Historic Documents2nd Book of Discipline of 1578
The Second Book of Discipline
Of the Kirk and Policy Thereof in General, and Wherein it is Different from the Civil Policy
The kirk of God is sometimes largely taken for all them that profess the gospel of Jesus Christ, and so it is a company and fellowship, not only of the godly, but also of hypocrites professing always outwardly a true religion. Other times it is taken for the godly and elect only; and sometimes for them that exercise spiritual function among the congregation of them that profess the truth.
2. The kirk in this last sense has a certain power granted by God, according to the which it uses a proper jurisdiction and government, exercised to the comfort of the whole kirk. This power ecclesiastical is an authority granted by God the Father, through the Mediator Jesus Christ, unto his kirk gathered, and having the ground in the word of God; to be put in execution by them unto whom the spiritual government of the kirk by lawful calling is committed.
3. The policy of the kirk flowing from this power is an order or form of spiritual government which is exercised by the members appointed thereto by the word of God; and therefore is given immediately to the office-bearers, by whom it is exercised to the weal of the whole body. This power is diversely used: for sometimes it is severally exercised, chiefly by the teachers, sometimes conjunctly by mutual consent of them that bear the office and charge, after the form of judgment. The former is commonly called potestas ordinis, and the other potestas jurisdictionis.  These two kinds of power have both one authority, one ground, one final cause, but are different in the manner and form of execution, as is evident by the speaking of our Master in Matt. 16 and 18.
4. This power and policy ecclesiastical is different and distinct in its own nature from that power and policy which is called the civil power and appertains to the civil government of the commonwealth; albeit they are both of God, and tend to one end, if they are rightly used: to wit, to advance the glory of God, and to have godly and good subjects.
5. For this ecclesiastical power flows immediately from God, and the Mediator Jesus Christ, and is spiritual, not having a temporal head on earth, but only Christ, the only spiritual King and Governor of his kirk.
6. It is a title falsely usurped by Antichrist to call himself head of the kirk, and ought not to be attributed to angel nor man, of what estate that ever he is, saving to Christ, the only Head and Monarch of the kirk.
7. Therefore this power and policy of the kirk should lean upon the word immediately as the only ground thereof, and should be taken from the pure fountains of the scriptures, the kirk hearing the voice of Christ, the only spiritual King, and being ruled by his laws.
8. It is proper to kings, princes, and magistrates to be called lords and dominators over their subjects, whom they govern civilly, but it is proper to Christ only to be called Lord and Master in the spiritual government of the kirk; and all others that bear office therein ought not to usurp dominion therein, nor be called lords, but only ministers, disciples, and servants. For it is Christ’s proper office to command and rule in his kirk universal, and every particular kirk, through his Spirit and word, by the ministry of men.
9. Notwithstanding, as the ministers and others of the ecclesiastical estate are subject to the civil magistrate, so ought the person of the magistrate be subject to the kirk spiritually, and in ecclesiastical government. And the exercise of both these jurisdictions cannot stand in one person ordinarily. The civil power is called the power of the sword, and the other the power of the keys.
10. The civil power should command the spiritual to exercise and do their office according to the word of God. The spiritual rulers should require the Christian magistrate to minister justice and punish vice, and to maintain the liberty and quietness of the kirk within their bounds.
11. The magistrate commands external things for external peace and quietness amongst the subjects; the minister handles external things only for conscience cause.
12. The magistrate handles external things only, and actions done before men; but the spiritual ruler judges both inward affections and external actions, in respect of conscience, by the word of God.
13. The civil magistrate craves and gets obedience by the sword and other external means, but the ministry by the spiritual sword and spiritual means.
14. The magistrate neither ought to preach, minister the sacraments, nor execute the censures of the kirk, nor yet prescribe any rule how it should be done, but command the ministers to observe the rule commanded in the word, and punish the transgressors by civil means. The ministers exercise not the civil jurisdiction, but teach the magistrate how it should be exercised according to the word.
15. The magistrate ought to assist, maintain, and fortify the jurisdiction of the kirk. The ministers should assist their princes in all things agreeable to the word, provided they neglect not their own charge by involving themselves in civil affairs.
Finally, as ministers are subject to the judgment and punishment of the magistrate in exter nal things, if they offend; so ought the magistrates to submit themselves to the discipline of the kirk, if they transgress in matters of conscience and religion.
Of the Parts of
the Policy of the Kirk,
and Persons or Office-Bearers
to Whom Administration
1. As in the civil policy the whole commonwealth consists in them that are governors or magistrates, and them that are governed, or subjects; so in the policy of the kirk some are appointed to be rulers (and the rest of the members thereof to be ruled), and obeyed according to the word of God and inspiration of his Spirit, always under one Head and Chief Governor, Jesus Christ.
2. Again, the whole policy of the kirk consists in three things: viz., in doctrine, discipline, and distribution. With doctrine is annexed the administration of the sacraments. And according to the parts of this division arises a threefold sort of office-bearers in the kirk: to wit, of ministers or preachers, elders or governors, and deacons or distributors.
3. And all these may be called by one general word, ministers of the kirk. For albeit the kirk of God is ruled and governed by Jesus Christ, who is the only King, High Priest, and Head thereof, yet he uses the ministry of men as a most necessary middis [means] for this purpose. For so he has from time to time, before the law, under the law, and in the time of the evangel, for our great comfort raised up men endued with the gifts of the Spirit, for the spiritual government of his kirk, exercising by them his own power, through his Spirit and word, to the building of the same.
4. And to take away all occasion of tyranny, he will that they should rule with mutual consent of brethren, and equality of power, every one according to their functions.
5. In the New Testament and time of the evangel, he has used the ministry of the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and doctors in the administration of the word; the eldership for good order and administration of discipline; the deaconship to have the care of the ecclesiastical goods.
6. Some of these ecclesiastical functions are ordinary, and some extraordinary or temporary. There are three extraordinary functions: the office of the apostle, of the evangelist, and of the prophet, which are not perpetual, and now have ceased in the kirk of God, except when he pleased extraordinarily for a time to stir some of them up again. There are four ordinary functions or offices in the kirk of God: the office of the pastor, minister or bishop; the doctor; the presbyter or elder; and the deacon.
7. These offices are ordinary, and ought to continue perpetually in the kirk, as necessary for the government and policy of the same, and no more offices ought to be received or suffered in the true kirk of God established according to his word.
8. Therefore all the ambitious titles invented in the kingdom of Antichrist, and in his usurped hierarchy, which are not of one of these four sorts, together with the offices depending thereupon, in one word, ought to be rejected.
How the Persons
that Bear Ecclesiastical Functions
are to be Admitted to Their Office
1. Vocation or calling is common to all that should bear office within the kirk, which is a lawful way by which qualified persons are promoted to any spiritual office within the kirk of God. Without this lawful calling it was never leesome [ lawful] to any person to meddle with any function ecclesiastical.
2. There are two sorts of calling: one extraordinary, by God immediately, as were the prophets and apostles, which in kirks established, and already well-reformed, has no place.
3. The other calling is ordinary, which, besides the calling of God and inward testimony of a good conscience, has the lawful approbation and outward judgment of men, according to God’s word and order established in his kirk. None ought to presume to enter in any office ecclesiastical, without he have this testimony of a good conscience before God, who only knows the hearts of men.
4. This ordinary and outward calling has two parts: election and ordination. Election is the choosing out of a person or persons most able to the office that vakes [becomes vacant], by the judgment of the eldership and consent of the congregation to whom the person or persons [shall] be appointed. The qualities, in general, requisite in all them who should bear charge in the kirk, consist in soundness of religion and godliness of life, according as they are sufficiently set forth in the word.
5. In the order of election, it is to be eschewed that any person be intruded in any of the offices of the kirk contrary to the will of the congregation to whom they are appointed, or without the voice of the eldership. None ought to be intruded or entered in the places already planted, or in any room that vakes not [is not vacant], for any worldly respect; and that which is called the benefice ought to be nothing else than the stipend of the ministers that are lawfully called and elected.
6. Ordination is the separation and sanctifying of the person appointed of God and his kirk, after he is well-tried and found qualified. The ceremonies of ordination are fasting, earnest prayer, and imposition of hands of the eldership.
7. All these, as they must be raised up by God, and by him made able for the work whereto they are called; so ought they to know their message to be limited within God’s word, without the bounds of the which they ought not to pass. All these should take the titles and names only (lest they be exalted and puffed up in themselves) which the scriptures give unto them, as those which import labour, travail, and work; and are names of offices and service, and not of idleness, dignity, worldly honour or preeminence, which by Christ our Master is expressly reproved and forbidden.
8. All these office-bearers should have their own particular flocks amongst whom they exercise their charge. All should make residence with them, and take the inspection and oversight of them, every one in his vocation. And, generally, these two things ought they all to respect: the glory of God and edifying of his kirk, in discharging their duties in their calling.
Of the Office-Bearers in Particular,
and First of the Pastors or Ministers
1. Pastors, bishops, or ministers, are they who are appointed to particular congregations, which they rule by the word of God, and over the which they watch. In respect whereof, sometimes they are called pastors, because they feed their congregation; sometimes episcopi or bishops, because they watch over their flock; sometimes ministers, by reason of their service and office; and sometimes also presbyters or seniors, for the gravity in manners which they ought to have in taking care of the spiritual government, which ought to be most dear unto them.
2. They that are called unto the ministry, or that offer themselves thereunto, ought not to be elected without [unless] one certain flock be assigned to them.
3. No one ought to ingyre [thrust] himself, or usurp this office, without lawful calling.
4. They who are once called by God, and duly elected by man, after that they have once accepted the charge of the ministry, may not leave their functions. The deserters should be ad monished; and, in case of obstinacy, finally excommunicated.
5. No pastor may leave his flock without license of the provincial or national assembly; which, if he does, after admonition not obeyed, let the censures of the kirk strike upon him.
6. Unto the pastor appertains teaching of the word of God, in season and out of season, publicly and privately, always travailing to edify and discharge his conscience, as God’s word prescribes to him.
7. Unto the pastor only appertains the administration of the sacraments, in like manner as the administration of the word; for both are appointed by God as means to teach us, the one by the ear, and the other by the eyes and other senses, that by both knowledge may be transferred to the mind.
8. It appertains, by the same reason, to the pastor to pray for the people, and namely for the flock committed to his charge; and to bless them in the name of the Lord, who will not suffer the blessings of his faithful servants to be frustrated.
