Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

is some advantage in thus calling atten- because inconsistent with public policy) tion to the case in its present immature are to be held conclusive as between condition. The question now under the members and office-bearers, but consideration is, not, whether the that any proceedings not authorized by Minister of Cardross was or was not these laws will not be protected from guilty of the offences charged against question by the mere fact that they are him; nor, whether, after the materials the proceedings of such a Church or of for final judgment have been afforded, its office-bearers, and relate directly to the Court will find reason to conclude internal discipline; and that the Church that the proceedings of the Assembly or its office-bearers, or individual memhave been, or have not been, in con- bers, may become liable in reparation to formity with its laws and constitution, any member who has suffered in consea question on which any expression of quence of such proceedings. opinion would be premature. It is a This judgment of the Court, waited still wider and more important inquiry for with anxiety, was received by a to which attention is here called ; large part of the Free Church, and by namely, whether, a civil interest being some members of other non-conforming involved, or apparently involved, in the Churches, with indignation, or dismay; proceedings of a voluntary Church, taken and a meeting of the members of the with an immediate view to internal General Assembly of the Free Church order and discipline, the Courts of Law (termed a meeting of its “Commission") will, on the suit of one of the members, was held, on the 18th of January, to deeming himself wronged, inquire into consider the course to be taken. Many the laws and constitution of the Church, members, it is understood, came to that in order to determine whether these meeting prepared to recommend extreme afford probable grounds for such pro- measures ; but the counsels of the less ceedings, and, in the event of its being impetuous and more influential lay made to appear in the contrary, in order members prevailed in the meeting, and to give such redress as may, in the cir the recommendations embodied in the cumstances, be just and practicable. Report of a Committee of the Assembly

The judgment of the Lord Ordinary were adopted. It was accordingly rein favour of the defendants “sustaining solved that the sentences of suspension “the preliminary defences, and dis- and deposition should be judicially pro“missing the actions as incompetent," duced. The speeches made at an adhaving been brought under the review journed meeting, to which the public were of the First Division of the Court, was admitted (the meeting for consultation unanimously reversed, and it was decided having been private) have been pubthat the defendants must produce, for lished, as revised by the speakers ; but, the consideration and judgment of the being all on one side, neither give exCourt, the sentences of suspension and pression to the differences of temper and deposition, to which the actions related, sentiment already noticed, nor shew the together with the warrants on which the real difficulties of the question. sentences were grounded. The opinions In the case of the Norwich Baptists, of the judges are elaborate and concurs already referred to, public attention was rent; but it would be out of place called in the Times to “ the calm and here to do more than indicate the general "peaceable resort of the disputants to a principles on which they all profess to “Court of Law, the quiet and natural be rested. These are—that in a volun- "action of the Court in a case so appatary Church, or any other voluntary "rently strange, as, features forcibly society, there is no jurisdiction, properly “illustrative of English, feeling and so called, and that any authority exercised over the members depends, for its

1 December 23, 1859. See “Cases in the justification, on their own consent; that Court of Session &c. vol. xxii. pp. 290 to the laws of the society (unless invalid 328.

“habits.” It may be a question if these remarks could be applied with truth to the Cardross case; and, indeed, the manner in which the judgment of the Court was received by those whom it chiefly "concerned, suggests a doubt whether the judges of Scotland have yet universally earned the reputation for calm, dignified, impartial bearing in the administration of the laws, which has long so honourably, distinguished the judges of England, and won for their office the public confidence. And it may be remarked, that a reader of the opinions by which the judgment in the Cardross case was prefaced, will hardly find in them any expressions tending to show that the judges were much impressed with the extreme delicacy of treatment requisite for such questions, and the respect due to a region of thought and feeling which, although too high and etherial to come within the proper sphere of their jurisdiction, can never be safely ignored or treated with levity. At the same time, some of the quotations already made from the arguments for the Free Church, rather seem to indicate that these sacred elements had been from that quarter imported into a question, towards the solution of which they can probably bring no contribution. They are not within the province of Courts of Law, and can only be validly pleaded there on the hypothesis that the judges are to determine what is the true idea of a Christian Church, and what institutions, claiming authority in that character, are to have their authority recognised and their judgments executed by the Courts of Law.

