The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 9
I Confess that the topics which ought to be disposed of tonight are so weighty and so many that I approach them with hesitation; and I cannot conceal from myself the probability that my lecture will be only too visibly overloaded and overlaid. If, then, the transitions prove sometimes abrupt, and the treatment insufficient, it is due simply to difficulties which I have not been able to overcome. I intimated that in to-night's lecture I would consider the views of the gospel and of Christianity in the light of which the history of our Scottish Churches is to be understood; without a reference to which, therefore, it cannot be estimated.
It appears to me that the life and power of our Scottish Churches have always been dependent on two closely connected conditions. One is their theology; that which they have taught for truth on the relations of the human soul to God, on the way of salvation, and the principles of the administration of grace.
This theology Dean Stanley describes as negative. According to one report, he applies that term to our Confession. If he did so, I shall only deny the propriety of the description. The Confession is negative just in so far as any document containing strong and careful affirmations is apt to be negative, by denying the contrary of what it affirms. This holds also of the Articles of the Church of England, and indeed of most documents that profess to distinguish truths to be confessed from errors that are to be dismissed or denied. But, at page 56 any rate, our theology, it is said, is negative. That is, we are mainly occupied in protesting against things which we do not hold. The Cameronian whom the Dean has found, who left his dying protest against nineteen heresies, besides the twentieth of Toleration, which he dwelt upon more at large, is produced probably as an extreme specimen. But we are to take it that this, though not always in such extremes, is the character of our theology. Probably there must be some foundation of truth in this. If we had leant at all to the other side, the Dean would have pointed out to us, perhaps, that we are not negative enough. Let us suppose, to save discussion, that on the whole, and at some times more especially, we have exceeded somewhat in keeping a very strict eye on what we were not to hold. In return for this concession, will the Dean concede that he is a little too negative on his side also? For we perceive that he disapproves of our theology; we are not to abide by that, but what he would recommend us to take in its room, or how he would have us remodel it we find it very difficult to discern.
But if the Dean believes that our Scottish theology has been only or mainly a thing of negations, he is extremely far out. In conceding, as I did just now, that possibly we have leant overstrongly at times to marking minutely what we did not hold, I conceded nothing of any great importance. The truth is no assertion, no positive faith is worth a farthing that does not contain in it virtual negations. Rash and presumptuous inferences, both positive and negative, have been drawn by theologians of all schools and in all ages; the mistake, in particular, of reasoning on an incomplete enumeration of alternatives, has multiplied needless and unjustifiable anathemas. For all that, unless a man will forbear to think, he must test his positives by negatives, and vice, versa; if he knows what he means, he must know what he does not mean. A man may affect a precision which God has given him no means of attain- page 57 ing. How far that has been the case is not to be settled off-hand by lecturers on either side. All that is really implied in the assertion, that we have occupied ourselves with negatives, so far as I concede it, is, first, that our people have been prone to think on theological subjects, and therefore to explicate their thinking both by yes and by no; and, secondly, that they have not been able to arrive at the theological perfection which enables men to hold both sides of theological questions. For some, upon any debated question, find the path of truth to lie in equally favouring both views; and thus they pass from the negative, which is an elementary stage, to that which may be called the ultra-positive, which is very near perfection. We have never got so far as this; however, we have been accustomed to count it no bad thing for a Church that its people should be disposed to think on the greatest of all subjects. Nor are we ashamed to maintain this, although we know that, the tendency existing, it appears at times in very unedifying forms; and that just as many a time a disreputable Englishman has turned out to a riot for Church and State, so many a time has a disreputable Scotsman debased religion by noisy argument for or against orthodoxy.
However, what I chiefly wish to say is this. Our Confession, or body of doctrine agreed upon by our ministers and office-bearers, touches certainly a good many points. But the theology on which our Churches live, the theology of our pulpits and our closets, is in reality simple, and grows obviously out of the Scriptures, if these are admitted to teach a few fundamental positions. It is in substance the theology of the Reformation; the Reformation doctrine of man's utterly fallen state; the Reformation doctrine of atonement and justification by faith;, the Reformation doctrine of regeneration, and of the indebtedness of every one who is saved to a sovereign mercy that is unspeakable; and the Reformation doctrine of the free gospel call addressed to every page 58 sinner; all this resting on the ancient catholic faith of the Trinity and the person of Christ. It may he said of it that it is wholly pivoted on two main positions, the conception of the fall, and the conception of the atonement—an intensely real fall, an intensely real redemption, God in Christ becoming known according to the relations implied in these two. Now, this working theology of our Churches, as I have said, is simple; but it is decided. The truths which compose it lose their meaning when faintly realised or dubiously fingered. They are indeed decisive truths, and many a conflict about them has arisen, and does arise, in earnest minds among us. But victory and emergence out of such a conflict consists in finding at last something to say aye to, implying something to say no to. And every one who intimately knows Scottish religion, the religion that is the life-spring of our Churches, knows how it lives in a positive faith realised according to the positive conditions supplied by these doctrines. These things, believed among us, are not negations. But they do, I confess, imply one great negation which thoroughly pervades our whole conceptions. They do imply that nature is not grace, and that grace is not nature. They do directly and peremptorily contradict a fashionable tendency of the time on that subject. How wonderfully grace may be adapted to nature—how wonderfully the one may, especially in some cases, be, as it were, hidden in the other—we are willing to learn. But the Scottish Churchman who has given up that distinction has to build up his beliefs again for himself, from a point not very far from the foundation. And the new structure will certainly not be the faith of the Scottish Churches.
I said that there were two conditions on which, as I think, the life and power of the Scottish Churches have always been dependent. I have described one; I proceed to the other. It is the common conception prevailing and cherished among us of what conversion is, what the divine life in the soul of man is.page 59
This is closely connected with what I last described; for the conception now referred to is congruous to the fundamental theology which we teach, and is explained and justified on that ground. Yet it deserves to be separately named and separately considered. First, because it carries us from the department of truth to that of devout attainment; secondly, because experience proves that, without conscious insincerity, men may maintain a high standard of doctrinal orthodoxy, in our form of it as well as in other forms, in whom the clement now referred to is not very operative, and even the conception of it is faint and uninfluential. So arises what we may call orthodox Moderatism. But the element now named is a great factor in our Scottish Church life; for immediate energy, for direct result, for inspiring force, at least as great a factor as that I named before. Existing as a common conception, it controls our Church life; it is both a motive power and a flywheel; it is that to which, consciously or unconsciously, other things are continually referred. It is both an influence which we feel and a result to which we tend.
Now, when I say all this, let me not be misunderstood. When we ascribe so much to it, let us not be thought to assume that all our people stand actually in this grace—we habitually warn them to take no such thing for granted—nor that all our elders, nor that all our ministers, are in the experience of it, however deplorable it be if they are not. All positive decisions about individuals we decline. Nor are we assuming that it exists among us in a superlative degree, or in a greater degree than among other Churches. We know it is far safer to suspect that we have less than to presume that we have more. We hope in God, indeed, that we have a measure of it among us. But I assert only that this common conception has generally held the convictions of our Churches as a certain reality; whether by some largely realised and experienced, or by some humbly aspired after, or by some felt page 60 as impending overhead, as it were, while they are conscious that it is not effectually sought or honestly dealt with. This conception, I repeat, dominates our Scottish Churches in so far as they represent genuine Scottish Churchmanship. As compared with some other Christians, it is not our manner to be ready to make large professions. We seldom express ourselves very freely as to individual state and prospects. On all points of feeling, indeed, we are perhaps too little ready to be frank. But while we may not be ready to say much as to what we have felt of this, innumerable voices among us will testify that they believe it, and, more than that, that they have seen it. We have seen it in many a life mastered and pervaded by the faith and consciousness of redemption; we have seen it in many a life manifestly moving under the influence of the realised relation to sin and to the Saviour, and growing into His likeness; so that the meaning of it is very well known among us, and the sense of it pervades our system. Presbyterianism, indeed, is so constructed that it never formulates ecclesiastical judgments about the existence or non-existence of this great element in individual cases. Its working is regulated so as to provide for the divine life arising only by degrees to conscious certainty and establishment. Presbyterianism acknowledges that seeds may be sown in the heart of childhood which manifest their unquestionable peculiarity only after years. Presbyterianism is prepared to work not only for immediate and manifest fruits, but also for gradual developments and long results. Nevertheless, the conception to which I refer is an ever-present and regulating consciousness. If there are those among us, as there are, of course, who have no regard to it or faith in it, they do not sway the Church's movements; generally they feel consciously disqualified from attempting to do so.
Nor let it he thought that this conception is a rigid iron thing, that sits like a fetter on the heart of the Church. It page 61 may be apprehended on various sides, with various degrees of fulness, with various estimates of the elements it contains. Of all who share in it, there are no two probably who represent it to themselves exactly in the same way. And yet morally it is one—one great type through all, capable of being approached on a thousand sides, but felt by each to be a unity, the ground of a common consciousness, whence proceed various forms of action, in which also the same unity is recognised.
Now, I will take an illustration of what I mean on this last point from a quotation made by Dean Stanley, but not on his part, as I am disposed to think, thoroughly understood. It is in his notice of Dr. Chalmers. The notice, I may say, is singularly fresh and hearty, worthy of the great old man it depicts, and most honourable to the Dean himself; but it closes with a sudden significant turn, which almost makes one smile, so adroitly does the Dean, if I understand him, seduce Dr. Chalmers to serve for a moment in the ranks of the Dean's own army. A sentence from Chalmers' private writings is made to suggest an inference; and then a conversation which occurred at Oxford between Dr. Chalmers and the Dean is represented as supporting that inference; the truth being that the inference in unfounded, and the conversation at Oxford has nothing to do with it whatever. "Oh that He possessed me with a sense of His holiness and love, as once He possessed me with a sense of His power and His all-pervading agency"—that is the sentence; and the inference is that he looked back to those earlier days, and spoke of them with a regretful feeling—those being "days in which he lived in the great ideas which are at the foundation of all religion." And the conversation at Oxford, being so catholic in its tone, is held further to justify the impression that a certain regress from his last days to his first ought to be recognised, a relenting of middle-life intensities, which brought the end not to the same note perhaps, but to the same key with the beginning.page 62
This is a sheer delusion. There was not a day in Dr. Chalmers' life, from one end to the other, nor a principle ever held by him, that would have hindered his expressing his interest in Oxford, and his admiration of it, and of whatever is great in the Church or literature of England, in the very same terms. It was a habitual feeling with him, and pervaded his life. As to the sentence quoted, I marvel that one who has read the literature of so many Christian schools as the Dean could so mistake it. The clays referred to were referred to just because in Dr. Chalmers' belief they were the days before the awaking of the true religious life. In those days, in Dr. Chalmers' case, as in many another, a glow of earnest sentiment and high enthusiasm gathered around the great ideas of the Divine power and omnipresence. They were true thoughts, and worthy to be realised with such a glow of feeling; and this perception of truth he ascribed to the Author of all good gifts. But it was his deliberate and most assured judgment that this kind of religion, in his own case, was the religion of one who had not returned to God, who had not bowed to God's will, who had never realised his own relation to God, who was not at peace with God. It was his deliberate judgment that this religion had not made him a man of God, and that by and by it proved every way a failure. And that completeness of delighted sentiment, that thorough entrancement in the great thought he spoke of, was possible, just because the feeling never touched the real question between God and him, never revealed to him his true self nor the true God. A change came. The great question of sin arose in its simple reality, the question of salvation. The revelation came of a Saviour, of an atonement, of grace, of the divine, omnipotent love that saves the lost, of holiness that thrilled his heart with a sorrow and a longing he had never known before. Thenceforth he lived in a new world—a far greater world, a far intenser. As the narrow material heavens page 63 of the old astronomers have broken up and widened, to our eyes, to infinite depths that our souls ache to fathom, so his moral and spiritual horizons fell back every way. But while it opened for him a far truer, deeper peace, that new world was in one sense less peaceful than the former; for him, as for each man who experiences such a history, it became a scene of conflict—hopeful, trustful, joyful conflict, yet stern, and often weary. Ah, to have the whole soul brought to final harmony with the hopes and longings that this new world inspired, with the new apprehension of what God is, Christ is!—that was so great a thing, and a thing so withstood by the strange rebellious principle within, that the heart strove and yearned with sorrowful and contrite longings. To be so attuned to the meaning, and possessed by the power of holiness and of love, the pitying love that bends over sinners, as once he had been with impressions of magnificent and unwearied power! But the latter, how possible, how unresisted, how easily, in those early days, it could touch a mind like his; the former, how hard and high, how all but impossible, the continued experience of life through death. "Oh that He possessed me with a sense of His holiness and His love, as once He possessed me with a sense of His power and all-pervading agency." "I was alive without the law once, but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died." "Nevertheless, I live, and the life I live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me." The words reveal a thought which he did much to restore among us to its old power; a conception the failure of which falls always like a blight on our Churches.
