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Meanwhile, notwithstanding the attractive representation which Dr Scott has set before us of the praiseworthy and successful efforts now made by the Established Church to discharge its duties and responsibilities to the full, the concluding words of the preceding Lecturer (than whom there is no one probably better acquainted with the actual condition of religious life and work in Scotland, and who is prepared to look with greater favour than we can do upon the advantages supposed to be derived from secession and “competition ") are still ringing in our ears: “While Scottish Churches are more than doubled in number, those who are outside of all Churches are not fewer, but more numerous than before”! (p. 320).
We now come to the last, and, I venture to say, the ablest of these Lectures. As was to be expected, this Lecturer also, like his predecessor, is largely occupied upon topics with which we have little or no very direct concern. There are, however, some conspicuous exceptions, and of these I proceed to speak as concisely as I can.
1. It is gratifying to find that our starting-point is one upon which we can cordially agree. The faith which S. Ninian, the first father of Scottish Christianity, introduced into this country, at “a time when the bishops of Rome, though powerful, had not as yet attained to supreme jurisdiction," was, we read (p. 353), “the faith of the great Councils of Nice and Constantinople; the faith of Jerome, and Ambrose, and Augustine.” It was so. And doubtless Dr MacGregor will remember that by the former of those two great Councils—which consisted of 318 bishops assembled from all parts of the world, east and west, north and south-three canons were enacted,—viz., the third, sixteenth, and eighteenth, which recognise the three orders of the ministry—bishops, priests, and deacons—as then existing universally throughout Christendom. Of the abundant testimony of Ambrose and Augustine to the same effect, I need not speak, and to Jerome I have already referred (see above, p. 5). I remind Dr MacGregor of these
things now, because he himself will presently tell us (p. 361) that “the reason why not the Church of Scotland merely, but all the Churches of the Reformation, had naturally the tendency to assume the Presbyterian formand did so, wherever they were not thwarted, as in England, by external circumstances—was simply this, that while breaking with the immediate, the Reformers ”—meaning, I suppose, more particularly those of the Melville and Henderson periods—“went back to the remoter and purer past, and drew their system from the fountain-head of Holy Scripture.” Passing over for the present the former part of this sentence, I would venture to ask Dr MacGregor very seriously-Does he really believe that the primitive Christians, who had the advantage of oral apostolic teaching anterior to Scripture, and supplementary to Scripture, did not understand Holy Scripture, or that, though they were prepared daily to die for it, they wilfully disregarded it ? Or does he intend to contradict John Knox, who, as we have seen above (p. 4), did not scruple to assert that “in the most antient Councils, nighest to the Primitive Church, the learned and godly Fathers did examine all matters by God's Word ” ? And how they examined and determined the matter of the threefold ministry, I have just pointed out. Or does Dr MacGregor forget how, and in what spirit, the members of the Westminster Assembly went back “to the fountainhead of Holy Scripture,” professedly indeed “ to draw their system” from thence, but really, so far as Church government was concerned, to adopt a foregone conclusion; they having previously bound themselves by a solemn oath to exterminate bishops, and so blinded their own eyes that they could not discern the truth ? (See my Outlines, pp. 42-44, 77-90). Let me beseech Dr MacGregor, with all due respect, to consider seriously these fundamental questions. He exercises, deservedly, great influence; and surely it is high time that ministers of the truth of the Gospel, placed, as he is, above their fellows, should not only cease to throw dust in the eyes of the great mass of Presbyterians in this country, but should assist them to look at the broad facts before us in a clearer light. Better to tell them, with Principal Caird and other eminent men of the more Liberal school, that the whole matter is indifferent; and though this will be to belie the past history, upon the glories of which so much stress is laid, yet surely this is less indefensible, less un-Christian, than to do our first ancestors in the faith so great a wrong as to suppose that we are better judges of the Word of God, are wiser and holier than they. It remains to add one word in reference to the former part of the passage on which I have been commenting. What is meant by the statement, that “in England the Reformers were thwarted by external circumstances” from assuming the Presbyterian form of Church government, I am at a loss to understand (see above, p. 6); but the further assertion, in the same sentence, that “all the Churches of the Reformation had naturally the tendency to assume that form, and did so wherever they were not thwarted,” is, in my opinion, the very contrary to the fact; inasmuch as, I believe, if they had not been thwarted by the tyranny of the Romish Church, they would have continued Episcopalian. My reasons for this belief, together with the strongly expressed opinions of Luther, Melancthon, and even Calvin, to that effect, may be seen in my Outlines, pp. 139 et seq., 217-220.
