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Parish Life in the North of Scotland
Chapter XVIII - The General Assembly of 1820


I MUST now advert to the state of opinion in the Church of Scotland during the years 1820-21. Perhaps at no former period of its history did the two opposing church-parties pit themselves with greater energy or more uncompromising hostility against each other. These were the "Moderates" and the "Evangelicals." The contest between them appeared to be equally well-sustained, particularly on the battlefield of the General Assembly, where each side was led on by men of influence and ability. Dr. John Inglis of Edinburgh was at the head of the Moderate party. His known principles led him to adopt a carnal, worldly policy, and his mind, stern and unbending, was altogether free from what he regarded as the mere trammels of pietism or fanatical precision. Every minister of a parish who looked to stipend, manse and glebe more than he looked to Christ, ranged himself at once under the guidance of Dr. Inglis. He was the pole-star of ministerial duty! he was the oracle of the Church of Scotland! But Dr. Inglis thought for himself, and was quite capable of so doing; in all matters of policy or duty lie acted sturdily, and with home-spun honesty and straightforwardness, up to his light. He took up his own position with dogged determination. If others followed him good and well, if not, he was somewhat displeased, perhaps not a little rude, may be even ferocious, but still lie let them have their way, he could not help them, and would not undertake to furnish them with the understanding which God had evidently , denied them. Such was Dr. Inglis, the helmsman of the Moderate party of that day. [Dr. John Inglis was minister of OId Greyfriars', Edinburgh; he died 2nd Jan., 1834, in the 72nd year of his age and 48th of his ministry. In 1824 he was appointed convener of the General Assembly's first committee for sending the gospel to India, the ditties of which he very ably discharged The Rt. Hon. John Inglis (Lord Glencorse), the present distinguished Lord Justice-General and President of the Court of Session, is his son.—Ed.]

In his wake followed Dr. Nicol, Principal of the United Colleges of St. Andrews, and the wealthy proprietor of a goodly estate in Morayshire. His intellect, nevertheless, was but third-rate, and in any undertaking he was at his wits' end if some one of more acuteness and resolution than himself, did not go before him to break the ice, and mark out a path or track for him which he could distinctly see and manfully follow. He was always watchful, therefore, to avail himself of such golden opportunities. He was annually elected a member of the Assembly, and his great ambition was to be one of its leaders. His social position and literary qualifications contributed not a little to gratify the wish of his heart, all the more that he had a rare capacity for "wording" himself into a subject when he took it in hand, and out of a scrape when he happened to get into one.
Side by side with Dr. Inglis as a leader, although of course in a subordinate capacity, seeing be was a much younger man, was Dr. Duncan Mearns, Professor of Theology in King's College. As a ruler of the church, Dr. Mearns exceeded all his compeers in the characteristic of consistency. His course in all the outgoings and incomings of church policy was even, undeviating and pertinacious, and the older men, in prospect of soon passing from the stage, looked upon him as one of the main props of their party for the coming years.

But perhaps the most active and efficient, and I fear I must add unscrupulous, of the Junta of Moderate rulers was the well-known Dr. George Cook, then minister of I,aurencekirk, but afterwards Professor of Moral Philosophy in the University of St. Andrews. He was nephew of the celebrated Principal Hill, a leader who more than filled any place which he attained in the ecclesiastical courts. Dr. Cook strove to reach the same public eminence and notoriety. He failed, however, to do so, in spite of the sacrifices which he made of the principles cherished by his party in order to further his ambitious projects. [Dr. George Cook was the son of Prof. John Cook of St. Andrews. He was unanimously elected ,Moderator of the Assembly of 1829, for which position he had been an unsuccessful candidate in 1821 and again in 1822. He resigned his charge on being appointed Professor of Moral Philosophy at St. Andrews, and died 13th Slay, 1845, in the 73rd year of his age and 50th of his ministry.—Ed.]

In connection with these personages there was also a sort of nondescript named James Bryce, whom I scarcely know how to describe. Of his father I had heard much when in Aberdeen, and towards the close of my residence there I was in. some measure acquainted with him. He was minister of a Relief Chapel in Belmont Street, the hack part of which looked into Gaelic Lane, right opposite the Gaelic Chapel. Mr. Bryce was admitted, with his whole congregation at their request, into the pale of the Established Church of Scotland on the Chapel of Ease footing. His son James had, some years before, joined the Establishment, and was first presented to the parish of Strachan, Presbytery of Kincardine o' Neil, but afterwards went to India as minister of the Scotch Church, Calcutta, while at the same time he was connected by membership with the Edinburgh Presbytery. This man was shallow, flippant, and loquacious, and full of bitter bate against all who exhibited the spirit of Christ. He became the scavenger of the party; if any dirty work was to be done, which if proposed to any of their leading men would be received with a. frown and regarded as an insult, Dr. Bryce of Calcutta was ready at a wink to come from the uttermost parts of the earth to do it. [By Act of Assembly (1814) it was decided that the three churches endowed in India were acknowledged as branches of the Church of Scotland, and allowed to send one minister and one elder to the General Assemblies." Dr. Bryce had been appointed to the church in Calcutta in 1814; he died 11th March, 1866, in the 56th year of his ministry.—Ed.]

