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'Presbytery Examined: An Essay, Critical and Historical, on the Ecclesiastical History of Scotland. By the Duke of Argyll. London: Moxon. Edinburgh: Black.
THE Established Kirk of Scotland stood much in need of a panegyric. From the time that so many of her ablest sons forsook her, and raised an opposition to her on her own ground,-when so much of her talent and all her zeal were.transplanted into an enemy's camp, and she was left with but a 'rump' of very common-place intellects,— from the time of the ever-memorable Disruption, the position of the Kirk of Scotland, in the estimation of the world, has been that of a paralytic, possessing all the arms, and legs, and limbs, and form of a living institution, with all the inanimateness of a corpse. Those on whom the mantle of the old Presbyterian fathers had fallen, who were inspired with the true spirit of the system which they professed,-all whose zeal possessed anything of energy, or whose feelings retained anything of the buoyancy of the spirit which animated their forefathers, undoubtedly to a man joined themselves to the new schism; and only those who saw nothing in the Church of Scotland, as they styled it, but the Establishment of the State, the arch-police of the country, remained behind. Does any one doubt what we say ? let him look around ;-what of zeal,-what of life,-what of energy,– what of all that tells of conviction and earnestness, does he perceive in the Establishment? A few elegant moral essayists in the Sunday garb of religion fill the pulpits in the city kirks;—the country parishes are filled with the dregs of the Free Kirk-men who have sold their birthright for the porridge of the State, and sacrificed their principles, if they ever had any, for the bread of hirelings.
If we turn to the Free Kirk, a very different scene meets our view; their zeal may be without knowledge, their energies may be directed against the cause of truth, and their talents may be used for the propagation of error,-but zeal, and energy, and talent exist, and exhibit themselves in the undeniable fruit of a something which possesses all the outward form of religion, and needs only the holy inspiration of catholic feeling to endue it with the true life of pure Christianity. The Free Kirk is indeed the Puseyism of Presbyterianism; it found an effete, dead, and useless system-the Presbyterianism, in short, of the nineteenth century-as Puseyism found the Church of the nineteenth century; and, like it, it has imbued this system with a life, which possesses many analogical features to that
with which Puseyism has imbued the Church of England. The Kirk of Scotland, like the high-and-dry Church of England men, looks on in wonder and dismay, and both sneer at what they are unable to comprehend the triumph of zeal over the warping influences of a benumbing system.
It was a sad blow to Scottish Presbyterianism, when historical criticism let in the light of truth upon the misty mantle of romance that had for so long covered the ugly picture of the Covenanting days.' When it was discovered that those saints and martyrs, of whom Presbyterian demagogues were wont to make so much, were mere freebooters and outlaws, and the apostles of the Presbyterian succession mere chaplains of freebooting hordes-when it was indeed beyond denial that regenerate' old maids, and religious' dowagers, truly pious' spinsters, and Mrs Caudles' of a strictly 'evangelical' turn of mind, had been weeping over spurious and imaginary wrongs-when all the rhodomontade, all the villanous poetry and wretched prose, that had been preached, spouted, penned, and printed about the wrongs of the Covenanters, and their terrible persecutions,' had been wasted on a few thieves, rebels, and murderers, who made religion truly a cloak of maliciousness' in every form;-when all this was discovered, Presbyterianism rapidly shrunk within its proper dimensions. It was a severer blow than at first sight appears. It deprived the system of all that halo of poetry that had at one time encircled it; its saints were found to be no saints, its martyrs were felons, its heroes villains, and its heroic age-to use a very antithetical similean oasis of barbarism. And Established Presbyterianism could ill bear the blow; it could ill bear to be deprived of the poetry of association, for it had no inherent poetry to supply its place. The Free Kirk, with its zeal for the present, and aspirations for the future, deemed it matter of trivial moment what had been the character of the past; but it was not so with the Establishment;-all the life, and vigour, and poetry which it possessed, were but the reflection of that which its historians had pictured, as the characteristics of those men whom closer critical inquiry has placed in the ranks of infamy and condemnation.
Much need, then, had the Established Kirk of a panegyric to cheer it, rather of an apology to defend it; but while sharpness, brilliancy, a little eloquence-or what with the vulgar passes for eloquenceless talent, and an illimitable amount of effrontery in disregarding or disguising facts, may constitute a very good author of a panegyric, it
requires intellect, care, philosophy, and learning to make a good apology. The former qualifications the Kirk has found in ‘pleasing combination' in her noble champion whose name appears at the head of this paper; for the latter she will look in vain, we fear, among her lay or clerical members.
The Duke of Argyll is a 'rising man;' he has made a ‘nice' maiden speech, and people talk of him as a 'young man of promise ;' but these precocious youths are not much to be relied on, and we fear the young Duke has been, to use a familiar expression, lifted off his feet' by the plaudits of Whig newspapers and Radical prints; he~ like another precocious youth—with the enrapturing music of applause ringing in his ears, begins to nod, and fancies himself a god. The Duke too has a hobby-a very poor, scraggy, wretched-looking hobby -but still a hobby which he rides to death, and spurs most unmercifully in his hurry to win applause and popularity. His Rosinante is the Kirk of Scotland; and truly the Knight of La Mancha could not have been more careful of his sorry steed, than is the Duke of Argyll of his hobby. He trots it out on all occasions; he has babies christened' by that pulpit charlatan, Dr Cumming, and advertisements to that effect put into all the newspapers from the John O'Groat's Journal to the Land's End Gazette; and seizes on every means that can let the world know that the Duke of Argyll patronizes the Kirk of Scotland.
