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The Awakening of Scotland
Chapter V. The Noontide of Moderatism


In the preceding chapter we have been occupied with the character of Moderatism as displayed in its administration of the Church; but the party which followed the lead of Robertson was an intellectual as well as an ecclesiastical force; and it will be well in the first place to review the progress in this direction which had previously been made.

A movement towards liberalism in religion had been arrested when the Covenant was signed in 1638,1 and it revived soon after the Covenanted theocracy had been overthrown by Cromwell in 1650 at Dunbar. The spirit which then asserted itself, which was recognised to some extent in the Revolution Settlement, and advanced to ascendency during the next sixty years, betokened a change of temper, not of bias. In other words, spirituality was developing at the expense of dogmatism, and, despite the growth of material interests, the more enlightened minds were still sufficiently interested in religion to be anxious to simplify and soften their creed. When Sir George Mackenzie penned the fine aphorism, “In religion as in heraldry, the simpler the bearing be, it is so much the purer and the ancienter”; when Leighton was described as “almost indifferent among all the professions that are called by the name of Christ”; when it could be said of Henry Scougal that he "loved goodness wherever he found it, and entertained no harsh thoughts of men merely upon their differing from him in this or that opinion”; of Nairn that he “studied to raise all that conversed with him to great notions of God and to an universal charity”; and of Charteris that he was “a great enemy to large confessions of faith, especially when imposed in the lump as tests we can trace in such pre-Revolution utterances the rise of that older Moderatism, no less devout than liberal, which did not pass finally into a new phase till Robertson and his friends published their “Reasons of Dissent” in 1752.

It is not with mere breadth of theology that we are here concerned; for the latitudinarianism of Leighton and Scougal, of Nairn and Charteris, "was a passion rather than an opinion; and the flame they had kindled from the ashes of an almost extinct fanaticism was kept alive only by their more immediate successors. In the clergy who incurred censure as Bourignonists religious emotion was indeed carried to excess; but the sentiment was happily inspired which caused them to deny "the permission of sin and the infliction of damnation and vengeance,” and to concur with Baxter in denouncing as the Devil’s agents those “who pretend to be certain that all the world are damned who are not Christians.” Very similar, though more coldly enunciated, were the tenets for which Professor Simson of Glasgow was rebuked in 1717, such as that man is not naturally insusceptible to grace, that infants and virtuous pagans will probably be saved, and that the redeemed may be expected to outnumber the lost; and the school we are considering may be said to have culminated in four divines—the last of this, the first of another, type: Leechman, Wallace, and the brothers William and George Wishart. These men were the instruments of a “memorable revolution,” which perhaps they did not wholly approve; for a new era was opening, and the enthusiasm of their temper was less contagious than the liberality of their ideas. Leechman, the youngest of the three, was no more dogmatic and little less devout than Leighton, and his appearance is said to have been that of “an ascetic monk reduced by fasting and prayer nearly to the figure of a skeleton.” As a teacher of theology, he sought to educate, not to convince, delivering “no dictatorial opinion, no infallible or decisive judgment.” Of Robert Wallace, known as “the philosopher,” we are told that “his prayers breathed a seraphic spirit,” and that his sermons were remarkable not only for originality and vigour, but for “a glow of sentiment.” The outspoken liberality of William Wishart made him a greater offence than any of his friends to those whom he termed “illiterate pious Christians"; but his critical temper kindled into impassioned earnestness when he exhorted his hearers not "to over-value things of lesser importance in religion in comparison with greater,” and to cultivate charity as "the true way to peace in the Christian Church." George Wishart, who survived till 1785, was the only member of the group whose orthodoxy was never questioned; and the ethical discourses of this “the Addison of Scottish preachers5 ’ were characterised by such Evangelical qualities as "unction" and "the warmest devotional feeling."

It was not reserved for a later time to discover the continuity of this tradition; for Dr. John Erskine, in his funeral sermon on Robertson, observed that those who ascribed to George Wishart the introduction of "a rational, accurate and useful strain of preaching" had forgotten what they owed to Leighton and Scougal; and the best known sermon of the latter was republished, with a warm commendation from William Wishart, in 1739. Nevertheless, though the Moderatism which had arisen before the Revolution, preserved much of its distinctive character to the middle of the eighteenth century, it had assimilated new elements, and was soon to alter both its bias and its tone. The rise of a liberal theology amongst the English and Irish Presbyterians was no doubt responsible in some measure for this change. It had been said of Scougal, and might with equal truth have been said of Leighton, that "there were no debates he was more cautious to meddle with than those about the decrees of God, being sensible how much Christianity had suffered by men's diving into things beyond their reach"; but the Moderates of a later day were not so diffident of their powers; and Simson, the Arminian professor of 1717, was silenced as an Arian in 1729. Charges of heresy, relating rather to reticence than to error of doctrine, were brought against Leechman, Wallace and William Wishart; orthodoxy lost much of its attraction for the young; and an Edinburgh Professor of Divinity was wont to counsel his students "to maintain a tender and charitable respect towards their fathers in the Church, whose means of education had been less ample than their own." Important, however, as this movement was, it traversed a well-worn road; and more significant for our purpose was another influence, also emanating from England, which altered— at least for a time—the whole complexion of religion by causing it to be regarded from a novel, if not from an alien, standpoint.

The third Earl of Shaftesbury, grandson of Dryden's Achitophel, was the founder of a school of ethics which looked to sentiment rather than to reason as the basis of conduct. He was an unqualified optimist, holding not only that there can be no conflict between individual and social welfare, since a certain harmony between the self-regarding and the disinterested affections is essential to both, but that man is endowed with a moral sense, instinctive, but capable of cultivation, which prompts him, just as a musician cannot but shrink from discord, to maintain this balance. Virtue is thus identified with beauty, morality with aesthetics; and from the consciousness of inward harmony, confirmed by our limited knowledge of external nature, we ascend to the conception of a “bigger world," no less exquisitely attuned, whose rhythmic cadence must, however, be but faintly audible, “whilst this muddy vesture of decay doth grossly close it in." Such doctrine, the outcome of a noble spirit and a finely cultured mind, would probably be more welcome than credible to the religious temper of our own time; but in those days theology had not capitulated to humanism; and Pope is said to have declared from personal knowledge that the writings of Shaftesbury—which furnished him with the argument of his Essay on Man—“had done more harm to Revealed Religion than all the works of infidelity put together.”  Infidels might be less courteous to revelation, but could hardly have appropriated more of its domain, and they were not so likely to obtain a hearing from those whom they sought to convince; for Shaftesbury both assented and conformed to the national religion, whilst leaving its mysteries “to be determined by the initiated or ordained,” whom he assured “in his ironical way of his steady orthodoxy and entire submission to the truly Christian and Catholic doctrines of our holy Church as by law established.” The tone of placid acquiescence is not, however, always maintained. Thus he tells us that “we must not only be in ordinary good humour, but in the best of humours, and in the sweetest, kindest disposition of our lives to understand well what true goodness is,” and that we shall then be able to judge whether we are justified in regarding as divine attributes “those forms of justice, those degrees of punishment, that temper of resentment, and those measures of offence and indignation which we vulgarly suppose in God.” In one essay he remarks that the morality of "the sacred volumes,” like their astronomy, conforms to “the then current system.” In another he points out that friendship and patriotism must be “purely voluntary in a Christian”; and the fact is thus explained: “I could almost be tempted to think that the true reason why some of the most heroic virtues have so little notice taken of them in our holy religion is because there would have been no room left for disinterestedness had they been entitled to a share of that infinite reward which providence has by revelation assigned to other virtues.” These writings were soon being read and enjoyed in many a Scottish manse. Wallace, “one of the first of our philosophical clergy,” was a great admirer of Shaftesbury’s philanthropic views, and—with perhaps even more reason—of his style; and in early life he did not always confine himself in the pulpit to "Gospel topics.” In 1724,' a year after his ordination, he scandalised Wodrow by “a fling at Confessions as imposed forms of orthodoxy, or words to that effect”; and his discourse to the General Assembly of 1730 was complained of by one of the lay members, who moved that “notice should be taken of sermons upon morality where there was nothing of Christ and the Gospel.” Another of Shaftesbury’s reputed disciples was Telfer, who died before his prime in 1731. Preaching to the Assembly, he congratulated his hearers on having escaped from the rigour of those former times, when “religion was so far driven, especially in ministers, that it was a principle they should not be conversible and should only be taken up upon serious things in common conversation.” When licensed by the Presbytery of Edinburgh in 1719, he had expressed great reluctance to sign the Confession, and he was one of a club of young ministers who were unfavourable to compulsory subscription.3 It was not, however, till Shaftesbury’s views had been expounded and systematised by Hutcheson that their influence could be widely felt. The Glasgow Professor did not imitate the ironical orthodoxy of his master, whom, indeed, he sought to represent as the enemy, not of religion, but of fanaticism; but his conception of human nature was, if possible, even further removed from the theological standpoint; for, whilst he maintained that God had implanted "in mankind a relish for a beauty in character, in manners," he insisted more strongly than Shaftesbury that the pleasure to be derived from virtuous emotion does not detract from its disinterestedness. The law of benevolence was in his opinion as universal as that of gravitation; and of each of these tendencies it could be affirmed that it “increases as the distance is diminished, and is strongest where bodies came to touch each other." One can hardly imagine anything more opposed to the ideas of the pulpit than such language as this: “I doubt we have made philosophy as well as religion by our foolish management of it so austere and ungainly a form that a gentleman cannot easily bring himself to like it, and those who are strangers to it can scarcely bear to hear our description of it." Gentlemen—even philosophical gentlemen—being but refined products of nature, it had hitherto been supposed that they could not comprehend spiritual things.

