William Chambers.

The Scottish church from the earliest times to 1881 to which is prefixed an historical sketch of St. Giles' Cathedral online

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encouraged them, I do not remember that the Church of
Scotland had ever specially addressed itself to foreign missions.
The Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge (1709) was
indeed specially authorised and encouraged by the Church from
the first, but it did httle for foreign missions, though (in terms
of a special bequest) it had usually a single missionary — David
Brainerd was one — labouring among the American Indians. At
the end of last century, missionary societies not connected with
any particular Church sprang up everywhere ; the London

&g6 Sf Giles' Lectures.

Missionary Society (of which a Scottish minister was the
originating spirit), in 1795 ; the Church Missionary Society, in
1799 ; the Scottish Missionary Society, in 1796, and in the same
year, the Glasgow Missionary Society. The Edinburgh Tract
Society, the first in the kingdom, was founded in 1794. In the
early part of this century, the work of those societies, and of
some others for Jewish Missions and for special objects (such
as one for the importation and education of Africans and
Asiatics), was keenly taken up by many people in Scotland.
Deputies from England came to plead the cause of the English
societies, and their Scottish rivals or friends also appealed to
public favour. The Serampore missionaries, and many others
who laboured in the foreign field, had some of their first and
warmest friends in Scotland. The efforts made in Scotland for
foreign missions before the General Assembly moved in their
behalf, were by no means contemptible. For example, in 181 7
— I take a specimen, to which many might be added — there
was raised in Leith, for Foreign and Jewish Missions and for
the Bible Society, upwards of ;^25o.

But there was great significance in the Assembly's action in
sending Dr Duff to India. It meant that henceforth the
Church of Scotland was to be organised as a missionary
association; and that its own courts were to be the directors
of the operations carried on abroad.

It marks a new position in the General Assembly, when
we find its admirable Pastoral Letter from the pen of Dr
Inglis, the founder of the mission, thus undoing, in 1824,
the rude rebuke of Missions in 1796: 'Having our own
hope in Christ and His salvation, it would be altogether
unnatural that we should not have a desire to communi-
cate this blessed hope to those who, with ourselves, have
one common Father — whom one God hath created. Is
it possible that we can rely on the merits of Christ as a
Saviour, for the exercise of that mercy and grace, by which
alone we can be delivered from everlasting misery, and

The Church of the Nineteenth Century to 1843. 297

made partakers of everlasting happiness, without an earnest
desire to make known the way of salvation through Him
to others who partake of our common nature? .... Or is
it possible that the assurance, which is given us, of the
ultimate and universal prevalence of the Redeemer's king-
dom, should not establish our minds in the use of all wise
and righteous means for hastening that happy time when the
knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth ? '

There are few things in the history of the Scottish Church
more delightful than the conjunction of men who founded
her Foreign Mission. It was no party movement ; no Mode-
rate denounced missions, even on the plea that education
must go before the Gospel ; no Evangelical needed to bid the
Moderator * rax him the Bible.' The mind of Dr Inglis, from
which the scheme started, like the goddess of wisdom in ancient
story fully armed, was the mind of the greatest of the Moderates
of his generation ; the missionary, Dr Duff, who threw up the
certainty of a distinguished career at home, and went away
through perils by sea and perils by land, to a career in which
his ardour was only paralleled by his industry, and his great
aims by his great success, was an Evangelical who owed his
conversion to an echo of the teaching of Simeon.

The principle on which the India Mission was organised
was new in itself, and had a completeness which new ideas
only acquire when they arise in a master-mind. The prin-
ciple was that, while the Gospel is to be preached to all
who will hear, education, with the definite aim of raising
up a native pastorate, is to be an integral part of the work
of the mission. Education was therefore not to be elemen-
tary only, but catholic and complete. Other Churches have
since that time more or less adopted the principle ; and even
those which did not adopt it are ready to testify to its being an
invaluable part of the work the Christian Church has to do in
India. The five who entered the Institution the first day Dr
Duff opened the doors, had swelled before 1839 into eight

29^ Si cues' LcdureL

hundred ; and in our own time a far greater attendance on
classes conducted on the same principles, shews how well the
programme has stood the test of time and trial.

