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Free Thoughts on the Religious Celebration of the Funeral of the Princess Charlotte.


Free Thoughts on the Religious Celebration of the Funeral of the Princess Charlotte.

James Dodson

“Many will remember the deep sensation produced on the public mind by the death of the Princess Charlotte. Calculating on this, the court papers announced that on the day of the funeral, Wednesday, November 19, 1817, the churches through the whole country were to be opened for the performance of divine service; and the magistrates of Edinburgh, with the concurrence of some of the clergy, issued a proclamation to this effect on the preceding Monday. With very few exceptions, this order was obeyed by all the Established and Dissenting Churches in the city. St George’s, however, was shut, Dr. Thomson having positively refused to perform divine service on the funeral day. A keen discussion ensued, in the course of which Dr. Thomson’s character was very roughly handled, and his motives grossly misrepresented. After several pamphlets had appeared on both sides, our author came forward in defence of his friend, in a piece entitled, “Free Thoughts on the late religious celebration of the funeral of her Royal Highness, the Princess Charlotte of Wales; and on the discussion to which it has given rise in Edinburgh. By Scoto Britannus.” In this publication, he embraces the opportunity of showing that the burial service of the Church of England,—of which the Edinburgh solemnity is described as having been “a clumsy imitation,”—was repugnant both to the letter and spirit of our ecclesiastical constitution. He reprobates the manner in which it had been got up, and the attempt made to prescribe to the Scottish Church in matters of divine worship; and points out the danger of adopting, even partially, such Episcopalian usages, which, introduced irregularly, and during a period of public excitement, might become a precedent for justifying farther innovations. These reasonings were considered so conclusive in vindication of Dr. Thomson, that the voice of censure was hushed, and nothing more was heard on the subject.”—Life of Dr M‘Crie, p. 230.

By Thomas McCrie. 

THE late sudden demise of the Princess Charlotte of Wales was calculated to make a deep impression on the national feelings. It was one of those events which, to the sober reflection of the dispassionate, will justify all the concern and apprehension which were at first felt by the multitude, and which are ordinarily as transient in their influence as they are superficial in the causes which produce them. When we consider the promising character of the deceased Princess—her public spirit, and her domestic virtues—her exalted rank, great youth, and interesting situation—the hopes which were formed from her, and the flattering prospect which there was of their being gratified—the blessings which the empire might have enjoyed if her life had been prolonged, and the evils which her death may entail upon it,—it is impossible not to regard the event as ominous, and a heavy national calamity.

On these grounds, there perhaps never was an occasion on which the nation more sincerely or more generally lamented the loss of any of its Princes, or felt more disposed to participate in the sorrows of the Royal Family—to give every requisite testimony of regret for those who had departed, and of sympathy for those who were left behind. And never was there less reason to complain of a defect in the due expression of these feelings. Persons of all political parties, and of every religious persuasion, were equally forward and zealous. Nor was Scotland in any degree behind the sister kingdom in the performance of this duty. No sooner did the melancholy tidings arrive, than our churches were clothed in the garb of mourning; and several of those congregations which were left to their own choice, evinced a disposition to exceed, in this external badge of sorrow, what the discretion or economy of our magistrates thought proper to allot to our established churches. Our pulpits, with one voice, and without the slightest suspicion of insincerity or reluctance, deplored the common loss, and besought that blessing, which alone could dispose all ranks to a wise and becoming improvement of the afflicting dispensation.

If, besides all this, there remained any other duty to discharge, if there were any external marks of civil respect to be shown on the day appointed for the funeral, we were prepared to show them, in that way which is of all others the most becoming and appropriate—after the usual manner of our country, when we “mourn for an only son, and are in bitterness for a first-born.”

One would have thought that all this was enough, and that nothing farther could or would have been demanded. Such was our opinion; but we have been mistaken. There are persons, it seems, who, like the grave, cannot say of mourning, “It is enough.” There are persons who must be as wayward, imperious, and extravagant in their moods of grief, as in their fits of rejoicing; who display a “madness and folly” in both; and who are of the temper of the children in the market-place, who peevishly complained to their fellows, “We have piped unto you, and ye have not danced; we have mourned unto you, and ye have not lamented.” To satisfy these persons, the people of Scotland must lay aside their native mode of mourning for the dead, and adopt fashions which are foreign, and customs which are altogether strange to them. They must not only on a sudden change their ordinary habits, but also divest themselves of their religious principles, at least for one day, and testify their sympathy for royal affliction, by worshipping according to the rites of the Church of England. Though the laws of their Church admit of no burial service, and though they have never practised any thing of the kind for two centuries and a half, no, not for the most favoured of their monarchs, or the most revered of their worthies and patriots, they must on this occasion assemble themselves in their various churches, to symbolize with, and as far as practicable, join in the worship performed over the grave of the dead at Windsor.

Such was the modest and reasonable proposal for a religious celebration of the funeral of the Princess throughout the United Kingdom! Loud as they were in their demand, and confident in the language which they held, we can scarcely think, that those with whom the proposal originated seriously believed that it would be favourably received in Scotland. Yet, strange to tell, it has been generally complied with both by clergy and laity; and those who refused to “follow the multitude” have been loaded with reproach and obloquy, derided as fools, and traduced as hypocrites and traitors!

Some may be ready to ask, “How was all this brought about?” and, “By what secret magic was this change so suddenly effected?” Those who received the impulse most strongly, and contributed to impart it to others, will be among the first to pronounce it unaccountable, after it has subsided. But sensible men will feel at no great loss in assigning it to its legitimate causes. They know how easy it is to give any direction to popular feeling when it is once excited. They know the power that novelty and the passion for show and bustle exert over the many. They know, that though “the heart of the wise is in the house of mourning, and the heart of fools in the house of mirth,” yet the former often stand aloof, while the latter are seen rushing to the spectacle of a funeral procession. They know, that every thing that assumes the garb is not entitled to the name of religion, or loyalty, or grief; and that, at any rate, however strong these emotions may be, they would not, if left to their own operation, express themselves in a way different from, or opposite to, the principles and habits of the people by whom they are felt.

“Behold how great a matter a little fire kindleth!” The religious movement which lately took place may be traced to a paragraph in a newspaper. Here the plan of a national solemnity, on the day of the funeral, was first suggested; and from the same respectable and most competent authority, issued daily enforcements of the proposal, or rather prophetic anticipations of its adoption, which had the most powerful influence in securing their own accomplishment. Its extensive circulation, and the circumstance of its being understood to be the organ of the court, gave it the greatest advantages in propagating its views.[1]

We shall afterwards have occasion to advert to the principles held by that Journal, with relation to the recent solemnity and collateral subjects. In the meantime, it is of importance that the reader keep the undeniable fact just mentioned distinctly and constantly in view; for every public measure must take its character from those who have devised and promoted it, and not from the individuals who may be induced, by various and discordant motives, to act a subordinate part in carrying it into execution.

The quarter in which the measure under consideration originated, might have excited the suspicions of the people of Scotland. What could we expect, but that it should be entirely accordant to the principles of the Church of England, which regards sepulture as a religious ordinance, and in its ritual has a particular service appropriated to it? That this service would be performed over the grave of the deceased Princess, as a member of that Church, with all its solemnities, added to the marks of civil respect due to her exalted rank, was naturally looked for. What was proposed on this occasion proceeded upon the same views. It was, in fact, nothing else than an extension of the service—a celebration of the funeral obsequies throughout the whole kingdom, as far as this was practicable, and in such a manner as to leave the particular forms of that celebration free.

Even with respect to England, this was a novel service. It has been said, and there is reason to believe that the statement is perfectly correct, that such a solemnity is altogether unprecedented in that country. Considering it as adopted without that deliberation which so important a matter required, as sanctioned by no proper authority, and as forming a precedent which may hereafter be grossly abused, the measure, even upon English principles, was open to very strong objections. In no regular organized church is religious worship left to be performed in this disorderly and unauthorised manner. If such practices are countenanced, the worst consequences must result from them. If religious assemblies shall be called in compliance with the irregular impulse of popular feeling, or at the dictation of political, perhaps hireling journals; if the worship of God must be celebrated at the cry of a mob; if every anonymous scribbler in a newspaper, and every forward demagogue in an assembly, shall assume a right to call for a preacher and religious service, as he would call for an actor or a song at a theatre (as was notoriously done on the late occasion), must not divine ordinances be profaned, and the Majesty of Heaven grossly insulted, under the pretence of honouring him? Those individuals in public office, whether clergymen or magistrates, who suffer themselves to be impelled and carried away by such sudden and treacherous gusts of public opinion, bring themselves under a heavy responsibility, and may in the issue find reason for repenting of their unwise and hazardous compliances. Accordingly, there appear to have been not a few in England who scrupled at the observance of the late national solemnity, while it was vigorously resisted by others of distinguished rank and authority.

But in Scotland the practice was objectionable on other and stronger grounds. Within the pale of the Church of England, there could be at least no objection to a burial service. In Scotland it is quite otherwise. The solemnity was a violation of our laws—of the principles of our Church, sanctioned by her highest authority, and confirmed by long and uniform practice. That this should have been forgotten, is strange; that it should be denied, is a proof of the lamentable ignorance that prevails on the subject among both clergy and laity.

None surely will be so unreasonable or so disingenuous, as to deny that the late solemnity was of the nature of a burial service. If it was not, what was it? Why did they meet for divine service on the 19th of November? Was it not because it was the day of the funeral of the Princess Charlotte of Wales? Was it not on this account, and no other? And certainly to meet for divine service on a funeral day, and because it was such a day, was just to meet for a funeral service. If any should pretend to condemn religious exercises at the place of interment, and yet maintain the propriety and expediency of their being performed with a view to it, at the distance of three hundred miles from the place, we really do not deem it necessary to enter into reasoning with such persons. The truth is, the design of assembling for worship on that day was publicly avowed and universally understood; and whatever private reasons individuals may allege for their compliance, they must be judged on such occasions, not by these, but by the native and obvious import of their external conduct. Such being the true state of the case, it will not be difficult to show, that those who assembled for worship on that day transgressed the laws and violated the principles of our Church.

From the beginning of the Reformation, the celebration of funerals by religious service was condemned and prohibited by the Church of Scotland. The laws prohibiting it have been renewed and repeated at different periods. They stand in full force at this day, and they have been confirmed by a chain of invariable practice.

The First Book of Discipline pronounces “prayers over,” as well as “for the dead,” “superstitious and vaine.” It directs, “that the dead be conveyed to the place of burial, with some honest company of the kirk, without either singing or reading, yea., without all kind of ceremony heretofore used, other than that the dead be committed to the grave with such gravity and sobriety, as those that be present may seeme to feare the judgments of God, and to hate sinne, which is the cause of death.” And whereas “some require a sermon at the burial, or else some place of Scripture to be read, to put the living in minde that they are mortall, and that likewise they must die;” it adds, in answer to this plea, “let these men understand, that the sermons that be daily made serve for that use, which if men despise, the funeral sermons shall rather nourish superstition, and a false opinion, as before is said, than that they shall bring such persons to a godly consideration of their own estate.”