9. He ought also to watch over the manners of his flock, that the better he may apply the doctrine to them, in reprehending the dissolute persons, and exhorting the godly to continue in the fear of the Lord.
10. It appertains to the minister, after lawful proceeding by the eldership, to pronounce the sentence of binding or loosing upon any person, according to the power of the keys granted unto the kirk.
11. It belongs to him likewise, after lawful proceeding in the matter by the eldership, to solemnize marriage betwixt them that are to be joined therein; and to pronounce the blessing of the Lord upon them that enter in that holy bond in the fear of God.
12. And generally, all public denunciations [ declarations] that are to be made in the kirk before the congregation, concerning the ecclesiastical affairs, belong to the office of a minister; for he is a messenger and herald betwixt God and the people in all these affairs.
Of Doctors and Their Office,
and of the Schools
1. One of the two ordinary and perpetual functions that travail in the word is the office of the doctor, who also may be called prophet, bishop, elder, catechiser: that is, teacher of the catechism and rudiments of religion.
2. His office is to open up the mind of the Spirit of God in the scriptures simply, without such applications as the minister uses, to the end that the faithful may be instructed, and sound doctrine taught, and that the purity of the gospel be not corrupted through ignorance or evil opinions.
3. He is different from the pastor, not only in name, but in diversity of gifts. For the doctor is given the word of knowledge, to open up, by simple teaching, the mysteries of faith; to the pastor, the gift of wisdom, to apply the same, by exhortation to the manners of the flock, as occasion craves.
4. Under the name and office of a doctor, we comprehend also the order in schools, colleges, and universities, which has been from time to time carefully maintained, as well among the Jews and Christians, as among the profane nations.
5. The doctor being an elder, as is said, [he] should assist the pastor in the government of the kirk, and concur with the elders, his brethren, in all assemblies; by reason the interpretation of the word (which is [the] only judge in ecclesiastical matters) is committed to his charge.
6. But to preach to the people, to minister the sacraments, and to celebrate marriages, pertains not to the doctor, unless he is otherwise orderly called. Howbeit the pastor may teach in the schools, as he who has also the gift of knowledge oftentimes meet therefore, as the examples of Polycarp and others testify.
Of Elders and Their Office
1. The word elder in the scripture sometimes is the name of age, sometimes of office. When it is the name of an office, sometimes it is taken largely, comprehending as well the pastors and doctors, as them who are called seniors or elders.
2. In this our division, we call those elders whom the apostles call presidents or governors. Their office, as it is ordinary, so it is perpetual, and always necessary in the kirk of God. The eldership is a spiritual function, as is the ministry. Elders once lawfully called to the office, and having gifts of God meet to exercise the same, may not leave it again. Albeit such a number of elders may be chosen in certain congregations, that one part of them may relieve another for a reasonable space, as was among the Levites under the law in serving of the temple. The number of elders in every congregation cannot well be limited, but should be according to the bounds and necessity of the people.
3. It is not necessary that all elders be also teachers of the word, albeit chiefly they ought to be such, and so are worthy of double honour. What manner of persons they ought to be, we refer it to the express word of God, and, namely, the canons written by the apostle Paul.
4. Their office is, as well severally as conjunctly, to watch diligently upon the flock commit ted to their charge, both publicly and privately, that no corruption of religion or manners enter therein.
5. As the pastors and doctors should be diligent in teaching and sowing the seed of the word, so the elders should be careful in seeking the fruit of the same in the people.
6. It appertains to them to assist the pastor in examination of them that come to the Lord’s table: item, in visiting the sick.
7. They should cause the acts of assemblies, as well particular as provincial or general, to be put in execution carefully.
8. They should be diligent in admonishing all men of their duty, according to the rule of the evangel. Things that they cannot correct by private admonitions they should bring to the assembly of the eldership.
9. Their principal office is to hold assemblies with the pastors and doctors (who are also of their number) for establishing of good order, and execution of discipline. Unto the which assemblies all persons are subject that remain within their bounds.
Of the Elderships,
1. Elderships and assemblies are commonly constituted of pastors, doctors, and such as we commonly call elders, that labour not in the word and doctrine, of whom, and of whose several power has been spoken.
2. Assemblies are of four sorts. For, either are they of particular kirks and congregations, one or more, or of a province, or of a whole nation, or of all and diverse nations professing one Jesus Christ.
3. All the ecclesiastical assemblies have power to convene lawfully together for treating of things concerning the kirk, and pertaining to their charge. They have power to appoint times and places to that effect; and at one meeting to appoint the diet, time, and place for another.
4. In all the assemblies a moderator should be chosen (by the common consent of the whole brethren convened) who should propose matters, gather the votes, and cause good order to be kept in the assemblies. Diligence should be taken, chiefly by the moderator, that only ecclesiastical things be handled in the assemblies, and that there be no meddling with anything pertaining to the civil jurisdiction.
5. Every assembly has power to send forth from them of their own number, one or more visitors to see how all things are ruled in the bounds of their jurisdiction. Visitation of more kirks is no ordinary ecclesiastical office in the person of one man; neither may the name of a bishop be attributed to the visitor only; neither is it necessary to abide always in one man’s person; but it is the part of the eldership to send out qualified persons to visit pro re nata.
6. The final end of all assemblies is, first, to keep the religion and doctrine in purity, without error and corruption; next, to keep comeliness and order in the kirk.
