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The Aberdeen Doctors
Chapter II - The "Doctors"


It was during one of the many interesting conversations that I had with the late Professor Hastie that the subject of the following lectures was suggested to me. One day, now many years ago, while we were walking together on the Lowthers, he asked me if I was acquainted with the writings of the Aberdeen Doctors, and I was compelled to confess that I had only a casual knowledge of them. What he told me about them then, stirred my curiosity, and shortly afterwards, seeing the works of Dr. John Forbes, the greatest of them, advertised in a bookseller's catalogue, I procured the two large volumes, which together run into some twelve hundred pages, double columned, and all written in Latin. The subject, it must be confessed, did not, on the first blush, seem especially inviting, but after one or two prolonged examinations its rare possibilities and appropriateness to present - day controversies unfolded themselves, and having made a fuller acquaintance with the period and with the writings of the theologians who adorned it, nothing, it seemed to me, could be more suitable for a course of lectures delivered in connection with the theological faculty of a Scottish University.

It has always been a source of regret to me, which must be shared by every one, that Professor Hastie did not deal with the subject himself. He knew it so well, and his capacity was so great, that, had he taken it up seriously, the result must have been a brilliant chapter in Scottish Theology. It is possible, however, that, while he was full of admiration for the men and their writings, he may not have been quite in sympathy with their views. His conception of the Reformed Theology differed in many respects from theirs. He would have been bound to have controverted their opinions on Church government, doctrine, and worship. But this would not have detracted from the interest of his work, indeed it would have given it a special zest and flavour. Nor can there be any doubt that he contemplated doing something of the kind, for Professor Flint once remarked that Dr. Hastie had thought of it as the subject of his Croall Lecture, and the Edinburgh professor went the length of hinting that it might have formed a better theme than the one which he actually selected. Every one will readly recognise the loss to a profound knowledge of one important period of Scottish Theology, which has thus been sustained by Dr. Hastie's choice, and it is as a pious tribute to his memory that I shall attempt to do, in a halting and imperfect manner, what he would have so brilliantly accomplished.

It will sound strange that a minister of the Church of Scotland who hadpassed through the usual curriculum in the Divinity Hall, should have only had a casual knowledge of a group of theologians who are held by competent judges to be second to none in the Scottish Church. Indeed, one of them, Dr. John Forbes of Corse, is regarded as the greatest theologian that our country has produced. But I grew somewhat less ashamed of my comparative ignorance when I discovered that I did not stand alone, but that the vast majority of the clergy of the Scottish Church were in the same position. Does this not suggest the thought that, while students of Divinity are necessarily instructed in systems of theology and the history of doctrine as a whole, some little time should be spared for informing them of the progress of thought, in the highest of all subjects, that has taken place in their own country ? If the Scottish Church is regarded as peculiarly national, as embodying in a very marked way the spirit and characteristics of the people, Scottish Theology surely is no less national, and it is impossible to understand it without tracing its history and various movements, as these are represented by its leading exponents, from the Reformation downwards. Dr. Hastie felt strongly on this point; it was a note which he sounded in his Inaugural Address as Professor of Divinity in this University. To a large extent it inspired his Croall Lecture and his teaching while a professor here. And the direction which he thus gave to the study of Theology, in this University, one is glad to think, is being successfully prosecuted. The history of the Church in Scotland has centred far too exclusively in ecclesiastical controversy. Questions of Church government, of spiritual independence and confessional orthodoxy, have absorbed far too much of the country's time and thought. It would help greatly to a right understanding of our position, and it would steady our views and enlarge our outlook, if we knew in an historical form the progress and development of our national theology, both in itself and in relation to kindred movements in England and on the Continent.

The intellectual life of Scotland, on its theological side at least, centred, during the first episcopal period, in Aberdeen. That famous city and University have, in proportion to their size, produced perhaps more distinguished men than any other part of Scotland. This is an opinion which Aber-donians themselves, I believe, secretly entertain, and no one, however intense his local patriotism may be, should grudge it to them. Nor can there be any doubt that the University of Aberdeen has played an important part in developing the innate mental qualities of its sons, and one can well understand the admiration and affection which they entertain for it.

There are three men whose names are intimately connected with Aberdeen University; they were all bishops of the diocese and Chancellors of the University. They were Bishop Elphinstone, Bishop Dunbar, and Bishop Patrick Forbes. The first two were Roman Catholics, and the second was an Episcopalian. Elphinstone was the founder, and Patrick Forbes is affectionately regarded as the second founder, of the University. It was in 1618 that Forbes was consecrated Bishop of Aberdeen, and he is held, even by strong Presbyterians, to have been one of the ablest Bishops and also one of the best men that Scotland has ever had.1He was, to begin with, a Presbyterian, and studied in Glasgow under his kinsman Andrew Melville. He accompanied him to St. Andrews, and was associated with him in his work there. He subsequently married, and resided in the neighbourhood of Montrose, but on the death of his father he retired to the ancestral estate of Corse, in the south of Aberdeenshire. He had not, by this time, taken orders in the Church, but, owing to the scarcity of clergy and to many parishes being without a stated pastor, Forbes was induced to instruct and edify the people of his own and neighbouring parishes, by preaching to them on the Lord's Day. He was well qualified to do this, by piety, character, and learning, and at last, in 1612, at the ripe age of forty-seven, he yielded to the solicitations of the Church and was ordained to the parish of Keith.

The vigour and success with which he discharged the duties of his episcopate are cordially recognised on all hands. The Church in those days was in a most unsatisfactory condition; empty pulpits and incapable ministers were to be found in many parishes of his diocese. He set himself at once to make good these defects, and as a necessary preliminary the training school for the proper supply of clergy had to be put in order ; this was the University of Aberdeen. When Forbes took up the duties of his chancellorship he found the University, both with regard to its finances and teaching staff, in a very disorganised condition. This unfortunately is the tale that has to be told of all the Scottish Universities for the first, and even for the second, century of their existence. They were indeed, for many days, struggling institutions, and they sometimes sank so low as to be almost at the vanishing point. Commission after commission was appointed to inquire into their affairs, and the recommendations of the inspecting bodies proved, not unfrequently, dead letters. Especially after the Reformation, when the medieval system of University government was broken up and when seats of learning were becoming more national, the Scottish Universities were frequently put into the melting-pot and cast into moulds after the pattern of the governing body of the time being, in State and Church. We read, for instance, of three schemes of reform that appeared during the first generation of the Reformed Church : those of John Knox, George Buchanan, and Andrew Melville.1 University commissions and schemes and ordinances have not been unheard of in our own day, and it would seem as if the time of the travail and anguish of our poor Scottish Universities is not yet passed.

The new Bishop was a strong man with a wide outlook, and he determined to exercise his powers as Chancellor to the utmost, and to put the University on a proper footing. Fortunately for him he was not hampered by commissioners or committees, by University Court or Senate, by ordinances or even by the General Assembly. He could act on his own initiative, and he took full advantage of his position. How Chancellors and Principals of Scottish Universities in our days must envy the freedom of action possessed by Bishop Forbes ! And, strange to say, it is on the other side of the Atlantic, in the most democratic country in the world, that we find the Presidents or Principals of Universities endowed with the most autocratic power. In America and in Canada the heads of Colleges are less trammelled than here, and who knows but a wave of influence from the new world may reach our shores and revive the condition of matters which existed in the first Episcopal period in Scotland, and gave his great chance to Patrick Forbes?

The University of Aberdeen, like the medieval Universities generally, existed primarily for the training of the clergy, and, although Forbes was sufficiently liberal-minded to develop its educational resources in other directions, he set himself to revive the teaching of theology which for some time had been sadly neglected. By his own bounty and that of the clergy of his diocese he endowed the Chair of Divinity, which had fallen into disuse, in King's College, and subsequently rendered a similar service to Marischal College. Eminent men were appointed to both Chairs. He insisted upon able students, when they had finished their Arts Course, becoming Regents, and taking their due share in teaching the junior students, while they themselves attended the classes in theology. After six years of this training, these students were appointed to vacant charges. He thus, in a few years, not only put new heart into the University, coordinated its various faculties, filled its Chairs with the best men available, developed its teaching, strengthened its endowments, and added to and improved its buildings, but he also filled the pulpits of his diocese with ministers trained under his own eye, of approved piety and sound learning, and ready to be taken back to the University, to occupy its vacant Chairs. He also made it a point to have in the chief churches in Aberdeen, men of light and leading, who would lend lustre to the pulpits of the University city, and who would give a tone and character to the Church as a whole.

It therefore causes no surprise to a student of the period to find in Aberdeen, both in University and in city, during the episcopate of Patrick Forbes, a body of men who, for ability, learning, and piety, were second to none in Scotland. The divines who formed this distinguished group were at the time, and have ever since been, known as the " Aberdeen Doctors." It was Forbes who revived the designation by which they are honoured. Degrees in theology had fallen into disuse during the severe rule of Mel-villian Presbytery. It was a mark of popery or of worldly pride, to assume the title of Bachelor of Divinity or Doctor of Divinity, and Dr. John Forbes, the Bishop's son, felt called upon, in hisIrenicum, to justify, in a moderate but strenuous way, the lawfulness of these Academic distinctions. The wisdom of the Chancellor in thus honouring and encouraging men who, by their ability and learning, gave distinction to the University and the Church, requires no justification in these days.

The Aberdeen Doctors were six in number, and include those who put their names to the famous Demands, Replyes, and Duplyes which were made to the Commissioners of the General Assembly who, in 1638, visited the city on behalf of the Covenant. Three of them were professors in the University of Aberdeen, namely, Dr. John Forbes, Dr. Robert Baron, and Dr. William Leslie, and the other three, Dr. James Sibbald, Dr. Alexander Scroggie, and Dr. Alexander Ross, were ministers in the city. All of them were eminent for their scholarship, ability, piety, and devotion to duty.

Dr. Robert Baron was a younger son of the family of Kinnaird in Fifeshire. He was educated at St. Andrews, where he is said to have attracted, by his early proficiency in learning, the notice of King James VI.

He succeeded Bishop Patrick Forbes as minister of Keith. In 1624 he was appointed one of the clergy of the city of Aberdeen, and was nominated the first Professor of Theology in Marischal College, on the institution of that Chair in 1625. Some time before his death he had been elected to fill the See of Orkney, but was never consecrated. "Baron," says Dr. Garden, in his life of Dr. John Forbes, "had the most lucid of intellects, and was endowed with a singular facility for clearing up obscurities and unravelling difficulties. He himself having distinct conceptions, he made it easy for others to understand them. In scholastic theology he was most learned."

Dr. William Leslie studied at King's College, Aberdeen, and was in 1617 chosen one of its Regents. He became its Sub-Principal in 1623, and about 1630 he was preferred to the Principalship. He was a distinguished Orientalist, and some of his poems, in Latin and Greek, are still extant. He wrote notes and commentaries on the Classics, but they have perished. Dr. Garden has preserved, in his life of Dr. John Forbes, a learned fragment by Leslie, on the writings of Cassiodorus.

Dr. James Sibbald was born in the Mearns ; he was educated in Marischal College, where he was afterwards Professor of Philosophy. This position he resigned in 1625, when he became minister of St. Nicholas Church, Aberdeen. Baillie testifies that he was held there " in great fame," and Garden declares him to have been a man of " conspicuous humility, piety, and erudition."

Dr. Alexander Scroggie was minister in Old Aberdeen. He, like most of the others, owed his promotion to Bishop Forbes. He was a man of singular prudence, and of considerable learning.

Dr. Alexander Ross was minister of New Aberdeen. "He was," says Spalding, "a learned divine, well beloved of his flock and people while he was in life, and, after he was dead, heavily regretted."

But the greatest of the group was, undoubtedly, Dr. John Forbes, second son and heir of Bishop Patrick Forbes. He was a man of European reputation, and his most important work, which at the time broke fresh ground, has never been superseded. His contemporaries speak of him with enthusiastic admiration. A later generation held him and his writings in the highest respect; and Baur, who lived within measurable distance of our own day, refers to his Instructiones Historico-Theologicce de Doctrina Christiana, or his " Doctrine of the Catholic Church, Historically Considered," as one of the two most important treatises on the History of Doctrine in the seventeenth century. He was a man of vast and accurate learning, of great simplicity and piety of character, of untiring industry and unbounded charity. While a lover of peace, he was a greater lover of truth, and in the end he sacrificed his position, his home, and his country, rather than wound his conscience, or yield up his convictions. He was educated at Aberdeen and on the Continent, where he studied at the University of Heidelberg, and afterwards at Sedan and other Universities. He was ordained in the Presbyterian form in 1619, at Middleburg, where his uncle was a minister. He returned to his native land a thorough master of the Greek and Hebrew languages, and an accomplished theologian. Shortly after his arrival he was appointed Professor of Divinity in King's College, Aberdeen, where he prosecuted his work with singular distinction and success.

To this list there ought, perhaps, to be added, the names of Bishop Patrick Forbes, of whom we have already spoken, and of two other Doctors of Aberdeen who cooperated more or less with those already mentioned:óDr. William Forbes and Dr. William Guild. The latter merits scant treatment at our hands. He was one of those who signed the General Demands made by the Aberdeen Doctors to the Commissioners, though not the Replies and Duplies which followed, but he very quickly deserted his friends and trimmed his sails to catch the popular breeze. He succeeded where he ought to have failed. Preferment, unworthily secured, awaited him, but he was held in very little respect in his own day, and since then something approaching to opprobrium attaches to his memory.

It is different with regard to Dr. William Forbes. He was distantly related to the family of Bishop Patrick Forbes, and shared its genius. He was born in Aberdeen in 1585, and became a proficient scholar at a very early age. While quite a youth he taught Logic in Marischal College. This office he resigned in order to prosecute his theological studies abroad. He travelled for many years on the Continent, visiting Germany, Poland, and Holland, and studying at the Universities of Helmstadt, Heidelberg, and Leyden. On his return home he passed through Oxford, where he was offered a Professorship in Hebrew. At the age of twenty-five he came back to his native city, whose freedom was immediately conferred upon him. He subsequently became the minister of Alford, and after a short interval one of the ministers of Aberdeen. In 1618 he was nominated Principal of Marischal College. He was induced to become one of the ministers of Edinburgh, but neither its air nor its theological atmosphere suited him and he returned to Aberdeen. In 1634 he was nominated as the first Bishop of Edinburgh, but he only-enjoyed his new dignity a few months. He published nothing during his life, but of his scholarship and ability there can be no question. His piety was of a rare order, and his views, which gave much offence to many at the time, are, in the light of subsequent thought and progress, worthy of consideration. Twenty-four years after his death, Thomas Sydserf, Bishop of Galloway, published Forbes' Considerationes Modestce et Pacificce, which has since been translated and published in the Library of Anglo-Catholic Theology.

Dr. Garden,2 in his life of Forbes, gives an interesting sketch of the Aberdeen Doctors, while they prosecuted their studies and discharged their duties as professors and ministers in Aberdeen.3 They would seem to have had but one end in view, the acquisition and dissemination of knowledge. They stirred up each other to fresh exertions and to the instruction of their students. Between them there was perfect concord and true friendship, and it was a pleasure to see them working in harmony and dragging the same yoke. Though the same students were under each, there was no jealousy among them, and their common aim was to aid the intelligence of their pupils and to bring them mutual help. They anticipated one of the most recent changes in the Scottish Universities, the three term session, because, he remarks, " throughout three terms of the year they taught theology, making for themselves that duty ; not three monthly as is now the custom, so that they might have a holiday for the rest of the year." He then proceeds to tell in what spirit they did their work. "Not in a perfunctory way by presenting to students some Belgian or Genevese system, or in making such commentaries as philosophers used to do on Aristotle, but by their own learned discourses, with full references to the literature on the subject, they instructed them in the knowledge of the Scripture and doctrine, and shaped their minds to the loftier duties of the Church. They also constantly consulted in their lectures the learning of the ancients, and so became examples to posterity. Certainly, he concludes, "no school of that age rejoiced in theologians more distinguished for learning and piety."

