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The Aberdeen Doctors
Chapter III - Church Government


As indicated in my last lecture, the round table of theological learning and scholarship that flourished in Aberdeen was on the eve of being broken up. Events had been moving rapidly south of the Tay and Forth, and the scene in St. Giles' Cathedral, Edinburgh, over the introduction of the Book of Common Prayer, commonly known as Laud's Liturgy, on the 23rd of July 1637, gave the signal for the revolt of the Scottish Church and people against the policy of King Charles and his advisers. The course of ecclesiastical events in Scotland up to this point from the Reformation is so well known, that it is unnecessary for me, in the present connection, to do more than refer to it. It is impossible, of course, to get every one to agree on the subject. Partisanship still prevails, although it is not of the pronounced kind that existed in the days of which we are speaking. It is not my object to advocate the one side or the other in the disputes that had now come to a crisis, but to make plain, as far as possible, the position of the Aberdeen Doctors, and to see in their attitude that spirit of moderation and reconciliation which, at the time, though seemingly unavailing, has more and more prevailed. It is such a spirit that is being called out of the depths at the present time, and for the successful working of which many good men are praying.

To one, reflecting upon what took place in Scotland during the first century and a half of the existence of the Reformed Church, it would seem as if the varying course of its history, was like a game of see-saw. First one side is in the ascendant and then another. To-day it is Andrew Melville, to-morrow it is King James ; at one moment it is Presbytery, the next it is Episcopacy. In the first part of the seventeenth century, when the Aberdeen Doctors flourished, Episcopacy was in the ascendant, and it seemed as if it were going to remain. But the Stuart Kings, especially Charles I., ignorant of, or blind to, the history of ecclesiastical affairs in Scotland, were determined to have uniformity, in all things, between the Anglican and Scottish Churches, and, of his own accord, with the approval of some and disapproval of others of the Scottish Bishops, Charles had a Book of Canons and a Liturgy framed, and, foisting them upon the Church, commanded their use. It was a foolish action, which any high-spirited people would have resented, and, as any one might have foreseen, it resulted in the disturbance in St. Giles', and the subsequent revolt of many of the people. It might appear, at the time, as if this were but one more act in the game of see-saw between Presbytery and Episcopacy, but it was a good deal more ; and no one of King Charles' defenders at the present day is foolhardy enough to justify his action, just as even the most true-blue Presbyterian would hesitate to defend the conduct of Andrew Melville, when that militant champion of the supposed privileges of the Church would preach sedition in the pulpit, and deny the right of the State to close his mouth, or to punish him for his misconduct. If progress is through antagonism, if truth is the offspring of opposing factions, and of the clash of conflicting opinions, then the Scottish Church ought to be, as King James himself declared, "the purest Kirk in Christendom," and the most fully developed.

The speed with which those who were afterwards to be known as the Covenanters took action, at this supreme moment, shows that the outburst in St. Giles' was not altogether accidental. It was only the spark which showed that the fire was already there. In any case, almost immediately, Committees, or Tables, as they were called, were formed, and a document drawn up, ever after so well known as the National Covenant, in which the Covenanters swore by the great name of the Lord their God, that they would continue faithful to the doctrine and discipline of the Church against all errors and corruption; that they would be loyal to His Majesty in defence of the laws, and true to one another. Some of the more moderate of the ministers were alarmed by the tenor of the Covenant, by its apparent condemnation of the form of Church government, and the ceremonies to which they had vowed obedience, and its sanction of armed resistance to the Royal authority. This was particularly felt among the more learned and thoughtful of the community. While the Covenant was being largely and enthusiastically signed by the common people, who identified Prelacy with Popery, and by the nobility, who saw in the creation of Bishops a disgorgement on their part of the Bishop's lands, which they had acquired by a method of conveyancing that would scarcely stand close inspection, the University of Glasgow was somewhat lukewarm, and certain of its professors refused to sign the Covenant; while the Universities of St. Andrews and Aberdeen went farther, and condemned it. Among the number of those who thus disapproved of the Covenant were, of course, the Aberdeen Doctors.