7. For this order’s case, they may make certain rules and constitutions appertaining to the good behaviour of all the members of the kirk in their vocation.
8. They have power also to abrogate and abolish all statutes and ordinances concerning ecclesiastical matters that are found noisome and unprofitable, and agree not with the time, or are abused by the people.
9. They have power to execute ecclesiastical discipline and punishment upon all transgressors and proud contemners of the good order and policy of the kirk; and so the whole discipline is in their hands.
10. The first kind and sort of assemblies, although they are within particular congregations, yet they exercise the power, authority, and jurisdiction of the kirk with mutual consent, and therefore bear sometimes the name of the kirk. When we speak of the elders of the particular congregations, we mean not that every particular parish can, or may, have their own particular elderships, especially to landward; but we think three or four, more or fewer, particular kirks may have one eldership common to them all, to judge their ecclesiastical causes. Albeit this is meet, that some of the elders be chosen out of every particular congregation, to concur with the rest of their brethren in the common assembly, and to take up the delations of offences within their own kirks, and bring them to the assembly. This we gather from the practice of the primitive kirk, where elders, or colleges of seniors, were constituted in cities and famous places.
11. The power of these particular elderships is to give diligent labours in the bounds committed to their charge, that the kirks be kept in good order; to inquire diligently of naughty and unruly persons, and travail to bring them in the way again, either by admonition, or threatening of God’s judgments, or by correction.
12. It pertains to the eldership to take heed that the word of God be purely preached within their bounds, the sacraments rightly ministered, the discipline rightly maintained, and the ecclesiastical goods uncorruptly distributed.
13. It belongs to this kind of assembly to cause the ordinances made by the assemblies provincial, national, and general, to be kept, and put in execution; to make constitutions which concern to; prevpon in the kirk, for the decent order of these particular kirks where they govern; providing they alter no rules made by the general or provincial assemblies, and that they make the provincial assemblies foreseen of these rules that they shall make, and abolish them that tend to the hurt of the same.
14. It has power to excommunicate the obstinate.
15. The power of election of them who bear ecclesiastical charges pertains to this kind of assembly, within their own bounds, being well erected and constituted of many pastors and elders of sufficient ability.
16. By the like reason their deposition also pertains to this kind of assembly, as of them that teach erroneous and corrupt doctrine; that are of scandalous life, and, after admonition, desist not; that are given to schism or rebellion against the kirk, manifest blasphemy, simony, corruption of bribes, falsehood, perjury, whoredom, theft, drunkenness, fighting worthy of punishment by the law, usury, dancing, infamy, and all others that deserve separation from the kirk. These also who are found altogether insufficient to execute their charge should be deposed; whereof other kirks would be advertised, that they receive not the persons deposed.
17. Yet they ought not to be deposed who, through age, sickness, or other accidents, become unmeet to do their office; in the which case their honour should remain to them, their kirk should maintain them; and others ought to be provided to do their office.
18. Provincial assemblies we call lawful conventions of the pastors, doctors, and other elders of a province, gathered for the common affairs of the kirks thereof; which also may be called the conference of the kirk and brethren.
19. These assemblies are instituted for weighty matters, to be treated by mutual consent and assistance of the brethren within the provinces, as needs requires.
20. This assembly has power to handle, order, and redress all things omitted, or done amiss, in the particular assemblies. It has power to depose the office-bearers of that province for good and just causes deserving deprivation. And, generally, these assemblies have the whole power of the particular elderships whereof they are collected.
21. The national assembly, which is general to us, is a lawful convention of the whole kirks of the realm or nation where it is used and gathered for the common affairs of the kirk; and may be called the general eldership of the whole kirk within the realm. None are subject to repair to this assembly to vote but ecclesiastical persons, to such a number as shall be thought good by the same assembly; not excluding other persons that will repair to the said assembly to propose, hear, and reason.
22. This assembly is instituted, that all things either omitted or done amiss in the provincial assemblies may be redressed and handled; and things generally serving for the weal of the whole body of the kirk within the realm may be foreseen, treated, and set forth to God’s glory.
23. It should take care that kirks be planted where they are not planted. It should prescribe the rule how the other two kinds of assemblies should proceed in all things.
24. This assembly should take heed that the spiritual jurisdiction and the civil be not confounded to the hurt of the kirk; that the patrimony of the kirk be not diminished nor abused; and, generally, concerning all weighty affairs that concern the weal and good order of the whole kirks of the realm, it ought to interpose authority thereto.
25. There is, besides these, another more general kind of assembly, which is of all nations and estates of persons within the kirk, representing the universal kirk of Christ; which may be called properly the general assembly, or general council of the whole kirk of God. These assemblies were appointed and called together specially, when any great schism or controversy in doctrine did arise in the kirk, and were convoked at the command of godly emperors, being for the time, for avoiding of schisms within the universal kirk of God; which, because they appertain not to the particular estate of one realm, we cease further to speak of them.
Of the Deacons and Their Office,
the Last Ordinary Function in the Kirk
1. The word diavkono” sometimes is largely taken comprehending all them that bear office in the ministry and spiritual function in the kirk. But now, as we speak, it is taken only for them unto whom the collection and distribution of the alms of the faithful and ecclesiastical goods do belong.
