The Church of Scotland Condemning Ministers for
Failing to Speak Against the Evil in Their Society
Act of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland (August 3, 1648)
Censuring Ministers for Their Silence and Not Speaking to the Corruptions of the Time
The General Assembly, taking to their serious consideration the great scandals which have lately increased, partly through some ministers reserving and not declaring themselves against the prevalent sins of the times, and partly through the spite, malignity, and insolence of others against ministers who have faithfully and freely reproved the sins of the times without respect of persons, do, therefore, for preventing and removing such scandals hereafter, appoint and ordain that every minister, by the word of wisdom, apply his doctrine faithfully against the public sins and corruptions of these times, and particularly against the sins and scandals in that congregation wherein he lives, according to the act of the General Assembly 1596, revived by the General Assembly at Glasgow, 1638. Appointing that such as shall be found not applying their doctrine to corruptions (which is the pastoral gift), cold and wanting of spiritual zeal, flattering and dissembling public sins, and especially of great personages in their congregations, that all such persons be censured according to the degree of their faults and continuing therein be deprived according to the act of the General Assembly 1646, Session 10.
That beside all other scandals, silence, or ambiguous speaking in the public cause, much more detracting and disaffected speeches also be seasonably censured: the errors and exorbitancies of sectaries in England are not to be passed in silence, but plain warning to be given of the danger of so near a contagion, that people may beware of it, and such as neglect this duty are to be censured by their presbyteries, so it is thought fit and appointed by the assembly, to conform to the aforesaid acts. That the main current of applications in sermons may run against the evils that prevail at home, and namely against the contempt of the Word, against all profaneness, against the present defection from the League and Covenant, against the unlawful engagement in war, against the unlawful band and declaration of the date of the 10th of June, ordained to be subscribed by all the subjects, and other unjust decrees established by law, against the plots and practices of malignants, and against the principles and tenets of Erastianism, which spread among this kingdom; for the better refutation whereof, it is hereby recommended to the ministry to study that point of controversy well, that they may be the more able to stop the mouths of gainsayers: it is also hereby recommended to the several presbyteries and provincial synods, that they make special enquiry and trial concerning all the ministry in their bounds, and if any be found too sparing, general, or ambiguous in the aforesaid applications and reproofs, that they be sharply rebuked, dealt with, and warned to amend under the pain of suspension from their ministry; and, if after such warning is given, they amend not, that such be suspended by their presbyteries, and in case of their negligence, by the synods until the next general assembly;
But if there be any, who do neglect and omit such applications and reproofs, and continue in such negligence after admonition and dealing with them, they are to be cited, and after due trial of the offence to be deposed, for being pleasers of men rather then servants of Christ, for giving themselves to a detestable indifference or neutrality in the cause of God and for defrauding the souls of people, yea for being highly guilty of the blood of souls in not giving them warning: much more are such ministers to be censured with deposition from their ministry who preach for the lawfulness or pray for the success of the present unlawful [military] engagement, or that go along with the army themselves, or who subscribe any bands or take any oaths not approved by the general assembly or their commissioners, or by their counsel, countenance or approbation make themselves accessory to the taking of such bands and oaths by others.
It is to be understood that if any minister preach in defense of, or pray for, the success of the sectaries in England, he is likewise to be censured by deposition. And this we add as a general rule to be observed on both hands, not as if we had found any of the ministry of this kingdom to be favorers of the sectaries in England: And in case any minister, for his freedom in preaching, and faithful discharge of his conscience, shall be in the face of the congregation or elsewhere upbraided, railed at, mocked, or threatened, or if any injury or violence be done to his person, or any stop and disturbance made to him in the exercise of his ministerial calling, the presbytery of the bounds shall, according to the acts of the General Assemblies of the Church of Scotland, forthwith enter in process with the offender, and, whoever he be, charge him to satisfy the discipline of the church by public repentance, which if any do not, or refuse to do, that then the presbytery proceed to excommunication against him; in all which presbyteries and synods are to give an account of their diligence: and the assembly appoints this act to be intimate in the several congregations of this church.”