Another worthy on the same side was Dr. Macfarlane of Drymen, afterwards Principal of Glasgow College and one of the ministers of that city. His abilities and attainments were of the same use to his party as ballast is to an empty ship at sea, chiefly valuable for its inertness and dead weight, and at the same time giving the vessel a tendency to sink rather than to swim.
But I must now glance at the leaders of the opposite party. And, first, I will mention Sir Henry Moncreiff \Vellwood, senior minister of St. Cuthbert's, Edinburgh. My earliest conceptions of the high responsibility of the Christian ministry stood connected with this able man. As a leader of the Evangelical section of the church, Sir Henry did more for the interests of truth by his great moral weight as a minister of Christ, and his unswerving adherence to the vital doctrines of the gospel and to the great fundamental principles of the constitution of our Church, than by any of his polemical discussions on the platform of the Church court.

To Dr. Andrew Thomson of St. George's I have already referred. As a preacher lie was clear, consecutive, and scriptural. His great mind at once understood the beauty and harmony of the whole system of gospel truth as held by the fathers of the Church, and so explicitly laid down in its standards. He was a born controversialist; in this direction the vigour and power of his mind scarcely knew any limit. It was remarked by Lord Brougham, who had been his school-fellow, that there was not a man living whom he feared to meet in debate but one, and he was Andrew Thomson. Dr. Thomson's speeches in the (general Assembly not only shook the listeners, but penetrated with a thrilling influence into the heart of every member of the whole Church. His ministry was eminently distinguished for its faithfulness. To his hearers' progress in knowledge and soundness in the truth; to the spiritual and secular instruction of the youth of his flock, and to the consolation and right exercise of the sick and the dying, Andrew Thomson devoted his days and his nights. The schools which lie established in his own congregation, the school-books which he compiled for their use, and the method of teaching which he brought into practice, might with truth lie said to stand at the head of all educational efforts and institutions of the day in which lie lived. He was the editor of a periodical work, entitled the Christian Instructor," in which he "defended the rights and privileges of the Scottish Church against all invasion." [Dr. Andrew Thomson, the most illustrious divine of his time, died from an affection of the heart instantaneously, within a few feet of his own door, when returning from a meeting of Presbytery at which he had been actively engaged. His death occurred 9th Feb., 1831, in the 53rd year of his age and 29th of his ministry. His zeal, energy, and eloquence were without parallel in his day. He was translated from New Greyfriars to St. George's, Edinburgh, 16th June, 1811. He devoted himself to the circulation of the Bible in its purity, and to the abolition of slavery in the British colonies. "The Christian Instructor," which lie edited, numbers 50 volumes. About 200,000 copies of his "Catechism on the Lord's Supper" were printed and sold. He also published several theological works and essays, and contributed to the "Edinburgh Encyclopedia."—ED.]

Till I came to Aberdeen I had heard little or nothing about these parties and their leaders. My fattier, in all his life, only attended one Assembly. My first Assembly was that of 1824, and from that time forth I began to take an interest in ecclesiastical proceedings.
On the 18th of May, 1820, the General Assembly met at Edinburgh in the New Church aisle. Dr. Macfarlane of Drymen was succeeded, as Moderator, by Dr. MacKnight, son of Dr. MacKnight, the author of a critical work on the New Testament. The King's Commissioner was the Earl of Morton, a man of open profanity and loose character, but, being also poor, the appointment was given him in charity. The most notable members on the Evangelical side present that year were, besides Dr., then Mr., Andrew Thomson; Dr. A. Stewart of Dingwall; Mr. J. Robertson of Kingussie; Mr. Forbes of Tarbat; Dr. MacGill, professor of Divinity in Glasgow; and Mr. 1)oig of the East Church in Aberdeen, ministers. The ruling elders on this side were Mr. James Moncreiff, advocate, eldest son of Sir Henry Moncreiff Wellwood, Bart., D.D., and afterwards a Lord of Session; and Mr. George Ross, brother of the late Sir Charles Ross of Rahuagown. On the Moderate side were Dr. Cook of Laurencekirk; Dr. Lee of St. Andrews; Dr. Irvine of Little Dunkeld; Principal Nicol; Mr. Mylne of Dollar; Mr. Donald Mackenzie of Fodderty; Mr. Wightman of Kirkmahoe, ministers; while among the Moderate elders were the Lord Justice-Clerk Boyle; the Lord Hermand; Lord Succoth; Mr. John Hope, Solicitor-General (afterwards Lord Justice-Clerk); Mr. Walter Cook, \4.S., brother of Dr. Cook; Sir John Sinclair of Ulbster, Bart.; and Dr. Bryce of Calcutta.