The First Book of Discipline was not only approved by different General Assemblies, but the rules which it lays down with respect to the burial of the dead are to be considered as still in force.[2]

During the establishment of Episcopacy in the former part of the l7th century, the only innovation made with regard to the burial of the dead, was the introduction, in some instances, of funeral sermons. But, upon the fall of the hierarchy, the General Assembly in 1638, agreeably to an overture by their committee, “to discharge funeral sermons, as savouring of superstition,” did discharge all funeral sermons accordingly.[3]

In the “Directory for the Public Worship,” ratified by the General Assembly in 1645, the provisions of the First Book of Discipline are renewed. The dead body is appointed to be interred “without any ceremony,” and because “praying, reading, and singing, both in going to and at the grave, have been grossly abused, are no way beneficial to the dead, and have proved many ways hurtful to the living, therefore let all such things be laid aside.” At the same time it is expressly stated, “that this shall not extend to deny any civil respects or deferences at the burial, suitable to the rank and condition of the party deceased, whiles he was living.” The directions given respecting the meditations and conferences suitable to the occasion, and the part which the minister, if present, is to take in these, are of such a kind as to guard carefully against a burial service or funeral sermon.

It is carefully to be adverted to by the reader, that the Books of Discipline, and the Directory for Public Worship, are not to be viewed in the light of ordinary acts. They are standard books, embodying the fundamental laws of the Church, recognised in the whole strain of our ecclesiastical enactments, and therefore to be appealed to as the most competent and decisive authority, on all questions respecting worship and discipline.

These principles are very clearly stated in the “Platform of the Presbyterian government and worship of the Church of Scotland, published by authority in 1644.” It states, that burial is to take place “without singing or reading, which the superstitious doe conceive to be profitable for the dead;—without funeral sermons, which do beget superstition, and tend to flattery, make the gospel to be preached with respect of persons, and are most pressed by such as doe least regard sermons at other times; and without feasting, with affectate shewes of mourning, and any further pomp or ceremony, than civil differences and respects do require.”

Such being the law of the Church, let us now attend to the care which she has manifested as to its observance. In 1705, the General Assembly, by an express act, recommended to all ministers and others within the national Church, “the due observation of the Directory for the public worship of God, approven by the General Assembly held in the year 1645.” In 1707, the “Act against Innovations in the worship of God” was passed, in consequence of the general erection of the Episcopal worship at that time. After declaring, “that the purity of religion, and particularly of the worship of God, and uniformity therein, is a signal blessing,—that any attempts made for the introduction of innovations in the worship of God in this Church have been of fatal and dangerous consequence,—and that innovations, particularly in the worship of God, have been of late set up in some places: The General Assembly, being moved with zeal for the glory of God, and the purity and uniformity of his worship, doth hereby discharge the practice of all such innovations of Divine worship within this Church, and does require and obtest all the ministers of this Church, especially those in whose bounds any such innovations may be, to represent to their people the evil thereof,” &c. By the formula of questions prescribed by the General Assembly 1711, and still in use, every minister at his ordination must promise, “notwithstanding whatsoever trouble or persecution may arise,” that he “shall follow no divisive course from the present established worship of this Church.” And all such as shall pass trials in order to be licensed, and that shall be ordained ministers, or admitted to parishes, are bound to subscribe a declaration containing the following clauses, inter alia: “I do own the purity of worship presently authorised and practised in this Church;—which worship, &c., I am persuaded are founded upon the Word of God, and agreeable thereto; and I promise that, through the grace of God, I shall firmly and constantly adhere to the same, and to the utmost of my power shall in my station assert, maintain, and defend the said—worship—of this Church; and that I shall, in my practice, conform myself to the said worship, and never endeavour, directly nor indirectly, the prejudice or subversion of the same;—renouncing all doctrines, tenets, and opinions whatsoever, contrary to, or inconsistent with, the said—worship—of this Church.”

These are solemn and express stipulations; and however light some may make of them, it surely becomes all who have given such pledges, and especially the ministers of this Church, seriously to consider how they have redeemed them, and “paid their vows unto the Lord in the presence of all his people.”

It may be added, that by the incorporating Union of Scotland and England, it is declared that “the form and purity of worship presently in use within this Church shall remain and continue unalterable;” so that it is illegal for any magistrates, supreme or subordinate, to endeavour, directly or indirectly, the prejudice of the same; and instead of discouraging, it is their bounden duty to support all who exert themselves to maintain it.

The principles of the Church of Scotland, on this head, are unequivocally expressed, not only in her standard books and acts of Assembly, but also by uniform and invariable practice. This is deserving of particular attention, as it renders the evidence completely irresistible, and excludes every possibility of cavil or quibbling. The case is as widely different from that of obsolete or antiquated statutes, as it is possible to conceive. The authority of the law has been preserved and conveyed, down to the present time, by a continued and unbroken chain of usage. Not a single precedent to the contrary has ever been produced, and we are satisfied that it cannot be produced. During the whole period of Presbytery, there is no instance of a departure from the law by the celebration of a burial service, even on occasions when the national feelings were most strongly excited. And when, during the intrusion of Episcopacy, the practice was partially introduced, no sooner did Presbytery resume her rightful place, than every the least vestige of it was removed, along with other superstitious observances. The enactments on this subject are not to be viewed in the light of temporary regulations, nor are they mere arrangements of matters indifferent, for the sake of order and uniformity. They are avowedly and explicitly made to rest upon principle. Conscientious reasons are assigned for them, and reasons applicable to the present as well as to former times.

We may, therefore, challenge any person to produce a single article relating to the worship of our Church, as to which the law and the usage are more clear and determinate, than that under consideration. As far as these are concerned, holidays, confirmation, the sign of the cross, kneeling at the communion, absolution at the point of death, and extreme unction itself, might be introduced among us with equal reason as a burial service. To elude the charge of transgressing statutes so precise, and usages so palpable, persons must have recourse to chicane and quirk, which would disgrace the bar, and would not be listened to by the bench, of any civil court whatever.

The only thing, as far as we know, that can be objected, with any degree of feasibility, to the argument from usage, is, that it has been a common practice among us to preach funeral sermons, notwithstanding the acts of the Church to the contrary. To this we reply by denying the statement. A funeral sermon, in the strict and proper acceptation of the expression, is a sermon preached at a funeral, on the day of the funeral, or so connected with it as to form a part of the funeral service. In a loose sense, indeed, that is often called a funeral sermon, in which the preacher, in the usual course of his ministry, alludes to the death of any individual, and endeavours to impress upon his audience the lessons which it naturally suggests. The former, and not the latter, are the sermons condemned by the laws which we have produced. It never was the design of our Church to condemn the practice of a minister adverting to the instances of death which occur, according to their notoriety, and endeavouring to lead his congregation to the due improvement of such melancholy and deeply interesting events. This belongs to the course of his ministerial duty. We would not deny that such discourses have been abused, and that several of the very abuses which the principles of our Church condemn may be grafted upon them, such as undue respect of persons, and false or fulsome adulation of the dead or the living. But every part of the pastoral function is apt to be abused in this way; and the abuse being committed in the ordinary discharge of pastoral duty, and being committed in different degrees, it is difficult, and sometimes impossible, to apply the remedy. Every person, however, may perceive the distinction between these and such services as have in themselves a tendency to abuse; and which, on this account, as well as because they are unnecessary, become the legitimate object of prohibitory statutes.

The chief design of these pages was to state the ecclesiastical law of Scotland on this subject, and to set it before those who appeared to have forgotten, if indeed they ever knew it. It is not therefore necessary to enter here into any laboured defence, or lengthened statement, of the grounds upon which that law was framed. A few general reflections upon these may, however, be proper.

The reason why the Church of Scotland, in common with other Reformed Churches, has discharged all funeral service, is not simply that it was grossly abused in some former or distant period, or that it is still abused by multitudes; but also that it tends to abuse, either in itself, or from the unavoidable bias of human nature in its present frail and vitiated state. How prone the mind of man is to superstition, the history of all ages and of every people has abundantly demonstrated. Vain speculations as to the state of the dead have been one of the most fruitful sources of superstitious hopes and fears; and nothing has tended more to beget and to nourish these, than the religious rites and ceremonies performed at death and at sepulture. False religion, in the various shapes which it has assumed among mankind, has invariably increased this moral malady: it is one great and salutary object of true religion to correct it, and to prevent its recurrence.

In the Jewish religion there were no sacred rites appointed for the dead, or performed at sepulture. Although the Jews were placed under a dispensation highly ceremonial, although the external observances of their worship reached to every department of society, and mingled with almost every duty and every event of their life, it is deserving of particular notice, that their divine ritual prescribed nothing to be done at the moment of death or in the act of interment. They had no burial service. He who provided that Moses should be interred secretly, so that “no man knoweth of his sepulture to this day,” lest the Jews should have abused it to idolatry, wisely and graciously guarded against a practice which he foresaw would easily degenerate into superstition. When they began to lose the purity of their religion, one way in which they corrupted themselves, was by joining in the funeral services and commemorations of the heathen—by “eating the sacrifices of the dead,” and “weeping for Tammuz.”

There was no funeral service among the primitive Christians. When our Saviour died, Joseph of Arimathea, a counsellor, and Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, obtained permission to inter him, and they performed this office with all due reverence and honour. “They brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight, and took the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.” But they performed no religious service over him. And when the women came to his sepulchre, early on the first day of the week, it was not to pray, or read, or sing over it, but “to anoint his body with the spices they had prepared.” In the case of the first person who was honoured to fall a martyr to Christianity, we are informed that “devout men carried Stephen to his burial, and made great lamentation over him.” But devout as they were, and deeply as they lamented his loss, we do not read of their performing a single religious act or rite over his grave. Nor is there the slightest vestige in the New Testament of any such practice among the primitive Christians.

But the worship of the Christian Church, it is well known, was not suffered long to stand on the base of its original simplicity. The history of its corruption, of the causes from which this proceeded, and the extent to which it grew, forms one of the most humiliating, but, at the same time, most instructive branches of study; and the lessons which it reads, and the beacons which it holds up to future generations, ought never to be lost sight of or forgotten. From motives the most pious, and with intentions the most innocent and laudable, practices were indulged and sentiments were generated, which superstition, in alliance with priestcraft, improved to rear a dominion unparalleled in the annals of mankind. It is impossible to describe one of the most fertile sources of this corruption better than in the words of a judicious historian, in giving an account of the rites and ceremonies added to the Christian worship during the second century:—“These changes, while they destroyed the beautiful simplicity of the Gospel, were naturally pleasing to the gross multitude, who are more delighted with the pomp and splendour of external institutions, than with the native charms of rational and solid piety, and who generally give little attention to any objects but those which strike their outward senses. But other reasons may be added to this, which, though they suppose no bad intentions, yet manifest a considerable degree of precipitation and imprudence. And here we may observe, in the first place, that there is a high degree of probability in the notion of those who think that the bishops augmented the number of religious rites in the Christian worship, by way of accommodation to the infirmities and prejudices both of Jews and Heathens, in order to facilitate their conversion to Christianity. Both Jews and Heathens were accustomed to a vast variety of pompous and magnificent ceremonies in their religious service; and as they considered these rites as an essential part of religion, it is but natural that they should behold with indifference, and even with contempt, the simplicity of the Christian worship, which was destitute of these idle ceremonies that rendered their service so specious and striking. To remove, then, in some measure, this prejudice against Christianity, the bishops thought it necessary to increase the number of rites and ceremonies, and thus to render the public worship more striking to the outward senses.”[4]

The rites of sepulture introduced into Christian worship, were borrowed, not from the Jews, but from the Heathens. The Greeks and Romans paid the utmost attention to these; and the want of them they considered as the severest curse that their gods could inflict. Hence, of all deaths, that by shipwreck was deemed the most awful. Among others, the following ceremonies may be mentioned:—Supplications addressed to the god whose province it was to carry the spirit to the regions below, just before the pangs of death—the invocation of the manes, or calling on the dead at regular intervals—the ringing of bells or brazen vessels at the moment of dissolution, to drive away the furies—the putting a small coin into the mouth of the deceased, to pay for his passage across the infernal river—the funeral oration in praise of the dead—the carrying of torches in the procession to the grave—the sacrifices—the oblations of honey, milk, and wine—the erection of a small altar before the sepulchre, on which incense was burnt, and libations made, both occasional and stated—the lustrations and the funeral feasts, which were prolonged or repeated on the anniversaries of the interment, and celebrated with great intemperance and excess.

The greater part of these rites were accommodated to the Christian religion, and adopted into the worship of the Church. This was not, indeed, done all at once; but the spirit of superstition is restless and encroaching, and when once admitted, none can predict where it will stop. Those who have unwarily let it loose possess no control over it, and cannot say, “Hitherto shalt thou come, but no farther.” One superstitious rite paves the way for another, and one superstitious opinion generates seven worse and more monstrous than itself. The primitive Christians, from regard for those who suffered death for the Gospel, began to perform their funeral obsequies with great solemnity. They visited their tombs—they held their assemblies for worship at them—they celebrated the anniversary of their martyrdom. The prayers and commemorations at the funeral of martyrs (which came to be extended to all who died in the faith) were at first confined to thanksgivings for their deliverance and glorification, with supplications that those who survived might be enabled to follow their example. But prayers over the dead were soon succeeded by prayers for them; and produced in due time the doctrines of purgatory, penances, pardons, the merit of masses, obits and dirges, canonization, saints’ days, prayers to the dead, the collecting and worshipping of relics, pretended miracles, and a thousand absurdities of the same pernicious description.

Our ancestors, at the Reformation, wisely resolved to strike at the root of this system of corruption and imposture, as the only effectual way of getting rid of the evils which it had entailed on them, and of guarding against their return. Upon this principle they completely abolished, not only the funeral service, which they justly regarded as having been a powerful instrument in the hands of superstition and priestcraft, but also holidays, the hierarchy, the use as well as the names of the five popish sacraments, with a multitude of other ceremonies, which, though introduced with the view, or under the pretext of decorating and recommending divine worship, tend, in fact, to tarnish its beauty, and to reduce and exhaust its spirit. This thorough reform constitutes the high distinction of Scotland among the Protestant Churches. Its beneficial influence has extended to all departments of society—it has improved our temporal as well as our spiritual welfare—it has freed us from many galling impositions, which diminish the comforts, and fret the spirits of other nations. It may be seen in the superior information of our people, in their freedom from childish fears and vulgar prejudices, in the purity of their morals, and in that practical regard, which, unconstrained by forms, and unattracted by show, they voluntarily pay to the ordinances of religion. One of the worst symptoms of our state, and which may justly occasion foreboding apprehensions, is, that we are not duly sensible of our privileges, nor aware of the cause to which, under Providence, we are principally to ascribe them; and that there are many among us, whose conduct gives too much ground to suspect, that they would be ready to part, at a very cheap rate, with those privileges which their fathers so dearly won.

“O fortunatos nimium sua si bona norint!”

The Church of Scotland was not, however, the only one which acted on the principle of thorough reformation. On the subject immediately under consideration, other Protestant Churches coincided with her both in doctrine and in practice. In particular, the canons of the Dutch Church and of the Reformed Churches in France, prohibited all religious service at funerals.[5]

England acted upon a very different principle. In this and in many other points she retained the principal rites and forms of the Popish Church, chiefly with the view of giving as little offence as possible to those who remained attached to the ancient superstition, and in the hope of gaining these more easily over to her communion; not duly adverting, that by pursuing this course she ran upon the very rock on which the primitive Church made shipwreck of her purity. All expressions in the burial service which involved prayers for the dead, were either expunged or softened, but the practice of reading or singing, and praying over the dead was continued; and thus the false and dangerous idea, general at that time, and too common in the present day, that this service is some way or other available to the persons interred, was fostered and perpetuated. The burial service is no less objectionable in another point of view. By the forms of the English Church, and according to invariable practice, the ministers of religion must, in a solemn address to God, express their hope, that every person interred by them rests in Christ; and, in a manner almost equally solemn, must declare, “Forasmuch as it hath pleased Almighty God, in his great mercy, to take unto himself the soul of our dear brother here departed, we therefore commit his body to the ground, in sure and certain hope of the resurrection to eternal life.” These hopes and assurances are declared concerning all, however wickedly and profanely they have lived and died, those only excepted “that have died unbaptized, or excommunicate, or have laid violent hands upon themselves.” Must not one of two things be expected to follow from this? Will it not happen, either that some persons will despise the whole as a religious farce, or that they will be hardened in sin by the hopes of obtaining absolution at death? Though the matter of the burial service were otherwise as excellent as its admirers would persuade us, this error, thrice repeated, would, like “the dead fly in the apothecary’s ointment,” pollute and damnify the whole. When we consider the countless instances in which the name and word of God are profaned in this way, is it any wonder that Presbyterians condemn this service, and keep at the greatest distance from every thing which may be construed into symbolizing with those who perform it?

To the argument from the abuse of a burial service, some think it sufficient to reply, “The age of superstition is past; there is now no danger from that quarter; why should we be afraid of a bugbear?” This is the light talk of superficial thinkers, and of such as are glad to find a plausible excuse for accommodating measures. No man who had an extensive acquaintance with the history of religion, and an intimate knowledge of human nature, ever reasoned after this manner. If such persons were capable of thinking, or if they would allow themselves to think for a moment, they would be aware that there was a time when the primitive Church was as exempt from superstition as ever Scotland has been since the Reformation, and when there was as much reason to deride the fears of its introduction as there is at present. Was he a fool or an alarmist who said, “The thing that hath been is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done; and there is no new thing under the sun?” Is it wisdom to throw away all the instruction which former ages have treasured up for us? Is it fortitude, or is it fool-hardiness, to rush on actions which formerly betrayed multitudes into “temptation and a snare?” We have seen with what ease the public mind has been influenced on the recent occasion; and what should hinder it from being carried still farther astray? But although it should not, is it a matter of small consequence to violate the laws, and trample upon the principles of the Church to which we belong? Is it no offence to testify our contempt, or our disrespect, for the faithful struggles of our ancestors to emancipate themselves, and to secure our freedom, from “beggarly elements,” to which “we desire to be again in bondage?” The age of superstition is past! When the far greater part of the world is yet drowned in gross idolatry! When the greater part of Europe is still antichristian! And when thousands, and tens of thousands, in our own land, still “worship idols of gold, and silver, and brass, and stone, and wood, which neither can see, nor hear, nor walk!” Ask those who have had the best means of information, and they will inform you, that at this day it is a common sentiment among the lower orders in England, that the burial service is a passport to heaven; that they would be miserable if they thought that they or their friends were to be deprived of it; and that the hope of obtaining it dissipates all their fears. And is it not an undeniable fact, that many divines of the Church of England, and of the Episcopal Church in Scotland, have openly taught and defended praying for the dead? On the late solemn day, when Presbyterians, for the first time, met to celebrate funeral rites, were not the Roman Catholics employed in offering the body of Christ for the sins of the dead and the living? in praying for the spirits of the departed? and in addressing supplications to the Virgin Mary and all the saints? and must not the conduct of the former have had a strong tendency to confirm the latter in their delusion?

When an innovation, like that under consideration, is proposed, we ought to take a liberal and enlarged view of the subject. We should contemplate it in all its bearings and connections. We should examine the influence which it may exert upon the spirit of our worship, the principles of our Church, and the habits of our people.

The late solemnity was not more contrary to the letter, than it will be found repugnant to the spirit of our ecclesiastical constitution. The Church of Scotland differs from that of England as much in her worship as she does in her government and discipline. This difference does not lie in one or two articles; it runs through the whole of our religious service. It may be observed in the psalmody, prayers, and administration of sacraments—in the times, and places, and modes of public worship. They are, in fact, constructed upon different principles: we speak, of course, of the external form of worship, and not of its internal principles, its object, or the medium of its acceptance. The service of the Church of England is addressed to the senses and the fancy. The service of the Church of Scotland is addressed to the understanding and the conscience. The former endeavours to produce its effects, by pleasing the eye, and gratifying the ear. The latter borrows sparingly from the senses, and calls in their aid only so far as they are connected with it by nature or by divine institution. By the external decorations of its temples, by the gaudy attire of its priests, the pomp and variety of its musical entertainments, and by frequent festivals, celebrated with all the parade of forms and gestures, the Episcopal Church strives to excite the imagination, and thus to make an impression on the heart—to fix the attention of the careless worshipper, and to make up for the radical defect in the bosom of the indevout. The Presbyterian Church, more intent on making men religious than on causing them to appear so for a short time, views these fascinating but worldly attractions with suspicion, and rejects them, as calculated to withdraw the mind from the contemplation of Him who is a Spirit, and to substitute a mechanical devotion in the place of that which is rational and spiritual. The service of the former is showy, secular, ceremonious. The service of the latter is simple, spiritual, unconstrained, and free of all meretricious ornament. The former is more pleasing to such as are “children in understanding,”' and adapted to those who need yet to be trained up “under the elements of this world.” The latter recommends itself to such as “are of full age,” and is agreeable to that divine economy under which “they that worship God must worship him in spirit and in truth.”

As an illustration of the difference between the service of the two Churches, let us take the Visitation of the Sick, which, though of a more private nature, is related to that of which we are immediately treating. When a Presbyterian minister is called to perform this important part of his function, he goes to the house of the sick person, sits down familiarly by his bed-side, converses with him in a free and unconstrained manner, inquires particularly into the state of his soul, administers to him suitable instruction and consolation, and commends him to God in prayer. In England, again, this part of service is performed according to a prescribed office, and with much formal parade. The priest comes to the house of the sick person with his prayer-book in his hand. Upon entering the habitation, he says, “Peace be to this house, and to all that dwell in it.” When he “cometh into the sick man’s presence,” he kneels down, and says a very short prayer; to which it must be answered, “Spare us, good Lord.” Then shall the minister say, Let us pray, “Lord have mercy upon us—Christ have mercy upon us—Lord have mercy upon us—Our Father,” &c. Then follows a dialogue, beginning, “Minister—Lord, save thy servant: Answer—Which putteth his trust in thee,” &c. Two other prayers and an exhortation succeed. Then the minister puts the creed to the sick man, examines whether he repent him truly of his sins, and having pressed several duties, moves him “to make a special confession of his sins, if he feel his conscience troubled with any weighty matter.” After which confession, the priest shall absolve him (if he humbly and earnestly desire it) after this sort: “Our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath left power to his Church to absolve all sinners who truly repent and believe on him, of his great mercy forgive thee thy offences; and by his authority committed to me, I absolve thee from all thy sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.”[6] Some other prayers, and the reading of certain psalms, finish the service.