Aberdeen and the North were never very favourable to the Presbyterian system. Indeed, several parts of Scotland, as one can see from the number of Roman Catholics that are still to be found in them, were never really reformed, and while Aberdeen was not one of them, it had never been so extreme in its Protestant zeal as other counties of Scotland, nearer the ecclesiastical centre, in Edinburgh. The powerful influence of the Marquis of Huntly, who was more Roman Catholic than Protestant, may have contributed largely to this ; and when Episcopacy was again introduced, the Aberdonians took to it much more kindly than the majority of their countrymen. The statesman-like rule of Bishop Patrick Forbes, supported as it was by the learning and piety of the Professors in the University, had established Episcopacy in the minds and hearts of the people. Accordingly, one is not surprised to find that the Covenanters, who were carrying all before them in many of the other districts of Scotland, found little or no support in Aberdeen, and, determined that this stubborn county and city should be no exception, the Tables resolved to send special Commissioners north, to bring the less enthusiastic citizens of Bon-Accord to reason. It was well known that the men who had first of all to be persuaded into signing the Covenant were the Aberdeen Doctors. If they could be won, the rest of the people were sure to follow; so among the Commissioners were to be found the leading men in the Covenanting party. The Earl of Montrose, Lord Cupar, the Master of Forbes, and Sir Thomas Burnett of Leyes represented the nobility; and Alexander Henderson, David Dickson, and Andrew Cant, the ministry.

This was a great occasion for Aberdeen, and the Magistrates, according to the hospitable custom of the burgh, determined to give them a friendly welcome. Certain of their number were deputed to wait upon the Commissioners, on their arrival, and offer them the courtesy of the town, or the cup of Bon-Accord, being a collation of wine and other refreshments. The kindly invitation was refused, unless the Covenant was first subscribed, and the Magistrates, offended at the discourteous rejection of their hospitality, ordered the refreshments, which they had prepared, to be distributed among the poor. The Commissioners made a somewhat unpropitious start, but worse awaited them; for, "no sooner," says the parson of Rothiemay, "were they alighted from their horses, but the Doctors, and Divinity professors, and ministers of Aberdeen, who before had loud advertisements of their progress, did presently send unto the ministers some Queries concerning the Covenant, professing withal, that if they could satisfy their doubts, they would not refuse to join in Covenant with them, and protested that they wished the flourishing of religion as much as any, and that the reason that they had sent them that paper, was that it might be known to their brethren, that if hitherto they had not found themselves inclined to enter into Covenant with them, they, and all men, might know that it was not without weighty causes, which concerned their consciences, in all which they both desired and were willing to be resolved." There and then began the famous paper warfare between the Doctors and the three ministers representing the Covenant. The whole correspondence was published almost immediately under the title of General Demands concerning the Late Covenant. It was widely circulated, and created much interest. The author of the History of Scots Affairs,who, with Spalding, gives a long and graphic account of all the proceedings, is in no doubt as to with whom the victory lay, "for," he remarks, "there is no question but the three Covenanter ministers were ill-matched, for their abilities, with the most part of these.

The rapidity with which the Doctors' "Demands," fourteen in all, were prepared, and the Answers of the ministers written, a day only intervening, shows that the controversialists were not new to the task, but had the subject well thought out. Indeed, Forbes and Henderson in particular had been over the ground before, for the latter had a hand in preparing the Covenant, and the former, on its appearance, had written his Peaceable Warning to the Subjects in Scotland, for the purpose of forming a compromise, if possible, between the contending parties, and of avoiding the strife that was threatening to break up both the unity of the Church and the constitution of the kingdom. It was a well-meant effort, but failed in its purpose, just as his Irenicum, published after the introduction of the Perth Articles into the Church, and with Similar object, also failed. It fell to him, as it does not unfrequently tomediators, to please neither party; in any case he certainly did not find favour with the Covenanters, who attacked both his books, although he had been at great pains to remove from them any expression that might give offence. Immediately after the Answers of the ministers to the Demands of the Doctors were received, Replies were sent in, which again evoked fresh Answers from the ministers. This did not end the wordy warfare, for the Doctors penned a new series which they called "Duplyes," and as the ministers had, by this time, left the city, without making many converts to the Covenant, they were sent after them, and, if the last word in a controversy is a mark of victory, the Doctors certainly had it.

