« AnteriorContinuar »
that in order to become a real power in this country for the nation's good — in order to disprove for ever the reproach so freely cast upon our Church of being an alien, an exotic—something more is needed than increased attention to forms and ceremonies, however good and necessary in their way, or to Nonjuring traditions, profitable for nothing but to engender strife,-if, I say, our censor's reproof should succeed in doing this, we may thankfully regard him as a real benefactor. And further, if he could persuade us that what, whether Episcopalians or Presbyterians, we all require in our present circumstances as Christians is, not only—what we trust we already have
-honesty of purpose, devotedness of heart and life, zeal for Gospel truth, but patience and candour of investigation, enlarged sympathies, hatred of the bitterness and unfairness of party spirit, more disposition to think better of others and less well of ourselves; if Dr Story would help us to the possession of these, we will readily forgive him all that he has at any time spoken and written less kindly of us than, in our opinion, he ought to have done.
But to return. It would appear from Dr Story's representation, that “the midnight interview of Carstares with King William " in 1694—this, and nothing else—“decided that, for good or for evil, Scotland in future was to be emphatically Presbyterian ” (p. 249 et seq.) To say the leastconsidering who the two men were—who William was and who Carstares was—as supreme judges of catholic and everlasting truth, this would seem to be a hard sentence to pronounce upon any country. However, let it be said to their honour, with the Covenant they would have nothing to do. Dr Story's words are few, but very pregnant : “The Covenant was dropped by the Assembly 1690, as it had been dropped by Parliament” (p. 242).
It might have been expected that a man of Dr Story's principles, bearing in mind the candid remark of the sixth Lecturer (p. 186), would have had something to say in disapproval of the stringent character of the formulas of subscription introduced first by Act of Parliament in 1694, and afterwards rendered still more stringent and exclusive by Act of Assembly in 1711. But no! There is no telling what mischief the old serpent Episcopacy might not be able to effect if it were to be treated with the least forbearance—if the smallest crevice were to be left through which it might creep in again! A probationer for the ministry, or an elder designate—to say nothing of presentees for ordination—might, after diligent inquiry, be disposed to entertain a secret inclination or predilection for some one portion of the Episcopal system, in preference to the Presbyterian, and might wish sooner or later to unburden his mind to that effect. But no such misgiving must be allowed ; it must be rigorously stamped out. It is true, we have seen of late years advocates for relaxation of tests in the case of elders—and Dr Story, I believe, is one of them; but not, so far as I can remember, in any direction which would give the least encouragement to Episcopalians. It is of no avail to us that we have contributed largely, in a spirit of charitable disinterestedness, to the schemes for founding and endowing new Presbyterian churches and chapels, where the increase of population has rendered them necessary. It is of no avail that we have offered again and again to prove our claims to equitable consideration, upon the strongest possible grounds, scriptural, historical, political, philanthropic. We have been trampled on now nearly for 200 years, and if certain individuals can have their way, however we may “ bleat and whimper,” we shall be trampled on still. No Episcopalian to the end of time need dream of touching tithe or teind, however they may be still called “Episcopal.” No Episcopalian need think himself admissible to a theological professorship, even though founded by his own forefathers; or that he can be permitted to exercise any political influence upon religious matters except for the benefit of the Presbyterian Establishment. And all this—because it has so seemed good not
so much to the people of Scotland as to King William and William Carstares !
In passing to the next Lecture, we are at once conscious of a change not unlike to that which we experience when we escape from exposure to a keen east wind and begin to enjoy the genial breezes of the south ; or when we leave the heated atmosphere of a stormy public meeting in a city hall, to refresh ourselves with the purer and healthier influences of a quiet evening's walk in the open fields.
