The Admission of Ministers in the Church of Scotland, 1560-1652: A Study in Presbyterian Ordination

Shaw, Duncan (1976) The Admission of Ministers in the Church of Scotland, 1560-1652: A Study in Presbyterian Ordination. Master of Theology thesis, University of Glasgow.

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This study is an examination of the practice employed by the Church of Scotland in admitting men to the Ministry between 1560 and 1652; it is an attempt at gaining an understanding of the thinking that lies behind Presbyterian Ordination and a look is taken at some of the problems with which the Reformers were faced; problems, some of which still concern us today. In the Introduction, I have attempted to put the need for reform which arose within the Church of the 16th century, into focus by drawing attention to the corruption, worldliness and ignorance that existed amongst the clergy of that time; the efforts at reform which were made and the events which gave rise to the complete Reformation of religion within Scotland. In any discussion of the Scottish Reformation, however, outside influences cannot be ignored. This is particularly true when we consider that many of the new ideas arriving in Scotland at this time had their origin in the Europe of John Calvin. These ideas affected the nature of the Ministry as much as anything and so it is against this background that our study of Ordination must be fixed. Calvin 's teaching on the Ministry reveals the importance he attached to it and in his Institutes, he spends a lot of time explaining the different ministeries spoken of in the Scriptures. These fall into two categories, viz. ordinary and extra-ordinary ministeries and/ and it is what Calvin has to say about the former that concerns us in this study. The Pastoral office can be divided into those who preach the Word and administer the Sacraments and those who teach. In either case they must be suitably qualified and Calvin is firmly of the opinion that Ministerial appointment ought to depend entirely upon the candidate receiving a "Call". Throughout our study "the Call" is understood as being an outward ecclesiastical procedure aimed at confirming the action of God with whom the initiative always lies. The seriousness of the matter is stressed by the way in which the Church is instructed to carry through the process of examining, testing, electing and admitting ministers, viz. in an atmosphere of prayer and fasting. In Apostolic practice, admission to the Ministry was always carried through in this way and accompanied by the Laying on of the hands of those already in the Ministry. Calvin believed this to be a useful symbol and commended its use. Speaking generally, the practice and procedure of the Continental Churches examined in this thesis follows the example and teaching of Calvin. So too, does the practice and procedure of the Church of Scotland. The early documents of the Reformed Church are unanimous in emphasising the place of Scripture and in abrogating the ceremonies of the Roman Church. The teaching and proposals for a Reformed Church contained in these books were/ were made effective in Scotland. For example, admission to the Ministry was made dependent upon the candidate receiving an "Ordinarie Vocatioun. " To receive such a Call the candidate had to be elected by the people and examined "befoir men of soundest jugement" before being solemnly admitted. Not everyone was happy and willing to accept these new ideas, however. One such person, Ninian Winget, a staunch supporter of the old Church, tried to persuade Knox and his followers concerning the error of their ways. The examination of Winget's arguments undertaken in this thesis, serves to highlight the main points of divergence on matters which were and are of fundamental importance. The old Ecclesiastical organisation of the Scottish Church was felt to have been defective in many ways. The Episcopate did not commend itself nor did the attendant theory of a personal Apostolic Succession. The system had failed, but, there was something much more serious than that of concern to the Reformers. They did not believe that bishops should constitute an order superior to that of the presbyterate; this being so they could never accept that only Episcopal ordination was valid. It is true that a system of Superintendentships was introduced in Scotland but this did not last long and was really only a measure of expediency, much needed at a time of great change and while there was a severe shortage of/ of qualified ministerial candidates. The Superintendents were not, however, bishops in the line of the Prelatic Succession. In actual fact the Reformers sought to revive the conception of the Church as the Christian community in the completeness of its whole membership. Ordination was a concept little known or thought of and in the practice of the Church at this time the emphasis fell on admission to a Ministerial charge. In these early days, the Superintendents took the lead in organising the Church and in the placing of ministers through-out their own areas. When they disappeared from the scene, however, the Scottish Church settled down to having what amounted to a Presbyterian system of government. (Abstract shortened by ProQuest.).

Item Type: Thesis (Master of Theology)
Qualification Level: Masters
Keywords: Theology, Religious history
Date of Award: 1976
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:1976-78722
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 30 Jan 2020 14:59
Last Modified: 30 Jan 2020 14:59

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