« ÎnapoiContinuați »
did think it dangerous, and he was not sure that it was quite a constitutional thing, to come to a decision at this time in such a way as might place a future General Assembly, and the Presbyteries and congregations of the Church, in such a position as they could not resile from what they bad done without the appearance, at least, of dishonour and unfairness. (Cries of “ No, no," applause, and “ Hear, hear.") Whether it were unconstitutional or not, he would just say, that it seemed to him unwise and inexpedieut to do this. No doubt there was a great deal of plausibility in asking them to say whether they were pleased with the proceedings under the first head of the programme. It was plausible, but it was delusive. (Hear, hear.) In the case of a bill passing through the House of Commons, in some instances, everything was carried if the preamble were carried ; in others they had to be discussed clause by clause; and he for one would ask that those engaged in this matter would just lay the whole draft of their bill in print before the members of the Assembly and the Church, so that they might see whether it was worth being rejected or carefully considered and studied clause by clause. (Cheers and biss.s.) The reverend baronet had very peremptorily demanded that they should say whether there is a bar to union-yes or no—but he de. nied the right of any one to insist on such a demand, and compel them to judge of the first point by itself before they had had time to judge how it affected various other points, and before they knew whether the matters had been sufficiently expiecated. He could not tell whether he might agree or not, until he knew how it would affect the Church in its relation to the historical Church of Scotland, as well as the great qnestion of education, and the support of the ministry. " It might facilitate the carrying other points in the committee," some were kind enough to say. That is a very nice way of putting it, but it might facilitate things too much. He did not besitate to say they might go on, point by point, making each point a very small thing as compared with all the others, and thus they might be urged on, and beguiled or morally coerced— he did not mean with any conscious unfairness—into a settlement of a kind that they were not prepared to contemplate. It was not said in the first motion that there was no insuperable bar, as tbey would mark; it was that there was no bar at all. (Hear, bear.) If they said this, they might find they were committing the Church to far more than many of them dreamt of. The argument would be used hereafter that if they had surmounted the mighty mountains, why could they not get over the little hills of finance and administration ? and thus they would find that point after point was sapped and their whole position carried. (Hear, hear.) These views he held without reference to the intrinsic worth of the statements of agreement and disagreement now under consideration ; but it appeared to bim that there was quite enough of jubilation over this finding on the first head of the programme. He confessed he did not see what mighty matter had been discovered. When they got unity of agreement as to the duty of the civil magistrate to " further the interests of the religion of the Lord Jesus Christ in every way consistent with its (the religion's) spirit and enactments," it might mean a great deal, or it might mean notbing at all. It had been maintained, and he dared say would be maintained again, that the only thing that was proper for the magistrate to do in consistency with the spirit and enactments of the Christian religion, was to let well alone---(hear, hear)--to see justice done between man and man, and to have no province at all in the matter of religion. His heart warmed to what Dr Rainy said as to the extinction of political Voluntaryism; and he granted there had been noble speaking on the part of Dr Harper and Dr Cairns as to the position of the magistrate. It was well known there had been a rise of sentiment and opinion among able and thoughtful Disseuters on this question. About ten years since, Dr Lindsay Alexander—an honoured name in this city-in bis life of Dr Wardlaw, combated the opinions of that able Voluntary, and maintained that the magistrate, as such, has to do with religion, that he is to learn his duty from the Bible, and that he is bound to provide for the moral and religious education of the community. Perhaps that is a little beyond what the United Presbyterian Church would admit even at this day. But if there be an upward progress to more just and noble conceptions of the rightful and desirable subjection of every seat of human power to the throne of Him who is King of kings, and Lord of lords; why, if such was the caso, should they be called upon to descend in opinion? What had happened to make them weary of their position? What had happened to make them unthankful to the God who had sustained them in the position? What had happened to make them doubtful of the success in their integrity of those grand principles which they had hitherto maintained ? No doubt they were accustomed to hear many alarming prophecies, but