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Church and College in Scotland
From Tait's Edinburgh Magazine (1851)


The Act of Security passed at the period of the Union between England and Scotland contains the following clause: “And further, for the greater security of the Protestant religion, and of the worship, discipline, and government of the Presbyterian Church, statutes and ordains that the Universities and Colleges of St Andrews, Glasgow, Aberdeen, and Edinburgh, as now established by law, shall continue within this kingdom for ever; and that in all time coming no professors, principals, regents, masters, or others bearing office in any University, College, or School, within this kingdom, be capable, or be admitted, or allowed to continue in the exercise of their said functions, but such as shall own and acknowledge the civil Government in manner prescribed, or to be prescribed by the acts of Parliament: As also that before or at their admissions they do and shall acknowledge and profess and shall subscribe to the Confession of Faith as the confession of their faith, and that they will practise and conform themselves to the worship presently in use in this Church, and submit themselves to the government and discipline thereof, and never endeavour, directly or indirectly, the prejudice or subversion of the same; and that before the respective Presbyteries of their bounds, by whatsoever gift, presentation, or provision they may be thereto provided.”

Such is the Act of Union, aud when any attempt is made to set aside University tests, the upholders of “vested rights” point to that international document with a solemnity of gesture evidently intended to imply that its simple existence decides the whole question. Now, however it may be accounted heresy by some, we have no hesitation in avowing our belief in the opinion of Lord Chief Justice Campbell, that the Imperial Parliament can and may set aside every clause of the boasted Act of Union, and of the Act of Security to boot. We shall not enter into any legal discussion on the point, but premising that what Parliament has done before Parliament may do again, we shall refer to a few instances in which after-legislation has set aside this vaunted Act as so much waste-paper.

Section IV. of the Union statute gives “all subjects full freedom and intercourse of trade and navigation to and from any port or place within the United Kingdom and the colonies, while, only the other day, the Court of Session decided that no passenger-boat can ply between Newhaven and Kirkauldy without permission from the magistrates of the latter port.

Section VII. provides “that all parts of the United Kingdom be for ever, from and after the Union, liable to the same excises upon excisable liquors;” but we should not recommend any Scotchman to . rely so far on this clause as to take a gallon of his native whiskey across the border; or,, if he does, he need not show the Act of Union either to exciseman or justice of the peace, unless he wishes to be consigned to a lunatic-asylum.

Sections XI. and XIII. aver that the window and malt duties were respectively to ce&6e in England on 1st August and 24th June, 1707, and that Scotland was not to be charged with either. Need anything be said on these points?

Section XVI. declares that “a mint shall be continued in Scotland under the same rules as the mint in England.” Will any one tell us where the Scotch mint is? Antiquarians, desirous of knowing where the mint was, will find it in a blacksmith’s shop at the bottom of Sonth Gray’s Close, Edinburgh.

Section XX. enacts that u all heritable offices, superiorities, heritable jurisdictions, offices for life, and jurisdictions for life be reserved to the owners thereof as rights of property,” (fee.; but we know that, after 1745, “heritable jurisdictions,” and with justice too, were swept away like cobwebs.

Section XXI. reserves the rights and privileges of royal burghs, but the Reform Bill cut them up root and branch.

Lastly, the Act of Security stipulated for the integrity of the Presbyterian Church as it stood in 1707, but in 1712 lay patronage was restored.

Let those considerations receive the weight to which they are undoubtedly entitled, and our Conservative friends will see that the Acts of Union and Security, so far from being towers of strength, are in reality little better than broken reeds. The subject may afford them scope for Jeremiads on national perfidy, but in those pages we abjure the region of sentiment, and content ourselves with the enunciation of bare facts. The Church, however, may turn round and say, that, although others may have given up their rights, they are not disposed to forego theirs; if but one plank of the Union remain they will swim upon it; and that, although lairds may have given up their right to hang their tenants, and decayed burghs have ceased the manufacture of Members of Parliament, they will cling as with the grasp of the last enemy to their hold on college and school.

