The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 20
When the proposed union between the Non-Established Presbyterians of Scotland was first introduced into the General Assembly of the Free Church in 1863, it was clearly understood that no attempt was to be made to compromise any of the essential principles maintained in the Disruption conflict. This was explicitly and even prominently proclaimed; and hence, in appointing the Union Committee, the Assembly instructed it to aim at the accomplishment of the object "by all suitable means consistent with a due regard to the principles of this Church." An amendment, expressing the same view more distinctly, was proposed, but was withdrawn, on the clear understanding that the duty of conserving our whole distinctive principles was already fully embodied in the motion, which was therefore carried unanimously. * During the course of the year, however, it began to be evident that the appointment of a Committee at all was supposed in certain quarters to imply a willingness to compromise our distinctive principles. This subject was specially discussed in the Assembly 1864, in re-appointing the Committee. Dr Wood moved in substance, that, as the Free and United Presbyterian Churches still adhered to their distinctive principles in regard to the Civil Magistrate, the negotiations should now be limited to the object of securing a profitable co-operation. Mr Nixon, in urging the withdrawal of this motion, said in effect, that the subject had not yet been fully considered, and that the statements made might yet be modified. The following explanation was afterwards asked and given, as appears from the Blue Book:—
"Dr Gibson.—I wish to ask, whether or not, by consenting to the reappointment of the Committee, the Assembly will be hold as admitting that we are prepared to make any modifications. (Cries of 'No, no.') Well, but I know what many members of this House do not know.
"Sir H. W. Moncreiff.—It has been put on this footing all along. We should go to this Committee altogether uncommitted on any of the questions involved in this proposal.
"Dr Gibson.—Then I am perfectly satisfied."†
* The mover, in withdrawing his amendment, did it expressly "on the understanding that these words" (i.e., consistent with a due regard to the principles of this Church) "honestly express the same thing as my motion."—See Blue Book.
† In the same Assembly, 1864, as appears from the Blue Book, not only the theory of solving the difficulty by abandoning our principles was repudiated, but also that of disposing of it by means of "open questions." In the Union debate, Bailie Johnston is reported to have said—"We have left the Establishment, we have ceased to have any direct or personal interest in the question; but is that a change to warrant us in altering our testimony ('No, no,') before the world, or to compromise it? May we make it an open question? (Dr Candlish, 'No.')"
Not only was this the ground on which the negotiations were carried forward, hut repeated assurances were given that there would be no haste or hurry, and that the satisfying and carrying of all along to any contemplated result would be made a matter of special study. * At last Assembly, however, a step of the most decisive kind was suddenly taken, in the face of a formal protest and of the most solemn dissents, accompanied by the resignation of six members of the Union Committee. Although the so-called "Articles of Agreement" had never been formally agreed to by the United Presbyterian Church, and although the representatives of that Church in the Union Committee had declared that they regarded the principle of a Church Establishment, which this Church has always maintained, to be essentially sinful, the Assembly, without any farther attempt at conference, came to the resolution that they saw "no bar" to the contemplated union under the First Head of the Programme. This resolution had never been discussed in the Union Committee, † other important questions both of principle and practical detail under the remaining heads of the programme were still undisposed of, and the resolution was adopted, not only without the consent of P resbyteries, but without any proposal to submit it for their consideration. In these unprecedented circumstances a number of the brethren found it necessary to hold a meeting, at which the following Declaration was adopted, which has since been subscribed by a large number, both of ministers and elders, throughout the Church; many more signifying their full sympathy with the movement, though, for the present, withholding their signatures:—
"We, the undersigned, are convinced that the recent decision of the General Assembly on the question of Union is fitted to hinder rather than to promote the proper union of the Churches. We are well aware that great diversity of opinion and feeling exists throughout the Church with regard to the present negotiations. We are deeply impressed with the serious risk now being incurred of distracting and even dividing our own Communion. We therefore feel constrained to express our united determination to resist any attempts to press or pursue these negotiations in a manner that would imperil the great and vital interests which our whole Free Church is so solemnly bound to preserve and maintain."
* Appendix, No. I., page 29.
† It is understood, however, that the United Presbyterians intimated in the Union Committee, that unless such a resolution was carried in the Assembly, their Synod would probably put an end to all farther negotiations.
We now submit the following as some of the grounds upon which our resolution is based:—
1. Our position is that of a minority* It is our being such that has made our position; that has created, as we conceive, a necessity for action in the present case. The vote, the speeches, the tone of last General Assembly,—all indicating extreme pressure, and impatient, if not intolerant haste,—have brought us face to face with a crisis in our ecclesiastical history, and compelled us to take up a position from which no majority can dislodge us. Believing that a union settlement, forced on by majorities, against the convictions and protests of even a smaller minority than that of last Assembly, must issue disastrously,—rending, not knitting the Churches,—our desire is to do what in us lies, ere it be too late, to avert the possible disunion. It is thus our being a minority that has suggested and shaped the measures which we have thought it needful to adopt. We unite, not simply for self-defence, and the assertion of our own rights, but to prevent, if possible, the surrender or compromise, by our Church, of principles once reckoned not only distinctive, but sacred, and which, as such, occupied no second place in our Disruption Protest, in our Acts of Assembly, and in statements put forth from time to time, by authority, for the instruction of our people.
