REV. JAMES KERR, D.D.
THE FREE ASSEMBLY HALL, EDINBURGH
FREE CHURCH THEOLOGICAL SOCIETY
FREE CHURCH OF SCOTLAND
THIS Lecture on "The Church Crisis in Scotland" is published by request of the Publications’ Committee of the Free Church of Scotland. Some portions of it as originally delivered are omitted, and some considerably condensed.
An Address of congratulation on the Disruption of the Free Church was prepared by the Synod of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Scotland, signed by the Moderator and Clerk, and presented by deputies from the Synod to the Free Assembly that met in Glasgow, 18th October 1843. The following are a few extracts:—
"We beg leave to tender to you our heartfelt congratulations and sympathies. We highly approve of the Scriptural Principles upon which your recent proceedings are founded. We admire the high Christian principles and noble magnanimity of your late conduct . . . . These Standards (Westminster) so scripturally founded, so lucid and orthodox, so distinctively pointed against Popish and Arminian errors, so practical and holy in their bearing, so soundly catholic in spirit, so approved and honoured by the Churches of the Reformation, and so well fitted in the proper application of them to form a rallying point to unite the scattered friends of truth, &c."
The Rev. Professor Symington, D.D., one of the deputies, addressing the Assembly, said:—
"When he saw the dangers that were coming, he thought that the time for Union was coming too . . . . The body he represented had appointed a Committee to correspond on the subject of Union, and he had no doubt that good results would issue. . . . . It is our prayer to God that you may have unmolested liberty, abundant grace, and great success in prosecuting your high and holy purposes."
EDINBURGH, 31st January 1905.
THE CHURCH CRISIS.
THE formation of the Free Church of Scotland in 1843 was one of the most memorable events in the ecclesiastical history of the kingdom. In defence of spiritual independence, four hundred and fifty ministers and many elders marched out of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland to Tanfield Hall, and there constituted themselves the General Assembly of the Free Protesting Church of Scotland.
It cannot be denied that the Scriptural doctrine of Establishment was distinctive of the new denomination. If not, why did the Free Church stand aloof from those dissenting bodies of the time that were Voluntary? If not, why did her Assemblies and representatives take special measures to inform other Churches that they held the doctrine of Establishments, though separating from the Established, and that they were not Voluntaries? If not, why did they so frequently designate themselves The Church of Scotland Free? If the Free Church was Voluntary then, and did not seek union then—as she did not—with any Voluntary denomination at the time, then during the whole period of her separate existence she has been guilty of a flagrant schism in the body of Christ.
For forty years after her appearance, the Free Church of Scotland had a brilliant career. She was one of the branches of the Reformed Church of Scotland at the brightest times of the Reformation. She maintained attachment to the Confession of Faith and other standards of tile Reformed Churches. She never hesitated in her belief in the inspiration, infallibility, and Divine authority of the Holy Scriptures, in the infallibility of Christ as the Prophet from God, and in the Deity of the Redeemer of men. She strictly observed the principles of the Scriptures regulating the worship of God and preserving its purity. Her ministers ever proclaimed the Gospel of sovereign free grace, and made free offer to all men of the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory. Her growth and influence became the admiration of Christendom, and her evangelical and moral power helped to shape the ,destinies, not of Scotland alone, but of our empire over the seas. Most earnestly did all her friends over the world hope that her light: would never become dim, her arm never become feeble.
For the last twenty years, however, changes of an ominous character have been passing over the Free Church of Scotland. So rapidly have these come that recently any prophet might have safely predicted that a cataclysm was imminent. That cataclysm has come, and she has been shaken and dislocated almost beyond power of recognition. She is no longer the Church of Scotland Free. A few have been saved out of the wreckage, and these few still bear the same banner for Christ and His truth which was borne so proudly by the heroes of the Disruption in her better times.
