Suppose . . . just suppose now . . . the government, whether national, regional, or local, would arrive one Sunday to your congregational worship, your Presbyterian church, to check up on the church attendance that morning, or evening After the sermon, an individual would have a listing of all the members of your church, and proceed to read the names of the family members. Those missing from the attendance that day would be marked at absent. The absentees would then have a fine given to the head of the home to pay within a certain time. If any were not able to pay that fine, then a company of soldiers would take up their quarters at that home, proceeding to devastate the food supplies, clothes supplies, and anything else of value in the home. After a time, what they had not used in their possession time in the home, they would leave, but not before they destroyed all that which was left. Surely, such a practice would not be tolerated in any civilized nation, but this is exactly what was the case in the land of Scotland in 1662. It began with the great ejection of Presbyterian ministers, some 400 pastors in all, from their pulpits and manses and parishes.
It was called the Act of Glasgow on October 1, 1662. The Privy Council met to deal with what they believed was a gross disrespect of Anglicanism. No funds were being collected and given for the upkeep of the Anglican bishops. So this proclamation was passed to banish from their churches and parishes all Presbyterian ministers who had been ordained since 1649. The Act was published on October 4, 1662, ordering all Presbyterian ministers to withdraw themselves and their families from their manses and parishes by November 1, forbidding them to reside within the bounds of their respective presbyteries. Part of their reasoning came because they were incapable of reasoning rightly in their minds. Why? Because there was only one sober delegate at the meeting. All the rest were drunk. For this reason, it was known in history as the Drunken Act of Glasgow.
The Anglican authorities were astonished at their commitment to their faith. I mean, it was right before the onset of winter. Surely, there would be an immediate support of the Anglican order in the cities and towns and country. But four hundred clergy immediately left their pulpits, manses, parishes, and went out into the wilderness . . . despite the winter upon them. Two hundred churches immediately closed their doors for lack of both preachers and people.
There was unmitigated shock in the established Anglican church. To attempt to keep open the doors, hundreds of what was called “raw untaught young men” were brought in to succeed the ejected clergy. Even a bishop complained that “they were ignorant to a reproach, with many of them as incapable as they were welcome.” In some cases, their arrival were met by a shower of stones, and with the church door being barricaded on the Lord’s Day.
At first, the masses of Scottish Presbyterians left their parishes to attend the older pastors who were ordained before 1649. But love for their own pastors who were forced to preach in the fields and the moors began to garner their presence in worship. Fines, imprisonment, and even death did not prevent their attendance. Some were branded on the cheek and sent as slaves to . . . the American colonies. It was a terrible time to be a Scottish Presbyterian.
Words to Live By:
John M’Main best summarizes our feelings in relations to the Covenanters. How can we read such a post like this, “without blushing for our low attainments and small proficiency in the school of Christ! How unlike we are to them! How zealous were they for the honor of Christ! How lukewarm are we, of whatever profession or denomination! How burning were their love to Him, His truths, ordinances, and people! How cold is ours! How selfish and worldly are we!” May a post from church history, from This Day in Presbyterian History, be used by the Holy Spirit to cause us to examine ourselves, to confess our sins of commission and omission, to seek to be filled with the Holy Spirit once again, to rededicate our lives to King Jesus again, to be the salt and light of the world once again, in that place where we are, by God’s grace.