* Our use of the word minority is ecclesiastical; and refers to the vote in last General Assembly; but there is no reason for believing that we are a minority in the Church. The general indications given in the "Suggestions" of Presbyteries pointed in an opposite direction. The Assembly, besides, only embraced one-third of the Ministers of the Church; and there is the best reason to believe that a number both of Ministers and Elders voted in the majority in last Assembly under various misunderstandings. We have reason to know also that the eldership and membership of the Church are, very largely, with us in their sympathies. A very large proportion of the ciders in the Assembly are from Edinburgh and Glasgow, and by no means represent on such a question the general mind of the Church. We are persuaded that our Sessions and Congregations in general will, as soon as an opportunity is given, support us by decided and, in many cases, "overwhelming majorities." Why the last Assembly should not have sent down their deliverance for the judgment of Presbyteries is inexplicable, save on the supposition that Presbyteries could not be counted on to support the Assembly's decision, and could not be so easily managed as the upper Court.
3. Though a minority, we are yet brethren,—brethren in Christ and brethren in one common Church,—and as such we appeal to brethren. May we not be listened to? Many of us are of pre-disruption standing; not now young in years; and recalling the memory of past days, we appeal to those who shared with us the conflict and the sacrifice; brethren who were then of one heart with us in what we contended and suffered for. Shall our appeal be mot, not by the response of Christian sympathy, but by repeating the numbers of the "overwhelming majority"? All of us are office-bearers in the Church, and as such we lay our case before our fellow office-bearers and before the members of our congregations, claiming at once their brotherly regards and their solemn attention. May we not hope that our conscientious scruples will be respected, seeing we are but doing what we believe our duty to Christ and our allegiance to our Church demand?
4. What we have done has not been done in haste,—out of the soreness of defeat or in the spirit of unreasonable obstructiveness,—but under the deep conviction, in the sight of the Church's Head, that we are maintaining the principles to which our Church has from the beginning borne witness, the sum of which is, The supremacy of Christ over the Church as her Head, and the supremacy of Christ over nations and governments as "Prince of the kings of the earth;" in the former, recognising Him as the sole lawgiver of His Church; in the latter, demanding from all kings and rulers obedience to His page 11 statutes, and the regulation of all affairs in conformity with these, with a special eye to the support of His Church and the promotion of His Gospel.
5. A majority has its powers, but a minority has still its rights; rights which no judgment of a majority can touch; rights fenced both by civil and ecclesiastical law; rights which, for reasons shown, we may surrender, but which cannot be taken from us without our consent. These rights it is our purpose to maintain; and in maintaining them we are following no divisive nor mutinous courses, but fulfilling our ordination vows. To us does not belong the guilt of causing "divisions and offences, contrary to the doctrine which we have learned" (Rom. xvi. 17): the causing of division lies with those who, in the face of these rights, press on us a scheme which, under the name of union, will rend the Church, as well as change both its character and its testimony.
6. In ordinary circumstances, a minority, after recording its dissent or protest, with accompanying reasons, may, without any surrender of principle, and with a good conscience, be silent, and allow the will of the majority to be carried out without impediment. But there are cases in which a minority may continue its action; nay, is bound to do so; claiming as a Christian right that its scruples be respected; as when the decision complained of involves changes in the original platform of our Church (to which platform we have all alike sworn); requiring modification and relaxation either in our Articles themselves or in their working out; when it encroaches on, or violates the paction into which those constituting the Free Church entered, solemnly and unanimously, with each other; when no absolute necessity exists for urging on the changes proposed; and when the conscience of the majority would not have violence done to it by concession, or delay, or arrestment of procedure; but when the conscience of the minority would he seriously aggrieved by an enforcement of the deliverance dissented from.
7. The law of our country recognises the claims of minorities, however small, and protects their civil rights; and it is hardly conceivable that Christian brethren, who, along with us, fought the battle of conscience, should deny the claim which we now assert, viz., to be allowed, even though a minority, to maintain and carry out in their integrity the principles to which in 1843 we so solemnly set our seal. "Within certain limits a majority may and must control a minority. But these limits are easily definable; and beyond these, in cases or changes never contemplated in the formation of the Church, a minority, resting on ordination vows, may refuse to yield, without incurring the charge of disobedience, far less of contumacy. And were the majority, in the endeavour to vindicate their authority, pro- page 12 posing to visit the recusant minority with censure, or suspension, or deposition, what reasons could he urged, or what articles of libel framed, against men whose only crime would be that of unwillingness to alter the constitution of their Church and compromise its character?
8. More especially do we feel ourselves warranted in presenting such claims, because of the repeated protestations* made by the leaders of the majority that individual rights should be respected, and, to use the current language, "not a hoof left behind." We accept such statements as really meaning what the words imply. Our brethren, we are persuaded, did not volunteer such solemn promises without meaning to keep them. In certain cases men may not feel bound by "consistency;" but promises are sacred. They have "opened their mouth to the Lord, and cannot go back." (Judges xi. 35.)