Hutcheson was appointed to the Glasgow Chair of Moral Philosophy in 1729. This was the year in which Simson was suspended; and, as he had continued to inculcate the opinions too favourable to nature and reason for which he had been censured in 1717, we may assume that the local theology had anticipated, to some extent, the new system of ethics. The ardour and eloquence of Hutcheson made an extraordinary impression on his pupils, and his influence was soon apparent in the Church. Students of divinity who attended his lectures —and there were students who attended them for as many as six years—were indeed advised to cultivate a plain and practical style of preaching and to avoid both rhetoric and “high speculations”; but the spirit he had aroused could not always be thus controlled; and not a few pulpits were captured by men who talked of virtue, liberality and benevolence, where their predecessors had talked of grace, charity and holiness, who extolled the righteousness—under another name—which was officially assumed to be “as filthy rags,” and some of whom, preferring the master to his disciple, avowed their admiration for Lord Shaftesbury, and mystified their country flocks by discoursing on his "harmony of the passions." Preachers of this type referred more frequently to Socrates and Plato than to St. Paul; but one of them, by way of commending the Apostle of the Gentiles, is said to have remarked that he “had an university education, and was instructed in logic by professor Gamaliel"; and another pointed out that though Paul Caused Felix to tremble, this effect was produced, not by an appeal to passion, but “as he reasoned of righteousness.”  These were the “paganised Christian divines,” of whom Dr. Erskine in 1743 complained to Warburton; and as early as 1734 we find the General Assembly, then alarmed by the Secession, calling upon ministers to insist on Gospel themes, and “to let their hearers know that they must first be grafted into Christ as their root before their fruit can be savoury unto God".

On the death of Simson, eleven years after his pension, Hutcheson sought to procure the Glasgow Chair of Divinity for his pupil Leechman; and he succeeded when another vacancy occurred in 1743. A recent writer has left us a brilliant picture of the theology from which Scotland at this period was but beginning to emerge—a theology so uncritical that it could extract Calvinism out of Canticles or Amos, and could find material for a whole course of sermons in a single verse, so literal and so crude that it recorded the deliberations of the Trinity in the language of a Presbytery clerk, and associated the Atonement "cwith the proceedings of a sheriff’s court.” Thomas Boston, the minister of Ettrick, had died so recently as 1732; and this “most affectionate parent but most remorseless divine "was wont to justify the damnation of infants on such grounds as these:“ Just as men do with toads and serpents, which they kill at first sight, before they have done any hurt, because of their venomous nature, so it is in this case.” The reticence and elevation of Leechman were better fitted than the laboured apologetics of Simsojn to restore the reputation of studies which had been so strangely abused; but no one who is acquainted with Leechman5s life and character can doubt that he belonged essentially to the older school, which sought to spiritualise, not to humanise, which realised the emptiness rather than the fulness of life—the saintly, not the gentlemanly, school.

Thus perhaps may we distinguish between the Moderatism which had originated in the seventeenth century and that which was a product of the eighteenth.

In course of time the two currents mingled, and a temper was formed which in many cases represented the best elements of both; but as late as 1767 they were still so distinct that the influence of Principal Hamilton, who had succeeded Carstares as leader of the Church, was thus recalled—apparently in contrast with that of Hutcheson—by one of his pupils. “He taught us moderation and a liberal manner of thinking upon all subjects. His friends and favourites were—not the smarts and clever fellows—not the flimsy superficial gentlemen, who, having picked up somewhat of the English language, can read another’s sermon with a becoming grace—but such as had drawn their knowledge from the sources of ancient learning and the Scriptures in the original languages, and who by a gravity and decorum of behaviour did recommend the religion they taught.” And in another passage the writer’s standpoint is no less clearly disclosed: “I was truly ashamed to hear speakers in our General Assembly, from whom better things might be expected, confine the regard which lay-gentlemen may be supposed to have for their ministers to their being men of conversation, and possessed of the other superficial accomplishments which fit them for what is called good company.” 

The question which had provoked this protest of the old Moderatism against the new was that of patronage. We have seen that the two schools were by no means at one on this subject, and that Robertson and his friends won their way to ascendency as vigorous upholders of the law. The old Moderates looked with repugnance on patronage as an intrusion of secular, if not of political, influence into the spiritual domain, and they shrank from the harshness and oppression which its exercise involved.

The new Moderates, themselves a product of this system, were humanists rather than divines, citizens rather than Churchmen; and, anxious as they were to eliminate the theocratic element, they had no scruple in enforcing a statute which at the worst could but swell the ranks of tolerated dissent. This, however, was a question rather of method than of principle; and it was not till Home’s Douglas was staged at Edinburgh in 1756 that a clear and deliberate issue was raised between the old and the new ideas. It is possible that the “ modern fine ministers” may unconsciously have been more zealous for the intellectual than for the religious interests of Scotland; but, though deserted by the Moderate leader, Cuming, they had the private support of allace, and the religion supposed to have been imperilled cannot have been very robust. If Home's tragedy could be characterised as an “abomination,” it was certainly one of a very solemn and serious kind; and nothing better illustrates the illiberality of sentiment which the vanguard of Moderatism had ventured to assail than the attempt made to show that the stage was so contrary in itself to Christian principles that no advance in propriety could redeem it from reproach—much less such an advance as was supposed to have been attained m this play.

The true Christian, it was argued, acknowledged a perpetual obligation to cultivate that practical and contemplative piety by which alone he could glorify God. Amusement was a confession of weakness, and lawful only in so far as it tended to refresh the mind, its use being precisely the same as that of sleep. To frequent the theatre must, therefore, be a sin, because dramatic representation savoured of “pomp and gaiety,” consumed more time than was necessary for mere recreation, and had, moreover, a contrary effect, since it was calculated to excite the emotions. Such mental stimulus had, indeed, been defended as a means of moral education; but the Bible, expounded by faithful pastors, was sufficient for this purpose, and none but scoffers could "pretend to open up a new commission for the players to assist.” Douglas was asserted by its admirers to be a most edifying drama, but it contained “more than enough to disgust every Christian mind.’’ It was intolerable that imaginary characters should quote Scripture, though in the most reverent spirit, and still more intolerable that they should profane a "piece of divine worship” by pretending to pray. Lord Randolph is represented “as belching out an oath in these words, By heaven,” and blasphemes “ the operations of the Lord’s hand” in his reference to a destiny “ which oft decrees an undeserved doom.” Lady Randolph is a dissembler and ultimately commits suicide, and her career is quite in keeping with its shameful close. She ignores the penalty of original sin in exclaiming, “What had I done to merit such affliction?”—implies her disbelief in “winding-sheets of wrath,” when she welcomes the grave as the only remedy for human ills, and fills up the measure of her iniquity in these impious lines

“Nor has despiteful fate permitted me
The comfort of a solitary sorrow.”

There was something so wicked, so peculiar, and so novel in this reflection against Jehovah that “I question,” wrote a pamphleteer, “if anything can bear a nearer resemblance to the blasphemy of devils and damned spirits in the pit of wrath. Nor can I doubt of the dramatist having in this, as in different other particulars through the play, been inspired by temptation from below."

Such was the protest of those—not the wisest of their school—who proposed to detain under an incubus of theological nightmare the awakening energies of literature and art. Home and his friends by extorting such an avowal from the more intemperate of their opponents had raised a far larger question than one of clerical decorum; and the Church, which had dallied with humanism whilst professing to maintain its Puritan tradition, had come at last to the parting of the ways. Perhaps the writer did not greatly overrate the significance of the crisis who could not “help numbering the tragedy of Douglas and the circumstances attending it amongst the most remarkable occurrences that have ever happened in this country.” At all events, Carlyle had good reason to congratulate himself on the measures he had taken to protect ‘c the rising liberality of the young scholars”: “Of the many exertions I and my friends have made for the credit and interest of the clergy of the Church of Scotland, there was none more meritorious or of better effects than this.”

