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MINISTER OF KIRKPATRICK, DURHAM.
While you have, by the aid of an original and ingenious mind, illustrated and supported the Ecclesiastical Constitution of Scotland, I have followed the humbler path of collecting and arranging the Acts of our Venerable Assembly, in which that constitution consists. To you, therefore, I beg leave respectfully to dedicate the following work; and gladly embrace this opportunity of declaring my sentiments respecting you, as an independent politician, a minister, and a man.
That you may long continue an ornament to the church, and that your example may have a powerful influence on its various members, is the ardent wish of,
Your most obedient
And yery humble servant,
EDINBURGH, 38, Dublin Street, 22d May 1821.
The importance of an Abridgment of the Acts of the Supreme Ecclesiastical Judicature, must be generally acknowledged. The acts at large are not in every clergyman's possession ; several of the older enactments are thrown together in a loose and inaccurate manner; and, besides, the search through a mass of detached volumes, will often prove a long and unsuccessful labour. Hence arises the utility of a condensed methodical view of the laws relating to the church, with which every minister ought to be intimately acquainted, both in his individual and judicial capacity.
To remove the bar, and afford an easy access to ecclesiastical knowledge, the whole laws of the church have been collected and placed under various heads set down in alphabetical arrangement. Such a work was published by the author in 1801, the only one of the kind which has appeared since the days of Mr Dundas, procurator for the church, one hundred years ago. An anonymous book on the subject, however, was presented to the public in 1811; but, in truth, this was only a number of copies of the author's first edition of this work that had been disposed of to a bookseller, the publication of which had been delayed for some years, and a few immaterial additions made.
Since the publication of the edition of 1801, a lapse of twenty years, several material alterations have taken place, and many important laws been enacted, which have rendered that work extremely defective. In that edition too, the heads of the acts branched out into such a number, as tended to create confusion. But the present work has completely remedied this defect. The number of heads has been reduced one-third, and the arrangement is now rendered simple and accurate.
The standing and perpetual acts, are inserted in the precise words conceived by the church, and any thing deemed important in the letters, addresses, declarations, or other papers found amongst the printed acts, is recorded; in so much, that no case can occur, where an application to the acts at large will be necessary
Acts contained under the same head, often comprehend other subjects, than that which is the
par: ticular enactment; and the object of inquiry may be contained in one or more of them. The acts, therefore, under each head are numbered, and the inquirer guided by references to the particular act required. When an act has been ratified, repealed, or otherwise altered, a direction by the letters of the alphabet, is given at the foot of the page, to the place where it is to be found : there is a reference also at the foot of the page, by asterisks (*), from one head to another, where any additional informa. tion may be obtained. A very copious index is add.