9. The cases in which a minority may claim that their scruples be deferred to are, no doubt, exceptional and extraordinary. But the present case we hold to be such. It is peculiar in itself; not provided for in our Disruption settlement, nor coming under any of our usual forms of procedure. It is, moreover, in its bearings and ramifications, both primary and subordinate, of such intricacy and wide extent as to make the exact adjustment of the various points involved in it a matter of no common difficulty. As it happens in all great changes, so here it will be found that the indirect and unforeseen results are more numerous and important than the direct and the foreseen. And seeing that each of the Churches has a distinctive and traditional policy, as well as a peculiar interpretation of certain Articles, we are justified in hesitating to incur the risk, not simply of confusion and conflict, but of creating two great parties in the Church, at continual variance with each other; a risk which the attempt to fuse into one two such opposing lines of policy and interpretation necessarily supposes. The importance of these considerations is the greater when we know that the step proposed to be taken must be final. The union is for better or for worse. Whatever its results may be, it is irrevocable. No after regrets or recriminations would avail to dissolve the tie. Our brethren of the majority are willing, surely, to count the cost; and many seem anxious for unanimity before proceeding farther, which shows some measure of deference to the scruples of a conscientious minority, and some recognition of the necessity of our present movement. Whether they have taken the proper way, either in their actings or speeches, to conciliate that minority, is another question.
* Appendix, No, I., page 29.
11. Claiming rights for ourselves, as a minority, we protest against being voted out of the Free Church merely because we adhere to its principles; and we protest against a majority voting away that Free Church itself—name, and history, and distinctive principles—for the sake of a human sentiment, under the name of a divine idea; for external uniformity under the name of Christian Union. As we do not hold that the separate action of Churches is schism, so neither do we believe that the incorporation or amalgamation of Churches is unity.
12. Junction is not union; yet junction is all that the vote of a majority can accomplish. In urging this junction, there is a double temptation to its advocates,—that of underrating old principles, and overrating new ones; perhaps, we might add, of overvaluing new friends and undervaluing old ones. In pleading for union, and for the necessity of paying some price for it, there is the danger of magnifying ecclesiastical amalgamation into a divine idea, and making it equivalent to the union between the living members of the body of Christ. We desire friendship, common action, and closer union also, when consistent with principle; but outward uniformity and acknowledgment of one government, we, in common with all Protestants, page 14 do not hold to be essential to the unity of the Church or Churches of God.
13. That all who are in Christ Jesus are one, we believe; and all efforts for unity assume this. That this individual spiritual oneness should have some external exponent, some visible and corporate manifestation, we also hold. But as all Christians on earth cannot now meet in one building, such a universal gathering could not be meant to be the exponent of unity here. As all Churches cannot now form one universal Church, governed from one centre, under one General Assembly, or one head, as Romanists contend for, such a united Church of all nations cannot have been intended to be essential to unity. Thus, while the inner unity has no limitations, the outer unity has many,—of place, and circumstance, and time, and other diversities. Such limitations do not touch the inner oneness; nay, do not always necessarily prevent the visible expression of this oneness. This must be kept in mind when we are assailed by the strong and sweeping arguments as to the duty of union, current in the present day. The duty of all Churches to amalgamate is not absolute nor unlimited. Such an amalgamation might, in certain cases, be an imperfect and insincere expression of Christian oneness; nay, it might be the intimation of laxity, or indifference to truth; and perhaps, too, the beginning of discord.
14. Some who are most zealous in proclaiming "the duty of union" are the most decided limitarians after all, and were leading instruments in bringing about a necessary Disruption twenty-four years ago. It is only union with a certain class of Churches that they seem now to believe to be inculcated by Christ, not with all true Churches, whatever be their name,—Congregational, or Baptist, or otherwise. "Union between Non-Established Presbyterian Churches" is their programme. Such is their idea of union; such their principle of limitation; such their avowed sectarianism, according to their own newly adopted principles. We are not speaking of the possibilities or probabilities of union; we are merely referring to the supposed duty of seeking union with all whom we do not deny to be Christian Churches; and it is something worse than a contradiction to urge the duty of Christian union, yet to limit that union by one's own arbitrary theories, to make union between the "Non-Established Presbyterian Churches of Scotland" the answer to their Lord's intercession in the seventeenth of John. Our United Presbyterian brethren would probably not so restrict the duty of union, as they have never scrupled to exchange pulpits with ministers of the Establishment, nor to co-operate with them in various ways; but we of the Free Church, who have not yet seen our way to such intimate acts of communion with the Established Church, ought page 15 to be moderate in our advocacy of the "Duty of Union," until we are prepared to place the question on its Scriptural basis, viz., that there is no limit to the duty of seeking union with all true Churches, though many limits to the practical carrying out of that duty. The hindrances which create these limits we are bound, so far as lies in our power, to remove from all, and not merely from the "Non-Established Presbyterian Churches of the land." The fact of our United Presbyterian brethren frequently preaching in "National" pulpits and worshipping in Parish Churches, in preference to Free, when their own was not accessible, has not raised against them the cry of hankering after a share in national endowments, so our proposition, which is simply the doctrine of Disruption days, ought not to subject us to the charge of seeking to be "re-established," or "re-endowed." We have no desire to be otherwise than we are in regard to such temporalities, although the question of endowments will probably soon assume a position of vast importance in connection with National Scriptural Education.
