SECEDERS, the name given to a numerous and highly respectable body of Presbyterians who have seceded or withdrawn themselves from the Establish ed Church of Scotland. This secession took place in August, 1733, in consequence of a decision of the General Assembly, carried by the casting vote of the moderator, by which Mr. E. Erskine of Stirling, Mr. W. Wilson of Perth, Mr. A. Moncrieff of Abernethy, and Mr. J. Fisher, minister of Kinclaven, were ex pelled from the Church of Scotland for the boldness with which they attempted to alter the law of patron age. The Assembly, which met in May, 1734, em powered the Synod of Perth and Stirling to receive the ejected ministers into communion with the church, and to restore them to their respective charges. This resolution, however, was accompanied with the ex press direction, that the synod should not take upon them to judge of the legality or formality of the former procedure of the church's judicatories in relation to the affair, or either approve or censure the same. Although this resolution was a complete triumph to the seceding clergy, yet they refused to return to the church courts on this ground; and they published their reasons for this refusal, and the conditions on which they were willing to return into the bosom of the church. Having created themselves into an ec clesiastical court, under the narrwiof the Associated Presbytery, they published what they called an Act, Declaration, and Testimony, to the doctrine, worship, government, and discipline of the Church of Scotland. They were now joined by other four of the brethren, and the Associated Presbytery consisted of eight cler gymen. As the congregation of these individuals had become very numerous, the General Assembly of 1738 ordered the eight ministers to be served with a libel, and to appear before the Assembly of 1739. They accordingly appeared as a constituted Presbytery, and having declined the Assembly's jurisdiction, they in stantly withdrew. The Assembly of 1740 deposed
them from the office of the ministry, hut they erected regular meeting houses, where they exercised their clerical functions till their death.
In 1745 the Seceders had become so numerous that they formed one Synod, consisting of three different Presbyteries. In 1747, however, a controversy arose among them respecting the legality of the burgess oath, in which burgesses professed ''the true religion presently professed within the realm, and authorised by the laws thereof." The presbytery, who asserted the lawfulness of the oath, were called Burghers, and those who condemned it .Hntiburgher Seceders; and under these names they formally separated into two distinct communions. This separation continued till within these few years, when an union took place, and the two classes of Seceders were reunited under the name of the United Associate Synod of the Secession Church, consisting, in 1827, of 19 presbyteries and 333 churches. About 50 congregations of the Bur gher Synod refused to enter into the union, and now form the Original Burgher Associate Synod; and 16 congregations of the Antiburghers likewise refused, and form the Constitutional Presbytery, or Original Antiburghers. These different bodies have each Pro fessors of Theology, by whom their students are in structed in theological literature.
The Relief Seceders, who separated from the Church of Scotland solely on the ground of church patronage, now consist of 84 congregations. They have now a Professor of Divinity of their own, their students having been till lately instructed by the Pro fessors of Theology in the Established Church. All the clergy of these different sects of Seceders are well educated and highly respectable individuals, and are in no respects inferior to the Established clergy, ei ther in theological or in secular learning. See our article SCOTLAND.