« AnteriorContinuar »
—to account for the spreading uneasiness of which I speak. The obligation of continuity, (5) in the existence of a body which was to undergo no disseverance till the end of time; the obligation of unity, (6) which lies upon the surface in every page of the Epistles of the New Testament; the obligation of gratitude, which could not fail to urge what was due to the memory of the first preachers of the Gospel upon Scottish soil, many of whom were most unquestionably of Episcopal rank;—all these were enough to haunt the consciences of the more considerate, who would not suffer themselves to be led away blindfold by a spirit of party, alien from the love of truth. Yes, apart from all controversial arguments upon any one or more particular points—upon orders of the Ministry, or Government, or Worship, or Confirmation, or Observance of Anniversaries—however desirable in themselves these things might be regarded by many — the feeling I have described has been smouldering all along, and will continue to smoulder, in minds which are the last to betray. the secret fire by which they are consumed ; will continue, I say, to smoulder, until some vent shall be found to carry off the flame, through the judicious application of sound religious and ecclesiastical principles. Happy the time which shall see the discovery made! Happy the men who shall be God's instruments in discovering it! The independent self-reliance of the Scottish character—an admirable trait when engaged in struggling for the right, and in nothing displayed more tenaciously than upon matters of religion—will make the task hard to achieve; but may we not-must we not-hope that in God's good time it will be accomplished? If there shall be men to “ seek” it, as we cannot doubt, we have Christ's promise to assure us there will be men to “find."
Meanwhile it cannot be denied that the moral gain of the transition from the unreformed to the reformed era had been great in many ways; when the worship of the Church was no longer held in an unknown tongue; when the written Word of God became again as the light of the sun, a common possession available for all; when many frivolous or degrading superstitions had been swept away; and when the people and native Church of Scotland were no longer held in subjection to the usurped authority and tyrannical domination of the foreign Church and Court of Rome. And even in regard to exorbitancies and defects, when we consider the extreme difficulties which, on every side, beset the course of the Reformers, ought we not to bear in mind, in palliation of much which we ourselves, judging calmly and securely, may disapprove
“ It were not meet at such a time as that,
That every nice offence should have its comment”?
But reverting to the actual gains of the momentous change, shall we say that among them is to be reckoned the closer relations established with England when the union of the two kingdoms, which had been looked forward to during the long minority of James VI., and the exile of his mother, was eventually accomplished at the death of Queen Elizabeth (1603)? The Churches of both countries had become reformed and Protestant against the errors and usurpations of the Church of Rome. But did the union of the nations, in the person of a Scottish sovereign, produce the fruit which might have been expected, in the greater consolidation and advancement of the faith which they both professed ?
The answer to this deeply interesting question must be given, I fear, in the negative. In the early days of the Reforming movement, there had indeed been evidence of a wise desire on the part of both to combine their efforts as in a common cause. John Knox, after his release from the French galleys (1549), had been employed as a preacher of Reformed doctrine in England during the reign of Edward VI. Queen Elizabeth, by military aid, had contributed materially to the great and marvellously decisive triumph of the Reforming party in Scotland in 1560, as no one acknowledged more fully or more feelingly than Knox himself. (8) But even before that date a change had come over these friendly relations, mainly through Knox's own impetuous and violent temper, as shown more particularly by the publication (early in 1558) of his · Blast of the Trumpet against the Monstrous Regiment (i. e., Government) of Women :' Mary of Lorraine, the queen - dowager, being then Regent of Scotland, and her Tudor namesake the reigning Queen of England. When Elizabeth had succeeded her sister upon the throne — an event which took place before the end of that same yearsuch a publication could not fail to cause much embarrassment, if not actual exasperation, as we may well suspect, between its author and the English Court.
This weighty circumstance is not to be forgotten when we undertake to estimate the various particulars which give a bias to the ecclesiastical course pursued in this country during the remainder of the great Reformer's life; and after his death—up to the conclusion of that century—the untoward posture of political affairs offered little hope of mutual help to be given or received on either side. Scotland, under the influence of Andrew Melville, had been drifting into the doctrine of Calvin and the Genevan parity of Church government; while England, less inclined to hasty innovations, though not insensible to the value of co-operation with the Continental Reformers, was content to settle down upon the ancient landmarks, when the soil of the vineyard had been thoroughly broken up and cleared of the noxious weeds by which it had been overgrown. Upon the accession, however, of the Scottish sovereign to the English throne at the beginning of the seyenteenth century, a process of assimilation of the Churches of the two countries was at once commenced, for which the northern country at least was but ill prepared ; and the policy was pursued—for a few years with some little prospect of success—but eventually with results of confusion and anarchy throughout both kingdoms,
-leaving us a lesson such as the student of our history, both civil and ecclesiastical, ought never to forget.
And this, indeed, is the greatest of the lessons which we, my brethren, have to learn from the consideration of this first period. Assimilation between Scotland and England in ecclesiastical affairs, if it is ever to come at all, must come as a perfectly natural and spontaneous effect of causes, not only strictly constitutional, but qualified to produce it for the good of both: that is, it must come out of pure conviction, out of riper knowledge, out of wider sympathies, not only with the sister country, but with universal Christendom, both of the past and present, and especially of the early past. As it was, however, never was there a policy, good and rational in design, more marred in execution, more utterly disastrous and fatal in its results. Begun in the sovereign's attempt to assimilate Scotland to England by unconstitutional and arbitrary means, it ended in the people's determination to assimilate England to Scotland by force of arms. (9) And as a trophy of the success, short-lived as it was, of this latter attempt, the Scottish Church Standards