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best reformed Churches, whensoever any error in their doctrine . . . shall be demonstrated to them from the Word of God ... to take in and not shut out further light, and to amend what is amiss.
In point of fact, all Presbyterian Churches have an implicit right to revise their creeds, else they will in time become merely so many systems of organised hypocrisy. But the salient fact for us is, that no explicit constitutional authority could be cited in proof of the right of revision. Hence, as the Free Church had amended their creed and could not satisfy the Lords that they had constitutional license to do so, their action was held to be tantamount to a breach of trust. A judgment characteristic enough, for Law is pre-eminently the conservator of established order against irregular encroachment.
Third. The Lords decided that the Establishment principle was an essential of the Free Church constitution, and as this principle was no longer adhered to when that Church entered the Union, that act was considered equivalent to a breach of constitution.
A speech of Chalmers, as Moderator of the first Free Assembly, was quoted, in which he declared his adherence to the principle of Establishment, and the Lords took the view that in saying so he spoke for the Church. Now what are the facts ? Some of his followers took exception to those very views of Chalmers, and so, a few days later, we find him expressly warning his hearers against accepting as the views of the Church what were merely his personal convictions. And at Glasgow, in October of that same year, we find him speaking again on the same subject. He had received
proposals for union from other Churches not holding the Establishment principle, and had replied, stating frankly his own adherence to the principle. Here are his words :
I have made them to understand in all my answers that they were only answers pro tempore- -answers merely of the individual who happened to be elevated to the Chair of the Free Assembly ... but I trust I have not committed the Assembly by any answer I made to these communications.
That leaves no room for doubt : the Lords had never heard of these speeches, and on this point their deliverance is at variance with actual fact. Yet I think they are not here culpable. The prime function of a judge is to decide on the facts presented to him; to bring his legal knowledge and acumen to bear in discriminating and balancing them, so that truth may prevail and justice be done. But to provide the facts is the province of others.
A more doubtful point is the question of donors' intentions. It is notorious that much of the property assigned by the decision to the Minority was given when the Union was imminent; nay, some of it was given for the very purpose of advancing the unification of the Churches. The failure of the judges to recognise this factor of the case in my view vitiates the whole judgment.
VOL. LVII-No. 335
Is there, then, a case for revision ? I think there is. The decision is based on error, and if, notwithstanding, it is correct, then a legal injustice has been committed. Nothing shows this so clearly as a review of the resulting situation. The immediate effect of the judgment, when and if implemented, is to allocate to thirty ministers the administration of property, comprising churches, schools and colleges, which engages the activity of over eleven hundred. The dilemma is this : the Majority cannot legally retain the property, and the Minority, on their own avowal, cannot administer it. Surely public expediency forbids that it should
derelict ! Again, be it remembered the moral claim of the Minority to hold it is of the slightest. What are we to say when we consider that those now adjudged to be the true Free Church remained in the Church after the breach of the Confession wbich they plead, drawing their salaries and preaching from the pulpits of a Church which they now aver to have been unfaithful to her creed? They might have seceded with the Free Presbyterians who left the Church in 1893, but they chose to remain. Their case is just this. Either they preached then doctrines they disbelieved, or they acted hypocritically towards the Church whose money they took.
On the other hand the Majority are responsible for the whole débâcle in that they took no effective steps to fortify themselves in law, in introducing innovations and amendments of their creed. And while on the subject I may remark that, had they acted with greater consideration towards the Minority in 1900, Scotland might have been spared this most sordid spectacle of all her religious history.
The situation is intolerable. Mutual accommodation is out of the question with disputants whose sole wish of their antagonists is • Pereant omnes !' The mischief is not confined to the Churches actually implicated, but spreads to other denominations of the community. Religious life is being struck at while the adversaries vilify each other. And the State, as guardian of the interests of the Established Church, has in the last resort a right to intervene. But this touches ground foreign to the scope of this article, and so we must here part from this unique case.
I have endeavoured to emphasise the facts that the dispute is not of recent origin, or transitory, but springs from causes deepseated and inveterate; that it was due to peculiar environment, to the innovating forces of the times, and to the conflicting character of the people.
And the dispute itself has once again demonstrated that Churches, like all other bodies--corporations or individuals—must conform to the laws for the time being of the State in which they exist, and that freedom of action in any direction is impracticable without
the sanction, tacit or explicit, of these all-comprehensive laws. A perfectly free Church inside a State is both anomalous and Utopian.
