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as a place in which a noble stand was made in former times for the truth of the Gospel against the carnal majorities of the General Assembly. The Presbytery of that place repudiated, while the Assembly upheld, the worst tenets of Arminianism—a proceeding which led to the Marrow controversy famous in the annals of Scottish theology. In those days, things went on well with the law-church; the immense majority were ready to obey, to the uttermost, the orders of the civil courts. Even then, however, there were not wanting men who bought the truth, and would not sell it. The foremost of these was Ebenezer Erskine, a name which will long be dear to thousands of Scottish hearts. On the 10th of October, 1732, he preached at the opening of the Synod of Perth and Stirling, and took occasion to “deliver his own soul." This was not to be endured ; and, accordingly, as soon as the court was constituted, the matter was brought forward, and a committee appointed to prepare the charges, which were founded on the sermon. These charges were ten in number. The fourth ran thus; Mr. Erskine had said,
“ That it was a crime to intrude into that office a minister without a mission; that in order to one's being accounted a builder, there were two things necessary-the call of God, and the call of the church; that they who had not the call of the church should be looked on as thieves and robbers; and that this call ought not to be by heritors, or any other set of men, but by the whole church.” Vol. i. p. 60.
Mr. Erskine, on requesting a copy of the committee's report, was rudely denied it, although a privilege granted to a common felon! A debate of several days ensued, and resulted in finding Mr. Erskine censurable, and deciding that he should be rebuked at their bar, and admonished “to behave orderly for the future.” Mr. Erskine gave in his protest and immediately retired, which rendered it impossible at that time to administer the rebuke. The infliction, therefore, stood over till April 12, 1733, when the good man had his choice of retraction or of censure. He adhered to his former protest, and defended his statements in the sermon; and rebuke consequently followed. His people transmitted a petition, but the Synod would not even hear it! Messrs. Wilson, Moncrief, and Fisher, as protestors, appeared at the following Assembly, and begged to be heard at its bar in support of their protest, but were refused. A discussion on Mr. Erskine's protest came on, and terminated in thanks to the Synod for their “ care and diligence in this matter," and in a fresh rebuke of Mr. Erskine by the Moderator at the bar of Assembly. Patience under cruel wrong has its limits; and Mr. Erskine refused to submit in silence. He was subsequently called before the Assembly's commission, and subjected to much cruel insult. The commission closed its inquiry, by suspending Mr. Erskine together with his friends Wilson, Moncrief, and Fisher, from their pastoral functions. The sufferers again protested and retired. This was an eventful day in the history of the Scottish church. The
country rose in favour of the four suspended ministers ; no fewer than seven synods sent up communications in their favour, but the commission were deaf to the voice of warning, as well as to the claims of justice. They passed the fearful sentence which removed all the four from their charges, and prohibited all ministers of the church from the employment of them in any ministerial function. The popularity of these noble-minded men increased with their persecutions. Their meekness and patience had been equalled only by their wrongs and provocations. They had calmly suffered every indignity, till at last they were thrust out; and even then they were slow to act. It was not till the 5th of December, 1733, that they met at Gairney Bridge, where they spent two days in deliberation and prayer, and happily for their own honour, for the good of their country, and of the world, they formed themselves into a presbytery, designated “ The Associate Presbytery." Thus began the Scottish Secession from the Church of Scotland.
