A Humble Acknowledgment of the Sins of the Ministry of Scotland

by the Church of Scotland, 1651




ALTHOUGH we are not ignorant, that mockers of all sorts may take occasion by this Acknowledgement of the Sins of Ministers, to strengthen themselves in their prejudices at our persons and Callings, and turn this unto our reproach, and that some may misconstrue our meaning therein, as if we did thereby intend to render the Ministry of this Church base and contemptible, which is far from our thoughts, We knowing and being persuaded in ourselves, that there are many able, godly, and faithful Ministers in the Land; yet being convinced that we are called to humble ourselves, and to justify the Lord in all the contempt that he hath poured upon us: That they who shall know our sins, may not stumble at our judgments: We have thought it our duty to punish this following Discovery and Acknowledgement of the corruptions and sins of Ministers, That it may appear how deep our hand is in the Transgression, and that the Ministers of Scotland have no small accession to the drawing on of these judgments that are upon the Land.

Only in this following Acknowledgment we desire it may be considered, That there are here enumerated some sins, whereof there be but some few Ministers guilty, and others whereof more are guilty, and not a few, which are the sins of these whom the Lord hath kept from the more gross corruptions herein mentioned; And that it is not to be wondered at, if the Ministry of Scotland be yet in a great measure unpurged, Considering that there was so wide a door opened for the entering of corrupt persons into the Ministry, for the space of above thirty years under the tyranny of Prelates, and that also there hath been so many diversions from, and interruptions of endeavours to have a purged Ministry in this Land.

S  I  N  S

First, such as are before their entry
to the Ministery.

  1. LIGHTNESS and profanity in conversation, unsuitable to that holy Calling which they did intend, not throughly repented of.
  2. Corrupt education of some in the Prelatical and Arminian way, whereby their corruptions and errors were drunken in, and abilities improven, for strengthening and promoving the same, not repented of.
  3. Not studying to be in CHRIST, before they be in the Ministry; nor to have the practical knowledge and experience of the Mystery of the Gospel in themselves, before they preach it to others.
  4. Neglecting to fit themselves for the Work of the Ministry in not improving prayer and fellowship with God, education at Schools and opportunities of a lively Ministry, and other means, and not mourning for these neglects. {76}
  5. Not studying self-denial, nor resolving to take up the Cross of CHRIST.
  6. Negligence to entertain sight and sense of sin and misery, not wrestling against corruption, nor studying of mortification and subduedness of spirit.

Secondly, in entering.

  1. CARNAL, corrupt and crooked ways for entering to the Ministry, such as bribing in the time of Prelacy, solicitation of friends and the like; whereby many have not entered by the door, but did climb up another way.
  2. Entering to the Ministry by an implicit, execrable, Canonical Oath and subscription given to the Prelates for acknowledging them, and advancing their corruptions introduced and to be introduced.
  3. Entering to the Ministry without trials, and receiving ordination either from the Prelate, or by a recommendation from him to the Presbytery, and sometimes without or against the mind of the Presbytery.
  4. Entering either only by Presentations, or by purchased Supplications from the plurality of the Parishioners, without or against the consent of the godly in the Parish.
  5. Entering to the Ministry without respect to a Commission from Jesus Christ, by which it hath come to pass, that many have run unsent.
  6. Entering to the Ministry not from the love of Christ, nor from a desire to honour God in gaining of souls, but for by-ends, for a name, and for livelihood in the World, notwithstanding solemn declaration to the contrary at admission.
  7. Some offering themselves to trial without abilities, and studying to conceal and hide their weakness, by making use of the help and pains of some friend and acquaintance, or other men’s Papers, in several parts of the trial; and some authorized to preach, and others admitted to the Ministry, who have little or no ability for performing the duties thereof.
  8. Too much weighed with inclination to be called to the Ministry in a place where we have carnal relation. {77}

Thirdly, After entering, which is first in their private
condition and conversation.