The Duke of Argyll feels very sore that any one should deny that the Covenanters were martyrs or saints, or venture to be sceptical as to Clavers having been the devil. As, however, these things are no longer facts, it is useless to dwell on them. But the Duke has read, or pretends to have read, Bishop Sage's works, as published by the Spottiswoode Society; and as he finds the arguments of the learned prelate unanswerable, and his conclusions irresistible-like a silly child that cannot move a rock-he sets to work and heartily belabours the bishop who wrote, the editor who edits, the Society which publishes-which dares to publish-what the Duke of Argyll cannot answer, and which it would not accord with his prejudices to assent to. This is, in fact, the epitome of the book which his Grace has just published, which we now briefly and hurriedly allude to, in the hope of drawing the attention of some of our readers to the subject of it. It may astonish our readers to be informed that all the mischief, all the bloodshed, all the misery, which has happened in Scotland since the era of the Reformation, lies at the door of the poor Church
(Episcopal) in Scotland!
It raised two rebellions,-it fomented discontent,-it was a hot-bed of treason,-it was in its doctrines that the rebels of '15 and '45 found an excuse for their rebellion. It may indeed transcend the comprehension of minds like that of the Duke of Argyll, that there may be loyalty which is unsuccessful, and treason which is victorious; to him expediency may be synonymous with loyalty, as it is with truth,-it may suit his views to be loyal to a successful rebellion, and a traitor to an unfortunate loyalty,-but others have different notions, and may not regard it as any disgrace to our Church, that she taught her children to be loyal to him whom she had anointed with the coronation unction. But allowing all that the Duke requires-allowing that the Church did foment rebellion, did incite to treason-this does not form any reply to Bishop Sage's arguments, or prove that the truth did not abide in her; truth has flowed through even more vitiated channels than a Jacobite Church, and it is no argument against the truth of a system, that its professors do not act up to their principles.
In short, the Church (Episcopal) of Scotland does not please the Duke of Argyll-it does not come up to the standard of his notion what a Church should be. An Argyll' Church should be a thing, not a Church; a thing of such elastic nature that it could adapt itself to any circumstances-fit for any use-ready to perform any dirty work assigned to it by competent authority-and fully prepared to throw its cloak over any villany that its patrons might choose to perpetrate, or that might seem designed to further its interests. This the Duke of Argyll finds was not the character-has not been, is not, and we trust in God's mercy never will be-the character of the 'Church of Scotland,' however much it may coincide with that of the 'Kirk.'
Not the least amusing part of the Duke's lucubrations is that in which he accuses the Church of being too Scotch-too independent to accept the English Liturgy verbatim; and then immediately accuses it again of being too English-too Popish at one time-too Protestant at another :-it is impossible to please his Grace. We know not which, whether the Church or he be the moving luminary; but by some means or other, when the Church is in apogee the Duke is sure to be in perigee, and vice versa. We have our own idea as to which is stationary, but of course we are liable to be mistaken, and our readers had better decide the question for themselves.
Whatever position, however, the Church occupies-whether too Scotch
or too English, too Popish, or not Popish enough-in each, all, and every possible phase of its existence, it is still the curse of Scotland, and the bane of her civilization. Pshaw ! my Lord Duke of Argyll— if you must needs know the curse of Scotland-if you must needs discover that hidden source of her backwardness which you presume you have pitched upon-look nearer home-throw up your window and gaze out, where, basking in the summer sun in brutish indolence, or dozing at winter mid-day at the peat fire of a wretched cabin-ever idle-ever in want-useless, miserable, wretched, filthy, and ignorant, hordes of demi-savages, who call you chief, drag out their swinish existence in squalid misery, and perish from starvation in the midst of plenty which they are too indolent to avail themselves of, and surrounded by God's bounties which they refuse to gather. Look at them, my Lord, born in a country to which the wide Atlantic herself bears her 'great multitude of fishes' as it were into their very hands, in the many inlets which indent their coasts,-with a soil which, if sterile, yet holds out the promise of a fair return to industry and perseverance, with all the advantages that situation can afford, and all the benefits that internal communication can confer;-yes! my Lord, look, and say where in all the wide world, in any country which calls itself civilized (always excepting Ireland), you will find such a picture. Misery obstinately bent on being miserable-ignorance perseveringly ignorant-laziness incorrigibly lazy-and filth swinishly bent on continuing filthy. This is the picture which meets the eye of the traveller in the Western Highlands, where, thanks to the fostering care of the Argylls, the Kirk of Scotland has ever been supreme, and the curse of Scotland, the Episcopal Church, has scarce even yet dared to raise its head.
My Lord, in the same country, governed by the same laws, influenced by the same influences, and actuated, if you will have it so, by the same prejudices,-there is a city known among cities as one of surpassing beauty and elegance; a city of palaces—at least comparatively-whose merchants are princes in miniature,—a city which, within the last week or two, has welcomed Royalty right royally; and yet, my Lord, that city is built in the midst of a bleak and barren country, of stone which requires infinite labour to manufacture; its commerce, great as it now is, was but that of a maritime village some hundred years ago. Go out into the surrounding country, and you will find the soil more sterile, and cold, and bleak, than any you find in your own estates, and yet you will find the operations of agricul