Now, I am not saying that either of the two conditions I speak of are peculiar to us, although each is somewhat distinctly different from the conditions which fill a corresponding place in a large section of the Church of England. What I say is, that they are so vital to our history that their vigour page 64 or decay is among the first things to be noted in the study of it*
* An amusing illustration of what we in Scotland historically ought to be comes to my knowledge as I correct these sheets. A Hungarian student, wishing to study Technology in the University of Edinburgh, writes for information. He does not know much about our institutions, but in order to be sure of his letter arriving at that which represents the main stream of our national life and development, he draws from the depths of his historical consciousness the following address:—"An die Calvinisch-Reformirte Puritanische Universitäts Buchhändlung in Edinburg:"—i. e., To the Calvinistic Reformed Puritanical University Library, Edinburgh.
Let us take, however, what we can get. The views which pervade the lectures come out, as I have said, most distinctly in Dr. Stanley's exhibition of the Moderate party in the Church of Scotland. You are aware that he dwells on this element of our history with peculiar predilection. Heralded by one or two bright precursors, bright morning stars that rose before the day, the embodied tendency begins to make itself seriously and permanently felt at the close of the seventeenth century. It is introduced as the representative of "one of the most indispensable of Christian duties," as recommended by the Apostle Paul. In depicting the reign of the party, whatever can be claimed for them as a virtue or a praise is brought out in the brightest relief. And the closing counsels with which the lectures were wound up were manifestly determined by the position that Moderatism, on the whole, and making some deductions for the imperfections of every mixed party or institution, had set the true model, had erected the safest guiding lights for Scottish Christianity.
Now, in asking your attention to the topic thus raised—which I will treat simply as a topic of last century, disclaiming all covert allusions to parties whom I do not name—I am under an obvious disadvantage. Most people here will probably not be persuaded that the question is worth discussing. What is the use, they will say, of any man coming down here to praise up the religious services rendered to Scotland by the Moderates? page 66 Or, if any one does, what can it profit to give him an answer? They tell a story of Frederick the Great of Prussia, that on one occasion Sulzer (I think), an earnest educationist, possessed with the then current notions of the natural goodness of man, was speaking to the King of his educational plans. The King listened and conversed with great interest, until Sulzer began to enlarge to him upon the goodness of human nature and the perfectibility of mankind. Quoth the King—"Ah, my dear Sulzer, stop now, don't tell me that; I know the confounded race too well!" We know the Moderates too well; Highlands and Lowlands know them. No flowing periods, and no selected anecdotes, and no clever personages depicted at their best, will ever persuade us that we don't know the Moderates. Notwithstanding, ladies and gentlemen, I believe it will be very instructive for us to look for a little at what the Dean has thus called us to re-examine.
But before entering on this task I really must refer to one or two of the names which the Dean has claimed as precursors of Moderatism in the early and middle part of the seventeenth century. And, first of all, Robert Douglas is made to do duty, on no better ground apparently than that he seems to the Dean to have been a man of commanding character, good sense, and statesmanlike qualities: therefore he was a Moderate. Here the ratio decidendi bears very hard on all but Moderates. But I must say that the conclusion arrived at is very hard usage of poor Robert Douglas himself. He was associated with the Resolutioners, certainly, when our Church was divided into Resolutioners and Protesters, each accusing the other of unfaithfulness to the Covenant; and it fell to his lot to be deceived and outwitted by Sharp in 1660. But neither of these facts, nor both, will prove him a Moderate. How could a man be a Moderate who was thoroughly evangelical in his teaching, who was a jus divinum Presbyterian, looking on Presbytery as the Lord's ordinance and Prelacy as page 67 man's invention, and who contended zealously for a settlement on pure Covenanting principles. Really, when I find Robert Douglas declaring of Prelacy, in terms which are surely rather strong, that "the Lord will pluck up that stinking weed," I think the Dean would have made out a fully better case if he had described him as a highflyer, and as one of those fighting Scotsmen whose zeal so far outran their discretion.
But then we have Leighton. Leighton notoriously cared nothing for the questions debated between Presbyterian and Prelatist. If that will make him out a Moderate, the case is proved. But though Leighton attached only a moderate degree of importance to one question debated in his own time, it is mere trifling to assume, on that ground, that he is to be ascribed to the party called Moderate in a succeeding age, or that he had any sympathy with their prevailing and characteristic tendencies. Would God they had manifested some sympathy with his! Many Scotsmen have thought Leighton's ecclesiastical course a mistake, and thought also that he found it so; and for a time, not unnaturally, a man associated by office with the system of the Restoration was regarded with distrust, and spoken of in terms of some depreciation. But the day is very long gone by since any of us have doubted the integrity of his intentions or the holiness of his character. And I suspect it could be shown that those who did most to bring Leighton's works into the repute they have long maintained were Scottish Presbyterians and English Nonconformists. Leighton's character and writings have been habitually cherished by those in Scotland who are most averse to Moderatism, and who recognise in him the very spirit which Moderatism lacked. Among my own very earliest recollections are those of an aged lady, very dear to me, whose life was one continual strain of overflowing piety—a long pilgrimage of faith rising at last into an unbroken Beulah of praise and prayer. It was piety nursed under the purest Scottish and Presbyterian influences. page 68 But my impressions of Leighton were formed first by the delight I used to see her take in perusing and reperusing "that blessed Exposition." What would she have said had she been told that Leighton was a Moderate?
Carstairs, too, is claimed, with more apparent plausibility. The truth is, Carstairs united in himself the possibilities, so to say, of both the parties who afterwards divided the Church of Scotland. He had sympathies that associated him with both, but his peculiar career distinguished him from both. He was one of those men, formed in times of revolution, who acquire a dexterous adaptiveness of character, and become expert in estimating the precise possibilities and flexibilities of every form of principle, even those professed by the most opposite parties. When such men are personally unprincipled, they become the most thorough and successful intriguers. When, on the contrary, they are men who do adhere to principles which they value, and are not aiming at selfish ends, their peculiar talent appears in effecting adjustments in the most difficult circumstances, by which principles are saved, as it were, by a hairbreadth, or appear perhaps with the loss of a part of their skirts. Carstairs joined this politic bent and adaptive skill to dispositions which led him to do what he thought his best for Presbyterianism. He is not so unlike the Moderates—not so removed from Dr. Stanley's own position as are most of our greater Presbyterian names previous to the eighteenth century. It is unreasonable to class him as a Moderate; but it may well be maintained that measures in which he took part preluded and prepared the actual development and ascendancy of the Moderate party.