The points in the discussion were, to a certain extent, technical; some of them no doubt raised important questions in jurisprudence. With these we have in this connection very little to do, but when the Doctors pointed out that the Confession which they were now asked to sign was, in a large measure, the Negative Confession of 1580, and that by subscribing it they would be practically abjuring the Confession of the Church, which was that of 1567, putting themselves outwith the communion of other Reformed Churches, condemning rites which in the sincerity of their hearts they held to be lawful, we must admit they had good grounds for hesitating and, indeed, for refusing to sign the Covenant; otherwise they would wound their consciences by being false to their convictions and beliefs. The Covenant, in short, would overturn the government of the Church as it then existed, its form of worship, and its doctrines. And the Aberdeen Doctors, especially John Forbes, who was their leader and representative, could no more accept it than they could justify the extreme views of the Anglo-Catholics who, under the encouragement of Laud, were beginning to make their presence felt in the Church.

The triumph of the Doctors, however, was short lived. The Covenanters soon took forcible possession of Aberdeen, and the band of learned divines that had been formed and fostered by Bishop Patrick Forbes was broken up, and its members scattered over the country. After the Glasgow Assembly in 1638, when Episcopacy was overthrown and the Covenant was made binding upon all the ministers of the Church, the Aberdeen Doctors fared badly. Baron had died in the interval, but the rest were deposed. Baillie, and others of the Covenanters, speak with warm admiration and even affection of Baron, and especially of John Forbes. They felt that the Laird of Corse was the greatest man among them, if greatness consists in character, ability, scholarship, and piety. Some of them would have saved him if they could, and they sent him to St. Andrews to receive enlightenment at the hands of Samuel Rutherford. This was something like asking Timothy to instruct Paul. He was brought before the Synod at Aberdeen, and was found free of Popery and Arminian-ism, and was ordered to appear in Edinburgh to hear the decision. Dr. Garden, in his life of Forbes, suggests that, the decision being deposition, the Covenanters shirked the responsibility and odium of pronouncing it in Aberdeen, where Forbes was so highly respected. They dragged him, an old man, to Edinburgh, which in those days, even for an active person, was no light journey, to hear his doom pronounced. It is at once pathetic and edifying to read Forbes's diary, in which he tells of his travail during these years of suffering. The humility of the man and his trust in God, in the midst of all his troubles, are not the least remarkable features in his exemplary and distinguished life.

When he was asked to declare that Episcopacy was unlawful, he could not and he did not. Where is the Presbyterian, who, if the same question were asked of him in our day, would answer otherwise? Forbes, in his misfortune, had the consolation of the scholar. He intended to retire to Aberdeen, in order that, being in close proximity to the University Library, he might prosecute his studies, and prepare the great work on which he was engaged, for the press. But he had calculated without his host; he failed to remember that, in conveying the house in which he resided to the University, as the residence of the Professor of Divinity in King's College, he failed to secure his own liferent. It never occurred to him, at the time, that he would be ousted from his own residence as well as from his professorship, but that is what happened. The Covenanters knew no mercy, and poor Forbes was sent adrift. This last indignity and misfortune he bore with equanimity, but even a greater was still to follow. When the Solemn League and Covenant was agreed upon, a few years afterwards, he was ordered to sign it on pain of banishment. His conscience prevented him from signing ; he had accordingly to leave his country, and he sought refuge in Holland, where he remained for two years, finishing and publishing his book on Catholic Doctrine. He was then permitted to return home, and he retired to his family seat of Corse, spending the two remaining years of his life in meditation and the pious offices of a deep and devout soul. He asked permission, before his death, for his remains to be buried beside those of his wife in Old Machar Cathedral, where his father also rested, but this the Covenanters also denied him, and he was buried in the churchyard of Leochel, where no monument has been erected to mark the last resting-place of one who was one of the greatest theologians that the Church of Scotland has produced.

