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tablished Church in Scotland-it was, at least, not the Presbyterian Establishment to which we belong, but a mixed and anomalous body, composed to a great extent of Episcopalians, holding general assemblies, in which bishops sat and voted under the recognised title and with the authority of bishops.+ Presbyteries were formed for the first time in the year 1581, and the Presbyterian Church, thus gradually modelled and organized, was, as already stated, established as the National Church in 1592.
The conditions and limitations of the Acts of Parliament by which this establishment was effected, have been already sufficiently explained. The power of collation was given to presbyteries, under the special condition that they should be "bound and astricted" to admit qualified presentees. Here, therefore, our historical enquiries might fairly enough be brought to a close. But we formerly intimated an intention of adverting to some more recent passages in the history of the Church; and we feel that we should hardly acquit ourselves of the task
which we have undertaken, if we failed to call the attention of our readers very shortly to the state of ecclesiastical affairs at the two great eras of the Usurpation and the Revolution, as affecting the rights and influence of the people in the choice and settlement of ministers.
Whatever opinion may be formed respecting the conduct and motives of the General Assemblies which sat during the period between 1638 and 1649, there can be no doubt that the power and influence of the Church was then practically both more varied and more extensive than it has ever been since the times of Popery. To this cause must be attributed the abolition of patronage by Parliament in 1649, and the large discretion committed to the General Assembly of that year, to provide for the "just and proper interests of presbyteries and congregations" under the new system. The result of their deliberations was the celebrated "Directory," which vested the election of the pastor in the session, not in the people. In the event of the acquiescence of the congregation, the presbytery are directed to proceed to take trial of
An able and ingenious pamphleteer (the Reverend Andrew Gray, minister of Perth, author of "The Present Conflict between the Civil and Ecclesiastical Courts Examined," 8vo, Edin. 1839,) has expended much labour in proving that the General Assemblies which sat during the period from 1560 to 1592, were convened without the authority, permission, or sanction of Parliament; and from this fact, which we presume no one will dispute, he draws the inference, that the Church, as it then existed, was possessed of inherent and independent powers derived directly from God. But does the reverend gentleman not perceive that the very same powers are (except under a system of intolerance) vested in every dissenting body? A private association formed for a religious, or any other legal purpose, may make and enforce rules affecting the management of its own affairs, and binding on its members, so long as these are not opposed to, or inconsistent with, the civil law.
† See numerous instances of this in the "Buik of the Universal Kirk."
We have no intention of discussing the policy of this measure, but the language of the Act is well worthy of attention, as indicative of the irresistible influence which the Church at this time exercised over the deliberations of the Committee of Estates. The preamble contains a sanction and approval, almost in the words of the Second Book of Discipline, of all those doctrines on the subject of presentation and admission of ministers, which had been consistently and successfully reprobated and opposed by every parliament, from the year 1560 downwards. Now, the Legislature seems to have been compelled, in the most literal sense, jurare in verba magistri :—" The Estates of Parliament being sensible of the great obligation that layes upon them by the National Covenant, and by the Solemn League and Covenant, and by many deliverances and mercies from God, and by the late solemn engagement unto duties to preserve the doctrine, and maintain and vindicate the liberties of the Kirk of Scotland, and to advance the work of reformation therein, to the utmost of their power: And considering that patronages and presentations of kirks is an evill and bondage under which the Lord's people and ministers of this land have long groaned, and that it hath no warrant in God's word, but is founded only on the Canon law, and is a custom merely Popish, and brought into the Kirk in time of ignorance and superstition, and that the same is contrary to the Second Book of Discipline, in which, upon solid and good ground, it is reckoned among abuses that are desired to be reformed, and unto several
the person elected; "but if it happen that the major part of the congregation dissent from the person agreed upon by the session, in that case the matter shall be brought unto the presbytery, who shall judge of the same: and if they doe not find their dissent to be grounded on causelesse prejudices, they are to appoynt a new election in manner above specified." * The presby tery are to enquire into the reasons of the people's objections, and to judge whether they be sufficient, or be grounded on causeless prejudices. It is impossible to imagine a more favourable opportunity than was afforded to the Church at this time of executing any fundamental law, or carrying into practical operation any fundamental principle of the Church in the settlement of ministers. The General Assembly was intrusted with full discretion-the Church was all-powerful the leaders of that day, Rutherford, and Guthrie, and Livingstone, and Gillespie, were the most zealous and uncompromising reformers-the most enthusiastic, and in the judgment of many men the most bigoted, Presbyterians known in the history of the Church; and yet, under such auspices, the people were still deprived of a sacred privilege, to which we are told they have right by a fundamental law of the Church-no dissent, without reasons, being competent to be entertained by a presbytery under the Directory of 1649.
