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Observer, July 1, '71.
and her together. The Church of the State is established to christianize the State. What does this pre-suppose ? That the State is more christion than the Church ; otherwise, how could the State possibly establish a Church if it were not more Christian ? The present position of the State Church, therefore, appears absurd. It is upheld by a party in power which is not recognized to be so christian as the Church herself; and if the Church had any respect for her professed spirituality and dignity, she would immediately disown this unholy connection. But what have State Churches done? Have they done great good, by christianizing the peoples among whom they were established? They have all proved utter failures. In Germany, Holland, Sweden and Switzerland in fact, the whole of reformed Christendom, the Protestant State Churches have undone, to a great extent, what was done by spiritual agencies before they came into existence. Their connection with the State has retarded the spread of vital religion, and, while it has lethargized to a greater or less extent those within their pale, it has been a powerful means to foster and intensify other causes opposed to the spirituality of that which they had set as a bulwark. What has the experience of Ireland, nay, of England and Scotland, been in this respect ? Numerous cathedrals, benefices and a powerful army of clergy; but who will venture to assert that there has been anything like an adequate return of christianization of the people, for such a rich and magnificent State Church? Indeed, the Established Church of England has done and is doing far more to destroy Protestantism than could be credited; while in Scotland the same baneful influence is exerted, though much less in degree. In Scotland this is acknowledged with pain, and by the dissenting Presby. terians, therefore, an agitation has been begun for the removal of the cause which is trammelling the Churches, that they may arise to the greatness of their strength and show greater life and vigour in their spirituality. The Rev. Dr. Buchanan, one of the leaders in the Free Church Assembly and the convener of the meeting in favour of union, asserted, in the course of the debate on union, that the whole controversy turned upon the 'hinge of the expediency of Church Establishments. The following extract from his address, which occupied upwards of three hours, will be found to verify much that has been said :
"The English Church Establishment, which we once believed to be embarked on a career of reformation, has, on the contrary, assumed a character which seriously endangers the very path it was set up to maintain-ard is doing far more at this moment to carry England back into the arms of the Papacy than is doing by the Church of Rome itself. While the Scottish Church Establishment on the other hand—the only one which we ever undertook on Scripture grounds to defend--we have ourselves been compelled to abandon as being scripturally defensive no more. We have come in short, in the providence of God, to be placed in a position in which-looking all around us, far and near-we can discover not one solitary example of a State Church, either in this or in any other land, where civil establishment is not still more flagrantly at variance with true allegiance to Christ than the one from which conscience compelled us to withdraw. Nay more, we have come, in the providence of God, to find ourselves face to face with a state of things in the political constitution of our country which plainly portends, and ere long will imperatively demand, the abolition of all Church Establishments as being a class of institutions which, in the present divided state of religious and ecclesiastical opinion, are incompatible with political justice, and therefore hurtful to the best interests of religion itself. (Applause.) And once more we have come, in the providence of God, to discover, by the facts of our own Church history since 1843, that what the State cannot now either righteously or usefuliy undertake in the way of temporal support, the Church, in these lands, is perfectly able to achieve."
In the U. P. Synod a motion was passed to petition Parliament for the disestablishment and disendowment of the Established Churches of t
• land and England. The following are some of the remarks made during the discussion :
Rev. Dr. Johnstone, Limekilns, said it was sad to see Christian Churches so bound that they could not of themselves legally change a single word or syllable of their creed, or of the Law of Patronage. He wished the Church of Scotland all success in the present movement for the abolition of patronage, believing that it would lead to the entire disestablishment of the Church. Again, he pleaded for the disestatlishment of the English and Scotch Churches in order that they might be delivered from the State tyranny to which they were subjected, and granted that freedom which every Church ought to possess. He maintained that, so far as Scotland was concerned, Sir Roundell Palmer's argument, that an Established Church was necessary to supply religious instruction to the poor was unsound, for the greater number of the poor north of the Tweed, and also of the working classes, were instructed in religion, not in Established, but in dissenting Churches.
Mr. Fleming, Inverkeithing, said whatever excellence or good was to be found in the Church of Scotland, she was not indebted for it to the fact of her establishment. Then, what had State connection done for the Church of England ? Was she not at one time the bulwark against Popery, but now was she not the main hope of the Romanists ? There were ministers in the Established Churches of England and Scotland many of whose parishioners were in as dire ignorance as the inhabitants of Old Calabar. When Mr. Gladstone, in replying to Mr. Miall, said that the Church of England had always been friendly' to freedom of thought and mental culture, perhaps he was thinking of the closing of the doors of national seminaries against every one but Churchmen-(hear, hear, and applause)—and when the Premier could not successfully meet Mr. Miall's arguments, he had at last to take refuge in the thought that the disestablishment of the Church of England was a work of such magnitude that no man or body of men would be likely to undertake the task. But the Premier should be comforted that the Synod were not abashed by the difficulty ; and already the battle of freedom had been begun with fair promise of success. When the tide of popular sentiment was baptized, as they believed it was in this case, by Christian truth, it became irresistible as the ocean wave; and what the truth had done for Scotland, not yet in the disestablishment of the Church of Scotland, but in its Disruption, it might do for England too. There was already violent conflict and internal divisions in the Church of England, and these were on the increase. It might be that, as the consummation approached, the friends of truth would be only called upon to stand still, anticipating, with entire confidence for the Church of England, the fate which had been predicted for a house divided against itself. (Applause.)