15. To these considerations we of the minority would specially call the attention of our brethren in the present case, if possible to stay their haste, and induce them to attach some weight to our scruples. But besides all this, the change contemplated will reverse or modify so many principles; will alter the aspect and value of so many facts, such as the Disruption itself, with all its memorable scenes; will make so many now settled subjects matters of internal dispute; will affect so many consciences; will touch on so many interests; will introduce so many new elements which have hitherto been excluded by our well-defined Disruption position, as protesting against Erastianism on the one hand, and Voluntaryism on the other; will raise so many new questions for ecclesiastical discussion or theological controversy or civil litigation; that a minority is justified in taking decided steps to protect its rights, civil and ecclesiastical, to save its conscience, and to preserve the Free Church from becoming historically extinct, or its Protest and proceedings from turning out a boast or a mistake or a failure. As appears to us, judging from the published materials, the projected union can only be effected by such a change or relaxation of creed, constitution, and civil title-deeds, as will amount to a dissolution of the Free Church, and the construction of a new body, with a new name, on a new basis, with a stock of new points, called "open questions," for agitation and warfare; in which newly constructed body Free Church principles, if still hold by individuals, cannot be acted out or even spoken out, without offence and variance. Thus the new body would be simply the present United Presbyterian Church, with the Free Church merged in it; all the peculiar tenets of the United Presbyterian Church being page 16 retained, and all the distinctive Articles of the Free Church being, if not eliminated, at least degraded to the level of open questions, to be settled annually, or oftener, by the vote of a majority; or, more likely, to be shelved, as unprofitable and embarrassing. In 1843 we knew perfectly well that the United Presbyterians had never authoritatively declared in favour of Voluntaryism, or made it a term of communion. We knew then that we could have entered their Church on precisely the same terms that are offered to us now. We were either wrong in not joining them then, and so the establishment of the Free Church was, at the least, a mistake; or else the forming of the contemplated union now would be wrong. The United Presbyterians have been perfectly consistent. Have we changed?
16. The result of union thus consummated would be disunion; and both in process and result there would be a reversal of all usual plans for drawing Christian men together, viz., by excluding all repulsive or explosive ingredients; but the present scheme is to unite two Churches, by importing into the new body proposed to be formed, under the name of "open questions," all the explosive materials that formerly existed outside. This would be to sacrifice Christian unity on the altar of ecclesiastical uniformity. It would be the semblance of union, with all the reality of aggravated discord. It would exchange the present quiet of brotherly juxtaposition and pleasant neighbourhood, in which our differences, however decided, are neither irritants to brethren nor scandals to the world, because they silently work themselves out in the respective Churches without coming into practical collision, for the perpetual conflict of one great incorporation into which all the elements of discord have been imported by the creation of the so-called "open questions."
17. The settlement of union by means of "open questions" was, when negotiations were resumed in 1864, repudiated as not to be entertained by the Free Church. Gradually our Church has been sliding into this mode of procedure, and now it is defended as the true method of solving a great difficulty. The number of questions to be thrown open has not yet been determined, nor the exact extent to which they are to be left open. But the principle, once repudiated, is now adopted by those who at first rejected it. It would have been fairer, and better for us all, had it been avowed at first. Had it been proclaimed three years ago, the nature of our negotiations would have been different, and their results less perplexing. We should then have known what we were doing.
18. This creation of "open questions" seems to us full of danger. It amounts to a declaration that certain points which our Church has from the beginning reckoned true, and acted on as such, page 17 are henceforth to be treated as unsettled and uncertain. One of the special open questions in the present case is that of "Endowments," or rather, the great principle upon which religious endowments rest,—the duty of the Government to aid in supporting the ordinances of Christ. This question, which has been considered a settled one since the Reformation, is now to be unsettled,—and upon the plea that it is outside the Confession. If the question of endowments be the only point of difference, and if it be outside the Confession, why do our United Presbyterian brethren make any difficulty about receiving the entire Confession? If they who drew up either our present Confession or our former one had been divided in opinion, and, of set purpose, left out this point, or if the many thousands who have, during these three hundred years, signed these Confessions, had subscribed them on this understanding, there might be some force in the argument. But to say that because endowments are not explicitly mentioned, although this is not admitted, * they are therefore "outside" the Confession, would be to expel from our creed some most vital points—such, for example, as verbal inspiration. The Confession, in speaking of what is revealed in Scripture, makes a distinction between what is "expressly set down," and what "by good and necessary inference may be deduced from Scripture," and both are declared to be equally binding. (Chap. I.,§6.) The Confession itself must surely be interpreted by the same rule, and a matter may be declared there all the more strongly, simply by clearly assuming it, and taking for granted that it is fixed and unquestionable. In this belief thousands of ministers and elders have signed these Standards. If the question of "Endowments" is to be made an open one, it must be on some other ground than that it is "outside" the Confession. Such an argument would prove too much, and reach too far.