In a similar manner is the burial of the dead conducted. “The priest and clerks (dressed in their canonical robes), meeting the corpse at the entrance of the churchyard, and going before it either into the church or towards the grave, shall say or sing, I am the resurrection,” &c. In the church, the 39th, or the 90th Psalm, or both, and the lesson out of 1 Cor. xv., are read. At the grave, “While the corpse is made ready to be laid into the earth, the priest shall say, or the priest and clerks shall sing,” a number of sentences. Then, “while the earth shall be cast upon the body by some standing by,” the priest shall pronounce the act of committing the body to the ground, followed by prayers and the benediction.—There is nothing uncommon in the matter of the collects and other readings (with the exception of what we formerly quoted), but every thing is so arranged and connected with the several acts of the funeral scene, as to produce an effect upon the spectators. How different the mode of interment in Scotland is, we have already seen.[7]

The view which we have given of the genius and distinctive features of Episcopalian worship, shows wherein the great danger of partial conformity on our part lies. It grants the principle; and this once granted, consistency requires that the conformity should be complete. Our ancestors were well aware of the force of this argument, when it was attempted to introduce bishops into Scotland. Accordingly, they strenuously resisted the project of Constant Moderators, knowing, that by submitting to them they relinquished the principle of Presbyterian parity, and yielded the cause to their adversaries. If we are to have a burial service, why not also a service for the churching of women, another for the confirmation of children, and another for matrimony. The truth is, that these last are in several respects less objectionable than the burial service; and many things urged in favour of it are equally applicable to them. Might it not, for example, produce a happy effect, and conduce to the more religious performance of conjugal duties, if, instead of the slight and unceremonious manner in which the matrimonial knot is tied with us, it should be converted into a sacrament, all but the name? and if the parties were obliged to “plight their troth,” and take one another “for better for worse, for richer for poorer,” at the altar? Would not he in all likelihood prove a more devout husband, who, having laid the ring upon the book, “with the accustomed duty to the priest and clerk,” and having received it again from the priest, “and put it upon the fourth finger of the woman’s left hand,” should say, or sing, “With this ring, I thee wed; with my body I thee worship; and with all my worldly goods I thee endow. In the name of,” &c. Who can doubt it?

Greater embarrassment might be felt in getting some of the other improvements introduced. Confirmation can be conferred only by the hands of a bishop, and there are none of that sacred order in our Church. But the difficulty is not insurmountable. We have among us divines, both able and dignified, whose heads would sit very gracefully under a mitre; and as the arguments against the burial service made no impression whatever on their solid minds, there is reason to believe the arguments against Episcopacy, or even receiving its indelible mark from the bishops of the Church of England, would make just as little impression on them. If it shall be thought that this would be too great a step at once, and if apprehensions are entertained that the people, liberal as they are become, might startle at the proposal, or that the nobility and gentry would take the alarm, recourse may be had, in the first place, to the plan of a reverend gentleman on the Border;—according to which there will be an overseer of every presbytery, and an overseer of the overseers in every provincial synod, to be called, not by the odious titles of bishop and archbishop, but by the more harmless, unexceptionable, and well-sounding designations of superintendent and super-superintendent. The ingenious author of the plan is very confident of the happy effects that would result from its adoption. We understand that he submitted it some time ago to his presbytery, and it would have been brought forward; but unfortunately he has never been able to remedy a fundamental defect under which it was found to labour, in not providing any funds for the due support of his new dignitaries.

By the partial adoption of the forms and usages of our neighbours, instead of recommending our Church, we expose it in the eyes of all indifferent and judicious observers. We act like a person who sticks a plume of feathers, or a tuft of ribbands, into a plain suit of apparel, thereby turning it into a fool’s coat; or like a vain young man, who attempts to improve the neat villa or cottage to which he has succeeded, by fitting up one of its rooms after the style of a palace. Our national worship, as it is, is venerable for its simplicity and uniformity. We shall only disfigure it, and mar its beauty, by our injudicious composition, and our awkward daubings. After all the little attempts which some would make to improve our Church service by the adoption of foreign fashions, they will only be laughed at for their pains as clumsy imitators; and it will still be true, that they do these things incomparably better at Canterbury and at Rome. Those who are enamoured with such religious toys, should at once undertake a pilgrimage to these long-famed seats of devotion, where they will find the entertainment which they seek in its greatest perfection.

In one respect at least, those Presbyterians who have joined in the celebration of the late funeral solemnity must either retrace their steps, or else go farther. It is vain to pretend that, right or wrong, it was but a single transient act, which can have no effect on our future conduct. It has laid a precedent for future occurrences of the same kind, and it may be depended upon, that that precedent will not be forgotten by those persons to whose purposes, political or ecclesiastical, it may be found subservient. And they will not fail to remind the conformists of the pledge 'which they have given. When it shall please Heaven to take away our good old king, can they do less, as an expression of their grief for his loss, than they have done for that of his granddaughter, who held no official situation, and was in law and in fact a subject? Can they do less if the Prince Regent falls? Can they do less for other princes or heirs-apparent? If they shall decline funeral sermons and prayers on these occasions, will they not incur the imputation of showing a marked disrespect to these illustrious personages,—the very charge which they have brought against their brethren who refused to conform on the present occasion, or which they helped to confirm by their compliance? If, on the contrary, they are prepared to preach and to pray on all such occasions, we must inform them that they cannot stop even at this stage. In point of consistency they would be bound, and in point of feeling they would certainly be disposed, to observe the same ceremony on the funeral day of any great political character, like the late Mr. Pitt, whom those who have been most forward in the present instance admired so much while he lived, and lamented so sincerely when he died; or the late Mr. Percival, who was universally regretted on account of his personal character, and the affecting circumstances of his death. Nor is this all: Upon the same principle that a whole nation is called to meet for public worship on the funeral of a prince or statesman, it must be the duty of a county, a town, or a parish, to perform the same service on the funeral of any person of note or authority within their bounds. And when they have done all this, in what situation will they have placed themselves? Under the sharp apostolical rebuke, of “having the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons,”—of preferring “the man with the gold ring and gay clothing,” “the great and the opulent; and that in the very act of addressing their common Maker, of declaring that Gospel, whose glory it is that “it is preached to the poor,” and of committing the body to the place where “the rich and the poor meet together,” and all worldly distinctions are levelled in the dust. The Church of England acts a part more becoming than this, for she has provided the same funeral service for the king and the beggar.

Before a change, however partial, is made on the modes of our national worship, we would do well to consider what influence it may have upon public spirit, and the tone of national feeling. This is a consideration of more consequence than the greater part seem to imagine. Popular sentiment is greatly influenced by associations. The public feeling in Scotland is at present decidedly in favour of Presbytery; and this is founded in no small degree on their partiality to its mode of worship, which they have been taught to consider, and justly, as purified from the superstitious and frivolous ceremonies to which their southern brethren continue addicted. Among the higher ranks this has been sensibly weakened, by the temptation to which they have long been exposed, of conforming to the Court worship. If the body of the people also shall be untaught the lessons which they have learned ; if they shall become familiarized to foreign usages; if, during a fit of highly excited sympathy or loyalty, they be indulged in superstitious services, their associations will be broken, and a new train of sentiments and feelings will succeed. If ever the time come when the attachment of the people of Scotland to Presbytery shall be loosened and give way, its effects will not be confined to religion. To this attachment—to the soul-inspiring recollections by which it has been cherished—to the unfettered genius of our worship—to our exemption from the benumbing bondage of recurring holidays, political or religious, and from forms of prayer dictated on particular occasions by the Court, and to the freedom of discussion yet retained in our Ecclesiastical Assemblies, we hesitate not to ascribe, more than to any other cause, the preservation of public spirit and independence, which many things in our political situation and local circumstances have a powerful tendency to weaken and to crush. Those who view every expression of these feelings with jealousy, will, of course, encourage or connive at whatever is calculated to blunt them. But all who wish well to the public spirit of Scotland, as well as to her religious purity, are called upon to deprecate and resist such acts of conformity. And this resistance cannot be opposed to the evil at too early a stage.

“Principiis obsta; sero medecina paratur,

Cum mala per longas invaluere moras.”

It is no reason for our being secure or passive on the present occasion, that no attempt has been made to obtrude the obnoxious practice upon us. This renders the compliance both more dangerous and more inexcusable. Voluntarily to throw away our principles, is worse than to have them wrested from us. To submit our necks to receive the yoke, is more disgraceful than to have it forcibly wreathed about them. It was not by an assault from the Greeks that Troy was taken; but after an unsuccessful siege of ten years, and when the besieging army had abandoned their design, the inhabitants opened their gates to the fatal horse, in a fit of devotion, and by credulously listening to the false and deceitful Sinon.

If a change in our ecclesiastical laws and usages is called for, it ought to be introduced in a different manner from what we have lately witnessed. It ought not to be effected by the blind impulse of popular feeling, at the officious call of persons who are of all others the most incapable of judging on the subject, or at the pleasure and direction of individual ministers, or of unauthorised and self-created clubs of ministers, hastily convened, and acting under the influence of importunate magistrates and the clamour of the day. We have regular courts, before which any overture for altering our established laws, or innovating upon our received usages, ought to be regularly brought, and the forms of which secure, that, before any question be decided, time shall be afforded for canvassing its merits, both judicially and extrajudicially. Will not the very worst effects be produced by such irregular proceedings, and by the usurpation of such unwarranted, illegal, and unconstitutional powers? If the offenders are not called to account, or if some other effectual check be not put to the practice, will not our ecclesiastical constitution be gradually undermined, and its securities defeated and rendered nugatory? A great deal is left in our Church to the discretion of individual ministers, in consequence of our having no prescribed forms of worship. This should make them extremely cautious as to any innovation, and renders it necessary that they be watched and checked when they attempt to innovate, in opposition to any law, principle, or maxim of the Church.

The time chosen for making this change was of all others the most improper. When the sympathy of the nation was extraordinarily excited, and when to this were added the desire of testifying loyalty, and the dread of being charged with want of respect or of feeling for royal sufferers, was this the time for coming to a cool and impartial decision on such a question? Few possess sufficient resolution and firmness of mind (not to speak of integrity) to enable them to resist such temptations. We have not yet forgotten that the attempt to introduce holidays into Scotland in the days of James VI. was begun by taking advantage of a similar event, in the appointment of an anniversary commemoration of that prince’s deliverance from the Gowrie Conspiracy.

Great danger is always to be apprehended from associating the worship of God with that respect which we are called to pay to our fellow-men. To this source a great part of the polytheism of the heathen, and the canonization and worship of departed saints among Christians, may be distinctly and undeniably traced. But even where the evil does not grow to this height, how often is incense offered to the creature in the very act of worshipping the Creator! How often, when they profess to meet to serve God, are men actuated by no higher motive than to pay a tribute of homage to their earthly superiors! We do not say that the dread of this is in itself and in every case a sufficient reason for not calling them to engage in divine service. But we do mean to say, that when the assembling of masses of people for divine service is uncalled for, or improper on other grounds, this consideration ought to have the greatest weight in dissuading from the measure; and we mean to say farther, that in such cases all who are active in promoting or countenancing such assemblages, are so far responsible for the profanation of the worship of God that may reasonably be expected to take place.

The recent religious service was avowedly called for as a tribute of respect to the memory of the illustrious personage deceased. And was there not every reason to think, that multitudes who engaged in it had no higher or sacred end in view? Amiable as the Princess undoubtedly was, and severe as is the loss sustained by her premature and sudden death, was there no danger of extravagant, and even impious adulation being offered to her memory, in addresses to God, and in addresses to the people in the name of God? We have not yet had opportunity to ascertain this from the sermons preached on the occasion, and which may be expected to flow from the press. But the accounts given in public journals sufficiently prove that our fears have been realized.