  1. IGNORANCE of God, want of nearness with him, and taking up little of God in reading, meditating, and speaking of him.
  2. Exceeding great selfishness in all that we do, acting from ourselves, for ourselves.
  3. Not caring how unfaithful and negligent others were, so being it might contribute a testimony to our faithfulness and diligence: but being rather content, if not rejoicing at their fault.
  4. Least delight in these things wherein lieth our nearest communion with God, great inconstancy in our walk with God, and neglect of acknowledging of him in all our ways.
  5. In going about duties, least careful of these which are most remote from the eyes of men.
  6. Seldom in secret prayer with God, except to fit for Publick performances, and even that much neglected, or gone about very superficially.
  7. Glad to find excuses for the neglect of duties.
  8. Neglecting the reading of Scriptures in secret, for edifying ourselves as Christians, only reading them insofar as may fit us for our duty as Ministers, and oft-times neglecting that.
  9. Not given to reflect upon our own ways, nor suffering conviction to have a thorough work upon us, deceiving ourselves by resting upon abstinence from, and abhorrency of evils, from the light of a natural conscience, and looking upon the same as an evidence of a real change.
  10. Evil guarding of, and watching over the heart, and carelessness in self-searching, which makes much unacquaintedness with ourselves, and estrangedness from God.
  11. Not guarding nor wrestling against seen and known ills, especially our predominants.
  12. A facility to be drawn away with the temptations of the time, and other particular temptations, according to our inclinations and fellowship.
  13. Instability and wavering in the ways of God through the fears of persecution, hazard, or loss of esteem, and declining duties, {78} because of the fear of jealousies and reproaches.
  14. Not esteeming the Cross of Christ and sufferings for his Name honourable, but rather shifting sufferings from self-love.
  15. Deadness of spirit after all the sore strokes of God upon the Land.
  16. Little conscience made of secret humiliation and fasting by ourselves apart, and in our Families; that we might mourn for our own and the Land’s guiltiness and great back-slidings, and little applying the Causes of publick humiliation to our own hearts.
  17. Finding of our own pleasures, when the Lord calls for humiliation.
  18. Not laying to heart the sad and heavy sufferings of the people of God abroad, and the not thriving of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, and the power of godliness among them.
  19. Refined hypocrisy, desiring to appear what indeed we are not.
  20. Studying more to learn the language of God’s people nor [than] their exercise.
  21. Artificial confessing of sin without repentance, professing to declare iniquity, and not resolving to be sorry for sin.
  22. Confession in secret much slighted, even of these things whereof we are convinced.
  23. No Reformation after solemn acknowledgments and private Vows, thinking ourselves exonered after Confession.
  24. Readier to search out and censure faults in others, than to see or take with them in ourselves.
  25. Accounting of our estate and way according to the estimation that others have of us.
  26. Estimation of men as they agree with or disagree from us.
  27. Not fearing to meet with trials, but presuming in our own strength to go through them unshaken.
  28. Not learning to fear by the falls of gracious men, nor mourning and Praying for them.
  29. Not observing particular deliverances and rods, nor improving of them for the honour of God, and edification of ourselves and others.
  30. Little or no mourning for the corruption of our nature, and less groaning under, and longing to be delivered from {79} that body of death, the bitter root of all our other evils.

Secondly, in our Conversation and Walk
with and before these of our Flocks and others.

  1. FRUITLESS conversing ordinarily with others for the worse rather than for the better.
  2. Foolish jesting away time with impertinent and useless discourse, very unseeming the Ministers of the Gospel.
  3. Spiritual purposes often dying in our hands, when they are begun by others.
  4. Carnal familiarity with natural wicked and Malignant men; whereby they are hardened, the People of God stumbled, and we ourselves blunted.
  5. Slighting fellowship with these by whom we might profit.
  6. Desiring more to converse with these that might better us by their parts, than such as might edify us by their graces.
  7. Not studying opportunities of doing good to others.
  8. Shifting of prayer and other duties when called thereto, choosing rather to omit the same, than we should be put to them ourselves.
  9. Abusing of time in frequent recreation and pastimes, and loving our pleasures more than God.
  10. Taking little or no time to Christian Discourse with young men trained up for the Ministry.
  11. Common and ordinary discourse on the Lord’s Day.
  12. Slighting Christian Admonition from any of our Flocks, or others, as being below us, and ashamed to take light and warning from private Christians.
  13. Dislike of, or bitterness against such as deal freely with us by admonition or reproof, and not dealing faithfully with others who would welcome it off our hands.
  14. Not making conscience to take pains on the ignorant and profane for their good.
  15. Our not mourning for the ignorance, unbelief, and miscarriages of the Flocks committed unto us.
  16. Impatient bearing of the infirmities of others, rashly breaking out against their persons, more than studying to gain them from their sins. {80}
  17. Not using freedom with these of our charge, and for most part spending our time with them in common discourses, not tending to Edification.
  18. Neglecting Admonition to friends and others in an evil course.
  19. Reservedness in laying out our condition to others.
  20. Not praying for men of a contrary judgment, but using Reservedness and distance from them, being more ready to speak of them than to them, or to God for them.
  21. Not weighed with the fallings and miscarriages of others, but rather taking advantage thereof for justifying ourselves.
  22. Talking of, and sporting at the faults of others, rather than compassionating of them.
  23. No pains taken in religious ordering of our families, nor studying to be Patterns to other Families in the government of ours.
  24. Hasty anger and passion in our Families and conversation with others.
  25. Covetousness, worldly-mindedness, and an inordinate desire after the things of this life, upon which followeth a neglect of the Duties of our Calling, and our being taken up for the most part with the things of the World.
  26. Want of Hospitality and Charity to the Members of Christ.
  27. Not cherishing Godliness in the People, and some being afraid of it, and hating the people of God for Piety, and studying to bear down and quench the work of the Spirit amongst them.

