Title Page, &c.
A Memorial of 1843
With an Historical Sketch of the Free Church of Scotland from 1843 down to the present time
By the REV. JAMES A. WYLIE, LL.D.
Author of the “History of Protestantism”
THOMAS C. JACK, GRANGE PUBLISHING WORK
(Successor to A. Fullarton & Co.)
LONDON: 45 LUDGATE HILL
MINISTERS, OFFICE-BEARERS, AND MEMBERS
THE FREE CHURCH OF SCOTLAND,
IS RESPECTFULLY DEDICATED
In preparing the present edition of “Disruption Worthies,” it has been felt that it ought to be more complete than the plan of the former edition permitted. There was a certain convenience in confining the Biographical Sketches to the deceased. But there is no sufficient reason for continuing this arrangement. Happily, there are not a few Disruption Worthies still spared, to the advantage of the Church and of the world, and the title of the Publication suggests that Sketches of their lives and labours should be included in a New Edition. Alas that more than one who lived when their biographies were here written, have since passed over to the majority.
In this edition appear the names of three Ministers who had no direct share in the act of the Disruption. No excuse, however, is needed for adding Sketches of the late Dr. McCrie, Dr. Goold, and Dr. Rainy, considering their peculiar relations, as representative men and otherwise, to the Church of the Disruption.
The Publisher has introduced in this edition an entirely new series of Portraits, for the most part produced by a highly accomplished Artist. In other respects the present will be found an improvement on the old edition. The Publisher is much indebted to Mr James B. Gillies for editing this volume.
Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh, 1881.
By the Hon. Lord Ardmillan
One of the Senators of the College of Justice-General
As this work may be considered a chapter in the “Memories of the Disruption,” illustrating and commemorating some of the leaders and the heroes in the memorable struggle of which it was the culminating point, the retrospect, whether personal or historical, is full of deep interest. The wise man finds in it sometimes the “pleasures of memory,” sometimes the bitterness of regret, but always grounds for thankfulness and trustfulness, and lessons for the guidance of life.
To intelligent, earnest, and loyal Free Churchmen, Disruption Memories must be unspeakably precious; and dear to them must be the names of those worthies—foremost in the conflict for conscience—who have now passed from the struggles of the Church on earth to the peace and the glory of the upper sanctuary.
As no true Protestant would discard the memory of the Reformation,—as no true patriot would discard the Revolution Settlement,—so no true Free Churchman would part with the memory of the Disruption.
But more than thirty years have now passed since the Disruption. A new generation has arisen, to some of whom ignorance is natural, and to others forgetfulness is easy. Ingenious efforts are made to commend oblivion, to induce indifference, and to enlist selfishness in aid of suggested surrender; and it may not be useless or inappropriate to offer a few brief remarks in explanation of the Origin, the Principles, the Progress, and the Result, of the conflict.
As of a stream winding through a fertile vale, the spring may be discovered far back amid the clefts of the rocks, so of the Free Church, which was the outcome of the Disruption struggle—the source and spring of the movement may be found in the great divisions of the Church more than a century back. The people of Scotland can scarcely require to be reminded of the theology, the policy, the literature, and the preaching of the party in the Church known as “Moderates.” The sad results of the reign and the fruits of Moderatism are well known. Yet it was a potent and distinguished party. Its culture was attractive and commendable, and procured for it a general acceptance among the upper classes; but its influence on religious conviction, sentiment, and character, was chilling and withering. Under the ascendancy of this “Moderate” party, the Church of Scotland, as established and endowed by the State, became a great political institution; and, accordingly, the advantages of State connection rose higher and higher in ecclesiastical estimation. On the other hand, the Church, in its own peculiar and essential character as a Church of Christ, apart from its establishment—the Church, as a witness-bearer, and a message-bearer, and a missionary institution—was lowered and weakened in purity, power, and acceptance, by the prevalence and the influence of the Moderate party.
But there was another party in the Church, called by some in derision “the Wild,” and known by the people as the “Evangelical,”—a party whose theology was in accordance with the standards of the first and second Reformation, and whose principles were those of the Puritans and the Covenanters, and whose preaching, faithful and fervent, had the scarlet thread through it, and the blood-bought salvation in its freeness and fullness, as its constant and urgent theme. To that party the spiritual liberty and life of the Church was far more important and more precious than its establishment or endowment. Thus it came to pass that the stream of the Church’s history flowed, as it were, in two different channels. To the Moderate party the establishment of the Church—the favour of the State, and the dependence of the Church on the State—was the muniment of her political and social position. To the Evangelical party the spiritual independence of the Church was the muniment of her Christian liberty and her living power. So also in regard to Patronage, the channels of thought and feeling were quite distinct. The Moderate party, desirous to retain the favour of the patrons and the government, naturally supported and enforced the rights of Patronage, quite without consent, and almost without limit or restriction, on the part of congregations; while the Evangelical party, leaning on popular rather than State support, sought to protect congregations from the intrusion of unacceptable ministers. It naturally followed that, so long as the Moderate party retained the ascendancy in the Church, the enforcement of Patronage—the settlement of ministers over reclaiming congregations—was continued and accepted, and no attempt was made to vindicate the separate and independent spiritual jurisdiction of the Church. But it was manifest that, if the time came when the Evangelical and popular party could guide the councils of the Church, the abolition or effectual limitation of Patronage would be attempted, and spiritual independence would be proclaimed. And so it came to pass. Sir Henry Moncreiff, Dr Andrew Thomson, and others, did not live in vain. The Evangelical party—the party whom the people trusted, and through whom the most devout and earnest of the people hoped to see a revival of religion in the land—became the majority in the Assembly; and gradually, but surely, the principles now held by the Free Church were developed, proclaimed, and carried into action. The adoption and practical vindication of these principles of non-intrusion and spiritual independence, was the natural and appropriate result of the transfer of Church influence from the Moderate to the Evangelical party. It was a result expected by intelligent observers on both sides of the Church—expected with desire by the one party, and with apprehension by the other. It was also a result to be anticipated from the progressive earnestness and piety of congregations trained under the influence of Evangelical ministers. It was plain, that those who had been taught and stirred by the full, faithful, and fervent preaching of the gospel of grace and love, would not long submit to the enforced settlement of “Moderate” ministers, and would, when opportunity offered, assert the congregational right to resist Intrusion, and the Church’s right to Spiritual Independence. No one could doubt that the people would follow their faithful pastors.
Occasion, fit and urgent, soon appeared. In the case of the parish of Auchterarder, where only two persons out of three thousand signed the call, and in several other cases, the most high-handed and tyrannical patronage was exercised, and was enforced by all the authority and the severity of the law; and the exercise of that patronage was accepted, and the severe interposition of the Civil Courts was craved, approved, and defended, by the Moderate party, then the minority in the Assembly, who afterwards formed the Established Church, when the Evangelical party were compelled by conscience to secede. These Moderates are represented by the Church now established, as the Evangelical party are represented by the Free Church. In the cases of Settlement,—in the Stewarton Case—in the Strathbogie Interdict,—the distinct and independent jurisdiction of the Church in matters spiritual was denied, assailed, and crushed by the judgments of the Civil Courts; while, at the same time, the attempt to impose on Patronage even the mildest restraint, failed, and was pronounced illegal. Revered ministers were called to the bar of the Civil Court, and publicly rebuked. It became impossible, and was authoritatively declared impossible, to maintain the spiritual independence of the Church within a Church established and endowed by the State. The surrender by the Church of power to protect reclaiming congregations, and the surrender by the Church of free and independent spiritual jurisdiction, was felt to be, and was indeed declared to be, the condition and the price of Establishment.
The principle of spiritual independence has been much misunderstood. It has been imagined that our Free Church view of spiritual independence savours of priestcraft. This is a great mistake. There is, on the contrary, no Church in which the lay element has more weight and influence. We hold that no ecclesiastic is, as a citizen, above the law, or beyond the reach of the law. We loyally and respectfully recognise the authority of the law on all questions of civil rights. But, on the other hand, we hold, that of every true man and every true Church our Lord Jesus is the spiritual Head, and that within the sphere of spiritual jurisdiction, His Church has, in her orderly courts, distinct and independent authority. The Free Church principle, when rightly understood and applied, does indeed guard alike the true liberty of the State and the true liberty of the Church, by drawing a clear distinction between civil and spiritual, jurisdiction. The freedom of the State from ecclesiastical usurpation is imperilled by Vaticanism. The freedom of the Church from usurpation by Civil Courts is imperilled by Erastianism. The Free Church protests against both usurpers. She maintains the freedom of both jurisdictions against encroachment from either side, on a jurisdiction distinct and independent—in the one case civil, and in the other case spiritual. Practically the spiritual jurisdiction of the Church was, during the conflict, chiefly exercised to protect congregations from the intrusion of ministers by violent settlements. It was exercised in vain. The violent settlements were enforced by law; and both to the people and to the Church it was, by deed and by word, plainly intimated, that continued connection with the State could only be maintained on the condition of the surrender of congregational liberty, and of spiritual independence.
Separation from the State then became the duty, the urgent and paramount duty, of all who were not prepared to accept that condition and pay that price. Those who remained established at the Disruption of 1843, accepted the condition, and consented to pay the price; and they still enjoy the State favour, and the State endowments, and enjoy them on the condition which they accepted, and at the price which they paid. Those who rejected the condition, and refused to pay the price, of Establishment, seceded, surrendered the advantages of State connection, and formed the Free Church of Scotland. Continued conformity involved the sacrifice of conscience; and that sacrifice being in regard to matters of momentous and sacred principle, Nonconformity became an imperative duty.
If, after the rise of the Evangelical party to influence in the Church, and after the Ten Years’ Conflict, there had, in 1843, been no Disruption, all confidence in the power or reality of conscience, and in the sincerity of religious profession, would have been destroyed. It is difficult to conceive anything more injurious to the cause and progress of vital religion than would have been the cowardice or unfaithfulness of the Evangelical party at that crisis. The tone of feeling at the solemn Convocation of Ministers which preceded the Disruption, made it certain that surrender or compromise could not be thought of without dishonour; and the elders, with responding fidelity, resolved to maintain the same great principles, and to adhere to the out-going ministers. The words of the Rev. Mr Stewart of Cromarty made a deep and lasting impression. “When I read that interdict by a Civil Court, which the Church was called and commanded to obey, I felt, as I could imagine a child to feel hanging at the breast of its mother, if that mother had been suddenly shot through the heart. I might cling to the body, but the life has gone out of her.” In this state of feeling, with the heart of the Church deeply stirred, with conscience sensitive, and honour pledged, Disruption and continued separation became inevitable. This was felt and appreciated— the serious step was deliberately and prayerfully considered, and bravely taken —and graciously has God guided the Free Church, and has, in her Nonconformist condition, blessed her with peace, liberty, and purity. One part of this gracious dealing has been the gift to the Church of her “Disruption Worthies,” whose wisdom, courage, faithfulness, and godliness, have promoted her progress and her usefulness, and sustained her renown. The purity of motive, the unflinching stedfastness of principle, the spiritual elevation and evangelical earnestness of character, by which these leaders of the Exodus were distinguished, have won the admiration of all good men—even of many who honestly differed and remained behind. Another part of God’s gracious dealing has been the bringing the Free Church into close and cordial relations with the Evangelical Seceders of an earlier date, with churches—Protestant, Presbyterian, Evangelical—holding, as their forefathers held, all the great principles for which our “Disruption Worthies” contended.
It is, however, now said, that Disruption Memories should be consigned to oblivion, and that, as Patronage has been abolished by Act of Parliament, Free Churchmen should return to the Establishment; and it is indeed obvious that to attract them back is the policy of the hour. It is therefore necessary for Free Churchmen seriously to review the past history, and to consider the present position, of the Church. This they must do, in order to estimate aright the attractions or invitations presented or suggested. Now, no narrow-minded jealousy, no unkind feeling, should actuate Free Churchmen in this matter. There is much worth, capacity, and piety within the Established Church. She has a wide field for usefulness, and she has done, and is doing, much good. In all such good, Free Churchmen rejoice. It is the duty and privilege of Free Churchmen to cherish friendly feelings, and to maintain friendly relations, and to co-operate heartily in Christian work; and all this they can do without compromise of principle. But, for members of the Free Church to ignore or forget the Disruption, and to make, or indicate a readiness to make, any movement in the direction of returning to the Establishment, or resuming connection with the State, is quite out of the question. It would be foolish, and it would be wrong, to think of such a step, or even to dream of returning again to bondage. It is alike the part of wisdom and of duty to hold fast the principles vindicated at such cost in the Disruption, and to maintain the position of Nonconformity; for that is our true position, since Nonconformists all Free Churchmen became, when they quitted the Establishment in 1843. The recent alteration in the law of Patronage does not affect our position. It may, or may not, be satisfactory to the Established Church. Of course, we cannot approve of Patronage. We have never done so. It was not in the Evangelical party that Patronage found support, nor can it find support in the Free Church. But the new Statute, whatever it does, does not remove the causes of separation; it does not secure, and was not intended to secure, the spiritual independence of the Church; and after thirty years’ experience of Disruption life, all thoughtful Free Churchmen must have been taught, that Evangelical Nonconformity has in it a charm and a power which the State cannot bestow, and must have been taught also, that the Church is freer, safer, and purer, when depending only on the free-will offerings of the Christian people. All our experience has tended to deepen our convictions on these points. Nor can it be overlooked, that return to State connection would painfully rend asunder the ties now uniting us to those older Nonconformists who have done such great service to the cause—the good old cause—of gospel truth and civil and religious liberty. The true part for the Free Church, at once the wisest and the bravest part, is to hold fast our freedom, and to strengthen our alliance with the free.
But it has been recently maintained, on the part of the Established Church, and of those politicians who invite return to State connection, that the spiritual independence of the Church is not in danger, that it has never been authoritatively denied, and that the law has never negatived the Church’s claim to such spiritual independence, and, therefore, that the subject need not trouble us or scare us from return. This, after all that has passed, is, indeed, a strange view; but the stating of it at present is not without importance. It seems to be adopted to serve the purpose of the passing hour, and is somewhat rashly adopted, for it cuts away the only excuse which can even palliate the oppressive proceedings that led to the Disruption. To surrender the Church’s liberty when the law demanded it, was a weakness and a grave mistake. But to surrender it, when the law did not demand it, would have been an act of treachery and guilt. If it really were the case, as is now alleged or suggested, that the law of the Established Church, and the constitution of the Established Church, never enforced, accepted, or recognised the authority of the Civil Courts, and the subordination of the Church Courts, in matters spiritual, then, how can the actual facts of enforced edicts of the Civil Courts, and the ready submission of that portion of the Church which is now established, be explained?
That the Civil Courts did actually command and ordain the doing of spiritual acts, and did forbid and prohibit the preaching of the gospel in Strathbogie, and that the command and the prohibition were both obeyed without protest by the Moderate party—the party remaining in the Church—is beyond doubt. The defence or explanation given at the time, and till recently, was, that the Church was, in respect of its establishment, bound in law and in duty to obey the edicts of the Civil Court, even in these matters clearly spiritual, even in the calling and the collation, involving the ordination, of ministers, even in the preaching of the word. The Lord President (Hope) said, on 5th March 1841, “What makes the Church of Scotland, but the law?” Lord Mackenzie said, that the Court did not, in the first Auchterarder case, pronounce “a judgment limited to the effect of determining the right to the stipend only, or the manse and glebe;” and he added, what the Lord President had stated on 18th November 1840, that the obligation to receive and admit a qualified person, implies an obligation to ordain, since ordination is necessary to admission. The Strathbogie Interdicts were recognised by the Moderate party—by those who adhered to the Establishment—as competent and legal, as according to the law of the land and the constitution of the Church. The Non-Intrusionists were accused of disloyalty for not obeying them. Dr Guthrie, Dr Cunningham, and Dr Candlish were denounced in the strongest terms.
Now, on this law,— a law recognising and enforcing authority in Civil Courts, and obedience in Church Courts, even in matters spiritual,—there has been no change. The repeal of the law of Patronage has nothing to do with it. A settlement on a presentation was only an occasion for crushing or for vindicating the principle of spiritual independence. The condition or status of subordination, and the relative or emerging duty of obedience, to Civil Courts, remains now exactly as it was in 1841. The facts in regard to violent settlement, and enforcement of the edicts of a Civil Court, are beyond question. The authority, in its most startling form, was exercised, maintained, and vindicated; and was not only distinctly accepted, but was invoked and appealed to, by the party led by Dr Cook—the party who adhered to the Establishment in 1843, and who substantially constituted the Established Church from and after the Disruption.
This, therefore, is the alternative. Either there is no spiritual independence —no distinct and final spiritual jurisdiction—in the Established Church, and the edicts of 1840 and 1841 are still competent, legal, and constitutional, and may be repeated; or the great Moderate party which forced out the Non-Intrusionists, and remained established, were voluntary actors in those violent settlements, and in that acceptance of spiritual subordination, and have been excusing themselves, by laying on the law and constitution of the Church a guilt and a responsibility which were all their own. On the one alternative, the same law may be again enforced, and the Church’s spiritual jurisdiction again crushed. On the other alternative, the same surrender of the Church’s rights may be again made—the same wrong may be again done by the same party, and done with the same results. In any view, it is plain that the position of the present Established Church is not mended by this suggestion, and is not such as to invite, or justify, or even excuse, the return of any leal-hearted Free Churchman. None but the weak or the unfaithful could think of returning. Those who quitted the Establishment on religious conviction and for conscience sake, may and should feel kindly towards those from whom they have parted; but they cannot return without compromise of conscience, and cannot resume State connection without surrendering the principles on which they acted. Besides, the invitation or suggestion, such as it is, has been mere talk. No approach to the Nonconforming Churches generally or to any Nonconformist Church as a body, has been made, or is likely to be made. The idea of union between a Church supported by the State and a Church supported by voluntary contributions, is ridiculous; and the device of attracting weak or selfish adherents one by one, in the hope of affecting statistical returns, is too transparently foolish to require remark. Mr Gladstone asked in Parliament if such a course was “fair or generous”? The question was natural. No answer to this question has been given, in Parliament, or in the Assembly of the Church.
On the probability of continued permanent Establishment, it is premature now to speculate. Questions now raised in England as to education, and as to burials, and as to ceremonies and services, will not be without influence. The question can wait. Time—it may be a short time—may clear it up. Disestablishment is not directly or specially the aim of the Free Church. Her aim is to convert, and to build up, to instruct and to edify, to proclaim and commend the gospel. But Disestablishment may be the result of the advancing strength and progress of Free Church principles, since these are alike the principles of Evangelical Presbyterianism, and of civil and religious liberty. Duty, faithfulness, conscience—these are our guides. Results are in the hands of God. There are good men in the Free Church, who would regret to see the State Church disestablished. There is no sound and loyal Free Churchman, who, for the sake of supporting the Establishment, would compromise the principles, or imperil the spiritual liberty and independence of the Free Church.
The time has come for friendly co-operation among all earnest Christians, since vice, ignorance, infidelity, and superstition are our common enemies. The time may come—God grant that it may soon come!—when, under general awakening and revival, increased depth of conviction and intensity of devotional feeling may lead to union among all sound and free Evangelical Presbyterians. Meanwhile, let all Free Churchmen maintain their principles and their liberty. Let them resist all temptations to Erastianism, and hold in grateful memory the
Historical Sketch of the Free Church of Scotland
By JAMES A. WYLIE, LL.D.
1 The Establishment falls and the Free Church Rises
2 A New Exchequer for a New National Church
3 Restoration of Manses
4 The Founding of Theological Halls
5 The New Schools
6 The Free Church in the Highlands
7 The Outfields ploughed and Sown by the Free Church
8 The Free Church sends the Gospel to the Jew first
9 The Free Church in Continental and Colonial Lands
10 The Free Church in India; or War with the great Paganisms of the East
11 The King at the Centre
The Establishment falls and the Free Church Rises
The Reformed Church of Scotland, has, from the very moment of her birth, claimed to be free. She has rested that great claim on no insufficient grounds, and she has stated it in no ambiguous terms. From no monarch or government did the Church receive her being. She is a Divine institution: and therefore, though in the world, she is distinct from it, and owns no subjection to the principalities and powers of a secular kind, with which she is surrounded. Such, in brief, are the grounds on which she has advanced her claim of immunity from all control from without. God is her Author, Christ is her King, and the Bible is her law.
The Liberty of the Church
The source whence the freedom of the Church springs, determines both its nature and its limits. As regards its nature, it is eminently spiritual, and as regards its limits, it is restricted to things spiritual. The Church is not free to gainsay or resist the edicts of princes in matters political, much less to claim supremacy over them. Neither is she free in the sense of being absolute mistress, and sole unchallenged disposer of the goods and temporalities with which she may happen to be endowed. Nor is she free, even to enact what doctrines she pleases, and bind them upon the consciences of men, or to set up what polity may seem to her expedient. Her freedom may be summed up in a single phrase—the Church is free to obey Christ.
The freedom of the Church, then, is a freedom that consists, not so much in power to rule as in power to obey—liberty to submit to the authority, and carry out the will of Him who is her alone Lord and Monarch. He has communicated to her a system of truths which she is to believe, and a code of laws which she is to administer, and no power under heaven has a right to step in and offer hindrance to her in the profession of the one and the execution of the other. This liberty is altogether indispensable to the accomplishment of the great ends for which she has been called into existence. Not to flatter her pride, and enable her to lift up her head in idle or mischievous supremacy over other societies, was this freedom bestowed upon the Church, but that through her the Heavenly King might reign upon the earth, and society be built up in righteousness. This it is that makes that liberty so unspeakably precious. And this it is that makes it so imperative on the Church to vindicate it at all costs, and never to surrender it, be the wealth, the power, the temporal advantages which may be offered in exchange ever so great. In surrendering it she not only dishonours her King; she not only degrades herself, she inflicts an injury on that very power at whose feet she lays it down.
