Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

Among his papers there is a note-book containing memoranda for his ‘Statistics.' Some of these bear date 28th October 1861, and one is of date 17th March 1862, regarding the call of the Rev. James M'Ewen to Hawick. The latest jotting, in a tremulous hand, records the death of the Rev. N. Lind, Whitehill, 4th May 1862.* His last appearance in his pulpit was upon the 21st April 1861. For two whole years after this he was entirely laid aside from public duty. He died on the ioth March 1863. Seriously stricken with paralysis, he could speak with difficulty. No deathbed sayings remain ; his memory does not need them. He lived the life of the righteous, and died their death. His soul is now with Christ, and his body rests in a grave near to that of Michael Bruce. His works now follow him. He was a powerful and faithful minister of the Gospel, an affectionate husband, father, and friend, a sound philanthropist, and one of the most useful men in his Church. Let his memory be blessed. Such men, such pastors, and such friends, are really the ornaments and props of God's house. May the good Lord multiply their number in these days of rebuke and blasphemy!

J. M.

* In his note-book there are extracts from the Edinburgh Review, Sir John Sinclair's Essays, and Macaulay's Essays, marked "for the preface.” One of these is as follows :-“Where correspondence is necessary, and investigation of dates and incidents has to be carried on with other persons far and near, weeks and months waste away at a rate that experience alone can calculate." Another from Whately's “Annotations on Bacon :"-"Geologists, when commissioning their friends to procure them from any foreign country such specimens as may convey an idea of its geological character, are accustomed to warn them against sending over collections of spars, stalactites, etc., which are accounted in that country curious from being rarities, and which convey no correct notion of its geological features. What they want are specimens of the commonest strata, the stones with which the roads are mended and the houses built, etc. ; and some fragments of these, which are accounted rubbish, they sometimes find, with much satisfaction, casually adhering to the specimens sent them as curiosities, and constituting, for their object, the most important part of the collection. Histories are in general to the political economist what such collections are to the geologist. The casual allusions to common, and what are considered insignificant matters, convey to him the most valuable information."

ANNALS AND STATISTICS

OF THE

UNITED PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH.

SUMMARIES. SUMMARY OF CAUSES OPERATING IN THE FORMATION AND

INCREASE OF CONGREGATIONS.

SECTION 1.

CAUSES OPERATING ANTERIOR TO THE SECESSION.

1, Praying Societies. YURING the ascendancy of Prelacy in Scotland, many religious persons,

finding the ministrations of the spiritual guides appointed over them tending little to their edification, withdrew from the respective churches

which they had been accustomed to attend, and formed themselves into societies for prayer, mutual exhortation, and reading the Scriptures. The subjects of exhortation in these societies were not always confined to practical duties, but frequently embraced points of doctrine, forms of church government, and modes of ecclesiastical discipline. By such exercises the members became expert theologians and skilful controversialists; and they were fitted by them for the long and arduous conflict they were called to maintain with their civil rulers. Even prior to the Restoration, the Rev. Henry Guthrie, one of the ministers of Stirling, saw, or thought he saw, in these societies, a power incompatible with ecclesiastical rule, and under this impression induced the General Assembly, 1640, to pass an Act, prohibiting the expounding of the Scriptures, except by ministers, or those training for the ministry of whose qualifications the Presbytery had expressed approbation, and limiting all acts of worship by other parties to members of each family. This Act, however, soon became a dead letter, if ever it was anything else, and praying societies again grew and multiplied. Nor did the Revolution Settlement of 1688 supersede them. That settlement was too defective in the estimation of their more discerning members to work out the benefits they had been seeking. It made no mention of the Second Reformation or National Covenants ; it recognised the prelatic clergy who chose to conform and retain their incumbencies, as ministers of the National Church ; it did not seem to afford a security for religious liberty; and it made little provision for that peculiar kind of doctrinal instruction to which the people had been accustomed, and which they highly valued. They, therefore, still

continued to have recourse to their wonted means of instruction, namely, mutual exhortation and social worship in private.