The first step on the down-grade taken by the Church of Scotland Free was at the time of the proposed Union, over twenty years ago, when she became tainted with Voluntaryism and the Amyraldian theory of Atonement. The next step was in connection with the Professor Robertson Smith case, when many exhibited a definite sympathy with the anti-Biblical tenets of that professor, and claimed a place in the Free Church for a system of theology which has since developed rapidly, and is now menacing the Christian faith and the conversion of souls. The next step of progress on the down-grade was the adoption of the Declaratory Act of 1892. This Act was prepared for the avowed purpose of satisfying the "scruples" of some who could not accept the Confession, but in both letter and spirit it is pro-Arminian, and Arminians all over the country hailed its appearance with declarations of satisfaction. While these changes affecting the doctrinal position of the Church were progressing, innovations on the purity of worship were proceeding apace,—innovations which have drawn forth the praises of Ritualists from various Churches both south and north of the Border.
About eight years ago now, the movement for Union was again raised, and, after four years’ negotiations, was consummated. The basis on which it was established exhibited the revolution in doctrine and polity that had been in progress throughout the Free Church. Definite alterations were made in the formulas; the pledge to "the whole doctrine of the Confession of Faith" was deleted; the acceptance of "the doctrine of this Church" was substituted; the Catechisms were lowered from their position as authoritative standards of the Church; the Declaratory Acts of both Churches were recognised as available for all Ministers and Office-bearers; and one of the "Express Declarations" on which the Union was to be based was so latitudinarian that it gave "the members of both Churches, and also of all Churches which, in time past, have united with either of them, full right, as they see cause, to assert and maintain the views of truth and duty which they had liberty to maintain in the said Churches."
The Union was carried through in the face of a protesting minority. The tyranny of the "liberal" majority attempted to deprive the minority of all their rights to funds and property, and send them out into the wilderness ecclesiastically penniless. Against this intolerance, the "remnant" Free Church resolved to take measures of defence. Appeal was made to the civil courts. In this effort to vindicate the Church of their fathers, the leaders of the Free Church were risking their all; but they were determined to wrest the funds and property that should be utilized in the propagation of the principles of the Church of Scotland Free from those who would utilize them in the interests of Voluntaryism and infidelity. Repelled in the Outer Court, they appealed to the Inner Division; repelled in the Inner Division, they .appealed to the House of Lords—the final Supreme Court of Appeal in the Empire. With fears and hopes, they, and all in sympathy with them, waited on. At length the first of August came, and the decimated Free Church of Scotland won a victory for truth and righteousness which the page of history shall never cease to record.
The House of Lords declared that the Free Church majority had separated themselves from the Free Church of Scotland, and were not ,entitled to the funds and property of that Church; and that the "minority" were the historic Free Church of Scotland, and entitled to all the funds and property held by the general trustees of the Church, and under the model trust deed.
Immediately on the publication of this judgment, there rose a storm of opposition, which has been raging with violence from Berwick to John o’ Groats. The leaders of both sections of the United Free Church have drawn upon the whole vocabulary of abuse for poisoned shafts to shower against the Free Church leaders and their followers—their fellow Christians, who have made no change in their creed and profession, and who were, therefore, entitled to win. It would be well if all those words, unworthy of Christian gentlemen, could be blotted out of papers and pamphlets, and buried in oblivion for ever.
The conflict now in progress, and destined to proceed, is not one .about money and walls only. It is a conflict on matters of infinitely greater importance. It is a conflict about Divine truth; a conflict reaching to the very foundations of the faith of Christ; about the Person and Glory of Christ; a conflict affecting the deepest, truest interests of the everlasting salvation of men; a conflict bearing most intimately on the greatest of all the sciences the Science of Theology.
Those who were concerned for years about the evangelical orthodoxy of the Free Church of Scotland could not possibly have imagined that the cleavage was so defined; the departure from sound doctrine so acute. The speeches of the United Free Church leaders, on a hundred platforms, have proved that the cleavage opened a chasm. The claims made by them were astonishing. They could not be tied by creeds; the living, progressive faith of their Church must be recognised; it was "ungodly" and "monstrous" to adhere to documents framed half-a-century and two centuries ago; confessional theology was attacked; some of the cardinal tenets of Calvinism were denounced; the full right was demanded of carrying over the whole property of their denomination to support any creed they might adopt, or to any Church with which they chose to unite, crushing in their progressive career (like a Juggernaut car on the Ganges) the consciences of their former brethren who could not accept their new opinions. This is not spiritual independence: it is ecclesiastical despotism. By their counsel before the Lords, they pled that, as a majority, they had the right to take all the property and funds with them though they united with the Church of Rome or the Mohammedans, and that they had this right although they resolved to delete a book or books from the Canon of Holy Scripture. The character of their theology and ethics is apparent from these positions and contentions.
