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kingdoms, both of which (one altogether and the other in part) are visible upon earth, and exposed to all the accidents and reverses of this lower world ? It is thus: as under the one headship He employs kings and rulers to carry on His government, and to attend continually on this very thing, whereby they are unauthorised to challenge our obedience for the Lord's sake (Rom. xiii. 1, 6; 1 Pet. ii. 13, 14); so, under the other headship, He has ordained divers orders of clergy to act ministerially in His behalf, and to carry out those purposes of unity and love which are effected by the rightful application of His own ordinances. And hence they too are authorised to challenge the submission of those for whose souls they watch in the Lord's name, not for their own but for His sake (Heb. xiii. 7, 17; 1 Thess. v. 12, 13; Philip. ii. 29).
The Word of God is plain and express in asserting for our blessed Lord, as the price of the universal redemption which He has wrought for man, both the one and the other of these two widely different but not inconsistent sovereignties (see, especially, Eph. i. 19-22; Ps. viii., cx.; Matt. xxviii. 18; Rev. i. 5, 12, 13). It also teaches us that the civil sovereignty (so to call it) equally holds good, whether a State be heathen or Christian (see Dan. ii. 21, iv. 32); only, if the State be Christian, it will know of its privileges, that it is a portion of Christ's kingdom ; and further, as a consequence of this knowledge, it will be bound to act so as to recognise the existence and promote the ends of that infinitely more glorious, because more intimate and mysterious, everlasting headship which Christ holds over His Church ; and, moreover, it will be at its fearful peril if it neglect to do so (see Isa. xlix. 22, 23: Ps. lxxii. 11; Isa. Ix. 10-12; Ps. ii. 10-12). Nor is the well-known saying of Christ to Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world”
—when properly understood—at all at variance with this general tenor of the teaching of God's Word.
That there would always exist extreme difficulty in reconciling and adjusting the relation of these two sovereignties on the part of their administrators, so long as man's nature in this world is to remain what it is and has been hitherto, and so long as the prince of this world is bent upon thwarting the revealed word and designs of Christ, was surely to be expected. And the truth is, we have witnessed too often the failure of that adjustment in both its extremes : for instance, on the one hand, in the claims of the Church of Rome, founded upon the text Ecce ! duo gladii—“Behold, here are two swords” (Luke xxii. 38); and, on the other hand, in laws such as those of Charles II. and James II., which placed the spiritual in undue subjection to the civil power. And what is the remedy ? I know of none that will not make the difficulty greater, and eventually more disastrous, except in the exercise, especially on the part of all Churchmen (who are bound to set the better example), of the patience and forbearance, the moderation and long-suffering, which the Gospel teaches.
At the same time, I concur with the advocates of the so-called “ Voluntary system,” that it is no part of the duty of the civil magistrate, even when professedly Christian, nicely to distinguish between differences of religious creed, unless it be, as in the case of Romanism, where foreign associations may call for a separate treatment upon religious grounds, or unless the creed itself be such as to sap the foundations of public security or of moral truth. To establish the one holy Catholic Faith under the teaching of the one holy Catholic and Apostolic Church—both of which are matters not so much of argument as of fact—to do this, wherever the evangelisation of a country has been sufficient to justify it, and at the same time to allow the fullest toleration of every species of dissent, which threatens no danger to morality or to the laws
—this is the duty of the civil magistrate; a duty, the performance of which, if we believe the Scripture, we cannot doubt that Christ will demand, under severe penalties, at the hands of those to whom He has intrusted that portion of His sovereign power.
I must crave your indulgent consideration, my brethren, for these last remarks. They are offered in the conviction that, unless we are to reconsider our ways in the light of all these past vicissitudes, the next great epoch in our Scottish Church history will be known by the name of Disestablishment. Upon that, whether it is to come or no, as I can express no desire, so I will offer no prophecy. That God can bring good out of the evil, if and when it comes, we all know. That Christ's Church, having been once planted in this land, will survive that, or even a greater catastrophe, we may hope at least with much assurance. Neither can we doubt, I think, that if a council could be held of the departed spirits of those whose memory we all agree to cherish with veneration—from Patrick Forbes and Robert Leighton to Thomas Chalmers and Norman Macleod—they would have little difficulty in framing such a reconciliation of our existing differences as should embrace the true disciples and descendants of them all ; little difficulty in showing us how we might be able, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to attain to that greater harmony and co-operation which we must all desire, and which would remove all fear of disestablishment: still less can we doubt that they would earnestly exhort us so to do. They would speak of the fatal blow which has been already given to our national system of education—that system which has deservedly won for Scotland so proud an eminencea blow given to it simply and solely in consequence of our divisions; and they would point to the downward course which lies before us in other respects, unless the progress of these divisions is to be checked, and their unbrotherly animosities repented of and assuaged. They would entreat us to consider whether, through these same divisions, the evangelisation of our Indian empire is not rendered more difficult, and whether the heathendom of our home population is not rendered more unassailable. They would refer us for guidance to the broad principles of the Gospel; and though, where those principles are at stake, they would doubtless encourage us to give place by subjection no not for an hour even to one of Apostolic authority, yet they would also warn us that the danger of misapprehending the truth, except upon points actually determined by the undivided Church, must, when men are heated by mutual opposition, be always great. The spirits of those holy men would combine, I believe, to tell us of these things. Shall we listen to their admonition coming to us from beyond the grave; or, like the simple ones in the Book of Proverbs, turning a deaf ear to the words of wisdom, shall we “set at nought all their counsel, and have none of their reproof” ?
It avails not to say more; and I have done. One desire only, in conclusion, would I earnestly express for us all—viz., that when we are to be called hence we may be found in the true faith and love of God, in the true grace of Christ, and in the true fellowship of the Holy Ghost; and that meanwhile, having sought first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, we may find that in the life to come all the good things which in this life we are not able to conceive, will be added unto us. Amen.