But the labour and solitude of study were occasionally relieved, sometimes by intellectual diversion, and not infrequently by physical recreation. An instance of the former is found in the Letters of Samuel Rutherford. He was, in 1637, quartered in Aberdeen: There because of his ecclesiastical refractoriness, and perhaps also in the hope that the teaching of the Aberdeen Doctors would leaven his theology. But Rutherford's spirits, like his piety, were irrepressible, and he carried with him into the north his missionary zeal. He accordingly entered into controversy with his would-be teachers, particularly with Dr. Baron, with whom he had a pitched battle, about Armini-anism and the Ceremonies. Rutherford had no doubt in his own mind, though others had, as to who was victor in these contentions; for, he naively remarks, "three yokings laid him by, and I have not been troubled with him since." 

But a more pleasant way of relieving the strain of work was not unknown to the learned divines. Forbes, for instance, who was of small stature, with a countenance somewhat dark in colour, had no seat in his study, but always read standing, or wrote leaning on the table. He often used to walk about the meadows occupied with divine meditation. Sometimes for the relaxation of his mind he would play at golf in the fields (in Camftis ftila clavaria ludebat), but when he heard the sound of the bell calling to public prayers in church, forthwith, giving up the game, he hastened to the temple, not as a matter of form, but out of true devotion.

In this way did these learned men combine work with social intercourse and necessary relaxation, and prosecute their labours, more or less independently of the ecclesiastical strife that was raging in different parts of the country, and which was, before long, to knock at their own doors, and break up their round table of theological learning and fellowship. Like most men of a similar type, who receive their inspiration from study and reflection, they pursued a course which was not followed by either of the two contending parties in the Church; a course to which the Church has been tending more and more since their day, and which points, to my thinking, in the direction where a solution of the difficulties in the way of union, if not of uniformity, of the different Churches in the land will be found. The significance of the teaching of the Aberdeen Doctors on the pressing questions of theological thought and Church polity for the present time is genuine and fundamental.

In order to understand this, a brief outline must be given of the position of parties at the time in which they lived, and of the course of events which led up to the crisis that accentuated their position and teaching.

They were for the time submerged ; but the truths which they represented and fought for survived and leavened the subsequent course of ecclesiastical history in Scotland.

The Reformation in this, as in other countries, left many questions unsettled1 The powerful character and intense convictions of Knox cast the Scottish Church into a mould from which it has never emerged. The master mind of the Reformer shaped its destiny. But within the compass of his own lifetime, and in view of the circumstances of the hour, he could not do more than indicate certain leading lines with regard to some important questions. It has of course been alleged that the Reformation settled matters of Relief and of Church government far too quickly, and much too definitely. This may be true as regards the essentials; but questions were bound to crop up, which could not be altogether foreseen, and it was from the opposing attitude taken up in Scotland by contending parties on these questions that the troubles which afflicted the Scottish Church for so many years sprung. The struggle which brought the champions of opposing sides to the front also produced the party represented by the Aberdeen Doctors, which was a party of moderation, and which endeavoured to go beneath the differences, and to unite the opposing factions in a true unity. This it did, not by shutting its eyes to the difficulties that produced contention, but by going beneath them and seeing the true ground of their origin and at the same time of their reconciliation.

Knox was not long in his grave when the question of Church and State arose in Scotland. The flexible condition in which he had left it broke up and hardened down into two opposing schools, the one represented by Andrew Melville, and the other by King James. Melville was not content with the Church's independence ; he would invade the province of the State. James was not satisfied with the autonomy of the State, he would tyrannise over the Church. Hence, the struggle which lasted for a century had its origin in the extreme and false positions taken up by both parties. The same tendency is found in the quarrel that arose over Presbytery and Episcopacy. The champions of each believed that they had divine right on their side. Between a man like Samuel Rutherford and a man like Archbishop Laud there could, on this question, be no reconciliation. In the ecclesiastical extermination of the one or of the other lay the only chance of peace.