(5) Let us now turn from these general subjects to try to pic-
ture the position of the parish minister in the beginning of this
century. That not many ministers were as little concerned
about their duties, and as easily induced to find their chief
interest outside of their own parishes, as was Dr Alexander
Carlyle, the keen-witted incumbent of Inveresk, may be taken
for granted. That good men of another stamp lived, and
laboured, and died in the charge to which they were first
appointed, we know from the Memorials of Dr Somerville,
whose life in Jedburgh was of this sort until he completed
ninety honoured years. Up till 18 10, many of them had
incomes as small as Goldsmith's Village Pastor, but a govern-
ment grant of ;^ 10,000 a year sufficed to raise the minimum
to ;^i5o. Some of them were professors as well as parish
ministers; but after many years of dispute on the subject of
' Pluralities,' the not very logical result was reached, that a
professor might not hold a quiet country parish, however near
the college, though he might occupy a city charge, however
laborious, as well as his chair.

The country owed much of its progress in literature and
agriculture and comfort to the parish minister in those
old days. Perhaps the greatest stimulus to social progress was
the institution of savings-banks by Henry Duncan, minister of
Ruthwell. He is one of the best possible specimens of the
older type of country minister ; a preacher who began with no
high idea of his mission, but whose conviction and fervour
deepened through the honest work of forty years ; a man of
science ; a writer of readable books ; founder of one of the
most influential of country newspapers ; and above all, origi-
nator of those noble institutions for the nursing of the poor
man's savings, with which his name will be always associ-
ated while industry strives for independence.

The Church of the Nineteenth Century to 1843. 299

When we turn to more directly ministerial work, we find
one of its chief departments in the practice of catechising,
which was usual at the beginning of the century. Every group
of houses or district was the scene of a day of visitation, when
the minister personally invited each household to meet him in
an appointed central place — a barn or farm-kitchen — where not
only the children but all adults who were willing to undergo
the ordeal, were examined on the words and meaning of the
Shorter Catechism. In some cases, the minister spent the
night at the successive centres of visitation, so as to make a
regular missionary tour of his parish. The minister's visit made
an anxious time for many a man and woman as well as for
every child ; but in faithful hands it was an occasion of useful
teaching, both doctrinal and practical. Catechising still lingers
in some districts, especially in the North. In two country
parishes in the South I found it one of the most interesting
and profitable things which it fell to me to do ; but over the
country, as a whole, it is extinct; and the minister's annual
visit brings only a short service of reading and prayer. The
Sunday-school is not so robust an ordinance as the domestic
and district catechising which it has superseded ; and it is
scarcely doubtful that it does less to bring the public opinion
of the parish to bear on the success or failure of the home-
training of the children.

We turn from pastoral work to preaching. There is not
much doubt that, in the beginning of the century, the ordi-
nary preaching was of a cold and semi-philosophical kind ;
a teaching of ethics, with Scripture used as an illustration
rather than relied upon as an authority. But the century
was not many years old when a change began, and with
wonderful rapidity spread over the land. The work of
Simeon and Hill and the Haldanes was no doubt in many
cases effectual ; but it would have done little had not causes
of more general power been in operation. The French
Revolution, which stirred society to its very depths, and made

3O0 5/ ales' Lectures.

