Изображения страниц

of a master, as the money freely spent in carrying out these operations indicated the manager. A love of gospel preaching and an apprehension of vital godliness were being rekindled in the general mind, and the moderates found themselves (as the scorpion when encircled by fire) in perilous circum


It is true that Mr. Robert Haldane always disclaimed any design to pull down the established kirk,-a charge against him which was entertained by the alarmists, and sedulously propagated by them;-but it is impossible to look back upon the success which attended the operations in which he was avowedly engaged, and the results which sprang from them, without coming to the conclusion, that if he sought not its overthrow, he was nevertheless resolved upon the extinction, if possible, of the semi-infidel party, who had so long directed its measures and misguided the people.

Good man as Mr. Robert Haldane was, he was, as we have said, proud, impatient of contradiction, accustomed to have his own way, and rather disposed to look contemptuously on men who differed from him, especially those who professed religion, and yet made light of its duties.

He had been wounded in his most tender point; conscious of the soundness of his political opinions, and of the integrity with which he held them, he had been virtually tabooed by those of his own class in society. Satisfied, too, of the strength of his religious convictions, consequently impressed with a sense of the vast importance of religion to others, and anxious to carry it to the perishing heathen, at the sacrifice of his property, his ease, and his social position, his sincerity had been doubted, his design suspected, his views pooh-poohed, and his great object defeated.

The weakness of his political opponents he could despise; but it was not to them he attributed his mortifying disappointment so much as to the secret whisperings of men, who, though occupying parishes as bishops of souls, were themselves ignorant of that truth which could alone save them, and in whose eyes the souls of the far off idolaters were as a thing of nought.

It was not, therefore, to be wondered at, that he, a man, possessed of no ordinary abilities, urged by no common zeal, impelled by no common philanthropy, and actuated by no common generosity,-but who was still, in some measure, subject to the influence of his natural disposition,-should feel, and feel keenly, the injustice which had been done him, and should enter on a course, which, while it subserved the best interests of his fellow countrymen, would, at the same time, shake the power, destroy the influence, and neutralize the mischief which his secret enemies, as hireling shepherds, had done, and were still doing to the flocks under their charge.

It was not strange that such a man should resolve that if they hindered him from realizing his cherished scheme of a mission to the Bengalese, he would take advantage of the taunt with which they had jeered the promoters of Foreign Missions, that "there were plenty of heathens at home, on whom their fanaticism might employ itself," and set agoing such a scale of Home Missions, and adopt such a plan of conducting them, as should carry the gospel into the darkest parish in the country, and kindle a fire which all their efforts should be unable to quench.

That he acted under the influence of such a resolution was the belief of those who were conversant with the transactions of those days, and it receives corroboration from the fact that the more decided arraignment of the errors and ungodliness of moderate pastors in their several parishes, and indeed everywhere, by Rowland Hill, and Messrs. James A. Haldane and Aikman, only took form, after the refusal of the Court of Directors to sanction the mission to Benares.

The articles, too, in the Magazine, like all the measures adopted, were calculated to shake the establishment to the foundation, for all were so many protests against its corrup tions, both in faith and in practice.

Such was the Home Mission work in 1798, and it was untiringly pursued-there was no pause, no relaxation; able preachers went everywhere preaching the gospel; there was a general interest in religion excited; but there were no gathering places, no rallying points in which the awakened might

meet, and from which, as so many centres, they might go forth like the first Christians to spread beyond them that truth which they themselves had received.

The Circus in Edinburgh was the only house in which the leaders of the movement had a regular place of meeting; but other houses were needed throughout the country, in order to meet the evident necessities of the people. Further, the expense of bringing down ministers from England was great, for not only were their personal expenses borne, but supplies for their pulpits during their absence had to be paid. It became, therefore, a matter of anxious concern how the cause which had been prospered of God so signally, should in future be carried on.

The Rev. Greville Ewing withdrew from the communion of the Kirk this year, and was followed soon after by his brotherin-law, the Rev. William Innes, but no other men of mark had shown a disposition to cast in their lot with the little band who were literally turning the Scottish religious world upside down, and ministers were required to meet the new wants of the people.

