W. J. (Walter John) Trower.

Correspondence between His Grace the Duke of Argyll and the Right Rev. W.J. Trower, Bishop of Glasgow and Galloway (Volume Talbot Collection online

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Online LibraryW. J. (Walter John) TrowerCorrespondence between His Grace the Duke of Argyll and the Right Rev. W.J. Trower, Bishop of Glasgow and Galloway (Volume Talbot Collection → online text (page 1 of 2)
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It will be obvious that the following Letters were not intended
for publication. As, however, an inaccurate account of the Cor-
respondence has got abroad, it has been thought advisable by the
parties concerned in it, that the Letters themselves should be


WisTON Rectory, December 12, 1848.
My Lord Duke,

It is with mucli reluctance and regret tbat I address
your Grace on the matter which will form the subject of this letter:
viz., the fact that jour Grace received the holy communion last year
at Paisley, (in the diocese of Glasgow,) and the possibility that your
Grace may present yourself, either at Paisley or at some other church
in my diocese, for the same purpose at the ensuing festival. I think
it due to your Grace, and in every way the most pradeat as well as
manly course, to inform you, that having been consulted on this subject
by the clergyman who administered the sacrament of the Lord's
Supper to you last Christmas, I have informed liim that I cannot
sanction, under existing circumstances, a similar admission of your
Grace to that holy communion.

It is possible, indeed, that the occasion which he has contemplated
as not improbable, may not present itself ; but I had rather run the
risk of over-caution in a matter of this kind, than that of either having
the question raised at the very time of so solemn an act of devotion,
or else of admitting to communion one, whose recent publication
breathes throughout so bitter and contemptuous a spirit towards the
church at whose hands he had so recently received the sacrament of
our blessed Saviour's body and blood.

Your Grace will, I trust, believe that it is most painful to me thus
to bring myself before your notice ; nothing would induce me to do so
but a sense of duty, and a resolution not to avoid any responsibility
which fairly devolves upon me ; and I the more regret the occasion,

as I understand that the course which your Grace has taken in your
exalted station, is such as, in many respects, to entitle you to the
sincere respect of your fellow-countrymen.

I have the honour to be,

Your Grace's faithful Servant,


Bishop of Glasgnic and Galloway.
Ills Grace the Duke of Argyll.

BosENEATH, \ith Decemher, 1848.
Right Reverend Sir,

I have to acknowledge receipt of your letter of the
12th, intimating that I labour under sentence of excommunication
within the Diocese of Glasgow and Galloway. I have to thank you
for the expressions of regret with which you have accompanied the
performance of what you describe to be a very painful duty. . , ^ .

Did I imagine that the body to which you belong is the only one m
Scotland entitled to administer the ordinances of the Christian Church,
this might be a serious penalty. But I generally communicate with
another body, which to others I am apt to call the "Church, of
Scotland," but which, I fear, you consider better described as the
" Form of Schism " established here. It is only ou accidental occasions
that I have sometimes communicated with the Episcopal Church in
Scotland. I do not anticipate, therefore, any serious inconvenience
from your spiritual censures.

I am not accurately informed as to the extent of power granted to
the ministers of your chui'ch in excluding from the communion those
who may seek admission. I do not know whether it is practically
arbitrary from being undefined; or whether any line has been drawn
up to which the exercise of such a power is legitimate, and beyond
which it would be unlawful, or, at least, irregular. Practically,
however, this question is of little importance. No man can desire to
receive the communion from a reluctant, or an angry minister ; whilst
few men, probably, are so weak as to believe that the disapprobation


of any minister is a bar to his partaking of it from more willing

I have had occasion to know, however, that the mere fact of being
a Presbyterian by baptism or education, is not of itself considered in
the Episcopal Cliurch ©f p]ngland a disqualification for receiving the
communion at her hands. Although your branch of the same church
seems ambitious of distinguishing characteristics, I question whether
any of her ministers would think themselves justified in refusing the
communion on this ground alone. Indeed they must be too well aware
of the semi-Presbyterianism of many of her members. Accordingly, I
observe, that you make no allusion to the general fact of my being a
Presbyterian, but have thought it necessary to assign a farther and
a special reason for your communication, 'i

This reason seems to me to call for some remark.