What, then, are the questions of doctrine and principle involved in this deplorable controversy? The two great theological systems that were in conflict for ages are in conflict round us again. On the Free Church majority rests the responsibility of disturbing the peace of the Christian world. It was thought that the Arminian system received its death-blow at the Synod of Dort and the Reformation, and to have been interred for ever. But it belongs now to a Church, which claims to be a branch of the Reformed Church of Scotland, to bring its remains out of the charnel-house, and galvanise them into new life.. This Arminian system wrests the crown from the purpose of God in the salvation of men by resisting the sovereign free grace of God; it talks loudly about the free offer of salvation, but it is not possible for any accurate thinker in the science of theology to reconcile the free offer of salvation with the Arminian tenet, which conditions the salvation of men, not on the free grace of God, but on the foreseen faith and good works of the sinner: the free offer of a free salvation to those who procure it! merit it! are entitled to it!
But those in the United Free Church who are busy attempting the resurrection of Arminianism are as busy proclaiming the death of Calvinism. They are competing with the Arminians themselves for the duty of "undertakers" for Calvinism. But I cry to them, "Hands off! till Calvinism is dead!" It will take a stiff struggle to put Calvinism into his coffin—even into his shroud. Old Calvinism has some life in him yet, though of late he has been seriously mauled by those who long for his decease; and he may yet appeal to the House of Lords against the attempt to "remove" him, and come back from Westminster rejuvenated, and with a new lease of life for 999 years. I thank the brilliant genius who told Scotland recently that Calvinism was in his grave like Lazarus, and that his corpse has been so long buried that his reappearance would be unsavoury, for his attack on this poor Lazarus of Calvinism reminds all who accept the Bible record that Lazarus rose by the power of the living Lord. The corpse of Calvinism is a very lively corpse yet. The living have no tomb. And I tell those who are endeavouring to revive Arminianism that all the Jesuits on the Continent were in sympathy with the Arminians at the Synod of Dort, and that, now, all the Jesuits in Scotland and England are in sympathy with the United Free Church as opposed to the evangelical Calvinistic Free Church of Scotland. Calvinism won the Reformation and our civil and religious liberties, and, if those liberties are to be retained, Calvinism must be preserved and honoured.
Although the theories that are distinctive of the "higher criticism" did not enter directly into the investigations before the law courts, they have been a very prominent factor in the general controversy for years. This movement was in the controversy years before the Union, and their desire to repel it was actuating the Free Church leaders when they persevered in the endeavour to wrest the funds and property of the Free Church from the hands of those who were the authors and promoters of a movement bearing infidelity on its forehead. And they will require to exert all their efforts to prevent the Government conveying any of these funds to those who would certainly use them in this destructive crusade. And, here I decline any longer to designate this movement "the higher criticism"; I call it by its proper names infidel criticism, rationalistic criticism, destructive criticism. Almost all the destructive critics in Scotland are in the United Free Church.
The literature of this movement is plentiful, and shows the position and popularity it has attained. From the Chair of the Moderator of the Free Assembly a few months before the union, Dr. Ross Taylor characterised the belief hitherto held by the Christian world that Genesis gave a historical account of creation as "a mistaken assumption," and offered a defence of evolution as based on "ascertained facts," while he might readily have obtained the opinions of the most eminent anthropological scientists repudiating evolution, as no assured basis for it was obtainable. All the "ablest" Professors in the United Free College are unanimous in rejecting the first chapters of Genesis, as (they allege) they do not contain history and fact, but fiction, myth, and Babylonian lore. They unite in denying the inspiration and infallibility of the Scriptures, in holding that there are in the Bible mistakes, discrepancies, imperfect morality, errors in the original documents, contradictions, &c. Professor Dods maintains that in the conversion of sinners the atonement by substitution and the Deity of Christ can be dispensed with. Professor Warfield, D.D., Princeton, writes that Professor Dods teaches the Arminian theory of Atonement. Professor Smith denies the Bible narratives of the patriarchs; states that the Apostles were erroneous interpreters of the Old Testament; maintains that the book of Jonah is a parable; asserts that the God of Israel was "a tribal God," and revealed himself under the form of "a tribal Deity," &c. Professor Denney holds that we know nothing of the origin of man or sin; that Genesis contains myths; that "our Lord took Genesis as He found it;" that the Gospels were not infallible, &c. By these and other statements, these destructive critics mangle the blessed Word of God: they so deface and mutilate it that a reader can discover but the remains only of its former symmetry, solidity, and magnificence. 
