PRESBYTERIANS. The first Presbyterian church in England was formed at Wandsworth in 1572 under the pastorate of John Field. It was part of the programme of the Puritan reformers to remodel the Church on Presbyterian lines. They insisted on the " parity of ministers," and held that the Episcopacy ought to be abolished. " Each single congregation was to be ruled by a minister and elders, forming a eonsistory; the minister was to be admitted to his ministry by a con ference, a wider assembly, which representatives of the different churches in the district were to attend " (M. W. Patterson). The minister was to be called and elected by a congregation, and the elders were to be associated with him in the government of his church. " In each congregation deacons, who were not an order of ministry, were to be chosen to look after the poor. A whole series of councils was arranged: representatives from each con gregation were to form the conference of a district; above the conferences were to be synods provincial, synods national, and ultimately synods international. Each of these was to be attended by representatives of the councils immediately subordinate. This presbyteral scheme of government was supposed to be enjoined by Scripture. The divine right of Presbyterianism was matched against the Anglican's divine right of Episco pacy." Through the zeal and energy of John Knox (1505 1572), and after the triumph of Protestantism in 1560, Presbyterianism was established in Scotland; and in 1567 Knox obtained confirmation of the Presbyterian reforma tion in the Scottish Parliament. When the Westminster Assembly met in 1643, a " Solemn League and Covenant" was taken, and in St. Margaret's Church was subscribed by the members of the House of Commons. " This bound the part of the nation under the control of Parliament to a new ecclesiastical system, which should exclude Popery, Prelacy, Superstition, Heresy and Schism; and which was to be similar to that of Presbyterian Scotland, and was to be imposed, as far as possible, on Roman Catholic Ireland. The Assembly then proceeded to
arrange the form of the new system. The draft was finished and sent up to the Parliament in July, 1645, and duly confirmed: but owing to disputes on the question of the independence of the Church, the carrying out of the scheme was delayed, and as a matter of fact it never came into full operation " (J. A. Houlder). By 1646, however, there were twelve presbyteries in London, and in 16-17 the First Provincial Synod met there. In 1649, when a Provincial Synod met at Preston, there were nine presbyteries in Lancashire. From the year 1694 the Presbyterians in England began to decrease in numbers, and to decline as a separate organisation. During the eighteenth century several secessions from the Church of Scotland took place. Thus some " United Societies " of Covenanters formed themselves into a " Reformed Presbyterian Church," independent of the State. In 1733 Ebenezer Erskine led a secession which formed the " Associate Presbytery" or the " Secession Kirk." A further secession in 1752 led to the establishment of the " Relief Church." These two bodies combined in the " United Presbyterian Church," in 1847. In 1843 a body called the " Evangelical Union " arose, which in 1896 was amalgamated with the " Congregational Union of Scotland." In 1843 David Welsh and Thomas Chalmers led another secession which resulted in the " Free Church of Scotland." Subsequently the Free Church united with the " Reformed Presbyterian Church." Attempts to unite the various sections of the Free Presbyterian Church were in course of time successful to this extent that at a meeting of the Synods of the Presbyterian and the United Presbyterian Churches at Liverpool in 1876 these two bodies agreed to constitute themselves the Presbyterian Church of England." This union resulted in constant and steady progress.