all thoughtful men consider their waysj brought the mass of
the people to a new study of the Bible and a new appreciation
of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In many men unknown to
fame, that change which all the world can read in the life of
Chalmers was undergone ; and he who began to teach in
sermons easily written, and heard, and forgotten, was striving
ere middle life was reached to utter the thoughts that struggled
within him, and to declare the message of the living God.
The brilliant career of Chalmers, and the herculean, unselfish
labours of Andrew Thomson, were beyond all comparison
powerful in guiding this new-born zeal. But the change
was not confined to such as they. The party which by
tradition bore the name of Evangelical was not distinct,
either in doctrine or in practice, from that which inherited
the other name of Moderate. While Chalmers was toiling
in the wynds of Glasgow, and Thomson was smiting hip
and thigh the advocates of the Apocrypha or of gradual aboli-
tion of slavery, the chief of the Moderate party was maturing
the great project of a mission from the Church of Scotland to
the heathen. We all find it easier to give by sight than to give
by faith ; but the greater work of directing the sympathy of
the Scottish Church to realms unseen was distinctively the
work of the Moderates. It was a Moderate of the Moderates,
Dr Bryce, who laboured so hard in India to bring a mission to
Calcutta ; and not only was it the wise head of the Moderates
at home who planned the mission; but of those to whom,
in 1S39, Dr Duff dedicated his book on India, two-thirds
were of the same party. The great missionary records upon
his page of dedication the names of the committee : Brunton
(convener from the time when Dr Inglis died), Gordon,
Chalmers, Ritchie, William Muir, James Grant, John Hunter,
John Paul, and John Bruce, ' under whose wise, paternal, and
prayerful counsels the missionary enterprise of the Church
has hitherto been conducted with such unbroken harmony of
design, and such multiplied tokens and pledges of the divine

The Church of the Nineteenth Century /'t' 1843. 301

approbation.' And of those nine men, only three left the
Church in 1843. When I know those things, and know how
the eloquent pleading of another Moderate, Robertson of
Ellon, was widely circulated and of great power in behalf
of the India Mission, I must express my deep regret that
even in our own day some writers upon missions charge all
manner of public and private misdeeds upon the Moderates.
There could be no better authority than Dr Inglis, of whom
Duff well said that ' his thoughts were never expressed till
weighed and re-weighed in the balance of a penetrating judg-
ment ; ' and he says : ' What I maintain is, that the crime of
either contradicting or culpably neglecting the peculiar doctrines
of the Gospel, is not imputable to any such number of the
established clergy of Scotland as to give the slightest ground for
supposing that ecclesiastical establishments have a tendency to
discourage Evangelical ministrations. My observation during
what has now been rather a long life, entitles me to say that, in
the course of the last forty years, there has been a gradual
approximation, on the part of the clergy, of what are called the
two sides of our Church, to a closer resemblance of one another
in all the great features of their public teaching — and it must
not be forgotten that any opposite testimony which seems to be
borne by our Dissenting brethren refers to a case respecting
which their means of knowledge must be comparatively small.' '
If proof of the truth of those wise words were wanted, I should
point any inquirer to the fact that all the missionary, and
almost all the active committees of the Assembly, had Moderate
conveners, in the very year of the Veto, 1834. Dr Brunton
presided over Church Accommodation, as well as over Missions
to India. Principal Macfarlan was convener of the Colonial
Scheme ; and Principal Baird, of the Education Scheme.

(6) All parties in the Church combined in some deposi-
tions for false doctrine. Let me speak of one. Edward

^ Inglis, Vindication of Ecclesiastical Establishments, p. 232.

3° 2 Sf Giles^ Lectures.

Irving seems to me, as I look back over those years
with such light as I can cast upon them, to have been
the man of greatest genius that played his part while they
passed over the world. I have heard from the lips of one
who knew him well, that he said, as he paced the college
quadrangle in his student days : ' There seems to me to
be a new style of preaching possible ; ' and of that new
style his sermons remain the first, last, and only specimen.
It is a strange blending of exposition, exhortation, poetry,
pathos, and scorn; now, in lofty speculation, speeding like
a meteor high overhead; now, as though it were the forked
lightning, cleaving at our very side some hoary erection of
human fraud or folly ; and now melting in the softest tears of
human sympathy. Nothing that Chalmers ever wrote rises to
the height of passionate meditation which is sustained through
Irving's Discourse on the Book of Psalms ; there is not in all
that has ever been spoken from a Presbyterian pulpit since
Maclaurin's Glorying in the Cross of Christ, anything to com-
pare with Irving's Ordination Charge in the little chapel at
London Wall ; and in some of his Discourses on the Incarnatioti
there is a grandeur of thought which seems to me to lift even
the reader into a purer air. What it must have been to
hear him, there still live those to tell who stood on the
hillside for many hours, caring not how the sun crossed the
sky while the spell of the great preacher was upon them ; but
even those who never heard him can say that the old prophetic
fire has not come so near us as when Irving lived and spoke.
His oldest friend, who has been so lately laid to rest in their
native Annandale, and who also brought from the banks of the
Solvvay some such scorn and pathos as one had believed to be
impossible save on the banks of the Jordan, never ceased to
say of him : ' He strove with all the force that was in him to be
a Christian minister. He might have been so many things ;
not a speaker only, but a doer — the leader of hosts of men. . . .
His was the freest, brotherliest, bravest human soul mine ever