It does not fall within the compass of this work to review the literary movement which reflected such lustre on the emancipated Church; but the ecclesiastical demerits of Moderatism have been so much insisted on in these pages that it would be unfair not to allude, however briefly, to its intellectual triumphs. We shall find that Scotland at this period had thrown off the sleep of ages and was devoting herself with extraordinary vigour to the development of her trade, manufactures, and agriculture; and the revival of letters which synchronised, and for a time kept pace, with the march of industry, must be regarded as a manifestation of the same national spirit. Before 1750 such signs of material prosperity as had yet appeared were confined mainly to the valley of the Clyde. Elsewhere the efforts made to stimulate enterprise were more conspicuous than their success; and, despite the growth of one important manufacture, pamphleteers as late as 1745 were suggesting means “to prevent our utter ruin" or to retrieve our “declining and sinking condition." In the world of thought brighter prospects prevailed; but here too the characteristic of the period was preparation, not achievement; and it was not till after 1750 that the literary reputation of Scotland was established by a group of writers, the foremost of whom, with the exception of Hume, were born about 1720.

English in Scotland was a written, not a spoken, language; and before the Union, when political and ecclesiastical pamphlets were the chief products of the press, the art of composition was little studied. It was the essays of Steele and Addison—which "had a prodigious run all over the three kingdoms"—that first gave rise to the cultivation of style. Various papers of a similar kind were started in succession at Edinburgh; and the Tatler, the first of these, was the work of a precocious youth who kept it alive for some six months in 1711, when Steele’s paper of the same name had ceased, and the Spectator had not yet appeared. The young men, chiefly lawyers and clergymen, who made or encouraged such efforts, formed associations—notably one of which Wallace was a member, meeting at Ranken’s tavern, and hence known as the Rankenian Club. It was founded in 1716, and continued to be a focus of light and liberalism for nearly fifty years. The Rankenians studied philosophy as well as literature, and maintained an animated correspondence with Bishop Berkeley, who, though they pushed his system to an “amazing length,” is said to have declared that nobody understood it better “than this set of young gentlemen in North Britain.” 

In 1754, when this venerable society had perhaps survived its vigour, the Select Society was formed, chiefly through the exertions of Allan Ramsay, son of the poet, and of Wedderburn, who was its first chairman. It met every Wednesday evening from November to August in the Advocates’ Library, and, permitting itself to discuss all topics but Jacobitism and revealed religion, was more a school of oratory than of letters. Charles Townshend, after taking part in one of the debates, twitted the members with being unable to speak, though they could write, English, and suggested that they should employ an interpreter. Two years later, in 1761, Thomas Sheridan, father of the dramatist and politician, visited Edinburgh as a teacher of elocution; professors, judges and ministers thronged to his lectures;1 and the Select Society, mindful of Townshend’s jibe, appointed certain directors, of whom Robertson was one, to promote "the reading and speaking of the English language in Scotland.” Scotsmen, desirous of acquiring the correct English accent, might perhaps have found a better tutor than one whose nationality was betrayed by his brogue. If we may judge from the fragment preserved by Lord Campbell, Sheridan’s rules of pronunciation cannot have been easy to comprehend, much less to apply; and one is not surprised to learn that, when the Select orators essayed to speak as they had been taught, the result was a perfect babel, and few of them persevered in the attempt for more than twenty-four hours. A Mr. Leigh was, however, engaged at the Society’s expense “to teach the pronunciation of the English tongue with propriety and grace.” 

The founders of this club had projected at the same time another outlet for their activity in the Edinburgh Review. The only two numbers that were published— the first with a preface by Wedderburn—appeared in July and in December, 1755; and Robertson, Blair and Adam Smith were the chief contributors. A medical association had existed in Edinburgh since 1731, and, eight years later, it was reconstituted on a wider basis as the Philosophical Society. In 1783 it supplied the nucleus of a still larger body which was incorporated as the Royal Society of Edinburgh. Glasgow too had its debating clubs, and its literary society, of which Leechman was a member; and a similar body existed in Aberdeen.

Meanwhile the strenuous mental cultivation, of which but an inadequate idea can be obtained from these facts, had rewarded its votaries with an abundant harvest. The latter half of the eighteenth century, which witnessed an immense advance in the material condition of Scotland, was also, as the reader need hardly be reminded, the most brilliant epoch in the history of her literature and science. Nowhere but in France was there so rich and varied an efflorescence of genius. The England of that day produced no such philosopher as Hume; no such opponent of his scepticism as Campbell; no such historians—to adopt the contemporary verdict— as Hume and Robertson; no such tragic dramatist as Home; no poet of such European reputation as Macpherson; no such novelist as Smollett; no such biographer as Boswell; no such preacher as Blair; no such economist as Adam Smith; no such geologist as Hutton; no such surgeon as Hunter; no such physician as Cullen; no such chemist as Black; no such engineer as Watt; and it was within this period that Eobert Burns, the finest and fullest embodiment of his country’s genius, lived and died. Many other names—most of them once familiar to foreign ears—are associated with the literary fame of Scotland in this short-lived culmination of her intellectual life—Karnes, Monboddo, Hailes, Reid, Gerard, Beattie, Adam Ferguson, Wilkie, Watson, Henry, Somerville, Mackenzie, Stewart; and of one who is now perhaps the least remembered of these, it may be mentioned that Watson’s History of Philip II was translated into French, German and Dutch, and had reached a seventh edition before it was superseded by the researches of Prescott. One can readily credit the saying which Carlyle relates of the Russian princess whom he met at Buxton: "Of all the sensible men I have met with in my travels through Europe, yours at Edinburgh are the most sensible” and the remark of Voltaire on reading Karnes’s Elements of Criticism was scarcely more ironical than true: "It is an admirable result of the progress of the human spirit that at the present time it is from Scotland we receive rules of taste in all the arts—from the epic poem to gardening.” This period, interposed between the twilight of the Covenant and the dawn of the Disruption, has been termed “the midnight of the Church.” The sun of righteousness had, it seems, set; but that luminary in Scotland has always emitted more heat than light; and during those hours of darkness, whose coolness was welcome to a sleepless industry, it must have been consoling to see the literary firmament illumined with so many brilliant stars. Moderatism was, indeed, the master spirit; for it ever insisted that a creature so variously endowed as man has other faculties to develop than that which is technically termed his soul; and all the divines who distinguished themselves as philosophers and historians belonged, without exception, to this school. If the Church had continued to be ruled on the principles of those who wrote against Douglas, there would have been no toleration for Ilume; Robertson, instead of adhering to his motto, Vita sine Literis Mors, would have been absorbed in what Shaftesbury called ‘ ‘ the heroic passion of saving souls", and the General Assembly would never have listened to such a speech as this: “Who have wrote the best histories, ancient and modern? It has been clergymen of this Church. Who has wrote the clearest delineation of the human understanding and all its powers?—a clergyman of this Church. Who has written the best system of rhetoric and exemplified it by his own orations?—a clergyman of this Church. Who wrote a tragedy that has been deemed perfect?—a clergyman of this Church. Who was the most profound mathematician of the age he lived in?—a clergyman of this Church. Who is his successor in reputation as in office? Who wrote the best treatise on agriculture? Let us not complain of poverty; for it is a splendid poverty indeed! It is paupertas jecunda virorum.”

It must, however, be admitted that there were characteristics of the New Moderatism which provided good material for satire. One of these was exhibited, as we have seen, in 1752 by certain “fiery charioteers” ; and Witherspoon was happily inspired when, after the deposition of Gillespie in that year, he essayed “to open the mystery of moderation,” and to point out “a plain and easy way of attaining to the character of a moderate man as at present in repute in the Church of Scotland.” The aspirant to this distinction was desired “to take notice that it is an observation of Lord Shaftesbury that the best time for thinking upon religious subjects is when a man is merry and in good humour; and so far is this observation drawn from nature that it is the time commonly chosen for this purpose by many who have never heard of his lordship or his writings.” Thinking upon religion, when he thinks upon it at all, in this genial mood, the moderate divine will naturally befriend its reputed enemies, such as heretics—who are commonly able and learned—and men of loose life, particularly if their looseness takes the form of “good-humoured vices." Wickedness no more than heresy can be combated till it is understood; and how is a minister to understand it “unless he either practises it himself (but much of that will not yet pass in the world) or allows the wicked to be bold in his presence.” Sailors are known by their rolling gait, tailors by the shrug of their shoulders; but a minister, superior to such mean employments, should see that there is nothing to distinguish him as such in his dress, his manner or conversation— unless, indeed, he should think it worth while to argue “in an easy and genteel manner against swearing.” In the pulpit his sermons must be of the paganised Christian type, and cannot be allowed to be good unless they are utterly distasteful to the people. Scripture, being somewhat austere and mystical, he must use with caution. As it is almost impossible to be anything but orthodox in prayer, he will do well “to deal as little that way as possible”; and he should study with great care certain philosophical works, the sum and substance of which may be thus expressed : “I believe in the beauty and comely proportions of Dame Nature, and in Almighty Fate, her only parent and guardian; for it hath been most graciously obliged (blessed be its name) to make us all very good.” When called upon to take part in the settlement of a parish, he should not be misled by an unfortunate utterance of Lord Shaftesbury—testifying to the imperfection even of that great man—that it “belongs to men of slavish principles to affect a superiority over the vulgar and to despise the multitude.” On the contrary, he should defer entirely to the patron and noble heritors, who, as they seldom attend Church, must be disinterested judges of “preaching gifts"; and he should have no scruple in coercing those stupid and stubborn zealots who oppose patronage, and profess to have a conscience when better people are content with a “moral sense.” “However a horse might be managed, which is a generous creature, nobody could think of another method to make an ass move but constantly to belabour its sides.”