The Aberdeen Doctors found it impossible to sign the National Covenant, in which Episcopacy was abjured as unlawful, and they gave very good grounds for their refusal. The Confession of Faith of 1560, which was mainly the work of John Knox, and which was afterwards ratified by Parliament in 1567, assuredly did not ask them to do anything of the kind. Episcopacy was one of those questions which were left open, and, as recent ecclesiastical history has shown, "open questions" have a trick of proving very awkward when the interests involved come up for final settlement. It cannot be said that Knox thought Episcopacy to be unlawful ; he served as a minister for some time in England under that form of government, and he refused a Bishopric, not because he thought the office was contrary to the Word of God, or to the practice of the primitive and Catholic Church, but because, as he remarks, " of troubles to come." Nor did he believe in what is popularly known as Presbyterian parity, in the equality of all men, and especially of ministers, which some would have us regard as a sacred heritage from the Reformer himself, for he introduced Superintendents into the Church, to whom were delegated special powers and duties, and the supervision of the ministers and flocks of their district or diocese. Indeed, before his death, he saw the Concordat of Leith, and the introduction of Bishops into the Church. He did protest, not against the creation of Episcopacy, but against the first holder of the office, because he thought him unworthy of it. It is said that Knox accepted the new proposal because he thought it might help in getting better stipends for the clergy, just as Morton, and those who were acting with him, held that it would preserve the balance of the three estates in Parliament, and so prevent the breaking up of the Constitution. This of course may be true, but the point of importance is, that Knox raised no objections to the office per se.

Then came Andrew Melville, and with his Greek Testament proved that Presbyters were before Bishops in the Apostolic Church, and, acting on this idea, he gradually got the Church in 1580 committed to the acceptance of Presbytery; but, not content with the triumph which he had obtained, he declared his belief in the divine right of Presbytery. This was the beginning of troubles to come. In the Churches of the Reformation period no such claim was ever thought of. None of the Reformers declared that either Episcopacy or Presbytery, or any other form of Church government, was of divine right. They introduced the kind that seemed most expedient and suitable in the particular circumstances of the Church and nation. Accordingly, between all the Reformed Churches there was inter-communion, and the orders of the one were accepted, without demur, by the others. But, with the announcement of the divine right of Presbytery in Scotland by Melville, and by the Puritans in England, came a challenge from Bancroft, the future Archbishop of Canterbury, who promulgated the theory of the divine right of Episcopacy. A gulf was now made, which gradually increased in depth and width, and if we, in the present day, are to bridge it, it can only be by going back to the point at which it started.

Melville began to carry things with a high hand, and if his theory of the Church as a theocracy, with its appendix of spiritual independence, had been realised, the future history of Scotland would certainly have been different ; whether or no it would have been better is a doubtful point. James supported Episcopacy, in the first instance, in self-protection, and latterly, no doubt, because he saw that under such rule, as he conceived and enforced it, his position as an absolute monarch would be very much stronger. Still, though he packed Assemblies, browbeat some ministers, and banished others, he acted on the whole with a semblance, at least, of legality, and got the Assembly to pass and the Parliament to ratify all his actions. This should not be forgotten in considering the strife that arose between the Covenanters and the Aberdeen Doctors over Episcopacy and the ceremonies. The rejectors of both, one would think, would find it hard to prove them unlawful, either in relation to the laws of the country or the broad meaning of the Word of God.