You say that I have displayed throughout my recent work, a "bitter
and contemptuous spirit" against the Episcopal Church in Scotland:
and you allude, as an aggravation of this charge, to the fact, that I
had, nevertheless, received the communion at her hands.

I presume, that before forming your judgment on my " spirit " so
decidedly as to entitle you to make this communication, you have felt
it to be your duty to read my " Essay " carefully. T conclude, there-
fore, that you have seen the expression of ray feeling that " considered
as a branch of the Church of England which gradually, and by legiti-
mate means has successfully struck root in Scotland," your church is
"thoroughly entitled to sincere respect." (p. 231.)

I must farther conclude, then, that the strong reprobation I have
expressed, and shall ever express when occasion requires, of the crimes
of the old "Prelacy " of Scotland before the Revolution, is what you
condemn as a " bitter and contemptuous spirit ;" and farther, — that
you so sympathise with the course of that former party, and so identify
your own existing church with it, that you look upon reprobation of
the one to be reprobation of the other also, and thus consider my
"bitter and contemptuous spirit" as directed against yourselves.

I deeply deplore this conclusion on yoiu* part, but I do not deplore
it on my own account. It is one which does not tell creditably. May
I beg of . you, therefore, to be more explicit ? May I ask you to
specify what particular condemnation passed by me against the old
Prelacy of Scotland do you appropriate as passed against the present
Episcopal Church in Scotland? Is it that against the corruption of
the "Tulchans," or that against the double dealing of Adarason

Spottiswoode, and Sharpe ; or that against the tyranny of Laud ; or
that against the course of the same party under Charles II. and his
brother ?

There is only one other part of my Essay to which you can possibly
refer. I have also expressed strong reprobation of the spirit in which
certain writers of a literary society (happily defunct, I understand)
speak of the church and worship of the niajority of their countrymen.
That spirit, you will not deny, is both " bitter and contemptuous." If,
therefore, it is my exposure of this spirit which has moved your
censure, it follows that your dislike of "bitter and contemptuous"
speaking on such subjects, depends, like that of many other men, on
whether it is employed for, or against the opinions of your own party.

I am quite aware that I have no special right to push these ques-
tions, because I have no special interest in your answer. I am not a
member of your church, and am personally indifferent whether the
chapels of your Diocese are open to me, or shut. But though,
consequently, youx act is of no importance in its effects, it is of great
importance in its principle. I trust, and I know that there are very
many members of your church, including almost all its laity, who would
be ashamed of claiming sympathy with the course of the old " Prelacy "
of Scotland, and who would condemn as strongly as I have done, all
the crimes committed in its cause. I am really curious to know
whether the free expression of their opinion on such matters would sub-
ject them in the nineteenth century, to the penalty of excommunication.

I do not know, Right Reverend Sir, what may be your idea of the
impressions under which Christians must approach the communion in
the Episcopal Church in Scotland. You must be aware that your
members include every variety of opinion on such questions of ecclesi-
astical history. Yet I would suppose from your strange communication
to me, that no one is, in your opinion, fit to enjoy the Christian festival
in your church, who does not revere the Tulchans, cherish a pious
memory of Laud, and, above aU, refrain from designating Presbytery
as a " Church," or under any other phrase than a "Form of Schism."

For my own part, I can assure you, that strong as my opinions arc
on the sins which have been committed in the name of Prelacy in
Scotland, and strongly as I condemn any cherishing of its evil spirit
in our own day, I should be ashamed of feeling under the slightest
temptation to bring any thought on such subjects to the Rails of the
Altar. I am never disposed to allow these questions to interfere with
the intercourse of private life : still less would I suffer them to intrude


in momeuts of devotion. I should deeply regret to be the occasion of
such a sin in others. Therefore, I would not wish to communicate
again with the clergyman at Paisley. It would be painful to me to
feel, (as since your letter I should have too good ground to do,) that
when administering the holy communion he might bo remembering
with a grudge my " Essay on the Ecclesiastical History of Scotland,"
or thinking, as of an insult to his own church, over my character of
the " Tulchans."