P.S.—While this article is passing through the Press, & Commission has been nominated by the Government to investigate the case in all its bearings, with a view to a more equitable partition of the property.-C. M.
"ROME OR THE REFORMATION'
A REPLY TO LADY WIMBORNE
UNDER the above alliterative title Lady Wimborne essays to place before us the changes which the Church of England underwent at the time of the Reformation. To adequately deal with such a theme requires a theological equipment of no mean order, joined to an instinct for historical accuracy rarely to be met with in Protestant controversialists. Lady Wimborne, though claiming to interpret the mind and intentions of the Reformers, imputes to them teaching which they plainly denied, and repudiates on their behalf the doctrines and traditions which they, in common with the rest of Catholic Christendom, held most in reverence.
The Mass, she says, was abolished by them, and yet they called the office of Holy Communion in Edward's First Prayer-book by that very name.
Confessing priests were banished, and yet the bishop in the Ordination Service is made to say, Whosesoever sins ye forgive, they are forgiven,' &c.
The breach with the Church of Rome was absolute and her doctrines repudiated, and yet the Reformers in the most solemn manner asserted that they did not forsake nor reject the Churches of Italy, Spain, &c. The appeal was to Scripture, and to Scripture alone, she tells us. Our choice lay between the authority of the Bible and that of the Church, and yet, in the words of the Reformers, the Church is the witness and keeper of Holy Writ.'
Having thus travestied the teaching of the leaders of the Reformation, she has no difficulty in proving that the 'Ritualistic clergy' of to-day are traitors to their Church, and are secretly working to bring her once more into subjection to the Church of Rome. This is no new discovery on the part of Lady Wimborne ; exactly the same thing was said of the early Tractarians—' Malignants, Oxford heretics, Jesuits in disguise, tamperers with Popish idolatry, agents of Satan, walking about our beloved Church, polluting the sacred edifice, and leaving their slime about her altars, whose head may God crush!' These were the phrases which certain
bishops of that time applied to Keble, Pusey, Isaac Williams, and others whose names are held in reverence by all parties in the Church to-day, and in her present attack upon the Catholic clergy Lady Wimborne is but repeating, in milder accents, the accusations of the past, and maintaining traditions sanctified by episcopal example.
It is interesting to observe that, while the weapons of attack are the same now as they were sixty years ago, a change has taken place in the form of the indictment. Lady Wimborne has not a word to say, for instance, about that erstwhile 'rag of popery,' the surplice.
In 1851 the whole bench of bishops, with one exception, condemned the wearing of the surplice in the pulpit in the strongest terms, and one, at least, refused to license a curate in his diocese unless he gave a written undertaking not to preach in a surplice.
At that period, we may fairly assume, Lady Wimborne would have zealously supported the bishops, and have joined them in denouncing the surplice-wearing clergy as · Jesuits in disguise' and 'tamperers with Popish idolatry.' What is it that has changed the surplice from a 'rag of popery
' into a quite innocuous vestment ? Can it be that in 1851 the bench of bishops was wrong and those wicked Ritualists right?
The universal practice of the Church to-day points to that conclusion, and time will certainly prove that the accusations which Lady Wimborne now brings against the 'Ritualistic clergy' are as baseless as were the episcopal fulminations of 1851.
We will now consider more in detail the main points of her article, and, first, as to our relations with the Church of Rome.
Rome and the Reformation, Lady Wimborne tells us, are incompatible. To Rome we owe nothing-save hatred! Yet do we not owe our Christianity to Rome? Was it not due to the missionary zeal of the great Gregory that this land was rescued from the heathenism into which it had sunk, and in which, but for God's providence and the Church of Rome, it might have remained for ages?
And not only is our Christianity derived from Rome, but those marked and indelible features which characterise the Western Church are stamped upon the Church of England. In union with Rome we proclaim and teach the double procession of the Holy Ghost from the Father and the Son, in opposition to the Eastern Church. The dates of our festivals, and the institution of many of them, are of Roman origin. The structure, and a great part of the substance, of
are derived from Roman or from Gallican sources. Our ritual is Roman; it is certainly not Eastern. We are, in short, bound to Rome by an intimate and inviolable bond, which neither
nor Protestant can sever. The Reformers did not dream of parting from Rome. In their