Mr. Hutton, Paisley, valued the movement for disestablishment for the sake of the Churches themselves, for the sake of the State, for the sake of justice between man and man, and because it was a really radical movement. He thought it would be a good thing that they should put an end to all further tinkerings of the State Churches, which were a waste of legislation ; and that every State Church should be swept away. He believed that if disestablishment should come, it would settle the patronage question, the union question, and many other subsidiary questions.
Let us, then, take courage and press on to victory. T. Y. M.
UNION OF CHURCHES IN SCOTLAND. " Coming events cast their shadows before," and if the present unsettled state of Presbyterianism indicates anything it foreshadows the approach of great changes. Never before have the churches been so much engaged in looking to their positions and endeavouring to strengthen or extend them, and this in the hope of being able to keep their ground against some terrible assault which threatens them, from some quarter or another in the mysterious and wonderful future. This strengthening process has been professedly carried on to a certain degree for five or six years, but the sources from which strength has been sought, or the foundation which is being laid in the hope of affording stability and security, have been giving indications of weakness, and threatening danger. The impetus which Ritualism has given to the vigorous but secretive action of Romanism, has created a reactionary power, espeeially in the Presbyterianism of
Observer, July 1, '71.
Scotland, which has had the effect of drawing Presbyterians in this re.. spect more closely together, in order to show a united front against the undermining inroads of Popery. This is a laudable object, and let it be hoped that if it does not operate aggressively it may at least stem this current of error, ignorance and superstition. But there is a danger that if the union is not material and absolute, the inward disunion, and consequent opposition, because of there being two separate foundations, may render the opposing power weaker, and the results less encouraging and satisfactory than they would otherwise be. If churches have come to admire, and, therefore, to seek union because of its scripturalness and advantages, they must, if they find opposing elements within themselves,
, be concerned about their own peace, and set about endeavouring to secure it; and while they are thus engaged with themselves, striving to rectify that which is faulty and injurious, much of the power they wish to exert as a united body against any system of evil, must necessarily be diverted from that purpose to the healing of their own discords. And this is precisely the position of the Presbyterian Churches in Scotland now. While they are at one in their unflinching opposition to Popery, and to Ritualism its child, their desire for union beyond this, which if effected would incor, porate the respective bodies, has led them to discover that they cannot unitedly agree as to the terms or basis on which this union is desired. Discord, and, it is feared, enmity have been created by this movement, which as it is pushed on, is gradually making the breach, between men who were formerly united, wider and more threatening. Over what towns this breach may extend it is impossible to say, but it is certain that it is one which will never be healed so long as a purely human basis of union is upheld as the only power capable of cementing the differing bodies together as one federation.
After a twelvemonth's earnest agitation, conducted by the leaders of the unionists and the anti-unionists, both of whom have held large public meetings in the most important towns in Scotland with the view of strengthening their positions, both parties assembled together under the roof of the Free Assembly Hall in Edinburgh, where, after disposing of some solemn business, they got into fighting order, and fought for two or three days. Previous to the meeting of the Free Church Assembly, how. ever, the Synods of the Reformed and United Presbyterian Churches had held their sittings and discussed this all-engrossing proposal to unite. The recommendation of the Synods' Committee was to the effect that it should be declared they had in the Articles of Agreement fairly represented the prin. ciples of the Church. Over this report there was a great deal of jarring discussion, which was indicative of anything but ripeness for uniting with a sister Church. These Articles of Agreement have been spoken of, both in Synod and Assembly, not very respectfully, as a cleverly, not to say cunningly, devised document, in which differences are minimised, almost to the point of disappearance, that, nevertheless, beyond the Articles of Agreement have a real outstanding existence. The differences exist because many of the United Presbyterians, or Voluntarys, do not accept the Confession of Faith absolutely, but do so with certain explanations to qualify their ad. herence to it. The Free Church on the other hand differs from the United Presbyterian Church and holds that though they take a different view the difference is more imaginary than real, and throwing aside the necessity of interpreting the passages in the Confession of Faith on which there is disagreement, the Free Churchmen, or the majority at least, readily declare their union of sentiment with the United Presbyterian Churches.
If there be union in sentiment-what is the cause of the continued wrangling and fighting? Why should those who see eye to eye not unite in one brotherly community? The Confession of Faith is in the way. Being the recognized standard of faith in the churches, it must necessarily be ignored if the interpretation of it causes the difference, while without it parties would be almost if not entirely at one. There can be no disguising of the fact that many advanced Voluntarys look upon the Confession, or any other human basis of faith, as obsolete, and much of the opposition within the United Presbyterian Church to union arises from this, because the Free Church declares its firm adherence to the Confession. That there is a growing dissatisfaction on the part of many ministers with the creed-bound system with which they are connected is not difficult to observe, and while this continues it is vain to hope for a large united church formed upon a basis which may yet become more fruitful in its disuniting power.