This clever skit was sufficiently lifelike to ensure its success as a caricature; and we are fortunate in possessing a contemporary document, which enables us in some measure to test its truth. The polished and singularly handsome minister of Inveresk, a graceful dancer and a formidable golfer, who had opened to his brethren the portals of the theatre and had set them "the first example of playing cards at home with unlocked doors,” was the social, as Robertson was the official, head of the New Moderatism; and the reader who turns from Witherspoon to Carlyle as revealed in his Autobiography is likely to recall a remark of the satirist: “I remember an excellent thing said by a gentleman in commendation of a minister, that he had nothing at all of the clergyman about him.” Much as we read in these fascinating pages of fine dinners,” “fine women” and fine scenery, religion, except in the convivial form of Assembly politics, is never mentioned. Carlyle, indeed, writes so entirely as a man of the world, and is obviously so convinced that his office demands no other tone that the unimaginative reader may find it difficult to think of him as the occupant of a pulpit. For example, he tells us that in 1756 the Carriers’ Inn began to be frequented by members of the General Assembly, who called it the Diversorium. He and John Home suspected that it was the handsome landlady who attracted their friends, but found that she was ‘'an honest woman’5 who had secured their custom by getting her husband “to lend them two or three guineas on occasions." Detained on his way to Inveraray by the artifices of another landlady no less astute, he gives her whisky and prevails upon her “to taste it without water.” When Carlyle’s friends are removed, they are not “called away,” they do not depart this life, or even die. They succumb to fate. On the death of Lord Drummore, more estimable as a judge and as a man than as a ruling elder, we have this charitable, but somewhat unexpected, comment: “After Lord Drummore became a widower, he attached himself to a mistress, which to do so openly as he did was at that time reckoned a great indecorum, at least in one of his age and reverend office. This was all that could be laid to his charge, which, however, did not abate the universal concern of the city and country when he was dying.” The clergy whom Carlyle met at Harrogate were in general “ divided into bucks and prigs ’ ’; and it is characteristic of him that he preferred the former because, “though inconceivably ignorant and sometimes indecent in their morals,” they were “ unassuming and had no other affectation but that of behaving themselves like gentlemen.” The friends of his host and hostess at Newcastle were not attractive; but “two or three of their clergy could be endured, for they played well at cards, and were not pedantic.” On one occasion we find him commending for preferment to the Duke of Queensberry a “handsome young man and fine preacher,” who, however, “might be greatly improved in taste and elegance of mind and manners by a free entree to Lady Douglas.”

Here truly was an agreeable religion, and, if any gentleman could not “bring himself to like it,” he must have been hard to please; but Hutcheson, the first expounder of its charms, had declared that the law of benevolence was as universal in the ethical, as that of gravitation in the physical, world; and one could wish that Carlyle had been less of an exception to the rule. With all its high spirits and zest for life, the Autobiography can hardly be described as genial; for the writer, though loyal to his chosen friends, is a critical admirer of his comrades, and a very uncritical hater of his foes. Jealousy of Robertson, if not of Blair, seems to have prompted such passages as that in which he alludes to their "imaginary importance"; and he describes his opponent Webster—the amiable Dr. Bonum Magnum— as one “who had no bowels and who could do mischief with the joy of an ape.” 

When Carlyle was presented to Inveresk in 1748, he tells us that "there arose much murmuring in the parish against me as too young, too full of levity, and too much addicted to the company of my superiors”; and, nine years later, we find him described as one who scarcely acknowledged God “out of the pulpit,” preached borrowed sermons, was slack in parochial visitation and discipline, spent the whole Sunday, except when at Church, in calling at country houses and "gallanting the ladies," played cards for money, danced and drank to excess, and delighted in profane songs, such as "De’il stick the minister.” This description was penned by the wild pamphleteer who declared that the Canongate theatre ought to be razed to the ground and its site salted with brimstone; and, but for the witness of Carlyle against himself, it would be entitled to small respect. There is reason, however, to believe that the Carlyle of the Autobiography—gay, convivial and combative—was not the whole man. His epitaph, written by Adam Ferguson, asserts that he was “faithful to his pastoral charge, not ambitious of popular applause, but to the people a willing guide in the ways of righteousness and truth”; and the words may be an exception to the mendacity of tombstones. Many of his parishioners were living at the beginning of Victoria’s reign, and we are told that they cherished his memory and always spoke of him “with unfeigned admiration.” In 1790, when the establishment of Sunday schools was regarded by his party with the greatest suspicion, he exerted himself with success to form such an institution in his parish. It is a testimony to his repute as a pastor that his church became over-crowded, and a further proof of his zeal that, after a dozen years’ struggle with his heritors, he procured the erection, though he did not live to see the completion, of the present structure. That his relations with local Dissent were cordial may be inferred from the fact that his people were temporarily accommodated in a Burgher chapel.

As a revelation of character, the Autobiography must no doubt be preferred to external facts; but we may easily exaggerate the historical significance of this entei-taining book; for men such as Carlyle were probably more conspicuous than common. It is noteworthy that the choice of a minister to preach to the General Assembly had never been opposed till the duty was assigned to him in 1760j1 that Robertson, on retiring from the leadership, showed no disposition to consult with him as his successor "further than saying that he intended to do it"; and that he was defeated in his candidature for the Assembly Clerkship, chiefly, as he believed, owing to the timidity of his friends. Happily, another minister of the same school has left us an account of his life; and those who desire to appreciate the normal temper of Moderatism will turn with more profit to Jedburgh than to Inveresk. It could not be claimed for Thomas Somerville that he had no vital interest but that of "saving souls"; for he was both an historian and a political pamphleteer; he loved good society and an occasional "jaunt”; he was attracted, "perhaps to a culpable degree,” by the stage; and, in describing a visit of three months to London, he writes: "I spent the evenings, when not engaged at private families, either at the theatre or one of the beer-houses, as they were then called, which exhibited diversity of characters, particularly those in lower life.” Nothing, however, can be more bracing and wholesome than the atmosphere of these memoirs; for the writer reveals minister of Inveresk: “From a perusal of the Kirk Session and Parochial Board Minutes, I find that Carlyle was faithful to his pastoral charge, as his epitaph declares. He was much more amongst his people than his Autobiography leads one to imagine; and his interest in the poorest of his flock is noteworthy.”

Somerville’s Own Life and Times, pp. 113, 141, 234, 241. It is characteristic of Somerville’s liberality that he proposed to extend the benefits of his measure to the Seceders. At the present daj one ran appreciate the full force of his remark (p. 218): “I did not believe it possible that any religious sect could llourish or even continue to exist without the countenance of the fair sex.”flimsy taste was soon checked"; and Sir Henry Moncreiff, in his Life of Erskine, published in 1818, admits that "for more than half a century neither Hutcheson nor Shaftesbury has found his way to a pulpit in Scotland.” In seeking to justify his strictures in point of doctrine, Witherspoon asserted that the fundamental dogmas of Calvinism — original sin and imputed righteousness—were “little to be heard”; and this, doubtless, was true. Theology was almost as distasteful to the educated class then as it is now; and the style of preaching differed little from that which one understands to be general at the present day. There was no attempt to excite religious terrorism; and, though moral duties and graces were the principal theme, they were enforced by constant and even pathetic appeals to the life and teaching, the death and resurrection of Christ. The once famous sermons of Blair, which, being wholly unread, are now remembered only by their condemnation at a time when dogmatism had temporarily resumed its sway, were not altogether an exception to this rule. There are at least not a few of these discourses which cannot justly be described as “one grain of the gospel dissolved into a large cooling draught of moral disquisition”; and Blair’s work as a whole may fairly be summed up in the words of his funeral sermon: "Standing on the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, he exhibited the doctrines of Christ in their genuine purity, separated from the dross of superstition.” Carlyle was certainly no theologian, and he confesses that David Hume accused him on one occasion of preaching “heathen morality.” Yet an Evangelical divine, referring to the divinity and atonement of Christ, could say : “I am well assured few have been more plain in preaching these important peculiar doctrines of Christianity than the clergyman who boasted it had been the great business of his life to preserve the Church of Scotland from fanaticism.” 