it seemed to him, as a man got older and older, that he thought more and more of the fulfilled and unfulfilled prophecies of God, and less and less of the unfulfilled prophecies of men. (Hear, and a laugh.) It was said to be quite futile to expect Church life or liberty except in total separation from the State. Indeed, as Sir Robert Peel was once said to have caught the Whigs bathing and run away with their clothes, so some Free Churchmen seemed to be picking up garments that the abler men in other Churches are actually throwing off; and talk, as if to the manner born, about State fetters, and the injustice involved in endowments. He confessed to a feeling of uneasiness under language that represents the whole ten years' conflict as convulsing the country for an impracticable object, and throws away a claim of right which was said to be founded in Scripture, and warranted by the constitution of the kingdom which is both ecclesiastical and civil. (Cheers.) Might they not well be reproached as a poor fickle people if they changed their course merely because, for the short space of four-and-twenty years, they had not practically realised what if once true and scriptural is so now, and will continue to be, though it should take a hundred years to prove it? (Hear, hear.) Why so rashly change their views of the desirableness and feasibility of a free national Church in a country so homogeneous as this, and sail array into space with the Dissenters of England and Scotland, who laugh all national Churches to scorn! Is this course unavoidable? He knew that many regarded it as inevitable, and the continual assertion that it is so brings to its support some amiable persons for whose strength of mind he had no great respect. Many thought we must drift in this direction. He did not like to be in a ship that drifts, and did not believe that the Lord so guides His Church into truth and duty. (Cheers.) Is this the patriotic course? Is it in the line of our history? Is it the rightful and worthy outcome of the Free Church of Scotland ? He said that it was not. (Hear, hear.) In regard to endowments, though he
perhaps did not go so far as Dr Begg, he denied that the question was a paltry oue, at all events it is no paltry or insignificant test of the magistrate's real position. He did not understand what the United Presbyterian committee meant by asserting that Christ's ordinance regarding the free-will offerings of His people excludes State aid for maintenance of the Church. Might not national offerings be given with free-will? But allowing the restriction of free-will offerings to the people of Christ in detail, why, and how does our mode of support exclude the other? Are not both best, provided the Church does not sell truth or liberty for gold? But that is a precaution that must apply to all gifts whatever. Two or three rich men may tyrannise over a congregation that allows itself to depend on their gifts far more than ever the State tyrannised because of its endowments. (Cheers.) Even though they should never touch another shilling of the money of the State, he held that they should pause before they told Government, that though the laws of nations may, the wealth of nations must not save the Church. Well for them to-day that John Knox was no Voluntary. If he had bid the Government and nobles of his day assign no Church property to the Reformed Kirk or to religious education, what sort of a Scotland should we have had ? He was not going to indulge in prognostics, but he thought it very possible that the whole relation of English, Irish, and Scottish Establishments to the national wants would soon come to be considered with a breadth and boldness hitherto unknown in recent parliamentary history. In that case, or even in the event of Establishments being overthrown, it would be deplorable that this Church had abandoned her peculiar position, and just because of that position her peculiarly valuable testimony. And at what a time is this course proposed ? At a time when political action is receiving an enlargement and stimulus, when power in the State is being conceded to the great bulk of their respectable heads of families or householders. Surely they should consider that the electors are the ultimate power in tbe State—not the civil magistrate—and their duty was not to relax but to intensify the hold of Christian principle, scriptural truth, and moral law over political action everywhere. (Hear, hear.) He did not consider that while they occupied different positions as visible Church institutions, they unchurched each other, or rent the body of Christ. And for his own part he disclaimed all prejudice, and had been, and would continue to be, ready to co-operate with the Church now in treaty with us, for the common good of the country, and the spread of the gospel abroad. In regard to the future, he would only say, that whatever rights Christ would have in the millennium this Church should maintain now, but they should be called to account at His appearing for trifling with any of His rights in order to gain a sectarian aggrandisement, or conniving at the non-subjection of social and national life to Him and His word. (Applause.)
