordination at the hands of a Bishop. This being the case, it was impossible for him, at that time in Scotland, to obtain admission to the ministerial office. Excluded by conviction from his calling, Gillespie found congenial employment for his pious and active mind as the domestic chaplain of John Gordon (1599-1634), the first Viscount Kenmure. (( For John Gordon, see D. N. B. , Vol. VIII, pp. 214-15; John Howie, Scots Worthies (Ed. by W. H. Carslaw; Edinburgh, n. d. ), pp. 153-70. )) He seems to have gained this appointment through the influence of Samuel Rutherfurd. (( William M. Campbell, “George Gillespie,” in Records of Scottish Church History Society (Edinburgh, 1949), Vol. 10, p. 108. ))
Gordon was the eldest son of Sir Robert Gordon of Lochinvar Galloway. After finishing his studies he resided for some time on the continent in the home of John Welch who, having been banished from Scotland, had settled as Minister of St. Jean d’Angely in France. Gordon is a somewhat enigmatic person. John Howie and Alexander Whyte speak of him in his young years as being irreligious and profane, whilst in his manhood they speak of him as having committed gross acts of wickedness, as being a rake, and a man of no worth, who purchased a title at the cost of truth. (( Howie, Scots Worthies, pp. 153-53. Alexander Whyte, Samuel Rutherford and Some of His Correspondents (Edinburgh, 1894), p. 29 ff. )) On the other hand, T. F. Henderson, in the Dictionary of National Biography, tells of his “devotion to puritan presbyterianism” and because of his desire to have the advantage of regular religious services, records that he had the parish of Anwoth, in which his residence was situated, disjoined from two other parishes with which it had been united, and, in 1627, secured the appointment of Samuel Rutherfurd as Minister.
In 1628 Gordon married Lady Jane Campbell, the third daughter of Archibald Campbell, seventh Earl of Argyll, (( See Letters of Samuel Rutherford (Edited by Andrew Bonar; Religious Tract Society, 4th edition, n. d. ), p. 36. Whyte, Samuel Rutherford and Some of His Correspondents, pp. 29-34. )) and sister of the covenanter, the Marquis of Argyll, who was beheaded in 1661. The marriage did not last long, as Gordon died just six years later, when he was thirty-five years of age. Whatever his early career may have been, John Gordon evidently died as a Christian. Rutherfurd wrote a book about his departure to glory, The Last and Heavenly Speeches of John Gordon Viscount Kenmure (Edinburgh, 1649). What part, if any, his domestic chaplain played in the change that took place in the Viscount we do not know. Jane Campbell, the Viscountess of Kenmure, was a regular correspondent with Rutherfurd. The last of his letters to her is dated July 24, 1661, shortly after the execution of her brother. Jane Campbell married again in 1641, her second husband being Sir Henry Montgomery, the second son of the Earl of Eglinton. She was an outstanding Christian and lived to a venerable age.
It was in Gordon’s home that Gillespie resided as domestic chaplain until the Viscount’s death in 1634; and it was here that he became intimately acquainted with Samuel Rutherfurd, who was a frequent visitor to the Kenmure residences in Galloway. The acquaintance begun there matured into a lifelong friendship. Gillespie was thirteen years younger than Rutherfurd, and from Rutherfurd’s copious, fertile mind, Gillespie was to acquire a vast amount of his own scholarship. During the debates at the Westminster Assembly, on more than one occasion, Gillespie presented, in brilliant debating form, the thoughts and arguments he had gleaned in Galloway. Rutherfurd was Gillespie’s post-graduate university, and he learned avidly from the master Presbyterian scholar of the age. To be with Rutherfurd near the Solway was better than studying with all the professors at St. Andrews.