It is unnecessary to notice particularly the ordinary business which came before this Assembly. One case, however, brought matters between the Moderate and Evangelical parties to a decided issue, and as it was in fact the seed which, then sown, broke through the soil at the Disruption of 1843. I shall record it with some minuteness.

After the report of the Committee on Bills was read, Mr. Thomson gave notice of a motion "for the production of the Order in Council intended to regulate the form of prayer for the several branches of the Royal Family.' This very plain and ordinary request fell upon the Assembly, or at least upon the Moderate section of the House, with all the effect of a thunderbolt. Speaker after speaker rose tip, one class contending that they could not conceive the object of the motion, that it was informal, that it ought to be withdrawn, and so forth. Those on the side of the mover, on the contrary, maintained that the Order in Council ought to have been produced independently of any motion to that effect. It was at last agreed that the motion should be discussed on Wednesday, the 24th of May, when the report of the Commission would be presented. But the motion, or what it implied, or the real causes of the excitement which it produced, cannot be fully understood unless I refer to some events in the national history. George III. died on 29th of January, 1820. George, Prince of Wales, had long previous to his father's death, and in consequence of his protracted illness, acted as Prince-Regent. Between him and his consort, the Princess Caroline of Brunswick, ever since their marriage in 1795, nothing at all approximating to connubial happiness had ever subsisted, and their indifference to each other had gradually ripened, particularly on the part of the Prince, into absolute Ioathing. In 1814 the Prince attempted to divorce her by setting on foot "the delicate investigation" into some charges whir)ered against her moral character, but of which she was fully acquitted. Immediately on the demise of George III., the Regent was proclaimed King as George the Fourth. In the month of February following, the Privy Council met at Carlton House, and there issued "An Order intended to regulate the form of prayer for the several branches of the Royal Family." The Order proceeded thus:-

"At the Court at Carlton House, the 12th February, 1820.—Present the King's most Excellent Majesty; Archbishop of Canterbury; Lord Chancellor; Lord Privy Seal; Duke of Wellington; Lord Stewart; Marquis of Winchester; Earl of Liverpool; Earl of Mulgrave; Viscount Castlereagh; Viscount Melville; Viscount Sidmouth; Lord Charles Pentinck; Mr. Wellesley Pole; Mr. Canning; Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer; Mr. Bathurst; Mr. Robinson.

"In pursuance of an Act passed in the 10th year of her late Majesty Queen Anne, and of another Act passed in the 32nd year of his late Majesty King George Ill., wherein provision is made for praying for the Royal Family, in that part of Great Britain called Scotland, it is ordered by his Majesty in Council that henceforth every minister and preacher shall, in his respective church, congregation, or Assembly, pray in express words, For his most sacred Majesty King George, and all the Royal Family ;' of which all persons concerned are hereby required to take notice, and govern themselves accordingly.

(Signed) "Jas. BULLER."

Now, two things are evident in this document; first, the King's persevering hatred of his unfortunate Queen—even all mention of her is studiously avoided; next, that prescribing prayers for the Royal Family, "in express words," to the Church of Scotland was unconstitutional and Erastian. Yet the Privy Council not only so framed their minute, but transmitted it to Dr. Macfarlane, Moderator of the General Assembly in the following terms:—

"COUNCIL OFFICE, Whitehall, 121h Feb., 1820.

"SIR,—You will herewith receive an Order of his majesty in Council, directing the necessary alterations to be made in the prayers for the Royal Family, so far as relates to Scotland, which you will be pleased to communicate in such manner that due obedience may be paid thereto. I have the honour to be, Sir, your most obedient, bumble servant,

(Signed) "JAMES BULLER.

"The Rev. Duncan Macfarlane,
Moderator of the General Assembly of
"The Church of Scotland."

The Order in Council, prescribing prayers for the Royal Family to the Church of Scotland, was the point which Mr. Andrew Thomson took up. To the slur cast upon the Queen he did not make the most distant allusion. Every British subject who knew aught about the quarrel was full of it; so much so indeed that, when Mr Thomson first mooted the Orders in Council in the Assembly, the officers of State had it that to set tip a defence for the Queen, and make a direct attack upon the reigning sovereign was the object which the speaker had in view. Of these surmises he was fully aware, and therefore on the Wednesday thereafter, and after the Order was produced, Mr. Thomson, in submitting his motion, stated "that he believed a great deal had gone abroad respecting it that was erroneous, and that topics had been mentioned, as those which he should have occasion to introduce, which had not the most distant relation to the subject, nor had indeed ever entered his mind to entertain." His motion clearly brought out both the principle which he advocated and the object he had in view. He moved:

"That it be declared by the General Assembly that no civil authority can constitutionally prescribe either forms or heads of prayer to the ministers or preachers of this Church. and that the Orders in Council which have been issued from time to time respecting prayers for the Royal Family are inconsistent with the rights and privileges secured by law to our ecclesiastical Establishment; but that as these Orders appear to have originated in mistake or inadvertency, and not in any intention to interfere with our modes of worship, the General Assembly do not consider it to be necessary to proceed farther in this matter at present. And the General Assembly embrace this opportunity of declaring the cordial and steady attachment of the Church of Scotland to their most gracious Sovereign, and to all the Royal Family, and of further expressing their unqualified confidence that, actuated by the game principles of loyalty and religion which have hitherto guided them, her ministers and preachers will never cease to offer up. along with their people, their fervent supplications to Almighty God in behalf of a Family to whom, under Providence, we are indebted for so many distinguished blessings, both sacred and civil."

The motion was thus framed with what we may call a beautiful propriety, but this does not express its intrinsic value. It, in fact, embodies in few but most comprehensive terms that great scriptural principle of the Church of Scotland, her Spiritual Independence, for which, at the moment I now write, the present Establishment has ceased to contend, whilst all who adhere to that principle are discarded by the State, driven from their homes and maintenance, and branded, like their apostolic predecessors of old, as "the movers of sedition" against the "law of the land." It was evident that the motion was understood in the sense thus indicated, for no sooner was it announced than it stirred up a determined opposition. The Procurator stated that it was a motion to which they could not agree. Mr. Thomson was, therefore, under the necessity of entering more particularly into the merits of the question. He stated that it was an incontrovertible principle of the Church of Scotland that IT HAD NO SPIRITUAL HEAD ON EARTH, and that consequently the King in Council had no right to interfere in its worship. He proceeded to show that it was a vital privilege of our ecclesiastical constitution, essential to the safety of the Church, and for which our fathers had vigorously struggled in the covenanting times, while the order in Council trenched upon this privilege by prescribing prayers to its ministers and preachers. He then considered the Acts of Parliament referred to, on which the Order in Council professed to be founded. The Act X. of Queen Anne, in which ministers of the Scottish Church are enjoined to pray in express words for the Royal Family, the Church did not oppose. But of that Act he would say in general, that it proceeded on Erastian principles and ought not to have passed. But at that time there were peculiar circumstances in which it had been allowed to become law. These were, that then the interests both of civil and religious liberty were in great jeopardy, from the schemes of the Pretender abroad, and from the machinations of his clerical abettors, not only among the non-jurant Episcopalians, but even among the Presbyterian ministers of the Established Church, who prayed for the Royal Family without mentioning in express words who they were, and who thus left their audience to fill in mentally any name, just as their political bias might direct them. 'I'lie Assembly, participating in the alarm, did not oppose the passing of the Act, but at the same time did all in their power to counteract its consequences to the Church by passing an Act of their own to the same effect. Besides that, the Act X. of Queen Anne was inapplicable to this or any other case succeeding the period of her reign, seeing it required all ministers to pray exclusively for her most sacred Majesty Queen Anne, and the most Excellent Princess Sophia, "so that," said Mr. Thomson, "if we were to pray according to that Act, we should not pray for his Majesty King George, but for these other royal personages now passed away." He then took up the Act of George III., so prominently referred to iu the Order of Council, and showed that it had still less to Rio with the subject in question, inasmuch as it had respect exclusively to the Episcopal Communion in Scotland, seeing that it conferred upon them certain immunities on condition that they should pray for the Royal Family in the form prescribed by the liturgy of the Church of England. He concluded a long and able speech by meeting anticipated objections to his motion, and by most forcibly insisting on its necessity and moral force.