Of all the Moderate ministers whose sermons have been preserved, the most mundane in choice of subject and the most unconventional in treatment was Samuel Charters, the neighbour and intimate friend of Somerville and his relation by marriage; and in him the reaction from florid luxuriance reached its limit. Grave and dignified in manner, a delightful companion and a warmhearted friend, he has been described as “a splendid sample of the ecclesiastic of ancient days.” He was offered, but refused, an important charge in Glasgow, and for more than half a century was content to be the pastor of a remote Border parish, aiming at no distinction but that of having formed around him a pious, enlightened and tolerant people. In the pulpit he cultivated a curiously abrupt, disconnected and aphoristic style, and made no scruple about what he called “doing for the Gospel what Socrates did for philosophy, bringing it from the clouds to the earth.” His sermon on alms-giving, which was more than once printed, is full of sage maxims and apt illustrations drawn from a wide knowledge of books and life. On another occasion, preaching from the words of Amos to Hezekiah, ‘‘ Set thine house in order, for thou shalt die and not live,” he begins thus:

"In the following discourse I shall propose reasons for making a testament without delay, and then mention the things that should be attended to in making one"; and, after observing that his principal appeal was to those who had property to dispose of, he concludes: “The hearer, who is more immediately concerned, and who is now resolved, can retire this evening and make his will." Charters was deeply religious, and if he chose frequently such commonplace topics, it was not from want of power. Reviewing a small collection of his sermons in 1811, Dr. Chalmers, who had then just entered on his Evangelical phase, said that they disclosed “an understanding of the higher order, where there is often great depth of observation and great vigour and brilliancy of eloquence,” and that, though not explicitly dogmatic, they were "animated by the life and inspiration of the gospel." In their simplicity, homeliness, and force he found points of comparison with Wordsworth, Franklin and Bacon. The minister of Wilton was rewarded with the “regular, peaceful, serious attention” of his parishioners; and admirable indeed were his devotedness and self-repression. “They only,” he once said, ‘‘who have tried to instruct the ignorant know how much labour it requires, and how often the man of taste must deny himself, blunting the edge of his wit, dropping the grace of composition, breaking his large round period in pieces, making vulgar similes, and using words which shock the critic.” 

At a time when ministers of this school preached so few of the doctrines they professed to believe, their relation to the Confession of Faith was naturally a subject of uneasiness and sarcastic comment. Writing as the ironical exponent of Moderatism, Witherspoon observed that a document "framed in times of hot religious zeal," and so unsuited to “these cool and refreshing days” that it was seldom mentioned without a sneer, could be signed only in token of compliment; "and our subscriptions have this advantage above forms of compliment in point of honesty, that we are at a great deal of pains usually to persuade the world that we do not believe what we sign.” There were some grounds for this sarcasm. Early in the eighteenth century a movement in favour of doctrinal freedom had made rapid progress amongst the English and Ulster Presbyterians, and we have seen that it had asserted itself north of the Tweed.2 In 1736 a member of the Congregational Church at Nottingham was accused of heresy by his pastor, who had learned intolerance in Scotland and seems to have converted his vestry into a kirk-session; and, on his refusal to accept in its entirety the orthodox definition of the Trinity, the unhappy man, who had become bankrupt in goods, if not in faith, was first suspended from communion and then expelled. John Taylor, Presbyterian minister at Norwich, published an account of this incident,3which he stigmatised as a piece of "Dissenting Popery”; and in 1740 the same divine dealt a blow at Calvinism, from which perhaps it never wholly recovered, by confuting on Scriptural grounds its dogma of original sin. Taylor combined the fervour of a saint with the culture and liberality of a scholar; and, in dedicating a later work to his congregation, he addressed them thus: "Reject all slavish principles with disdain. Neither list yourselves nor be pressed into the service of any sect or party whatsoever. Be only Christians and follow only God and truth.” Probably through the influence of Leechman, with whom he had long corresponded, he was made a Doctor of Divinity of Glasgow in 1757.

The general attitude of Moderatism towards religious speculation indicated neglect rather than desire for progress; but theological interests still survived, where they had once been dominant, in the west; and in this district, which had been influenced by Simson and was in frequent communication with Ulster, the teaching of Taylor met with a ready response. The most zealous disciple was Alexander Ferguson, who had been ordained as early as 1720 to the parish of Kilwinning; and in 1767 this aged minister made profession of his heterodoxy in the Scots Magazine. His letter, the authorship of which was no secret, is an exposition of the theme that the Bible and theology have little in common, and it deals severely with those who will not be at the trouble to study Scripture for themselves and “espouse a system as the easiest and shortest way to commence divines.” The depravity of human nature and the doctrine of a vicarious sacrifice are both expressly denied. “No sentiment can be more unworthy of God than to think that he creates intelligent creatures sinners. He makes us upright and we make ourselves sinners.” That there might be no question from whom he had derived these opinions, the writer refers to “that great and good man, Mr. Taylor” and in an appendix, suggested by the scruples of some of his brethren with regard to the Confession of Faith, he defends subscription on the plea that "every man must be supposed to sign as agreeable to Scripture.” The editor at first refused to publish this manifesto; and it was only after he had tested public feeling by printing it partially, and then in full, on the cover of his magazine that he consented, with many apologies, to reproduce it in permanent form.1 Its reception by the Church was far from justifying his fears. Orthodoxy was indeed championed by a certain town-drummer; but the Presbytery disposed of him as “not immediately concerned and illiterate”; and, having appointed a committee to examine Ferguson, they declared themselves satisfied with his replies.

The parishioners of Kilwinning had adopted the opinions of their pastor; and henceforth the religious life of Ayrshire was enlivened by a conflict between conservative and liberal ideas or, in local parlance, the Old Light and the New Light. The spirit of rationalism must have made considerable progress within the next twenty years; for John Goldie, “dread of black coats and reverend wigs,” to whom Burns addressed his Epistle in 1785, seems to have been a precursor of Thomas Paine, and the essays in which he attacked revealed religion went into a second edition and were known as “ Goudie’s Bible.” Taylor’s Scripture Doctrine of Original Sin was mentioned by Burns as one of the books he had read in boyhood; and the ancient ark of dogmatism, labouring heavily in controversial seas, offered a tempting mark to the young poet, whose pungent raillery it could neither silence nor evade. Argument, however, was not to be superseded by ridicule; and, whilst New Light ministers were encouraging the sharp-shooter and applauding his palpable hits, one of their number was more actively employed.

In 1786 Dr. M‘Gill, one of the ministers of Ayr, published an elaborate and eloquent treatise, in which he combated the orthodox view of the Atonement, and in so doing made considerable inroads on the supernatural domain. It was through the excellencies of his life and character—excellencies which he shared, though in a higher degree of efficacy, with “good men in general”—that Christ was able to procure pardon for sinners; and the indignities he suffered and his death “were not the chief and ultimate ends of our Saviour's mission, nor any direct ends of it at all, but only incidental calamities.” Christ had, indeed, given his life for mankind, but only in the sense in which a patriot, falling in the moment of victory, may be said to have given his for his country. The argument from prophecy, as then understood, was thus abandoned; and a disbelief in the deity of Christ, implied in the whole tenor of the book, was supposed to be avowed in several passages —notably in one which suggested that the agony of Jesus in the Garden might “arise in part from an apprehensiveness about the difficulty of maintaining a becoming temper and deportment under such inexperienced and awful trials as did now present themselves to him.” 

A refutation of this treatise was attempted in several pamphlets, but no notice was taken of it in the ecclesiastical courts till the author in 1788 published a reply to a printed sermon, in which he was taxed with “shameless impudence and unparalleled baseness,” since he “with one hand received the privileges of the Church, while with the other he was endeavouring to plunge the keenest poniard into* her heart.” M‘Gill may have proved that to enforce assent to a scheme of doctrine constructed by certain fallible men out of inspired writings was “altogether wrong” ; but, as in point of fact certain other fallible men had done this, he was less successful in showing how he could honestly subscribe an interpretation of Scripture which differed in many respects so widely from his own. In 1789 the Synod of Glasgow and Ayr took action on a complaint of heresy; and after the lapse of a year, during which the case was twice remitted from the Synod to the Presbytery, and as many times from the Presbytery to the Synod, it ended where it had begun with a "declaration and apology " from the accused, in which he expressed regret for the manner in which he had treated certain doctrines, including “the original and essential dignity of the Son of God” and the Atonement, and declared his belief in those great articles as they were laid down in the standards of this Church. The Synod gave “thanks unto God” for so happy a conclusion of its labours, and thus aggravated its iniquity in the eyes of an orthodox pamphleteer, who described the whole affair as “one of the most awful tragedies ever acted on the stage of time.” 

The heterodox tenets disclosed in this case seem to have prevailed mainly, if not exclusively, in the west of Scotland; but Moderatism, as a whole, had reduced theology to the narrowest limits; and M‘Gill may have been justified in assuming that the bulk of his party concurred with him in his attitude towards the Confession. For some years before he retired from the Assembly in 1780, the more violent followers of Robertson had become dissatisfied with his leadership; and he himself told Sir Henry Moncreiff that there was no proposal which caused him more uneasiness and exposed him to more annoyance than that for abolishing subscription. He refused to countenance this scheme, but “was so much teased with remonstrances on the subject that he mentioned them as having at least confirmed his resolution to retire.” 