Viscount Kenmure’s death altered the domestic arrangements of the widow, and Gillespie moved to the household of the great Presbyterian nobleman of the south west, John Kennedy (1595-1668), the sixth Earl of Cassillis, (( See article by F. Hindes-Groom in D. N. B. , Vol. X, pp. 1314-15, especially bibliography. Letters of Samuel Rutherford, p. 252. )) where he acted as tutor to his eldest son. Cassillis was a man of considerable talent and great virtue. Andrew Bonar says of him, “he was at once a staunch Presbyterian and a staunch covenanter,” whilst Hindes-Groome speaks of him as being a “rigid Presbyterian.” John Kennedy sat in the Glasgow Assembly of 1638 as the elder from the Presbytery of Ayr and was one of the three ruling elders who, along with Alexander Henderson, Robert Douglas, Robert Baillie, Samuel Rutherfurd, and George Gillespie, were sent to the Westminster Assembly of Divines as commissioners from the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. George Gillespie remained as the domestic chaplain of the Earl, until his ordination in 1638. Both Kennedy and Gillespie had a thirst for the edification of their souls, and their time together must have been for their mutual comfort. It was Gillespie’s practice, as domestic chaplain, to write out his Sabbath sermons and examine the servants and children on its contents.
Whilst the young Gillespie was a tutor with Cassillis, he had the leisure to study the great theological questions of the day and build on what he had learned in the Kirkcaldy manse. It was in these years he wrote his Dispute Against the English Popish Ceremonies. The book was printed in Holland and, as William M. Campbell observes, “It is not unlikely the noble Earl bore some of the cost.” (( Campbell, “George Gillespie,” p. 109. )) The object of the treatise was to destroy Episcopal supremacy and stir up opposition to the ceremonies. John Howie of Lochgoin speaks of Gillespie’s work “as being of too corrosive a quality to be digested by the bishops’ weak stomachs.” (( Howie, Scots Worthies, p. 192. Cf. James Reid, Memoirs of the Westminster Divines (1811; rpt. Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1982), Vol. II, p. 279. )) If Henderson was the statesman of the covenanters, and Rutherfurd their scholar, Gillespie, with his lucid and orderly presentations, was their penman. Principal John Macleod, whose knowledge of Scottish Theology was very extensive, says of him, “the type of mental clarity, though not quite the same lucid style, that one finds in Francis Turrettine is found also in George Gillespie, and he did his life work in the short space of thirty-six years.” Macleod (( Macleod, Scottish Theology, pp. 73, 80 )) makes this remarkable comparison: “Rutherfurd ranks among his country’s ecclesiastical writers second only to his younger contemporary George Gillespie.”
The theological debate in which the young tutor was intervening was at the centre of the Puritan controversy on both sides of the Scottish border. Whitgift and Hooker, Morton and Forbes had written treatises on one side of the debate, whilst Cartwright and Travers, Ames and Calderwood were leaders in defense of the strict Reformed principle. (( For the Cartwright-Whitgift controversy in England, see A. F. Scott-Pearson, Thomas Cartwright and Elizabethan Puritanism, 1535-1603 (Cambridge University Press, 1925); B. Brook, Memoir of the Life and Writings of Thomas Cartwright (London, 1845); and V. J. K. Brook, Whitgift and the English Church (London: English Universities Press, 1957). For Walter Travers, see S. J. Knox, Walter Travers: Paragon of Elizabethan Puritanism (London, 1962). Row lists the Scottish “books against bishops, prelacy, conformity and ceremonies,” and links the Scottish treatises with the labors of Cartwright in England. (History of the Kirk, pp. 441-462). )) Gillespie took a further part in the “ceremony question” when, in the summer of 1638, there appeared a small pamphlet of two sheets from his pen entitled, Reasons for Which the Service Book Urged upon Scotland Should Be Rejected [Reprinted in Appendix, p. 469]. The pamphlet was so able, that Robert Baillie thought it had been written by Alexander Henderson. Baillie, writing to his cousin William Spang, on July 15, 1638, observes, “We have some reasons against the service in print . . . I took the author to be Mr. Henderson, but I am informed since, they came from Mr. George Gillespie, a youth who waited on my Lord Kennedy, and is now admitted to the kirk of Wemyss maugre St. Andrews beard, by the presbytery. The same youth is now given out by those who should know, for the author of the English Popish Ceremonies: whereof we all do marvel; for though he had gotten the papers, and help of the chief of that side, yet the very composition would seem to be far above such an age. But if the book be truly of his making, I admire the man, though I mislike much of his matter. Yea, I think he may prove amongst the best wits of this isle.” (( The Letters and Journals of Robert Baillie (Edited by David Laing; Edinburgh, 1841), Vol. 1, p. 90. )) In one phrase, Gillespie’s 1638 pamphlet condemns all ceremonious liturgies, “It quenches the Holy Spirit because he gets no employment.”
