The Protestation offered to the estates convened in Parliament at Perth, in the beginning of July, anno 1606.
The earnest desire of our hearts is to be faithful, and in case we would have been silent and unfaithful at this time, when the undermined estate of Christ’s kirk craveth a duty at our hands, we should have locked up our hearts with patience, and our mouths with taciturnity, rather than to have impeached any with our admonition. But that which Christ commandeth, necessity urgeth, and duty wringeth out of us, to be faithful office bearers in the kirk of God, no man can justly blame us, providing we hold ourselves within the bounds of that Christian moderation, which followeth God, without injury done to any man, especially these whom God hath lapped up within the skirts of his own honourable stiles and names, calling them, Gods upon earth.
Now therefore, my lords, convened in this present parliament, under the most high and excellent majesty of our dread sovereign, to your honours is our exhortation, that ye would endeavour with all singleness of heart, love and zeal, to advance the building of the house of God, reserving always into the Lord’s own hand that glory, which he will communicate neither with man nor angel, viz. to prescribe from his holy mountain a lively pattern, according to which his own tabernacle should be formed: Remembering always that there is no absolute and undoubted authority in this world, excepting the sovereign authority of Christ the king, to whom it belongeth as properly to rule the kirk according to the good pleasure of his own will, as it belongeth to him to save his kirk by the merit of his own sufferings. All other authority is so intrenched within the marches of divine commandment, that the least overpassing of the bounds set by God himself, bringeth men under the fearful expectation of temporal and eternal judgments. For this cause, my lords, let that authority of your meeting in this present parliament, be like the ocean, which, as it is greatest of all other waters, so it containeth itself better within the coasts and limits appointed by God, than any rivers of fresh running water have done.
Next, remember that God hath let you to be nursing fathers to the kirk, craving of your hands, that ye would maintain and advance, by your authority that kirk, which the Lord hath fashioned by the uncounterfeited work of his own new creation, as the prophet speaketh, He hath made us, and not we ourselves; but that that ye should presume to fashion and shape a new portraiture of a kirk, and a new form of divine service which God in his word hath not before allowed; because, that were you to extend your authority farther than the calling ye have of God doth permit, as namely, if ye should (as God forbid) authorize the authority of bishops, and their pre eminence above their brethren, ye should bring into the kirk of God the ordinance of man, and that thing which the experience of preceding ages hath testified to be the ground of great idleness, palpable ignorance, insufferable pride, pitiless tyranny, and shameless ambition in the kirk of God. And finally, to have been the ground of that antichristian hierarchy, which mounteth up on the steps of pre eminence of bishops, until that man of sin came forth, as the ripe fruit of man’s wisdom, whom God shall consume with the breath of his own mouth. Let the sword of God pierce that belly which brought forth such a monster; and let the staff of God crush that egg which hath hatched such a cockatrice; and let not only that Roman antichrist be thrown down from the high bench of his usurped authority, but also let all the steps, whereby he mounted up to that unlawful pre eminence, be cut down, and utterly abolished in this land.
Above all things, my lords, beware to strive against God, with an open and displayed banner, by building up again the walls of Jericho, which the Lord hath not only cast down, but hath also laid them under a horrible interdiction and execration; so that the building of them again must needs stand to greater charges to the builders, than the re-edifying of Jericho to Hiel the Bethelite, in the days of Achab; For he had nothing but the interdiction of Joshua, and the curse pronounced by him, to stay him from building again of Jericho; but the noblemen and estates of this realm, have the reverence of the oath of God, made by themselves, and subscribed with their own hands, in the confession of faith, called the king’s majesty’s published oftener than once or twice, subscribed and sworn by his most excellent majesty, and by his highness, the nobility, estates, and whole subjects of this realm, to hold them back from setting up the dominion of bishops. Because, it is of verity, that they subscribed and swore the said confession, containing not only the maintenance of the true doctrine, but also of the discipline protested within the realm of Scotland.
Consider also, that this work cannot be set forward, without the great slander of the gospel, defamation of many preachers, and evident hurt and loss of the people’s souls committed to our charge. For the people are brought almost to the like case, as they were in Syria, Arabia and Egypt, about the 600th year of our Lord, when the people were so shaken and brangled with contrary doctrines, some affirming, and others denying, the opinion of Eutyches, that in end they lost all assured persuasion of true religion; and within short time thereafter, did cast the gates of their hearts open to the peril, to receive that vile and blasphemous doctrine of Mahomet; even so the people in this land are cast into such admiration to hear the preachers, who damned so openly this stately pre eminence of bishops, and then, within a few years after, accept the same dignity, pomp and superiority in their own persons, which they before had damned in others, that the people know not what way to incline, and in the end will become so doubtful in matters of religion and doctrine, that their hearts will be like an open tavern, patent to every guest that chooses to come in.
We beseech your honours to ponder this in the balance of a godly and prudent mind, and suffer not the gospel to be slandered by the behaviour of a few preachers, of whom we are bold to affirm, that if they go forward in this defection, not only abusing and appropriating the name of bishops to themselves, which is common to all the pastors of God’s kirk; but also taking upon themselves such offices, that carry with them the ordinary charge of governing the civil affairs of the country, neglecting their flocks, and seeking to subordinate their brethren to their jurisdiction; if any of them, we say, be found to step forward in this cause of defection, they are more worthy, as rotten members, to be cut off from the body of Christ, than to have superiority and dominion over their brethren, within the kirk of God.
