DIFFICULTIES OF THE POSITION – PROGRESS
Refusal of Sites
Private Appeals unavailing
House of Commons Committee
Case of Ballater
Paible, North Uist
Rev. Norman M’Leod
Strontian, Floating Church
Suffering and Death
Disturbances at Resolis
In following the history of Disruption times, we come now to those cases of site-refusing which were brought before a Committee of the House of Commons. A gratifying change has since taken place in the feelings of our landed proprietors; but, while this is cordially acknowledged, we must not forget what is due to the memory of those friends and supporters – many of them men in humble life – who stood true to their conscientious convictions, and loyal to their Church in the face of trials which it is difficult to think of as having occurred in the times in which we live.
It was no wonder that the Free Church should have met with difficulties at the outset. Proprietors who had keenly resisted the Disruption movement, could not willingly submit to have the churches and manses of the outgoing ministers built on their lands. But in many of these cases the feeling of hostility soon began to give way. The landed proprietors of Scotland, as a class, have the most kindly regard for the people on their estates, and though they might be angry with the Free Church – some of them were very angry – yet when they saw their tenants and country neighbours, industrious, intelligent, God-fearing men, meeting for Divine service in the open air, exposed to all the hardships of the climate, their better feelings prevailed, and for the most part they made concessions, and met the wishes of the people in a frank and generous spirit.534
Unfortunately, there were some extensive properties on which a different course was followed. Sites were persistently refused, and much painful feeling was called forth. In the Christian Church, when one member suffers all the members suffer with it; and for many years at the approach of winter, as each successive Sabbath came round, there was not a stormy wind blew from the heavens, nor a shower of snow fell, that men did not think of their brethren compelled to worship God in the open air among the cold fir woods of Strathspey, or shivering on the bleak uplands of Wanlockhead. The pity is that these things cannot be told without referring to the conduct of those proprietors with whom the trials originated.
During the first winter things were left to take their course, and congregations had to bear as best they could the perils of exposure. The second winter, however, was more severe, and when the stormy weather had fairly set in, it was felt that something must be done. Deputations were sent to make inquiries on the spot. At the Assembly of 1845, the subject was taken up in earnest, a Committee was named to take charge of the subject, and by a most fortunate choice Mr. Graham Spiers was appointed convener. Connected by birth and marriage with the landed gentry of Scotland, Mr. Spiers was known to the public as Sheriff of Mid-Lothian, and still more as a man of ability, whose high-toned Christian character and calm courtesy commanded universal respect among all ranks of society. Amidst the delicate and difficult negotiations of that trying time, the Church might well be thankful that the interests of her people were in the hands of one on whom such perfect reliance could be placed.
In entering on their work, the first thing done by the Committee was to proceed to London, and approach the leading site-refusers in private, in order to offer explanations, and, if possible, remove misconceptions. “We had no wish,” said Dr. Buchanan, “to brand any man in the face of the public, and in the face of Parliament.” This well-meant effort almost entirely failed, and a public movement became absolutely necessary. A discussion took place both in the House of Lords and Commons, and the hope was expressed by leading men of all parties that without any specific enactment sites would be granted through the pressure of public opinion. Little effect, however, was produced by these statements. The leading opponents resolutely held their ground, and at last, on the motion of Mr. Bouverie, M.P. for the Kilmarnock Burghs, the House of Commons named a Committee of Enquiry on the 9th of March, 1847.
It is well known that there is no more searching ordeal through which any such question can be put than a Committee of the House of Commons. Certainly on this occasion the recusant landlords had every reason to be satisfied with the friends who represented them in the course of the inquiry. Sir James Graham especially, with all his great ability and practised skill, proved himself an eager partisan, sifting every part of the evidence with a view to discredit the Free Church and her claims. One great benefit, however, has resulted from this. The evidence presented to the Committee, which such an advocate was unable to shake, may now be quoted and relied on with the most implicit confidence, and we shall accordingly freely avail ourselves of it in the following pages.
Of the cases which attracted public notice, one of the first was that of Ballater, on Deeside, in the neighbourhood of Balmoral, the favourite residence of the Queen, and at that time of Prince Albert. The proprietor, Mr. Farquharson of Monaltrie, had recently died, and a site had been refused by his trustees, one of whom happened to be a personal friend of Mr. Spiers. Availing himself of this circumstance, he wrote on behalf of the people, but was told in reply that however painful it was to refuse any request of his, yet the trustees knew the sentiments of “the late Monaltrie,” and it was their imperative duty to do what they were sure he would have done – the site must be refused.535
This, however, was only the first step. In the village of Ballater there is a public hall, which the owners were accustomed to let on hire for meetings of many different kinds, and the congregation had rented it on the usual terms. The trustees, however, were what is called the Feudal Superiors of the place. They claimed the right to prohibit the use of the hall, went to law before the Sheriff of Aberdeen, and got a decision in their favour, closing the door against the members of the Free Church, who were at the same time saddled with the expense of the lawsuit.
Driven thus from the village, where every available building was under the power of the trustees, they met during the first winter on an exposed muir in the open air. Afterwards, they found partial shelter in a rude sheep-cote which one of the farmers allowed them to occupy. It was nine feet in breadth, the walls five feet high, without windows. The roof, of course, was low; the place dark and comfortless; and the people proposed to heighten the walls and put on a new roof, thinking, in their simplicity, that as this would improve the property at their own expense, no objection would be offered. But the farm was on the Monaltrie estate, and the trustees at once interposed to forbid the improvement. The congregation had no desire for a second experience of the Sheriff Court, and had to submit.
But necessity is the mother of invention. If they could not heighten the roof, might they not get room by lowering the floor? Fortunately at this point the trustees drew a line in their favour. Men were set to work, and by burrowing into the ground greater space was got overhead between the audience and the rafters. There were, however, certain drawbacks. In rainy weather, the water which ran from the hillside could with difficulty be kept out, while the leakage from the roof added to the discomfort. After all, as Dr. Guthrie remarked, Divine service had to be carried on while the congregation were “sitting in a hole.”536
Ballater, it should be remembered, stands amidst the beautiful scenery of Deeside, and is a favourite health-resort in the North of Scotland. Among the visitors who came from many different parts of the country, it was the subject of much remark to see the circumstances in which a Christian Congregation were compelled to worship God, not only in full view of the public, but in the immediate neighbourhood of the Queen and her Court.
Further to the north, similar trials were met with on a larger scale in Strathspey, where the property of the Earl of Seafield is described as extending twenty-eight miles in length by fifteen in mean breadth.537 Over this wide district the adherents of the Free Church were dependent on the will of a single proprietor, but there was every reason to anticipate the kindest treatment at his hands. On his other estates at Cullen and Glenurquhart sites had been freely granted, while in Strathspey itself – as Mr. Dickson, banker, a member of the Free Church testifies – Lord Seafield was very much “respected and beloved;” “no landlord could be more so.”538 Unfortunately, there were evil advisers at hand. A hostile factor got up a petition – as factors well know how – urging that sites should be refused. The signatures were not numerous – twelve in all, one of the witnesses said; but it is to be regretted that we find among them the names of the Established Church ministers in the district, 539 one of whom was bold enough to tell the Committee of the House of Commons that he did not think he would object to Roman Catholics obtaining sites,540 but would resist the Free Church to the uttermost. To such counsellors Lord Seafield deferred, and all along Strathspey much hardship had to be endured.
The parish of Duthil may be taken as an example. The people in large numbers joined the Free Church, and having to worship in the open-air, chose as their place of meeting a fir wood near Carrbridge541 – a portion of those grand old pine forests for which Strathspey has so long been famous. A rude pulpit was set up, round which in all weathers the people gathered, often in circumstances painful to witness. Early in the winter of 1844, the Presbytery of the bounds took an opportunity, during a severe snowstorm, to appeal to Lord Seafield. “We cannot believe that it is your Lordship’s wish to oblige them to continue meeting in the open air at the risk of health and even of life, in such weather as the present.”542 It should be remembered that the cold of that northern district is often intense, and that the fir wood of Carrbridge lies some 700 feet above the sea level. The adverse influence, however, was too strong, and the appeal was in vain.
The pastoral care of all these congregations in Upper Strathspey had devolved on the only outgoing minister, Mr. Shepherd, of Kingussie. Often in going to Duthil the weather he met with was severe. On 22nd November, 1846,543 there was incessant rain during the whole service. During sermon in January, 1847, it rained “without interruption, and there was high wind.” Another visit was yet more remarkable. The service had been announced, but a snowstorm had begun on the previous Saturday, and a message had been sent from the Duthil elders requesting him not to come, “it was impossible they could stand it out.” Mr. Shepherd had twenty miles to drive, but owing to the scanty supply of preachers the arrangements once made had to be carried out, and he went to do his duty. “It was very stormy,” he says, “and I had great difficulty in getting from my house to the place.” On arriving, about 200 people were found assembled – one-third of the usual number – and the first thing was to have the snow cleared away from the pulpit, the precentor’s desk, and the seats on which they required to sit. This was trying work – not easy for the people who had to attend on the services, and specially difficult for the officiating minister, who had to drive forty miles going and returning through the falling snow.
While these things were going on in Strathspey, there were similar times of trial in Skye and Uist among the tenantry of Lord Macdonald. To all their petitions his invariable reply was, “I must positively decline to give a site;” and thus, over the whole of his extensive estates in Portree, Kilmuir, Sleat, Stenscholl, Uig, and Trumisgarry, the people had to submit to severe hardships. The one outgoing minister who remained in Skye to uphold single-handed the cause of the Free Church was the Rev. Roderick Macleod, of Snizort, a man of rare force of character, who has been already referred to in these pages. It would take long to tell the sacrifices and labours which he went through. As at Duthil, the weather in the open air was often trying. At Kilmuir, he speaks of conducting the whole service under very heavy rain; and at Uig, during sermon on one occasion, it began to snow, the fall being so heavy that at the close he says: “I could hardly distinguish” the congregation from the ground on which they sat, “except by their faces.”544 It would be difficult anywhere else in all Christendom to find ministers willing to preach, and people willing to listen, during such a service.
At the hamlet of Paible,545 in North Uist, the circumstances are given in greater detail. The people had set about erecting a rude shelter of turf and stone, on what was called a common, where the ground was of little value. The factor, after warning them in vain, came personally on the scene, got together the carts belonging to members of the Established Church, and removed the materials to a distance. When the next term came, he summoned out of their lands all the crofters who had taken part in the erection, actually ejected some of the more prominent, and imposed fines of from £1 to £2 on those who were suffered to remain.546
The poor Islemen, however, did not flinch. In March, 1847, when Dr. Macintosh Mackay came to preach at Paible, he had – owing to the state of the weather – to stand within the door of a cart-shed in order to get some protection. The congregation “stood all round on a level piece of ground sheltered by the walls of the houses on one side. It was a stormy day, and there were heavy showers of sleet and rain.” Afterwards they met under the shelter of a peculiar jutting rock near the hamlet. “I could compare it to nothing but what is sometimes seen on the quarter-deck of a vessel – an oval skylight.” In all states of the weather it was possible to get some shelter by going round to the point opposite to that from which the wind blew.547
On these estates, however, there were worse things than the storms of winter. The crofters and small farmers, having no leases, were at the mercy of the landlord, and, as the factor admitted, a good many of them were charged to leave because they supported the Free Church. “He (the landlord) gave me a list, and said, ‘Here is a list of fellows that must have notice to quit.'”548 How many were actually expelled does not appear, but one or two cases may be given to show how completely his Lordship was in earnest.
Mr. Donald Matheson was a member of the Free Church at Portree, became a collector for the Sustentation Fund, and referring to the year 1846, states:549 “I was warned out of the lands which my forefathers had held from immemorial ages.” On appealing to the factor, Mr. Mackinnon, of Corry, he was told it had been resolved to remove him from the property. Before submitting, however, he determined to try the effect of a personal interview, and with some difficulty obtained from the factor Lord Macdonald’s London address. He at once started for Edinburgh, took the London steamboat, and, with a strange mixture of simplicity and shrewdness, recounts his adventures. On landing, the first thing he did was to get into a cab, and direct the man to go straight to the address he had received. For some reason, it took them three hours driving through the streets before the house could be found, and then it was only to ascertain that his Lordship had gone on a visit to Yorkshire. To Yorkshire accordingly he followed, and among other incidents he describes the great satisfaction he had at an inn where he stayed, in proving to his host – so he thought – the superiority of Highland politeness over that of Englishmen. On arriving in Yorkshire, Mr. Matheson went at once to find Lord Macdonald, but he was not to be seen, having gone out shooting for the day. Next morning, no time was lost in making an early call, but he was again disappointed. Lord Macdonald had left for London that morning at seven o’clock. Nothing daunted, he started again in pursuit, took the coach for London, and next day succeeded in obtaining an interview. It proved, however, the reverse of satisfactory. “He wanted to know my name before my admission to his presence. On being introduced, he asked, ‘What is it you want?’ ‘I wish that your Lordship would be pleased to look at my humble petition.’ He turned round, and said, in a voice so loud as to make the whole fabric re-echo, ‘No, no; I am glad Corry has dealt with you in the way he has done – away, away!’ – calling on his valet to come and wait on me. I indeed thought that if I was to say a single word he would use me nothing better than Baalam would his ass.” On retiring, Mr. Matheson at once forwarded his petition to Lord Macdonald by post, started for Liverpool, and arrived at home two days before the term at which he had to remove.
The breaking-up of his home was painful. “My dear spouse was confined on her deathbed.” Through fear of the factor, she had to be removed to “very poor and insufficient accommodation, and there she ended her earthly career,” and with a sore heart he laid her in the grave.
Driven from his farm, the energy of the man did not forsake him. He betook himself to business as a shipper and provision merchant, and seems to have prospered. It is strange to observe how it brought him again in contact with those who had tried to get rid of him.
A year and nine months after that visit to London, Lord Macdonald and his factor “were standing at the quay at my potato vessel. I went out, and Corry introduced me politely to his Lordship, and said, ‘Lord Macdonald wants some potatoes for seed, and I want some also; but unfortunately we have no money, and maybe your manner of dealing would not allow of giving us credit for three months.’ I said, ‘You are quite welcome to as many as you want.’ Next season the Inspector of Poor called on Corry, and told him that the merchant who used to supply him with meal for the poor” (the parish paupers) “would give him no more, because he was not yet paid for what they got. Corry bid him come to me, and try if I would supply him for a month. I told him I would supply him for a twelvemonth without money, but that the amount would have to be paid on that day, or they would be put to expense.” When the time for payment came, no money was forthcoming. Legal steps were taken. Lord Macdonald and his factor begged for indulgence, but Mr. Matheson was firm. The whole amount, with interest and legal expenses, was paid, and the intercourse of the nobleman with his former tenant was at an end.
The case of one of the ministers – the Rev. Norman M’Leod – is not less remarkable.550 He had been settled at Trumisgarry, in North Uist, and joined the Free Church in 1843, with nearly the whole Protestant population of the district. His living was one of the so-called Parliamentary Churches, and there being no manse, he rented from Lord Macdonald a small farm on which, at his own expense, he had built a cottage “with six fireplaces.” After the Disruption, at the first term he received notice to quit. “I trust,” he wrote in reply, “your Lordship does not really intend to drive me, with my young and helpless family, out of my present dwelling-house. I am willing to give any rent another will offer, and should your Lordship not choose to give the farm on any terms, I would be satisfied with the house, and grass for two cows and a horse.” He mentions also that he had been at considerable expense in improving the farm, from which he had as yet received little or no return. The answer to this request was a peremptory refusal sent through the factor. “I have also to intimate to you that Lieutenant John Macdonald is to get the lands possessed by you, and you should make the best bargain you can with him about the house. It will be against you his not getting a lease of the lands, for as yet Lord Macdonald has only agreed to let him have the place from year to year.” The new tenant holding the place on a tenure so precarious could not of course give value for the premises. The sum of £40 was all that Mr. M’Leod could obtain for unexhausted improvements, and for the house he had built, and he was left to extract what comfort he could from the closing sentence of the factor’s letter. “I can only again express my regret at the disagreeable situation you are placed in, but hope that you may get well over it, and with kind compliments to Mrs. M’Leod, – I am, &c.”
It is incredible that the nobleman and factor intended to take an undue advantage. Their object must simply have been to drive Mr. Macleod from the Island, in the hope that the people would return to the Established Church.
But the ministers of the Free Church were not easily driven. The nearest house Mr. M’Leod could get was on the farm of Callan, about twenty miles distant from the scene of his labours. It was in a bad state of repair, and the roads were such that he states: “I cannot take a horse within three miles of it.” The distances were great, and the weather often so inclement that, “with the exception of one or two occasions, he did not think that he ever reached his congregation and got back to his house without being drenched through, and this even though covered with six or seven ply of as good cloth as the Highlands could produce.”551 In the face of all difficulties, however, Mr. Macleod stood to his post. The time came when a comfortable church and manse were provided; and there down to the present day, 1881, he remains,552 after a long ministry, the pastor of an attached flock, while of those who oppressed him, it must be said that their place knows them no more.
The island of Eig, one of the smaller Hebrides, was the scene of another of these struggles.553 There was a Protestant population of about 200 persons, who all joined the Free Church with three exceptions – the servant in the Established Church Manse, the ground-officer on the estate, and his father, a pauper. The whole island belonged to Professor Macpherson, of Aberdeen, who refused a site. Already in these pages554 we have seen, from the vivid description of Hugh Miller, how it fared with the people for church accommodation; but for the outgoing minister (Mr. Swanson) and his family, no house-room could be got. If he had chosen to accept a call he might soon have found a more advantageous position elsewhere, but he had seen among his people the promise of spiritual blessing, and when a call came unsought, he told the Assembly that if he might ask a favour it was that they would leave him where he was.
Denied accommodation on the island, the nearest residence he could obtain was at Ornsay, in Skye, across many miles of stormy sea. There his family were settled, while his own home was really on the deep. To visit and preach to his people, he procured a small vessel, the Betsy, on board which so much of his time was spent that she came to be spoken of as the floating manse. In the autumn of 1843, when the Assembly met at Glasgow, it was announced that the minister of Eig was coming up, bringing his manse with him. The idea of seeing her on her way as she came up the Clyde running before the wind, with the minister “at home” on board, was sufficiently romantic; but when men went to “call at the manse,” she was found to be a poor vessel of twelve tons burden, some thirty feet in length, by eleven in breadth, utterly unfit to contend with the storms of the Atlantic.
Connected with the Betsy there is a child’s story told by Mr. W. Dickson in the Children’s Record (1844), which brings back some of the trials of that time. At the removal from the Manse of Eig, while the furniture was being packed, Mr. Swanson set sail for Ornsay, taking with him his son, a child five years of age. It was a grand thing at first for “Billy” to go with his father in the ship, but by-and-by he could not understand his new home. His mother was amissing; his father had to make the porridge; they had nobody but John Stewart, the sailor, for a servant-girl. He tried hard to be manly, but the wind began to blow. Billy got sick, and lay down on the cabin floor, crying to be taken home. “My boy,” his father said, “You have no home now.” “I never so felt the desolateness of my condition,” Mr. Swanson declared, “as when the cry of my boy, ‘Home, home,’ was ringing in my ears.” Billy sobbed himself asleep.
It is needless to recount the various efforts made to obtain a site. Professor Macpherson said he was afraid of perpetuating religious dissension on the island – an odd objection in a case where the Protestants were virtually unanimous – the only jarring element being that which came from himself at Aberdeen.
After the hardships of the first winter a petition, signed by the whole Protestant population, was sent applying a second time for a site. Mr. Swanson was on the best terms with the few adherents of the Establishment, and with one exception they forwarded a separate application to the effect that Mr. Swanson’s health was failing, and that they could not bear to see the hardships to which he was subjected. The Professor replied that he was sorry to hear of it, but he must do his duty even though it was painful. He was a professor in Old Aberdeen; he must uphold the Established Church; and no site could be granted.555
Meanwhile Mr. Swanson’s life was in danger. The cabin of his vessel was a small place – twelve feet by six. When closed on account of the weather, it soon got overheated, and to pass out in cold and storm, as he often had to do, to take his place on deck, was a trial which few constitutions with the training of a clergyman could be expected to stand. And there were other dangers. Hugh Miller was his companion for a time, and in his well-known work, “The Cruise of the Betsy,” has with his own graphic power shown the kind of perils which were met with even during the best months of summer. Dr. Mackintosh Mackay, then of Dunoon, who knew the circumstances well, remarks that, “when one thinks of the vessel which Mr. Swanson had to make his home – an unseaworthy, sorry craft, which seamen would style a mere rattle-trap, and of the dangers of that coast exposed to the storms of the Atlantic – we may thank God that the history of the Free Church escaped the recording of a tragical story.”
Another of these cases occurred in the Island of Coll, which has belonged from time immemorial to the Clan Maclean. One of the chieftains in former days is said to have become a Protestant, at a time when the people still adhered to the Roman Catholic Church. He saw no reason why the clan should not believe what the chief believed, and he took energetic measures to enforce his views, driving them before him to the Protestant Church. Protestantism thus came to be known in the island as the “religion of the yellow cane,” from the colour of the stick which the chief had used to second his arguments while actively dealing with the people.556
In 1843 the island belonged to one of his descendants, who resided on another property in Mull, where he took an attitude of keen hostility to the Free Church.
It was reserved, however, for the men of Coll to make the landlord feel that times had changed. Though nearly the whole population of the island had joined the Free Church, the chief believed that if proper arguments were addressed to them, and if his personal influence were brought to bear, they would return to the Establishment. He engaged a minister in whom he had confidence to accompany him to Coll; sent word fixing a particular Sabbath, and invited his clansmen and dependents – the whole population of the island – to come and meet him.
Duly at the appointed time the chief was on the spot with his champion. The people whom he had called were seen gathering along the roads, but instead of meeting him at the Established Church, they kept streaming past, on their way to the Free Church service in the open air. It was in vain that the chief addressed them, placing himself on the road along which they had to go, reasoning and remonstrating with groups and with individuals, urging them to come and at least give his friend a hearing.557 Their reply was a respectful but firm refusal. “Ask us anything but this,” they said, “and we are ready to comply; we will serve you – we will enlist as soldiers or join the navy if you wish – we will follow you as our fathers followed your fathers in the days of old – we will stand by you to the last, – but our consciences are our own, and our religious convictions we cannot surrender.” To that resolution they stood firm. Inside the threshold of the Established Church they could not be got; and yet Dr. Mackay, who narrates the facts, declares that “there is a very strong feeling of attachment to Mr. Maclean and his family.” They are “universally beloved by the people.”558
On the Island of Mull there is an extensive parish – Torosay – where the incidents of 1843 deserve to be recorded. The people in considerable numbers joined the Free Church, and applied to Mr. Campbell of Possil, the only proprietor on whose lands a suitable site could be got. But, unfortunately, his feelings against the Free Church were particularly keen. The circumstances and incidents, however, will be best understood from the following narrative by the Rev. J.A. Fletcher of Bothwell:
“The greater number of the parishioners who adhered to the Free Church lived at the small village of Lochdonhead, about 2½ miles from the parish church, and here, consequently, the congregation usually met for public worship. But a place of worship, in the ordinary sense of the term, they had not, for many years subsequent to the Disruption. The proprietor of that part of the parish, in other respects a most generous landlord, and an elder in the Established Church, persistently refused all appeals for a site, though approached respectfully by petition from the people, and by letter from Sheriff Graham Spiers, the Convener of the Church’s Committee on Sites. The people, thus driven to shift as best they could, met ordinarily for worship in a gravel-pit, which during spring tides was under high-water mark. In this gravel-pit a canvas tent was erected, which was seldom sufficient to accommodate all the worshippers who assembled. Indeed, I remember to have seen, on more than one occasion, the preacher, some neighbouring minister – for not till 1869 did they have a settled minister in the congregation – take up his position at the door of the crowded tent, facing outwards, so that the rest of the audience, some seated on stones, some reclining on the heather and bracken which grew in the vicinity of the gravel-pit, might hear him to advantage. When the weather was fine, the congregation could meet even in a gravel-pit in some degree of comfort. But on the west coast, so proverbial for wind and rain, long spells of fine weather are, of course, rare, so that the people had often to assemble in circumstances most uncomfortable, and in the highest degree unfavourable for the becoming worship of God. I remember having to sit outside the tent along with many others, some of them frail, delicate women, my mother being among the number, during pelting showers of hail. I shall never forget the touching sight of an old man – a Waterloo veteran – who sat not far from me on one occasion. He was sitting on a large rough stone, clad in tartan, his grey locks blown about his face, bonnet in hand, stoutly defying the storm, sternly refraining from what he feared might be the irreverent act of covering his head, even in such circumstances, while engaged in the worship of God. But bad as wind and rain and hail were, this faithful band of worshippers had sometimes to contend with a foe more relentless than any of these. For sometimes the tide rose so high during worship that preacher and people had not only to quit the tent but the gravel-pit as well, and thus continue the service, in spite of all restrictions, above high-water mark.
“In connection with these encroachments of the tide, I have often heard a pathetic story which, in these days of comfortable and even luxurious places of worship, is worth the telling. It was the communion Sabbath. A large congregation filled the tent, and spread themselves over every available seat within reach of the preacher’s voice. The sacrament was dispensed, and the minister was delivering the after-table address, standing, as I have already described him, looking outwards to the larger part of the congregation, who could not be accommodated in the tent. An eyewitness has often described the scene to me somewhat as follows: – ‘I was seated near the minister, at the door of the tent, earnestly listening, when by-and-by my attention was diverted by an unaccountable commotion among those who were seated within the tent. I could not understand the cause of the commotion which was evidently spreading, so that those sitting nearest me began also to be affected. My feet were stretched out before me, resting, not on the ground, but on a stone which supported the end of a plank that did duty as a seat on the occasion. At last I observed the minister looking towards the ground in an uneasy manner, as if even he had been seized by the spirit of restlessness that was disturbing the occupants of the tent. Looking to the ground also, I at once perceived the cause of it all The tide had crawled up unperceived, and there sat the congregation – not one left his seat – and there stood the preacher, all ankle-deep in the tide, which had thus stealthily crept up to them while they were solemnly engaged in the most sacred rite of the Church. The preacher drew his address to a close, a short parting psalm was sung, for the spot was on the margin of a shallow, land-locked bay, in which the tide rose slowly; the benediction was pronounced, and the congregation, many of them moved to tears, quietly dispersed to their homes.’
“The tent, as may be easily supposed, could not long withstand the combined attack of the elements, and it soon became useless as a place of worship. After it was destroyed, though the people still worshipped in the open air when the weather was fine, they had to find accommodation during boisterous weather as best they could, among the houses of friends to the cause. Among these was the blacksmith of the village, M’Kane, a devoted Free Churchman. At one end of his smithy was a wooden shed, in which he shod horses when the weather was too inclement to permit of his doing so in the open air. Into this shed the congregation crowded during rough weather. M’Kane, however, was a tenant at will, and soon he got warning to quit from the proprietor. The impression then was, and still is, among those who remember the circumstances, that M’Kane was turned out of his home because he gave the use of his wretched shed to the Free Church congregation.
“My father, who could not be banished at will, among others, received the Free Church ministers into his house; and one of my earliest recollections is seeing the English-speaking portion of the congregation worship in our house, while the Gaelic-speaking portion, being by far the larger, had to resort to the barn. The proprietor, still resolved to “stamp out” the Free Church, if possible, expressed unmeasured indignation, and uttered threats of expulsion at the end of my father’s lease. Of course, to neither threats nor indignation did my father pay any heed, but continued, if possible, more zealously than ever to befriend Free Church ministers, and to help the Free Church cause. The upshot is, that he is still in the same house, while the estate of Torosay is in the possession of strangers.”559
It was hard enough to be worshipping down below high-water mark, but on the opposite coast of the mainland, at Strontian, the congregation had to go further out to sea. The whole district of Ardnamurchan was the property of Sir James Riddell, extending over an area some 40 miles in length.560 Many of the people joined the Free Church, and forwarded a respectful petition, asking for sites. His reply was a refusal, and the people of Strontian had to meet – which they did to the number of about 500561 – in the open air. At communion seasons, and at other times, Mr. M’Lean of Tobermory held service on the hillside, often in severe weather, and sometimes when the congregation “was very wet.” Mr. M’Rae, of Knockbain, has preached to them with snow on the ground, and when “it was laying snow” at the time.562 At the summer communion he has had an audience of 2000 gathered from Strontian and the neighbouring districts.
The refusal of sites by the proprietor of 40 miles’ landed estates563 was a serious matter, but men at that time were not easily baffled. A floating church was proposed, which might be anchored in some sheltered bay near the beach, and give accommodation to the people till better days came round. The idea was eagerly taken up, subscriptions were raised, plans carefully drawn out, the vessel was contracted for at an expense of £1400, and much interest was felt as her construction went on in one of the building yards of the Clyde, under the skilful superintendence of Robert Brown, Esq. of Fairlie. Then came the launch, and the voyage from Greenock to Loch Sunart. At first there was some difficulty as to a proper anchorage for the vessel. Mr. Graham Spiers, Convener of Committee, had at one time served in the Royal Navy, and, accompanied by a naval friend, he went down in July, 1846, to fix on the site. The best place, safest for the ship, and most convenient for the people, would have been just under the windows of Sir James Riddell’s Mansion, but, as a matter of good taste, another was chosen564 two miles off, and there, at a point about 150 yards from the shore, the vessel was safely moored.
How gladly the people left the storm-beaten hillside for this strange Highland church of the sea, need not be said. It was a singular spectacle on each returning Sabbath morning, as the hour of public worship drew near, to see the boats coasting along from north and south, each with its contingent of hearers, while numerous groups could be descried far inland, wending their way down from the hills to where the floating church lay moored. Men speak of it as a stirring scene, when ropes and cables were run out from the beach, and the boats were rapidly passed backwards and forwards, conveying the worshippers on board. In winter, the hearers came from a distance of eight or nine miles, and in summer from a still wider circuit. In rough weather it was no slight undertaking to get so many people on board. Even in summer, when all was calm, it was a tedious operation, and not unfrequently darkness was setting in before all were again on shore.565 The numbers who assembled depended on the reputation of the minister expected to preach, and the people had their own way of testing the esteem in which the different clergymen were held. It was found that, for every hundred hearers, the vessel sank an inch in the water, Nothing, therefore, could be easier than to keep the register. They could tell to an inch the popularity of every minister who came. A depression of six inches told that a congregation of 600 had been drawn together, and on some occasions it is said that this number was exceeded.
On the whole, it would appear that this plan of church extension, so novel among the Highlanders, was found to answer well. There was only one person whom it did not altogether please. The letters of Sir James Riddell are those of a kind-hearted and friendly landlord, strongly prejudiced against the Free Church; but when he came from the Continent and saw what was going on, it was not to his mind. In an interview with Dr. Beith, of Stirling,566 one of the officiating ministers, he expressed a wish to have the iron vessel brought in close to the shore, and made fast, so as to be more convenient for the people. Dr. Beith, while willing to consider the proposal, suggested that, in agreeing to this, he was really yielding the whole principle, and might as well give a site at once. For that, however, the time had not yet come.
Before going further, it may be right to speak of the reasons which induced these landlords in so many cases to act so unlike themselves. Their letters of refusal in some instances found their way to the newspapers, but it would hardly be fair to quote statements evidently written in haste under the excitement of keen feeling. Their case appears to most advantage as presented by Sir James Graham and their other friends in the Committee on Sites.
One allegation was that the Free Church had no real grounds to stand on; that the Disruption was caused by some obscure ecclesiastical opinion of no practical moment, and that the people should just go back to the Establishment. To this the answer was obvious, that, in the opinion of the Free Church, the question was one of vital moment. Ministers gave up their livings on account of it, laymen perilled, and often lost, their situations, and what right had landlords to judge other men’s consciences in regard to the importance of their religious principles’ It was clear also, even on the showing of their opponents, that the difference was important. Sir James Graham and other statesmen, instead of yielding the point at issue, resolved on account of it to allow the Church to be broken up and her ministers and people to be driven out. After proving in this way their sense of its importance, it was strange to have them turning round and attempting to speak of it as a thing of trifling moment.
A second objection was the avowed hostility of the Free Church to the Establishment. This was much dwelt on. Dr. Chalmers denied all hostility, except that of fair argument. Dr. Makellar avowed that if we could lead all the people of Scotland to right apprehensions of what we considered to be the truth of God, we should certainly do so.567 But this, some of the Committee insisted, would be to subvert the Established Church. The point was pressed by question after question, till one of the English members, Mr. Baines,568 of Leeds, seems to have lost patience, and asked whether there were any religious body who did not think it their duty by fair means to draw converts to their side. As to the hostility of the Free Church, Dr. Gordon said569: “I do not know very well what is meant by the term hostile. If it is for a Church to propagate its own views of Divine truth, then every conscientious Church must be hostile to every other. But I would not be disposed to use the term hostility in that case. It is no more than an honest man’s duty to extend what he believes to be the truth of God.”
A third point much urged was the severity of the language used by Free Churchmen. As to this, it was frankly admitted that the oppression which makes even a wise man mad had in some cases called forth language which could not be defended. In the heat of debate there had been a good deal of this on both sides; and it was not a pleasant thing when the worst sayings of each were set in array before the Committee, and English gentlemen were asked to judge whether the Establishment had succeeded in saying the hardest things against the Free Church, or the Free Church against the Establishment. It turned out that some of the harshest sayings imputed to Free Churchmen owed much of their offensiveness to the garbled form in which they had been quoted. The truth, however, was well put by Dr. Chalmers: – “I will not justify hard sayings. … Those hard sayings were all very natural, as far as I understand, but not justifiable.” He reminded the Committee, however, that there was a great difference between the random sayings of those who suffer wrong, and the deliberate doings of those who inflict the wrong.570
But, after all, even if the offensive language had been worse than it was, where was the justice of making the punishment fall on the inhabitants of distant country parishes, who were in this respect wholly blameless’ If some newspaper article was unduly severe, why should the shepherds of Strathspey have to suffer for it, while the editor went free. If some too fervid speaker had let his eloquence run riot at Edinburgh or Glasgow, was that a reason why the congregations in Skye should have to sit and be snowed upon while worshipping in the open air’ The cruelty of this was referred to by Dr. Candlish at the Inverness Assembly of 1845, in terms which show how keenly the injustice was felt.
Passing from these general statements, however, we must now refer to certain cases which occurred in the south of Scotland, and which unhappily became only too prominent in public view.
Canonbie is a rural parish in Dumfriesshire,571 lying along the English border. The whole land belongs to the Duke of Buccleuch, who is known in Scotland as one of the most fair-minded and kindest of proprietors. With few exceptions, the inhabitants were in his Grace’s employment as tenants-at-will or dependents. At the Disruption, the adherents of the Free Church met in the open air for public worship in front of a row of cottages. The numbers were considerable, but before applying for a site, they wished to have the congregation consolidated. A canvas tent was procured from Edinburgh; and relying on the kindly feelings of the landlord, they had it erected on the corner of a moss or moor, where the land was of little value, in the confident expectation that no offence would be taken. For three or four Sabbaths all went well but suddenly that formidable engine of law, an interdict, came from the sheriff. The tent was ordered to be removed, and the people, as they believed, were prohibited from meeting on any part of the Duke’s lands.
At first sight it appeared as if this must be fatal. A solitary case had at last occurred in which the Free Church must be overborne. There was no friendly sea-shore where they might meet between tide-marks, and the far-reaching Buccleuch estates stretching on either hand left them no hope of taking refuge on any neighbouring property. There was just one resource left – the open grassy side of the public road where the people might meet to worship God. No tent could be used as it would have been illegal to dig holes on the roadside for the necessary supports. All that could be done was to select a spot near some trees which on stormy days might serve partially to break the force of the blast.
In these circumstances the congregation met from Sabbath to Sabbath, comprising not only the day-labourers and the smaller tenants, but some of the leading farmers in the district. At the approach of the first winter, a petition was got up asking for a site. It was signed by 1083 persons, and, to their credit be it said, fully the half of the names were those of persons belonging to the Established Church, who were anxious to see such a public grievance removed. The petition was duly sent, but, to the surprise of many, the receipt of it was not even acknowledged.572
How the months of winter were got through we shall see; but during the following summer an incident took place which was not without effect. In the month of July a rumour spread through the parish that the Rev. Dr. Gordon, of the High Church, Edinburgh, himself a Dumfriesshire man, who stood in the foremost rank of Scotland’s most honoured clergymen, was coming to dispense the Lord’s Supper to that outcast congregation on the wayside. He was to be accompanied by three devoted elders, landed proprietors of high social position, Mr. Claud Alexander of Ballochmyle; Mr. Howieson Crawfurd of Crawfurdland; and Mr. Adam Rolland of Gask, who were to be joined in the services of the communion by Sir Patrick Maxwell of Springkell, an extensive Dumfriesshire landlord. The situation was becoming serious. It would hardly do to treat this intelligence as the Canonbie petition had been treated. The factor of the Duke appeared on the scene to say that his Grace could not bear to think “that so holy an office should be desecrated by being unnecessarily celebrated by the side of the public highway.” The use of a field was offered for the purpose; and, under the superintendence of the factor, the place was fixed on, a gravel-pit was cleared out and levelled, the tent was erected, and all was made ready.
When Sabbath morning came, and Dr. Gordon and his friends arrived on the ground, they found an audience assembled of at least a thousand hearers, who had come from all the surrounding parishes. It was vain to think of using a tent. Out on the open field, under the canopy of heaven, the communion tables were spread. The day was bright and pleasant; the services peculiarly solemn and memorable to many for the deep impression which was made, and the spiritual benefits which were received.
A great point had now been gained. Under the sanction of the factor, the tent had been pitched at the gravel-pit. Thankfully the people, in an address which they sent to the Duke, acknowledged his kindness, and were assured in reply, that as a temporary arrangement the tent might be allowed to stand, but no site must be expected to be given on his lands. The congregation must disperse.
It is touching to see the gratitude of the people for such a concession; and some readers may be ready to think that it was quite as great as the occasion called for. But during the previous winter there had been trials and hardships severe enough to make them sincerely thankful for even such a favour. The Rev. Peter Hope, afterwards settled at Wamphray, brings their trials strikingly before us.
“After the struggle between the Duke and the Free Church was fairly begun, I preached my first sermon in Canonbie as a probationer appointed to the post by the Free Church. It was on the 19th of November that I first addressed the houseless and shivering congregation. I had preached the year before in the parish church, where everything was comfortable. But how different were the circumstances in which I now proclaimed the Word of God! It was indeed sad to see old men and women and little children standing exposed on the open road to the wind and rain in this Christian land, and near the middle of the nineteenth century, listening to no political harangue, but simply to the Gospel of Christ; and all because of their having been driven from a barren moor, where the wandering gipsies are made welcome to pitch their tents, and dwell for weeks together. During the winter we met Sabbath after Sabbath, the length of the service being determined by the state of the weather. The firmness and steadiness of the congregation were truly admirable.
“The last Sabbath of February was the stormiest of the winter. I had arranged to exchange services with the Rev. Mr. Ross, afterwards settled at Langholm, and early in the morning I rode through the blinding drift of snow to that town, in order to fulfil my engagement; but on arriving there it was found impossible for Mr. Ross to go to Canonbie, owing to the tremendous boisterousness of the weather. With great difficulty I rode back through wind and snow to our usual place of meeting, and found actually between thirty and forty people assembled. I conducted a short service, and sent them home. It was certainly an impressive and solemn sight, that little company of worshippers, their plaids and clothes all white with snow, standing on the highway, listening to the injunction to have the same mind in them which was also in Christ; to render to no man evil for evil, but to overcome evil with good.
“During the month of March, Mr. Guthrie preached at Canonbie. The day was wet, windy, and cold. During the interval between the services, and during almost the whole of the afternoon services, the rain fell in torrents. But it did not prevent a congregation of between five and six hundred people assembling to hear the striking and impassioned preacher. He was himself deeply impressed with the scene; and he will be sure to give the world a vivid picture of what he saw. I had a good deal of intercourse with Mr. Guthrie during his short visit, and was highly pleased with his curious and fervid conversation. He is a man not merely to dazzle and delight by his free and happy fancy, and bold and moving eloquence, but he can also guide by his sagacious counsel, and draw every one to his side by his frank and gladsome spirit, and by the kindliness of his heart.”573
How vivid was the impression of this scene on his mind the following description, in a letter written at the time, will show. On the previous day, he had reached Langholm, where he stayed over night, and next morning, he says: “Well wrapped up, I drove out to Canonbie – the hills white with snow – the roads covered ankle deep in many places with slush, the wind high and cold, thick rain lashing on, and the Esk by our side all the way roaring in the snow-flood between bank and brae. We passed Johnnie Armstrong’s Tower, yet strong even in its ruins, and after a drive of four miles, a turn of the road brought me in view of a sight which was overpowering, and would have brought the salt tear into the eyes of any man of common humanity. … [The person who drove me, when we came in sight of that congregation, burst into tears, and asked me, ‘Was there e-er sight seen like that?’] … There, under the naked boughs of some spreading oak trees, at the point where a county road joined the turnpike, stood a tent [pulpit], around, or, rather, in front of which was gathered a large group of muffled men and women, with some little children – a few sitting, most of them standing, and some old venerable widows cowering under the scanty shelter of an umbrella. On all sides, each road was adding a stream of plaided men and muffled women to the group, till the congregation had increased to between 500 and 600, gathering on the very road, and waiting my forthcoming from a mean inn where I found shelter till the hour of worship had come. During the psalm singing and first prayer, I was in the tent, but finding that I would be uncomfortably confined, I took up my position on a chair in front, having my hat on my head, my Codrington close-buttoned up to my throat, and a pair of boots, which were wet through with rain ere the service was over. The rain lashed on heavily during the latter part of the sermon, but none budged; and when my hat was off during the last prayer, some man kindly extended an umbrella over my head. I was so interested, and so were the people, that our forenoon service continued for about two hours. At the close, I felt so much for the people, it was such a sad sight to see old men and women, some children, and one or two people pale and sickly, and apparently near the grave, all wet and benumbed with the keen wind and cold rain, that I proposed to have no afternoon service, but this met with universal dissent. … So we met again at three o’clock, and it poured on almost without intermission during the whole service; and that over, shaken cordially by many a man and woman’s hand, I got into the gig and drove here [Langholm] in time for an evening service, followed, through rain from heaven and wet snow on the road, by a number of the people. I hope that the Lord will bless the words, and, with spiritual grace, make up to the people for their bodily sufferings.”574
When such trials were made public, they naturally awakened considerable feeling, and ministers from a distance came to show their sympathy with the people, especially when the Lord’s Supper was dispensed. One of the venerated fathers of the Church, Dr. Makellar, speaks of his experience on two of these occasions.575 In July, 1845, the year following the visit of Dr. Gordon, the tent again proved to be too small, and the communion table was spread outside on the grass. The morning was fine, but rain came on during service, which exceedingly incommoded the people; and, he states, “injured what we call the communion elements.” But in 1846, when they once more had to meet in the open air, things were more trying. “The early part of the day was one of the finest I ever witnessed. About the middle of the service, clouds began to collect, thunder and lightning came on, forming altogether a storm, the most tremendous I ever witnessed.” Dr. Makellar adds that, in the midst of this scene, the administration of the Lord’s Supper was proceeded with quietly and calmly, about a thousand people being present.
As time went on, it became a question what was to be done, the tent being held by a tenure so precarious. The congregation, however, instead of dispersing, went on increasing in numbers and determination. “The canvas tent,” an eye-witness writes576 “found shelter from the violence of the winter storms in an old gravel-pit in the valley, under the shadow of one of Canonbie’s thousand oaks – meet emblems of her sturdy sons. When the Free Church proceedings began, many came from motives of curiosity to hear, and, blessed be God, the word came in power to some of their hearts. The first-fruits of the Free Church in Canonbie have been ‘the swearer forgetting his oath, and the drunkard forsaking his haunts.’ I have heard instances of this which would, perhaps, call tears to the eyes of some of your readers.”
In these circumstances, the Church resolved to do what every Church deserving of the name would have done. They disregarded the precariousness of the tenure. The General Assembly formed the people into a regularly constituted congregation. Taking all risks, they called a minister, who was duly settled. A kirk-session was ordained, the ecclesiastical arrangements were all complete, and they calmly awaited the time when a site would be given.
More striking, perhaps, than even Canonbie was another case in the northern division of Dumfriesshire, where it borders on the county of Lanark.
Wanlockhead,577 one of the most remarkable villages in Scotland, consists of scattered rows of thatched cottages, built some 1500 feet above the sea among “a wilderness of mountains,” at the highest elevation on which it is believed any village stands in Britain. During the reign of Queen Elizabeth, a German of the name of Cornelius Hardskins, coming to the place in search of gold, discovered those lead mines which ever since have proved “the most productive in the kingdom.” The place is bleak and inhospitable, “where one might hardly expect to find a shepherd’s hut;” but homes were required for the miners, and thus the village was built, which in 1843 contained rather more than 800 inhabitants.
In this remote locality the people had developed to an extraordinary degree the best national characteristics of Scotchmen. Dr. Richardson, the traveller, whose works were at one time in high repute, compares the Wanlockhead mountains to some of the mountainous districts of Palestine, but speaks of the remarkable difference of the inhabitants – the thieving, ignorant Orientals as contrasted with the men of Wanlockhead, an honest, industrious population, where “the conversation of the commonest people will often delight and surprise the man of letters.” The estimate of Dr. Chalmers was not less emphatic: “These miners were the finest specimen of the Scottish peasantry he had ever seen.”
Blessings often come to us in disguise. The unhealthy occupation of lead-mining prevented the men working more than six hours a-day; and, happily, the leisure thus obtained was turned to good account. About the year 1756 they established a subscription library for their amusement and edification; the ordinances of religion were regularly observed; and they have maintained “a high character for intelligence, sobriety, and morality,” enjoying their excellent library, and exhibiting “a zeal in the acquisition of useful knowledge which is truly astonishing.” Few persons, Mr. Hastings adds, leave their native place without desiring to get back. The people live in great comfort, peace, and happiness.
In such a community, as might have been expected, the Ten Years’ Conflict was eagerly watched. Pamphlets and newspapers were read and canvassed with keen intelligence; and when the crisis came they were ready. Three-fourths of the people, along with their minister, Mr. Hastings, at once joined the Free Church, and brought on themselves a series of trials of which they had little idea.
The mines and surrounding lands belonged to the Duke of Buccleuch; the miners were his workmen; but the kindly treatment which they had invariably received at his hands made them confident that none of his dependents would be subjected to personal hardship because of their religious opinions.
In July, 1843, the first petition was sent respectfully applying for a site; but, as in the case of Canonbie, the receipt of it was not acknowledged.578
Six weeks afterwards, they again appealed in more urgent terms. They are his Grace’s workmen and dependents, they say; they are much attached to his interests and to his person; and they express a hope that he will grant what they so greatly need. This time the factor writes that the request is refused.579
Winter came, and amidst the storms of January the outgoing minister makes a personal appeal for the use of a schoolroom standing empty. Again the factor writes that the request is declined.580
In July, 1844, the Presbytery addressed the Duke in urgent terms, asking for some concession before the people are overtaken by the storms of a second winter. “May the Lord God of our fathers, who has been pleased to make you the steward of so large a portion of this earth, incline your heart to grant the request!” Once more there came, through the factor, a simple refusal. 581
Then the people resolved on yet another attempt. The Duke had come to their neighbourhood – was staying at Drumlanrig, the grand old castle of the Queensberry family; and if only they could get a personal interview582 they were confident he would not refuse them. For the time, however, this led to no favourable result. Last of all, Dr. Chalmers made an attempt. In former days he had received convincing proof of the Duke’s kindness and confidence; and he resolved to use whatever influence he had, on behalf of the people. The receipt of his letter was never even acknowledged.583
All this was so utterly unlike the Duke’s usual mode of acting that it was obvious some false or exaggerated information584 must have reached him from those who were hostile to the Free Church. It almost seemed as if he had yielded to the suggestions of some who wished to try the experiment whether a Free Church congregation could be driven back into the Establishment. The circumstances, it must be confessed, were favourable. Up among these wild hills, 1500 feet above the sea, the wind even in summer blows chill and keen, while in winter, as one of the witnesses states, it has occasionally been found impossible for a human being to stand for an hour exposed in the open air.585 The plan, therefore, was a simple one: deny the people ground on which to build; let the minister get no site for a manse; and that terrible climate will do the rest. The people must go back to the pews they have left, and the Free Church would be driven from the glen.
If men reasoned thus, they should have known their countrymen better. Two miles beyond the head of the valley in which the village stands, lies the Pass of Enterkin, with its memories of the time when the shepherds of these hills rose for the rescue of their covenanting brethren, and met and overthrew the dragoons of Claverhouse. Not far off over the mountains was the battlefield of Airs Moss, where Cameron laid down his life; and under the thatched roofs of Wanlockhead, there still lived a race of humble, intelligent, God-fearing men, ready, if called on, to let the world see that the national manhood of Scotland, and the earnest spiritual life of former generations, were not yet dead. The bearing of the people was indeed calm and respectful. Even when matters were at the worst, visitors who went among them testified that not an angry word could be heard. That, however, is only another national characteristic. When the best class of the Scottish people are most determined, they are often most calm; and when that is their mood, the very last thing to be expected is that they will submit to have their conscientious convictions overborne.
To these poor miners it had become plain at last that all appeals to the forbearance and kindness of their landlord were in vain, and preparations were made for the coming struggle. Mr. Hastings, their minister, had broken up his home, and sent his wife and family to Dumfries – a distance of thirty miles. For himself he found accommodation in a workman’s thatched cottage, where the widow of one of the miners gave him the use of a single room, low in the roof, ten feet square, as stated in evidence,586 and this was the minister’s sitting-room, bedroom, and study, all in one. “A miserably small place,” Dr. Guthrie says after visiting it; and there Mr. Hastings prepared to face pastoral work such as has seldom if ever been known in Scotland.
The conducting of Sabbath services was the great difficulty. Sometimes the congregation met on the bare hillside, sometimes in one of the valleys, changing the locality so as to escape as far as possible the fury of the blast, though no change could free them from the cold benumbing wind, and the frequent showers of rain and snow.
Mr. Graham Spiers tells of a day when he was present in the beginning of March, 1846. Dr. Candlish preached in the small ravine near the village. “The wooden erection which served for a pulpit was placed in the bottom of the hollow, and the people sat most of them on stones upon the side of the hill, and some of them round the minister on chairs which they had brought.” It was a very wet and boisterous day. “The service lasted about an hour and three-quarters. I was quite wet through, and I suppose every other person must have been the same.”587
During the following month Dr. Guthrie was in Dumfries on his celebrated manse-building tour, and went to show his sympathy. He was struck with the appearance of the place – a very high, stormy, inhospitable locality.588 “I preached on the open hill, down in a sort of hollow, and the people were ranged on the side of the mountain. It was a swampy place, and I wished to have some protection between my feet and the wet ground. I saw some fine planks of wood lying close by, and I wondered why the people did not take them and use them. In place of that they went to a house and brought an old door. After service, they said that the planks belonged to the Duke of Buccleuch, and they would not touch them in case any offence should be taken. The people were standing on the wet grass, and there were showers lashing on occasionally during service – what they call hill showers – and they were exposed to the storm and rain.”
The Rev. P. Borrowman, minister of Glencairn, in the same Presbytery, had much to do in strengthening the hands of Mr. Hastings and his people. Often in summer he has preached to them in the open air, and has seen them “wet through.” When winter came with frost and snow, the cold caused extreme suffering. He has felt so benumbed that at the close of the service he could not get off the stone on which he was standing till he was helped down.589 This was not due to any unusual degree of cold. The congregation had often to encounter such weather.
For two winters these trials were patiently borne, but when a third season was approaching an attempt was made to mitigate the evil. A canvas tent was got from Edinburgh, in the hope that it might give some relief, but the climate soon proved too much for it. Mr. James Weir, who acted as precentor at the time, narrates the circumstances of the experiment: – “The tent, though it lasted only a few months, had an eventful history, during which the young men of the congregation acquired considerable experience in handling canvas. On Saturday, the 27th December, 1845, the day after it arrived, the office-bearers and a good many of the congregation assembled for its erection; but before it was up heavy rain came on, completely drenching us, and afterwards the wind rose, and the tent was levelled to the ground by eleven o’clock that night. Next day was frosty, and the ground was white with snow. Mr. Borrowman, of Glencairn, standing on the top of an old dyke, preached to a congregation of two hundred. We next erected the tent in the somewhat sheltered kailyard of one of our number; but on the first very stormy Sabbath, the 21st February, 1846, some of us had to go out and tighten the ropes during the sermon, as the canvas was coming and going, and flapping so much about the minister’s ears that he could not get on. In the course of a few months the canvas was so torn by the wind that no tightening of the ropes would do any good, and we were again unsheltered.”590
Without shelter, however, it was impossible to face the rigorous severities of winter, and new arrangements had to be made. The congregation was divided into sections, five of the most commodious cottages were fixed on as places of meeting, each having a certain number of the hearers assigned to it, and in these the Sabbath services were held, the minister going from cottage to cottage, till the whole congregation were gone over. This continued for a time; but six services of an hour and a-half each were too much for human strength, and the number was diminished, the object, however, being still kept in view of securing for the people the benefits of public worship. The neighbouring ministers came to the aid of Mr. Hastings. “We felt,” Mr. Borrowman states, “that he was exposed to harder work than the rest of us, and we used to take it in turn to assist him.”591
Thus the years passed on, and while Mr. Hastings was wearing himself out, the people not only remained unshaken in their attachment to the Free Church, but the trials seemed to have brought a blessing, and their spiritual earnestness was growing deeper. Little was said of their trials: when the weather would at all admit of it, they met in the open air. “I have seldom,” says Mr. Hastings, “referred to our peculiar circumstances except that, when the rain was pouring down on us in torrents, I may have prayed that the Lord would open the Duke’s heart to relieve us from the great difficulties of our position. Many times my heart failed me, and my utterance was choked, to witness the patient endurance of the people. … Even last Sabbath, when our Communion was celebrated, both minister and elders were nearly drenched during the solemn services.”592
But while at Wanlockhead itself, they showed such calmness and resignation, yet, when the facts were made known through the country, much painful feeling began to arise. “One does not like to trust himself to speak of them,” said Dr. Candlish. “Such instances of patient suffering excite feelings in reference to those whom we desire to reverence as occupying the higher grades of society, which we are anxious, for their sakes and for ourselves, to repress.” Indignant utterances, however, sometimes came from other quarters. A few lines from a short poem, published anonymously at the time, may serve to show the state of feeling which was beginning to prevail: –
“I heard, on the side of a lonely hill,
The Free Kirk preacher’s wrestling prayer;
Blue mist, brown muir, and a tinkling rill,
God’s only house and music there.
And aged men, in mauds of gray,
Bare-headed stood to hear and pray.
* * * *
“Is it to pomp and splendour given
Alone to reach the throne on high’
The hill-side prayer may come to heaven
From plaided breast and up-cast eye.
* * * *
“The storm is out, the wind is up,
God’s Israel sit in mire and clay;
Rain-drenched we take the sacred cup,
Shivering with cold we turn to pray.”
* * * *
The whole situation, in short, was getting painful to contemplate. The struggle was between worldly wealth and power on the one side, and patience and faith on the other. The Duke has determined that no Free Church shall be allowed; the people have determined that to the Free Church they must and shall adhere. Through the exposure of summer and the storms of winter, the struggle went on; and the question arose, how long was this to last? Would the country look on and see these humble workmen overborne? or would the Duke do justice to his own better feelings, and allow his dependents to follow their sense of religious duty in the worship of God?
At last some concession was made. They were looking with dismay to the approach of the sixth winter, when a Free Church minister, who had some connection with the district, unexpectedly came to the rescue. The Rev. Lewis Irving, of Falkirk, wrote the Duke, saying that he felt a personal interest in Wanlockhead, from having, in his youth, lived much in that neighbourhood with his uncle, Lord Newton. He asked permission to put up a wooden erection, which might give some shelter from the storms of the coming winter; representing that this might be allowed, while the question of a permanent site was left in abeyance.
Of this letter no notice was taken, but, assuming that silence might mean consent, Mr. Irving went forward and put the matter to the proof. Subscriptions were raised, wood was bought and prepared in Edinburgh. Along with a band of workmen, it was forwarded by railway to Abington, carted over the hills, and the work was at once commenced. For about a week no opposition was offered; but just as the side walls were finished, the manager of the mines took alarm at the responsibility he was incurring, and the proceedings were stopped. Meantime Mr. Irving was on his way to preach the opening sermon on the second Sabbath of October, and, notwithstanding the arrest which had been laid on the work, he went on with the service, the congregation being glad to find themselves under the protection of the side walls and within the roofless shelter.
Then another favourable symptom appeared. A well-known Edinburgh lawyer, the Duke’s agent, wrote to suggest that the people should send in another petition. It might have been thought that they had been suppliants often enough, but they were in no mood to hesitate. An earnest application was made by the elders and people, and in due time permission was given to roof in the Wooden Church, the agent, at the same time, in name of the Duke, expressing his regret that any misunderstanding or disagreement should have occurred, and ascribing it to the interference of others. The wooden erection accordingly was finished, and on Sabbath, the 10th of December, the congregation sat down to the Lord’s Supper, with a wooden cover to shelter them from the inclemency of the climate.
In all this there is one point on which justice must be done to the honourable conduct of the Duke of Buccleuch. In other parts of the country, we have seen how the adherents of the Free Church lost their situations, and were deprived of their means of support; but, in this respect, his Grace acted as became his well-known character. At the collieries of Canonbie and the mines of Wanlockhead, all the workmen were in his employment, but not even when the controversy was at the hottest was any one interfered with for his religious opinions. Many of those who held the most responsible situations were leading members of the Free Church, but, except in the matter of granting a site, the treatment which they received at the hands of the Duke was uniformly fair and kind,593 and the time ultimately came when sites for church and manse were given.
Having now seen the hardships to which so many congregations were subjected, one is led naturally to ask what effect this exposure had on the health of the people. When Dr. Guthrie described to the Committee his preaching at Wanlockhead in the open air, amidst the piercing winds and cold showers of April, they asked him whether that would be injurious to health, and he replied, ‘more Scottico‘ – “how could it be otherwise'”594 When Mr. MacLeod told them of his addressing the people at Uig amidst that heavy snowfall already referred to, a member of the Committee asked, with much naïveté, Did he think it desirable for the health of the people that a church should be erected? And yet there appears little desire on the part of the hearers to make much of their hardships. On the day when Mr. Shepherd, of Kingussie, preached at Duthil, we saw how pulpit, precentor’s desk, and seats had to be cleared of snow before the service could go on. Mr. MacGregor, one of the audience present on a similar occasion, must have had a good, strong Highland constitution. When asked by the Committee whether his health had suffered, “1 can hardly say,” he replied, “that I suffered, but I was that cold that I could hardly stand.” There were others, however, who were not equally fortunate on such occasions. A medical man in Argyllshire, Dr. Aldcorn, of Oban, was well acquainted with the surrounding districts. While visiting among his patients in Strontian and Torosay, he had met with cases where the people ascribed their illness to worshipping in the open air during inclement weather. “I myself caught one of the most sudden and severe illnesses I ever had in my life from attending public worship in the open air in Strontian on a cold evening, and several other persons were taken ill the day after.”595
Similar testimony is borne by Dr. Orchard, a medical practitioner in Grantown, Strathspey. In the course of his practice he had met with many cases (at least fifty) in which, as a medical man, he ascribed their illnesses to exposure to the inclemency of the weather at open-air meetings. They suffered, and in some cases died, of various diseases – bronchitis, inflammation, rheumatism, spitting of blood, and similar ailments.596
Sometimes the trial fell heavily on the minister. “What did they think,” Mr. Carment of Rosskeen asked in the General Assembly, “of an old man like him having to preach the Gospel amidst rain, and hail, and snow, exposed to the pelting of the storm and the winter blast, as he had often been'” But there were some of the younger ministers who suffered even more severely. “I have a painful recollection,” Dr. Elder states of one case in Argyllshire, “where I addressed a large congregation on a stormy evening under a canvas tent, erected because of difficulties in procuring a site. The minister of the parish had remained in, and we had planted a young minister there on the call of the people, who, after prosecuting his work for a short time with great zeal, and under great difficulties, fell into bad health and died, the result unquestionably of his exposure in that tent to the storms of winter, and of the other discomforts to which he was subjected.”597
In the same way the young minister of Canonbie was cut down.598 At the time he was inducted the only church was that poor canvas tent, standing on sufferance, and affording but slight protection at the best. When examined before the Committee, he told how in winter he had seen the rain freely percolating through the canvas, and falling on the heads of the worshippers. “I often saw the seats thoroughly wet, as if they had been dragged through the river. I saw the floor often a puddle of mud.”599
The remarkable thing was that, in the face of this, the congregation went on increasing. In 1843 Dr. Gordon dispensed the communion to 120 members; in 1847 Mr. Innes computed the congregation, including the children, from 500 to 600 persons. But though the people were able to endure such hardships, they were too much for the young pastor. It was not long till symptoms of consumption appeared. The disease rapidly ran its course, and he sank into an early grave.
It was computed that the Free Church population subjected to these hardships by the refusal of sites amounted to about 16,000 persons. “I state it as a fact,” Mr. Graham Spiers said, “respecting which there can be no dispute, that in more than one of these congregations members have been hurried to a premature grave by their exposure to the weather.”600 They were in many cases the excellent of the earth, who, in faithful adherence to what they held to be the truth of God, laid down their lives.
Meantime we have seen the patience with which all this was endured by the people. The question at issue was one on which their feelings were keenly excited. They saw their neighbours and friends, through the effect of site-refusing, laid on a sick-bed or carried to the grave; but though they felt the wrong they were orderly and law-abiding, and they bore it in patience, waiting for better times. Only in one locality – as if it required an exception to prove the rule – was there a slight outbreak.
In the parish of Resolis, near Cromarty, a minister was about to be settled as successor to Mr. Sage, who had “gone out.” Almost the whole parishioners having joined the Free Church, the presentee was to “get the cure of souls with hardly a soul to cure,” and would have nothing to do but consume the living which the State had provided for the good of the people. Besides, as Mr. Macculloch states, there was not in the parish a single proprietor who was not a site-refuser, the respectful petitions of the people having been rejected, and in some cases “the petitioners themselves repulsed with contumely and scorn.”
Unfortunately, some of the younger men resolved to take their own way of opposing the settlement of “the Intrusionist from Sutherlandshire,” and when the clergymen and heritors met at the church, they found a band of lads with some women prepared to resist their entrance. The authorities, however, had got previous warning, and a detachment of soldiers had been marched over from Fort George. Mr. Macculloch remembers “well to this hour (1877) the sensation caused by the sight of the red-coats, and the sound of their measured tread as they passed down the quiet street of a small town which lay in their line of march, with their commanding officer at their head.”
Arrived at the church, they found a mob prepared to bar all access. There were cries of defiance, and some stones were thrown, certain obnoxious “moderate lairds” receiving more than their own share of attention. The order was then given to fire, which was done with blank cartridge – the only effect being to exasperate the people. In the midst of the turmoil, the reverend “presentee whom they came to induct was the first – as was reported in the newspapers of the day – to call on the military to do their duty, and load with ball. This was accordingly done, but whether the shots were purposely fired in the air, as we shall charitably hope, or only missed their aim, the result was that nobody was either killed or seriously wounded.” Of course, the people had to give way, and the presentee was installed; but his word that day procured for him a sobriquet which stuck to him; through the whole district he was popularly known as the “Rev. Ball-cartridge.”601
The crowd, however, at the church door lost some of their number. Among others a woman, guilty of “cheering on the mob,” was captured, and carried to Cromarty in a gig, and there lodged in jail. “That evening a party of Resolis men entered the town of Cromarty, marched through the streets, and halted in front of the jail. They had come, they said, to bail out the woman. They remained for two full hours urging on the authorities to accept their bail, and release the woman. Finding that their bail was not to be accepted, they rushed upon the prison, broke in the doors, set the woman free, and bore her back in triumph to Resolis. A detachment of them, in investing the jail, had to make their way through the flower-garden of a lady in the neighbourhood. She was looking at them in extreme anxiety, well aware of the mischief into which they were running themselves; but mistaking the cause of her anxiety, they imagined that she was merely alarmed for her flowers. “Ah! Lady,” they said, as they carefully threaded the narrow walks, “dinna be feart for the floors; we winna tramp ane o’ them;” and they kept their word. Such were the Ross-shire rioters. Surely never were more gentle-hearted men forced into collision with the law.”602
Mr. Cumming, Factor, Braemar
Mr. Inglis, Farmer, Lochlee
Mr. Walker, Kilcalmonell
Mr. Lockhart, of Laggan, Ballantrae
Messrs. Ross, Bryden, Cathcart, Ochiltree
Mr. Stewart, Braco
Marchioness of Breadalbane, and Lady Hannah Tharp
Countess of Effingham, Unst
George Lyon of Glenogil
Mr. Rigg of Tarvit
Marquis of Breadalbane
From the difficulties and trials thus far described we gladly turn to the friends who came to the help of the Church in her time of need. Among the leading Scottish Churchmen of that day, there were many zealous supporters of evangelical religion, and, for the most part, they joined the Free Church in 1843, while among the humbler classes there were thousands to whom, in their own sphere, the cause was not less deeply indebted. To many of these we have already referred; but in the Disruption Mss. there are additional instances, some of which may here be given.
It was among the handloom operative weavers of Kilsyth, for example, that Dr. Burns found many of his most efficient supporters. “Some ministers shrink from weavers as Radical or opinionative. Among the best friends and upholders of the hands of the minister here have been the men of this class. They are the most pious and best informed. … Well-read, sober, and regular in waiting on ordinances, they take an intelligent and lively interest in the concerns of our Church.”603
At Flisk, Mr. Taylor expresses a similar estimate of the farm-overseers or foremen: “These men are placed above their fellow-servants, being esteemed trustworthy, receiving their masters’ orders and seeing them executed. A better income is connected with their office. They are the best representatives of what the Scottish peasantry once were. Out of this class we have received many of our best adherents among the agricultural population.” “They are the most intelligent and best instructed in matters of religion.”604
Thus it was all over Scotland. Among multitudes of the common people there was a spirit of intelligence abroad, and of determination which would shrink from no difficulties, sometimes showing itself in stern endurance, as among the miners of Wanlockhead, but more frequently in their self-sacrificing contributions. “It was wonderful,” says Dr. Elder, “how the Lord opened the hearts and hands of our people. One servant-girl, a member of my congregation, gave £5 to the Building Fund, and subscribed £2 a-year to the Sustentation Fund.”605 Such examples it is needless to multiply. There was hardly a parish in all the land where the common people did not signalise their devotedness by acts of self-denial and sacrifice which well deserve to be held in remembrance.
One striking circumstance was the way in which men were raised up to meet special cases of need. Wherever difficulties arose, no matter how remote or obscure the locality, some one was sure to stand forward, round whom the people rallied as their natural leader; and it is pleasant to observe how, in after days, ministers loved to speak of the important help thus given.
In enumerating the causes of encouragement, “It would ill become me,” says Mr. Taylor, “to overlook the great comfort and assistance Mr. Thomas Morton, farmer, East Flisk, and the only elder in the parish, has been to me. He was forward in planning and executing all that our altered circumstances had rendered necessary, sparing neither time nor pains.”606
At Braemar, “It was the complaint of the parish minister that the flower of the congregation had left the Establishment. … There were some, too, among our followers whose experience and influence were of great service to us, particularly Charles Cumming, Esq., factor for the trustees of the Earl of Fife, whose adherence I cannot but regard as providential.”607 The value of such help, however, was best appreciated in those cases where the opposition was most formidable.
Lochlee is well known to the readers of Dr. Guthrie’s Life as a retired parish among the Grampians, about twenty miles from Brechin. The tenants, being without leases, were at the mercy of Lord Panmure, their landlord, and were formally warned that all who joined the Free Church would be evicted at the first term. In the midst of them there lived a son of their former minister, Mr. Inglis, tenant farmer of Baillies, whose education and natural character gave him an ascendency over his neighbours; and under his leadership the people quietly took their own way, in defiance of the warning. A Mason lodge in the glen was the only place of meeting to be had; and there, in connection with the Free Church (July, 1843), one hundred and eighty communicants sat down at the Lord’s Supper, including “almost all” the tenants over whose heads the threat of expulsion was hanging. Things went smoothly for a time; but at the annual meeting of the Mason lodge in November, an attempt was made to dispossess the congregation. An insidious proposal to let the place to the highest bidder having been defeated, one of the farmers who was opposed to the Free Church called out, “I will give £10 yearly rent for it for Lord Panmure;” when he was met by two or three voices at once crying out, “Is Lord Panmure to preach in it'” – a sufficiently ludicrous idea to those who knew his Lordship; and amidst the laughter which followed, the whole opposition collapsed, and the meeting-place was secured for a year.
War was now declared. Mr. Inglis was deprived of one of his farms, and in an interview with the factor was told that, unless he ceased to thwart Lord Panmure, he would be summoned out of Baillies at Whitsunday, and all the other Free Churchmen would have to go. He said something about conscience, but was “sharply told to pocket his conscience if it were opposed to Lord Panmure.”608 The factor ought to have known better the man with whom he was dealing.
A further step was taken. The teacher in the glen, belonging to the “Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge,” was ill and dying; but instead of letting the man die in peace, they moved for his expulsion; and the sentence of dismissal arrived from Edinburgh just in time to reach his dying bed on the day of his decease.
Then came the legal summonses. Farmers were to lose their farms, and about eighty persons to be driven from the Glen; but they were so calm and resolute in their attitude of determination that the landlord felt it would not do. The summonses were never enforced.
The Mason lodge was next assailed. The building was to be resumed by the proprietor, and both the members of the lodge and the Free Church expelled. Foreseeing this result, Mr. Inglis erected on his farm an unusually large house for the accommodation of a shepherd, one end of which was reserved for the man and his family, while the other was fitted with seats and a temporary pulpit. In this way he evaded a threatened interdict. They could not well prevent him building a good house for his servant, nor the servant from fitting up one end of it as he pleased. Lord Panmure at last confessed that “Baillies had outgeneralled him,” and gave up the contest. In that humble building the congregation met till the accession of the second Lord Panmure, the Earl of Dalhousie, brought better times, and a church and manse were provided. On the death of Mr. Inglis, in 1868, a local newspaper declared: “No such man has died in the Glen or in any of the surrounding parishes for many a long year and day. Though a resolute Free Churchman, Mr. Inglis never limited the flow of his kindness and charity to denominational channels. Ready to do good to all, he was respected and esteemed by all, … an admirable example of how a man should live so as to be missed when he dies.”609
In the district of Kintyre, Argyllshire, the leading supporter of the Free Church was Mr. John Walker, teacher of a school under the Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge. The parish of Kilcalmonell, where he taught, had at one time distinguished itself in connection with the well-known James Haldane, who, along with his brother Robert Haldane, had done so much as a zealous evangelist in Scotland. At the instance, it was believed, of the parish minister, Mr. Haldane had been arrested in Kilcalmonell, given in charge to the constables, and sent a prisoner to the county town to be tried for the crime of preaching the Gospel in the open air. In 1843 a good deal of the same spirit seems to have survived among the upper classes. The use of any house or barn had been interdicted. “For two winters,” says Mr. Walker, “we worshipped the God of our fathers in the graveyard of Tarbert, sitting on the graves of our forefathers with only a canvas tent for our minister.” Afterwards Mr. Walker had to take his blankets to cover the tent [pulpit], putting it up every Saturday night beside the public road under the shade of a wide-spreading tree. In spite of dire opposition, he continued to give accommodation to the Free Church ministers, “so that his house came to be called the Non-Intrusion inn.”
The proprietor, Mr. Campbell of Stonefield, “whose title,” Mr. Walker says, “is an exponent of his heart towards the Free Church,” refused a site, and, when one was got against his will, forbade the use of all his quarries. The spirit of the people, however, was roused. The old proverb about carrying coals to Newcastle received a new application – when it was found they had to bring stones to Stonefield, “a district where nineteen-twentieths of the surface is rock.” It had to be done, however. Building stones were conveyed in boats from Cowal, across an arm of the sea thirteen miles wide, and under the care of Mr. Walker, and Mr. John M’Lauchlan, postmaster, the Free Church was erected.
But further troubles were in store. The Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge dismissed Mr. Walker and the other teachers who joined the Free Church. Mrs. Wallace, a poor widow, who taught the female school, “had her furniture laid out on the public road, and Mr. Dugald Sinclair, the factor, came to my house while I was in the act of removing, and told me that unless I made speedy exit he would treat my effects in the same way.”
Deprived thus of his situation, Mr. Walker found employment elsewhere, and went at last across the Atlantic, where God prospered him. Writing in 1879 from his home in Canada, he says – “I have suffered much and done much for the Free Church, of which I am now glad. I have never repented it. The time of the struggle was the happiest part of my life.”610
Ballantrae, Ayrshire, furnishes a favourable example of those cases where, amidst opposition of a milder type, friends were raised up to guide congregations in remote country districts. A former minister – Mr. Burns, afterwards of Monkton and Dunedin, New Zealand – nephew of the great Ayrshire poet, had imbued the people with the love of Gospel truth, and though his successor remained in the Establishment, they in large numbers went out, having at their head Mr. Lockhart, farmer at Laggan.
The proprietor, the Earl of Stair, refused a site; but the people got from Mr. Aitken, one of the tenants, permission to meet in Collingmill Glen, a beautiful and picturesque spot not far from the village. “Some are still alive who recall the happy solemn Sabbath services held there during the summer of 1843, and dwell with special delight on the first communion, when Mr. Burns, their former pastor, presided. The loveliness of the day, the stillness of the scene, and the solemn impressiveness of the service are held in vivid remembrance.”
At the approach of winter, they retired to the school-house of Garleffin; but the great object was to get as soon as possible permanent accommodation.
“It had come to the knowledge of Mr. Lockhart that certain properties in the village – including an old inn, with stables and garden – were to be sold by private bargain. There was no time to lose. Consultation with others might be dangerous. The sale was to take place at Stranraer, seventeen miles from Ballantrae. Mr. Lockhart said nothing – rose early in the morning – reached Stranraer by business hours, and, taking all risks, purchased the property in his own name.
“Glad at heart, and grateful to God for enabling him to secure ground for the church he loved, he turned homewards, and having got about half-way, was ascending the wild romantic glen of App, when he saw approaching from the opposite direction Mr. White, an elder of the Establishment. The two elders – the Free and the Established Church – met, and, curiously eyeing each other, held a short conversation:
“Mr. Lockhart. I have an idea, Mr. White, of the object of your journey, and, if I am right, you need go no further.
“Mr. White. How can you know my business?
“Mr. Lockhart. My impression is, that you are on your way to purchase the old inn. I have bought it this morning, and mean to give it to the Free Church for a site.
“Mr. White. Indeed! Well, that was my object, and, as you have got before me, I will turn, and we will go home together.
“The site was found very suitable, and it was not long till one of the plain churches of those days was erected on it.
“But a manse was urgently required, and as the old inn and its garden could not give the space required, Mr. Lockhart resolved – notwithstanding the discouragement of a former refusal – to make another application to his landlord, the Earl of Stair. Waiting on his lordship, he was kindly received, stated his object, and met at once with a frank reply – ‘I considered a second minister at Ballantrae a manifest surplusage, and wished to prevent it; but you have got a minister and church in spite of me, and there is no use refusing you a manse – where do you wish to build?’ Mr. Lockhart, doubtless, like Nehemiah of old, praying in heart to the God of heaven, said, ‘The field next the old inn would suit.’ It was the best site in Ballantrae, and near the church. ‘You shall have it,’ replied the Earl, and again Mr. Lockhart returned home blessing God for having prospered him in his efforts.”611
In after days when a new church was required, it is interesting to observe the cordial goodwill with which the movement was welcomed by all classes in the parish. The best site in the place was alongside of the manse, and it was most handsomely given at a nominal feu-duty by the present Earl of Stair, who had succeeded his uncle. A plan was prepared by Messrs. Barclay, architects, Glasgow. Every heritor in the parish subscribed toward the building, the lowest of these subscriptions being £10, the highest £50, the aggregate £200. The congregation, the entire community of the parish, and also friends at a distance, all gave liberally. The foundation stone was laid by the late Lord Ardmillan amid a large concourse of the inhabitants. The church cost £1613, and was opened by the Rev. Sir Henry Moncreiff. With the broad Atlantic in front, the manse with spacious lawn on the north, the noble river Stinchar on the south, a bold hill crowned by the ruins of the grand old castle of Ardstinchar behind – the Free Church is the finest architectural ornament of Ballantrae, and is all the more pleasing that it is entirely free of debt.”612
There were parishes in which relief came in a remarkable way, through the sale of estates and the transference of the land from hostile to friendly hands. At Ochiltree, Ayrshire, the proprietors were almost all adverse; but a change took place, and the new landlords seem to have vied with each other in their acts of kindness to the Free Church. An eligible site on a nominal feu-duty was given by Mr. Bryden; a temporary place of worship was provided, rent free, by Mr. Cuthbert; while Mr. Ross of Lesnessock gave in perpetuity two acres of the best land in the parish as a glebe for one shilling a year.613
At Braco, Perthshire, no site could be got on the property where the people chiefly reside, but in the summer of the Disruption the estate was bought by G.D. Stewart, Esq., and Mr. Grant states he “not only granted sites to our heart’s desire, but he also gave his cordial sympathy. While we worshipped in the open air in the midst of winter, he stood among my people – for there were no seats – during Divine service. He gave his money, his wood, his counsel, his influence, in support of our sacred cause, and his acts of personal kindness to myself were incessant. When I first waited on him, after he came to the property, and made him acquainted with our circumstances, he said, ‘I knew that God did not send me here in vain.’ The remark has been fully verified.”614
It is right that the zealous aid given by many of the female friends of the Free Church should not be forgotten.
At Kilwinning, Ayrshire, it was a devoted Christian lady, Miss Donald of Glenbervie, who originated the movement. When, at her request, Dr. Landsborough opened the services (15th June, 1843), she warned him to expect only from 12 to 15 hearers. The actual attendance was 50. An old Baptist chapel was rented, which soon got overcrowded. Ninety-nine members joined at the first communion. Miss Donald purchased a site for a church. A promising young preacher was called and ordained, and they soon had a congregation of 170 members, with a church seated to hold 450 sitters, free of debt.
In this connection the writer may be allowed to record one personal reminiscence of a call which he made by invitation, in the summer of 1843, at Langton House, where the Dowager Marchioness of Breadalbane and Lady Hannah Tharp then resided. Much was said about the Free Church and her prospects, and many inquiries as to the circumstances of his parish at Kinneff, and, when he rose to leave, they put into his hands, with a few kind words, the sum of £150 to aid in providing a manse. It was in this quiet way that many a generous act was done, of which little mention was made beyond the congregations and ministers immediately benefited.
In the Disruption Mss. we find the name of another friend – the Countess of Effingham – whose delight it seems to have been to aid our struggling congregations. At Kilsyth, Dr. Burns mentions that her attention had been “providentially directed to this poor place,” and she assisted “so largely and substantially as to leave no residuum of debt, without aid from the central fund; besides giving pulpit cloth,”&c.615
Again, at Unst, the most northerly parish in the Shetland islands, we find her doing similar work. Before the Disruption, the venerable Dr. Ingram had much opposition to contend with. In the spring of 1843, one of those formidable documents – an interdict – was obtained by the leading heritor, prohibiting him from holding a meeting in the church. It now lies before us duly written and signed in legal form, but pale and dingy with the lapse of years. In proper time it left Lerwick, in 1843, on its way to Dr. Ingram, but among the winds and currents of those northern seas its progress had not been propitious. Before Unst could be reached the meeting had been held, the speeches delivered, and the congregation had pledged themselves to leave the Establishment – a pledge which was amply fulfilled, when out of 1100 communicants 1000 joined the Free Church. It turned out that two churches were required, owing to the position of the population in different parts of the island. The difficulty would have been great, but it was met by one of these churches – that at Uyasound – being “erected chiefly by the liberality of the Countess of Effingham, who was led, through Dr. Chalmers, to take a warm interest in the religious condition of this remote island – the Ultima Thule of Scotland.” It may be added that, at the opening of the other church, in November, 1843, a striking incident took place. The tent under cover of which the congregation had worshipped, during summer and autumn, was carried away by a furious tempest on the very day when for the first time the people entered their new church.616
It is difficult for the younger generation to understand what the Free Church of 1843 owed to that noble band of influential laymen who stood forward in her support, and to whom we have already referred.
Nowhere was the revival of evangelical religion more marked than among the upper circles of Edinburgh society. Dr. Erskine, Sir H. Moncreiff, and Dr. Jones had done much during the former generation, but it was when Dr. Andrew Thomson appeared in St. George’s and was joined by Dr. Gordon and other men of similar power in the Edinburgh pulpits, and by Dr. Chalmers and Dr. Welsh in the Professors’ chairs, that the array of intellect and genius on the side of Gospel truth made its influence felt through all classes of the community. The general feeling changed. A series of sermons by Dr. Thomson on the evils of the stage had such effect that the Edinburgh theatre was almost deserted. Many of the leading lawyers, physicians, bankers, and merchants were earnest Christian men, keeping up family worship regularly in their houses, and devoting themselves to Christian work in the different congregations with which they were connected. This was the class who instinctively, in the great majority of cases, rallied round the Free Church in her contendings.
What admirable men these Edinburgh laymen were as a class, all Scotland knew. Of two of their number full biographies have been published, that of Mr. Robert Paul, Banker, by Dr. Benjamin Bell, and that of James Wilson, Esq. of Woodville, by Dr. James Hamilton. There are also in the “Disruption Worthies” sketches of the lives of Alexander Murray Dunlop, M.P.; Graham Spiers, Sheriff of Mid-Lothian; John Maitland, Auditor of the Court of Session; Alexander Earle Monteith, Sheriff of Fife; John Hamilton, Advocate; James Crawfurd, W.S.; and James Bonar, W.S. And others there were not less distinguished: men like Lord Ardmillan and Lord Cowan among the Judges of the Court of Session; lawyers like J.G. Wood, W.S., Sheriff Jameson, and Sheriff Cleghorn; eminent physicians like Dr. Abercromby, Dr. James Wood, Sir James Y. Simpson, and Professor Miller, in whose case the Disruption formed the great turning-point of his religious history, and whose gift of ready eloquence was always at the service of every good cause; these, and many other influential supporters who might be named, gave to the Free Church an importance which even the men of the world could not fail to recognise.
Alexander Dunlop, advocate – afterwards M.P. for Greenock – deserves special notice. More than any other layman he was prominent in the midst of the Disruption conflict, arguing the case, guiding the counsels of the evangelical party, and shaping the course of the movement. Sacrificing his prospects at the bar, where he had given high promise of distinguished success, he threw himself into the struggle for what he felt to be the cause of God, upholding it with all the resources of his great legal learning and powerful reasoning. It was to him men looked for the drawing up of those documents in which the claims of the Free Church were embodied. It was he who arranged the course of procedure on the Disruption day, and ever afterwards, as her legal adviser, he gave himself heart and soul to the advancement of the Church in all her interests.
Another champion of the cause must also be specially referred to – Hugh Miller, editor of the Witness. The story of his life is as a household word in many districts of Scotland. The orphan child whose father was lost at sea – the stone mason – the banker’s clerk – the man of science – the editor, his whole career at every step brought out the rare mental gifts of a man destined powerfully to influence the generation in which he lived. In the midst of the ten years’ conflict, the thrilling appeals of his pamphlets and newspaper articles went all over Scotland, and stirred the hearts of his countrymen. Arguments which in other hands were dry and abstruse, were translated by him into a style of English so pure, and presented in forms so powerfully attractive, that they came home at once to the feelings of the people. When the battle for Christ’s headship, and for the liberties of the people, was fought and won in the country, it was Hugh Miller who stood in the front of the conflict.
In Glasgow the support of the laity was not less remarkable. There now lies before us a list of the office-bearers of a single congregation, St. Enoch’s, which includes the names of Henry Dunlop of Craigton, Richard Kidston, John Wright, George Lyon Walker, James Stevenson, and others who rallied round Dr. Henderson; and if to these were added the kirk-sessions of St. George’s, St. John’s, the Tron, St. Matthew’s, and other churches, there would be found a long array of the most prominent citizens, – men like Dr. Harry Rainy, Dr. Charles Ritchie, Nathaniel Stevenson, the Messrs. Blackie, publishers, Allan and William Buchanan, James Buchanan of Woodlands, Peter Brown, Islay Burns, William Towers Clark, William Crichton, R.N., Allan Cuthbertson, John Park Fleming, John James Muir, Matthew Montgomerie of Kelvinside, James Playfair, John Wilson, and many another name of high standing in the community. Some idea of what they were may be formed from the sketches of two of their number, which have found a place among “The Disruption Worthies ” – William Collins, so distinguished for ardent zeal and untiring energy; and William Campbell, whose splendid liberalities can never be forgotten.
And as in Edinburgh and Glasgow, so in Dundee, Aberdeen, Paisley, Greenock, the lay friends of the Church stood eagerly forward in her support; indeed, there was hardly a town in Scotland where some of the leading citizens did not zealously uphold the cause.
In country districts we have also gratefully to recall the support given by a portion of the landed proprietors. Three months before the Disruption, they met in Edinburgh, coming up from their country seats, for the purpose of uniting to make known their views to the Government in favour of the Free Church. The list of seventy names included men of the highest consideration – the Duke of Argyle, the Marquis of Breadalbane, Sir Andrew Agnew, Fox Maule, Sir Patrick Maxwell of Springkell, Alexander Campbell of Monzie, Claude Alexander of Ballochmyle, Heriot of Ramornie, Captain Christie of Durie, Dickson of Hartree, Craigie of Glendoick, and others who were either present or intimated their adherence by letter. Of this honoured list there are some – alas! very few – who remain unto this day, but most have fallen asleep. It would be interesting to tell what they afterwards did for the cause in their separate localities, but no such record can be attempted in these pages. It may be enough to refer the reader to the “Disruption Worthies,” where sketches are given of George Buchan of Kelloe, James Maitland Hog of Newliston, Patrick Boyle Mure Macredie of Perceton, Alexander Campbell of Monzie, Howieson Crawfurd of Crawfurdland, and Fox Maule, afterwards Earl of Dalhousie; and to the separate memoirs of Maitland Makgill Crichton by Mr. Taylor of Flisk, and Alexander Thomson of Banchory by Professor Smeaton.
To the valuable services rendered by these and others among our country gentlemen, we would fain pay the tribute that is due; but for the present we must confine ourselves to some of the brief notices found in the Disruption Mss.
One of the outstanding supporters in the North was Cluny Macpherson, chief of the clan, who, living in the midst of his people at Cluny Castle, zealously upheld the cause of the Church. Besides contributions in money, he gave sites for church and manse free of charge, with garden, pasture-ground, and much else for the use of the minister – all bestowed in a spirit of generous liberality. He has all along, says Mr. Shaw of Laggan,617 been zealous in the cause of temperance and of education in the district. In passing through the country of the Macphersons, Dr. Begg was glad to find that the Free Church was attended by the chief of the clan. “I had the pleasure of preaching to him when he appeared in full costume, with philabeg and with all the other accessories of the Highland garb. I must say he has shown both good sense and high principle in joining his people to maintain amongst them a pure and free Gospel ministry.”618
In the Presbytery of Forfar mention is made of G. Lyon, Esq. of Glenogil, an heritor in the parish of Tannadyce. “At a period,” says the Rev. D. Fergusson, “when few of the gentry of Forfarshire or representatives of old county families manifested any sympathy with the Gospel, Mr. Lyon, rising above the prejudices of his order, devoted his youthful energies to the cause of evangelical truth. When the testing hour came in 1843, he never hesitated as to his course of action.” After the Disruption, he gave himself largely to the service of the Church, and was very helpful in establishing and organising the new Free Church congregations within the bounds of the Presbytery. “When I presided at the first dispensation of the Lord’s Supper in the congregation of Memus of Tannadice, he officiated as an elder, and helped on the good cause with characteristic ardour. Some months later, I was present when he laid the foundation-stone of the Free Church in South Kirriemuir. This is not the place to enlarge on the services which were rendered by that truly good man to the cause of truth; but the Free Church does well when she embalms the memory of that small, but noble, band of country gentlemen who broke away from the traditional policy of their order, and were not ashamed to confess Christ.”619
Mr. Taylor states that within the bounds of the Presbytery of Cupar (Fife), they had a goodly number of persons who, by their position in society, were fitted to conduct and encourage the movement. “There was Maitland Makgill Crichton of Rankeillor, and his brother, Captain James Maitland at Rossie. There was James Ogilvie Dalgliesh of Woodburn, and his brother, Captain Archibald Dalgliesh. There were the Heriots of Ramornie, Mrs. Makgill of Kemback and her daughters, Mrs. Bethune of Blebo, and Mr. Meldrum of Craigfoodie. Mr. Rigg of Tarvit returned from the Continent in 1843. An hour’s conversation with Dr. Begg supplied the old man’s mind with the leading facts and strong points of the controversy. He declared himself for the Free Church, and unflinchingly and most heartily he stood by her to his life’s end. My pen would readily record my impressions of this ‘good old country gentleman, all of the olden time.’ As an only son, and the heir of Tarvit, he held in his early days a commission in the Guards. I remember him telling me, with great pleasure, of a little interview he had with George III. He was on duty in one of the London Parks, mounted on horseback, and in full regimentals. His Majesty accosted him in passing – ‘From what part of the country are you, young man?’ ‘From Scotland, please your Majesty.’ This was all, but simple as it was, it dwelt on the old man’s mind, as a sunny spot, that he had spoken to the King. Mr. Rigg had been a foxhunter in his day, and his house was distinguished for its lavish hospitality; and he was obliged to live for a time on the Continent. When he returned to Tarvit, in 1843, his old kindness and liberality continued, but they were directed into new channels. He now laid himself and his means out for good-doing. He opened his house for the entertainment of those who came on the Church’s work. Mr. Reid of Collessie named him the ‘Gaius of the Church.’ In all this, he was aided and guided by his daughter, who was ready for every good work.
“I must not omit in this enumeration, the Misses Moncrieff of Southfield, Auchtermuchty. They lived a life of faith, and prayer, and devotedness. The cause and Church of Christ were their chief interest and joy.”620
Of all the landlords, however, who befriended the Free Church, the most conspicuous was the Marquis of Breadalbane, the notices of whom, as given in the Disruption Mss., must not be omitted. Educated for a time under the care of Dr. Brown, of Langton, he had been early taught the principles of Presbyterianism – his country’s religion – and, in after life, adopted them on thorough conviction, identifying himself with his Church in London as well as in Scotland. Of his services in Parliament, when single-handed he upheld the cause of the Free Church among his Peers, this is not the place to speak, but the support which he gave to the cause on his extensive estates well deserves to be remembered.
During the spring of 1843, the Rev. A. Sinclair states, a deputation came to Kenmore to address the people of the parish, and were cordially received by the Marquis. “Mr. Duff, then parish minister, declined to give the keys of the church, on the ground that the object of the deputation was to disturb the peace of the Church. The Marquis, however, was not to be defeated. He sent a second messenger to say to Mr. Duff that while on Sabbath he would be left in undisturbed possession, on every other day he held his right as heritor to have the use of them. The keys were given up, the church doors thrown open, and the deputies addressed a large and enthusiastic meeting. His Lordship also spoke, and gave, as he was well able to do, a lucid and convincing exposition of the points he handled. The result was that the people in a body signed their adherence.”621
The keynote was thus struck in the Breadalbane district, and after the Disruption, which soon followed, the most effectual help was given. The following description by Mr. Clark of Aberfeldy will enable the reader to understand the important services which were rendered:
“It is pleasing to record that there was no refusal of sites no real hardship worth mentioning. This was owing, under God, in no small measure to the influence of the most extensive landed proprietor within the bounds – an enlightened, patriotic, Christian nobleman – the last Marquis of Breadalbane, who, while most of the landed aristocracy were indifferent or hostile, cast in his lot, heart and soul, with the Free Church. ‘Out-and-out a Scotchman in his spirit, his predilections, his principles, and in the higher aims and objects of his life,’ says one who knew him well (Professor William Chalmers, of London), ‘his general character was that of manly strength. Like his person, firmly built, it was solid, sturdy, simple, unpretentious, but breathing unmistakably an air of conscious elevation, inborn dignity, and native greatness. His intellect was uncommonly vigorous, searching, and comprehensive, capable of grappling with any subject, sure to examine it on every side, and almost certain, not swiftly, but after due deliberation, to arrive at the soundest conclusion.’
“His sympathies had been with the Non-Intrusion party throughout the whole of the controversy. In his place in the House of Lords, in a masterly manner, he vindicated the claims of the Church and the independent jurisdiction of her Courts. When the crisis came, he showed his independence of thought and action, and strength of principle, yet acted with his usual deliberation. It was not for some days after the Disruption that he announced his resolution to vindicate his own principles as a Presbyterian, and to leave the Established Church. ‘In what I did for the Presbyterian cause,’ said he, ‘although my services were poor and small, 1 trust they were honest. I endeavoured to follow those principles in which I was first instructed as a Presbyterian, and which 1 am determined to pursue through life. Let them say what they will, it is we who have succeeded. We have lost the aliment of the State, and pain and privation have been the consequence; but at this moment here we stand, safe through the trials of the conflict, pure as in the times of our fathers, the Free and ancient Church of Scotland. We acknowledge no Head but Christ.’
“With the sympathy and substantial help of such a nobleman and elder on her side, the Free Church in the district of Breadalbane speedily grew in strength and shape. It was no easy task to supply ordinances to so many hungering for the word of life. The cry from every side – from Amulree to Foss and Rannoch – was, Send us ministers to preach. It was a busy time, but a time of quickened earnestness, and of real blessing to many. Ministers from a distance came and gave help. The Marquis showed them much kindness and hospitality. Conveyances from Taymouth were placed at their disposal, to carry them from place to place to proclaim the Gospel of the kingdom. With all his favour for the Free Church, never did tenant, servant, or dependant suffer at Lord Breadalbane’s hands for his religious convictions, nor was he asked what Church he belonged to.
“Mr. Stewart, the outgoing minister of Killin, had, of course, to quit his manse; but the residence at Finlarig was at once fitted up for his reception. At Strathfillan and on both sides of Loch Tay the places of worship and manses were given for the use of the Free Church. The time and services of his Lordship’s overseers were as entirely given to the planning and erection of temporary places of meeting as if these were parts of the estate’s improvement. His contributions in timber and money to these, and afterwards to the substantial building of churches and manses at Kenmore, Aberfeldy, &c. &c., were very munificent. He gave the same friendly help to the Free Church on his extensive estates in Argyllshire, besides his many liberal contributions to meet other pressing requirements of the Church beyond his own territory. Nothing lay so near his heart as the mental, moral, and religious elevation of the people on his estates, which he justly regarded as the best guarantee for the improvement of their social condition and material comforts; and cheerfully and liberally did he help the people in the erection of schools on his extensive property, which have proved an incalculable blessing to the rising generation.”622
How all this drew to him the hearts of his people may be seen from the statement of Dr. Chalmers at the Inverness Assembly in 1845: – “As a living proof that our position has no effect in loosening those ties which ought to subsist between superiors and inferiors, let me advert to what came under my own observation last week in the district of Breadalbane. I was then on a visit to the Marquis, … and I will just say that so far from devotion to superiors being slackened or relaxed by our Free Church system, there is no district in the Highlands where you see it in greater perfection at this moment than in the district of Breadalbane, enthroned as that noble Marquis is in the love and confidence of all his people. … In virtue of his being a friend of the Free Church, the high views of chieftainship sit all the more securely and all the more gracefully upon him.”623
Mr. Sym of Edinburgh, and Mr. Craig of Sprouston
Collessie, Mr. Macfarlane’s Letter
Callander, Mr. M’Laren
Heritors at Latheron
Portpatrick, General Hunter Blair
It is right to record some of those cases in which the hostility of adversaries was changed into a feeling of cordial goodwill.
“Be it remembered to their praise,” says Dr. Guthrie, “that the two great statesmen [Lord Aberdeen and Sir James Graham,] who were made tools of by a miserable party on this side of the border, did confess – the one publicly, on the floor of the House of Commons, and the other, to my knowledge, privately – that the one act of their lives which they looked back on with the deepest regret was the part they had been led to play.” Alluding to Dr. Guthrie’s statement, Mr. Murray Dunlop, M.P., said publicly at Carlisle (26th September, 1862): “I think it right to confirm that statement by repeating what Sir J. Graham said to myself. About a year or two before his death he said, in a very earnest tone and manner: ‘I have never ceased to deplore the part I took in your Scotch Church affairs.'”624
This change was what Dr. Chalmers confidently expected: – “I believe the upper classes very honestly thought very ill of us. They looked on us as so many Radicals and revolutionaries; and I have heard some of the higher classes for whom I have the greatest respect associate the Disruption with the idea of a coming revolution. I have myself heard them speak so; but I believe that the experience of our being a far more harmless generation than they had any conception of previously, has gone a considerable way to mitigate that feeling, and I trust that the mitigation will go on.”625
Within three weeks of the time when these kindly words were spoken, the great leader had gone to his rest; but many examples of the happy change he expected, soon showed themselves.
One thing which helped forward this result was the tone of those farewell sermons – the parting words in which the outgoing ministers had taken leave of their people. How this was done the reader has already seen; but additional examples may here be given from the feelings expressed by Mr. Sym, of Edinburgh, and his friend, Mr. Craig, of Sprouston. While urging his hearers solemnly to consider what faithfulness to Christ required, Mr. Sym went on to say: “There are some among you from whom I expect to be separated, and for whom I cherish a profound respect and most affectionate esteem. … Examine narrowly the grounds of your conduct. ‘Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.’ ‘Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind;’ for ‘whatsoever is not of faith is sin.’ If we must separate, let us at least part in peace, not in anger; for the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God – not in the exercise of supercilious pride or intolerant bigotry, but in the exercise of an enlarged charity, with mutual regret and with mutual desires for each other’s welfare.”626
In similar terms Mr. Craig took leave of those who remained in the Establishment: – “I have but one request to make – viz., that you would call to mind and lay to heart the truths of the Gospel which it has been my privilege from Sabbath to Sabbath to make known to you. You have my sincere wishes and prayers for your spiritual and temporal wellbeing; and let me assure you that I will not soon forget the uniform kindness, and forbearance, and respect which I have experienced at your hands.”
When ministers thus publicly left their churches with the law of kindness on their lips, the hostility of their opponents might well be disarmed. In private, also, efforts were made to retain the goodwill of former friends.
A fine instance of this occurred at Collessie, in Fife. Mr. M’Farlan, minister of the parish (afterwards Dr. M’Farlan, of Dalkeith), had rendered effective service during the Ten Years’ Conflict, and had been honoured by an interdict. He was conspicuous, for example, on that day already referred to, when the Presbytery of Cupar met in the church at Flisk, and Dr. Anderson, in presiding at the induction of Mr. Taylor, took advantage of his position to make an attack on the evangelical majority of the Church of Scotland under cover of a charge to the newly-settled minister. The address, Mr. Taylor states, gave rise to an animated discussion. “Mr. M’Farlan, of Collessie, but since removed to Dalkeith, to our Presbytery’s loss, a man of clear mind and ready words, asked the people to remain; and animadverting with merited severity upon the Doctor’s address, moved that the term ‘suitable,’ with which the clerk in his blundering haste had characterised the address, be omitted.”627
Ready thus to take his part in debate, and to suffer when the time came, he knew at the same time what was due to the courtesies of life. The patron of the parish – a resident heritor, who had been uniformly kind, to whom, indeed, he owed his appointment – had shown signs of dissatisfaction, and Dr. M’Farlan wrote him a letter, which deserves to be given in full:
“Manse of Collessie, May, 1843.
“Dear Sir, – You have already received, I have no doubt, official notice of the vacancy in the parish of Collessie, and the cause of that vacancy. I think it, however, only an expression of due respect to you as the patron of that parish, and by whom I have been so much obliged, to communicate with you directly on the subject. I shall not trouble you by an attempt to detail the reasons that have influenced me, along with so many of my brethren in the ministry, to resign my connection with the Establishment. Suffice it to say, that we are acting on a clear, deep, and conscientious conviction that the Established Church of Scotland, as defined by recent decisions of the Civil Courts – decisions virtually approved and ratified by the Legislature of the country – convert it into a kind of institution which we did not understand it to be when we became ministers of that Church; and that the only course that remained for us, as honest men and ministers of the Gospel, was to retire from an Establishment, the constitution of which, as so explained, we could no longer approve. Allow me, however, to say that I do not on that account feel the less indebted to you, as patron of the parish of Collessie, for the very handsome and disinterested manner in which you presented me to that charge. You acted, I believe, on public grounds alone, with exclusive reference to the interests of the parish in making that appointment, and I can only desire that during the period of my incumbency I had, by the blessing of God, been enabled more fully to justify your choice. You will believe me, that it is not any want of gratitude to you, or any feeling of dissatisfaction with a situation in every respect so very desirable, that influenced me in coming to the resolution I have taken. So far from it, the greatest sacrifice I have ever been called upon to make is that which I have made in resigning my place as a minister of the Establishment. Nothing but a deep sense of duty could have induced, or indeed would have warranted, our taking the step we have done. The course we have felt ourselves bound to adopt you may not think was called for, you may not approve. But you will allow me to express a hope that those mutual feelings of personal respect and goodwill which should universally prevail, will not be extinguished, or even diminished, by the distressing circumstances which, in the course of a wise but inscrutable providence, have been permitted to arise.”
The desire thus shown by the ministers to remove prejudice and restore kindly feeling met its reward.
Sometimes the response came at once. At St. Cyrus, where the farewell sermon was preached by the Rev. A. Keith, jun., assistant and successor to his father, the well-known Dr. Keith, one of the heritors, Mr. Straiton of Kirkside, an adherent of the Establishment, gave a signal proof of personal regard. That Sabbath afternoon he sent a letter expressed in strong terms of respectful kindness, and enclosing a contribution of £30 in aid of the Free Church of St. Cyrus.
Another of these marked examples occurred at Callander, in the case of Mr. Donald M’Laren, who is described as a true Highlander of the Celtic type. He had begun life as a small farmer and drover, had added to this the business of private banking, and being a man of great sagacity and energy, as well as benevolence, had risen to a position of affluence and almost unlimited influence in the town and parish, owing to the confidence which all men reposed in him.
At first he was not only hostile to the Free Church, but looked on the active members of the party with keen feelings of resentment. With all his influence he took a leading part along with the parish minister in his efforts to defeat them. Circumstances, however, the details of which need not be given, led him to reconsider the whole question, and the result was a complete change of his opinions. He was not a man of many words, but once his mind was made up he sought the leaders and asked, “What progress have you made in this Free Church undertaking of yours'” “They frankly told him all. The beginning was small; but small as it was, their hope was good. ‘Our great difficulty,’ they said, ‘at present is, to obtain a site on which we may build our church.’ ‘That ought not to be a difficulty in this wide country,’ casting his eyes round on the landscape as he spoke; ‘and it will no longer be your difficulty.’ He asked to see the design of their future church which they had adopted in view of building. A Tanfield Hall sketch was produced, simple enough, but of the kind which was then, especially in the poorer localities, very generally chosen by the people for the accommodation which they should require when compelled to abandon the places of worship in which they and their fathers in past generations had worshipped. Mr. M’Laren invited his wondering auditors to meet him next morning, and to bring with them implements for digging. They did so, filled with thankfulness for the light thus shed on their path. The site was granted, a gift, and on easy conditions. It was the beautiful spot on which the Free Church of Callander now stands, close to the river, and in the immediate vicinity of the chapel where the meeting was held at which was inaugurated the movement that had this happy termination. To the gift of the site Mr. M’Laren added a contribution to the funds of the local committee of £200. Thus it was all joy and gladness in the hearts of the friends of the suffering Church at Callander.”628 The gift thus bestowed was the first of a long series of munificent contributions by the donor to the cause of the Free Church.
In another district of the Perthshire Highlands there was an influential landed proprietor who, “partly from not having given attention to the subject, and partly from having imbibed the prejudices of the social circle in which he moved, had taken up an attitude of decided opposition to the Free Church. The minister of a neighbouring charge had been appointed to preach in the glen. The laird invited him to the hospitality of his mansion on the Saturday, for in spite of his prejudice, he had as kindly a heart as ever beat in a Highlander’s breast. Next morning the people would scarcely believe their eyes when they saw the laird driving the Free Church minister up to the wooden church, or refrain from looking their delight – for he was greatly beloved – when they saw him sitting among them as a devout worshipper. The truth commended itself to his conscience. It was his first Sabbath in the Free Church, but not his last. He was rarely absent on a Sabbath thereafter. Not long after, he gave sites for church and manse on his own lands, and contributed handsomely to the buildings. Not in all the Highlands was there a more punctual attender on ordinances, or a member more warmly interested in the prosperity of the congregation, or a more regular and generous contributor to its funds, or one whose removal by death in 1868 was more sincerely and extensively lamented – as the considerate friend of the poor – ever ready to lend a helping hand to all that was for the good of the people among whom he dwelt, – the useful country gentleman and the Christian. ‘Come and see.’ He came among us, saw, heard, judged for himself, and groundless prejudice gave place to cordial sympathy.”629
Among the Ayrshire proprietors one of the most prominent site refusers was the amiable and popular Earl of Eglinton, but Mr. Pinkerton of Kilwinning tells how in the course of a few years the congregation had to acknowledge his kindness as well as that of the parish minister. The site at first purchased by Miss Donald was the best that could be got at the time, but proved not very suitable. The congregation continued to increase; the church got to be too small. “It was resolved that a new church should be built, but it was felt that it would be vain to build unless a good site were obtained. It happened that one of the best sites in the parish was unoccupied. The lord superior was the late Earl of Eglinton. But would he grant a site for a Free Church’ I resolved to wait upon his lordship, but I did so with many fears. He received me courteously, and on my stating the object of my mission, he at once said, ‘I shall be very happy to give you what you wish; where do you desire to build?’ My answer was – ‘Unless we get a good site we need not build. The most desirable place is on the rising ground in the Howgate, in the field adjoining the Parish Church manse.’ ‘By all means, you shall have it,’ was the Earl’s reply.
“Thankful and gratified in the highest degree, I took my leave. In passing through the hall I met his lordship’s factor, to whom I communicated the result of my interview. ‘Oh,’ replied he, ‘you cannot get that site. His lordship has forgotten the promise he made to Dr. Campbell (the Established Church minister), that the field should not be built upon during Dr. Campbell’s life; that field is tabooed.’
“Dr. Campbell was, and had long been, the leader of the Moderates [in the Presbytery]. He was a most honourable and gentlemanly man. I immediately went to him and stated how matters stood. ‘It is true that Lord Eglinton, out of regard to myself, promised that this field, being alongside of my manse, would not be built upon in my lifetime; yet I cannot refuse; I will not stand in your way in building a church.’
“A very handsome church on a commanding site was built; and as building happened at the time to be very cheap, church and spire, together with an illuminated clock, which sends its light all along the main street, cost only £2300. It was opened clear of debt in September, 1861, by the Rev. Dr. Guthrie.”
In Fife, Mr. Taylor speaks of a proprietor in the neighbourhood who had refused a site to the Free Church in decided terms, but who, in after years, became a frequent attendant along with his family. “Born an Episcopalian, and bred at Oxford, his views of Divine truth were Arminian, if not semi-Pelagian. In a house where he was calling, a little volume which treats of Divine grace lay on the table. He looked at it, and read its contents, and his remark was, ‘I hate these doctrines.’ These doctrines he now holds and loves. I have noticed a very great change in his views; others have observed it. What a first-rate Presbyterian elder he would have made. He visits the sick and prays with them. He is ready for every good work. But this is one of the sad legacies which the Stuart dynasty have left to our country – the gentry separated from their country’s Church.”630
One of the most interesting examples of these favourable changes occurred in the family of Colonel Campbell of Possil. We have seen the hardships under which the congregation at Torosay had to worship in the gravel pit under high-water mark. “But better days dawned at last on this faithful people, not one of whom ever showed the white feather, or returned to the Establishment, though without a place of worship for nearly ten years, and without a minister of their own for twenty-six years. The son of Colonel Campbell, who succeeded to the estate on his father’s death, with a generosity which was characteristic of him, granted a site on the most favourable terms, – indeed for a nominal feu-duty. And what was more gratifying still, the site was granted on a beautiful knoll near to the old and much-loved gravel pit round which so many memories had gathered, and which was rendered sacred by so many hallowed associations. But the obligations of the Free Church people of Torosay to cherish with deepest gratitude the memory of Captain Campbell and his family, did not cease even with the gift of a site. Where was the money to come from with which to build a church’ The congregation was poor and comparatively small. The Free Church had her hands full – more than full – of the work of building churches, to be able to render very substantial aid to the poor congregation at Torosay. But neither the Church at large, nor the congregation at Torosay, was called upon to raise the necessary funds, for they were already raised chiefly by the kind exertions of the then Mrs. Campbell, with, I believe, the help of her sisters-in-law, who were active helpers in every good cause. Thus at length, in 1852, a neat and comfortable edifice was reared, rejoicing in a belfry and bell, the pride of the villagers; and, thanks to the generous-hearted son and other members of the family, the ill-advised treatment which the Free Church congregation at Torosay had received at the hands of the father was more than atoned for. The few who still remain of those who passed through these times of trial look back upon them with joy and thankfulness as times of blessing – times of strong faith, fervent prayer, and a quickened religious life. And as they rejoice in the grace that has enabled them to stand faithful in bearing testimony to the crown rights of Christ, and that has so abundantly bestowed upon them all the religious privileges which they now enjoy in connection with their much-loved Free Church, they heartily exclaim, ‘Not unto us, O Lord! not unto us; but unto Thy name give glory, for Thy mercy and Thy truth’s sake.'”631
At Latheron, Caithness, the circumstances also are full of interest. Mr. Davidson had always lived on friendly terms with the heritors of the parish, not a single misunderstanding having arisen during the long period they had been together. “I always treated them with the respect due to their station, and I never found that they undervalued the influence and importance that belonged to mine. … But while they were thus favourably disposed towards me, several of them were bitterly opposed to the principles I held, and to the Free Church as a body. This they soon manifested in various ways, especially when the time came for inducting my successor into the Parish Church.” The whole proprietors supported the new comer, and exerted their influence to make up a congregation. “Promises and threats were resorted to by one or two, but when Sabbath came there was no response; nothing save empty seats stared the poor minister in the face, with a solitary heritor perched in each of the large, deep galleries. Even liveried coachmen and footmen refused to accompany their masters into the deserted church, for, after unyoking their horses, they came and worshipped with the Free congregation. All this must have been sadly annoying to their masters, who were high-spirited gentlemen, and I often wondered how they bore it, especially considering that, in all other cases, they were accustomed to implicit obedience from all their dependents, for their tenants had no leases and could be removed, as was often the case, for any act of disobedience. … To be deserted by their servants in particular, was intolerable, for they had not a single person without or within doors, from the grieve and housekeeper down to the herd boy or girl, that would enter the church with them. Here was evidence – if such had been wanting – that the reign of feudalism was gone.”
How the leading heritor, the highest in rank as well as in zeal for Moderatism, acted on the occasion we formerly saw (see ante, at page 359); but ere long there came a change. “Strange to say, from being the most opposed, this proprietor was the first to acknowledge his error, and to become a regular worshipper in our church. Some time after the Disruption he fell into rather delicate health, and on one occasion when visiting him – for our friendship had not ceased, although not quite so cordial as formerly – he asked me if we had any seat to spare in our church, as he had a mind to become a hearer with us. I told him that we had just reserved one principal seat in case any of the heritors should wish for it, and that I was sure none would be more welcome to it than himself. He thanked me very kindly, and said that he intended coming the first Sabbath, which he did, and ever after so long as health permitted.
“A few months after this, another principal heritor, who also was formerly much opposed to us, asked me the same question, but to him I was sorry we had no seat to give. I added, however, that there was room in the manse seat to which he would be most welcome, only it was close to the pulpit. ‘No matter,’ he said, ‘for I am not coming to see or be seen, but to hear.’ He did come, and a more serious and devout hearer I never saw. … At the first term he had a seat expensively fitted up by himself, and when asked by his workmen what colour of cloth should be used, his answer was, ‘By all means uniform with the pulpit.’ Indeed he became truly serious, and seemed daily to rise in the estimation of all ranks. But alas, the seeds of consumption (of which his mother died), were deeply sown in his constitution, and carried him off in a few years in the prime of life, to the great grief of his numerous tenantry, to whom he had latterly much endeared himself. The other proprietor to whom I have alluded was cut off much in the same way. Both of them became remarkably changed in all respects; were much occupied in reading the Scriptures; would converse freely on religious subjects, and from being our open foes became our warmest friends.”632
Of all these cases, however, the most remarkable is that of Portpatrick, the full details of which are given by Mr. Urquhart: –
“The old parish church had become insufficient, and a handsome new church, with ample accommodation, was erected about a year before the Disruption. The site had been selected, and the building planned with a view to extensive land decorations on the surrounding slopes, which, had they been carried out, would have made Portpatrick one of the finest pictures on the south of Scotland. All had been taken from a sketch of admirable artistic skill by the accomplished wife of the principal and only resident heritor, General Hunter Blair of Dunskey. He was very proud of it, and it would be heartless to deny him all sympathy with his bitter disappointment, when he was informed after the Convocation, that a large majority of the communicants had signed a resolution to leave the Established Church if the apprehended Disruption took place. He wrote to a relative, that as Mr. Urquhart had first persuaded him to erect a church and then robbed it of its congregation, he could have no further intercourse of any kind with him. This apparently hopeless ending of ten years’ friendship, was succeeded immediately by active opposition. Tenants and retainers, all who were likely to desire the patronage or to fear the displeasure of the Laird of Dunskey, were set upon by the factor, and urged to withdraw their adherence. One widow, on her refusing, was deprived of a salary formerly paid to her as a favourite teacher. But all proved so unavailing, that even some of the principal servants of the family, on the morning of the first Sabbath after the Disruption, when asked where they were preparing to go, were strengthened to reply, civilly but firmly, that they meant to go to the Green. The Green, commonly called ‘the Ward’, was the open space under the cliffs to the north of the harbour, which had been selected for the open-air worship of the Free Church, because, being in possession of the Commissioners of the harbour works, it was free from any immediate danger of an interdict by local parties, and admitted of an easy adjournment to the sea-beach in case of unexpected interference. Here the congregation worshipped for four months unmolested.
“The church at Portpatrick was roofed before winter, but before this, General Blair and his wife had left the neighbourhood and gone to the Continent in disgust, having advertised the mansion-house and policies to be let for years. Before they left two most desirable offers were sent in. But both were respectfully refused on the ground that Dunskey could not be let to any one who was not attached to the Established Church, and those who had offered were known to belong to the Free Church. This principle of exclusion was carefully observed in the leases afterwards granted, but without much of the benefit contemplated.633
“After a site for the church was obtained with some difficulty, neither stone for building nor sand could be got from any of the proprietors. By the kindness of a tenant, the necessary quantity of stone was procured from blocks scattered over his farm, about three miles distant. A young grocer in the village, a Reformed Presbyterian, offered gratuitously the use of a small vessel belonging to him to bring granite sand from Brodick Bay, in the Island of Arran. On learning of this offer, the factor earnestly warned him that he would lose all the export trade from the Dunskey estate; but he answered, with his compliments, that he would be very sorry to lose the custom of Dunskey, yet, if it should be so, he would look for customers to some other quarter. No one could then have believed it possible that he would in after years become the largest tenant and the factor, not only on the Dunskey estate, but on the larger estates belonging to the family in Ayrshire.
“Of all the breaches of friendship caused by the struggles of the Disruption, that with General and Mrs. Hunter Blair lay heaviest and longest on my heart. I could not forget the years of familiar intercourse in which I experienced their kindness. I could not fail to see that a long life of military service in the wars both of Europe and India, had established in the mind of the General such habitual intolerance of insubordination that everything having the slightest aspect of this, was sure to exclude considerations which would otherwise have influenced his naturally tender and generous heart. Nor could I forget his singularly accomplished wife, whose music was fascination, her painting exquisite, and her figure and manner such as might have been the model of Rebecca on the tower.
“With such remembrances and associations, it would have been unpardonable if I had not felt it to be my duty to avoid everything which might even appear to be irritating. Accordingly, I objected earnestly in private to the applications for a site, and for indulgence in stone and sand, which I knew would be refused, as they were. And I took care that, as far as possible, the case of Portpatrick should not have a prominent place in the reports of the Church or in public discussions. Still the antipathy continued unabated, so that when, two or three years afterwards, the General was on a visit to Portpatrick, and saw me coming up the street, he coolly took the arm of a friend, and, turning half aside, allowed me to pass within about a yard of him, and in view of the gentlemen who were walking around. All seemed to be very hopeless in the case.
“In 1847 Miss Hunter Blair634 wrote to me from Edinburgh that she was just leaving for Leamington, where her brother was ill, and, she feared, was drawing near his end. I was greatly distressed. This was the only breach which had not been healed. Even the minister whose deposition by the Assembly I had been commissioned, in the face of interdicts, to intimate on the street of Stranraer, – even he had welcomed me to his bedside in his last illness. I could not go to bed without writing and posting a letter, in which I asked Miss Blair, if she should see fit, to say to her brother that I was grieved to hear of his illness; that I had not forgot years of intercourse with him at Dunskey; and that I prayed the Lord might be with him to bless his sickness to him, &c. &c.
“Immediately after posting the letter, I took fear lest it might prove offensive, and continued anxious for a fortnight, till Miss Blair informed me that, after consulting Mrs. Blair, she had handed my letter to her brother; and that in a day or two afterwards, on going to his room, he put his hand under his pillow, saying, ‘Here, Jemima, is Mr. Urquhart’s letter. Give him my kindest regards.’ It was a relief inexpressibly comfortable. I knew the ice had been broken, but I could not anticipate the warm current which was to flow, and which warms my heart still in the remembrance of it.
“The General recovered, and was able to visit Portpatrick in August, 1848, along with Mrs. Blair. As soon as they arrived she called when I was from home, but instead of merely expressing her love to my wife as she did before leaving in 1843, with a refusal to see me, she expressed her regret that I was from home, as the General was very desirous to see me. On my return I went immediately to his hotel, where Mrs. Blair welcomed me with all the cordial freedom of former days. After some kind conversation, she said that the General would be sorry for not being at home to see me; that a quarrel between two of their friends, whom she named, was making them very uncomfortable; and the General thought I might be able to compose the strife, if I would allow him to refer the parties to me, as an old friend of the family. I could not fail to see the exquisite delicacy which had suggested this proposal, as silently conclusive of everything in my relation to them, and of those around them. There was no difficulty in the case referred to me. The parties generously accepted my recommendation, and were reconciled. A day or two after I had the pleasure of meeting them, and the other gentlemen of the neighbourhood, at dinner with the General and Mrs. Blair in the hotel.
“Oh! how freely I breathed the air on the following morning, when I hastened to the private walks of Dunskey, on which for six years I never had set foot. When I came in sight of my old favourite walk in the glen, I felt it needful to lie down in the grassy slope, and to relieve my full heart by a flood of tears and thankfulness to God. But even then I did not know how truly the change for which I gave thanks was a work of grace. Nor did I know this till, on the General’s death, about a year after, his widow came to secure some pictures and other things left to her. I had some sad but blessed interviews with her in the half-dismantled and desolate apartments of Dunskey, when she was weeping her eyes out, in painting from memory a likeness of her departed husband, which, as one well qualified to judge said to me, no one but a wife could have produced. I then learned that he had died blessedly in closest fellowship with a godly clergyman of the Church of England in whom he delighted.
“I could have no doubt that she had given herself to the Lord’s service. On her return to London, her special interest was in a provision for the Sabbath comfort and spiritual welfare of girls engaged in warehouses and other establishments. They were provided for by their employers during the week, but were left to shift for themselves on the Sabbath. With the aid of Christian friends whom she engaged in her scheme, she secured, in various parts of London, accommodation to which girls might be invited, and might enjoy the order and privilege of godly families; morning and evening services being provided for them. About this scheme and its progress, she wrote to me freely. Her labours in visiting, inquiring, and arranging for it, must have been very great. A friend of mine calling on Mr. Nisbet, the well-known Christian bookseller, asked him if he knew Mrs. Hunter Blair, when he answered, ‘O, yes; she was here just a little ago. She is one of the most devoted Christian workers in London.’ Dr. Merle D’Aubigné, of Geneva, took a great interest in her work. In a letter to me she apologised for delay, saying that she had been so much engaged; that, having received a letter from Dr. Merle D’Aubigné, at same time with mine, she was answering both for the same day’s post. It was her last letter to me. No one could tell me of her last hours; but, I know that, having passed through the society of the Court in India, and through the society of artists in Rome, she gave up all to win poor, neglected girls to Christ; and that, after having at one time manifested such disgust at the Free Church as drove her and her husband from their home at Dunskey, she died a member of the Free Church, under the pastorate of Mr. Alexander, at Chelsea. In noting this last fact, however, I feel persuaded that churchism had nothing to do with it; but no one can mark the fact, as compared with its antecedents, without seeing in it a clear illustration of that new life in which old things are passed away, and behold all things have become new.”635
There were many tokens of the goodness of God to the Free Church in Disruption times, but not the least remarkable was the change of feeling which such extracts show. Surely we may be allowed to regard these, and similar incidents, as in some measure the fulfilment of the promise that, “When a man’s ways please the Lord, He maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.”
Quoad Sacra Churches
Dr. Chalmers and Church Extension
Equitable Adjustment refused after Disruption
Attempts to seize the Church and Refuse the Debt
Lord Ivory’s Decision
Cases of Hardship
Dr. Beith and the New Church at Stirling
Lady Glenorchy’s, Edinburgh
There was one class of congregations whose sacrifices were keenly felt at the Disruption – those in which the people, after building their own churches, were expelled from them by force of law. On leaving the Establishment, it was well understood that the old parish churches which the State had provided must be given up, but it was a different thing when men came to be deprived of buildings which they had themselves erected and paid for.
A story is told of a shrewd old Scotchman during last century, who on hearing any one praised as a very good man, used always to ask, “Have you ever had any dealings with him about money?” That he considered to be the real test; and certainly in the case of these churches at the Disruption, it yielded some rather remarkable results.
During the reign of Moderatism, certain Chapels of Ease, as they were called, had been erected in different parts of the country, but it had been done by the people under great difficulties – the heritors and the parish ministers being usually opposed to it.
On this point Lord Cockburn speaks with authority: –
“I was counsel for several years in all the chapel cases before the General Assembly, and can attest that what was professed by the Moderates was that they had no dislike to chapels, but what was truly felt and privately avowed was that they would much rather have a Roman Catholic Chapel than a Chapel of Ease in their parishes.”636
“The very first time,” Dr. Begg says, “I ever was in the old Assembly place of meeting in St. Giles’, I witnessed one of the last cases of disputed quoad sacra churches. I remember very well forcing myself into that small, dark, cramped place, and seeing an old minister, who admitted that there was a population of 6000 in his parish, resisting most vigorously an attempt by the people to have a Chapel of Ease erected.”637
Such resistance was not easily overcome; and during the hundred years which ended in 1834 there were only about sixty-three of these chapels built, all of them being left without Kirk-Sessions, and their ministers without a seat in the Presbytery.
The year 1834, however, marked the ascendency of the evangelical party, and a new era began. At once the chapels were taken out of their false position, and made parish churches quoad sacra. The meaning of the change was, that a parish was assigned to what were formerly chapels – a district within which ministers and elders might work for the spiritual good of the people. The territorial principle on which Dr. Chalmers laid such stress was thus made to take effect, and the moment this was done he felt himself free to begin the grand Church Extension movement, on which his heart had long been set. Aided by a band of able coadjutors, he traversed Scotland, and roused the country. It had taken 100 years to get sixty-three chapels built, but, at the close of one year’s work, he was able to tell the Assembly of 1835 that a sum of £65,626 had been raised, and sixty-two additional churches had been built or were in progress, to meet the spiritual wants of destitute localities. Soon, the turmoil of the Ten Years’ Conflict began, but he held on his course notwithstanding, and by the end of 1841 it was found that upwards of 200 new churches had been provided, at a cost of more than £300,000 – a noble work, nobly carried out.
But then, in 1843, the question arose, What was to be done with all this property? Both parties having contributed to it, ought it not on some fair principle to be equitably divided between them after the Disruption had taken place?
The two Churches indeed might go to law, but it was represented that this would be an unseemly thing, injurious to religion, and that the better course would be to have the question submitted to some fair-minded laymen chosen by each of the parties, who could hardly fail to find a scheme of equitable adjustment.
By the Establishment, these proposals were rejected, – they would have the law enforced in all its rigour. In the state of mind in which the Judges on the bench then were, the result could easily be foreseen. Lord Cockburn has spoken strongly of the bias under which they acted. Legal grounds of course were found, and the whole property raised by the exertions of Dr. Chalmers was wrested from him and his friends.
The chief reason alleged by the Establishment in defence of this line of action was that they were trustees, and must take all that the law gave, not being entitled to do what a private individual might do. “We all know,” Dr. Begg said in reply, “the theory of a corporate conscience, which, I understand, was described by Lord Thurlow as having neither a heart to be touched, nor a conscience to feel, nor a back to be scourged.” But surely it was strange that a Christian Church, in dealing with another Christian Church, should refuse to be guided by those principles of honour which ought to guide a private individual in money matters.
There were among the members of the Establishment some who were staggered by such considerations. Even McPhail’s Edinburgh Journal, the bold opponent of the Free Church, is doubtful whether the Establishment were acting rightly in retaining these chapels. “Although, by some narrow legal technicalities they should continue in her possession, how could the blessing of God be expected to rest on a Church unrighteously extended and aggrandised?”638
On the part of the Free Church, there was a deep sense of the injustice of such proceedings.
One reason was, that by far the greater part of the money which had built these churches had been contributed by those who afterwards joined the Free Church. None knew so well as Dr. Chalmers, for it was he who had raised it, and his estimate was distinctly stated. The churches from which the Court of Session has ejected us were built – I do not think I over-estimate it when I say to the extent of seven-eighths – with our money.639
It so happened that a testing case occurred at Dundee, which put Dr. Chalmers’s opinion to the proof, and showed who were the real builders of these quoad sacra churches. Just on the eve of the Disruption, the friends there were about to erect a mariners’ church, and the money, amounting to £1000, had been subscribed and paid in, but the building had not been commenced. After May, 1843, it was resolved to return the money,640 to the subscribers, leaving such of them as chose to take steps for the same object in connection with the Free Church. The result was that of the £1000, upwards of £900 was again subscribed and paid, and the building was proceeded with on the new footing. Had the work been begun a little earlier, the law would have deprived them both of the money and the building.
At Broomknoll, Airdrie, the same thing was shown in a different way. A legal deed had been drawn out in the usual form settling the property, but fortunately the last step had not been taken, the constitution had not been extracted. The congregation were able to do with their own what they chose, they retained it for themselves, and attached it to the Free Church. If the titles had been completed, the Establishment would have had the power of seizing the church, and it would have gone like the rest. 641
These cases which actually occurred may be held as showing approximately how the matter stood in other localities. Perhaps it was the consciousness of this which made the Establishment so unwilling to have the subscription lists looked into with a view to some equitable arrangement. But many members of the Free Church, who knew well where the money had come from, felt all the more keenly the treatment to which they were subjected.
There was a still stronger ground, however, on which they felt themselves aggrieved.
The civil courts decided that the quoad sacra churches must be reduced to the position of chapels of ease, and the Establishment acquiesced. But the money which built them had been raised on condition that they should be churches, not chapels, – churches quoad sacra. Men felt strongly the wrong that was done in keeping the money, and evading the express condition on which it had been paid.
The case of the new Glasgow churches will show how the question stood. A society had been formed for church extension in the city, and it was one of the fundamental articles under which the society was constituted that the money should be raised only on condition that the buildings should be churches quoad sacra, and not chapels. Under this stipulation the subscriptions were paid, and the work went on.
Now what the Free Church felt was, that afterwards, when the conditions could not be carried out, owing to the civil courts barring the way, the money in all fairness ought to be returned to the subscribers, or at least that they had a claim for some equitable settlement, by way of compromise.
There is a yet stronger point in the case, as a legal friend suggests – the money was given not only on condition that the chapels should be made churches, but that they should be so by the authority inherent in the Church herself. That was in the view of the subscribers. They paid their money to the Church which claimed to do this in her own right, and did it. The money is retained by a Church which owns that she has no such power or right as that on the faith of which the subscribers acted. Is that righteously done?
The result, however, was that the whole of these twenty churches, and many others in the same position, were seized by the Establishment as chapels of ease, and all proposals for an equitable adjustment were rejected.
What was felt about this at the time may be seen from the statement of Dr. Burns, in whose parish one of these cases occurred. “The Banton Church (Kilsyth) was for some years a very cherished object of proud regard. How is the gold become dim! Oh, how changed is the view in that direction. Doubtless had it been foreseen that the onward march of the Established Church was to be arrested, and the quoad sacra system ruthlessly broken up, one stone would never have been laid upon another.”642
“A few years before the Disruption, the Gaelic Church of Saltcoats was built by subscription at a cost of nearly £1000. More than half of this sum was collected by a blind gentleman – Alexander McDougall, Esq., Edinburgh – who, hearing of the difficulties of the poor Highlanders (they had only been able to subscribe £71), most generously came to their assistance, and, groping his way through the length and breadth of Scotland, raised for them the sum of £539, 8s. 10d., while, in addition to this, the Rev. Mr. McMillan, Kilmorie, Arran, gave out of his own purse £40. At the Disruption, Mr. McDougall and Mr. McMillan both joined the Free Church, as also did the congregation almost to a man, along with the Rev. Mr. Hamilton, their minister. For some years the Highlanders were allowed to remain in possession of their church, but at length the Established Presbytery invoked the strong arm of the law, and the poor Highlanders were cast out – two members only remaining – and the fruit of Mr. McDougall’s labours is now a parish church. It is right to add, that when this was first proposed, Hugh Weir, Esq. of Kirkhall, himself a member of the Established Church, sought to shield the poor man’s ewe lamb, indignantly saying, ‘Take a church, built in this way, by subscription! We are not so poor that we cannot build one ourselves – let the poor Highlanders keep their church.'”643
The church of Sheuchan, Wigtownshire, may be taken as another example. It was built in 1840, at an expense of £1780, chiefly contributed by Sir Andrew Agnew of Lochnaw, Major-General McDowall, C.B., and their personal friends. A congregation of humble but respectable hearers had been gathered. At the close of 1844 legal proceedings were taken by the Establishment, and they were dispossessed. In handing over the keys, the two gentlemen, “the originators and chief promoters,” entered a formal protest to the effect that the building was now to be devoted to purposes “diverse to what they intended” when they gave their money. The Presbytery, however, got the keys, and the only use they could make of them was to lock up the church and lock out the people to whom it rightfully belonged. The congregation, without one solitary exception, went along with their minister, and got temporary accommodation at a neighbouring mill.
It seemed strange that the Establishment should grasp at churches for which they really had no use. At Haddington, for example, it was not pleasant to see, alongside of the Free Church, the former building from which the congregation were expelled standing for twenty years and more with its doors locked and windows broken.
Trinity Church, Aberdeen, one of the old chapels of ease, was long known in the city for the warm-hearted devoted congregation which filled its pews. The Rev. D. Simpson, their minister – one of the gentlest men who ever took part in religious controversy – was summoned to the bar of the Court of Session for breach of interdict. In his farewell sermon at the Disruption, he “spoke in generous and affectionate terms to the few who remained behind him,” adhering to the Establishment. The changed aspect of the building, however, after he left, was too much for them. “They were soon scattered, and came to nought, and old Trinity Church was transformed into a dilapidated structure as if to remind the Establishment of the grievous wrong they had committed.”644
The more respected members of the Established Church must not be held responsible for much that was done, but there were too many cases in which these congregations were not only expelled from their churches, but it was carried out in such a way as to make the expulsion needlessly irritating and offensive.
Sometimes legal expenses were unfairly run up. At Lybster, Caithness, the whole population of 2600 adhered to the Free Church, with the exception of six heads of families, and these had not contributed to the building of the church “above £5 [in all], if so much.” When the Established Presbytery took action, they did so without notice. “A warrant” came down from the Court of Session demanding the church. “This course was quite unnecessary, as we never intended to dispute the case, nor said that we would, had the church been claimed by the Presbytery. We therefore made no appearance in court, but were subjected to all the expenses incurred, amounting to £20. This was the most cruel part of the whole, and might well have been spared; but it was only of a piece with measures adopted elsewhere by the Establishment.”645
At Blairingone, in the Presbytery of Auchterarder, the same thing was done with some aggravating circumstances. On Saturday evening, 17th February, 1844, the Rev. Mr. Noble and seven of the nine managers of his church were served with an interdict. No attempt was made to turn out the congregation until the stormy weather set in; and the communion was fixed for the Sabbath following. At the same time an interdict, with the attendant annoyance and expense, was altogether uncalled for, as in December last the Presbytery were officially informed that, while the congregation would do nothing to compromise their right to the building, they would deliver up the keys if demanded. … The sole object of the movement, it would seem, was to inflict trouble and expense on the adherents of the Free Church, who, with few exceptions, embraced the whole population.646
At Ardoch, Perthshire, the opposition was not less keen. An interdict had been obtained, but was held back for a time. They delayed “till the shortest day of the year and the storms of winter before they cast us out. ‘Turn them oot! Turn them oot in the sna’, and they will soon come in!’ was the language of _____, an elder who left the Establishment at the Disruption, and then returned into it in the month of August.” “For three Sabbaths I had to preach in the open field, but on the fourth we found shelter in a wooden shed.”647
In using the forms of law, a favourite device was to obtain an interdict, and suddenly serve it without warning on Saturday evening, so as to take minister and people by surprise. It was a vexatious proceeding, which went on for years. Judges who had never cited the congregation, or heard whether they had a word to say in their own behalf, gave their decree; and people and minister found on a Saturday night that they were to be houseless on the morrow.
A curious example of this had previously occurred at Tain in connection with the old parish church and burying-ground. “Under the evangelical ministry of the saintly Dr. C.C. McIntosh, nearly the whole population of the town and parish of Tain joined the Free Church with him at the Disruption, leaving only a handful of people connected with the Established Church.
“In the centre of the town stands an old Romish church, which from the Reformation had been used as the Presbyterian parish church, until, on account of its insufficiency to contain the increased population, it was in 1815 relinquished for a larger new church. Surrounding the old church is the parish graveyard, through which a broad footpath ran; and on this path, at communion seasons, the communion table of the Gaelic congregation – who worshipped without, while the English worshipped within the church – was wont to be placed, the congregation being seated around the tent in the churchyard. It was disused for this purpose after 1815, sufficient ground being provided at the new church for the Gaelic congregation; and the old church was allowed by the heritors to fall into partial ruin.
“The Free Church had no difficulty in obtaining a site in town for the erection of a church, but was unprovided with any place for the accommodation of the out-door Gaelic congregation at communion times. They, therefore, on occasion of the two summer communions following the Disruption, pitched their tent in the old churchyard, where many generations of their forefathers sleep. The assembling there of such large congregations, numbering 2000 to 3000 people connected with the Free Church, was distasteful to one of the few people, a large heritor, who still adhered to the Establishment; and he, therefore, resolved to dislodge them, and that, too, in circumstances deliberately calculated to embarrass and annoy. Accordingly, at the communion in July, 1845, worship was allowed to be held as usual undisturbed on the Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. The elders had placed the table, and made all other needful arrangements on Saturday evening for the service of the approaching Sabbath. But on Saturday night a Sheriff’s interdict was served at this heritor’s instance, ‘prohibiting the Rev. C.C. McIntosh, Free Church minister of Tain; his coadjutors, Rev. Dr. John McDonald, Ferintosh; Rev. David Campbell, Tarbat; Rev. Gustavus Aird, Criech; Rev. Simon McLachlan, Cawdor, and all others whomsoever, from preaching or celebrating the Lordcs Supper in the churchyard of the parish surrounding the old church.’
“The plan of interdict and time of serving it were well chosen to produce the utmost inconvenience to the congregation, or a breach of interdict by the officiating ministers. But a pious widow lady in the town had in her possession a field in the immediate neighbourhood of the Free Church, which she instantly put at the service of the congregation, thankful for having the opportunity of thus serving the Lord. To it the tent and communion table were instantly transferred late on Saturday night: there a happy communion season was enjoyed on the Sabbath. And thus the malice of the oppressor only served – no doubt, to his great disappointment – to find on an emergency a more convenient site for the worshippers. An old townsman, in speaking of this event, in which he made himself helpful to the elders, said to the writer: ‘The whole town turned out as one man when the interdict became known. We swept off tent, table, forms, and chairs in one visit to the churchyard, so that there was no occasion for any one to pay a second visit to it.’ And it was for ever abandoned, as a type of Moderatism.
“So little has the state of matters altered as to the return of the people to the Established Church that, when an assessment for the repair of the ecclesiastical buildings was laid on in 1877, amounting to £720, of this there was paid by Established Church lairds and feuars the sum of only £12.”648
Such sudden expulsions seem to have been quite common in the case of quoad sacra churches.
On Saturday, 24th June, 1843, the Rev. Angus McBean, Greenock, was interdicted from again entering his pulpit, and on the following day his church was preached vacant.649
On the 4th February, 1844, the doors of St. John’s, Montrose, were shut against the congregation by interdict obtained by the Presbytery of the Establishment. The effect was to cast out a congregation of 1200 to 1400 people, including not a few of the leading citizens, in the midst of a severe snowstorm, and without warning.650
At Strathaven on the 21st July, 1843, late on the Saturday evening, before the Sabbath preparatory to the dispensation of the sacrament, the pastor was stunned by receiving a letter requiring him either to give up the possession of his church or to submit to the legal consequences of the refusal.651
At Barrhead, near Paisley, the interdict was obtained on a Tuesday, but “was kept up and served only on Saturday evening. The congregation was accordingly driven out, and forced to worship in the open air for three months in sight of their own church, locked up and empty.”652
But the most remarkable of all these proceedings was a proposal as to the debt on the buildings. Free Churchmen had been calling out for some equitable division of the property, and it occurred to some friends of the Establishment that the best plan would be to give Free Churchmen the debt to pay, while the Established Church got the buildings free. This was seriously contemplated.
At Woodside, Aberdeen, there was a debt of £1200, and the members of the Establishment “wished to hold the managers [with one exception, Free Churchmen] responsible, avowing their intention of seizing the building, leaving the managers to pay its liabilities.”653
In the case of Belhaven Church, Dunbar, there was a debt of £183, for which an elder in the Free Church had become responsible. The Established Presbytery demanded the church, but refused to acknowledge the debt.654
There was a beautiful simplicity in this arrangement which seems to have commended itself greatly to the Established Church in different parts of the country. At last the matter was actually taken into Court. The public had come to believe that any kind of action was sure to be successful if only it was against the Free Church, and the then Earl of Glasgow, along with the Presbytery of Paisley, acting apparently on this belief, took up the case of Barrhead Church, Paisley. They appeared in Court pleading that the debt (£1313) should be separated from the property, and the property given to them free, leaving the debt to others. But Lord Ivory, before whom the action came, made short work of their plea. The property and the debt on it must go together. If the Earl wanted the one he must take the other; and so that scheme of division fell to the ground.655
The result was that a good many of these churches were saved by the debt on them, and were retained for the people. The parties who had lent the money foreclosed; the property was put up for sale, bought by the congregation, and attached to the Free Church.
Union Church, Aberdeen, for example, had at the Disruption a communion roll of 1000 members, of whom 900, with all the officebearers, joined the Free Church, along with Mr. Allan, their minister. There was a debt of £1200. The large church soon presented a deserted and empty appearance with seldom more than thirty hearers in it. It was sold by public roup, and bought for the Free Church by the congregation, who gladly returned to worship within the old walls. There were similar results at Bonaccord and Woodside, Aberdeen; St. John’s, Montrose; Hope Street, Glasgow; and in not a few other cases over the country, congregations considered themselves fortunate when there was debt on their churches.
And yet cases did occur where, in spite of Lord Ivory’s decision, the property went to the Establishment, while the Free Churchmen had to meet the obligations.
A mild example of this is given by Dr. Begg:
There was a chapel not far from Edinburgh, which was relinquished not long after the Disruption, in connection with which a spire had been built, and a bell hung thereon. The spire had been paid for, but the bell had not. By-and-by an account came to one of the members of the Free Church for the bell, with an intimation that he must pay for it; and, at the same time, he was told he could not remove it, because it was a fixture. In point of fact, the worthy man had to pay £16, and two of the elders an equal sum, as the price of the bell, after they had left the church.656
But there were more serious cases. A church was built in Stirling by the indefatigable exertions of Dr. Beith, who, along with other managers, undertook the liabilities of the erection, on condition of being relieved by having the seat-rents for thirty years. When the Disruption came, these seat-rents were worth precisely nothing at all, and Dr. Beith was obliged, with other managers, to pay the debt – his share was £200, five other members of the Free Church losing similar sums – out of his own pocket; the Establishment at the same time taking from them the church. It was remarked at the time that, whatever law there might be in this case, there was great injustice.657
In the case of St. Leonards, Lanark, there was a considerable debt on the building. The congregation offered at once to vacate it, if the adherents of the Establishment would relieve them of the burden. But they had taken up the favourite idea of that time: “they insisted that the members of the Free Church should both pay the debt and give up the property.” The matter hung in suspense for two years, causing great inconvenience to the Free Church congregation. After Lord Ivory’s decision, the Establishment took different ground, “claiming the funds which they (the Free Church) might raise in St. Leonards.” The congregation decided at once to leave, purchased and enlarged another church belonging to the Old Light body, and there they continued to worship.658.
At Arbroath, however, the question which had apparently been evaded at Lanark, came up in another form. In Ladyloan, the minister Mr. Leslie, and all his managers with one exception, adhered to the Free Church. It was not till 1845 that the building was claimed, and the moment the Establishment moved, they at once gave it up. Then, in 1848, an action was raised before the Court of Session, in which the Establishment claimed the whole seat-rents, collections, &c., during the time the congregation were meeting in the church from 1843 to 1845. These sums had all been expended for the purposes for which the people gave the money – minister’s stipend, precentor’s salary, &c., – and yet the claim was that they should be refunded to the Establishment. After a lengthened litigation, the result was that the poor Free Churchmen were glad to submit to a decision which cost them £157, 8s. 9d., besides interest and modified expenses.659
How the ministers of the Free Church in those days dreaded the Court of Session, and shrank from it, may be seen from many of the records. In the words of Dr. Beith – “Justice, according to our impressions, had laid aside the band – the emblem of impartiality.” “Only at rare intervals has anything of this sort been known. But at the time to which I refer we had fallen on evil days.””660
The surrender of Lady Glenorchy’s Church, Edinburgh, was one of the most mortifying incidents in the whole history of these cases. The distinguished Christian lady whose name it bears built the chapel in 1774, much against the will of the old Moderates, whose opposition was with difficulty overcome by Dr. Erskine, Sir H. Moncreiff, and others. The highest legal skill was employed by Lady Glenorchy to secure the building against that party in the future; she called in the aid of Mr. Crosbie, “the original of the skilful lawyer in ‘Guy Mannering,’ and so securely had he drawn the deeds that it required an Act of Parliament to set them aside.” In an evil hour this was done. The congregation whom Dr. Jones gathered round him were devotedly attached to the cause of evangelism. It was not to be borne that when other chapels were raised to the status of parish churches, they should be left behind. A private Act of Parliament was got – an expensive proceeding – and the old chapel took its place with the rest, and shared their fate, falling into the hands of that party from which it had been the great wish of the foundress to preserve it. When the time came for the people to leave the building, round which many tender memories gathered, it turned out by a strange coincidence that the place was required for a railway station, and the church had to be swept away. Lady Glenorchy had been buried within the walls, and before they were actually pulled down, it was resolved to have the coffin lifted and removed to the new building which was to bear the name of Free Lady Glenorchy’s. The incident has been graphically described by Hugh Miller, and by another gifted writer, who knew how to embalm in verse the impressions of such a scene. The following extracts will enable the reader to judge how this was done:
In the city’s silent streets?
Feebly strives the stagnant dawning
With the darkness which it meets.
Labour’s self is scarce astir, –
Ghostly shows each living thing;
Seems as day oppressed were
‘Neath some evil angel’s wing.
“Silence – silence – deep and lonely,
In the once resounding place;
Here and there a dim lamp only
Shows and magnifies the space.
Oh! the solemn recollections,
Clinging round the desert walls!
Oh! the dear and deep affections,
Every hallowed spot recalls.
“But a hollow sound is ringing
On the pavement wide and bare;
Manhood all his strength is bringing
To upheave the flagstones there.
* * * *
“Few and sad a band is meeting
Here, where thousands met before;
Brief their speech, and still their greeting,
And their eyes are brimming o’er.
Clad as mourners for the dead,
Yet not theirs a kindred woe; –
Guardians of an honoured head,
Sepulchred long years ago.
“Now the ponderous stone is raised,
Now the light hath flashed beneath,
And the living eye hath gazed
On the secret pomp of death!
Coronet and scutcheon there,
Gathering unseemly rust;
Heedfully the burden bear, –
Mouldering case of crumbling dust!
* * * *
“My God, my Saviour! unto Thee
This my humble gift is given;
Work Thy goodwill in it – in me,
And make it as the porch of Heaven!
Thus prayed, with many an instant prayer,
One of Jehovah’s chosen few;
she was wise and noble too!
“And when, ere life’s brief prime was o’er,
She bowed in death her gracious head,
‘Lay me within that Chapel floor –
I shall sleep sweetly there,’ she said!
They scooped the rock – they graved the stone –
They laid her body down to rest;
And thousands were bereaved for one
So early called, – so early blessed.
“But still that lady’s prayer was heard,
And still the showers of blessing fell,
And rich the increase of the Word,
Within the House she loved so well.
And one whom she had planted there
In youth’s strong promise, stood and fed
Her people, with his snow white hair
A crown of glory round his head.
* * * *
“Often threatened, often taunted,
Week by week they met once more;
It may be their foes were daunted
By the dust beneath the floor;
But at length the summons came.
* * * *
“Tears were shed, and hearts were breaking,
With a grief no tears can tell;
Life-long memories were waking,
In that brief but last farewell.
Winter’s snows were falling fast,
Some were old, and many poor;
Forth the congregation passed,
And oppression barred the door.
“Silence – silence – lonely – deep,
In the desecrated spot;
They have seized who cannot keep:
Is the prayer of faith forgot?
* * * *
“Pass we on, the mist is breaking,
Gloom and darkness roll away;
Each the precious burden taking
Bears the coffin on its way.”
The Whole Staff Unanimous
Dr. Duff’s Reasons
The Missionaries are expelled from the Premises at Calcutta and Bombay
New Premises, Increased Success
The Aberdeen Ladies and the Scientific Apparatus
Conversions at Calcutta
At the Disruption, the Church had a staff of twenty Missionaries employed in the foreign field among Jews and Gentiles, and it was a question of deep interest how they would act after the great breach had taken place. The Church which sent them out had been broken in two – to which of the sections would they adhere as the true Church of Scotland?
They were men of no common mental gifts. Dr. Duff at Calcutta, and Dr. Wilson at Bombay, had made their influence felt among all classes of Indian society. Not only on religious questions, but on much else that concerned the welfare of our Indian Empire, their advice had been sought for and valued by the highest Government authorities.
It need not be said that in spiritual earnestness and devotedness they were among the most eminent of the ministry, and, in that respect, were specially fitted to deal with the question of the Disruption. Was it, as some alleged, merely a debateable point of Church politics; or was it, as the Evangelical party maintained, a spiritual principle of vital moment to the cause of Christ? Looking to the missionaries, where were men to be found who could bring to bear on the points at issue such intellectual power, combined with such spiritual discernment?
In other respects also, their position was favourable. Having gone out into a wider world beyond Scotland, they might be supposed to have got free from much narrowness of view. Mingling with men of other churches and nationalities in the mission-field, and looking on from a distance with wider sympathies, they could better judge the relative importance of the questions in debate.
And they had the great advantage of having taken no part in the strife. Their delicacy in this respect, indeed, had led to a degree of reticence which was almost excessive; but when reproached for it by those who could not enter into their feelings, Dr. Duff replied that, as a missionary, he held himself to represent the whole Church both of the majority and minority. He had no right to make himself a partisan on either side, and, as long as he could, he was resolved to ignore the existence of the conflict. Calmly looking on from a distance, the missionaries were thus in the best position for making up their minds.
In one respect, they had the strongest inducement to avoid the Free Church and adhere to the Establishment.
Ominous warnings reached them in the spring of 1843, not only from the Moderates, but from members of the Evangelical party, assuring them that the Free Church would have a hard struggle for bare existence at home, and the support of foreign missions would be impossible. These declarations were “very strong and baffling,” Dr. Duff says (Life, 2, p.44). To join the Free Church was not only to risk their whole means of subsistence, but they were threatened with the overthrow of that noble work, so full of promise, to which they had given their lives.
The first to decide were the missionaries to the Jews. Cordially and unanimously they resolved to adhere to the Free Church; one of their number, the Rev. W. Wingate, remarking that “the Church of Scotland never looked so like the Church of Scotland since her Confession and Standards were compiled.”662 But, while the Free Church got all the men and the missions, she lost all the money. There was a sum in the exchequer amounting to £3500, and an attempt was made to have it equitably divided, on the ground that it had been raised by both parties, and chiefly by those who were now members of the Free Church. It had, moreover, been given for the support of those individual men – the missionaries – actually in the field. But the Establishment would listen to no plea of equity. An appeal to law would have been vain. The result was, that the Establishment, with no missionaries to support, got all the money, while the Free Church, with an empty exchequer, had to support the men and meet all the expenses of these missions. That is why the first missionary collection in the Free Church was in aid of the Jewish Mission. It yielded £3400, just the amount required for the first year.
The list of the Missionaries, and their stations at that time, were:
John Duncan, D.D. William Wingate Robert Smith, A.M. Assisted by Alexander S. T. Saphir, Frederick Tm. Neuhaus. Jassy Daniel Edward. Assisted by Herman Phillip. Constantinople C. Schwartz Syria William Owen Allan.
John Duncan, D.D.
Robert Smith, A.M.
Assisted by Alexander S. T. Saphir,
Frederick Tm. Neuhaus.
Assisted by Herman Phillip.
William Owen Allan.
But it was the decision of the missionaries in India that excited the deepest interest, both the Churches in Scotland eagerly awaiting the result.663 The first to respond was perhaps the most learned of that devoted band – Dr. Wilson, of Bombay. He was returning to Scotland on furlough, and was making his way through Egypt when the Disruption took place. No time was lost by him in resigning his position, and sending in his cordial adherence to the Free Church.
In India, it was the month of July before the mail arrived bringing the intelligence of what had taken place in Scotland, along with formal offers from each of the Churches. The response at once given was a unanimous and joyful adherence of the whole staff to the Free Church. From Calcutta, Bombay, and Poonah resolutions were sent off, and reached Scotland in time to be reported at an early diet of the General Assembly sitting in Glasgow. That from Madras was awanting, owing to an untoward accident; but Dr. Gordon, the Convener, confidently foretold that the brethren there would take the same position. On 10th July their reply had been sent by the steamer Memnon, which was overtaken by a storm in the Red Sea and sunk on the 1st August. By the next mail, however, it was found that, though the Madras resolutions were the last to come, they were not the least cordial in their terms; and they were in time to be reported before the Assembly closed. A curious circumstance was the arrival of the original despatch some time afterwards. “A band of divers succeeded in recovering the mails; and the principal copy of the document, in a dilapidated state, was received on the 17th of November, after lying some months at the bottom of the sea. We need not add that it is carefully preserved.”664
Thus, in the most decisive way, the views of the missionaries had been declared. The Establishment – look to what quarter she might – saw herself without the support of a single adherent in the whole field of missions, while one and all had rallied to the side of the Free Church. The Committee announced the result in the General Assembly with “unspeakable satisfaction, and, they trust, with a feeling of deep and devout gratitude to God.”665 It was the most encouraging event which took place in the early history of the Free Church.
But what enhanced its importance was the way in which the missionaries stated and enforced their views.
Dr. Duff indeed avows the severe struggle it cost him before he could decide. There were dear personal friends to be parted from, amidst feelings of mutual alienation; “and that heart must be colder and deader than mine which could contemplate without pain” such a result. There was much else which he speaks of as embittering the prospect. It tried his faith; but not for a moment was the result doubtful. “The question at issue was of vital moment,” he said. “In early youth he had drunk in Free Church principles from ‘The Cloud of Witnesses’ and kindred works, and time and mature reflection had only strengthened the conviction of their truth and paramount importance to the spiritual interests of man.” There shone before him what he describes as “the blazing apprehension of the truth and reality of the principles at issue,” as “revealed in Jehovah’s infallible oracles,” and “embodied in the constitution and history of the Church of Scotland.” “How could I decide otherwise than I have done?”666
In terms not less emphatic did his brethren state their views; and taking into account the whole circumstances of their position, it was beyond all question the most signal testimony which could have been borne in favour of the Free Church and her principles. Their names and stations were –
Alexander Duff, D.D. William Sinclair Mackay. David Ewart. John Macdonald. Thomas Smith. Bombay John Wilson, D.D. Robert Nisbet. J. Murray Mitchell Poonah James Mitchell. Madras John Anderson. Robert Johnstone. John Braidwood. Ghospara Mahendra Lul Basack, native Catechist, Khorlas.
Alexander Duff, D.D.
William Sinclair Mackay.
John Wilson, D.D.
J. Murray Mitchell
Mahendra Lul Basack, native Catechist, Khorlas.
It is painful to refer to the questions which arose as to the future arrangements of the mission.
Nothing could be more undesirable than to set up rival institutions in view of the heathen populations of India, and have the controversy which had rent asunder the Presbyterianism of Scotland fought over again on the banks of the Ganges. If this was to be avoided, either Dr. Duff must leave Calcutta, or the Scottish Establishment must seek elsewhere to break new ground.
As to the idea of Dr. Duff and his colleagues leaving Calcutta, it must have been difficult even for the boldest opponent to propose such a thing in the religious circles of that city. The other missionaries belonging to all different denominations – Episcopalians, Independents, American Presbyterians, Baptists – rose as one man to remonstrate. The whole Christian community would have cried shame if it had been really attempted to part him from the many hundreds of the native youth of Calcutta, whom he had gathered round him, and who looked to him as their father.
Might not the Scottish Establishment then – the question arose – seek new openings for the new men whom they were to appoint? There was a noble field for missionary effort, Dr. Duff suggested, lying unoccupied in the once imperial cities of Agra and Delhi. India was surely wide enough to give scope for the energies of both Churches, without their sitting down in open rivalry and collision with each other.
The feeling of partisanship, however, was keen at the time, both in Calcutta and at home; and it was resolved to expel Dr. Duff and his colleagues from the Institution, and wrest the whole missionary property from his hands. By force of law it could be done, but it was a strong step to take. The buildings were of his planning. He had toiled hard by correspondence and personal application among his friends to raise the funds. The erection of the institution was as really his work as if with his own hands he had built it. Sums of money given to himself for the use of his family he had at different times laid out on it. The fair thing would have been to let him remain in possession, the Committee of the Established Church receiving compensation for such claims as they might have. If, on the other hand, they felt bound to take possession, ought they not, as honourable Christian men, to have made some return to Dr. Duff and his friends?
The Committee in Edinburgh, however, and the representatives of the Establishment in Calcutta, had other views. Technically they had the law on their side, and disregarding all claims of equity between man and man, they decided that Dr. Duff and the other missionaries must be simply expelled.
It was a painful scene. “On Saturday morning, 9th March, 1844, an official appeared, and I delivered up to him,” Dr. Duff says, “the keys of the Institution, dwelling-house, and other premises, leaving behind library, apparatus – everything down to the minutest atom that could by the most microscopic ingenuity be claimed by our friends of the Establishment.” “Our sensations on leaving a place so endeared to us by labours and trials and hallowed associations, it were vain for me to attempt to describe.”667
At Bombay there had been a similar transaction. For long years the missionaries had toiled in confined, overcrowded rooms, and new buildings were nearly finished, which they had striven hard to raise, by the help of friends. With the simple confidence of an honourable mind, Dr. Wilson was sure the Establishment would make an equitable arrangement, and let him have them on receiving compensation. He was soon undeceived. Not only was the house they had built taken possession of, but a German agent appeared demanding the library and scientific apparatus, the fruit of their own and their friends’ generosity, property to the value of £8000. Quietly and calmly, “as Christian gentlemen,” they gave it up without compensation; and in after days they were none the less ready to do kind service to the Institution which had so used them.
Some of the subscribers, however, could not refrain from expressing what they felt. Dr. Smyttan, who had given £200, wrote the Committee stating that he knew almost all the contributors – that nine-tenths of them, like himself, never thought of the Established Church of Scotland. It was these men – Dr. Wilson, Dr. Murray Mitchell, and the other missionaries – whom they wished personally to aid in their work, and it would be a deep disappointment to see the buildings wrested from the individual missionaries, the very men for whom they had been expressly intended. To such considerations, however, the members of the Establishment were impervious.
At Madras the buildings were rented, and there was a Missionary Board in which men of all religious denominations united to provide the local expenses. This they continued to do after the Disruption, as before. They had, however, £500 on hand in 1843, and offered by public advertisement to repay any subscription which might be asked back, an example of fair dealing which deserves notice in contrast to the above. Not a single subscription was withdrawn.
Thus the mission property in Calcutta and Bombay was lost, no single fragment being saved out of the wreck. But the faith under which the missionaries acted, did not fail to bring the promised blessing. Across the Atlantic, it occurred to an American merchant, Mr. Lennox, of New York, that they must be in difficulties, and at once he and his sisters remitted to Dr. Duff a sum of £500. Before it arrived, a physician in Calcutta, the well-known Dr. Simon Nicolson, handed over £500, and told Dr. Duff to let him know when he wanted more. One young officer sent £83 “donation batta” which he had just received, and another, £100 which had come in the same way; and so the money came pouring in from many a generous friend whose heart the Lord had opened. A single incident will show the spirit in which it was received. When that sum of £500 arrived from New York, Dr. Duff set apart a proportion of it for Madras, as well as for Calcutta and Bombay. Mr. Anderson at once replied, “I felt the moment I got your letter that we could not take it. We are not the less grateful to Mr. Lennox and his sisters, but your necessities are more pressing than ours. Give us your prayers, and keep the money; we have enough, my brother – what is that between thee and us?” “A finer example,” Dr. Duff records, “of the genuine spirit of Christian brotherhood cannot well be conceived.”668
Men animated by such principles could not fail of success. It was on 9th March, 1844, as we have seen, that Dr. Duff and his colleagues were expelled from the premises; scholars and teachers, including the whole personnel of the mission, being turned out. Ten months after he is able to say – 4th January, 1845 – “All things have prospered with us; we have a more capacious edifice for our operations than before; the pecuniary resources have been adequate; the attendance of pupils – 1257 – has been great beyond any former precedent, and the organic workings of the system have been carried on throughout all departments with new life and renovated vigour. Our Institution, as a Free Church one, instead of falling behind, has already started considerably in advance of its former self.”669 This estimate was fully confirmed by the unanimous testimony of the newspaper press at the annual examination.
Connected with all this there are many interesting details which we must not attempt to record, but one incident may be given as an example of many others.
The loss of his scientific apparatus and library was one of the sacrifices Dr. Duff most keenly felt. Personally he had brought it together by his own contributions and those of his friends. It had been in his hands of the highest value in the religious training of the Hindoo youth, and it was with some soreness of feeling he saw himself deprived of it.
Within a few days, however, after it became known, a noble beginning, as he calls it, was made; 1100 volumes were sent in as the commencement of a new library, and to his special delight, a medical friend, Dr. Stewart, a son of the Manse, and like himself a native of Moulin, presented him with a ten feet telescope, “one of the finest instruments of the kind in existence.”670
This good beginning required to be followed up, and the work fortunately fell into good hands. “A gentleman ” – Mr. Arthur Fraser – “visits Dr. Duff’s school in Calcutta, sees 1250 Hindoo scholars, hears the Doctor lament the loss of books and apparatus, and then writes to his sister, a lady, we believe, in the North – “Could not you ladies, who are so good at begging, set to work and get up a subscription, and send him the amount to purchase books and apparatus?” The simple suggestion was enough. The ladies went to work as their manner is; the subscription lists rapidly filled;671 the £1000 required was remitted to Dr. Duff, and soon, a reply was received warmly acknowledging the gift, in one of the most vehement outpourings of thanks that ever came even from his pen.
It is strange to observe how soon the views of the Church began to enlarge. Before Dr. Wilson reached the shores of Scotland he wrote, “We must begin anew by resolving to extend our operations,”672 and Dr. Gordon, at the Glasgow Assembly, announced, five months after the Disruption, that the Church could not dream of resting satisfied with upholding the missions as already established. By the very success which God vouchsafes to her efforts, He will compel her to make still greater exertions.673
The first step was the opening of a new mission at Nagpore. A distinguished Madras officer, Sir William Hill, had lost his wife by death, and, in accordance with her dying wish, had devoted her fortune, with a contribution (£500) from himself, to the founding of a mission at that station, where the last year of her life had been spent. Though himself an Episcopalian, he put the matter into the hands of Dr. Wilson. This was in the spring of 1842, but Dr. Brunton, on the part of the Established Church, refused to undertake the responsibility in the midst of the Disruption controversy. No sooner, however, were Dr. Gordon and his committee free to act, than the offer thus made by the member of another church, in circumstances so touching and in favour of the capital of the great central province of India, was felt to be irresistible. The Church, while holding her position with increased strength at Calcutta, Bombay, and Madras, obeyed the call to “go forward.” Mr. Stephen Hislop, “a man after Dr. Wilson’s own heart,” was sent out, and a commanding position in the centre of the vast continent was taken possession of, by one who ere long showed himself worthy to be “ranked with Duff, and Wilson, and Anderson, as the fourth founder of Scottish missions to India.”
Hardly was this step resolved on when a new proposal was made to add another continent to the field of missionary operations. For more than twenty years there had been in Glasgow a Missionary Society, whose sphere of work was in South Africa, at stations the very names of which – Lovedale, Burnshill, Macfarlan – recall the venerated men by whom the mission was begun and sustained. In 1843 the staff consisted of six missionaries, and a still larger number of female teachers and native assistants; and hardly had the Disruption taken place, when the Society proposed to dissolve itself and hand over the whole agency and property to the Free Church. The offer was one which it was impossible to refuse. With the cordial acquiescence of the missionaries the agreement was made, and the African Mission engrafted on the Foreign Mission Scheme of the Free Church. There were some who felt anxious as the burdens on the funds began thus to multiply; yet it was noble work for the Church to be diffusing the light of education and saving knowledge amidst the heathenism of the “dark continent,” and it was encouraging to find with how cordial a welcome the change was hailed at the mission stations themselves. When the news reached Caffraria, a meeting of the native Christians was held, with a Caffre chief in the chair, and subscriptions for the Free Church set on foot. The contributions being given in kind had to be disposed of, and the result was that a sum of £180 was sent to Scotland as a free-will offering of first-fruits from this portion of the mission field.674
Thus, from the first, the desire was to enter in at the open doors which God in His providence set before the Church. How this process of enlargement went on in the years that followed, it is not for us here to tell.
But while the mission field thus grew wider, there were manifest tokens of blessing on the ground already occupied. The funds were more than sustained, and spiritual fruit began to appear.
The great cause of regret hitherto had been the small proportion of conversions and baptisms; but it almost seemed as if the Disruption, in this respect, had brought a time of blessing. Hardly had the Institution removed to its new quarters in Calcutta when a highly-educated Hindoo youth applied for baptism. In the course of the year another and another, young men of good position, followed, till the Hindoo community took alarm. A feeling of hostility was roused, in which the “rank, wealth, and power of the native community” took part. Still conversions went on, and the tumult got worse. A great anti-missionary – or, rather, anti-Free-Church-Institution – movement was entered on. A Hindoo society for the protection of their religion was formed. Dr. Duff’s house was besieged. Some of the most violent resolved to take what they considered the most effectual way of getting rid of these conversions by getting rid of Dr. Duff, he was warned that “a body of ruffians of the baser sort” had been hired to assault him, and entreated not to expose himself by going out at night, and never to return home by the same road by which he had gone.675
All this was full of encouragement. None of those things moved him. The mission work was at last telling. A blessing was on it; and very thankfully was this fact acknowledged by one of his colleagues, Mr. Mackay, at the Inverness Assembly in 1845. There were, he said, twenty-two native Christians in Calcutta, the fruits of their mission, now forming the nucleus of a native Christian Church. I do not, he added, wish to attach undue weight to it, but “surely it is a striking fact, and, I trust, a token for good, that of the twenty-two now in Calcutta no less than eighteen have been added to the Church since the Disruption.” God had blessed to them that momentous event. Friends had been raised up; good men of other denominations joined them; funds [local] had poured in to tenfold their usual amount.676 Their adherence had drawn on them the favourable notice of the Church at home, and won for them a warm interest in their prayers. “And to this outpouring of prayer on our behalf I do not hesitate to ascribe, under God, the success which has lately attended us.”677
While the field was thus widening and becoming more prosperous abroad, it was an anxious question how the Church at home could bear the burden. Numerous poor congregations all over Scotland were oppressed by money difficulties. The demands on all sides were unexampled. How in the midst of such a struggle could increasing funds be looked for to meet their increasing liabilities? The result fairly took men by surprise.
To show the state of the facts, perhaps the best way will be to take what was done for all missionary objects during the six years before the Disruption, while the Church was yet unbroken, and compare it with the six years of the Free Church after the Disruption. 678
In the Established Church, while yet unbroken, there was contributed for all the missionary schemes –
In the Free Church, after the Disruption, there was contributed for missionary schemes –
Annual Average in United Church, before the Disruption £16,359
Annual Average in Free Church, after the Disruption £40,469
It was impossible to avoid the feeling that God had touched the hearts of His people. It was a surprise to themselves to see what they were able to do; and both the missionaries abroad and the Church at home might well thank God and take courage.
The Trial it was to go out Cases of those who drew back Unhappy Effect on the People
In contrast to the unanimous adherence of the Missionaries we must now allude to those ministers in Scotland who, after publicly pledging themselves, failed in the day of trial.679 Their conduct requires to be noticed because of the keen feeling which it excited at the time, and because the favour which many of them received within the Establishment seriously affected the relation of the two Churches to each other.
When the Convocation met in November, 1842, the first step taken, was to pass resolutions laying down the conditions absolutely necessary, if the Church was to continue in connection with the State.
Upwards of 500 ministers voted for, or signed, these resolutions; and, of these, there were 61 who, after Government refused their terms, still kept their places in the Establishment.
There was a second and stronger series of resolutions signed by 474, in which they distinctly pledged themselves, in express terms before the public, to resign their livings; and, of these, there were 29 who, when put to the proof, forgot their pledges and retained their parishes.
It would have been marvellous if nothing of the kind had occurred. In an assembly of so many hundreds, there were sure to be some timid men who were not able to face the danger when it actually came. Some were known to be in debt, and creditors bore hard on them; some were in feeble health – one especially, in the West, was sinking into the grave.680
Even when there were no such difficulties, the trial in itself, as many could tell, was severe. Dr. Guthrie gives us a glimpse of two cases which he met with immediately before the Disruption: “A minister in a certain district of country said to me – ‘You think there is no chance of a settlement?’ ‘No,’ said I, ‘we are as certain of being out as that the sun will rise to-morrow.’ I was struck by something like a groan, which came from the very heart of the mother of the family. They had had many trials; there had been cradles and coffins in that home. There was not a flower, or a shrub, or a tree, but was dear to them. Some of them were planted by the hands of those who were in their graves. That woman’s heart was like to break.”
“In another locality there was a venerable mother who had gone to the place when it was a wilderness, but who, with her husband, had turned it into an Eden. Her husband had died there. Her son was now the minister. This venerable woman was above eighty years of age. Yes, and I never felt more disposed to give up my work [advocating the cause of the Disruption] than in that house. I could contemplate the children being driven from their home, but when I looked upon that venerable widow and mother, with the snows and sorrows of eighty years upon her head, and saw her anxiety about two things – viz., that Lord Aberdeen should bring in a bill to settle the question, but her anxiety, at the same time, that if he did not bring in a satisfactory measure, her son should do his duty, I could not but feel that it was something like a cruel work to tear out such a venerable tree – to tear her away from the house that was dearest to her upon earth.”681
Another example refers to a later period, but is hardly less striking. “I remember,” said Dr. Guthrie, “passing a manse on a moonlight night with a minister who had left it for the cause of truth. No light shone from the house, and no smoke rose. Pointing to it in the moonlight, I said, ‘Oh! my friend, it was a noble thing to leave that manse.’ ‘Ah, yes!’ he replied; ‘but for all that it was a bitter thing. I shall never forget the night I left that house, till I am laid in the grave. When I saw my wife and children go forth in the ‘gloaming’ – when I saw them for the last time leave our own door; and when, in the dark, I was left alone with none but my God, and when I had to take water to quench the fire on my own hearth, and put out the candle in my own house, and turn the key against myself, and my wife and my little ones, I bless God for the grace which was given me; but may He in His mercy grant that such a night I may never see again.”682
Surely, in the view of those and similar cases, every one must feel how little cause there is, without discrimination, to judge severely those men whose faith was not equal to such a trial.
Sometimes the results were deeply to be regretted on account of the men themselves. “The Rev. Mr. _____ was minister of _____, a member of the Convocation, and pledged to all that had been agreed to in that great assemblage. A man of amiable character, who had always followed with those who fought in our great battle, he was generally held in high esteem. … Under what influence no one was able to say, but fail us, when the crash came, poor _____ did. All who knew him mourned over it, chiefly for his own sake. He never was to his old friends or to society what he had been. It was said to have affected his health. However that might be, he did not long survive our Disruption. We all believed that a happier man he would have been had he continued with us. Some men there were, at the era of the catastrophe, whose defection was not less – perhaps was more – inconsistent and blameworthy than that of this man of quiet spirit; but these men were made of grosser material than he, and could withstand without shrinking, as he could not, the silent contempt of what some might call a harshly-judging world.”
It was the latter more obtrusive class whose conduct and bearing were felt by the public to be offensive. The remarkable thing was that, during the earlier stages of the conflict, many of them had been the most extreme in their views and violent in their language. One, who belonged to a Presbytery in the West, objected to the resolutions of the Convocation as too temperately worded. Another, in Perthshire, used to denounce the Moderates, and denounce his brethren who had any intercourse with them. A third, in one of our larger towns, had “outshone all his brethren by his intemperate zeal and violent denunciations of the Court of Session and of the ministers who yielded to it. Indeed, his brethren at public meetings had sometimes to disclaim any sympathy with the bitter expressions he made use of.” When such men broke their pledges, remained in the Establishment, and got promotion, it was natural that some keenness of feeling should be called forth.
In coming down from the high ground which they had taken, there was a strange variety in the ways by which they effected their retreat.
There was a Doctor of Divinity in the West, who held anti-patronage views, and was a decided member of the Evangelical party, but his theory was that after the passing of the Roman Catholic Emancipation Act of 1829, the favour of God was necessarily withdrawn from us. Even measures which he would otherwise have approved of would now be no blessings. He would have nothing to do with the resolutions of the Convocation, or with leaving the Establishment.
A minister in the Western Highlands, who was deeply pledged, intimated to his people, the first Sabbath after the Disruption, that he would take a few days to think over the matter. Then he was asked to stay in till after the communion. Then, he simply stayed in altogether.
Another, who at the Convocation had adhered to both series of resolutions, continued steadfast till within a few weeks of the Disruption, when he got new views as to “the two witnesses” in the Book of Revelation, which, he thought, made it imperative on him to stay in the Establishment.
In the North, there was a parish minister who had “made a flaming and ultra profession,” – not only going all lengths with the Convocation, but taking active steps to prepare his people for the Disruption. He came to the Assembly of 1843; did not, however, sign the deed of demission, but published a letter saying he intended to remain in the Establishment “for a time at least.” On returning home, he got such a reception from his people that he turned and set off again for Edinburgh for the purpose of resigning. Somehow, he stopped by the way.
In one of our manufacturing towns, there was a steady supporter of the Evangelical party, who went still further. He was a member of the Convocation. After the Disruption, he applied to the Assembly at Tanfield, and was received into the Free Church – preached for one Sabbath to those of his people whom he led out of the Establishment – then quietly turned, went back, and left them.
It was difficult to know how the men who had broken their pledges, should be treated in the private intercourse of life. “During the Ten Years’ Conflict,” said the late Mr. Grant of Ayr, “twenty-two ministers of the Presbytery had voted with the Evangelical party. When the day of trial came, only eleven of these joined the Free Church. The case of one who drew back was remarkable. He had formed an association to collect for the Sustentation Fund, and had obtained from the proprietor a site for his church, which, by his own selection, was directly opposite the parish church. He went to Edinburgh to the Assembly with the avowed intention of leaving the Establishment, but failed to do so. I do not mention his name, as he has recently passed beyond the judgment of men.”
“With those eleven who drew back in the day of battle I am not aware that I ever afterwards exchanged as much as one word. Indeed, I do not remember that they ever gave me the opportunity of doing so. But with the eleven who continued to be what they had always professed themselves to be – consistent Moderates – I remained on a footing of mutual courtesy and kindly feeling, and with none more so than with Dr. Auld, the clerk of the Presbytery.”
Meetings with the former class, however, could not always be avoided. Mr. Milne, of Perth, “conversing one day with a minister before the Disruption, and finding that notwithstanding former professions he was resolved to keep hold of the Establishment, turned suddenly round upon him and said – ‘I see how it is. You are just like Issachar. You see that the land is pleasant, and rest is good, and so you are about to bow your shoulder to bear.'”
After the Disruption, Mr. Martin, of Bathgate, “continued to meet on friendly terms those he had been accustomed to oppose; but his attitude to others who, under ‘shameful pretences, had renounced their principles,’ was different. Public morality demanded a testimony against them. An incident which occurred in the house of one of the landed proprietors of the district illustrates this. One of the latter class being ushered into the drawing-room, where Mr. Martin was with the lady of the house, walked hastily towards him with a fawning look, and an ‘O Mr. Martin’ – on his lips. When he had come near him, Mr. Martin turned round on his heel, and walked away in silence to another part of the room.”
The feelings of the laity were often expressed in a way not less decided. An extensive landed proprietor in the West was remonstrated with by a neighbouring country gentleman for having said that on no account would he ever again hear Mr. _____ preach. His reply was – ‘You and I were once members of the Jockey Club. Now, if any of us had acted as Mr. _____ has acted would he not have been expelled?’ ‘Certainly he would.’ ‘Well, then, how can you expect me to hear Mr. _____ preach?'”
The thing sometimes took a ludicrous turn. “One of these men, near Edinburgh, big talking, had publicly declared that, for his principles, he would lay his head on the block as calmly as ever he laid it on his pillow. But when the Free Church ministers left their houses he sat still in his. Local waggery took its joke. On a summer morning, as the minister stepped out to take his delight in his garden, just before his door there stood an axe and a block. What thoughts he had at the sight of the grim pair he did not divulge.”683
“I heard the other day,” said Dr. Guthrie, “of a minister who had come with us to the very verge of the Disruption, who had actually obtained a site for a church and manse, but who when the Disruption came remained where he was. The gentleman who gave him the site was riding one day in a narrow lane when he saw the minister approaching. The gentleman, of course, felt rather uncomfortable at the prospect of the meeting. He wondered what he would say, but to his great surprise, as he approached him, his old friend went over the hedge like an antelope – cleared it at a bound – and was in a moment out of sight. My friend, of course, expected to see him run across the field, but no, he had vanished. So, when he came to the spot where the minister had disappeared, he drew his horse gently close to the hedge, and, looking over, – there he beheld him, squat like a hare in a furrow.”
Sometimes in such incidents the serious was mixed with the ludicrous. At _____in the North, the successor appointed was “the Rev. Mr. _____, of Disruption notoriety. He had no difficulty in signing the deed of demission, and, Jehu-like to mark his zeal, he subjoined to his name, ‘Please take notice that I am the father of four children.’ After spending two or three weeks in different districts, in preaching up the principles of the Free Church and preaching down those of the Establishment, he suddenly stopped short, exclaiming ‘Peccavi,’ expressing the deepest repentance, and praying to get back to the Established Church. …
“Though he had been several weeks in the parish, I had not seen him. At length, however, we met on the high road, and the meeting had nearly proved memorable to him. I had been visiting a family at a distant village, and on leaving, the person accompanied me. As we walked slowly along, I observed a person dressed in black clothes coming meeting us, and I asked my companion who this was just before us. He said he did not know, unless that it might be a traveller at the village on business. I had my pony by the bridle, but presently, as the stranger came close up, it reared up in his face and attempted to strike him down with its fore feet. Fortunately, by leaping aside, he escaped. … I felt amazed, and turned to apologise, but he made off, knowing, as I afterwards understood, who I was, although I did not know him. Never having seen the pony act in this way before, although I had ridden it for fifteen years, I began to chastise it, saying to my companion how vexed I was for such an attack. Several people in the village witnessed what had happened, and immediately a report was circulated that the minister’s pony had tried to kill the Moderate. This report furnished the first tidings I had, as to who the person was upon whom my pony had made such a determined assault, as if it knew the person who had dispossessed it of its former residence.”
In the districts of the country where such cases occurred, the results were in some respects to be deeply regretted. It had been said by Dr. Chalmers, that if the 470 ministers who signalised themselves as supporters of Free Church principles had turned round when they saw their emoluments threatened, a Church containing hundreds of men who thus had trampled on what they professed, would have scandalised the community.684 Thanks to the steadfastness of the great majority, the country was spared such a spectacle; and thanks to those others who had modestly kept in the background, but who stood forward in the hour of danger, there was hardly a vacancy in the ranks!
But in the parishes of those who did draw back, the effect could not fail to be prejudicial to themselves, and to the cause of religion. The subject is painful, and our extracts must be brief.
Sometimes the people were outspoken. One of the ministers already referred to in this section had been promoted to a desirable parish, and set about “courting the acquaintance” of his parishioners in various ways. “At times he might be seen in the public road addressing all and sundry, and offering his snuff-box. This practice was easily seen through, and duly appreciated by the sharp people he had to deal with. One day, when in this mood, he met a very sagacious old man, and, shaking hands, asked him how he was. ‘Very well,’ said the man, ‘but I do not know who is speaking to me.’ ‘Oh!’ said the minister, ‘I am the bad man – droch duine – that lives in that house,’ pointing to the parish manse. ‘Well,’ replied the other, ‘many a bad man has got a good house in these times!'”
One of the outgoing ministers, after speaking of the deep injury which would have been inflicted on the cause of religion and morality if the Church had drawn back, adds, “I think I can already see clearly a hardening effect produced upon many of those who remain in the Establishment, to be traced, I believe, to nothing but the feeling engendered by sitting under the ministry of men whom they cannot but regard as not actuated by high-toned feeling and right principle – placing their own interest above the call of duty.”
Disruption in England
by the Rev. J. Hunter of Bath
Dr. Candlish at Cambridge
Dr. N. Paterson and Mr. Buchan of Hamilton
Few events in modern Scottish history have awakened such interest in other countries, as the Disruption of 1843. Even Englishmen began to ask what could have induced nearly 500 Scottish ministers to resign their livings. There were clamorous demands for information from various quarters, and the Free Church gladly responding to such appeals, sought, by deputations and otherwise, to make known the great principles for which she had contended.
Among the Presbyterians belonging to the English Synod, the event led to scenes second in excitement only to those which had taken place in the North. At the first meeting of the Presbytery of London, the Disruption repeated itself in miniature, with this difference that it was the Moderates who went out. Writing under date 14th June, 1843, Dr. Hamilton has described the circumstances: – “Yesterday, the Presbytery met – Blair in the chair. After sundry matters of business had been harmoniously settled, the call from Commercial Road came on. The Moderator, who had evidently received his instructions, said – ‘Mr. Ferguson, in the name of the Presbytery of London, in connection with the Established Church of Scotland, I ask you if you accept of this call.’ Mr. Ferguson said – ‘I accept the call to be minister of that church.’ Whereupon Mr. Burns, seconded by Dr. Brown, moved that the Presbytery proceed with the settlement. This was agreed to, and Mr. Lorimer was appointed to preside at the induction.” Then the question arose as to whether it was to be in connection with the Scottish Establishment? The Moderator maintained that it must; Dr. Hamilton held that admission into this Presbytery did not imply the recognition of the Scottish Establishment, for most of them were only waiting, in the altered circumstances, till their ecclesiastical superior, the Synod, should erase from its title any recognition of that Church. “However, as it was very plain that they meant to make a sinistrous use of the present designation of the Presbytery, it might simplify matters to alter it at once, which we were quite competent to do, the Presbytery having existed as a Presbytery before it entered into the Church of Scotland. It was accordingly moved that the words, ‘in connection with the Established Church of Scotland,’ be henceforth omitted in the designation of the Presbytery. The Moderator refused to put the motion, as being revolutionary and incompetent. Whereupon it was moved that the Moderator, having refused to discharge his duty, has lost the confidence of the Presbytery, and that Mr. Lorimer be appointed Moderator in his stead, – which motion was put by the Clerk, and carried; the Moderator not voting. This disconcerted the enemy a little, and in a sort of panic, Blair declared the Presbytery adjourned; and, amidst much outcry of the audience against its profanity, pronounced the blessing, on which the four ministers, with Stewart and Nicolson, elders, marched out, and Kay and the Woolwich elder, Rutherford, retired from the table. Their departure elicited a burst of hissing and derisive cheers from the audience, which was considerable. When they were gone, and our own Moderator was in the chair, after prayer, the business again proceeded. The motion to erase the words, ‘in connection,’ &c., was harmoniously agreed to; and after some further business, the Presbytery adjourned. We had thirty-four at the Presbytery dinner, and far the happiest evening we have spent there. The Moderates, before adjourning, forgot to fix a day and place for their next meeting, so that they are presbyterially defunct. Though my own wish was to stave off this disruption for a time; now that it is over, every one feels relieved and lightened. Our way was fenced with thorns, so that we had no alternative.”685
It was unfortunate, certainly, for the Moderates, that they adjourned in such fashion as to render themselves presbyterially defunct; but there were other things which weakened their hands. In Northumberland, a faithful minister, who stood to his post, and prevented the Establishment from seizing his church, says: – “I saw my neighbours running helter-skelter across to take parishes. These men are now (1874) all, or almost all, dead, some never having comfort in their charges, so far as I could hear. I walked out, on the 18th May, with the rest, and was on the platform with James Hamilton, James Nisbet, &c.”686
When deputations were sent from Scotland, however, it was not so much with the English Presbyterians that they had to deal as with the general public. Dr. Guthrie, Dr. Cunningham, and Dr. H. Grey, made the first movement, giving addresses in London, Liverpool, and Manchester, where it is said they “found the highest enthusiasm prevailing in the cause of the Free Church.” In the course of time, a whole series of deputations followed. All over England the leading towns were visited, and everywhere the ministers of the Free Church met with the most cordial welcome.
The most difficult class to deal with were the clergy and members of the Church of England. When Dr. Candlish went to Cambridge, he says: – “I got about 200 gownsmen to listen to both of my addresses with profound attention, and many of them with ardent earnestness.” Objections were raised, but the ready tact of the great debater did not fail him. One of the University men said, since Dr. Candlish spoke so strongly of the rights of the Church, he would like to know what he understood by the Church? Dr. Candlish replied at once, “I accept, without qualification, the definition given in the Thirty-nine Articles.” Another then said that he could not understand how the Free Church claimed to be the Church of Scotland, when they were separate from the State, and another Church was established. “I would reply to that,” said Dr. Candlish, “by asking my friend another question. Where was the Church of England during the Commonwealth?” After this there was no farther interruption. How his addresses impressed the audience may be gathered from the description given in a local newspaper. “His voice falls at first slowly and harshly upon the ear; as he proceeds, however, it gathers force and volume. His slight figure seems to distend its proportions, his gesticulation becomes vehement, his utterance rapid, and his tones loud. His style of language rises as he proceeds, and the effect he produces upon his hearers is exhibited in the intense attention, broken only by loud and simultaneous bursts of applause, when the orator reaches the climax of his subject. His oratory is fascinating from its originality and wild fervour.”687
In the meeting at Gravesend, two magistrates, members of the Church of England, were present, and, in consequence of subscribing to the fund, Dr. Begg tells how they were called to account, next Sabbath, by the rector of the parish, in a sermon in which he denounced them for encouraging schismatics in the North.688
And yet there were, even among zealous Churchmen, some warm supporters of Disruption principles. One of the most powerful speeches ever heard in defence of the Free Church, was that of the Hon. and Rev. Baptist Noel, then of St. John’s, Bedford Row. Another of the London clergy also – the Rev. Thos. Mortimer, B.D. – was not less earnest in his advocacy. “I have watched the Church of Scotland,” he said, “with intense interest. I have wept over her manifold afflictions, and I do feel, most conscientiously, that the cause our Scottish brethren have espoused is the cause of God.”
There was another movement, however, of a more private nature, which deserves notice, as having given special pleasure to Dr. Chalmers. It originated with a warm-hearted member of the Evangelical party of the Church – the Rev. John Hunter of Bath. Educated at Magdalen College, Oxford, he had served for a time at Watton, Herts, the parish of the well-known Rev. Edward Bickersteth, till compelled by ill health to retire. His whole sympathies were with the Free Church; and soon after the Disruption, he drew up a paper – pronounced by Dr. Chalmers to be “complete and faultless” – in which he pled the cause and appealed for subscriptions. One brief extract, given below,689 will show how the question of spiritual independence was stated by an English Churchman, and may interest the reader all the more that it is singled out for special commendation by Dr. Chalmers. “What I particularly like is your selection of the one point of jurisdiction to the exclusion of the other of non-intrusion.” The circulation of this appeal drew forth most gratifying testimonies from the members of the Evangelical party in the Church. When the Free Church deputation visited Bath, five or six of these ministers solicited an interview, and one of them, says Dr. Begg, “opened one of our meetings with prayer.” The appeal that had pleased Dr. Chalmers appeared to him also so excellent that, at the next meeting of the General Assembly, he read the greater part of it, adding, “I have seen the men from whom this document proceeds, and I never met with more amiable or Christianlike men.”
But while English Churchmen, to some extent, gave their sympathy and support, it was among the Nonconformists that the real success of the movement was met with. “You have heard,” said Dr. Begg, “that the Mayor of Manchester, an eminent British merchant, the Mayor of Birmingham, and the Mayor of Bath, all presided at our meetings, and all these gentlemen are members of the Independent denomination. We also found strenuous support from many eminent ministers of that body.” So it was also among the Baptists. “In a word, all the men who held the fundamental truths of the Bible, more or less, came to our assistance.” There was one denomination, however, which stood out beyond all others as the friends of the Free Church – the Wesleyan Methodists.
It is impossible to give here any detailed account of what was done in the different localities. Dr. Nathaniel Paterson, of Glasgow, and Mr. Buchan, of Hamilton, visited the North of England, and obtained, as the result of their different meetings, the sum of £1200. Two enthusiastic meetings were held in Manchester, and on the following Sabbath collections were made in thirty-five places of worship in the town, amounting to upwards of £4000.690 These are examples of what was going on. During the first summer, it was stated that £20,000 was raised in aid of the Free Church, but greater things were expected. Mr. Bunting, the generous and large-hearted friend of the movement, proposed that a hundred pulpits691 should be occupied in one day in London to “enforce those Bible principles on which we have taken our stand, and to obtain additional collections.”
With these introductory notices, we now submit to the reader the statement of Mr. Burns, of Kirkliston, who, in 1843, was minister of London Wall Church, and was honoured to take a leading part in the work, in England.
London Reminiscences, 1843
By the Rev. James C. Burns, Kirkliston
Back Parlour in Berners Street
Mr. Bunting’s Narrative
Wesleyans the Chief Supporters
Oxford, the Vice-Chancellor interviewed
Rev. J.A. James
Our modest “miniature” Disruption in the Presbytery of London took place within a month of the great event in Edinburgh. It might, and probably would have been warded off till the April following, when the Synod was indicted to meet at Liverpool, but for the circumstance that the induction of a minister (the Rev. James Ferguson) into a vacant charge made it necessary to determine in what sense the “formula” was to be understood, alike by the presiding minister in putting the questions prescribed by it, and by him in answering them. The point at issue was – “Is the Church of Scotland, as by law established,” the present Establishment? or is it the Establishment as it was till the 18th of last month, alias the disestablished, “the Free Church of Scotland”? Though the Moderator refused to act, in taking a vote on the question thus raised, the Presbytery acted for itself, superseding him in his office, and resolving to obliterate from its title the words which up till that time had given it a nominal connection with the mother Church. This resolution – moved by Mr. Hamilton – and carried, was the solution of all our other controversies, and brought to a speedy end our collisions with the “moderate” brethren, which had, of late, not been few, for it relieved us at once of their company; in a very short time after the vote was declared, they rose simultaneously from their seats and departed. The only further “conflict” which took place was one of muscular force between the Clerk and one of the out-going minority (the most athletic of the number); the former tightly, though stealthily holding, the latter stoutly grasping at the Presbytery minute-book as it lay open on the table, with the result that it remained in possession of its lawful owners. Its brazen clasps saved it.
That was a truly happy event, making the day and the place memorable – the 13th of June 1843 – in the Scots’ Church at Woolwich. Among other spectators or participants of the scene, were General Anderson, R.A. (so well known in his later years in the Free Assembly), and Mr. Mure Macredie of Perceton, both of whom, by their genial presence and fellowship, helped to make our social meeting afterwards (as Mr. Hamilton testifies), “by far the happiest evening we had ever spent,” in a Presbyterial capacity.
Though we thus “came out” in one sense, in another we “staid in.” We not only kept possession of the building in which we met, and of the book in which our proceedings were being recorded; we also kept our several churches,692 and if we had had manses, would have kept them too, our experience in this respect widely differing from that of our dear brethren elsewhere, – the trial in our case, scarcely a trial at all. Not indeed, in some cases, was this accomplished without difficulty, arising from obsolete, inconvenient title-deeds and threatenings of ejectment founded thereon; but ultimately there wasn’t a member of the Presbytery (as now constituted), who, besides retaining his people, did not succeed in retaining, or rescuing his place of worship also, with whatever of “possessions or goods” might belong to it! The securest of all our churches was the oldest, “the Scots’ Church, London Wall.” Fortunately for the peace of mind of its minister and congregation, it had a constitution, which, if the quoad sacra churches across the border had been equally fortunate and far-seeing, would probably have saved them, as it saved it, from the hand of the spoiler; being bound only to the “Westminster Confession of Faith,” and “the form of worship commonly practised in the Church of Scotland!”
Numerically, no doubt, we suffered by the aforesaid secession. Three of the London congregations, with their ministers, left us; but what we lost in one direction, we gained in another. Our separation from them brought us into fellowship with all the Evangelical Churches around, from which we had in a great measure been excluded before. We were isolated no longer. Though we had always been “Nonconformists” in fact, we were not regarded as such (except by the Establishment), so that our position between the two great parties of “Church and Dissent,” was alike anomalous and difficult. We were disowned equally by both, and we were not strong enough to stand, or at least, to make ourselves visible as a denomination, alone.
The Disruption changed all that. We became a denomination, and instead of being stationary or stereotyped as hitherto, we began forthwith to multiply and grow – to break forth on the right hand and on the left. The six or seven charges which constituted the whole Presbytery, in 1843, (along with a similarly small number belonging to the “United Presbyterian Church,” afterwards happily amalgamated with them), have now grown into upwards of seventy – twice as large a body as was the entire Synod in England up to that time.
Having neither church nor manse-buildings to look after, immediately, for ourselves, we were all the better situated for taking part in the great movement in that direction, which, by this time, had begun to stir all Scotland. We were ready to welcome the General Assembly’s deputies when they came to us; to work with them, or to work for them. And there were not a few of us who did.
The first of those deputies were Dr. Henry Grey, Dr. Cunningham, and Dr. Guthrie; and their first meeting was held in the church at London Wall, as a sort of feeler, or pioneer to the great meeting, announced for the day following, in Exeter Hall, – its proximity to Lombard Street and the Bank of England being (as Dr. Guthrie jocularly remarked), one of its recommendations. Mr. Patrick Maxwell Stewart, M.P. for Renfrewshire, presided at the former, and the Marquis of Breadalbane at the latter. Both meetings were successful, to a wish; and those three distinguished men never appeared to more advantage, or spoke with better effect, than they did on both occasions. The enthusiasm evoked was wonderful, – scarcely less, or less unmistakable, than that of similar gatherings in Scotland; – “liberal things” were both devised and done (several large, surprisingly large, contributions being intimated in course of the proceedings); and such was the demand for the services of the Deputies in addressing meetings elsewhere, everywhere, that a systematic movement for pervading London, and gathering in the offered contributions of the several churches, became as necessary as it was desirable.
A committee accordingly was formed, to act in concert with another formed about the same time in Manchester; and, between the two, arrangements were speedily made with the Home authorities for sending deputies from Scotland, not only to these great cities, but to every considerable town in England, wherever there was an open door. Of the London committee, the most active member undoubtedly was good James Nisbet, of Berners Street, Oxford Street, who threw his whole energies into it, and gave it most of his time, heading the subscription list, besides, with £1000; – his brother elders, Messrs. William Hamilton and Alexander Gillespie, likewise doing their part nobly, as in all good causes they were wont to do. Our place of business was the back parlour in Berners Street, where all letters were received and answered, – and where the secretaries, of whom, along with “the well-beloved” James Hamilton, I had the honour to be one, held themselves in readiness to meet with whoever might come to get information, to arrange for pulpit supply, or to offer help. Many a pleasant hour was spent in that quiet committee-room, and the work done there was much more than its own reward, by the substantial results of it. One of our most distinguished visitors was the late Countess of Effingham, and it was in consequence of the information we were able to give her respecting certain needy and deserving congregations in Scotland, about which she made inquiry, that she selected them as the objects of her thoughtful and munificent liberality. At most of the district meetings held in London, her ladyship was present; at that in Surrey Chapel, where Dr. Begg was the “chief speaker,” offering her services as a “deaconess “or collector. For a time, also, it should be mentioned, a room was hired in Exeter Hall, as being more central, and there the two committees carried on the work together.
But before saying more about London, I am happy to be able to report on the doings of the committee at Manchester, on the authority, and in the words of the one man who, more than all other men, laboured in our cause there, and contributed to the success of it, – he being neither a Scotchman nor a Presbyterian – viz., Mr. Percival Bunting, then practising as a Solicitor, who still, though no longer resident in Manchester, happily survives. He has favoured me with some of his “Reminiscences” both of what was done in England before the Disruption, with a view to the enlightenment of the English public on the great question at issue, and also of what was done afterwards in the way of evoking the sympathy and the “siller” of the Christian people. On the former of these subjects this is what he says:
“During the Ten Years’ Conflict successive deputations visited London with the view of influencing Parliament or Administrations in favour of the Evangelical party in the Church of Scotland. As to religious parties, they were, I think, somewhat shy at first of seeking aid from Nonconformist sources. The appeal was rather to the Church of England, and to it, as having a common sympathy on the question of religious establishments; and Chalmers’s recent great display in London on that topic gave them a vantage ground of which they made all possible use. Gradually, and just as they were learning severe lessons as to the obstinate ignorance or indifference of statesmen, it became obvious that the common ground on which they commanded the general sympathy of some English Churchmen was too narrow for any sustained common action. Indeed, by one of those strange revolutions of opinion, of which in our time we have seen so many, it turned out that the then narrowest school of English ecclesiastics – the school of which Henry Philpotts, Bishop of Exeter, was the foremost representative – had the deeper sympathy with the Scotch movement. With thoughtful men of all schools, then, as now, the national establishment of religion is one (and, with some, a subordinate) question, spiritual independence another (and, perhaps, with more) one far more important.”
The one man in the Church of England, of name or note, who both understood the question and embraced the principle, – as he publicly expounded and defended it, with admirable ability – was the Hon. and Rev. Baptist W. Noel, then minister of St. John’s Chapel, Bedford Row. How far he was consistent, as the minister of a Church so ostentatiously Erastian as the Church of England, in speaking and writing as he did, it is needless now to inquire. He was not long in vindicating his consistency, and that at great cost, by acting on his convictions, and joining the ranks of the Nonconformists. He was one of the most estimable and lovable of men, whose “memory is blessed.” – Several other clergymen (all, without exception, of the Evangelical, or “Low Church” school), expressed their sympathy (afterwards), not only in words, but in deeds, among whom it is pleasant to record the names of Mr. Mortimer, of Gray’s Inn Road Chapel, London; Mr. Oswald Mosley, the Vicar of Birmingham; Mr. Wilson, the Vicar of Southampton; and last, not least, Mr. Edward Bickersteth. Still, as might have been anticipated, there was no substantial help to be looked for from that quarter, and the leaders were not long in discovering that it was so.
“Then” (Mr. B. goes on to say), “they turned to the Nonconformist Gentiles, and found (some of them to their glad surprise), that here, – here almost exclusively, warm sympathy and active aid were to be found. Not, however, from some of them in a very great hurry. To an English mind, Scotch ecclesiastical principles do not lie on the surface, and many a man, when he fishes for them, catches a crab from which he never extricates his line. It was patent to any English Nonconformist that ministers ought not to be intruded upon reclaiming congregations, just as confessedly patent in some cases, as the sentiment which dictates the grand old cry, ‘No Popery.’ It was plain, too, that civil authority should not rule the Church. But the puzzle became intensely perplexing to easy-thinking, easy-going people, when this latter proposition was predicated of an Established Church, claiming to be both rightfully established, and rightfully independent of the State.
“It came to pass, however, that enlightened by successive deputations, the real leaders of Nonconformist opinion and activity, even before the Disruption took place, enlisted heartily in the cause which stirred so deeply the hearts of Scotch churchmen. – But here I must distinguish. I have no hesitation in placing in the van, the Wesleyan body, and its leaders. It is a fact, and it ought to be a part of the history, that they were the first to listen, consider, and approve, and then most vigorously to act, as best they could. I claim no credit for them. Their position was freer than that of other Nonconformists. With that intense practical instinct which is characteristic of them, they set themselves to inquire what it was all about, whether they ought to help, and if so, how. Further, they had no general disposition to weaken, or embarrass Established Churches, – much less to pull them down, – while they were entirely free from their control, and were almost nervously sensitive as to their undue influence. As to the formation of the pastoral tie, indeed, their system, at the first blush of it, seemed contrary to that contended for in Scotland; but at its very foundation, when it came to be looked at, there lay the popular veto. As to spiritual independence, who but worldlings dispute it? As to the compatibility of spiritual independence with the establishment of the Church insisting on it, they were convinced that such was the constitutional and legislative bargain in Scotland, between Church and State; that the system had worked well, so far, and so long as it had worked at all; and that when thoroughly worked, in one of its essential features, that of endowment, – as for instance, in the case of the Irish Presbyterians, – whatever its effect might have been on the Church, it had, to say the least, done no mischief to the State.”
Mr. Bunting then proceeds to refer to the actual service rendered by the Wesleyan body, as “the most considerate, and best persuaded friends of the movement,” through the medium of its literary organs – by petitions to the Legislature – by the speeches and writings of its most distinguished men, and pre-eminently by the devoted zeal of his own venerable father, Dr. Jabez Bunting, to whom he lovingly refers as “the friend of Chalmers, and so predisposed to listen to the faintest whisper of his voice.” All he says, and more than all, on this head, I know to be true. Dr. Bunting was the author of the petition, which in name of the Conference, was laid on the table of the House of Commons. I heard it read there by Mr. Fox Maule, when he presented it, and I remember well how visibly every sentence and syllable of it seemed to tell on the eagerly-listening audience; how admirably clear and cogent it was; and how, within quite a moderate compass, it set forth alike the facts and arguments of the case, in such a way as to leave nothing to be desired. The names of John Beecham and George Cubitt deserve also to be mentioned with gratitude for work done by them, along with that of Thomas Farmer, Esq. (Treasurer of the Wesleyan Foreign Missions), whose hospitality before the Disruption, and whose gifts after it, were alike munificent.
If the other Nonconformist bodies were somewhat shy before the event (of which, like many people nearer home, and who should have known better, they were somewhat incredulous),693 they made up amply for their shyness by the overflow of their kindness and cordiality, afterwards.
To this also, Mr. Bunting bears willing testimony: “In cordiality of co-operation, the leaders of the Congregational and Baptist bodies were by no means excelled even by the Wesleyans. Binney, like all other great men, growing more candid and tolerant of the position and opinions of others, every day he lived; Raffles, with his straightforward good sense, and affectionate geniality of temper; Parsons, a Puritan of the best modern type; those and men like those, were foremost in kindly service.” With the above-named honoured fathers, I have pleasure in associating Dr. Andrew Reed, and Dr. John Leifchild of London, Mr. Angell James of Birmingham, and Mr. Adkins of Southampton, than whom, none of the many Congregational brethren, whose acquaintance I had the happiness of making, were more hearty in their sympathy, or more energetic in their efforts to enlist the sympathy of others in our behalf. Among the Baptists I remember best Dr. Cox of Hackney, and Mr. Andrew Fuller (son and name-son of a much revered father), as having warmly espoused our cause.
What the Manchester Committee did, – when the time came not for argument, but for action, – let Mr. Bunting again tell.
“I have no access,” he says, “to the vast heap of papers which were it worth while would, if still extant, record the extensive action of that busy time, nor can I tell even its pecuniary results. Enough to say, that in every county of England, and in the innermost recesses of each, a system of public sermons and meetings was arranged and perseveringly pursued, which set English Nonconformity in a blaze.
“The campaign commenced in Manchester. What a force was that which came to help! Guthrie, Buchanan, Begg, and a host of English ministers (interchanging pulpits), by public collections made in almost every Evangelical Nonconformist Chapel raised £800 in that city on one memorable Sabbath day. Then, Manchester itself, and the neighbouring towns were saturated with public meetings. Buchanan, with insinuating clearness explained. Begg thundered, yet always with a downfall of healthful rain. Makgill Crichton with such vehement eloquence asserted his principles that people hardly dared question them. Then Guthrie, that great genius of universal oratory, played and pleaded till large congregations, in consentaneous laughter or tears, were overwhelmingly convinced.
“There were some curious expressions of sympathy. In one large, but not very civilised, town, a thistle in a flower-vase was placed conspicuously on the table at which the chairman sat, and, after devotional exercises, the people insisted on singing, ‘Scots wha hae wi’ Wallace bled’! I remember how at the Rochdale meeting, John Bright, not professing to be very deep in the mystery of the contention, enjoyed it all the same, made a short but serviceable speech, and gave us £25.”
At Southampton (it may be mentioned here, as a parallel to the Scotch thistle) the Mayor of the city, Mr. Andrews (Coach-builder to the Queen), on occasion of an annual entertainment which he was in the habit of giving to his employés and other citizens (the day of which celebration happened to be on the Monday, after our public meeting and the pulpit services of the Sabbath), had his large saloon, where the banquet was being spread, decorated with banners – these banners bearing inscriptions large enough to be legible by every passer-by on the street, – and of these, four in number, that one which was most conspicuous, and which seemed to attract universal notice, was the one which had to do neither with England, Ireland, nor Wales, nor “All the world,” besides, but with Scotland alone, and the “Justice” due to it – “A Free Church for Scotland.”
I had a pleasant interview with Mr. Andrews, as well as a kind invitation to the banquet; nor did he fail to swell by his contribution the very handsome amount which had been already received – larger, I was told, than had ever gone from Southampton before for any religious purpose, even the Bible Society itself – not much short of £200.
Mr. Bunting goes on to mention the names of the deputies with whom, as they passed through Manchester, he had pleasing intercourse, most of whom stayed a night or two at his house, and left hallowed memories behind – such men as Drs. Julius Wood, Robert Elder, Alexander Beith, Robert Macdonald, William Hetherington, William Hanna, Thomas Main, &c.; with such elders as James Crawford, George Meldrum, and George Lyon. “Candlish,” he says, “was much wanted at home, but he came on rare occasions.”
One of these occasions was when an attempt was to be made to storm the University of Oxford, – Mr. Bunting himself, along with Mr. George Lyon, of Glenogil, having gone as a deputation beforehand to feel the way, and make necessary arrangements. “We enlisted,” he says, “the aid of all the Nonconformists of the town, and arranged for a public meeting. Candlish was to come as one of the preachers and speakers, and had prepared a sermon such as no other modern preacher could prepare, on Christian ethics – a sermon which was afterwards published as an article in, I think, the first number of the North British Review. We had got hold of the town, but we had no kind of access to the University. Not a Don could be got to sympathise with, or, indeed, to patiently hear us. We had to resolve to trust to the chance of the undergraduates attending the public meeting. – We were dining merrily at the ‘Mitre,’ two or three hours before the time when, having completed our task, we had arranged to take our departure, when the waiter brought in a very polite note from the Vice-Chancellor, requesting the deputation from Scotland to call on him next morning at nine. We arranged, however, to call on him that evening. At nine punctually we waited on him. There was nothing to dread from his appearance. A small-built man, with silver hair; his face wearing a pleasant, post-prandial bloom, not, however, too highly coloured, every inch that was of him gentlemanly and refined, with a pleasant, perplexed air bowed us into our seats and took his own. He was positively unable to commence the conversation, and the Englishman” (of the deputation), “when he saw how the land lay, began with an apology for the hour of call. Still, though smoothing by every phrase of politeness, the way for what was to be said, the high dignitary paused. Again he had to be helped. He was told, what he very well knew, that we were the deputation from Scotland which had arranged for a public meeting in the town, in the course of a week or two. It would be impossible to caricature what followed. ‘Yes, gentlemen,’ he started, ‘oh yes, I am quite aware; but, in the present circumstances of the University, – the Bishop of Exeter, you know, – I hardly think – do you think?’ We quite understood what both of us thought, but it was hard to answer him. We did our best, but could get nothing out of him but half-finished sentences about the circumstances of the University, and the Bishop of Exeter; and as to what he thought, and whether we did not think. We took courage at last; conciliatorily admitted that we could not expect him to express any approbation of our intended proceedings; but felt sure that if he did not approve, he would not prohibit. But, no! ‘He hardly thought in the present circumstances of the University, and the Bishop of Exeter, we knew, – he could avoid prohibiting it, and he did prohibit it, – and didn’t we think?’ So we left him, – and a pleasant murmur of ‘Circum _____ Uni _____ Ex _____ Hard _____ Think,’ wafted us to the door. … The great meeting, at which Candlish was to inform and inflame the great University of Oxford, was held in a Dissenting chapel – a place to which, in those days, no undergraduate would resort. How much Free Churchism has been talked at Oxford since that time!”
A similar attempt had, before this time, been made on Cambridge, by the same two valiant men, with as little success, inside the University, but with much more success without. The Regius Professor of Greek, who was waited on as the reputed head of the Evangelical Churchmen, both in the University and town (Charles Simeon’s successor), though quite as polite as the Vice-Chancellor, was no less peremptory in his refusal either to discuss the question with his visitors (pleading a providential cold), or to countenance their intended proceedings. Nothing daunted by their repulse, the deputies resolved to call a meeting of the undergraduates, without other patronage than that which they had already secured from the mayor of the city and the Nonconformist clergy. It was a brave thing to do; and to Mr. Lyon chiefly belonged the credit of having pluck enough both to make the proposal and to go through with it. A large room in the Hotel was the place of meeting, and two o’clock p.m. was the hour. “At five minutes to two not a creature had entered the room, but as the clock struck, hundreds of undergraduates swarmed from the adjoining colleges, and in an instant sat with eyes fixed on the speaker at the rostrum. He began admirably – best, like most Scotchmen, at the beginning. For perhaps a quarter of an hour, he had given a very succinct, and, so far as history tells truth, accurate account of the Scotch Reformation, when, suddenly, a clear, sharp voice rang out from the further end of the room with the question, ‘Who killed Archbishop Sharp?’ The Englishman trembled for fear; but he will never forget the air of subdued penitence and pain with which Lyon, crossing one arm on his breast, answered the question – ‘Gentlemen,’ said he, ‘no one can possibly regret that unfortunate circumstance more than I do.’ There was a round of immense applause, and the lecture, capitally conceived, expressed, and delivered, concluded with a demonstration quite as hearty as the first. Then rose a young man (I am bound to confess, previously instructed what to do in case of emergency, and notwithstanding no emergency had arisen), and asked whether the principles for which the lecturer had contended were not substantially identical with those for which the Bishop of Exeter was contending in the Church of England? A very cautious reply in the affirmative brought the house down, and Lyon, that day, was the most famous man in the University. And I do not know what good seed was that day sown, or has since sprung up a hundredfold.”
The Presbytery of London now includes a “Preaching Station” at Cambridge, the success of which encourages the hope of its soon becoming a fixed charge. Doubtless, the aforesaid meetings had not a little to do with the origination of it.
So much for the Manchester Committee and the movements emanating therefrom. We return now to London. The duty that devolved on the London Committee was to supplement the work of the central body, hailing from Manchester,694 and to look after those places in town or country which they had been unable to overtake. Thus it came to pass that, along with one or more deputies from Scotland, I was despatched, generally on short notice, to such places as Walworth, Stepney, Kensington, Paddington, and Battersea (suburbs of London), to preach; or to Chelmsford, Gravesend, Southampton, York, Chester, Stafford, and Birmingham, to address public meetings.
Many are the pleasing recollections connected with all those places – so warm and cordial everywhere were both ministers and people; with none of them more than with Birmingham. There, associated with my friend and fellow-townsman, Dr. Davidson, of Lady Glenorchy’s, our mission was simply, in the first instance, to reconnoitre, with a view to subsequent proceedings, it being considered doubtful whether it would be expedient at that time, when Chartism was rampant and rough, to attempt a public meeting. The first thing we did, accordingly, was to announce an exposition of the principles of the Free Church in the small place of worship then known as the “Scots’ Church,” Broad Street, on a week-day evening. Before the hour of meeting the place was crammed, but no one appeared to bid us welcome, with the exception of one courteous elderly gentleman, who introduced himself as Alderman James James (brother of the well-known minister), who said he had come for information, that all his sympathies were with us, and that if his impressions of the goodness of our cause were confirmed by what he heard at the meeting, he would be glad to be of service in any way, with a view to a larger movement than could be then originated, and that, being Mayor of the town, he would willingly take the chair at any public meeting that might be called.
It turned out, by-and-by, that Mr. J. A. James was in the body of the meeting while we were addressing it. He abstained, however, from showing himself till he saw what the temper of the audience appeared to be, and what the likelihood of success in proposing any further demonstration. Appearances being favourable, he rose from a back bench, where the noisiest part of the audience was (as though he had been one of them), and, after skilfully anticipating the objections and difficulties that might be felt by Dissenters and Voluntaries, like himself, who had been accustomed to identify all Establishments of religion with oppression, injustice, and abuse, and, stating them somewhat strongly, he went on to show that these were not such as to justify their looking coldly on the great movement in Scotland, or withholding their sympathy and help. He put the case of the Wesleyan body, who held the Establishment principle as firmly as did the Free Church, and making the supposition that they (the ministers of that body), by the wrongous interpretation, or application, of John Wesley’s trust-deed in the courts of law, should be all ejected in one day from their chapels and stripped of their property, – (quite a conceivable thing), “would not the hearts and the homes of all Christian people in England,” he asked, “be open to succour and shelter them?” Even so, and yet more, were they not bound to show the like sympathy with their brethren in Scotland, from the closer relationship, in various respects, between English Nonconformity and Scottish Presbyterianism, and from the close historical connection between the struggles of their Puritan forefathers and the brave Covenanters of old whose descendants the Free Churchmen of Scotland claimed to be? His proposal of a great meeting in the Music Hall, under the presidency of the Mayor, was thereafter carried by acclamation.
In due time, accordingly, the meeting took place, and the four men whom Mr. James bargained for as deputies having been all secured – viz., Drs. Cunningham, Guthrie, and James Hamilton (whom he dubbed “the Macaulay of Evangelical Literature”), with Mr. Maitland Makgill, it proved quite as great a success as he assured us it would be. His own address on that occasion he closed with these weighty words, “In my view, the Disruption is one of the greatest events of modern times, and that man must have the eye of futurity who would pretend to set limits to its influence and tell where and how the effects of it shall extend!”
The financial result of the whole “raid” on England, as reported at next General Assembly (1844) by Dr. Tweedie (my much esteemed predecessor in London Wall), who was convener of the “Committee on English Deputations,” amounted to £27,689, 1s. 9½d.
Ireland and America
Assembly at Belfast
Warm Support through the Country
Dr. Cunningham and Mr. Ferguson in America
The Free Church invited
Of the sister Churches who came to the aid of the Free Church, the first to stretch out a helping hand was the Presbyterian Church of Ireland. On the morrow of the Disruption, within twenty-four hours after the event, a deputation of Irish brethren, with Professor Killen at their head, appeared in Tanfield to offer their cordial greetings, which they did in warm and eloquent terms. They had come, they said, commissioned to represent their own Irish Church at the General Assembly of their Mother Church, the Church of Scotland. Their first business after landing on these shores was to inquire where that Church was now to be found. They knew the distinctive features by which she was to be recognised, as these had been delineated in her standards and realised in her history. Their inquiry after these had guided them in their search, and it was at Tanfield, in the General Assembly of the Free Church, they had found what they sought. It is true you have not the representative of earthly royalty among you. We do not hear your meetings announced by the sound of martial music, or the tramp of soldiery; but what we see is the distinct recognition of Christ as King and Head of His Church. Such, in substance, was their introductory statement as they laid their credentials on the table. We rejoice that we have succeeded in our search, and we tender our commission to you as the Church of Scotland; and this announcement having been made, they proceeded, in the most fervent spirit of Christian brotherhood, to address the Assembly.
Thus, on their own responsibility, they had passed by the Scottish Establishment, and attached themselves to the Free Church. Immediately afterwards, when their own Assembly met at Belfast, the step which they had taken was not only sustained and sanctioned, but the only question was, how best to follow up what had been done, and do justice to the feelings with which the Irish Church regarded their brethren in Scotland. Mr. Makgill Crichton, who had gone to represent the Free Church, tells how they took up the matter, as if the cause had been their own. Not content with giving their sympathies and their prayers, not even content with calling on their people to contribute, the members of the Assembly proceeded at once themselves to raise money on the spot. With the impulsive ardour of the Irish character, they put down their names, and in one night nearly £3000 was subscribed. When the deputation of the Free Church went through the North of Ireland, the same spirit was displayed, and soon the amount reported was £10,000, a sum that was afterwards very largely increased. As one of their ministers stated, there never was a claim made on the Irish Presbyterians which was so heartily responded to.
And others besides the Presbyterians took part in the movement, even the Episcopalians, to some extent, giving their aid. One of their number – the Earl of Roden – who was as prominent in the religious circles of his day as he was high in worldly rank, deserves special notice. Writing to the Rev. James Shields, of Newry (19th Aug. 1843), he says: “I assure you no one can sympathise with these good men who, for conscience’ sake, have left house and home and kirk more than I do; and I wish it was in my power to contribute more largely to your fund for building churches in which they might preach the Gospel of Christ. But I am grieved to say the demands upon me in this country of various kinds keep me very bare. I enclose you a check for £10 as a token of my goodwill, if it is worth having; and hoping that a great blessing may attend the movement by the spreading of the Gospel far and wide. – I am,” &c.
Another conspicuous movement of the same kind was the appeal to the Churches of America. Towards the end of 1843, Dr. Cunningham went out, accompanied by Henry Ferguson, Esq., an elder from Dundee, for the purpose of making the case of the Free Church known to our American brethren. Other deputies followed to take part in the work, conspicuous among whom were Dr. Burns, of Paisley, and Professor Chalmers, now of London. A series of meetings was held in the leading towns, at forty of which Dr. Cunningham delivered addresses. Among the Presbyterians the greatest interest was awakened, which to a great extent was shared in by the Congregationalists, Methodists, and Baptists. The story of the Free Church was told to listening thousands; her principles, her sacrifices, and the struggle for self-support in which she was engaged were fully explained; and everywhere there were the manifestations of the deepest interest and most cordial sympathy.
“The only difference betwixt us in matters of opinion,” says Dr. Cunningham, which was brought out was “in relation to the question of national establishments of religion. Even in regard to this there was not so much difference of principle as at first sight might appear. It is true, in that country a general horror is entertained of a union between the Church and the State; and the great body of those whom you meet are rather anxious to profess their abhorrence of any such union. … But I find, at the same time, a very general admission of the great Scriptural principle, for which alone we contend, that an obligation is laid on nations and rulers to have regard to the moral government of God as supreme, and to the welfare of the Church of Christ. The general admission of the doctrine is all that we care about. … I need scarcely say that neither I nor any of my colleagues ever concealed or compromised our principles in regard to this matter; … and I think it right to say that the Churches of America knew full well that we do adhere to this great and important Scriptural truth. I have not seen or heard anything in America at all to shake my firmness in this great principle as a principle of our Church. But I have seen much fitted to modify the impressions which some of us may once have entertained of the importance of State assistance to the Church of Christ and to the cause of religion.”695
It is interesting to observe what the Americans thought of our deputies. Dr. J.W. Alexander, of New York, speaks of Mr. Ferguson. At first he had felt some surprise at his being sent, especially when he found that Chalmers had “picked him out. But my wonder ceased when I heard him on the evening of the 18th. He spoke an hour and three-quarters by the watch. I wish it had been twice as long. In the first half of his speech he erred by causing too much laughter. His vis comica is amazing. In the latter part he rose to a height of passion such as I have seldom witnessed. A critic would have condemned everything in the elocution, but the eloquence was penetrating and transporting. … As he rose, his diction became elegant and sublime; and yet he is only a merchant at Dundee.”696
Of Dr. Cunningham, the same writer speaks: “He is the most satisfactory foreigner I have seen. By the Scotch papers I perceive he ranks among the first four or five of the Free Church. Height about six feet, and large in proportion – a stout but finely formed man, very handsomely dressed, and in an eminent degree the gentleman in everything but in excess of snuff. … Powerful reasoning and sound judgment seemed to be his characteristics, and he is a walking treasury of facts, dates, and ecclesiastical law. I heard him for an hour on Friday in a speech to the students. Indescribable Scotch intonation, but little idiom and convulsion of body, but flowing, elegant language, and amazing power in presenting an argument. … He is a powerful fellow, and a noble instance of what may be done without any pathos or any decoration.”697
Dr. Hodge speaks of him in private intercourse: “He was twice at Princeton, and on both occasions made my house his home. He was a man whom you knew well as soon as you knew him at all. He revealed himself at once, and secured at once the confidence and love of those in whom he felt confidence. I do not recollect of ever having met any one to whom I was so much drawn, and for whom I entertained such high respect and so warm a regard, as I did for him on such a short acquaintance. His strength of intellect and force of character were manifest at first sight. With this strength was combined a winning gentleness of spirit and manner in private social intercourse. It was, however, seen to be the gentleness of the lion in repose. His visit was one of those sunny spots on which whenever I look back on life my eyes rest with delight.”698
An onlooker has described the meeting with Dr. Hodge: – “You know brother Hodge is one of the most reserved of men, nor is a first acquaintance with him generally very assuring or very attractive to strangers. But I remarked with what warmth and cordiality he met Dr. Cunningham, as if he had met an old friend from whom he had been long separated. And it was so with Cunningham too. The two greatest theologians of the age were at once friends and brothers. They seemed at once to read and know each the other’s great and noble mind.”699
In his report to the General Assembly,700 Dr. Cunningham stated that money had been collected to the amount of £9000, and some thousands more were expected. In the then circumstances of the country, he considered this a liberal contribution.
But more important by far was the impression made on the American Churches, and the response which was called forth.
“I confess to you,” says Dr. Sprague,701 “that the aggregate of the collection, so far, is not by any means what I think it should have been, and, so far as that is concerned, I feel rather mortified than gratified by the result; but, though we may not have done you much good, I am sure your mission has been of great use to us.”
The Princeton Review, one of their leading periodicals, states: “We doubt not that the clear exhibition of this truth [the Headship of Christ], by the Scottish delegates, will be a means of spiritual good, for which all our contributions will be a most inadequate compensation. Nay, were we to increase them a hundredfold we should still be their debtors, if only we are made to feel, more than we have hitherto done, that Jesus Christ is indeed our Lord. It is this more than anything else that has interested us in their mission. We have felt under some of their addresses as we never have felt before. We have had clearer views of the intimate connection between the practical recognition of Christ’s kingly office and the life of God in the soul, and we think we see one of the principal sources of that strength of character, elevation of mind, and constancy in trials which Scottish Christians have so often exhibited. Let any man, with this principle before his mind, read the history of Scotland, and he will have the solution of the mystery of servant girls and labourers dying on the gibbet or at the stake for a question of Church government. Let him contrast the bearing of Knox, Melville, or Henderson when they stood before kings – we will not say with the slavish adulation of the unworthy bishops of King James, but – with the spirit of such good men as Cranmer, and they will see the difference between believing that Christ is King and believing that the king is Head of the Church.”702
The well-known Moses Stuart was drawing near his end, and writes: – “I am nearly worn out”; “deep is the interest I feel in your undertaking. Persevere. It is the cause of truth and duty. The great Head of the Church will smile upon it, and bless you sooner or later. Never! never! commit the precious Church to the hands of graceless politicians.”703
Dr. Murray, better known as “Kirwan,” wrote: “Your example in Scotland is putting new life into the religious world. Switzerland is feeling it, – India, Canada, all America. Your action in favour of a free Gospel and Church, and of a living Christianity, will tell upon the world throughout unborn generations. The time will, perhaps, come when I can look upon your Free Assembly – then I shall die in peace.”704
Thus in various ways the friends of the Free Church in America showed their cordial feelings in her favour. But there was one proposal which proved more strikingly than all the rest the depth of their sympathy and friendship. Dr. Cunningham had been telling of the hardships to which congregations in Scotland were subjected, when he was met with the following question: “Why do not your whole seven hundred congregations come out here in a body, and settle in some of our Western States? … The Americans generally entertain a high respect for the Scotch Presbyterians, as well as for the Irish Presbyterians, whom they distinguish as the Scotch-Irish, and I have met many persons who, without any joke, but in perfect sincerity, entertained the question of the whole Church coming out in a body to the Western States, where they could get as much land as they choose – a location as large as Scotland itself, if they required it, and possessing a soil of great fertility. … The answer I gave to such proposals was this – but the Assembly may give a different one if they choose – my answer was, that we could not consent to abandon Scotland to Erastians and Moderates, and from the many tokens we experienced of the favour of God, we entertained a well-grounded hope that the Free Church of Scotland would be honoured in largely promoting the cause of Christ, and be a blessing to the people of the country.”
Mr. Frederick Monod
Dr. Merle D’Aubigné
Disruption in Canton de Vaud
Disruption of the French Protestant Church
Deputies’ Meeting at Tanfield
Dr. Stewart at Leghorn
Foreign Students at our Colleges
Professor Francis Balogh
On the Continent, the effect of the Disruption was to restore much of that unity of feeling which had once subsisted between the Church of Scotland and the Protestant Churches abroad. The time was when Holland, France, and Switzerland were the great refuge to which our persecuted fathers were compelled to betake themselves, and the consequence was that the closest ties of Christian brotherhood were formed with the Churches of those lands. In this, however, as in other departments of Church life, the blighting influence of Moderatism was felt. Comparatively little interest was taken by the Church of Scotland in the advancement of religion, or in the spiritual state of the Churches of other countries. But no sooner had the Ten Years’ Conflict entered on its more serious stages than the general attention of Christians on the Continent was arrested. Instinctively it was felt that a new scene was opening, and that a battle was being fought on Scottish ground which involved issues of momentous importance to the Church and to the world. Already, in March and April, 1843, formal addresses had been received from the ministers of Basle, from the valleys of Piedmont, the Canton of Schaffhausen, and from Christian communities in Holland, Zealand, and Utrecht, telling of their sympathy with our Church in her struggles. A still stronger step was taken by the King of Prussia, who sent a special agent, Pastor Sydow, to witness the end of the conflict, and to report on the causes which led to it. When this report appeared, it was gratifying to find that, coming from a disinterested observer, it consisted simply of a thorough-going defence and vindication of the Free Church.
Special interest was awakened in 1844 by the arrival of the Rev. Frederick Monod,705 who came as the representative of the United Protestantism of France, and appeared on the platform at Tanfield to present the brotherly greetings of the French Church. The result was a resolution by the Assembly to make common cause with the native Protestant Churches abroad, and a committee was appointed, with Dr. Lorimer of Glasgow, as convener, who succeeded during the first year in raising about £2000 in aid of their Continental brethren.
Still greater enthusiasm was stirred up in May, 1845, by the arrival of Dr. Merle D’Aubigné. Never since the day of the Disruption had the building of Tanfield been so crowded. Men hurried up from the country, and eagerly competed for places. The benches open to the public, the seats of the members, the passages were all densely filled. “In fact the magnificent hall presented an unbroken mass of human beings.” The greatest orator of Scotland was going to introduce the most eloquent writer of Switzerland to a Scottish audience. In striking words Dr. Chalmers spoke in name of his country, and gave a welcome to the illustrious stranger. And no less striking was the reply.
“I come from Geneva, and I am in Scotland. Three centuries ago, a man came from France to our city at the foot of the Alps, on the borders of Lake Leman, and there he reared the standard of truth. His name was John Calvin. Some years afterwards, another man came across the Jura to our magnificent country. He had been taken prisoner, and made his escape from the Castle of St. Andrews. He had been driven out of England and Scotland. His name was John Knox. These two men embraced as brothers. John Knox shook hands with John Calvin – the representative of Scotland and the man of Geneva. Well, dear friends and brethren, I see in this Assembly the successors of Knox and his people. The Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland is before me, and I come from Geneva to give you a brother’s hand. After three centuries, Geneva and Scotland shake hands together in the name of the Lord to whom we belong, and who shed His blood for us – in the name of His exclusive dominion, and the independence of His Church from any temporal power. We shake hands in a spirit, not of pride, but of love, of humility, of peace.”706
Thus his address opened, and from point to point the stream of eloquence flowed, profoundly impressing the great audience, and stirring every heart into enthusiasm.
But more eloquent than any speech was the course of events which immediately followed. A disruption took place in the Church of the Canton de Vaud. It was inquired into on the spot by Mr. Andrew Gray of Perth, who was sent over for the purpose, and so favourably reported on that a collection was made on behalf of the outgoing brethren; and to a considerable extent that Free Church was aided in the midst of her initial difficulties by the contributions of the Free Church of Scotland.
Then followed, in 1848, the disruption of the Protestant Church in France, and the appearance of Count Gasparin, along with the Rev. Frederick Monod, to plead the cause of their Free Churches. And very cordially was the appeal responded to in name of the Assembly by Dr. Cunningham, who bore his testimony on behalf of the movement. The deputation were welcomed as representing the noble Church of the old Huguenots.707
From time to time a succession of such men appeared at the Assembly. Dr. Capadose, Count St. George, Professor de la Harpe, and many others came from different quarters. The platform at Tanfield became a meeting-place where the representatives of many nationalities and Churches came together in love and loyalty to the same Saviour, and to express their sympathy with the Free Church in her principles and struggles. Sometimes the addresses were delivered in somewhat broken English. Often they were interspersed with foreign idioms and pronunciations; but none the less – rather all the more – they arrested the attention and spoke home to the hearts of the people. It was with unfailing interest that ministers and laymen united in giving them welcome. In view of the outside public, as Lord Cockburn remarked, “the moral impression of the party” [the Free Church], “and its almost European station, elevated it above all other native sects more than even the splendour of its voluntary treasury. Its hall at Tanfield was crowded, though it be supposed to hold 3000 people. The Assembly was bowed to and shaken by the hand by deputations from religious communities that never sent their representatives on such a pilgrimage before.”708
But gratifying as all this was, there was some risk, as Dr. Candlish remarked, lest the kind of statements addressed to the Free Church from so many honoured brethren, should fill them with pride and vainglory. But, I confesss, he continued that a very different impression was made on me. “A spirit of solemn awe took possession of my mind, not only from the consideration of the unworthiness of this Church, which occupies so high a position, but still more from the risk and hazard there may be of our dishonouring, not only our position, but that God who has assigned it us to occupy.”709
While men were animated by such feelings, it is easy to see how the Free Church, from the very outset of her history, was led to take the deepest interest in the Protestant Churches of the Continent, struggling, as many of them were, with formidable difficulties, while upholding the cause of Christ.
At first, the great object was to raise money on their behalf, and aid them in their work. Along with this, certain towns were fixed on, where ministers were planted and congregations formed, as centres of Evangelical influence. At a later period, the plan was adopted of giving supply, during certain months of the year, in places much frequented by English-speaking strangers. In this way the Free Church has made her influence increasingly felt in Germany, France, Switzerland, Italy, and even in Spain and Portugal.
In these pages, however, it is impossible to give any adequate account of such a work, where the field is so wide and the details so numerous. As an example of what was done by some of those Disruption ministers who were compelled to leave Scotland, we may refer to Dr. Stewart’s labours in Italy.
He had been parish minister of Erskine, on the Clyde, as his father, the well known Dr. Stewart, was before him. In 1843, he resigned the living and joined the Free Church, but no residence could be got in the parish, and the exposure which this involved brought on attacks of illness, so often repeated, and so severe, that he was forced to part from his people, and seek a sphere of labour in some milder climate.
Already, while yet a student, he had spent three years on the Continent – one of them in Italy. Just at the time when his resignation was given in, a minister was wanted for Leghorn, where the Free Church was about to open a station, a committee of ladies in Glasgow having undertaken to provide the funds. Dr. Stewart received the appointment, and was settled in 1845. In the first instance, his pastoral work lay amidst the English-speaking residents, the sailors in the port also receiving a great part of his attention.
On leaving Scotland for Italy, however, his hope had been to find mission work among the Italians, and to be of use to the Waldensian Church, in which, from boyhood, he had taken the deepest interest. Year after year, accordingly, he was up in the valleys, attending the meeting of their Synod as representing the Free Church, and ready at all times to give them his zealous aid.
But it was after the great political changes of 1862 had fairly set Italy free to receive the Gospel that his influence was specially put forth. In 1866 he came over to Britain to introduce Dr. Revel and Signor Prochet, asking the aid of English and Scottish Christians; and, single-handed, he took on himself to a large extent the financial burdens of the Waldensian Church.
For the congregation in Leghorn itself, he raised £1800. The schools in connection with it were six in number, attended by 300 scholars, nine-tenths of them belonging to Roman Catholic families. They were superintended by himself and Mrs. Stewart, and the greater part of the expense – £350 a-year – was raised by him.710
At no small cost he provided a Grammar school at Pomaret, Theological Libraries at Florence and La Tour, and annual Bursaries for Theological students.
At Florence a Theological college was opened in the Salviati Palace, and the price, amounting in all to £6846, had to be found by him. His last great effort in the way of pecuniary aid, was the providing of the Waldensian Church at Rome, which cost £14,000.
But there was more important work than the raising of funds. When the Waldensians launched their scheme of missions, taking Italy with its Popish population as their great mission field, it was Dr. Stewart who counselled and guided the movement.
When the Scottish Bible Society entered on their Italian work, and sent forth their Colporteurs to circulate the Word of God, the management of their operations devolved on Dr. Stewart,711 involving an amount of laborious and anxious care which few would have been willing to undertake.
One more service he has rendered to the country of his adoption in preparing a commentary on the Gospels, a large portion of which has already appeared, and which is destined to prove a signal boon to those Italians who have few opportunities of knowing what Evangelical Protestant literature really is.
For the first five years Dr. Stewart stood alone; but Naples, Rome, Florence, Geneva, Nice, followed one after another. Churches were built, congregations formed, ministers ordained, and the result has been that, owing to Dr. Stewart and his work, a new Presbytery has been added to the roll of the Free Church.
Assuredly it has not been in vain that the former minister of Erskine was led to leave his native land, and induced to make the evangelisation of Italy the great work of his life. Among the Waldenses especially, he is regarded with feelings of no common gratitude. “You claim Dr. Stewart as one of yourselves,” said Signor Prochet at the General Assembly in Edinburgh,712 “bone of your bone and flesh of your flesh, and you may well do so, because in the land in which he has been living for thirty years, he has taught not only the Protestants but the Roman Catholics to respect and esteem Scotland and Scottish Protestants. But, if you claim him as yours, we also claim him as being ours. He has not been thirty years by our side, not to become part of us. It is true, I have no parchment to show to you with the name of Dr. Stewart saying that he has become a citizen of the Waldensian Alps. But, if ever you come to those valleys, I will show you 20,000 living hearts, upon which his name is written in characters that can never be blotted out.”713
Important service has also been rendered by these preaching stations, which are kept up during part of the year. The number of persons on the Continent speaking English is great, and constantly increasing. Besides residents, there are tourists invalids, pleasure-seekers, students, governesses, servants. The Anglican Church is not unfrequently in the hands of Ritualists, and it is most important to bring within the reach of such classes, religious services in which the Gospel is faithfully preached.
Our hard-working ministers at home are often the better for the change. Where health is failing, and strength is worn down, great benefit is often derived from a time of comparative rest, and men return to their homes braced and invigorated; all the better for the new scenes they have witnessed, and the Christians belonging to other Churches whom they have met.
It is, indeed, remarkable how the Free Church in these stations comes in contact with persons of many different nationalities and denominations. Those who never enter a Free Church at home, not only freely join in her services abroad, but in many cases express their grateful sense of the privileges enjoyed. “I think,” says Mr. Fergusson of Leven, “I had on one occasion eight or nine nationalities in the audience I was addressing at Montreux” – an example of what is going on, in some degree, at the other stations. It is something to send men back to their homes in different parts of the world carrying with them a friendly feeling in favour of the Free Church and her work. It is something to let the Roman Catholics of those countries see the true unity of the Church when Protestants of different denominations prove their oneness of heart in worshipping together, and sitting round the same Communion table. It brings out their true brotherhood in Christ, as opposed to the external and mechanical unity of which Popery boasts. But, more important still, there is the opportunity of preaching the Gospel and scattering the good seed of the Word, which may be carried to the ends of the earth. Many a passing stranger has been refreshed, and many a suffering invalid has been comforted, and borne grateful testimony to the benefits they have received.
Thus an intelligent American, Dr. Buist, states, that “in almost every town on the Mediterranean coast, and, indeed, in the interior of the Continent where any considerable number of English people sojourn, there is found a preaching station, if not an organised Free Church. I was surprised to find the number of places thus occupied. Travelling over those Roman Catholic countries, one is scarcely ever out of sight of the Blue Banner of Presbyterian Protestantism, thrown to the breeze by the zealous hands of the Scottish Free Church. These stations are intended, in the first place, to secure for resident Scotchmen and their families their accustomed privileges. For, go where you will, Scottish enterprise has gone before you, and Scotchmen have made themselves a home where you are still a stranger; and commonly the Scotchman is unwilling to remain long in a place without enjoying the privileges of ‘ordinances.’ But not unfrequently these preaching places are at the same time missionary stations, for operating on the native population.”
“The eyes of the Churches on the Continent,” Dr. Candlish exclaimed, in 1847, are fixed on us. I cannot imagine that this Church will abandon the glorious work which God has given her to do.
Yet another important step has been taken in bringing over students of divinity belonging to the Continental Churches to study in our Scottish colleges. The Jewish missionaries in Hungary and Bohemia had come in contact with some of the more promising young men, and it occurred to them that much good might be done by these candidates for the ministry coming to reside and study for a time in our divinity halls. A living bond of mutual sympathy would be formed with these young pastors, through whom the influence of the Free Church would make itself felt in those lands.
Bursaries were accordingly provided, and the results have proved eminently satisfactory. Already, in the Bohemian and Hungarian Churches, there has been raised up a band of devoted and youthful pastors, who speak in the most grateful terms of the benefits received during their residence in the midst of us. Besides attending our divinity halls, they have been brought in contact with our home missions, our prayer meetings, and Sabbath schools, and seen the different methods in which our Scottish Churches carry on their work. What is still more important, they have been brought in contact with religious life, as seen in the family, and in the intercourse of society. Many of them have spoken with the deepest gratitude of the impression which all this has produced, leading, in some cases, to a complete change of their religious views and feelings, and conferring lasting benefits on their souls.
As an example, we may refer to the first of these students who came from Hungary, – Francis Balogh, – now Professor of Church History in the University of Debreczin, where his lectures are attended by a class of 150 students: – “I cannot say,” he states, writing in English, “what an edifying thing it is to me to read something about your state and advancement. The Polar star to which I turn is your Church. There I received the real lasting impression – the evangelical rays which illumined my soul since. I shall be for ever grateful to it. As a professor, I endeavour to spread among my students the evangelical truth, and they hear me with satisfaction.”
The Church to which he belongs numbers 1400 congregations.
Thus quietly and earnestly has the Free Church sought to enter through those doors of usefulness which God in His providence has opened up on the Continent. Our relations with these Churches are on the most cordial footing. Instinctively in times of difficulty they have learned to turn to the Free Church for counsel and aid. It is a privilege to have won the confidence of so many of these faithful men, and to be fellow-workers with them in the cause of God.
Candlish nearly sent out of Scotland
Dr. Burns goes out
Disruption in Australia
Dr. Nicolson, Hobart Town
Dr. Burns, Dunedin
Dr. Cairns in Edinburgh
While the Ten Years’ Conflict was going on in Scotland, its effects soon began to be felt in Canada, Australia, and wherever Presbyterianism had obtained a footing in the Colonies. Still more, when the Disruption had actually taken place, a feeling of keen interest was awakened among the Scotchmen settled in those lands.
There were some, however, to whom this gave serious offence. Dr. Norman Macleod complains that “the angry spirit of Churchism, which has disturbed every fireside in Scotland, thunders at the door of every shanty in the backwoods.” But, the truth is, that the Colonial ministers who adhered to the Scottish Establishment, had themselves to blame for much of that keenness. The news of the Disruption had acted on them like a charm. Hundreds of pulpits were vacant in Scotland, and, in hot haste, men left their Canadian congregations, and started across the sea eager to have a share of the spoil. Their congregations, meantime, did not like it. “You see, sir,” one of the people said, “they were on our side, but Satan took them up to an exceeding high mountain and showed them, across the Atlantic, empty manses, good stipends, and comfortable glebes in Scotland, and – they fled from us.”714 It was natural in such circumstances that the people should turn to those who now formed the Free Church, and who previously had done so much on their behalf.
In 1825, the Glasgow Colonial Society had been formed for the purpose of supplying religious ordinances to the Canadians. Dr. Burns, of Paisley, had been the very life and soul of the movement, ably assisted, however, by men like Dr. Beith, Dr. Welsh, Dr. Henderson, and others who belonged to the Evangelical party in the Church.715 Their operations were carried on with energy. Not a few of the most promising young preachers were sent out – men like John Bayne, Matthew Miller, George Romanes, William Rintoul – and soon the Presbyterian cause in Canada assumed a new aspect. Among others, they had all but succeeded in sending away from Scotland Dr. Candlish, then assistant at Bonhill. He had been actually nominated for one of their stations, when circumstances occurred which induced him to pause before closing with the appointment. This incident, as Dr. Begg remarked, was “not unlike the arrest of Cromwell when about to sail for America, and it strikingly illustrates the wonderful way in which God overrules the desires of His servants, and marks out the bounds of their habitations.”716
At the Disruption, amidst the many other pressing claims which came upon the Free Church, the Colonies were not forgotten. An affectionate address was sent to all the Synods, inviting them to place themselves in connection with the Free Church, and assuring them that the work would be carried on with not less, but rather with greater, zeal. From the Synod of Canada there came a courteous, but hesitating reply. There was some doubt as to whether the proposed change of connection would not involve the loss of their Government allowances. Ultimately it was ascertained that if the vote in favour of the Free Church were unanimous, the grants would be continued; but if the Synod divided, all the money would go to those who adhered to the Scottish Establishment. Unanimity was found to be impossible, and the result was that in July, 1844, a Disruption took place. By a majority of 39 to 21 (23) the Synod resolved to continue in the old connection. The minority protested, withdrew, and constituted themselves into a separate Synod, taking the original name, “The Presbyterian Church of Canada,” and placing themselves in fellowship with the Free Church of Scotland.
In Nova Scotia the vote went the other way, the Synod, by a majority of two-thirds, setting itself free from its connection with the Established Church of Scotland, and taking a position similar to that of the minority in Canada.
Very cordially did the Free Church at once stretch out a helping hand to their brethren. The Committee which was appointed had indeed to begin their work with an empty exchequer, but they went on in the faith that God would fill it; and nine months afterwards it was found that a sum of £3619 had been put at their disposal. A single incident may be mentioned as showing who they were who all along had been the friends of these Colonial missions. A Ladies’ Committee in connection with the Church of Scotland had been formed in Edinburgh for the purpose of collecting funds in aid of the scheme. In 1843, it appears that, without a single exception, the members of that Committee joined the Free Church.717
In coming to the help of the Canadian Churches, the first step was to send out deputations. Men like Dr. Begg, Dr. McLauchlan, Mr. Arnot of Glasgow; Dr. Alexander of Kirkcaldy; Dr. Couper of Burntisland, and many others of the more able and devoted ministers, went to give their aid; and all over the Provinces there was a busy time of preaching, consulting with brethren, addressing meetings, and holding intercourse with the people. Of all these deputies, none had such a welcome as Dr. Burns of Paisley. In 1844 he had gone to America, where he was associated with Dr. Cunningham in his visits to the churches. By special invitation, he was induced to prolong his tour into Canada, where he had many friends. Delegates from the various churches came to meet him at Brockville and Prescott. “His reception was most enthusiastic. He was escorted from Brockville to Prescott by a long train of men on horseback; and men, women, and children, in all kinds of waggons and carriages, so that the procession extended for upwards of half-a-mile. In fact, his reception in this part of Canada was like a military triumph.”718
In reply to the appeal of Dr. Burns and his fellow-deputies, Mr. Lewis states: “The Canadas contributed about £2000 to the Free Church – a plain indication that the heart of the people is toward us.”
One thing urgently pressed from the outset was, that the Colonists should set up theological halls, and rear a native ministry of their own. A grant of £200 was voted to enable them to make a beginning at Toronto. What was of far more importance, Mr. King of Glasgow – afterwards Dr. King of Halifax – was sent to supply temporarily one of the pulpits, and begin a divinity hall. His work, as described in one of the local newspapers, was singularly successful. In church it is said, the people hang on his lips with the deepest attention, and evidently with great delight. He teaches the divinity students five days a-week, presides at the prayer-meetings, and takes much to do with the Sabbath school. When not in the class-room during the week, he is visiting the sick, &c. “It is impossible to describe the attachment of the people to their temporary pastor.”719
The attendance at his theological classes, also, was, from the first, encouraging. Two or three years before, a college had been opened at Kingston in connection with the Established Church, which, in 1844, was attended by seven theological students; but when the Disruption (Canadian) took place, six of these went over to the Free Church. At Toronto, Dr. King began with a class of fourteen young men, of whose talents and diligence he speaks in high terms.
It is interesting to observe how, in the Eastern provinces, a similar course was followed. Mr. Forrester, formerly of Sorby, afterwards of Paisley, had gone as a deputy to Halifax, and like Mr. King at Toronto, while supplying the pulpit, had gathered round him a band of students – sixteen in number – to whom he taught theology. The commencement was so full of promise, that the matter was taken up by local parties.720 The Free Church gave their aid. The Colonists in one year raised £740. Dr. King was appointed first Professor of Divinity, and the Presbyterians of the three Eastern provinces united in their determination to raise a native ministry from among themselves.721
No less energy was shown in other departments, and soon the results began to appear. In the Canadian Synod, instead of the twenty-three ministers of 1844, there were, after four years’ work, seventy ministers in settled congregations, besides a hundred separate missionary stations, and numerous openings for yet further extension. “The Church,” said Dr. Willis, “now numbers seventy ministers; but I am perfectly satisfied that it might soon number three times that, if only we had a due contribution not of money, but of men.”722
More important, however, was the step taken by Dr. Burns when he left his native land, joined the Theological College of Toronto, and threw himself into the work of the Canadian Church. He had long held a prominent position in Scotland as one of the Evangelical party. When the commercial depression of 1816 and 1820 had forced many of the Paisley weavers to emigrate, the cry of not a few of his own former hearers had come to him from the backwoods asking the bread of life. In response to these appeals he had succeeded in instituting the Glasgow Colonial Society already referred to. Ever afterwards the religious interests of these provinces had lain very near his heart; and now, after a long ministry in Paisley, it was an interesting spectacle to see him set forth resolved to spend the last of his days in the work of training young ministers, and consolidating the rising Church of the Colony.
In name of the Colonial Committee Dr. James Buchanan wrote bidding him farewell, and congratulating him on the “central and commanding position” he was to occupy, whence “an evangelical influence might emanate over the whole of Canada.” It was impossible, he said, to over-estimate its importance, and “it is a source of heart-felt satisfaction to us all that one so eminently qualified in point of talent, learning, and piety, has been found willing to devote himself to the work.”
Dr. Burns was far advanced in life, but the vivacity and ardour which he displayed took men by surprise. It is a noble thing, said Dr. Begg, that Dr. Burns has done, leaving his native country at his time of life, settling in a distant land, and working there with such energy and zeal and untiring vigour. “It is in the highest degree honourable.” 723 “I saw twenty-five students under his care.”
As might have been expected the cause of theological education continued to prosper. In one year the Synod collected for their college, £1200. Dr. Willis, of Glasgow, well-known in Scotland as an able theologian, was appointed Principal and Professor. In 1847 the attendance at the Divinity Hall was 37, in 1848 it had increased to 43. The rising generation were giving themselves to the work of the ministry. In 1868, when Dr. Burns addressed the General Assembly at Edinburgh, he was able to state, that about 170 ministers had gone forth from the Divinity Hall in Toronto to join the ranks of the Canadian Church.724
Everywhere among the people there had arisen at that time an eager desire for Gospel ordinances. “I can testify,” says Dr. Begg, “that the Disruption in Scotland sounded like a peal of Gospel truth throughout Canada, and over the whole New World.725 It was one of the most powerful sermons ever preached – a sermon that all parties could understand. A most excellent man in Canada told me – and I know that his words describe the case of many others – ‘Why, Sir,’ said he, ‘the first thing that made me think of Scotland and understand its church was the Disruption.’ It has filled the world and paved the way for the missionaries and ministers of our Church.”
In some cases the warmth of denominational zeal came out very decisively, and as might have been expected it was met with especially among the Highlanders. On a late occasion word had come to one of their settlements that a Gaelic minister was to hold a service forty miles from where they lived, and they set off, some of them carrying their infant children all that distance, along almost impassable roads, but finding on their arrival that it was an Established Church minister who was to officiate, they simply carried their children home again, saying that they would wait for a minister of their own Church.726
But, apart from such denominational feelings, the Presbyterian population all over Canada had been greatly stirred up, and felt deeply the religious impulse of the time. The years which followed their Disruption of 1844 are spoken of as “a period of awakening zeal and quickening spiritual life among the people.” Long afterwards one of the outgoing Canadian ministers remarks, “These were glorious times.” With one voice the deputies from Scotland declared that wherever they went they were received with open arms – men were eager to listen to the Gospel message, and all over the country there was the promise of abundant spiritual fruit. Mr. Macnaughtan from Paisley, indeed, was able to assure the Assembly that there was more than the promise. In Canada East “they can point to special cases of conversion, the fruit of the ministry of every deputy without exception who had visited those parts.”727
Of another district it is said, “The Lord has been pleased to bless the labours of His servants very peculiarly. … A time of refreshing from the presence of the Lord came, and almost at the same time, in different places of that wide-spread district, many came under concern for their souls. The whole aspect of the people was changed, they eagerly hastened to the preaching of the word, old and young together seemed deeply affected. Meetings for prayer sprung up on every side. Family worship begun where it had never been, and men spake often one to another of the things of God. The impression reached over a great extent of country, and eye-witnesses declare that you would scarcely have gone to any part of the whole district without finding ample proof of the remarkable change.”728
The Disruption in Canada was thus a memorable event leading to results which deserve to be gratefully recorded in the religious history of the country.
In the more distant colonies of Australia and New Zealand, the course of events may be more briefly noticed.
At first the Australian Synod, by a majority, resolved to adhere equally to the Scottish Establishment and to the Free Church,729 but finding that this would put them out of connection with both, they resolved to continue in fellowship with the Establishment, and so to retain their Government allowances. When the resolution was come to at Sydney (October, 1846), after a painful discussion extending over three days, there was a Disruption. Three ministers – afterwards joined by a fourth – laid their protest on the table, retired to an upper room, and there, with two adhering elders, formed themselves into the “Synod (Free) of Australia.”730 At the same time Mr. Forbes, of Melbourne, resigned his State connection, and the following year united with Mr. Hunter, late of Launcestown, Mr. Hastie, of Buninyong, and Mr. Gordon, of Adelaide, in forming a second Synod in the south.
They were certainly a small company to lay the foundations of the Free Presbyterian Church in those widely-extended countries, but it was wonderful with what zeal the laity took up the cause.
Of the Disruption ministers from Scotland, the first to land on these shores was Mr. Salmon from Paisley, who went to Sydney. No sooner was his arrival known than he wrote, “I have letters from all parts of the country, and personal calls from settlers urging their necessities and claims on the Free Church. At one place the people are chiefly men of education, and they offer at once to build a manse, and ensure an income of £300 a-year. At another, some wealthy Scotch settlers had previously raised £220 to build in connection with the Establishment, but they at once transferred their contributions to the Free Church, and one of them gave three-quarters of an acre for church and manse with garden, and when I saw it, the peaches, plums, and nectarines were growing luxuriantly.” From yet another place, “The leading man called on me this week. He had built a beautiful little church; the Establishment party expected he would give it them, but he told me he would make it over to the Free Church as soon as we could give him the model-deed.”
Thus the Disruption of the Scottish Church was stirring the hearts of men to the ends of the earth. The only limit to the extension of the Free Church seems to have been the number of men whom she could send out.
It is impossible to trace here the future progress of these Churches. The gold discoveries changed at once the whole aspect of the colonies. Men flocked in thousands to the centre of attraction, and to provide them with the means of grace ten young preachers were sent out in 1853, having at their head two ministers of high, standing, Dr. Cairns of Cupar, and Dr. Mackay of Dunoon.
When Dr. Cairns arrived in Melbourne he was welcomed at a public meeting – one of the largest ever held in the city – and without delay began his work by delivering a powerful address. One who was present proposed that those who were willing should at once meet in the session-room for practical purposes. A crowd followed, a committee was named, and about £900 subscribed. “Next evening we met, and resolved that we should not wait for an iron church, but so soon as a site could be obtained, we would erect a wooden church. This was commenced on the 1st of November, and to-morrow the 20th it is to be opened – that’s Colonial – and a most delightful comfortable church it is, the pulpit covered with blue, and candles all ready for the evening service.” The result was that one of the most important congregations in the colonies was at once formed, and Dr. Cairns entered on a ministry the influence of which was destined to be felt as a power for good in Victoria, and all over Australia. To this we shall afterwards refer.
In Tasmania similar steps had been taken at an earlier period. Dr. Nicolson was one of the men of the Disruption. He resigned, in 1843, the living of Ferry-Port-on-Craig near Dundee, was subsequently invited to form a congregation at Hobart Town; and, on landing, he received a warm welcome from a numerous company of friends. The large hall which had been engaged for public worship, soon became overcrowded. Within sixteen months of his arrival, a handsome church, to contain 750 sitters, was erected. The opening collection amounted to £170; and within a few days almost every sitting was let. “I suspect,” Dr. Nicolson wrote at the time, “few of our friends at home can imagine anything so elegant in this distant land.” Indeed, down to the present day, the tower of his church is one of the leading architectural features of that now flourishing city. Still more gratifying is it to find him in a recent letter (1879) speaking of his long ministry in Hobart Town as “a period of much concord, and, I humbly think, of much spiritual profit.” After referring to the uninterrupted outward success which all along has attended the congregation, he adds: “I am far from taking it for granted that outward prosperity is evidence of spiritual prosperity, but it is to be gratefully acknowledged that there have been many encouraging evidences of spiritual good as the result of our labours. On a calm review of all the circumstances of my ministerial life since the exciting times of the Disruption, I feel warranted to say, with thankful and adoring praise: “What hath the Lord wrought! “
In New Zealand there was something still more remarkable in the course of events. The civil authorities had resolved to try a system of “Class Colonies.” The Episcopalians were to have the Province of Canterbury, with the town of Christchurch, all to themselves, while the Province of Otago was made over to the Presbyterians, and put into the hands of the Free Church. A body of emigrants, accordingly, from the Presbyterian Churches of Scotland sailed from the Clyde, having at their head one of the Disruption ministers, who had resigned the parish of Monkton, Mr. Burns already referred to, the nephew of the great poet. In March, 1848, they reached Otago, on a Saturday afternoon, landed at Dunedin, and next day, at twelve o’clock, began those religious services which ever since have been regularly observed. The first six years were a time of severe toil, but Mr. Burns was the right man in the right place, caring faithfully for the settlers in their religious interests, and ready to counsel and aid them in all the affairs of colonial life. Dunedin was his headquarters; but as the population spread, he dispensed religious ordinances among the outlying settlements. Dr. Nicolson, on his way to Hobart Town in 1851, stayed two months with him, and has described the work: “Dunedin, now (1879) a fine city, consisted only of a few wooden cottages erected amongst the native flax. Among the interesting incidents of my residence there, was a visit to the Taieri Plain, then a great open and nearly uninhabited expanse. The only human habitations were two sheep stations, about five miles apart. I was accompanied by three guides, all of us on horseback, and reached the first station on a Saturday afternoon. The station consisted of a single tent of one apartment. There we remained for the night, and next morning proceeded to the other station, to which notice had been previously sent to have all their people collected for a religious service. We made up a congregation of thirteen persons, to whom I preached the Gospel. This may reasonably be reckoned the first time the Gospel had been preached in that region. That place, then a wilderness, has now a thriving population and two Presbyterian churches.”
It was in 1854 that Mr. Burns was joined by two fellow-labourers – Messrs. Will and Bannerman – a Presbytery was constituted, the affairs of the Church took shape, and its subsequent history has been one of steady advancement. At last in 1866 a Synod was formed, and Dr. Burns – the honorary degree of D.D. having been conferred on him by the University of Edinburgh – in delivering the opening address, briefly sketched the progress which had been made.
That day, he declared, was the consummation of the leading aim of the last twenty-two years of his life. The first year after their arrival, the population of the Province of Otago had been 444. In 1864 there was a population of 57,104. For six years he had stood alone, the solitary minister of religion; now he saw around him a whole Synod of brethren, consisting of three Presbyteries. They had been conducting an experiment full of interest – the transplanting of an entire section of the home Presbyterianism of Scotland into a new country. He had seen it done – had seen the settlers, with little or no capital, and no resources but the indomitable perseverance of their own Scottish hearts, and the sturdy strokes of their own brawny Scottish arms, turn the wilderness into a fruitful field. And all the time they had never relaxed in the higher task of making provision for the ordinances of religion and the education of the young.731 As the population of Dunedin increased, strangers had come in, yet the stillness of the Sabbath, and their churches filled with earnest hearers, were the subject of remark by visitors from neighbouring colonies.
“Fathers and brethren,” he said in closing, “let it be our part, through the grace of God, to realise to our own hearts the grandeur of that work to which, in God’s providence, we have been called in these utmost parts of the earth, to bear our testimony in behalf of the whole circle of Divine truth in its integrity, and of Christian worship in its purity, for the glory of God and the advancement of undefiled religion.”
The rapid view which we have thus taken of the colonial field may give some idea of what the Free Church had to do in this department of her work. The story of the Disruption with its details of trial and self-sacrifice, seems fairly to have touched the hearts of Scotchmen all over the world, awakening the memories of former days, and calling forth their desires after a higher life. From all lands they were stretching forth their hands to the Free Church, the Church of their fathers, asking her aid. Never since the days of the Apostles did any Church have greater opportunities. The colonies of Great Britain encircle the earth – the outlying portions of that empire on which the sun never sets – and all over these regions there were doors of usefulness set open, and men eagerly pleading for help. No one could look at such a spectacle without the feeling of solemn responsibility. These colonies were infant kingdoms, the empires of the future, and on their religious condition must depend the destinies, for time and eternity, of millions yet unborn. It was to the Free Church of Scotland many of their people were looking.
Dr. John Bonar, formerly of Larbert, was set apart to take charge of the colonial work, a man singularly fitted for his position, whose name is destined to be held in grateful remembrance in many a home of these distant lands. As years went on, the demands of the colonists and the efforts of the Church increased, but to show what was done it may be enough to take the statement of 1849: “This year,” the report runs, “we have administered funds to the extent of £6000, and have found the money little enough to carry forward the work that has come to our hand. In the course of these few years we have been able to send upwards of sixty labourers to the Colonial field, and to lend for a longer or shorter time nearly fifty more. We have seen the Church of Canada, under our fostering help, double its numbers, and again hastening to do the same. We have seen different portions of the field blessed with times of special refreshing. … We have seen one college rising in the far West, and promising soon to equal those from which it sprang. We have seen a second ready to follow its onward path, and we have seen preparations making for a third, in a yet more distant country.”732
The trials and toils, however, of colonial work will be best understood by attending to the actual experience of those who were engaged in it. To show how laborious the struggle often was, it may be enough if we take the account which Dr. Cairns of Melbourne gives of what had to be done on his arrival.
His parting from Scotland had been a trial. “It is with peculiar pain,” he had said in the General Assembly, “that I take leave, as I must now do, of the Free Church – the Church of my heart, my affections, and my hopes – the Church of my country and my God.” It was a sacrifice, but at the call of duty it was unreservedly made.
On reaching Melbourne we have seen how he threw himself into the work of his congregation. The Synod to which he belonged at once put much of its most important business into his hands. “I was immediately appointed,” he says, “Convener of the Committees on Union; on Education; on the Scotch College; on an incipient Divinity Hall; and, in addition, I had to join in promoting the Benevolent Institutions in Melbourne, while busy with my work as minister of Chalmers’ Church. The labour was heavy, and the effect after a time disastrous. For twelve years my ‘rest’ was about four hours out of the twenty-four. In December, 1864, my old complaint returned, my nervous system gave way, and ever since I have been half an invalid, and now and then, a whole one.”733
But all this was not in vain. “By his marked strength and individuality of character, he succeeded in rapidly bringing about a great change in the prospects of his Church in Victoria. His eloquence and earnestness soon won him a large congregation. Mainly by his efforts the Union of the Presbyterian bodies was effected – the Scotch College was built and carried on – provision for education made – young men trained for the ministry – and much other important work done for the social, religious, and intellectual advancement of the colony.734
When health broke down, his congregation arranged for his returning to Scotland, and taking rest for a year, his brethren volunteering with one consent to take charge of his pulpit.
He appeared in the General Assembly where his speech produced a deep impression. The following extracts will enable the reader, better than anything else, to judge of his work and its results.
“After a long and interesting voyage, which has refreshed me not a little, I am here to my own surprise. Edinburgh seems to me more beautiful than ever. I have seen a little of her surroundings, and her manifold improvements have filled me with admiration. Edinburgh is a delectable city, the queen of cities. And this Assembly Hall is a new thing to me. I had heard of it, but now I see it. It is elegant, commodious, comfortable. It speaks of your progress, and is, I hope, the symbol of your stability. But my affections go back to good old Canonmills, and that famous hall which God did Himself provide for His faithful witnesses in the memorable day of the Disruption.
“Twelve years have rolled away since I bade you farewell. I went with your Commission, in the very height of the prodigious stream of emigration, to Victoria, consequent on the discovery of the gold-fields, to do what I could to provide for the spiritual wants of our people, and to co-operate with others in building up our Presbyterian cause in that far distant land. I have now returned as it were to report progress – to tell how your Commission has fared in the hands of those to whom it was confided. Well, I have seen many strange and many wonderful things, I have seen a city, little better than a collection of hovels built of brick, of wood, of zinc, of corrugated iron, of canvas, of lath and plaster, of wattle and daub, rise and expand into the form and dimensions, with something of the beauty and something of the splendour, of a magnificent metropolis. I have seen a state of social anarchy and utter confusion give place to one of order and comfort – the certain proof of a thriving and, I hope, upon the whole, a very promising young commonwealth. I have seen a population of 70,000 or 80,000 multiplied eight times. I have seen a country, whose only roads were bush-tracts, intersected with railways of admirable construction. I have witnessed also the origin and development of those philanthropic institutions which attend the progress of Christian civilisation; hospitals for the sick and maimed; refuges for the destitute and helpless; asylums for the orphan and stranger, the deaf and dumb, &c. I have assisted at the setting up and establishing of a system of common schools, which has ripened into a liberally supported educational system, almost commensurate with the necessities of the population. Alongside of this national scheme for the education of all, there are well-appointed and ably conducted grammar schools, of which the most popular and most prosperous is our own Scotch College, under the efficient management of Mr. Morrison. And this educational edifice is crowned, as it ought to be, with a university built at great cost, with a competent staff of professors, with ample means and very considerable pretensions. But more interesting to this audience will be an account of our religious operations. Twelve years ago there were in the colony just fourteen Presbyterian members of all sections. These were divided amongst themselves, weakened each other’s hands, and embarrassed each other’s movements. Now the Presbyterian Church of Victoria, the United Church, consists of ninety-four ministers, ordained and settled in charges, together with ten at the disposal of our Home Mission and eligible for calls, and two missionaries – one to the Chinese and one to the Aborigines. The word ‘charge’ has a more extensive meaning with us than with you. Here it signifies a single congregation, the cure of souls of one minister. We have similar charges in the colony. In our towns, generally speaking, our ministers are pastors of single congregations. But our towns are few in number, and outside of them in the Bush, as we call the country, the charge assigned to one minister includes a district often as large as the bounds of one of your Presbyteries. Within these limits he is not simply the pastor of a flock, but a planter of churches. His office is more that of an apostolic missionary than of an ordinary minister. He is the originator and fosterer of two, or three, or many congregations; and when fit for the work, and earnestly devoted to it, he sees the promise fulfilled as the fruit of his own labours, ‘the wilderness and the solitary place made glad, and the desert to rejoice and blossom as the rose.'”
Such was the work to which Dr. Cairns invited his younger brethren. But not for a moment did he conceal the sacrifice of natural feeling which it demanded. The tear was in his eye, and in the eyes of many around him, as he told the Assembly how no distance of time or place could weaken the love he bore to his native land. “O happy Scotland, highly favoured of God! No country can compare with thee, either as to the riches of Gospel privileges, or of names that are so many towers of strength. Let no one suppose that lapse of time or remoteness of position has cooled or tended to cool the ardour of my devotion to my native land. No, Scotland is dearer to me than ever. I love every feature of her countenance, every line and nook and point of her varied and beautiful scenery. Dear to me are her mountains and hills, her glens and straths, her lochs and rivers, her mossy waters and wimpling burns, her bonny haughs and heathery braes; dear to me are the voices of her nature, the song of her birds and the murmur of her streams. … But immeasurably dearer is Scotland to me for her noble army of martyrs and confessors – from Hamilton, from Wishart, from him of the lion heart and the eagle eye, the fervent, the sagacious, the prophetic, the indomitable Knox, down through a long and illustrious succession of burning and shining lights of whom the world was not worthy; to him, in many respects, the brightest of them all, the champion of all righteousness and goodness and truth – that tongue of fire, that old man eloquent, the beneficent, the gracious, the incomparable Chalmers. To these men of God and their associates, to their sanctified wisdom, to their self-denying lives, to their wrestling prayers, Scotland is indebted for her marvellous prosperity, for her peerless and imperishable renown. In that far-off region of the earth from which I have come to visit you, I have often experienced the agony of home sickness, a vehement craving for my native country. At times nature has reasserted her former sway. Feeling has broken loose in a tide of emotion that has quite overwhelmed me. Busy memory has recalled some fondly loved face or form, some dear friends or happy scenes, or perhaps some line or verse of a ballad has haunted me like a fairy.
“’Oh! why left I my hame? Why did I cross the deep?
Why left I the land where my forefathers sleep?
I sigh for Scotia’s shore, and I gaze across the sea;
But I canna get a blink o’ my ain countrie.’
“But truth is stronger and better than sentiment, and the love of Christ is at once sweeter and more constraining than any tie or sympathy of nature. My choice is Australia; my deliberate choice is Australia. I will soon go back never to return, with no wish to return, because I believe such is the will of the Lord. There He hath appointed me to labour for Him. There is the sphere of my ministry, the home of my children, and by-and-by in its soil this anxious body will find a quiet tomb. In that sunny land I expect and wish to spend the remainder of my days in serving the Lord as He shall enable me, and as a fellow-worker with others in opening up and preparing the way for the coming of the great King, to take possession of His own, for the ends of the earth are His by the promise of the eternal covenant. Bind Thy sword upon Thy thigh Thou most Mighty, with Thy Glory and Thy Majesty; and ride on, ride on prosperously, because of truth, and meekness, and righteousness.”735
Dr. Candlish is hopeful
Ministers and Congregations multiplied
Table showing the advance
While the Free Church was thus doing her work at the ends of the earth, she was receiving accessions to her strength in Scotland, and it may be interesting to compare these Colonial experiences with what was taking place about the same time in the midst of our home population. The steady increase in the number of adhering congregations and ministers is one of the most remarkable facts in the Church’s history.
We have already seen how from the first the number of the outgoing ministers was far greater than the world had expected. Some additional indications of this may be given; they meet us in many different quarters.
“The venerable Principal of one of our Universities,” says Mr. Cowan (formerly M.P. for Edinburgh), “whose deep sepulchral voice I well remember in the Assembly, thirty-five years ago sounded like that of an oracle, was said to have replied to the question put by Government as to the extent of the impending exodus – ‘Five must, ten may, but twenty never!'”736
The biographer of Dr. Cunningham states: “One gentlemanly Moderate known to me, and still alive (1871), declared from the pulpit in the public service on the Sabbath day, in a populous burgh town, that he would eat all the ministers who came out.”737
Another of the brethren in a rural parish expressed a similar resolution: “I’ll eat a’ that come oot.” “When this boast,” Mr. Cowan states, “was mentioned to Dr. Chalmers a few days before the Disruption, he laughed most heartily, and sent a message through me to the rev. gentleman to congratulate him on the prospect of a plentiful meal. On the day of the Disruption I walked down to Holyrood, having frequently in former years attended the levees of Her Majesty’s Commissioners as I have done since; but on this occasion, in view of the cruel robbery about to be inflicted by the Government upon the Church and the people of Scotland, I had not the heart to enter the ancient palace, but turned my back upon it and walked slowly and sadly up the Canongate. When at the Tron Church, which was open, I met the rev. gentleman, above referred to, and in the porch delivered to him Dr. Chalmers’ congratulatory message, his reply was: ‘Did I really say that? I dinna mind, but it’s very like me. But I hope I’m no bund to eat them a’ at aince.'”738
When ministers spoke thus of their brother ministers, it is no wonder if the laity were equally incredulous.
Dr. Burns of Kilsyth refers to the factor who acted for a leading proprietor in the parish. He “had often said that when it came to the point, few, excepting the noted men in Edinburgh, would give up their situations, to whom from their popularity it would be a small sacrifice, although he did the writer the justice or the honour of allowing that he would very likely go out after what he had heard him say. The teacher of the school adjacent to the factor’s dwelling had conversed with him frequently on the subject, and on the evening of the Disruption was invited to come over next morning when the letters and newspapers should arrive so as to get the earliest news. While Mr. _____ was opening his letters he threw the Herald to Mr. Towers, and in a few moments after asked, ‘Well, what about the ministers?’ When Mr. T. gave him the intelligence he said not a word, but his visage told how strange and how strong were the emotions produced.”739
In Sutherland, Mr. Mackenzie of Farr describes a similar scene between two neighbouring country gentlemen, one favourable, and the other opposed to the Free Church. The latter had been accustomed to say: “Wait till it comes to the test, and these Convocation ministers will find a loophole to get through, so as to hold their livings.” On the day when the news was expected to arrive, this gentleman was entertaining his friend at dinner; and when the papers came in conveying the intelligence, he “was quite astounded” on looking over the list, and asked the other, “You always said this would be the case—what was your ground for believing it?” “I believed it,” was the reply, “because I believed the Convocation ministers to be honest men.”
But while the first aspect which the Free Church presented was thus far beyond what men had looked for, yet many of the opponents clung to the idea that it was only a temporary outburst of hot zeal, and would soon cool down; and that as the men of the Disruption died out, the Church would soon dwindle into feebleness, and lose her hold of the people. Not such were the anticipations of her leading men. Dr. Candlish, at Glasgow, five months after the Disruption, was forecasting what the position of the Free Church should be at the end of the first year’s experience of her disestablished position. “I trust that by next May the Church will exhibit to the country and the world the aspect of a settled and confirmed institute, and that we shall proceed to the discharge of our business as if we had met with no interruption. The connexion of the Church with the State is to be viewed as a comparatively accidental circumstance. The essence of a Church consists in her relation to her Great Head; … and it will be a noble spectacle which, under God, the Free Church may exhibit to all Christendom, when it is seen that she has sustained the shock of separation from the State without staggering under the blow—that she has gone on, majestically I would almost say, under the guidance of her Great Head, on her own straightforward course, and after the lapse of a brief year she is found in all her order and regularity, without State support, as regularly and effectually working as when she enjoyed the smiles of the great.”740
To a large extent these anticipations were realised. But there remained the question of Church extension on the part of the Free Church. She would never rest satisfied, it was declared, until she had planted a church in every district of Scotland, “and completely re-established by the voluntary contributions of the people what was recently the Established Church of Scotland.”741
In 1867 Dr. R. Buchanan looks back to 1843, and marks the position of the Church “after nearly a quarter of a century has passed away.” It would “tax the powers of some future Church historian to sum up and describe the results” which had been attained – “nearly a thousand churches built, and almost as many manses and schools; nearly a thousand congregations formed, and as many ministers and missionaries sustained all over the length and breadth of the land; in a word, the whole equipment of a Christian Church set up and provided for, with its theological halls for the training of candidates for the ministry, its missions to the heathen and to the Jew, and to our own expatriated countrymen in every quarter of the world. In view of all this, not we ourselves only, but onlookers outside of us, have been constrained to say – What hath God wrought!”742
Thus it was in 1867. In the following table, however, the reader will see at a glance how the Church has been strengthening her position – how the number of her congregations and of her ordained ministers has gone on progressively advancing at every stage of her history since 1843.
Table showing the Progressive Increase of Ordained Ministers in the Free Church.
Year No. of Ministers
Average during the first five years 647
Average during the second five years 733
Average during the third five years 795
Average during the fourth five years 857
Average during the fifth five years 907
Average during the sixth five years 952
Average during the seventh five years 1024
It should be explained that a few invalided ministers, who have retired from active duty, are included in these lists, but they do not materially affect the results. Thus in 1879 there were 1094 ministers on the list, of whom 54 were invalided, leaving 1040 in active service. A similar proportion will be found in the previous years.
The Disruption in Glenisla
Narrative of Events in the Glen A Strong Free Church formed
Thus steadily was the Church going forward to occupy the field which had been marked out for her in Scotland. As one example of how this was done, we may refer to what took place at Glenisla, a retired country district among the mountains of Forfarshire.
At one time the parish had enjoyed the services of Mr. Martin, one of the most gifted and devoted ministers in the Church. He was afterwards translated to Edinburgh, and died minister of St. George’s, where he succeeded Dr. Andrew Thomson, and preceded Dr. Candlish. “The fruits of his ministry,” it is said, “remain unto this day (1881) in Glenisla.”743
In the Glen there were several estates, the proprietors of which resided on their own lands, and had great influence among the people. One of those gentlemen, Mr. McKenzie of Alrick, an elder of the Church, has given a narrative which enables us clearly to follow the course of events, and of this we shall freely avail ourselves in a form somewhat condensed.
The conflict which ended in 1843, Mr. McKenzie states, was unknown and uncared for in their quiet glen. They were like the men of Laish, living quiet and secure, among the fastnesses of their Grampian mountains, and not wishing that the troublers of Israel should come among them.
There was a man among us, he goes on to tell, who “was like to lose the sight of one of his eyes. He had heard of a Dr. Irving, somewhere near Moulin, and asked a friend to accompany him to this eye doctor, for it was reported that he had cured many, and could restore sight to those who were nearly blind. Well, on the 10th of May, 1840, these two friends set out, over hill and dale, on their way to the famous oculist – one of them nearly blind of an eye, and both of them mentally blind as to Church matters; but they got a little light before they came home. They found the doctor, got the prescription, stayed all night as it was late; and on their way home next day, as they came through Kirkmichael, who should be standing on the street but Mr. Drummond, the minister. They both knew him, and often heard him preach in his own church on sacramental occasions, and they both liked him well, as a good preacher. He frankly spoke to them, and among other things asked about Church matters in their parish. They told him they took no interest in these things, that they thought these contendings did much hurt to religion, and let him know that in their glen they stood neutral. He rather sharply said, ‘What sort of men are you, to take no interest in matters like these?’ for he was a man of hasty temper. He told us there could be no neutrality, and ‘what are you, but Judases and traitors to act in this manner?’ He asked if there had been no public meetings in their parish, and they told him there had been none. They both made for going on their way, for they did not wish to anger the minister, nor yet to dispute with him. However, he said, ‘Come into the manse with me, and I will tell you something about these things, and if you will be ruled by me, I will give you some directions how to do when you go home.’ They followed him into the manse, and he took them into a large room and shut the door, and then he gave them a long lecture on the evils of patronage, the harm it had done, and how many gross intrusions had taken place under it. He also told them that matters had come to a crisis, and that now either the Church must submit to have the Government and Court of Session for its head, or renounce its connection with the State. For himself, his mind was made up, and that he would rather leave manse, stipend, and glebe, and preach on the hill sides, as our forefathers had done, than betray the Church. He walked from side to side of his room in great agitation, till his cloak had nearly fallen from his shoulders, while they sat silently listening, never venturing to speak or contradict. Indeed, they saw so much good reason in what he said, that they both felt inclined to cast in their lot with the good man. He, seeing he had so far gained his point with them, said, ‘I will tell you what you must do. I will get you two petitions, and you will first go to your minister and get him, if possible, to sign them first. But, as you have never heard from him about these matters, it is likely he will be of the opposite side. However, do not lose your temper with your minister, but tell him plainly that you see matters in a different light than he does, and go through the whole parish, and get the petitions as numerously signed as possible, and sent up to Parliament.’ They told him they had no objections to do what he said, provided their own minister was agreeable, but they did not like to do anything in opposition to him, for they were sure it would breed much sore feeling and division.”
How the minister opposed and resisted this movement is fully told, and how they, on the other hand, with Scottish pertinacity, carried out what they had once begun.
Fuller information soon began to reach the glen, and among other things, they had a visit from Mr. McCheyne. Several years before, some of the people had gone to Dundee and urged him to come to preach in Glenisla – a request which he was obliged to decline, knowing that the parish minister would be hostile. In the beginning of 1843, however, he unexpectedly made his appearance; and when he came into the parish, he said that he felt as if he stood on consecrated ground – it was the place where Mr. Martin had laboured. Application was made to the parish minister for the use of the church on a week-day, that Mr. McCheyne might preach to the people. As Mr. Watt stood at the manse door, however, he said, “Well, I’ll be very candid with you; he shall never preach in my pulpit.” Again the church was asked for, as a great favour, with the assurance that no discussion would take place, and that only a sermon would be preached. He replied, “Mr. McCheyne had plenty of work to do in Dundee, without raising divisions in quiet parishes.” This refusal was felt to be a great disappointment, after Mr. McCheyne had come so far, in such cold and stormy weather, on the 10th of January, 1843. He had, however, to be told, that “we could not get the church for him, and, at the same time, we stated that we were exceedingly sorry at these divisions, as we feared they might do much hurt. He said in reply, ‘These are the best things that have happened in our day,’ and that he believed they would do much good. He let us know that there was nothing to be looked for but a breaking up of Church and State; and, he added, ‘the next time I come to Glenisla, I will preach in the open air, and we will see who will join our new church.’ While we were thus talking a man came into the room, and he said to him in a very solemn manner: ‘Well, what do you think of yourself?’ The man said: ‘I think I am a stony-ground hearer;’ and oh! can we ever forget with what a solemn look and manner he addressed him, and warned him of his danger’ The neighbouring church at Lintrathen was then got, where Mr. McCheyne preached to a crowded congregation from the words: ‘Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.’ This was among the last journeys of Mr. McCheyne. He died soon after, and we never saw him more. Some among us had got their eyes opened to see what was impending over the Church, and were alarmed at what might be the result; but felt inclined to cast in our lot with those whom we believed to be faithful ministers, whatever the consequences might be.”
In the month of May following, Mr. G. Brown, afterwards of Castle-Douglas, a deputy from the Committee of Convocation, appeared, and held a public meeting in the glen, but his statements seem to have been stronger than the people were prepared for. It was putting new wine, Mr. McKenzie says, into old bottles. At an adjourned meeting, only six gave in their names as adherents – Messrs. John McKenzie, John Donald, James Cargill, John Grant, William Gellatly, and John Stewart, – a very small beginning for a church and congregation.
While these things were going on, “we heard that the Disruption had taken place; and now we were at a dead stand. To go back to the Established Church we would not, and we had nowhere else to go. John Grant had a child to baptise, and a note was written to the Rev. Mr. Macdonald of Blairgowrie, informing him of the state of matters, and asking him if he would come to our glen to advise with us and preach, and to baptise the child. Some of us had heard him, and most of us had heard of him, as his fame was spread far and wide. He let us know that he would come, and desired intimation to be made. We were all lifted up with the thought that he was to come, and there was a great out-turn of the people to hear him. After singing and prayer, he read out the text (Acts 8:1-4): ‘At that time there was a great persecution, … therefore they that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the Word.’ Those of us who had given our names were thrilled with joy when we heard the text read out. Long as we had wished the people of Glenisla to hear that man of God, Mr. McCheyne, and much as we were disappointed, now beyond our expectations Mr. Macdonald had come to meet them face to face, and was to preach to them. It was a calm summer evening, about the 4th of June, we were full of the highest hopes that it would be a night to be remembered, and we were not disappointed. He told us, among other things, that had it not been for the persecution of Jerusalem, the apostles and believers did not seem to have had any desire to separate, but that the persecution spread them all abroad. God overruled the wrath of man for good. He had no doubt that the Disruption of the Church of Scotland would be overruled for good to many a dark place in the land. He encouraged those who had given in their names, and exhorted all to acknowledge Christ as Head of the Church, both by word and deed. We asked where we should go to church now, and what we had to do. We offered a site for a church and manse, and three or four acres of ground for a glebe, if only we could get a minister. Mr. Macdonald said, ‘We will go over to Mr. Ferguson at Drumfork, and see what number of adherents are there.’ After consultation, it was arranged that a station should be opened at Cray, to suit Glenisla, Blackwater, and Glenshee. Mr. Macdonald did us much good by this visit. He was dearly loved by all the people, and he promised to befriend us every way in his power, advising us to get as many adherents as possible. The more adherents we had, there was the better chance of our speedily getting a minister.
“While these things were going on amongst us, we heard that Mr. Brown, who came to us at the first, had gone to visit Kirkmichael, and asked Mr. Drummond’s permission to hold a meeting in his church. This was granted on condition that Mr. Drummond should have a right to reply. Accordingly, after Mr. Brown’s address, Mr. Drummond arose, and forbade the hearers giving their adherence to the Free Church. There was an angry discussion, which had, no doubt, a bad effect upon many. However, a good number gave in their names, and left their minister, who had been their leader in the Non-Intrusion question, but now, in the time of need, had deserted them. We, in our glen, when we heard of these things, wished very much to see him again, to hear what he would say for himself. He had called us Judases and traitors for not taking any active hand in the beginning of the struggle; but now in the day of battle he himself had faintly turned back. ‘Let him who thinketh he standeth, take heed lest he fall.’ Mr. Brown called upon us again, and told us what a strange man Mr. Drummond was; that after all their disputings in the church, he took him into the manse and lodged him all night, and was kind and courteous. Our own minister did not fail to tell us of Mr. Drummond, in whom we had so much confidence, and so rashly followed his advice, how he had given us the slip himself in the time of need. Notwithstanding all this, we were convinced from the Word that the people had the right to choose their own minister. The only thing we regretted was, we had so few adherents, and that Cray was too far from us, and that the distance would be a great barrier to many joining us.
“Soon after this, there were some devoted, faithful ministers who made their appearance in the glen – viz., Messrs. Bain, Edgar, Brown, and others. They preached for the most part in the open air, when the weather permitted, for the people flocked to hear them, and we could get no house that would hold the congregation. Mr. Bain was dearly loved by all who heard him, but he had got a call to Coupar-Angus before we were in circumstances to have a minister. Mr. W. Brown was appointed for a number of weeks to labour amongst us. He was not so popular as a preacher, but a most devoted, prayerful man, best loved by those who were most intimately acquainted with him.”
The sacrament was dispensed at the barn in Cray, when Mr. Macdonald, Mr. Gillies, and Mr. Bonar from Collace assisted, much to the delight and edification of the people who flocked together, and those that the barn could not contain stood in the open air. James Cargill, one of the six who first gave in their names in Glenisla, called upon Mr. Watt, the parish minister, for a certificate in order to communicate at Cray, and was duly furnished with it. In the evening, however, the minister thought better of it, and sent David Clark, the minister’s-man, to demand it back, with a letter to Mr. Cargill’s father, stating that upon further reflection he was convinced he did wrong in giving his countenance to any one to join with those who have separated from the Church of their forefathers “without any sufficient reason that I can see, and I think I am conscientious. I hope, therefore, you will give back the certificate to the bearer.” A few sentences from Mr. Cargill’s reply may be quoted as showing the intelligence of these humble parishioners. “We have returned the certificate, according to your request, but we wonder much to hear you say, that you see no reason for leaving what you term the Church of our forefathers. We think we are only clinging to the Church of our forefathers, the Church of the Reformation, the Church which the Covenanters, Richard Cameron, Donald Cargill, Renwick, and others suffered and shed their blood for. Was it not for this one point they suffered, that Christ is the Head of the Church, and not the King nor Court of Session? and we hope you will give us credit when we say, that we also think ourselves conscientious in leaving the Established Church now, and joining ourselves with those who are at liberty to legislate for themselves, without any interference from the civil rulers, rather than submit to Lord Aberdeen’s Act, as the Established Church has now done.”
While matters were thus going on at Cray, “we were not idle at Glenisla. We fitted up, as a place of worship, a large empty house, and we got forms made, and a pulpit placed, and stipulated to have a sermon once in three weeks, if not once a fortnight. Mr. Brown often came over in the afternoon, after preaching in Glenshee, but few adherents came to him, so we felt very discouraged and disheartened. We were few in number – about a score – we were laughed at by the opposite party, called ‘Nons’ and rebels, rebelling against the law of the land. Nevertheless, we heeded not, but went to Cray regularly, and had sermon in our own glen occasionally. Matters went on in this way for four or five years, and both parties had settled down.”
About that time, however, a circumstance occurred which changed the whole aspect of affairs. A vacancy took place in the parish church, and various movements were made by the parishioners to get the man of their choice. At first there were some hopes of success, but ultimately they were disappointed.
So long as the vacancy lasted, there was preaching in the parish church only on alternate Sabbaths. The Free Church adherents applied to their presbytery for a supply on the intervening Sabbaths, which was accordingly granted. The first who was appointed to come was Mr. Bain from Coupar-Angus. “There was a great out-turn, so that our large house was for the first time filled to overflow. Mr. Bain did not come, something having occurred to prevent him, but he sent Mr. Ross of Rattray: the people were highly delighted, and intimation was given at the close of the sermon, as usual, that there would be a similar service that day fortnight. Mr. White of Airlie came, and although we did not know who would come next, we yet – as the people had turned out so well both days – took it upon ourselves to intimate that a similar service would be held that day fortnight. This continued all the time that the church was vacant. Messrs. Stewart of Kirkmichael, Bain, Macdonald, and Ferguson from Alyth, all came in regular succession, and our place of worship could not nearly contain the numbers that attended.”
On one occasion it had been announced that Mr. Macdonald of Blairgowrie was coming to preach. It happened to be an uncommonly stormy north wind, but the news of Mr. Macdonald’s coming, had brought together a very great multitude. “We were at a loss to know what to do. At last, we thought of going to the best sheltered part of the wood. We erected a tent and tied it to trees, so that it might not be overturned. For a time there was no appearance of the minister. He had gone round by Cray, and had been detained. We were glad when we saw him coming, and we saw also Mr. Rattray of Brewlands, one of the leading heritors, and Mrs. Rattray coming across the fields. Mr. Macdonald was a little beyond the time, and there was a very large congregation waiting him. It was very solemn to hear the voice of psalms rising from so many voices, mingling with the sound of the wind, among the tops of the trees, which brought forcibly to mind the words of the Lord: “When thou hearest the sound of a going on the tops of the mulberry trees, then thou shalt bestir thyself, for then shall the Lord go out before thee, to smite the host of the Philistines.” When he rose to prayer, he prayed that the wind might be stayed, and it was observed in a little it had greatly subsided, and before he had finished the sermon it was almost a calm. He gave out for text Luke 7, and read from the 36th verse. This was a great day amongst us – one of the days of the Son of Man – a day which some among us will never forget. The people had come with great expectations, and they were not disappointed.”
Another circumstance now occurred which had important results. The members of the Establishment had expected to be consulted as to the minister to be settled among them, when suddenly, without the least warning, an announcement appeared in the newspaper that Mr. Gibb had got the presentation, a man whom they had never seen nor heard of. “How the people were astounded at this. Two of the proprietors, Mr. Rattray, and Mr. Spalding of Broomhall, another of the leading Heritors, were determined not to submit to be used in this manner. They knew nothing about the man, nor could ascertain what kind of preacher he was, but they found out that he was a man far advanced in years, and so was unfit for a large Highland parish. Almost all the people were roused to a pitch of indignation. Mr. Spalding wrote out a petition to be laid before the Presbytery, objecting to his being settled; and as it was signed by a great majority of the people, they expected to be able to prevent the settlement.”
The narrative of what took place, given by Mr. McKenzie, deserves notice, as illustrating the way in which Lord Aberdeen’s Act was wrought at the time.
“The day came when Mr. Gibb had to make his personal appearance in the parish church. A very crowded congregation assembled to see and hear a man about whom so much had been said and done. The seats and passages of the church were filled up. Well, the rev. gentleman at last made his appearance, and came into the church – a tall, stout man, of majestic appearance, like Saul among the people, head and shoulders above most of them, and something determined-like in his aspect. If his first appearance were anything like a criterion to judge by, his opposers might at once be led to conclude that they had to contend with one who knew his rights and would have them – a man who understood better than any of them the liberties of Lord Aberdeen’s Act; liberty for him to come and be their minister at all hazards, and liberty for them to grumble and leave the church if they chose.
“There was no one, in a friendly way, to show him to the pulpit, but he was a man of firm nerve, and did not seem to care, and made his way to it through the people. He read his lecture and sermon closely, in a formal, business-like manner, and did not at all give satisfaction.
“The day came at last for the moderation of the call, and Mr. Gibb preached from these words: ‘I am not come to destroy the law, but to fulfil it,’ which were thought very appropriate. After sermon, the Moderator of the Presbytery went up to the pulpit, and called on heritors, elders, and parishioners to come forward and sign Mr. Gibb’s call, but there was no response made by the people. A second announcement was then made, with the same result, except a sullen look of opposition, and a smile from one to another among the people. A third call was made, when two persons rose from their seats and signed – namely, Mr. James Stewart, gamekeeper, Tulchan; and one of the elders, Mr. William McNicoll, who came forward, and with trembling hand, which all could see, appended his name. Not one more could be prevailed upon, notwithstanding calls and entreaties; and it was announced from the pulpit that the call was left for some days with the schoolmaster for the purpose of getting additional signatures.”
The attempt to arrest the settlement of the presentee was not successful. Mr. Gibb, and a large number of the objectors, met face to face at an adjourned meeting of Presbytery held at Meigle, when a disagreeable discussion took place, which served to convince the parishioners that they had little chance of gaining their object, and they set themselves to consider what should be done.
About that time, Mr. Stewart from Kirkmichael “came to preach in the usual place of meeting, which could not nearly contain the people, and they had just to go to the wood again. It was a cold day, but dry, and the people sat upon the ground all round about. He preached twice from the words: ‘The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and ye are not saved.’ It was a very alarming sermon. This was another of our great days among us. Many felt deeply solemnised, and the text, and the spot, and the tree under which he stood, are hallowed in the remembrance of many to the present day. … When they pass the place, the people will say one to another: ‘Here is the tree where Mr. Stewart stood when he preached yon terrible sermon;’ and then the text is repeated.”
Immediately afterwards, a public notice appeared, summoning a meeting of the objectors, and of the whole of the inhabitants, to be held in the school at Glenisla, on Thursday, 4th May, 1849. “There was a large assemblage, many coming from a distance, as Glenisla matters were much noised abroad. The first thing was to vote Mr. Spalding, one of the proprietors, into the chair, but he declined, as he was of a mind to take part in the discussion, which he could not so well do were he chairman. Mr. Thomas Farquharson, farmer, Coldside, was then appointed. Mr. Spalding stood up, and began showing the evils of patronage, saying it was unscriptural, and had been a great evil from first to last, having caused all the divisions and disruptions of the Church – the Secession, Relief, and Free Church. He produced evidence of what he said, and then went on to show that as gross an intrusion was about to be perpetrated in that parish as ever had taken place, that the call of the people was a farce and a mockery; that only two among them were got to sign Mr. Gibb’s call, while so many objected to his settlement; and yet, so far as any one could see, he would be settled. In such a state of things, it would be far better to leave the Established Church at once, than go up to Synod and Assembly, with a great deal of trouble and expense, besides making a fool of themselves. His mind was made up to leave the Established Church, and it was a matter of consideration with what body they should join. He thought the minority should go in with the majority, and let no more divisions be among them. It would be very little trouble to himself to go to Alyth, but many of them could not do so, and he would be willing to do what he could for the good of the people.
“Mr. Rattray of Brewlands then stood up, and said that he had made up his mind not to sit under Mr. Gibb. He could himself go either to Lintrathen or to Persie, but he was well aware that the people could not do so, and he felt it to be his duty to remain with them, provided they left the Establishment, as he might be useful to them. Every man should be decided one way or other, and openly tell what they were resolved to do. There were three motions to be submitted that evening, – that they should join the Free Church, the Seceders, or the Independents. His wife, Mr. Spalding, and himself had made up their minds to join one or other of these Churches whichever the majority might prefer. Those who were for the Free Church, he said, would go to the back seats on the north side of the school; those who were for the Seceders should go to the seats on the south side; and another seat was pointed out for those who voted for the Independents. Let it be understood, he said, that whatever side has the majority, the minority will fall in with it. Mr. Spalding and he were to keep the middle of the house, and would fall in with the majority on whatever side that might be. Mr. Spalding added that there need be no hesitation. No man can submit to be used as we have been, and now is the time to decide. Mr. Rattray said that it would be obliging if all who did not belong to the parish would, for a few moments, retire. After they left, Mr. Rattray and Mr. Spalding went to the middle of the house, so as not to influence any one.
“This was felt to be a very interesting moment. When they were asked to take their side, the whole, with two or three exceptions, rose, and deliberately went to the seats on the north side – thus voting for the Free Church – and crowded together, so that there was not half room for them, amidst clapping of hands and congratulations one with another. John Crombie, the innkeeper, and one or two others, took the seats for the Independents. Mr. Rattray went and asked them kindly to go over and join the others, saying he was glad to see so much good feeling. Then he said, with tears in his eyes, and almost choked with emotion, I never thought I would live to see the day when I would be forced to leave the Church of my forefathers, but now the day has come contrary to my wishes. We are driven from the Establishment by the hand of oppression. The first thing they had to do was to see where they should meet for public worship. We must immediately set about getting a tent erected. I will give you wood from East Mill, and immediately get sawyers to cut it for that purpose. Mr. Spalding will be appointed to correspond with the Free Church Presbytery as to the regular supply of preaching at the usual hours.
“Mr. Spalding rose and said, – We are now Free Kirk people by our own consent. We cannot say we left the Established Kirk with the same honour as if we had done it at the first Disruption; but we have stayed in till we have been rudely handled. Now let us act as those that are worthy of freedom. Let there be no division amongst us. We have been much indebted to the Free Church Presbytery already; and now much more may we expect their help when, by our own consent, we are united to them.”
Accordingly a deputation appeared before the Presbytery, consisting of between thirty and forty of the parishioners, among whom were five of the elders, and handed in a memorial, signed by 175 persons who had been members of the Established Church, intimating their resolution to join the Free Church, and stating the grounds on which they proceeded. It was their unanimous opinion that there were 300 communicants, parishioners of Glenisla, who were prepared to join the congregation when it was formed.744
Mr. McKenzie continues his narrative of what went on in the Glen after the meeting in the schoolhouse.
“Mr. Bain came on the following Sabbath and preached in John Crombie’s cart-shed. It was a very rainy day, and the shed, barn, and loft were filled, while the rest of the people stood in the open court, with plaids and umbrellas. The text was Numbers 10:29, ‘Come with us, and we will do you good.’ It was a precious and seasonable sermon to us, and listened to with the deepest attention, although there was no allusion to what had taken place among us.
“After sermon, the intimation was made that the Presbytery were to meet at Glenisla, This was a novelty in the Glen. The meeting was held at Alrick, and was very numerously attended, many coming from Kirriemuir, &c. It was a fine calm afternoon, with the sun shining, so that no tent was required. The people went to the side of the wood, where a table was set, and as many chairs as could be got for the ministers and strangers from a distance. Mr. Macdonald preached from these words: ‘God is love.’ After sermon, Mr. Stewart, of Kirkmichael, gave a condensed history of the Church from the Reformation. Mr. Bain, of Coupar-Angus, brought down the history to the Disruption, and Mr. Ferguson, from Alyth, carried it on to the present time. Mr. Brown spoke a few words, very affectingly stating how often he had gone up and down our road through the Glen, praying that a door of usefulness might be opened among us. A large sheet of paper was then spread out on the table, and all adherents to the Free Church were called to come forward and sign it, when many cheerfully put down their names, and intimation was made that those not present would have an opportunity afterwards. Steps also were taken for raising the Sustentation Fund [‘and it was resolved to start at once as a self-supporting congregation, and build the church, manse, and school free of debt’].
“This was one of our greatest days – a day to be held in remembrance. None of us ever heard of an open-air meeting of Presbytery at the Glen. The large multitude was dismissed late in the evening, seemingly deeply impressed and pleased.
“A large tent was soon erected at the side of the road, and we had regular sermon at the usual hour, and the Lord’s Supper was dispensed on the second Sabbath of July.
Steps were now taken for building a church. “Mr. Rattray offered a site and ground for a glebe, provided we would trench and inclose it. He promised also to put the bell on the church, but we all knew he would do more than that.745 A subscription was begun, Mr. Spalding leading the way with a sum of £20, seven of the parishioners following with £10 each. Mrs. Fordyce, from Blairgowrie, came afterwards and left £20, while many friends sent subscriptions. The building was commenced, and the church roofed in before the winter.
With the view of calling a minister, “probationers were sent to preach to us. We had got so much freedom, and such a variety of candidates, that it was feared we would want unanimity in our choice. One day Mr. Rattray, on going from home, met with Mr. Guthrie of Finhaven, who told him that there was a Mr. Simpson in Brechin whom we should hear before we fixed on any one. Accordingly he was got to come, and stayed a few weeks, after which he was unanimously chosen, and was ordained on 24th January, 1850. The day of his ordination happened to be in the midst of a very great storm and heavy fall of snow. The roads were entirely blocked up, and there was no access to the Glen; the snow in many places having drifted to a great depth. It was obvious there was no possibility of the Presbytery getting forward, and great anxiety was felt, when the day drew near, with no appearance of the weather breaking up and getting more settled. It was resolved to clear the roads by manual labour, and that could not be done a night beforehand, as one night might make them as bad as ever. Early on the day of ordination, therefore, about two score of able-bodied young men commenced work in right good earnest, and cleared the road for about four miles or thereby, till they met the Presbytery at Milnacraig, all on horseback, following each other in a straight line, and Mr. Simpson among them. All parties seemed pleased. The people were glad when they saw the ministers coming in such numbers. They had felt uncertain whether any of them would come through such a storm of snow, and with one exception all were present. The Presbytery, on the other hand, seemed greatly pleased that such exertions had been made by the people, as they had been doubtful of getting through the snow.
“Mr. Simpson’s settlement was very cordial and harmonious. Mr. Tasker, from Edinburgh, who came on the following Sabbath to introduce him, congratulated us very much on our choice, and told us openly from the pulpit that we had been wisely guided, and that the more anyone got to know him, the more they would appreciate his worth. We have now (1865) had him labouring amidst us for fifteen years, and find that this was a true report, but that the one-half had not been told us.
“The disruption in our glen, we believe, has been one of the greatest blessings that ever happened to it. One minister said, You are the youngest daughter of the Disruption, and we have all sympathised very much with you. See that you be not like a spoiled child. When Dr. Duff, from India, visited us, he told us that, when he read in the newspapers, on the banks of the Ganges, the account of the Glenisla Disruption, he rejoiced with … all his heart, and Glenisla was the first place he preached in after he arrived in Scotland. His text was: ‘God is love.’
“We have, in great mercy, been blessed with a time of revival and many precious meetings we have had, and many have been awakened to concern about the state of their souls and a coming eternity; and not a few, we fondly hope, have been brought to a saving knowledge of the truth. May all that we have seen and tasted in this respect be only as the small drops before the full shower! 746
Social Standing of Free Church Ministers
Lord Cockburn describes the trial
Social Relations modified
Dr. Guthrie and Lord Medwyn
Experience of Ministers
Marquis of Bute and Mr. Bannatyne
On leaving the Established Church, it was expected that parish ministers would sacrifice the influential position which they held in society, and to many of them the prospect of this change was one of the trials most keenly felt. In Scotland, indeed, Dissent has never stood in a position of social inferiority to the same extent as in England, owing, perhaps, to the fact that with us the Episcopalian clergy and laity are Dissenters. It was true, at the same time, that a certain prestige attached to those who held office in the Establishment, and it was not without reluctance that men prepared to give up their position.
It was under this aspect also that the change presented itself to those who were outside the Church. When Lord Cockburn, with his usual warmth of feeling, is describing the Disruption sacrifice, it is this loss of worldly position on which he fixes as the hardest part of the trial.
“For the present the battle is over. But the peculiar event that has brought it to a close is as extraordinary, and its consequences will probably prove as permanent as any single transaction in the history of Scotland, the Union alone excepted. The fact of above 450 clerical members of an Establishment, being above a third of its total complement, casting it off, is sufficient to startle any one who considers the general adhesiveness of Churchmen to their sect and their endowments. But when this is done under no bodily persecution, with no accession of power, from no political motive, but purely from the dictates of conscience, the sincerity of which is attested by the sacrifice not merely of professional station and emoluments, but of all worldly interests, it is one of the rarest occurrences in moral history. I know no parallel to it. There have been individuals in all ages who have defied, and even courted, martyrdom in its most appalling forms, but neither the necessity of such a fate nor its glory have been within the view of any one in modern times, and we must appreciate recent sacrifices in reference to the security of the age for which these clergymen were trained. Such a domestic catastrophe never entered into their calculations of the vicissitudes of life.” “They have abandoned that public station which was the ambition of their lives, and have descended from certainty to precariousness, and most of them from comfort to destitution, solely for their principles. And the loss of the stipend is the least of it. The dismantling of the manse, the breaking up of all the objects to which the hearts and the habits of the family were attached, the shutting the gate for the last time of the little garden, the termination of all their interest in the humble but respectable kirk – even all these desolations, though they may excite the most immediate pangs, are not the calamities which the head of the house finds it hardest to sustain. It is the loss of station that is the deep and lasting sacrifice, the ceasing to be the most important man in the parish, the closing of the doors of the gentry against him and his family, the altered prospects of his children, the extinction of everything that the State had provided for the decent dignity of the manse and its inmates. And in some views these self-immolations by the ministers are surpassed by the gallantry of the 200 probationers who have extinguished all their hopes at the very moment when the vacancies of 450 pulpits made their rapid success almost certain.
“Yet these sacrifices have been made by churchmen, and not by a few enthusiastic ones; and with no bitterness; with some just pride, but with no boasting; no weak lamentations, but easily, contentedly, and cheerfully. I have conversed with many of them, especially of the obscure country ministers, who are below all idea of being ever consoled by the fame and large congregations which may support a few of the city leaders, and their gentleness and gaiety747 is inconceivable.” “It is the most honourable fact for Scotland that its whole history supplies. The common sneers at the venality of our country, never just, are now absurd.”748
It was in the full expectation of this sacrifice that men went forward; they had counted the cost. At once, however, it became plain that the Disruption had modified the whole relations of society in Scotland. Even worldly rank was not awanting to the new movement. Three sons of baronets were in the ministry of the Church of Scotland at the time, and one was just about to enter, and they all cast in their lot with the Free Church. Among the leading laymen of Edinburgh, the merchant princes and citizens of Glasgow, the farmers, landed proprietors and untitled gentry over Scotland, there were thousands whose adherence was enough to give weight to any cause, even in the view of the world. And along with these there were some of the noblest and most influential of our noblemen. Membership in such a Church could hardly be supposed to infer anything like social inferiority, and still more was this true when men saw how she was setting herself to do the work of God in the land.
It is true there was many a breach of social ties, and the change was sometimes painfully felt. The minister of a large city congregation, for example, had been the familiar friend of another distinguished minister in a similar position. For twenty years they had annually assisted each other on the communion Sabbath in their respective churches. When at the Disruption they took opposite sides, he of the Free Church, one of the gentlest and most lovable of men, told the writer of this, that he had sought to keep the bond of private friendship unbroken, but found that it was not to be. Once they met where he thought the barrier might have been broken down. On a footpath along the banks of the Clyde they were walking on a summer evening, each accompanied by his wife, the one party going up and the other down the river-side. On meeting, he of the Established Church sought to pass with a distant bow, but the ladies refused to go without some friendly talk for the sake of former days. This caused a few minutes’ delay, during which the Doctor of Divinity belonging to the Establishment turned his back, and became intently absorbed in admiring the beauties of a very lovely landscape.
Although this breach was never healed, yet in many such cases the feeling of alienation was only temporary.
Dr. Guthrie tells how in his parochial work he had received important help from Lord Medwyn – one of the Judges of the Court of Session. Though he was a rigid Episcopalian, while Dr. Guthrie was a no less determined Presbyterian, yet they were mutually attracted to each other, and stood on the most friendly footing. After some of Dr. Guthrie’s speeches on the Disruption controversy, however, he received a letter from Lord Medwyn to which it was necessary to send a firm reply.
“A few days afterwards I passed him in York Place, and, lifting my hat, got no acknowledgment of my courtesy. It was the first time in my life that I had been fairly ‘cut’; and it was not a pleasant sensation. However, respecting his sterling worth, and grateful for the interest he had taken in my poor parishioners I resolved, if occasion offered, to repeat the experiment a second and even a third time, though it should be attended with no better success. Nor was it; I mentally saying as I passed him and submitting to cut the third, ‘Three times is fair play. You will get no more hats from me, my lord!’
“Yet it turned out that we had not parted for ever in this world, and how that fell out, I think it due to Lord Medwyn to relate: –
“There was an extraordinary demand for sittings in Old St. John’s; and, with the exception of a few pews appropriated to the office-bearers and their families, the whole area of the church was kept sacred to parishioners, and open only to them till the first Psalm was sung. Then on the doors being flung open to the general public, the throng came rushing in like a tide to fill every vacant corner of pew and passage.
“In this state of matters, a respectable-looking woman was one day ushered into my study, who came with a most earnest request that she might get a sitting in the gallery of our church – the only part of it allotted to outsiders or extra-parishioners. She would grudge no money for it. I advised her to seek a sitting elsewhere, as there were hundreds before her making similar application. She looked so much mortified and distressed that I was induced, as she opened the door to leave, to ask who and what she was. ‘The housekeeper of Lord Medwyn,’ she said. At once I called her back, told her what her master had done to serve us, and that, thinking that she had on that account a better right to a sitting than almost any other body in the church, I would find accommodation for her in my own family pew until a vacancy in the gallery occurred.
“Well, I resumed my work, the work which she had interrupted; and next morning was thinking no more of Lord Medwyn or the matter, when, on hearing my study open, and turning round to see who the intruder was, what was my astonishment, after the letter he had written me, and the cool determined way in which he had three times cut me in the street, to see Lord Medwyn himself! Before I had recovered my astonishment he stepped up to me, and said, with a noble generosity of temper, sense of justice, and true Christian humility, ‘Mr. Guthrie, before I ask how you are, let me say how sorry I am that I ever wrote you that letter. I have heard from my housekeeper the manner in which you received her and spoke of me, and I have hastened over here to acknowledge my error and tender this apology.’
“I mention this to the honour of his memory, and that we may learn charity, and how much more of the grace of God there may be in those from whom we differ than in ourselves.”749
But while some breaches were healed, and some were never healed, yet there were on the whole few of the outgoing ministers who had to complain of the loss of social standing. The subject is frequently referred to in the Disruption Mss., and only in two cases do they speak of anything like an unfavourable change. “I am sensible,” says Dr. Grierson of Errol, “that I have incurred the loss of a considerable share of social respect and influence, especially amongst the wealthier classes of the community. … I certainly enjoy increased facilities for doing good to the characters and souls of my people. I am sensible of enjoying, at same time, a larger measure of attachment from those who adhere to my ministry.”750 So also Mr. Robertson of Gartly states: “In our country parishes where the proprietors are generally hostile, our people generally poor, and the wealthier classes are Moderates, it is, I think, clear, that our status is considered as lowered, and our influence is lessened with the higher classes, though, I believe, that even with these there is no diminution of real respect.”751
How far such experiences were due to personal or local circumstances, it is impossible to say, but usually the results are spoken of in a very different way. Mr. Innes of Deskford, Banffshire, experienced little or no diminution of social respect or influence. “Those friends whom I formerly most respected and esteemed, still continue their friendship, even in cases where they are not members of the Free Church, and, I believe, I may add, with increasing cordiality.”752
At Ardoch, Perthshire, Mr. Grant writes: “That I was to lose social respect and influence gave me much pain at the Disruption, but I have been agreeably disappointed, for I never enjoyed so much respect and influence as since that event.”753
At Farr, Sutherland, Mr. McKenzie was not sensible of having experienced any loss of social position. “It is true that the richer classes, such as factors and sheep-farmers, and a few calling themselves gentry, have remained in the Establishment, but of such persons the number is small in this locality. With them I had been on friendly terms before the Disruption, and my observation and experience prove to me that the ministers of the Free Church are more respected by the few genteel Moderate hearers than their successors in office.”754
Dr. Burns, of Kilsyth, states: “In respect of influence in society, there is really scarcely any diminution. The Superior (Sir A. Edmonstone, Bart.) shows unfeigned regard on all occasions, listens to all recommendations as to the poor and public good, although anxious to guard consistency.”755
Mr. Greig, of St. Ninians, lived only eleven months after the Disruption, but that period he considered the happiest he spent on earth. One who knew him well states that never did he shine more in the pulpit, or preach more to the delight and profit to his hearers, and never did he meet with more numerous and gratifying tokens of affection and respect. At the time of his sudden death, he occupied a more influential position than ever before. He felt as if he were breathing a purer and fresher air. His last days were his best days.756
Such was the experience of the outgoing ministers in the rural districts and county towns all over Scotland. In the larger cities the change was even less perceptible, as the statement of Dr. Lorimer of Glasgow shows. It may be taken as expressing the general result in similar circumstances:
“I am not aware of any real disadvantages which I have suffered [socially] by the change. There has been so far a change in outward position, but certainly there has been no loss of social respect. On the contrary, the outward tokens of such respect have been multiplied and rendered more warm. … My general influence in society, I am pretty sure, has been increased.”757
It thus became plain that the Disruption had modified the whole relations of society. The world involuntarily pays respect to integrity and self-sacrifice in connection with religious principle; and ministers of the Free Church found that they were followed by so much of respect on the part of their fellow-men as preserved the weight and influence which they formerly had. What helped in this was the readiness which the Free Church showed to take her share in any good work that was required in the community. There was no standing aloof. When famine broke out in the Highlands in 1844, she raised at once a sum of £15,000 and sent relief. When religious revival arose, the Free Church united with other Christian brethren, and threw herself into the work.
It is not for us to go into detail as to the tokens of social respect, but one example may be given to show how such things were sometimes met with in the highest circles and in unexpected quarters.
The Marquis of Bute was one of those to whom the Disruption was a great disappointment. As Royal Commissioner it had been hoped that a nobleman of his influence might have done much to prevent the threatened breach, and the result seems to have wounded him. At all events he lost no time in making the Free Church feel the weight of his hostility. There was a quoad sacra church in North Bute which the Marquis had built; the minister, Mr. McBride had “gone out,” and the sacrament was to be dispensed within a fortnight of the rising of the Assembly. Mr. McBride had applied for leave to use the building till after the communion, and 470 communicants including the whole tenantry of the parish, with two or three exceptions, had sent a petition to the same effect. A few hours, however, after the petition had been despatched, a letter from his Lordship was received by Mr. McBride, ordering him at once to send the keys of the church to the factor. Next day, the congregation met for Divine worship on the public highway amidst torrents of rain, while the church was locked up. “No graphic pencil is wanted to portray the scene or the feelings of the people,”758 who stood without flinching, while the solemn services of the day were gone through.
Other incidents which took place showed the same keenness of feeling,759 and yet his respect for the outgoing ministers of the Free Church could not be wholly concealed. One interesting example is given by Mr. Landsborough of Kilmarnock: –
“As the late Mr. Bannatyne, Old Cumnock, was much my senior in age, and also in a different Presbytery, I was not intimately acquainted with him. I assisted him, however, in the year 1862 on the Monday of a communion, and after service he and I had a good deal of conversation. As I was aware that he had been chaplain to the late Marquis of Bute when Royal Commissioner, I knew he would be intimately acquainted with the Church affairs of Disruption times, and purposely endeavoured to lead the conversation to that topic. The information he gave was so important and interesting that as soon as I got home I noted it down. Passing by statements such as that ‘it was understood that Sir Robert Peel would have acceded to the demands of the Church had not Lord Aberdeen and Sir James Graham declared that if he did, they would resign,’ for the truth of which Mr. Bannatyne did not vouch, I give in full what he told me regarding himself, and that of which he had personal knowledge. ‘The Marquis of Bute, having been appointed Queen’s Commissioner in 1842, did me the honour of electing me to be his chaplain. When the General Assembly of 1843 was approaching, having made up my mind to leave with the Evangelical party, I felt that after all the kindness I had received from his Lordship I ought not to allow him to be subjected to the awkwardness of being left without a chaplain; and therefore wrote to him in good time, resigning the appointment, explaining my reason for so doing. The Marquis, in his reply, wrote that the Government had received assurances from the best authorities that not more than twelve ministers would go out, and he asked me not to resign, but to allow another to take my place for one year, and by another the storm would have blown past. I wrote that the Government were being misled, that I was quite decided as to the course I must take, and respectfully renewed my resignation. I went to town two days before the Assembly met, and at once called on the Marquis, who, referring to my letter, said that, in addition to former assurances, my neighbour, Mr. Stewart of Sorn (afterwards of Liberton) had told him that not more than ten ministers would leave. I replied that 400 would, when his Lordship became excited. I had no further intercourse with the Marquis till a son and heir was born to him (1847), when, remembering past kindnesses, I wrote to congratulate him, and received a reply in course, in which he wrote that he had received congratulations innumerable from royalty downward, but not one of them had given him so much gratification as that from his old friend Mr. Bannatyne, and that he hoped that in future I would be a frequent visitor at Dumfries House.'”
It was a cordial and – coming from such a quarter – a remarkable tribute to the secret respect with which the ministers of the Free Church were regarded.
Anticipations of Adversaries
Estimate by Dr. Chalmers
Table showing the Amount of Money realized
In closing this Part of the “Annals,” we must now refer to the amount of money raised by the Free Church in aid of her operations at home and abroad. Not, assuredly, in the spirit of boasting, but in thankfulness to God, who opened the hearts of the people, we must speak of the liberality with which they brought their free-will offerings into the treasury.
In judging of this, “we must remember,” says Dr. Duff, “that at the Disruption we came out of a Church system and polity in which almost everything was done for us, so that we ourselves had almost nothing to do. We had everything to learn.”
There were, indeed, voluntary self-supporting churches in Scotland before, but the course on which the Free Church was entering was new and untried. The Old Seceders had risen up to their position by a slow process of growth. The Free Church had started with 583 ministers during the first year. What if men should get weary of the Sustentation Fund after the first flush of novelty was past, and the plan hitherto untried should give way? The struggle with poverty would be hard for the outgoing ministers.
Misgivings of this kind were present to the hearts of many friends of the Free Church, while among her opponents the future was often spoken of in such terms as showed that “ridicule and mockery did not cease with the days of Nehemiah.”
In one of the Border counties, where a flourishing Free Church now stands, the people had with difficulty obtained a site in an unfavourable position. While the workmen were beginning their operations, it happened that two Established Church ministers rode past on their way home from a meeting of Presbytery, and were heard amusing themselves by remarking on the appearance of the ground. “It’s a poor place,” one of them said. “Yes,” said the other, “but I daresay it will grow as many potatoes as the minister will be able to get salt for.”
Thus, amidst the fears of friends, and the expectations of adversaries, much uncertainty hung over the future, but there was one man in Scotland who foresaw what was really coming. A personal reminiscence in illustration of this may here be given:
In the summer of 1843 I happened to meet Dr. Chalmers at Monboddo House, the hospitable mansion of Captain Burnett, and to drive with him and Mrs. Burnett in their carriage over the Garvock hills, on the way to St. Cyrus. After pausing on the summit to admire the long, richly-cultivated valley of Strathmore, with its western rampart of Grampian Mountains, we began to descend towards St. Cyrus, where Dr. Chalmers was to be the guest of Dr. Keith, and to address a meeting in the barn then occupied as a place of worship. On the way, he relapsed into one of those fits of abstraction and silence so common with him, but which in this case lasted longer than usual. Suddenly, after a time, he roused himself, and speaking with singular emphasis, exclaimed, “I will not be satisfied unless the Free Church has an income of £300,000 a-year.” I confess it startled me. I had indeed some doubt whether I had heard aright, and ventured some remark as to the amount. “Yes!” he repeated “we must have £300,000 a-year.”760 I then took the liberty of referring to a recent Parliamentary return, which showed that the whole income of the Established Church was considerably less than this, and suggesting whether it would not be difficult for our people by their free-will offerings to go beyond the whole of those endowments which the State had provided. “I do not care, Sir,” he replied with increasing vehemence; “it will be seen what the people can do.” And then, as he opened out his views, one could only listen with delight while he spoke of “the power of littles,” and how full of encouragement the future of the Free Church was. It was delightful to listen to, but not very easy to believe.
The truth is – as Mr. Dunlop frankly confessed in 1845 – these sanguine anticipations of Dr. Chalmers were “looked on as enthusiastic dreams.” How they became realised facts, and more than realised, we have already seen in part. We now present in one view the whole money contributions raised by the Free Church for the first thirty-five years. The reader will see at a single glance what has been done, and how the expectations of Dr. Chalmers have been not only fulfilled but exceeded.
Total Amount of Money contributed by the Free Church.
Year Amount. Average for Periods of five Years.
To March 3
1845 £334,483 18 9
1846 £301,067 5 8
Annual Average for the first five years £318,086 10 4
1847 £311,695 18 7
1848 £276,465 14 5
1849 £275,081 4 4
1850 £306,622 0 1
1851 £303,484 6 9
Annual Average for the second five years £285,683 6 10
1852 £267,479 12 5
1853 £275,749 10 9
1854 £287,574 12 4
1855 £307,523 11 0
1856 £289,305 5 9
Annual Average for the third five years £305,029 10 6
1857 £308,875 0 3
1858 £331,871 3 4
1859 £343,377 12 10
1860 £316,557 19 9
1861 £329,941 2 4
Annual Average for the fourth five years £333,803 5 9
1862 £337,204 4 11
1863 £341,935 9 2
1864 £343,134 8 9
1865 £356,660 13 9
1866 £383,572 4 10
Annual Average for the fifth five years £369,618 10 3
1867 £369,088 1 6
1868 £395,638 14 5
1869 £421,783 13 10
1870 £427,621 18 10
1871 £413,398 2 4
Annual Average for the sixth five years £429,643 4 2
1872 £432,623 9 9
1873 £452,789 7 3
1874 £511,884 4 6
1875 £525,424 12 l
1876 £534,450 14 9
Annual Average for the seventh five years £542,534 9 10
1877 £565,195 10 3
1878 £575,718 19 9
The total amount for these thirty-five years is a sum of twelve million nine hundred and twenty-two thousand pounds, four shillings and threepence.
The annual average over the whole is £369,200.
And this all proceeds from the free-will offerings of the people.
The sanguine estimate of Dr. Chalmers has been actually exceeded on the whole average of these years by nearly £70,000 of annual income.
It is still more striking to observe that for the last seven years (1874-80), instead of the estimated £300,000, the revenue has largely exceeded £500,000 – half-a-million sterling.
Such results sufficiently show the strength of principle and depth of religious feeling which were enlisted in the cause. The Free Church appealed to the love and loyalty which men bore to Christ, and it was this which set open the fountain of Christian liberality, and ever since has kept the stream not only flowing but deepening.
Not since Apostolic times, said Dr. R. Buchanan (1867), has there ever been a more noble “outburst of joyful, self-denying, large-hearted, loving liberality to God’s cause than was exhibited by this Church of ours in the ever-memorable 1843. It was a blessed time of refreshing from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power. … Who that had any part in that time can look back on it without feeling as if no other words could adequately describe it but those of the 68th Psalm: “O God, when Thou wentest forth before Thy people, when Thou didst march through the wilderness; the earth shook, the heavens also dropped at the presence of God: even Sinai itself was moved at the presence of God, the God of Israel. Thou, O God, didst send a plentiful rain, whereby Thou didst confirm Thine inheritance, when it was weary. Thy congregation hath dwelt therein: Thou, O God, hast prepared of Thy goodness for the poor. The Lord gave the Word; great was the company of those that published it.”
534 Report on Sites, 1, p.7, q.95
535 Report on Sites, 1, p.100
536 Report on Sites, 1, p.71, qq.1081-1088. See also Illustrations of Toleration. Edinburgh, 1846?, p.4
537 Report on Sites, 2, p.22, q.1841
538 Report on Sites, 2, p.34, q.2103
539 Report on Sites, 2, p.24, q.1879
540 Report on Sites, 2, p.57, qq.2685, 2701
541 Report on Sites, 2, p.24, q.1886
542 Report on Sites, 2, p.142
543 Report on Sites, 2, p.16, q.1687 and those following
544 Report on Sites, 3, p.33, q.4647
545 Report on Sites, 2, p.111, q.3674 and those following; 3, p.9, q.4442 and those following
546 Report on Sites, 3, pp. 23-24, qq.4440-4459
547 Report on Sites, 2, p.111, q.3684
548 Report on Sites, 3, p.61, q.5285. This was afterwards attempted to be explained away.
549 Personal Narrative, Parker Mss.
550 Report on Sites, 3, pp.18-22, qq.4355-4417
551 Blue Book, 1848, p.295
552 Since this was written, and while it is passing through the press, intelligence comes of his death “in a good old age.” He was in his 80th year.
553 Report on Sites, 3, pp.12-18, qq.4294-4354
555 When attention was called to the matter, five sites were offered. Mr. Swanson gives the details of the one which was “by far the best.” The offer could hardly have been serious. – Report, 3, p.17, q.4326.
556 Report on Sites, 2, p.108, q.3615
557 Report on Sites, 2, p.107
558 Report on Sites, 2, p.107
559 Disr. Mss. 82,pp. 1-4
560 Report on Sites, 1, p.8, qq.125 and those following
561 Report on Sites, 3, p.2, qq.4120 and those following
562 Report on Sites, 3, p.11, qq. 4260 and those following
563 Report on Sites, 1, p.8, qq.138 and those following
564 Report on Sites, 1, p.9, q.141
565 Report on Sites, 2, p.85, q.3263
566 Report on Sites, 3, p.93, q.5923
567 Report on Sites, 1, p.59, q.891
568 Report on Sites, 1, p.60, q.905
569 Report on Sites, 1, p.69, q.1042
570 Report on Sites, 3, p.120, q.6349; p.143, q.6477
571 Report on Sites, 1, p.39, qq.541 and those following
572 Report on Sites, 1, p.41, q.585
573 Memoir of Rev. P. Hope, by Rev. J. Dodds, p.33
574 Report on Sites, 1, p.71, q.1092
575 Report on Sites, 1, p.56, qq.844 and those following
576 Witness newspaper, 5th February, 1845
577 The facts here given in this account of Wanlockhead are all taken either from the Report on Sites or from the Disruption Mss. 19 and 68
578 Report on Sites, 2, p.139.
579 Report on Sites, 2, p.140
580 Report on Sites, 2, p.140
581 Report on Sites, 2, p.141
582 Report on Sites, 2, p.142
583 Report on Sites, 1, p.94
584 Report on Sites, 1, pp.55-56, qq.818, 829
585 Report on Sites, 1, p.54, q.769
586 The height is 6 feet 8 inches. Mr. Hastings was inclined to make the best of his “wee room.” He “often spoke of its comfort.” He considered it indeed a most favourable circumstance that he was able to obtain even such a lodging. It enabled him to remain. That his health suffered, however, cannot be doubted. While preaching in the open air, “the exposure to the brightness of the sun,” he says, “has injured my eyes.” Perhaps the confined room had also something to do with it.
587 Report on Sites, 1, pp.7-8, qq.105-123
588 Report on Sites, 1, p.72, qq.1094 and those following
589 Report on Sites, 2, p.3, qq.1377-1391
590 Disr. Mss. 68
591 Report on Sites, 2, p.3, q.1386
592 Witness, 16th August, 1845, quoted by Mr. Duncan
593 Report on Sites, 1, qq.706-712
594 Report on Sites, 1, p.73, q.1107
595 Report on Sites, 3, q.4987
596 Report on Sites, 3, p.82, qq.5743 and those following
597 Disr. Mss. 71 p.14
598 Report on Sites, 1, p.87, qq.1287 and those following
599 Report on Sites, 1, p.87, qq.1287 and those following
600 Blue Book, 1847, p.232
601 Disr. Mss. 80 p.5
602 Life of Dr. Cunningham, p.193
603 Disr. Mss. 29, pp.19 and following
604 Disr. Mss. 37,2 p.13
605 Disr. Mss. 71, p.11
606 Disr. Mss. 37, p.13
607 Disr. Mss. 70, p.18
608 Mr. Inglis’ brother, minister of the Free Church, Edzell, is inclined to think this must have been a slip of the tongue, hastily uttered.
609 Memorials of the Disruption in Edzell and Lochlee, by the Rev. R. Inglis, Edzell, pp.53-65
610 Disr. Mss. 83
611 Disr. Mss. 81
612 Disr. Mss. 81
613 Disr. Mss. 36, p.4
614 Disr. Mss. 13, p.8
615 Disr. Mss. 29, p.15
616 Parker Mss., Ingram of Unst
617 Disr. Mss. 87
618 Blue Book, 1845, p.67
619 Rev. D. Fergusson, Disr. Mss. 78, pp.11-12
620 Disr. Mss. 372
621 Disr. Mss. 63, p.4
622 Disruption Mss. 60, pp.1-3
623 Dr. Chalmers, Ass. Proc. 1845, 2, p.106
624 Life of Dr. Guthrie, 2, p.66
625 Report on Sites, 3, p.136, q.6436
626 Memoir of Rev. J. Sym, p.80
627 Disr. Mss. 37, p.8
628 Memories of Disruption Times, by Rev. Dr. Beith, p.100
629 Disr. Mss. 60, pp.3-4
630 Disr. Mss. 372 p. 20
631 Disr. Mss. 82
632 Parker Mss., Latheron, p.17
633 Disr. Mss. 88
634 A most generous friend of the Free Church, who reduced her establishment that she might have the more to give.
635 Disr. Mss. 88
636 Journal, 1, p.342
637 Blue Book, 1847, p.25
638 Blue Book, 1847, p.222
639 Report on Sites, 3, p.143, q.6480
640 Blue Book, 1844, p.28
641 Parker Mss.
642 Disr. Mss. 29, p.21
643 Statement by Rev. D. Landsborough, Kilmarnock
644 Parker Mss., Rev. D. Simpson
645 Parker Mss., Latheron, pp.9-10
646 Witness newspaper, 24th February, 1844
647 Disr. Mss. 13, p.5
648 Disr. Mss. 69
649 Par. Mss., Presb. of Greenock
650 Witness newspaper, 14th February, 1844
651 Witness, 21st February, 1844
652 Free Church Mag. 4, p.140
653 Disr. Mss. 27, pp.8-9
654 Free Church Mag. 4, p.142
655 Decision given 19th July, 1845. – Witness newspaper, 30th July, 1845.
656 Blue Book, 1848, p.288
657 Blue Book,1847, p.222
658 Parker Mss., Presb. of Lanark
659 Parker Mss., Presb. of Arbroath
660 Disr. Memories, pp.257-8
661 Witness newspaper, 29th January, 1845
662 Miss. Record, 1843, p.44
663 For full information the reader is referred to the able Biographies of Dr. Wilson and Dr. Duff by Dr. George Smith; also to the interesting account of Messrs. Anderson and Johnston, of Madras, by the Rev. J. Braidwood, M.A.
664 Miss. Record, 1843, p.116
665 Ass. Proc., Glas., pp.11-12
666 Explanatory Statement, &c., by the Rev. A. Duff, D.D., Edinburgh, 1844
667 Record, July, 1844, p.179
668 Miss. Record, 1844, p.295
669 Miss. Record, 1845, p.59
670 Record, July, 1844, p.179
671 Witness, 8th February, 1845
672 Life, p.387
673 Record, July, 1844, pp.180-181
674 Ass. Proc., 1845, p.214
675 Life, 2, p.69
676 Ass. Proc., Inverness, p.26
677 Within two years the sum raised in Bengal was upwards of £6000. – Ass. Proc., Inverness, p.27
678 Assembly Proceedings, 1849, p.18
679 In this section, for obvious reasons, no names will be given nor authorities quoted through which the names can be traced
680 There were cases, however, as we have seen, in which this did not shake their resolution. An additional example may here be given: The Rev. D. Davidson, of Broughty-Ferry, after years of failing health, died, 25th August, 1843; “one of his last acts being the appending of his name to the Deed of Demission.” – Parker Mss.
681 Memoir of Dr. Guthrie, 2, p.70
682 Memoir of Dr. Guthrie, 2, p.85
683 Life of Dr. Cunningham, p.194
684 Report on Sites, 3, p.137, q.6446
685 Life of Dr. Hamilton, p.220
686 Disr. Mss. 43, p.4
687 Memorials of Dr. Candlish, p.331
688 Blue Book, Glasgow, 1843, p.88
689 “We feel that the claim of the civil court to enforce ordination to the ministry, whether directly or indirectly, under any possible circumstances, is an unjustifiable usurpation in a matter purely spiritual; and, consequently, we judge that those of our Northern brethren, who view the subject in the same light with ourselves, could not, as Christian men, do otherwise than resign their connection with the State.”
690 Report of Glasgow Assembly, 1843, p.85. The above sum of £4000 must have included several large subscriptions given privately, and collections at the public meetings.
691 Report of Glasgow Assembly, 1843, p.90
692 It should, however, be mentioned that in the Provinces several churches were seized after much litigation – e.g., Dr. Munro’s at Manchester.
693 One of my own co-presbyters assured me, in the month of March, that not more than six men would come out; another, more given to prophetic calculation, insisted there would be only two, and that one of the two was so clever, that if there was a loophole open, he would certainly go in again. On my expressing the belief that there would be nearer six hundred than six, I was told that I had taken leave of my senses.
694 Organised and for several months worked by Mr. Bunting.
695 Blue Book, 1844, p.67
696 Life of Dr. Cunningham, p.203
697 Life of Dr. Cunningham, p.205
698 Life of Dr. Cunningham, p.206
699 Life of Dr. Cunningham, p.206
700 Blue-Book 1844, p.71
701 Life of Dr. Cunningham, p.217
702 Blue Book, 1844, p.70
703 Life of Dr. Cunningham, p.214
704 Life of Dr. Cunningham, p.214
705 Blue Book, 1844, p.211
706 Blue Book, 1845, p.133
707 Blue Book, 1849, p.65
708 Journal, 2, p.114
709 Blue Book, 1846, p.81
710 Blue Book, 1872, Rep. 7, p.17
711 Blue Book, 1869, Rep. 7, p.6
712 Blue Book, 1874, p.161
713 Blue Book, 1874, p.161
714 Blue Book, 1846, p.125. From the district of Pictou alone, there were six who at once set off.
715 When a Colonial Committee was afterwards appointed by the Church of Scotland, the Convenership was given to another, and Dr. Burns was passed over. There was a feeling in some quarters that this was unjust.
716 Free Church Magazine, 4, p.329
717 Blue Book, Glasgow, 1843, p.102
718 Life of Dr. Burns, p.186
719 Witness Newspaper, 19th March, 1845
720 Blue Book, 1848, p.171
721 Blue Book, 1849
722 Blue Book, 1848, p.178
723 Blue Book, 1846, p.126
724 Life of Dr. Burns, p.458
725 Blue Book, 1846, p. 134
726 Blue Book, 1845, Inverness, p.5
727 Blue Book, 1848, p.180
728 Blue Book, 1848, p.172
729 Blue Book, 1845, p.167
730 Blue Book, 1847, p.102
731 During the first six years they had only one minister, but they set up four schools.
732 Blue Book, 1849, p.142
733 Letter to his friend, Rev. G. Divorty, 11th August, 1880
734 From a detailed statement in The Age newspaper, Melbourne, 31st January, 1881
735 Blue Book, 1865. Address by Dr. Cairns. Appendix to Colonial Report.
736 Reminiscences by Charles Cowan, Esq. (private circulation), p.309
737 Life of Dr. Cunningham, p.191
738 Reminiscences, pp.309-310
739 Disr. Mss. 29, p.29
740 Dr. Candlish, Assembly Proceedings, Glasgow, p.166
741 Missionary Record, 1848, p.463
742 Blue Book, 1867, p.180
743 Disr. Mss. 86
744 Disr. Mss. 86
745 Quite a well-founded expectation. Mr. Rattray’s contributions proved to be on the most liberal scale. The congregation will long have good reason gratefully to cherish his memory.
746 Disr. Mss. 86
747 “The only regret expressed to me by the minister of a small Highland parish, a good, simple, innocent man, who had to quit the favourite manse garden, was implied in this question, ‘But, my Lord, can ye tell me are thae Moderates entitled to eat ma rizzards this summer?’”
748 Journal, 2, p.29
749 Memoir of Dr. Guthrie, 1, p.406
750 Disr. Mss. 11, p.14
751 Disr. Mss. 17, p.6.
752 Disr. Mss. 15, p.8
753 Disr. Mss. 13, p.9
754 Disr. Mss. 20, p.9
755 Disr. Mss. 29, pp.23-24
756 Parker Mss
757 Disr. Mss. 1, pp. 10-11
758 Witness Newspaper, 14th June, 1843
759 One of them is recorded, p.362
760 Stated afterwards in public at Inverness, Blue Book, 1845, p.105