Зображення сторінки
PDF
ePub

error.

struggle which is to decide between religious truth and religious

Misled by wicked counsellors, statesmen have combined to break down the great bulwark of Protestantism which Scotland had so long presented to the enemy in one undivided and massive breastwork. The Protestant strength of our sister land, too, has been paralyzed by her recreant priests; and a bigoted king, devoted to the Popery of rubrics and liturgies, is alone wanting to convert the most powerful Church of the Reformation into a fief of the Holy See. The wild population of a neighbouring island are “ biding their time, and watching the issue with a lynx's eye. Continental States, anxious to bring bigotry and priestcraft into reaction against popular turbulence, are conspiring to restore a spiritual supremacy in Christendom; and in an atmosphere thus constituted, an electric spark is alone wanting to combine these antagonist elements into one tremendous storm, in which secular religiors must either triumph or fall.

ART. VI.-“ Presbytery Examined :" An Essay, Critical and

Historical, on the Ecclesiastical History of Scotland since the Reformation. By the Duke of ARGYLL.

The Author of this work is a very young man, and occupies the highest rank in the Peerage. He is the descendant and representative of men whose memory is held in veneration by the people of Scotland, on account of their labours and sufferings in behalf of Protestantism and Presbyterianism—in the cause of civil and religious liberty. He himself, at a very early period of his life, before, we believe, he had entered upon his twentieth year, defended from the press, with an ability and a boldness that excited the highest admiration, principles which nothing could have led him to espouse but an honest and ardent love of truth and righteousness. The book treats of topics which, though well worthy of the attention of statesmen, and intimately affecting the welfare of nations, have not usually, of late, been inuch discussed by laymen, but have been left in a great measure to the ministers of religion. On all these grounds the work is one which is fitted to call forth no ordinary measure of interest, and, independently of all adventitious considerations, it has many strong claims to respect and commendation. It manifests ability and eloquence of a high order, and a very considerable acquaintance with some of the subjects of which it treats. It is characterized in general by gravity and seriousness,

Duke of Argyll on the Ecclesiastical History of Scotland. 425 and appears plainly to be the production of one who understands what religion is, and who appreciates its value and importance. We do not know that there is any other of our hereditary legislators who has given to the public evidence of possessing at once the talent and the knowledge which would have enabled him to produce such a work; and of all our eminent public men, probably not more than two, Mr. Gladstone and Mr. Macaulay, possess in combination so much ability and so much information upon ecclesiastical subjects as this work exhibits ; while its Author, though much younger than these distinguished men, has attained to sounder and more accurate views than either of them upon some of the politico-religious questions which are attracting so much attention in the present day.

Chis Essay was originally intended as a contribution to a periodical work, in the shape of a review of some of the publications of the Spottiswoode Society. The “ Spottiswoode” was a society formed a few years ago in Edinburgh, and now, we believe, extinct, for republishing the works of Scottish Prelatists in defence of their peculiar principles and polity. These publications are specimens of prelatic controversial discussion in its worst form and in its most offensive spirit; and are accompanied with notes, which prove that Scottish prelacy retains, in our own day, the principles and the temper which made it so odious to former generations, and which have secured for it the deep and lasting disapprobation and dislike of the Scottish people. The work, however, begun with this view, gradually extended, and it now appears in the shape of a goodly volume, divided into two parts, the first, which occupies about two-thirds of the book, presenting a pretty full and elaborate survey of the ecclesiastical history of Scotland from the Reformation till the Revolution, and the second, giving an exposition and illustration of the leading principles which the Noble Author regards this historical survey as suggesting. To this there is added an Appendix of Notes, chiefly directed against the principles and reasonings of the Free Church, and pervaded by a considerable amount of severity and bitterness.

It is greatly to be regretted, for the Noble Duke's own sake, that the work should have been an occasional one-should have been, in some measure, the result of circumstances, and not of a deliberately-formed and well-digested plan. With all the ability which the Essay manifests, it displays likewise a good deal of confusion—a want of distinct and definite principles; and it contains some indications that its Noble Author is not altogether unconscious that he has not attained himself, and presented to others, a clear, consistent, well-digested system of doctrines, as to the relations of the civil and the ecclesiastical authorities. It was

highly honourable to the Duke of Argyll that he should have thought of writing a review of the Spottiswoode publications, and exposing the true character and tendency of Scottish prelacy and of Church principles :—for this he was well qualified, and this part of his task he has executed most successfully. But it would, we think, have been better if, for the present, he had confined himself to this topic, and given a little more time to reading and reflection, so as at least to have formed a definite and consistent scheme of opinions for himself, before he ventured to pronounce, and to pronounce so dogmatically, upon all the great questions involved in the controversy inter imperium et sacerdotium. The old Scottish Presbyterians, whom his Grace so freely charges with extravagance and fanaticism, had read much more extensively, and had reflected much more profoundly, upon these subjects than he has yet done; and we have no doubt that their views, as to their substance, are quite able to stand, without injury, a much more careful and elaborate investigation than that to which he has subjected them. His Grace's present position, ecclesiastically, is not favourable to a deliberate and impartial investigation of these questions; and we fear that he has allowed the position which he has chosen to occupy to affect his opinions, instead of letting his opinions, fairly and freely followed out to their legitimate consequences, determine his position_his ecclesiastical relations. In the early part of the year 1842, his Grace, then Marquis of Lorn, published a “ Letter to the Peers, from a Peer's Son," on the constitutional principles which were involved in the Auchterarder Case, and which soon after led to the disruption of the Church of Scotland. In this pamphlet, which exhibited a very remarkable specimen of precocious talent, and an intrepidity and elevation of tone which reminded men of his heroic and martyred forefathers, he proved, most ably and conclusively, 1st, that by the existing laws and constitution of Scotland, the Church was legally entitled to do what she did in the case of Auchterarder, viz., reject the presentee of the patron upon the ground of the opposition of the congregation ; and, 2d, that even conceding, for the sake of argument, that this proceeding of the Church was, under the statutes, illegal and ultra vires, the utmost extent of interference legally competent to the Civil Court in the matter, was to find that the patron, in consequence, was entitled to retain the fruits of the benefice, and that the control or jurisdiction over the proceedings of the Church Courts which the Civil Courts assumed, was thoroughly precluded by the fundamental principles of the constitution of Scotland, by the powers which the statutes, did not indeed confer upon the Church, but sanctioned or ratified as vested in the Church jure divino. His Grace then conclusively