But I must hasten on to look at the Dean's account of the Moderates themselves. Postponing the question as to the true genius and bent of the party, let us look for a minute at the account the Dean has given us of those properly religious attainments which may be claimed for the page 69 Moderate period of the Scottish Church. He was sensible, apparently, that one is apt to look for something Christian, nay, even something distinctly and emphatically Christian, in the fruits of a tendency which is to be accepted as the type which ought to prevail in a Christian Church. He has furnished us therefore with a list; singularly scanty it is. And yet, scanty as it is, almost everything in it rests on a transparent misconception. Dr. Stanley thinks he may select anything that pertains to the Revolution Church of Scotland, any person or thing that remained within it, and constitute it, if it suits his purpose, into a representative or specimen of our Moderate period. What was outside of the Church, or went outside of it, is to stand alone on the one side, and be contrasted with any persons or phenomena found within it on the other side. This, of course, is thoroughly confusing and misleading. Inside the Church, and standing on its constitution and traditions, there was a party the very life of which was opposition to Moderatism. The persistent disregard of this produces the strangest travesties of the history. Besides, the ascendancy of the Moderate party, revealing its genius and applying its principles, did not begin till the eighteenth century had advanced some way. But the Dean takes all together from the Revolution in 1688. In this way Thomas Boston himself must be made to figure as a representative man of the Moderate period.
The Dean's case is of this kind. He tries to show, in some instances, that in the Moderate party a basis of liberal sentiment, of wide and generous tolerance, proved to be not inconsistent on fitting occasion with some devout aspiration and attainment, and with some measure of religious zeal. It was consistent with zeal for the extension of the gospel in the Highlands, and it was consistent with some earnest religious awakenings, and with cordial recognition of earnest religious labourers.page 70
Now, in the first place, I doubt the tolerance itself. I doubt it not in the case of the Scottish Moderates only, but I doubt it in the case of the whole class to which they belong. The personal amiability of some of them is unquestionable. But on the part of men of this class there is apt to be a very ostentatious tolerance towards many forms of opinion, combined with a fixed dislike of certain manifestations of positive religious faith. This dislike, when the class gains the upper hand, has often shown itself in a resolute purpose to keep down what they dislike. The Dean has admitted that the principles of Mackenzie—"the bluidy Mackenzie" —were strictly akin to those of the Moderate party: of his feelings the less we say the better. Certainly Mackenzie's practice is full to the point as an illustration of the remarks I am now making. But the same thing appeared in the conduct of the party itself. A hard disregard of the feelings of conscientious men, and a pleasure in breaking them to the yoke, if possible, characterised the party throughout. It appeared in their mode of dealing with the first Seceders, it appeared in their dealings with Gillespie, it appeared in the repressive system which they carried through, at the cost of alienating the hearts of the very flower of the Scottish people.
Here I may remark that the Dean, viewing as he is pleased to do—I make no assumptions on the subject—the existing Established Church as the successors and representatives of Moderate excellency, panegyrises the liberality they have shown in opening their pulpits to divines of the Church of England. "It has in these latter days set," he says, "a noble example of liberality to all the Churches, by its readiness in welcoming within its churches the ministrations of prelates and prelatists, no less than of its own seceding members." Surely the Dean cannot be aware how drolly this sounds in Scottish ears. The Established Church has not set the example, but followed the example. In 1799, in the days of Moderate page 71 supremacy, an Act was passed prohibiting all ministers to employ in any service any one not qualified according to the laws of the Church to accept a presentation to a pastoral charge. That Act was rescinded in 1842, when the evangelical party was in the ascendancy, and ministers were left, as of old, to employ the services of brethren of other Churches. After the Disruption the state of things in the Establisment was restored which had existed from 1799 to 1842; and it is only recently that it has been relaxed again, so as to allow the Established Church minister the same right which U.P. and Free Church ministers possessed by the common law of their Churches, recognising the orders of the sister Churches of the Reformation, while in the Free Church this right was granted by an express statutory permission in addition. It is nothing strange in our Churches that men episcopally ordained, and having the confidence of the pastor, should occasionally minister in them. It seems, however, to be a very arduous operation to undertake it. All England cried out with amazement at the magnanimous effort recently made by two prelates in this direction. They seemed to suppose that the effort to receive them must, on the Scottish side, be equally overwhelming. There is a mistake here. We are always glad to receive ministers of other Churches who are good gospel preachers, provided they do it in a straightforward way, and don't talk nonsense afterwards about "mission services."
But to return to the Moderates. With their tolerance, be it more or less, they combined some religious activity, be it more or less. And first, the Dean tells us, some zeal was shown in setting up ordinances in the Highlands, in the remoter districts of the Highlands.
I know that from a period very soon after the Revolution particular attention was directed by the Assembly to the settlement of ordinances and of education in the Highlands, and that the Royal bounty, granted early in the eighteenth century, page 72 became a means of regularly prosecuting that work. But I do not know that any particular credit is due on this account to the Moderate element in the Church; neither do I know that as that party attained to dominion any increased zeal on the subject appeared. Precisely the reverse, as far as I am aware or can form a judgment. But I do also know that, more than a hundred years before, hopeful measures were set on foot for overtaking the wants of the Highlands, which were interrupted by the oppressions then inaugurated by the Crown. I do know that the only men who laid a strong hand on the Highlands for good were men who were emphatically not Moderates. I do know that the people in the Highlands, speaking generally, never gave their confidence in these matters to any men who were Moderates. I know, indeed, that in the Highlands, more than anywhere else, earnest practical religion and Moderatism were currently and commonly set against one another by the people as natural and born contraries. In my grandfather's own parish, after his death, they used to hold meetings for many years in the open air rather than attend the ministry of a Moderate, while yet they adhered to the Church of Scotland and waited for better times. That happened "under the reign of the Moderates;" but I can assure all whom it may concern that nothing would have been esteemed a bitterer insult by those honest men than to be told that in adhering to the Church they were adhering to the reign of Moderatism, and illustrating the fine fruits of faith and a good conscience which Moderatism was able to produce.
But "under the reign of the Moderates" there were other signs of life in the Church. Yes, for under the reign of Moderatism there was a number of ministers, and a great number of people, who believed themselves to stand on the genuine constitution of their Church, and its doctrine, in opposing the Moderates. I don't say that no one who voted on the Moderate side, especially in the first half of the century, showed page 73 an interest in the religious movements alluded to by Dr. Stanley; but I say, without fear of contradiction, that all these movements were formed, promoted, and advanced by those who opposed Moderatism, and were by the Moderates habitually discountenanced and disliked.