The Liberty of the Church Guaranteed by Statute in Scotland
The Reformed Church of Scotland was careful at the outset of her career to set before the world in precise, full, and well-defined terms, that spiritual independence which she claimed as her birth-right. No sooner had she emancipated herself from the tyranny of the Papacy than she boldly traced the line over which she pledged herself not to pass, to assail the state; and within which she was equally resolved not to suffer invasion from the secular powers. In the Book of Policy, or First Book of Discipline drawn up by Knox and other leading ministers in 1560 the foundations on which the Reformed Church is seen to place herself, are those of spiritual independence. The power of admission to, and exclusion from, membership and office in the Church, the Book of Policy reserved to the Church exclusively. In doing so it conferred upon her the right of independent self government. For the authority that can admit and exclude without challenge from without, has in its own hands the supreme government of the Society. All church power centres here. On this one point did Calvin suspend the whole battle for the Church’s independent jurisdiction in Geneva; and though it may seem a part only of that power which the Church of Scotland in after times claimed and exercised, it is in reality the whole; it clearly establishes a principle which carries the jurisdiction of the Church triumphantly to the very frontier of the spiritual domain; for to say that ministers are not obliged to admit the unworthy to the communion table, is but another way of saying that ecclesiastical sentences cannot be reviewed and reversed by the civil courts, and that their interference is shut out in things sacred. In her very dawn the Reformed Church of Scotland is seen taking up this ground. She is free from her birth.
She never once, in the course of her future career, abates or modifies that high claim, but, on the contrary, presents it in terms more explicit, and embodies it in declarations and acts more formal and complete. In the Second Book of Discipline, drawn up by Andrew Melville, and agreed upon by the General Assembly of the Church in 1578, the essential line of distinction between civil and ecclesiastical power is boldly traced,— “Jesus Christ,” it declares, “has appointed a government in His Church, distinct from civil government, which is to be exercised in His name by such office-bearers as He has authorised, and not by civil magistrates, or under their direction.”1 Commenting on this declaration, the historian McCrie, says:—”It establishes their (the ecclesiastical authorities) independence in all matters that belong to their cognisance, and guards against what is the great bane of religion and curse of the Church, a priesthood, which is merely the organised puppet of the State, and moves and acts only as it is directed by the State. … It has secured the cordial and lasting attachment of the people of Scotland; whenever it has been wrested from them by arbitrary violence, they have uniformly embraced the first favourable opportunity of demanding its restoration; and the principal secessions which have been made from the national church in this part of the kingdom have been stated, not in the way of dissent from its constitution as in England, but in opposition to departures, real or alleged, from its genuine principle.”2
This spiritual independence, though co-eval with the Church, and of her very nature and constitution, had to fight its way to recognition over the dislike and resistance of the civil power. The years that followed 1578 witnessed numerous collisions between the two authorities, and it was not till 1592 that a satisfactory adjustment of the relations between Church and State was reached. Speaking of that famous settlement, McCrie says:—”What she (the Church) now obtained was a legal recognition of those powers which she had long claimed as belonging to her by Scriptural institution and the gift of her Divine Head. She had now a right by human as well as by divine law, in foro poli et soli, to hold her assemblies for worship and discipline, and to transact all the business competent to her as an ecclesiastical society, without being liable to any challenge for this, and without being exposed to any external interruption or hindrance whatever, either from individuals or from the executive government.”3
There followed in the seventeenth century a series of terrific assaults on the spiritual independence. The last three Stuarts set themselves to crush the Presbyterian Kirk of Scotland, and, along with it, all the rights and liberties of her members, and to erect upon the ruins of Presbyterianism their own sole prerogative. They sustained themselves supreme in all causes ecclesiastical. It needs not that we here recite the tale of that frightful period. All through the “Twenty-eight Years” our fathers are seen contending on scaffold and battle-field for the “Headship of Christ,” as the spiritual independence now began to be termed. The Stuarts were worsted; the Church came triumphant out of the conflict, and again re-asserted her God-given and indestructible liberties. The Fifth Statute of the first Parliament of Scotland, after the Revolution of 1688, ratified and established the Presbyterian form of Church government, and also the Westminster Confession of Faith, which the Church of Scotland had adopted as its confession in 1649. In that noblest of all the symbolic books of the Reformed Church how clearly and fully is the doctrine of the Church’s inherent jurisdiction in all matters spiritual proclaimed. “The Lord Jesus,” – the Confession (chapter 30), “as King and Head of this Church, hath therein appointed a government in the hands of church-officers distinct from the civil magistrate.” And again (chapter 33),—”The chief magistrate may not assume to himself the administration of the Word and Sacraments, or the power of the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven.”
The Powers of the world have ever been jealous of all rights which do not owe their origin to them, and which are not supervised and controlled by them. A few years only was the Church of Scotland left in undisturbed possession of the liberty which the Revolution Settlement had recognised as rightfully hers, and which the Union of Scotland and England in 1707, had solemnly sealed, as what was to remain unchallenged and unrevoked in all time to come—a prerogative inviolable. This national pledge hindered not, however, that in 1712, the Act of Patronage was passed. The object sought, was by the subtle working of a hostile law, to undermine and destroy what the open violence of the dragoons and scaffolds of a foregoing period had been unable to overthrow. The Act of Patronage gave to the State the power, not indeed of seating men at the communion table, but of putting them into the pulpits of the Church. Whether through the “pulpit” or through the “communion table” mattered not: Patronage held open the door for the State to enter the ecclesiastical courts, and to take into its own hands, in process of time, the whole administration of ecclesiastical affairs to the destruction of the inherent spiritual jurisdiction of the Church. Divers checks were employed in the hope of preventing, or at least delaying the disastrous effects which it was foreseen would flow from the working of this Act. The call of the congregation was maintained with the view of balancing the power of the Patron. But the latter, backed by the State, and favoured by the indifference that began to weigh upon the Church courts, gradually encroached upon the rights of the people. At last the call of the congregation fell before the nomination of the Patron. From a reality the call became a mere form, and from a form it soon sunk into a nullity. The entire independent action of the Church was threatened with paralysis. At that crisis, there arose a party in the ecclesiastical courts, led by Sir Henry Moncreiff and Dr. Andrew Thomson, and ultimately by the great Chalmers, which sought to roll back the tide of civil invasion which threatened to overwhelm the Church’s liberties. This party strove to resuscitate the call, and so give an effective voice to the people in the settlement of their minister. Never did a more brilliant phalanx fight in the battles of the Presbyterian Church. Those who lived through the period and still survive, will recall with emotion, the splendours of that golden age. Genius, learning, eloquence, rushed to save an ancient and venerated jurisdiction, under the shadow of which Scotland had grown to greatness. The battle is not always to the strong. The champions of the imperilled liberties failed to save them in the way they wished, and which it was then thought, was the only way in which they could be saved. One hostile decision followed another, fulminated by the civil courts, each sapping more deeply the independent spiritual jurisdiction of the Church than that which had gone before it. The Veto Law by which the reforming party sought to make the call effective, and to restore to congregations their ancient rights in the choice of their pastor was declared to be illegal. This inevitably led to collision with the civil courts along the whole line of the Church’s spiritual action. The luminous statement of Lord Ardmillan, and the graphic sketch of Hugh Miller, render here unnecessary a detailed narration of the steps that led up to the issue. It soon came to pass that the spiritual sentences of the General Assembly were reviewed and reversed by the civil courts; and the Church was held bound, under pains and penalties, to discharge certain functions, undeniably spiritual, and clearly falling within her own domain at the bidding of the State. This laid the axe at the root of the independent self-government of the Church. These decisions quietly ignored the Church’s Divine institution, and God-given powers, and ranked her no higher than a department of the State for ecclesiastical affairs. They made her the organ simply through which the civil authority might give effect to its will in matters ecclesiastical and spiritual. The spectacles of other days, believed to have gone by for ever, again reappeared, and ministers were seen standing at a temporal bar to be rebuked and punished, for disobedience to a civil mandate in things spiritual. Clear it was that if this authority could legitimately place them in the criminals’ dock, it could quite as legitimately send them to the Grassmarket. The Church sought relief in the Parliament of the nation. That relief was refused her. The State would not undo the yoke which the law courts had wreathed round her neck; the Church herself must break it. And now came the Disruption of 1843.
Possessions of which the Church could not be stripped
The Disruption carried back the Church of Scotland to her starting ground. The event of the 18th May, 1843, set down the Free Protesting Church at the same point where the Reformed Presbyterian Church had stood on the 22nd of August, 1560. Naked and penniless, she escaped at the Reformation out of the immuring walls of the Papacy where she had been held captive four centuries. Naked and penniless she escaped from the new thraldom into which the hostile, and as she deemed them, unconstitutional decisions of the civil courts, confirmed by Parliament, had thrown her. Of all her temporal emoluments, and legal defences, she retained nothing. She was left without churches, without glebes, without manses, without stipends, without school-houses. She was stripped of all. Thus, literally, was she brought back to her beginning. “I remember,” said Mr. David Fergusson, in the Synod of Fife, relating when an old man what had been the experiences of his youth, “I remember when such was the unfortunate state of our affairs, that we were stript of all our temporalities, and there was no such thing as a stipend, or a glebe, or a manse, through the whole of Scotland. And there were just six of us who laid our heads together, and we determined to plant congregations wherever we could.” A second time she presents herself before Scotland without the fence of law, or the dowry of earthly goods.
But there were things of which the Dis-Established Church of Scotland could not be stript. No human power could annul the charter which she held of God, and which was written in the Bible. No decision of court, and no edict of Parliament could filch from her her right to a liberty which a higher than earthly monarch had bestowed upon her. Nor could she ever be robbed of the memory of her past. The halo of that glory would be for ever around her, and its impulse for ever stirring within her. Nor, whatever the degradation, distress, and poverty into which she might be reduced, could she ever cease to be the object of reverence and affection on the part of a people for whose rights and liberties she had so often poured out her blood. These were riches more precious by far than those of which she had been stript. No external power could despoil her of them. And if she must needs go back to her first condition, and plod her weary way over again, she had the satisfaction of thinking, that she had now at her service an array of spiritual forces, which had been silently growing up during the past three hundred years, and which the Disruption, so far from extinguishing, had set free and awakened into tenfold mightier energy. In the exercise of these powers she would soon recover all, and more than all of what had been taken from her. When she looked abroad over Scotland on the 18th of May, 1843, her fathers’ land was no longer hers, she had suddenly become a stranger in it. She found herself on the morrow of the Disruption an exile; but if she had lost Scotland, it was only for a moment, she would again take possession of it, and would hold it by a new and more sacred bond, which no exterior power should be able to break. Strong in faith, she went forth to re-possess the land, and we are rapidly to follow her in the accomplishment of her great task.
Three months before the Disruption, that is, in the February of 1843, there was sketched a programme of work to be undertaken by the Church after the Disruption, which was now looked upon as certain. That work was arranged under the four following heads:—(1.) The erection of churches. (2.) The providing of a Sustentation for the ministry, together with a Theological College. (3.) The extension of the Gospel at home by the planting of new charges. (4.) The evangelisation of the heathen world by means of foreign missions. This was no light programme on the part of a Church that stood face to face with dis-establishment. In the prosecution of it numerous calls to labour, not specified in this outline, and which could not then be foreseen, would, she well knew, emerge, of a subordinate but not unimportant kind; for these also she stood prepared. Manifestly her spirit did not quail. At a time when many thought she was about to vanish from the land, she was meditating wider conquests, and girding herself for greater labours. Let us follow her as she fulfils her programme of work, and step by step builds herself up.
The Work before the Disestablished Church
The essential and primary duty of a Church is worship, and consequently the first care of the now disestablished and disendowed Church of Scotland was to make provision for the orderly and commodious celebration of public ordinances. All her sanctuaries had been taken from her. Accordingly the erection of suitable fabrics for her congregations was the first work to which the Free Protesting Church of Scotland must put her unfettered hand. She could worship, it is true, on the mountain, or on the wild, or on the sea-shore; or, if these places should be interdicted to her, she could hold her solemn convocations on the highway. But only during the summer months would this be practicable. As soon as the dripping rains and the keen blasts of winter should set in, it would be impossible without serious risk to health and life to worship without shelter from the elements. Early in the year of the Disruption provision began to be made in prospect of the emergency. All idea of costly edifices was laid aside. This was left over for wealthier and better times, should such times ever come. Meanwhile, plain but commodious fabrics, such as were suitable for the Presbyterian worship, would suffice. Their erection was set about with system and vigour.
A Provisional Committee was formed by the conjunction of the committees respectively appointed by the Convocation of Ministers which met at Edinburgh in the November of 1842, and the General Meeting of Elders, which had been held in Edinburgh on the 1st of February, 1843; and on this Provisional Committee was laid the burden of making all necessary preparations for an event which was now seen to be impending. That committee issued its first “Circular” to the friends of the Church on the 17th of February, 1843. It bore, prefixed as its motto, the words of Psalm 132: 3, 4, 5: “Surely I will not come into the tabernacle of my house, nor go up into my bed; I will not give sleep to mine eyes, or slumber to mine eyelids, until I find out a place for the Lord, an habitation for the mighty God of Jacob.” It opened thus:—”In the judgment of all men the period is near when the pleasant and the beautiful house in which our fathers worshipped will be laid waste. In that mournful day we are not to sit sad and inactive amid the ruins of the sanctuary, nor to hang our harp upon the willows when assailed by the mockings of the stranger; but, in duty to ourselves, in duty to generations yet to come, above all, in duty to Him whose mercy, amidst the judgments sent upon us, is conspicuous, we must arouse ourselves to determined action—not only that we may secure for ourselves the means of worshipping our God according to our consciences, but that a testimony for the pure truth of God may not fail from this land, in which our fathers were strengthened to witness so goodly a confession in the times of old.”
The undertone of sadness which these words breathe was well fitted to give depth and power to the call to active exertion, which, as with trumpet’s peal, the circular sent forth. The men whose words we have quoted saw clearly the approaching overthrow; all beyond was veiled in uncertainty and darkness, but their resolution is seen rising only the higher as the day of discomfiture and trial draws nigh. Accordingly the “Circular” proceeds:—”Let it be assumed that the Church is to be disestablished after the meeting of Assembly in May, that five or six hundred ministers are then to resign their livings and leave their churches, that these, with their congregations, are to be provided with places of worship with the least possible delay, that the two hundred faithful probationers are to be employed as ministers or missionaries among the people who adhere, in different parts of the country, where the ministers do not quit the Establishment, that the means of decent support are to be found for these labourers, and that, too, without neglecting the care of education and the cause of missions, and that all this is to be done in the course of the ensuing summer, so that, if possible, before winter sets in, the Church may be in a comparatively organised state—safe and sheltered, if it please God, at all events from the winds of heaven, even should she be followed in her retreat by the wrath of man, which, however, He, in His mercy, can restrain.”
They had verily good cause to add—”This, it will be seen, is a good summer’s work carved out for our poor Kirk.”
The Disruption viewed Before and After
We who stand on this side the Disruption and look back upon it from the midst of well-filled exchequers, flourishing schemes, and sumptuous churches, would do well to place ourselves where our fathers stood, and view the Disruption, and the Church that arose from it, from their stand-point. What they risked was not the loss of their livings. That would have been comparatively a small matter. Their stipends were in their own power, and they could keep them or cast them away, as it seemed good to them. They incurred a responsibility infinitely higher than the loss of their emoluments, and nothing but a strong confidence in God could have enabled them to adventure on that responsibility. They risked the overthrow of the Church of Scotland,—the Church which Knox had founded, which martyr-blood had nourished, and which had ministered the Bread of Life to many successive generations of Scotchmen. It was in this light—the razing even of the Church, the throwing down of what they never would be able to rebuild—that the world beheld the coming Disruption. It was faith only that could see the Free Church while as yet she was not—while, as yet, there was not a penny in her exchequer, nor a sanctuary in all the land which she could call her own. The words we have quoted seem sober, read at this day, and the anticipations which they express seem well founded, now that they have been fulfilled. But to the bulk of those who were living when these words were first written and given to the world, they sounded like the effusions of fanaticism, and the hopes which they held out were pronounced to be Utopian and chimerical. It is when we carry ourselves back to those days, that we are able to take the measure of the faith and courage of the men of the Disruption, and the grace given them of God to go forward in the face of a universal scepticism and derision, in the way of vindicating the honour of the Church’s Head, and maintaining the liberties of her members, not doubting that if the ancient and beautiful house in which their fathers had worshipped should be rent asunder and cast down, another would arise upon its ruins, fairer, purer, and statelier than that which had been overthrown.
The Building of New Churches
Full of this faith, they began to build. Promptitude, method, and professional skill came to the aid of a devout faith in the execution of this work. A sub-committee was formed for collecting funds and obtaining subscriptions for the erection of the new edifices. Another sub-committee was formed for obtaining sites, procuring plans and estimates, and taking charge of the erection of the fabrics. A third sub-committee was appointed to correspond with local committees and individuals as to the localities in which the new churches should be planted. This triple machinery was soon in busy operation over the whole country. The note of preparation was heard in rural glen as well as in populous city. It was resolved that the new fabrics should be commodious, but severely plain, and reared on a system of rigid economy. Not a penny was to be lavished in useless ornament. And it was also enacted that the city churches should be of the same unpretending style of architecture with the country sanctuaries, for the present at least, that all might share to the extent of their needs in the offerings of the people, and the unseemly spectacle be avoided of the wealthy congregations worshipping in splendid edifices, while their poorer brethren were insufficiently accommodated, or, it might be, compelled to assemble on the open wild. Half-a-million sterling, said the Committee, would not suffice to provide churches for the outcoming congregations, if these were to be ornamental, and, of course, costly. If it were attempted to realise the object on this scale the result would be that the Church would be crushed by the insuperable load she had taken upon herself, whereas, should plainness and economy be studied, a third of that sum would suffice to construct six hundred commodious churches, guaranteed to last for a considerable number of years, and would leave the energies of the Church free for the prosecution of her higher spiritual work.
On this principle, plans were prepared and issued, accompanied with drawings, exhibiting the exterior appearance and the internal arrangements of the proposed edifices. In form they were quadrangular, the width being about two-thirds of the length. Their capacity varied from 350 sittings to 600 or 1000, and were to cost, in some cases only five shillings a sitting, and in no case more than fifteen shillings. The churches hitherto in use had cost, at an average, £2 a sitting. The seats were to be placed on the ground floor, arranged in a semi-octagonal form, and sloping upwards from the pulpit, which was placed low to render the speaking without effort. The walls were to be of stone, or of brick, or of timber, according to the peculiar resources of the different districts. The roof, which in some cases consisted of a single span, in others of a series of spans resting on timber pillars placed twelve feet apart, was to be covered with patent felt, or the thinnest Welsh slates. Galleries were rarely introduced. The heating and ventilating processes were carefully attended to. In their acoustic properties and general convenience these new structures excelled the old churches. They were humble, but comfortable withal. “If,” said the Committee in their “Fifth Communication,” which unfolded the plan of the new sanctuaries with which they were about to cover Scotland, “if, in respect of lowly, contrite, exercised worshippers entering their unadorned gates to meet with God, they are found really ‘heaven’s gate’ and ‘ God’s house,’ the remembrance of glories which have passed away will be obliterated by the felt presence of a glory that excelleth.”
It needs no gorgeous cathedral, no fane rich in the glories of architecture, in order that God’s message of forgiveness may be preached to sinful men; it needs that no mystic rite, no blaze of taper, and cloud of incense accompany the celebration of the sacraments, in order that they may impart their efficacy to the worshippers. Else what had become of religion in early times, and in many subsequent periods, when the Church’s sky was overcast, and the storm of persecution blew loud and fierce. A boat anchored a little off shore served as a pulpit for Him who spake as never man spake. Peter’s first sermon, which resulted in the conversion of four thousand souls, was preached on the street of Jerusalem. The catacombs below the city served as the oratories and chapels of the first Roman Christians. Luther opened his ministry in a tottering wooden shed in the great square of Wittemberg. A fish-stall in the market-place formed the pulpit of the first Protestant preacher in Geneva. The Huguenots worshipped in woods, and our fathers in dens and on mountains. The Disruption Assemblies, on the eve of expulsion from their national edifices, had the prospect of being not so badly off as their predecessors. “In the adaptation of the plans proposed to our circumstances and resources,” said the Provisional Committee, “and to the wants of this suffering land, we acknowledge the unspeakable goodness of the Lord, who, we trust, will continue to smile upon our unworthy efforts to testify for His injured truth, and to rebuild the ruined walls of His sanctuary.”
Under the government of the Most High, the world is advancing from age to age to a higher platform. Governments are growing in humanity, and peoples in intelligence and piety. Had the Disruption taken place in the seventeenth century, a horde of dragoons would have been poured in upon Scotland, the leaders in the movement would have been hunted out, shot down or hanged, and the people would have stood by in callous indifference, or in helpless despair. But happening, as it did, in the nineteenth century, the severities employed to crush the movement were confined to legal measures. The faith and enterprise of the pastors were met by the abundant offerings of a willing people. What the devotion of the one surrendered, the piety of the others gave back. Associations were formed all over the land; local and congregational agencies were multiplied; collectors offered their services; to each collector was assigned a district containing twenty-five contiguous families; the rich gave their thousands, the poor their pence, and in some instances their pounds, and soon a Treasury was formed, filled beyond the expectations of the most sanguine, to rear up the tabernacles which had fallen, and to preserve to Scotland that evangelical ministry which had been the glory of the land, and which its sons showed they knew how to appreciate.
The report of the Building Fund Committee was given in to the General Assembly, which met at Glasgow in October, 1843, the Free Church being then just five months old. From schedules which had been sent out, and to which returns had been made, the Committee, say, “We cannot calculate the number of churches now building, or speedily to be proceeded with, at fewer than 700. Four hundred and seventy ministers left their churches on the 18th of May; and in the course of five months, we find ourselves in the course of being called upon to form seven hundred congregations, and to erect seven hundred churches.” The report goes on to speak of the Fund whence the erection of these seven hundred churches was to be defrayed. The total amount of donations and subscriptions sent in to the general Treasurer of the Fund was £76,180, 2s. 11d. The total subscriptions for local objects reported to the treasurer of the Financial Committee amounted to £90,562, 4s. 6½d. “And,” say the Committee, “adding the central Fund, and the subscriptions for local objects together, we have thus the sum of £166,702, 7s. 5½d. as the amount of the pecuniary contributions to the great building object of our Church.”