Perhaps in no way could the liberties of the Churches in this country be more effectually undermined and destroyed than by the establishment of such a principle; for, since there are certainly no existing laws defining what, for such purposes, a Christian Church is, the decision would in each case be determined by the mere theological tenets of the particular judges ; with results too disastrous to be needlessly depicted or imagined. For the danger is not imminent; the Courts of Law will give no countenance to

such a proposition. Nor does the allied position seem capable of being easily maintained—that such sentences as those under question in this case are 80 purely spiritual and within the domain of the conscience as not to contain any elements for the adjudication of civil courts. It would rather appear that a Church, in becoming an organized society or institution, necessarily comes under the conditions common to all such social organisms. It may also contemplate higher aims, and possess other special qualities; but at least it must possess those which are general or universal; and, however spiritual such sentences may be deemed, they have certain civil effects, or ought to have such effects—which can only be made to follow them, in case of any refusal to submit, by the intervention of the Courts of Justice.

It must be added that, in the argument for the Free Church, the jurisdiction of the Courts of Law has been admitted to extend over all the property, of whatever nature, which the Church may be possessed of; and that the refusal to give effect to the sentences of the Church, in so far as they relate to its disposal, is not resented as an invasion of the region claimed as sacred. It needs little reflection, however, to satisfy any mind familiar with inquiries of this nature, that the distinction here assumed, though plausible, is inadequate. Legislative enactments, and the daily experience of Courts of Law, equally attest, that restrictions are enforced, rights protected, and wrongs, redressed, affecting character, feeling, liberty, as falling within the domain of civil government, which the assumed distinction would exclude ; and in the later arguments for the Church larger concessions have been made.

If, then, there is to be inquiry by the Courts of Law, what are its limits? It is admitted, that the only questions to be put are—(1) Is there anything in the proceeding immoral, or otherwise contrary to public law? And (2) Is it, apparently, in accordance with the constitution of the Church? The autonomy

of the Churches is entirely admitted, or, Churches themselves, depriving them of rather assumed. Subject to the provi- their most peculiar characteristic ; and sions of public law, Churches may the evils would be scarcely less were the organize themselves with perfect free- Courts of Justice, without inquiry, to dom, and the Courts of Justice will recog- carry them into execution. nise and give civil effect to their sen The alarm with which, in some tences. Here is the conclusive answer quarters, the judgment of the Court to the cry of persecution, raised in has been regarded, can hardly be undersome quarters with reference to the pos- stood without noticing its relation to sible decision in the present case. And, a peculiar dogma (or, perhaps, rather & it is to be remarked, that, to call in peculiar mode of expression), giving an question and refuse civil effect to a exaggerated importance to this case. sentence passed in disregard or defiance It is a special form of the general of the constitution and laws of the idea of the independence or autonomy Church in whose name it is uttered, may of the Church as a Divine Institution. not be to invade the liberties of the It is the subject of many recent serChurch, but to protect these from the mons and speeches; and of a large incursions of a temporary majority of part of a “Catechism on the principles its members or office-bearers. For, if a and constitution of the Free Church," Church be an organism, it must act published under the sanction of the through its laws and constitution, which General Assembly (although of quesexpress and regulate its life ; and what tionable authority), in which the folis done in contradiction of these is the lowing questions and answers on the act only of certain individuals, not the subject occur (pp. 9,10). “Q. 10. Who act of the Church. And, without ascrib- “is the Head of the visible Church ? ing to Courts of Law any peculiar exemp “ A. The Lord Jesus Christ. Q. 16. tion from human error, it will probably “What is your meaning when you say be admitted that, on the whole, at least “that Christ is the Head of the visible in England, the rare and never unso- “Church? A. I mean that it is the licited interference, exercised by them in “kingdom of which He is the only Lord such cases, has been just and beneficial. “and Lawgiver ; of the institutions of Never unsolicited—and this limitation is “which He is the sole author; and the of the utmost importance—for it is only “ peculiar privileges, immunities, and when the refusal to submit to such an “benefits enjoyed by which proceed ecclesiastical sentence proves that the “from, and are conferred by Him alone. question is no longer, in a strict sense, “Q. 17. What do you mean when you say within the forum, or court of conscience, “that Christ is the Head of every parthat the interference is possible. And “ticular Church, or branch of the visible when, in such circumstances, the plea of “Church ? A. The meaning is, that conscience is urged by the Church, as “what He is to the whole, He is, and excluding the jurisdiction of the Courts “must be, to every part ; since it would of Law, what is really (although, perhaps, “be subversive of the relation in which not consciously) contended for is, the “He stands to the universal body as its right of the Church, or of a majority, “Head, to suppose Him not to stand in to compel the submission of a member to “the very same relation to the several a sentence which his own conscience communities of which the Catholic does not itself acknowledge and make “Church is made up." effectual. This is plainly not a mere As an example of the practical appliquestion of conscience ; and on the cation of this doctrine or phraseology, a rebellious members sentences cannot few sentences may be quoted from a become operative without the interven- Sermon by Dr. Candlish, as in some sort tion of the Courts of Law. A power to one of the most representative of the execute their own sentences would be Sermons recently preached on this topic; inconsistent with the well-being of the its author being one of the most eminent and influential orators and preachers in “ the new Jerusalem itself come down the Church to which he belongs." “out of heaven, prepared as a bride