The clamour of the country was so great, that the sentence of the commission remained a dead letter, and the next Assembly reversed the decision respecting the four brethren, and requested the Synod to restore them. The Synod was prompt in its obedience, and the Presbytery handsomely elected Mr. Erskine for its Moderator ; but the brethren resolutely refused to return, on account of the reigning corruption. The General Assembly of 1736 exhibited some symptoms of a disposition to reform its conduct, and the church. An act embodying a sound view of evangelical doctrine was passed and published as a rule of preaching, and also an act against the intrusion of ministers into “ vacant congregations.” These acts, however, were allowed to remain a dead letter upon the minute book. Presentation succceeded to presentation, and one settlement followed upon another, in spite of the indignant and almost unanimous protest of the congregations, while in the case of Professors Campbell, Simpson, and others, errors in doctrine were winked at, and when heresy was dragged before church courts, they judged only to acquit. The seceding brethren patiently waited for the reformation of the Assembly during a space of nearly three years; and not till all hope was fled did they settle down into a separate body. In 1737, things assumed a serious aspect. The adherents of the Secession, in all parts of the country, formed themselves into associations for prayer and religious conference, and the correspondence of the new presbytery was chiefly carried on with these societies. As the organization proceeded, the fears of the Assembly increased ; they now saw that it was not a light matter which had been occupying their attention. Their alarms were not a little augmented by the fact of Ralph Erskine's declaring for the Secession, and joining himself to the Presbytery. He was one of the best and greatest men of his time, and became a tower of strength to his brother's cause. The Assembly found themselves placed in a position of difficulty; they were compelled, as they supposed, to act, while they knew not what to do. They consigned the matter, as usual, to the hands of their commission, who rarely did a thing either wise, good, or just The Assembly meantime recommended to ministers, elders, and all others, to deal “with the people" very tenderly, that they might prevent the increase of a schism "so dangerous to the peace of the church, so contrary to the spirit of the Gogpel, so very hurtful to religion and serious godliness, to Christian charity and brotherly love." This was to say, with the hypocrites of old, “Let the Lord be magnified.” The commission set to work, and determined to "reduce to their duty" the infatuated and refractory ministers; but the work was difficult. Still their courage rose with the emergency. Each of the ministers of the new presbytery was served with a copy of a libel, and summoned to appear at the bar of the Assembly to answer for their conduct. The brethren prepared for the conflict; they resolved to appear and present a declinature of the authority of the Assembly on the ground of its contempt of the laws of Christ. The day arrived; the declinature was despised; the cause advanced, and in May, 1740, terminated in the formal deposition of the seceding ministers, and the declaration of their pulpits to be vacant. This act consummated the wickedness of the Assembly. The day which records the enormity, however, was a happy one for Scotland, and for the honour and usefulness of these good men, of whom its corrupt establishment was not worthy.
We shall lay before our readers the facts of a case of intrusion, which has, we believe, no parallel in the Scottish history of ecclesiastical pravity. Sir John Stuart, of Allanbank, presented a Mr. David Thomson, minister of Gargunnack, to the more lucrative living of St. Ninian's, in 1767; the General Assembly sustained the presentation, and ordered the Presbytery of Stirling to proceed with his settlement according to the rules of the church. The presentation was a gross insult to the common sense, as well as a cruel invasion of the religious rights, of the people. Mr. Thomson was an infirm old man, wanting in every thing required by his office. The whole parish, with the heritors and elders, were against him. Only a few Episcopalians and some non-resident heritors could be induced to concur in his call. The Presbytery were ashamed of the business, and, strange to be told, contrived means to put off the induction of the miserable man for seven long years, probably hoping that conscience, or death among the parties, or the clamour of public indignation, or something else, would come to their assistance. Delay, however, was vain ; the patron lived, and so did the presentee; and both were inflexible. They were worthy of each other, and both were worthy of the Assembly, who at length became resolute, and commanded the Presbytery to proceed with the settlement forthwith under the severest penalties! The Presbytery were now at their wit's end ; they knew not what to do. Impelled by
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the authority of the Assembly on the one hand, depressed on the other by the burden of their own consciences, which revolted from the service, and, awed by the menacing power of an outraged people, each shrunk from the responsibility of that to which he was dragged as a duty. At length Mr. Findlay, their moderator, a man of address and courage, perceiving that something must be done, offered to perform the hateful act. He conceived a purpose of great originality, which he executed with much ability and boldness.