To this view of the matter two or three words may be said in reply. The prospect of a privilege being defended in time to come depends very much how such privilege may have been defended in times that are past With the sweeping plenary powers that the clause above quoted gave the Church, she ought to have laid all her enemies prostrate at her feet; but, instead of holding the reins with a firm hand, she has allowed Dissent to become rampant* and now implores public aid to decimate such portions of its adherents as are more peculiarly obnoxious to her prejudices. With power over every college and school, professor, teacher, and even janitor, why did she not make one and all of them subscribe the Confession, and make hebdomadal compearance within the precincts of the parish church? Why was not old John Brown of Haddington transfixed when he began to teach secessive students? Why was the predecessor of the Right Reverend James Kyle, Bishop of Germanicia, allowed to open the Roman Catholic college of St. Mary's at Blairs? The presentation of the Confession would have made the first professors in that establishment decamp as rapidly as rats are said to flee at the sound of the bagpipe. Why, too, have the Elizaethan turrets of the Free Church College been allowed to rise from the earthen mound of Edinburgh? or the towers of the Episcopal Trinity College been permitted to fling their shadows over the solitudes of Glenalmond? A vigorous discharge of artillery might have sent Principal Cunningham over to America and W7arden Wordsworth back to the cloisters of his native England. Why not also claim jurisdiction over secular seminaries ? Why, for instance, allow Professor Dick of the Veterinary College to fulminate against the Church so loudly, when, by a skilful application of the Act of Union, he could be brought within the range of the fire of the Edinburgh Presbytery, so as to prohibit and discharge him from giving his students a single prelection on the horse, normal or abnormal—ay, and until he subscribed the tests in the presence of the judicatory now named ? Alas! the truth must be told. With the exception of the Universities and the parish schools, the Church has allowed all other places of learning to slip through her fingers. There have, indeed, been mutterings about certain High-churchmen in Elgin and Cnmpbelton having blown the dust from the Act of Union and sought to claim power over the burgh schools in virtue of its enactments, but, somehow, the zeal of provincials is always quenched by the cautious metropolitan leaden of the General Assembly, and nothing has been heard of these meditated feats of discipline for some time past Universities and parim schools, then, are the only institutions where the staff of the presbyters has been wielded. And even with them truth again compels us to state that the “statutory duty ” of the Church has been performed with singular laxity.

In the case of parish schools, of which we shall probably have more to say afterwards, the tests have been rigidly enforced; but as regards Universities, they have been exacted with great irregularity. St Andrews and Aberdeen (which, like England, has two Universities) have kept a sharp eye on professorial presentees; but Glasgow and Edinburgh, and particularly the latter, have been remiss in the extreme. The Act of Union was obviously pointed at Jacobites; but what could the descendants of the Covenanters have been about when they allowed Professor Aytoun to enter the portals of the University singing the “ Lays of the Cavaliers," whilst more than half-a-dozen prelatkt professors were there before him (one of them in English order) ready prepared, in all likelihood, to swell the chorus of—

Hey for the boots and the thumbikins!
Bat and the gallows tree,
And bang the Whigamore loons
Where Whigamore loons should be!

Where slumbered the tests when fine old Christopher North marched with stalwart step sod eagle eye to the*chair of moral philosophy in 1820? Echo answers, Where? Men thought that they had slept the sleep of death; but men who thought so were as men who dreamed, for, in 1848, a Mr. MacDoull was presented to the chair of Hebrew, and forthwith the Church came forth to battle, and ordered Mr. MacDoull to subscribe. Mr. MacDoull could have subscribed the Confession of Faith, but, being tainted with the Free Church schism, he could not conform to the workup of the Established Church, and so lost the appointment; the sacrifice being so far made up to him by the Crown afterwards conferring on him a chair in one of the “godlees colleges" in Ireland, which establishments are so unhappily constituted that sin- | cerity in religious belief does not form a bar to admission. The apology tendered by the Church for this act of intolerance was, that the Hebrew tongue being the original language of the Bible, the Hebrew chair was theological; on the same reasoning, Greek having been the language of the New Testament, Greek should be reckoned a branch of theology.

