Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

patronage, through Jacobite influence, was again set up. The church resisted, but in vain, and finding itself unable to prevent it, entered from year to year its solemn protest against this oppressive law, as an invasion of its spiritual rights by the secular power and a violation of the Treaty of Union. Patronage, however, was continued, and it continued also to corrupt the church. This so grieved the minds and wounded the consciences of some of the Scottish clergy, that under the leadership of Mr. Ebenezer Erskine, many of them seceded in the year 1733, and founded, what afterwards received the designation of “ The United Secession Church.” In the year 1753, a second secession took place under Mr. Gillespie, which organised another Presbyterian body, called “The Relief Church.” Both these churches seceded on much the same groundsthe law and corruption of patronage. They have lately coalesced, and in their associated form take the title of “ The United Presbyterian Church.” Both at first, like the early Nonconformists in England, allowed the union of church and state in things temporal, but like them also, they have now adopted and hold most firmly the voluntary system of church government.

In the year 1834, when the evangelical party in the Church of Scotland had become strong in their supreme court, called “The General Assembly,” which is composed of ministers and lay elders, a law was passed in the assembly granting a veto to every congregation upon the nominee of a patron. This was, of course, a limitation, and in effect a subversion, of the law of patronage, and, as might have been expected, brought on a great contest between the church and the state. The Presbytery of Auchterarder refused to admit a licentiate, presented by a patron, because he was rejected by the people, and was prosecuted and cast in heavy damages; while that of Strathbogie was suspended and deposed by the General Assembly for ordaining ministers in opposition to the law of the church, but as they conceived in conformity to the law of the state. The matter having been tried in the supreme law courts of Scotland, and decided there against the non-intrusionists, as the party was called, which upheld the right of the people to choose their own minister, was carried by appeal to the House of Lords, which, confirming the judgment of the majority of the Lords of Session, or Judges, it was finally determined that the civil power could legally interfere, as the law then stood, to regulate all church matters as well its spiritualities as its temporalities.

Upon this, after a hard and protracted struggle, a disruption of the church took place. Much conference had been held, and much prayer had been presented, as the meeting of the General Assembly drew near, in 1842, when a scene unprecedented in the annals of ecclesiastical history took place, which, however, shall be described by another and an abler

pen

than mine. “Edinburgh is one of those cities which seem designed as the arena of mighty incidents. Commanding that wide prospect of fertile fields, and of the far-stretched ocean, which is itself enlarging to the soul; overhung by tall piles of ancient masonry, and hoary battlements, which only speak of other years ; looking up to everlasting mountains which carry the thoughts aloft or far on into the future; and with the solemn shadows of the ancient capital diffusing a sedateness over the elegance of the modern town, Edinburgh is essentially an historic city—a city familiar with great events, and a proper place for their transaction. On the morning of the 18th May, it had the look as if such an event was coming. People were early astir. When the hours of business came, men either forbore their wonted occupations, or plied them in a way which showed they had as lief forbear. Holyrood was one point of attraction, for the yearly gleam of royalty was flickering about its old grim turrets and through its gaunt open gateway.

The scarlet yeomen with their glancing halberts, and the horsemen curvetting in the court of the resounding · Sanctuary,' announced that the representative of majesty was within; and a stream of very various equipages was conveying down the Canongate professors from the college, and red-gowned magistrates from the council-chamber, lawyers from the Parliament-house, and lairds from all the Lothians, besides a long pedestrian procession of doctors and ministers, and burgh-elders, all resorting to the palace to pay their homage to His Grace the Queen's Commissioner. From Holyrood they marched to the High Church. This venerable fabric seemed also to renew the days of old. Beneath that canopy where James, of pedantic memory, used to sit, and sometimes dispute with John Durie and Patrick Simpson, sate the representative of royalty, and, all around, the gallery was garnished with the parti-coloured pomp of civic functionaries, whilst the area was filled with that grave and learned auditory which no other occasion could supply. The discourse,* •Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind,' was a production which, for wise and weighty casuistry, for keen analysis of motive, and fine discrimination of truth, and for felicity of historic illustration, would have been a treat to such a congregation at a less eventful season. With the * Preached by the late Moderator, the Rev. Dr. Welsh. It has

since been published.

solemn consciousness that in the full persuasion' of their own minds they had decided in another hour to take a step in which character and worldly comfort and ministerial usefulness were all involved, each sentence came with a sanction which such sermons seldom carry. When the service was closing, the audience began to disperse with a precipitation which contrasted strangely with the fixed earnestness of their previous attention ; for the place appointed for the meeting of assembly lay at some distance, and members were anxious to secure their seats, and on-lookers as anxious to get near the spot.

“In the Assembly-hall many of the gallery-spectators had sate nine weary hours, when at last the rapid entrance of members, by either door announced that the service in St. Giles's was over, and languid countenances were again lighted up with expectation. It did not look like the opening of a General Assembly. There was not the usual vivacity of recognition, and that bustling to and fro and ferment of joyous voices which on such occasions keep the floor all astir and the audience all alive. Either side was serious. The one party had that awe upon their spirits which men feel when doing a great work. Of the other party, some had the cloud upon their consciences which men feel when they are doing a wrong work—when they see others doing what but for want of faith themselves should have been doing; and others more honest, consistent Erastians of the old school,—had something of a funeral feeling, sadness in parting with opponents whom they respected, and a foreboding impression that when these were gone away, it would scarcely be worth while remaining.

"At last the jingle of horse-gear, and the measured prance on the pavement, with the full near swell of the trumpet, seemed to say in the words of the national

melody, Now's the day, and now's the hour.' The martial music ceased, and the Assembly rose, for Her Majesty's Commissioner had entered. The Moderator engaged in prayer, and as soon as that prayer was ended, and the members had resumed their seats, amidst the breathless silence which prevailed, he went on to say, ' According to the usual form of procedure, this is the time for making up the roll; but in consequence of certain proceedings affecting our rights and privileges,-proceedings which have been sanctioned by Her Majesty's Government, and by the Legislature of the country, and more especially in respect that there has been an infringement on the liberties of our constitution, so that we could not now constitute this court without a violation of the terms of the union between Church and State in this land, as now authoritatively declared, I must protest against proceeding further. The reasons that have led me to this conclusion, are fully set forth in the document which I hold in my hand, and which, with permission of the House, I shall now proceed to read.' He then read the protest, and having laid it on the table, bowed towards the throne, and withdrew. Man by man, and row by row, all the left of the chair, arose and followed. An irrepressible shout of gratulation from the multitude in the street announced that the vanguard was fairly without the camp;' and orderly and slowly retiring, in a few short minutes all were gone. Looking at the long ranges of vacant forms from which the pride of Scottish piety had disappeared, there were few spectators who did not feel * The glory is departed.'

“It was a striking sight to see the dark line for a mile together, moving down the steep declivity which leads to the valley of Leith-Water. In the distance stood,

« VorigeDoorgaan »