After times of unprecedented trial for the Church of Scotland, the Presbyterian form of ecclesiastical government was again established at the Revolution, and the right of patronage was then, not abolished altogether, but transferred from the "ancient patrons" to the heritors and elders in each parish. But what provision was made for listening to the wishes of the people? It is enacted that the heritors and elders" name and propose the
person to the whole congregation, to be either approved or disapproved by them; and if they disapprove, that the disapprovers give in their reasons, to the effect the affair may be cognosced upon by the presbytery of the bounds.' Not one word is to be found in this statute which can by possibility be stretched to support the principle of giving effect to dissent without reasons assigned. The statute follows the unbending rule of Church law, that in all cases the objections of the congregation are to be considered and judged of by the presbytery.
It has been already observed, that after an experiment which lasted for twenty-one years, the Act of 1690 was repealed, and the "ancient patrons" were restored to precisely the same rights which they had enjoyed of old, under the same condition that their choice should be confined to persons qualified in the judgment of the Church. The 10th Anne is in effect simply a revival or re-enactment of that part of the Act of 1592 which relates to patronage and settlements; the law has now remained unchanged for more than 120 years, and the rights of patrons, therefore, are at the present day the same, both in kind and extent, as those of their ancestors in the sixteenth century; and the powers of the Church and the influence of the people in settlements, are confined within the same limits which were marked out and approved of, or at least acquiesced in, by all parties at the first establishment of the Reformed Presbyterian Church in Scotland. We are told, indeed, that the absolute exercise of the right of patronage, and the exclusion of the people's voice in the election of ministers, was never cordially approved of by the Church; and that the ecclesiastical history of the last century furnishes numerous instances of attempts, unsuccessful certainly, but zealous and sincere, to extend the influence of the
Acts of General Assemblies; and that it is prejudicial to the liberty of the people, and planting of Kirks, and unto the free calling and entrie of ministers unto their charge: And the saids estates being willing and desirous to promove and advance the ReforAmation foresaid, That everie thing in the House of God may be ordered according to Ihis word and commandment, doe therefore, from the sense of the former obligations, and upon the former grounds and reasons, discharge for ever hereafter, all patronages and presentations of kirks, whether belonging to the King or to any laicke patrone, presbyteries, or others, within this kingdome, as being unlawful and unwarrantable, by God's word, and contrary to the doctrine and liberties of this Kirk."-Thomson's Acts, Vol. VI. p. 411.
* Acts of Assembly, 1649. 8vo ed、 p. 649.
congregation. We shall select one example, which is the most important and the most frequently and confidently cited by our opponents.
In 1736, the General Assembly, in the vain hope of conciliating the original Seceders, passed an "Act against intrusion of ministers into vacant congregations, and recommendation to Presbyteries concerning settlements," which, though short and simple, is one of the most instructive passages in the Records of the Church. It consists, as might be gathered from the title, of two parts, a declaration and a direction. The General Assembly, after citing the Second Book of Discipline, and several of its own former acts, declares, "That it is, and has been since the Reformation, the principle of this Church, that no minister shall be intruded into any parish contrary to the will of the congregation." Now, here is an entire abandonment of the historical accuracy of the Second Book of Discipline. If it had been true-if the General Assembly of 1736 could safe ly and honestly have maintained-that previous to the Reformation, in the golden age pointed at in the Second Book of Discipline, when the "Kirk was not corrupted by Antichrist," the voice of the people was allowed to defeat or to control the choice of the patron, why introduce these limiting words since the Reformation? Why not adhere to the position assumed by their predecessors in 1578? The necessity of limiting the proposition to the period following the Reformation, is conclusive against the veracity of the Second Book of Discipline. The Churchmen of the eighteenth century thus virtually gave the lie to Andrew Melville and his coadjutors; but they are not one whit more accurate themselves, if the principle of the Act 1736 be interpreted to be, that the dissent of the congregation shall be given effect to without the presbytery judging of the grounds of objection. We have been altogether wasting our time, if we have not established that neither before nor since the Reformation, in no one of the various systems devised for the election and settlement of ministers, was an absolute and unexplained Veto ever
confided to or exercised by the people. But if there be any who still maintain that the principle of the Act 1736 is identical with that of 1834, we challenge them to produce a single instance in which such a principle was acted upon, either before or after the year 1736. The bare assertion, in the Second Book of Discipline, of a principle in some respects analogous to this, founded on a gross and palpable mistatement of historical fact, is but slender authority; and the re-assertion of the principle in 1736, accompanied with a new and equally glaring mistatement, would not make matters much better for the Church, supposing this construction of the Act 1736 to be correct. But we should not be doing justice to the General Assembly of 1736, were we to disguise our firm conviction, that nothing was farther from their minds than to confer on the people a privilege antagonist to, or destructive of the right of the patron.
