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the poor, never dispensed the Lord's Supper, and never, it is said, except on one occasion, entered the pulpit. The secession haring commenced soon after his settlement, the great body of the people joined it, and the few parishoners who attended his ministry, seldon amounting to more than seven, assembled for worship, upon sabbail, in the manse.'--Vol. i. 1st ed. pp. 155–157.
Such was the determined hostility to popular rights which the proceedings of the Assembly increasingly evinced, that the act of Assembly 1736, in behalf of the non-intrusion principle, must be regarded as, on the part of the majority, no better than a feint to cajole the disaffected multitude. Indeed, one of the ablest defenders of the Assembly makes no secret of the duplicity of their proceedings. 'It is scarcely conceivable,' says Sir HI. Moncrief, in his life of Dr. Erskine, 'that this act could have done more than soothe the discontent of the people by conciliatory language; unless more could have been attempted than perhaps was practicable; and unless it had been followed up by a train of authoritative decisions, which was far from being intended. It is equally evident that the members of the church who had been most determined on disregarding the opposition made to the induction of presentees, if they concurred in this enactment, as they seem to have done, could have intended it as nothing more than a concession in terminis to the prejudices of the people, without any view to its influence on their decisions in particular cases, or to such a change of system as could have had any practical effects.'
And yet the seceders are to be railed at as self-willed and unreasonable men, because they saw through the hollow pretence, and demanded reformation not in terms only, but in deed and in truth!
While the measures of the Assembly progressively displayed an inexorable spirit of hostility to the voice and influence of the people, their servility to the secular power soon showed itself to be abject and humiliating. Among other means resorted to by government to discover and bring to justice the Icaders of the Porteous mob, an act was passed prohibiting, under severe penaltics, the concealing of any of the criminals, and offering a reward to any person giving information which should lead to their conviction. This act was enjoined on pain of deprivation to be read from the pulpits of Scotland on the first sabbath of every month, during a whole year. The major part of the church clergy complied with the injunction; the seceders not only refused to submit to the order, but testified against it as an invasion of the church's liberty-an attempt of the civil magistrate not only to exercise his office circa sacra, but to intrude his dictation in sacris. Obviously repugnant as this encroachment was to the spiritual
independence for which, in her better days, the church of Scotland had contended, we find it mentioned by Dr. M‘Kerrow that the general assembly so far forgot what was due to justice and to consistency, that they afterwards endeavoured to fasten on the seceders for this part of their conduct the odious charge of political disaffection.
The 'four brethren' after the deed of ejection by the Assembly in 1733, formed themselves into the Associate Presbytery;' but averse unnecessarily to widen the breach, they confined the business of their meetings to conference and prayer, so long as there appeared any reasonable prospect of re-union to the national church. But as this prospect soon vanished, they pro. ceeded to license young men to preach the gospel, that they might be able to comply with the numerous applications for sermons which came to them from all parts of the country. The Assembly, which had forborne till now to take further steps against the seceding brethren again resumed consideration of the cause. A libel or indictment was drawn up, setting forth the offences of the seceders against the authority of the Assembly and the good order of the church. In 1739 the case was called ; the Associate Presbytery appeared at the bar of the Assembly not as culprits, but as a court of Christ; and in a formal deed called an 'act of declinature,' they defended the course they had followed, and disowned the Assembly's jurisdiction. The Assembly delayed judgment till their next meeting, at which, in May 1740, they DEPOSED the seceding brethren, and four others who had joined them, from the office of the holy ministry, declared their parishes vacant, and ordered copies of this sentence to be sent to the magistrates of the burghs, and to the presbyteries concerned to give it immediate effect.
While the principal ground on which this separation from the national establishment took place was the enforcement of the patronage law in the appointment of ministers, there were, as we have seen, other very pregnant causes of disaffection in the measures of the prevailing party. For a length of time a growing deference had been manifested to errors in doctrine, and even a disposition shewn to shield from censure persons in official and highly responsible situations, who were convicted of teaching principles at variance with the acknowledged creed of the church. It seems to be the dictate of common integrity that as long as a church stipulates to teach and maintain a specified system of religious truth, its ministers should be held bound to preach agrecably to the compact; and that if the personal convictions of any be at variance with the public creed, they should resign their connection with a church to which in mind and heart they have already ceased to belong. It
difficult to conceive a practice more directly subversive of moral principle than that of subscription to formularies which are not held ex animo, but as articles of peace. To connive at this is to turn the practice of subscription into mockery, and to admit a laxity which, under the guise of uniformity, would make the church a nursery of error, or the patroness indifferently of all diversities of faith. Of this the history of state churches affords many painful illustrations. Instead of repressing a multiplicity of creeds, they secure nothing but uniformity of secular interest, and rather foster than check varieties and novelties of opinion.