If we credit their reports, the funeral day was every where celebrated with adoration so sincere, so profound, so meritorious, that nothing like it was ever witnessed in Britain; and if Providence do not henceforward smile upon us as a nation, we may complain as the Jews did of old,—“Wherefore have we fasted, and thou seest us not? Wherefore have we afflicted our souls, and thou takest no knowledge?”[8] Hear the enthusiastic statement of one, whose words are entitled to particular consideration, as the merit of the service is in a great measure due to his exertions. “What a noble spectacle! so many thousands of human beings engaged at the same instant in spontaneous devotion, to breathe their sorrows before God, and to offer up the pious incense of their love, for the treasure of which his mysterious will has bereaved them. Uncalled by any special ordinance of God—unbidden by any mandate of temporal authority—they have voluntarily, and with humble awful earnestness, filled our sacred temples, to supplicate the throne of mercy. A whole people thus prostrate before God has in it something so holy, so majestical, so edifying, that we would blush for ourselves, if we hesitated to acknowledge the emotion of piety with which we are inspired. If the expression of such feelings in individuals is accounted virtue, and the assured means of divine grace, we may be permitted to indulge the pious hope, that it will procure us that favour.”[9]

We shall not make any remarks on the soundness of the divinity contained in this extract. But we beg leave to give a commentary on it by the writer himself, which we believe will be sufficiently intelligible to all those who have any reverence for the doctrines of the Bible and of the Reformation. The account of the funeral solemnity is introduced by the following piece of gross and wanton blasphemy, in which the prophetic anticipation of the nativity of the Saviour of the world is applied by this light-minded declaimer on devotion and grief, to the birth of an “infant which never saw the light.” “The awful rites are terminated, and the tomb has just closed upon two generations, from whom we expected a long line of patriot princes, continuing to the latest posterity the royal diadem in the illustrious House of Brunswick. But these fond anticipations—these towering hopes, are dashed to the earth, and instead of the joyful anthem,—‘Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given;’ we have had to listen to the funeral dirge, and join in the requiem for the death of two generations of princes, in the short space of two hours—‘Oh death, where is thy sting? Oh grave, where is thy victory!’ Great, indeed, has been the victory the grave has gained, and deeply do the universal British family feel the sting of death.” But though the once vanquished enemy of mankind has resumed his dominion, our case, it seems, is not hopeless; and we are directed to place our confidence not in Him who died to “deliver us from the fear of death,” but in the national humiliation produced by the death of the Princess Charlotte, considered as a propitiatory sacrifice for our sins. “This salutary impression is enforced from the pulpit; and in all the churches, the death of the young, the virtuous, and the loved, is the theme of religious consideration. We are called upon to acknowledge the chastening hand of the Almighty, and not only to bow in humble resignation to his v/ill, but to search out in our own hearts the causes of his wrath, and attempt with sincerity to propitiate him by the most pleasing of all sacrifices, the offering of a contrite spirit. If the general calamity lead to this effect, the Princess Charlotte will not have died in vain.”[10] The account opened with blasphemy, and it concludes with a sentiment containing the quintessence of Popish and Pagan superstition. “Peace to her manes was the language of affection. Virtues such as hers may walk through the valley of the shadow of death, and fear no evil—the stay and staff of Israel was with her. After the evening requiems to the manes of the SAINTED Charlotte were finished, the ulterior objects of myriads was, to hear the deep-toned solemn notes of the great bell of the metropolitan cathedral!!!” Such are the sentiments of devotion which have been circulated through the United Kingdom, without the slightest check or signification of dissent or dissatisfaction, even from the editors of those periodical works which profess to be conducted on Christian and evangelical principles, and which have particularly adverted to the subject. The last extract which we have given has appeared in all our public papers with implied approbation; and so highly pleased with the sentiment were some of our Edinburgh Intelligencers, that they were not content with quoting it, but embodied it among their own reflections on the solemnity.

The details of the manner in which the day was observed in London, might suggest a variety of strictures, both grave and satirical; but when we reflect on the melancholy occasion, and on the mixture of ignorance and effrontery displayed in calling all this by the sacred name of piety, we confess we have no heart to dwell on the subject. The scene in St Paul’s (the metropolitan church of all England) is well known. It is hard to say which was most scandalous and disgraceful; the selling of seats to the worshippers (from five to ten guineas each, it is said, according to the degree of their proximity to the stalls), the tumultuous manner in which the mob (who not unnaturally expected something for their money) called for the service, or the indecency of causing any thing that went by the name of worship to be performed to such a convention.[11] The evening, we are told, was spent in the same religious manner as the morning had been. The streets were choaked, and the lanes crowded, with myriads “mourning within, as well as in external show,” and drinking in the most devotional feelings from the glare of torches and the ringing of bells. Did all this take place at London, or was it at Rome or Madrid? “Wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the Lord?”

It would have been highly creditable to the people of Scotland if they had kept aloof, not only from imitating, but also from giving the smallest countenance to the folly and extravagance of their brethren of the south. For acting such a part, they certainly had the strongest and the best of all reasons, whether they chose to rest their defence on their national habits or their religious principles. Our task, however, is not to dwell on the consequences of what they should have done, but to state and animadvert upon what has actually taken place.

Glasgow was the first place of any note in Scotland that announced its intention of celebrating the funeral of the Princess with religious honours. The west of Scotland was once the favourite seat of Presbytery. The inhabitants long distinguished themselves by an attachment to its principles more ardent than was felt by most of their countrymen; and in Glasgow was held that celebrated General Assembly, which overturned the hierarchy, swept away all its superstitious rites, and, among others, expressly cashiered (as was formerly stated) and peremptorily “discharged all funeral sermons.” But it is no uncommon thing to see communities, as well as individuals, degenerating from the spirit and wisdom of their ancestors. So zealous were the Magistrates of Glasgow for this novel service, that, as we understand, they recalled Dr. Chalmers by express from Kilmany (whither he had gone on a visit to his old parishioners), that he might act his part in the solemnity. Considering the poetic cast of the Doctor’s religion, and considering that he has of late been too much occupied in exploring the moral condition of other and remote worlds, to examine with a microscopic eye the minutiae of the Church on earth, and of the speck in it to which he is corporeally attached, we scarcely expected that he would feel any serious scruple on the subject, and dreaded that he would plunge into the proposal. But we confess that we had other hopes as to some of his colleagues. We did expect that those who had shown themselves so zealous for the purity of the worship of the Church of Scotland, when it was proposed to introduce an organ into one of the churches of Glasgow, would have been on their guard on the present occasion, and set an example to their brethren in other places, by resisting the proposed innovation. We have been disappointed, however, and can add one to the many illustrations of the vanity of “trusting in man.” Do these reverend gentlemen really think, that there is more danger to be apprehended from using an organ in public worship, than there is in performing a burial service? We have their publication before us, and we think no impartial person can doubt for a moment, that the arguments which they bring against the former practice apply with more than double force against the latter. They succeeded in proving, that organical music was contrary to the spirit of Presbyterian worship; but they felt at a loss to produce any law of this Church by which it was directly and explicitly condemned. They must, however, be sensible, that, in the course of their inquiries, they met with statutes by which the religious celebration of funerals was pointedly and strongly prohibited. The instances of individuals and parties changing sides on the same or a similar question, are sometimes amusing. While the ministers of Glasgow who set their faces so firmly against conformity to the Episcopal Church, by resisting the introduction of instrumental music, have adopted a still more exceptionable usage of that Church, the public have been told, that the reverend gentleman whom they opposed on the former occasion, has lately “expressed himself so much a Covenanter, that he doubted the propriety of funeral sermons at all.”[12] Had that gentleman kept his ground (instead of abandoning it, as he appears to have done, in the space of two days), and had he chosen to attack his former opponents, he certainly had a fine opportunity of turning their own artillery against them, and silencing them with their own arguments. The best excuse we can make for them is, that they suffered themselves to be carried away by a sudden tide of popular feeling; and, for the credit of their consistency, as well as for higher reasons, we sincerely hope they will declare this to have been the fact.

Perth, too, has shown itself emulous of a distinguished place in the annals of this service, which promises to form a new era in our ecclesiastical history. As if they had been anxious to revive the memory of that Assembly held in their town, which enacted the famous Five Articles by which the Presbyterian worship was overturned, the inhabitants of Perth readily and cordially entered into the services of the late occasion, notwithstanding a solemn procession on the Lord’s day immediately preceding ; the magistrates, and the trades, and the lawyers, walking to the place of public worship in the garb, and in all the formal pomp of an actual funeral. The Antiburgher congregation, also (as the Perth Courier informs us), assembled to grace the solemnity; anxious, we suppose, to demonstrate to the world, that they had completely emancipated themselves from the narrow-minded prejudices which led them formerly to lament, as a national sin, the kind reception given in Scotland “to Mr. George Whitefield, a professed member and priest of the superstitious Church of England.” Whence this new expression of exuberant loyalty on their part sprung; and jealous as they lately were to excess, of every ascription of religious power to princes, and eager to “put away the carcases of their kings far from “the sanctuary, even when yet in life, whence the new light came that directed them to the duty of performing religious service over their graves, and of assembling to proclaim them “gods,” after that they had “died as men,” are questions we do not pretend to answer.

We must apologize for giving the last place to the account of the proceedings in our metropolis. The truth is, that it seems to have received rather than communicated the impulse. It would appear that it was not until they had received intelligence of the determination of Glasgow, that the magistrates of Edinburgh called together the clergy to consider the propriety of having the churches of the city opened for divine service on the funeral day. This was on the Saturday preceding the funeral. The proposal was objected to by several of the ministers, and in consequence of this was abandoned. Accordingly, no intimation was made on the Sabbath, in any of the churches, of public worship on the day of the interment of the Princess. And it was not expected by the people. Yet this agreement was broken, and an opposite course resolved on within two days. Two London Couriers had in the meantime arrived, conveying the following authoritative intimations:—“On that day (Wednesday the 19th November, now fixed on for the funeral) all the churches are to be opened for the performance of divine service, and shops shut.”—“We repeat, that all places of divine worship will he opened on Wednesday next, the day of the funeral.” This appears to have been too much for the weak nerves of most of those who had opposed the measure on Saturday. A new meeting of the clergy was therefore hastily called on Monday; the rejected proposal was agreed to, and notice of this was conveyed to the magistrates, who issued a proclamation, informing the public that the churches of the city would be opened for divine service on Wednesday. In this contradictory, sudden, and unprecedented manner, were the inhabitants of Edinburgh called for the first time to engage in a service which was an open violation of their established laws.

With all due deference for the magistrates, it seems impossible to exculpate them completely in this affair. After the question had been set at rest on Saturday at a meeting attended by thirteen ministers, and when they knew that the measure proposed by them had been resisted, on the ground of its being contrary to the principles and practice of the Church, and that one of the ministers persevered in his opposition, they should have paused, before interposing their authority to give effect to a hasty resolution adopted at any subsequent meeting, at which some of those who had interest were not present, and had not an opportunity of being present. It is probable that they were actuated by a desire to gratify public feeling. But did their experience furnish them with no instances in which popular feeling was excited by slender causes, and in which they thought it their duty to resist instead of humouring or truckling to it? or, could they for a moment listen to the suggestion, that those sacrifices which they refused to the public in their own matters, they might safely make to it in the matters of God?