The direction to presbyteries is to have a due regard to the principle announced in the declaratory part of the Act, and with that view to "be at pains to bring about harmony and unanimity in congregations, and to avoid every thing that may excite or encourage unreasonable exceptions in people against a worthy person that may be proposed to be their minister." If this be the working of the non-intrusion principle, our objections to its legality and its expediency are both equally at an end.` If this be the duty of presbyteries in the maintenance of that principle, we contend that it has ever been the sacred and peculiar duty of presbyteries, as statutory functionaries, as officers of the Church, as spiritual teachers. If this be the fundamental law maintained by the Church, the Act and Regulations of 1834, waiving for the present the consideration of their mischievous tendency, were, on this ground alone, idle, useless, uncalled-for, and absurd. The fundamental non-intrusion law, as thus explained, required no reenactment; it was neither obsolete nor neglected, but still in viridi observantia. But the non-intrusion Act of 1834, differs in its essence from that of 1736. It is illegal, because it arrogates a power to the Church which was not dreamt of by the Churchmen
* Acts of Assembly, 1736. c. 14, p. 33, fol. ed.
of the last century: it is at once illegal and inexpedient, because it bestows on the people a privilege for which no warrant is to be found within the four corners of the Act of 1736; in place of bringing about "harmony and unani. mity in congregations," it is eminently calculated to "excite and encourage unreasonable exceptions in people against a worthy person that may be proposed to be their minister."
What then becomes of the fundamental law? What is the result of the appeal to history? The people's dissent without cause shown-the simple negative-the unreasoning rejection-the enfranchisement of the popular caprice, is an invention of the present age, unknown to the ecclesiastical constitution of Scotland, unheard of in the history of any other Christian Church.
But what is new is not for that reason necessarily bad; the principle of an institution or an enactment may be defended on other grounds than its antiquity or its fundamental character. We are not such exclusive and unreasoning lovers of the time that is past, as to refuse our assent to this proposition. But our readers must not forget the argument from antiquity, or the result of our researches. The induction, no doubt, might have been made much fuller and more complete, and we are deeply conscious that greater learning and greater talent might, with advantage, have been brought to bear on the subject. But we sincerely trust that our enquiries have been as impartial as they have been diligent. We at least shall be believed when we say, that so far from being actuated by a feeling of hostility to the Church, the sole end of our endeavours is to contribute to her present welfare, and to the extension of her usefulness. In the spirit of reverence and grateful affection, which becomes us both as members of the Church and as Scotchmen, but with the independence of thought which the Reformation has secured to all men, we have spoken boldly and candidly, because we feel that, on a subject of such vital importance, to withhold the expression of opinions deliberately formed and confirmed by every day's after consideration and experience, would have been an unpardonable dereliction of duty. Again, therefore, we say, let our readers bear in mind that the first proposition in
the Act of 1834, the groundwork of the whole system, is an historical untruth-that the rejection of a presentee on the ground of the people's unexplained dissent is not warranted by any previously existing law of the Church.
