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The Aberdeen Doctors
Chapter IV - Doctrine


The mediating influence of the school of thought represented by the Aberdeen Doctors is seen in the discussions that arose on questions of doctrine as well as on those pertaining to Church government. Here again the Reformation left certain points unsettled, or at all events the spirit of free inquiry, which is the prerogative of Protestantism, asserted itself during the time of which we are speaking, as it did at an earlier, and as it has done at a later, period. Protestantism of course arose, in the first instance, as its name signifies, in protest against the government, doctrine, and worship of the Roman Church ; but it cannot live on mere protest; it must have freedom of thought, and the power of development within itself. This, however, was not altogether understood by the first Reformers, nor is it universally admitted even yet. Indeed, when the Confessions of the Protestant Churches were put into shape, they, in the view of their authors, were quite as binding upon the minds of their members as the dogmas of the Roman Church upon its adherents, and it would seem as if the main duty of the magistrate, or civil power, was to see that the terms of the Confession were enforced, by compulsion if necessary. Tolerance, as we conceive it, was not understood in those days, and the Scottish Church was certainly no exception to the rule which guided the other Protestant Churches in this matter. Indeed, it was less tolerant than some, and never for a moment doubted that it could be mistaken.

But the spirit which it had called up from the deep could not remain quiescent or silent. It was bound sooner or later to bestir itself, and to speak out. If, according to the teaching of Protestantism, no power has the right to'1 intervene between the soul and God, and if every man is entitled to test truth in the light of Scripture, as interpreted by the Spirit, then it follows that freedom of religious thought is a privilege and a duty, which no Church or Confession should unduly hamper or bind. Well, it must be admitted that the Scottish Confession of 1560 gave considerable room for freedom of thought on some of the most important doctrines of the Christian Faith, much more freedom than the Westminister Confession which superseded it. It came, as Edward Irving said, " from the hearts of laborious workmen all the day long busy with the preaching of truth," and who had neither the time nor the inclination to put it into the iron cast form which characterises the present symbol of the Scottish Church. There is accordingly a flexibility in the old Scottish Confession, not necessarily an ambiguity, which, while it may not invite, as its Preface does, objections or suggestions, permits a certain independence in the working out of details. Shall we say that in doctrine, as in Church government, everything had not been thought out, and that on purpose or by necessity the spirit of Protestantism was to be allowed its inalienable right to interpret and to develop Christian truth?

In any case, two tendencies began to manifest themselves. The first in the direction of a more rigorous conception of the Calvinistic theology, on which the Confession of the Scottish Church was based; and the second in the direction of freedom from certain of its premisses and the conclusions logically drawn from them. Scotland did not stand alone with regard to these two movements.

It acted in line more or lem with the other Reformed Churches, and this twofold tendency, seeing it was so general, must have been inherent in Protestantism itself, and in the circumstances which conditioned its progress at the first. One can see at a glance the necessity for the hardening process, as it may be termed, whichbegan soon after the Reformation. A Church, as an institution, cannot hold its own against the world, or even exist, without a definite code or symbol, which is binding on all its members. And the Churches of the Reformation felt the special need of this in view of the enemy, which was the Church of Rome. They had no outward organisations, such as it had, no tradition, no hierarchy ; all that they had were their Confessions ; these, accordingly, which were sneered at as paper Popes, must be made as distinct and binding as possible. Hence arose that logical development in the Reformed Churches, of the Calvinistic theology, which very soon in the hands of certain of its interpreters passed into a barren scholasticism, a system which is purely intellectual, without having any very close relation to man's spiritual or practical life.