To this is to be added the churches built and presented by individual donors, sites for edifices, and also stones and timber, and other materials wherewith to erect them, the munificent gifts of noblemen, landed proprietors, rich merchants, and wealthy ladies, estimated at a value not less than £15,000, and swelling the amount contributed towards the accomplishment of this great undertaking to £181,702 7s. 5½d. Nor did this sum, great as it was, fully indicate the height to which the liberality of the members of the Church had risen. The Committee had good reason to conclude that, from inaccuracies and omissions, the sums reported to the Committee was less than the sums at that moment available throughout the country for local building purposes by £25,000. “So that if we add this sum,” say the Committee, “to the amount already paid, or actually reported to the Committee, we shall have as the grand total, which we may consider available for our great object, the sum of £206,702, 7s. 5½d, being not very greatly short of two-third parts of the entire sum of £350,000 requisite for the absolute completion of our vast undertaking.” Hardly had the old edifices been lost when they were as good as replaced by others, and these even more commodious. The Church expected, when the stroke of State disestablishment should have fallen, that she would open her eyes on ruins, she opens them instead on the pleasant though unexpected vision of fair tabernacles spread out over the land, with her flocks gathering into them and uplifting the psalm in worship of the God of their fathers. Let no Church, in any country or in any age, after this, hesitate to follow where the voice of conscience calls. Much less let no one imagine that by obeying the Word of God we can by any possibility be exposing to ruin the Church of God.
It was not expected that the Building Fund would maintain the same continuous flow as other funds of the Church. It was an emergency which had called it forth, and its tendency was to extinguish itself by extinguishing the object which had made it necessary. But the extension of the Church demanded year by year the erection of additional fabrics, and year by year the Building Fund, with continuous increase, furnished the means for the construction of the needed edifices. We do not go into minute details, because we aim at compiling not a statistical account, but an historical sketch. The average of the annual amount of the Building Fund since the Disruption has been, in round numbers, £64,000. Additional burdens came immediately to be laid on this Fund, for it is not necessary to say that not only did congregations require churches in which to worship, but ministers needed houses in which to live, and the youth schools in which to be taught. The first and most pressing necessity, which was churches, being so far met, manses and elementary schools were next thought of. The amount raised for all building purposes in the year succeeding that of the Disruption was £131,731. This year, for obvious reasons, was an exceptional one. In the following year the building pressure was less, and the Fund diminished in proportion. Its amount was £89,840. From this time the Fund gradually diminished as the claims upon it grew fewer, till in 1850 it stands at £77,317. Ten years onward, 1860, it shows a total of £42,571. From this point it begins to advance. In other ten years it has increased its annual average by £20,000, showing a total in 1869 of £62,319. By this time the Free Church had built 920 churches, 719 manses, 597 schools. The total amount raised and expended on these numerous fabrics was, in round numbers,£1,667,000.4
Advancing another decade, we find the “Local Building Fund,” in 1879, amounting to £67,072. The number of churches built may now be reckoned roundly at 1000. Steadily, this great Fund, ever since the Disruption, is seen to keep pace with the necessities of the Church, and to display an elasticity which enables it to contract or expand according to the demands upon it. And now we see its place taken, to some extent, and its work crowned, by the “Church Extension Fund,” with its munificent realization, the effort of one or two years, of One Hundred Thousand Pounds.
The significance of these sums lies in their being the indices of a spiritual Power, which, mightier than the edicts of kings, can fill to overflow the Church’s treasury with the free-will offerings of her people.
A New Exchequer for a New National Church
Where is there a land on earth better known than America? Letters and intelligence from it are seen on our tables every day. Ships by the hundred are setting out or returning from it every week. We cannot even conceive of our globe without this great fourth continent; and were it by any possibility to be dropped out of the terraqueous sphere, what a void would be thereby occasioned! Commerce would be paralysed, politics would be less healthy and free, and the shadow would go back on the dial of Christianity itself.
And yet not a very long while ago there was no America. That country, now so powerful a factor in the world’s affairs, was then unknown. Till Columbus, by dint of long, wearisome, and venturous search, found it out no one knew the road to it, or even dreamed of what mighty sources of power, wealth, and enjoyment lay hid in the unexplored darkness of the far West.
The “Sustentation Fund” is a household word. It is so, not in Scotland only, but in almost every land where Christianity is known, or Christian churches have been planted. Nothing appears to us more natural and equitable, than that the men, whether few or many, who discharge the common ministry of a church should be supported out of the common offerings of its members. And yet, till Thomas Chalmers announced the idea of a common Sustentation Fund, no one had thought of the plan, or ventured to act upon it. A method which works with such simplicity, which so apportions its burden as to make it oppressive to no one, and lightens it to all, which gathers its store from week to week with regularity and certainty, and distributes it so equitably and impartially, which carries its aid to the obscurest pastor in the remotest part of the country, as well as to the most distinguished metropolitan minister, which expands with the expansion of the Church —this method, we say, of sustaining the ministry was no more believed in, than were the boundless and munificent capabilities of the world that lay concealed in the western ocean prior to the discovery of Columbus.
There had been, it is true, approximations in former times, to this method of supporting the ministry. But neither in conception nor in practice had the plan of the Sustentation Fund been really hit upon.
Its special characteristic, and that which gives it its peculiar power, was lacking in these earlier methods. In primitive times the ministers of the Gospel were supported by the voluntary oblations of the people. These offerings were made in some cases weekly, in others monthly, and the two together would seem to have furnished sufficient maintenance for the Church’s pastors; but a time came when the Church began to be enriched with lands and houses. The gifts of the few were poured in with a too plentiful prodigality, and the oblations of the many began to be withheld, their donors deeming them no longer necessary. Thus what was designed to supplement came eventually to supplant the Church’s ordinary revenue, and, to the great body of the pastors, abundance was succeeded by comparative indigence. So does Bingham, gleaning his information from the early fathers, represent the matter.
At a period long subsequent, the ancient method of supporting the ministry was again brought into use. The pastors of the first Secessions from the Scottish Establishment in the eighteenth century, were supported each by the congregation to which he ministered. But different were the position and aims of the Free Church, and this necessitated in her case a different scheme of finance.
The Secession began with some six ministers, the Free Church started into being with six hundred. But the main difference between the two does not lie here. The Secession neither professed to be national, nor contemplated being permanent. The Free Church claimed to be both. The special object of the Secession was to testify against the corrupt and tyrannical administration of the prevailing party in the Courts of the Establishment. It fulfilled this end, if it was able to plant its congregations in those places of the country where there was wealth enough to sustain them. It was not necessary that it should take possession of the whole land, or that it should displace the National Church. It disavowed any object of this sort. The Secession thought only of reforming the administration of the Establishment, especially as respected the enforcement of the law of patronage, and, this end accomplished, to resume communion with the National Church. It had no quarrel with the constitution of the Established Church—no quarrel with its doctrine, government, and worship. These it venerated and clung to. Its quarrel was with the prevailing party in the Church Courts. From this party, and this party alone the Secession held that it had separated. Doubtless in process of time it came to modify these views, and to contemplate both a more permanent existence, and a wider sphere of operations: but these were the views with which the Secession started. And it is easy to see that a congregational scheme of finance might suit a Church whose position and aims were what we have described.
But in the case of the Free Church of Scotland let us mark the difference. It was not a body of ministers, less or more, protesting against a dominant party in the Church, and separating from that party, or even from the Church; it was the Church herself protesting against and dissolving her connection with the State. All through these contendings, from the initial step in 1833, to the final act of constituting her General Assembly in Tanfield Hall, on the 18th of May, 1843, she acted in her character as the Church, the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Scotland.
She complained that the State had broken Treaty engagements, and altered the conditions on which she was established, and that the homage which she owed to her Head, and the care she was bound to exercise over the liberties of her members, forbade that she should longer retain her State connection. But she was still the same Church. Though she had suffered wrong, that was no reason why she should denude herself of her rightful character. She dared not do so. The memories of the past and the duties of the present alike forbade it. But if she claimed to be the Reformed National Church of Scotland—the Church which Knox had led out of the Papacy; the Church whose Moderator’s chair Melville and Henderson had filled; the Church which had sent so many martyrs to die in the Grassmarket; the Church which had been set up again on the old foundations at the Revolution,—if she claimed to be this Reformed National Church, she must sustain that claim suitably and worthily; that is, she must in very deed and fact be national.
She must spread herself out and fill the whole land. It were not enough that she should plant her churches in the wealthy localities and keep herself visible by a few representative fabrics scattered over the country. She must build her churches everywhere, even in districts where she could not hope to receive so much as a single pound or a single penny for their support. She must supply the ordinances of grace to the whole population, to the men of the Highlands and Islands as well as to those of the Lowlands. But with her pecuniary resources suddenly and completely cut off, with not a shilling to be now got from the National Exchequer, where was she to find the means of discharging these vast obligations and enlarging herself to these truly national dimensions? It was now that Chalmers, filled with that wisdom that cometh from above, showed the Church, as she stood in presence of these tremendous responsibilities, where she might open a richer treasury than that which had just been closed against her.
It was in November, 1842, at a general meeting of ministers in Edinburgh, termed the Convocation, that Dr Chalmers first made known his plan of a Sustentation Fund. “The arithmetic,” he said, “on which I found the confidence I feel, that is, of creating a new National Exchequer on which to base a new National Church is soon told. It is not because I count on a multitude of great things. These may be either more frequent, or more numerous than I shall attempt to specify. But I do count on a multitude of little things. It is not on the strength of large sums that I proceed, it is on the strength and accumulation of littles. It is on the assiduities of habit and principle, such as a very common and every day exertion in our land might secure if begun, and such as the general influence of custom alone might suffice to perpetuate. Such is the character—the plain unimaginative character—of the premises with which I am dealing; and the conclusion I draw from them, what I call my minimum result;” and we may imagine how the assembled ministers would here hold their breath, to catch what was the “minimum result” which the speaker anticipated from this as yet untried, and, as it seemed to them, not very hopeful experiment. They expected doubtless to hear the Doctor name thirty thousand, or it might be forty thousand a year. “The very least to which I aspire,” Dr Chalmers went on to say, “is a hundred thousand pounds in the year!”
It was a new Utopia which was being disclosed to their gaze. So did some, perhaps most of the men who were now listening to this address believe. As the crew of Columbus heard with incredulous ears the assurances which he gave them, and which he reiterated from day to day, that in the far-off depths of the ocean on which they were voyaging there lay hid magnificent lands, whose virgin fields teemed with all kinds of riches, and that they had only to hold on in their present track, in order to reach this goodly inheritance, so too, we can imagine, did the members of the Convocation listen to Chalmers as he painted, with an eloquence which he alone could wield, the resources of this new El Dorado, this as yet uncreated Sustentation Fund. They did not doubt or hesitate a moment as regarded their own duty, but they doubted the practicability and success of the financial scheme on which they were invited to rest the support of the ministry. It might realise the expectations of its founder, in part at least, in the period of enthusiasm, but in years to come, when the fire had burned out, and all things had returned to their ordinary course, would not this Fund dry up and disappear? This was the fear that possessed them.
The doctor went on to expound the ground on which he based his expectation. This was, in brief, the Gospel,—the enduring Divine power of the Gospel. Enthusiasm was transient, the moral forces by which he hoped to create this Fund were eternal. It was not on the transient, but on the eternal that he leaned. He passed next to speak of the dispensation of the Fund. “All the means raised throughout all the localities,” he said, “should be remitted to a large central Fund, whence a distribution of it should be made of the requisite sums or salaries for the ministers of all our parishes. .. The ministers of the most opulent parishes, whence the largest contributions will be made to the General Fund, agree to share and share alike with the ministers of the poorest parishes in Scotland.” But with this equal division, beautiful as it was in itself, the ministers of the Church might yet, owing to the greater cost of living in cities than in rural parishes, fare unequally. To remedy this inequality, Chalmers proposed that congregations should be at liberty, over and above their quarterly contribution to the general treasury, to make a supplementary effort for the purpose of increasing the stipend of its own minister. And lastly, and to complete his scheme, he proposed, as an essential feature of it, that provision should be made for not only maintaining the existing ministry, but for increasing its numbers as occasion might require. Such was the earliest sketch in outline of the future financial system of the Free Church of Scotland.
The machinery for carrying out this plan was speedily constructed and set a-working. The first tentative efforts were most encouraging. We find Dr Chalmers stating to a public meeting in Glasgow, in the March following, that in his own particular parish, in the immediate neighbourhood of Edinburgh, consisting of about 1600 people, an experiment had been made. Operations had been begun amid a perfect storm of opposition from the higher classes, but the collectors persevered, “and we are now receiving,” said the doctor, “at the rate of £6, 16s. a-week from 1600 individuals, which amounts to £350 a-year; and if that proportion were carried over the whole of Scotland it would yield half-a-million a-year, and pay the whole expense of the present establishment twice over. Is it to be endured that the upper classes shall tell us that they support the Church? They don’t. The only relation in which they exist to the Church is, that two hundred years ago they robbed it; and now they offer to enslave it. But say that they give us the £250,000 a-year—say that they do it—when we go forth among the people, and raise half-a-million a-year, is it to be endured that, on the plea of their endowment, we shall surrender the liberties that belong to a free Christian Church? … Princes and parliaments may now look hardly on the Church of Scotland. But our consciences are at rest; and the confidence of all is strong and high that our God has not forsaken her— and at this moment He is sending us the visible tokens of His favour. We are like to be over-borne by a heartless Government and a hostile aristocracy. But at a time when we have been deserted by a few feeble and faint-hearted amongst ourselves, the people of the land have nobly flown to the rescue; and, by their offerings and their testimonies together, have given triumphant assurance that, by the Divine blessing, we shall still have a free, and full, and efficient ministry of the Gospel among our families. … In the feebleness of my lame and imperfect advocacy I feel assured that the cause will not suffer even from my inadequate representation of it—a cause worthy of him whose
Wielded at will the fierce democracy,
Shook the arsenal and fulmined over Greece
To Macedon and Artaxerxes’ throne!
“Little did I think but that I should spend the remainder of my days in studious, and literary, and let me add devotional pursuits; but these are extraordinary times, and enthusiasm is a virtue rarely to be met with in seasons of calm and unruffled prosperity. Enthusiasm flourishes in adversity—kindles in the hour of danger—and awakens to deeds of renown. The terrors of persecution only serve to quicken the energy of its purposes, it swells in proud integrity, and, great in the purity of its cause, it can scatter defiance amid a host of enemies.”
In no long time after the delivery of this speech the confidence it breathed was fully justified, and the incredulity which till then had haunted many minds, was effectually dispelled. What they had taken for an Utopia, they now saw was a reality. Just two months after the Glasgow meeting, at the first General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland, the first ingatherings of this great Fund were announced, and their amount, considering how incomplete as yet was the machinery, and how short had been the time, were truly magnificent, and gave welcome promise that the harvest would be plenteous,—plenteous even beyond what the originator of the Fund had dared to promise himself, or picture to others. When the first General Assembly met, it was reported that no fewer than 687 congregational associations had been formed on behalf of the sustentation of the ministry. Of these 687 associations, 239 were in complete working order, and had sent into the Sustentation Fund £17,525. A calculation, founded on these data, as to the amount which the remaining 448 associations had raised, but not yet sent in, made the sum to be received £32,553; and, adding these two sums together, the total amounted to £50,078. When to this was added the amount contributed for the building of churches, it was seen that the grand total had been reached of £232,347. As the result of two months’ appliance, upwards of Two Hundred Thousand Pounds had been tendered for the support of the Free Church of Scotland.
This was no spasmodic effort, done in a moment of enthusiasm, and followed by exhaustion. Increase continued to be the normal characteristic of the Sustentation Fund. The spiritual forces which had opened this fountain kept it open, and made its flow perennial. At the Assembly which met in Glasgow in October that same year (1843), Dr Chalmers was able to announce that, had not disturbing influences diverted to other objects sums which ought properly to have been sent to the Sustentation Fund, the contemplated stipend of £150 would have been reached; as it was, the Church was able to divide as a salary to each minister on the equal dividend £105. The total of ministers on the Fund in that year was 583, and of these 470 received a full equal dividend.
The sum raised in the first year of the Free Church for the support of the ministry was £62,468; and for all objects, including the building of churches, missions, Highlands, School-Master’s Fund, £366,719. “Turning round to the population of the country,” said Dr Chalmers in the Glasgow Assembly, “after it had cost us years of unavailing negotiation with the Government, in a few months the population came back with the magnificent response of £300,000.”
In the second year of the Free Church (1844-45) the sum cast into the treasury of the Sustentation Fund was £76,200; the number of ministers receiving a full equal dividend was 557; and the sum allotted to each was £122. The amount raised this year for all objects was £334,483. In the seventh year of the Free Church (1850) the Sustentation Fund had risen to £89,648; the number of ministers on the equal dividend to 647; and the stipend to each to £123. By this time churches had been erected in nearly all the localities where they were needed; as a consequence, the Building Fund, the largest of all the Funds in the Disruption year, had fallen to £55,753; but this was balanced by an increase in the other Funds of the Church, which amounted in the aggregate to the munificent sum of upwards of three hundred thousand pounds. The number of her ordained ministers had risen to 706. She had besides a body of some 200 probationers, or licensed preachers, who were constantly employed in her service, under whose ministrations stations were being nursed into congregations, and thus was going on a steady extension of the Church’s boundaries, and a gradual increase in the numbers of her pastors.
Other ten years pass on. We measure the progress of the Free Church during this decade, by marking the point at which the Fund stands in 1860, the seventeenth year of her existence. Her ministers are now 846. The full equal dividend is £135; and the income of the Sustentation Fund is £109,259. Thus does the Fund pursue its prosperous course. Every year the Church’s treasury is more amply replenished; and every year a more liberal allowance is dispensed from it to its ministers. In 1869 it has risen to £132,125, 16s. 7d., and the equal dividend to £150. In 1879 it reaches £175,990, 0s. 5d., and the dividend £160. The number of ministers participating in the Fund this year is 1094. The above dividend is exclusive of the congregational supplement, which adds considerably to the ministerial income. The average congregational supplement in 1879 was £96. Taking these two together, the Free Church distributed as stipend last year no less a sum than two hundred and twenty-five thousand pounds, which gives an average of two hundred and twenty pounds to each charge. Enjoying, as the Fund now does, the benefit of the financial and administrative talents of the Rev. Dr Wilson, a still further increase may be looked for in years to come. Meanwhile, we are warranted in saying that the idea of Chalmers has been realised. A new national exchequer has been provided for a new national Church.
Restoration of Manses
Manses for her outgoing pastors was one of the first and most urgent of the many necessities which pressed upon the attention of the Free Church. How many memories, tender and thrilling, how many hallowed associations cluster round a manse! It is no common home. The joys that brighten it, and the sorrows that at times darken it, are both of them of a kind, to sanctify and endear the spot beyond the measure of ordinary dwellings. It was in leaving the manse that the Disruption culminated: for not till that hour had come and the manse had to be left, could all that the sacrifice involved be fully realised. When the pastor had seen his family go forth, and he only remained behind to extinguish the fire on the hearth, and to follow those who had preceded him over that threshold which they were to cross no more, he might truly say that now the bitterness of the Disruption was past. Dr Chalmers had, by anticipation, painted the “manse leaving” with graphic power, the event, in itself sufficiently painful, being made still more so by its taking place at a season of the year when Nature was attiring herself in the fresh robes of her summer glory. The pathos of his words lingered in the memories and in the hearts of his hearers, and gave birth to the first efforts to replace with new abodes the sweet and hallowed homes which had been left.
And then to second this appeal there came the hardships to which not a few of the outgoing ministers were subjected, in consequence of the difficulty of finding accommodation for themselves and their families. Not a house, not even a room could some of them obtain in their old parishes to live in: they were compelled to remove to a distance of many miles, some twenty, some more, from their flocks. In some instances they had to take up their abode in hovels, where the walls streamed with damp, and the roof was so chinky, that as they lay in bed they could see the stars as they looked down upon them from out the winter’s sky. Where the victims of these oppressions did not wholly succumb, they came out of them with health vitally injured. Plain it was that the erection of manses was a matter which the Church must not delay or postpone beyond the very earliest moment when the pressure of other things should leave her at liberty to give herself to this new labour.
We find no contributions for manse building in the first year of the existence of the Free Church.5 In the second year the sum raised for this object was the wholly inadequate one of £1760. While this is all that appears in the public accounts, it could hardly be but that local efforts were being made, and local contributions raised for an object the necessity of which was so urgent and so obvious.
To the cause of manse building, Dr Guthrie communicated a mighty impulse, as he did to every object to which he lent the advocacy of his marvellous eloquence. A whole year did he devote to this herculean but philanthropic labour. He travelled over almost all Scotland in prosecution of his self-imposed task, and Dr Guthrie’s voice, we may say, it was that called into existence the early manses of the Free Church of Scotland. He began his tour at the close of one Assembly, and when he appeared in the next, he was able to report as the result of his year’s efforts, a subscribed sum of £116,370. In 1847 the contributions to the Manse Building Fund amounted to £28,959. In 1848 the contributions were £17,216. In 1849 they were £13,198. They continue at about the same amount during the years that follow, and by the end of the first decade of the Free Church, the sum total realised for the building of manses, is £98,000. The number of manses may now (1880) be fairly set down at 750. The average cost of each being calculated at £1000, we have a total expenditure on the manses of the Free Church of £700,000.
To the Church that believes, all things are possible. The same generation that witnessed the desolations of the Disruption—that saw churches and manses swept away—saw them all brought back again! When one looked abroad over Scotland and saw the flocks of the Presbyterian Kirk, after their old estate, gathering, Sabbath by Sabbath, into their sanctuaries, and the pastor and his family again in the manse, one might well ask in wonder, Has there been a Disruption, or have men been only dreaming of it? Had not the churches and manses of Scotland been cast down, and lo! do we not see them all raised up again! The restoration was marvellous in its suddenness. Nor were the new manses, in the majority of cases, a whit behind the old ones in comfort and elegance. They were the abodes of Christian refinement, and literary culture, not to speak of the higher graces of piety. And while these virtues made them attractive within, their exterior embellishments were such as did honour to the taste that presided over their arrangement. Goodly trees, the planting mayhap of the ministers’ own hand, rose to give them shade. A bit of lawn brightened their front. The rose and other flowers festooned their door, or bloomed in their parterres; while the fruits indigenous to the Scottish soil ripened in their garden. There they were, the monuments of the liberality of a people loyal to the Church’s Head, with Disruption memories clustering thick about them, and imparting to them a more sacred prestige than that which had belonged to the fabrics which had been given up for conscience’ sake.
The Founding of Theological Halls
The Disruption left the Free Church in possession of a goodly band of pious and learned ministers, but time would thin—would annihilate this noble army, and means must be taken to perpetuate the race. This could be looked for only through the erection of a Divinity Hall. The work of educating students for the ministry could not be suspended for even a single session. Accordingly, at the meeting of the first Assembly of the Free Church, steps were taken for the erection of a Theological College. It was resolved that meanwhile there should be only one such institution, and that its teaching staff should consist of three Professors; namely, a Principal and Primarius Professor of Divinity, a Professor of Divinity and Church History, and a Professor of Divinity and Hebrew. In years to come, it might be desirable to add to the professorial staff, and to enlarge the curriculum of study.
The attention of the Assembly was earnestly turned to the founding and endowment of chairs, and the creation of what was almost as necessary, a well-furnished library. No one who was present will ever forget the inimitable and characteristic persuasiveness with which Dr Welsh pleaded for both objects, and especially the latter. Not a penny of endowment had yet been got. No matter, the chairs were instituted. In the first was placed Chalmers; a name alone enough to give European fame to any institute in which he might teach. To Dr Welsh was assigned the chair of Church History. He filled it for but one session, when he was removed by death. He lived to lead out as moderator of the Church of Scotland, the Disruption host, and to see laid the foundations of the “Second House,” and departed. The chair of Hebrew was offered to Dr Duncan, a man who, as Dr Guthrie quaintly observed, “could speak his way to the wall of China,” and whom the Jews, never too ready to award the palm to Gentile eminence in Hebrew lore, signalised by bestowing upon him the ancient and venerated title of “Rabbi.” The general voice of the Church indicated Dr Cunningham, who, to his powers as a debater, added a profound acquaintance with Theology, historic and dogmatic, to a fourth chair. His services not being needed till the session 1844-45, it was resolved that, meanwhile, he should proceed to America and observe the methods of theological instruction pursued in the seminaries of the New World. The convenience of students in the North of Scotland was consulted by the appointment of Dr Black, a man of vast erudition, and gifted with a singular mastery over languages, to act as Professor in Aberdeen.
The Principalship in the New College, first held by Chalmers, has since been filled by a succession of distinguished men—Cunningham, Candlish, and now Dr Rainy. The humble tenement in George Street, in which its first sessions were held, has been exchanged for the stately building at the head of the Mound; and the few scores, or mayhap hundreds, of books which the appeal of Dr Welsh drew forth have grown to a magnificent library of 35,000 volumes. These include not a few rare, curious, and valuable works in many languages, and in most departments of literature—especially works on Patristic and Reformation theology—the gifts of learned men in other countries, or of friends at home, who have willingly parted with their treasures to enrich the spacious halls of the New College Library, and give its students access to what otherwise would have been beyond their reach.
As regards funds, the founders of the New College were chary of thrusting its claims in among a multitude of rival, at least contemporaneous, objects. But the institution pleaded for itself. A school for the training of pastors all could see was a first necessity, and a liberality which was descending like a copious shower on all around it did not leave unwatered the seminary over which Chalmers presided. The building fund was opened by one contributor giving £2000. Other twenty-one contributors followed, giving each £1000. The foundation-stone was laid by Dr Chalmers in presence of a vast concourse on 3rd June 1846, and opened for the reception of Professors and students on 6th November 1850. The net cost of the building was £37,856, 8s. 10d. The institution of classes in Natural Science, Evangelistic Theology, and other branches, has since increased the chairs to seven. The main source of the support of the College is an annual collection, but its permanent endowment is contemplated, and a sum of over £50,000 has been collected towards this object. The College possesses, moreover, a goodly array of scholarships, fellowships, and bursaries.
Theological Halls have since been planted at the two university cities of Glasgow and Aberdeen. The Theological Hall at Glasgow was instituted in 1856. It owes its foundation to the magnificent gift of £20,000 from Dr Clark of Wester Moffat, supplemented by an equal sum from liberal donors in Glasgow. It has a faculty of four Professors, with scholarships, fellowships, and bursaries.
The Free Church Hall at Aberdeen was opened in 1845 with two Professorial chairs, which have since been increased to four. It is supported by funds which have been contributed at various times by friends of the College. It is presided over by Dr David Brown, a man whose praise as a theologian is in all the churches.
The New Schools
Knox struck the key-note on the all-important question of an efficient educational provision for his native land. He proposed “that there should be a school to every church, a grammar school in all our towns, and a university in three of our chief cities.” The conception of the great Scotchman has stood three hundred years before the country. It has not to this hour been fully realised. It does not follow that the proposal has been in vain: on the contrary, it has done good service to the cause of education in Scotland. It has kept constantly before the minds of Scotchmen the goal they were bound to aim at. And while it has been a reproof to them in so far as they came short of it, it has continually stimulated their efforts to reach it, and kept alive the hope that what Knox had the patriotism to propose, his countrymen would one day have the wisdom to realise.
In the thick of its battle against Napoleon for its independence, Prussia continued to prosecute vigorously that educational plan which has since made it so distinguished intellectually. Our reformers, in the very turmoil of a yet greater battle, that with Rome even, did not cease to plan and labour in the cause of the “godly upbringing of the young.” Nor was the Free Church of Scotland, amid the manifold and almost overwhelming labours which the Disruption imposed upon her, unmindful of this matter. She aimed at restoring the School as well as the Church,—not only so, she sought to establish in Scotland a more extensive and complete educational machinery than the parochial system, which the Disruption had left shattered and maimed. She asked, Is it not possible, now at last, by a combined effort, to reach the goal of Knox?
In the first General Assembly little could be done beyond intimating, as was done by Dr Welsh, the convener of the Education Committee, what the Church had in eye and hoped to accomplish in the future. In the second Assembly at Glasgow, the progress achieved in this matter during the summer was reported. It was announced that no fewer than 360 teachers had cast in their lot with the Free Church. The avowal of their principles in almost every case had involved the forfeiture of their office. These 360 teachers represented a body of 20,000 youths who now looked to the Free Church for instruction. The sum at the disposal of the Education Committee was £2600, which enabled the Committee to divide about £20 to each of the ejected schoolmasters. This sum was utterly inadequate as a salary for educated men, but the other claims on the Church were enormous, and the country was only awakening as yet to the supreme importance of the thorough training of the young.
Amid the loss of the parish schools, the Free Church had some reason to congratulate herself at having come into possession of a Normal Seminary, greatly superior in its capabilities for the training of teachers to that which had been taken from her. And further, what the Church had lost was only the bare fabric; the teachers had come over to her in a body, the scholars had followed their teachers, and now the pupils had increased a third beyond the attendance of former years.
The work of building schools and providing salaries for schoolmasters might have made but slow progress, pressed as the Church then was on every side, but for the devotion of the Rev. Mr Macdonald of Blairgowrie, now the Rev. Dr Macdonald of North Leith. Dr Macdonald devised a plan for raising £50,000 to aid in the erection of 500 schools. The chief feature of the plan was a graduated scale of subscription, ranging from a shilling to a penny for each of the 500 schools, and a correspondingly graduated number of subscribers, beginning with 500 persons who, it was assumed, would be willing to give the highest sum, and ending with 6000 who would be ready to give the lowest. Dr Macdonald visited England as well as Scotland in the prosecution of his mission, and so zealously and ably did he conduct it, and so liberal was the response to his appeals, that in a short time he had successfully accomplished his task, and had placed the school-building scheme of the Free Church beyond risk of failure. From this time the work went prosperously onward.
Let us glance at the schools and school system as seen in the twelfth year (1855) of the Free Church.
We find Dr Candlish reporting to the Assembly on the state of the schools of the Free Church in that year as follows:—”We have of congregational schools reported this year, 439; we have of district or side-schools reported, 142; and of missionary schools—that is, schools in destitute districts where an aggressive movement is made on the territorial plan, 17; then the number of our grammar or superior schools is 5; besides the two Normal Schools,—in all, 605 schools. In connection with these, we have industrial schools reported to the number of about 30 this year. We have not, however, been able to get a return of all schools fairly doing Free Church work. In these schools we have 642 teachers receiving salaries or gratuities, more or less, from the scheme. In connection with your Normal Schools, 2 rectors, and 13 male and 7 female teachers, — the whole teachers make 642. There are 56,840 scholars attending our salaried day-schools; and, taking into account the Normal Schools, and a proportional estimate for schools not included in these returns, we have 75,904—in round numbers, say 76,000. … With regard to the state of the funds, I may mention that the total sum contributed for last year was £12,672; total available this year, £13,460. The increase is to be attributed to the large amount we have been able to obtain from the Government in connection with our Normal Schools, and this amount from Government is given in proportion to our merits, that is to say, to our work and the result of our work.” Dr Candlish went on to explain that over and above the income of the Education Committee, which was £10,000 a-year, were to be added sums given directly by congregations and deacons’ court to the amount of about £4000, which, together with Government allowances and grants, made the sum which the Free Church was instrumental in drawing out for education, irrespective of school fees, not far short of £20,000 a-year.
In the following years the educational scheme continued to flourish, without greatly exceeding the bounds it had reached in 1855. In this scheme the Free Church did good service to the State. The parochial schools of Scotland were lapsing into stagnancy, and the education of the country was retrograding. The Free Church brought new life to the cause by improving the methods of teaching, and elevating its quality by more thoroughly pervading it with Christian principles. She acted, in short, as the pioneer of a national system, and her example furnished the model of what that system ought to be, both in its basis and spirit.
At length, in 1872, came the Act of Parliament severing the connection between the Established Church and the parochial schools of Scotland, and providing for the election in every parish and burgh of a School Board. In these Boards the management of all public schools is vested. The Free Church enrolled nearly all her schools in the list of national ones by transferring them to the Board as the Act permitted her to do. It was no mean gift to the country. Her teachers were highly qualified, her methods of instruction were superior to those hitherto in use, and the transference of an educational machinery, reared and perfected with so much care and skill, imported into the national system an element of health and vigour, which, so far as we can see, would otherwise have been lacking to it. The two Normal Schools or Training Colleges, to the support of which the Education Fund of the Free Church is now mainly applied, are among the most efficient seminaries of their class in the kingdom.
We can bestow only a glance on another most important branch of tuition. The Sabbath-school system of the Free Church, under the devoted and able superintendence of Mr William Dickson, has developed into marvellous proportions. The number of schools is over three thousand. The total of teachers is over seventeen thousand. And the total of scholars rises to over one hundred and eighty-nine thousand. The annual gatherings from them on behalf of missions are over four thousand pounds. It is not easy estimating the value of a machinery like this, or the many it may send forth, by the Spirit’s blessing, to adorn society and serve the Church.
The Protestant Institute forms part of the educational provision of the Free Church. The idea was first mooted by Dr Welsh in the Assembly of 1843. In his report on the College, he recommended the institution of “Lectureships,” specially mentioning the subject of Popery. The Papal Aggression of 1850 led to a more definite shape being given to the project. Its execution was devolved on the Assembly’s Committee on Popery, of which Dr Tweedie was then convener. In the General Assembly of 1851, and in following Assemblies, we find Dr Candlish referring to the contemplated Institute, and recommending a collection over the Church on its behalf. When Dr Begg became convener of the Assembly’s Committee on Popery, the matter was’ vigorously taken up. To his shrewd business habits and true Scottish interest in the question was mainly owing the successful accomplishment of the Church’s object. In 1860, the Tercentenary of the Reformation, the foundation-stone of the Lecture Hall was laid. In the same year, by appointment of the Assembly, a collection was made over the Free Church in behalf of the Institute. This was supplemented by liberal donations and subscriptions from members of all the Protestant Churches in Scotland. An endowment having thus been secured, the Free Presbytery of Edinburgh, at its meeting on the 30th October 1861, appointed a minister of the Free Church to the Lectureship in the Institute, on the same tenure of office with the other ministers of the Church: and on the 5th November following, he was publicly inducted into his office by the Presbytery.
The classes, which meet in Edinburgh and Glasgow, and open and close with the Theological Halls, have been in full operation ever since. They are attended by students of all Protestant denominations, to the number, winter by winter, of about eighty. The buildings which form the endowment of the Institute, are the property of the Free Church of Scotland, and include the Magdalene Chapel, one of the most ancient and interesting of the ecclesiastical edifices in Scotland, being that in which John Craig preached, and in which the first General Assembly and some subsequent Assemblies of the Reformed Church of Scotland were held.
The Free Church in the Highlands
The Highlands ranged themselves en masse, we may say, beneath the banner of the Free Protesting Church of Scotland. So universal and cordial an adhesion to the principle of the spiritual independence brought strength to the cause, but, at the same time, it greatly enhanced the responsibilities and labours of the Church. How were the Highlands to be supplied with the ordinances of the Gospel?
The Highlands comprehend about a half of the superficial area of Scotland. But their extent is not the only nor the main difficulty connected with their ecclesiastical arrangement and spiritual supervision. Their physical character interposes even greater obstacles. Here they are traversed by chains of lofty mountains; there they are intersected by stormy friths; and, as a consequence, many districts are of difficult access. The population generally is poor, and, save in certain localities, thinly scattered. And then there comes in some places the difference of tongue—the knowledge of no speech save Gaelic—which, to the Lowland preacher, forms barrier more impassable than either mountain or frith, or expanse of desolate moor.
But if the field is of more than ordinary difficulty, it is of more than ordinary interest. Nowhere are the principles of the Free Church better understood, and nowhere have they been more steadfastly maintained. All along, from the Disruption day, the Highlanders have preserved unshaken their loyalty to the Free Church, which they venerate as the Church of their fathers. This devotion on their part has much facilitated the labours of the Committee having charge of them.
The Disruption changed on the instant the whole ecclesiastical aspect of the Highlands. It was as if a magician had waved his wand over them, and lo! where a moment before was seen a flourishing scene of churches and congregations, there was now nothing to be beheld but desolations. There were pastors without flocks, and flocks without pastors. There were churches without congregations, and congregations without churches. There were communion tables without communicants, and even if communicants there had been, there were no elders to carry round the sacred symbols for them. So entire was the change produced in the Highlands by this great ecclesiastical earthquake. It was stated by Dr Mackay of Dunoon, in the General Assembly of October 1843, that “the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper has not been administered in that county (Sutherlandshire) by the Establishment in any one parish since the Disruption took place.” The Doctor added, “I am credibly informed, on authority, that in the county of Sutherland, consisting of seventeen parishes, and with a population of 24,666 souls, there are not fifty communicants in the Established Church.” The Highlanders, in ranks unbroken, had passed over to the Free Church. This was the case in particular in the three northern counties of Ross, Sutherland, and Caithness. Three hundred years before the Earls of Sutherland had stood at the head of the Reformation movement in Scotland, and ever since the principles of the Reformed Church had remained rooted in the affection of the people. Hence the marvellous unanimity with which they declared in favour of the Free Protesting Church of Scotland. The feeling that rallied them to her banner was no newly implanted one, no sentiment begotten of the hour. Their enthusiasm was an old fire not yet burned out, which the stirring and solemn events of the Disruption era had kindled into a fresh flame.
But the fidelity of the Highlanders was severely tried. The people were on one side; the great owners of the soil on the other. The latter entirely misconceived the tendency of the Disruption; they thought it was precipitating the country upon revolution, and they resolved that the Free Church should not, if they could prevent it, build a single manse, nor rear a single sanctuary in the domain over which they bore sway. The ministers who had come out were warned off their former parishes; no friend dare give them a night’s lodging but at the risk of incurring the frown, or heavier infliction, it might be, of his landlord. Banished to a distance, in some instances of sixty or eighty miles from their flocks, the pastors were unable to visit them, or minister to them consolation or advice save at long and uncertain intervals. The people who had lost their old churches were denied sites on which to erect new ones. Even the right of assembling in the open air, in strath or on hill-side, for the purpose of public worship was forbidden to them. They bethought them of their churchyards. Surely amid the graves of their fathers they would be left undisturbed to sing their psalm and offer their prayer to their fathers’ God. But no; they were chased even from the churchyard. No spot was left them on which to perform their worship save the narrow strip of beach which separates the line of ebb-tide from high-water mark. Here their worshipping assemblies might often be seen, the roar of the surges mingling with their psalms and prayers, and drowning at times the voice of the preacher.
But not an adherent fell away. Despite this multiform oppression, they stood unflinchingly by the cause they had espoused. As Sabbath after Sabbath they met to worship amid the tempests of their hills, and the yet fiercer tempests of persecution, they proclaimed that they were not to be driven back to the old churches. The parish edifices stood empty, the pathways leading to them were grass-grown; and the parishioners, pressing onward through snow-drift, and over quaking bog or bleak moor, sought the appointed spot, on high road or sea-shore, where public worship was to be celebrated. Their patient endurance at last brought them victory.
Their sufferings for conscience’ sake attracted the eyes of the rest of the nation. The misconception and prejudice which had obscured both themselves and their cause began to clear away. A more tolerant policy was adopted towards them, and sites were granted. There came now a busy scene of the building of churches and manses. The people poor in gold and silver could bring no rich offerings, but help in another form they willingly and abundantly gave towards the rearing of the new fabrics. The fisherman freighted his boat with sand and gravel; the farmer transported stones from the quarry in his cart; the mason gave a week’s free labour, and so, too, did the members of other trades; and thus, partly by help from the Building Fund, and partly by the labour of unhired hands, the work of rebuilding the ecclesiastical edifices went busily forward all over the Highlands and Islands. The old Establishment was forgotten in presence of the new and better Establishment which had so suddenly risen to replace it, and which was seen to possess a spiritual life and an evangelical glory which were lacking in the old. And now there is no part of Scotland where the Free Church is so strong as in the Highlands, and there is no part of Scotland which is so secure against the irruption of those evils which it was predicted by many the Disruption would bring after it.
From what we have said it will be seen that there was not the same room for expansion on the part of the Free Church in the Highlands, which there was in the Lowlands. She had filled the land from the first. Enough if she kept possession—enough if she did not recede from the limits to which the impulse of the Disruption had carried her. But no, she was not content to cover simply the former area; to enroll on her list, from year to year, the same number of congregations. Even in the Highlands there was increase—a stretching out of the curtains of her habitation. The Free Church aimed at giving to Northern Scotland a more plentiful supply of the means of grace than even the Establishment had given it. She sought out remote, and till then, uncared-for districts, and planted stations in them. In Highland glen as in city alley, neglect in some instances had permitted ignorance to gather, till it had deepened into heathenism. The Church sent thither licentiates and catechists, who preached the Gospel in a freeness and fulness with which it had never before been proclaimed in these places. We find Dr Mackay reporting to the Glasgow Assembly in October 1843, that of the 206 Gaelic-speaking ministers in the Established Church, 101, nearly the half of the whole, had left the Establishment. In the 105 parishes where the minister remained in, the people in almost every instance, had come out, and were now looking to the Free Church for a supply of the ordinances of the Gospel.
Moreover, there were parishes so large, both in extent and population, that their effectual spiritual oversight far exceeded the strength of one man. These had to be broken up into two, and in some cases, three congregations, and placed each under a pastor, so that not fewer than 150 stations were at that hour craving the fostering hand of the Free Church. That hand was willingly put forth in their help; and soon, as the consequence, the Highlands and Islands had a more plentiful supply of the ministrations of the Gospel than they had ever before enjoyed. This was followed by a spiritual revival, and the field which the Disruption had at first threatened to throw out of cultivation, began to be covered with a richer spiritual verdure than it had known the days of the early Celtic evangelisation, if even then.
It only remains that we state the present condition of the Free Church in the Highlands and Islands. So far from falling back from her first limits, she has from year to year been steadily extending them. Besides the congregations on the equal dividend, she has 170 sanctioned ministerial charges in which service is conducted in Gaelic. In addition to the regular charges, there are upwards of 50 stations, some in islands, —most in outlying districts, which are served by preachers and catechists. But for this provision the people in these remote localities would be altogether without the means of grace. Over and above, there are 37 catechists, men of piety and gifts, who visit from house to house, and hold meetings for prayer, and the reading and exposition of the scriptures. They labour in localities where licentiates cannot conveniently be sent, or they assist ministers in districts too extensive for the oversight of a single pastor. The committee expend about £2000 a-year in the supply of stations, and £1000 a-year in the support of catechists; but were this sum doubled it could be well expended in supplying necessities never yet reached, notwithstanding the success which has attended the operations of the committee under a succession of able conveners.
The Highlands of to-day may be said to be, in a sense, the creation of the Free Church. There is no part of Scotland on which the Disruption has not left its mark, but nowhere is the change it has produced so perceptible as in the Highlands. The lawlessness and ignorance of which the Highlands were believed to be the abode only so recently as the middle of last century have been rooted out. Then the traveller was afraid to venture within their limits, now he passes on with a perfect sense of safety, for nowhere are life and property more secure. Their quiet Sabbaths, their crowded churches, and the solemnity of their simple worship cannot but suggest trains of not unprofitable reflection to the visitor from the South. Even their moors are giving place to fields bearing marks of a skilful husbandry and a rich cultivation. And when the stranger learns that this transformation of a once barbarous region into a highly civilised land, and this conversion of fighting and marauding clans into an obliging, industrial, and intelligent population, has, to a very considerable extent, been co-eval with the rise of the Free Church, he can hardly avoid admitting to himself, even though he may not confess it to others, that the Disruption must have embodied a principle of mighty moral force, seeing it has changed so deeply, and so beneficially, the condition of a whole people.
The Outfields ploughed and Sown by the Free Church
Within the Free Church a vigorous evangelism was rapidly renewing the face of Scotland. This was simply the old Gospel, which, recovering from the torpedo-touch of Moderatism, was stirring the activities, freshening the knowledge, and evoking the liberality of the people. But outside the Church was a zone of spiritual stagnancy and death. The Church felt that it was not enough to cultivate her own domain, she must enter the outfield territory, and sow anew its desolate and death-like fields with the seeds of life.
The population of the country had been rapidly growing, but there had been no corresponding increase of the means of grace. What was the consequence? There were large masses of the people, here crowded into cities, there gathered in country districts, which had lapsed into practical heathenism. They kept no Sabbath, they entered no church, they never opened a Bible, in their dwellings psalm or prayer was never heard, and their families were growing up without instruction to swell the tide of ignorance and immorality. This frightful condition of things accused, trumpet-tongued, the negligence of a past age. The evil habits and truculent vices which so rapidly and rankly spring up in the human soil when left without Divine culture were rampant among them. Lawless, defiant, and augmenting from year to year their godless ranks, they threatened, if left alone, not only to over-master the Christianity of the nation, but to subvert the foundations of the State.
In these neglected masses the Free Church found herself face to face with one of the most difficult of the problems she had to grapple with. Struggling to meet the claims of her own people, how should she be able to overtake the additional work of subjugating these revolted men to the Gospel? A pretext for declining this arduous task lay ready to her hand had she chosen to make use of it. She might have said, “These masses, festering in ignorance, in filth, in vice and wretchedness, are the spawn of Moderatism. I shall leave it to cure the disease it has caused. This is no affair of mine: let Moderatism see to it.” The Free Church did not avail herself of this excuse. She showed that she was the real mother; the true Church of Scotland; her heart yearned over these poor perishing outcasts; she said, “In no ways slay them; give them to me; I will take care of them; I will give these famishing ones ‘bread that perisheth not.'” It was thus that she made good her title as the Church of Scotland, the Church of the people of Scotland.
The Home Mission in importance is second to no one scheme of the Free Church, the support of the ministry excepted. If it flourishes, all the other schemes of the Church will flourish; if it languish, all the others will decay. This is especially true of the Foreign Missions, which will be the first to feel any decline in home Christianity, just as weakness of the heart makes itself first felt at the extremities. Command is laid upon us to preach the Gospel to every creature. But in order to evangelise the world, we must first evangelise our own neighbourhood, our own city, our own country, and every advance in this is a step nearer to the conversion of the world. Every member added to the Church at home is an additional contributor to the cause of missions abroad. We have one more who contributes, and one more who prays. As we multiply contributors, we multiply Bibles, we multiply missionaries, and so we increase that agency which God has promised to bless for the saving of mankind. There can be no antagonism, no conflict of interests betwixt Home and Foreign Missions. The idea of rivalship between the two is out of the question, save the rivalship of which shall convert most souls. Britain is the centre of the evangelistic host, the citadel of the world’s Christianity, and not only must Britain be thoroughly evangelised in order that Christianity may itself be impregnable, but that influences of mighty converting power may thence go forth to all nations, and the light be spread in India, in Africa, and in every dark land.
The Home Mission of the Free Church began by being small. It did not become at all prominent till 1850. In the autumn of that year a little band of Probationers was sent to operate in Glasgow, Dundee, Paisley, Perth, Montrose, and Airdrie. They returned with tidings of the ignorance and irreligion they had witnessed in these places, and the frightful dimensions to which these evils had grown. We give an instance. In one district, out of 176 contiguous families, comprising a population of 843, only 40 individuals attended any church. In the same district, out of 453 children, only 58 were attending school. In some of these districts the missionary encountered not indifference only but positive hostility. This was the first direct aggressive movement of the Free Church on the heathenism of the country, if we except what Chalmers—returning in the evening of his life to the work which had occupied him in his earlier days—accomplished in the West Port. The Territorial Church which he there erected as an example of what might be done in the most unlikely spots, was speedily followed by similar churches at Fountainbridge and Holyrood and other places.
Henceforward, year by year, evangelistic deputies were sent to those dark places in our land to preach the Gospel to men who were almost as ignorant of it as if their homes had been placed in Africa. Ministers were pressed into the service, the number of deputies was increased, and a more systematic plan of operations was adopted. The forenoon was spent by the deputies in visiting the families in their own houses; in the evening there was open-air preaching. The population came out in large numbers to the evening sermon, the behaviour of the crowd was most respectful, the blessing of God rested on the effort, individual conversions took place, and by-and-by there came to be a little company of regular attenders. These were formed into a Territorial Station, and placed under the care of a probationer or licentiate of the Church. Their numbers increasing, a church was built, and they were formed into a Ministerial or Church-extension Charge, with an ordained pastor. By another and final advance they reached the platform of the equal dividend, and ranked among the regular congregations of the Church. Not a few of the now flourishing congregations of the Free Church had just such beginning as this. Spots which thirty years ago were in the exclusive occupation of a worldliness, which from one year’s end to another, never paused to pray or to keep a Sabbath, have now their sanctuary and their Sabbath-school—in short, to them the shadow of death has been turned into the morning.
In the summer of 1858 not fewer than eighty-five evangelistic deputies were employed in preaching the Gospel to thousands of their countrymen, multitudes of whom had never before heard the glad tidings of salvation. Everywhere the visits of the deputies were cordially welcomed, and their labours gratefully appreciated. In that year the Free Church had sixteen home missions, not yet erected into regular stations; fifty-three home mission stations proper; six territorial charges in large towns; five church extension charges, supported at a cost of upwards of £4000; a sum which the committee felt to be inadequate for providing the agencies required for carrying on a mission which was extending its sphere not only from year to year but from month to month. The Home Mission Stations proper were planted mostly in rural districts, with a widely scattered population, or in mining and manufacturing districts, and populous suburbs of large mercantile towns, for whose moral and religious benefit no provision had been made, other than was supplied by the stations of the Free Church. The Territorial Charges were placed in the great cities, where the non-church-going population of a particular neighbourhood, were gathered into a church, and admitted as they became qualified, to Christian privileges; and the success which crowned these efforts attested the perfect practicability of recovering the lapsed masses.
The heathenism of Glasgow was grappled with by a special effort. Nowhere in all Scotland had the means of grace been left so far behind by the increase of the people. Glasgow had quintupled its inhabitants since the beginning of the century, while in the rest of Scotland the population had scarcely more than doubled. The noble enterprise of William Collins had mitigated, but had by no means rooted out the evils that preyed on that great and ever-growing city. These evils had grown with the growth of Glasgow, and now hideous forms of irreligion and infidelity were appearing in the lanes and streets of her who bore on her escutcheon the proud motto, “Let Glasgow flourish by the preaching of the Word.” Glasgow had not, indeed, erased these words,—they were still to be read on her shield,—but she had fallen sadly out of harmony with them, and something must be done to restore the lost congruity between the city and its symbol.
But the exertions and appliances which might be sufficient to cope with the evils of a rural district or a provincial town, would, it was plain, be wholly inadequate to combat the gigantic forces that were entrenched in Glasgow. At the same time it was felt that if that great city should be raised from its spiritual decline, and made to flourish as of old by “the preaching of the Gospel,” a mighty impulse would thereby be given to the work of recovering the ignorant and careless in all the large towns of the country. It was resolved, therefore, to take the western metropolis separately in hand, and to bring to bear upon it for a certain number of years the gathered energies and united action of the whole Free Church of Scotland.
Accordingly in 1850, a Committee was formed to carry out that resolution. Funds were collected; Glasgow was divided into half-a-dozen districts, large enough to afford a field for the agencies to operate among only the non-church goers; for out of this class was it meant that the churches to be built should be filled. A minister of a missionary spirit was placed in each district, with a staff of teachers and catechists, who were to prosecute evangelistic operations and organise a congregation in the district. Provision was made for the pecuniary support of the mission till such time as it had come with its church and schools, to be fully equipped, and had been placed on the Sustentation Fund. This scheme differed from preceding ones in the same city, in that it was not merely a church-building scheme, but a church extending scheme; it not only provided the material machinery, it provided and also supported the living agency. It reared at one and the same time, two temples, one of stone and lime, another of living stones,—renewed men,—a spiritual temple.
Such was the commencement of a work, which soon developed into much larger dimensions, and began perceptibly to change the aspect, and influence the moral destinies of the great commercial capital of the west. That work, at this day, can show as its monuments many stately sanctuaries and flourishing congregations where, it may be, the infidel club was wont to hold its obscene discussions, or the tavern sent forth its peals of riotous merriment, or crowds of skulking, brutal, and inebriate men were wont to congregate for deeds of violence. And not in Glasgow only, but in Dundee and other towns this movement has reared like monuments of its vitality, its success and its beneficence— a beneficence that rises high above the ordinary walks of philanthropy.
In other cases the evil day was anticipated, and the cure of our home heathenism rendered unnecessary, by timely precautions against its ever coming into existence. On the shores of the Clyde, whose beauty and salubrity were attracting numerous annual visitors—new towns were rapidly springing up. Profiting by the lesson of Glasgow it was resolved to take possession of these towns, while yet in their infancy, in the name of the Gospel. Unless the field was pre-occupied the enemy was sure to come in and sow his tares. A little effort now, it was felt, would be a saving of much, and perhaps fruitless labour in the future. Let us not wait till these places have grown, and the publican, and the pawnbroker, and the Popish priest have taken up their abode in them, and have begun to ply their arts, and are spreading intemperance, and spendthrifty, and soul-destroying errors among their population. Let us now, when these towns are in the act of forming, plant a church with its school, and system of week-day visitations, and let habits of church-going be established among its inhabitants, and the morning and evening psalm be heard in its dwellings, and the publican and the pawnbroker will flee from it, scared by its sobriety and industry, as birds of the night are scared by the light. But let the place grow till it becomes a city, with its dark lanes and closes, its blind alleys, its dens of thievery and infamy; its city-arabs, its drunkards, and criminals, its pawnshops and gin-palaces; its crowds of squalid, neglected children; its Sabbath breakers, and its scowling infidels, its raving socialists, and may it not then be too late to cleanse it of the “unclean spirits” we have permitted to enter in and take possession of it? A few hundred pounds expended in planting a Home Mission now, will do what thousands and tens of thousands may not be able to accomplish afterwards. If we refuse to plant a church and school at this stage, we will have to tax ourselves for poorhouses, police-offices, and prisons by-and-by, and all, it may be, to no purpose as regards the suppression of the evils we have permitted to spring up.
This policy of “prevention better than cure” was adopted, among other places, specially in Inellan. In 1852, Inellan was a small place, without a church of any denomination, but giving promise of becoming rapidly the seat of a large population. A Home Mission was set a-going in it. The Mission soon grew into a station, and the station eventually into a congregation, which continues to flourish and to dispense the ordinances of grace, not only to the inhabitants of Inellan, but to the numerous visitors which are attracted to it during the summer months, and who all the more readily resort thither, that they find the spirit of the Gospel prevailing where, but for the measures taken at the proper time, other influences of a very different kind might have been disastrously dominant.
The light which the investigations of the Home Mission Committee threw on the religious condition of our great cities was alone a great service. The facts brought out were truly startling. Of the 400,000 inhabitants of Glasgow twenty-five years ago, 100,000, according to the most moderate calculation; according to other calculations 180,000, or nearly one-half of the whole, never entered a church. In Edinburgh, matters were not much better. In some of our missionary districts, two-thirds of the people had fallen away from church attendance. In Dundee, of a population then amounting to 70,000, it was estimated that only 15,000 were church goers. Paisley, with a population of 50,000, furnished 22,000 church goers. Dumfries, with a population of 16,000, had a church attendance of 4000, and Bo’ness with 6000 inhabitants, had only 1000 church attenders. So did the list run on. The investigations of the Home Mission Committee, and the reports which the evangelistic deputies brought back from the villages and districts where they had been sent to labour, furnished a moral diagnosis of our country. A revolution was effected by these startling revelations in the sentiments of Christian men. They saw that heathendom was not afar off, thousands and thousands of miles away, across broad oceans, but that it was here, even at their own door, with all its crime, its guilt, and its danger. The Church felt more than ever her responsibility for the masses, and she began with redoubled vigour, and on a larger scale than ever, to cleanse the land from these frightful pollutions, and by the preaching of the Gospel, raise a moral bulwark against an irreligion which had only to become conscious of its strength, to overmaster the piety of the country, and inflict terrible political and social calamities upon the nation. But for these efforts, it is hard to say what would have been the state of Scotland at this hour.
It only remains that we sum up in a few sentences, what the Free Church of Scotland has accomplished in the Home Mission Field, and what is the state of that mission at this hour. The Free Church in 1843 began with between 500 and 600 congregations; she has now in round numbers 1100. This one fact exhibits the Church as having about doubled the area of Christianity in Scotland. As regards the present state of the mission, which is confined to the Lowlands, the Free Church has thirty-three Mission Stations. These are planted in rural districts and villages. They have an aggregate membership of upwards of 2000: an average Sabbath attendance of nearly 4000, and their influence and action embrace a population of 40,000. They are in charge of licentiates of the Church, who conduct two diets of public worship on the Sabbath, and spend three days of each week in household visitation. The Mission Station on reaching a certain stage of advance becomes a Church-extension Charge. This process is continually going on, as the Station is always aiming at becoming a Charge, while the Charge aspires to its final landing, which is on the platform of the equal dividend. The last Assembly elevated six Mission Stations to the platform of Church-extension Charges, destined, after another course of advance to reach the final platform of the Sustentation Fund.
The Territorial Missions at present are four. They are confined to the large cities, and operate in destitute districts which have been selected by city congregations, under the sanction of the Presbytery, for spiritual cultivation. As with the Mission Station so with the Territorial Mission it may, by the increase of its numbers, and its general progress, “earn for itself a good degree,” and be transformed into the Territorial Charge, which is a step in its path to a fully sanctioned charge with a place on the equal dividend. The Church has at present twenty-seven Territorial Charges.
The Home Mission Committee has besides a host of agencies and labourers in its service which do not come under the above categories. Besides its Evangelistic Deputies, which we have already made prominent, the committee has ninety-five Congregational Missions. They are carried on by students: the student giving ten hours a-week to household visitation with Scripture reading and prayer in the district mapped out to him. Moreover it is required of him that he give a service every Sabbath evening in a house belonging to the locality for the benefit of its families. There are two probationers and catechists whose work it is to visit non-church-going families, and by religious services on the Sabbath, and prayer meetings and Bible classes on the week evenings to reclaim them to the observances of religion, and draw them into already existing congregations.
There are, moreover, labouring in the cause of this Home reclamation laymen of experience, with evangelistic gifts, who work for short periods, in agricultural, mining, or manufacturing districts. And not to make our narration too tedious, there are Missions in Mining Districts. Permanent or temporary churches or halls are provided, with a staff of missionaries, evangelists, and Bible-women to operate among those engaged in mining and kindred industries. These amount to about a-tenth of the whole population of the country. The income of the Mission since the Disruption in 1843 to 31st March 1878 amounts in gross, to £230,363, 2s. 4d.
The Free Church sends the Gospel to the Jew first
To an earnest Christian layman, the late Mr Robert Wodrow of Glasgow, is mainly traceable that awakened interest in behalf of “the lost sheep of the House of Israel” which has characterised the Free Church of Scotland. A man of faith and prayer, not only did Mr Wodrow labour himself, but he strove to enlist others in a work which most people in his day deemed futile, if not impossible, even that of dispelling the darkness, and disarming the hostility of the Jews to the Gospel, and gathering them round the cross. Mr Wodrow, while he acted in the capacity of secretary to the Jewish Society of Glasgow, which was composed of all religious denominations, was animated by the strong desire of seeing this great cause taken up by the Church of Scotland as a church. He petitioned the Presbytery of Glasgow to that effect; and this led to the first overture that ever was laid on the table of the General Assembly for the appointment of a committee to labour in the work of the conversion of Israel. God granted him the desire of his heart. Mr Wodrow was the father of the Church of Scotland’s Mission to the Jews. Among a multitude of other services rendered in this cause, Mr Wodrow drafted the address which the General Assembly sent to the seed of Abraham, scattered over the earth. This address was translated into all the European languages, and some of the Asiatic ones, and circulated wherever Jews were known to dwell. What a welcome message to a race which for ages had heard nothing from those among whom they dwelt but words of contempt and scorn, and experienced nothing but acts of spoliation and oppression!
The first step taken by the Church of Scotland in this cause was to send to Palestine and the East a deputation of four ministers, of which one honoured father, Dr Andrew Bonar, still survives, to seek after these “lost sheep,” despised of man, but “beloved for their father’s sake.” The deputation was instructed to inquire into their condition, the most likely methods of approaching them, and the spots where it might be advisable to plant mission stations in the future.
The God of Abraham guided the steps of the deputation. On their way back to their own land, one of their number, the late Rev. Dr Keith, fell sick at Pesth. It was told the Arch-Duchess of Austria, whose palace of Buda rose on the opposite bank of the Danube, that a Scotch minister lay dangerously ill in the hotel. The Arch-Duchess had herself been no stranger to suffering, and her distress had led her to the study of the Bible. Having found a Saviour for her own soul, the next objects of her compassion were her subjects of Hungary, whom she saw to be plunged in darkness. Often as she stood at her palace windows, the Danube rolling beneath her, the roofs of Pesth spread out on the further bank, and the vast Hungarian plains stretching far to the east, she had thought of the moral gloom that covered this fair region, and had earnestly prayed that God would send some one to make known to the Hungarians the way of life. Here, now, is an answer to my prayer, she said to herself, when told that a Scotch clergyman, on his way through her capital, had been arrested by sickness. The Arch-Duchess hastened to the hotel, she tenderly nursed Dr Keith in his illness, and when his recovery was completed, she told him what was the earnest desire of her heart, even that a minister of the Gospel might be sent to proclaim the tidings of salvation to the Hungarian people.
The hand of God thus opened the door. The Church of Scotland entered in and established missions at Pesth and Jassy. Dr Duncan, assisted by Messrs Smith, Allan, and Wingate was stationed at the former city, and Mr Edward at the latter. God did not leave without a witness the men whom he had so specially called to labour in this part of the vineyard. Their mission bore early and abundant fruit, not only in the conversion of the seed of Israel, but in the revival of religion in Hungary. Its darkness is not now so deep as when the Arch-Duchess was wont to survey the Hungarian plains from her palace window with heart lifted up to God in behalf of her land. Its Protestantism, overwhelmed by armies and executioners in the beginning of the seventeenth century was giving no signs of revival, but no sooner had the missionaries been stationed at Pesth, than they began to make missionary tours through the land, and to institute a colportage of Hebrew Bibles and Testaments, and from that day the Protestant Church of Hungary, which so long dwelt among the dead, has continued to revive—exhibiting on a small scale what will yet be realised on a far greater, even that the ingathering of Israel will be as life from the dead to the Gentile churches. At this stage of the Jewish Mission the Disruption came.
The re-commencement of the Jewish Mission after the Disruption, was marked by providential circumstances, scarcely less striking than those which had attended its first beginning. The first notable thing about its second starting, was the fact that all the Jewish missionaries adhered to the principles of the Free Church. The second was that the first missionary collection made by the Free Church was for the Jews And the third notable thing was that the proceeds of this collection all but exactly replaced the sum lost by the Committee in consequence of the Disruption. The Committee found themselves in the position, after the Disruption, of having all the missionaries to support, while all the funds, £3500, had passed into the hands of others. But the collection for the Jews on the sixth Sabbath of the existence of the Free Church (June 25th 1843), amounting as it did to £3400, placed the Committee very nearly in the same position for carrying on the Mission in which they had been before the Disruption. The Free Church heard the voice of God in these events, saying, “go forward.” Cease not to care for the lost sheep of the House of Israel. Not only shall you have your reward by conversions among them, but a double reward shall be given you in the richer blessing that will attend your labours among the Gentile churches.
The funds for the conversion of the Jews continued steadily to increase. In 1839, when the scheme was first started, the collection amounted only to £382. In the year of the Disruption it had risen, as we have seen, to £3400. In the following years it reached an average ranging from five to six thousand pounds. New stations were planted, and more missionaries were sent out. The income of the committee has this year (1880) been £9702, and the ordinary expenditure £5921. The income for the year is exceptionally high, and is mainly owing to an increase in the legacies. The average income of the past five years may be stated at £5000. The excess of this year has been employed to establish a Home for neglected children in Constantinople.
The Committee feel that they might with profit multiply their stations did their funds permit. They have for some years been desirous of sending a missionary to Russia, where there is a large body of Jews. Palestine, too, is beginning to force itself upon their attention. The Jews are flocking to their old land in larger numbers than ever before. The Hebrew population has doubled in the Holy Land within these twenty years: and were the sway of the Turk in Syria to come to an end, these exiles would return in tenfold greater numbers. Along with this reviving affection for the early home of their race, there is said to be a growing yearning of the heart, more universal than ever before known in their history, for reconciliation to Him who gave that land to Abraham and his seed for “an everlasting possession.”
It only remains that we glance at the present state of the mission. The stations are not numerous, but, as we have said, the labours of the missionaries among the Jews overflow in blessings to the surrounding populations. The stations are six—Amsterdam, Pesth, Constantinople, Breslau, Prague, and Strasburg, at each of which is an ordained missionary with assistants, above fifty in all. Pesth still maintains its pre-eminence among Jewish mission stations. Its schools are attended by about 400; and much precious seed is being sown in the minds of young Jews and Jewesses. Its colportage embraces the length and breadth of Hungary. Its agencies ramify into Transylvania, Servia, Roumania, and even Russia. Its Bethesda has always in it some Jewish patients, and is a centre of missionary work among both Jews and Gentiles. A number of earnest-minded young men have recently formed themselves into an association, with a well-assorted library, and an annual course of lectures. The station is further supplied with a printing press, which issues tracts and books in six languages. This bird’s-eye view of the operations at Pesth may be accepted as a fair sample of the work done, though perhaps on a more limited scale, at the other stations of the Jewish Mission. To go farther into detail is beyond our scope; and the reader who wishes to know particulars has easy access to them in the official sources.
Some may think that our success in the conversion of the Jews has not been answerable to our expectations and our efforts. But when we reflect on the peculiar nature of the work, and the tremendous hindrances in the way of its accomplishment, we shall wonder rather that we have so long a list of converts to show. Foremost among the impediments to the conversion of the Jew is—to use the phraseology of his own prophets —”the heart of stone.” This hardness of heart, with the blindness of understanding which it induces, is common to the Jew with the idolater of India and the infidel of Europe. But the Jew is “twice dead.” To his original hardness of heart is to be added the influence of a perverted education. No sooner does a Jewish infant open his eyes than a veil is spread over them. His mind is filled with traditions and fables, with prejudices and hatred of the truth. His fetters grow stronger with every succeeding year.
What his education began is perfected and finished by the Talmud. Modern Judaism is a system of “carnal observances.” The Jew’s system of religion embraces no spiritual truth, and his worship implies no exercise of the soul; it consists mainly in washings, in the observance of feasts, the lighting of lamps, and the reciting of prayers in the Hebrew tongue. Of renewal of the heart he does not even dream. Such is the whole tendency of the Talmud; and the longer the Jew studies it, the further does he wander from the light, and goes the deeper into the darkness. When a text of Scripture is produced, the Jew is prepared with the comment of some Rabbi. It matters not how ridiculous it may be, the Jew clings pertinaciously to it. The sense of the Hebrew words, the connection of the passage, and even the more reasonable explication of the ancient Hebrew writers, avail nothing with him. He is held fast in the fetters of Rabbinism. He has worn them from infancy; and by the time he attains manhood his intellect has become warped, and his understanding hopelessly beclouded.
By his birth he is an heir of heaven. So does the Jew regard himself. He is a son of Abraham, a member of a peculiar people. He accounts it foul scorn to come down to the same level with the Gentile, and to own that he is by nature as bad as others. He fortifies himself with these false hopes. He has the blood of Abraham in his veins, but he is totally regardless of having the faith of Abraham in his heart.
Moreover, in the condition and character of the Jew the most antithetical qualities are mixed. He is at once above and below the rest of mankind. He is above them as regards the grandeur of his descent; below them as regards the degradation into which he has fallen. The heir of a glorious land, yet without a foot-breadth in actual possession! Carrying in his bosom the noblest aspirations, yet passing through life amid ignoble pursuits. Scorning the world with haughty pride, yet cowering slavishly beneath its frown. Scrupulously exact as regards the letter of the law, yet habitually neglectful of its spirit. Clinging to the promises, yet refusing to accept of their accomplishment. Pliable and accommodating in all things, yet obdurate and inflexible in one thing, the acceptance, even, of Him of whom “Moses in the law and the prophets did write.” We at once venerate and pity the Jew. Even Providence seems to regard him with the same mixed feelings. To the God of his fathers he is an object at once of anger and love. For two thousand years the darkness of Divine judgments has been ever around him, yet all the while he has remained the heir of promises that fill the world’s future and his own with glory.
The long and bitter persecution to which he has been subjected has helped farther to rivet on the mind of the Jew his prejudices against the truth, and his suspicion and hatred of nominal Christians. Chased from land to land, denied the rights of a citizen, denied, sometimes, the rights of a man, robbed and spoiled, held as dishonourable and vile, and alway trampled upon, can we expect that, after enduring for centuries these cruel wrongs at the hands of nations calling themselves Christian, the Hebrew race should at the first call open their understandings and hearts to Christianity? And when the Jew turns to observe the great religious systems around him, where is the proof of their superior truth or their superior virtue? He beholds one-half of Europe groaning under a religion that planted itself by the sword, and is grossly sensual in character; he beholds the other half occupied by a Church that is grossly idolatrous. Is it for these that he is to forsake the sublime doctrines and grand forms of the Hebrew faith? “Will it profit me in any way.” he asks, “if I shall exchange the synagogue for the church?” We know of no other nation or race in whose path, early training, social isolation, the world’s hatred, Rabbinical authority, and the persecution of ages, have united to build up so numerous and so mighty obstacles to their reception of the Gospel as those that have been reared in the path of the Jews. When we take these tremendous difficulties into account we may well wait, while we continue to work.
But these barriers shall all one day give way before the sovereign and gracious power of the Spirit. On the Jews, there is reason to believe, will fall the first great copious shower when the heavens shall again open. What an amazing transformation will this second and greater Pentecost bring with it! Then there will be a springing up as among the grass, as willows by the water-courses. As the bursting of the green spring in the Arctic regions, chasing the ice and snow before it, and strewing the earth with blossoms, or as the flood of splendour which in a few moments fills the skies of the Tropics at sunrise, so shall then be the conversion of the Jews. It will not be “one of a city and two of a family,” but “all Israel” shall be saved. Oh then! when the veil of Moses shall have been rent, when the glory of the Cross shall beam full upon them, and their eyes, no longer holden, shall see their Messiah, in what a flood of tears shall their penitence flow forth! Looking on Him whom they have pierced, how loud shall rise the voice of their weeping! But that voice of sorrow will soon be drowned in the yet louder voice of shoutings and hosannahs. Speedily round the earth will run the tidings of their conversion. The stupendous miracle will startle the nations amid their idolatries. They too will open their eyes to the glory of the Gospel, smitten by this new and amazing proof of its truth. Nay, the Jews themselves, anxious to redeem the centuries they have lost, will run from east to west, from continent to continent, and from island to island, to tell the world, and say, “Behold, thy King cometh.” Arise! let your fetters be rent, and your idols cast away. Gather yourselves round the Cross, and own your submission to Him who came a first time that He might redeem you by His blood, and now comes a second time that He may govern you by His Gospel. Then will the prophecy be fulfilled.—”And strangers shall stand and feed your flocks, and the sons of the alien shall be your plowmen and your vinedressers. But ye shall be named the priests of the Lord, men shall call you the ministers of our God: ye shall eat the riches of the Gentiles, and in their glory shall ye boast yourselves.”
The Free Church in Continental and Colonial Lands
The spiritual forces which were liberated by the Disruption were instantaneously and powerfully felt far beyond the shores of Great Britain. Everywhere churches were seen awakening from slumber, reconstituting themselves on a purer basis, and exchanging the inaction of past centuries for a future of activity and vigour. From all sides, far and near, came the cry to the Free Church of Scotland, “Send us help. Your example has roused us to a new sense of our responsibilities, give us your aid in fulfilling them.” From the Continent of Europe: from almost every colony under the British sceptre, came importunate entreaties for missionaries and ministers, that the Gospel which had lent a new glory to Scotland might gladden their skies also. How was it possible for the Free Church to respond to these numerous calls, her strength tasked to the uttermost, as it then was, in the reconstruction of her own financial and ecclesiastical organisation. It seemed as if she must cut herself loose from all her foreign dependencies,—in a word, drop her Continental and Colonial schemes, and care only for herself. But no, she had faith in Him whose are the silver and the gold, and believing that she should have enough for herself, and something over to give to others, she resolved to prosecute her labours in these distant and necessitous, but most inviting fields.
The Church of Scotland before the Disruption, guiding herself by two venerable precedents, had begun to show solicitude for those vast multitudes who, from necessity or choice, yearly went forth from Scotland to settle in lands beyond the sea. The Old Testament Church took care to follow her children with the ordinances of religion, by the institution of Synagogues, or Houses of Prayer, in the heathen lands and cities where her expatriated sons had fixed their abode. The Church of the Reformation, both in Geneva and Scotland, followed with the means of grace those of its sons and daughters who were compelled by the storms of persecution to seek shelter in America, in Holland, and other countries. When anew the reforming spirit descended on the Church of Scotland, her care for the spiritual welfare of her sons in foreign lands revived. The first country for whose religious necessities provision was made by the mother Church was British North America. This was mainly owing to the efforts of the Rev. Dr Burns of Paisley, afterwards of Toronto, who devoted himself with unwearied zeal to the cause of pure religion in Canada and Nova Scotia. In 1832, the sanction of the Assembly was given to the establishment of Presbyteries and Synods in these provinces; and in a few years afterwards (1836), “Missions to Colonial Churches” was formed into a separate scheme of the Church. In 1840, the scheme, limited hitherto to the Colonies, was enlarged so as to embrace Scottish Presbyterians in foreign countries other than those subject to the British Crown. Such was its position when the Disruption took place.
The Disestablished Church, without a moment’s hesitation, resolved to carry on the scheme. Contributions for that object were sent in, not only from Scotland, but from the Colonies themselves. Associations were formed to aid the Church in her efforts to promote the spiritual good of Scotsmen dispersed over all the countries of the globe, in numbers exceeding, it was believed, that of the home population, and who, had they carried with them the spirit and influences of the Gospel, might have been a purifying salt in the earth—a leaven in the mass of the world. Ministers and missionaries were sent to occupy new stations, or to supply the destitution caused by those who had deserted their posts, and returned to occupy charges at home, left vacant by ministers who had quitted the Establishment. A special colony, with its pastor, its schoolmaster, its families, and trades, was organised and sent out to New Zealand. The complete machinery of Christian civilisation was set down at once in the country, and the natives had the advantage of having Christianity not only preached to them in its doctrines, but exhibited to them in its family and social life. This idea has since been more fully carried out in the Livingstonia Mission, one of the magnificent results of the missionary zeal and heroism of the man whose name it bears. Following with a mother’s heart her sons in far-off lands, from whose minds the hallowed memories and sacred influences of home were rapidly being obliterated, the Free Church of Scotland became a mother of churches, even as Britain has become a mother of nations. The traveller as he passed along the great highways of the world, or halted at its great capitals and centres of influence, saw there her flag unfurled, and heard the Gospel from the lips of her ministers or missionaries—in Gibraltar, in Malta, in Madeira, and the continents of the Pacific. It was a vast work, undertaken by the Church, not in the fulness of her strength, but in the weakness and comparative poverty of her beginning As year by year the field expanded, so too did the means of its cultivation. More ardent prayers went up for the success of the Colonial scheme, and richer gifts were poured into its treasury.
It is not our intention to trace the growth of this great scheme. We mean only to glance at the position to which it has now attained, and the vast sweep over which its operations extend. If we have a Free Church on the soil of Scotland, it may also be truly affirmed that we have a Free Church outside its shores, and the latter is a greater Church than the former. The daughter has outgrown the mother. The Colonial Presbyterian Church at this hour consists of 70 presbyteries, 1225 ministerial charges, 1146 ministers. These are dispersed over the four continents of the globe, being most numerous in Canada, the earliest scene of the foreign operations of the Church of Scotland. The Church in Australasia comes next in point of numbers. These Churches are either in immediate or in very close relationship with the Free Church of Scotland, and most of them look to her, though not exclusively, for labourers, which their own resources do not as yet enable them adequately to supply. The revenue of the Colonial Committee for the year at last Assembly (1880) was £4574, 14s.
The fostering hand of the mother Church needs now to be put forth towards the Colonial Churches only in the way of giving supplemental aid. The Australasian and Canadian Churches are able to see to their own support. It is men rather than money—labourers to cultivate the vast and ever-expanding fields—which they ask from Scotland. They are now not only self-supporting, they are aid-giving. They have a mission fund for providing Gospel ordinances to the colonists. As the tide of immigration flows in upon them, and the area of population stretches farther and farther into the wilderness, and new villages and towns spring up, they are ready to plant at these new centres a minister and schoolmaster, and the whole apparatus of Christian civilisation, and so anticipate the evils which would be sure to arise were these masses, continually augmented by new swarms, left without the Gospel. It is hardly possible to conceive a greater service than that which the Free Church is rendering through her Colonial Committee to the future of the world. She is taking pledges of these young empires that, when they have become great, they shall array themselves on the side of the Gospel, and subordinate their resources to the promotion of the kingdom of the Lord Jesus.
Till the Assembly of 1868 the colonial and continental operations of the Church formed one scheme under the direction of the same Committee; but, the field continuing to expand and the labourers to multiply, a separation of the two became necessary, and the Continent, disjoined from the Colonies, was, in the above-named year, placed under the special and exclusive oversight of the “Committee for Continental Missions.” Though inferior in extent to the Colonial field, the area of the “Continental Missions” is still large. It embraces, leaving India out of view, the world of the ancients, and the world of the first preachers of the Gospel. It is, moreover, unspeakably interesting. The conversion of Europe to a pure Scriptural Christianity is of all objects the one most to be desired. It is among the nations of so called Christendom that the great predicted Apostacy has found its seat, and could these nations be rescued from its blinding influence—and every conversion on the Continent is a step in that direction—not only would the European nations themselves recover their faith and liberty, but the mightiest of all existing hindrances to the progress of the Gospel all over the globe would be taken out of the way, a new life would descend upon the Churches of the Reformation, and brighter and vaster triumphs would cheer the path of the missionary in every country of the world. Tidings from that part of the earth have, to the Christian who is waiting for the redemption of the world, a tenfold interest; for he knows that from thence is to be sounded forth the knell that shall announce that now at last old things have passed away, and all things have become new.
The operations of the Committee have for their object—1. The support of permanent stations on the Continent. Of these five are in Italy—viz., Rome, Florence, Leghorn, Genoa, and Naples; two in France—viz., Pau and Nice; one in Lausanne; one in Lisbon; and one in Constantinople. The first pioneer of the Gospel in Italy in our day was the Rev. Dr Stewart of Leghorn. He had begun to operate while yet the old restrictions against the Bible and the missionary were in force, and by his persevering and wisely-directed efforts he had made a few converts and introduced the Word of God into that land from which it had been so long excluded. Changes of great moment followed. The revolution of 1848 emancipated Piedmont, and brought enlargement to the ancient Church of the Waldenses. The War of Independence in 1859 extended the area of liberty to the frontier of the Papal States. In 1870 the entrance of the Italians into Rome completed the emancipation of that land, and made it free from the Alps to Sicily. In many of its cities the Gospel is now preached by missionaries of the Libera Chiesa and the Waldensian Synod, and the only hindrance in the path of the evangelisation of Italy is the indifference of the people, and the power of superstition, whose moral yoke still remains although its political fetters have been rent.
A second object of the Continental Missions Committee is the supply of ordinances in summer in those places which are the resort of English and American travellers, and all the year through where there are Scotch and English residents in connection with health or business.
A third object is the assistance of native churches in Continental lands. This is the most important of all. These Churches have their roots in the past, and are more likely to take hold of the sympathies, and to adapt themselves to the feelings of the native population than churches of foreign importation. Chief among these is the Waldensian Church, whose venerable name and tragic story give it claims which are unique and of most touching power, not on Italy only, but on all Christendom. There is the Evangelical Society of Geneva, which recalls the name of the greatest champion of the Reformation, and the memory of a Church which was the light of the sixteenth century. And, not to mention other Churches and Societies which are aided by the Continental Committee of the Free Church, there is France, whose religious condition at this hour is more full of promise than it has ever been since the period of the Reformation. It was the mob of Paris that effected the first turning of the tide against Protestantism in the sixteenth century, and now the Gospel is beginning at the point where it was stopped three centuries ago. It is finding its most attentive listeners and its most earnest converts among the ouvriers of the great cities. We refer to the Belleville Mission in Paris. Prosperous from the beginning, and growing more so as it advances, that Mission is filling Paris with evangelical stations; it is awaking the sweet voice of psalms where the Marseillaise was wont to be defiantly pealed forth, and is planting its out-stations here and there throughout the country in the provincial towns. It is a new revolution, led on by Mr McAll and Miss de Broen, in which no barricades with the Tricolour waving over them play their part, but an open banner, held peacefully aloft, with the motto “The Word of God” inscribed upon it, is seen floating over the little army which marches onward to storm the true bastile of the French people—the Papacy.
If the quarter in which and the classes among whom this evangelical movement has arisen remind us by contrast of the early days of the French Reformation, the following incident suggests, not by contrast but resemblance, another passage in the same history. Our readers may recollect that in the very dawn of the Reformation in Paris, the Louvre was opened for a short while under the patronage of Margaret of Navarre for the preaching of the Gospel, and, day after day, its halls were crowded with nobles and burgesses listening with eager attention to the words of Roussell unfolding to them the message of life. We have something like a repetition of this. “While their own place of worship is being rebuilt,” writes Dr Pressense of Paris, “the Minister of Public Works, with the consent of the Minister of Public Instruction, granted accommodation to the Protestants within the palace of Versailles. A large audience assembled (2nd November, 1879) on the first occasion of meeting in this unwonted place. ‘French Protestantism,’ writes one who was present, ‘made its solemn entry into the palace of the king, … and the Gospel proclamation resounded through the chamber of Louis XIV, not far from the room in which in 1715 the great king breathed his last.'” The same witness of this extraordinary scene adds, “When we heard the Bible and Huguenot Liturgy read in that building, where in an upper room Madame de Maintenon had made Louis XIV sign the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, nearly two hundred years ago, we were profoundly moved, and blessed God from the depth of our hearts.”
As a further proof that war and revolution, and the sufferings consequent thereon, are gaining their end in the ripening of the fields of France, M. Pressense says of the town of St. Juste, in the Department of the Oise, “that there are 1500 persons manifesting the keenest interest in the Gospel. It seems as if the entire town would pass over in a body, with the Mayor at its head, to the Protestant Church. Similar conditions exist in many other parts of the country.”
Another auspicious sign of the times is the acceptance which the evangelistic labours of Dr Somerville have met with among Frenchmen and Italians. The simple Gospel, with no adornment of rhetoric or rite, nay, told under no common disadvantages, finds crowds of impressed listeners. “The Reverend Dr Somerville,” say the Committee in their report for the present year (1880), “preaching in English and translated sentence by sentence, addressed for months together during the past year, in the metropolis (of France), and in various leading cities and towns, crowded churches and halls, the listeners in thousands drinking in the truth, and beseeching that these words might again be spoken to them. … At Florence, Naples, and Rome, large theatres, hired for the purpose, have been filled with calm, attentive, and earnest audiences of all ranks of people, to whom the simple Gospel, interestingly enforced and illustrated, seemed strangely good news.”
Still, with all these presages of coming good, the reflection must force itself on many minds that the evangelisation of Europe in the nineteenth century is slow compared with its rate of progress in the sixteenth. The greater part of Italy for now twenty years, and all of it absolutely for ten years, has been open for the preaching of the Gospel, and yet how little way has it advanced towards spiritual emancipation! In the course of a decade, Germany, in the days of Luther, had triumphantly fought its way out of the Papacy, though menaced with the ban and the armies of the Empire. Italy still lingers in its prison-house, though neither stake nor dungeon bars its escape. Why is this? Why do these nations linger in darkness and seem in love with their chains? The populations which responded so promptly to the call of the Reformation in the sixteenth century were just as blinded, as superstitious, and as immoral as those which in our day remain obdurately deaf, and are so hard to be won. For this difference there is, we may be sure, a cause. The latter class of nations, those even that are to this day in the Roman pale, entered not in when the door was open. Not only did they slight the call given them to escape, while yet it was possible, from a society on which, as they were warned, God was about to pour the vials of His wrath, but they stoned the messengers sent to them; and they sealed their impenitency in the blood of thousands and tens of thousands of martyrs. God’s Spirit ceased to strive. Nor can we hope that that Spirit will return,—drops we may have, but not the great shower —till judgment has been done on her in whose skirts this blood shall be found. While therefore we labour for the conversion of these unhappy nations, while we cease not to send Bibles and evangelists to them, let us not forget at the same time to pray that this mighty impediment to their evangelisation may be taken out of the way, so that the work may go forward, with a speed and power corresponding to our wishes and God’s promise. This mighty obstruction removed, there will come times of blessedness. The morning will no longer tarry. A Divine influence descending from the skies will go forth in renovating power over all the earth; everywhere nations will be seen coming out of their graves: and instead of sighing and tears as of men who lie bound in fetters and dwell in darkness, songs will be wafted from every shore, and a great shout, as of those who have long struggled but have now gotten the victory, will proclaim the joy of the nations over the fall of their great oppressor, and their own deliverance from the darkness in which, from age to age, that oppressor kept them immured.
The Free Church in India; or War with the great Paganisms of the East
At a time when revolution and war were shaking the Continent of Europe, and convulsing the Popish nations, the evangelistic and missionary forces were beginning to stir in the Protestant Churches and countries of Christendom. Awakening, after long slumber, to a consciousness of her duty towards the heathen, the Church of God in Great Britain had her attention drawn, earliest of all the countries, to India. That land exerted a powerful influence on the imagination, but it exerted a yet more powerful and sacred influence on a diviner faculty, even the conscience. Its fabled riches and storied magnificence, its mouldering pagodas and solemn mausolea—hoar monuments of its vanished grandeur and departed power—its customs and institutions, whose beginnings are lost in the darkness of a remote antiquity, the mountains that fill its sky, the loftiest on the globe, and the rivers that water its plains, the greatest in the old world, invested India with a charm that dazzled the senses; but its moral condition—the night that had so long brooded over it, the hideous forms of its gigantic idolatries, and the temporal and spiritual misery in which its millions were sunk, made it speak with a more affecting emphasis to the heart and soul. But that which gave to India its peculiar claim on the Churches of Great Britain, was that its people owned the sway of the same sovereign with ourselves, they were our fellow-subjects, and if bound to send the Gospel to all lands where the name of Jesus was yet unknown, surely we were bound to send it, first of all, to this land—to India.
In the year 1743, the Baptist Missionary Society sent out Thomas and Carey to India. They witnessed but little fruit of their labours, though they prosecuted them prayerfully, assiduously, and in faith. The chief missionary labour of Carey was the translation of the New Testament into the Bengali language, which was published in India in 1801. The London Missionary Society in 1804, and the Scottish Missionary Society in 1822, sent out their first missionaries to India, and from time to time followed them with others, who planted stations, opened schools, and translated the Word of God into several of the languages of the country. Nevertheless, the evangelisation of India languished. The conversions were few, and the hold of its superstitions on the mind of the natives was not perceptibly loosened. The Christianisation of India properly dates from the arrival on its shores in 1830 of Alexander Duff.
Duff was sent out by the Established Church of Scotland. There were two modes by which he might operate on India. He could traverse that vast country in his character of missionary, preaching the Gospel and distributing Bibles and tracts in the villages and towns as he passed on. Of the seed he should thus sow, some little would take root and spring up. He could hardly hope in a field so vast to return and water that seed, or watch over its growth. There would come to be, in course of years, a few converts scattered over the face of India, but lacking union, they would be incapable of combined action. Duff saw that by this method of evangelising he should spend all his days, and at the end of them have made no permanent impression on the national mind, nor shaken the great system of Hinduism.
He resolved, therefore, to adopt as the radical principle of his operations, not diffusion, but concentration. Not all India, but a portion of it only would he aim at cultivating. Not the whole nation, but a select class would he seek in the first instance to enlighten. He would continue to operate systematically on these till he had made them fit to be teachers of others. Of the hundreds or thousands, which, year by year, he would bring under instruction, he should hope that a few, taught of the Spirit and enlightened by the Word, might, year by year, offer themselves to carry the Gospel to their countrymen. From this centre the light would spread over all that dark land. Every year the labourers would multiply, every year the spiritual vineyard would enlarge, and this process would go on till all the fields of India were sown with the good seed, and that magnificent country had become the Lord’s.
In July 1830, Dr Duff opened a school in Calcutta. The score or so of Hindu youths that took their seats on its benches on the opening day had, before a week passed, grown into hundreds. There was now, in short, a numerous and flourishing institution on the English model, in the capital of Bengal. The young Brahmins were thirsting to be taught, they were eager especially to acquire the English tongue. Not less eager was their teacher to make them proficients in that tongue, but along with the English there came to the Hindu mind the unveiling of a new world. The English language was the key that admitted them into the whole circle of the literature, the science, and the religion of Europe. This result, although not foreseen by the Hindus, was what the missionary had reckoned upon.
The sacred books of the Brahmins, as is well known, contain a system of philosophy and a system of religion, inseparably conjoined and blended. The two claim the same Divine origin, plead the same infallible authority, and must, by consequence, stand or fall together. This will prepare us for the crisis that eventually ensued in the classes of the Institution of Calcutta. The astronomy of Newton and La Place had exploded the astronomy of the Brahmins. But the disaster, for so did it appear to the Hindus, did not end with the overthrow of the Brahminical astronomy, the Brahminical theology, which was mixed up with and largely founded upon it, was shattered along with it, and began to totter to its fall.
Of the youth in the Institution, the faith of some in the religion of Brahminism was seriously shaken, in the case of others it was wholly uprooted, and in the case of a few the doubts and convictions thus awakened ripened into a firm belief in the truth of Christianity and a cordial acceptance of the Gospel. But the change extended far beyond the walls of the Institution and the city of Calcutta. From this school, in a few years, came forth a body of educated natives, familiar with the English Scriptures, and this new race diffused around them, in the offices and relations they came afterwards to fill, a healthy influence, which began to leaven public opinion, and to undermine, as we shall afterwards find, the foundations of those systems which had stood for so many ages, their truth unquestioned and their power dominant, that the Brahmins believed that they would stand unshaken to all time.
More labourers were required to carry on with efficiency a scheme of operations, the value of which had been well tested, and the sphere of which was continually widening. In the second year of his Indian career Dr Duff was joined by several ordained missionaries from Scotland, who shared his labours in the Institution, among whom was Dr Thomas Smith, now his successor in the chair of Evangelistic Theology. Not only so; in 1835 an institution similar to that at Calcutta was established at Bombay, under the presidency of the Rev. Dr John Wilson, who had come out to India some years previously under the direction of the Scottish Missionary Society. And in 1837 a third institution, also on the plan of that at Calcutta, was established at Madras under the direction of the Rev. John Anderson. Such was the machinery in action in India when the Disruption came upon the Church at home.
Of all the Committees of the Church the Foreign Missions Committee had the largest sum in hand when the Disruption took place. That event made these funds the legal property of those who remained with the Establishment. The Free Church Committee was now the owner of but an empty treasury. Every penny had they lost. Nevertheless, they remained the heirs of three valuable possessions, any one of which was really of more value than all the money that was gone. The first was the missionary spirit; the second was the missionary staff, every member of which, without one exception, remained with the Free Church; and the third was the liberality of the people, which would speedily replace in the exhausted treasury an equal, and, it might be, a larger sum than that which had left it. The Free Church, therefore, at its first Assembly, though ignorant as yet at what decision, as betwixt the two Churches, the foreign missionaries might arrive, resolved to prosecute with unabated vigour her great foreign enterprise.
At the Glasgow Assembly in October the Moderator was able to announce the adherence of ten out of the thirteen missionaries in India to the Free Church, viz., those in Calcutta and Bombay. The delay in obtaining the decision of the brethren at Madras was owing to no hesitation on their part, but solely to a disaster that befell the ship that carried their letter to Scotland. On the 10th of July they had emitted and despatched their adherence, but the Menou, which carried the mails, sunk in a storm in the Red Sea. A band of divers, some time after, descended to the wreck, brought up the mail-bags, and the document of the missionaries, in a dilapidated state, was received on the 17th of November, after being some months at the bottom of the ocean. We need not add that it is carefully preserved. The reception of the Madras letter completed the adherence of the Indian missionaries, and, along with them, there passed over to the Free Church all the native assistants, as did also the whole body of pupils and students in the head institutions and in the branch schools which had been planted in the towns lying around the capitals of the three Presidencies.
As in Scotland, so too in India, all the financial resources and material appliances for carrying on the Mission had been swept away, and this department had to be built up again from the foundation. The Institution buildings at Calcutta and Bombay, the valuable libraries, the costly scientific apparatus, and the scholarships were all retained by the Establishment. The money value of this property, which had been created chiefly by the efforts of Drs Duff and Wilson, was estimated at some £20,000. The sacrifice was submitted to. The missionary spirit being intensified thereby, the damage inflicted on the material machinery of the mission was speedily repaired; the empty treasury was filled afresh. New and equally commodious Institution buildings arose to replace those which had been lost. The crowd of students which occupied the benches of the Institutions was greater than ever; and the work inside the Institution walls and outside at the preaching stations went on with continuity unbroken and vigour unabated. Let us trace briefly the steady progress of the Mission to what it has now grown to.
The annual revenue of the Indian Mission at the outset was £1200. “Instead of twelve hundred it ought to be twelve thousand,” wrote Duff to Dr Inglis, the Convener of the Foreign Missions Committee. Read in the then cold missionary atmosphere of Scotland, these seemed the words of one beside himself. “Is the man mad?” wrote the Convener on the margin of the letter which contained this astounding proposition. Not many years thereafter this seeming extravagance was converted into an actual reality. Failing health compelled Duff in 1835 to seek the restorative influence of his native air. During the years he spent at home, he visited all the cities and parishes of Scotland, and thrilled his audiences by his impassioned appeals on behalf of India. It was Duff who was the first to make that great country really known to the people of Scotland. They knew that it existed, for they had seen its place on the map, but that was nearly all they knew about it. It was Duff that enabled them to realise its vast extent, the inexhaustible riches of its soil, the stupendous grandeur of its scenery, the foul and revolting superstitions with which it was darkened, and the moral and spiritual ruin in which its millions lay whelmed and perishing. These pictures, rich and glowing like the land they portrayed, never left the memories of those who had listened to the great missionary orator.
India was no longer to them a mere name, a figuration on the map, lying within certain degrees of latitude and longitude; it was a real land, as the abode of human interests and passions; it was, alas! a land of darkness; it was a vast prison-house in which millions of wretched bondmen were shut up, and, unpitied and unhelped, lay groaning in the fetters of the strongest of all the Paganisms. The people of Scotland could now sympathise with the Hindu nations because they could now realise them. The fountains of their compassion, and by consequence of their liberality, were opened, and by the time that Duff had ended his visitation of Scotland, and was ready to sail for India, the year’s income of the Foreign Missions from Scotland had been raised to the impossible sum—as it had been deemed only a few years before— of £12,000.
This income was cut down, was annihilated as we have seen by the Disruption. The Free Church started a second time in this great enterprise with £300 in its treasury. But the sum was soon enlarged by the liberality of her people. Notwithstanding that the Free Church had on her hands the manifold herculean labours of reorganisation, she was enabled in this the first year of her existence to give £6403 to the India Missions, which was more than half what the unbroken Church had contributed in its best year. Three great missionary centres, as we have seen, had been established in India; to these a fourth was now added. The first three were planted on the coast, the fourth was set down in the centre of India, at Nagpore, and the Rev. Stephen Hislop was called to preside over it. It was resolved, over and above this extension of the field in India, to enlarge the sphere of the Foreign Missions so as to embrace all our dependencies not already included in the Colonial Scheme. South Africa was now added to the Foreign Mission field. This multiplication of stations, and by consequence of labourers, left the annual income inadequate for the inevitably increased expenditure. Dr Duff was summoned home a second time to revive the missionary spirit. His appeals were not less eloquent, and his success not less great than on occasion of his earlier visit. In room of church-door collections—the method by which the fund hitherto had mainly been supported—he substituted in many cases congregational associations, with quarterly collections, and so placed the income on a less fluctuating and uncertain basis. In 1851-52 it was £10,911, or rather more than £4000 above the point at which it stood in 1844. In 1855-56 it had risen to £14,219. In 1873-74 to £19,959; and in 1877,78 to £24,006, its highest point. The year 1879 was the fiftieth of the existence of the Foreign Mission Scheme. Its Jubilee year was not financially its best, the revenue showing a recess of £727, a circumstance doubtless attributable to the commercial calamities of that year. There is ground for believing, however, that the annual income of the Foreign Missions will soon and permanently rise to what it was in 1879,—and, it may be, mount higher, seeing its normal condition since 1843 has been that of progress.
The income is growing richer, the labourers are becoming more numerous, and the field is widening, but what of the harvest? Do any fruits appear? After long centuries of neglect, and but one short half century of labour, are we entitled to speak of the harvest? Is it not greatly too soon? It is matter of profound thankfulness to God that already, though we have hardly done more than begun to sow, a few ripe ears—presage of the future harvest—have been gathered—some sheaves have been carried home. Confining our view meanwhile to the Indian portion of the vast field, let us note the general results, chiefly of a preparatory kind, which have been achieved. The India of to-day is not the India of fifty years ago. There is now motion in the heavy stagnant moveless atmosphere that then brooded over it. There is a loosening in the foundations of Hinduism: it begins to be mistrusted and doubted by multitudes of the natives. Their Shasters, or holy books, are read with less submission to their teaching. The Brahmin speaks with a diminished authority. The festivals have been shorn of half their pomp, and their annual celebration is attended by decreasing crowds. Many of the cruel and horrible rites of their superstition have ceased to be practised: Suttee has been abolished, female infanticide suppressed. The widow, instead of being compelled to immolate herself on the funeral pile of her husband, is free to re-marry; and the Hindu mother, on the festival day in January, no longer throws her infant into the Ganges as an offering to the goddess Gunga: she throws a cocoanut into the stream in room of her child.
The fetters of caste are being thrown off. The holy stream of the Ganges is beginning to lose its virtue. In short, Brahminism has been shattered, and that whole system of society which was reared on this basis has been shattered along with it, and gives signs of passing away. An ever-growing stream of educated youth is being poured into the nation through the Missionary Institutions and Government Colleges. These bring with them Western ideas, which, with steady and irresistible force, are displacing the time-honoured, but also time-worn prejudices and traditions of the Indian world, and bearing down Shaster and temple, Brahmin and Fakir, with the whole system of delusion, demoralisation, and misery of which they are the pillars, into the grave. “Not in all history,” says a truly competent and trustworthy witness, Dr George Smith, in his valuable tractate, Fifty Years of Foreign Missions, “is there a record of such a spiritual and intellectual revolution as these fifty years have witnessed in India, north and south.”
But fruits still more precious begin to appear. It is not a new social India only that is coming into view. A Christian India is rising to reward the missionary, and to change a past of darkness and bondage to the millions of that land, into a future of light and freedom. This was the one grand ultimate result contemplated from the beginning by the founders of the India Mission. They adopted the educational method as the best for arriving at this great end, which they knew, working on these lines, they would reach, not immediately, but after the lapse of years, but surely in the end. Accordingly, their teaching has all along been largely impregnated with religious truth. It was not literature and science only in which they initiated the youth which enrolled themselves by thousands in their institutions and schools, they took care also to instruct them in the evidences of Christianity, and the principles of Evangelical religion. The results of this method of operating have been threefold:—First, there has issued from the halls of the institutions a class of youths whose faith in Brahminism, and in all religion along with it, has been destroyed. They are sceptics. Second, there are others who have not only cast off their belief in Hinduism, but have become convinced of the truth and divinity of Christianity. They are believers, though not converted men. Third, there is a class who have felt the saving influence of Christianity on their hearts. The Spirit working along with their instructors, has convinced them of sin, and they have come to the Saviour. They are true Christians. From this select class the Free Church has been able to gather a small but choice band of preachers, for the great work of India’s evangelisation; which it was foreseen from the first, though necessarily begun by ordained missionaries from Scotland, must be taken up and carried forward by truly converted and thoroughly qualified native preachers, who know the feelings and habits, and speak the tongue of their countrymen. It is worth all the labour which has been bestowed to know that at length the Free Church has such a body of preachers in her service in India, and that in course of time, by the means now in operation, this Evangelical army will be increased an hundredfold, and not a village or district but will be visited by them, and the Gospel preached throughout the whole of that mighty realm, and then India shall be the Lord’s. Half-a-century ago India was closed by its own unbroken prejudices; in vain would the messengers of salvation have gone forth into it. But the ground has since been prepared, inveterate and hostile beliefs have been shattered, and these bearers of “good tidings” now go forth at the right moment “to proclaim the opening of the prison to them that are bound.”
Since 1850-55, this method of operation—namely, by native preachers, has been in use; that is, for a quarter of a century. In 1856, the Free Church had at least nine native ministers able to proclaim in some of the Indian tongues “the unsearchable riches of Christ.” Among her agents were Mohammedans, Parsees, and Hindus. In Hindustani, in Guzerati, in Mahratti, in Tamil, in Teluga, and in several other dialects of India the Gospel has been and is being preached. On Sabbaths, and throughout the week, thousands of adults are hearing the glad tidings in village after village, and bungalow after bungalow. The steps of some pagoda perhaps form a pulpit, and the shadow of the idol, it may be, serves as a canopy for the preacher. At times in the early dawn, at other times in the brilliant light of an Eastern moon, do the missionaries go forth and gather the natives round them, and seek to guide them to Him who is “the True Light.”
It does not follow that because only a select few of our Indian Christian converts become preachers that the rest are lost to the public service of the Gospel. On the contrary, they are utilised as teachers, catechists, or as private members of the native congregations, with which India in now beginning to be dotted. In one capacity or another these now numerous converts serve in the great Christian army, and contribute each his modicum of influence to help forward and consummate that mightiest and most beneficent of all revolutions now in progress in India—the substitution of Hinduism by the blessed Gospel.
Since the year named above, it has been the aim of both the Church at home and the missionaries abroad to give prominence to the evangelistic over the educational in the India Mission by planting preaching stations throughout the country, and nourishing them up into congregations, which might ultimately become self-supporting. This is but the orderly development of the system as planned at first, even that of gradual extension outwards in all directions from a common centre. In carrying this expansion into effect, the method pursued has been to begin by planting in the district fixed upon a school for anglo-vernacular education, conducted by native converts. At these stations, the time and strength of the catechists and preachers have been nearly equally divided between instructing the young in the school and preaching to the adult population at their homes, or in the villages, or in the market-places. Whenever at any of these out-stations conversions by God’s grace are multiplied so as to permit of a congregation being constituted, the native flock is placed under a native shepherd, and the evangelistic now merges into the pastoral. As soon as the evangelisation of the district has been placed on that footing, the missionaries are left free to advance with their apparatus of means and labourers into the regions beyond. It has pleased Him who waters and causeth to grow what His servants plant, to bless their efforts. The seed sown at the four central institutions in India has in each case grown into a sapling, and that sapling has expanded into a tree with outspreading branches, like the banyan tree of the same land, celebrated by Milton as—
Branching so broad and long, that in the ground
The bended twigs took root, and daughters grow
About the mother tree, a pillared shade.”
“The Church’s native congregations of baptised heathen,” says Dr G. Smith, in his “Fifty Years of Foreign Missions,” “now number twenty-eight, with 3500 communicants, and 4100 baptised adherents, besides 800 catechumens, all under their own ‘called’ or native ministers.” There are thirty-one mission-stations. At and from these centres forty missionaries evangelise. Of these, twenty-one are ordained ministers from Scotland, three are medical graduates, and the remaining sixteen are native preachers. This mission-staff directs 208 Christian workers of all grades, English and vernacular. This evangelistic army of 248 is assisted by 234 teachers. These being not yet Christian, though under Christian influence, labour in the secular work of the Mission, making a total agency of 482.
Each of the four parent institutions has a numerous retinue of branch schools distributed throughout the surrounding villages. According to the latest returns, these, along with the Anglo-vernacular schools had an attendance of 4268 male pupils. In vernacular and Anglo-vernacular schools for girls, there were 2570 scholars, making a total of 6838 pupils in the Indian Mission Schools.
Still wider is the field over which the Free Church operates through its Foreign Missions Committee. Since the origination of the greatest of its missions, which undoubtedly is India, with its 250,000,000 of British subjects, other territories, of no mean size, have been added to its already vast domain. These are Syria, South Africa, and, more recently, Melanesia, or “New Hebrides.” As regards Syria, most interesting it is to aid in carrying back the Gospel to its early home, but the American Presbyterian Church have so long and so successfully evangelised in Palestine as to have made the field in a sense their own, and the Free Church, feeling that its evangelisation could not be in better hands, aims at acting in concert with their American brethren, and has only two agents in Syria, the one an ordained missionary, the other a medical missionary and teacher, both acting in the Lebanon.
Africa comes next; equal to eight Indias in size, but greatly inferior to it in population. Africa was a land for which no man cared. Century after century the cloud that covered it remained unlifted. Even the missionary did not dare to cross its boundary and explore the horrors of which it was the theatre. It was approached only by the slave-dealer, who received his frightful cargo and retired. But now the hour of Africa’s redemption has come. Since the beginning of the present century its regeneration has gone rapidly on. First, in 1806, came the acquisition of the Cape by British arms; then followed its colonisation by British settlers, and these were succeeded by Protestant missionaries. The Kaffrarian Mission, founded by the Glasgow Missionary Society in 1821, was transferred to the Free Church the year after the Disruption, and since then, despite the occasional ravages of war, the Mission has continued to increase in both ministers and congregations. Lovedale, its chief seat, is 700 miles north-east of Cape Town. Its Industrial and Educational College is the most flourishing in all South Africa. It has 400 students paying fees, and under the management of the Rev. Dr Stewart it has become a model of such institutions. There are. besides, Training schools for Kaffir girls. Its church is attended by 2000 natives, of whom 570 are communicants. There are six other churches, with their pastors, and teachers, and Scripture readers.
In 1867, the territory adjoining Kaffirland on the north, namely Natal, running up to the borders of Zululand, was adopted by the Free Church as a mission-field. This Mission though only in infancy has its three stations, and small congregations of Zulus, which are sure to grow should the land have rest from war.
The greatest benefactor Africa has ever seen was Dr Livingstone. He gave his life for it, and the impulse communicated by his Christian heroism has already led to marvellous results, and promises to accomplish in the end the emancipation of the whole continent from the darkness of fetichism, which has so long overshadowed it, and the crimes and woes of slavery from which it has so long bled. The consent of the Churches and Missionary Societies of Britain in combination with its science and commerce, for the Christianisation and civilisation of Africa, presents a union as rare as it is beautiful of spiritual and material forces directed towards the attainment of an object unspeakably beneficent and surpassingly sublime, and is one of the most remarkable events of our times. It is to the honour of the Free Church that it has led the van in this great movement. Entering Africa by the most accessible of all the four or five possible routes into the interior—viz., from the Indian Ocean by the Zambezi and the Shire—she has planted in 1875, in the heart of the country, on the shores of Lake Nyassa, a mission which is at once a church and a colony—a fountain of Evangelical truth, and a school of art and industry. It is Christian Europe in miniature transplanted into the midst of fetich Africa. It is the growth of long centuries brought to the door of the poor African, and offered to him as an immediate possession. We who have toiled to achieve it do not grudge to endow with it this son of barbarism. We shall be none the poorer, and he will be greatly the richer.
In the Livingstonia settlement on the shores of Lake Nyassa, the Free Church, through her Foreign Missions Committee and the Livingstonia Sub-Committee, direct the spiritual operations. The agricultural and trading affairs of the settlement arc under the direction of a distinct and independent agency. While the former evangelises the adults, teaches the young, and heals the sick, the latter instructs the natives in the arts of civilised life, and especially do they take care to make them sensible how much better it is to live by tilling their own lands than by robbing those of their neighbours, and how much more enriching are the gains of honest commerce than the blood-money of the slave merchant. Thus it is a twofold warfare which is being waged from the central station of Livingstonia for the emancipation of that long enslaved land. The one assault is directed against the idol-priest, and the other against the man-stealer, and when Africa shall be rid of the pollution and suffering which these two vampires have inflicted upon her, what a blessed consummation will be hers! Then may be applied to her, in a modified sense, the symbol by which the Apocalyptist sets forth the happy condition of the Millennial Church, even that now, her former darkness chased away, there is in her “no night,” and her slavery rooted out, there is in her “no more curse.”
The revenue of the Foreign Missions Committee from all sources, in 1878-79, amounted to £45,165, 6s. 3d. It had an agency of 393 labourers. Its schools and colleges were 220, through which there passes year by year a stream of 15,000 youth of both sexes. This is exclusive of the much larger array of churches, schools, and labourers in the colonies. Into this goodly army of pastors, missionaries, and teachers, of congregations, institutions, and schools, have grown the 474 men who constituted their first Free General Assembly in Tanfield Hall on the 18th of May, 1843. Their operations have opened out into a sphere whose circuit embraces all the continents and many of the islands of the globe, and convey their blessings to the nations and kindreds, the peoples and tongues that inhabit these vast and diversified realms.
Little do India and Africa know at this hour what they owe to the men who have laboured and died in the cause of their evangelisation. But the day will come when they will be fully sensible of the debt. Through all the ages of the future Africa will mention with reverence and gratitude the name of Livingstone. The father will tell the heroic story to the son, as they sit together, at eve, beneath the shade of their banana-trees, and look forth on a land redeemed by the Gospel from its manifold unspeakable woes. In India too, an eternal remembrance awaits the names of Duff and Wilson, of Anderson and Hislop. When the names of kings and proconsols who have ruled her shall have been forgotten, when the fame of her great battles shall have faded, and the glory of her heroes have waxed dim, when Brahma shall have perished for ever from the earth, and the sanctuary of the living God shall rise where the idol’s obscene fane now burdens the soil and pollutes the air, shining all down the ages will be seen the names of those who first carried to the shores of India and published to her sons “the Gospel of the grace of God.” “They that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.”
The King at the Centre
From the humble Hall of Tanfield, where the Church, driven out from the State, assembled to rally and reorganise, we have seen her spreading out on all sides, covering her native land of Scotland with churches and schools, planting Highlands and Lowlands with pastors, reinstituting the order and discipline of her courts, framing the machinery of her finance—in short, bringing into vigorous operation that whole order of things which had existed before the fatal as it was believed to be before it came—the auspicious as it was seen to be after it had passed, 18th of May. This was much; and they who beheld it “were as men who dream,” their hearts were filled with the joy of deliverance, and their tongues with the melody of thanksgiving, while it was said on every side, “What hath God wrought!” But this was only the beginning.
Having set up the “stakes” of her habitation in her own land, she lengthened her “cords” so as to bring within the sphere of her operations countries afar off, and peoples who had long sat in darkness. Her expatriated sons in the Colonies she followed with the ordinances of the Gospel, not giving way for an hour to the unbelieving fear that by this prodigality her children at home should come to lack bread. She began to grapple with the Popery of Continental Europe, recognising in the Roman apostacy the predicted Antichrist, and the Church’s greatest foe. She unfurled the banner of the Cross in India, and proclaimed war against the strongest of all the paganisms,—Hindooism. Advancing into the deep night of Africa, she kindled at the centre of that vast continent a lamp of blessed light, which will not cease to burn till that whole land, from the snowy Atlas to the storm-swept Cape, is illuminated, and the cruel crushing doom which has so long pressed upon its nations lifted off.
But, besides these great lines along which the Free Church of Scotland has so rapidly and powerfully developed, there are a number of side lines—a multitude of miscellaneous schemes, which it is impossible to include under any one category, in which her reforming and evangelising energies have found vent. These, though of a subordinate character, are nevertheless most important, as auxiliaries to the great ecclesiastical and missionary operations, out of which they spring, and to which they render support in return. Some of these, in a brief sketch like the present, we cannot even name.
There are the following:—The Aged and Infirm Ministers’ Fund; the Widows’ and Orphans’ Fund; the Pre-Disruption Ministers’ Fund. There is the Sabbath Observance Committee; there is the Temperance Committee. There are Local Missionary Societies, for supplementing the resources of the Church’s Committees, or promoting special objects, such as the evangelisation of the Karens, the Santals, &c. There is the Mission to China, till lately so closely shut in, but now in God’s wonderful providence open from end to end. There are the Girls’ Schools in Syria and India, and there are associations for the aiding of students from Continental Protestant Churches. There are, moreover, Scholarships, Fellowships, and Bursaries for home students; there is the Welfare of Youth Committee; there are Students’ Missionary Associations; there is the Church Extension Building Fund, under the energetic direction of the Rev. Dr Adam; there is the Pan-Presbyterian Council, and other schemes which we cannot even name. The amount of time, skill, and care which these multifarious managements demand and receive, it would not be easy estimating. They attest the existence in the Free Church of a liberality which is not exhausted by the sums it pours year by year into the general treasury of the Church, but which, after replenishing the central fund, overflows to the support of those subsidiary schemes which we have enumerated. These form a most gratifying proof of the vitalities and energies unceasingly at work in the Free Church, seeking to plant yet more deeply in Scotland, and to spread wider and yet wider over the earth, the kingdom of the Lord Jesus.
Having surveyed the mechanism and seen how steady its working, and how vast the sweep of its operations, let us, before closing, take our stand a moment at the centre. What do we there behold? At the centre of this spiritual organisation we behold a Divine Person,—a great monarch! The Disruption was, so to speak, the unveiling of this glorious King. It was His unveiling as the Head of the Church, and head over all—of principalities and powers in heaven, of thrones and dominions on earth— to His body the Church.
The Disruption was, first of all, the unveiling of Christ in His character of Head of the Church to the Church herself. During the evil days that preceded this epoch, the Church, to a large extent, had lost sight of Christ as her King. She had fixed her eye on earthly thrones: and, dazzled by their glory, she had suffered their occupants to usurp the prerogatives of Him whom God has set as King upon His holy hill of Zion. What was the consequence? The Spirit was withdrawn, the power of her ministrations ebbed away, and her work stood still, for her members, removed from the one grand centre of life and influence, had folded their hands, and lay sunk in slumber. Suddenly, the voices of a few earnest and faithful men — Erskine, McCrie, Moncreiff, Thomson, and others—were heard, breaking the stillness, and crying to the Church, “Behold, thy King cometh.” Hastily she arose and trimmed her lamp, and went forth to meet Him. And in what fashion did He return? Even as He was seen by the apocalyptist, having on His head a crown, in His hand a bow, and on His vesture and on His thigh a name written, “King of kings, and Lord of lords.” The Church laid her undivided homage at His feet; acknowledging Him as her Divine, sole, immediate, and eternal Sovereign. And by the same act by which she acknowledged His Headship did she assert and recover her own liberty. For if Christ be a King, the Church is a kingdom. If Christ be the first and highest of all kings, the Church is the first and freest of all kingdoms.
But further, the Disruption was the unveiling of Christ’s Headship to the world. If that glorious truth had waxed dim in the eyes of the Church, need we wonder that it had become totally obscured to the apprehension of the world. There was a King on the earth, the greatest of all kings, but the world knew Him not. But the Disruption—we mean that whole series of secessions or disruptions from the Establishment, which, commencing in 1732, culminated in 1843—revealed once more that King to the world. The Church said to the foreign powers which had intruded into her domain, and climbed up to the throne of her King, “This is not your seat. Take hence your sceptres, your edicts, your patronages, and leave me free to obey my Lord, and to walk by the rule of His Word.” And when the State refused, saying, “I know not your King, neither will I let you go,” the Church rose up, and, severing her connection with the State, and leaving it to dispose of her temporal possessions as might seem good to it, she went forth, and with the measuring line of the Word in her hand she traced out anew the boundary line of her habitation, and in the midst of her restored tabernacles she set up a throne whereon her king might sit. She did all this, not with the slow toil of a century, as at the Reformation, but in a day almost. In a single decade she had spread herself abroad, and filled the land, to its remotest borders, with congregations, churches, and schools. Men saw in this the visible unloosening of a mighty influence within her. That Divine power had been withheld for many a dreary year, it had ceased to work; but anew it revealed itself in this sudden burst of vitality and expansion. The world saw that there was a King in the Church, not a doctrine of Headship only, but a living potentate, who, when He pleases, can, with a power as mighty as that which brings back the day or restores the spring, raise up the Church when she has been cast down, enlighten her after the darkness of eclipse, or, when she lies cold and dead, send the breath of a new life through her, to chase her winter away, and clothe her anew with beauty and fruitfulness.
The Free Church having herself accepted Christ as her King, was in a condition to go forth and call upon the world to accept Him as its King also. This she did by sending missionaries abroad to call upon the heathen to submit themselves to the sceptre of Him who is King of Zion by believing the Gospel. Where does the Church find her warrant for sending her missionaries to every land on earth? Whence has she authority to say to every king and government, Open the doors of your kingdom, and let the Gospel be preached throughout the length and breadth of your realm? Where is her right to require of every kindred and tribe under heaven that they shall believe and obey the Gospel? Her right to do all this does not lie merely in that the Gospel is true. Many things are both true and important which we have no right to require others to believe and act upon. The Church’s authority for requiring of every human being submission to the Gospel lies in the doctrine of the Headship. Both the message and the messenger come from Him who is “Head over all to His body the Church.” “By what authority,” demanded Charles IX. of Calvin, “By what authority do you send your preachers and missionaries into France?” “By the authority of Him who made you King of France,” replied the intrepid reformer. He held that he fulfilled a clear dictate of piety in sending competent men to labour in preaching the Gospel wherever it was practicable, “seeing that it is the sovereign duty of all kings and princes to do homage to Him who has given them rule.”
And while the Church summoned the ends of the earth “to fear Him” who is her King, she was not unmindful of her duty in this respect to governments at home. She began to preach to them the forgotten doctrine that the Father has given Christ “to be head over all to the Church which is His body;” and she called upon them to do homage to this King, by recognising the rights and respecting the liberties of His Church which is His kingdom, and conducting their own administration on the principles of the Gospel of Him by whom “kings reign and princes decree justice.”
Here, then, is the source of power. According as the Church withdraws from or again approximates this grand central influence, so will her condition be flourishing or decaying, advancing or falling back. Near her King she is near the light; His glory will beautify her, and His power will act through her. Far away from Him, darkness will cover her, and langour will weigh upon all her movements. The doctrine of the Headship of Christ has ever been and ever will be that of the standing or the falling of the Church of Scotland. It was this doctrine which brought her out of the great prison-house of the Papacy. The banner uplifted by Knox had this blazoned upon it, even that neither Rome on the one hand, nor the State on the other, but Christ alone is Head of the Church, and that His voice, and His only, must she hear and obey. It was under this banner that Melville fought the battle of the Church’s independence against the usurpations of the sixth James. It was with the same great doctrine that Henderson met the yet more audacious assault of the first Charles. With this banner floating over her, is the Church seen entering the darkness of the “twenty-eight years,”—that sad yet glorious era of our history. Is it battle-field? is it scaffold? the watchword is still “Christ a King.” Every glimpse we have of the Church amid the tempests of that cloud, it is with her banner displayed; and when at last she comes forth again into full view, it is with her old banner broadly unfurled. “Christ a King” was the word of her testimony, and by it she overcame.
Once more, in our own day, the doctrine of the “Headship” has attested its undiminished and undying force. “Christ a King,” said the first Secession. “Christ a King,” said the second Secession—viz., the “Relief.” “Christ a King” once more, and for the third time, said the Disruption. In this “sign” has the Church of Scotland conquered in the past, and in this “sign” must she continue to conquer in the future. Let us go forward, but let us remember that there can be no advance save on the former lines; no new victories save beneath the old standard. If the day should ever come when that banner should be folded up and put away; if the day should ever come when the “Headship” shall be, we do not say dropped from the Church’s creed, but displaced from the position it has occupied, from the days of Knox downward, in the front of the Church’s testimony, “Ichabod” will be written upon her, and the list of her triumphs will be numbered and finished. But not in Scotland —the land which God has chosen above all lands for the vindication of the royal prerogatives of His Son—shall this great truth ever be disowned. It is written on every page of our Church’s history. It is engraven on the tombstones of all our martyrs. Behind us, and all around us, are the mementoes of it. How, then, can it ever be forgotten? On many a day—on dark days and on bright days—has that banner been unfurled, but there awaits it—oh, welcome and happy day —one other grand unfolding of it. Under this same banner it is that the dispersed of the Scottish Israel shall be gathered into one. And when that day shall have come, and Jerusalem is “a quiet habitation, a tabernacle that shall not be taken down,” over her gates and palaces shall be seen to float the old banner, not hung out as a summons to battle, but displayed as a symbol that the Church, more eminently and visibly than ever, has now become the residence—the seat and throne, of the great King, for “the name of the city from that day shall be, The Lord is there.”
Sketch of the Disruption Day
BY HUGH MILLER
The fatal die has been cast. On Thursday last the religion of Scotland was disestablished, and a principle recognised in its stead, which has often served to check and modify the religious influences, but which in no age or country ever yet existed as a religion; not but that it has performed an important part, even in Scotland. It has served hitherto to control the Christianity of the Establishment—to dilute it to such a degree, if we may so speak, as to render it bearable to statesmen without God. And now its appointed work seems over. It constituted at best but the drag-chain and the hook—things that have no vocation apart from the chariot. But the time has at length arrived in which the State will bear with but the hook and the drag apart from that which they checked, with but the diluting pabulum apart from that which it diluted; and so a mere negation of Christianity, an antagonistic force to the religious power, has been virtually recognised as exclusively the principle which is to be entrenched in the parish churches of Scotland. The day that witnessed a transaction so momentous, can be a day of no slight mark in modern history. It stands, between two distinct states of things, a signal to Christendom. It holds out its sign to these latter times, that God and the world have drawn off their forces to opposite sides, and that His sore and great battle is soon to begin.
The future can alone adequately develope the more important consequences of the event;—at present we shall merely attempt presenting the reader with a few brief notes of the aspect which it exhibited. The early part of Thursday had its periods of fitful cloud and sunshine, and the tall picturesque tenements of the old town now lay dim and indistinct in shadow, now stood prominently out in the light. There was an unusual throng and bustle in the streets at a comparatively early hour, which increased greatly as the morning wore on towards noon. We marked, in especial, several knots of Moderate clergy hurrying along to the levee, laughing and chatting with a vivacity that reminded one rather of the French than of the Scotch character, and evidently in that state of nervous excitement which, in a certain order of minds, the near approach of some very great event, indeterminate and unappreciable in its bearings, is sure always to occasion.
As the morning wore on, the crowds thickened in the streets, and the military took their places. The principles involved in the anticipated Disruption gave to many a spectator a new association with the long double line of dragoons that stretched adown the High Street, far as the eye could reach, from the venerable Church of St Giles, famous in Scottish story, to the humbler Tron. The light flashed fitfully on their long swords and helmets, and the light scarlet of their uniforms contrasted strongly with the dingier vestments of the masses, in which they seemed as if more than half engulphed. When the sun glanced out, the eye caught something peculiarly picturesque in the aspect of the Calton Hill, with its imposing masses of precipices, overtopped by towers and monuments, and its intermingling bushes and trees, now green with the soft, delicate foliage of May. Between its upper and under line of rock, a dense living belt of human beings girdled it round, sweeping gradually downwards from shoulder to base, like the sash of his order on the breast of a nobleman. The Commissioner’s procession passed, with sound of trumpet and drum, and marked by rather more than the usual splendour. There was much bravery and glitter, satin and embroidery, varnish and gold lace—no lack, in short, of that cheap and vulgar magnificence which can be got up to order by the tailor and upholsterer for carnivals and Lord Mayors’ days. But it was felt by the assembled thousands, as the pageant swept past, that the real spectacle of the day was one of a different character.
The morning levee had been marked by an incident of a somewhat extraordinary nature, and which history, though in these days little disposed to mark prodigies and omens, will scarcely fail to record. The crowd in the chamber of presence was very great, and there was, we believe, a considerable degree of confusion and pressure in consequence. Suddenly —whether brushed by some passer-by, jostled rudely aside, or merely affected by the tremor of the floor communicated to the partitioning—a large portrait of William the Third, that had held its place in Holyrood for nearly a century and a-half, dropped heavily from the walls. “There,” exclaimed a voice from the crowd, “there goes the Revolution Settlement.”
For hours before the meeting of the Assembly, the galleries of St Andrew’s, with the space behind, railed off for the accommodation of office-bearers not members, were crowded to suffocation, and a vast assemblage still continued to besiege the doors. The galleries from below had the “overbellying” appearance in front, described by Blair, and seemed as if filled up to the roof behind. Immediately after noon, the Moderate members began to drop in one by one, and to take their places on the Moderator’s right, while the opposite benches remained well-nigh empty. What seemed most fitted to catch the eye of a stranger was the rosy appearance of the men, and their rounded contour of face and feature. Moderatism in the present day is evidently not injuring its complexion by the composition of “Histories of Scotland,” like that of Robertson, or by prosecuting such “Inquiries into the Human Mind,” as those instituted by Reid. We were reminded, in glancing over the benches, of a bed of full-blown peony-roses glistening after a shower; and could one have but substituted among them the monk’s frock for the modern dress-coat, and given to each crown the shaven tonsure, not only would they have passed admirably for a conclave of monks met to determine some weighty point of abbey income or right of forestry, but for a conclave of one determinate age— that easily-circumstanced middle age, in which the days of vigil and maceration being over, and the disturbing doctrines of the Reformation not yet aroused from out of their long sleep, the Churchman had little else to do than just amuse himself with concerns of the chase and the cellar, the larder and the dormitory. The benches on the left began slowly to fill; and on the entrance of every more distinguished member, a burst of recognition and welcome shook the gallery. Their antagonists had been all permitted to take their places in ominous silence. The music of the pageant was heard outside; the Moderator entered, attired in his gown; and ere the appearance of the Lord High Commissioner, preceded by his pages and mace-bearer, and attended by the Lord Provost, the Lord Advocate, and the Solicitor-General, the Evangelical benches had filled as densely as those of their opponents; and the cross benches, appropriated in perilous times like the present to a middle party, careful always to pitch their principles below the suffering point, were also fully occupied. Never before was there seen so crowded a General Assembly; the number of members had been increased beyond all precedent by the double returns, and almost every member was in his place. The Moderator opened the proceedings by a deeply impressive prayer; but though the silence within was complete, a Babel of tumultuary sounds outside, and at the closed doors, expressive of the intense anxiety of the excluded multitude, had the effect of rendering him scarcely audible in the more distant parts of the building. …
The Moderator, Dr Welsh, rose and addressed the House in a few impressive sentences. There had been an infringement, he said, on the constitution of the Church, an infringement so great that they could not constitute its General Assembly without a violation of the union between Church and State, as now authoritatively defined and declared. He was therefore compelled, he added, to protest against proceeding further; and unfolding a document which he held in his hand, he read, in a slow and emphatic manner, the Protest of the Church. For the first few seconds the extreme anxiety to hear defeated its object—the universal, Hush, hush, occasioned considerably more noise than it allayed; but the momentary confusion was succeeded by the most unbroken silence, and the reading went on till the impressive close of the document, when he laid it down on the table of the House, and solemnly departed. He was followed, at a pace’s distance, by Dr Chalmers; Dr Gordon and Dr Patrick McFarlan immediately succeeded; and then the numerous sitters on the thickly occupied benches behind filed after them, in a long unbroken line, which for several minutes together continued to thread the passage to the eastern door, till at length only a blank space remained. As the well-known faces and forms of some of the ablest and most eminent men that ever adorned the Church of Scotland glided along the current, to disappear from the Courts of the State institution for ever, there rose a cheer from the galleries, and an impatient cry of “Out, out,” from the ministers and elders not members of the Assembly, now engaged in sallying forth to join with them, from the railed area behind. The cheers subsided, choked in not a few instances in tears. The occasion was by far too solemn for the commoner manifestations of either censure or approval. It excited feelings that lay too deep for expression. There was a marked peculiarity in the appearance of their opponents, a blank, restless, pivot-like turning of head from the fast emptying benches to one another’s faces, but they uttered no word, not even in whispers. At length, when the last of the withdrawing party had disappeared, there ran from bench to bench a hurried, broken whispering—”How many?” “how many?” “A hundred and fifty?” “No”; “yes.” “Four hundred?” “No”;—and then for a moment all was still again. The scene that followed we deemed one of the most striking of the day. The empty vacated benches stretched away from the Moderator’s seat, in the centre of the building, to the distant wall. There suddenly glided into the front rows a small party of blighted-looking men, that, contrasted with the well-known forms of our Chalmerses and Gordons, Candlishes and Cunninghams, McFarlans, Brewsters, and Dunlops, reminded one of the thin and blasted corn-ears of Pharaoh’s vision, and, like them, too, seemed typical of a time of famine and destitution. Who are these? was the general query; but no one seemed to know. At length the significant whisper ran along the house, “The Forty.” There was a grin of mingled contempt and compassion visible on many a broad Moderate face, and a too audible titter shook the gallery. There seemed a degree of incongruity in the sight, that partook highly of the ludicrous. For our own part, we were so carried away by a vagrant association, and so missed Ali Baba, the oil kettle, and the forty jars, as to forget for a time that, at the doors of these unfortunate men, lies the ruin of the Scottish Establishment. The aspect of the Assembly sank when it had in some degree recovered itself, into that expression of tame and flat commonplace, which it must be henceforth content to bear, until roused happily into short-lived activity by the sharp paroxysms of approaching destruction.
1 McCrie’s Life of Melville, Vol.1, p.167, Edinburgh, 1810
2 Life of Melville, Vol.1, p.172.
3 Life of Melville, Vol.1, p. 403
4 The authorities on which these statements are made are the “Communications,” issued before and after the Disruption, the “Records” of the Free Church, and Dr Buchanan’s “Finance of the Free Church.”
5 Vidimus or Progress of Schemes—Record for 1854-55.