If in this respect the policy of Robertson gave offence to the more liberal of his party, there was another in which it was condemned as too lax. In his opinion, as afterwards in that of Lord Cockburn, the weakness of the General Assembly as a court of justice was “its essential defect”; and, though he might not have concurred in that judge’s assertion that “nothing can ever make a mob of 300 people a safe tribunal for the decision of private causes,” he was at least convinced that great vigilance and method were necessary to achieve that result. Hence in all cases affecting the moral character of the clergy he insisted that the procedure in every detail must conform to fixed rules, and that the evidence of guilt must be not only convincing but technically complete. This principle may have been as salutary as it was novel; but we have seen that Robertson’s zeal in promoting patronage was in marked contrast to his caution in enforcing discipline, and that a revolt, due to both of these causes, took place amongst his followers in 1765. The leader of this movement, which had the support of Cuming and found expression in the Schism Overture, was the Ex-Moderator Oswald; and in a pamphlet written by this minister it is stated that the dissentients had not “once muttered” against their leader “till he gave his countenance and aid to an old fornicator,” and did not openly rebel till “a fixed resolution seemed to be taken to make the sacred office pass current by the mere will and pleasure of men in power, like the office of the meanest exciseman, and at the same time to baffle all attempts to purge the Church of corrupt and scandalous members by insisting upon the necessity of what is called Legal Evidence.”

However Moderatism may have acquitted itself to the clergy as a censor of faith and morals, it certainly showed no disposition to exercise this function in a wider field. In 1755 the attempt of George Anderson, an aged but vehement divine, to brand with ecclesiastical censure the writings of David Hume and Lord Karnes, the latter of whom he stigmatised as "an elder who has disowned the authority of Almighty God,” resulted only in the Assembly expressing its “utmost abhorrence” of the impious and infidel opinions “so openly avowed in several books published of late in this country.” In the following year the Committee of Overtures, after a debate which lasted for two days, resolved by a large majority not to transmit to the Assembly a proposal for the appointment of a committee to examine Hume in person and to inquire into his works; and in a pamphlet attributed to Blair this decision was defended on the ground that “the proper objects of censure and reproof are not freedom of thought but licentiousness of action.” Blair and other leading Moderates were Hume’s intimate friends. It was stated in the Assembly that they were "supposed to frequent his company in order to his reformation”; but Edinburgh, according to one authority, was more remarkable for scepticism than faith; and the clergy, whose hours of social relaxation were devoted to the conversion of infidels, must have found society more exhausting than the pulpit. “You must treat the Heathens with proper respect,” wrote Professor Gregory to Beattie on December 31, 1766, “and consider that they are now by far the most numerous and powerful party, and that they treat us who pretend a regard to religion as either fools or hypocrites. Seriously this is the case. ... In my younger days many of my friends were no Christians, but they were zealous Deists and believers in a future state of existence. But such a distinction does not now exist. Absolute dogmatic atheism is the present tone.’’  It is probable that this picture of pagan exultation over a prostrate faith is considerably over-charged; but, if we are to believe that, whilst Moderatism was breeding heretics in Ayrshire, it had capitulated to free-thinkers in Edinburgh, there was at least one district in which it manifested quite a different spirit. In the days of the Covenant, when dogmatism had enslaved the Church, there flourished at Aberdeen a school of theologians who were the representatives of intellectual freedom; and now, when orthodoxy was rather oppressed than oppressive, its defence was undertaken, in a spirit not unworthy of their predecessors, by another group of “Aberdeen doctors.” To this group belonged Reid, founder of the Scottish philosophy, Campbell, Gerard, and two laymen —not so courteous and tolerant as their clerical friends— Gregory and Beattie. In 1762 Reid conveyed to Hume, in name of the Aberdeen Philosophical Society, the compliments of his “friendly adversaries,” and added: “Your company would, although we are all good Christians, be more acceptable than that of St. Athanasius.” When Campbell had written his refutation of the famous argument against miracles, he submitted the manuscript to Blair, and Blair, with his approval, submitted it to Hume; and the criticism of his opponent not only induced the author to delete or qualify some harsh expressions, but enabled him, by anticipating objections, to strengthen his case. Beattie, a facile and popular writer, was the only one of the Aberdeen apologists who imitated the vehemence and truculence of their English ally, Warburton; and, polemical divinity being as distasteful to them as to other Moderates, they all contented themselves with what Gerard called "the pure simple practical doctrine of Christ.” Gregory said that he had looked into several theological works, but had never read one through: "To darken what is clear by wrapping it up in the veil of system and science was all the purpose that even the best of them seemed to me to answer.” And Campbell in 1771, preaching to his brother ministers in a strain very similar to that in which he had addressed them almost twenty years earlier, condemned “the many curious expedients by which the gospel, if I may so express myself, has been put to the torture to make it speak the various and discordant sentiments of the multifarious and jarring sects into which the Christian world is unfortunately split.”

Such then, in its phases and local diversities, was the type of culture which Moderatism had endeavoured to foster in the Church; and few contemporary opinions are more disputable than that which found in an unpopular statute the principal cause of its success. The character of the clergy could not, indeed, but be affected by the mode in which they obtained access to their cures; but it shows how little Moderatism was dependent on the operation of patronage that it mounted almost to supremacy without incurring any serious obligation, and even in spite of decided opposition on the part of its leaders, to the law which was afterwards to be invoked in its support. The use of catechisms, such as the "Auchterarder creed,” intended to debar all but extreme Evan'gelicals from entering the ministry, had been forbidden; the ultra-Calvinism inculcated in the Marrow of Modern Divinity had been condemned; Professor Simson had been gently rebuked for Arminianism, and, when convicted of Arianism, had been allowed to retain his salary under a sentence of suspension; another Professor had been prosecuted in vain, nominally for certain doctrinal tenets, but really, it may be presumed, for his ridicule of religious enthusiasm—that “crazy imagination” on which “we are all painted as miscreants, infidels, reprobates and I know not what”; the liberality of such men as William Wishart, Wallace and Telfer had occasioned “melancholy cries in point of doctrine”; Shaftesbury had been quoted with approval by “paganised Christian divines”; and all this backsliding had taken place whilst the patron in most cases was still denied his rights. Patronage, as we have seen, did not come into general use till about 1735, was not rigorously enforced till 1752, and survived as a nominal grievance till 1784; and we shall find that the clerical advance in knowledge and refinement, which had begun before that period of fifty years, was not maintained at its close.

The advocates of popular election were few and undistinguished; but presentation as opposed to the choice of heritors and elders was resisted to the last by William Wishart, who had frequented the London theatres when Carlyle was yet at school; and one of its most determined opponents was Professor Hutcheson, who attacked it with great vigour in 1735 as a gross violation of the Union, as so odious an abuse that no minister “dared to open his mouth” in its favour, as calculated, even in its then imperfect state, to foist on the Church “worthless, immoral or weak men,” and as certain, when no longer restrained, to cause “terrible evils.” It is curious to observe that, whilst Carlyle advocated patronage because he wished to enlist for the ministry polite and scholarly men who should be “companions and friends of the superior orders,” it was precisely for this reason that Hutcheson opposed it. In his pamphlet of 1735 he predicted that, when patronage was fully established, the Scottish clergy, neglected by the gentry, who had no share in their appointment, and despised by the populace, would be “the most despicable set of Churchmen in Christendom.” Livings, no longer the reward of piety and learning, would be engrossed by political drudges and social sycophants or offered for sale; and men who aspired to culture and independence would scorn to buy. “The poor illiterate wretch, who never was accustomed to a better way of life than a ploughman, who desires no books or learned conversation or society with gentlemen, he is the sure purchaser.” Carlyle seems at last to have been convinced that this apostle of the gentlemanly religion, who thought the ministry "contemptible upon no account if it be not perhaps thought so by reason of so many people of very mean birth and fortune having got into it,” had seen further into the reality of things than most of his pupils. Writing in 1780 he remarked that the last two General Assemblies had been attended by none of the superior judges and by “not so much as one landed gentleman worth £300 a year”; and he continued thus: “Young men of low birth and mean education have discovered that livings may infallibly be obtained by a connection with the most insignificant voter for a member of Parliament, and superior spirits, perceiving that the most distinguished among the moderate clergy had not for many years power of recommending to benefices, have generally betaken themselves to other professions.” That it was “chiefly a lower description of men,” which at this period or a little later was entering the Church, was also observed by Lord Cockburn, who found that Robertson’s policy had divided the ministers into two classes, one and much the larger of which professed an “obsequious allegiance” to patrons, and the other adapted itself entirely to “the religion of the lower orders.” About 1790 the clergy could still boast of several distinguished names; but during the next twenty years they made no important contributions to literature or science; and at the close of this period, “in Edinburgh at least, but I believe everywhere, they had fallen almost entirely out of good society.”