This phase finds ample illustration in the literature of the period. On the purely theological side the leading exponent was Robert Boyd of Trochrigg, who for some years discharged the duties of Principal and Professor of Divinity in the University of Glasgow. His teaching is found in the commentary which he wrote on the Epistle to the Ephesians. In elaborate dissertations on the chief points of the Calvinistic theology he states his views, which are elucidated and supported by all the learning of the times, and by mental qualities of the highest order. The more rigid form which Calvinism was now taking is clearly shown in Boyd's work. It can also be seen in the new Confession of Faith, which was submitted to, and approved by, the General Assembly which met in Aberdeen in 1616. It was never adopted by the Church, and its chief importance lies in the light which it throws on the doctrinal teaching of the times. According to Dr. Milroy, there is in this Confession " an advance along the whole line, and it is an advance in strict Calvinistic orthodoxy. Opinions which could have been freely held under the Scottish Confession could not have been maintained under that of Aberdeen. The decrees of God are absolute and from all eternity. Before the foundation of the world, God, according to the good pleasure of His will, did predestinate and elect in Christ, some men and angels unto eternal felicity, and others He did appoint for eternal condemnation to the praise and glory of His justice.' There is not only election mentioned, but its counterpart, reprobation, and reprobation is not merely a passing over of some, but an absolute appointment to eternal condemnation. Redemption is particular, limited to the elect alone, who in time are redeemed and restored, not of themselves, or of their works, but only of the mercy of God through faith in Jesus Christ." There should not be much regret that this Confession was dropped, but it remains, adds Dr. Milroy, "as an old neglected stone pillar, on which there can still be read, inscribed in clear characters, the faith then professed ; and is an unimpeachable witness to the significant fact that, though the government of the Church had been changed from Presbytery to Episcopacy, the Faith of the Church changed only in the direction of a narrower and stricter orthodoxy." This opinion, however, requires to be modified by the fact, which Dr. Milroy himself mentions, that the Confession was largely designed by King James to promote the closer union of the Scottish with the English Church, and as the latter was at the time strongly Calvinistic, the doctrinal bond of union must necessarily be made to conform.

If the tendency just indicated towards a more definite and logical statement of the doctrinal position of the Church arose, more or less, from the necessity of making its forces compact and its bulwarks strong against the Church of Rome, other weapons were at hand for protecting it against the attacks that were being made, and it was in the forging and using of these weapons that the Aberdeen Doctors chiefly interested themselves. They were not, as we shall see, Calvinists of the strict and orthodox sort. The method which they employed for proving the doctrinal stability of the Scottish Church differed from that of Boyd and the framers of the Aberdeen Confession. They met the arguments of the Roman theologians with arguments of their own, and wrote books in defence of the Reformed theology. Bishop Patrick Forbes himself was active in this field, and he published a work, entitled A Defence of the Lawful Calling of the Ministers of Reformed Churches against the Cavillations of Romanists. Some of the more important of Baron's works had a similar object in view, and the criticisms penned by Dr. William Forbes on the margins of his copy of Bellarmine's works were thought so highly of, particularly by Baron, as to be carefully preserved by him for future use and publication ; but the volumes went amissing, and have never been recovered. But the most notable champion of the doctrines of the Reformed Church was Dr. John Forbes.

All over Protestant Europe, emissaries of the Roman Church were to be found spreading its tenets, trying to make converts, and casting discredit upon the teaching and belief of the Reformed Church. The Reformation was not yet a century old, and it was hoped that its work might still be undone, and that its misguided children might again be gathered within the folds of the Mother Church. Scotland did not escape the attention of these emissaries. Their great argument was that the whole of antiquity stood on their side and was opposed to the doctrines of the Reformers, and for that end they brought forward many opinions from the Fathers which favoured the Roman doctrine. Hence some of the more simple were induced to leave the Reformed Communion, believing that Catholic antiquity stood by the other side. But others rejected all antiquity, as if it were contrary to Holy Scripture. The Romanists accordingly boasted that if the Reformed religion were proved to be new it could be condemned as false.

We thus see that the issue raised was clear, and sharp, and definite. The Roman Church had found its champion in Bellarmine, and it is not too much to say that the Reformed Church, of Scotland at least, found its champion in John Forbes.