Dr. Stanley has referred to the case of Whitefield: he was taken up by the Establishment, and decried by the Secession. There is no doubt of it. But the circumstances should be understood. Whitefield proposed to come down, as the Seceders understood, prepared to negotiate terms on which they might co-operate. Some negotiation was needed, for the Seceders, as I mentioned in a former lecture, had entangled themselves in a form of testimony which embarrassed their own action in an unusual case like this. Ultimately, Whitefield declined to enter on any special terms with them; and he held himself free, besides, to preach for all who would take him as he was. The Seceders felt it trying, for reasons easily assigned. They were in the very fire and glow of their Secession, for it was a year or two after the Act that had finally cut them off. Their ecclesiastical programme, with all its views of existing facts and parties, was still bran-new, and had to be maintained to their people and to all the world. They were conscious, and honestly conscious, that zeal for evangelical truth was the moving spring of their own action, and was the occasion at least of a great part of the opposition they experienced. They believed and maintained that the cause of evangelical truth was to be supported by doing what they had done, by leaving the Established Church; and it concerned them much, as they believed, to maintain that impression in the minds of their own people. Further, they were still a very small body, and subject to the influences which affect such bodies. The arrival of Whitefield, with his great reputation, to confound all the dividing lines, to be a kind of incarnate defiance of testimonies, and to exhibit the cause of evangelical truth as perfectly dissociated from existing divisions, page 74 was of course a trial. It became a temptation, and I do certainly think that the Seceders did not at the time deal successfully or magnanimously with the temptation. But I think it was a much greater and more tempting temptation than is commonly supposed. And hence, though ultimately they got the better of it, and Ralph Erskine and Whitefield were reconciled, which should be noticed when the story is told, in the meantime they elected to stand out against Whitefield and all his proceedings with such weapons as the case admitted. The same temper, arising very much from the same temptations, appeared in the severity of the language they employed regarding the Cambuslang work and similar movements. But was all this a quarrel between the Seceders and the Moderates? Why, the very bitterness of it arose from this, that it was a quarrel between those who shared the same principles and were conscious, both of them, of being opposed to the Moderates. The Seceders would have opposed the Moderates with a great deal of equanimity, and disposed of them, too, without much trouble. But the very jet of the quarrel lay here, that men who, as they thought, ought to have been Seceders, ought to have joined them in maintaining "the Lord's cause among their hands," persisted in standing on the constitution of the Scottish Church as still intact; they persisted in maintaining that that was the right way to maintain the Lord's cause against the Moderates. It was the existence of this influence (as the Seceders thought, a misleading and confusing influence, essentially treacherous indeed to the true issue) which irritated and vexed them. And for a time it disposed them to disbelieve in the possibility of any extensive good being done by their old friends. But both parties were quite conscious that this was the true state of the case, and they reasoned with one another on that footing.
The Seceders, at first few in number, but rapidly increasing as the century advanced, maintained in Scotland the same page 75 cause with those within the Established Church who were commonly called Evangelical. The Seceders carried it on with more expansive force, and with more rapid and palpable results, because they were not hampered by the trammels to which their allies within the Church were subjected. To them we owe it that in many a parish, where but for them evangelical religion would have died out, a vigorous Christian life arose and spread abroad. Those who joined them adopted their Testimony, in its different successive forms; there was little to hinder their doing so; it was but a version of the good old cause. But what drew the people to them, and multiplied their congregations with such rapidity, was not the mere series of points on which they stated their division; it was not even the protest against patronage, though that went home to the Scottish heart. It was the authentic declaration of the gospel, preached broadly and directly, and felt to be the power of God unto salvation. The right which the United Presbyterians have to claim their part in the representation of the Scottish Church goes deeper far than the assertion of a few ecclesiastical points and traditions. They stood for Truth and Life in days when the battle went sore against both. And as long as Truth and Life are maintained in Scotland, it will not be forgotten that a great share of the honour of having carried them safe through some of our darkest days was given by God to the Seceders. Why, then, the Dean may ask, did they make so much of the assertion of points of Church duty? Because, we answer, Truth and Life never gain the upper hand in any of the Churches without awakening a resolute conscience regarding Church duties as well as other duties.
But now, how are we to represent this Moderatism? What was it. I will say what I think of it. In doing so I cannot offer to you the artistic touches which never fail in any of the Dean's sketches. But I feel very confident that mine is the truer reading.page 76
The rise of a party, not disposed to feel strongly on the points which Scottish Churchmanship has usually put forward, is often traced to certain elements which found a place in the Church at and shortly after the Revolution Settlement—viz., the ministers who had previously accepted the indulgence (though these, I think, are rather hardly used by some of our historians), and still more, the "curates" —those who, having held cures under the Episcopacy, came in and submitted to the Presbyterian regime. Then, since many of the curates were not very good to begin with, and since, presumably, it was not the best of them who were so ready to conform, and since the very process itself must have been rather damaging and demoralising in the case of those who had previously professed high Episcopalian principles, it can be explained that this party was not merely cold in reference to the principles of their Church, but also at the same time low in tone, morally and spiritually. This explanation is obviously grounded in facts and reason. There were such classes of men, and the statement correctly describes the influence which their history and circumstances might be expected to exert upon them. Materials of this kind, reproducing themselves from generation to generation, unquestionably existed. Such materials formed an element in the Moderate party which bulked largely in the rank and file, and communicated to the whole party much of the temper and the temperature which afterwards distinguished it. Such materials also lay ready to the hands of all who were inclined to work the Church to State ends or to private interests.
At the same time, I am not content to rest in this account of the Moderate party as sufficient. Another source of influence must be considered in order to account for the impulse which gave momentum to the leading minds, and reacted from them on their party and on the whole Church. No remote processes of inference are needed in order to exhibit what it was and how it wrought.page 77
Placed in circumstances of great disadvantage by the commotions of the past, the Scottish Church (and the same was true of the country generally) had lost ground. Culture, development of literature, development of taste, deliberate adaptation of means to ends, had been wofully checked and marred. The peaceful processes by which those who teach and those who learn find out one another's meaning, the processes by which mind, in each generation, is laid under contribution for new and various services, had been sadly interrupted. One of the matters often mentioned in this connection, and which may serve for an instance, is the style of preaching. A man who preached as he could and when he could, in a house or on a hillside, was not likely to take much care of his style. And the habit of the pulpit had retained, in point of fact, much of the old dialect, and much of the old way of dividing and arranging topics; it did so at a time when in general literature the most rapid improvement was taking place in these very particulars—an improvement which that age was rather disposed to overvalue. That is only one instance. After the settlement of affairs, when the prospect of quiet times seemed to be confirmed, men turned eagerly to recover the lost ground, and to place themselves as soon as possible on the level of their age.