Thirdly in the discharge of Ministerial Duties.
Which is first in regard of labouring in the Word and Doctrine.

  1. NOT entertaining that edge of spirit in Ministerial Duties, which we found at the first entry to the Ministry.
  2. Great neglect of reading and other preparation, or preparation merely Literal and bookish, making an idol of a book, which hindereth Communion with God, or presuming on bygone assistance, and praying little.
  3. Trusting to gifts, parts, and pains taken for preparation, whereby God is provoked, to blast good matter well ordered and worded. {81}
  4. Careless in employing CHRIST, and drawing virtue out of him for enabling us to preach in the Spirit and in power.
  5. In prayer for assistance, we pray more for assistance to the Messenger than to the Message which we carry, not caring what become of the Word, if we be with some measure of assistance carried on in the Duty.
  6. The matter we bring forth is not seriously recommended to God by Prayer to be quickened to his People.
  7. Neglect of Prayer after the Word is Preached, that it may receive the first and latter rain; and that the Lord would put in the hearts of his People what we speak to them in his Name.
  8. Neglect to warn in Preaching of snares and sin in Publick affairs by some, and too much frequent and unnecessary speaking by others of Publick business and Transactions.
  9. Exceeding great neglect and unskillfulness to set forth the excellencies and usefulness of Jesus Christ, and the New Covenant which ought to be the great subject of a Minister’s Study and Preaching.
  10. Speaking of CHRIST more by hear-say than from knowledge and experience, or any real impression of him upon the heart.
  11. The way of most Minister’s Preaching too Legal.
  12. Want of sobriety in Preaching the Gospel, not savouring any thing but what is new, so that the Substantials of Religion bear but little bulk.
  13. Not Preaching Christ in the simplicity of the Gospel, nor ourselves the People’s servants for Christ’s sake.
  14. Preaching of Christ not that the People may know Him, but that they may think we know much of him.
  15. Preaching anent Christ’s leaving the Land without brokenness of heart, or up-stirring of ourselves to take hold of him.
  16. Not Preaching with bowels of compassion to them who are in hazard to perish.
  17. Preaching against Publick sins, neither in such a way nor for such an end as we ought for the gaining of souls, and drawing men out of their sins, but rather because it is of our concernment to say something of these evils.
  18. Bitterness instead of zeal, in speaking against Malignants, {82} Sectaries, and other scandalous persons, and unfaithfulness therein.
  19. Not studying to know the particular condition of the souls of the people, that we may speak to them accordingly, nor keeping a particular record thereof, though convinced of the usefulness of this.
  20. Not wealing what may be most profitable and Edifying, and want of wisdom in application to the several conditions of souls, not so careful to bring home the point by application as to find out the Doctrine, nor speaking the same with that reverence which becomes his Word and Message.
  21. Choosing texts whereon we have something to say rather than suiting to the condition of souls and times, and frequent preaching of the same things that we may not be put to the pains of new study.
  22. Such a way of Reading, Preaching, and Prayer as puts us in these Duties further from GOD.
  23. Too soon satisfied in the discharge of Duties, and holding off challenges with excuses.
  24. Indulging the body, and wasting much time idly.
  25. Too much eyeing our own credit and applause, and being taken with it, when we get it, and unsatisfied when it is wanting.
  26. Timorousness in delivering God’s Message, letting people die in reigning sins without warning.
  27. Voguiness and pride of heart because the Lord fulfilled our word in the year 1648.
  28. Rash speaking in the Name of the Lord in reference to the success of our Armies of late.
  29. Studying the discharge of Duties, rather to free ourselves from censure, than to approve ourselves to God.
  30. Shifting to preach in places where we were for the time for fear of displeasing, in this time of Publick backsliding and trial.
  31. Not making all the Counsel of God known to his People, and particularly not giving testimony in times of defection.
  32. Not studying to profit by our own doctrine, nor the doctrine of others.
  33. For most part preaching, as we ourselves were not {83} concerned in the Message we carry to the People.
  34. Not rejoicing at the conversion of sinners, but content with the unthriving of the Lord’s Work amongst his people as suiting best with our minds, fearing if they should thrive better, we should be more put to it, and less esteemed of by them.
  35. Many in Preaching and practice, bearing down the power of godliness.
  36. Unfaithful discharge of Ministerial Duties in attending the Armies.
  37. We Preach not as before God, but as to men, as doth appear by the different pains in our preparation to speak to our ordinary hearers, and to others to whom we would approve ourselves.
  38. Not making the Ministry a work in earnest as a thing to be accounted for in every duty, which makes much laziness and unfruitfulness, doing duties ex officio, not ex conscientia officio, rather to discharge our Calling nor [than] our conscience.