Nor should one forget the kind of Episcopacy that found a home in Scotland during this period. It was what might be termed Anglo-Presbyterianism. The courts of the Church, which had sprung up under its earlier form of government, still continued in full force. Kirk-Sessions, Presbyteries, Synods, and General Assemblies met and dissolved, enforced discipline, and made and unmade ecclesiastical law. The Bishops, like other ministers, were subject to the supreme Court of the Church; they acted as permanent Moderators, ordained ministers with the help of the Presbytery, and had the oversight of their dioceses. They were very far indeed from being lords over Christ's heritage.1 But a certain number of them, and these the younger men, began to assert that theory of Episcopacy which was finding favour among the High Church party across the border, and whose head and front was Archbishop Laud. Doctor Leslie, Rector of St. Faith's, within Laud's own diocese in London; William Forbes, anti-Presbyterian to the utmost, who had drafted the first, and most obnoxious, of the five articles; Sydserf, a bitter enemy to sincere professors; Wedderburn, the special confidant of Laud, and a prebendary in the Cathedral of Wells; Whiteford, another divine of the same stamp—these were all made Bishops, and the last four, the leaders of the Canterburian faction, conducted themselves with a violence and a lack of temper of which Sydserf, who survived the Restoration, is said to have made ample acknowledgment in his old age. These men went to as great extremes on the Episcopal side as Melville and his friends did on the Presbyterian, and the irreconcilability of their attitude was made manifest when Maxwell, who was made a Bishop by Charles, about the same time as those just mentioned, asserted the Divine right of Episcopacy. Fast upon this came the Book of Canons and the Liturgy, which were forced upon the Church by the Bishops at the command of the King, without the sanction of Assembly or Parliament. This was indeed an uprooting of the constitution and practice of the Church, as it existed under the moderate rule of Archbishop Spottiswood and Bishop Patrick Forbes, as well as under the purely Presbyterian system which had, for a short time previously, prevailed.

Now it is at this point that the Aberdeen Doctors intervened and endeavoured to guide the Church in a middle course, which would have preserved its truly national character and the best features both of Presbytery and Episcopacy. Every national Church, worthy of the name, must represent the leading elements in the life of the people. If the Reformation accomplished one thing, for which we ought to be thankful, above almost every other, it was that it broke up the Roman Catholic Church, which imposed its ideal of uniformity, mainly an Italian one, on all the Churches of Christendom, irrespective of the countries in which they existed. When the power of the Papacy was broken, nationalities began to assert themselves, and the free life of the people to develop. The pent-up energies of countries that had been crushed and kept silent for centuries, burst forth, and expressed themselves in ther own special manner. Scotland was no exception; indeed, the national characteristics of our country are generally regarded as of a very pronounced nature, and these characteristics are found in our most representative men. John Knox himself has stamped his individuality, not only upon the great event which he guided, but upon the life of the people and the course of Scottish history as a whole. And yet, on the other hand, Knox was the offspring of Scottish parentage, and his character was moulded by the genius of his race. The very fact of his country responding so heartily to his religious and political views shows that he was their representative, bone of their bone and flesh of their flesh.

Now, if there is one thing more than another which can be said to be the national note of Scotland, it is what may be termed its love of representative government, both in Church and in State. It has never since the Reformation tolerated the dominance of any one man or body of men, call them an oligarchy or hierarchy ; it has always insisted upon free institutions, and has fought for them to the death. Both the High Presbyterian and the Anglo-Catholic would have robbed it of these; the former by his theocratic pretentions, and the latter by his belief in, and advocacy of, bureaucracy. It should not be forgotten that the nation repudiated the one as well as the other. When the High Presbyterian party were, in the early days of James's reign, carrying all before them, and imposing their theocratic ideas on the State, and consequently on the people, it was the people themselves who checkmated them and supported James. When in turn the Church, in the time of Charles, led by the Anglo-Catholics, would have imposed upon the people the tyranny of a group of Bishops with the King as their head, and have practically abolished the free expression of opinion, the nation again interposed, and would have none of it. The claim first made for independent rule, on the part of a certain group of bishops, is sometimes declared to be sacerdotalism; it is nothing of the kind. The "sacer" is a priest, and a priest is a servant, one who is willing to sacrifice his life. What was aimed at was a bureaucracy, a very different thing, a conclave of men whose claims were as absurd as their rule was tyrannical. This the national spirit of Scotland resented, and overthrew in the Revolution of 1638.

