Friday, September 26, 2008

The discipline of the Second Reformation

Much has been written on the subject of the discipline of the Scottish Reformation. There is for instance, Hay Fleming's Discpline of the Scottish Reformation . There is also 'The Culture of Protestantism in Early Modern Scotland' By Margo Todd and 'The Uses of Reform: "godly Discipline" and Popular Behavior in Scotland and Beyond, 1560-1610'
By Michael F. Graham.

The Second Reformation continued this emphasis on a strong national church vested with extensive powers of discipline but there has been little treatment of this. Andrew Symington, however, comments appropriately 'The men of the Second Reformation brought every matter of faith, worship, discipline, and government, to the test of the divine word, applying this measuring reed to the temple, the altar, and them that worship therein'. The importance that they placed upon it can be seen in the way in which David Dickson and James Durham bring it into even the Sum of Saving Knowledge. 'God hath made a gift of Christ unto his people, as a commander: which office he faithfully exerciseth, by giving to his kirk and people laws and ordinances, pastors and governors, and all necessary officers; by keeping courts and assemblies among them, to see that his laws be obeyed; subduing, by his word, Spirit, and discipline, his people's corruptions; and; by his wisdom and power, guarding them against all their enemies whatsoever'. 'By kirk-government, he will have them hedged in, and helped forward unto the keeping of the covenant'.

There are key resources such as the Presbytery Book of Kirkcaldy which shows a remarkable thoroughness and consistency in discipline over a range of matters. Many modern church courts would grow very weary very soon at the volume of discipline cases that this presbytery dealt with.

Now the Acts of General Assembly from the Reformation through to the Second Reformation have been published online.

These acts show that the Second Reformation Church was not hesitant about enacting legislation relating to discipline at General Assembly level. They were concerned for uniformity, whereas many modern Presbyterians are wary of supreme courts dealing with matters of discipline or of being too black and white. Some argue that the supreme court does not have jurisdiction in these matters. The Second Reformation men were very specific and detailed in what they believed should be made a matter of discipline and what should be accepted and enforced as law by judicial process and what lower courts were obliged to carry out. The detail of the Larger Catechism on the Ten Commandments is consistent with this.

Act Sess. 21, August 29, 1639.—Act anent the keeping of the Lord's Day. Sess. 11, August 14, 1643.—Act against Masters who have Servants that Prophane the Lord's Day.
Sess. 5, Aug. 1, 1640.—Act for censuring Speakers against the Covenant.
Act for restraining Abuses at Pennie Brydals.
Act against Lykwakes.
Sess. Ult. Junii 18, 1646, ante meridiem.—Act against loosing of Ships and Barks upon the Lord's Day.
Sess. Ult., February 13, 1645, post meridiem.—Act for censuring the Observers of Yule-day, and other superstitious dayes, especially if they be Schollars.