« PreviousContinue »
dealt with less harshly. Instead of their faithfulness being the result of persecution, "the facts connected with their history" go to prove that their persecution was the result of their faithfulness. Instead of their “expulsion opening their eyes to evils they had never seen before," as Mr M‘Donald puts it," it would be much nearer the truth to say " that had not their eyes been opened they would not have been expelled.
A word or two on another point. The reviewer finds fault with my statement that the Reformed Presbyterian is the only church that “even professes” to hold all the principles and to occupy the entire ground that we do. Had I said that no church but our own holds any of the grand principles of the second Reformation, I would have put forward " a claim most remarkable, and as unfounded as it is strange.” And yet I would have been claiming for Seceders only what Reformed Presbyterians claim for themselves, when they assert in their Testimony that other Presbyterians, in differing with them on questions pertaining to civil government, " abandon the grand principles of the second Reformation." One would be inclined to think Mr. M.Donald was rather disappointed that I made the admission in favour of his church, since it has evidently deprived him of the desired pretext and pleasure of giving ignorance and assumption their due. He thinks, however, the admission of little worth, since it gives them “ credit for mere profession -a great deal more than Reformed Presbyterians are in the habit of giving to Seceders, and “must have been made with great reluctance and mental reservation.” And what evidence of great reluctance does he adduce? This only, that I had written nearly twenty pages before making the admission ! A novel way, surely, of judging a writer's mental states, and of whether his statements are made readily or reluctantly, candidly or with reservation. On the same psychological principle (?) what I wrote on the pages following must have been penned with still greater reluctance and mental reservation. In my opinion, a statement is intrinsically as much worth on the 20th page as it would be on the first.
One other point in the critique remains to be noticed. Mr. M'Donald charges me with making “a most extraordinary statement,” and assuming an absurdity on the part of Reformed Presbyterians, when referring to the point in dispute between them and Seceders. Now, the only thing I am concerned with at present is, whether I was correct in stating that “the main point in dispute between these churches regards the duty and right of a minority in a nation to disown the government on account of its religion.” I did not take on me to set forth the details of our differences, but merely to indicate the ground whereon they arise-the particular point where the views of Reformed Presbyterians and Seceders, which run so far in parallel lines, diverge. And I think in the decision of the question as to the duty and right of a minority in a nation towards the Government, lies the principle by which we are to be guided in the position or attitude we, as churches of a minority, are to take in relation to the British Government. First, determine the principle that is to guide the conduct of a minority in all cases towards a government, which acts in disregard of, or in opposition to, the prin. ciples of true religion, and then the application of the principle in any given case is easy. We do not differ on the question as to what a government ought to be—there is nu dispute between us about the duty of a majority in a nation, which is virtually the nation itself, towards an irreligious government; but the point in dispute regards the duty of a minority. And the non-recognition, or what is the same thing, the disowning of the present government, because it acts in many things contrary to Scripture, on the part of Reformed Presbyterians, shows that they believe and have determined, that it is the duty and right of a minority in a nation to disown a government whose religious profession is not of the proper stamp. For we cannot conceive of them doing what they have not determined to be their duty and right to do. Whether, therefore, their views on this matter are an “absurdity,” is a question I leave Mr. M‘Donald himself to determine, but that I was correct in assuming such to be their views is a matter of easy proof. The reviewer then gives bis representation of the points of disagreement between the two churches, but I do not see that it differs very materially from mine. No doubt we come to differ on the points he mentions, but it is when we come to the application of the different views we take of the question, which must pre. viously be determined, regarding the duty and right of a minority. Mr. M ́Donald states that the question in dispute is as to "the measure of recognition” to be given to an immoral government, such as the British. I may be wrong, but I understood that the question on this point, was
whether the British Government was to be recognised at all. That I am correct in this, appears from the answers given by the Union Committees of the two Synods, to certain questions under discussion between them. The Secession Committee say, “ Seceders consider it to be their duty to recognise the present British Government, &c.” The Reformed Presbyterian Committee say the British Government cannot be regarded as the moral ordinance of God." And in 1833, the Reformed Presbyterian Synod of Scotland unanimously declared regarding the same government, that “all recognition of it was at variance with their Testimony."
Mr. M‘Donald's surprise on finding that any one, especially among
Seceders, held the opinion, that the anti-government principles in question were not adopted till the persecution, and then only by a section of the Covenanters, does not say much for his acquaintance with church history in general, and particularly with the discussions formerly carried on between Reformed Presbyterians and Seceders on this subject. To show that I merely expressed the opinion of others, I quote from two well-known and accessible histories.
Dr. Hetherington, in his “History of the Church of Scotland,” in describing the “ Apologetical Declaration ” published in the year 1684 by a number of the Covenanters, when driven to extremities by their vindictive enemies, says, “This (the declaration') begins by narrating the course of persecution which had impelled the sufferers to disown the authority of the tyrannical sovereign and government under whose civil sway they were so mercilessly wasted.” And Dr. M'Crie, speaking of the party headed by Sir Robert Hamilton in the year 1679, says, “This party now began to maintain that the king, by assuming an erastian power over the church, had forfeited all right to the civil obedience of his subjects; a principle which had never been known in the Church of Scotland before, and which was afterwards carried to a great extent by Cameron and his followers.” And of the bulk of the dauntless band of Covenanters who fought the dragoons of Claverhouse at Bothwell Bridge, he writes again, “ While they condemned the proceedings of the government as tyrannical, they were not prepared to renounce their allegiance to it in civil matters; they held with the compilers of our Confession, that infidelity or difference in religion doth not make void the magistrate's just and legal authority, nor free the people from their obedience to him."