19. These statements, thus urged, in bar of the present union scheme, ought to carry the greater force, seeing the minority are not advocating any change, but are simply desirous of remaining as they have done since 1813, and of retaining the ancient historical position of the Reformation Church of Scotland. † They revere the ancient landmarks, and would preserve them. They are not interfering with the consciences of brethren by attempting to force them into a new position, but are only craving the liberty of being allowed to retain their old one, and of not being forced, by superior numbers, into one altogether novel in the history of Scotland, for which they are not prepared, and for which (even were the position a right one) they believe the Churches are not ripe.
* Appendix, No. II., page 30.
† Appendix, No. III, page 35.
21. The Free Church has for nearly a quarter of a century occupied a particular and distinctive position; a position which is at once the result and exhibition of a peculiar history. It has been her glory in this, that she has acted on the principles which our fathers, from the Reformation, counted true and sacred. We have not yet seen reason to alter this position, or, without publicly altering it, to become silent in regard to it, or, without pledging ourselves to keep silence, to place ourselves in circumstances in which our advocacy of that position would be an offence to brethren. We protest against being compelled by a majority to unsay or undo what we have been saying or doing these forty years; still more against being compelled to counteract or to neutralise what our fathers have said and done these three hundred years. If the Free Church has become dissatisfied with its Disruption position and principles, let us openly announce this to our people as distinctly as we once did the unchangeable sacredness of that position and these principles. The maintenance of the double testimony against Erastianism and Voluntaryism was once deemed a solemn duty. We undertook to prove this to our people. They received our proof, believed our sincerity, and left the Establishment with us, desiring to assert along with us not only Christ's Headship over the Church, but Christ's Headship over the nations, in the way in which our fathers had held it and developed it. By this double testimony we induced thousands to leave the Establishment, and so accomplished disunion. In connection with the same double testimony we have induced our people since to give large sums to the Free Church. If, then, we have discovered that part of that great testimony was a mistake, relat- page 19 ing merely to "the paltry question of endowments," we ought to confess this openly, lest we be not merely charged with effecting a disunion on false pretences, hut with concealing from those whom we persuaded to go along with us that we have since become aware that one-half of these pretences were, if not false, at least grossly exaggerated. It becomes us in such a case, as honest men who have unwittingly misled others, to point out the fallacies or exaggerations which our Protest embodied, and to let them know how greatly we overstated the Disruption argument, and overrated some of the main points of our Disruption testimony. It becomes us thus to deal fairly with the people who followed us in 1843, and who made such sacrifices to support the Church of Christ, because they had been taught by us how momentous were the principles contended for. If we do not make this avowal, but adopt a scheme of union which assumes the incorrectness of our Disruption Protest, it will seem as if we, to serve a purpose, had magnified the importance of our principles far beyond their real value, and that our strong statements against "Voluntaryism" were introduced merely to win the support of the more conservative portion of our people.
22. They who would shrink from publicly emitting a declaration of this change of principles, may well bear with those who shrink from taking any step which tacitly and indirectly indicates such a change. Holding still the same great truths as we did in 1843, our desire is that the Church should enunciate these in the same way as heretofore, and should by all means avoid placing herself in circumstances which would render such an enunciation impossible or offensive.
23. We are met by the averment, that the question between us and our United Presbyterian brethren on the power of the Civil Magistrate is merely that of endowments,—a "paltry question of money." This, in other words, means that it is not in the theory, but in the practical application of the theory, that we differ. Even assuming the truth of such a statement, which we only do with certain deductions, we ask, "What is it but the exact case (mutatis mutandis) between us and the Established Church? That Church comes much nearer us in theory, for it professes to adopt without reservation the whole of the 23d chapter of the Confession of Faith, and proclaims the Headship of Christ in as decided language as we could desire. It was in the practical application of a true theory that, according to our Disruption Protest, that Church erred; bartering (we maintained) the crown rights of Christ for the privilege of endowment. The Headship of Christ was never, in words, denied, through the whole controversy, by any one, but as frequently asserted on the one side as on the other. But the decisions of the page 20 Civil Courts placed us in circumstances in which we could not carry out practically that Headship. It was not, theoretically and formally speaking, the doctrine of the Headship that was the point at issue, hut the practical bearings of that doctrine. These practical bearings were thought sufficient to justify disunion then, and may not these practical bearings, coming in at another point and in an opposite form, and maintained, theoretically as well as practically, be a bar to union now, justifying us in demanding an arrest of procedure till the full extent and value of these practical bearings have been measured and weighed? A "paltry question of money" may turn out to be either the maintenance or subversion of a mighty principle; the turning-point in a Church's or a nation's history. Nay, it may be to us the vital practical question, whether we are to be allowed, unmolested, to carry on more than one of our existing schemes of Christian usefulness at home and abroad. Every theory has two offsprings—legitimate and illegitimate,—and it is only by a minute examination of the minor features that the true kind of paternity can be discovered. If we discard the question of endowments as a test of the practical working of a theory, we condemn our ten years' conflict as useless and insincere; and we justify the taunts of our opponents in that battle, who, once and again, pointed out to us the easy way of ending the strife by retiring from the field at once, and ceasing to give such importance to what was after all only "a paltry question of money."
