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the forfeiture of her legal rights as an endowed and established Church by her adherence to it.
But, in point of expediency, the measure was objectionable as it was illegal and excessive in respect of power. On what principle of reasoning or common sense could the people—confessedly unfit to be intrusted with the choice of their pastor—be safely trusted to sit in judgment upon, and to condem irresponsibly, and without the assignment of reasons, the choice of another? Must not interest, ignorance, party spirit, prejudice, spiritual pride, intrigue, misrepresentation, all the disturbing elements, intrinsic or extrinsic, which polluted the popular choice, be expected in like manner to trouble the popular veto; nay, to operate with even less restraint in the latter case, since the moral responsibility, which to some extent was felt to be involved in the act of choice, was in a great degree withdrawn when the only question was, whether a negative should be put upon the choice already made by another. And if the security for a just sentence by a popular court of appeal, judging irresponsibly and in secrecy, was thus slender; if, according to all the admitted probabilities of human nature, gross injustice must be the frequent result, how strange that those who urged so feelingly the hardship of intruding an unacceptable minister upon a reluctant congregation, should be so insensible to the opposing hardship of extruding a worthy man from the ministry in consequence of a rejection felt by the presbytery to be capricious and unjust, but which, under the proposed law, they were to be compelled, as blind and helpless instruments, to carry into execution.
Nor would the injury so done-grievous even if inflicted in a single instance-be confined to the mere case of the individuals rejected. It would inevitably operate most unfavourably upon the whole structure and character of the Church itself, by lowering the standard of its literature and attainments; by substituting a factitious and conventional enthusiasm, and the arts of a vulgar popular oratory, for sound learning and sober piety ; by banishing from the Church those candidates for the ministry whose more sensitive feelings, or more unbending principles, led them to shrink from the idea of an irresponsible popular trial, with its unworthy preliminaries; and by destroying the independence of those who remained, and whose ambition-being made of sterner stuff--enabled them to stoop to those compliances by which the weaknesses, as well as the better principles, of their judges might be enlisted in their favour.
Above all, where was the present necessity for this violent and confessedly-hazardous change? The moment chosen was one when it was admitted that the evils of improper appointments had never been so little felt; when patrons in general had been exercising their privilege with a conscientious sense of responsibility, when the Church was unusually efficient and conspicuous for piety and learning. If this was conceded, but if it was urged that the measure was necessary as a security against relapse into a worse state of things, it was answered that the existing laws of the Church, if conscientiously administered by the Church Courts themselves, were fully adequate to the purpose. The right of objection given to every member of the congregation was not limited, as the other party for their own purposes assumed, merely to morals, doctrine, and literature. Everything which regarded the suitableness of the presentee for the particular charge-his inability to edify that particular congregation from any cause, physical or moral—fell within the term qualification, might be stated as an objection by the congregation, and sustained as a ground of rejection by the Church Courts, without appeal. That there could be any difficulty in stating the ground of objection, whatever it was, in an intelligible form, to a presbytery, anxious, if they did their duty, to give full weight to the conscientious scruples of the people, was a chimera which never had or could have a practical existence; and if such was the ample range of objection open to the congregation and to the Church Courts, embracing everything which could affect the suitableness of the presentee for the particular ministry, what reasonable conjecture could be formed as to those latent and intangible objections, those undefined and indefinable repugnancies, for which such reverence appeared to be claimed, except that they were of that class which it was dangerous rather than difficult for the objector to explain?
It was needless to point out how completely the proposed law, by which the negative of the majority, unaccompanied with reasons, was to be conclusive against the presentee, was opposed to the whole system and essential character of presbytery. Not only did it convert the right of the patron to present into a mere right to propose, but it annihilated the constitutional jurisdiction of the Church Courts to judge of the qualification of ministers : it prostrated the legal and spiritual authority of presbyteries before 'the will of the people ;' transferred to them the Church's “right of collation ;' and converted its presbyteries into mere mechanical engines for registering dissents, and ministerially executing the decree of the majority of congregations.*
True, the presbyteries might still preserve much of the reality
* In reality the majority who decide are the majority of 'heads of families;' a somewhat ambiguous designation; but with reference to the argument, it is not worth while to insist on the difference; though so far as it goes it only renters the Veto Act less defensible in principle, and more obnoxious in its practical application.
of power without the appearance of it; for their constitutional right of judgment on the qualifications of the presentee they might now be enabled to substitute the secret and under-hand guidance of the choice of the people, and, under the shelter of their rejec. tion, attain their own ends; but by what scenes of influence, intrigue, intimidation, discord, and dissatisfaction, must this be effected ; at what a sacrifice of their own usefulness and estimation as ministers! •by substituting a busy, intermeddling, factious, and fanatical clergy in lieu of the amiable, pious, learned, and unobtrusive class of men by whom the pastoral duties had hitherto been performed.'*
In every way, then, as opposed to law and practice—as uncalled for at the time—as unnecessary at any time-as fraught with gross injustice to patrons and presentees, with grievous injury to the character of the people and as utterly irreconcilable with the whole scheme of Presbyterian Church government, the proposed measure ought to be resisted; and the General Assembly ought to declare
That in all cases in which a person is presented to a vacant parish, it is by the law of the Church, sanctioned by the law of the land, competent for the heads of families in full and regular communion with the Church to give in to the presbytery, within the bounds of which the vacant parish lies, objections of whatever nature against the presentee, or against the settlement taking place; that the presbytery shall deliberately consider these objections; that if they find them unfounded, or originating from causeless prejudices, they shall proceed to the settle. ment; but if they find that they are well founded, that they reject the pre. sentation, the presentee being unqualified to receive it; it being competent to the parties to appeal from the sentence, if they shall see cause.'