In the last issue of The Princeton Theological Review, Dr. Warfield presents a criticism of Professor Denney’s latest volume—The Atonement and the Modern Mind—in which he writes that "it is not clear whether Professor Denney’s theory of Atonement rises above the Grotian or Rectoral theory"; that, according to Dr. Denney’s view of Atonement, "it would appear that at the decisive point we are our own saviours. This," adds Dr. Warfield, "may be very gratifying to the modern mind; it is intolerable to the Christian heart." "The greatest flaw," he continues, "in Dr. Denney’s teaching is that it proceeds on an essentially rationalistic basis."
It must not be forgotten that the General Assembly of the United Free Church are responsible for the currency in the Church of this rationalistic system. When the question of the orthodoxy of Professor Smith’s Modern Criticism was before them, a resolution, which, as Dr. John Smith said on the floor of the Assembly, "was a certificate of orthodoxy to the Professor," was adopted, which declared that the Assembly would not interfere with the questions raised "unless the interests of Christian truth seemed to require it." If the above statements do not require interference in the interests of Christian truth, what are the statements that would require such interference? That resolution was moved by the chief representatives of the two sections of the United Church—Principal Rainy and Professor Orr—and carried by 543 members of Assembly; all the Professors present voting for it. So that the United Free Church Assembly deliberately permitted the circulation throughout the Church of the most infidel volume ever issued from a Presbyterian Chair of Theology. A few years before, some ministers and elders of the United Free Church prepared a document, in which they declared that the toleration of such views in the Church would be "High treason to our Eternal King." When Professor M‘Ewan was lauding before the Royal Commission the "equipment" of the United Free Colleges, he did not mention that several of the Chairs were filled by the Scottish apostles of the infidel criticism.
The saddest of the results of this rationalistic movement is its bearing on the office of Christ as a Prophet, and on His Personality as the God-Man. If the statements made by its authors are to be accepted, humanity can no longer submit its judgment and conscience to Old or New Testament, to the teachings of the Apostles, or to the words of our Lord. They contradict at every turn Him Who "spake as never man spake." They contradict our Lord’s declarations about the formation of man, the law of marriage, the lives of the patriarchs, Moses and his writings, David and the Psalms, and the existence and work of Jonah. Professor Smith dares to claim Christ as the pioneer of this destructive criticism. He writes:—"The New Testament treatment (by Christ and his Apostles) of the Old prompts every line of research and discussion along which the modern criticism of the Old Testament has been conducted"; and the critics aim at that "criticism which takes its charter from Christ Himself." Accordingly, if Christ were here now, He would be assisting those who were denying the infallibility of the Bible He ever honoured, and He would be supporting those who were denying His own trustworthiness as a public Teacher and Prophet! In his Atonement and the Modern Mind, Professor Denney writes that "The intelligence (of man) cannot make itself the slave of man, not even though the men are Peter and Paul and John,—no, not even though it were the Son of Man Himself." One of the boldest contradictions of our Lord’s teaching was by Professor Denney in the United Free Presbytery of Glasgow last month. Attention having been drawn to the assertion made by him publicly some time ago—about our Lord’s references to David and Psalm CX.—he rose and stoutly denied that David wrote that Psalm, and asserted that the Psalm was written long after the times of David, and that the Lord "spoke about the authorship of that Psalm as everybody else in His time would have spoken What He taught in that place was something that He had received and believed."
