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plagues. But in spite of all their denunciations and warnings immense crowds attended wherever he preached, and the number of souls brought under the influence of the truth, through his instrumentality, eternity alone will reveal.
From 1758 to 1782, religion continued in a dead state throughout most of the parishes, both in town and country. During this long period a distinguished individual presided over the affairs of the kirk,-Principal Robertson, the historian of Charles V, who, as leader of the moderate party, carried out their principles in Ecclesiastical matters to their fullest extent. He steadily upheld things as by law established, denounced everything like concession to popular clamor, and looked down with supercilious contempt on his evangelical brethren. His influence in the assembly was supreme. His will was law, and even after he retired from taking a part in the public deliberations of the assembly, in 1782, until within a short time before his death in 1793, his opinion was taken on every important question, and his ad
*The Rev. Sir Harry Moncrief, in his life of the Rev. Dr. John Erskine, speaks of the vile, calumnious, and odious charges, which were put in circulation by the moderate ministers and their friends against Whitfield, and honorably vindicates him from them all. In bearing testimony to his uprightness and integrity, he also bears willing witness to his surpassing eloquence and surprising success as a preacher. As an instance of his deep acquaintance with human nature, and the skillful use he made of it, Sir Harry Moncrief gives the following: "He was to preach at Dumfermline, and make a collection for the Orphan Hospital, Edinburgh; among a host of others, a wealthy proprietor in the neighborhood determined to hear him, but being very penurious, and dreading the power of his ap peals, of which he had heard much, he put away all the money he had about him, before going.
Whitfield preached, and at the close of his sermon pleaded powerfully for the poor orphans, but suddenly stopping, he looked round at the vast assemblage, and said, 'Can there be a sordid wretch here, who, lest he should be moved to give anything to this righteous and merciful cause, has emptied his pockets, before he came? The conscience stricken miser stole out of the church, and going home, took all he had put away, and returned with it as his offering. ‘Some of the Scotch clergy who were prejudiced against Mr. Whitfield, took upon them to signify to his Grace, the Commissioner, (Lord Cathcart), by some of their friends, that it would be better not to invite Mr. Whitfield to his table, and that it would give offense; this overture his Grace received with indignation.'" (Gilies's Life of Whitfield, p. 223. Edition 1772).
vice implicitly followed. Under his administration there was no countenance given, no favor shown to spiritual religion;— the onward progress of the two dissenting bodies, the addition to the ranks of the orthodox ministers within the pale of the establishment, the impulse given to multitudes by the preaching of Whitfield, and the erection of a large chapel in Edinburgh by the pious Lady Glenorchy, (mother of the present Marquis of Breadalbane), all, only served to strengthen him in his hostility to the distinguishing doctrines of Christianity; while the unwavering majority, who followed his lead, carried into their respective parishes the bitterness of his spirit and the irreligion of his principles.
After Dr. Robertson's retirement from the personal management of kirk matters in the assembly, Dr. George Cook succeeded to the leadership, but never possessed his authority; as Principal of St. Mary's College, St. Andrews, and Professor of Divinity in that College, he necessarily resided there, and could not be consulted on any sudden emergency, consequently the prominent members of the Edinburgh Presbytery and Commission of Assembly, having the benefit of Dr. Robertson's counsel, acted at times independently of their leader; this naturally excited jealousy on his part, and gave rise to occasional bickerings and divisions in the actions of the party, of which their antagonists adroitly took advantage.*
During a great part of the time of Dr. Robertson's supremacy in the councils of the kirk, strange to say, his colleague in the pastoral charge of the old Grey Friars parish, Dr. John Erskine, -the friend of George Whitfield, the correspondent of the elder Jonathan Edwards, and the active coöperator in every good work
* At one meeting of assembly, the Evangelicals, taking advantage of differences which were known to exist between some sections of their opponents; and trusting to his great popularity, ventured to propose Dr. Erskine for the Moderator's chair in opposition to the nominee of the ruling party-this led to a very protracted debate and was a subject of great interest out of doors, a crowd waited till midnight to hear the result, and when the doors were opened after the vote had been taken, and the business of the day was over, the first member who came out was asked by many eager voices-"Is Dr. Erskine chosen ?"-the brief answer was, "Not this man, but Barrabbas."
which could extend the Redeemer's kingdom among men,-was the leader of the evangelical party; and under his guidance, that party greatly increased in numbers. His high character, sound judgment, unwearied exertions in every good cause, and his indomitable perseverance in withstanding the latitudinarian principles and high-handed proceedings of the moderates gathered round him all in the kirk, who were sound in the faith; many too, who were wavering frequently voted with him, and occasional malcontents, from the opposite camp, joined with him on a division, while outside the kirk, all who “thought on these things" regarded him as a prince in Israel.*
*Such incongruous settlements in one parish, were not uncommon, in those city churches, which had double charges; the appointment of the ministers was vested in the Town Council as patrons, and when a vacancy occurred, it depended, in a great measure, on the preponderance of the moderate or of the Evangelical element in the Council, whether the person appointed belonged to the one party or the other. As, however, the seat rents were a portion of the revenue of the Council-a popular preacher was often chosen,-although Evangelical, by a thoroughly Moderate Council,
Where colleagues were so ill mated, there was of course no harmony either in the pulpit or the congregation; in the case of these distinguished men, the radical dissimilarity between the doctrines held by each was once very strongly exhibited. Dr. Robertson had preached in the forenoon, on "the beauty and amiability of Virtue," and in closing his discourse affirmed that "so lovely, so attractive, was Virtue in itself, that were it to appear in symmetrical embodiment on earth, men would fall down and worship it." In the afternoon Dr. Erskine preached extemporaneously, on "the Natural inherent depravity of Man," and finished with this memorable rebuke: "My learned brother said in the close of his sermon to-day, that if virtue were to appear embodied on earth, men would fall down and worship it'-but he strangely forgot, that virtue, pure and spotless, had once, and only once, appeared among men; and did they fall down and worship it?—no, no, on the contrary, they spoke all manner of evil against it, they persecuted it from city to city, and at length, seized, bound, scourged, buffeted, spit upon and crucified it,-my brother had lost sight of the fallen, depraved nature of man."