The expediency of the Veto Act is a separate question; but the supporters of that Act, bereft of the aid which they hoped to derive from history, must now undertake the task of showing good and sufficient cause for the fundamental change which they advocate-for the introduction of a new principle into the constitution of the Church. On all fair rules of argument the burden lies with them. not enough that a Reformer should defend the innovation which he proposes against the objections of his antagonist. He must show at least some reasonable prospect of benefit, present or future, otherwise he has made out no sufficient case to justify the change. But it is not the least remarkable feature in the present controversy, that, neglecting the task of furnishing materials for the direct support of their new principle-instead of showing at once the importance of the end which they seek to achieve, and the adequacy of the means employed-the advocates of the Veto principle act exclusively on the defensive-they appear to find sufficient employment for their logic and their ingenuity in endeavouring to answer the numerous and varied objections of detail to which it is exposed. They maintain, indeed, in general terms, that it is in the highest degree expedient, and almost indispensable to edification, that a minister should be acceptable to his flock. But they have provided no standard by which to measure this expediency; and they have furnished no test by the application of which we may distinguish between that acceptableness which meets the reasonable desires and spiritual wants of the people, and that which is content with satisfying their caprice, or which possibly may promise to indulge their vicious habits or to give scope to their irreligious propensities.
It is the difficulty to which we now advert, that appears to constitute the most fundamental and the most fatal objection to the principle of the Veto
There are certain well-known qualifications which ought to be possess
ed by every minister, and the absence of any of these may naturally and reasonably render a presentee unacceptable. But if any man be inducted into a parish, who is truly disqualified, from insufficiency of talent or attainments, from heresy, or from a sinful and godless life, the Church herself is deeply responsible for this calamity; for to her is committed the duty of examination, and every minister of a parish has twice undergone trials by a Church court, first, when he was licensed to preach, and a second time previous to his induction to the benefice which he holds. The people, too, by the existing law, are privileged to oppose, and will successfully oppose, the settlement of any man against whom they can establish objections, founded on such disqualifications as those of which we now speak. This is the ordeal to which every minister in the Church is subjected; it is the duty of the presbytery both to enquire and to judge, and it is the privilege of the congregation, if they see fit, to direct and assist the enquiries of the presbytery by the statement of objections. In this state of the law two things are clear, 1st, That the presbytery are the sole judges in the matter of qualification; and, 2d, That the grounds of objection competent to the people are limited to certain classes, definite and ascertained. But the new system reverses these rules; for the Act of 1834 proceeds on the assumption, that there is a certain class of objections of which the people and not the presbytery ought to be the judges; and so far from attempting a definition or even a description of this class, it commits to the people a power of absolute rejection, on any ground which may be satisfactory to their own minds, although it is confessedly possible that their objection, if stated, might turn out to be frivolous or positively immoral.
Some of the framers and supporters of the Veto Act are exceedingly indignant when they are charged with introducing into the Church the evils of popular election; and yet it is difficult to see the distinction, in principle or in substance, between a direct right of choice, and such a negative power as controls and nullifies the patron's choice, and ultimately leads to the gratification of the people's wish, by the appointment of their fa
vourite candidate. But we shall not dispute about words. We condemn the principle of the Veto, because it, in fact, makes the people the uncontrolled judges of the presentee's qualifications for the benefice-of his fitness to minister to their spiritual necessities; while it is universally true that those who stand in need of spiritual aid are not only the very last to seek it, but are also the most incapable of understanding what kind of instruction, and admonition, and spiritual exercise and religious culture, is the best adapted to their own minds and hearts. We deprecate all free-trade notions in religion; we deny that the demand may safely be left to regulate the supply of spiritual instruction and pastoral superintendence; we therefore support civil establishments of religion, and for the very same reason we condemn the Veto Act. This analogy is close and obvious enough; and it is surprising, it is monstrous, that men, who, in defending the utility of church establishments, have, in the most eloquent and convincing language, demonstrated the absolute incapacity of the people to understand their own spiritual wants-who have argued in vindication of church establishments on the assumption, that the wishes and the wants of the people in spiritual matters are not only not identical or commensurate, but very often directly opposed that these men should so far forget their own principles
the grounds of their own argumentstheir own deliberate written opinions, as to maintain, in the present question, that this same people are the best judges of a presentee's fitness to minister to their spiritual wants-that the preacher selected because he is the most acceptable to the people, and most completely meets and gratifies their wishes, will necessarily, or naturally, or probably, be also the most zealous and the most successful-the most peculiarly fitted to minister to their wants. If we are not mistaken, it was Dr Chalmers-now the keen partisan of the Veto Act, the author of the resolution, which, in support of that Act, and for the sake of the principle which it embodies, pledged the Church to her present unequal, unseemly, and mischievous contest with the civil power-it was he who first detected, or at least who first explained and exposed, the miser