If we look into the interior of any of the great ecclesiastical corporations which have grown up in Christendom—the papacy for example or the Anglican church-we shall find within their pale almost every shade and hue of theological speculationgiving birth to those dissensions which are so commonly and so untruly charged upon toleration and dissent. Who has not heard of the Jesuit and Jansenist feuds, of doctors now siding with the one and now with the other; and of the way in which holy mother was tossed with things great and small, from the real presence and the sufficiency of grace, to the size of the tonsure and the immaculate conception. And what the better as regards honest and real uniformity of opinion has been the internal state of Rome's English sister? We challenge the best read in the dictionary of denominations, to name a sect of any note whatever which cannot boast of a prototype or representative in the various shades of orthodoxy, or in the incalculable brood of heresies which have been nursed in the bosom of our established churches, despite the Thirty-nine Articles and the Assembly's Catechisms; and often promulgated with a heartier zeal than ever parliamentary subscription could enforce. What at this passing hour is the internal condition of the English hierarchy? Who has not heard of her Calvinistic creed and Arminian clergy? Are things mended since the days of Chatham? We trow not. The most opposite extremes, and all the points between them, from the Antinomian to the most Pelagian adherents of the remonstrant school; from idolators of the rubric, to the men of conventicles and of extemporary prayer; fraternizers with papal antichrist in the opus operatum of seals and sacra. ments, and in uncanonical compromises between scripture and tradition; evangelical teaching in various degrees of purity; ecclesiastical politics in all their forms of insolence and servility; the militant church in millinery, and her lawn sleeves now spotted with the flesh, now stained with blood—these constitute the heterogeneous image of the Anglican hierarchy, which, were it broken to-morrow would exhibit, amidst the liberty of prophesying,' which would thus ensue, not one phase of truth or
error, which is not even now presented by the cumbrous fabric of gold and silver, of iron and clay.
With all due respect to our northern establishment, so celebrated for poverty and good works, we must take the liberty of saying, that diversity of private belief and uniformity of public profession has been, and continues to be one of her distinguishing features. Orthodoxy and heterodoxy, and no-doxy at all, have found favour in her high and low places. The history of the proceedings which gave rise to the Secession, is rife with instances, from the contests about the marrow,' to the 'errors of Professors Simson and Campbell. If such contradictory sentiments under the shield and sanction of a party banner, constitute a too common blemish of state churches, the reason is obvious, when we consider the bribe to enter them which such institutions offer to those who profess but do not in honesty hold the parliamentary creed, and the culpable carelessness they have often betrayed regarding the soundness and purity of pulpit ministrations.
In the rise and progress of the Secession, there was in effect a testimony borne in behalf of common honesty among churchmen in the subscription of articles. Had the Secession done no more it would have rendered an important service to the cause of public morality by the strenuous practical exhibition of this great principle. Recommended by the sophistry of Paley, and seconded by the dictates of self-interest, the practice of qualifying for office and emolument, by professing what men do not believe, is such a violation of the most obvious maxims of moral integrity, as nothing but a morbid condition of the national mind could save from instant reprobation and disgust. There is something rotten at the core when such things are not only tolerated but sanctioned by common practice, and patronized by distinguished names. Is it to be supposed, that men may vow falsely for a fellowship at Oxford, and subscribe with a lie for a chair or a living on the north of the Tweed, and, that as a thing of course, it may be winked at indulgently, without the practice tending to sap the very foundation of public morals ? The conscience of England is debauched on the threshold of her national universities, at the time it most requires to be braced to the highest and purest tone of truth, probity, and honour. If such things are too bad and require to be amended, is it not among persons in public station, and most of all among those who are appointed to train their fellowmen to piety and virtue, that the community may reasonably expect and have a right to require an example of high-principled conduct and good faith? If the contrary appear in the lives of churchmen and of the guardians of youth the effect will either be to blunt the moral sense of the peo
or to call forth an indignant protest against official profligacy. We verily believe that the national sin of easy swearing in certain departments of political and civil life, is in no small degree attributable to the examples of an accommodating conscience which have but too flagrantly occurred among reverend men, and in ecclesiastical places.
Burnet states as one fruitful cause of atheism in his own times,' the gross prevarication of numbers of the English clergy who took the oath of allegiance to William and Mary, on the worse than Jesuitical quirk, of a de jure and de facto king. And has it not also on the same ground been deplored by many of the most eminent and estimable men of modern times, that the long established test of subscription to the Thirty-nine Articles, on admission to the English universities, has had no other
tendency than to ensnare the consciences of inexperienced - youths; and that, if a fence at all, it has been so only as fitted to exclude the intelligent and the honest, and to shield the entrance of the false and uninformed ?
At a time when men were occupying the pulpits of the Scottish establishment, who subscribed her confession and contradicted her creed, -when thus within the pale of the church itself there was seen, what was worse than buying and selling, a leaven at work which tended to loosen and dissolve the ties that bind men together in honourable and in christian fellowship; it was good service done to truth and honesty that a movement arose, which in some of its aspects presented the character of a practical protest against such portentous delinquencies.
Yet it is manifest throughout the whole history of the movement, that one of the most characteristic features of the original secession, was the vindication of the principle, that the right of choosing their pastors is, by the dictates of sound reason and by the grant of God, inherent in the christian people. In the view of the seceders the rights of the people were annihilated, by the patronage-law, and the tyrannical mode of enforcing it. It indecd appears, that at no former period in the history of the church of Scotland, had the privilege of absolutely free election heen conceded to the body of the people. In truth, the unfettered right of choice seems, for the most part, to have been regarded by the church courts with jealousy. Instead of the popular will being left to its own exercise, nomination by heritors and elders, or by the church courts themselves, formed the initiative; and if the presentee was not acceptable to the parish, the people were required to state and to sustain their objections. Of the validity of these, the presbytery was empowered to judge; and the consequence was, that the mind of the people might be, and was disregarded, when their ecclesiastical superiors thought fit to exercise their right of controul.