In one of the meetings held at the period of the Disruption in 1843 in promotion of their efforts, after an address in admiration of the Word of God as the instrument of progress, a person present rose and made some irreverent remarks about the Bible, whereon Dr Guthrie arose quickly on the platform, and, lifting up his long arm, shouted ,out, "Shocking, shocking!" and called on all friends of the Bible to leave the meeting; on which this heroic Bible-lover and almost all present speedily left the building. In those days there was some burning zeal for the Word of God. And when Professor Denney so defiantly challenged the Prophet from God Himself God, affirming that He stated what was not true, it would have been a crown of honour to Dr. Ross Taylor had he risen at once and cried out, "Shocking, shocking!" and called on the hundred fathers and brethren present to rise and quit the Presbytery Hall. But not one of those present repudiated the profaneness of the Professor. May it not be justly said about their silence when their Lord was thus dishonoured, "Shocking! shocking!" Had Dr. Guthrie been present, this assailant of the veracity of our Lord Jesus would have been sharply rebuked. No quarter must be allowed the men who would deliberately blight and blast the reputation of Jesus of Nazareth, the very Christ of God.
If this infidel criticism becomes the predominant belief throughout the Christian world, then all these elements which give Christianity its pre-eminence over all other religions, and make it supernatural, celestial, and divine, will be obliterated, and Christendom will soon degenerate, and resolve itself into the Paganism which it conquered and exterminated. In his Bampton Lecture on "Our Lord’s Divinity;" Canon Liddon writes, "Without belief in the Deity of Christ to inspire it, Christian ethics has sunk to the level of Pagan morality."
It has often been contended by the leaders of the United Free Church in this controversy that the Church must make "progress," that she must "advance," that she must have a faith "keeping measure with the times." They have said it is "intolerable" that the "living Church should be tied to the old creeds" of sixty years ago. If so, then every generation must have "a new theology." If so, the sons and daughters of the present United Free Church will be crying out for emancipation from the "living faith" of their fathers now; they will denounce the Rainys and Orrs of this generation as old fossils found in the strata of the tertiary period; they will maintain that they were simply "playing at" creeds and unions; and they will themselves proceed to the formation of an ecclesiastical union worthy of an enlightened age! Is the Christian world to be for ever in the infancy of theology? Shall it never behold the Church of Christ with any fixed and permanent beliefs? Has it been impossible for our ancestors, with the completed and final manual of Revelation in their hands, to formulate any doctrine worthy of a permanent place in the creed of a Church of Christ? It is unworthy of any thoughtful Christian or ecclesiastical leader to repudiate as "monstrous" and "ungodly" belief in a creed or doctrine because it was professed by ancestors and was thus antiquated. If so, then repudiate all the doctrines taught by our Lord and His Apostles; yes all the doctrines of the Old Testament Scriptures, with the ancient belief in the existence of God. If the principle of Establishments was scriptural sixty years ago, it is scriptural still. If Voluntaryism was unscriptural sixty years ago, it is unscriptural still. If Calvinism was a scriptural system sixty years ago and in the time of Calvin, it is scriptural still. If Arminianism was unscriptural sixty years ago, it is unscriptural still. If the infallibility of Christ as Prophet was true sixty years ago, it is true still. If the Deity of our Lord Jesus was a fact sixty years ago, it is a fact now. Time writes no wrinkles on the brow of Divine truths: they are ever old, even from eternity; and they are ever new and vital. They are like the stars of heaven, ever old. but ever flashing with new splendour.
"Advance!" Is the Voluntaryism which denies the right of Christ to rule the nations, and would, if logically applied, construct an atheistic state, an "Advance" on national Christianity which would exalt Him to the supremacy in all the imperial institutions in the world, and would have all nations honour and aid the Church He has redeemed?
"Advance!" Is the Arminianism which makes the decree of God for the salvation of the sinner dependent on the faith and good works of the sinner an "Advance" on the Calvinism which magnifies the God of all grace, and attributes the decree of the salvation of sinners to the sovereign good pleasure of the Lord, to the praise of His glorious grace?
"Advance!" Is belief in the Bible as a book of myths, fictions, forgeries, and falsehoods, an "Advance" on belief in the Holy Scriptures as a book from the God of Heaven, inspired, infallible, and of Divine authority, through "men who spake from God, being moved by the Holy Ghost"?