24. It would thus seem that, so long as the Establishment principle suited our purpose and secured our temporalities, we counted it sacred; nay, were often at a loss for words to express our astonishment at the blindness of those "Voluntaries" who could not see what the doctrine of the Headship of Christ had to do with the question of endowments. But as soon as it is of no more pecuniary use to us, or when its depreciation will serve another end, we come to understand its paltriness. Had we rejected it at the Disruption, the inconsistency would not have been so noticeable. But we kept, year after year, protesting to our people that we held it as sacred as ever, till now, when the undervaluing of it is needed, we come to the conclusion that it is a mere money matter, "outside the Confession of Faith," unimportant in itself, and worse than unimportant when appealed to in connection with the doctrine of Christ's Headship over kings and nations.
25. The question of endowments is not only a practical one, and as such a recognised exponent of certain truths or articles of our creed, but its ramifications are of an extensive kind. We find it coming up at the very commencement of our ecclesiastical history; and assuredly Knox did not treat it, either in regard to schools or church, page 21 as a poor affair of money, though a grasping nobility taunted him with setting forth a "devout imagination." It has, since then, pervaded our whole polity, and in one shape or other finds its way into every one of our Courts. It has woven itself into our Constitution, our Schemes, our Acts. Our missions, our schools, our chaplaincies, our title-deeds, our legacies, our connection with other Churches, are all, more or less, linked with it. They with whom it is proposed to unite think all religious endowments not only inexpedient but unlawful and sinful, and therefore cannot, without violence to their consciences, join us in retaining them, or homologate any acts of ours by which they are retained. Nor can we, who deem them lawful, pass Acts, by whatever majority, or carry out proceedings year by year, in connection with the acceptance of money from the State, whereby the consciences of brethren will be aggrieved. The principle, that the minority could not help themselves, seeing majorities must rule, would not apply in the case of positive and deliberate sin; and to connive at "congregational" acceptances of money from the State under the plea that the Church, as a body, had nothing to do with the acts of individual congregations, however contrary to the mind of Christ, would be subversive of all discipline, as well as inconsistent with that law of ecclesiastical responsibility which connects the doings of all the members and congregations of our Church with its several Courts, from the lowest to the highest. No Presbytery nor General Assembly could legalise sin, * nor connive at the commission of it by any congregation or kirk-session within its bounds. In such a case, where the question between the majority and minority would turn upon the commission or non-commission of sin (as, for example, on the payment or non-payment of the annuity tax, the reception or non-reception of money for our schools), there could be no compromise; and the alternative would be, that the minority should retire from a Church which thus violates Christ's laws, or that the majority, yielding to the conscience of the minority, should sanction the refusal to pay the annuity tax,—should give up all endowments for schools or missions, and all connection with Churches who are guilty of the sin of accepting the money of the nation for religious purposes. Thus "Voluntaryism" would not only be an open question, but triumphant.
* Appendix, No. IV., page 38.
27. It is, then, the practical nature of the endowment question, in connection with Scriptural principle involved, that makes it so important, for it is the development that tests the theory. This meets us at every point. It will not let us alone, even though we should consent to let it alone. It is not altogether the intrinsic magnitude of the questions between us and our Congregational and Baptist brethren that keeps us asunder; it is their practical character. They cannot be open questions; not merely because they are important, but because in the working of them collision would be inevitable. The formula given in the Report of the Union Committee, and affirmed by last Assembly to be "no bar to union," might have been such as we could subscribe, but this assent is neutralised by the divergent practical interpretations put upon the formula. As soon as we come to work it the diversity emerges. Our United Presbyterian brethren would work it out in one way, and we in another. So long as this practical ambiguity exists it is impossible to affirm of any proposition that it is "no bar to union." Unless we know how it is to be worked out in the jurisprudence, the proceedings, and the schemes of the Church, we are not in circumstances to pronounce it no bar. Admitting that some of our brethren do see their way to accept this formula, with all its practical ambiguity, and declared so in last Assembly, that should not make them indifferent to the scruples of those who do not. They cannot but see that it is no light matter to accept of a union, in which, while agreeing in propositions, we shall be at variance in practice; a union in which we shall not be able to carry on our great schemes as heretofore, or act out our great principles, or preserve our history, or maintain our past connection with such sister Churches as the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, to whose sympathy, and liberality, and brotherly kindness, we have owed so much for twenty-four years. *
* Appendix, No. V., page 38.