But the weightiest responsibility undoubtedly falls on the clergy. Some apology may be found for the people, and even for the magistrates being ignorant of the law. But “the priest’s lips should keep knowledge,” for the people “seek the law at his mouth.” Considering that the magistrates might be supposed ready to go too far in the expressions of their respect for the higher powers, and that some of them, from their connection with a different Church, might be supposed to have their minds unduly biassed on the question, it was incumbent on the ministers to point out the law to them, and within their sphere, to see ne quid ecclesia detrimenti caperet. It was their province to restrain the irregular and impetuous feelings of the people, and by the joint influence of their authority and their instructions, to give them a direction agreeable to the law of God, and the subordinate law of the Church. If the view which has been given of these authorities in the preceding pages is correct, they failed in this duty. The moderate and the evangelical clergy appear to be equally implicated in the offence. How can the latter reconcile their conduct with the concern which they profess, and which we believe they feel, for the purity of divine ordinances, and a sacred regard to their ordination vows? And where is the consistency between the conduct of the former, and that high veneration which they avow for the constitution of the Church, and that nice jealousy with which they are accustomed to watch over the transgression of its minutest forms?

The solemnity was not confined to the Established churches. It was observed generally by the Dissenting congregations, and in some of them the proclamation of the magistrates was read from the pulpit, and received the humble approbation of the pastor. That high mass should have been performed in the Roman Catholic chapel, and that the burial service should have been read in all the Episcopal chapels, is not to be wondered at; but we cannot so easily account for or excuse the conduct of others. Did the Burgher Seceders[13] think, that, in assembling on that day, they were fulfilling their solemn promise, “to maintain, support, and defend—all the days of their life—the purity of worship received in this Church of Scotland, against all Prelatic tenets or forms of worship contrary thereto?” Do those of the Independent persuasion, who boast that they belong to “a kingdom that is not of this world,” and that they do nothing in its affairs without a warrant from the New Testament, think that a protestation, contradicted by fact, will exculpate them from countenancing, if not practising, will-worship and superstition? Or will they take refuge, as we understand some do, under the directions, “preach out of season,” and “pray always,” and refuse to admit that they were taking part in the great national solemnity?

If the sermons preached on the funeral day have made little noise, this was most probably owing to the preachers having exhausted themselves on the preceding Sabbath. We have heard enough of them, however, to convince us that we are justified in all that we have said respecting the abuse which would be made of such a solemnity. One reverend gentleman read to his congregation the fifteenth, or a part of the fifteenth chapter of the First Epistle to the Corinthians, assigning, as a reason for this, that their brethren would then be employed in reading that portion of Scripture in the funeral obsequies at Windsor. Another gave a description of a solemn procession supposed to be taking place at that instant—the hearse slowly moving forward, the plumes nodding, and the body lowering into the grave. And a third, in exhorting his people to spend the evening in religious exercises, directed them to assist their meditations, by recollecting the scenes passing at Claremont. Would not the object have been gained in a higher degree by means of a cenotaph, according to the mode in which the ancient Greeks celebrated the funerals of their friends who died at sea or in a foreign land?

St. George’s was the only Established church in the city that was not open, in consequence of its minister refusing to perform divine service on the funeral day. It is not easy to conceive the speculation, noise, and clamour excited by this. If St. George’s church had been on fire, and threatening to communicate the flames to all the adjoining buildings, and, among the rest, to the saintly Gothic Cathedral in the neighbourhood, which rears its fantastic turrets to the sight; or if the minister of St. George’s had been at the head of a mob, and leading them on to the overthrow of that venerable pile, before it was prepared for its consummation by receiving canonical consecration, greater alarm could scarcely have been either felt or pretended. Paragraphs appeared in the newspapers denouncing the outrage which had been committed, and loudly demanding satisfaction. The respectability of the congregation of St. George’s—the honour of the metropolis—national feeling—the griefs of the royal family—and the manes of the dead—all, all had been wounded, affronted, outraged, insulted. Public vengeance was invoked on the head of the offending individual, as if Heaven had pointed him out as the victim to appease the indignation which had gone forth against the nation. The members of his congregation, in particular, were called on, by the respect they owed to their character, and the decency that became the high official rank which some of them held, instantly to desert his ministrations, and place themselves under the charge of such as had distinguished themselves by their loyal and dutiful conduct.

Various causes may be assigned for this extraordinary ebullition of resentment. It may be ascribed, in no small degree, to the astonishment excited by the fact, singular in our day, of a clergyman refusing to comply with any thing which the public, with one voice, called for as an expression of piety and sympathy, and of his being so whimsical as to pretend conscience for declining what none of his brethren scrupled at. It was also owing to the feverish affection which had seized the mind of the people for the moment, heightened by the influence of the religious service in which they were engaged; for superstition, according to the degree in which it operates, is always uncharitable, intolerant, persecuting. But these causes would not have produced the effect, had not certain evil spirits mingled with the crowd, and exerted themselves to inflame them, and to abuse the honest, though ill-directed, feelings of the public, by rendering them subservient to the gratification of their own base passions, and the accomplishment of their private and party designs. It is quite undeniable, and there is nobody who now doubts it, that there were persons who envied the popularity of the minister of St. George’s, who, instead of rejoicing, were grieved to the heart at the abundance and success of his labours, and who hated him for the zeal which, without relaxing in the diligent discharge of his pastoral duties, he had shown in defending the principles of the Church to which he belonged; and that these persons eagerly grasped at the occasion as a favourable opportunity of blasting his reputation, and ruining his usefulness. Miserably and deservedly have they been disappointed! It was the discovery of this vile project, more than a conviction of the minister of St. George’s having acted upon good reasons, which at first stemmed the tide of popular prejudice against him. For the malicious but witless actors in this affair had not the prudence to mask their battery, or to make their attack with that caution in which lay all their prospects of success. Happy is it for the peace of mankind, and the security of innocence, that those who have the greatest portion of the malignity of the Wicked Spirit, are often endowed with a very small portion of his wisdom; and, with almost all his willingness, have none of his talent and power to do mischief.

The object of these pages is not to defend Mr. Thomson. He does not stand in need of any defence. His conduct and his reasons require only to be stated, in order to be approved. What did he do? He declined performing divine service on occasion of a funeral. And have not all the ministers of the Church of Scotland uniformly acted in the same way on all former occasions, and in the very same circumstances? Upon what grounds did he decline this service? Because every good end proposed by it could be gained in the ordinary course of his ministry; because the service tended to great abuse; and because it is condemned and prohibited by the Church, of which he is a minister, and whose authority and laws he is bound to respect and obey. And is it not an undoubted and undeniable fact, that she has repeatedly prohibited this practice, and prohibited it for the reason to which he has appealed?

We repeat it, Mr. Thomson is not called to put himself upon his defence, nor does he require any advocate or defender. If he comes forward, it should be as an accuser and a complainant,—as an accuser of those who have violated the principles and practice of their Church,—as a complainant against those who, instead of supporting and standing by him in doing his duty, sacrificed him to please romantic feelings or political clamour. Them he has a right to put on their defence. And what have they, as ministers, or even as members of the Church of Scotland, to say for themselves? But though he has the right, we do not say that he ought to exercise it. When judges offend, and when those whose province it is to support the laws violate them, and especially when their conduct has been sanctioned by the voice of the public, redress is hopeless.

“————quis custodiet ipsos


But although none have a right to demand a defence of Mr. Thomson’s conduct, it is proper that the facts of the case should be fairly stated, for the purpose of preventing or of correcting misrepresentation. With this view, we have inserted the brief statement which will be found in the note, and for the correctness of which we think we can pledge ourselves.[14] It is no less proper and necessary that the calumnious charges and injurious imputations which have been so wantonly brought against him, should be exposed, and receive the merited marks of deep and indignant reprobation. We know there are some who would dissuade from this, and who insist, that as the ferment has subsided, and the attack has completely failed in hurting the reputation of the individual against whom it was directed, it is better to allow the whole affair to die away in silence. We cannot acquiesce in this proposal. When an individual has been subjected to obloquy on a public ground, his defence becomes identified with that of the cause for which he has suffered. Religion, indeed, requires us to forgive our enemies, and generosity prompts to pass over the personal injuries which we have received. But the characters of men in office, whether civil or ecclesiastical, are the property of the public, and neither religion, nor generosity, nor prudence, requires that unjust attacks upon them should be tolerated. To hold out such a principle, or to act upon it, would be most prejudicial to the sacred interests of truth, innocence, and public justice; and the consequence would be, that whenever an occasion of the same, or of a similar kind, occurred, those who had escaped with impunity would repeat their offence, and perhaps repeat it in a more aggravated and audacious manner.

It has been said, that the manner in which Mr. Thomson acted on the late occasion, is a proof of the disloyalty of his principles, and his disaffection to the Royal Family. Now, let us suppose for a moment, that his conduct was exceptionable, that the judgment on which he acted was erroneous, and that, though he felt a scruple of conscience, he could produce no satisfactory, or even plausible ground for his scruple: we ask. Is it to be tolerated, is it to be borne, that in this free country a minister of the Gospel, or any other man, shall be subjected to the heavy and criminal charge of disloyalty and disaffection for a mere error of judgment, even although this should be associated with precipitation and wilfulness? Do those who can listen to the insinuation of such a charge with patience, perhaps with implied approbation, ay, and can give it extensive circulation too—always, however, accompanied with the charitable qualification, that they must not be understood as believing it;—do they consider, that they encourage a practice which is not more unjustifiable in itself than it must prove fatal and mischievous to society in its consequences? If, even upon this supposition, the charge is totally inexcusable, what terms shall we apply to it, when Mr. Thomson’s conduct is considered in its true light? Are matters come indeed to that pass among us, that in the enlightened metropolis of Scotland, any impudent calumniator shall dare to traduce, as a traitor, a respectable clergyman, for acting in perfect conformity to the clear, indisputable, and constitutional laws of the Church and of the land? In such circumstances, it is proper to make it known to all men, that true Presbyterians, whatever may be the temper of those who dwell among them, or of many who bear this name, will treat with the uttermost scorn every attempt of this nature to intimidate and overawe them, and that, trampling upon all such viperous exclamations, they will persist in maintaining what they know to be their rights, and in doing what they feel to be their duty.

In the present case, the vile calumny is destitute of even the shadow of verisimilitude. It proceeds, we believe, on the supposition that Mr. Thomson is a Whig in his political principles, and that he coincides more in sentiment with the members of Opposition, than he does with those who form the present Administration; for, that he has acted as a political partizan, or advocated all the measures of any party, or allowed his sentiments on such subjects to mingle with his public ministrations, we suppose there is none who will assert, or, asserting it, will be able to prove. Now, how does the case stand? The Princess Charlotte was the very hope of the Whigs. Her confidential advisers were members of the Opposition. And they, of all descriptions of men in the nation, so far as political considerations had influence, may be supposed to have lamented her death with the sincerest sorrow. So that, according to the supposition on which the allegation of his accusers rests, political principle should have led Mr. Thomson to do the very thing which they abuse him for not doing. But we are persuaded that he is too well acquainted with his clerical duty to allow mere political considerations to influence him in the discharge of it, and that he has seen enough of the hurtful effects of the practice, to prevent him from making the pulpit the vehicle of the feelings and sentiments of any party in the State.

If he is charged with want of feeling for the Royal Family in their affliction, we suppose he may, with as great confidence as the most forward performers of a funeral service, appeal to his congregation, and to all with whom he has conversed on the subject, if he ever betrayed the slightest degree of that insensibility. Was there never any sorrow felt for the death of a king or a prince in Scotland, until the 19th of last November?

“But Mr. Thomson did not pay sufficient deference to public opinion.” So the time is come, when ministers of the Gospel must be guided by the light and fluctuating breath of public opinion, and must have their duty dictated to them, not by the decisions of Scripture—not by the laws of the Church—not by the determinations of their ecclesiastical superiors—not by their own convictions of right—but by what? by the mere clamour of popular feeling, excited, kept up, and spread through the nation—by a London newspaper!