[blocks in formation]

and unanswerably established these important positions; and he still holds them to be true, having unequivocally declared his adherence to them in the Essay which we are now considering. It might have been expected that, when the Legislature sanctioned the violation of the constitution which the proceedings of the civil courts involved, every one who held these positions would have felt himself called upon, in consistency, to cast in his lot with the Free Church. The Duke of Argyll, however, took a different course, and continued a member of the Scottish Establishment; and we fear that, in doing so, he was somewhat influenced, though no doubt unconsciously, rather by some of the accidents and accompaniments of the subject, than by a deliberate and impartial investigation of its intrinsic merits. This position and procedure were certainly not favourable to progress in the clearness and soundness of his conceptions with regard to the principles that ought to regulate the relations of Church and State, or of the ecclesiastical and civil authorities; and it is an easy matter to shew, by a comparison of his Letter to the Peers with his Essay on the Ecclesiastical History of Scotland, that his views upon this subject are more indefinite and erroneous in 1848 than they were in 1842. If the Duke of Argyll had seen it to be his duty to join the Free Church in 1843, instead of adhering to the Scottish Establishment, we have no doubt that he would now have possessed a much better-defined and more accurate knowledge of the relations of the civil and the ecclesiastical than his Essay exhibits; and that he would also have enjoyed a more assured conviction of the firmness and consistency of his position, than, notwithstanding the dogmatism and severity with which he frequently assails the Free Church principles, we feel called upon at present to concede to him.

We mean to devote the remainder of this article chiefly to a brief notice of what we reckon erroneous in the Duke of Argyll's Essay; but it is fair, in the first place, to give our readers one or two specimens of the work; and in doing so, we shall select some passages presenting views in which we cordially concur, and which we regard as of no small practical importance.

The following passage contains some striking and important thoughts, most creditable to the talents and character of their author, with respect to the bearing and tendency of “ Church Principles :"

“ Admit the sacerdotal theory of the nature and authority of “The Church,' and we admit that from which the whole system of Romanism has been a gradual and natural development. It is possible, certainly, to maintain a successful defence against many of the specific forms of error which have belonged to the Papacy. But even this defence we have to maintain with arms, on the efficiency of which it is not safe

to risk the high interests involved. Brought into ground where reason has no room to work, the fight becomes one of subtilty, doubtful in its progress, and at best but unsatisfactory in its issue. Obscure facts of history-still more obscure memories of tradition--and doubtful passages of possibly misreported Fathers, such are the ruinous positions for which we have to keep up the most laborious contention. But are these fit defences for the citadels of doctrinal Truth ? Even if some, by dint of great tenacity of purpose, succeed in maintaining them, do we not feel that others, less skilful or less determined, must infallibly be driven out? This then is one grand objection against the principles of Priesthood—that though despite of them the learned and the acute may possibly maintain themselves in purity of faith, they rob the great mass of mankind of all security against the gradual but steady growth of error and corruption. If the voice of a visible government of Priests be invested with the authority of The Church,' men will accept, and ought logically to accept, that voice as it comes to them in their own days. They have no time, no opportunity, and on those principles, no right, to appeal from its present teaching to its teaching fifteen or sixteen centuries ago. Divines living in the quiet courts of Oxford may defend their Orthodoxy against The Church' of the sixteenth, by quoting "The Church' of the third or fourth century. But granting that on their own theory this appeal is open to Churchmen,' it is clear that it is one which the great majority of the human race neither can nor will make; and therefore that if the Truth is to be maintained at all, its interests must be trusted to some more open and more sufficient plea.

“But this is not the only radical objection to the sacerdotal theory of the nature and authority of “The Church. Not only is it one which removes all security against corruption, but it is one which positively induces and involves it. The grossest practical idolatry which we may see in every Oratory and Chapel and Church in Italy, is but the last development of the subtle spirit which animates the sacerdotal idea of “The Church. The poor ignorant peasant who there falls down before a waxen doll, dressed in frocks of tinsel, is but the coarse representative of the more refined idolater who bows to the mystic authority of an immemorial priesthood, calling it “The Church' of God. Such principles we willingly admit do not interfere with earnest personal piety, nor discourage a solemn and devotional spirit. They did not do so when their power was greatest—in the darkest time of the dark ages'—and they do not do so now. But the capital charge against the whole system on which those principles are founded is, not that it checks, but that it misdirects devotion. Its mystic symbolism and its Levitical Priesthood seem rather to add intensity to its religious feelings, in proportion as it gives visible embodiment to the objects of worship. But in the same proportion, likewise, it introduces into the services of Christianity a foreign element of such corrosive power, that purity of faith, and with it, purity of practice, surely, though insensibly decline.

“ Against this power the mere restraint of Creeds and Articles are,

« НазадПродовжити »