We see the same opposition springing up over Doctrine. The Calvinism of Knox and the Scottish Confession had become the ultra-Calvinism of Boyd and the Synod of Dort, and the spirit of freedom breathed by Arminius was beginning to animate many.

On the question of Scripture a like opposition very soon manifested itself. Did the very words of Scripture, interpreted by party or personal predilection settle everything for all time, or should equal value not be attached to the testimony of the Fathers and the decrees of Councils? So with regard to Ceremonies. Was everything that was not directly sanctioned by Scripture unlawful, and was the primitive worship of the Apostolic Church to govern the order and form of worship for all time; or was the practice of what was known as Anglo-Catholicism of equal weight?

One can see at a glance the sharp division that was thus drawn by different parties in the Church on these leading questions. They did not arise immediately with the Reformation, they took some time to assert themselves, and the uncompromising attitude adopted by the contending factions led to incessant strife, and to scandal and schism. Each party fought for its own hand, and the victory fell to the one side or the other. But in this way lay neither progress nor peace. Had truer and wiser counsels not prevailed, the Church, which was being rent in twain, would have been wrecked altogether, but fortunately a third party arose which practically cried, " A plague on both your houses. The truth rests with neither of you; we will show you a better way." 1 This party was less heard of than those which were creating the storm. The names of its leaders may, to the vast majority of Churchmen, be altogether unknown, but upon them the salvation of the Church depended, and it is surely time that their memory was being revived, and their work adjudged and appreciated. They were a silent leaven that was leavening the whole lump, and, at the present moment, the Scottish Church in its sore need is turning to them and their successors for light and leading; and I believe that it is by their spirit, if not by their definite views on the questions which have been touched and are crying for settlement, that a true solution will be found.

One cannot fail to be impressed by the obscurantism and even the Philistinism of the opposing parties in these disputes; they would seem to be impervious to ideas, and they contend against each other with a fury that is blind. But the party represented by the Aberdeen Doctors was possessed of ideas. Its members, we would say in our day, were men of culture, and this term, to be truly applicable, must be shorn of its secular significance, for they were men of the sincerest piety as well. Their liberal tendencies had their origin in the movement which is associated with the name of Arminius. The theological centre in Europe had by their day shifted from Switzerland to Holland. At Leyden and not at Geneva was now to be found the school of thought in theological matters. All the Aberdeen Doctors had drunk deeply of the stream which flowed from that source. There was not one of them but who was affected by the liberalising spirit which emanated from the teaching of Arminius. Not every one of them accepted his views in their entirety. If asked, they would profess themselves to be Calvinists ; that is to say, they accepted the leading features of that system without binding themselves to its details. Of course it may be said that such an admission proves that they were not Calvinists. Logically, perhaps, they were not, butf,the best men's creed can seldom be logically expounded, and it is possible for a man to accept the teaching of Paul on certain portions of the Calvinistic theology, without following out to its ultimate conclusions the logic of Calvin.

The point to emphasise is that the Aberdeen Doctors had freed themselves from the influence of the confessional theology, which was narrowing down into a vain and barren scholasticism. They broke away from the " Thou shalt " and the " Thou shalt not " of systems, and symbols, and formulas, and they claimed the privilege, which the Reformers themselves had taught to be the inalienable right of every one, of inquiring for themselves and testing even the Word of God by its spirit. The orthodox of their day tested Scripture by confessions of faith and theological dogma, that is, the Word of God having been once interpreted by a certain body of fallible men was to be a closed book for ever, and subsequent generations of thoughtful Christians were, silently and without remonstrance, to accept the interpretation put upon it by others. The Protestant Church thus took away with the one hand what it had given with the other, and placed itself on a par with the Church of Rome. But the Aberdeen Doctors would not be thus bound, and their freedom saved them from siding with either of the two parties who were fiercely warring with each other. They took up the questions that were the source of strife in an independent fashion, brought the light of thought, of reason, of history, and of free inquiry, to bear upon them, and came to conclusions which were naturally displeasing to both parties, but which were much nearer to the truth.

