The General Assembly meeting at Perth in August 1618, out of deference
to the wishes of James VI, enacted the five regulations concerning the worship
of the Church which came to be known as the Five Articles of Perth. At its
next meeting, admittedly twenty years later, after much mature deliberation,
"The matter was put to voicing in these words, 'whether the Five Articles of
Perth, by the Concession of Faith, as it was meaned and professed in the year
1580, 1581, 1590, 1591, ought to be removed out of this Kirk?' The whole
Assembly all in one consent, one only excepted, did voice that the Five Articles
above specified were abjured by this Kirk in that Concession, and so ought to
be removed out of it; and therefore prohibiteth and dischargeth all disputing
for them, or observing of them, or any of them, in all time coming".
Some of the questions prompted by setting those two facts in such close
juxta-position laid down the guide lines for the research which lies behind the
present Thesis, and determined that, in broad terms, it should attempt to make
six assessments. First it attempts to trace the origin and growth of the
ideas expressed in the Articles, the roots of the opposition which these ideas
immediately encountered, and the course of the conflict from its beginning up
to the time of the death of James, to whom belongs the responsibility for conceiving the ideas and attempting to enforce them against the judgement, according to contemporary critics, of'some of the best professors'.
The Records of the Church Courts which survive from this period are
relatively few, disappointingly inadequate by reason of the facts they do not
record, and for the most part cover only a few of the critical years, so that
the most we can hope for from them is a series of glimpses of local Church life
as influenced by the Articles. Imperfect as the picture is, however, it is
important and though it inevitably covers the whole period, it has seemed
best to examine the picture in some detail before taking up the history of
the conflict during the reign of Charles. Chapter 7 therefore examines the
evidence which can be gleaned from Session, Presbytery and Synod Records
regarding the Articles as a whole and each of the Articles in turn.
The Thesis then resumes its study of the history of the conflict from
the accession of Charles to its conclusion at the Glasgow Assembly, and this
is followed by an assessment of the strength of non-conformity and the abiding
interest in the Five Articles throughout the period as witnessed in contemporary
sources other than the Records of the Church Courts.
But no assessment of the Articles can be considered adequate which regards
them as of purely local or contemporary interest, so the Thesis examines the
evidence for interest in them furth of Scotland, and attempts to trace their
significance for subsequent generations in Scotland, with particular reference
to the period 1660 to 1668.
While the question - To conform or not to conform? was at the heart of
the controversy through the whole twenty years of conflict, each man's answer
was determined by his attitude on a number of other questional Consideration
of the arguments advanced in favour of making innovations, and of those against
the particular innovations proposed, leads on inevitably to the consideration
of conflicting doctrines of the Ministry, differing estimates of the validity
of the Assembly and the other instruments by which the King sought to impose
his will, the force of Oaths, and ultimately the real seat of authority.
In a final chapter an attempt is made to assess the importance of the
controversy and to discover both its immediate effects and its more lasting
influences on the development of the Church in Scotland. It is concluded
that the attempt to enforce conformity in worship was a tactical blunder on
the part of James, The immediate consequence was to stimulate wide ranging
debate, which could not stop short of discussing the relationship between
Kirk and Crown among other things. An inevitable result of protracted
debate was to emphasise differences of opinion and to create division in the
Scottish Kirk which had not previously existed. As to long term results,
twenty years of controversy bred attitudes of mind toward the Scriptures,
Orders of Worship, and systems of ecclesiastical organisation which have
persisted to our own day. While practical experiences of the difficulty of
preserving traditional practice against a powerful innovator prepared the
minds of Presbyterian Churchmen for the first Barrier Acts.
The Thesis proper is followed by a series of Appendices designed to
shed additional light on some of the more personal aspects of the conflict,
to make plain the important part played by the controversial pamphlets, and
to indicate the extent of the field of contemporary and later literature in
which the student may find clues to the true course of events, or valid
answers to the questions raised by the controversy.