Mr. M‘Donald, in some parts of his critique, seems to say to Seceders, “Give me a man that we may fight together.' Here then are two, and when he has shown their statements to be “misrepresentations,” by adducing evidence to prove that it was always a principle of the Covenanters, even prior to the “ killing times of Charles," that it is the duty of a minority in the nation to disown the government when it becomes prelatic or even “infidel ;” and that the principles which led such men as Cargill and Renwick to disown a tyrannical and murdering government like that of Charles, and a usurper like James, who had not taken the coronation oath, would have led them to renounce and disown the peaceful constitutional government of Victoria, he will have done much to enlighten the “ignorant," and to clear the ground for the much to be desired union of the friends of the Covenanted Cause.— I am, &c.,
J. W. GAMBLE.
REMINISCENCES OF THE EARLY TIMES OF THE
SECESSION : HISTORICAL, BIOGRAPHICAL, AND TRADITIONAL.
This was one of the early centres of the Secession in the east of Scotland. As in other parts of the country, the movement originated in the high-handed proceedings of the dominant party in the Established Church. When the General Assembly of 1732 passed their obnoxious Act, whereby the rights of the people in the election of ministers were judicially ignored, the ministers of Brechin sided with the minority or evangelical party, and joined in the public protest against that measure. But they went no farther. Like their milkand-water descendants a century later, they accompanied their brethren to the brink of the precipice, and then shrunk back into their easier position. They associated with the “Four Brethren” in some of the earlier steps of their procedure, but were not prepared to surrender the temporal advantages of their position for the sake of the principles at stake. Conduct of this kind seldom meets with public approval, even from men of the world, and in this instance the consequence was that many of the people withdrew from their ministry and connected themselves with the Seceders. These parties travelled to Dundee, Montrose, and other places, as opportunities occurred for attending ordinances; and when the weather or other causes prevented these journeys, they met at appointed places for prayer and mutual edification. For many years these adherents of the Secession were in that unsettled position, sustained purely by a love to evangelical doctrine, and the desire of enjoying the gospel under a public profession of it. While in this condition the “Burgess Oath controversy ” was raised in the Secession body. As in other quarters, this much to be deplored agitation divided the Brechin Seceders, and thereafter they consisted of two distinct parties.
Speaking generally, the Secession was now composed of two Synods, Burgher and Anti-burgher, with their respective adherents throughout the country. From 1747 till near the close of the century both branches prosecuted the great mission of spreading evangelical truth under a banner for the Reformation cause, and notwithstanding their divided state, rivalry, and occasional expressions of strong feelings, it must be admitted that they were eminently successful. But this state of things came to an end. In both Synods the question as to the power of the civil magistrate, circa sacra, was raised; the controversy was long and keen, and ultimately both divided. The events and circumstances that followed are matter of history, and they will be alluded to here only so far as is necessary to bring out the design of the present sketch.
In this great controversy, which was the beginning of the “Voluntary” movement, a minority in both Synods contended for the original principles of the Secession, and separated on that ground. The major parties, Burgher and Anti-burgher, reunited in the year 1820, on new light, or voluntary principles, under the designation of the United Secession. Those of the minorities who continued true to the principles reunited in 1827, forming the body here represented, under the name of the Original Secession.
But we return to our narrative. The Burgher Seceders in Brechin held together, as a praying society, with much consistency, for many years. They were greatly encouraged by the Rev. Mr. Dick of Aberdeen ; and in 1770 obtained a supply of sermon from the Burgher Presbytery of Perth. For another 27 years, however, they were destined to a lingering existence, and it was not until the Rev. Ebenezer Brown, of Inverkeithing, undertook a "mission tour” in that direction that they obtained a solid footing. In the year 1802 they erected a meeting house; and two years thereafter, they obtained their first minister, Mr. David Blackadder, who was ordained on the 4th April, 1804.
The inability of the Secession Synod to grant a steady supply of sermon to distant places operated seriously against the extension of the body. Many persons, though attached to the principles, and willing to stand by them in ordinary circumstances, were not prepared to sacrifice present taste and convenience for their sake, hence numbers dropped off and fell back into their former position. This was the case in Brechin. The Anti-burghers, like their brethren, had to struggle under great difficulties. It was not in numbers, nor in wealth they could rest their hopes of success, but in the goodness of the cause, and the faithful adherence of a few. These few, however, had resolved not to turn back. Previous to their being formally organized or acknowledged as a congregation, they purchased a maltbarn and yard which came into the market, and converted the premises into a place of worship, and which for many years was locally known as the “Backsides Kirk.” This was a bold step for thirteen humble individuals to take, though no doubt as honest men they had counted the cost. One of them offered five pounds, a considerable sum in those days, and the other twelve contributed among them £10 55. 4d., and with the assistance of friends their financial difficulties were overcome. Having achieved this important end they felt warranted in holding up their face to the Presbytery, and in