Canons, Book of

Canons, Book Of, was a set of rules formed for the government of the Scottish Church, by order of Charles I, and designed to establish episcopacy and subvert the Presbyterian constitution of the Church. In 1634 it was agreed that such a book and a liturgy should be framed in Scotland, and submitted to Laud, Juxon, and Wren for their revision 'and approval. In April of the following year the Scottish prelates met at Edinburgh, and brought the Book of Canons as near to perfection as possible, after which they forwarded it to Laud, who revised and 'amended it. It was then confirmed under the great seal, by letters patent bearing date May 23, 1635. Dr. Hetherington says (Hist. of the Church of Scotland, i, 275), "The canons contained in this book were subversive of the whole constitution of the Church of Scotland. The first decrees excommunication against all who should deny the king's supremacy in ecclesiastical affairs; the next pronounces the same penalty against all who should dare to say that the worship contained in the Book of Common Prayer (a book not yet published, nor even written) was superstitious or contrary to the Scriptures. The same penalty was decreed against all who should assert that the prelatic form of Church government was unscriptural. Every minister was enjoined to adhere to the forms prescribed in the liturgy, on pain of deposition; which liturgy, as before stated, was not yet in existence. It was decreed, also, that no General Assembly should be called, but by the king; that no ecclesiastical business should even be discussed, except in the prelatic courts; that no private meetings, which were termed conventicles, and included presbyteries and kirk-sessions, should be held by the ministers for expounding the Scriptures; and that on no occasion, in public, should a minister pour out the fulness of his heart to God in extemporary prayer. Many minute arrangements were also decreed respecting the ceremonial parts of worship, as fonts for baptism, communion altars, ornaments in church, modes of dispensing the communion elements, the vestments of the clerical order, and all such other idle mummeries as the busy brain of Laud could devise. or the fantastic fooleries of Rome suggest." The utmost excitement prevailed throughout the country when the character of the Book of Canons became known. Though episcopacy had been established in Scotland for thirty years, the publication of this book, instead of reconciling. the people to that mode of ecclesiastical government, only tended to increase their antipathy to it. See Stevenson, Hist. of the Church of Scotland, p. 159-164; Neal, Hist. of the Puritans, ii, 277 sq.

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