Abbildungen der Seite

a spiritual function, are found to be so tied up by an earthly faction, that they cannot fulfil one of the most important offices with which they are invested, without coming into collision with the law of the land, and bringing down upon themselves the castigation of a judicial rebuke for their insurgent contumacy. A few extracts from the address of the Lord President of the court, will show in what predicament the church of Scotland is placed by the law, in the view of its authorised interpreters :

• You have broken the interdict, and set the law at defiance ; and you have now placed yourselves into the same situation as if you had obeyed the law in the most prompt and obedient manner.

Is that to be endured in any civilized country? Is it to be endured that people who have disobeyed the law, and brought the law into contempt, in any civilized country, should exactly find themselves placed in the same favorable situation as if they had given it prompt and due obedience ? The very proposition is absurd, I had almost said ludicrous. For we are all,--peers and commoners, clergymen and laymen, high and low, rich and poor,--are all subjects of this realm, and subject to the laws of this country ; and when it becomes necessary for this court to exercise the power vested in it by the law, all parties are equally bound to obedience.

Allow me also to state, that I think much confusion has arisen in the church, from not distinguishing between their situation as a portion and members of the universal or catholic Church of Christ, and their situation as members of the Established Church of Scotland. In the first view, that you are a branch, and a most numerous and respectable one, of the universal church of Christ, you are on the same footing, but not on any better footing, than all the other bodies of the Presbyterian form of church government in the country. Taking you, in your character of merely members of the church of Christ, the synod of the Burghers or Anti-Burghers has just the same power as you, and you have no greater than them. But, when the Presbyterian religion came to be adopted by Parliament, - to be the established religion,—then you neither have nor can bave any powers or privileges other than what the Parliament gave you, when they so adopted you to be the Established Church. You know that Popery was abolished by the act 1560, as contirnied by the act 1567. But the Presbyterian religion was not then established; the government of the church was in a very unsettled state. It appears that some time previously assem. blies had been held, in which people under the name of superintendents presided; which superintendents, as you well know, were neither more nor less than another name for bishops. The word superintendent is nothing but a translation of the Greek word Eniσκοπος. . Whether that might have remained (if John Knox had lived) as the form of church government in Scotland, we know not; but this we know, that it remained for upwards of thirty years,—that it was not till 1592 that the Presbyterian form of church government was adopted by Parliament. And when Parliament chose to adopt the

Presbyterian form of government instead of Episcopacy, I presume it cannot be doubted that Parliament had a right to say under what conditions and what modifications it would so sanction the Presbyterian form of government? And accordingly it did prescribe a condition, it did enact a condition in the very act 1592, which created Presbytery in Scotland ; and that was, that patronage should remain to the crown and the lay patrons, and that Presbyteries should be bound and restricted to receive any qualified person who was presented by the patron. That was your condition of being accepted and adopted as the Established Church of Scotland. What would have happened if the church had chosen to say, that we will not be so adopted under this condition,-or we insist on patronage being abolished, -or we insist on its being modified according to our views of the matter, whether by the veto or otherwise ;—what then would have happened I cannot pretend to say ; but most certainly Parliament then would have had a right to say, Gentlemen, if you don't choose to become the Established Church on such conditions as we, the Legislature, shall impose, you must remain seceders, and we shall establish Episcopacy.

From the reputation that has been long enjoyed by the Church of Scotland as the purest and best of ecclesiastical establishments, the present question derives a peculiar importance, because it serves to test the character of such institutions in the most favourable circumstances, and to show how far they are the creatures of the State, in their least objectionable form. From the position of the Church of Scotland, as the discussion of this question brings it before us, we have no hesitation in saying, that it is, as really as our southern establishment, the subject of state dictation ; and that in those features in which an exception on her behalf has been claimed by her advocates, she approximates to the political servitude of her prelatical sister, in a degree little apprehended by ordinary observers. It is clearly made out that the Scottish church is the creature of the state, in the self-same sense as our Anglican hierarchy, i. c., the state has made her what she is as a national church, and is her head in those very particulars in which the title appertains to the Sovereign in relation to the English establishment. If a church cannot claim intrinsic power in matters of doctrine and government; if she must administer her spiritual affairs according to a form of polity which the state sanctions; if she must teach a creed which the state approves ; if she has covenanted so to do; and if to secure her fidelity to the compact the Sovereign or his representative sits enthroned in the supreme ecclesiastical court of the establishment; and if, were those terms, or any of them, violated by the church, she would forthwith forfeit her status as a legally constituted national institution ; if these things are exemplified in the constitution and practice of the Scottish church, we desire to

[ocr errors]

know wherein she differs as a state creature from the Church of England; or what, with fetters coercing every movement, becomes of her ecclesiastical independence ?

On what points does the Church of Scotland, as she is now shown to stand, differ from the Church of England, with regard to the temporal headship? Is it that she is more independent of the civil magistrate in the adoption of her creed? We answer in the words of her own confession as to the duty of the magistrate in this particular: 'he hath authority, and it is his duty to take order that the truth of God be kept pure and entire, that all • blasphemies and heresies be suppressed.'* We answer again, from the act of ratification, as to the fact and the extent of the magistrate's interference: “the estates of Parliament have seriously considered the catechisms, viz. the larger and shorter ones with the confession of faith, presented unto them by the commissioners of the General Assembly, do ratify and approve the same, and ordains them to be recorded, published, and practised.'

