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first thing that brought upon us the charge of being a wise, critical, and censorious people. Here I would have it observed, that the kindness you showed, the letters you wrote, or caused to be written, on that occasion, was the first thing that raised a suspicion that the influence of human authority was likely to appear among us. The people have had no other knowledge of the conduct of the churches than what they derived from the Scriptures or the writings of yourself and Mr. Sandeman. None of these taught us that your voice, word, or command was decisive as to what was to be done in a church. We could not understand why the word of authority was used before the word of instruction. It was thought-if we have a wrong meaning to what is said in Scripture concerning the qualification of an elder, viz. that he must be “apt to teach," it should have been pointed out to us before dealing with us as you did. But as nothing of this kind was attempted, we were a good deal startled at such language as this—“Send back R. O. to them who know his worth, and let him among you who blows best bear the horn."
I believe your letters rather hindered than forwarded what you wished to see accomplished ; certain it is that it created a jealousy in the breasts of some, that if such conduct was allowed, it brought us under the authority of other men or other churches, which we could not understand as being consistent with Scripture principles. Besides infusing this spirit of jealousy, it was productive of another and worse evil. When we were nearly of one mind, and it was seen that you wanted a matter to be done, several began to waver,—as you advanced, they advanced to tenacious advocates for the thing,—and the effect was that many, rather than part with the church, allowed the matter to pass, but with no honourable views of those tenacious brethren, whom they rather suspected to be the dupes and creatures of men ; and thus brotherly love began to be spoiled and marred amongst us!
After R. O.'s death, Mr. Sandeman had thoughts of coming among us, but was discouraged from doing so by the appearance of things on a nearer survey. You then desired us to call J. D. from Arbroath. At this time J. D. was highly respected, and if we had never known more about him his memory would not have been unsavoury. You know, sir, there are some men who appear extremely well at a distance, but who fall off mightily the nigher you approach them, and this was the case with J, D. Perhaps you will object to this and tell me “ It is all false-I was longer and more intimately acquainted with that man than ever you were, and this was not the case with him in my eyes." I admit, sir, that you were long and intimately acquainted, but you never had the opportunity which I and others have had,
who were in church-fellowship with him at a distance from you, of seeing him in his real colours. When he was with you, I believe he would in church matters conform to your mind; your word would be all to him. To understand what you would be at, was sufficient to make him a zealous supporter ; and when at a distance from you, if you interfered in the affairs of any church, the same conduct was observed. He took the opportunity of doing whatever he thought would be gratifying to you, and took care also to make you acquainted therewith!
Sometime after, there happened an affair which, however trifling in itself, serves to throw light on some future events, and laid the foundation of a charge of Catholic charity against me. The facts were these : Dr. Carmichael and Archibald M'Lean having left the church, and we being destitute of elders, in one of our meetings, two or three of the members turned all they had to say in the way of exhortation into railing and whetting their teeth against those men. Such was the light in which I viewed what was said, and in this light nothing could be more disgusting to me. I therefore rose and spoke to this effect : “ Brethren, the end of our meeting together is to stir up one another to love and good works. But what we are now about does not seem to me to be directed by this spirit ; we rather appear to be indulging a party spirit in railing against those who have lately departed from us. As they are now no longer of us, we have no business with them - our business is to take heed to ourselves.” This kindled a flame, and the cry of “ Catholic charity!" was instantly raised, but with a bad grace. I now saw, and have often since seen that it was too common, whenever a person was separated from us, to speak against him at no allowance ; yea, even making things which they once thought praiseworthy (while connected with us) to be now to their reproach. So weak is human nature, that we were glad of every story that could serve our purpose of exhibiting them as persons of the blackest character ; and so darkened were our eyes as to the spirit suitable to Christians, that he was generally considered the best member who indulged himself most in this way. I am persuaded that such a spirit cannot have escaped your own observation.
When Robert Sandeman and James Cargill were passing through Glasgow on their way to America, an affair of discipline took place in the church, which bulked much in your eye. [The particulars are no way interesting to my readers, and I omit them.-W. J.) You, sir, by lending your aid, spoiled the peace and comfort of the church. I would ask, what authority have you for meddling in the affairs of a distant church of which you cannot be a judge? Sure I am, that should any man presume to act the same part towards the church of which you
are a member, you would spurn at him with the most contemptuous disdain. Our fast days all issued in strife and debate.
Thus matters stood when you came to the erection of the church at Paisley, and A-'s ordination. Peter Ford was first called upon, and he objected to his qualifications, but in doing this he spake nothing contrary to the sentiments of the whole body. You grew angry and turned upon him, because he was an old member and ought to know better; and this at length was the cause of his separation, though contrary to the sentiments of the brethren! but it must be done, or you would part communion with the Paisley church. Bad deeds to be done in a church require a policy which is condemned in the Scriptures. The ordination took place, at the impulse of the moment
-you gained your point, but it produced many bitter reflections. When I spoke my mind in reference to these and other transactions, I was answered, “ You are destroying the communion of churches you are undervaluing Mr. Glas.” Now what could be said or done in this case? I would establish the communion of churches, and I esteem Mr. Glas. But neither Mr. Glas nor the churches, if they love the truth, will esteem us while transgressing Christ's words, by calling any man “ Master.” We attempted several times to speak and judge of matters as they really appeared to us on the spot, but were foiled in these attempts by your seeing them in another light. This was a situation truly deplorable, but for which there was no remedy, if we would continue in the fellowship of the churches, unless your mind altered, and of this there was little probability, as J. D. was assiduous in telling you of the selfsufficient, stubborn people he had to manage, seeking your favour at the expense of our peace. In this plain dealing, my object is to serve you and the churches. I do it that you may see to what a situation you have brought this and other churches ; for, however much we have suffered, I well know that other churches are in the same predicament.