29. It is of great moment that at the present time we should not drop our testimony as a Church to the practical aid due from national rulers, as such, to the cause of Christ. That question is coming up in a form and magnitude which it has not hitherto been allowed to assume, and it would be unwise in us to place ourselves in a position which would prevent our voice from being heard with effect. Our testimony is at present, and will continue to be, a disinterested one in behalf of the obligation of the rulers of nations to uphold the laws of Christ that are essential to the well-being of society, and to provide to a greater or less extent, as required, for the maintenance and extension of the means of instruction in the truths of the Gospel. We are now in most favourable circumstances to advocate this practical national countenance of the truth, and to protest against every kind of national patronage and promotion of error. In the new position proposed for us, with these open questions on the one hand, and the open advocacy of an uncompromising Voluntaryism on the other, we should soon feel ourselves unable to raise our old testimony, and be forced to petition equally against the endowment of truth and error,—which the Church of Scotland for these three centuries has not yet done. Our voice will not be heard as against error, but against truth as well.
30. To those who reckon the Government support of truth a sin, the way may be clear for the annihilation of all public provision for its maintenance; but to those who consider the non-support of truth a failure of duty, the solution of the difficulty is not so easy. The cessation of all national support of the truth is not the true way of meeting the difficulty as to the indiscriminate endowment of all religions. Without attempting to solve this hard problem of the present day, we are bound to consider the duty of the magistrate, from which no opinion of ours can release him, and which yet has become so difficult to discharge, because of the divided state of the nation. And in looking at this duty in the light in which our fathers did, we are the more bound to maintain our present position, as that in which we can most effectually deal with the great questions of the day emerging out of it.
31. The importance of union has been pressed upon us, from some quarters, because of the political strength it would secure to the Non-Established Churches of Scotland. We dread and deprecate such a line of argument, even if we could expect any strength from union without unity. It is not legitimate for those who belong to a kingdom which is not of this world. It degrades the question of page 24 Christian union. "We deprecate the intermeddling of the magistrate with the polities of the Church; we no less deprecate the interference of the Church, as a body, with the politics of the world. To urge on the union because of the additional political influence which a large Church would possess, is certainly to act neither in the letter nor in the spirit of the Lord in praying for the oneness of His members.
32. The reservation of certain questions (such as the introduction of organs, * and the endowment of our foreign mission schools or home schools) seems to us unwise and unfair; and the handing over of these to the new Church for discussion (which has been laid down as a line of policy by respected ministers of the United Presbyterian Church), we consider one of the most dangerous parts of the present scheme. It seems to us a deliberate declaration of intestine and inevitable war. It is the politic quashing of present controversies, lest they should he an impediment to union, with the certain prospect of these divisions breaking forth in greater keenness as soon as the Churches come together. Present strife is to be put down, with the assurance to the contending parties that the day is coming and the field preparing for fully fighting out their battles. All the elements of discord are to be, not thrown out, but gathered together for future use. The combustibles are to be laid up in store till the new Assembly meets, and then the torch is to be applied. Questions, regarding which there has been unanimity in each Church separately, are to be handed over to the united body for debate; so that the preliminaries of present union are the preparations for future war. If such questions are to be discussed, let them be discussed now. If they can be settled, let them be settled now. Let us come to an understanding, as soon as possible, not only as to the Articles of Union, but as to the practical working of these Articles. If our United Presbyterian brethren are right, let us adopt their views and policy before union, and save the new Assembly (whenever that may meet) from scenes of annual strife, and the new Presbyteries from perpetual controversy. If otherwise, let us understand each other now explicitly as to what is to be our future course of action.
* Appendix, No. VI., page 39.
34. We dread precipitation in a matter like this. An ill-assorted union would soon be repented of, and prove worse than our present state of separate action. They who are conducting the movement have repeatedly and solemnly assured us that there shall be no such haste; and yet the movement is urged on without slackening, and every step gained is made a reason for more urgent action. Many earnest unionists see no reason why union should not be immediate. They first, by their peculiar line of action, make the thing, as they think, inevitable, and then they proclaim it such. Thus, calm judgment is overborne; the wavering are frightened into decision; the refractory are bowed into submission; the Union is consummated in haste, to be repented of at leisure.page 26
35. We are at a loss to know what, in such a case, is to become of those of us who do not see our way to union. Are we really to be coerced by a majority in a matter of this kind, where reason and charity, not numbers, ought to sway? We may be self-willed in the estimation of many; we may not have given reasons for our proceedings sufficient to satisfy others; but if our consciences remain unconvinced, what are we to do, or what is to be done with us? We are Free Churchmen of 1843; we have not changed; we want no change; we desire to preserve the Free Church in its Disruption integrity; we wish to keep our Standards intact, our schemes unaltered, our principles unfettered, our liberty to act out our well-known Protest uncurtailed. We are not "Erastians;" we are not "Voluntaries;" and we refuse to be forced into a position in which we must be silent as to the duties of the Civil Magistrate in his connection with the Church, as laid down in our Confession, and as held by our fathers from the Reformation. Union with about six hundred brethren of another Church, who hold entirely different views from us as to these duties of the Magistrate, seems to us a serious matter. We are driven into a most painful position; unwilling to obstruct, yet unable to give way. We cannot repudiate our "engagements," or our "protests," or our "claim of rights," or our "deeds of demission." We cannot pare down our articles, nor throw questions loose which we once reckoned fixed and sacred. We do not regard the Disruption as the declaration of war against Church Establishments, nor as the stepping-stone to what is commonly called "Voluntaryism," nor as a release from the 23d chapter of the Confession, nor as the inauguration of an "advanced" ecclesiasticism. We do not desire to undo our Disruption work, nor to unsay our Disruption testimony.