The weakness of the popular Protestant position is found in its rejection of the whole of Catholic antiquity, and in resting its arguments on Scripture alone. This, it may be said, has been the weakness of popular Protestantism all along, for it involves the disadvantage of abandoning all historical continuity. The Church of the Reformation was linked on to the Church of the Apostles, but the space which intervened between the Apostles and Reformers was passed over. The Church was thus not an historical development, but a new creation quickened into life by the Divine Word. It will accordingly be seen that the advantage, so far as choice of ground was concerned, lay with the Roman Church, and the Bishop and clergy of Aberdeen, realising their responsibility, founded the Chair of Divinity in King's College for the express purpose of appointing a professor, who should combat the views of the Roman Church, and prove that the doctrines of the Reformed Church were no upstart novelties, but had their basis in Scripture and in Catholic antiquity, and were the only true development of Christian thought.

The man chosen for this work was Dr. John Forbes, and no better man could have been found. He instituted the study of Historical Theology in Scotland. He took up each doctrine of the Church, showed its sure basis in Scripture, and then traced its development from century to century. Brooding over this work with the greatest diligence, he unfolded the Fathers and councils. Not trusting to the quotations of others, he consulted the authors themselves, and faithfully presented to the students of theology the historical movement of religion through each age. He thus proved that if the charge of novelty is to be levelled against any Church it must be against that of Rome, and that the Reformed Church was the only valid successor of the Church of the Apostles and the Fathers. The results of these years of study Forbes afterwards incorporated in his great work on the Doctrines of the Catholic Church Historically Considered} It was published in Amsterdam in 1644, and remains one of the greatest monuments of theological learning, candour, fairness, and force of argument of that or any other age.

It requires no forced interpretation to see the bearing of Dr. John Forbes' teaching on present-day movements in the Scottish Church. There is, to begin with, a deeper appreciation of the doctrine of the historical continuity of the Church than there used to be. The old extreme conception of Protestantism as a severance of Christian thought and life from the Church Catholic has now been largely abandoned. And while Scripture, as the foundation of the Church, has lost none of its value, the long-neglected truth, upon which Forbes so strongly and rightly insists, that the Reformed Church is a development of the Apostolic and Early Church, is being more clearly seen and cordially admitted. It was in this sense that the Aberdeen Doctors arrogated to the different branches of the Protestant Church the term Catholic, and, in the conception which they thus claimed, and which is again being revived, we find the Scottish Church to be a living branch, and not a detached twig, of the Church Catholic, and a guarantee of that unity of spirit which is being more fully recognised in our day.

But the second tendency to which I referred now began to make its appearance. It was bound to do so. It was in the direction of freedom from the trammels of the dogmatic and confessional theology of the times. The very fact that the Protestant Church was thrown back upon itself, and had to vindicate its position against the criticisms of its opponents, necessarily quickened the spirit of free inquiry which was inherent in it. The question of authority was fundamental. The grounds on which it based its validity had to be examined and vindicated afresh, whether Scriptural, or doctrinal, or confessional. It is thus seen that, however much inclined the Reformers and their successors might be to bind together in a solid body the members of the Protestant Church by adherence to a series of beliefs carefully formulated and put into symbolical forms, there was to be no finality. The very weapon with which Protestantism had pierced the Roman Church was now about to be turned against itself.

While this movement was more or less general all over Protestant Europe, its centre was to be found in Holland. Like every other new departure, which may, in its development, involve many features and phases, it began with the discussion of a single point. It started with a repudiation of the Calvinistic doctrine of predestination. This doctrine, like many others of Protestant theology, was borrowed from Augustine, who in turn was indebted for it to St. Paul, but in the hands of the two great Doctors of the ancient and Reformed Churches the doctrine was put into a metaphysical mould, and in its later developments was carried out with a logical rigour which compelled men who had warmth of love in larger measure than coldness of intellect, to turn away from it with something like horror. Paul was far from putting the doctrine in the repellent shape which it afterwards assumed, and although by the laws of formal logic the Augustinian, and especially the Calvinian, conception of it may be irrefutable, still formal logic is a very poor instrument by which to measure the religious consciousness. In any case so thought certain members of the Reformed Church in Holland, and their protest having been taken up by Arminius, the revolt spread over Western Europe, touched our shores, and found sympathisers in various parts of the country, particularly in Aberdeen and among its learned Doctors.