It is probable that patronage contributed rather to the declension of the clergy than to their rise; but Moderatism was more than a rule of policy; and the temper it embodied was too much in harmony with the age to be confined wholly to its ranks. The Evangelicals professed to walk in the old paths of faith and conduct; but they too had thrown off the shackles of an intolerant past; and the two men who had done most for their emancipation were Ebenezer Erskine and Whitefield. It was the rights claimed, not for patrons but for heritors and elders, that precipitated Erskine’s revolt. That a congregation had a divine right to elect its pastor was an idea which he discredited by making it a ground of secession; and the gross fanaticism of the Covenant became apparent to many of its professed admirers when they saw it emerge from obscurity to become the touchstone of a new sect. The process of enlightenment was continued by Whitefield; for the great preacher, whose Calvinism endeared him to the Evangelicals, and whose influence was responsible for the extraordinary scenes at Cambuslang, was not a Presbyterian, much less a Covenanter, but an Anglican priest; and it was a principal object of his mission to promote the vital principle of religion and "a superiority to those grovelling prejudices which centre in externals.”

These things had occurred shortly before the opening of this work, and throughout the period we meet with many indications that the opponents of Moderatism, though they seldom conformed to the freedom of its social code, were assimilating its tolerance and good taste. In the country districts indeed, and notably in Ayrshire, much of the old bigotry survived; and Burns found a ready butt for his satire in such men as Moodie and Russell, who exerted their lungs to proclaim the "tidings of damnation," and their imaginative faculty to depict the horrors of hell. The dogma which inspired such preaching was firmly established in many Edinburgh pulpits; but it was more often latent than bluntly expressed, and was to be detected chiefly in that assumption of a cleavage between morality and religion—a state of nature and a state of grace—which gave the distinctive tone to an Evangelical discourse. Robert Walker, who was associated with Blair in the High Church, was deemed a skilful diluter of Calvinism; and Blair, when recalling the memory of his departed colleague, referred to “the elegance, neatness and chaste simplicity of composition in his sermons.” John Erskine, the coadjutor of Robertson in Greyfriars, was a divine of a more archaic type; and on one occasion he sought to intimidate his “drowsy hearers” by reminding them "how stunning a surprise" it would prove if they were to die in their unhallowed slumbers and were to awake in “outer darkness where shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Always a keen theologian, he combated the spread of Methodism in Scotland, and published a refutation of its Arminian tenets in which he denounced Wesley's assertion “that right opinion is a slender part of religion or no part of it at all.”  Little of his dogmatism was, however, brought from the study to the pulpit. Somerville, indeed, considered him the most “practical and useful preacher” he had ever heard; and we have seen that he held in high esteem the writings of Leighton and Scougal. Webster, of the Tolbooth, whom for more than forty years the Popular party recognised as its leader, represented the unctuous orthodoxy of a still older school; and the congregation, which delighted in his fervour and pathos, was known as “the Tolbooth saints.” Even more distinguished as a philanthropist and a man of affairs than as a preacher, he made larger concessions to the temper of the time than any of his friends; for, though seldom intoxicated, he was a hard drinker, and preferred as his boon companions those whose opinions were at variance with his own. “Aptness to pray was,” we are told, “as easy and natural to him as to drink a convivial glass”; and, if we may believe a keen opponent, his glasses were too often punctuated with the remark “that it was his lot to drink with gentlemen and to vote with fools.” Intemperance was also a vice, and the only one, of Andrew Crosbie, the most upright, learned and eloquent of Evangelical laymen; and no one who has read his pamphlet against patronage can need to be informed how fully the opponents of that system had outgrown their fanaticism, and on what wise and liberal maxims their policy was based.

It was, indeed, a remarkable fact that a party, which once included Wodrow and Boston amongst its members, should in 1766 have made it a principal objection to Dissent that it fostered "narrow and bigoted sentiments in religion as well as fierce and uncharitable debates upon matters of little moment"; and the change which had occurred may well be illustrated in the words of Oswald, who, though a revolted Moderate, must have spoken on this occasion for many of his new allies:

"For my own part, I would not willingly give up the hopes I have long entertained of the clergy of Scotland. I have had the pleasure to see them add to that strictness of piety by which they were always distinguished a freedom of thought and gentleness of manners which gave me inexpressible delight. And being secured against cant and grimace by setting aside the pretended divine right of the people, I flattered myself, perhaps too much, with the hopes that in a little time this Church would, by the influence of men of true judgment, be fitted with such ministers as, through the blessing of God, would do eminent service to their country."

We have seen that Moderatism had fought its way to supremacy in the face of those popular forces which maintained the tradition of a fanatical past; and the student who extends his survey from the Establishment to the Secession will find that he has passed at a step from the eighteenth into the seventeenth century. In 1736, two years after their sentence of deposition was recalled, the Seceders intimated their intention to form a separate communion by issuing a manifesto in which they denounced, amongst other “public evils,” the repeal of the laws against witchcraft; and they enforced their idea of separation by making it penal for any of their people to worship in a parish church. Soon afterwards they not only renewed the Covenant, but imposed it as the passport of admission on both ministers and members; and the Covenant soon justified its reputation as an engine of strife. The father of the Secession was, as we have seen, Ebenezer Erskine. In 1746 he and several other ministers dissented from a decision of the Associate Synod, condemning as inconsistent with the Covenant a certain oath which was required of burgesses in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Perth; and, as they had thus "vented and maintained a tenet of mutual forbearance, authorising the toleration of known and acknowledged sin,” the majority excommunicated them and delivered them “unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh,” or, as a pamphleteer more forcibly expressed it, “sent them a-packing to the devil.” The AntiBurghers, whose leader, Adam Gib, somewhat exceeded even their ideal of intolerance, had a great superiority in numbers; but the Burghers were no inconsiderable body; and it was not till 1820 that the schism was healed. In 17S2 we find the first of these sects distracted by a dispute as to whether a minister should or should not take the communion elements into his hands before the consecration prayer; and in 1805 some fifteen ministers left the second for reasons which the Court of Session, “after a long and patient hearing,” confessed itself unable to understand.

The Secession soon appeared in Ireland, and, despite the extreme reluctance of its students to cross the Atlantic, it was extended in 1753 to America. Men who laboured in the backwoods of the Hudson and the Delaware thought it unreasonable that their ranks should be split by a point of casuistry affecting a handful of their brethren in three Scottish towns; and in Pennsylvania Anti-Burghers scandalised their Synod by coalescing with Burghers. One of the missionaries, a Mr. John Mason, denounced what he called “the dry, the fruitless, the disgracing, the pernicious controversy about the burgess-oath,” and was reported to have said: “The infatuation we have fallen into will amaze posterity.” “Pope Gib”—to give him his popular designation—was at this period alarmed by a motion for union which had recently "spread like wild fire through different parts of the country.” He at once proposed that the Synod should remove the opprobrious name of Mason from its roll; and, when the brethren pointedly refused, he absented himself from their meetings and did not return till, after four years, they complied with his demand. So powerful, however, was the sun of enlightenment now shining over Scotland, that even the cave-dwellers of Puritanism could not wholly exclude its rays. In 1763 we find the AntiBurgher Synod subjecting two of its students to “the lesser excommunication " for essays which they had contributed to a certain magazine. In one of these, entitled “Reflections on the advantages of a liberal and polite education,” the writer affirmed that a man of this stamp “stands the fairest way for gaining the applause of his indulgent Author who formed him in the womb and infused into his tender frame the principles of wisdom and humanity, of justice and benevolence”; and we are told of the other essay that it “lauded in an offensive manner the reigning corruption of human nature.” At the same time the Synod called to account its teacher of philosophy for inculcating such doctrine "as necessarily excludes the consideration of man’s fall and of original sin”; and it concluded its labours in this field by warning candidates for the ministry "against an affected pedantry of style and pronunciation and politeness of expression in delivering the truths of the Gospel.”

These instances show that, if traces of incipient culture were not unknown amongst the Seceders, they were promptly suppressed; but Moderatism, in the full acceptation of that term, was only another name for the spirit of the age; and we are not to suppose that Dissent, within the compass of its own narrow bounds, was unaffected by that spirit. The question of ecclesiastical organisation was one that interested Churchmen and Dissenters alike; but, whilst the Moderates regarded patronage merely as the portal which was to open to them a fuller social and intellectual life, their dissenting brethren deemed the course of their opposition to patronage and other evils—what they called the maintenance of their testimony—an end in itself; and, if we consider the progress of their ideas on this subject, we shall find that they, too, were moving with the times.