As a farther illustration of the influence which the principles of the respective parties exercised on the minds of individuals, a retired bookseller, in recounting to the writer of this Article, many years ago, anecdotes of distinguished characters, with whom he had had business transactions, mentioned this:-" Dr. Hugh Blair (author of Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Letters) and Dr. Erskine were both customers, as were a number of the clergy,-but between those two men there was a remarkable difference, and this was shown plainly, when both were in
We have a striking testimony as to the irreligious character of the majority of the kirk clergy, at the time of Dr. Robertson's death, from Dr. Hamilton, minister of Strathblane; it occurs in his autobiography. "Principal Hill," (who had succeeded Dr. Cook), "and Dr. Finlayson ruled the assemblies, and the parishes were occupied by the pupils of such divines as Simpson, Leechman, Baillie, and Wight. Many of them were genuine Socinians. Many of them were ignorant of theology as a system, and utterly careless about the merits of any creed or confession. They seemed miserable in the discharge of every ministerial duty. They eagerly seized on the services of any stray preacher who came within their reach. When they preached, their sermons generally turned on honesty, good neighborhood, and kindness. To deliver a gospel sermon, or preach to the hearts and consciences of dying sinners, was as completely beyond their power, as to speak in the language of angels. And while their discourses were destitute of every thing which a dying sinner needs, they were, at the same time,
firm through age, and unable to go about as they used to do. Each had a standing order with me. Dr. Blair's was, 'Send me all the new novels as they come out, including those of the Minerva press,' which were of the lowest character; Dr. Erskine's was, 'Obtain for me all the missionary intelligence that comes to hand."" Another anecdote will show the unfriendliness which subsisted between ministers of such discordant sentiments. Dr. Henry (Evangelical) and Dr. McKnight, the Commentator, (Moderate), were colleagues in the Tolbooth Church, from 1778 till 1800. In those days the stipend of a city minister averaged about £200, or $1,000, but Dr. Henry had been appointed the king's historiographer for Scotland, on the death of Dr. Robertson, with a yearly salary of £200; he held, besides, the Deanery of the Chapel Royal, (a sinecure), which gave him £150 more; he was, therefore, a wealthy man, compared with his less favored brethren, and, in unpleasant weather, could indulge in the luxury of a coach to church. This Dr. McKnight could not afford to do, for as yet he had only his stipend; whatever, then, the weather might be, he had to walk to the Tolbooth. On a dreary, sleety, windy, November Sunday, he entered the vestry, drenched and cold, and found his reverend brother sitting dry, cozy, and comfortable before a cheerful fire. No salutation passed between them; poor Dr. McKnight stood shivering; it was his turn to preach that forenoon, and he was in no trim for it. So after ruefully surveying his better conditioned colleague for a time, he said, "Brother Henry, will you be so kind as to preach for me this diet; I am very, very wet?" "You'll be dry enough in the pulpit, sir," was the soothing reply.
the most feeble, empty and insipid things that ever disgraced the venerated name of sermons. The coldness and indifference of the minister, while they proclaimed his own aversion to his employment, were seldom lost upon the people. The congregations rarely amounted to a tenth of the parishioners, and the one-half of this small number were generally, during the half-hour's soporific harangue, fast asleep. They were free from hypocrisy. They had no more religion in private than in public. They were loud and obstreperous in declaiming against enthusiasm and fanaticism, faith and religious zeal. Their family worship was often confined to the Sabbath, or if observed through the week, rarely extended to more than a prayer of five or three minutes. But though frightfully impatient of everything which bore the semblance of seriousness and sober reflection, the elevation of brow, the expansion of feature, the glistening of the eye, the fluency and warmth of speech at convivial parties, showed that their heart and soul were there, and that the pleasures of the table and the hilarity of the lighthearted and gay, constituted their paradise, and furnished them with the perfection of their joy."*
Socinianism, under the boastful name of "the New Light," prevailed greatly in the west and southwest. Robert Burns came under the influence of it, and employed his fine talents in lashing the doctrines and ridiculing the characters of those neighboring ministers and others, who held by the faith of their fathers.
"In an evil hour for his country and himself," says Dr.
* In 1801, the Rev. Dr. Carlyle, minister of Inveresk, when the country had armed in expectation of an invasion by Napoleon, preached a sermon to a body of volunteers, of which the following were the closing sentences:—" In fine, I am warranted in affirming that if there be gradations of happiness in the regions of bliss, the highest will be awarded to those who die, fighting for their king and country."
This sermon was thought so seasonable and so excellent by the authorities, that it was printed, and a copy given to every volunteer in the kingdom; and that the general population might partake of the benefit of its instructions, encouragements, and consolations, it was ordered to be published and sold at the mere cost of the paper. Dr. Carlyle was one of the magnates of the kirk, and a contemptuous reviler of missions.