It is not necessary for our purpose to enter into the controversy with any fulness of detail. It will be sufficient to state in a word the diverging line of thought between the two systems. "The Divine decree, to which human salvation is to be attributed, was, according to Calvin's conception, absolute and irresistible. It implied a Divine partition of the human race into saved and into not saved, originating in the pure will and determination of God. The decisiveness of the decree was quite as real on the negative as on the positive side ; the reprobate, as they were called, were as definitely marked out as the saved. The whole drama of the moral world, in short, in its antagonism of good and evil, hung on the absolute fiat of an Almighty Will." Against this Arminius protested; he would exclude from the sphere of the Divine determinism the origin of evil, or, in other words, the event of the Fall, and he brought prominently forward the free activity of the human will as a co-determinent in the work of salvation. " In defining the character and measure of this co - determination, the Calvinists accused Arminius of virtually denying Divine grace, and transferring the work of salvation from God to man. To this Arminius replied, that Calvinists converted the Divine will into mere fate, and so made God the author of sin." Such, in broad outlines, were the points of difference, but these speedily multiplied, and in the disputes which followed there was much shedding of ink and losing of temper. All the same, one vital result followed. The spirit of free inquiry, of independent thought, of the duty of private judgment, all inherent in Protestantism, were again asserted; and an impetus was given to theological reflection and progress, from which can be traced the first beginnings of Biblical research and scholarship within the Church, and of philosophical thought without it,

Among the first in Scotland to sound the note of this new departure was John Cameron, who took Boyd's place in 1622 as Professor of Theology in Glasgow University. He was admitted on all hands to be one of the most learned men of his time, and he came to his work in Glasgow after a lengthened training both as student and teacher in some of the most important schools of learning on the Continent. He only remained a year in Glasgow, but even within that short period he did enough to quicken the interest of many in the pressing theological problems of the day. The most important of his positions is perhaps the one he held with regard to authority in religion, and his exposition of the Word of God in this relation is both powerful and suggestive. He also attacked Calvinism more or less on the lines of Arminius, with a certain differentiation which, in the hands of his pupil Amy-rauld, established a school of his own. In the following century his views were adopted by Richard Baxter, and were widely known and strongly condemned in Scotland under the name of Baxterianism.

The Aberdeen Doctors, as we have said, shared in this movement. It was a breaking up of the Calvinian scholasticism into which the Church was fast drifting. The freedom of the will, the nature of predestination, of God's foreknowledge, the scope of Christ's atonement, the character of election, the possibility of reprobation, were only some of the subjects discussed. Even the relation between faith and works again cropped up, so too did the subject of authority, of rites and ceremonies, of orders, Church government, and of Church union. In fact, the whole circle of theological encyclopaedia, as then known and understood, came in for discussion, and champions of both sides entered the field in large numbers, and displayed an ability, scholarship, and subtlety which have never been surpassed in this country. It was a time of great intellectual awakening on the subject of religion, the one which at the time was of supreme interest to the public. The spirit of free inquiry, however, was soon to be crushed; the Covenanting Assembly of 1638 effectually put an end to the new movement. Every minister and professor suspected of heresy was tried, and any divergence from the strictest Calvinism was a sufficient reason for deposition. The Aberdeen Doctors, who took a leading part in the discussion of every important question that then interested the Church, and who were among the advanced guard in the new movement, were among the first to be tried and to be deposed.