The settlement of the Church on a Presbyterian basis in 1690 had been repudiated by a considerable number of the Cameronians on the ground that the Covenant was not renewed; and it is curious to observe that the first attempt to form another rival communion was made by a minister who held that this document should never have been framed. For many years after the Devolution it continued to be a grievance that Presbytery had been shorn of political power; and John Glas, who was ordained in 1719 to a country living near Dundee, was prompted by the prevalence of this feeling in his parish to examine the standpoint of those who thought the present “a day of small things,” and who looked back with regret to the time when there had been “ a combination of the Church and State to make Christ a king by violence and the power of the sword.” He soon convinced himself that the theocracy which the Covenanters had sought to establish was a revival of that which had prevailed amongst the Jews, whose commonwealth was also their Church, and that, like the Jews, who expected another Messiah than Christ, they had mistaken a temporal kingdom for the spiritual one it prefigured. “Our covenants dealt only in externals, and were designed some way to exemplify that letter which is done away, and a poor exemplification of it they were.” In Glas’s day, though a minister might be expected, he could not be constrained, to uphold the Covenant; but “the New Testament Church,” as he conceived it, was merely a group of congregations united in brotherly love and “subject to no jurisdiction under Heaven”; and, as he refused to admit that the Presbyterian hierarchy had any scriptural warrant or that the magistrate could be called upon to repress heresy, he was deposed in 1730. The sect he founded was indebted for much of its small progress to his son-in-law, Sandeman; and the Glassites seem to have had this in common with the Moderates, that they attached no mystical significance to faith, and in social life were by no means austere.

It is worthy of note that the charge which was least insisted on against Glas was that which impugned his attitude towards the forcible repression of heresy; and he told his judges that he had yet to be informed whether the way in which he interpreted this article of the Confession was not "now the sense of this national Church.” The progress of opinion on this point becomes apparent when we turn to the next, and a far more important, schism. Erskine and his friends were so far from being disciples of Glas that, as we have seen, they renewed the Covenant; but they were careful to explain that they did so "in a way and manner agreeable to our present situation and circumstances,” and, unlike the Cameronians, they did not scruple to recognise an uncovenanted king. As ccthe civil part” of the Covenant could not be reconciled with this concession, they left it out, and contented themselves with rebuking such steps of public defection as the Revolution Settlement and the Union in an “Acknowledgment of Sins.” So, too, whilst engaging to "endeavour the reformation of religion in England and Ireland,” they abstained from pledging themselves to the extirpation of heresy, and, paying an undeserved compliment to the humanity of their ancestors, alleged as their reason “that that word has been of late years abused to a sanguinary sense for propagating religion by force of arms—quite contrary to the mind of our reformers.” The Covenant, as thus adopted, was to be their term both of ministerial and of Christian communion; but, as a qualification for the sacrament, it is said not to have been enforced in practice.

It is evident that the Seceders, despite their boasted appetite for the Covenant, did not venture to swallow it entire; and now a new sect was to arise which turned in disgust from that stale and unsavoury meal. We have seen that the deposition of Gillespie in 1752 resulted in the formation of a body known as the Presbytery of Relief; and Gillespie, who had been associated with Whitefield, imparted to his followers much of his own broad and tolerant spirit. Greatly were the Seceders astonished when they saw certain ministers glide noiselessly out of the Church, neither testifying against its defections nor even refusing to hold fellowship with its pastors; and their astonishment gave place to indignation when these peace-loving brethren, not content with ignoring the Covenant, made overtures to its foes by announcing that they meant "occasionally to hold communion with those of the Episcopal and Independent persuasion who are visible saints.” This decision, which startled both Church and Dissent, was attacked and defended in many pamphlets; and, when the Relief people were told that they had demolished the distinctive principles of the Reformation and "sat down"’ on the ruins, they asked whether the right of private judgment was not one of those principles, and whether—which was less disputable—their opponents had not seated themselves on the ruins of that. It was natural for the Seceders, with their tradition of a covenanted uniformity, to maintain that they were the true representatives of the National Church; but the Relief Synod, having repudiated the Covenant, made no such claim; and Hutcheson, their chief apologist, did not conceal his voluntaryism, asserting that “that church-state or establishment of religion, which is constituted by human authority or cannot exist without it, is not from Christ.”

His ideas, and even his phraseology, were in great measure borrowed from Glas; but he had also been influenced by Pirie, the teacher of philosophy whom we have met with as obnoxious to the Anti-Burgher Synod. It was the singular fate of Hutcheson to be excommunicated by the Anti-Burghers, suspended by the Burghers, and denied admission to the Relief. The Burghers suspended him for heresy; but he had just published a powerful attack on covenanting as "a moral duty"; and he taxed his superiors with cowardice in not meeting him on this ground. In defiance of its Synod, one of the Relief congregations adopted him as its pastor; and from this retreat he attacked the national system of religion as recognised by the Seceders on the ground that it requires the civil power "to destroy all whom the clergy please to call heretics.'’ “This,” he said, “is Antichrist or the Revelation-beast.” These movements in the sullen backwaters of Dissent are a testimony to the force of the current which was flowing with such vigour, and carrying with it so rich a freight of genius, through the channel of the national life; and this current can hardly be understood till we have traced it to the watershed of many similar streams. The remark has been made that Moderatism was synonymous with the spirit of the age; and this spirit as a creative influence, though England had done much to form it, emanated mainly from France. The intellectual movement, which found expression in French literature and philosophy, owed much at the outset to Hobbes, Newton and Locke; and about the middle of the century, when it adopted anti-Christian ideas as an instrument of social and religious reform, it was no less indebted to the English Deists. It was at this period that Voltaire, disgusted with the darkness, the cruelty and hypocrisy of Christendom, began his systematic attack on its creed, whilst the publication of the Encyclopaedia, intended rather to diffuse knowledge than to assail its foes, was begun by his friends and correspondents at Paris; and the new ideas, systematised in that great work, soon permeated Europe. Thinkers and statesmen co-operated in the attack on the Jesuits, which commenced with their expulsion from Portugal in 1759 and ended with the suppression of the Order by Clement XIV. in 1773; and this was only one, though the most signal, of many similar triumphs. In one country after another liberal and humane maxims were successfully applied; opinion was released from its shackles; persecution ceased; abuses, which had existed for ages, social, ecclesiastical and judicial, were mitigated or disappeared; and the mission of enlightenment had its representatives, more or less accredited, at almost every Court: Choiseul in France; Pombal in Portugal; Aranda and Campomanes in Spain; Tanucci in Naples; Frederick the Great in Prussia; Struensee in Denmark; Catherine II. in Eussia; Kaunitz and Joseph II. in Austria. It is not to be assumed that statesmen of this type did not exist in Great Britain because, except perhaps in the sphere of religious toleration, we do not find them engaged in the same tasks. Here practically were no Jesuits to be expelled, no monasteries to be reformed or suppressed, no papal authority to be crushed, no noble caste to be deprived of its exemptions and privileges, no censorship of the press to be relaxed, no serfdom or judicial torture to be abolished; and, though in England, and still more in Scotland, political power had become the privilege of a few, this was not one of the evils which the movement we are considering was intended to cure. Volt a ire and most of his friends were essentially monarchical; they had the good sense, the good taste and not a little of the cynicism of a luxurious and highly cultivated class; and, far from distrusting despotism, they valued and sought to use it as a means of reform. Their ideal was, indeed, that of a Europe regenerated from above by its scholars and rulers; and Voltaire was thinking of a very different revolution from that which was to astonish and dismay the few survivors of his band when he wrote in 1764: “The young are indeed happy, for they will see great things.”

One cannot but perceive at a glance that this type of culture was identical with that which prevailed during the same period in Scotland; and, though many Scottish writers borrowed directly from France, and Edinburgh may have been almost as free-thinking as Paris, the identity is less apparent in detail than in general effect. We have seen that the Moderates, for the most part, were undogmatic preachers, polished gentlemen, men of the world; that the chief object of their policy was to foster in the Church an enlightened, rational, tolerant spirit; and that—if we may compare small things with great—they had no more compunction in using patronage to crush popular prejudice and passion than had a Pombal or a Joseph II. in employing for a similar purpose the resources of absolute power. We may smile at a liberalism so illiberal; but the alarm excited by the up-rising of the masses and the tyranny of half-educated opinion, which followed their partial emancipation, were equally detrimental to the progress of thought; and some three-quarters of a century were to elapse before religious and scientific speculation recovered the freedom it had lost. The age of Voltaire has much the same relation to the Revolution as that of Erasmus to the Reformation; and humanism in both cases was overpowered, not from any inherent defect, but because it sought to do for the people what the people claimed the right to do for themselves.

'We must, therefore, conclude that, whilst patronage had done little to assist the rise of Moderatism, it can only have contributed with more potent causes to blight the efflorescence of its genius. In the panic caused by the bloodshed and anarchy of the Revolution men saw in every liberal theologian a potential Jacobin; the barren orthodoxy, dear to a former generation, soon resumed its sway; and one sees in the pages of Ramsay of Ochtertyre, which were then being written, that this cultured observer cannot pass in review the intellectual progress of his time without being haunted at every turn by the spectre of an imperilled faith. Thus under darkening skies the eighteenth century in Scotland drew to a close. Happily at this period her people were pursuing with unabated vigour the path of material prosperity which we are now to trace; but the light which had given so sustained a brilliance to her literature, and that other and newer light, towards which the martyrs of her political freedom were struggling, had both gone out.


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