Norman Macleod.

The Lord's day : substance of a speech delivered at a meeting of the Presbytery of Glasgow, on Thursday, 16th November, 1865 (Volume Talbot Collection online

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Online LibraryNorman MacleodThe Lord's day : substance of a speech delivered at a meeting of the Presbytery of Glasgow, on Thursday, 16th November, 1865 (Volume Talbot Collection → online text (page 1 of 11)
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" I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day.'






186 5.



The speecli of which t now publish the substance, was not written,
but was delivered extempore from a few brief notes indicating my line of
argument. Though spoken very rapidly, it occupied three hours in its
delivery. I was placed in a difficult position, having to reply to long
and carefully written speeches' by my learned and excellent friends on
the other side. I was thus obliged to take up the whole question, and to
discuss it with regard to the state of feeling in Glasgow and in Scotland,
as well as in the Presbytery, both with reference to the Sabbath, and
to a tendency manifesting itself, in some quarters, to lose all faith in
the Lord's-day, because losing faith in the only ground, on which it had
generally been put in Scotland. My sincere desire was not to destroy,
but to build up; and my belief is, that what I have said will have this
effect on the minds of very many who will give my words their candid

I call this pamphlet, treatise, sermon, — for it partakes of the character
of all, — the substance of my speech, because I have had to write it; and
while embodying every principle, every doctrine, every fact, every argu-
ment contained in the original speech, with every anecdote even which
may, at the moment, have escaped from my tongue, I have expanded
many portions of it, re-adjusted others, lengthened here, or added there,
to explain more fully what I meant and mean. A great part of the latter
portion was not reported in the newspapers. I am very sensible of the
unartistic form in which it appears — I cannot help it now. I leave it to
be fairly judged of as a whole.

Unless I had, to a large extent, anticipated the results of this discus-
sion, — so far, at least, as they have been personal to myself, — I should
not have engaged in it with such a feeling of pain, and such a solemn
sense of my responsibility to God as I did.

But having been enabled to accept the duty, which I believed, and
now believe more than ever, God, in His providence, had imposed on me,
I accept, in perfect peace, all the consequences, however deej^ly painful
to me, which the performance of that duty has involved.

Some of these results I much lament for the sake of others, more even
than for my own. I lament the spirit in which I have been everywhere
in Scotland criticized, and spoken of, and written of, by some who are
opposed to me, from the pulpit, the platform, and the press. A meaning

4 Preface.

has been given — studiedly, I fear, in some cases — to the expressions
regarding the Decalogus, which ray rvords might possibly be made to
bear to a mind not willing to understand them; but which, even had it
been true and unmistakeable, miglit, in charity, have been jiardoned or
left unnoticed, as simply bearing evidence of my insanity! Strange to
say, the same words were quite understood in England, and by all who
sympathized with me in Scotland. I beg those who wish to do me
j ustice, to read the extracts from Baxter, quoted in my speech, and to
remember that these were read by me, as a part of that speech, at the
first meeting of Presbytery, and as expressing what I meant by the
abrogation of the Decalogue; and that, though not published then, they
were again read at the second meeting of the Presbytery, and thereafter
published in all the Glasgow newspapers, — and then let them say,
whether, with these passages as an exponent of my meaning, I have been
dealt with in the spirit of fair play, or of Christian charity, by very
many of my critics ?

I refrain from further alluding to all that has been uttered against me.
There is One who fully understands the sorrow which must be endured
by those who, seeking to do His will, are yet the occasion of creating
doubt in the hearts of those they love, regarding their own character, or
of adding, in any case, to the most intolerable buiden that can weigh
down the spirit of man — that of dislike or of hate to a brother.