The smallness of the majority by which the motion here quoted, which was brought forward by Dr. Cook in opposition to the proposed Veto Law, was carried in 1833 (amounting only to twelve, while the proposal for a committee had been negatived in 1832 by a majority of forty-two), sufficiently showed that in the next struggle the supporters of the Veto Act would be successful. Accordingly the measure was introduced in the next Assembly of 1834 by Lord Moncreiff (the same learned judge to whom the proposal had appeared a startling novelty in 1832), and carried by a majority of forty-six.
In two points, however, the Veto Act, as passed in 1834, ** Reasons of Protest,' by the Dean of Faculty, 1834. The same gentleman's Letter to the Chancellor, named at the head of this article, though defective in point of arrangement and chargeable with repetition-faults which naturally result from the way in which it appears to have been composed-in the few horæ intercisivæ of a laborious professional life--is a performance of sterling weight and vigour, and, taken in connexion with his learned and conclusive argument in the Auchterarder case, contains the essence of all which has been since spoken or written upon the question. .
rejected jeal obje was !
was different from the measure rejected in 1833; and both are most important with reference to the real objects of those by whom the revolution in the polity of the Church was proposed.
The certainty that an absolute veto, unaccompanied with reasons, and subject to no review, would in many cases be abused; that it would be perverted into an instrument of malice, or used as a means of securing a more favourite candidate, or exercised not from conscientious grounds of objection, but under the influence of cabal, interest, or any other irreligious feeling, was so obvious that the warmest supporters of the Veto could not shut their eyes to it. For this evil the measure, as originally proposed, professed to provide a remedy,--an awkward one, no doubt, but still not without its efficiency. It provided that the dissent of the majority, without reasons, should be conclusive, save and except where it is clearly established by the patron, presentee, or any of the minority, that the said dissent is founded in corrupt and malicious combination, or not truly founded in any objection personal to the presentee, in regard to his ministerial gifts or qualifications, either in general or with reference to that particular parish.' No doubt the onus of establishing the corrupt motive of the objectors was here thrown on the patron, the presentee, or the minority; but still we agree with Lord Moncreiff, who insisted strongly on the efficiency of this guarantee, that the power of inquiry into motives thus given, and of which the presbytery were to be the judges, was extremely important to meet the cases which may easily be conceived of groundless and unfair opposition, originating in the desire of serving another candidate, or directed to very different ends from the satisfactory settlement of the parish.'* And such was also the view taken, both of the necessity and importance of this check, in the evidence given by many of the leading members of the party in the Church to which Lord Moncreiff belongs, before the patronage committee, in the spring of 1834; one reverend gentleman, Dr. Simpson (Questions, 924, 933, 1022, 7) suggesting that, “in addition to the protection that Dr. Chalmers's motion gave to the presentee and patron,' a solemn declaration should be made by the objectors that their dissent proceeded on the • honest conviction that they could not be benefited by the ministration of the person presented by the patron.'
Will it be believed that the power of proving corrupt motives on the part of the majority thus reserved to the patron and presentee -admitted to be so necessary in 1833 as a check on abuses-to which Lord Moncreiff. attaches very great importance' --which Dr. Chalmers embodies in the shape of an express exception
* Report of the Debate in 1833, on the Overtures anent Calls, p. 136.
from his measure—is dropped entirely in the Veto Act of 1834? and the solemn declaration' which Dr. Simpson had proposed, not as a substitute for this check, but as an additional security, is left as the sole and worthless guarantee against corrupt, capricious, vindictive, or interested rejections—as if the men who had really been influenced by such motives, but who knew that all inquiry into their conduct was excluded, would hesitate to emit the declaration required ?
• Almighty Crowd! thou shorten'st all dispute ;
Power is thine essence-wit thine attribute!
Still they were wise whatever way they went.' The second point of distinction between the proposed measure of 1833 and the Act of 1834 was most important as a test of the sincerity of those who advocated the change on the ground that the dissent of a majority was in all cases, and on grounds of religious obligation, to be received as a bar to the settlement of a presentee. By the existing statute-law of Scotland, if the patron failed to present within six months, the right of presentation fell jure devoluto, as it is called, to the presbytery. How, then, was the inalienable é right of the Christian people' to object without reasons, dealt with by the new law when the patronage came to be exercised by the presbytery? Why, in that case, the privilege of the people ceased: the indispensable preliminary to the constitution of the pastoral relation was dispensed with; the case of presentations by the presbytery was 'not to fall under the operation of the regulations in this and the relative Act of Assembly, but to be proceeded in according to the general laws of the Church in such cases :' in other words, nothing but objections stated and substantiated were in that case to be received! The veto, as Lord Gillies with equal truth and point observed, which was a wall of adamant against the patron, was to be a web of gossamer against the presbytery.
Let it be observed too, that, according to the views of the party who of course assumed that the veto was to be submitted to as legal, the case of presentation jure devoluto was quite as likely to be the rule as the exception. In practice it was well known that one presentation generally exhausted the patron's term of six months. The people, though they might reject ad infinitum, could never themselves present. Could one veto, or at the utmost two, be effected through their agency, and thus the six months tided over the power of presentation in every case devolved upon the Presbyteries; and then the obnoxious limitation