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HISTORY.--The society of Christians which forms the subject of this article, is not one of those novel sects whose first appearance and distinguishing tenets are only of yesterday, but the venerable remains of what was formerly the Established Church of this country. It holds spiritual communion with the more flourishing and distinguished branch of the Catholic Church just considered, and also with the Episcopal Church in America ; but disclaiming all foreign jurisdiction, its members are united, in all matters of ecclesiastical concern, under the regular successors of those Scottish Bishops, who, in consequence of the Revolution, in 1688, were deprived of their temporal honours and privileges, but still continued to exercise their spiritual powers, for the benefit of that part of the Church of Christ which had been committed to their charge. The title of Nonjurors, by which they were chiefly known for about a century from the above æra, and which was imposed on all those, both in Britain and Ireland, who refused to swear allegiance to King William and Queen Mary, and their successors, is now very justly dropt, the occasion of it having ceased, at least as far as this church is concerned. For, on the death of the last person who maintained his claim to the crown of Britain, in opposition to the reigning family and existing government, its members made offer of their dutiful allegiance to our present beloved and most gracious sovereign; and no sooner could they have done it, without a dereliction of their principles.
This religious society has subsisted in various circumstances of prosperity and adversity; it has been blessed with good fortune, and fostered by the hand of earthly power ; and, through the instability of human authority and grandeur, it has likewise been plunged into the very depth of adversity, there to learn the lesson of patient endurance for conscience sake, and to give glory to God, by humbly acquiescing in the justice and righteousness of his judgments. Almost ever since the Reformation, and particularly for about a century from the æra of the Revolution, its history, like the mystic scroll of the prophet, is inscribed, within and without, “ with lamentation, and mourning, and wo. No portion, indeed, of the Catholic Church of Christ, has undergone a greater variety of fortune ; nor, perhaps, is there
at this day, any religious society that has been more conformed to primitive Christianity, either in its external or internal condition.
It is well known to those who are acquainted with the history of the church in this country, that the Reformation which began to dawn here in 1527, but received not a legal establishinent till 1560,* was carried on with much tumult and confusion ; and that for many years, various forms of ecclesiastical polity were adopted, one after another, and under as many different denominations. The Lords, or leaders, of the Congregation, which was the name assumed by the first reformers, disliking the name much more than the reality of episcopacy, at first set up a shadow of it, projected by the celebrated John Knox, or copied from the Lutherans in Germany, under the name of a Superintendency. This was a new and anomalous form of church polity; for, though the superintendents held their office for life, and their power was Episcopal, yet some of them had not even the form of an ordination, and none of them were possessed of any higher commission than those over whom they presided.
No wonder then that this strange device was of short continuance; it was found to fail in answering the purposes of church government, and was soon very generally disapproved, so that a new form was
* Or, according to others, not till 1567.
proposed and adopted in 1572, when the name of Episcopacy was resumed, together with almost every thing that was necessary to constitute its essence and reality, except the consecration of bishops, which was strangely overlooked. Nor did this improved, but still defective, constitution of the Church long continue; for the reforming party, ever ready to pull down with one hand what they had just raised with the other, began to call Episcopacy in question in 1575, and in 1580 they condemned it as unlawful and unscriptural, and soon departed much farther from it than before. Not stopping at a superintendency, they made nearer approaches to presbyterianism; and, through the influence of Mr. Andrew Melvil, who, admiring that novel form of church government as lately set up at Geneva, was a great promoter, if not the first parent, of Presbyterian parity here, it was at last adopted, and became the establishment in 1592
In this state, and under this form of government, the church continued till the accession of King James to the crown of England. That monarch, whose wisdom and measures of policy have been extravagantly praised by some, and undeservedly blamed by others, had long been endeavouring, by a prudent and peaceable mixture of adýice and authority, to put ecclesiastical affairs in his ancient hereditary kingdom of Scotland on a more regular and permanent foundation. And, by his accession to the Euglish