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The Westminster Assembly And The Directory Of Worship





If the Assembly's Directory increased liberty, it also augmented
responsibility. If it took away the support of set and prescribed
forms on which the indolent might lean and even sleep, this was done to
the avowed intent that those who conducted public services might the
more industriously prepare for them; and thereunto the more diligently
stir up the gifts of God within them.--REV. EUGENE DANIEL.





Prior to the year 1638 the Church of Scotland, in its struggle to
preserve its form of worship, had to contend with the advocates of
prelacy and ritualism, but now opposition to the established practice
arose from another quarter.

In connection with every great reform there are apt to arise
extravagant movements, the promoters of which see only one side of
confessedly important truths, and so carry to undue excess some phase
of reform which, in properly balanced measure, would have been
righteous and desirable. So it was in the period of the Reformation.
Among the several sectaries which had their origin in the Reformed
Church was a company called Brownists, an extreme section of the
Independents, who took their name from their founder, one Robert
Browne, an Englishman and a preacher, although a rejecter of ordination
and a protester against the necessity of any official license for the
work of the ministry. It was a part of their creed to object to any
regulation of public worship, and even to many of the simplest
ceremonies which had hitherto been retained by the Reformed Churches.
In Scotland they opposed, as they had done elsewhere, all reading of
prayers, and, in particular, the kneeling of the minister for private
devotions on entering the pulpit, the repeating of the Lord's Prayer in
any part of the public service, and the singing of the Gloria Patri
at the end of the Psalm. The movement, let it be said, although it
took an extreme form, had its spring in the deep disgust and shame felt
by many pious souls at the laxity and formality which characterized
religious life in England during the earlier part of the Stuart period.

The unwise policy of Charles in seeking to force upon the Scottish
Church a liturgical service, had produced in the minds of many its
natural result, creating extreme views in opposition to all prescribed
forms of worship. The Brownists, therefore, found in Scotland a large
following, and a rapidly increasing section of the Church began
gradually to depart even from the forms and suggestions of the Book of
Common Order, and to adopt a still less restricted form of service.
Against these irregularities the General Assemblies of 1639 and 1640
legislated, and yet in such terms as seem to indicate that already the
mind of the Church at large was being prepared for change. It was
ordained by the first of the Assemblies referred to that


"No novation in worship should be suddenly enacted, but that Synods,
Presbyteries and Kirks should be advised with before the Assembly
should authorize any change."


The desire for greater freedom in worship continued to increase, until
in 1643 the General Assembly appointed a committee with instructions to
prepare, and have in readiness for the next Assembly, a Directory for
Divine Worship in the Church of Scotland. This was a distinct
concession to that section of the Church which was opposed to even the
simplest forms of an optional liturgy. The work, however, was
superseded by a similar undertaking on a larger scale, in virtue of an
invitation from the members of the Assembly of Divines at Westminster
to the Church of Scotland to join with them in the preparation, among
other standards, of a Directory of Worship for the use of the Churches
of both England and Scotland. The invitation was accepted with
readiness, and "certain ministers of good word, and representative
elders highly approved of by their brethren," were elected to represent
the Scottish Church in this great work. These men were Baillie,
Henderson, Rutherford, Gillespie and Douglas, ministers, with Johnston,
of Warriston, and Lords Cassilis and Maitland as lay representatives;
Argyle, Balmerinoch and Loudon were afterwards added. The work was
duly prosecuted at Westminster, and, although the Scotch Commissioners
with reluctance relinquished their Book of Common Order, yet for the
sake of the uniformity in worship which they hoped to see established
throughout England, Scotland and Ireland, they joined heartily in the
work, and carried it when completed to the Assembly of the Church of
Scotland, by which it was duly examined, slightly amended in the
directions concerning baptism and marriage, and finally, unanimously
approved in all its parts, and adopted. The terms in which the
Assembly expressed its approval of this work are unreserved:


"The General Assembly, having most seriously considered, revised and
examined the Directory aforementioned, after several public readings of
it, after much deliberation, both publicly and in private committees,
after full liberty given to all to object against it, and earnest
invitations of all who have any scruples about it, to make known the
same, that they might be satisfied, doth unanimously, and without a
contrary voice, agree to and approve the following Directory in all the
heads thereof, together with the preface set before it; and doth
require, decern and ordain that, according to the plain tenor and
meaning thereof and the intent of the preface, it be carefully and
uniformly observed and practised by all the ministers and others within
this Kingdom whom it doth concern."


The Scottish Parliament likewise gave its approval of the Directory,
which was accordingly in due time prepared for publication, and issued
under the title, "A Directory for the Public Worship of God throughout
the three kingdoms of Scotland, England and Ireland; with an Act of the
General Assembly of the Kirk of Scotland for establishing and observing
this present Directory;" and thus the Westminster Directory became the
primary authority on matters of worship and administration of the
Sacraments within the Church of Scotland.

