Patronage is the practice of civil patrons interfering with ecclesiastical elections, which historically had been a significant lagging grievance in the Church of Scotland.



Order of Contents

Articles  4
Books  6
History  1





Rutherford, Samuel – Section 2, ‘Certain Propositions Tending to Reformation…  the Author [a congregationalist] condemns Laic-Patronages’  in Ch. 7, section 1, ‘Of the Way of Reformation of the Congregations of England’  in The Due Right of Presbyteries…  (London, 1644), pt. 2, pp. 457-68

Gillespie, George – ch. 2, ‘Of the Election of Pastors with the Congregation’s Consent’  in Treatise of Miscellany Questions  (n.d.), pp. 4-14



M’Crie, Thomas (the elder) – ‘What Ought the General Assembly do at the Present Crisis?’  (1833)  in Miscellaneous Writings, Chiefly Historical  (Edinburgh: John Johnstone, 1841), pp. 642-67

M’Crie’s answer, in 1833, was to abolish patronage immediately.  The General Assembly did not take his advice.  The 10 year conflict over patronage and State intrusion ensued culminating in the Disruption.

Cunningham, William

Discussions on Church Principles  (1863)

ch. 11, ‘The Rights of the Christian People’, pp. 290-469

Cunningham (1805–1861) was a minister and professor in the Free Church of Scotland.  He covers the whole gamut of Church history on the question.

ch. 12, ‘The Principle of Non-Intrusion’, pp. 470-549

ch. 13, ‘Patronage & Popular Election’, pp. 550-65





Bridges, James – Patronage in the Church of Scotland Considered  (Edinburgh: 1840)  60 pp.  ToC

Bridges was a lawyer.

Laing, Benjamin – A Catechism on the History of the Church of Scotland from the Beginning of the Reformation to the Restoration of Patronage in 1712  (1842)  132 pp.  ToC  including important acts of Parliament and Assembly connected with Patronage from the Reformation till 1842.

Laing was a minister in the Original Secession Church.  This Catechism is very faithful.  See the review by the Scottish Presbyterian.  Laing, though would later, in another work, advocate for the union of the numerous conservative presbyterian churches in late-1800’s Scotland on a fairly broad platform.

Select Anti-Patronage Library: Consisting Chiefly of Reprints of Scarce Pamphlets  (1842)  280 pp.  no ToC  including important acts of Parliament and Assembly connected with Patronage from the Reformation till 1842.

This was published in Scotland right before the Disruption of 1843, which was largely over patronage.

Anon. – Modern Erastianism Unvailed: or a Further Survey of the Right of Patronage  (n.d.)  238 pp.  ToC

Cunningham, William – Strictures on the Rev. James Robertson’s Observations upon the Veto Act, pt. 1: Legal & Scriptural branches of the Argument  (1840)  134 pp.  no ToC

Evangelicals in the Church of Scotland were able to pass the Veto Act in the Church in 1834, which upheld the Biblical principle that ministers could not be forced onto a congregation by the civil government.  The Veto Act was overturned in the civil courts in 1838, leading to a battle between Church and State which culminated in the Disruption of 1843.  Robertson was a moderate minister in the Church of Scotland whose Observations upon the Veto Act, 1839, criticized it and sought for its removal in the Church.  Cunningham here defends the Veto Act, contrary to the civil government.  May such courage be given to us today when the church often blindly follows the will of Caesar instead of the will of God.



The History of Patronage

Scotland: After the Reformation


Kirk, James – ch. 10, ‘The Survival of Ecclesiastical Patronage after the Reformation’  in Patterns of Reform  Buy  (T&T Clark, 1989), pp. 368-425

Kirk is a leading, contemporary, presbyterian, Scottish Church historian.



Whitley, Laurence A.B. – A Great Grievance: Ecclesiastical Lay Patronage in Scotland until 1750  Buy  (Wipf & Stock, 2013)  See this review.



The Solution

George Gillespie

Treatise of Miscellany Questions, ch. 2, pp. 11,13

“Neither, in this same point of elections, do we homologate [agree] with them [Independents, Anabaptists and Separatists] who give to the collective body of the church (women and children under age only excepted) the power of decisive vote and suffrage in elections, we give the vote only to the eldership or church representative, so that they carry along with them the consent of the major or better part of the congregation…  out of Thomas [Aquinas] this difference betwixt consent and election, that though every choosing be a consenting, yet every consenting is not a choosing.

[1] The liberty of consent is one thing; [2] counsel or deliberation another thing; [3] the power of a decisive voice in court or judicatory a third thing.  I speak of a constituted church (for where there is not yet an eldership there can be no such distinction; yet, however, be there an eldership, or be there none, the church’s consent must be had).

The first of these [consent] we ascribe to the whole church, without whose knowledge and consent ministers may not be intruded;

the second [counsel & deliberation] to the ablest and wisest men of the congregation, especially to magistrates, with whose special advice, privity and deliberation, the matter ought to be managed;

the third [a decisive voice in court], which is the formal and consistorial determination of the case of election, consists in the votes of the eldership.

Their way [Independents, etc.] is much different than this, who would have the matter prepared by the conference and deliberation of the eldership (as we used to do in committees),¹ but determined and decided by the votes of the whole congregation.

[¹There was a change in the Church of Scotland’s practice on this, probably due to a response to the Independents.  See Thomas M’Crie (the younger), p. 232 of The Story of the Scottish Church.  See especially the 2nd paragraph of the footnote.  The context, from p. 228, is the discussion of patronage.]

I conclude with a passage out of the Ecclesiastical Discipline of the Reformed Churches in France, ch. 1, ‘The silence of the people, none contradicting, shall be taken for an express consent…”




Related Pages

Church Membership

Scottish Church History

The History of Scotland