2. At p. 354 we read, that as “ with the Bible in their hands S. Columba fought and won the battle with paganism, and Knox the battle with Popery," so “ Melville won the first battle of Presbytery with Episcopacy.” I have before (see p. 8) exposed the unscholarlike inaccuracy of this latter representation, and I need not dwell upon it again.
3. Next we come to the broad statement respecting the Celtic Church for 400 years, that "it was neither Roman Catholic, nor Episcopalian, nor Presbyterian. Its rulers were abbots, to whom the bishops were often subject” (p. 335). Yes; subject, just as the late Bishop Philpotts of Exeter, being also Canon of Durham, was subject, when in residence there, to the Dean of Durham; and just as the late Bishop Monk of Gloucester, being also Canon of Westminster, was subject, when in residence there, to the Dean of Westminster. But may I be excused if I venture to observe that writing such as that which I have just quoted is sadly bewildering; and, what is worse, sadly misleading to plain readers. The simple truth is, that the orders (Scriptural and Apostolic) of the Christian ministry are one thing, and the order (non-Scriptural and non-Apostolic) of the monastic system is another; and though they may run parallel, they can never blend, so as to lose their respective attributes. On this subject, also, see above, p. 5. If Dr MacGregor could produce a single instance in which either a bishop had not power to confer ordination, or an abbot had, his remark would have been of some avail.
4. Again : speaking of the period of 130 years (1560 to 1690), during which the ups and downs of Episcopacy and Presbytery gave the ascendancy to each alternately not less than three several times, our Lecturer remarks : “ There can be no doubt that all through, the feelings and convictions of the mass of the people, except in the north, were on the side of Presbytery. ... The rational inference' which Macaulay draws from the facts of the case 'is this—that at the Revolution more than nineteen-twentieths of those Scotchmen whose consciences were interested in the matter were Presbyterians, and that not one Scotchman in twenty was decidedly and on conviction an Episcopalian'” (p. 359). I think Dr MacGregor, in quoting this statement, which occurs in Macaulay's History, ch. xiii., vol. iv. p. 272, must have felt that it is an ex parte or rather a rhetorical one. At all events, it proceeds upon the argument that “there are always multitudes who, though not destitute of religion, attend little to theological disputes, and have no scruples about conforming to the mode of worship which happens to be established ;” a mode of argument which, if applied at the present day, will go to
prove that every Episcopalian, every Free Churchman, every United Presbyterian, must be such from honest conviction; whereas multitudes of those who are reckoned as adherents of the Established Church are such, either from a certain vis inertice, or from the sordid consideration that thereby they escape the necessity of providing for the support of their minister. This method of reasoning is not one which will help Dr MacGregor's case when he comes to calculate the membership of his own Church (as he does at p. 367), and finds it, at most, only “close upon the half of the entire population.”
5. Proceeding to the next page, we meet with another quotation from Lord Macaulay. It is as follows: "There can be no doubt that a religious union (between Scotland and England, in 1689) would have been one of the greatest calamities that could have befallen either kingdom. The Union accomplished in 1707 has indeed been a great blessing to both England and Scotland. But it has been a blessing, because, in constituting one State, it left two Churches.” This is a passage with which I have been long familiar in these discussions. It is quoted in my Outlines, &c., 1872, and again in my article, “ On the Law of Christian Unity,” in the Nineteenth Century,' May 1878. The former publication has these remarks upon it: “I grant there is a sense in which that sentiment is true. Assuming that the religious profession of a majority of the people was fairly represented in 1690 by the disestablishment of Episcopacy, and establishment of Presbyterianism in its room—an assumption, however, which a strict investigation of the facts will scarcely justify; but supposing this, which is the popular belief, it certainly would have been most undesirable that any attempt should have been made to force upon Scotland the re-acceptance of Episcopacy as a condition of the union between the two countries. But that the circumstances were such as to require the establishment of two Churches, unlike each other, in the same State—this, so far from having been proved a great blessing, must be acknowledged to