But I should be very ungrateful unless I acknowledged diflerent results
from these — such as the Christian treatment I received from my brethren
opposed to me in the Presbytery, and from many Christian gentlemen
who, whether with me or against me, have spoken from the jjlatform, or
written in the press, with justice and fairness on this subject, as well as
the letters of kind sympathy and of cordial agreement in my views which
have come to me, every day, from both clergy and laity of every deno-
mination; — most of all, as might be expected, from those of my own
Church. As it has been impossible for me otherwise to reply to these,
I take this opportunity of thankfully acknowledging them. But I hope
for results of moi-e importance, and less personal to myself, from this
discussion. One of these I pray may be, and I believe will be, a Lord's-
day, in the slow, perhaps,, but sure progress of Christian opinion, kept
on sounder grounds, with less of the spirit of bondage, and more ot
the spirit of that true liberty of faith and love with which Christ lias
set us free — a liberty which, the more it is understood and believed, can
never be used as a cloak for licentiousness.

I must, before concluding this long Preface, allude to some objections
to my speech, or rather to my speaking at all on such a question, or my
venturing to open it up in Scotland.

(1.) It has been urged against me that, after all, my oj^ponents and
T, though starting from different points, come at last, practically, to the
same point — that of a holy keeping of the Lord's daj-; — why, then, it is
asked, moot the speculative difference, and not be satisfied with the prac-

Piefcue. 5

tical agreement? I roply, that if I and those who think with me— a
vast number in tbe Protestant Churches in this and other countries —
cordially give our brethren liberty to keep the Lord's-day in their way,
and to spend it iu such a spirit, and for such reasons, as they believe
to be according to God's will; why should not the same liberty be
extended to us? Is this a point of difference in which there is to
be no mutual forbearance? Must we alone be silent, or be reviled, and
our names associated with infidels, and put down as opposed to the
keeping a holy day to the Lord; nay, in some extreme cases, be spoken
against with as fierce a spirit as the Master was, when accused of
"having a devil," because He broke the Sabbath? It is full time, I
think, for such liberty being demanded, on our part, as our right.

(2.) "But it will give a handle to the ungodly, who will abuse and
pervert the Christian liberty you speak of, and which Christians only can
use aright. For the sake of the ungodly there must be a fixed law of the
Fourth Commandment." I am not aware of any gift of God, or of any
truth of God, which ungodly men have not abused and perverted since the
days of the Apostle Paul, and none more than the doctrine of Christian
liberty. But I am really not hopeful of the success of any efi'ort to make
the Fourth Commandment respected by ungodly men, who, in spirit
or deed, break one or more of the other nine. Many, alas! who profess
to reverence the Fourth, seem to have little regard for the Ninth.

(3.) "But it will give offence to many of the godly, and weaken your
influence; and we know how St. Paul, while teaching Christian tolera-
tion, warns us to beware bow we offend even a weak brother." As to my
influence, I leave that in God's hands. All I have to do with is His
truth. As to offending weak brethren, there are, I think, few things
more grievously misunderstood than the principles and conduct of St. Paul
with reference to weak brethren, — while in his practice he yielded to
prejudice, he never by silence strengthened that prejudice, but ever in
his speech protested against it. If he did not condemn the weak brother,
who, esteeming certain things to be unclean, acted according to his belief,
but commended him for so doing ; yet, at the same time, he testified
against that weak belief, and said, "/ know, and am persuaded of the
Lord, that there is nothing unclean of itself." He became, indeed, as a Jew
to the Jew, complying in love with many of his old religious customs and
prejudices. But why? — to lift the Jew out of the bondage of that very
Judaism, and to wean him from those very customs; for in the same
spirit of love he never failed, by unmistakeable, frank, and open speech,
to protest against the Judaism, teaching that those customs were, in
Christ, done away, and that the Jewish " principles" of his brother were
prejudices. And so should it be with every Christian. Let us, in
action, and from love, come down as far as possible to meet our weak
brethren, and not cause them to oft'end by what we do in things in-
difi'erent; but from the same love, and in order to lift them up into a
truer spirit, let us speak out the truth regarding the very points in which

6 Preface.

we think them weak, and to which, on that account, they may cling with
great tenacity and passion. Otherwise the fear of giving offence by our
speech will degenerate into all that is mean, cowardly, and dishonest.
False impressions as to our real convictions will be given by our silence.
Every species of prejudice will be strengthened by those who should
remove them, and a better state of things made impossible, unless it
comes from without the Church, instead of from within. The weak
will not only be tolerated, but govern; and the strong w^ill not be tolerated,
but, if possible, be crushed in the name of truth and of piety.
I have done ; —

"That which I have done
May He -within himself make piu'e."