But what shall we say about St Andrews and Aberdeen, who have been found faithful amongst the faithless? Of them we shall only say that they resemble shepherds who would put on dogs collars of such circumference that the animals could doff and don them at pleasure; and yet, seeing this, the shepherds would wink at the mal-practices, provided the collars proved irksome enough to certain offensive members of the species. Let us look at the St. Andrews and Aberdeen lists. They comprise the names of gentlemen holding Oxford and Cambridge honours, who must have subscribed Anglican creeds before coming forward to subscribe Caledonian tenets (presuming all the time that they did so, of which in one recent case there can be no doubt); and therefore of what earthly use are the Scotch tests? They are as expansive as rubber where Episcopalians are concerned, the identical due whose exclusion was aimed at in their creation; while they contract like the mailed glove of Coeur de Lion when a Free Churchman or United Presbyterian comes forward, and yet both these sectaries are Presbyterian to the backbone.

The ire against the two kinds of Nonconformists referred to is founded on an apprehension that they look on the Scotch establishment with an evil eye, and that they do not regard it with placid composure is at once conceded; bat then what form of Dissent is at bottom friendly to the sect that happens to be established? There are degrees in Dissent just as there are degrees in everything; but the simple fact of separation from the State Church, by whatever party, implies hostility, passive, it may be, for a time, but still nascent. Presbytery holds temporalities possessed in the first instance by Roman Catholics, in the second by the Episcopalians, in the third partly by Free-church-men; and which, fourthly, according to the view of a large section of religionists, ought never to have been held by any community under the emu It may suit the Church to regard prelatical Dissenters as more aristocratic and less noisy than Presbyterian separatists, but the hostility of the one party is not a whit less dangerous that it is more insidious. The Scotch Puseyitee are rapidly carrying off the higher classes from the Scotch establishment; as a real branch of the Church of Christ they ignore it altogether; and had they power equivalent to their will, the whole organisation, stock, lock, and barrel, would be annexed to the Anglican Church. Upon no other theory can we account for the pertinacious assumption of dw title “ Church in Scotland,” which has of late been so extensively used. Poverty is said to make people acquainted with strange associates; and truly when Scotch Presbytery directs its best smiles on the northern followers of the Bishop of Exeter, the signs of the tune may indeed be reckoned eminous. We tell the Church in all candour, she has little need to be eclectic in her treatment of her enemies.

Much has been said in and out of Parliament ebout the religious character of the Scotch Universities, but on this point we may safely leave our readers in the hands of the Royal Commissioners who visited the colleges in 1830, And as they embraced amongst their number several sound Churchmen and Conservatives, their deliverance will be less liable to challenge on the score of laxity. In their report the Commissioners state: “There are few national institutions of long standing which have been more powerfully modified by the circumstances of the country than the Universities in Scotland; and they have undoubtedly been gradually adapted, in an eminent degree, to die particular demands upon them, arising from the circumstances of the people for whose benefit they were designed. These Universities are not now of an ecclesiastical character, or, in the ordinary acceptation of die term, ecclesiastical bodies. They are connected, it is true, with the Established Church of Scotland, the standards of which the professors meet acknowledge. Like of cherse minaries of education, they may he subject to the inspection of the Church on account of any religious opinions which may be taught in them. The professors of divinity, whose instructions are intended for the members of the Established Church, are, in their character of professors, members of the Presbytery of the bounds, and each University returns a representative to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland; but in other respects, the Universities of Scotland are not ecclesiastical institutions, not being more connected with the Church than with any other profession. They are intended for the general education of the country; and, in truth, possess scarcely any ecclesiastical feature, except that they have a certain number of professors for the purpose of teaching theology, in the same manner as other sciences are taught . . . Neither constitutions, endowments, nor provisions, for public instruction, are founded on the principle that the Universities are appendages of the Church."

In corroboration of these views we shall glance at the subjects taught in the Scotch Universities; These are divided into four faculties—arte, medicine, law, and divinity; and the number of chairs for each may be represented tubularly as under:

Arte and medicine, it will thus be seen, predominate much more than theology; and the mere fact that the licentiates of the Church are taught in the Universities no more makes them ecclesiastical institutions, than the equally pregnant fact that surgeons and physicians being educated there makes them medical institutions; or than that advocates and writers being nurtured there transmutes them into legal incorporations. Nothing can be more dissimilar in character and working than the English and Scotch Universities. No students reside within the walls of the latter, no teste are required of pupils at entrance, and Jew or Gentile may equally came off academic honours; and all that is wanted to complete their emancipation is, that the same freedom that breathes in the benches should be allowed to circulate amongst the chairs.