But if declining to celebrate the funeral of the Princess Charlotte was so high an offence as has been alleged, why, we beg leave to ask, should it be visited entirely and solely on the head of the minister of St. George’s? Was he the only minister who acted in this manner? Is it not known that the service was not performed in the church of St. Cuthbert’s, in the close vicinity of Edinburgh; nor in the city of St. Andrews; nor in many other towns and parishes in Scotland? Were Sir Henry Moncrieff and Principal Hill, the reputed leaders of the two great parties in the Church, guilty of disloyalty, want of feeling for the Royal Family, and disrespect for public opinion? The University of Oxford, too! the eldest daughter of the Church of England, the most orthodox of all her children—she who has been long famed through the world for her rigid, unvarying, untainted loyalty,—has she also, in these degenerate days, become infected with political heresy? It must surely be no small consolation to Mr. Thomson, under all the obloquy that has been poured on him, to reflect that he has suffered for having acted along with such honourable company. The only thing which can be wanting to close his wounds (and what he certainly cannot miss), is to obtain from Oxford, if not a Fellowship, at least a diploma of Doctor of Divinity, which will raise him not only above all his titled brethren, but nearly to an equality with the reverend dignitary who was lately expected to afford shelter and pasture to his scattered flock. Loyalty has long been a very equivocal word, and parties of the most opposite descriptions have contended for it as their exclusive property; but never was this so strikingly exemplified as on the late occasion. In Edinburgh, to meet for divine service on the funeral day of the Princess, was the very test of loyalty. In the Isle of Wight, a request for this service was resisted as a strong presumption of disloyalty; and “such a superabundant and unprecedented show of grief, and testimony of affliction in the present afflictive event,” the reverend pastor of Newport reckoned it necessary to warn his parishioners against, “as an insidious means to derogate from the duty and allegiance we owe to the powers that are.”[15]

Perhaps Mr. Thomson’s offence lay in not showing due deference to the opinion of his brethren, the ministers of Edinburgh, and in passing an indirect censure upon their conduct. In answer to this, we beg leave to say, that if the principle here assumed is to be adopted in every case, an end is put to all independence both in thinking and in acting. “Must we suppose, then, that Mr. Thomson was right, and all his brethren wrong?” Why, this is certainly no impossible supposition, and instances of a similar kind have often occurred before. But, at best, this is merely an argumentum ad vulgus. The question is not, what did Mr. Thomson think, or what did his brethren think; but what does the law say to both? And provided he be supported by the law, he cannot be responsible for his conduct reflecting a censure on his brethren.

There is one circumstance which is of great importance here, and of which many are probably ignorant. The ministers of Edinburgh are not an ecclesiastical court, they are not a corporate body, they have no authority over individuals of their number—they are merely a voluntary association, and, as we understand, have never been in the habit of attempting to impose on one another offices at which the mind of any of their number avowedly revolted.

If they had been a court, it would appear that there were irregularities attending the meeting which resolved on opening the churches on the funeral day, which would have vitiated and nullified all their procedure. Is it true that that meeting was not called by the senior minister, whose province this is according to uniform custom, and that he was never consulted in the business? Is it true that one of the ministers never received any intimation of the meeting, nor so much as heard of it until he was informed of the resolution which it had adopted? And is it true, that five of the ministers were not present, and had not authorised any one to represent their sentiments. If these things are true; if, moreover, Mr. Thomson, who was known to have opposed the measure from principle, was not consulted; and if, when in full possession of his determination, they came to a resolution which placed him in a situation of the greatest embarrassment—we humbly think that he has more reason to complain of want of respect to his feelings, than they have of his want of deference to their opinions.

When an accuser is unable to bring forward or to substantiate a direct charge, he often flies to general and vague criminations, which, having no tangible form, it is difficult to repel in any other way than by (which is indeed the only answer they deserve) a flat denial. Of this kind is the assertion that Mr. Thomson’s conduct has been marked with obstinacy, and a stubborn refusal to yield, even in indifferent points, or to attemper his own convictions with prudence and delicacy towards the peculiar circumstances and feelings of his congregation. That such persons as performed the recent religious service, without being able to assign any other reason for their conduct than that the people “would have it so,” should call Mr. Thomson’s firmness in refusing it by the name of obstinacy, is not at all to be wondered at. But we believe that he may appeal to the members of his congregation to attest the falsehood of this charge. For our part, we strongly suspect that those who are loudest in condemning him are themselves aware that his conduct has been very different from what is here represented; and that one thing that grieves them is, that he has conducted himself, in the situation which he now fills, with so much prudence and moderation as to gain and secure the affections of a people whom they expected he would offend and alienate. Hence the eagerness with which they laid hold of the late occurrence, and attempted to inflame his congregation against him. But an intelligent people, who know the value of a faithful minister, and have experienced his readiness to please them in all things lawful for their good, will only esteem him the more highly when they find that he will not act in opposition to the dictates of his conscience, even with the view of gratifying them in a favourite object. “God forbid,” will be their language, “that he should violate his own conscience; for, in this case, how could he act as a faithful guide and monitor to ours?”

In this very affair, has not Mr. Thomson given a very convincing proof of his disposition to yield, as far as he felt it consistent with his sense of duty? Though resolved not to countenance the services of the funeral day by officiating himself, and determined neither to be forced into this measure, nor to suffer his people to be disappointed by holding out the prospect of his compliance, he, notwithstanding, from the very commencement of the business, distinctly and repeatedly offered the use of his pulpit to the ministers of St. Andrew’s, whose church was shut up; and he readily acquiesced in the proposal that another minister should preach in St. George’s, as soon as it was made known to him. We do not think that there is a candid and conscientious man who will say, that, viewing the matter in the light which he did, he could have gone farther. If it shall be asked, Why did he not request one of his brethren to officiate for him? The reply is evident; he could not request another to do for him what he thought it wrong to do himself.[16]

It would be improper to pass over here the conduct of the Session of St. George’s. At a time when the public clamour was at its height, and when the congregation were agitated by unfavourable reports as to the conduct of their minister, the elders met, and having informed themselves of the facts, and of the grounds on which Mr. Thomson had acted, agreed unanimously in approving of his conduct. Though they could not all view the general question in the same light that he did, yet they were convinced that he had been influenced by no light motives, and could not but respect the integrity and firmness which he had displayed. Among them, it should be observed, were some of those very persons, high in rank and office, who had been publicly called on to desert Mr. Thomson’s ministry; and whose conduct on this occasion adds a higher respectability to their rank, and to those offices which they fill with equal honour to themselves and advantage to the public.

It is but justice to the Lord Provost to add, that the whole of his conduct towards Mr. Thomson in this affair appears to have been marked with politeness and decorum. He was anxious that Mr. Thomson should act in the same manner as his brethren, and expected even to the last, as we understand, that this would be the case; but he neither importuned his compliance, nor frowned upon his refusal.

We entertain the hope, that the late occurrence, if it have not the effect of making the people of this country acquaint themselves a little better with the principles of their Church, will at the least render them more cautious in rushing into religious services from the mere impulse of feeling and novelty. One thing is apparent from the facts which we have reviewed, that it is extremely difficult in such cases to keep from imposition. The late service, we were told, was to be perfectly voluntary; and it has been gloried in as the spontaneous effusion of the people’s loyalty and affection. What has taken place in Edinburgh is a commentary on this text. Such hollow and deceitful professions remind us of the highwayman who demanded the traveller’s money for the love of God, and on being refused, put his pistol to his breast. And they resemble the forced loans and voluntary benevolences formerly resorted to in England, the application for which was immediately followed by an order for distraining the goods of the refractory recusant.

The freedom used in the preceding pages may perhaps give offence to many in this charitable and tolerating age; and to those who leave bigots to fight about modes of faith or of worship, the zeal expressed by the Author will, he has no doubt, appear preposterous and immoderate. He has no desire to incur these censures, but he does not dread them. He does not despise public opinion, but neither does he idolize it; and he cannot consent to sacrifice to it his convictions and his sense of duty. He has used the liberty which belongs to every Briton, and particularly to every North British Presbyterian, to lay his sentiments before the public, on a question which, after mature deliberation, he regards as neither unimportant nor uninteresting. And he is willing that it be decided by the authority of Scripture, the law of the Church, and the law of the land.

It is impossible on some occasions to do justice to truth, or to advocate the cause of common rights, without animadverting freely on the conduct of persons who may have been active in opposing them. The Author will be sorry, if, in discharging a public duty, or in defending wronged innocence, he shall, in the expression of his feelings, have given unnecessary pain to a single good man, misrepresented his motives, or aggravated his offence. If any thing of this kind shall be found to have fallen from his pen, he will most cheerfully correct the error; and provided the great end which he has in view be gained in any good degree, he shall be content that these ephemeral pages be scattered to the winds and forgotten. He submits them to the judgment of the discerning and impartial public, who can distinguish between the honest, though warm, expressions of an ingenuous mind, and the intemperate effusions of a heated imagination or an inflamed breast—regardless, if he meet with their approbation or indulgence, of the opinion that may be entertained by the ignorant, the thoughtless, and the prejudiced.


[1] The following quotations from the London Courier will illustrate what has been said in the text respecting the origin of the late solemnity. Those who are in the habit of reading that Journal, will at once perceive the art with which it is insinuated that the proposal came from others, and did not originate with the editors:—

“Monday, November 10.—In the great number of country papers we have received this morning, there is the same tone of grief. In every town all amusements have been suspended, all public meetings postponed, except for the celebration of divine worship. We have inserted several accounts from different parts of the country. IT IS PROPOSED to have divine service performed in all of them on the day of the funeral.”

“Tuesday, November 11.—It is said, that in every church and chapel throughout the empire divine service will be performed, and that awful and sublime part which constitutes the funeral service be read.”

“Wednesday, November 12.—Some surprise has been expressed that no notice has been given by Government of the intention of keeping the day, which is to consign to the earth the remains of the lovely and beloved being we all lament, with religious ceremony. Such surprise can only arise from a mistaken view of the subject. The Government only interferes in such circumstances, in conformity to established precedents and usages; when, therefore, it provides for the present melancholy occasion, the same “outward form of woe” which accompanied former occasions, it has done all that it could or ought to do. We would not have it otherwise. We wish, indeed, that day to be one of general grief and devout humiliation, but we also wish that it may be the expression of the people’s unbidden sentiments. Let the establishments of all kinds in which our worldly business is transacted be shut, and let the churches be opened.—THE FUNERAL IS FIXED FOR TUESDAY NEXT. Every town, however remote, in the United Kingdom, will be apprized of the intention of the Capital.”

“Thursday, November 13.—The funeral is deferred till Wednesday, at the special desire of Prince Leopold. On that day (the 19th) all the churches are to be opened for the performance of divine service, and shops shut.”

“Friday, November 14.—We repeat, that all shops will be shut, and all places of divine worship will be opened, on Wednesday next, the day of the funeral.”

“Saturday, November 15.—There is no doubt that on Wednesday next, the day of the funeral, all business will be suspended; and that the empire will afford the awful and appropriate spectacle of a whole people spontaneously engaged in religious exercise and devotion.”