Men of all tendencies in the Scottish Church set about this work. They did so with increasing eagerness, as they became more fully aware how much leeway they had to make up. Now their enterprise fell at a remarkable time in the mental history of Europe. It was one of those times when new impulses set in, moving men strongly into new paths, or when impulses generated before begin strongly to affect the general mind. Philosophy, politics, science, education, all felt the breath of a change beginning or proceeding—a change not of doctrine only, but of method, and in all departments men believed themselves coming into clearer light and on more page 78 solid ground. The experimental, the humanly practical and reliable, that was to be the guide now. As to religion, the movement was partly in religion, partly from it. I say partly from it; for men said—"Let us be done with these discussions; let us cultivate manners, letters, material interests; good sense and good taste will furnish us with all the religious views we need, and will breed a milder temper than the old dogmatism did." Partly in it; and the tendency was to rationalise all doctrines, and lower the peculiarities of the Christian system, to Socinianise, in short. Such seemed to be the spirit of the age, of its foremost and choicest men. A specific influence more or less connected with these tendencies came across the Border. The preaching most in repute there was of the school of Tillotson. That amiable and high-minded man was the head of a school which eminently studied to speak to the age. For that purpose it inclined to reason with men on their own principles, and to be sparing in the assertion of things that might be controverted. It strove to speak in a tone undeniably sensible and practical, laying the stress on the moral elements in Christianity, on Christian virtue and its advantages. This was the new, the cultivated, the reflective style of preaching, this the fresh working of Christian thought, this the defensible mode of Christianity.
In all such times there is a kind of enchantment in the air. The new way of it advances with such an imposing mien, with such ample hopes, especially with such promise of fresh life or new reality, that people are gained at once. To resist the mental fascination is too painful. The eighteenth century indeed was not to turn out in the long run to be a very great affair, for reasons which are well known, and which I must not stay to describe. Still it had its own real gains and acquisitions to offer; and it had its own attractions at the outset. Those attractions were not connected with any views page 79 towards the supernatural or the celestial, towards lofty speculation or high enthusiasm. Quite the other way.
This was the age. We rather look down upon it now, but it did by no means look down upon itself, and we must grant it to have been in point of fact the opening of a period of great advance in some particular directions. Such as it was—with its treasures and its hopes, its achievements, and its pursuits, its temptations and its benefits—the hopeful men of our Scottish Church were to throw themselves upon it and make the most of it.
I have said that men of various schools and tendencies did so; no doubt, with various degrees of wisdom, fidelity, piety, or the reverse. You cannot do much in the way of discriminating them at first. Gradually you see them settling into two tendencies. The first and larger party are composed of men, some of them most able and highly cultivated, others rather pretentious than able, whom the spirit of the age has mastered. I am describing a party, not every particular member of it. The spirit of the age is what they live in, believe in. The objects which it recommends, the benefits it proposes to confer, the methods on which it relies, have won them. These things have become with them first and uppermost—so real, so reliable, so resistless do they appear. These influences determine and mould the view they take of Christian religion, and the way in which they propose to regulate its administration. Confident many of them, most of them, that Christian religion is well capable of being victoriously defended, and that it is to be resolutely maintained, their views of it are still regulated and controlled rather by an extrinsic standard than by an intrinsic and native one. Opposed to them is a smaller party, always numbering among it men who are well abreast of the acquirements of their time, distinguished by maintaining views and principles which to the other side seem both antiquated and unenlightened. The former are the leaders and lights of the Moderate page 80 party, the latter of the Evangelical. The former—I still speak of a class, and do not apply the description to every member of it—have placed the second interest first, culture before truth and life, by a silent, subtle process, always maintaining that this is the best way to provide for the first interest itself. Among the latter survive those two conditions which I spoke of as the life-blood of Scottish Christianity. But they survive, maintained with difficulty, sometimes faintly, always under pressure.
The impulse to which I have ascribed the highest element in Moderatism, that which led it for a time, is an impulse, as you will observe, which does not so much bias men in theology, but rather biases them from, it. Nevertheless, a very distinct theological tone arises as the product of it. It is a tendency to assuage or to obscure doctrinal distinctions, to shun clear assertions, to reduce Christianity, as nearly as may be, to a form of natural religion touched with historic associations and warmed with the faint glow of an old but dying enthusiasm. And the reason is plain: life must be harmonised to some fundamental note or key. When it is to be harmonised to culture instead of to decisive Christian convictions, then the Christianity that is retained (reverently retained, I do not question) must be modified. It must be made to speak more softly, and to accommodate itself to the exigencies or suggestions of another interest. This, men then persuade themselves, is its best estate—the true, the finished, the meek, the perfect Christianity. The development of all this in the Church of Scotland may be marked by a series of stages. First, you have a generally latitudinarian tendency, with a disposition to dwell only slightly on what is peculiar to Christianity as a supernatural revelation. Still, a certain marked devoutness is retained, and a dignified Christian demeanour cultivated and cherished—the idea being entertained that a more true and perfect type of Christian teaching and life is thus presented. page 81 This style has its representatives in such men as Principal Leechman of Glasgow. In those who receive their training under such men an advance is discernible. This generation has practically embraced the idea that Christian teaching and influences, though they must be presumed to be important, are so mainly as they contribute to promote the social excellences which the age values; and so everything peculiar to Christianity figures as subordinate to those especial types of social and literary excellence. Such men were Carlyle, coarse and jovial, and Robertson himself, so able, refined, and literary. Partly contemporary with them, but rather following at a more advanced stage, are men who have become conscious that all this requires a scheme of teaching to sustain it very different from the Church's faith; and they are irritated by that consciousness. They writhe under the standards to which the Church is bound, which an earlier generation seemed not to care to question; so came the lapse into Socinianism in various parts of the Church. It is accounted for partly as the adoption of a theological system more congenial to the prevailing spirit of the men; partly, however, it is just the expression of revolt, in the form that happens to be suggested and to lie nearest; and so it was connected in the case of many with a revolt against a number of other things besides sound doctrine. It was in this stage and in this phase that Moderatism became most offensive, most earthly, most injurious to the best interests of the country.
Setting culture before truth and life, the secondary interest before the primary, Moderatism became inevitably the antagonist of our Scottish religious life. It opposed itself both to the theology, and to the conception of conversion and life towards God, which I dwelt on at the outset. The theology sank into insignificance, lost its meaning, and in many cases became hateful, though some of the party always adhered, even stringently, to its formal positions. The conception of conversion was still more speedily page 82 sunk in the notion of general improvement and moral culture. The change took place half-unconsciously; for men were hardly aware at first that in taking up the new ground they must move so decidedly off the old. But it took place, as I have said, inevitably, and also speedily. Thus by the road of a high enthusiasm and a zealous culture the upper sections of the Moderate party reached the same result which was reached in the lower sections by the road of mere earthliness, selfishness, and secularity. It is indeed a most striking thing to mark how instinctively the refined and cultivated members of the party made common cause with the basest against evangelical religion, as the natural enemy of both. The party included a large number of respectable, kindly, hospitable men, in addition to those literary luminaries whom the Dean enumerates. But he may be assured that the Church politics of the Moderates, had as they were, were only after all the index on the dial. The operative force lay deeper, and was every way pernicious. I do not forget, in saying this, that all parties are mixed. There were men among the Moderates of whom, individually, no one would wish to say an unkind word. And among their opponents, in the party called Evangelical, there were mere partisans, bad and hollow men, all the worse because they professed principles which did not regulate their lives. The whole Evangelical party indeed felt the chilling influence of the time, and were less high-hearted than they might have been. Yet with them remained, and among them were upheld, the true life and hope of the Church of Scotland. By them work was done through districts and parishes, greatly underestimated as to its amount and value by those who demand that the kingdom of God shall always come with observation.
