صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

No. LXVI.-Mesmerism, by a Candid Inquirer, 321—Was Peter Prince of

the Apostles ? 332—Caleb Field, a Tale of the Puritans, 336–Our Aris-
tocracy, Past, Present, and Future, 341-University Tests, 356—Extract
from Speech of Rev. Dr. Bryce, in General Assembly, on Abolition of
Tests, on 27th May 1845, 368-Literary Notices, 370_Original Poetry,
383—Ecclesiastical Intelligence, 384.


No. LXI.



The T'en Years' Conflict ; being the History of the Disruption of the Church

of Scotland. By ROBERT EUCHANAN, D.D. Blackie and Son. 1819.

Ten Years of the Church" of Scotland, from. 1833 till 1843, with Histo.

rical Retrospect from_1560. By JAMES BRYCE, D.D. William Blackwood & Sons, Edinburgh and London. 1850.

It is impossible for contemporaries to subject a revolution to any accuracy of measurement. Actors, observers, chroniclers, all are apt to be at fault. Sometimes, though rarely, they fall short in their estimate of its importance and effects. But the common error is to view it microscopically; and to be ludicrously wrong in regard to its real dimensions. The Free Church Secession has recently formed the subject of two most elaborate histories. They record a melancholy, and, in some respects, no doubt, eventful story : but in so far as we can safely judge, it is the story of a chapter. A crowd of petty circumstances fall into the narrative, and make it easily divisible into many sections. But we know how it is, when & witness whose perceptive is immensely superior to his generalizing faculty, undertakes a relation ; how mercilessly he draws on the patience of the listener; in how many pauses he must be indulged; what parenthetical interjections he must needs inflict on the weary ear-to tell what the poor penny.a-liner, under the correction of his remorseless editor, must be satisfied to put into the space of a paragraph or a page. In these large books, we could dispense with many circumstantials. We would gladly have been spared the “ parcel-gilt goblet, the round table, the sea-coal fire, and the memorable duings of the great Wednesday, or Whitsun week." But to all this and much more of the like value and importance, we are doomed to listen, till, like the impatient Chief Justice, we almost lose our interest in the merits of the martyr tale, and begin before it is half told, to cry—“ Prithee, peace.” We aim to try whether this story cannot be brought with some advantage into shorter compass; and be made intelligible in the round unvarnished statement of a pen that makes no pretensions to the philosophy of history.

We cannot indeed think that some of the most minute and unnecessary party differences that ever bruke the peace of a society or of a church, should be treated as if nations were conscious of an earthquake, or the world were rent with a convulsion. One of these historians begins with a parading prelude to his subject, in which he announces that his theme is a great fact. Measured by the magnitude of his book, it may be so; but we protest against this scale of measurement. We should like to know what space this great fact will occupy in future history; where, most certainly, it will not be equipped with all the detail of causes by which he prefaces it; nor magnified with all the glories or horrors of effect, with which he sums up his estimate of it. Imagine this great fact as it will be recorded in a chapter of the future Macaulay, should it ever seem to claim the notice of such a writer of history. Let not either of our pains-taking, and in their way, able historians, be angry with us, if we hint that they have utterly over-estimated their subject. We can fit them with a parallel case, by a comparison with which we do their chosen theme great and undeniable honour. On the 13th day of August 1662, two thousand pulpits became vacant in England on a single day. Of these pulpits many were occupied by men whose names will never die, and whose works actually form the richest contributions ever made, in a single age, to the Presbyterian, if not the spiritual, library. Of these men it may be truly affirnied, that their cause was good, their wrongs were real, their sufferings deplorable and undeserved. They have, moreover, transmitted their opinions ; they are still represented in their generations. England has a native Presbyterian clergy; the successors of these men—but iheir successors in an obscure, and we are sorry to be compelled to say, turbid and mingled stream of dissent. Yet was theirs an involuntary, an enforced, and, we think, a righteous severance from the body that they left. But within what shrunken dimensions is all their history now contained ! It detains the recorder of events but for a moment. The“ great fact” is merged not in any native insignificance of its own, perhaps, so much as in the feeling of mankind, that while truth and piety survive-while principles, in their essence, remain, and are continually reproduced, it is but little matter to be dwelling on all the rents, and dissents, and party differences that have marked their stages of transition. To this historic complexion assuredly must the Free Church come at last. May the parallel reach no farther! May the time never come, when freedom from power shall be reckoned incomplete without emancipation from standards of doctrine, and when the bold prote-ter shall merge in the insignificance of the mere dissenter! May the chair of Chalmers never be filled by any future Priestley ;-nor the orthodox pulpit of Gordon be violated by a Socinian Price ; nor a Candlish yield the re


version of his subtle powers to the all but infidel speculations of a Wakefield!