It will thus be seen that the two parties that came into conflict at this period have both practically vanished from Scottish Church history. It may be true that now and again the still, small voice of each may be heard, lifting itself plaintively up for recognition, but in vain ; there is no response. The party which has prevailed and remains is that of the Aberdeen Doctors. It may be that the form of Church government which they favoured has passed away, but its essential features remain; it is the party of true constitutionalism, of moderation, the one that really expresses the national spirit, and which embodies the leading characteristics of the Scottish people.

The views of the Doctors on the subject may be gathered from various sources, but the most authoritative pronouncement is that of Dr. John Forbes, who on this, as on the other leading questions, may be taken as their representative. In a work published by him in Aberdeen in 1629, to which reference has already been made, and about which we shall hear more when dealing with the subject of a subsequent lecture, he among other matters discusses very fully the question of Episcopacy. This work he issued under the title of Irenicum Amatoribus Veritatis et Pads in Ecclesia Scoticana. In it, as the title shows, he appeals to the unprejudiced section of his countrymen, to those in the Church who were more in love with truth and peace than with the triumph of either of the contending parties. Unfortunately, as the sequel showed, they were a minority. Like his other efforts in this direction, it aimed at producing harmony by appealing, not to the prejudices of one section or another, but to Scripture, to the testimony of Catholic antiquity, to the Reformed Church, and to right reason. These surely formed a broad enough basis, and one far enough removed from the misunderstandings and misrepresentations of the hour, on which to build up the truth and to join the warring factions in friendly unity. His book was suggested by the contention and strife which arose over the introduction of the Perth Articles into the Church, and while it deals chiefly with the questions which the Articles themselves raise, it also handles the broader question of Episcopacy and Presbytery.

The great argument advanced by those who were opposed to Episcopacy was that it was human, or ecclesiastical, and not Divine, and that it should accordingly be rooted out of the Church. That is an argument from which we have departed in our day, not only so far as it relates to one form of Church government, but almost to every other. It may well be that believers in Presbytery can claim priority for the form which they favour, but it is generally admitted that so far as the Church of the Apostles is concerned, all that can be found in the way of government is the germ or germs : the Church itself as it grew and developed, evolving a form or forms best suited to its spirit, and adapted for carrying out its work, as a Divine institution in the world. It is enough for us to believe in the Church itself and its ministry as of Divine appointment, without contending for more than the case merits, or indeed requires.

To those who argued against Episcopacy, on the ground just stated, Forbes pointed out that much was constituted by ecclesiastical authority, which it was not expedient to be held lightly by those who sat under it. Hence it by no means followed that this government must be despised, although it was introduced by ecclesiastical authority. No one in the Early Church, except Arius and Jerome, disputed that Bishops, by Divine authority, presided over Presbyters. Among the first Reformers, such as Calvin and Zanchy, this polity was recognised as lawful, pious, Christian, and not contrary to the Word of God, but in conformity with it, and useful and necessary. Forbes then comes nearer home, and appeals to the position of the Scottish Church itself, as this is found, in the First Book of Discipline, which represents mainly the views of John Knox himself. He refers especially to the section which relates to the election of Superintendents, and their function and power, and says that the opinion is clear that Knox's views on this subject were at one with those he had already quoted.

He then takes up the question of what at a later date—later, I mean, than the Reformation—came to be known in the Scottish Church as Presbyterian Parity ; and he maintains that on the Divine right theory of the ministry, disparity of ministers was not repugnant to such a theory, but was found to agree with it. For example, he says it was necessary that by Divine authority there should be a president over any gathering of clergy, and that he should not be removed from his office, or resign, except through fault or infirmity ; and because this president was called a Bishop, and the others were pleased with the title of Presbyters, it was not done contrary to Divine law, but, agreeable to Divine law, it was introduced by ecclesiastical authority, and by the oecumenical, Apostolic, and perpetual use of all ages. Therefore, he concludes, it remains that the cries and disturbances of the mob regarding this nomenclature is most insane.