The history of Moderatism, what it began with and what it ended in, the pretensions of its rise, and the undisguised baseness of its latter end, is a great historical commentary on the page 83 results, in Christian Churches, of setting the secondary interests in the primary place. It is, in one word, ruin. Let us face, let us understand, let us appropriate, let us sympathise with, let us advance the culture of the time, so far as we have power to do it. That is a great Christian duty belonging to the right fulfilment of the task of the Church, and it is fitted to prepare us, not only to do the Lord's work, but to learn for ourselves the Lord's providential lessons. But as Christians, as Churches, let us never forget that first—unconditionally, always first—we have truth to speak, whether men will hear or forbear, and wo have a type of life to fulfil, and be, whether men will approve or condemn.
Looking from this point of view, it is very easy indeed to understand the Dean's sympathy with Moderatism. For he also dreads this one thing, a religion that mars the harmony of life by refusing to adapt itself to the spirit of the age, and to ally itself with the widest variety of opinions and of tendencies. I do not allege that the Dean desires to obliterate from any mind those affirmations which constitute the Confession of Christ's Church, and of the Protestant Churches in particular. But then he is most anxious that, in whatever forms embodied, religious faith should own fellowship with the widest variety of human beliefs and of human impressions. It is for religion itself he fears, if it should commit itself to assert broadly the unconditional necessity of faith, and the peculiarity of grace, and of its fruits and working in this world. "Surely," he seems to say," the current will prove too strong, the effort to hold the ground will prove abortive, condemned by the result. Be wise in time! "Therefore everything, in every sphere of life, which can in any sense have ascribed to it moral worth, must be viewed as, pro tanto, true Christian religion. So, on the other side, Christian religion has its character best and most wisely fixed when it is mainly identified—not absolutely, but mainly—with those forms of page 84 social excellence and attainment which are independent of all doctrines, and are developed in a thousand different schools. Well, I say that in such a scheme the great Christian beliefs concerning incarnation, sin, and grace, even if they continue to be held, change their character. They cease and must cease to be what they were. Insignificant for the Church, they can no longer maintain their claim to be momentous for the individual. They subside into mere variable forms, equivalent and exchangeable—one statement nearly as good as another; and religion becomes in effect only "a form of culture, suffusing life with colours of solemn and tender sentiment."
I cannot but regard it as confirmation of what I impute— not of all the inferences which I draw for myself—when I find Dean Stanley preaching the other day on the mystery of the Trinity, and explaining the "three names" to the effect that the Father is God in creation, the Son is God in history, the Spirit is God in conscience; and that we have fellowship with the Father in nature, with the Son not only in Christ (who of course is reverently named), but. also in all elevating passages of human character and history, with the Spirit in conscience. Still more do I regard it as confirmation when I find him commending to Scottish Christians, in lecturing on the Scottish Churches, the truly Christian character of David Hume. No one was asking him to pass judgment on Hume; no one would hinder him from acknowledging Hume's uprightness and amiability; but it is strange indeed to find Hume commended in such circumstances as a truly Christian character. This is no mere excess of charity towards an individual—if it were I should pass it. Nay, it is a recommendation of a mode of judging to be applied to principles and to facts. As such it is to be met distinctly. And not concerning myself here with what David Hume was or was not, what be found or failed to find, I say that without the faith of Christ there is no true Christian character. I will add, in the lan- page 85 guage of the 18th Article of the Church of England—"They are to be holden accursed that presume to say that every man shall be saved by the law or sect which he professeth, so that he be diligent to frame his life according to that law and the light of nature. For Holy Scripture doth set out unto us only the name of Jesus Christ whereby men must be saved."
Quite the same impression is conveyed by some of the notices interwoven into the sketch of distinguished Scotchmen in the Dean's last lecture. Some of these are most beautiful; but I am in the judgment of those who heard or read, whether the idea is not conveyed that where genius touches upon life, especially if it recognises God and duty at all, there we are to own a teacher of the Christian religion.
I think it right and incumbent to speak of one of these cases. I mean his reference to one for whose memory we all cherish very deep and peculiar feelings—Robert Burns.
But before I advert to anything the Dean said, I will ask— Can no one stop the din that profanes the grave of Robert Burns? Has no one the heart to hear the "inhabitant below," or to understand his voice? Of all perverse destinies with which earth could perplex his fame, did it ever visit his imagination that crowds of rhetorical men would go about in never-ending floods of eloquence to prove his life a great moral victory and triumph? Did he ever foresee that every after-dinner orator, who wished to show what a flexible thing advanced Christianity can be, would harp upon the passages that saddened his own thoughtful hours, as proofs of what may comport with high moral and Christian excellency? Shame upon them that are so destitute of love for Burns, that have so little sympathy with the pathos of his own view of his own life, as not to understand they are to let that alone! Why can they not let it alone? Let them celebrate his genius, if it needs to be celebrated; let them celebrate his honest manhood—a great deal too straightforward, I will be bold to say, page 86 to tolerate the despicable sophistry that is spent on his career—let them dwell on the undying glow he has shed into Scottish minds, and hearts, and homes, and lives, and history, and for the rest let it alone. Nobody is going to meddle with it, if themselves will let it alone. But if they will not, on themselves be the shame.
"A curse upon the clown and knave Who
will not let his ashes rest."
This by the way. Now as to Dean Stanley. We object to Robert Burns as a religious teacher, because he does not take his ground as a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, and as one who desired to follow Him. We are not judging whether, at any time of his life, he became such. Neither are we standing on any question of more or less orthodoxy. Neither are we questioning the beauty of the admiring tribute which he paid to Christian doctrine in "The Cottar's Saturday Night." Neither are we blind to the force and pathos of the "Advice to a Young Man," admirable as far as it goes. But, I repeat, he does not take his ground and speak his rede as a believer in the Lord Jesus, and as one who desired to follow Him; as I suppose, because he was not prepared to take that responsibility, and was too honest a man to go farther in that matter than his actual convictions warranted. This does not require us to deprive ourselves of the benefit of anything good or true that is in Robert Burns. But it is one reason for refusing to recognise him as a wise religious teacher. Further, we see that when Robert Burns broke with the ancient habit or tradition of Scottish piety, whether that was his own fault or the fault of the Church, or of both, that breach brought with it a deplorable consequence. He continued from time to time to pour out exquisite strains of occasional devotion. But while he scourged that which he saw around him, savouring as he judged of hypocrisy and religious hollowness, where is the indication of his finding out or working out a conception of page 87 faith in Christ or love to Christ, distinct from that which he condemned and denounced? The blame for that we lay in the most precise and stringent manner on Scottish Moderate ministers. They did their best to ruin Burns, and we abhor them for it—wretched men, that called themselves ministers of Christ, and had not the heart to preach Him.*
* See Appendix, B.
