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The Anecdotage of Glasgow
Meeting of the General Assembly of Glasgow, 1638


ONE of the most notable events in the history of Glasgow, and of Scotland generally, was the famous meeting of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, at Glasgow, in 1638. The sittings, which lasted from the 21st November to the :6th December inclusive, in all twenty-six diets, were held in the Catlhedral.

The Marquis of Hamilton, as Lord High Commissioner, the Lords of the Privy Council, nobles, barons, magistrates, ministers, and burgesses, crowded into the noble pile. "None had gowns, but many had doublets, swords, and daggers and the jostling, thrusting, and squeezing was such, that honest Baillie declares that if men had behaved in his house so rudely as they did in the House of God, he would have turned them downstairs."

The Assenihly consisted of 140 ministers, two professers not ministers, and ninety-eight ruling elders from prebyteries and burghs. Of these ruling elders, seventeen were noblemen, nine were knights, twenty-five were landed proprietors and forty-seven were burgesses - all men of some consideration. The Earl of Montrose sat for Ayre, the Earl of Lothian for Dalkeith, the Earl of Cassillis for Ayr, the Earl of Home for Chirnside. At one end of the church a chair of state was provided for the Royal Commissioner. Round him were arranged the members of the Privy Council, the Lord Treasurer, the Lord Privy Seal, Argyle, Mar, Moray, Glencairn, Lauderdale, Angus, Wigton, Perth, and others, their peers in pride and lineage.

Right opposite to the commissioner was placed a small table for the moderator and cleric. Along’ the centre ran a long table, at which sat the nobles and barons who were members of the court, among whom might be discerned Rothes, Wemyss, Balmerino, Lindsay, Yester, Eglinton, Loudon, and many others, whose sole word was still law for large districts of Scotland. The ministers stood or sat behind. A gallery was assigned to young noblemen who were not members of the house; and in a gallery loftier still was a crowd of persons of humbler degree, among whom many ladies might be seen. It must have been one of the noblest, strangest, and most interesting spectacles that Scotland has ever seen. On the second day the commissioner asked to be allowed to read a paper, which had been handed to him by the bishops, before the moderator was chosen; but he was instantly assailed by shouts of,—

"No reading! No reading!"

Speeches and clamour were followed by protests, and these were multiplied with such industry that Baillie declares everyone was weary of them, except the clerk, who with every protest received a golden crown. At length the ground was cleared, and Alexander Henderson, minister of Leuchars, was almost unanimously chosen moderator of this memorable Assembly, which closed its labours on the 20th December. There is a tradition, though not very well authenticated, that Henderson, before leaving the chair, pronounced the words,—

"We have now cast down the walls of Jericho; let him that rebuildeth them beware of the curse of Hiel the Bethelite."

A most important result of the meeting of the General Assembly in Glasgow was that at that time printing was first established in the city. Probably the first work printed in Glasgow is,—"The protestation of the Generall Assemblie of the Church of Scotland, and of the noblemen, barons, gentlemen, burrowes, ministers, and commons; subscribers of the covenant, lately renewed, made in the high kirk, and at the mercate crosse of Glasgow, the 28, and 29, of November, 1638. Printed at Glasgow by George Anderson, in the yeare of grace, 1638."


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