Mr. Thomson's motion was seconded by Mr. James W. Moncreiff, advocate, but before he addressed the Assembly, he was preceded by three speakers of the opposite side, the Solicitor-General, 1)r. Cook, and Principal Nicol of St. Andrews. The speech of the Solicitor-General abounded in unhappy personalities. He began by saying that, though he differed entirely from the rev. gentleman, he must do him the justice to say that he had treated a very delicate subject with a degree of temper, decorum, and propriety which lie could not but commend; but in the sequel of his speech the learned gentleman entirely failed in just these qualities, and first misrepresented Mr. Thomson's views and sentiments, and then made a furious onset on his own interpretation of them. He must disapprove, he said, of Mr. Thomson's sentiment that the civil authority had been inattentive to the interests of the National Church. Where, he would ask, was this inattention to be found? Was it in the appointment by his Majesty as his representative in that Assembly of a distinguished nobleman of our own nation, whose character and conduct adorned his lofty station? Was it in the gracious extension of the amount of the donation granted to the Church to advance its own form of worship at home, or in the Royal Aid to propagate abroad, particularly in India, its own principles and doctrines? It was impossible, he continued, in viewing all these circumstances, to justify the observation of the rev. gentleman. Then, to damage Mr. Thomson's case, he ran out into personalities. "The rev. gentleman," he said, was by his own showing the only person, for a century back, who thought it necessary to become the Church's champion by bringing forward the present complaint, and he could not help thinking that in this he assumed a lofty presumption." The rest of his speech was devoted to showing the special and invincible objections which he did most seriously entertain to Mr. Thomson's motion. These were, first, that the motion was one which "could not be received," and as this looked very like arguing in a circle, he proceeded to say that, if he had but time, he could easily show that it was a motion which affected, in a declaratory form, the very constitution of the Church, and he added, "that any man must have been but for a short time a member of Assembly, or have employed his time to very little advantage, who was not able to take precisely the same view." Dr. Cook then addressed the house, and the substance of what be said may be briefly summed up in three things. First, that he coincided with the general proposition laid down in the motion, that no civil authority could constitutionally proscribe forms or heads of prayer to our Church, and that this principle, so strenuously entertained by Mr. Thomson, he would also maintain. But, next, he qualified all these sentiments by saying that, in the present instance, he did not see that this great and important principle was infringed. And, lastly, lie therefore agreed with the right honourable gentleman that the motion ought to be submitted to a committee, according to the uniform practice of the Church.

Principal Nicol began by proclaiming aloud his strong attachment to the Church of Scotland. To no living man would he yield on this point, but then he had a fear upon him that the present discussion, going forth to the public, would appear to them to be something very like a split between Church and State, and this, it appeared to him, would be the greatest of all evils. Besides, "this was not the time for any such misunderstandings, when both throne and altar are alike threatened by misguided men." As to Queen Anne's Act, "he did not know what it was that had excited the rev, gentleman's alarm, as he had already confessed that what lie now complained of was practised in the days of Queen Anne." The poor Principal was galloping on, full tilt, on this broomstick sort of argument, when he was at once brought up by an emphatic "No, no," from Mr. Thomson. Dr. Nicol tumbled down at once, and quickly dropping the reins, said, "I mean that the Church in Queen Anne's days was quite as pure as it is at present," and so forth. Be concluded by moving that the house do now adjourn; but not with the view of evading the discussion, for there would still be room for that on the question of adjournment. This was fairly beating a retreat, giving both his opponent and the discussion what is usually called leg-bail. But the Solicitor-General came to the rescue of the floundering Principal. He moved, as an amendment to the last motion that the question be dismissed, that it may be hereafter referred to a committee on overtures, upon which the Principal recovered from his panic, obediently got up, and said, "I withdraw my motion."

Mr. Thomsons motion was seconded and supported by Mr. Moncreiff, who, in an able speech, stated with great clearness and force his reasons for giving the motion his support—following the mover consecutively on every point, and thereby giving additional weight to his statement of the case.