"Advance!" Is the theory of atonement by example an "Advance" on atonement by substitution the only atonement which provides sufficient foundation for the deliverance of the sinner from condemnation, and satisfies his conscience in its sin and guilt?
"Advance!" Is the criticism which robs the Lord Jesus of His infallibility as Prophet an "Advance" on the unswerving belief in His infallibility as the Prophet come from God, and Who said on earth: "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life"?
"Advance!" Is the theory that Christ was but a man of His times, that He was misled and deceived "that He took Genesis as He found it"—an "Advance" on the assured belief that Jesus Christ was equal with the Father in Divine nature and perfections—"very God of very God"?
But these must be some of the "Advances" boasted of in the present discussions; these some of the elements in the "living, progressive faith" of the times. If really a "progressive faith," and not a "faith" which is reproducing old errors musty with the decay of centuries, its apostles ought to produce something original; some elements deserving the designations of "advance" and "progress." Where is the originality of this "new theology"? I have often publicly challenged the "school of advance" to specify even one of their theories for which they claim originality, but no answer has ever been attempted. If it had, I would have turned up the pages of Hume, Paine, Voltaire, Ingersoll, and other infidels, and some of the German rationalists, and pointed out their new opinions, word for word. No, these "men of progressive thought" are copyists, plagiarists, every one of them; and a unanimous protest should go forth from all our Presbyterian Churches against Scotland being made by them a dumping ground for English deism and German rationalism. Most earnestly do I trust and pray that neither Arminianism, Rationalism, nor Romanism shall ever be allowed to tithe or toll in this land of the Bible and the National Covenants.
What is the contrast then in theology and policy between these two Churches—the Free and the United Free?
1. The Free Church represents the Bible doctrine of National Christianity, with the principle of Establishments. The United Free Church represents the theory of Voluntaryism, or religious equality, which would abolish all traces of Christianity in the British Constitution and all public institutions.
2. The Free Church represents a definite creed with standards of faith founded on and agreeable to the Word of God. The United Free Church represents an unstable and fluctuating belief, or "living" faith, and repudiates all pledges to permanency in her doctrinal tenets.
3. The Free Church represents the recognition of the Larger and Shorter Catechisms as authoritative standards in the Church. The United Free Church, at the Union, lowered these standards from the position hitherto filled by them. Rev. Dr. Balfour assigned as the reasons for this, "in present circumstances and in this nineteenth century."
4. The Free Church represents "the whole doctrine of the Confession of Faith." The United Free Church rejected this statement of belief, and adopted "the doctrine of this Church." Mr. Shaw, K.C., M.P., said—"The United Free Church was penalised because it had shaken itself loose from the bonds of the Old Confession and had substituted for the doctrine of the Confession the doctrine of its own Church."
5. The Free Church represents the Calvinistic system of faith. The United Free Church represents a semi-Arminian system.
6. The Free Church represents belief in an inspired and infallible Bible. The United Free Church represents belief in a Bible full of myths, errors, contradictions, and forgeries, and has, by a decisive vote of its General Assembly, declined to interfere with the circulation of these destructive tenets throughout the Church.
7. The Free Church represents belief in the infallibility of Jesus as the Prophet from God. The United Free Church represents belief in the fallibility of the Prophet of prophets, for it declines to arrest the teaching of Professors and others whose theories are inconsistent with our Lord’s prophetic infallibility.
8. The Free Church represents belief in the Deity of our Lord Jesus Christ. The United Free Church represents disbelief in that Deity, as it allows teachings in its colleges and pulpits that are incompatible with belief in Christ’s Deity, and as it has, by deliberate resolution of its General Assembly, declared that the interests of Christian truth did not require any interference with the questions raised by Professor Smith’s Modern Criticism.
But now the Free Church is compelled to enter upon an additional conflict. This is a conflict with Parliament itself. Two Commissions have been appointed by the Government to investigate the whole situation created by the judgment of the House of Lords. It cannot be denied that these appointments portend a reduction in the judgment of the Lords by interference with the funds and property to which the Free Church of Scotland is entitled by law. The statement by Sir John Cheyne, in opening his Commission, plainly indicated some purpose of this nature. Sir John spoke of "the probability, if not the certainty, of legislation depriving the Free Church of part of the property covered by the Lords’ judgment."