36. In making these statements we disclaim the thought of charging our brethren who differ from us with any intentional deviation from our Standards beyond what they explicitly avow. We mean to say that such is our interpretation of their proceedings, and our impression of their speeches. We may be wrong, but many things have been said and done recently which we cannot reconcile with Disruption Free-Churchism.
37. We are the friends, not the enemies, of true Christian union. We love as brethren all who love the Lord Jesus Christ, "both theirs and ours;" but we dread a union of compromise; it would be the seed-sowing of internal strife. We resent a union of compression, Such as a majority might force upon the Church. We must love and agree, and understand each other thoroughly before we can unite.
38. True union may not be consummated so swiftly as that which is false, but it will be enduring and blessed. Harmony both of page 27 mind and heart, both of principle and of sentiment, must grow; it cannot he forced; it refuses to obey majorities, however large.
39. We do not undervalue true union. We do not advocate isolation, far less variance and jealousy. Our prayer is that the divided Church of God on earth may become one; one externally as well as internally; one in government as well as one in creed. Yet we are not bound to adopt all modern theories of union, nor to acquiesce in any special scheme which appears to us at variance with Scripture, with the principles of our Church, and our own solemn vows.
40. We pray for union, and for the removal from all Churches of whatever hinders it. But in order to this, we pray especially for the shedding down of the Holy Spirit on all who name the name of Christ, as the true and safe preparation for such a union. When that mighty Spirit comes with his full flood of blessing, as the Spirit of truth, and holiness, and love, then Christian sympathy will spring up unbidden, and unity will make union become as easy as now it is difficult. In carrying out that blessed union there will be no heat of controversy, no pressure either of argument or influence, no majorities nor minorities, no victories nor defeats, no extruded brethren, no troubled consciences, no heavy hearts, no doubtful disputations, no compromised truths. Spiritual sympathies will overflow and work out Christian harmony. It will be a thorough union both of creeds and souls, not a mere junction of ecclesiastical Courts; a union of righteousness, and joy, and love.
41. We have been asked, once and again, Are you prepared to incur the responsibility of arresting the present Union movement? Being fully persuaded that this movement, as recently conducted, is at variance with the truth which we have sworn to maintain, we are prepared for this. Nor should we have taken the steps we have done had we not been so. We did not shrink from a greater responsibility in 1843—that of dividing the Church,—and we shall not shrink from this. We have deliberately taken up our ground, and we mean to maintain it. We do not oppose true union, we reject the untrue and unscriptural.
* Appendix, No. VII., page 40.
43. In conclusion, we protest against the way in which we have been misrepresented as enemies of Christian unity. We are not careful to answer all the imputations cast upon us; but we may say that we reckon them unfair and unchristian; unworthy of men aiming at union; unwise, no less than ungenerous, as tending not to conciliate but to exasperate; intolerant also, as if brethren were to be coerced, not won; indicative more of impatience and self-will than of confidence in a holy cause. A course like this is adverse to all kindly deliberation, and fatal to any solid adjustment of the question,—a question which, more than most, ought to carry us out of the region of human passion. The movement is one which appeals to our deepest sympathies as Christian men, and should therefore lead us to seek the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. It is a movement which involves not only the principles of true Churchmanship, but of brotherly kindness and charity in the fullest sense; and while proposing to make us see eye to eye with brethren of another Church, long separated, it must not overlook the greater necessity of keeping us side by side with brethren of our own Church, from whom we have never been estranged. The difficulties of the question are great; and any solution of them which proceeds on an underrating of the calamity of internal discord either from the alienation of brethren or the importation into the Church of divisions which have hitherto existed outside, must be defective. Not only will the acquisition of new friends be small compensation for the estrangement of the old,—the long tried and long trusted fellow-soldiers and fellow-sufferers of other days; but it will, of a surety, originate and perpetuate two, or more, distinct parties in the new Church with conflicting views and irreconcilable lines of policy, with separate histories to refer to, and separate precedents to guide them. Whether the future annals of a Church composed of such elements are likely to justify the cost and peril of the erection is not for us to say. We confess ourselves unable to acquiesce in the present scheme of union, in the position and form which it has now assumed, or to approve of the way in which it is being carried out. Here we take our stand. There may come light out of darkness. We may be spared many things which we dread. Our brethren may yet respect our convictions. The day of open questions may yet be distant. We would rather deprecate the evil than forecast it. Yet we could not be silent; though we make the present appeal to brethren with mingled hope and fear