This motion of Mr. Thomson called up many speakers on both sides; but as the whole force of his reply at the close of the debate fell on the defence of the Orders in Council set up by the Justice-Clerk, I shall only notice his leading arguments. This vigorous adherent of the .Moderate party, Lord Justice-Clerk Boyle, was one of the presiding judges of the Court of Session, and a member of the Privy Council, so that his political influence was very considerable in Scotland both in Church and State. With his learned friend the Solicitor-General, his Lordship agreed as to the propriety with which the motion was introduced. As, however, he considered the subject of great importance, he could not agree with those who were inclined to dismiss it on a point of form. He boldly and openly deprecated the idea that the Assembly wished to evade the motion, but then, lie would not say whether the proposition before the house was declaratory or not. He would, however, call upon every member present to say how its conclusions were arrived at. Mr. Thomson's motion, he continued, carried on the face of it a most unfair mode of procedure by, first, denying the power of the civil authority to prescribe prayers, then, alleging an encroachment on the rights of the Church in this respect, while lastly, professing loyalty. This was but a trap and a snare for their feet, but he would throw such a flood of light on the authority and the substance of this questioned Order, that the way would be made plain before their feet. As to the Privy Council's authority, his Lordship could not see why the Order should not be referred to the two Acts to which they allude. He had carefully looked into the X. of Queen Anne, and could not find that it was repealed, and it mentioned particularly the members of the Royal Family that were to be prayed for. He deprecated also the unfair construction put upon the term "Sacred Majesty" in the Order, which an honourable gentleman seemed to think was meant to intimate that the sovereign was Head of the Church. He would affirm that it meant no such thing. It was borrowed from the Act of Queen Anne, and was the language of addresses from church courts at all times. But who could suspect either King or Government of any wish or intent to encroach upon the rights of the Church of Scotland. 1)id, or could, this Assembly forget the gracious manner in which their deputation was lately received by the King—how they were admitted to a closet audience of His Majesty, when he expressed his resolution to support the constitution of the Church of Scotland. And were they, in the face of such things, to declare, by assenting to this motion, that almost the first Act of His Majesty's reign was an encroachment on the privileges of the Church. The learned Lord then threw himself into the substance of the Orders in Council. He would undertake to put it in the very light of a meridian sunbeam, and that, too, by an illustration the simplest and most obvious. The Order did not prescribe a form of prayer; it was absurd to suppose so. It merely prescribed the individuals that were to be prayed for. This he could prove by a most clear and convincing illustration. It often happens, when a clergyman is requested to remember in his prayers a sick person, that a paper is handed up to him mentioning the name and case of the individual; but is the minister on that account to pray for the individual by using the very terms written on the paper? Is it expected that he will adhere to the express phraseology of the paper any more than that he will think of praying for an individual of the family who is not named at all? Certainly not. He may use any terms he pleases, and so in the case of this order. In conclusion he said that, since it had been the fashion in the course of the debate, to make professions, he would also state that he yielded to no reverend or learned gentleman in attachment to the rights and privileges of the Church, for this most potent reason that he was lineally descended from a character who had occupied a conspicuous post in those struggles in defence of the Church which had been vaunted with so much pride by gentlemen on the other side of the House. He possessed therefore a sort of hereditary attachment to a cause which had been sigualised by so much glory and by so much sacrifice. He therefore moved that, "whereas the independence of the Church of Scotland in all matters of faith, worship, and discipline is fully established by law, the General Assembly finds it unnecessary and inexpedient to adopt any declaration with regard to the late, or any former, Order in Council relative to prayers for His Majesty and the Royal Family."

The Justice-Clerk's pointed allusions to Mr. Moncreiff's speech called up that gentleman to offer an explanation. He expressed his distinct disavowal of the statement imputed to him by the learned judge, that it was the intention of His Majesty's Government, in framing the Order in question, to violate the rights of the Church of Scotland. He confessed himself much mortified that he should have been so unfortunate in expressing his opinion as to leave such an impression on the mind of any member of the Assembly, more especially of the Lord Justice-Clerk. He thought he had repeatedly stated that the Order had originated in mistake, and not in any injurious design. He did indeed use an argument drawn from the words "Sacred Majesty," in the terms of prayer prescribed, as indicating that the Order referred to the Church of which the King was supposed to be head. Therefore that the words were intended as a precise form of prayer, but lie added that there was surely a great difference between the supposition of an intention to prescribe a form of prayer and that of a deliberate intention to invade the rights of the Scottish Church.

Mr. Walter Cook, W.S., younger brother of Dr. Cook, now rose and said that, on looking into the records of the Assembly of 1760, which he now held in his hand, lie found that on that occasion, similar to the present, an Order in Council had been issued respecting prayers for the Royal Family, and what, be proceeded, did the Assembly do? They minuted the Moderator's report, transmitted it to presbyteries, and approved of the conduct both of the Moderator and of the Commission. This, he added, was what had been done in 1760, and were they now going to find fault, as it ware, with the course of that Assembly's proceedings without sufficient cause shown? What was more, were they, by a side wind, going to censure the Throne for taking a step which a former Assembly did not challenge but approve?