One of the speakers in the United Presbyterian Synod-Rev. Mr. Oliver ; Glasgow-stated a very truthful principle, which, if applied also to the Confession of Faith, would be no less true, and action upon it none the less desirable. The words he uttered were : “The questions raised by the Articles of Agreement are very subtle, and lie outside of all gospel truth, and ought, therefore, to be made no part in any way of a Church's creed. If you wish to make the union an insecure one, lengthen your creed; for you will then sow dissensions which will seriously trouble if they do not rend the Church.” Another speaker, Mr. Inglis, Johnstone, in speaking of the strife in the Free Church regarding the meaning of certain articles, which are called claims of right, protest, and so forth, and which was shaking the Church to its foundation, said : And we are going to repeat the same blunder in a worse form with articles which received a rough handling from the Presbyteries, which have never been submitted formally and deliberately to the judgment of the Synod, and articles which are notoriously interpreted in different senses before the union is formed. These are to be our Articles of Agreement! This is to be our bond of love and brotherhood ! What can come out of such faltering and am. biguous legislation but mischief, and a renewal in the United Church of those unhappy scenes which, in the Free Church, make its enemies mock and its friends mourn." What
be the real end of the debate in the United Presbyterian Churches it is indeed difficult to determine, but this generally may be deduced from all that has transpired, that though the union should be consummated there will still remain a United Presbyterian Church, among whom will be found those who desire to have no creed but the Bible, and it may be that the greater freedom in which they will then breathe may lead them nearer to the "simplicity and spirituality of the apostolic age.” The motion in the United Presbyterian Synod to approve of the committee's report, and to continue their labours in the direction of "incorporating union," was carried in the face of the protest of a considerable number of its members who objected to commit the Church to a second Confession of Faith ;-or a confession other than that which they accepted at present with various qualifications. When a system of faith of human production has to be propped up with qualifications, there must be internal weakness and signs of falling! Would that there were men bold enough to remove the props and let the human fabric fall, in order that the only—because divine and imperishable-foundation of christian union, the Bible, may be recognized and receive the honour and respect due to it!
In the Free Church Assembly the proposal to unite led to em bittered discussion, in which the anti-unionists denounced the unionists for doing what seemed to be an attempt to renounce the distinctive principles of the Church and to break her into pieces. To so high a pitch did the rancorous feeling rise that the Assembly was sometimes thrown into disorder, and the Moderator required to exercise all his power, aided by others, to restrain the fierceness and impetuosity of the debatants. The debate was opened by the reading of the recommendation of the Committee, that there was no bar in principle to an incorporating union between the negotiating Churches on the basis of the standards as at present accepted by the Churches. This was supported with great ability and vigour by many leading men in the Church, and was as bitterly opposed by men equally able, occupying the same influential position. The fight, however, was chiefly over the doctrine of the Headship of the Church, and the duty of the King or the civil magistrate in relation to the Church. The feeling of the majority of the Assembly agreed with the view of the United Presbyterians, and was, that the Headship consists not in endowments nor in civil establishments, but in the doctrine that nations and their ruiers are bound to regulate both their individual and official actings by the Word of God. Accordingly, it was determined by a considerable majority to continue the negotiations for union, the minority being opposed to their continuance, and contending that though the Head of the Church is Christ, the King or civil magistrate is bound in the exercise of his official functions to uphold and support the Church. Though this necessarily leads to the question of dis-establishment, it is one which has to do with the proposal to unite, and should the union be pushed on, this will form an element of disruption, which may permeate one-third of the whole Free Church. At present, then, the prospect of union among the Presbyterian bodies does not admit of the hope that it will be anything like universal, and though the united Church may be large,-founded and compacted on mere human definitions—there will be large off-cast opposing sections, and a tendency, which will have ever to be guarded against, in the united Churches to fall asunder, because of their resting together on an unsound foundation. AN OBSERVER.
REV. F. FERGUSON AGAIN. This gentleman, who occupies a United Presbyterian pulpit in Dalkeith, and enjoys considerable popularity, was, at the instance of one or two of his co-presbyters, charged before the Synod of his Church with teaching heretical doctrine. From the beginning of this case our readers have been made acquainted with it, especially the statements to the effect that a minister of the Gospel had the right and liberty to interpret the Word of God without that liberty being restrained and brought within limits dogmatisally asserted in a human compilation, such as the Confession of Faith. Such a position as this Mr. Ferguson and some of the members of his Church were understood to have assumed, when the charge was preferred against him that in rendering 1 Peter iii. 19, 20, he taught not only salvability after death of those who had rejected the Gospel, but the probability that the Devil also might be saved. On the alleged offensive heresy, which Mr. Ferguson was charged with having taught, no judgment has been passed in these pages; but unbiassed minds would have been led to form the impression, from the various speeches he had delivered in his defence, that he was groaning under a yoke from which he anxiously