As far as in me lies, I will not be dragged into any further contro-
versy on this subject. I leave the battle to younger men. I have spoken
in my place in the Church Court to which I have the honour to belong,
and I have spoken on a single point only of religious practice. I will
henceforth, as heretofore, give myself, not to this or to that point,
however true, within the whole range of Christian truth or practice;
but will pi-each Jesus Christ and Him crucified; and seek, with God's
blessing, to make those whom I teach true believers in Him ; and in
this way only, secure obedience to all His commandments, — which verily
are not grievous.

An apology is due to the reader for the lengtb of this Preface and for its
egotistical character. But, in the whole circumstances of the case, I could
hardly help myself. The delay in the publication of the Speech has been
occasioned partly by my unavoidable absence from home, and partly by
the preparation of the Api)endix. I beg to acknowledge my manifold
obligations to Dr. Hessey's Bampton Lectures, for both argument and
authorities; and also to the ample collection of the latter by Mr. Cox,
in his lately published volumes on The Literature of the Sabbath


MoDERATOE, — I cravG the kind indulgence of my brethren — their
charitable interpretation of my words, and of the spirit in which I
now address them. I rely, and I am sure not in vain, on your
brotherly sympathy while I address you upon this most important

Believe me. Moderator, that nothing but an overwhelming sense
of duty could induce me to bring this subject before any Court of
our Chm-ch. It is always a great pain to me — far greater, perhaps,
than those who do not know me will give me credit for — to differ from
my brethren of this Church or Presbytery, and from none more than
from the friends who have now addi'essed you. It is a very great
pain, indeed, to differ from Christian men anj^here. To suppose
that I am indifferent to the opinion of m}' brethren — that I do not
care what thej' think of me, or what they say of me — would be
extremely false to the deepest, truest feelings of my heart. The
more I love my brethren, the more I desire them to love me; the
more I respect their judgment, and confide in the truth and
sincerity with which they utter their opinions, the more I crave with
my whole heart that they should give me the same credit. And
believe me. Moderator and friends, not the fear, but the certainty of
being misunderstood, — in some cases, perhaps, of being misrepre-
sented, — of hard words being spoken against me, of hard thoughts
being entertained of me by those whom I love and respect, — fills me at
this moment with great pain, and I might say nervous anxiety. At
the same time, sir, there are other things which I fear still more.
There is an awful danger to a man from being entangled by any
circumstances on earth to speak that which is false to himself, or
to be silent about that which he holds true before God. There
is danger, in this respect, not only from the irreligious world, but also
from what is called the religious world; and danger to every Christian
minister, more especially to young brethren in the ministry, from
their characters or beliefs being suspected by those whom they
respect and love within the Church. There are dangers from true
disciples, and dangers from false disciples ; dangers from Pharisees,
Sadducees, and Scribes ; dangers besetting us as Christian men and
Christian ministers from every side, and from ourselves most of all.

8 How the Question was brought before the Presbytery.

None of us are free from them; and our duty, therefore, is to carry
one another's burdens; to sympathize with one another; and, as we
shall answer to Grod, to do all we can to lay no stumbling-block in the
way of a brother's searching for and speaking out the truth, — nay, to
help him to do so before God. We should all fear lest our eye be
turned aside from the truth by influences of any kind, " orthodox "
or "heterodox;" remembering our Master's solemn warning, "How
can ye believe who seek honour one of another, and seek not the
honour that cometh from God only ? " There are two things to which
we must ever be true — conscience within and Christ above. When
these are lost, all is lost !