The Church of the Nifieteenth Century to 1843. 303

came in contact with. I call him, on the whole, the best man
I have ever, after trial enough, found in this world, or hope to
find.' It was this man that the Church he loved with so
romantic affection exiled from her bounds. It was really be-
cause his enthusiasm had carried him away, so that the decent
order of worship in his church was destroyed by a Babel of
many voices, which his simple heart believed to be the primitive
gift of tongues restored to a long self-impoverished Church ;
but the avowed ground of deposition was that he believed, and
in undoubtedly harsh words declared, our Lord's humanity to
have been preserved in sinlessness by the abundant gift of the
Holy Spirit, and not by the Incarnate Deity of the Divine Son
in His Person. Surely never was there better ground for
toleration than in this heresy, which was only the struggle of
a loving believer to find that his Redeemer was ' in all points
tempted like as we are, yet without sin.'

(7) A question which came into prominence in the very end
of last century, was one which has had more momentous results
in the Church than any of those already mentioned. It was
the question as to the way of enlarging the old parochial
system of the Church, so as to keep pace with the growth of
the population. There were tens of thousands growing up for
whom no church accommodation was provided, and who could
not be invited to come to churches that would not contain them
if they came. But they were not actually invited. Home
heathenism was the consequence. The enormous population
made it impossible for the old ideal of the parish minister, as
the friend and pastor of all his parishioners, to be realised.
Another evil result was found in Pauperism. In the old time,
the funds of the kirk-session — drawn from the weekly collec-
tions in church — were sufficient to maintain the poor of the
parish ; and the eighteenth century was more than half done
before the power of the heritors and kirk-session to assess the
parish for the poor was called into exercise. But as Dissent
attracted the population, the collections in the parish church

304 . St ales' Lectures.

became too weak for the burden on them, and in large popula-
tions, especially in the south of Scotland, assessments crept in.
As Chalmers brooded upon this fact, there grew up in his
mind an enthusiastic admiration of the old parochial system,
and an exceeding bitterness against all and sundry who could
be charged with destroying or mutilating it. The masses who
belonged to no church — many of them lying low and besotted
on the ground, crying for food from legal funds — became
a nightmare and a daily torture to him. When he went to
Glasgow and found himself in the Tron parish of 11,200
inhabitants, with only 3500 of them connected with any church,
he declared war against every system and every practice which
made it impossible for him to carry the Gospel to all for whom,
as minister of the parish, he was nominally responsible. He
stigmatised the Town Councils, which exacted such rents for
sittings, that the poor man could not take his rightful place in
the pew ; he denounced Dissenters, who were fostering the
idea that it was enough to open churches for those who might
choose to come ; he rolled out his sonorous anathemas against
the unpatriotic Scots who would not see that legal relief of
the poor was destroying the independence and the provident
habits of the people. And what he preached, he practised.
There was a new church — St John's — opened for him in
Glasgow, in which the great orator was allowed to have
his own way ; with the result of shewing that the parochial
ministry drew the home heathen to the Church of Christ, and
that in his large and poor parish of ten thousand inhabitants,
the sum spent on the poor was never more than ninepence per
head of the population.

