To whom shall I speak, and give warning, that they may hear? behold, their ear is uncircumcised, and they cannot hearken.—Jer. 6.10

[The Declinature of David Black excerpted from Calderwood's History of the Kirk of Scotland.]
Declining the Authority of King & Council
In Matters Spiritual,
in prima instantia.
[Calderwood’s History, Volume 5, pages 456-459.]

17 Novembris, 1596.

The which day, after calling upon the name of God, the brethren entered in a conference touching the declinature to be used by Mr. David Black; and after mature and grave consideration, resolved, that forasmuch as they perceived the drift of that dealing with Mr. David to tend to the setting down of a preparative against the free preaching of the Word, and to bring the doctrine of all ministers under the censure and controulment of his Majesty and council; and remembering, that notwithstanding divers good brethren being convened before the king and his council, for their doctrine, had declined the judgment thereof, yet because it was but verbally done, it vanished, and was forgot and denied, and the example thereof alleged for a practice: Therefore, at this time, the said declinature should be made by writ, well qualified and fortified with good reasons. And for testifying the consent and approbation of the whole brethren, as in a common cause, every one should put to their hand, and subscribe the same with the said Mr. David, whereof the tenor followeth:—


UNTO your Majesty and Lords of Secret Council, in all reverence in Christ, humbly means I, Mr. David Black, minister of the Evangel [Gospel] at St. Andrews, that where[as] I am charged by your Highness’ letter to compear and answer for certain irreverent, infamous, and indecent speeches, alleged uttered by me in some of my sermons made in public in the kirk [church] of St. Andrews, in the month of October last bypast, 1596, as at more length is contained in the said letters: wherein, albeit the conscience of my innocency upholdeth me sufficiently against whatsomever calumnies of men, and that I am ready, by the assistance of the grace of my God, to give a confession and stand to the defence of every point of the truth of God, uttered by me in the said sermons, either in opening up of his Word, or application thereof, before your Majesty or Council, or whatsomever person or persons that, upon any lawful cause, will crave an account of that hope which is in me, in whatsomever place or manner, so far as shall be requisite for clearing and maintenance of the truth and of my ministry, and may be done without the prejudice of that liberty which the Lord Jesus has given and established in the spiritual office-bearers of his kingdom; yet seeing I am not at this time brought to stand before your Majesty and Council as a judge set to cognosce and decerne upon my doctrine, wherethrough my answering to the said pretended accusation might import (with manifest prejudice of the liberties of the kirk) an acknowledging also of your Majesty’s jurisdiction in matters that are mere spiritual, which might move your Majesty to attempt farther in the spiritual government of the house of God, to the provocation of his hot displeasure against {458} your Majesty; and in end, either a plain subverting of the spiritual judicature, or, at least, a confounding thereof with the civil, if at any time profane and ambitious magistrates might, by such dangerous beginnings, find the hedge broken down, to make a violent irruption upon the Lord’s inheritance, which the Lord forbid: Therefore, I am constrained, in all humility and submission of mine, to use a declinature of this judgment, at least in prima instantia; which I beseech your Majesty to consider earnestly, and accept of according to justice, for the reasons following:

1. The Lord Jesus, the God of order and not of confusion, as appeareth evidently in all the kirks of his saints, of whom only I have the grace of my calling, as his ambassador, (albeit most unworthy of that honour,) to bear his name among his saints, he has given me his Word, (and no law nor tradition of man,) as the only instructions, whereby I should rule the whole actions of my calling, in preaching of the Word, administration of the seals thereof, and exercise of discipline: And in the discharge of this commission, I cannot fall in the reverence of any civil law of man, but insofar as I shall be found to have passed the compass of my instructions, which cannot be judged, according to the order established by that God of order, but by the prophets, whose lips he has appointed to be the keepers of his heavenly wisdom, and to whom he has subjected the spirits of the prophets. And now, seeing it is the preaching of the Word whereupon I am accused, which is a principal point of my calling, of necessity the prophets must first declare whether I have kept the bounds of my directions, before I come to be judged of your Majesty’s laws for my offence.

2. Because the liberty of the kirk and whole discipline thereof, according as the same has been, and is presently exercised within your Majesty’s realm, has been confirmed by divers acts of parliament, and approved by the Confession of Faith, by the subscription and oath of your Majesty, your Majesty’s estates, and whole body of the country, and peaceably bruiked [enjoyed] by the office-bearers of the kirk in all points; and namely, in the foresaid point, touching the judicature of preaching of the Word in prima instantia, {459} as the practice of divers late examples evidently will shew; Therefore, the question touching my preaching ought first, according to the grounds and practice foresaid, be judged by the ecclesiastick senate, as the competent judge thereof in the first instance.

In respect whereof, and for divers other weighty causes and considerations, namely, for eschewing the great and dangerous inconveniences that might fall both to religion and your Majesty’s own estate, by the appearance of distraction of your Majesty’s affection from the ministry, and good cause of God in their hands, to the grief of your Majesty’s best subjects, and to the encouragement of the adversaries both of your Majesty’s estate and religion: Therefore, I most humbly beseech your Majesty, and in name of my brethren, the commissioners of the General Assembly, and the remnant of the brethren of the ministry, who, for testifying their earnest affection and allowance of the premises, have subscribed these presents with their hands, that your Majesty, in this action, would manifest your earnest care to maintain that liberty which the kirk of Christ within this country, for the comfort of his saints, has with so great blessing enjoyed, since the Gospel was first revealed in this land, wherethrough the godly may be comforted, the adversaries frustrated of their expectation, and your Majesty truly honoured in honouring the Lord Jesus.