History of the Secession Church – Rev John M'Kerrow (1841)
Transcript: The second case of insubordination, to which a reference has been made, and which occupied the attention of the synod at the same time with the proceedings which have now been detailed, was that of Mr. David Forrest, who had received a call from the congregation of Midholm, and another from the congregation of Stow. The competition was decided by the supreme court (October 1752), in favour of Stow, and Mr. Forrest was appointed to be ordained in that congregation. One year elapsed, during the course of which the people of Stow waited patiently for Mr. Forrest's settlement amongst them. The Edinburgh presbytery, within whose bounds the congregation of Stow was situated, at length made a complaint to the synod, that Mr. Forrest refused to submit to ordination; and they summoned Mr. Forrest to appear before the supreme court. Mr. Forrest obeyed the summons, and stated in presence of the synod his objections to a settlement at Stow. The synod, after an ineffectual attempt to remove Mr. Forrest's difficulties, appointed a committee to converse with him. In the mean time a call from the congregation of Inverkeithing to Mr. Forrest was laid on the synod's table, which the synod, after some consideration, dismissed, on the ground that they had already appointed Mr. Forrest to be ordained in the congregation of Stow. The committee appointed to converse with Mr. Forrest reported, that, after some time spent in reasoning with him, they had been successful in removing his objections, and that he had expressed his willingness to submit to ordination. After receiving this report, the synod enjoined the presbytery of Edinburgh to proceed with all convenient speed in his settlement.
These proceedings took place in November, 1753. But when the met in April, the following year, the presbytery of Edinburgh again complained, that they had an unable to carry into effect the sentence of synod, for that Mr. Forrest refused to comply. The same process was again gone through as formerly. Mr. Forrest was heard in support of his objections. Discussion took place in the synod; and Mr. Forrest was again handed over to a committee, that they might deal with him. When the committee gave in their report, it was unfavourable. Mr. Forrest remained immovably fixed in his purpose not to be ordained at Stow. A long process of reasoning on the subject again took place in the synod, and Mr. Forrest was asked, If he was convinced by what he had heard? He replied, that he was not. Another committee was appointed to converse with him, who reported, “That notwithstanding all the reasoning and influence they could use, he remained the same as before." Mr. Forrest was again called before the synod, and interrogated, if he was willing to submit; to which he replied, that he could not do so at present; but requested that they would allow him some time to ponder upon the matter, with a view to get his scruples removed. The synod, wishing to show him all manner of indulgence, agreed that he should not be required to give a definite answer till their next meeting. Mr. John M'Cara was opposed to this decision, and craved, that he might have the following statement, expressive of his views, inserted in the record: — “That he was of opinion, that the synod should proceed to consider, at this meeting , Mr. David Forrest's conduct, in regard he judged that Mr. Forrest had no reason of weight, why he did not submit to his ordination in Stow, according to the former appointment of synod ; and that his reasoning against it proceeded entirely upon a circle, and imported that the clearness of a young man to accept or not accept of a call to a particular congregation, was a necessary ingredient in the call of God to that congregation; whereas our books of discipline hold forth the outward and ordinary calling to the ministry to have two parts only; the election of the people, and ordination, or the solemn separation of the person appointed, to God and his kirk, after he is tried and found qualified, by fasting, prayer, and imposition of the hands of the presbytery: So that according to the Judgment of this national church, agreeably to the sacred oracles, a man ought, when regularly chosen and appointed to a particular flock, to take the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; and that, therefore, he, the said Mr. M’Cara, thought the synod ought not to trifle with Mr. Forrest or any young man in this matter, but to proceed with them according the rule of the Lord's word, leaving events to him, whose promise will be forthcoming to them, in this and every other case, when they walk in ways and keep his charge. Zechariah iii. 7."