[2] We appeal to the First Book of Discipline as a proof that the Church of Scotland was, from the beginning, decidedly hostile to a burial service. But this is not all; for although the “Directory” is now the authorised rule for conducting public worship, it did not set aside but ratified the authority of the Book of Discipline on this and other heads. This appears from the following clause of the Act of the General Assembly (1645) approving and establishing the Directory. “It is also provided, that this shall be no prejudice to the order and practice of this Kirk in such particulars as are appointed by the Books of Discipline, and Acts of General Assemblies, and are not otherways ordered and appointed in the Directory.” The truth is, that there is the utmost harmony and uniformity in the enactments which the Church has at different times made on this subject. Respecting the order in which the different parts of divine service should be performed, and other circumstances of a similar description, what was thought most proper and convenient at one time, was judged less so at another; and, accordingly, changes have been made in such matters by express acts or by gradual usage. But on the burial of the dead, the Book of Discipline, the Directory, and the particular Acts of the General Assembly, hold the same unvaried language, and have been supported by uniform practice.

Those who satisfy themselves with looking into “Pardovan’s Collections,” will be in danger of being misled. The compiler of that work gives a very defective view of the law of the Church concerning the burial of the dead, and what he does state is not correct. He says, “By the old Book of Discipline in Mr. Knox’s time, annexed to the old paraphrase of the Psalms, after burial, the minister, if present and desired, goeth to the church, if it be not far off, and maketh some comfortable exhortation to the people touching death and the resurrection. But by the Act of Assembly 1638, sess. 23, 24, art. 22, all funeral sermons are discharged.”—Collections and Observations, p. 157.

Now, 1st, Not only is there nothing of the kind here alleged in the Old or “First Book of Discipline,” but that book, as stated in the text, orders the matter in a different way. Pardovan must refer to the “Book of Common Order,” drawn up by the English at Geneva, and used for some time in Scotland. 2d, The Book of Common Order does not suppose that there shall be any religious service or worship at funerals. It says, “The corpse is reverently brought to the grave, accompanied with the congregation, without any farther ceremonies.” And it does not say that the minister joins in worship with the congregation, or company assembled, after the burial; but merely that he maketh some comfortable exhortation to the people. 3d, Even this exhortation was superseded, the first year after the establishment of the Reformation, by the Book of Discipline, which referred the people for suitable instruction and comfort, “to the sermons which be daily made.” 4th, Funeral sermons were discharged as early as 1561; and the Act of Assembly 1638 was only the renewal of an old law.

[3] Acts of Assembly, 1638, sess. 23, 24.

[4] Mosheim’s Church History, cent. ii. part ii. chap. iv. sect. 1, 2.

[5] The “Discipline of the Reformed Churches of France” contains the following canons:—“At funerals there shall be neither prayers nor sermons, nor any dole of public alms; that so all superstitions and other inconveniences may be avoided, and those who attend the dead corpse unto its sepulchre, shall be exhorted to behave themselves modestly whilst they follow it, meditating according to the object presented to them, and the hope of one more happy in the world to come.”

“Forasmuch as mourning consisteth not in habits but in heart, the godly shall be admonished to demean themselves with a modest decency, and to reject all ambition, hypocrisy, vanity, and superstition.”—Discipline, chap. X. can. 5, 6. Quick’s Synodicon, vol. i. p. 44.

The Dutch Church, in their form of worship agreed upon at the beginning of the Reformation, excluded The Burial of the Dead, because they did not regard it as at all connected with divine service. And funeral sermons were condemned by various acts of their synods. The synod of the Churches of Holland and Zealand, held at Middleburg 1574, art. 52, enact, “That where funeral sermons are in use, they be abrogated, and that where they have not been in use, they be not introduced, to avoid the dangers and superstitions which spring from such practices; and for the same reason we also declare, that the ringing of bells at funerals ought every where to be abrogated.”

The National Synod which was held at Dort in 1578, art. 58, says, “Because the use of funeral sermons is dangerous, we enact that they be not introduced where they have not yet been admitted. But where they are in use, and where there is a sufficient number of ministers and elders who think that they are not unprofitable, let them be tolerated, until they can be abrogated without offence; still, however, under this caution, namely, that they have the appearance rather of an unpremeditated exhortation than of a sermon commenced and concluded with prayers. Farther, also, that the praise of the persons deceased form not the subject of these exhortations. It is also incumbent on ministers to take care, that the use of bells which prevails among Papists, both in the article of death and at the time of interment, be abolished.”

The National Synod held at Middleburg in 1581, art. 48, declares, that “where funeral sermons do not obtain, they shall not be introduced; but that in places where they have been admitted, the most effectual means shall be adopted for their abrogation.”

The celebrated Synod of Dort, held in 1619, employs the same language on this subject.

The Reformed Churches in Hungary, Transylvania, Bohemia, and Moravia, testify equal care in guarding against superstition and other abuses at funerals. Voetii Pol. Eccl. tom. i. pp. 240, 261.

[6] The Directory of the Church of Scotland gives instructions as to the proper method of dealing with sick persons, according to their character and the state of their souls; but it gives no countenance to the arrogant assumption of authority implied in the absolution, which, however qualified and explained, must have a dangerous effect on multitudes.

[7] See p. 563-566.

[8] Isa. lviii. 3.

[9] Courier of 19th November.

[10] Courier of 20th November.

[11] The following part of the speech of one of the religious orators who addressed the congregation, may be quoted as a fair description of the feelings of the multitude assembled on the occasion: “They had come there, he hoped all present had, with an intention to pay that respect to the memory of the departed Princess—(Here the gentleman was quite overcome by his feelings)—but, instead of indulging them with what they expected, they were robbed of that entitled respect which was due to their country, their Prince, and their departed Princess.—(Applause.) He thought the Lord Mayor, instead of preventing the service taking place, ought to be the very person who should cause its commencement. In his opinion every place of worship throughout the United Kingdom should unite in deploring the loss which they had at this time unfortunately sustained, even the humblest of them, and it would be noticed if they did not. What must it then be for the head of all churches to abstain from it, that of the metropolitan church? He would advise that the service should begin immediately; and said, For God’s sake do not send people home to their dinner without satisfying that feeling of affection due on the occasion.”

[12] Observations by Candidus, p. 12.

[13] None of the Antiburgher meeting-houses in the city were, so far as we can learn, open for worship on the funeral day.

[14] On Saturday, the 15th November, the ministers of Edinburgh were requested to attend the Lord Provost in his Chambers, at one o’clock. The object of their being called was to deliberate about the propriety of opening the city churches for divine service on the funeral day of the Princess Charlotte, then expected to be Tuesday. Of thirteen ministers who were present, five, including Mr. Thomson, were decidedly against the measure; the rest were either friendly to it or passive. In the course of the conversation, Mr. Thomson said, that while he could not himself acquiesce in the proposal, yet if it was adopted by the meeting, the ministers of St. Andrew’s (whose church was under repairs) were extremely welcome to the pulpit of St. George’s; and this offer he made a second time. In consequence of something that fell from the Lord Provost, it was by mistake conceived that his Lordship proposed a vote. To this the ministers replied, that unless they were unanimous, the thing must not be done. Upon which they separated, having resolved that there should be no divine service on the funeral day.

On Monday, some minutes past two o’clock, Mr. Thomson, as he was going to fulfil an engagement, met Dr. Baird, who informed him that he and some of his brethren had changed their minds on the subject of having divine service on the funeral day (now known to be Wednesday), and thought that they should have it; that a meeting of the ministers was to be held in Argyle Square at two, to reconsider the proposal; and that he was just on his way to the meeting. Mr. Thomson expressed his surprise at this intelligence, said that his mind was clearer on the point than it had been on Saturday, and authorised Dr. Baird to say to the meeting, that he would on no account assent to the measure; adding, that he might repeat the offer of the pulpit and church of St. George’s, which he had made on Saturday, to the ministers of St. Andrew’s church.

The meeting in Argyle Square, which agreed to the resolution of open- ing the churches of the city, was attended by ten ministers, and there were proxies for other two. Five were not present, and had sent no signification of their mind. This meeting was called by Dr. Baird, and not by the senior minister of the city, according to the usual practice, nor was he consulted on the occasion. Dr. Thomson (New Greyfriars) received no notice to attend the meeting, and knew nothing of it, till he received a note, late at night, telling him of the resolution that had been formed. The note intimating the meeting to Mr. Thomson did not reach his house till near three, so that if he had not accidentally met Dr. Baird, he could have known nothing of it until it was over.

On Monday evening he received a letter from Dr. Baird, intimating the resolution to which the meeting had come. To this he returned an answer, expressing in strong terms his disapprobation of the procedure of the ministers, and his determination to have no divine service in St. George’s on Wednesday.

On Tuesday morning Mr. Thomson learned that the magistrates had advertised that the churches of the city were to be opened for divine service on Wednesday. As no exception was made of St. George’s, and no minister provided to officiate in it, he considered this as a measure co-operating (although unintentionally) with that of the meeting of ministers in Argyle Square, either to compel him to preach, or to place him in the most awkward situation with his people, who would assemble in the expectation of divine service. He therefore wrote to the Lord Provost, expressing his surprise at the intimation given, and his resolution to maintain the rights with which the law of the land had invested him as minister of St. George’s.

On Wednesday, the Lord Provost finding that Mr. Thomson was determined not to preach on that day, sent a card to him signifying that Dr. Baird had agreed to preach in St. George’s, provided he had no objection. The card bearing this was sent to his house at twelve o’clock. He had gone out; but his family knowing his sentiments, sent a messenger to the Provost to say, that he had repeatedly signified that he would not object to any of the ministers preaching in St. George’s. Mr. Thomson having returned within a little, sent a note instantly to the Lord Provost, confirming this message, and reminding his lordship of the offers to the same effect which he had made at an earlier stage of the business; but, it seems, it was too late.

[15] Morning Chronicle of 25th November.

[16] It is always to be regretted when, in disputes upon public questions, any thing occurs which has a tendency to reflect on the personal integrity or veracity of those who have taken part or been involved in them. And when it does occur, it is proper that all due means be employed to remove it. With this view we judge it right to advert to certain reports that have been very current relating to what is mentioned in the text. It has been publicly affirmed, that Principal Baird offered to preach for Mr. Thomson on the funeral day, and that the latter refused; and it has been currently reported, that Dr. Baird has a letter in his possession containing this refusal. Now, we are firmly convinced, that the Reverend Principal never gave any occasion for, or any countenance to this false report.

On the other hand, it has been reported with equal currency, that Mr. Thomson, in the presence of several gentlemen, not only denied that he had written any letter to Dr. Baird on the subject just stated, but that he also denied having written any letter to that reverend gentleman on the Monday preceding the 19th of November, relative to the opening of the churches of the city. Now, it must be at once apparent to every candid person, how this misrepresentation arose. Mr. Thomson was speaking of the first report; and being asked by one present as to the truth of it, he asserted that he had never refused any such offer; that Dr. Baird had never made it, and that he had written no letter to the Doctor on that subject. It seems that one of the hearers understood what Mr. Thomson said, as meaning that he had not written any letter to Dr. Baird relative to the opening of the churches. But this was quite a different thing. The writing of this letter he could not be so foolish as to deny, even if he had been disposed to falsify, for he must have known that it would be easy to confute such a statement. It has also been said, that his letter to Dr. Baird shows, that he was determined not to allow any of the ministers of Edinburgh to preach in St. George’s. If, upon Dr. Baird’s intimating to him the resolution of the meeting of ministers, Mr. Thomson did no more than signify in his reply, that he was resolved to have no service in his church on the funeral day, we should think it a very strained inference from this, that he was resolved to prevent any of his brethren from officiating in St. George’s that day, especially if we knew that he had previously made repeated offers to that effect. The same observations, we apprehend, will apply to his letter to the Lord Provost.