Secondly, In the Administration of Sacraments.

In Baptism.

  1. LITTLE minding in ourselves, or stirring up of others to mind the obligation that lies on us and them, by the Covenant made with God in Baptism.
  2. Not instructing Parents in their duty, not charging them with their promise given at the Baptizing of their Children, nor trying what pains they have taken to perform the same.
  3. Being very superficial and formal in the administration of this Ordinance.

In the Administration of the Lord’s Supper.

  1. ADMITTING of mixed multitudes to the Lord’s Table, not separating betwixt the precious and the vile.
  2. Unequal dealing with poor and rich, in admitting to, or suspending and debarring from the Lord’s Table.
  3. Great neglect to prepare for that action, preparing for it more as Ministers, than as Christians.
  4. Carnal and unworthy carriage of Ministers at the Communion, {84} being more desirous to have that action by our hands, with credit to ourselves, than with profit to the people.
  5. Thinking when that action is by-hand, that we have a vacancy from other Ministerial duties for a time.
  6. Little wrestling with God to have the People prepared for it, or the guilt of profaning of it by ourselves and others taken away.

Fourthly, in Visiting.

  1. NEGLIGENT, lazy and partial visiting the sick; if they be poor, we go once, and only when sent for; If they be rich and of better note, we go oftener, and unsent for.
  2. Not knowing how to speak with the tongue of the Learned a word in season to the weary and exercised in conscience, nor to such as are under the loss of husband, wife, children, friends or goods, for the improving of these trials to their spiritual advantage, nor to dying persons.
  3. In visiting, wearying, or shunning to go to such as we esteem graceless.
  4. Not visiting the People from house to house, nor praying with them at fit opportunities.

Fifthly, In Catechising.

  1. LAZY and negligent in Catechising.
  2. Not preparing our hearts before, nor wrestling with God for a blessing to it, because of the ordinariness, and apprehended easiness of it; whereby the Lord’s Name is much taken in vain, and the People little profited.
  3. Looking on that Exercise as a work below us, and not condescending to study a right and profitable way of instructing the Lord’s People.
  4. Partial in Catechising, passing by these that are rich and of better quality, though many of such stand ordinarily in great need of instruction.
  5. Not waiting upon and following the ignorant, but passionately upbraiding of them often.

Sixthly, In Ruling and Discipline.