At the appointed time the Presbytery arrived at St. Ninian's, where an immense concourse waited to receive them; they attempted to take possession of the parsonage, but found it shut against them, and were by the press of the crowd borne into the church. Now came the awful moment. Mr. Findlay ascended the pulpit, and gave out a psalm, which was sung with due decorum, after which he offered up a prayer, taking no notice whatever of the purpose for which they had met. The sermon ought next to have followed; but instead of this he called upon Mr. Thomson, who stood up in his place, and became the subject of the following terrible invective :
“Sir,—We are met here this day, by a former appointment of presbytery, in obedience to the same sentence of the General Assembly, to admit you minister of St. Ninian's, a sentence pronounced by the highest form of ecclesiastical authority and power, that Assembly having assumed to themselves higher power than the parliament, by some profanely styled omnipotent, that wise, that august body never exacting any laws without consent of the people. There has been a formidable opposition made against you by six hundred heads of families, sixty heritors, and all the elders of the parish, I believe, except one. This opposition was continued for seven years by your own obstinacy, and if you should this day be admitted, you can have no pastoral relation to the souls of this parish,—you will never be regarded as the shepherd to go before the sheep,--they know you not, and they will never follow you ;--and let me assure you, dear Sir, if you still persist in your obstinacy, you will do more harm in this parish than you could have done good in Gargunnock, though you had been to live there for a hundred years; and you will draw misery and contempt upon yourself, you will be despised-you will be hated-you will be insulted and mal. treated! One of the most eloquent and learned ministers of this church told me lately, that he would go twenty miles to see you deposed, and I do assure you, Sir, that I, and twenty thousand more friends to our church, would do the same! I must observe to you, that in the course of this opposition, your conduct and behaviour have been altogether unworthy and unbecoming a minister of the Gospel! In that memorable letter of yours to the Presbytery of Stirling, intimating your acceptance of the call, notwithstanding the numerous body of the people opposing,I wish it was in my power to forget !-you have those impious and blasphemous expressions, * That you accepted of it in the fear of God;' and at a meeting of the Presbytery, when you were exhorted and earnestly entreated to give up the presentation, you said that you had engaged your honour to that honourable and worthy gentleman, the patron, and that you would not give it up for ten thousand pounds.' What can one of your sensibility of temper and feeling propose in this mad attempt ; in thus rushing to foreseen misery? You were always esteemed an orthodox and evangelical minister, and no man can lay any thing to your charge as to that. You maintained a good character and reputation till your unhappy and obstinate adherence to this presentation. Now, bending under the weight and infirmities of old age, what happiness can you propose to yourself, in this mad, this desperate attempt of yours, without the concurrence of the people, and without the least prospect of usefulness in this parish? Your admission into it, therefore, can only be regarded as a sinecure, and you yourself as stipend lifter of St. Ninian's; for you can have no farther relation to this parish. .. .. Now, Sir, I conjure you by the mercies of God, give up this presentation ! I conjure you for the sake of the great number of souls of St. Ninian's, who are like sheep going astray without a shepherd to lead them, and who will never hear you, will never submit to you,-give it up! And I conjure you, by the peace of mind which you would wish in a dying hour, and that awful and impartial account, which, in a little, you must give to God of your soul, and of the souls of this parish, at the tribunal of Jesus Christ,-give it up!"-Vol. I. pp. 418, 419.
Such was the terrible address of Mr. Findlay to the presentee of St. Ninian's. It was heard by the breathless multitude as if it had been the sentence of death upon the old man brought up for the purpose! Mr. Findlay, doubtless, and perhaps nearly all that heard his torturing appeal, hoped the matter would there terminate the parish be delivered from further affliction—and religion from further scandal. They knew not the metal of which Mr. Thomson was made. A man who had served seven years to disgrace and to contempt of public opinion, was not to be put to flight by hail-storms of words ! Looking up to Mr. Findlay, with inimitable composure, he softly addressed him in the following words: “I forgive you, Sir, for what you have now said ; may God forgive you! Proceed to obey the orders of your superiors." Thus summarily did Mr. Thomson dispose of his reprover's remonstrance, and Mr. Findlay, confounded with the old man's insensibility, proceeded accordingly, Omitting the usual questions, which he considered it farcical and preposterous to put to such a man, he closed the business at once by saying: “I, as Moderator of the Presbytery of Stirling, admit you, Mr. David Thomson, to be minister of the parish of St. Ninian's, in the sense and spirit of the late sentence of the General Assembly, and you are hereby admitted accordingly.” He then prayed as he had done at the outset, without reference to patron, presentee, or presbytery, and after singing a few lines dismissed the congregation. This fact serves to illustrate the spirit and the practice of the General Assembly at the time of the Secession ; and surely it is no marvel if multitudes of the best people of the country rallied around those faithful men who lifted up a standard against such abominations. It was no uncommon thing to induct ministers under the point of the bayonet, a troop of soldiers being necessary to escort the presentee, and those appointed to officiate at his ordination, to the pulpit.
The patriotic clergy of the Scottish church, who were thus strenuously laying themselves out for the good of the nation, on comparing their services with their emoluments, began to think that their compensation was less than their merits. Their claim was well founded. Deposing the best ministers of the country, and inducting the worst, and doing
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