In the year 1733 a serious rupture took place in the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, in consequence of an act of Assembly passed in 1730, by which it was enacted, that reasons of dissent against the decisions of the judicatories of the Church should not be entered on the record; an enactment which prevented all who dissented in any case from exonerating their consciences by recording their dissent. This gave rise to much righteous indignation on the part of the godly ministers in the Church—an indignation which was augmented when, in 1732, the most solemn remonstrances against intrusive settlements were not so much as listened to. Along with these harsh dealings it was made a cause of censure for any minister to animadvert on the proceedings of the Church courts. Several ministers—inasmuch as they were bound by solemn engagement to the truth as expressed in the subordinate standards—found that they could not, as faithful servants of Jesus Christ, submit to censure for what appeared to them their obvious duty. Accordingly, Mr. Ebenezer Erskine, having freely animadverted on the growing defections of the Church, in a sermon delivered before the Synod of Perth and Stirling, in 1732, was called to account before said Synod, where he was found liable to censure in terms of the enactment aforesaid. To this decision, however, from a sense of duty, he peremptorily refused to submit, both before the Synod and General Assembly. Mr. Erskine was at this time joined by Messrs William Wilson, James Fisher, and Alexander Moncrieff: who, after due deliberation, finding that they could not, with a good conscience, continue in the communion of the church under these circumstances, seceded from her ecclesiastical jurisdiction, on the following grounds:–1st. The sufferance of error without adequate censure. 2d. The infringement of the people’s rights in electing their ministers, under the law of patronage. 3d. The neglect or relaxation of discipline. 4th. The restraint on ministerial freedom in opposing error and maladministration. 5th. The refusal of the prevailing party to be reclaimed. On these, and other solemn considerations, stated at large in their Testimony, they constituted themselves into a distinct presbytery, fully persuaded of the lawfulness of their separation.
Memoir of the Rev. John Brown, part 3