The societies, however, of which we now speak, are to be distinguished from those of the Cameronians, or “Society Men," as they were then called. These were to some extent regularly organised congregations, avowedly in a state of separation from the Established Church, having the Word preached, the sacraments dispensed, and discipline administered among them upon every available opportunity, whereas the societies now in question consisted of a few individuals who met in private houses on some week-day evening, except when the incumbent of the parish happened to be a conformed Episcopalian or unevangelical Presbyterian, in which cases they met on Sabbath day, during the hours of public worship, but still in small numbers and with great privacy. In all other instances they attended ordinances in the churches of the parishes in which they resided—the ministers of which very frequently attended their meetings, and took part in the services engaged in by them. It was in this way the Evangelical clergy of that day became acquainted with the sentiments and feelings prevalent among the people, and were led to give utterance to them in their discourses from the pulpit, and speeches before the Church Courts.

The proper regulation of the praying societies was deemed a matter of such importance that the Rev. Ebenezer Erskine, and other ministers of his time, thought it worthy of them to print rules for their direction; and the only noncontroversial pamphlet published by Mr Hog, the leader of “ The Marrow Men," was a letter addressed to one of these societies. The number of members composing them varied according to circumstances, sometimes being as low as three, but more frequently amounting to ten or twelve ; and in no case exceeding twenty, which was the maximum according to their own rules. One or more such societies was to be found in most parishes in Scotland. In Portmoak alone, then a very thinly-peopled district, there were five during the latter part of Mr Erskine’s ministry there, and in some other parishes there were many more. Each society met once a week; a number of them met together once a month, and were then designated “ The Association.” Delegates from the Associations met once a year, and when assembled in this capacity were styled “ THE CORRESPONDENCE.” To the general name of Correspondence was added, for distinction's sake, that of the locality from which the representatives composing them were drawn, which embraced a much wider extent of country than did the Associations. Thus were formed “The Correspondences of Annandale,” “Nithsdale," “ East Lothian,” “West Lothian,” “East of Fife," and others, to which references will be made in the succeeding narratives as the remote origin of many Secession congregations; and the reader's attention is called to the fact, that the first male adherents of the Secession were generally members of these societies.

In several places “ The Correspondence,” in its collective capacity, tendered a written adherence to the Presbytery formed by “The Four Brethren,”* and at once became a congregation in connection with the Presbytery. “The Correspondences” named above are instances of this kind; each of which, however, was soon divided and sub-divided into several congregations, as the number of members allowed, or the convenience of the adherents demanded. These were generally found to be in proportion to the number of “The Associations” of which “ The Correspondences” were composed, and which accordingly gave their names to the congregations which drew their origin from them. “ The Correspondence of Annandale” came to be divided into the congregations of Lockerbie and Ecclefechan, that of “ Nithsdale” into Sanquhar and Ayr, that of “West Lothian” into Craigmaillen and Linlithgow—of which “ Associations” they had been originally composed. Besides these, and from the same remote causes, there sprang the first Secession congregations of Alloa, Dalkeith, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Haddington, Hamilton, Kirkcaldy, and Loudon—the congregations of Auchinleck, Balgedie, Cambusnethan, Lathones, Mearns, Minnihive, Pollokshaws, St Andrews, Stow, Strathaven, and Tarbolton. Some of these, indeed, have only come recently into existence as separate congregations, and their origin as such can be traced to other and more immediate causes. Nevertheless, it will be found, upon examination, that all of them are in reality the offspring of praying societies which met in the several localities indicated by their names at the rise of the Secession, and which would even then have been formed into congregations had it been in the power of the Presbytery to supply them with preachers, and had the members had the conviction that they were able to support them. The societies in Dumfriesshire and western parts of Ayr were, to some extent, organised congrega. tions before acceding to the Associate Presbytery, inasmuch as they had been previously under the inspection of the Rev. Mr Hepburn of Urr, in Galloway, who preached and performed other pastoral duties to them as often as distance and the demands of his more immediate charge would allow. Thus a machinery was in some measure prepared for “ The Four Brethren" before their Secession from the judicatories of the Established Church was declared, but which they were prevented by the paucity of their numbers from working as efficiently as they might otherwise have done. The long training and steady conduct of the praying societies made up, however, in part for the want of proper agency, and congregations were thus then formed in circumstances which would not now be considered as warranting the attempt.

* The Revs. Eben. Erskine of Stirling, Alex. Moncrieff of Abernethy, Wm. Wilson of Perth, and James Fisher of Kinclaven, who, at Gairney Bridge, Kinross-shire, on the 5th December 1733, formed themselves into a Presbytery separated from the National Establishment, and thus became the Founders of the Secession Church, -EDS.