I regret very much, indeed, a word that escaped my respected
brother, in his introdixctory speech — he, I daresay, from his goodness,
not attaching so much weight to it as I do — when he spoke of my
dragging this subject before the Court. He did not know me, or did
not think, perhaps, at the moment, or he would not have spoken thus.
During the eight-and-twenty 3'ears I have had the honour and privi-
lege — an honour and privilege for which I am every day more thank-
ful to God, and never more thankful than at this moment, when I feel
the freedom with which I can address my brethren, though in a
minority — I say dm-ing the eight-and-twenty years I have had the
honour of being a minister of the Church of Scotland, I do not think
I ever brought forward before a Church Court anything contro-
versial, or that could possibly divide them. I have brought forward
many practical questions, — not speculative ones, or questions
of no practical value. You know this is true. But when others
have introduced questions of a different kind, I may have had the
unhappiness of opposing them. I would have you remember the
peculiar circumstances in which the present distracting question has
been " dragged " by me before you. I have made it a rule never to
discuss questions of doctrine in public meetings. I do not blame
brethren for doing so in the City Hall, or an^-where else, if
such be their judgment. There are two places only where I have
done so, — from the pulpit and in Church Courts. I have always
preached to my own people that which I solemnly believed at the
time, willing rather, in six weeks afterwards, if necessary, to confess
from the pulpit that I was wi'ong, and mistaken in what I had said,
than to be untnie at the time; and ever resolved that I should
never be in that pulpit, for any consideration under heaven,
as a mere telegraphic wire, to communicate that in which I did not
myself believe, and with which I did not sympathize. The other place
in which I have spoken, when called upon to do so, in questions of
doctrine, has been in the Church Courts; and there, with whatever
pain I have differed from brethren, I have always stated the opinions
which I honestly held. Well, in what circumstances am I placed here ?
For years I have preached to my people, not your view of the Lord's-
day, but another — one not based on the Sabbath law of the Decalogue,
as to the origin ; but based on the necessities of Christian worship,
and the authority of Christ and His apostles. I came here to hear
this Pastoral. Had there been nothing in it contradictory to my own

How th£ Question tvas brought before the Presbyter}/. 9

convictions, or to the teaching I have given from the pulpit, I shouki
never have said a vrord on the subject. But I was placed in this posi-
tion : either not to read your Pastoral, — which would, in my opinion,
have been highly disrespectful to the Presbytery, — or to read that Pas-
toral ministerially, and say, "I read these things, but I do not beheve
in some of them;" — or, as my only other alternative, to come and state
to the Presbytery frankly why I did not assent to these points, or
acquiesce in them; and then, with that explanation, to request the
Presbytery to let me be free to express my dissent fr-om these points.
These were the circumstances, sir, in which I brought foi-ward this
question the last day that we met here. Nay, further, I beg you to
remember — and I do think you vnll give me credit for it — that though
quite ready then to have addi-essed you, I moved an adjournment, as
most of our members had gone to hear Mr. Gladstone, and I thought
the question too important to be discussed at a thin meeting, and when
those best acquainted with it were either not present, or not prepared
to oppose me with all the might of thefr knowledge and convictions.
The elaborate and eloquent orations we have been privileged to hsten
to to-day, prove how much you have gained by delay, though they
add to my personal difficulties while arguing against them. Such
conduct on my part, I submit, was not "dragging" the question before
the Court, as if I were actuated by vanity, inconsiderate rashness, or
selfish ambition.

Now, while there are points on which I differ from you, still I am
thankful to say that there are many more points in your Address,
and in all that has been said, in which I most heartily agree.
We are all agreed in this Coui-t, I am sure, in wishing, with simple
and sincere hearts, to know the will of Jesus Christ. I should hope
there is not one man here who would not, as far as he knows, die,
rather than do anything he felt to be against the will of his Master.
"We are agreed also on another point, — that there is, and ever will be
in the Church, a Lord's-day. Nor do I think there has been any-
thing said, so far as I could catch, either in the Address, or in what-
has been spoken, regarding the mode of keeping the Lord's-day, ia
its right observance, in which I do not agree with you; nay, I may,
in some respects, possibly go further in my estimate of om* duties
and privileges on that day. The points on which we disagree are
the historical origin of the Lord's-day, and the gi-ounds on which
its observance is binding upon the Christian Church. I think that
your position is an inconsistent one. I think you are basing a
number of duties upon the Sabbath law of the Fourth Commandment,
and taking Uberties with it, as contained in the Decalogue, which you
have no right to do. I at once state, therefore, that I cannot, as a
Christian, accept of the continued obhgation of the Sabbath law of
the Fourth Commandment; while, at the same time, I have perfect
faith in the Lord's-day.