To meet the demand for meeting-houses and for ministers, Mr. Robert Haldane proposed to do two things. First, to erect large buildings as Tabernacles in the several cities, towns, or populous places, where the greatest interest existed, and to bear all the expense; retaining the entire property of these in his hands. The second was to found an academy, or more than one if found necessary, for the education of young men of approved talents and piety for the work of the ministry, and the expenses attending such academy or academies, he also was to bear; reserving to himself the superintendence and control of the details as to course of tuition and general management.

With regard to the Tabernacles proposed to be erected, the plan was to imitate Mr. Whitfield's house in Tottenham Court Road, and have large buildings in which the everlasting gospel might be preached without money and without price, but the idea of organizing churches was not embraced in it.

. Having resolved on erecting such houses, one was begun in

Edinburgh for the congregation assembling in the Circus, another in Perth, another in Dunkeld, another in Dumfries, another in Dundee, while the Circus in Glasgow was bought and altered so as to accommodate a large congregation. Others were contemplated, but these went nearly simultaneously on. However, as might have been expected, the ardent friends. who had originated the good work, and rejoiced in its wonderful progress, felt that a bond of union was wanting, one stronger than mere community of aim and effort in diffusing the truth, they had for several years labored together, but they belonged to separate communions, and felt the desirableness of being associated as a body in church fellowship. peculiar state in which the kirk was from the predominance of the Moderates in its councils and parishes, had distasted some of them; and a desire for enjoying a purer communion than was otherwise attainable, influenced others; while Mr. Ewing, whose views had been expanding, had adopted the principles of Congregationalism, as the only mode of church order by which purity of communion might most certainly be secured.


After much prayerful consideration by these brethren, the organization of a church on Congregational principles was resolved on. Twelve of the most active of the friends thus uniting together, they were regularly formed into a church, and having invited Mr. James A. Haldane to be their pastor, he was accordingly ordained over them, three ministers officiating in the service of setting him apart to the ministerial office. The confession of their faith, and the principles on which they had agreed, as regulating their order as a church, were drawn up by Mr. Ewing. Immediately after Mr. Haldane's ordination, three hundred and one individuals applied for admission and were enrolled as members, the majority being converts either of Rowland Hill or the pastor.

This was the first church of this order formed in the south of Scotland, and gathered as the fruit of the revival which had been going on; properly speaking, it was not the first church that was so formed, for about six months before, one had been organized in Aberdeen, under peculiar circumstances. The

Rev. George Cowie of Montrose, a minister of the Secession church, had been deposed from the ministry because he had openly countenanced Messrs. James A. Haldane, Aikman, and Campbell, in their itinerating labors; but as he was very popular, and greatly beloved by his people, they continued under his charge in defiance of the sentence of the synod. But the harsh proceedings of that court had constrained a few pious persons to withdraw from the body; and, at the same time, the high handed measures adopted by the assembly of the kirk, in condemning missions to the heathen, and stigmatizing those who promoted them as fanatics, produced a like effect on some good people belonging to the kirk; these aggrieved parties met together and sought to counsel, comfort, and edify one another. One of them, George Moir, a poor man, but possessed of an unusual share of ability, firmness, and energy, had met with a book entitled, "An inquiry into the Constitution, Discipline, unity and worship of the primitive church that flourished within the first hundred years after Christianity, faithfully collected out of the extant writings of those ages by an impartial hand.” *

The reading of this work satisfied and decided him in favor of the Independent or Congregational form of church order. He communicated his views to his friends, who cordially entered into them, and agreed to form themselves into a church of that order. Having adopted this resolution, they corresponded with Dr. Bogue and others in England, for counsel and direction as to the necessary steps to be taken, who encouraged them to proceed and endeavor to get a chapel built, in order to their comfortable organization; this they set about with alacrity and energy, and erected a house capable of seating one thousand individuals. It was opened in September, 1798, by the Rev. Mr. (afterwards Dr.) Bennet, of London, who had taken a lively interest in the cause, and for

* That impartial hand was Peter King, the near kinsman of John Locke, and afterwards Lord High Chancellor of England, but who wrote this learned and able work, while serving as an assistant to his father in his trade as a grocer and drysalter in the city of Exeter. Vide, Dr. L. Alexander's Life of J. Watson, pp. 17, 18.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »