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listed, and as every person knew that all the dissensions of the poor suffering Scots Kirk had been due to the unhappy union of Church and State, they would leave that perilous principle an open question. The old ghost, however, was to rise again, and after years of conference the negotiations were broken off—partly because a considerable portion of the Free Church refused to unite with the other body since, although they agreed in everything else, they differed about Establishment, partly because the minority threatened that if the union was comsunimated they would claim the whole property of the Free Church. This minority called itself the Constitutional Party, and was led with much shrewdness and great resources of popular eloquence by Dr. Begg of Edinburgh. Many people were Inclined to think that they strained the constitution of their Church, and that it was mere pedantry to say that the Free Church was bound to the Establishment principle. The recent decision of the House of Lords has shown that the minority were perfectly right In their contention, and that if things had gone to the worst, by which one means the Law Courts, they might have won their case. The majority, therefore, exercised a wise discretion, and were, one supposes, ably advised by their counsel, in abandoning their effort at union—that is. If the last importance is to be attached to property.
This failure was, however, a disaster to Scots religion, and the minds of the laity were getting sick over the senseless divisions of the Scots Kirk. It was intolerable that there should be in a country parish three Churches with not the slightest difference between them except a different theory ab»ut the relation of Church and State. It was a waste of Church money, and of the Christian ministry, and of the energy of Christian people, and It af
forded constant opportunity for quarrelling and rivalry. A union of the three large branches of the Scots Church might be difficult while one branch was endowed and established, but a step in the right direction could be taken by making another effort to unite the two disestablished bodies, and so the second negotiations for union between the United Presbyterian and Free Churches were opened. It is too soon to write the secret history of this movement, and It is open to argue either that it was a movement on the part of the laity who are tired of divisions, or that it was a movement on the part of ecclesiastics for purposes of their own. No one knows what were all the motives which actuated the leaders, no one knows what was the advice given by the law advisers. One must go upon appearances and do justice to every one concerned, and any patriotic Scotsman must have felt that if it were possible it would be a good thing that those two Churches should become one, and most Scotsmen also hoped that the end would be a union of the three branches of the Kirk. Certainly it was laymen and not ecclesiastics who moved first in the matter, either because it was thought wiser for tactical purposes, or because the ecclesiastics had burned their fingers so severely over the former negotiations that they were not Inclined rashly to repeat the experiment. Sooner or later, however, the management of affairs fell into the hands of the one living Scots Churchman who can justly lay claim to the title of statesman, and who wielded a practically absolute power In the Free Church. The Scots Church has produced from time to time leaders of conspicuous capacity and shrewd judgment, men capable of a wide outlook and skilled in administration. The most distinguished representative of this class In the past was Carstares, the adviser of William at
the Revolution, and perhaps the sanest guide the Scots Church has ever had. In our day it is Principal Rainy, a man whose subtlety of mind is equalled by his integrity of character, and who, if he has failed to heal the divisions of the Scots Kirk, has at least failed grandly. He has been exposed to severe criticism from opposite quarters, and a man of his complex nature cannot be easily estimated; but this is certain, that he has not been a selfish or cunning intriguer seeking power for himself or victory for his own views, and that he has not been guided in his action by political motives or enmity to the Established Church. He did his best to unite two branches of the Scots Kirk, not that he might be stronger to attack the Established Church, but that one wound at least in Christ's body in Scotland might be healed. If he was convinced that the Church of Scotland should be disestablished, this was not because he was indifferent to her ancient and splendid history, or because he desired to see her crippled and humbled, but because he believed, rightly or wrongly, that once she was disestablished there might be a general union, and the Scots Kirk be once more undivided as in the former days. It may have been a fond imagination, but it was one worthy of a leader of the Scots Kirk. He may have made mistakes, and for that he has suffered, but the end he had in view will one day be accomplished.
On the 31st October 1900 the greatest Church Union Scotland has ever seen was achieved when the United Presbyterian Church and the Free Church became one under the name of the United Free Church of Scotland, and the event was celebrated with profound satisfaction and amid the congratulations of many Churches. It would not be right to say that it called forth the enthusiasm of the nation, or that
the two bodies flew into one another's arms. The union was rather a matter of duty than of affection; and while the ceremony which made the two Churches one was proceeding, an ominous protest was being made elsewhere. The Free Church had decided in favor of the union by an enormous majority—643 to 27—but the minority were very determined men, who were firmly convinced that a great principle was at stake, that of national religion, and who also had the courage of men with their backs to the wall. When, on the 30th October 1900, the Free Church Assembly held its last meeting in the Assembly Hall, it determined to adjourn till next day, and then to meet with the supreme court of the United Presbyterian Church in the Waverley Market hall, "there to consummate the union which has now been legislatively sanctioned by the Church." The minority protested, and withdrew to the waiting-room of the Assembly Hall, where they constituted themselves the Assembly of the Free Church. At 11.30 a.m. on 31st October, when the union was being accomplished in the Waverley Market, the minority made their appearance at the gates of what they considered their own Assembly Hall. When they were refused admission, this handful of ministers and elders—mostly Highlanders—"constituted themselves at the outer gate as a meeting of General Assembly." In the afternoon they left Queen Street Hall, and since that day have held their courts and conducted their work as the real Free Church of Scotland. When people heard next morning how this little body had stood outside the Assembly Hall like sheep who had found the door of the fold closed, and how they claimed to be the Free Church, there were some who laughed, but there were others who were more inclined to weep. A minority for conscience sake should be dealt with very tenderly, and there were various reasons for treating this minority with great consideration. For one thing, they were men, both clergy and laity, without distinction or influence; they had no one among them like Dr. Begg who commanded the ears of Scotland, or who could state their case in a popular fashion. It should also have been remembered that they were largely Celts, a race of passionate loyalty to the past and the traditional fighters of lost causes, a race also quickly touched by courtesy but absolutely intractable underoppression. And it could hardly be denied that they held in their entirety the original principles of their Church, and stood where Chalmers and the leaders of the Disruption stood. It may be quite right that a Church should change her creed with advancing light and new circumstances, and the writer holds firmly not only that the Church has this power, but that the Scots Church should have exercised it very much sooner and on a much more extensive scale. One who takes this position is, however, on that very account the more bound to act very '-arefully at every step, and to deal very generously with his conservative fellow-Churchmen. Very likely the authorities of the United Free Church were guided by legal opinion when they locked those Highlanders out of their old home, and there might have been some legal danger in allowing them to meet in the empty Assembly Hall. It turns out to have been bad law, for the Hall belonged to those Highlanders and not to the Church tn the market-place; and it is just possible—for a Celt is a warm-hearted man—that if the minority had found the Hall placed at their disposal, and a kindly message had been sent them from the Market hall with its thousands, the lawsuit would never have been started, and Scotland would have been saved another bitter controversy.
Certainly it was a great mistake in what may be called religious politics, and of course it was an absolute blunder in law, to endeavor to dispossess the minority of the few churches where the people belonged to their way of thinking, and not to offer them one divinity hall in which to train their students. Upon the face of it, it did not strike the lay mind as quite fair, not to say quite Christian, to deny them any share in the accumulated heritage of the Free Church, but to turn them out into the wilderness, houseless and penniless, because they refused to unite with another Church whose characteristic principle of Voluntaryism the leaders of their own Church had once denounced, and because they wished to remain Free Churchmen as their fathers had been before them. It was good statesmanship to unite the two Churches, and it would have been better statesmanship to have tried to unite the three, but it was not statesmanship, and it turns out not to have been law, to penalize those Highlanders because they would not become United Presbyterians. No doubt they ought to have seen that the Stuart dynasty is impossible to-day in theology, and it would be better if they could settle down under the new regime; but a Highlander will not be driven, and loses his reason when he imagines that he has been betrayed by his own friends. So the minority took, as it were, to the hills, and people treated their campaign as a forlorn hope. But, to every one's surprise, they have won their Culloden.
The situation which this unexpected victory of the minority has created is incredible, and suggests Alice in Wonderland. All the mission stations of the Free Church scattered throughout the world were handed over to a body which has not a single missionary. The three theological colleges, with their libraries and endowments, belong now to a Church which, until yesterday, had not a professor, and has had to secure such professors as it can from outside its own ranks and from the oddest quarters. All the churches and manses of the Free Church, besides that Assembly Hall in which so much history was made, and the Church offices and colleges, now belong by law to this Highland remnant with a few Lowland camp-followers; while, on the other hand, the former Free Church of Scotland, which was inaugurated by an act of unique sacrifice in 1843, and covered Scotland with churches, and made its missions famous through the world, and set an example of liberality to the Christian Church, is deprived of all her property and left without a roof under which to worship throughout Scotland. Upon the soundness of the law which has wrought this marvel the writer has no opinion to offer; but he expresses the feeling of the lay mind in saying that nothing so absurd has been done by law in the history of the Scots people. never would have been any division, if the remnant had not been scared by the higher criticism. One reason, when you go to the inwardness of things, why the Free Church left the Established Church in 1843, was that they were more evangelical; and one reason, when you get at the inwardness of things again, why the Free Church is stripped of all her possessions in 1904, is that she is less evangelical. What is a Church to do if she be penalized first for orthodoxy and next for heterodoxy?
The irony of the situation is not lessened when one looks at the grounds of the decision; for they are two, and the first is, that the Free Church has abandoned the Establishment principle, and that by her constitution she is not at liberty to do so. When one remembers that in 1843 the Free Church paid an enormous price to be free from the control of the State in spiritual affairs, and proudly called herself by the name of the Free Church, it is an amazing illustration of the futility of everything human to find that the Establishment principle is tied as firmly round her neck as ever, and that, having lost all her property once to escape from the Established Church, she is now to lose all she has accumulated since because she had made the Establishment principle an open question. What more could the Free Church have done to
be free? Yet It Is perfectly evident that she was not free, and one asks with perplexity whether Cavour's famous ideal is possible at all, and there can ever be a free Church in a free State. The other ground was that the Free Church, by certain modifications she had made on the Confession of Faith, which were really of a very modest character, had abandoned sound doctrine; and here again one is affected by the irony of the situation. If there ever has been any Church in our land which has prided herself upon orthodoxy and stormed against heresy, it has been the Free Church. Her leaders denounced Broad Church theology in every shape, and distinguished ministers were prosecuted for suggesting even a modification in the application of the Jewish Sabbath law. while Robertson Smith, who was the glory of scholarship in Scotland, was removed from his chair and died in exile from his Church. If this Church be found untrue to the Confession of Faith and the orthodox creed, then one despairs of orthodoxy altogether. It is right, however, at the same time to admit—although this did not come within the range of the House of Lords —that although Robertson Smith was expelled, his spirit remained, and Biblical criticism has found a congenial home in the Free Church. One has a shrewd idea that, If he got to the background of the Highland mind, it would be found that the remnant would not have vexed themselves so much about any statement of free grace which the Free Church made, if they believed that the Free Church was loyal to the Word of God. They were haunted with the idea that critics within the Free Church were shaking the very foundation of faith by their daring treatment of Holy Scripture; and it is open to believe, although it cannot be proved, that there never would have been any lawsuit, and possibly there
The absurdity of the position is quite as great when one comes to the matter of property and the anxiety of the Law Courts that it should be administered according to the will of the donor. On the one hand, they take the whole of the property from the Free Church because they consider them improper people to administer it, and they hand it over to the remnant who cannot administer it at all, and this is done in order to preserve the sanctity of the law of trusts. On the other hand, they take the property of the Free Church, three-fourths of which was accumulated after that Church had declared that it did not consider the Establishment principle to be of the essence of its faith, and hand over not only the one-fourth raised, as the judges would say, upon the prospectus of Dr. Chalmers, but the three-fourths raised upon quite a different prospectus, to the remnant because they are the proper people to administer such property. In other words, three-fourths of the property of the Free Church is taken away from the Church the donors love and to which they gave it, and handed over for administration to a body of men with whom the donors for the most part disagreed, and for the furtherance of whose views the donors for the most part would never have given a penny. And this is done to establish the confidence of the public in tbe law
LIVlHtO VOL. XXVI. 1370
of trusts. As many of those donors are living, and see the churches which they have built delivered to the remnant against whom they have been voting for thirty years, one would like to know their opinion of the law of trusts. If this law which is the fetish of English judges is intended to secure first that a trust be efficiently administered, and secondly that it be administered according to the intention of the donors, then the House of Lords have secured by law—which I wish again to say is no doubt perfect law—that this particular trust be scarcely administered at all, and next, that so far as it is administered it shall be contrary to the wishes of seventy-five per cent, of the donors.
It is indeed unreasonable and intolerable that a Church which exists for the teaching of truth and the development of the religious life should be regarded as a joint-stock company which is raising money upon a prospectus as for banking or mining. If such a Church is to fulfil her purpose and justify the gifts which have been given her, she should keep abreast of theological science, and lead her people further into truth every year; and it would be an anomaly if such a Church is denied the liberty of growth and the opportunity of life, and a grave injustice if, whenever the Church had vindicated her own existence by her intellectual sincerity and her liberty, she should be mulcted of her property. If the Church of Christ is to fulfil her purpose in history, and if she is to secure the loyalty of her people in modern times, she must be free to shape her creed according to her conviction, and it must no longer be possible for the dead creed of the past to grip her throat at any moment and threaten her with the loss of her substance because the Church is declaring the mind of Christ as He has been pleased to reveal it in these latter days