What I have said by argument and implication, I will now say
directly, following your example of straight-forward dealing. I have
very little doubt that you and this Paisley clergyman think you are
only acting under a strict sense of duty. But I have quite as little
doubt that you mistake the impulse under which you have come to
this conclusion. I believe that impulse to be personal irritation,
arising out of wounded party-spirit. I assure you, I do not say this
from any angry feeling. K I had the honour of your personal friend-
ship, your communication would not have impaired it on my side. I
draw my inference from the clearest evidence. There is nothing in
my Essay which many members of your church might not have written ;
there is nothing of which many have not already heartily approved.
It is possible to be member of a church, and yet have no sympathy
with the passions associated with its former course, or the crimes
committed in its name. I believe, accordingly, that the party with
which I fear you are connected, — that party which in the grasp after
a national history, cherishes kindness for the Tidchans, and warm
sympathy with the prelates whom Middleton and Lauderdale could
support, but with whom Leightoun could find no fellowship, — I believe
this party to be a small one in your church, your laity do not belong
to it. You do that church wrong when you identify that party with
it. It is in virtue of membership with this party that alone you could
have felt my Essay so keenly. It is against the spirit and opinions
of this party that I have expressed the strong disapprobation which
you interpret into a "bitter and contemptuous spirit" against your
church. I deny and disclaim any such spirit in the Essay. I view
the Episcopal Church in Scotland as a branch of the Church of
England, and as such "entitled to sincere respect." But even if
every one of its ministers were of the spirit which I most condemn,
this would make no difference to me. I never think what may be the
opinions, or the prejudices, or the passions of a minister from whom I
receive the communion. The people ought not to think of such


controversies when they receive : the clergy ought not to think of
them when they administer.

When I published the Essay I was not unprepared for symptoms of
irritation from more than one quarter. I confess, however, that I
hardly expected them to appear in such a form. I knew indeed that
as clergymen deal in holy things they arc very apt to vent their
irritation in performing the duties of their office. This is the peculiar
temptation of your order. I beg of you to reflect whether, in this
instance, you have not yielded to it ; and I trust that on consideration
you will yourself dismiss, and instruct your clergy to dismiss, feelings
of pique and irritation from such holy ground. I am sure that you
must be acting very wrongly when you select the communion table of
a Christmas festival as the place and the occasion for testifying your
opinion of my "Essay on the Ecclesiastical History of Scotland."

I beg to apologize for any thing in this letter which may seem to
you unnecessarily personal or offensive. I have not wished to go
beyond the open and straight-forward statement of the view I take of
your excommunication.

I an),

Right Reverend Sir,
•;oit nJaoieitil)

,-.1 / i - Your obedient Servant,


■3d i io :■

WlSTOW Rkotorv, December 20, 1848.

My Lokd Ddke,

If I had the honour of being personally known to
your Grace, I think you would acquit me of having acted under aa
impulse of "personal irritation, arising out of wounded party-spirit."
I could not, indeed, have accepted the office to which I have most
unexpectedly been called, unless I had the deepest conviction of the
Divine institution of Episcopacy : but " party-spirit," I most unfeign-
edly abhor ; and I should be altogether unfit for that office, (unworthy
of it I own myself to be,) if I were capable of acting in such a matter
under " personal irritation." My feelings towards your Grace are


those of a raiuister of. Christ towards one whom a mistaken sense of
duty is leading to devote his high gifts and excellent moral and
intellectual qualities against the truth, rather than for it. They are
feelings, in which (may I say, though personally a stranger, and in so
different a sphere of life,) real personal regard is mixed with deep
regret at the course which you have thought proper to take.

Allow me to obsea*ve, that your Grace misconceives the effect of my
letter, when you say that you labour under a sentence of excommuni-
cation within my diocese. ' ; 1

I have pronounced no such gen t^oe^; 'Having been eonsulted by
one of my clergy, I have informed him that I could not give my sanc-
tion to the admission of your Grace to communion in his ehui'ch ; and
I thought it due to him and also to your Grace, to inform you of this
reply. But I have taken no step to inform my clergy generally of
what I have done ; nor at the present moment do I think of doing so.
It is one thing to pass an official sentence, or even to volunteer and
circulate the expression of a strong opinion ; and another, when eon-
sulted by those who have a right to ask my advice, to give it plainly.