  1. NOT making use of this Ordinance of Church-Censures for gaining of souls, but turning it into a mere Civil punishment; {85} and in the administration thereof becoming either coldrife [heartless], or without a spirit of meekness, and using a way either merely rational by worldly wisdom, or merely authoritative, more than by motives drawn from the love of Christ; and by our carriage in Judicatories putting a human shape upon the Ordinances of Jesus Christ, carrying ourselves in too stately a way, like the men of this world.
  2. Partiality in administration of Censures with respect of persons, not using the like faithful freedom towards high and low, sib and fremd [friend and stranger].
  3. Rash taking on us to open and shut Christ’s door.
  4. By our practice, teaching (as it were) formality in Repentance to offenders, hardening them in their sins, by accepting bare forms without any evidence of Repentance, and loosing when we were persuaded Christ did not loose: and of late turning profession of Repentance into a State engine for men to step unto preferment and publick employments.
  5. Following scandalous persons with the highest Censures of the Kirk, with little or no care to hold them up to God.
  6. Want of compassion to these on whom Discipline is exercised, not labouring to convince them of sin, but imperiously and with passion instead of zeal threatening them, thinking it sufficient if we be obeyed, though they be not gained to Christ.
  7. Superficial, sinful, and slight censuring one another, at times appointed for that end in Presbyteries and Synods, and neglect of faithful freedom and love in performing that duty.
  8. Admitting of men to the Ministry who were not qualified with Grace aswell as Gifts, notwithstanding the Word of God and Constitutions of this Kirk do require the one, aswell as the other; which hath been the fountain of many evils.
  9. Great unfaithfulness in bringing in, and holding in, unworthy persons in the Ministry, and keeping Censures off unfaithful men.
  10. Unfaithfulness in giving Testimonials and Recommendations, and receiving persons upon Testimonials merely negative, especially Expectants and Students of Divinity.
  11. Constituting Elderships of such men as are known to be ignorant, profane, and disaffected to the Work of God, and being {86} careless to have them consisting of the most able and godly men within the Congregation, a great cause of much ignorance, profane and scandalous carriage among the People.
  12. Neglecting to remove from the Elderships such as are ignorant and scandalous.
  13. Neglecting to hold out the necessary qualifications and duties of Ruling Elders, and to stir them up to their duty.
  14. Not carrying ourselves in Judicatories and other ways toward Ruling Elders as towards Brethren, and joint Overseers in the work of the Lord.
  15. Not making conscience of keeping Kirk Judicatories, but wearying of the expenses and attendance, whereby divers things hath been hastert [hurried] and miscarried therein; willing deserting of them, and shunning to give testimony in them, for fear of inconveniences.
  16. Not stooping to a gaining way in Debates, nor making application to God for knowledge of his mind in things debated, before they pass in a conclusion.
  17. Wearying to hear men fully who represent their doubts, and to weigh all the Arguments that can be represented for the negative, before the affirmative be concluded.
  18. Too great animosities in Judicatories, even about matters of small weight.
  19. Pride, impatience, and peremptoriness of spirit, not staying on others clearness in our debates and conclusions, through which it comes to pass that we judge rashly of precious men; and alienation of affections steals in and is entertained.
  20. Hasty concluding of Acts & pressing obedience thereto without convincing grounds holden forth from Scripture for satisfying the consciences of the Lord’s People.
  21. Silence in Assemblies when unsatisfied, being carried by the authority of men, and too much following other men’s light and suppressing their own.
  22. Making Votes subservient to the humors of men and human interests.
  23. Some altogether neglecting wholesome Acts and Constitutions of Assemblies, and others, receiving their Acts too implicitly.
  24. Too bitter expressions against Adversaries in Publick Papers and Sermons, for eschewing reproaches, whereof there is no fruit but irritation. {87}
  25. Abusing transportations by making them too frequent, and almost the ordinary way of Planting places of any eminency; sometimes enacting them when there is no pressing necessity, and without tender endeavouring the satisfaction of the People interested and without care of providing them thereafter.

In relation to the Public.

  1. NOT studying the controversies of the time, that we might be enabled to hold forth light, and convince gain-sayers of the truth.
  2. Not fearing to meddle in matters too high for us, and desiring to be taken notice of, more than to be stedable [serviceable, faithful] in the Publick.
  3. Following of Publick business, with too much neglect of our Flocks.
  4. Following of Publick business with much pride and passion, and loftiness of spirit upon carnal principles and desire to be esteemed of, rather than true zeal to Jesus Christ and his matters, and with little or no prayer.
  5. Superficial admitting of all to the Covenants, and solemn Acknowledgement, without taking sufficient pains to instruct and inform them in the knowledge of the things contained therein.
  6. Being too instrumental for bringing disaffected persons to trust.
  7. Unequal zeal against enemies, cooling in our zeal against one enemy as it is increased against another.
  8. Much repining at the judgments of God upon the Land from carnal respects, and transferring the causes of the wrath off ourselves upon others.
  9. Too easy satisfied in such things as might tend to the prejudice of Christ’s interest, weighing the consequences of great Revolutions more by respect to ourselves, than to his honor.
  10. Agreeing to receive the King to the Covenant barely upon writing, without any apparent evidences of a real change of Principles.
  11. Not using freedom in shewing what we were convinced, was sinful in reference to the late Treaty with the King, but going on therein when we were not satisfied in our consciences for fear of reproach and of being mistaken. {88}
  12. Silence in Publick, and not giving Testimony after discovery of the King’s Commission given to James Graham; for invading the Kingdom.
  13. Pressing the King to make a Declaration to the world, whilst we knew by clear evidences that he had no real conviction of the things contained therein.
  14. Too much desiring to lurk upon by-ends, when called to give a Testimony.
  15. Not bearing Testimony against Publick Defections in a right and spiritual way.
  16. Unfaithfulness in bearing burden with them, whom the Lord raised up to be his witnesses against the publick backslidings; omitting to bear Testimony ourselves upon carnal respects and lukewarmness in adhering to publick Testimonies formerly given.



Gratefully excerpted from TrueCovenanter.com