The chief question, of course, was the one which centred in Predestination, and here again, as in that of Church government, which was discussed in the last lecture, there were two extreme positions maintained. There was, of course, the strictly Calvinistic, but there was also the ultra-Arminian. With regard to the first, sufficient has already been said ; it was represented by the vast majority of those who led the Church towards the settlement which ended in the Westminster Confession of 1645, and which effectively damped the spirit of liberty, of free inquiry, and of theological progress in the Scottish Church for two hundred years. The second party was necessarily in a very small minority, and the fact of this need not be regretted. They were represented, for example, by a man like John Crighton, a professed Arminian, and Popish champion, and a cousin of Baillie the Covenanter. One is not surprised that " he was the first minister deposed by the Assembly of 1638. His heresies were numerous. He was said to have advocated confession and prayers for the dead; to have described the English Liturgy as so excellent and perfect that man nor angel could make a better; to have taught that both Papists and Protestants went to heaven though they entered by different gates ; and that to sit at Communion was to ' sit with God cheek by joule.' His Arminianism, or rather the liberal theology denounced as such, was quite as apparent, and was still more forcibly expressed. He taught that Christ died for all—for Judas and Peter ; that it was possible for us to fulfil the law ; that, in spite of Christ's prediction, Peter might have contained his tongue within his teeth and not denied Christ ; and that the difference between Papists and Protestants, Calvinists and Lutherans, Arminians and Gonnarians, Conformists and Nonconformists, was but a mouthful of moonshine; and if Churchmen were peaceably set they might be easily reconciled. Predestination he denounced with noble vehemence as a doctrine rashly devised, hatched in hell, and worthy to be deleted out of God's Word. Whoever mentions, says he, election or reprobation before the foundation of the world, mentions a damnable doctrine." 

Such extreme views were bound to defeat themselves, and their only value and interest consist in their showing how great was the reaction that had set in. The Aberdeen Doctors, true to their spirit and to the policy which guided them in most of their efforts, took up a moderate position, and endeavoured to mediate between the extreme sections. This at the time was no easy task; it was, as some even yet think, an impossible one, and their attempt was in any case prejudiced by the fact that the Anglo-Catholics, both in the Scottish and English Churches, with whom they were supposed to be in sympathy, were for the most part Arminians of a rather pronounced type. The leading exponent among the Doctors of the theological movement which was agitating the Church was Baron. He had written on the subject, and, as has already been mentioned, he engaged in a public dispute with Samuel Rutherford over the main questions at issue. It might be thought that the Covenanters, seeing he was dead, would have allowed his memory to rest in peace; but that was not their way. They caused the house of his widow to be invaded, and any papers he might have left to be secured and brought before them for examination. This, on the first blush, might seem altogether unnecessary, for his published works bore ample testimony to his views. They also subjected Dr. Sibbald to a similar inquiry. His papers too were seized, and he bitterly complained that they regarded, as evidence against him, fragments of thought, quotations from books which he had read, and hurried notes which he had made for probable lectures. He was pilloried as an Arminian, and as a semi-Papist, because he defended Lent, the consecration of Churches, and the use of clerical dress. Nor was he regarded as sound on the question of Divine justice and punishment, and the relation between faith and works.

Dr. Garden, in his life of John Forbes, says that the manuscript of the discussion between Baron and Rutherford was in existence in his day. I have not, so far, been able to trace it, but in any case there is sufficient authority for the points in dispute between them and for the position taken up by each. In the public disputation that took place, Baron maintained, first, that God predestined the wicked to Hell because he foresaw their wicked works; and, second, that Christ died for all men. Rutherford vehemently maintained, on the contrary, that God "predestined the wicked to hell, not because He foresaw their wicked works, but by His own absolute decree, and that Christ died not for all men, but for the elect only." 1 Baron's teaching was similar to that of Cameron : "the will of man was free, there was no necessity for acting in this manner or in that imposed on man's will by God, either by an eternal decree or by subjecting it to the influence of an irresistible motive. The will being free, the actions were also free; God did indeed predestinate some to everlasting life, and others He left to perish, but this predestination was not absolute and arbitrary, but proceeded from His foreknowledge of the faith and repentance of some, and of the voluntary unbelief and impenitence of others." The atonement also was universal. Christ had died for all men, and therefore all men might become reconciled to God in Christ, provided only they believed the Gospel and repented.