2. The office of the deacons so taken is an ordinary and perpetual ecclesiastical function in the kirk of Christ. Of what properties and duties he ought to be that is called to this function, we remit it to the manifest scriptures. The deacon ought to be called and elected as the rest of the spiritual officers, of the which election was spoken before.
3. Their office and power is to receive and to distribute the whole ecclesiastical goods unto them to whom they are appointed. This they ought to do according to the judgment and appointment of the presbyteries or elderships (of the which the deacons are not), that the patrimony of the kirk and poor be not converted to private men’s uses, nor wrongfully distributed.
Of the Patrimony of the Kirk,
and the Distribution Thereof
1. By the patrimony of the kirk, we mean whatsoever thing has been at any time before, or shall be in times coming, given, or by consent or universal custom of countries professing the Christian religion, applied to the public use, and utility of the kirk; so that under the patrimony we comprehend all things given, or to be given, to the kirk and service of God, as lands, buildings, possessions, annual rents, and all suchlike wherewith the kirk is doted [endowed], either by donations, foundations, mortifications, or any other lawful titles, of kings, princes, or any persons inferior to them; together with the continual oblations of the faithful. We comprehend also all such things as by laws, or custom, or use of countries, have been applied to the use and utility of the kirk: of the which sort are teinds [tithes], manses, glebes [clerical lands], and such like, which, by common and municipal laws and universal custom, are possessed by the kirk.
2. To take any of this patrimony by unlawful means, and convert it to the particular and profane use of any person, we hold it a detestable sacrilege before God.
3. The ecclesiastical goods ought to be collected and distributed by the deacons, as the word of God appoints, that they who bear office in the kirk be provided for without care or solicitude. In the apostolical kirk, the deacons were appointed to collect and distribute whatsoever was collected of the faithful, to be distributed unto the necessity of the saints, so that none lacked among the faithful. These collections were not only of that which was collected in manner of alms, as some suppose, but of other goods, movable and unmovable, of lands and possessions, the price whereof was brought to the feet of the apostles. This office continued in the deacons’ hands, who intromitted with the whole goods of the kirk ever, aye and while the estate thereof was corrupted by Antichrist, as the ancient canons bear witness.
4. The same canons make mention of a fourfold distribution of the patrimony of the kirk, whereof one part was applied to the pastor or bishop for his sustenance and hospitality; another to the elders and deacons and all the clergy; the third to the poor, sick persons, and strangers; the fourth to the uphold and other affairs of the kirk, specially extraordinary. We add hereunto the schools and schoolmasters also, who ought, and may be, well sustained of the same goods, and are comprehended under the clergy. To whom we join also clerks of assemblies, as well particular as general, syndics or procurators of the kirk affairs, takers up of psalms, and suchlike other ordinary officers of the kirk, so far as they are necessary.
Of the Office of a
Christian Magistrate in the Kirk
1. Although all the members of the kirk are held, everyone in his vocation, and, according thereto, to advance the kingdom of Jesus Christ so far as lies in their power; yet, chiefly, Christian princes, and other magistrates, are held to do the same. For they are called in the scriptures nourishers of the kirk, for so much as by them it is, or at least ought to be, maintained, fostered, upheld, and defended against all that would procure the hurt thereof.
2. So it pertains to the office of a Christian magistrate to assist and fortify the godly proceedings of the kirk in all behalfs; and, namely, to see that the public estate and ministry thereof be maintained and sustained as it appertains, according to God’s word;
3. To see that the kirk be not invaded, nor hurt by false teachers and hirelings, nor the rooms thereof be occupied by dumb dogs or idle bellies;
4. To assist and maintain the discipline of the kirk, and punish them civilly that will not obey the censure of the same; always without confounding the one jurisdiction with the other;
5. To see that sufficient provision is made for the ministry, the schools, and the poor; and, if they have not sufficient to await upon their charges, to supply their indigence with their own rents if need require; to hold hand as well to the saving of their persons from injury and open violence, as to their rents and possessions, that they be not defrauded, robbed, nor spoiled thereof;
6. Not to suffer the patrimony of the kirk to be applied to profane and unlawful uses, or to be devoured by idle bellies, and such as have no lawful function in the kirk, to the hurt of the ministry, schools, poor, and other godly uses whereupon the same ought to be bestowed;
7. To make the laws and constitutions agreeable to God’s word, for advancement of the kirk, and policy thereof; without usurping anything that pertains not to the civil sword, but belongs to the offices that are merely ecclesiastical, as are the ministry of the word and sacraments, using of ecclesiastical discipline and the spiritual execution thereof, or any part of the power of the spiritual keys, which our Master gave the apostles and their true successors. And, although kings and princes that are godly, sometimes by their own authority, when the kirk is corrupt, and all things out of order, place ministers and restore the true service of the Lord, after the example of some godly kings of Judah, and diverse godly emperors and kings also in the light of the New Testament; yet where the ministry of the kirk is once lawfully constituted, and they that are placed do their office faithfully, all godly princes and magistrates ought to hear and obey their voice, and reverence the Majesty of the Son of God speaking by them.
Of the Present Abuses Remaining in the Kirk
Which We Desire to be Reformed
1. As it is the duty of the godly magistrate to maintain the present liberty which God of his mercy has granted to the preaching of his word, and the true administration of the sacraments within this realm; so it is to provide that all abuses which as yet remain in the kirk be removed, and utterly taken away.