My uneasiness on these accounts drew upon me the charge of being a man that was not acquainted with discipline, or of not loving it. To obtain the character of a good disciplinarian, I plainly saw that one must dash through all that came in the way, and sanction everything that was brought forward by the leaders. Though I have long known that I did not stand high in your estimation, I never could seek your countenance by saying “amen” to everything you uttered of men and things, or courting your favour by soothing and flattery, or complimentary expressions. I have for a long time thought, that if I was of any service to the church in Glasgow, it was by plain-dealing, without courting or allowing myself to be courted to a deceitful, hypocritical measure. I have already adverted to the notable exploit you performed at Paisley in ordaining a dumb elder and a daft deacon, both of them forced upon the people by your * * * * * * conduct, contrary to the real minds and inclinations of the members, as was fully manifest by the former afterwards laying down the office as one forced upon the church against their consciences.
An elder acquires great credit with you as eminent for discipline when he cheerfully undertakes to execute even your mistakes! If he manages two or three of these with art and address, he is considered not only as fit for guiding the church to which he belongs, but he becomes a very fit person for managing dubious cases in distant churches : he is frequently employed about such matters ; and by this he gains the character of a good ruler or disciplinarian. Again, a private member is said to understand and love the discipline when he supports the elders in all cases, bad as well as good ; and as the fame and character of members depend so much on this course, is it any wonder that we sometimes see men prostituting their consciences to attain weight and influence in the church? Yea, some have climbed to the elder's office by this course.
I have sometimes thought that Robert Sandeman is not, nor does he want to be, this good disciplinarian ; neither does he relish that pushing-forward-way of carrying all before him on conjecture, without sifting a case to the bottom and ascertaining whether his own suspicions or the suspicions of others be well or ill founded ; or, when necessity calls for it, instructing before he proceeds to extremities. I am really of opinion that the usual manner of carrying such things, instead of being the discipline of the Lord's house, is more like biting and devouring one another, and that its tendency is to consume one another. I have observed that the most active in this kind of discipline are the least conscientious, and those that are most formal in their profession, and that it destroys the true discipline of the House of God. It arms the man who is ready to enlist in any cause with weapons of destruction often against the guiltless; and frivolous matters are magnified into things of great account. I am led to think Mr. Sandeman is not this good disciplinarian, nor does he like it, if I may judge from his conduct in the case of R. O., and from various things I have heard of him. Nevertheless, he deserves the name of loving the Lord's discipline. Touch the faith, and you touch the apple of his eye. Let a man discover ignorance of, or enmity towards, the truth, and his soul rises with righteous indignation. Manifest an unwillingness to bear the cross, and with great willingness he will quit with such a
one, sending him back again to the world as his God! Show ungodliness and worldly lusts, and, without repentance, he will have no connection with you. Deceit, hypocrisy, and similar evil works are subjects of hard and severe discipline with him. In short, give him a discipline which he can see through, and he will hold the grip till satisfaction be given.
While connected with Mr. Sandeman in church fellowship, I have often freely acknowledged that if I ever knew a man by whom I was in danger of saying with the Corinthians, “ I am of such a one,” Robert Sandeman was that man. Yet I can, with a good conscience, say, it was not because he was a fine writer or preacher ; but my regard for him sprung from the fervent unaffected regard he daily witnessed to the Gospel, and his peculiar method of leading and guiding a church, displaying nothing of the master, but exemplifying the brother in Christ, destitute of all those little politics which are essentially necessary to form the character of what is falsely termed “a good disciplinarian."
His last discourse in Glasgow, when on his way to America, has been much upon my mind, and much in my thoughts, since he parted with the church. His text was Luke xvii. 20-25. Keeping his eye fixed on the metaphor of lightning, and speaking of the divine sovereignty in the appearances of the Gospel, he said, “ Like lightning it visits one region, makes a short stay, and then visits another.” I considered him as here having in his eye the Gospel taking root in America ; and at the same time cautioning us in the most solemn manner, lest we should provoke the Lord to remove our candlestick from its place. He was led to speak pretty fully on the Gospel doctrine, the nature of Christ's kingdom, and of Gospel churches. Then addressing himself to the auditory, he spoke to this purpose : “ Are any dozen or half-dozen of you convinced of the truth of these things, and yet dissatisfied with our conduct, as churches of Christ ? Unite among yourselves. The smallness of your number need not discourage you. The Scripture leaves you at no loss how to proceed. You have full power to choose your own bishops and deacons — to observe what Christ has commanded ; and you have all heaven on your side, and all the authority you can desire to go about every ordinance of the Gospel.“
At the time this was spoken, I considered it a stretch beyond our ordinary notions of things ; and since then my thoughts have been employed on what he delivered, in a way you can
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I am, &c. &c.,