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did not cease to cling to them rather than follow in the wake of the English Church and the English State in transferring their allegiance to William and Mary, and afterwards to the house of Brunswick.* And this infatuation (can we honestly call it by any other name ?) not only continued for a whole century
—from 1690 to 1790—but allowing itself to cherish a traditional sentiment of disaffection and discontent, actually broke out, on three several occasions, into civil war. It is idle to complain of what our forefathers suffered under such circumstances. It is idle to complain either of the English Church or of the English State; of the desertion which followed, almost unavoidably on the part of the former; of the penalties which the latter had only too much cause to inflict in self-defence. Moreover, it is to be remembered, if we wish to be impartial, that the example of such intolerant and severe laws had been set by the civil power acting in behalf of Episcopacy under Charles II.; and though it may be said, and said justly, that the bishops for the most part were in no way responsible for those laws, yet neither did they protest against them as they ought to have done. The
* Sir Walter Scott, whose genuine love of his native country no one can dispute, speaks of this matter with his usual good sense and sound judgment in Waverley, chap. xxviii., vol. i., p. 382, edit. 1832. And comp. the “motives” attributed to Fergus MacIvor as a Nonjuror, ibid., p. 223.
+ There was, indeed, one exception. Leighton did protest against the persecuting Act of 1670, directed against the conventicles of the Covenanters, and said to have been the model of that directed against our forefathers after the Rebellion of 1745.—See Life by Pearson, p. xcvi, and compare Lawson's Hist., i. 798.
language of whining and complaint is rarely dignified—rarely calculated to promote a cause; and least of all when the inatters of which we complain have mainly arisen from our own fault. And looking even to the brighter side, what reason is there to expect that a Church, whose interests are, or ought to be, mainly centred in the life to come, can thrive merely upon Romance? And it was upon Romance, or something near akin to it, that the Episcopal Nonjuring Church was attempting to live during the last century. I say the Nonjuring Church. The socalled English or qualified congregations were founded, if you please, in schism, but in schism fully justified, as a temporary expedient, on the part of Scotchmen, and still more of Englishmen, residing in Scotland, who desired to reconcile their ecclesiastical convictions with the duty which, as dutiful and wellaffected citizens, they owed to the reigning prince; who considered that, after the perfidious conduct of James II., his abdication of the throne, and the declared adhesion, both of himself and of his son, to the Church of Rome, the Church and State in England had taken the right course in altering (so far as they did alter) the legitimate succession to the British Crown.
Thus while Episcopacy, from the rebellious spirit which it had shown and fostered, was put down by a strong, a severe, and, it must be added, a cruel hand, till itself and the community it represented had become almost extinct, the ground was left open and free to Presbyterianism, now fully invested with all the privileges of establishment and endowment which its rival had forfeited, and consequently supported in England by the right hand of political, and to some extent also of ecclesiastical, fellowship.
There were two features in the Revolution Settlement with which they who profited by it most could scarcely have been satisfied at the time, and of which all their more honest and more intelligent successors do not scruple to avow their dislike. One is, that the settlement was made, virtually indeed through the dictation of the sovereign, but formally through the exercise of an authority which, being composed entirely of laymen, was constitutionally incompetent so to act. Of this, however, we, as Episcopalians, cannot reasonably complain, having, in the persons of our predecessors, accepted a foundation equally insufficient, equally unconstitutional, when Episcopacy was restored by Charles II. The other cause for dissatisfaction consists in the fact that no higher ground was taken as the basis of the settlement than the will of the people. The express reasons given for the rejection of Prelacy were, that it had been not only “an insupportable grievance and trouble to this nation,” but “contrary to the inclinations of the generality of the people.” Now, here again, however
much we may argue, and argue justly, that “the inclinations of the generality of a people” form a very unsafe and insufficient ground for judgment, or for action in matters which concern religion and the truth of God; and however we may see reason to raise objections_valid objections—against the accuracy of the record on the score of exaggeration or of prejudice, (23) yet our wisdom will be to turn our thoughts in a different direction ; to admit that the minds of the people would not have become alienated to so great an extent as unquestionably they were, unless there had been, on the Church's own part, great unfaithfulness—unfaithfulness shown not least by undue subserviency to arbitrary government : and in such a case the popular will becomes in the hands of God an effectual instrument of the punishment which we compel Him to inflict. But an instrument that is variable, as the inclinations of a people proverbially are, may become in the same hands no less effectual for His purposes of mercy, when judgment has produced its desired effect in the amendment of those whom it had been necessary to chastise. It would ill become us to assume that we have already paid as a Church a sufficient penalty for past shortcomings; but it cannot be amiss to mark the evident tokens with which we have been favoured of the relenting of God's just displeasure ; and, as we mark them, to brace ourselves afresh for renewed efforts towards self-amendment, and a more zealous discharge of the duties which He requires at our hands. Among those tokens we cannot fail to observe that the mind of the people is undergoing change; that there is less of prejudice against the truth as it has been retained among ourselves ; less of satisfaction felt with portions of the prevailing system which we believe to be erroneous, or at least inferior to the corresponding portions of our own system; and, I rejoice to add, there is far greater disposition on the part of our own members to strengthen the hands of those who labour among them, and to promote the progress of the Church to which they are, as we trust, not only nominally, but conscientiously and zealously attached.
I pass over the tale, so often told, of the hardships and privations of our forefathers during the last century, and proceed at once to our fourth and last epoch, THE DISRUPTION of 1843. .
I have not scrupled to indicate that, in my opinion, our Episcopal communion, through its resolute adherence to the Stuart cause, became a martyr by mistake. Was no similar mistake committed by our brethren of the Free Church in the Disruption of 1843 ? As in the former instance, no one hesitates to describe the act as one of a noble and magnanimous character. And here — whatever there may have been in the former case—there is less room for the suggestion of inferior motives. The question for which there is room, is whether the act was or was