Imagini ale paginilor


able character.” There is no recognition given in his final statement of the intrinsic perfection of the Decalogue; or to employ the language of the Confession of Faith (chap. 19, sec. 2)—“This law after his fall continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness.” There is no resiling from the statements in the sermon—“They confound the moral law and the Decalogue as if these were identical. Now the Decalogue was the moral law as revealed to ancient Israel, and a very blessed boon it was—perfeot as far as it went, for there was neither error nor flaw in it. But though perfect in itself, as being without mistake, it certainly was not the fect law. That was reserved for Jesus to reveal.” I shall now conclude by offering some remarks on the third reason of the dissentients-_“III. Because, after this distinct repudiation of said errors, to exact any formal retractation of the statements of the sermons seems to the complainers at once unnecessary, unreasonable, and harsh.” Instead of repudiating the statements of the sermons, the only thing he has repudiated is the judgment which the Presbytery, and, amongst the rest, the dissentients, have pronounced regarding them. The only repudiation we find Mr Smith to make is where he says, “If I view it (the motion embodying the assumption that he disclaimed and rejected the views which the Presbytery held to be unscriptural and censurable) in the light of the report now given in, then, too, it would mean a great deal, but I should be able at once to decline adherence to it.” That report does nothing more but adduce passages from Scripture and the Confession of Faith in refutation of the erroneous teaching of the sermons; and by declaring that he does not adhere to the report, he must be understood as declaring that he holds by the statements in the sermons, notwithstanding the light which the committee endeavoured to throw upon them as being at variance with the Word of God and the Standards of the Church. challenge the dissentients to show a single instance in which Mr Smith repudiates his errors, and until they make this good, their third reason must be held to be groundless and nugatory. It is said by the dissentients that to enact any formal retractation of the statements of the sermons seems to the complainers at once, unnecessary, unreasonable, and harsh. Our friend Professor Douglas, in his remarks to-day, stated that we were requiring something that could not be defended that the Presbytery asked Mr Smith to retract after he had already stated once and again that he did not consider his views taught in the sermons as being contrary to the Confession of Faith. Professor Douglas said it would be calling upon Mr Smith in these circumstances to say that he was not an honest man, to ask him to retract what was in these sermons. I ask these gentlemen, Why did they form a part of the committee appointed by the Presbytery to deal with Mr Smith if such was their view? The object of that committee was to reason with Mr Smith-to ply him with our views on these matters, with a view to convince him where he was wrong; and I ask if there is anything, after you take that mode of dealing with bim, to make it dishonest for a man to say, I was in error, and I retract the error when I declared what I now see to be the opposite of truth? I say this is what makes an honest man, when he finds himself in the circumstances of having errors imputed to him which at first he did not see, but which he has been brought to see are such, after advising and taking counsel with others. (Applause.) I therefore consider that the imputation of doing something—as has been stated from


the bar—which is unreasonable and harsh, ought to fall to the ground, and ought to have no weight whatever with any individual in this Assembly. We are not yet, perhaps, done--at all events, I hope notwith friendly dealings with Mr Smith. I believe that Mr Sinith has always maintained very fraternal intercourse with every member of the Presbytery, and that all of us ever rejoice to hear of the prosperity of his congregation. I hope, therefore, that these friendly dealings are not finally closed; and I think the bringing the matter before the Assembly, and the hearing of such a deliverance as the merits deserve, will fortify the Presbytery or the committee in their dealings with their brother. It will come upon him with greater solemnity and force if we can urge upon him this consideration, that the Assembly has declared that he ought to be guided by the views of these essential truths which the Presbytery has endeavoured to set before him. But I will not further encroach upon your time. I have only, in conclusion, to say, that I trust the Assembly, after due consideration of these points which I have endeavoured, however inadequately, to bring under your attention, will be guided to a conclusion which shall accord with that of the Presbytery of Glasgow, and that it will be found not only, what, indeed, all in that Presbytery have already found, that these discourses contain opinions which are contrary to the Confession of Faith and to the Word of God, but that in the circumstances in which Mr Smith may be placed by that judgment, he may see it to be his duty to recognise that position, and to review again the grounds upon which his principles are based, and may, in this way, be led by the blessing of God to see the truth as set forth in the Standards ; and so as to enable us to certify that we have the fullest confidence, not only in his ability, but as the beloved pastor of a Free Church congregation of Glasgow, and as a faithful preacher of the truths of the gospel in a great city, where, as in all great cities, most diverse principles on these important questions unhappily exist, and where there are many who are ready to hail the declaration that the Decalogue and the law of God have been abrogated and annulled—that they may act upon the opinion that they can take as much of it as they think the New Testament sanctions, but may set aside other parts which they consider to be without authority, and unsuitable to their case. (Applause.)

