THE following Narrative was writ in a Letter several Months ago from Scotland, by a Person of great Moderation and Integrity, well acquainted with the Humour and Constitution of Scotland; it has been read and approved by Persons of the best Quality both in the Church and State in England, and is now at their desire published, because it represents shortly and impartially, the various Methods under which the Church of Scotland suffered since the late Revolution; That thereby all good Christians, especially the most charitable church of England, may See the sad Effects of Rampant Presbytery, Pity their Brethren that have so severely smarted under it, Consider the fatal Consequences of Papal Supremacy in a Protestant Kirk, and speedily bethink themselves how to quench those Flames in their Neighbours House, which so visibly threaten Destruction to their own.
Foelix quem faciunt aliena pericula cautum.
Some say, and I hope it's true, that there are many Moderate Presbyterians to be found abroad in the World, altho with us they have been all ever bent to Persecute when they had Power, and think they do God good Service when they Murther Bishops, and quite raze out their Adherents in Church and State, as is too visible by the late and present Proceedings of that Party amongst us. Dr. Burnet now Bishop of Salisbury, in a Sermon at the Election of my Lord Mayor of London on the 29th of September, observes very well. Some Plead now (says he) for Moderation, tho they have forgot it shamefully where they have Power, as the Congregations now in New-England, impose under the pains of Banishment and Death in case of return, not only the Religion of the State, but many speculative Points in Opinion, and other things that are certainly indifferent. The Presbytery in Scotland imposed the Covenant under the pains of Excommunication; upon which followed a Forfeiture of the Personal Estate, and a Sequestration of the Real; he might have added, and sometimes Death or Banishment to the Person, but he goes on, and this Covenant all Persons, Men and Women, (he might have said, Children too) were forced to Swear, tho few could understand it; and one Particular was not far from an Inquisition, that every one should discover all Malignants and Enemies to their Cause, in order to bring them to condign Punishment, by which every Man was Sworn to be a Spy and an Informer. The following Book shews in part what Gospel like Methods that Party now use to have the same Principles and Practices again revived in the World, and from it I wish these Moderate Presbyterians which they say are abroad, to beware of that Poison that has made the Brains of their Scots Brethren so Giddy, that their Zeal against Episcopacy may not run them quite out of their Christianity, as it's too palpable with us it hath done to many.
Any Moderate Man will certainly think the difference between our Scots Episcopacy and Presbytery not worth the Heat or Danger of a Dispute, For First as to the Doctrine, both Parties are agreed, the Confession of Faith made by Mr. Knox and ratified in Parliament by King James VI. and revived again in the Test Act by King Charles II. this, together with the Westminster Confession, (both agreed on by the General Assembly of Presbyters) are owned next to the Word of God by both Parties, as the Standard of the Doctrine of our Church.
Secondly, As to the Worship, it's exactly the same both in the Church and Conventicle; in the Church there are no Ceremonies at all injoyned or practised, only some Persons more reverent, think fit to be uncovered, which our Presbyterians do but by halves even in the time of Prayer; we have no Liturgy nor Form of Prayer, no not in the Cathedrals, the only difference in this Point is, our Clergy are not so overbold nor fulsome in their extemporary Expressions as the others are, nor use so many vain Repetitions, and we generally conclude one of our Prayers with that which our Saviour taught and commanded, which the other Party decry as Superstitious and Formal; Amen too gives great Offence, tho neither the Clerk nor People use it, only the Minister sometimes shuts up his Prayer with it. The Sacraments are Administered after the same Way and Manner by both; neither so much as kneeling at the Prayers, or when they receive the Elements of the Lords Supper, but all sitting together at a long Table in the Body of the Church or Chancel. In Baptism neither Party use the Cross, nor are any Godfathers or Godmothers required, the Father only promising for his Child: The only Difference in this Sacrament is, the Presbyterians make the Father Swear to breed up his Child in the Faith and Belief of the Covenant or Solemn League, whereas the Orthodox cause the Father repeat the Apostles Creed, and promise to breed up the Child in that Faith which himself then professes.