This pre eminence of bishops is that Dagon, which once already fell before the ark of God in this land, and no band of iron shall be able to hold him up again. This is that pattern of that altar brought from Damascus, but not shewed to Moses in the mountain, and therefore it shall fare with it as it did with that altar of Damascus, it came last in the temple, and went first out. Likewise the institution of Christ was anterior to this pre eminence of bishops, and shall consist and stand within the house of God, when this new fashion of the altar shall go to the door.
Remember, my lords, that in times past your authority was for Christ, and not against him. Ye followed the light of God, and strived not against it; and, like a child in the mother’s hand, ye said to Christ, Draw us after thee. God forbid, that ye should now leave off, and fall away from your former reverence borne to Christ, in presuming to lead him, whom the Father hath appointed to be leader of you. And far less to trail the holy ordinances of Christ by the cords of your authority, at the heels of the ordinances of men.
And albeit your honours have no such intention to do any thing which may impair the honour of Christ’s kingdom; yet remember, that spiritual darkness, flowing from a very small beginning, doth so insinuate and thrust itself into the house of God, as men can hardly discern by what secret means the light was dimmed, and darkness creeping in got the upper hand; and in the end, at unawares, all was involved in a misty cloud of horrible apostacy.
And lest any should think this our admonition out of time, in so far as it is statute and ordained already by his majesty, with advice of his estates in parliament, that all ministers, provided to prelacies, should have vote in parliament; as likewise, the General Assembly (his majesty being present thereat) hath found the same lawful and expedient, We would humbly and earnestly beseech all such, to consider,
First, That the kingdom of Jesus Christ, the office bearers and laws thereof, neither should, nor can suffer any derogation, addition, diminution or alteration besides the prescript of his holy word, by any inventions or doings of men civil or ecclesiastical. And we are able, by the grace of God, and will offer ourselves to prove, that this bishopric to be erected, is against the word of God, the ancient fathers, and canons of the kirk, the modern most learned and godly divines, the doctrine and constitution of the kirk of Scotland since the first reformation of religion within the same country, the laws of the realm, ratifying the government of the kirk by the general and provincial assemblies, presbyteries and sessions; also against the well and honour of the king’s most excellent majesty, the well and honour of the realm and quietness thereof; the established estate and well of the kirk in the doctrine, discipline and patrimony thereof; the well and honour of your lordships, the most ancient estate of this realm, and finally, against the well of all, and every one, the good subjects thereof, in soul, body and substance.
Next, That the act of parliament, granting vote in parliament to ministers, is with a special provision, that nothing thereby be derogatory or prejudicial to the present established discipline of the kirk and jurisdiction thereof in general and synodical assemblies, presbyteries and sessions.
Thirdly and lastly, The General Assembly (his majesty sitting, voting and consenting therein) fearing the corruption of that office, hath circumscribed and bounded the same with a number of cautions; all which, together with such others as shall be concluded upon by the assembly, were thought expedient to be inserted in the body of the act of parliament, that is to be made for confirmation of their vote in parliament, as most necessary and substantial parts of the same. And the said assembly hath not agreed to give thereunto the name of bishops, for fear of importing the old corruption, pomp and tyranny of papal bishops, but ordained them to be called commissioners for the kirk to vote in parliament. And it is of verity, that according to these cautions, neither have these men, now called bishops, entered to that office of commissionary to vote in parliament, neither since their ingyring, have they behaved themselves therein. And therefore, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall hold that great court of parliament to judge both the quick and the dead at his glorious manifestation; and in name of his kirk in general, so happily and well established within this realm, and whereof the said realm hath reaped the comfortable peace and unity, free from heresy, schism and dissention these 46 years by-past; also in name of our presbyteries, from which we have our commission; and in our own names, office bearers and pastors within the same, for discharging of our necessary duty, and disburdening of our consciences in particular, We Except and Protest against the said bishopric, and bishops, and the erection, or confirmation or ratification thereof at this present parliament; most humbly craving, that this our protestation may be admitted by your honours, and registrate among the statutes and acts of the same, in case (as God forbid) these bishoprics be erected, ratified, or confirmed therein.
This Protestation was subscribed by the ministers, whose names follow,
Messrs. Andrew Melvil, James Melvil, William Scott, James Ross, John Carmichael, John Gillespie, William Erskine, Colin Campbel, James Muirhead, John Mitchel, John Davidson, John Coldon, John Abernethy, James Davidson, Adam Bannantyne, John Row, William Buchanan, John Kennedy, John Ogilvie, John Scrimgeour, John Malcolm, James Burden, Isaac Blackfoord, Isaac Strachan, James Row, William Row, Robert Merser, Edmund Myles, John French, Patrick Simpson, John Dykes, William Young, William Cooper, William Keith, Hugh Duncan, James Merser, Robert Colvil, William Hog, Robert Wallace, David Barclay, John Weemes, William Cranston.