It is worthy of remark that the commission appointed by the Covenanters to inquire into the teaching of Dr. John Forbes acquitted him of Arminianism. I do not know if they were altogether justified in doing this, but their action points to two things. It indicates their desire to secure his continued services for the Church. There is no doubt whatever about their lothness to part with him. They stretched any toleration of which they were capable, in his case, to the breaking-point. If he had just signed the National Covenant they would have acquitted him of everything, but this he could not do, for he knew that in signing it he would have charged himself with everything. Their action indicates also that his Arminianism must have been of a very mild type, and this is really the case. He was not carried away by the new movement in theology, just as he was not over-persuaded by the fresh departure in Church government, or in the practice of ceremonies which marked the Church of his time. On this as on every other question he manifested that sobriety of judgment which comes from a thorough knowledge of the subject, and from the possession of a calm, unprejudiced, and evenly balanced mind. The one point in the Calvinian theology at which he emphatically drew the line, was the predestination of man by God to evil. He differed widely from the current theology on the question of reprobation; he thought it horrible blasphemy that God should be held to damn, from all eternity, a certain section of the human race; otherwise he regarded himself as an Augus-tinian.

We are far removed from these old struggles. The questions which agitated the Church in the time of the Aberdeen Doctors, and which were so gravely and learnedly, and not unfrequently hotly, discussed, have ceased to interest us in the same keen manner as they did them. The theological compass has veered round and points in other directions ; and yet to thinking men, whether they be Protestants or Roman Catholics, Churchmen or Secularists, Believers or Agnostics, the fundamental problem which so engrossed the minds of the leading men of that age remains a fundamental problem still, and will continue to do so for all time. It should not be overlooked that however much the Calvinist and the Arminian differed, they were practically agreed on one point. Neither of them denied the absolute sovereignty of Almighty God, and man's moral relation to and dependence upon Him. There was no question as to whether God had the power to issue decrees which some might regard as horrible. The question in dispute was, whether such decrees were in keeping with the character of God as he had been revealed to man, in all the depth and tenderness of his Fatherhood by Jesus Christ. It is being admitted now, although it was not understood then, that certain of the problems raised by Calvinism, although capable of being drawn out to a clear and definite conclusion by formal logic, are, in their issue, repellent to the Christian consciousness, and, in themselves, transcend human reason. This, however, does not cause us, just as it did not compel John Forbes, to repudiate Calvinism, or to fail to see in it the only conception of theology which gives a rational view of God, man, and the world. Indeed, whether we care to admit it or no, the common belief of our own Church, and of almost every other Church, is Calvinist in essence and Arminian in detail. The essence, of course, is the vital thing. It has been belief in God, as the supreme sovereign and judge, as the one being with whom man has to do, that has revolutionised the modern world and made Protestantism the great spiritual force in regenerating mankind. When the Church begins to lose hold of this belief, it will cease to be a force in the world-When man repudiates his relation to God as a moral being, conduct will lose its spring. Yet the Arminian element, or, as we should regard it, the softening, liberating, and broadening features of the movement, which began to affect Christian thought at the time with which our lectures deal, is not without its value. It encourages inquiry, gives the hope of progress, inculcates charity, and diverts the thoughts of men from the vague discussion of transcendental and insoluble problems, to the plain path of duty, and to the intrinsic value in the sight of God and man, of practical conduct and the homely virtues. In these, after all, as flowing from man's moral relations to God, is true religion to be found.

This natural reaction towards the practical side of Christian thought and life, is fully illustrated in the writings of the Aberdeen Doctors. The absorbing interest of the time in those transcendental questions which are associated with hyper-Calvinism were drawing the minds of men away from the plain path of duty and the practical virtues, with which conduct is concerned. At all events the ethical element in the Christian religion was receiving but scant justice. It was to a fresh, and necessary, reconsideration of this important question that the Aberdeen Doctors drew the attention of their contemporaries, and, strange to say, it was brought as a charge against them. The matter first of all came up over their view of the relation between faith and works. Dr. John Forbes, Doctor Baron, and Dr. Sibbald, along with Dr. William Forbes, were all equally implicated in this supposed heresy. Dr. John Forbes puts his position thus : " Good works are the works of the creature, through the working in him of the Creator." These, he thinks, are predestined, but the wicked deeds of the same creature, inasmuch as they are only his, and proceed not from the will of God, "may be said to be foreknown, but not predestined by God." The sentence which, in this connection, is of importance, is the one in which he says that " good works are the works of the creature through the working in him by the Creator." Baron adopted a similar view, and so did Sibbald, who was accused of regarding almsgiving as meritorious ; in other words, of maintaining that man deserves some credit for good conduct and charity. Dr. William Forbes was held to be even a greater sinner on this question, for he maintained that man was justified not by being accepted as righteous, but by being made righteous.4 This teaching raised at the time a storm of opposition, but is it not the case that in our day it is received with greater favour ? That a man is justified not by a righteousness imputed to him, but by a righteousness wrought in him, is certainly not Calvinistic doctrine, but in the form in which it has been moulded by John M'Leod Campbell, and others, it is frequently taught in Scottish pulpits and certainly does not excite the strong feelings of indignation which it did in Forbes' day.