In whatever light we view Chalmers as a parish minister, he is
the greatest man who has ever borne that official name. As Dr
Inglis adapted Knox's principles of church and school to India,
Dr Chalmers applied them to Scotland with a generous devoted-
ness which swept away every obstacle, and a prayerful patience
which never doubted of the final triumph. He was not so

The C/nirch of the Nineteenth Century to 1843. 305

unapproachably great when crowds were hanging on his lips, as
when by the power of a great conviction, and the example of
heroic personal toil, he moved the hearts of his people, as
one man, to rally round him, to act for him, to subdivide
the parish into districts, to make a record of the state of
every family, to make the parish-church and the district-
school centres of living personal influence upon young and
old, so as to verify his own happy phrases, by 'sweetening the
breath of society' through ' the omnipotence of loving-kindness.'
It is well to know what men thought and said of him : it
does us good to remember that Jeffrey said Chalmers' power
made him understand that of Demosthenes ; and that the
keen and critical Lockhart for a time forgot to analyse, and
could only say : ' In presence of such a spirit, subjection is a
triumph ; I was proud to feel my hardened nerves creep and
vibrate, and my blood freeze and boil while he spake, as
they were wont to do in the early innocent years.' But
these things might become mere traditions, as in the case
of Kemble or of Edmund Kean, whereas the principles he
revived, expounded, expanded, and verified can never cease
to guide men, while churches toil to bring the wanderers to
the fold of Christ.

When, therefore, the General Assembly, in 1S34, appointed
him to direct Church Extension, it was well known that the
illustrious Home Missionary was about to move the kingdom to
imitate his own example, and to provide not only churches
but ministrations for all the people, poor and rich, within
the shores of Scodand. The results were immediate and
amazing ; chapels sprang up on every side (187 in four years) ;
while the parishes which had been united in raising the needed
funds had learned their strength, their separate and their united
strength, and were filled with the glow of a common enthusiasm.
No longer units in action, they were now fused in one living
organism, as the members of one body.

It was a fair and goodly scene ; but in its advancement to


3o6 ^7 ales' Lectures .

perfection, the Church Avas raising up enemies and difficulties
that strewed it with wreck and ruin.

First of all, the Dissenters took alarm, and hence came the
' Voluntary Controversy.' The Seceders had done good work in
many a parish where they had ' seceded ' from the corruptions
of the Church in the hope of seeing it amended, or where they
had afibrded ' Relief from the evils of Patronage. But they were
changed since the first days. There had grown up in the minds
of Dissenters an idea that they had some sort of vested interest
in the corruptions and weaknesses of the Established Church ;
an idea that if these were swept away, there would be an unfair
blow inflicted on those denominations which were founded as a
remedy for them. Thus the still living historian of the Seces-
sion Church says : ' The Church Extension Scheme, which was
aimed alike at the prosperity of both denominations {Secession and
Relief), had led the two bodies to combined deliberation and con-
certed action, and increased their mutual esteem.^ It is curious that
an attempt to benefit the nation through the Church should be
regarded as an attack upon Dissent. Yet so it was. It was im-
possible but that some collision should occur when Dr Chalmers
tried to increase the Establishment, because many were ready
to say that Dissenting Churches were doing all that is needed.
To dispose of that objection, Dr Chalmers proclaimed the fact
that men were falling away from all Churches ; and at the
same time he shewed that the very principle of Dissent,
as only meeting a demand, incapacitates it to supply the
deepest needs of a nation. In oft-repeated and now well-
known arguments, and with unnecessarily stinging epithets
applied to his opponents, Chalmers shewed that an endow-
ment is equivalent to the poor man's seat-rent : and that
its existence enables a minister within the definite territory
of his parish, for which the endowment is provided, to go
from house to house offering the Gospel without money
and without price. He called this an 'aggressive ministry,'
which seeks out and ' excavates ' the home-heathen ; and he

The Church of the N"inctccnth Ccidiiry to 1843. 307

stigmatised Dissent as the means of providing only an ' attrac-
tive ministry.'

Thus came the actual collision between the Church and
Dissent, which in its deepest meaning was largely political.
Scottish Voluntaryism is mainly a political result of the
fermentation among the masses during this century ; its dogma
of the severance of the ruler from religion originated with the
French Revolution, and is a part of the democratic up-
heaving which led to revolution on the Continent. Perhaps
it may be well on this hazardous subject to quote the words
of an admitted authority. In his life of Dr John Brown,
Dr Cairns says : ' It was not till the close of the eighteenth
century that the impulse given by the American and French

Online LibraryWilliam ChambersThe Scottish church from the earliest times to 1881 to which is prefixed an historical sketch of St. Giles' Cathedral → online text (page 30 of 37)