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."