2. Therefore, first, the admission of men to papistical titles of benefices, such as serve not, nor have a function in the reformed kirk of Christ (as abbots, commendators, priors, prioresses, and other titles of abbeys, whose places are now, for the most part, by the just judgment of God, demolished and purged of idolatry) is plain abuse, and is not to receive the kingdom of Christ among us, but rather to refuse it.
3. Suchlike that they that of old were called the chapters and convents of abbeys, cathedral kirks, and the like places, serve for nothing now, but to set fees and tacks [leases], if anything is left of the kirk lands and teinds, in hurt and prejudice thereof, as daily experience teaches; and therefore ought to be utterly abrogated and abolished. Of the like nature are the deans, archdeacons, chantors, sub-chantors, treasurers, chancellors, and others having the like titles flowing from the Pope and canon law only, who have no place in the reformed kirk.
4. The kirks also which are united together, and joined by annexation to their benefices, ought to be separated and divided, and given to qualified ministers, as God’s word craves.
5. Neither ought such abusers of the kirk’s patrimony to have vote in parliament, nor sit in council under the name of the kirk and kirkmen, to the hurt and prejudice of the liberty thereof, and laws of the realm made in favour of the reformed kirk.
6. Much less is it lawful that any person among these men should have five, six, ten, or twenty kirks, or more, all having the charge of souls, and bruik [enjoy] the patrimony thereof, either by admission of the prince, or of the kirk, in this light of the evangel; for it is but mockery to crave reformation where suchlike have place.
7. And albeit it was thought good, for avoiding of greater inconveniences, that the old possessors of such benefices who had embraced the true religion should enjoy by permission the two parts [two-thirds] of the rents which they possessed of before, during their lifetime; yet it is not tolerable to continue in the [kirk] like abuse, and give these places and other benefices of new, to men also unmeet, or rather, more unmeet, who are not minded to serve in the kirk, but live an idle life, as others did who bruikit [enjoyed] them in the time of blindness.
8. And insofar as in the order taken at Leith, in the year of our Lord 1571, it appears that such may be admitted, being found qualified; either that pretended order is against all good order, or else it must be understood not of them that are qualified in worldly affairs, or to serve in court; but of such as are qualified to teach God’s word, having their lawful admission of the kirk.
9. As to bishops, if the name epivskopo” is properly taken, they are all one with the ministers, as before was declared. For, it is not a name of superiority and lordship, but of office and watching. Yet, because in the corruption of the kirk this name (as others) has been abused, and yet is likely to be; we cannot allow the fashion of these new chosen bishops, neither of the chapters that are electors of them to such offices as they are chosen to.
10. True bishops should addict themselves to one particular flock, which sundry of them refuse; neither should they usurp lordship over their brethren, and over the inheritance of Christ, as these men do.
11. Pastors, insofar as they are pastors, have not the office of visitation of many kirks joined to the pastorship, without [except] it be given to them. It is a corruption that bishops should have farther bounds to visit nor [than] they may lawfully. No man ought to have the office of visitation, but he that is lawfully chosen thereunto by the presbytery. The elderships, being well established, have power to send out visitors, one or more, with commission to visit the bounds within their eldership: and suchlike, after account taken of them, either to continue them, or remove them from time to time, to the which elderships they shall be always subject.
12. The criminal jurisdiction in the person of a pastor is a corruption.
13. It agrees not with the word of God that bishops should be pastors of pastors, pastors of many flocks, and yet without one certain flock, and without ordinary teaching. It agrees not with the scriptures that they should be exempt from the correction of their brethren, and discipline of the particular eldership of the kirk where they shall serve; neither that they usurp the office of visitation of other kirks, nor any other function beside other ministers, but so far as shall be committed to them by the kirk.
14. Wherefore, we desire the bishops that now are, either to agree to that order that God’s word requires in them, as the general kirk will prescribe unto them, not passing those bounds either in ecclesiastical or civil affairs, or else to be deposed from all function in the kirk.
15. We deny not, in the meantime, but ministers may and should assist their princes, when they are required, in all things agreeable to the word, whether it is in council or parliament, or otherwise; providing always they neither neglect their own charge, nor through flattery of princes hurt the public estate of the kirk. But, generally, we say no person, under whatsoever title of the kirk, and specially the abused titles in Papistry, of prelates, convents, and chapters, ought to attempt any act in the kirk’s name, either in council or parliament, or out of council, having no commission of the reformed kirk within this realm.
16. And by act of parliament it is provided that the Papistical kirk and jurisdiction should have no place within the same, and no bishop nor other prelate in times coming should use any jurisdiction following from his authority. And, again, that no other ecclesiastical jurisdiction should be acknowledged within this realm, but that which is, and shall be in the reformed kirk, and flowing therefrom. So we esteem holding of chapters in papistical manner, either in cathedral kirks, abbeys, colleges, or other conventual places, usurping the name and authority of the kirk, to hurt the patrimony thereof, or use any other act to the prejudice of the same, since the year of our Lord 1560, to be abuse and corruption, contrary to the liberty of the true kirk and laws of the realm; and therefore ought to be annulled, reduced, and, in times coming, utterly discharged.
