Original Burghers is the name of that body of secessionists from the Scotch Establishment who in the schism of 1747 remained steadfast to the oath obligation, and favored the National Establishment, though they did not form a part of it. SEE ANTIBURGHERS. In the agitation regarding the power of the civil magistrate in matters of religion, and the binding obligation of the covenants upon posterity, towards the close of the 18th century, the Associate General (Antiburgher) Synod had deemed it necessary to remodel the whole of their testimony, a proceeding which led to the formation of the Original Antiburghers (q.v.). The Associate (Burgher) Synod, however, did not proceed so far as to remodel their Testimony, but simply prefixed to the formula of questions proposed to candidates for license or for ordination a problem or explanatory statement not requiring an approbation of compulsory measures in matters of religion, and, in reference to the covenants, admitting their obligation on posterity, without defining either the nature or extent of the obligation. The introduction of this preamble gave rise to a violent controversy in the Associate (Burgher). Synod, which commenced in 7195, and has usually been known by the name of the Formula Controversy. The utmost keenless and even 'violence'
characterized both parties in the contention, the opponents of the preamble declaring that it involved a manifest departure from the doctrines of the original standards of the secession, while its favorers contended with equal vehemence that the same statements as those which were now objected to had already been given forth more than once by the Church courts of the secession. At several successive meetings of the synod the adoption of the preamble was strenuously resisted, but at length, in 1799, it was agreed to in the following terms:
"That whereas some parts of the standard of this synod have been interpreted as' favoring compulsory measures in religion, the synod hereby declare that they do not require an approbation of any such principle from any candidate for license or ordination. And whereas a controversy has arisen among us respecting the nature and kind of the obligation of our solemn covenants on posterity — whether it be entirely of the same kind upon us as upon, our ancestors who swore them the synod hereby declare that, while they hold the obligation of our covenants upon posterity, they do not interfere with that controversy which has arisen respecting the nature and kind of it; and recommend it to all their members to suppress that controversy as tending to a general strife rather than godly edifying." The adoption of this preamble having been decided upon by a large majority of the synod, Messrs. William Fletcher, William Taylor, and William Watson, ministers, with ten elders, dissented from this decision; and Mr. Willis gave in the following protestation, to which Mr. Ebenezer Hyslop and two elders adhered:
"I protest in my own name, and in the name of ail ministers, elders, and private Christians who adhere to this protest, that as the synod has obstinately refused to remove the preamble prefixed to the Formula, and declare their simple and unqualified adherence to our principles I will no more acknowledge them as over me in the Lord until they return to their principles." Messrs. Willis and Hyslop having thus, in the very terms of their protest, declared themselves no longer in connection with the synod, their names were erased from the roll; and those who adhered to them were declared to have cut themselves off from the communion, of the Associate body. Accordingly, on Oct. 2, 1799, the two brethren who had thus renounced the authority of the synod met at Glasgow, along with William Watson, minister to Kilpatrick, and solemnly constituted themselves into a presbytery, under the name of the Associate Presbytery. This was the commencement of that section of the secession formerly known by the name of "Old Light" or "Original Burghers." In the course of the following year the brethren who had thus separated themselves from the Associate Burgher Synod were joined by several additional ministers, who sympathized with them in their views of the preamble as being fan abandonment of secession principles. Gradually the new presbytery increased in numbers until, in 1805, they had risen by ordinations and accessions to fifteen. They now constituted themselves into a synod, under the name of the "Associate Synod;" but the name by which they have been usually known is the Original Burgher Synod. In vindication as well as explanation of their principles, they republished the "Act, Declaration, and Testimony" of the Secession Church. They also published, in a separate pamphlet, an Appendix of the Testimony, containing "A Narrative of the origin, progress, and consequences of late innovations of the Secession, with a Continuation of that Testimony to the present time." In course of time a union was proposed to be effected between the Original Burgher and Original Antiburgher sections of the secession, and, with a view to accomplishing an object so desirable, a correspondence was entered into between the synods of the two denominations, committees were appointed, and conferences held to arrange the terms of union. But the negotiations, though continued for some time, were fruitless, and the project of union was abandoned. In 1837 a formal application was made by the Original Burgher Synod to be admitted to communion with the Established Church of Scotland. The proposal was favorably entertained by the General Assembly and a committee was appointed to cope with a committee of the Original Burgher Synod and to discuss the terms of union. The negotiations were abducted in the most amicable manner; and a General Assembly having transmitted an overture to presbyteries on the subject, the union was approved, and in 1840 the majority of the Original Burghet Synod became merged in the National Church of Scotland. A small minority of the synod declined to accede to the union, preferring to maintain a separate position, and to adhere to the secession Testimony, still retaining the name of the Associate or Original Burgher Synod. On May 18, 1842, most of the Original Burghers who remained after their brethren had joined the Established Church, united with the synod of Original Seceders, henceforth to form one association for the support of the covenanted Reformation in the kingdoms, under the name of Synod of United Original Seceders. It had previously been agreed that the Testimony adopted by the Synod of Original Seceders in 1827, with the insertion in it of the alterations rendered necessary by the union, was to be held as the Testimony of the United Synod, and made a term of religions fellowship in the body. The Synod of Original Burghers was understood to approve of the acknowledgment of sins and bond appended to: the Testimony, and it was agreed to by the Synod of Original Seceders that the question of the formula regarding the burgess-oath should be dropped. On these conditions the union was effected, and the Synod of Original Burghers as then constituted ceased to exist.
At the present time, however, there appear to remain in existence twenty- seven. congregations of Original Burghers. They have arranged upon the preliminaries for union with a small body in Ireland holding identical views, and calling themselves the Associate Secession Synod. This body consists of only eleven congregations. These Original Burghers have to this day continued consistently to maintain the views upon which the secession was at its origin based. They strongly vindicate the duty and necessity of national religion, and are therefore in favor of national establishments in opposition to the United Presbyterians and other advocates of the voluntary system. They are consequently also opposed to schemes for reunion among all Presbyterians, as these would involve the admission of voluntaryism in making the principle of establishment an open question. But their establishment must be one which is based upon the Solemn League and Covenant, which was declared to be binding at the union of the two bodies in 1840, and in 1866 was solemnly renewed by the synod. They are Calvinists of the strictest type, holding the doctrine of a limited atonement that Christ suffered only for the elect. They are opposed to the use of hymns and instrumental music in public worship. The Original Secession Magazine, a periodical which appears once in two months; is the authorized organ of the views and proceedings of the synod. See Original Secession Magazine; Oliver and Boyd's 'Edinb. Almanac; Marsdeni, Hist. of Churches and Sects, ii 293 sq.; Gardner, Faiths of the, World, vol. ii, s.v.; and the references under SEE SCOTLAND and SEE SCOTCH PRESBYTERIANISM.