Its use, however, during the years immediately following its adoption
appears to have been by no means general, many still adhering to the
method of the Book of Common Order, others inclining towards an even
greater freedom than seemed to them to be permitted by the Directory.
These latter belonged to that section of the Church afterwards known as
Protesters, and whose opposition to the use of the Lord's Prayer and
the Creed, as well ay to prescribed forms of prayer, was most
pronounced. Events soon occurred which exerted a strong influence in
favor of absolute liberty in worship, and which effectively
strengthened the Protesters in the position which they had assumed.

In 1651 there took place at Scone the unhappy crowning of Charles the
Second by the Scots. This act placed Scotland in open opposition to
Cromwell, and as a result the land was brought under his iron-handed
rule during the remaining years of the Protectorate. The effect of
this on the worship of the Church was to introduce into Scotland the
methods of worship approved by the Independents, to whom those parties
in Scotland which were opposed to all prescribed forms or regulation of
worship, now attached themselves. Worship after the Presbyterian form
was not disallowed, but the preachers of Cromwell's army, with the
approval of an increasing party in the Scottish Church, forced
themselves into the pulpits of the land and conducted worship in a
manner approved of by themselves. In these services preaching occupied
the most prominent place, and to worship, as such, but scant attention
was given, so that in 1653 the ministers of the city of Edinburgh,
finding complaints among the people that in the services of the Sabbath
day there was no reading of Scripture nor singing of Psalms, took steps
to have these parts of worship resumed. While the public worship of
the Church of Scotland during the period of the Commonwealth cannot be
said to have had any general uniformity, it is evident that the
influence of Independency upon it was toward the curtailment of form
and the granting of absolute liberty to every preacher to conduct
worship in whatever way seemed good to himself. It was the swing of
the pendulum to the opposite extreme from the enforced order of Laud's
Liturgy. It is doubtful if this erratic period would have left any
permanent effect upon the religious life and worship of Scotland, had
it not been for the formation of a party in sympathy with the political
principles of the Protector. This party, being forced into political
opposition to the supporters of royalty, naturally found themselves,
through their associations, prejudiced in favor of the religious
principles and practices of those with whom they stood allied in the
state; and thus it was that a strong party favoring absolute liberty in
matters of worship arose in the Scottish Church.

The restoration of Charles the Second in 1660 brought with it the
disavowal on his part of the Covenant to which he had subscribed, and
the open rejection of the Presbyterian principles to which he had been
so readily loyal in the day of his distress. Episcopacy was restored
as the form of Church government for Scotland, and bishops were
consecrated; but it was left to time and the gradual power of imitation
to secure the introduction of a ritual into the worship of the Church.
Charles the Second and his minion, Sharp, did not deem it wise to
undertake a work in which Charles the First and Laud had so signally
failed, the work of imposing a ritual of worship upon the Scottish
Church; Episcopal government had been imposed, Episcopal worship it was
hoped would follow. In both of his aims, however, though sought by
such different methods, Charles was doomed to disappointment. As
impotent as was the royal command, though backed by every form of
deprivation of right and of cruel persecution, to secure the acceptance
by Scotland of an Episcopal Church, so impotent was the service,
conducted by royal hirelings and conforming curates, to inspire the
people with any love for formal worship. It was, further, in
comparatively few of the Churches of Scotland that any attempt was made
to introduce the service of the English Prayer Book. In the now
Episcopal Churches of the land, a form of worship which gave a place to
the Lord's Prayer, the Gloria Patri, the Apostles' Creed, and the
Decalogue, was regarded as satisfactory. Public worship, therefore, at
this time may be said to have been simply a return to the method
suggested, but not required, in the time of Knox; but even these
historic Scottish forms, by reason of their association with an
enforced Episcopacy, became increasingly distasteful to that large body
of the Scots who refused to conform to the Church by law established,
and who, as a result, were driven to the moors and the hill-sides,
there to worship God as conscience prompted.

The Protesters, the party to which the majority of the Covenanters
belonged, had always been opposed to anything savoring of ritual in
worship. But their opposition was intensified and deepened during the
twenty-eight years of the "killing time," as they saw the worship of
the party from which their persecutors arose, characterized chiefly by
the acceptance of those forms against which they had entered their
protest in former days. Even in the case of those whose consciences
permitted them to conform to the established religion of the land and
to wait on the ministry of the conforming clergy, there was developed,
through sympathy with their persecuted countrymen, hunted on the hills
and tracked to their hiding places like quarry, a suspicion of even the
forms of a religion that permitted such cruelties. And thus it was
that when the deliverer alike for England and Scotland arrived from the
"hollow land," where behind their dykes the conquerors of the Spaniards
had won for themselves the privilege of religious liberty, Scotland was
prepared to join in the welcome given to William of Orange, and to hail
with delight the prospect of a restored Presbyterianism and its
inherent liberty. Most heartily, therefore, was it that the leaders in
Scotland, alike in Church and State, subscribed to the request
presented to William, "That Presbyterian government be restored and
re-established as it was at the beginning of our Reformation from
Popery, and renewed in the year 1638, continuing until 1660."





Next: Legislation Concerning Public Worship In The Period Subsequent To The Revolution Of 1688

Previous: The Period Of Controversy 1614-1645



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