Most true it is that the Church has struggled hard to impress an ecclesiastical character on the Universities, but she has signally failed in the attempt. Not content with having her own system of theology taught in these institutions, she has laid an embargo on the office of principal, and held to it so firmly that only one layman (Sir David Brewster) has yet been able to obtain the appointment ; while in days gone by there was scarcely a chair vacant for which clergymen did not apply, and often obtained over and above their enres of souls. Larin, history, logic, astronomy, chemistry, rhetoric, botany, (fee, have at one time or other been held by reverend pluralist. In one notable instance the incumbent of Moffatt, a parish some forty miles distant from Edinburgh, held the chair of botany, teaching the knowledge of plants during the winter session, and inculcating the lessons of the Gospel during the other moiety of the year. Nonresidence having always been deemed more or less offensive in Scotland, the parents of the unbaptised and the expectants of matrimony complained of this irregularity; and, to prevent a rising storm, the reverend gentleman accepted a charge within six miles of the city, and was then allowed to continue his studies in phyto-botany in peace. A clerical opponent was also the procuring cause of the great excitement which took place at the induction of the late Sir John Leslie to the chair of natural philosophy in the University of Edinburgh; but the signal success of the layman, in this instance, produced such a revulsion in public opinion that scarcely a case of clerical pluralism has been permitted since. Indeed, the Low Church party, headed by Dr. Chalmers, co-operated with the liberal portion of the community out of doors, and imposed ecclesiastical penalties on such clergymen as should venture to hold a college along with a Church living.

The progress of a student from the benches to a chair will still farther illustrate the non-ecclesiastical character of the Scotch Universities. Let us suppose our neophyte to be a Unitarian, and that he selects as his alma mater the metropolitan school of learning. He enters the secretary’s office, and demands and pays for a matriculation-ticket; he then waits on the professor whose instruction he is to receive, and, in a similar manner, asks, receives, and pays for a class-ticket; and in due season presents himself amongst the other students without preliminary examination as to attainments, or one word being said about his anti-Trinitarian tenets, which, if he says nothing about them, will remain unknown, or, if known, will pass unchallenged throughout the session. If our alumnus has been a student of medicine, and distinguished himself in the department of anatomy, and the chair of that science should become vacant some years after he has finished his studies, he may reasonably aspire to its possession. If a Crown appointment, he besieges Members of Parliament; if a civic, he bombards the town council; and, after a determined struggle, He receives his presentation. Armed with this document, and backed by the college baillie, he attends the first meeting of the Senatus Academicus, and, his credentials being laid on the table, he is admitted in due form. The Church knows all the time that he is a candidate, it knows that he has received the appointment, it knows that he has been inducted, and yet does not so much as lift a little finger during the whole process. Once settled in his chair, what amount of religion does the new professor hear of? At. the opening of each session the principal delivers an address (generally literary), which is preceded by a prayer, Latin or English, as the taste of the very reverend functionary may determine ; and positively this is all the religion that a student or professor may or does come in contact with in the metropolitan institute. But- how would it fare with a party such as has how been described, had his lot been cast in the more northern seminaries, where subscription is demanded at the point of the bayonet? If our candidate were a second Joseph Priestley, and held his principles firmly and intelligently, it would fare ill with him; but if he is a man of the world, he stumbles into the meeting of the Presbytery as if by accident, lifts a pen mechanically, and, as if in a fit of absence,, subscribes his name. The poor man is signing so many papers at this particular crisis in his history that really it is no wonder if he is afterwards somewhat oblivious as to the fact whether he signed this given paper or not. He has ugly reminiscences of grave-looking gentlemen in black who offered to tender certain explanations, which he declined; he signed as a matter of form, and thought no more about it His brother professors have done the same thing, and the ink lies light on their consciences, and why should its gall penetrate his ? He troubles himself no more about the matter, and neither does the Church. “A piece of humbug,” says the professor elect; “but I am not going to lose a chair that I have fought so hard for.” “It is our statutory duty,” says the Church, “and we have done it” True, good mother; but when the new professor adheres not to your religion, but to another, or, mayhap, to no religion at all, what steps do you take to follow up your “statutory duty?” We pause for a reply.