Thirdly, As to the Discipline it's exactly in our Episcopal Church (if it may be so called) according to the Model of the Presbyterian Mother Kirk at Geneva, for conformable to the Consistory direction, (not Rubrick, for that's a Superstitious word) we have in every Parish a little Court which we call the Kirk-Session, composed of the Minister or Ministers, if there be two belonging to that Church; and some Lay men which we call Elders and Deacons too forsooth; the business of this Court, is to enquire into and punish Scandals, and to collect and distribute the Money which good People are pleased daily to offer at the Church-doors for the Poor: This Court or Session is lyable to the Inspection and Iurisdiction of the Presbytery, who may visit the Sessions, inspect their Records, and receive Appeals from them upon occasion. By Presbytery we mean again a Court of Presbyters inferior to the Synod, for every Synod or Meeting of the whole Diocies belonging to a Bishop, is divided into several Classes or Presbyteries, in each Presbytery there is about eighteen or twenty in some twenty four Ministers, who with the consent of the Bishop, chose their own Moderator or President, they meet ordinarily once every Month, or oftener if they think their Affairs require, for they have power to adjourn and meet at their own Discretion: As the Sessions are subject to the Presbyteries, so are the Presbyteries to the Synod; which meets always at set times twice every Year, there the Bishop himself presides, or in case of his necessary absence, one commissionated by him, and all things are carried by the Plurality of Votes, and the Acts made that way, are the only Canons or Rules we use for Discipline: As the Presbyteries are subject to the Synod, so the whole Synods of the Nation are to the General Assembly, where by Law the Archbishop of St. Andrews is always to preside; and if I be not mistaken, has a negative Voice, tho he was never known to use it.
Now I leave the impartial World to judge, whether Presbyterians that had any Moderation, would not be well contented, and live quietly under such a moderate Episcopacy, where indeed except the Power of Ordination (which is always to be performed with the consent and assistance if the Brethren of the Presbytery) and the Title of Lord, which the King is pleased to confer upon them, the Bishops are truly but Constant Moderators, which the Presbyterians themselves, because of the great Divisions, which often happened among them at the electing of Moderators, were at length necessitated to sit down with. Now then let any moderate Presbyterian abroad say, whether indeed it be matter of Conscience or Humour, that makes Presbyterians with us, separate from a Church so Constitute, or whether the difference between our Church and their Kirk be such as can justifie Men in raising so many publick Rebellions, and drawing so much Misery and Confusion upon the Nation and themselves, as our Zealots have often done; and whether their own Consciences can plead Not Guilty at the last Great Tribunal, where they must answer for all those Murthers and Butcheries, all the Cries and Tears of Widows and Orphans and ruined Families which will then testifie against them? Or what can they answer now to the World, for the many late Barbarities they have committed against their Protestant Brethren, themselves knowing not for what; and therefore being ashamed of their Practices, they are fain to conceal and deny them abroad: But to prevent their endeavours that way, and that they may appear to the World in their true colours, I have here, for the proof of this Modest and Impartial Narrative, inserted some few Particulars of the Sufferings of our present Episcopal Clergy, attested by their own Hands, and by the Hands of Gentlemen of great Integrity, who were Eye-witnesses to the Proceedings, many other of this Parties more cruel Practices against the Clergy, might and may hereafter be published, and attested by the Hands of the most significant Gentry in the several Parishes where the Ministers were persecuted, only here these are singled out now, because all these Papers, as they are attested and here published, were shewed in the original authentick Copies to most of our Governours, both in Scotland and England; and the greatest part of them sent by a particular Commissioner to King William then Prince of Orange in the beginning of our Troubles. The publick Acts and Proclamations are also added, that Men may not be deceived by thinking, as some would represent it, that the Persecution proceeded only from the Rabble, and that in a Iumble of the Times, when the Government was not in a condition to protect the Leiges; and by the fourth Collection of Papers I think it's plain, that the most fatal Blows were all given by the Scots Presbyterians who were and are at the Helm, and that without countenance from these, the Rabble durst never have attempted what they did against all the Laws of the Kingdom, Religion and Humanity; which plainly shews that Presbyterians, howsoever dignified or distinguished are all of a piece.
Considering all this, one would be apt to think that the present Episcopal Clergy in Scotland needed as much the assistance of the Prayers and charitable Collections of the Church of England, as either these Protestants in Piedmont, France or Ireland, especially since there seems to be something harder in our Case than in any of theirs; for in those foreign Parts, if a Man complies with the Commands of his Superiors, (which I confess would be sometimes most irreligious in him to do) then he would have the same Protection and Benefit that other Subjects of his quality are allowed to enjoy: But with us it's far otherwise, for as it plainly appears by the third Collection of well attested Papers, let men comply never so much with the Commands of their Governors, yet they are in the same sad Case with those that do not in the least comply; for nothing less than the utter and universal ruine of Episcopacy being according to the Covenant designed; the Superstructure as well as Foundations must be destroyed, and the Presbyters as well as the Prelates quit rooted out, like Philistines from the holy Land; And is this nothing to you, O all you that pass by? give Peace in our time, O Lord, because we have none other that fighteth for us but only thou, O God.