History of the Congregations of the United Presbyterian Church 1733-1900: Volume I – Rev Robert Small, D.D. (1904)

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Full Version of History of the Congregations of the United Presbyterian Church 1733-1900: Volume I – Rev Robert Small, D.D. (1904) at Archive.org


Transcript: [5th paragraph on p362]


ON 6th May 1752 the Burgher Presbytery of Perth and Dunfermline received a petition from town councillors, heads of families, and others, to the number of 127 or thereby, and several in addition adhered at next meeting, declaring their accession to the Act and Testimony, and craving to be taken under their inspection. On 9th June the petition was renewed, and Messrs Ralph Erskine and John Swanston were appointed to observe a Fast at Inverkeithing on Wednesday, the 17th. The time would be deemed suitable for such an observance, as an obnoxious presentee was to be inducted into the parish church on the following day. On 12th December a number of earlier Seceders in the parishes of Inverkeithing, Dalgety, and Aberdour were disjoined from Dunfermline and annexed to the new formation on the ground that it would be convenient for them, and would also strengthen and encourage their brethren in the place. In the following year a church was built, with sittings for 600, which was afterwards enlarged to accommodate other 200.

The circumstances which led to this new formation were the presentation of the Rev. Andrew Richardson of Broughton to the parish of Inverkeithing three years before and the enforcing of his settlement by the courts of the Church in the face of strong resistance. It was urged on behalf of the presentee that he had the landed interest on his side and the majority of the legal callers, besides 22 heads of families. On the other hand, there was only one elder in a submissive mood, and 150 heads of families declared themselves hostile. But the Commission of Assembly kept to their point, and ordered the induction to go on. On the day appointed only 3 members of Presbytery appeared, and it had been decreed in order to test obedience that not fewer than 5 were to make a quorum. Six of the absentees gave in a representation at the bar of the Assembly, in which they pleaded the claims of conscience as their reason for non-compliance. Being dealt with one by one each kept his ground with more or less of firmness, and the Rev. Thomas Gillespie of Carnock read a paper for himself, vindicating the attitude he had taken up by reference to former Acts of Assembly bearing on the grievance of patronage. It had been previously carried by 93 votes to 65 that one of the six should be deposed, and now “after prayer for light and direction” Mr Gillespie was fixed on as the victim by 52 votes against 4, which were spread out over 4 of the other offenders, 102 declining to take part. This, it need not be stated, proved the origin of the Relief denomination. Three of the other culprits having refused to yield a hair’s breadth were deprived of their seats in Presbytery, Synod, and Assembly for the offence, and were left in that state for thirteen years. We return now to the history of the Burgher congregation at Inverkeithing.

First Minister.--DAVID FORREST, from the parish of West Calder and the congregation of Torphichen, or West Lothian. Mr Forrest s preacher and ministerial life was filled with contendings of which he has given a full and particular account in Memoirs written by himself and published the year after his death. He tells how he was appointed by the Synod to Stow in preference to Midholm, or Selkirk rather, but refused to submit, holding that Church courts had no more right to thrust a congregation upon a minister than they had to thrust a minister upon a congregation. Rebuke failed to change his purpose, and in hopes that his obstinacy would prevail Midholm renewed their call. But meanwhile Inverkeithing had come forward and secured his favour, and, though he was still under the Synod’s decree to be ordained at Stow, Dunfermline Presbytery allowed him to accept Inverkeithing. His ordination was fixed for 29th January 1755, but when the appointed day came commissioners were present from Midholm to protest against the proceedings going on. The Presbytery none the less went forward with the work, and though the Synod in May found them censurable the ordination was sustained. But Mr Forrest ten years after this got into worse trouble. When the famous Stirling Case was going on he turned his weapons of warfare against Mr Robert Campbell, and got the object of his antipathy rebuked by the Synod, but he brought the same censure upon himself for the course he had followed and the spirit he had manifested.

He then libelled his neighbour, Mr Smith of Dunfermline, for failure to assist him at his communion, and, as he alleged, for playing fast and loose with his promise. Confusion got worse confounded, and on 9th July 1771 a friend in that locality wrote to the Rev. George Lawson of Selkirk as follows:- “It is hardly thought that Messrs Smith and Forrest will ever be brought to an agreement. The latter seems to set himself in opposition to all terms of reconciliation, and is supposed to have his head towards another party.” But his congregation kept by him, and on 23rd July they gave in a paper in his favour signed by 468 members. John Birrell of Kinnesswood was present at that meeting, and, as he entered in his note-book, ”saw Mr Forrest protest and go off.” He seems to have been a man on whom threats and blandishments were alike thrown away, and on 3rd September 1772 he was suspended for contumacy and, we may add, general unruliness. Three years after this a petition came up from Inverkeithing to the Synod craving a conference, or the appointment of a committee, that they might get at the difference between Mr Forrest and his brethren. But his troubled course was now wearing to an end, and he died, 25th January 1776, in the fifty-third year of his age and twenty-first of his ministry. In his Memoirs he makes much of alleged defections on the Synod’s part from their avowed principles, and maintains among other things equally perverse that they did not make the Word of God the only rule of faith and manners, because when he was being dealt with they appointed three of their number to seats in the Presbytery, thereby making it “a hotch-potch court.” He also condemns them for maintaining against the Reformed Presbytery that infidelity doth not make void the magistrate’s legal authority nor free the people from obedience to him. In keeping with these views he told some of his people on his death-bed to join the Testimony among the hands of these honest men, and was visited by two of their number, Messrs Thorburn and M Millan, Jun., who came to converse with him. The consequence was that a party in the congregation joined the Reformed Presbytery, and even had a minister Mr Walter Grieve ordained over them in 1779 on a stipend of £35, but he seems by-and-by to have made Dunfermline his headquarters. We read also in 1794: “They have no proper meeting-house, and are occasionally supplied with sermon, though but seldom, by their itinerant preachers.” The bulk of the congregation, however, petitioned the Burgher Presbytery for readmission a fortnight after Mr Forrest's death and were at once received, and in a few months they were ripe for a moderation.