From the moment of their actual separation from the Established Church, the founders of the Secession became solicitous to secure the co-operation of the praying societies now described, and that co-operation was readily and extensively afforded them. Again, when the General Assembly of 1740 passed sentence of deposition upon them, they immediately issued the following recommendation, thereby indicating the quarter whence they chiefly looked for support, and the peculiar character in which they wished those affording it to be recognised: Dunfermline, 12th August 1740.—The Presbytery recommend to those who have acceded to them, to cast themselves into societies for prayer and Christian conference--this being a duty commanded in the Word of God, and that hath been much owned and countenanced of the Lord (Malachi iii. 16); and in these societies, instead of questions that may not be so much for edification, that together with the diligent reading of the Holy Scriptures, they carefully peruse our Confession of Faith, Lesser and Larger Catechisms, and compare the same with the Scripture proofs subjoined to them, that they may see that their faith as to these articles of religion do not terminate upon human, but upon the Divine testimony in the Word; and that they make use of such approven helps, opening their principles, as they have at hand. As also the Presbytery recommend to the said societies and acceders, that they study to know and be acquainted with the public cause of Christ, and our Reformation principles and testimony of the day, in opposition to that flood of defection which has been so long running through the present judicatories of this Church; and that heads of families carefully instruct their children and servants in the above principles; and the Presbyteries appoint their clerk to give abstracts hereof to such of the commissioners as shall desire it."

This recommendation was generally respected, and scriptural knowledge and devotional feeling were thereby greatly promoted. These societies rapidly declined after “ The Breach "*—an unhappy result of that unfortunate division, and greatly deplored by both parties. The Associate (Burgher) Synod attempted to counteract this declension by passing the following resolution at a meeting held in Stirling, October 1, 1754 : “The Synod, considering the great decay of practical godliness and serious religion in the several corners of the Secession, and particularly the sinful and shameful absenting and withdrawing from social meetings for prayer and conference, which were formerly attended, to the edification of souls and honour of religion among the people of the Secession, the Synod therefore earnestly recommend to the people under their inspection, to set up and keep up society meetings for prayer, and to stir up one another to the practice of this duty, and appoint that this recommendation be intimated in the several congregations within their bounds, between and the next ordinary meeting of Synod, with suitable exhortations. Further, the Synod recommend to these societies to inquire, in the spirit of meekness, and in such a way as is competent to them, at any of the members of these meetings who are absent, and the grounds and reasons why they are so.”

That some concomitant evils attended these societies cannot be denied, and need not be concealed. But these arose, not from the nature of the institutions themselves, but from the peculiar manner in which they were frequently conducted. It were to be wished that such societies were at present more numerous in our congregations than they now generally are. Under proper management they might become powerful incentives to religious inquiry and vital godliness, which, far more than numbers and wealth, constitute the strength of a congregation. “The holy seed shall be the substance thereof."

2. The Marrow Controversy. It is allowed by all who have studied the subject, that “The Marrow Controversy” was one of the remote causes of the Secession, but authorities are not at one respecting the extent to which this cause operated. The late Rev. Dr M'Crie,t in his reported evidence before the Select Committee of the House of Commons on Church Patronage, said—“I do not think the controversy had much influence on the Secession. The book is an English work of the seventeenth century, and in consequence of a minister of the Church of Scotland having put a recommendatory preface to a new edition of it, Professor Haddow of St Andrews laid a number of extracts from it before the General Assembly of 1720, which they pronounced erroneous. $ At the following Assembly (1721) twelve ministers gave in a Representation against that Act condenıningThe Marrow of Modern Divinity,' stating that they

* The division of the Secession in 1747 into two branches-the Burghers and the Antiburghersoccasioned by a difference of opinion respecting the lawfulness of taking the Burgess Oath, which included a clause bearing on religion, which many Seceders could not conscientiously adopt.-Eds.

+ Dr Thomas M'Crie of Edinburgh, author of the Life of Knox, etc.—Eds.

I“ The Marrow of Modern Divinity," by Edward Fisher, A.M., of Brasenose College, Oxford, was published in 1646. The edition, which gave rise to the “Marrow Controversy," appeared in 1717, and the Preface was written by James Hog, minister of Carnock.-Eds.

« ZurückWeiter »