Any interference by the Government should, one would suppose, have been directed at once to the full execution of the judgment of the highest tribunal in the realm. It should have terminated at once the measures taken by those who were resisting that judgment, and forcibly retaining possession of funds and buildings which they had unlawfully held for four years. And it should have put the Free Church, as the lawful owners, in possession of funds and property which were their own. But an interference by Government to stop the efforts of those who were endeavouring to obtain actual possession of their own property, and to protect those who were obstructing this possession by every possible means, is an anomalous procedure in the administration of the Kingdom.
The Free Church may voluntarily relinquish any funds and property she may find herself absolutely incapable of utilising. But before any decision on this can be formed, her leaders and their Church must be afforded sufficient time to find out their requirements. In view of the condition to which she was reduced at the Union by the high-handed majority, the oppression to which she has been subjected since, and the menaces and attacks against her, it would be unjust to refuse her a due period within which she can find out her necessities,—and these necessities are on the increase daily. Then the property that she is incapable of using for the purposes of the trust of the historic Free Church will be relinquished voluntarily. But her leaders cannot righteously hand over this surplus to the United Free Church or any part of that denomination. They cannot hand over any of it to those from whom they wrested it by law—to those whom they, and the law, too, held to have no right or title to it, and those who would use it for purposes and principles alien to those of the Church of Scotland Free.
The strongest opposition possible, however, must be offered to any attempt by Government or Parliament to compel the Free Church to surrender any portions of the funds and property of which shells the heir by the deliverance of the supreme tribunal. It is true that the official document appointing the Royal Commission rehearsed the judgment of the House of Lords that the United Free Church had forfeited all right, title, and interest in the funds and property of the Free Church of Scotland, and that the existing Free Church of Scotland was entitled to those funds and property as held by the General Trustees and under the Model Trust Deed; and it is true that members of the Cabinet have publicly declared that the judgment "must and will stand." But if the result be, as Sir John Cheyne indicates, that the Free Church will be deprived of part of the property covered by the Lords’ judgment, how can it be maintained that this would show "respect for the judgment"? While professing to honour the judgment of the highest tribunal in the land, this would be dishonour to it; while professing regard for its finality, this would be reducing it; while professing to sustain it in life and vigour, this would be an effort to strangle it in its infancy of seven months. If the acts of the people of the Free Church in taking possession of their own buildings, over which they had proprietary rights, were "seizures," the acts of the Government. in taking forcible possession of funds and property to which Government had no proprietary rights would, more manifestly, be illegal and flagrant "seizures." If there be any attempt by any superior power to enforce and compel surrender by the Free Church of her own lawful funds and property, 500,000 Scottish men will know the reason why.
When the Free Church willingly hands over to the Government such funds and property as she may eventually find herself unable to utilise, these surplus funds become the possession of the Government or Parliament. They are therefore the possession of the nation—a national possession, however brief the period in transitu. What is Parliament to do then with these funds and property received from the Free Church? To whom will Parliament convey them? Can Parliament convey them to those from whom they have been taken by the supremest court in the Empire? Shall Parliament convey them to those who, by that court, have been held to have no right, title, or interest in them? Shall Parliament convey them to those who were violating a sacred ecclesiastical trust and contract by assuming the ownership and use of them? Shall the Parliament convey them to those whose expenditure of them would be on purposes and principles alien to those in that trust and contract? If so, this result would provide the extraordinary spectacle of the Parliament overturning in its most salient parts a judgment of their own supremest tribunal—in fact, in several of its temporal and religious elements, tearing that judgment into tatters. This would be an outrage on law and righteousness, and would shake the confidence of the people universally in the stability of civil administration throughout the length and breadth of the land.
I contend that if Parliament is entitled to confer the released funds on any of the Presbyterian denominations in Scotland, it is bound to offer them to those Churches whose creeds and living faith are nearest those held by the Free Church of Scotland while as yet untainted by Voluntaryism and infidel criticism, and who are much more fully in line with the beliefs and policy of the great Dr. Chalmers and his associates. And all the other Presbyterian Churches in the country are more in sympathy with the heroes of 1843 and the Church of Scotland Free than either of the sections now amalgamated as the United Free Church.