Within nine months of the uproar in St. Giles and the publication of Gillespie’s book, the National Covenant was sworn and subscribed in Greyfriars Church in Edinburgh, on March, 1, 1638. The substance of the covenant was threefold. It contained: (1) The king’s confessions of 1580-81, with an added safeguard against prelacy; (2) A list of Acts denouncing popery and confirming Presbyterianism; (3) A protest against innovations in worship. Archibald Johnston of Warriston was especially responsible for the first two parts, and Alexander Henderson for the third. (( D. A. Macfarlane, “Events Leading up to the Assembly of 1638,” Proceedings of the Synod of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland (Glasgow, 1938), p. 99. )) A fast was appointed and, after a sermon had been preached, the covenant was read. Thereafter, Alexander Henderson, the Minister of Leuchars, offered up an impassioned prayer for the divine blessing. The noblemen present then stepped forward to the table and subscribed the deed and, with uplifted hand, swore to the observance of its duties. After them came the gentry, the Ministers, and then thousands of every rank, one of whom was George Gillespie. The immense sheet of parchment was speedily filled, and numbers for want of room were obliged to sign only with their initials. The enthusiasm was universal. It seemed to all as if a new era had dawned. The covenant was signed all over the country; (( See D. Stevenson, “The National Covenant: A List of Known Copies,” in Records of the Scottish Church History Society, Vol. XXIII (1988), pp. 255-99. )) Scotland was throwing off prelacy. John Livingstone said, “I was present at Lanark and several other parishes, when on Sabbath after the forenoon service the covenant was read and sworn, and I may truly say that in all my lifetime, excepting the kirk of Shotts, I never saw such emotions from the Spirit of God.” (( M’Crie, The Story of the Scottish Church, pp. 149-50. )) So great was the enthusiasm that some subscribed it with their blood.
The National Covenant broke the power of the Bishops and resulted in the re-emergence of the Presbyterian church. It must have been highly gratifying to the young Gillespie that one of the first acts of the Presbyterian church, to the recovery of whose liberty he had so signally contributed, should be his own ordination to the ministerial office: an ordination so long delayed due to his refusal to receive it at Episcopal hands.
Following a supplication from the parish of Wemyss in Fifeshire, George Gillespie was presented to this charge by the town council of Edinburgh on January 5, 1638. Though the whole Presbytery of Kirkcaldy, in whose bounds was the parish of Wemyss, had signed the National Covenant during March 1638, it appears that some of them had legal doubts about proceeding to ordain Gillespie in total defiance of the Bishop’s authority. This action is clearly what the young tutor desired, so he wrote to Archibald Johnston of Warriston, asking him to clear the doubts of the Presbytery. Warriston writes in his diary of April 12, 1638: “Afternoon I got a letter from Mr. George Gillespie to clear the Presbytery of Kirkcaldy of their legal doubts anent the admission of Ministers against Tuesday next.” In connection with the same matter, he has another entry on April 17: “I wrote over two treatises — the one dogmatic, to be read at Presbytery — the other dialectic anent the admission of Ministers to Presbyteries: for which from the bottom of my heart, I thank my God who deigns to use me as the sole instrument in his hand for legal recoveries of his church’s liberties.” (( Johnson of Warriston’s Memento Quamdiu Vivas and Diary from 1632-1639 (Edited by G. M. Paul; Scottish History Society, 1908-09), pp. 338, 340. ))