Dr GIBSON said-I rise to address the Assembly in circumstances of very considerable difficulty, arising from the nature of the case and the complications which it has undergone in the course of our various proceedings, and also from the difficulty of addressing the House after baving already sat so long. I do not wish to insinuate-very much the reverse-that my friends have made their statements a bit too long, considering the very great importance of the case. Under these disadvantageous circumstances, I still find it my bounden duty to state my views. I shall perhaps best do so by making a brief preliminary statement, bringing out the real position of the case between the Presbytery and the dissentients. Then I shall take the liberty of analysing a little further—for Dr Forbes has already so far ably analysed them—the reasons of dissent and our answers. I believe that if the members of this Assembly had had time and opportunity to know this case as well as the members of the Presbytery, I could peril the whole case on our answers to reasons of dissent without more ado. I do not think the statement made by Dr Douglas is the least objectionable in the way of feeling, or in the way of dealing with his brethren; but I beg leave to say there is not very much required in the way of reply to it. I would just say of the two speeches, or the united speech, from the bar, that it contrasts very unfavourably with the able speech made by Dr Buchanan on the case, though Dr Buchanan's motion contrasts very strangely with his own speech. (Laughter.) Dr Forbes has dealt with it already, where it was alleged in the Court below that by our asking Mr Smith to re. tract, we were asking him to declare that he does not believe what he does believe. We never had such a notion ; but we think this, that if this applied to the statements in the sermons, then, of course, we cannot ask him to retract them; and if so, the Assembly knows what will be our duty in the case. Dr Douglas has stated, that on the 23d October, the members were exbausted when the Presbytery came to a certain decision. As has been remarked, they were not exhausted when the motion was made. Six written and read speeches were delivered in support of that motion, and only the speech of Dr Forbes, in proposing the report, and a speech made by myself, about one o'clock in the morning, were all that we had the power of delivering ; so that if parties were exhausted, they had at least time to read six long speeches-(a laugh) while the speaking on the other side was as I have stated—my own speech being altogether extempore. Again, it has been said that the third motion was withdrawn without leave of the seconder. That is so trivial as hardly to need reply. The seconder, being present, could bave objected if he liked, and it was withdrawn, as the minute expressly adds, on the authority of the Court. Then, all the members of Presbytery had over and over before that declared the doctrinal statements contrary to the Confession of Faith and the Word of God, and all the explanations unsatisfactory, and how they required to gather their wits to find out that again, I confess I am not able to say.

The validity of the argument that has been employed by Professor Douglas, then, is not very apparent. Then I would remind this House that it was not simply the Presbytery or a majority of them that felt it their duty to fall back on the sermons. Dr Buchanan states himself expressly in his speech on that occasion that they fell back upon the sermons, and that is exactly what we did. With regard to the expressions that have been used at the bar to-day, we have felt all along in this discussion great difficulty in regard to our seeming to bear more bardly upon Mr Smith than we would wish to do. We were much embarrassed in our argument by the desire to avoid the harshness we are charged with. Neither I nor any one on this side of the Presbytery at least would wish to say anything hard or harsh against Mr Smith. I made several, and have published four speeches, and not one hard word can be found in them. But then, Moderator, we must not forget that Mr Smith is a public teacher, entrusted with the solemn work of the ministry, to declare the words of eternal life, and to expound the law of God; and if people are to be perplexed with one statement and then with another, are not the Presbytery bound to take the matter up, and if they find Mr Smith to be wrong, to call upon him that his statements shall be retracted.

I need not spend time in dilating on the importance of this case to the interests of divine truth, and the character of this Church in this land. I shall not trust myself to make a comparison between it and any other matter that may come before this Assembly. The question raised by it is, whether this Church is to continue to hold the Old Testament to be, even to any extent, au authoritative rule of faith and manners per se, of itself, irrespective of any sanction from any other source; whether even the Ten Commandments per se, and in their entirety, be the perfect moral law of God, binding in every one of its precepts per se, and without sanction from the New Testament, be the perfect moral law of God, and of immutable obligation ; whether the New Testament itself, in so far as its statements of doctrine and rules of life are proved by quotations from the Old Testament, and declared by our Lord and His apostles, on the basis of Old Testament Scripture, to be of divine authority, can or are to be received on such grounds as of divine authority; or whether, merely as statements on the authority of the Old Testament, they are now of no force or authority whatever, in and of themselves, but “annulled,” “ abrogated,” “abolished,” without one single exception, as to the books, or their contents, the doctrines, the precepts, or anything else. In relation to the Old Testament, the question is not, be it observed, whether the books were originally inspired—that is not denied—but whether the whole books and all that they contain and enjoin-preceptive, ceremonial, and judicial—having received fulfilment, are removed out of the way. But though acknowledged to have been inspired of God, and true witnesses for certain great ends, but are now in their entirety, for any authoritative rules of faith and life, set aside, and the New Testament the alone, and only, and all-sufficient standard of doctrinal truth and moral duty.