But one of the gravest of the probable results of Parliamentary legislation would be the national endowment of another Church—the United Free Church. The conveying of the surplus funds and property to any Church would certainly be a Parliamentary grant or national endowment. If granted to the United Free Church, what would be the character of this national procedure? Amid the irony of these circumstances, the question would continually be raised by thoughtful men: What right have the United Presbyterians to be received and recognised by Parliament as managers of surplus ecclesiastical funds, and as beneficiaries through such Parliamentary assignments? Any proposals of this character will be a temptation to the United Presbyterians to violate the distinctive principle of their ecclesiastical existence and history.
The conveyance by Parliament of the surplus funds and property to the United Free Church would be the national endowment of a Church having no defined creed; whose creed, according to the recent speeches of her leaders, is a variable quantity. It would be the national endowment of a Church which has rejected the authoritative standards of faith hitherto accepted in their integrity by all branches of the Reformed Churches of Scotland. It would be the national endowment of a Voluntary Church—a monstrosity in the history of ecclesiastical establishments; a Church which adopts resolutions in its General Assembly for the extinction of endowments and establishments, and which will probably adopt a similar resolution at next Assembly, just after receiving the above grant from Parliament; and a Church whose leaders have denounced the Free Church for going to Caesar to protect herself against expulsion from her own patrimonial rights. It will be the endowment of a Church which is pro-Arminian in doctrine, and which has given place to the rationalistic criticism which assails the infallibility of the Prophet from heaven, and the Deity of His peerless Personality. Every Christian in the Empire is bound to protest against such a diversion of funds—a diversion from the maintenance of Christianity to the promotion of infidelity, from principles and purposes which are fitted to advance the highest interests of the Church and nation, to theories and policies whose ascendency would mean the ruin of Christianity and of the commonwealth at large.
It has been publicly stated that to provide against the recurrence of similar difficulties in future, Parliament will probably introduce legislation which would enable majorities in the various Churches to carry with them all the funds and property of their Churches, no matter what alterations those majorities may effect on the constitution and doctrines of their denominations. If this be one of the issues of the present agitation a greater calamity could scarce befall the Churches and the cause of truth. In this issue there would be no relief for minorities, however faithful to the principles of their denomination, against an apostate majority, even though the division be 49 to 51 of every 100 members in the Church. The only liberty a minority, however large, would have would be to submit their consciences to the majority, or leave that majority, and lose all the funds and property they helped to raise, even though the 49 had contributed £100 to every £10 of the majority. Such legislation would render lawful the action of any Presbyterian Church in carrying over all the denominational property to the Prelatic Church. It would defend any Protestant denomination in carrying over all their property to the Church of Rome. And for such power the counsel for the United Free Church pled before the House of Lords. Thousands hailed the judgment of first August as fitted to put a check on majorities in all the Churches where the down-grade was at work in theology, and hundreds of thousands rejoiced in it as an arresting brake on the Romanisers in the Church of England; but should such legislation be the outcome of the present agitation, then the Romanisers will work with redoubled energy to imbue the Church of England with Popery and Jesuitism, with the purpose of carrying over a decisive majority of that great Church—people, property, and all—into the Church of Rome—a calamity with untold disastrous consequences to England, the whole Empire, and the world.
These are some of the principles at issue in the present momentous conflict. The war is a holy war. The battle is for the Personality, the Infallibility, the Crown of the Redeemer, the Prince, the Saviour. The battle is for the Inspiration, Infallibility, and Supremacy of the Holy Scriptures. On the Free Church rests a vast burden. She is pressed into the van. Let every Christian in the kingdom come to her help. The command of Wellington at Waterloo to his hard-pressed regiments was, "Stand firm!" They stood firm, and Waterloo was won. Let us all stand firm under the Captain of our salvation—
"For judgment unto righteousness shall yet return again,
And all shall follow after it that are right-hearted men."
 For fuller references on these points, see "Facts for the People," issued by the Free Church of Scotland, Nos. 1, 3, 4, 5, 8. [back]