George Gillespie was ordained on 26 April 1638, just weeks after the National Covenant had been signed and sworn by thousands all over Scotland. He was ordained by his home Presbytery, Robert Douglas (1594-1674), Minister of Kirkcaldy being the presiding Minister. (( For Robert Douglas, see D. N. B. , Vol. V, pp. 1251-52. Douglas was later appointed along with the Earl of Cassilis and Gillespie as Scottish commissioners to the Westminster Assembly. Neither Douglas nor Cassilis ever took their seats. ))This ordination was just the second instance of non-Episcopal ordination after the covenant had broken the Bishop’s power. It took place, according to Gillespie’s wishes, on the very door step of the Episcopal seat of St. Andrews, as a calculated act of defiance to Episcopacy. After Gillespie’s admission, ordination by Presbytery became the general rule, until in November of the same year the Glasgow Assembly destroyed entirely the power of the Bishops. From the publication of his first book, and his ordination shortly afterwards, George Gillespie was devoted to the public service of the Church. As a commissioner for the Church of Scotland, he was incessantly engaged in the great public measures of one of the momentous decades in British church history. Great as he was, he was not, however, the man of the age. That man was Alexander Henderson (1583-1646), the acknowledged leader of the Church of Scotland’s Second Reformation. It is usually seen, that when God in his providence has some great work to accomplish in the church, instruments are raised up and admirably fitted for the part they are to play. This was eminently so at this period. Besides Henderson, Rutherfurd, and Gillespie, there was a whole army of Ministers of outstanding ability, men described by Principal Macleod as the “Second Reformation galaxy:” Robert Baillie, David Dickson, George Hutcheson, James Fergusson, Hugh Binning, John Livingstone, William Guthrie, and James Durham — these were just some of the godly pastors that would lead the Presbyterian church, now free from the thraldom of prelacy.
In November 1638, a General Assembly meet in Glasgow that is still regarded as the high water mark in the annals of Scottish Presbyterianism. (( For the Glasgow Assembly, see Robert Baillie’s eye witness account, Baillie, Letters and Journals, Vol. I, pp. 118-76; Donald Beaton, “Historical Sketch of the Glasgow Assembly,” in Proceedings of the Synod of the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland (Glasgow, 1938), pp. 102-17; and M’Crie, The Story of the Scottish Church, 155-65. )) In a protestation dated September 1638, the covenanters demanded the convening of a free General Assembly to review the conduct of the Bishops and the innovations they had introduced. After trying all kinds of manoeuvres to outwit the covenanters, Charles found himself under the necessity of complying with the wishes of the people, and he agreed to summon a free General Assembly to meet on Wednesday, November 21. The Marquis of Hamilton was appointed the King’s Lord High Commissioner. (( The Marquis of Hamilton’s mother was a strong supporter of the covenanters. When, a year after the Glasgow Assembly, her son landed at Leith to overcome the covenanters, she appeared on horseback armed with two pistols to prevent him from landing. )) The Assembly consisted of 140 Ministers and 98 Ruling Elders. Alexander Henderson was chosen Moderator, and Archibald Johnston of Warriston as Clerk. When appointed, the lawyer Johnston, to the delight of the Assembly, laid on the table the minutes of the previous Assemblies, which were thought to have been lost.
The first question that came before the Assembly was whether they were a competent judicatory to judge the conduct of the Bishops. When the answer arrived at was in the affirmative, the King’s Commissioner rose up and, in King Charles’ name, as head of the church, dissolved the Assembly. He discharged their further proceedings and asked Henderson to close the meeting with prayer.
There are critical periods in the Church’s history, when the vital principles on which it is founded are at stake, and when to yield would bring disgrace on the individuals concerned and ruin to Christ’s cause. Such was the situation which Henderson now faced. Rising at this critical moment, he calmly told the Assembly that Christ had given warrants to call Assemblies, whether the magistrates consent or not. When he asked the Commissioners to the Glasgow Assembly if they were willing to continue, with the exception of six or seven, the answer was a resounding affirmative.