Again, the question involved is not whether the Decalogue contains a summary of moral law, or whether "properly moral law” is of immutable obligation. No human being, understanding the meaning of words, so far as I know, has ever denied that. Neither is the question whether a “properly spiritual truth” expressed in the Old Testament is obligatory, but whether, because a doctrine or a precept revealed in the Old Testament, such as “ Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God is one Lord," and “Remember the Sabbath-day to keep it holy," is on that simple ground, as the revelation of the will of God, to be received and obeyed ; or whether they are now of no force or effect to bind and oblige, as we shall answer at the great day of account, unless re-declared and enjoined in the New Testament. On both these great points—viz., the authority of Old Testament Scripture and the obligation of the Ten Commandments as the perfect moral law of God—the Presbytery of Glasgow has twice over, at least, unanimously declared that Mr Smith, in the two sermons which at present are the sole subject matter of the Presbytery's judgment and condemnation, bas made statements which are “at variance," "conflict with," and are “contrary to” (for all these expressions have been used) the Confession of Faith and the Word of God, and that all Mr Smith's explanations were unsatisfactory. The case as between the Presbytery and the dissentients is not here to determine the heresy or non-heresy of the statements in these two sermons. If statements in conflict with the Confession of Faith and the Word of God be heresyand we have no other form of expressing it in our judicial procedurethen I know not the heresy you could otherwise characterise ; and our judgments on these points are unanimous. They are not now brought before you as between the parties at your bar. They are settled already. They are not brought before you by any party, or in any form for your judgment. They are res hactenus judicatæ. Ou all this the Presbytery Fere unanimous in their findings, and no dissent or complaint taken by any party whatever-nothing whatever, even in appearance, had emerged to disturb that state of things for which the motion of Dr Buchanan was made and seconded, and for the rejection of which, and not for the rejection of anything else, the Presbytery is brought to your bar by the dissentients. It is impossible to overthrow these facts. With what fairness Dr Buchanan has attached to his published speech a statement afterwards made by Mr Smith, and thus, whether intended or not, conveying the impression that somehow or other it had something to do with the speech and motion of Dr Buchanan, I shall not say. It had nothing whatever to do with it; and whatever may be its value—and I think it of very little for the purpose intended—it cannot be looked at without the grossest injustice, nay, palpable absurdity, in determining the relative value of the two motions made, seconded, and in a great measure discussed, before it was ever heard or dreamed of by the Presbytery; and which, even now, though it might have had some relevancy in relation to the third motion which was withdrawn by its supporters in favour of Dr Buchanan's amendment, in support of which alone the dissentients appear before you, has none now, and had no connection with the motion rejected by the Presbytery.

The case then is, to my mind, simple and clear, and limited to this Whether the motion approving of the report recommending the Presbytery to insist on the retractation of statements, unanimously decided to be contrary to the Confession of Faith and the Word of God, ought to be retracted, be the wrong judgment; or whether the motion of Dr Buchanan, agreeing, as he did, in the previous judgments, and in the perfect accuracy of the report, which he aided in drawing up, and differing only from the motion carried, in the single exception that his motion recommends to avoid certain “forms of expression," not certain heretical statements as he declared them to be, in the sermons, be the right one ; and Mr Smith be sent back to teach these doctrines if he see proper, and not even to take this hesitating advice ; and with all the pernicious doctrinal consequences asserted by Dr Buchanan, as well as others previously, resulting from such opinions, and plainly enough indicated in his various statements, though not now before you for judgment. This is the simple and obvious state of the case as between the Presbytery and the dissentients. By reversing the Presbytery's judgment you will affirm that Mr Smith and all others may teach the doctrines, if he be only cautious as to his “ forms of expression." All this will appear manifest when I come to analyse the reasons of dissent and the Presbytery's answers. Meantime, I must insist on this as the point to be determined, viz., whether Dr Buchanan's motion was the true and right motion, and the judgment of the Presbytery the wrong one. That can only be determined by what was before the Presbytery when the motions were made. That is the question as between the two motions. Their character could not be altered by what was not then before the Presbytery—by an ex post facto paper, most irregularly introduced. If it was known beforeband, either to Dr Buchanan or to his supporters, a deception, or at least unwarrantable concealment, was practised on the Presbytery. If it was not, it could not have determined his motion. And I must remark that it was in my view

« ÎnapoiContinuați »