Letter from the Fifth Convention of the Society people to Alexander Gordon of Earlstoun in Leeuwarden, 12 October, 1682
Following a schism at the fourth convention in August, 1682, the Societies and a breakaway faction led by James Russell became involved in a struggle over the Societies’ mission to the United Provinces after Russell wrote to Alexander Gordon of Earlstoun, the man commissioned to carry out the mission.
After the Societies received a letter from Earlstoun, now lost, on 12 October, the last day of the fifth convention in Edinburgh, they resolved to send their clerk, James Renwick, to Earlstoun, who was then in Leeuwarden, to clear them of the charges that Russell had laid against them.
The loss of Earlstoun’s mission would have been a serious blow to the Societies hopes of ordaining ministers. By sending Renwick in person to Earlstoun they were clearly making a major effort to a lay Ealstoun’s suspicions. Renwick had taken a direct role in the dispute with Russell and was well placed to inform Ealrstoun as to the Societies view of the schism.
The use of the term ‘general convention’ in the letter, rather than ‘general meeting’, highlights how the Societies had taken on the power of a parliament in the period after the Lanark Declaration. The Societies would later deny that they had done so in An Informatory Vindication (1687).
The letter is as follows:
‘Much Honored Sir,
We, being met in a general convention, held at Edinburgh upon the 11 day of October, and continuing together until the 12 day thereof, while that all our acts (for this tyme) were enacted, and appointments concluded: so, after all this, we being ready to dismiss, your letter came unto our hands [about the claims James Russell and the Russellites had made against the Societies], which unto us was both grieving and astonishing: we, therefore, have found it to be (at this tyme) indispensablie our duty to concredit and send the bearer heirof, Mr James Renwick, who was present with us at all our conventions since we pairted with you [in April, 1682. I.e., Renwick, who was the clerk, was at the third, fourth and this, the fifth, conventions], and being (in some measure) soon (sound) in both the matter and manner of our proceedings in these conventions, referring you to our acta enacted at all our conventions, and to his information according thereunto: and requiring that ye would not give ear to the base calumnies and misinformations of any person or persons who labour (most falsely) to give us out as the authors of things directly contradictory to our acts, appoyntments, or resolutions; and also of things neither by word or wryt ever concluded by us or any of us; and that you may be the lesse suspicious of us, we do in the sight of God declare, that as to our dewty in this day, we are juste altogether standing where we were when ye were cloathed with our commissions [in April]. Testifying our adherancc to all dewties, and our separations from all the sins, yea and from all persons guilty of gross sins, which our faithful worthies, to witt Mr Donald Cargill [executed in 1681] and Mr Richard Cameron [killed in 1680], taught to be grounds of separations, according as the bearer heirof can and will testifie, and as his letters (if this be come to your hand) have testified; we likewise leiving you to his informations in severall particulars, yea all necessarie, which wee cannot now heir insert. In witnesse heirof (leiving you on the Lord) we have subscribed thir presents, with our hands at Edinburgh the twelve day of October,  eighty-two years.
George Hill, presses, [New Monkland parish, Lanarkshire]
Robert Goodwin, [Glasgow societies]
John Smith, [Glasgow societies]
Edward Aitken [Crawfordjohn parish, Lanarkshire]
James Edward, [Muirkirk parish, Ayrshire?]
J. Lining, [kin to Thomas Linning?]
Renwick had returned from his meeting with Earlstoun on 20 November, as he wote to Earlstoun from Rotterdam on that date.
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