The important point, however, in all these discussions, is that there was a party in the Church anxious to lead the minds of men away from a scholastic theology, which ended in a fruitless controversy on theories that are still held to be very much in the air, to the bed-rock of the Christian religion, which is found in human conduct as the result of a profound belief in God as the moral Governor and Father of all. This tendency is further seen in two important works written by Dr. John Forbes, the one of which deals with Christian Ethics, and the other with the Pastoral Office. It is surely very significant that in the days of which we are speaking, which are associated in our minds with endless debates and divisions on questions of Church government, doctrine, and ceremonies, important books should be written by a leading scholar and thinker in the Scottish Church on subjects that are so matter of fact as conduct and duty on the part both of the people and of ministers. This can hardly be regarded as a sign of the times, nevertheless it is a prophecy of what was to happen in the more or less distant future. The war of parties raged till after the Revolution Settlement, but after that the Church settled down, and it was the spirit and practice of Dr. John Forbes that governed it until the Disruption, and, if I mistake not, it is his teaching that is again coming to the front and will prevail over the difficulties that are now facing us. Forbes took as the subject of his lectures on Ethical Theology the Decalogue, and he discusses the great moral problems raised by each of the ten commandments in the most thorough manner. He first of all gives an exposition of the precept with which he is dealing, traces the development of the various controversies regarding it, and gives an explanation of the cases of conscience that may be involved. Here again he follows the historical method, the surest, most informing, and illuminating. He shows great freedom and independence in handling the various questions which arise. In discussing the fourth commandment, for instance, he proves himself to have been fully abreast of the times, and to have anticipated the broader interpretation of its meaning which is current in our day.

In his other work, just referred to, that on the Pastoral Office, we find the same practical tendency. He laboured that his students should have a due sense of the great weight and responsibility of their vocation, and he thought that no one should undertake the duties of the pastorate unless called by God. He deals with the question of ordination, vocation, and residence, and is careful to guard the future ministers of the Church against the assumption of duties outwith their province. His counsels are full of wisdom, and his prelections must not only have afforded guidance to his hearers, but have also inspired them with a high sense of their calling.

Enough, I think, has been said to show the sane, and truly national course, adopted by the Aberdeen Doctors, on the doctrinal discussions of their day. Their aim all through was to get at the truth, as far as possible from the party feelings and prejudices that affected most of those who took part in the current disputes. If in the end their theology took the form of practice, it ought surely to be put to their credit. This was the common ground on which all could meet. Christian morality is not a matter for dispute, and it is based, as every one admits, on Christian theology. If men then be agreed upon the one, they cannot differ very widely, or seriously, upon the other. It may be true that in the course of time the practical teaching of the moderate party, represented by the Doctors, failed in religious fervour. But there is nothing good but which, through over-exaggeration, may manifest defects. But so far as the Doctors themselves were concerned, their teaching and their life were evenly balanced. No one can accuse them of lack of fervour ; their piety was rare even for their day. Nor did they fail in theological knowledge or grasp. The practical result of their thought must accordingly have been full of matter and imbued with a truly religious spirit. It is towards this happy combination that the steps of all the Churches are being directed in our day, and it is fortunate that they are not without bright examples from the past to light and guide them.


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