The topics prominently discussed by the accomplished Principal of S. Mary's College are not such as to possess any special interest for ourselves; but we thankfully recognise the charitable forbearance which abstains altogether from insulting over a fallen adversary; and which, if it notices us at all, it does so, not in order to upbraid us, as another might have done, with our suspicious infatuation in adhering to the house of Stuart, notwithstanding their open and avowed apostasy to the Church of Rome, but only to condemn the Presbyterian policy of that day in opposing the Toleration Act of 1712, passed in our favour by the Government of Queen Anne. “It is,” he remarks, “melancholy to think that even the Church of Carstares did what it could to oppose such a law, and that it can be said with truth by the modern historian that the Scottish Parliament would never have ventured to pass it” (p. 260). Yes; and I must add that it is no less melancholy for us to think that the infatuation of our forefathers was carried so far, that within three years after that toleration was granted, they did all they could to throw away the benefit of it by the encouragement which they gave, directly and indirectly, to the rebellious rising of '15.
Without entering into the merits of the “Moderation” controversy, which does not concern us, we may fully sympathise in the satisfaction with which our Lecturer contemplates the galaxy of intellectual gifts displayed in the last century by ministers of the Established Church, and the various works which, in almost every department of literature, they so successfully achieved. Nor would we willingly have it said that we ourselves, however numerically reduced to the merest skeleton of the body we had formerly been, had no part or lot in that matter. It is true, among our clergy of the last century we cannot boast of an historian to compare with Robertson, or with Ferguson, or with Henry; but it may be doubted whether any author has done more essential service to the truth and accuracy of Scottish history than Bishop Keith, whose work, first published in 1735, on ‘The Affairs of Church and State in Scotland from the beginning of the Reformation to 1668,' was, according to P. F. Tytler, the historian, “the great mine from which Robertson drew his stores; and it formed the chief basis of Hume for the Scottish portion of his History” (Hist. of Scot., vol. vi. Pref., p. x). We can boast of no poet of repute sufficient to be matched with the author of “Douglas ;” but the name of John Skinner of Longside, is one which, we feel assured, the Scottish muse would not willingly let die. Born and bred a Presbyterian in humble life, he early chose what he considered the better part; and having cast in his lot with our Church at the time of its greatest depression, some years after he had taken orders, viz., in 1753, he suffered imprisonment in the common jail at Aberdeen during six months for disobedience to the law which forbade our clergy to hold divine service when more than four persons were present in addition to their own family. Besides his Church History in two vols., and some theological treatises, first given to the world in his Posthumous Works, and besides other poetical compositions of more or less merit, it was he who wrote the ballad of “Tullochgorum,” which Burns himself, in a letter to the author (1787), pronounced to be “the best Scotch song ever Scotland saw," and spoke of it as his “delight.” And what, perhaps is still more remarkable, considering the circumstances of real poverty with which he had to struggle during the greater part of his life, his numerous copies of Latin verses, especially his translation of Homer's “ Batracho-myo-machia," (notwithstanding some few offences against prosody which disfigure them here and there) deserve to be classed among the most elegant specimens of that kind of composition which have appeared in Scotland since the days of Buchanan and Andrew Melville. Again, in the department of general literature, it is no small credit to us, that when Mr C. Macfarquhar, the original editor of the third edition of the Encyclopædia Britannica, died (circ. 1792), we supplied a successor to that important post, in George Gleig, afterwards Bishop of Brechin and Primus, who carried on the work to its completion, and contributed some of the ablest articles which appeared in its pages, especially on the subjects of Language, Logic, and Metaphysics. Once more : we may have had no one in our Episcopal ministry to bear the palm from Dr Hugh Blair, but Archibald Alison did not at least follow far behind him in both the departments in which he acquired so much celebrity-viz., Homiletics and Belles Lettres ; while in regard to more strictly clerical qualifications, to the greater, though less popular, gifts and attainments of combined theological study and a saintly life, I know of no two Scottish names, during the time we speak of, which deserve to be more remembered than those of Bishop Rattray, who died 1743, and Bishop Jolly, who, born in 1756, lived far on into the present century.
But to proceed to the more general issues of the survey which our ninth Lecturer takes of the period assigned to him, i.e., the eighteenth century. It cannot be said that they are such as to justify the self-satisfied strain assumed by his predecessor in regard to the promise of the Revolution Settlement. On the contrary, the remarks with which he sums up, can scarcely fail to remind those who are familiar with his admirable sketches of “The Leaders of the Reformation, published more than twenty years ago, of the conclusions which he then drew concerning the results of the working of Presbyterianism as yet attained to, though, since the Revolution, placed in circumstances certainly