Very well: we all know that a powerful tide is running in influential quarters in favour of a general relaxation of belief, and that is in favour of the Dean's design. Besides that, in another way, the existing forces tend in the same direction. For the more that divisions of opinion multiply, the more temptation there is to men who value an Establishment to widen the base indefinitely, as the natural policy for strengthening the institution. So that we can see how the Dean's view of what Establishments ought to be and are, might receive conclusive and unanswerable verification. I am bound, however, to page 89 record my belief that there are many men in the Established Churches who repudiate all this, and remain where they are because they do not believe the Dean's theory. Meanwhile, he appeals to us outside the Establishment not to be so unreasonable as to propose to pull down Establishments, which satisfy in the way indicated such aspirations as his own. Now, I will make bold to answer this appeal on behalf—to speak first of them—of nine-tenths of those whom the Dean has thus addressed. And I say that, just in so far as the Established Churches correspond to the Dean's ideal, and in so far as that becomes clear, we will most certainly join with all our might to pull them down. More than that, there are plenty of men in the Established Churches who, on that supposition, will overcome the temptation of their position and come to help us. Churches of that kind, if they are to be called Churches, are a moral nuisance not to be tolerated for an hour. I mean Churches in which the whole power, the whole means of attraction which the State can employ, is devoted to support the principle that the Church of Christ, as such, has no principles and no conscience—has no peremptory assertions to make, no distinct truth and no distinct life to represent and embody to the world. It would be treason to Christianity itself to connive at this for an hour.
The Dean came down here, doubtless, to gratify many friends and admirers, as well as to testify the interest which our history has awakened in a mind which has inquired into many histories. In the course of doing so, his own convictions led him to adorn with the attractions of his cultivated mind the cause of Broad Churchism and of Establishments, represented as one cause, and to depreciate, as he can do so well, what we call evangelical religion, and dissent. I have little doubt that his intention was, in compliance with his own honest convictions, to strengthen the cause of the Established Church in our community at the cost of all the others. I will raise no debate here and now as page 90 to whether that is desirable or not. But this I will say, that in my judgment his lectures have done more to set that question a going than any event that has recently taken place in this community. There are many of us who cherish a very deep feeling that, of things within a man's discretion, one of the last we would like to have a hand in would be a contest with any other Church about money and privileges— a contest which hardly ever can be kept clear of debasing and unworthy associations. As long as we are not called out, we are much disposed to keep quiet. But Dr. Stanley has certainly succeeded in strongly fixing our attention upon some evil influences working with increasing strength. He has vividly set before us existing tendencies; he has let us see that, short of the complete consummation which he approves, there is much in the present position of the Established Churches which tends towards it; he has let us see that there is much which tends to perplex and entangle good men, much that almost forces them to be content with as much fidelity to Church duties—(I am not speaking of merely personal duties)—as circumstances or the incurable difficulties of their position will allow. He has fixed our attention on these things; we are not to exaggerate them, we are not to take any hasty course about them; but we are not going to forget them.
In closing these lectures, let me remember that there are matters of more importance. I have had to speak for the independence of the Church. Dean Stanley is mistaken if he thinks either that we take it up as a mere tradition, or that we wish to use it for the maintenance of any mere tradition. This I have desired to show in the present lecture. We wish to be free to bring the present faith and life of the Church to bear on present duties, present trials, present questions. We think it indeed a wise use of freedom to recognise the constitutional basis, which supports our action and tends to its strength and continuity, in the past history of the way by which God has led us. We think it a wise use of freedom page 91 not to be carried with every wind of doctrine, nor to fall down and worship whatever comes to us in the name of culture and civilization. We think that in the past Christ has been with His Church, and taught her many things out of the Scriptures which we do well to hold fast. We believe, at the same time, that more light will break out of the Word, as the Church pursues her way under the discipline of Providence. We have to deal with the present, not according to past convictions, but according to present convictions; not according to the beliefs of our fathers, but according to our own; we have to convey, in so far as we represent the Church, the message and the influence which Christ's Church ought to convey to the men of our time, who inherit the past and are looking forward to the future. For that we would be free of every bond except the regard we owe to Christ's word, and the regard which He has appointed us to have to one another's convictions in shaping our message and our action. That has never been an easy task at any time. It is not like to be an easy task in our time. Perhaps it is well that it should not be easy.
Can I speak of this, and not add also, that if any will say to us, in any of our Churches, "You are far below such work as this," we have no reply except to listen, and to confess that indeed we are far below it? The more we feel how far below, the better for us and for the work itself. For the worst enemies of the Church's liberties have been ever those who vaunted those liberties, but failed to use them well. Therefore I implore you to remember, if you have agreed with me in any of my statements, as I would be myself reminded, that the independence of the Church means nothing unless it crowns a true and various Christianity that goes before. Let us take heed what it is to mean with us—with us during the few years we are to remain members of the Church on earth. O that liberty might mean in all our Churches intense devotedness and unsparing service! If it shall mean that—if it shall page 92 mean a heart that sets the good cause first, and labours to carry it forward in every land—if it shall mean not zeal to build up our own sect or party, but a love for our people, our own Scottish people, those of them who love us, and those who love us not, an enterprising courage to confront their difficulties, to bear their burdens, to heal their sins—if it enable us to cherish that high temper yet lowly spirit, out of which may arise men of fire to be our missionaries and our ministers and our elders, men prepared to spend their years with small care for earthly ends, and much for the kingdom of our Lord Jesus—if it lead us to devote to this cause the utmost we can reach, of learning and culture and means, yet so that we keep all subordinate to the one great aim, fusing them all into a faithful service of Christ—if we maintain and increase among us the consciousness of what conversion is, and what following Christ is—if, being free, we are humbly candid towards divine teaching and charitable towards the brethren—and if we are taught to deal with all questions, not as servants of the world, and not as servants of the past, but as servants of the truth and of the Lord,—that will vindicate our independence at the bar of history. Nothing else will; nothing else ought. And then how securely might we smile at the poor talk which balances culture against faith! for then how surely and how completely all things should be ours.