At next meeting, a petition was presented from the congregation of Stow, expressing their continued attachment and adherence to Mr. Forrest, notwithstanding the reluctance he had shown to accept of their call; and requesting the synod to expedite his settlement amongst them. But Mr. Forrest’s resolution remained unchanged. He was asked, If he had now obtained “clearness" to submit? He replied, that he had not. The business was again referred to a committee, who were charged with the difficult task of endeavouring to remove Mr. Forrest’s objections. This committee reported, that they had conversed with Mr. Forrest, with a view to induce him to submit; and they proposed, as the result of their conference with him, that if Mr. Forrest would profess his sorrow for the trouble he had given the synod, in refusing, from time to time, to submit to their decision, under the mistaken notion, that a candidate's private inclination is essentially necessary to constitute a relation between him and a particular people, and not the determination of the judicature to which he is subject, and if he would further declare, that his fixed principle is, that in matters not morally evil, it is the duty of one subject to a judicature to submit to their decision; then the synod might take into consideration, whether it would be for edification to proceed with the settlement of Mr. Forrest at Stow, he had done so much to alienate the affections of the people from him. The synod, after deliberating on this proposal of the committee, refused to adopt the latter part of it; but in reference to the former part of it, they agreed to put the following question to Mr. Forrest: — “Do you profess your sorrow for giving the synod so much trouble, by refusing from time to time to comply with their decision, and to submit to ordination in Stow, from the mistaken notion, that a candidate's private inclination is essentially necessary to constitute a relation between him and a particular people, and not the determination of the judicature: And is it your fixed principle, that in matters not morally evil, it is the duty of one subject to a judicature to submit to their decision?" To this Mr. Forrest replied in the affirmative; and the synod, having obtained from him this confession, agreed that he should be admonished by the moderator from the chair, on account of his conduct, the sinfulness of which he had now acknowledged. After the admonition was tendered to him, the synod next considered what was to be done in consequence of Mr. Forrest refusing to submit to ordination at Stow. A long time was spent in reasoning on this point. After a considerable deal of discussion, the question was again put to Mr. Forrest, whether he had yet obtained “clearness" on the subject; to which he gave the same negative answer as formerly. The synod unanimously found him censurable for his obstinacy, and were about to consider what censure ought to be inflicted on him, when the commissioner from the congregation of Stow rose and begged leave to address the court. His statement was to the following effect :—" That seeing the synod had used all due means for bringing about the desired settlement with Mr. Forrest, and that he, notwithstanding thereof, still obstinately refused to comply, and for which the synod had actually found him censurable, and were about to consider what censure should be inflicted on him, he (the said commissioner) declared and protested in name of his constituents, that as all hopes of a settlement with Mr. Forrest, in an amicable way, were now lost, they therefore gave up all claim unto Mr. Forrest by virtue of their call to him and sentence of synod following thereupon; and that they should be free of whatever consequences might hereafter follow on his said refusal." He thereupon took instruments in the clerk's hands, and craved extracts.
In consequence of this declaration, made by the commissioner from Stow, the synod declared the call from that congregation to Mr. Forrest null and void; and that the people were at liberty to apply for another moderation, and to call whomsoever they might think proper. They further agreed to the following overture, which was designed to serve the twofold purpose of expressing their disapprobation of Mr. Forrest's conduct, and of laying down the doctrine of the synod, to be acted upon, in all similar cases, in time to come :—" That since Mr. Forrest's sinful conduct, in refusing to comply with the sentence of synod, wherein it is impossible to prove any moral evil, still continued; and thereby the due obedience and subjection in the Lord which, according to his vows when licensed, he owed to this judicature, is still refused, which conduct of his obliged the people of Stow to make the above declaration, from the affection which they did bear to him: Therefore, though Mr. Forrest deserved to have his licence taken from him for his said conduct, the synod should notwithstanding, out of lenity to Mr. Forrest, acquiesce in rebuking him for the same, and admonishing him to beware of such a sinful step for the future: And, moreover, the synod agree, that if any candidate shall hereafter refuse to comply with the judgment of the judicature concurring with an harmonious call, the said judicature shall proceed to censure, in case the candidate cannot support his refusal by reasons founded on the word of God; and that, in the case of calls for the future, judicatures shall proceed upon the merits of the cause, without laying any stress upon the inclinations of the candidate, and that nothing done to the contrary hereof, now or formerly, shall be pled as a precedent in time to come." In conformity with this resolution, Mr. Forrest was rebuked by the moderator, for his contumacy, and this affair terminated.