In the unhappy conflict of religious opinion which is the inheritance
of the present generation, especially in Scotland, I think much tender-
ness is due to those who have been trained under influences which
lead them to a view of Divine truth far different from what approves
itself as tnith to my own mind, and what I believe to have been the
doctrine of the church of God from the beginning. On this account, I
am riot one to recommend violent acts or sweeping denunciations ; but
I own that I cannot understand how conscientious persons can, in
England, present themselves at the altars of the church, and in Scot-
land call themselves Presbyterians; nor could I consciously and
formally sanction the admission to communion in the church of those
who are in the habit of communicating with other denominations of

With regard to your Grace's book, I do not wish to enter into a
controversy which would naturally result from an examination of par-
ticular passages. The passage to which your Grace refers, p. 231,
had not escaped my attention. It is, however, my deliberate opinion
that the writer of that book should neither seek, nor be admitted, to the
holy communion in a chm-ch, the characteristic difference of which
from the principles of Scottish Presbytery, is its acknowledgment as
Divine truth of a doctrine which the writer of this book (p. 236) believes
to be "the emptiest superstition." The church does ppt,,. indeed.


exact, as terms of commuuion, a formal acknowledgment of what she
holds as the truth in this matter ; but it is one thing to' abstain from
exacting such a formal acknowledgment as terms of communion, and
another, to admit to communion any one who openly — I must say, I
think in a bitter and contemptuous spirit — repudiates it in a deliberate
and elaborate publication.

Let me just add, that of course I am not concerned to defend the
various means which were taken to introduce and establish what I
believe to be the truth, in Scotland. Your Grace, indeed, is, as I
understand, a young man ; and I think you will see reason hereafter to
acknowledge that your able historical statement is (as often happens)
one-sided : but certainly I do not wish to defend the means taken to
establish Episcopacy in Scotland. Neither am I concerned, as your
Grace seems to suppose must be the case, to maintain its historical
claims to nationality. My part is simply to bear witness to it as tjie
truth ; and this I conceive that I should have failed in doing, had I
(especially after your Grace's publication,) given any other reply than
that which I gave to the clergyman who consulted me as his bishop.

With sincere prayer that your Grace may be led by the guidance of
God's Holy Spirit so to employ your talents as, through the merits
of our blessed Saviour, to attain a joyful resurrection,

I am.

Your faithful Servant in Christ,


Bishop of Glasgow and Gallowai/-
Hi8 Gkace tue Duke ok Augyi-l.

RosENEATa, J3eceH»6er 22, 1848.
Right Reveeend Sir, i

I am much obliged to you for your letter of the 2Uth,
since in defending what I must think a wrong course, its spirit is such
as demands respect.

I am aware that the communion has long been unfortunately
regarded by many as the peculiar token of what I may call sect-


membership, to distinguish this idea from church-membership, in a
larger and truer sense. Your position, therefore, is perfectly intelligible,
■when you say you cannot conceive how any Presbyterian can con-
scientiously partake of the communion in the Episcopal Church. But
I take a wholly different view of the communion. I conceive that it
is a "llemembering of Christ," — not a remembering of any thing else,
of Episcopacy, of Prcsbyterianism, of Tulchanism, or any other " ism "
whatever. One thing only I regard as in all ordinary circumstances
necessary, viz.: that we be convinced that the Body and its ministers,
along with whom we may communicate, arc in all essentials true
branches of the Christian society, and as such, entitled to celebrate its
ordinances. I conceive the Episcopal Chxirch to be such a Body.
Therefore, I can as conscientiously commmiicate with it as with any
other Body of which I entertain the same general opinion.

I do not hope to content you with such las adhesion. I am aware
that the clergy of almost all churches claim much more exclusive
homage. But, except on the naked principle that no man ought
ever to partake of the communion with any Body of which he is not
actually a member, I cannot see that your course in this instance is
defensible. Let me beg your attention, for a moment, to the more
special grounds suggested by the wording of your letter.

