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W. M. HETHERINGTON, D.D., LL.D.,
AUTHOR OF THE “ HISTORY OF THE CHURCH OF SCOTLAND,"
ORDINATION OF MINISTERS.
EDITED BY THE
In common with all true Presbyterians, I have often regretted the want of a History of the Westminster Assembly of Divines, by whose labours were produced the Confession of Faith, the Directory of Public Worship, the Form of Church Government, and the Catechisms, which have so long been held as the Standards of the Presbyterian Churches throughout the world. Especially in such a time as the present, when all distinctive Presbyterian principles are not only called in question, but also misrepresented and condemned, such a want has become absolutely unendurable, unless Presbyterians are willing to permit their Church to perish under a load of unanswered, yet easily refuted, calumny. And as the best refutation of calumny is the plain and direct statement of truth, it is by that process that I have endeavoured to vindicate the principles and the character of the Presbyterian Church.
When contemplating the subject, there were two not very reconcilable ideas before my mind. The one was, to restrict the Work to such a size as might keep it within the reach of all Presbyterians, even those whose means were * more limited than their inclinations, but who equally needed and desired information; the other was, to give details sufficiently minute and conclusive to place the whole matter fully and fairly before the mind of the reader, that he
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might be able to form an accurate judgment respecting the character and proceedings of the Westminster Assembly, and also of the Church and people of Scotland, who were 80 intimately connected with it. How far these conflicting purposes have been reconciled it is for others to judge; this, however, I may be permitted to say, that no pains have been spared in the endeavour to ascertain the truth in even the most minute points which required investigation ; almost every book or pamphlet of any importance written at the time, or by men whose course of inquiries has led them to traverse that period, having been carefully read. I had, indeed, entertained the design of giving a complete list of all the productions, in book or pamphlet form, which have been consulted or perused; but, in honest sincerity, I confess that I shrunk from doing so, lest it might seem too like mere ostentation. For a similar reason, but one or two references to authorities, in each instance, have been given, when it would have been equally easy to have produced half a dozen ; and I have chiefly referred to original authorities, rather than to those which may be got in the common histories of the period; for there can be little use in quoting Hume, and Brodie, and Laing, and Godwin, and D’Israeli, when we have before us the original authorities on which their statements are founded. By adopting this method, I have also avoided the necessity of encumbering my Work with digressive corrections of the erroneous or distorted views generally given by these historians, in their accounts of the Westminster Assembly, and of the conduct of the Presbyterians.
Inquiries have been frequently made respecting the manuscript of the Westminster Assembly's proceedings, kept by the scribes or clerks of the Assembly; but that important document appears to be irrecoverably lost. One account states that it was burned in the great fire of London, in the year 1666. It was long thought that a copy of it had been taken, and was preserved in the library of Sion College ; and some aver that this was actually the case, and that it too was destroyed in the fire which burned the House of Commons in 1834, having been placed there, along with other manuscript records relating to the Church of Scotland, during the inquiries of the Committee on Patronage.
We are informed by Baillie, that many members of the Assembly employed themselves in taking copious notes, during the course of the discussions in which they were engaged. It might have been expected that several of these manuscript note-books would have been still extant, by comparing which, the loss of the Assembly's own record might have been in a great measure supplied. None, however, have been published, except Lightfoot's Journal, and Baillie's Letters, and Gillespie's Notes; which are accordingly the most minute and authentic accounts that can now be obtained. The edition of Baillie, to which I have referred, is that admirable one recently published under the care of David Laing, Esq. To that gentleman, to the Librarians of the Advocates' and the Theological Libraries, to the Rev. Dr Cunningham, the Rev. Dr M'Crie, the Rev. Dr Goold, the late Rev. Samuel Martin of Bathgate, and the Rev. Robert Craig of Rothesay, I take this opportunity of expressing my grateful thanks for the access which they so readily gave me to their literary stores.
Dr Thomas Goodwin, one of the leading Independent divines, wrote fifteen volumes of notes or journals of the Assembly's proceedings, as we are informed in a memoir of his life by his son, three only of which are still preserved in Dr Williams' Library, London. It was my intention to have consulted these, but I found it impracticable at the time. There are in the Advocates' Library, Edinburgh,