Mr. Andrew 'Thomson then rose to reply. Mr. Walter Cook, he said, laid stress upon the circumstance that his motion was contrary to the sentiment of former Assemblies; but this argument really went the length of implying that the sentiments and doings of all succeeding Assemblies should be those of all Assemblies preceding—a doctrine with which he could not agree. The attention of the Assembly of 1760 was not called to the subject by any motion or overture. They had given their favourable opinion, he was entitled to say, per inceriam. Judging of the question on its merits—supposing that the Assembly consisted of 200 members, and that 199 believed the Order in Council to be a violation of our ecclesiastical privileges, would it be sufficient for the 200th member to rise up and say, "You must not find it so, because the Assembly of 1760 thought it otherwise." Besides, if the Privy Council had authority to issue any such order, why did the Assembly think it necessary to add on the back of it an order of their own P His motion, it was said, was, by a side wind, pronouncing a Censure upon the Privy Council; but if these orders of the Privy Council possessed perfect authority over the Church, was not this Assembly, by a side wind, throwing contempt on that body by pretending to give a strength to this Act which yet, we are told, it did not require? He disclaimed going to work by side winds; he went straight forward to his object, he would do his duty boldly without being intimidated or discouraged by the opposition of any one. Referring next to a speech of Dr. Lee, Mr. Thomson said that the reverend professor's acquaintance with church history he owned to be extensive and accurate, but that in this case he was unfortunate in his facts. He first referred to the submission of the clergy to the orders of the sovereign in what were the most rigid and primitive times. But he forgot to tell the Assembly that the clergy at that period were beginning to conform, which was no good example for us to follow—a conformity which excited the alarm of the people, and finally riveted their opposition to Episcopacy. Next, he referred to the Acts of the. Assembly appointing prayers in terms of the Order in Council, but he should have recollected what he (Mr. Thomson) believed he had urged before, that this was a proof of their regarding the power in this case as lodged, not in the Crown, but in themselves. Then the rev, doctor had adverted to the power of the Crown, acknowledged by the Church, to appoint fasts and thanksgivings. But here also he was mistaken. The instructions of the Assembly to their Commission would prove the very reverse of what he had alleged. Those instructions were, that the Commission, year after year, should consult with the State respecting the fasts and thanksgivings to be appointed. He next adverted to the speech of his much-respected friend on the other side of the table (Dr. Cook). He had acknowledged that no power on earth had a right to prescribe forms of prayer to us. Here was a wellspring of sound and constitutional doctrine, which Mr. Thomson declared to be quite refreshing to his soul amidst all that lie had that day heard. But unluckily we did not enjoy it long; for it soon found a hidden channel for itself, and was no more heard of. The learned doctor objected strongly to his motion being voted upon before it had been submitted to a committee on overtures. But what was his conduct when that of the learned Lord was proposed? Why! he thought fit not to repeat his objection, although it was just as reasonable and valid in the one case as in the other. Now he expected his learned friend to be consistent; and, at all events, if he did not give his vote for his motion, neither would he give it for that of the learned Lord, though he rather hoped that he would come back and vote for principle, since form seemed to be matter of indifference. With regard to what fell from the Lord Justice-Clerk, his Lordship had complained that the motion was artfully put together. To this he must reply that no art was employed in contriving it. It was plain and simple; it hung well together, and was abundantly intelligible. The learned Lord had said a great deal about the Act of Queen Anne being still in force. He did not pretend to vie with his Lordship in interpreting Acts of Parliament, but he thought himself possessed of as much common sense and judgment as to dispute his Lordship's authority on this point. He maintained that the Act of Queen Anne alluded to was not binding, and he put it to the learned judge, if any person were brought to his bar for disobeying the Order in Council, could he venture to try or to punish on that statute? The learned Lord would not say so. It was impossible he should. But then the learned Lord maintained that the Act of Queen Anne did not authorise the phrase" express words" to be considered as dictating a form of prayer. He had sufficiently explained himself on that head; he had never dwelt on that Act alone; he had referred to several circumstances totally overlooked by the learned Lord, and particularly his Lordship had found it convenient to blink altogether the Act of George III., quoted in this Order, and for this good reason, he supposed, that the argument from that source was irresistible. With regard to the statute of Queen Anne, he had chiefly alluded to it to show that the Order of Council derived no authority from its enactments, and to this the learned Lord had given no satisfactory answer. And then as to the Act of Geo. III., while he (Mr. T.) had demonstrated that it did not apply to the subject at all, yet the reference to it by the Council was a proof that they meant the express words to be used, because it regulated the devotions of a church having a liturgy—the liturgy of the Church of England—in which no liberty was given to deviate from the ipsissima verba of the Order. His Lordship found fault with the sentiments of a certain pamphlet written on the subject now before the Assembly, and it had been noticed and condemned on a former day by Mr. Solicitor-General. Now be would say this much, that he believed it would require all the combined efforts of the learned Lord and the learned Solicitor-General to give a proper answer to the substance of that pamphlet. He had read it; and were he to write on the subject, he would certainly adopt its leading statements and reasonings, although there were some things he would omit. But the learned judge was not entitled to identify the whole of the anonymous pamphlet with the argument urged by him and his friends who had spoken on the same side. They must be allowed to think and speak for themselves, and be judged of by the sentiments which they expressed and avowed. The learned Lord had brought forward an argument to prove that the Order in Council was not imperative as to the express words, of which argument he must say that it was curious and amusing. It was introduced by his Lordship with all the solemnity that became such a serious subject, but really, in its progress