We have begun with these observations, as we trust their nature will explain, not to insult over honest men for having followed their own course. But we think them necessary, in order to put in a plea for disposing, very summarily, of the long array of causes by which this matter is sought to be pushed into importance; and also for reducing our own abbreviate of the case to reasonable limits. It needed not, on the part either of Dr. Buchanan or of Dr. Bryce, to carry us back to the Reformation, or to make us grope our way over all the space between, to account for the Disruption; as if they were searching among the native elements of things, to account for the sudden emergence of continent, or the phenomenon of a new creation. We shall make rapid work therefore of the causal theories of both one and the other. It is not unnatural, perhaps, that sanction should be sought in the original constitution of the Church, by parties claiming to be severally in the right. To that we too shall have occasion to make reference. But we claim no title to travel our readers over the ground occupied by the conflicts of three centuries, for the purpose of enabling them to judge of the positions taken in a party quarrel of ten years. We shall then begin by clearing the ground, without ceremony, of the antecedences of violent settlements-moderation, versus evangelism-doctrinal and disciplinary defection-tyranny of patrons. We say distinctly in the face of one of these annalists, that at the point of time from which he dates the conflict, such matters had ceased alınost altogether to be of the grievances of the Church. This a great fact" seeins indeed partly to have struck himself; and he is at some pains to account for the improved promise, and growing purity of the Establishment in Scotland. Was it then because her character was brightening, and her defections becoming less observable, that occasion was taken to begin a conflict ? We can understand how provocation might have been given to envious observers, without her walls, by such signs of the Church's prosperity and peace. Another description of conflict might have been anticipated. She might indeed have been thrown upon her defence, by outward aggression ; but the time was surcly ill-chosen, if we have characterized it rightly, for intestine and inter-necine divisions. We have an honest chronicler of the times, it is true, confessing with most admired consistency, that the envy of the Church's friends and of the Church's foes was mutual and reacting, when these hostilities commenced. Without was the voluntary, coveting her golden fruit and her delicious vineyard ; and within was the admirer of reform, emulous of the liberty of the happy dissenter, who could keep pace unfettered with the march of constitutional and political renovation.

Stimulated by the increase of political power conferred by the Reform Bill on the middle classes, to which their adherents almost exclusively belonged, the two most numerous bodies of Seceders commenced a violent system of agitation against the Church, resting the application to the minds and feelings of the people of this country, of their arguments in support of the voluntary principle, mainly on the assertion, that the Church of Scot

land was so lettered by her connection with the State, as not to possess the free exercise of those spiritual powers of government which flow from her Divine Head."-(Mr. Dunlop's Answer to the Dean of Faculty, p. 25.)

However truly the conflict may be accounted for by this mutual emulation between ch rchmen and voluntaries, it was surely an Irishism in warfare that prompted the fate of the Establishment by the zealous hands of her friends. It was by a dangerous and impracticable analogy that the Church was sought to be reformed on what are called reforming principles. Her constitution has in its very nature that which forbids periodical and revolutionary changes; else why her emblem of the bush, -her motto of “ Nec tamen consumebatur ?This was tacitly confessed by those who pretended to seek the elements of her reconstruction among the remains of her foundations, But they had not the advantage of the voluntary trowel—which has passed into hands unpledged to refrain from the use of any thing that will stick on, to give a facing and a garnish of renovation that must be accommodated to popular fashion. The Seceder can renew or supersede his covenants and his testimonies as often as he pleases; and he has done so repeatedly within the last century. It remains to be seen now, how far his admiring Free Church brother is prepared to improve the liberty with which he has provided himself, and go and do likewise. We have in Mr. Dunlop's honest confession we think, a truer master-key to the Veto agitation, than all Dr. Buchanan's long array of causes, though he too allows a certain ef. fect to the voluntary panic. But to please him, let us look with him for a little into that gloomy chaos——the precursor we presume of light and order—which he calls the dark ages of the Church ; in which his discerning eye detects so many origins of evil and abuse. We have not been inattentive to the history of that period ; and we doubt whether even Dr. Buchanan's researchies have qualified him to delineate its features on darker ground. We could improve we think his picture of Moderatism, by some strong touches from the “Ecclesiastical Characteristics." We could be severe to his heart's content on those “polite apostates from God's grace to wit,” who exercised the keen and happy irony of Dr. Wotherspoon. We own that the raid of a later period on Missions, and on Sabbath schools, was an unhappy and unscriptural aggression. But we conceive that the age which saw a Mission directed by the hands of Dr. Inglis—Sabbath education universal over Scotland-Orthodox preaching more the fashion than was ever its converse -patronage yielding its power and its privileges, almost without exception to the will, if not the prejudices of congregations-should have been better satisfied with its own mercies and more thankful for them, than to have risked their total shipwreck on the event of a stor ny and unreasonable agitation. The days had come wbich many mourners in Zion had expressed their longing wish, but scarce their hope, to see, when the Mission-coffer was filled with the free will offerings of congregations; when the doctrines of grace were more sought after than the pleasures of the theatre ; when every parish had its Sabbath schooland not alone every dwelling, but every hand had its Bible. These were blessings for which the Erskines, the Walkers, the Dicks, and

« السابقةمتابعة »