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not a mistaken one; in other words, whether the guidance of the Word of God, fully and faithfully ascertained, would not have disallowed the action rather than approved it ; whether, if the like occasion were to occur again, the same action would and ought to be repeated. There are many, we cannot doubt, who would so judge. To some, however — and I confess myself to be one of these-it would rather appear that, while on the one hand the requirements of the Word of God would have been satisfied by steps short of disruption, by protests, by continuance of the struggle within the body, on the other hand, the plain violation of other portions of that Wordthose I mean, more particularly, which forbid divisions and separations—would have been avoided. I would not have asked the minority in question to “ shift their responsibility,” or to attempt “ to escape the Judge's eye ; (24) but I would have asked of them to bear in mind the revealed promise of their Lord, that “ He would not suffer them to be tempted above that they were able, but would with the temptation also make a way to escape, that they might be able to bear it,"—to bear it without violation of His plain commands. I would not have asked them—when in their conscience they considered that wrong had been inflicted by the civil power—to forbear to “call that wrong persecution, and to take all proper pains to fasten the charge of persecution on the conscience of the nation ;” (25) but I would have asked them to feel assured that God's strength would be sufficient for them in all time of their tribulation, and that it would, in His own good time, if they continued steadfast in their obedience, be openly manifested in their behalf.
But must we not say more than this ? Must we not ask our Presbyterian brethren to bear with us while we venture to trace the origin of the Disruption to a remoter source than any that was assigned at the time by those who made it? Is it not an historical fact that whenever a Church or nation has broken off and separated itself by an organic change from the visible communion of the body of Christ, then a similar separation and disruption within itself has been permitted to take place ? Such has been the case in Germany, in the separation between the “ Lutherans” and “Reformed ; ” such has been the case in the Low Countries, in the fearful struggles which arose between the “ Calvinists” and “Remonstrants ;” such has been the case in Switzerland, and especially at Geneva. But the most remarkable instances are to be found in the history of that Church which claims to be the bond and centre of unity. When Rome had severed herself from the communion of the Churches of the East, through the overbearing conduct of the Pope's legate, in the eleventh century, she was punished, not long after, by the portentous schism of the anti-Popes: first, from 1159 to 1180; and afterwards from 1378 to
1424; and again, when she had consummated that organic change which separates her virtually from the communion of the Catholic and Apostolic Church of every country and of all times—I mean the change which substitutes the usurped autocracy of the one successor of S. Peter for the legitimate authority of all the successors of the Apostolic company; when this was so, then was rent from her the nobler portion of her ill-gotten realm—then was the grand signal for the liberty of the Churches which she had so grievously oppressed. It would seem then, as I have said, to be in accordance with a divine lawand who can question the righteousness of the judgment ?—that a body which has broken itself off from the unity of the Church, by a substantial deviation of whatever kind from catholic rule, should, in God's own time, be rent and divided, as we see the Presbyterian body is at the present day.
Meanwhile, for ourselves, we take our stand with all confidence upon the three principles which I mentioned at the beginning of the former part of this Discourse : the obligation of continuity, the obligation of unity, the obligation of gratitude. Of these three principles, one only—viz., the last, the obligation of gratitude, was or could have been claimed for Presbyterianism at the Revolution Settlement. After stating the reasons, which I have before alluded to, for abolishing Prelacy-viz., “ that it had been an insupportable grievance to this nation," and "that it was contrary to the inclinations of the people ”—the Claim of Right (July 1689) adds, as a further reason, that " they had been reformed from Popery by Presbyters.” By all means let the full weight be given to that noble motive, so far as it consists in truth with the fact itself. (26) But at the same time, let it not be forgotten that Episcopacy on that score has not only a prior but a stronger claim. We were converted from heathenism by bishops, and by missionaries sent and ordained by bishops. S. Ninian, the converter of the Picts, was a bishop; S. Palladius, and his coadjutor S. Serf, and his disciple S. Ternan, were all bishops ; S. Kentigern was a bishop; S. Machar, a disciple of S. Columba, was a bishop. (27)
Looking then to these obligations, which are equally binding upon us all, may we not venture to address our Presbyterian brethren, one and all, but especially the members of the Established Church, in the words of the evangelical prophet which I have chosen for my text ? “Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thy habitations : spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes."
We know the cords that require to be lengthened, we know the stakes that require additional strength. To name but one or two examples : Is it too much to say that the Presbyterian formulas of subscription, both for the ministry and the eldership, narrow and stringent as they now are (28) beyond all comparison
with our own, or those of any other Episcopal Church, defeat their own ends, and tend to weaken by their exclusiveness the fabric they were designed to fortify? Or again : is it too much to say that so long as the ordinance of Confirmation is disused, an instrument of strength which God has provided for the youngan instrument scriptural, apostolic, catholic-is cast aside ?
But the appeal we have to make to our brethren of the dissenting bodies—and especially of the Free Church—must carry us over wider ground. May we, then, be permitted to say to them, we honour the devoted homage which you pay to the crown rights, the supreme headship of Jesus Christ ? And what do we understand by that headship? We understand it to imply that most glorious of all facts which the divine mercy has revealed to be the comfort, the pride, the security of our redeemed race. Christ's headship is one which equally comprises Church and State, though its nature in these two respects is essentially different and distinct. Over all states and nations it is a headship of rightful and absolute dominion, inseparable from the providential government of the Almighty Creator. Over the Church, visible and invisible, it is a headship as over His own body, not of dominion only, but of the most intimate relationship and unity and love (Eph. v. 29, 30). But how is it that Christ, being invisible in the heavens, exercises His sovereignty over these two