There is a homely proverb, that carpet-bags keep out cats and honest men; and the Scotch University tests seem to partake much of the same character; not that we mean to insinuate that those who sign are dishonest. We blame the country for allowing such a law to remain in the* statute-book; we account it a crying offence that the State should place such a stumbling-block in the way, and that the Church should have the power of making the tests the only avenue of admission to the Universities. When such legislation is tolerated, men will shelter themselves-under conventionalities, and should not be blamed. But, on the other hand, whilst not condemning* those who sign, we desire to have every sympathy with those who cannot conscientiously do bo. We believe that Faraday is either a Swedenborgian or a Moravian; and we should reckon it a national loss if, through the operation of this wretched law, he should be precluded from accepting a professorship of chemistry in Scotland. That eminent men are lost to Scottish education through this cause there can he no question; but, apart from this, is it nothing to save men from die appearance of disengenuousness, and mental reservations, and the whole catalogue of ills that follow hard on all operations where hand and heart do not move, simultaneously?

These tests are exacted partially, or, where exacted wholly, they are inoperative; of what use, then, are they? Why should they longer cumber the ground ? They should be swept away. The Church may and should look after her teachers of theology (amongst which we are agreeable that the rabbis of Hebrew should be included), but she should leave arts, law and medicine to look after themselves; they are old enough to do this, and can walk: erect without ecclesiastical leading-strings. Public opinion is waxing strong on this question. County meetings may induce Conservative members to | make soporific speeches in Parliament about the "revolutionary tendency of removing time-honoured land-marks,” and, amidst the supineness that marks the discussion of Scotch questions in the Legislature, the ruse may for a time succeed; but the strong voice of public opinion will ultimately prevail. Almost every burgh in Scotland has petitioned against the tests, and the majority of the Universities have done the same. And whilst -there is strength without there is weakness within. These Church gates set up at the entrance to the Universities are waxing old and feeble; the timber is decayed, the hinges are worn to spindles, the locks and stanch-irons are rusty, and the bolts and bars are starting from their sockets.

Let the Church be wise in time, and anticipate a crisis which, sooner or later, is inevitable. The ‘Conduct of the Romanist prelates in the matter of the Irish Colleges has done more to retard the progress of Catholicism in this country than anything which has happened since the Revolution. Thousands who would have turned a deaf ear to the clamours about the Papal aggression have chimed in with the agitations regarding that movement, simply because the position which the Pope and his bishops have assumed in reference to that question has created an impression that Popery is essentially intolerant and bigoted. And is intolerance changed because it assumes the title of Protestant? The genius of the Scotch tests is, that no man can teach literature, science, law, medicine, or divinity, unless he is not merely a Presbyterian, but a Presbyterian as by law established. This is die spirit and letter of the statute; why has it not been carried out?—or, if partially carried1 out, why not enforced? When a law is not carried i into execution, it must be owing to want of will or want of power. Either horn of the dilemma warrants the demand for abrogation. Those who do not exact the tests should not seek the continuance of a law which, by their own practice, is in abeyance; those who exact knowing that what they exact is a mockery, a delusion, a pretence, and yet, knowing this, take no ulterior steps to vindicate their authority, are equally unwarranted in insisting on the perpetuation of a system which has the form but not the power of insuring conformity.

On thi3 subject we are entitled to demand the sympathy of England. Oxford and Cambridge are defended by trenches and bastions which no Presbyterian has or can, as presently constituted, surmount. Adam Smith never could have been an English professor of political economy, Robertson an English professor of history, Reid an English professor of metaphysics, Black an English professor of chemistry, or Brewster an English professor of natural philosophy. Our fences, on the contrary, have been trodden down, and natives of the sister kingdom freely admitted. No verbal construction of tests can be the cause of this, for the Scotch formula is as stringent as may be.

“I promise," says the entrant, “that I shall follow no divisive course from the present establishment in this Church, renouncing all doctrines, tenets, and opinions whatsoever, contrary to, or inconsistent with, the said doctrine, worship, discipline, or government, of this Church.” The bulwark is bristled over with spikes, but the defenders of the citadel have been remiss in their duties, and the battlements have been scaled times without number. The Church, then, should be generous, and not seek from the Kirk what she will not give in return. England should disdain to appropriate the stinted pasturage of the north so long as she keeps her own rich meadows to herself.


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