Mr Balfour, W.S., amid loud cries of “Vote” and “Adjourn,” said he would not occupy the attention of the House many minutes, for he hoped they would come to a vote that night. (“No! no!” “ Vote, vote.") As hardly any elders had taken part in the discussion, and as he thought it was not a question that should be left to be decided alone by the voices of the ministers of the Church, he should crave leave to state his views very shortly. (Hear.) He would not go into any argument on the subject, but would state in a few words what his feelings were. He could not help saying that he had listened with deep regret to the discussion that had taken place on the question--deep regret and deep disappointment, because, disguise it as they would, the question on which they were about to divide was whether that union was to be abandoned for the present or not. (“ No, no,” and “ Hear.") Gentlemen had put it in their motions to reappoint the committee and renew the iustructions to it, but he put it to the common sense of the Hou-e if their speeches had been in support of the motion; or if the argument that had been used upon it had not turned on the question whether they had not found out that the United Presbyterian Church were such Voluntaries that they could not unite with them. (Hear, hear.) He asked if the speech of the rev. gentleman who had just preceded him had not been made wholly on that view. He thinks it a possible thing that there might be a National Establishment yet that he might have an opportunity of joining. He thought that there might he legislation on the question, and be wished to keep himself free for that. He looked at the political aspect of the times, and he thought they should continue in their present position, because of the changing aspects of political events. Did they think that he was in earnest in his desire for uvion ? ("Hear, bear,” and “Yes, yes.") They did not now want to go into union, as they had wanted to go into it three years ago. Then they appointed a committee because they desired union; because they thought that the committee might be able to say to them that they should find it possible to consummate a union. For two years that committee prosecuted their labours under that impression, and all went pretty smoothly, but by and by the opinion changed, and it was discovered that there were members of the committee who prosecuted their inquiries in the spirit of trying whether there were any way to prevent that union, and if there were not good reasons for not going on with it. (Hear, hear.) He reminded the House that it was about to divide on that question, and asked gentlemen to consider what position they were going to take up. No party wanted to carry the matter against a minority ; they wanted to carry the whole Church with them; and no one wanted to go into a union unless they carried them with them. He asked if they would take the responsibility of the minority, and stand between that Church and union with the Church they had been in communion with? They were now in very grave circumstances. They had the whole world looking at them at that moment for religious instruction, for religious guidance, and for help in divine things, and if they resolved rather to stand separate from each other, and continue in a position of rivalry, then they were throwing away opportunities that might never occur again in the history of the Church, and were undertaking a responsibility by their vote which should have an effect upon the history of the country, and which it was impossible for them to foresee. (Applause.)
Dr Gibson (amid loud cries of " Adjourn") moved the adjournment of the debate.
Dr CandLISH-Allow me, as convener of the business committee, to say that the arrangements for the remaining days of the week permit us to adjourn this discussion on two considerations-first, that we postpone the conference with the deputation of the English Presbyterian Church till Saturday, and I am glad to say these brethren have in the kindest manner, at great inconvenience, consented to this. (Applause.) The other consideration is, that the vote be taken before the adjournment at five o'clock. (Hear, bear.) Without these conditions it is absolutely impossible. (Cries of " Vote," and " Adjouru.")
Mr T. J. Boyd, elder, in seconding the motion for adjournment, said, that if the motions now on the table were put to the vote, and especially considering the strong expressions which had been used in the course of the discussion, the result would have a material effect in disturbing the peace of the Church. He was himself about to move the adjournment of the House, and to suggest that before they met to-morrow, the different parties who had proposed motions would have a private interview together, and arrange one motion that would be generally acceptable to the House. (Cries of " Oh," applause, and laughter.)
A member at the back of the hall moved that the debate should be continued until the House divided on the motions which had already been submitted; but the motion was not seconded.
Amid loud cries of " Adjourn,” and a few calls to “Proceed,” the motion was declared carried, and the Assembly accordingly adjourned.
FRIDAY, MAY 31.
The House net at ten o'clock.
Dr GIBSON (who had moved the adjournment the previous evening) resumed the debate. He said—Moderator, events have taken place, and announcements been made, among us which no one in this Assembly heard without deep feeling and emotion, though in one case the cause is partly removed. These things are fitted to solemuise our minds, and to teach us important lessons. The lesson most deeply impressed upon my mind, though I wish not to reflect on any other party, is that our time here below is short ; and that unless we can be convinced from the Word of God in relation to the question before us what is our duty, it certainly is not worth our while for any personal end to compromise what we believe to be truth and duty. I have not, sir, been in the babit of making any great professions of zeal for union. They are of little value at the best, and of less use, when men who are constantly talking of their charity and love, in spite of your professions, put you summarily down as its enemies. I have to say, however, what I said in our Synod when certain gentlemen chose to speak of me as an enemy to union, that I had spoken, and written, and entered on negotiations for union before they were out of the nursery, and such union was effected, but not by the desertion of my principles ; and I have often publicly said that if I saw an union effected on the ancient principles of Scottish Presbyterians, I would on that point die in peace. Had these principles not been departed from, our present union would not be to seek. But I do not much regard charges of bostility to union further than as they injuriously affect the truth. The parties who are most free in making them are not those who bave done much for the interests either of this Church or of divine truth.
Allusion has been made to the Voluntary controversy. I took a large share in that controversy, and when in the debate here in 1863 confes