17. The dependencies also of the papistical jurisdiction are to be abolished, of the which sort is the mingled jurisdiction of the commissioners, insofar as they meddle with ecclesiastical matters, and have no commission of the kirk thereto, but were erected in [that] time of our sovereign’s mother, when things were out of order. It is an absurd thing that sundry of them, having no function of the kirk, should be judges to ministers, and depose them from their rooms. Therefore they either would be discharged to meddle with ecclesiastical matters, or it would be limited to them in what matters they might be judges, and not hurt the liberty of the kirk.
18. They also that before were of the ecclesiastical estate of the Pope’s kirk, or that are admitted of new to papistical titles, and now are tolerated by the laws of the realm to possess the two [third] parts of their ecclesiastical rents, ought not to have any further liberty, but to intromit with the portion assigned and granted to them for their lifetimes; and not under the abused titles which they had, to dispose to others the kirk rents, set tacks [leases] and fees thereof at their pleasure, to the great hurt of the kirk, and the poor labourers that dwell upon the kirk lands, contrary to all good conscience and order.
Certain Special Heads of Reformation
Which We Crave
1. Whatsoever has been spoken of the offices of the kirk, the several power of the office -bearers, their conjunct power also, and, last, of the patrimony of the kirk, we understand it to be the right reformation which God craves at our hands, that the kirk be ordered according thereto, as with that order which is most agreeable to the word. But because some things would be touched in particular, concerning the estate of the country, and that which we principally seek to be reformed in the same, we have collected them in these heads following:
2.First, seeing the whole country is divided into provinces, and these provinces again are divided in parishes, as well in landward as in towns; in every parish and reasonable congregation there would be placed one or more pastors to feed the flock, and no pastor or minister to be always burdened with the particular charge of more kirks or flocks than one only.
3. And because it will be thought hard to find out pastors or ministers to all the parish kirks of the realm, as well in landward as in towns, we think by the advice of such as commission may be given to, by the kirk and prince, parishes in landward or small villages may be joined, two, or three, or more, in some places together, and the principal and most commodious kirks to stand, and be repaired sufficiently, and qualified ministers placed thereat; and the other kirks which are not found necessary may be suffered to decay, their kirk yards always being kept for burial places; and in some places, where need requires, a parish, where the congregation is over great for one kirk, may be divided into two or more.
4. Doctors would be appointed in universities, colleges, and other places needful, and suffi ciently provided for; to open up the meaning of the scriptures, and to have the charge of schools, and teach the rudiments of religion.
5. As for elders, there would be some to be censurers of the manners of the people, one or more in every congregation; but not an assembly of elders in every particular kirk, but only in towns and famous places, where resort of men of judgment and ability to that effect may be had; where the elders of the particular kirks about may convene together, and have a common eldership and assembly-place among them, to treat of all things that concern the congregations of which they have the common oversight.
6. And as there ought to be men appointed to unite and divide the parishes, as necessity and commodity require; so would there be appointed by the general kirk, with the assent of the prince, such men as fear God and know the estate of the country, that were able to nominate and design [mark out] the places where the particular elderships should convene; taking consideration of the dioceses as they were divided of old, and of the estate of the countries and provinces of the realm.
7. Likewise concerning provincial and synodal assemblies, consideration were easy to be taken, how many and in what places they were to be held, and how often they should convene, ought to be referred to the liberty of the general kirk and order to be appointed therein.
8. The national assemblies of this country, called commonly the general assemblies, ought always to be retained in their own liberty, and have their own place; with power to the kirk to appoint times and places convenient for the same; and all men, magistrates as well as inferiors, to be subject to the judgment of the same in ecclesiastical causes, without any reclamation or appellation to any judge, civil or ecclesiastical, within the realm.
9. The liberty of the election of persons called to the ecclesiastical functions, and observed without interruption so long as the kirk was not corrupted by Antichrist, we desire to be restored and retained within this realm; so that none be intruded upon any congregation, either by the prince or any inferior person, without lawful election and the assent of the people over whom the person is placed, as the practice of the apostolical and primitive kirk and good order crave.
10. And because this order, which God’s word craves, cannot stand with patronages and presentation to benefices used in the Popish kirk, we desire all them that truly fear God earnestly to consider, that for asmuch as the names of patronages and benefices, together with the effect thereof, have flowed from the Pope and corruption of the canon law only, insofar as any person was intruded or placed over kirks having curam animarum [care of souls]; and for asmuch as that manner of proceeding has no ground in the word of God, but is contrary to the same, and to the said liberty of election, they ought not now to have place in this light of reformation. And therefore, whosoever will embrace God’s word, and desire the kingdom of his Son Christ Jesus to be advanced, they will also embrace and receive that policy and order which the word of God and upright estate of this kirk crave; otherwise it is in vain that they have professed the same.
11. Notwithstanding as concerning other patronages of benefices that have not curam animarum, as they speak: such as chaplaincies, prebendaries founded upon temporal lands, annuals, and suchlike, may be reserved unto the ancient patrons, to dispose thereupon, when they vake [become vacant], to scholars and bursars, as they are required by act of parliament.