But while the Aberdeen Doctors thus put into a reasoned form, strengthened by all the aids of learning and scholarship, the moderate, liberalising, and truly national and constitutional views on the important questions raised, views which have really been the salvation of the Church in Scotland, they were not without their predecessors. The names of three distinguished Churchmen, imbued with a similar broad-minded and tolerant spirit, will at once occur to students of Scottish history. These were John Craig, Erskine of Dun, and David Lindsay. Craig, it will be remembered, opposed the Act of Assembly which prohibited praying for Queen Mary. But he was no courtly time-server, for he maintained, against Maitland, that princes who failed to keep faith with their subjects may justly be deposed. And yet again, because his reason commended it, he not only took the lead in subscribing the "Black Acts," but declared that kings, even bad kings, are responsible to God alone. Erskine of Dun was in many respects the ideal Scotsman of his time. He was "fervent in spirit, dilligent in business, serving the Lord": soldier, courtier, student, statesman, superintendent, all in one. Queen Mary liked him best of all the Scottish Reformers, and when it was suggested that one of them should reason with her, she asked for Erskine, referring to him as a "mild and sweet-natured man, with true honesty and uprightness." His views on Presbytery and Episcopacy were not of the high-flying and divine right order. He was quite willing to accept either. His counsels at all times made for moderation and peace. It was David Lindsay, then minister of Leith, who carried Knox's dying message of doom to Kirkcaldy of Grange. It was with reluctance that he obeyed, for he "thought the message hard." He was subsequently made a bishop, and was consecrated with the other bishops in 1610. His influence with the Court was considerable. He accepted Presbytery, but preferred Episcopacy, chiefly because it seemed to him to be less revolutionary and made more for civil peace.

And it must be admitted that during the period which is covered by these lectures, and while the Episcopal form of Church government was in the ascendant, the spirit of tolerance prevailed. It may be that the king acted in a high-handed and harsh manner towards some of those who opposed him. Some were warded, while others were banished. But no charge of persecution or of tyranny can be laid against the Church itself. Numerous Acts were passed making changes in the government and worship of the Church, which were far from pleasing to many of the ministers. But absolute conformity was not insisted upon, and though it was quite well known that the Acts of Assembly on these points were dead letters in numerous parishes, the questions involved were not regarded as so fundamental and serious as to warrant deposition, or even censure. This tolerance may have had not a little to do with the theological activity manifested both by Presbyterians and Episcopalians. Certainly no similar period in the history of the Scottish Church produced abler or more learned divines.

The remarkable resemblance between the group of theologians, whose position and views we are considering, and a similar body of men, almost their contemporaries in England, must have occurred to some of you. This group, with others of a kindred spirit who did not technically belong to it, has been dealt with in a singularly full and able way by the late Principal Tulloch in his well-known volumes on Rational Theology and Christian Philosophy in England in the Seventeenth Century} If Dr. Hastie, as he once intended, had taken up the subject which I am attempting to deal with, and written a book on it, or made it the theme of a course of lectures, we should have had a companion volume to Dr. Tulloch's that would have been a credit to Scottish Theology.

If one were writing a book, the proper method of treatment, perhaps, would be to take up each of the Aberdeen Doctors in turn, or the more important of them, and after a biographical sketch give his views on the question or questions which chiefly interested him, and on which he may have written. But this method is scarcely suitable for a course of lectures, so I shall in what follows arrange my material under the following divisions: Church Government, Doctrine and Worship, concluding with the subject of Union ; stating the attitude of the Aberdeen Doctors on these questions, and showing at the same time the appropriateness of the discussion for our day, and the significance of their solution for the leaders of thought among us.


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