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A History of the Reformation (Vol. 2 of 2)

The Book of Discipline approved by the General Assembly


says in a letter to Cecil (September 7th, 1560) that before the Confession was publicly read it was revised by Lethington and Lord James Stewart, who "dyd mytigate the austeritie of maynie wordes and sentences," and that a certain article which dealt with the "dysobediens that subjects owe unto their magistrates" was advised to be left out.[337] Thus amended it was read over, and then re-read article by article in the Estates, and passed without alteration,[338]--"no man present gainsaying."[339] When it was read before the Estates:

"Maynie offered to sheede ther blude in defence of the same. The old Lord of Lynsay, as grave and goodly a man as ever I sawe, said, 'I have lyved maynie yeres, I am the eldest in thys Compagnie of my sorte; nowe that yt hathe pleased God to lett me see thys daye wher so maynie nobles and other have allowed so worthie a work, I will say with Simion, _Nunc dimittis_.'"[340]

A copy was sent to Cecil, and Maitland of Lethington assured him that if there was anything in the Confession of Faith which the English Minister misliked, "It may eyther be changed (if the mater so permit) or at least in some thyng qualifieed"; which shows the anxiety of the Scots to keep step with their English allies.[341]

The authors of the Confession were asked to draw up a short statement showing how a Reformed Church could best be governed.

The result was the remarkable document which was afterwards called the _First Book of Discipline_, or _the Policie and Discipline of the Church_.[342] It provided for the government of the Church by kirk-sessions, synods, and general assemblies; and recognised as office-bearers in the Church, ministers, teachers, elders, deacons, superintendents, and readers. The authors of this Book of Discipline professed to go directly to Scripture for the outlines of the system of Church government which they advised their countrymen to adopt, and their profession was undoubtedly sincere and likewise just. They were, however, all of them men in sympathy with Calvin, and had had personal intercourse with the Protestants of France. Their form of government is clearly inspired by Calvin's ideas as stated in his _Institution_, and follows closely the Ecclesiastical Ordinances of the French Church. The offices of superintendent and reader were added to the usual threefold or fourfold Presbyterian form of government. The former was due to the unsettled state of the country and the scarcity of Protestant pastors. The _Superintendents_ took charge of districts corresponding not very exactly with the Episcopal dioceses, and were ordered to make annual reports to the General Assembly of the ecclesiastical and religious state of their provinces, and to preach in the various churches in their district. The _Readers_ owed their existence to the small number of Protestant pastors, to the great importance attached by the early Scottish Reformers to an educated ministry, and also to the difficulty of procuring funds for the support of pastors in every parish. They were of two classes--those of a higher grade, who were permitted to deliver addresses and who were called _Exhorters_; and those of the lower grade, whose duty it was to read "distinctly" the Common Prayers and the Scriptures. Both classes were expected to teach the younger children. _Exhorters_ who studied theology diligently and satisfied the synod of their learning could rise to be ministers. The Book of Discipline contains a chapter on the patrimony of the Church which urges the necessity of preserving monies possessed by the Church for the maintenance of religion, the support of education, and the help of the poor. The presence of this chapter prevented the book being accepted by the Estates in the same way as the Confession of Faith. The barons, greater and lesser, who sat there had in too many cases appropriated the "patrimony of the Kirk" to their own private uses, and were unwilling to sign a document which condemned their conduct. The Book of Discipline approved by the General Assembly, and signed by a large number of the nobles and burgesses, never received the legal sanction accorded to the Confession.

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