You say that the characteristic difference between the Episcopal
Church and the Presbyterian Church is the acknowledgment, by the
former, as a " divine truth " of a " doctrine" which I condemn as the
" emptiesst superstition ;" and you conclude that therefore I ought
neither to seek, nor be admitted to communion in the Episcopal

Now what is the "doctrine" condemned by me as the "vainest
superstition?" this — that Episcopacy is the comer stone of the chris-
tian temple, and that no Body organized without it is entitled to the
name or privileges of the Christian Church.

This is the "doctrine" I condemn as the " vainest superstition:"
and you now inform me that the acknowledgment of this as a " divine
tiTith " is the " characteristic " of the Episcopal Church.

May I beg to be referred to your authority for this statement?
Do you really, on reflection, believe yourself to be entitled to lay down
this definition of the " characteristic" of the Episcopal Chui-ch? You
must be quite aware that many of the greatest men in the history of
that church, including, I think, almost the whole of the early English
Reformers, held no such "doctrine," and would have condemned it, as


I do, as the vainest superstition. You must also be aware that a very
large portion of the members of that church, both in England and
Scotland, have no belief in this " doctrine." It may be prevalent
among a greater or less number; but you have no warrant whatever
for asserting that it is an essential characteristic of the church. To
state this is to prove it. It is a notorious fact. It is therefore quite
impossible that you can consistently maintain this as a ground for
excluding from the communion.

You seem to be aware of this ; and accordingly you draw a strange
distinction between those who merely think, and those who also icnite.
Thousands who, like me, disbelieve the " doctrine," and think of it, as
I do, an " empty superstition," may be winked at, and tacitly admitted
to communion: but those who venture to express their unbelief
(especially in "elaborate publications") are unfit to "remember"
Christ at a communion table in the Episcopal Church.

Need I represent to you farther the invalidity of both the above
reasons, or need I suggest that two bad reasons do not help to make
one good one ?

But there is one other reason, suggested by the wording of your
sentences. It may not be my unbelief in the doctrine — not my elabor-
ately expressing it — but the "bitter and contemptuous" spirit in
which I do so. This is at least a better reason than the other two.
If it were true it might be valid; but I will content myself with ask-
ing yourself is it the true reason ? If it be, I make no objection : only
I shall hope to see your censures impartially applied. When any of
the ftmaticisms of the Presbyterian History are alluded to in " bitter
and contemptuous terms," I will hope that your disapprobation will be
shown as readily; and if the example is followed, there will be a
marked improvement in the tone of the writings emanating from the
adherents of the Episco{)al Church in Scotland.

But I think it due to the spirit in which your last letter is written,
to assure you that I have no bitter or contemptuous feeling towards
those who hold the doctrine, pronounced by you to be a characteristic
of the Episcopal Church. I do indeed think that doctrine to be an
" empty superstition " — ■" empty " in itself of all good influence on the
character and functions of the Christian Church ; and " superstitious "
in its origin and nature. But many good and excellent men hold it.
Many good men also hold other doctrines which you would describe as
empty superstitions, — such as the bishop of Rome's supremacy.

I hardly know what value you would have me to put on the distinc-


tion you draw between " exconnnunication " over your whole diocese,
and exclusion from the Paisley chapel. But wliatover that value may
be, I beg to remind you that your first letter distinctly referred, not
alone to that chapel, but specially to all " other chapels in your

I sincerely believe that in the answer to this clergyman you have
not consciously been acting under any feeling but that of a sense of
duty. And so far as he is concerned, I think the answer was right in
one respect. He would not have been in a fitting state of mind to
administer the communion to me if he had remembered my Essay with
such irritation. But you. must excuse me when I say, that so far as
any thing in that Essay is concerned, the disqualification was on his
side, not on mine. Except on the principle of the communion being
the token of sect-membership, there is no ground there for objecting to
my admission which will stand a moment's reasoning. I accept your


Online LibraryW. J. (Walter John) TrowerCorrespondence between His Grace the Duke of Argyll and the Right Rev. W.J. Trower, Bishop of Glasgow and Galloway (Volume Talbot Collection → online text (page 1 of 2)