and result, it became utterly ludicrous. "Suppose," says the learned Lord, "a case where a clergyman is requested to remember in prayer a sick person, and a paper is handed up to him to that effect, the clergyman will never think it necessary to use in his prayer the exact words used in that paper," and from this, said Mr. Thomson, we are to conclude that clergy men need not, in praying for the Royal Family, make use of the impessima verba of the Order in Council! Why, the two cases were as different from one another as could possibly be conceived. Did it never strike the mind of the learned Lord that Janet Mieklejohn, who happens to be sick, has a great deal less authority to dictate a prayer for the clergyman than the Privy Council are said to have in describing prayers for the Church. Poor Janet, in the simplicity of her heart, humbly requests her pastor to pray for her; and her pastor complies with her request in the way which lie thinks most suitable to her circumstances and most for the edification of his people. But the Order in Council makes no request, it enjoins, it speaks of express words, it puts the prayer in inverted commas, it requires due obedience, it comes from the Sovereign of Great Britain, and has all the form of a peremptory command. And yet the two things are compared and the comparison is brought forward by the learned Lord with wonderful gravity as a very capital illustration and a most conclusive argument! His Lordship's case was not applicable; but he (Mr. 'I'.) would take the liberty of putting a case which was exactly parallel, and lie would be glad to know how the learned Lord could get the better of it. Supposing his Lordship was to send a letter to his steward, and order him to write to A.B., in express words, that such a thing was to be done, putting these in inverted commas, and supposing the steward to use the freedom of obeying the order in substance, and not literally—employing his own language and not the language set down for him by his Lordship—and supposing, farther, that some hurtful mistake were to be the consequence of this, what would his Lordship say i Would he deem it a sufficient apology if the steward pleaded that lie did not think himself restricted? Or, would he not rather condemn his steward, and refer to his express words and to the inverted commas as quite decisive with regard to his meaning:' So much then for the remember in prayer argument, A great deal had been urged by the learned judge and the Solicitor-General as to the proofs of the King's attachment to the ministers of the Church of Scotland collectively and individually; that they had got this thing and that thing and a thousand good things; and that the deputation was graciously received; and that some of the individuals who composed it had received many personal favours. Now, lie did not understand this sort of argument as applied to ministers of our Church. lie did not consider it fair and decorous, and would not admit it. For, what did it amount to? To this, that, because the Crown had shown us attention and kindness, therefore we should be ready to give up our independence. But be was just as ready to acknowledge the benefits received by the Church from the Crown as the most strenuous on the other side. This was fully and strongly expressed in his motion, from which he believed, after all, their sentiments on that point were actually borrowed. For his own part he had never asked and never received any personal favour, and yet he was as much attached to his Sovereign as any one of them. He was of no political party; never was a member of any political club; never attended a political meeting; never sat down to a political dinner; and yet he felt grateful and attached to his Sovereign for the blessings and privileges enjoyed under his government. He was grateful and attached to the Royal Family on grounds which sunk all the paltry and selfish considerations urged by the Solicitor-General into utter annihilation. He was grateful and attached, because he shared along with all his fellow-subjects in those benefits which that Family had been the means of conferring on the country. He had been unfairly dealt with, he thought, by the learned the Solicitor-General. That gentleman observed, indeed, that he (Mr. T.) had behaved himself with propriety, and he felt himself obliged to him for his favourable testimony. But lie certainly must remark that the observations of the learned gentleman had no great tendency to make him persevere in that propriety. He had said that he (Mr. T.) had set himself up as the champion of the Church. He was not at all aware that he deserved the appellation, especially as applied by the learned Solicitor; but, if to defend the rights and privileges of the Church against all invasion was meant by that language, then he gloried in being the champion of the Church. But besides this, or on account of this, it seemed that in the opinion of the learned gentleman, he was a presumptuous man. The Solicitor-General here rose and denied that he called the reverend gentleman a presumptuous man; he only said he assumed to himself a presumptuous character. Resuming his address, Mr. Thomson said, as to that charge of presumption which it seemed by some very nice logical distinction, which lie for his part did not understand, was attached to his character and not to himself, he thought, if there was any presumption in the case, it lay with the learned gentleman who was so extremely bold as to give a direct and unqualified denial to his assertions. The Solicitor again interrupted Mr. Thomson by affirming that he said no such thing. "Very well," said Mr. Thomson, "I have now done with the hon. gentleman's speech, and I conclude by saying that it was nothing but my warm and inviolable attachment to the Church that has urged me to make my stand against this encroachment; that, according to the direction of the learned lord, I can lay my hand upon my heart and say, I regard this Order of Council as a manifest encroachment on its independence; and I trust that the breath of official authority will never be allowed to wither one leaf of that Plant of Renown which our fathers watered with their blood, and of which we have been permitted by a kind Providence to eat the pleasant fruits."

The Assembly then divided, when the Justice-Clerk's motion was carried by a majority of votes amounting to 73. there being for Mr. Thomson's 53, but for the Justice-Clerk's 126. On the following day fifteen of those who voted for Mr. Thomson's motion, along with himself, recorded their dissent. [See Report in Christian Instructor. "The result was really a triumph for Mr. Thomson and his supporters, who did not, after what had been said, think it reasonable to depart from the construction which they had put upon the terms of the document, while frankly conceding the plea of mistake or oversight on the part of His Majesty's advisers." (Rev. Sir Henry Moncreiff's lectures on The Free Church Principle.)—Ed.]


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