But let us suppose, brethren, that we could not, in the end, agi-ee
in our views regarding the Bible " law " as to this day, while we
might agree as to Christian practice on it; — that you, on the one hand,
should maintain, — what, I am quite sure, you do most firmly and


10 Mutual Toleration of Differences.

earnestly believe, — tliat your present position is the only sure and
right one ; nay, even that you were persuaded that the Sabbath
should fall upon the seventh day of the week; while I, on the
other hand, maintained with equal sincerity and good conscience my
belief that the Sabbath of the Old dispensation was abrogated, or had
been lost or absorbed into something far better, because belonging
to the New, — and that too upon apostolic authority; — then, even
with such a diiBference of opinion as this, I would confidently ask if
there is a single case that could conceivably occur in the Christian
Church in which we might be more clearly guided in our relative duties
by what the Apostle said in reference to the keeping of days in the
Epistle to the Romans ? If his principles, evolved from the very nature
of the New dispensation, cannot apply to our case, they cannot, as
far as I see, apply to any. Hear what he said, and hear it, believing,
as you truly say you do, that the Fourth Commandment was then bind-
ing on Christians : — "One man esteemeth one day above another;
another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully per-
suaded in his own mind. He that regardeth the day, regardeth it
unto the Lord ; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he
doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth
God thanks ; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and
giveth God thanks." And if any of us imagines, that because he
is right in his views of this or of that day, therefore his brother,
•who diflfers from him on such outside details, is necessarily wrong,
what said the inspired Apostle — who was " persuaded of the
Lord " that there was nothing unclean of itself? Did he say, If
I am right, 3'ou must be wrong, and therefore you must act as I com-
mand you ? No; but in the charity of Christ he said, " To him who
thinketh it is unclean, to him it is unclean." Oh ! blessed liberty of
the spirit of truth, which we must strive to see and learn ! I remind
you of this now, dear brethren, that you may bear with my difference
of opinion, as I seek to bear with yours ; and that you may hear me
at least with kindly feelings, though what I am about to say may
probably pain you. For in thus freely speaking my mind, I am speak-
ing in defence of at least fair Christian liberty, and demand, therefore,
in Christ's name, and under the Magna Charta of our common
liberties, bestowed by Him on His Church, that you do not, in this
miatter, either despise or judge me, were even the day I "regard unto
the Lord " different, in its origin, character, and objects, from yours.
Let me, then, proceed with my argument. Now, I admit that
upon this Sabbath question nothing original can be said. I do not
profess to say anything original. If I did, it would be a strong
presumption that I was wrong. Our sober duty, however, is to
weigh the already complete and exhaustive evidence, to judge fairly
of what can be said and has been said on both sides, and to endea-
vour wisely to apply whatever principles we thus arrive at to the
solution of the complex practical problems to which our every-day life
and the present condition of the Chui'ch and of society give rise. We
are bound to be persuaded in our own minds, and not because
others are persuaded.

The Fourth Commandment : its Nature and Objects. 11

Let us, then, briefly inquire as to the nature of the Fourth Com-
mandment. What is it ? Under what obHgations does it really
place us, for the discharge of which we are responsible to God ?
As to its letter, it is clear, for example, that it authoritatively
binds us to keep the seventh day holy.-''- It is not a seventh — that
is, in my opinion, not fair criticism. Indeed, I am not aware that
this has ever been seriously questioned, except perhaps by those who,
judging from their line of argument, fear that the elasticity of " a day "
is required to make the commandment applicable to the whole world,
while "the day" would seem to favour the conclusion to which they

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Online LibraryNorman MacleodThe Lord's day : substance of a speech delivered at a meeting of the Presbytery of Glasgow, on Thursday, 16th November, 1865 (Volume Talbot Collection → online text (page 1 of 11)