The first action of the Assembly was to nullify the six pretended Assemblies between 1606 and 1618. They went on to discuss the subject of Arminianism. David Dickson led the discussion, after producing an able paper in which he exposed the sophistries of that “dangerous heresy” of which Archbishop Laud and the Scottish prelates were notable exponents. The Assembly then turned its attention to the serious question of the cases of the fourteen Scottish bishops. They heard very fully of their scandalous conduct. The result was that two Archbishops and six Bishops were excommunicated, four were deposed, and two were suspended. The case of Spottiswoode, the pretended Archbishop of St. Andrews, was typical. He was charged with adultery, drunkenness, preaching Arminian and papistical doctrine, being a Sabbath-breaker, and a tippler in taverns late at night. To these offenses were added those of receiving ordination to the unwarrantable offices of Episcopacy, tyrannizing over the church, and bringing in innovations with regard to the worship of God. The task of publicly pronouncing these sentences devolved on the Moderator, Alexander Henderson, who, before an immense auditory, preached a sermon on Psalm 110:1, “The Lord said unto my lord, Sit thou at my right hand until I make thine enemies thy footstool.” He then pronounced the awful sentences of deposition and excommunication on the degraded prelates.
The Church of Scotland was rising again, after a slumber of more than thirty years. Her first action was to prostrate the prelates who for so long had lorded over the church with pride and power. The Assembly went on to condemn the English ceremonies that Gillespie had so powerfully exposed. The Five Articles of Perth were renounced; prelacy was abjured; and Presbyterian government restored to its former integrity. With respect to Easter, Christmas, and the other festival days, the Glasgow Assembly, containing Henderson, Dickson, Rutherfurd and Gillespie, “prohibited the observing of them in all time coming and instructed the Presbyteries to proceed with the censure of the kirk against transgressors.”
It is indicative of the esteem in which George Gillespie was held that, though he had been a Minister only seven months, and though he was still a very young man, he was called to be one of the preachers at this illustrious Assembly. Robert Baillie, in a letter to his cousin, writes concerning Gillespie’s sermon, “wherein the youth very learnedly and judiciously as they say, handled the words: `The king’s heart is in the hands of the Lord.’ ” (( Baillie, Letters and Journals, Vol. I, p. 146. ))
The Assembly sat from 21 November until 20 December. In closing the Assembly, the Moderator said, “Now we are quit of the Service Book, which was a book of slavery and service indeed, the Books of the Canons which tied us to spiritual bondage; the Book of Ordination, which was a yoke put upon the necks of faithful ministers . . . . All these evils God has rid us of . . . .”
The 133rd Psalm was then sung:
- Behold, how good a thing it is,
- And how becoming well
- Together such as brethren are
- In unity to dwell.
The apostolic blessing was pronounced, and Alexander Henderson dismissed the Assembly with these memorable words, “We have now cast down the walls of Jericho; let him that rebuildeth them beware of the curse of Hiel the Bethelite.” (( See Joshua 6:26 and 1 Kings 16:34. )) And so, says Robert Baillie, “We all departed with great comfort and humble joy, casting ourselves and our poor church in the arms of our good God.” (( M’Crie, Story of the Scottish Church, p. 165. )) Thomas M’Crie Jr. concludes his description of the Assembly in this way: “The Assembly of 1638 may be regarded as one of the noblest efforts ever made by the church to assert her intrinsic independence, and the sole headship of Christ. Single martyrs have borne witness to the same purpose, single ministers and even congregations have stood for the same truth; but here we have the whole church of Scotland, by her representatives, in her judicial capacity lifting up her voice and proclaiming before the whole world, the sovereign rights of her Lord and King. No church, except one constituted on the Presbyterian model, could have borne such a testimony or gained such a triumph . . . .” (( M’Crie, Story of the Scottish Church, p. 165. ))
It is to his honor that, whilst yet a young man, George Gillespie, by his writings and public witness, played such a noble part in these contendings for God and truth.
Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland