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be admitted by these parties to be sound and irrefra
Take the following as a specimen of the language in which the subjection of the Scottish Statechurch has been asserted, and its claims to independence rebuked. Lord President Hope said: “That our Saviour is the Head of the Kirk of Scotland, in any temporal, or legislative, or judicial sense, is a position which I can dignify by no other name than absurdity. The Parliament is the temporal head of the Church, from whose acts, and from whose acts alone, it exists as the national Church, and from which alone it derives all its powers.” These are exactly the views that were held long before by Principal Robertson. He regarded an Established Church as merely a subordinate court, created by the State, and possessed
no authority but what was derived from human laws. Wherever, therefore, he found a human law relating to Church matters, there he found an imperative rule; and all arguments brought from the direct language of Scripture, or the principles of the gospel, were by him entirely disregarded. * In the House of Commons, in March, 1843, when, on the motion of the Hon. Fox Maule, the claims of the Church of Scotland were taken into consideration, Sir Robert Peel said: “ If a Church chooses to participate in the advantages appertaining to an Establishment, that Church, whether it be the Church of England, the Church of Rome, or the Church of Scotland, must conform to the law.”
How melancholy the spectacle which a Church thus subjected, or rather subjecting itself, to the State presents! The spiritual degradation it exhibits is most pitiable. What are we to think of a body of professing Christians renouncing the supreme authority of their Divine Lord, and, for the sake of a mess of pottage, submitting to the jurisdiction of men who, personally, instead of being the friends, may be the bitter enemies, of everything like vital godliness? True, State-pay infers State-control; but why should a Church, for any earthly consideration whatever, part with its most press cious heritage, its independence of earthly domination?
Hetherington's History of the Church of Scotland.
To be called a Church of Christ, and yet to have no king but Cæsar!
A church subjecting itself to the State, presents a melancholy spectacle, not only because of the spiritual degradation it exhibits, but also because of the disastrous consequences to which it leads. Such a church becomes a source of evil, and not of good. Its ministers grow at once idle and political, -anxious less to feed their flocks than to please their patrons, or to serve the party to whom they owe their position. “In the days of absolute patronage,” said Dr. Chalmers, “ when defending the Veto law, “any client or dependent who had a sure hold on the influence of his superior—as the son of a factor, or of a favourite tenant, or of a political adherent-and could confidently reckon upon a living in the Church, might, on the impulse of this worldly consideration alone, have entered on the studies of the profession, whether by a course of partial or regular attendance, and could, at length, realize the preferment which his heart was set upon.” Such were the ministers who predominated in the Scottish Establishment during the long reign of moderatism; and such are the men that would continue to be found in the Kirk of Scotland, were it not for the altered state of things around them.
In writing thus, we assail not men, but a system. Wherever a church allies itself to the State, the State makes its influence felt, and that influence is evil, only evil, and evil continually. This has been strikingly exemplified even in the instance of the Kirk of Scotland, which, of all religious establishments that ever existed, has been reckoned the purest. From the very first, the ruling powers sought to curb, control, and use it for their own purposes; and hence, for seven years, the civil authority refused to ratify its constitution. During this period, however, it went forward, organ. izing itself, and performing the unctions of a spiritual institution. In 1567, it was brought into connexion with the State, and mark what followed. The very act of the Scottish Parliament which conferred on the Kirk the temporal benefits of an establishment, contained in it “a root of bitterness which was not long in springing
up, and to which, indeed, may be ultimately traced the disruption itself. That act reserved the presentation of laic patronages to the just and ancient patrons.'
From the very beginning, then, did the State corrupt and weaken the Church, and that chiefly by means of patronage. The statute of Queen Anne is justly accounted infamous. Sir Walter Scott candidly tells us that Jacobinism prevailed in Scotland more among the upper than the lower classes, and that this statute was designed to render the clergy more dependent on the aristocracy, and to separate them in some degree from their congregations, who could not be supposed to be as much attached to a minister who held his living by the gift of a great man, as to one who was chosen by their own free voice. The entire history of the Church of Scotland testifies that State influence has all along been employed, and with fearful success, for these two ends--the accomplishment of political objects, and the suppression of an obnoxious party within her own pale.
II. The Established Church of Scotland is no longer the Church of the people. Many who pay no attention to the argument on principle against civil establishments of religion, will attach importance to the statements which we are about to adduce.
For about the last hundred years, especially from the time (1733) when the “four brethren” seceded from the Church of Scotland, dissent has been making progress in the country. These four (and this includes but one division of dissent), have grown to upwards of four hundred ministers, with a population adhering to them of 200,000 ; but since 1843 the number of seceders has prodigiously increased. As our statements with regard to the number of members and adherents belonging to the Kirk since the disruption might be suspected, we shall quote only from public authorized documents, or from such writers as will readily be allowed to have borne true witness.
A well-known baronet, long a member of Parliament, and an elder of the Church of Scotland, has lately published six very remarkable Letters on the position and prospects of the Church to which he belongs. These letters furnish abundant evidence that the Kirk has been fearfully crippled by the recent secession; and, what is of still greater moment, they make it plain that, among thinking and serious men, who never before had doubts on the subject, the necessity of an establishment is beginning to be questioned. "I have reason to believe," writes Sir G. Sinclair, " that the opinions of many pious and enlightened friends of Divine truth have been modi. fied by recent events, into what may be called a transition state on this subject, and if matters continue much longer on their present footing, as regards both the Free-church and the Establishment, it is more than probable that a great increase may be witnessed in the number of those who take primitive antiquity' for their standard, and teach that genuine apostolic succession is only to be found where the pastoral relation is established by mutual consent, and the congregation voluntarily and cheerfully supports, in temporal things, the minister who labours amongst them in word and doctrine, as a good steward of God's manifold grace.”
* The Ten Years' Conflict
Let us now direct our attention to the information which Sir George has collected and communicates, respecting the present condition of the Established Church of Scotland.
He begins his third letter thus :-“ The condition of Scotland with respect to our religious institutions has, since the disruption, assumed a new and very anomalous aspect indeed—an aspect, however, which the respected office-bearers of the Established Church appear unable to comprehend, or, at least, resolved to overlook. They somewhat resemble the rulers of a nation, who, when a very large proportion both of the officers and privates had quitted the service, imagined that they were just as powerful as ever, because they filled up all the vacant commissions as they best could, and kept all their new staff on full pay, even where they had mere skeletons of regiments to command, or perhaps no rank and file at all; so that they had nominally the same force embodied in their army-list, and the colonels, captains, &c., continued to be as numerous and as well remunerated as ever. The Church is, I think, in precisely the same predicament. The numbers of the synods and presbyteries and other functionaries annually occupy as large a space as usual in the columns of the Edinburgh Almanac. But if the amount of the congregations were stated in a parallel column, I fear that, in the north at least, the forlorn and deserted condition of many of these churches would become apparent at a single glance. We are in this country compelled to keep up the same number of hives, and at the same expense, although almost all the bees have deserted them."
Sir George tells us that, in his own parish church (Thurso), where he has often seen at least 1500 persons assembled on the fast-day before the communion, he found on last occasion, by actual computation, only fifty-two in the gallery, twenty-three (including the minister and schoolmaster) in the two-thirds of the body of the church, which he could see from his own seat, while there might possibly be twenty others on the benches, whom he could not discern, making in all somewhat less than 100; and on Sunday, out of a population closely bordering upon 5,000, they could only muster one table and a half at the communion service, while there were, exclusive of the minister and elders, only three male communicants present. “It is impossible,” he says, “ to witness, without some shame and much sorrow, the state of the Church in this county, and (if my information be correct), in several adjacent ones also. Why, it is but yesterday that a gentleman, himself an adherent of the Establishment, said to me, with a sigh, 'What you have asserted in your letters is quite true; but you are far better off here than we are in Sutherland ; our congregations are everywhere smaller. In one large parish there are none; in another, where I went to attend the induction (I think he said), of a new minister, the number of attendants was only two; and throughout whole districts of that extensive country our situation and prospects are equally discouraging.'
Sir George proceeds to give some practical and cir.. cumstantial details as to the actual attendance in the