What more than this does the Church of England yield to her temporal head? The Thirty-nine Articles are the accredited faith of the English church, as articles agreed upon by the

archbishops and bishops of both provinces, and the whole clergy ‘in convocation. In the royal declaration affixed, it is declared to be the king's duty as defender of the faith and supreme “governor of the church to conserve and maintain the church in the unity of true religion, and in the bond of peace.'

Is it in matters of government and discipline that the Church of Scotland, as compared with the Church of England, is independent of the civil power? The creed of the former teaches that it is the duty of the magistrate to take order that abuses ' in worship and discipline be prevented or reformed, and all the

ordinances of God be duly settled, administered, and observed;'t also that he hath power to call synods, and to provide that whatsoever is transacted in them be according to the mind of God.' What more does the Church of England give up to her supreme earthly governor ?— if any differences arise, the clergy in their convocation is to order and to settle them having first obtained s leave under our broad seal so to do, and we approving their said ordinances and constitutions.' • The church hath power to decree rites and ceremonies.' I

According to the avowed creed of the Scottish church, whatever pertains to government and doctrine is on the part of the church and the magistrate, the subject of mutual adjustment. If it is the duty of the church, as the depository of doctrinal truth, to dispense it uncorruptly to the people, it is not less the duty of

Chap. XXIII.

[blocks in formation]

the magistrate “to take order” that the church performs her part. Constituted judge of religious truth, the magistrate must at least have the power to watch over the church's ministrations, and to insist that in every thing pertaining to creed and government she shall keep to her bargain. What then is the


of the church? She cannot alter an iota of her public symbols, nor swerve from the prescribed mode of administering her affairs, without asking and obtaining the magistrate's consent. And why the necessity of asking leave ? Simply because the state is a contracting party, and in this character claims the power of losing and binding the ecclesiastical partner in every thing that forms the subject of their joint convention.

It makes no difference in the merits of the case to represent the church as making the advance to the state with her creed in her hand-herself having chosen to say how she would govern the people, and what she would teach them; while the state was left to express acquiescence in the proposal, and thus to confer its sanction without presuming to dictate. Whether the state comes forward with a creed, and says to the church, will you engage to teach it? or the church proposes a creed, and says to the state, will you agree to pay for it? does not appear to us materially to alter the case as regards the church's position. She binds herself to the state; and after this it is affectation to exclaim, though hired I am free."

That the king or legislature is head of the church, is a position which the independents of the Scottish establishment reject with indignation. Leave, say they, the foul imputation for the Church of England. We have no head but Christ; and have never owned another. After all, however, what is this but to submit to the reality and to protest against the word? When the Church of England acknowledges the king as her head, she distinguishes between supremacy in spiritual and in temporal things. The distinction we know is futile, and the attempt to make and to maintain it is the vitiating element of our Anglican church. But whatever be the character and value of the distinction, it is all that the Church of Scotland really possesses, when she puts in a claim for an independence, peculiarly and specifically her own. While she spurns the name of a temporal head she admits the enormity. She concedes to the civil magistrate the power he wants on condition that she shall be at liberty to call the state her handmaid, not her head. The freedom of her constitution is gone; and her republican forms, which have ceased to be a safeguard, are but a poor compensation.

State churches, then, are by the necessity of the case, what Bishop Horsley called his own, parliamentary churches, not only created but coerced by statute laws. The Scottish Establishment forms no exception. 'Indeed, we are at a loss to discover

[ocr errors]

where the difference between the two churches, in point of internal jurisdiction, is to be found. And we are equally at a loss to account for the long continued, and still prevalent, but as we have seen groundless impression, that the Presbyterian establishment possesses a largeness of spiritual prerogative of which no similar institution can boast. Both are in bondage with their children. All the difference is, that enslaved episcopacy bears its master's name on its forehead; and enslaved presbytery rejoices in its оип.

Our readers, we suspect, are but little prepared to hear, what is clearly brought out in the investigation of the case, that the Church of Scotland has never been, at any period of her history, a full assertor of the scriptural liberties of the people. The first book of discipline is commonly appealed to in proof of the just views on this subject entertained by the fathers of the Scottish reformation. But this partly is a mistake. That performance does indeed declare strongly in favour of liberty of election ; but it is not meant by this that the people should have an unfettered right to the choice of their pastors; for it is provided that if the congregation be found negligent therein, the space of forty days, the best reformed church, viz., the church of the superintendent, with his council, may present unto them a man whom they judge apt to feed the flock of Christ Jesus. If his doctrine * be found wholesome, and able to instruct the simple, and if the church justly can reprehend nothing in his life, doctrine, nor ' utterance, then we judge the church, if they refuse him, unreasonable ; and they should be compelled, by the censure of the council and the church, to receive the person appointed.'

Qualified as was this assertion of popular rights, the Kirk did not keep her ground. The first book of Discipline was not sanctioned by Parliament. Virtually, then, the Scottish legislature made the relinquishment of the above principle the condition of its alliance and support. The church, notwithstanding, accepted of the union,-a fact which signifies a great deal more than that unfettered popular election was not at that period a principle of the Scottish church ; it implies that, limited as was the sense in which the founders of that church held the principle, they virtually relinquished it in their compact with the state, when presbyterianism became the national polity.

From an early period it was plainly the object of the church to possess herself of the power which she sought to extort from the patron. We have just adverted to the doctrine of the first book of discipline, regarding the ultimate authority in the settlement of parishes. In 1649, when the Scottish parliament abolished patronage, and recommended to the General Assembly

[merged small][ocr errors]

* First Book of Discipline-Fourth Head.

« ZurückWeiter »