Forbes then turns to the other side of the question, and speaks with even greater emphasis in favour of those who would do away with the kind of Bishop that bulked so largely in the popular imagination of the Scottish people. He would have none of your proud, tyrannical, arrogant, worldly, and slothful prelates, who flourished during the Roman supremacy in Scotland, and the remembrance of whom still lingered in the minds of the people. There can be no doubt that it was the scandals and evils associated with the rule of the old hierarchy that made the people of Scotland so hostile to the very name of Bishop, and they fancied that, in the mitre of the innocent prelate which John Forbes would recommend, they saw the horns of the Popish beast, and all the misrule of those dark days. Forbes detested, as whole-heartedly as they, the pretence and arrogance of the old order, and he set himself with equal force and reason to argue against the claims of the Anglo-Catholics, who were now beginning to appear in the Scottish Church, and to whom, as weak or willing tools in the hands of Charles and his advisers, we owe the introduction of the Liturgy which played such havoc in the national Church. Forbes held that the president, call him Bishop, Superintendent, or any name you please, should be as a brother, and subject himself to censure. That he ought to preside with all humility, and without pride or compulsion. That it was of Divine right that nothing of importance should be carried through without the consent of assembled presbyters; that by Divine ordinance he should remain a presbyter, and should be kept to the discharge of the Presbyterian office.

If Forbes's book was displeasing to the Highflying Presbyterian, it was no less objectionable to the High Anglican. Moderate men on both sides, lovers of truth and peace, agreed with him, and those who held views contrary to his could only answer them with abuse. Human nature then was pretty much as it is now, for Forbes' biographer tells us that those who wished that the rights of Episcopacy should be^tretched to their utmost limits, and who looked to its glory and splendour rather than to the pastoral office, received certain of his propositions neither with pleasure nor enthusiasm. We are far removed now from those times with their heat and strife. We see things in a truer light, and many, I feel certain, fully sympathise with the position of Forbes, if they do not altogether agree with it. And even more with him when in his reflection in his Diary on his trial by the Covenanters, and probable deposition, he says: "Concerning what is stated in the Covenant regarding Episcopacy, I dissent from my brethren, and although Episcopacy, which I regard as lawful, and according to the Word of God, does not overthrow Presbytery; and although in churches which are ruled by presbyters there be no Bishop, still this does not destroy the nature of the Church, nor abolish the validity of Orders and Jurisdiction; and although my opinion concerning these domestic dissentions agrees with the judgment of Catholic Antiquity and the Reformed Churches ; and since it was known to my brethren that I had been placed in this position by God through the Church, and that I had proved faithful to my charge and the Reformed religion ; I do not see how, with due reverence towards God, it is safe for my brethren to expel me, or to place any terror in my path, in following the duty demanded of me by God."

There is something pathetic in this appeal of one who was the greatest theologian in the Church, and one of the purest spirits that ever adorned its ministry, to his brethren, that they should not expel him for holding views which every one in our day regard as in no way contrary to the Word of God, or to the teaching and practice of the Church of the earliest times, or of the Reformation. Forbes was quite prepared to accept service in the Presbyterian Church as now restored, as he was in the Episcopal Church that had just been abolished. Although he had a preference for the one form of ecclesiastical government over the other, it was only a preference, and he believed that both were quite in keeping with the teaching of Scripture and the mind of the Apostles. He would have gone on quite willingly discharging the duties of his office, as Professor of Divinity in King's College, in the Presbyterian Church, as now restored. He would have held communion with its members, as he actually did, and preached in its pulpits, but this was denied him. The validity of the orders and the right of jurisdiction of the one Church he held to be as sound and lawful as of the other, and he would leave it to the wisdom of the Church itself, which, with its ministry, he regarded as of Divine appointment, to choose between the two forms of Church government, which, acting under the guidance of Almighty God, it believed to be most expedient and best suited in the circumstances.

Is there not something very germane to the present condition of Churches and ecclesiastical parties in our country in this attitude of Dr. John Forbes? Not only his spirit but his views seem to me to point in the direction which good men in all churches should follow, in striving to bring harmony and unity, not only between the separate sections of Presbyterianism, but also between the two great Communions which were at strife in his day, and between whom a better understanding would now seem to exist. It is not principle but prejudice that stands in the way.


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