12. As for the kirk rents in general, we desire the order to be admitted and maintained amongst us that may stand with the sincerity of God’s word and practice of the purity of the kirk of Christ; to wit, that as was before spoken, the whole rent and patrimony of the kirk, excepting the small patronages before mentioned, may be divided into four portions: one thereof to be assigned to the pastor for his entertainment and hospitality; another to the elders, deacons, and other officers of the kirk, such as clerks of assemblies, takers up of the psalms, beadles and keepers of the kirk, so far as is necessary; joining therewith also the doctors of schools, to help the ancient foundations where need requires; the third portion to be bestowed upon the poor members of the faithful, and on hospitals; the fourth for reparation of the kirks and other extraordinary charges as are profitable for the kirk; and also for the common weal, if need require.
13. We desire, therefore, the ecclesiastical goods to be uplifted [collected] and distributed faithfully to whom they appertain, and that by the ministry of the deacons, to whose office properly the collection and distribution thereof belong; that the poor may be answered of [assured] their portion thereof, and they of the ministry live without care and solicitude; as also the rest of the treasury of the kirk may be reserved, and bestowed to their right uses. If these deacons are elected with such qualities as God’s word craves to be in them, there is no fear that they shall abuse themselves in their office, as the profane collectors did before.
14. Yet because this vocation appears to many to be dangerous, let them be obliged, as they were of old, to a yearly account to the pastors and eldership; and if the kirk and prince think expedient, let cautioners be obliged for their fidelity, that the kirk rents in no way be dilapidated.
15. And to the effect this order may take place, it is to be provided that all others intromitters with the kirk rents, collectors general or special, whether it is by appointment of the prince or otherwise, may be denuded of further intromission therewith; and suffer the kirk rents in time coming to be wholly intromitted with by the ministry of the deacons, and distributed to the use before mentioned.
16. And also, to the effect that the ecclesiastical rents may suffice to these uses for the which they are to be appointed, we think it necessary to be desired, that all alienations, setting of fees or tacks, of the rents of the kirk, as well lands as tiends, in hurt and diminution of the old rentals, be reduced and annulled, and the patrimony of the kirk restored to the former old liberty. And likewise, that in times coming, the teinds be set to none but to the labourers of the ground, or else not set at all, as was agreed upon, and subscribed by the nobility before.
The Utility that Shall Flow from
this Reformation to all Estates
1. Seeing the end of this spiritual government and policy whereof we speak is that God may be glorified, the kingdom of Jesus Christ advanced, and all who are of his mystical body may live peaceably in conscience: therefore we dare boldly affirm that all those who have true respect to these ends, will, even for conscience cause, gladly agree and conform themselves to this order, and advance the same, so far as in them lies; that their consciences being set at rest, they may be replenished with spiritual gladness in giving full obedience to that which God’s word and the testimony of their own consciences do crave, and in refusing all corruption contrary to the same.
2. Next we shall become an example and pattern of good and godly order to other nations, countries, and kirks professing the same religion with us; that as they have glorified God in our continuing in the sincerity of the word hitherto, without any errors (praise be to his Name), so they may have the like occasion in our conversation, when as we conform ourselves to that discipline, policy, and good order which the same word and purity of reformation crave at our hands; otherwise that fearful sentence may be justly said to us, the servant knowing the will of his master, and not doing it, etc.
3. Moreover, if we have any pity or respect to the poor members of Jesus Christ, who so greatly increase and multiply amongst us, we shall not suffer them to be longer defrauded of that part of the patrimony of the kirk which justly belongs unto them; and by this order, if it is duly put to execution, the burden of them shall be taken off us to our great comfort, the streets shall be cleansed of the cryings and murmurings of them; as we shall no more be a scandal to other nations, as we have hitherto been, for not taking order with the poor amongst us, and causing the word which we profess to be evil spoken of, giving occasion of slander to the enemies, and offending the consciences of the simple and godly.
4. Besides this, it shall he a great ease and commodity to the whole common people, in relieving them of the building and upholding of their kirks, in building of bridges, and other like public works; it shall be a relief to the labourers of the ground in payment of their teinds; and, shortly, in all those things wherein they have been hitherto rigorously handled by them that were falsely called kirkmen, their tacksmen [lessees], factors [agents, bailiffs], chamberlains, and extortioners.
Finally, to the king’s majesty and common weal of the country this profit shall redound: that the other affairs of the kirk being provided according to the distribution of which we have spoken, the surplus being collected in the treasury of the kirk may be profitably employed, and liberally bestowed, upon the extraordinary support of the affairs of the prince and commonwealth, and specially of that part which is appointed for the reparation of kirks.
So to conclude, all being willing to apply themselves to this order, the people suffering themselves to be ruled according thereto; the princes and magistrates not being exempt, and those that are placed in the ecclesiastical estate rightly ruling and governing, God shall be glorified, the kirk edified, and the bounds thereof enlarged, Christ Jesus and his kingdom set up, Satan and his kingdom subverted, and God shall dwell in the midst of us, to our comfort, through Jesus Christ, who, together with the Father and the Holy Ghost, abides blessed in all eternity. Amen.
Footnotes for Second Book of Discipline
1. “The distinction between potestas ordinis, the authority to preach the Word and administer the sacraments, and potestas jurisdictionis, the authority to administer ecclesiastical discipline, was traditional…. The significance here, however, is the claim that whereas potestas ordinis is lawfully exercised by individual ministers, potestas jurisdictionis pertains not to individuals but should be administered collectively by an ecclesiastical court, defined below as the eldership composed of ministers and elders.” James Kirk, The Second Book of Discipline (Edinburgh: St. Andrew Press, 1980), p. 165.