“I cannot consent to the Church visible "adorned for her husband !” “ being dealt with as if it were less truly From these quotations it is apparent "the body of Christ than the Church that High-Church doctrine is not alto“invisible. To me the Church visible; gether unknown to present Scotch Pres“the Church of which I am a member; byterianism. But it is difficult out of "is most practically and immediately, such discourse on a subject like this to "the body of Christ ;-more so, I would extract any definite thought, which might “say, in an important sense, than even aid in the decision of the question, "the Church invisible ;-more so, at all whether there truly lies hid under this "events, when a testing crisis comes. language (in so far as it differs from

“With the Church invisible, the true other assertions of ecclesiastical autho"spiritual body of Christ, Cæsar cannot rity) any specific doctrine ;'or whether, "interfere. The sentences passed with on the other hand, it is only a tradi"reference to it, he cannot review. tional mode of expression extended be" With perfect ease and safety therefore, yond its original sense, and encrusted “I can maintain the independence of with sacred associations. The fact that “the Church invisible. And affecting there is a tenacious adherence to the old "a high and transcendental spirituality, phraseology, and an unwillingness, or " which looks on questions of outward inability, to translate it into more mo"rule and order, touching the relations dern forms, rather supports the latter " of Church and State, as beneath its view, which might be confirmed by a “notice, I may suffer Cæsar to have his reference to the venerable authoritative "own way in all the actual ongoings of standards of the Church of Scotland-"the outstanding Christian community from the first of these (or John Knox's) "on earth ;—while in a region far Confession of Faith of the Church of "apart and far above, I place the un- Scotland, ratified by the Parliament in "seen crown of a practically inoperative 1560, to the latest of them, the West"spiritual headship, upon the brows of minster Confession, sanctioned by the “ an unseen Lord, allowed to reign over General Assembly in 1647. "an unseen realm.

The extreme views put forth in most “But it is not so with me; it cannot of the sermons, preached on the occasion “be, if I rightly apprehend the nature referred to, that have been published, “of the kingdom which Christ meant have not been uncontradicted. In a "to found, and has founded, in the sermon entitled “The Church and its "world. It is not indeed absolutely Living Head,” by the Rev. Wm. Hanna, “identical with the kingdom as it is to LL.D.,2 preached on the same occasion, "exist in the heavenly state. It has in these passages occur :“it worldly elements ; it is liable to "worldly mischances and mistakes. But “The controversy between us and that “it is Christ's ordinance nevertheless; “Establishment from which we have re“it is Christ's body. It is to be treated " as his body. And I am no more to

? Dr. Hanna is already known to the public “suffer the interference of Cæsar in its as the biographer and son-in-law of Dr. Chal“concerns, than I would do, if it were mers. Another interesting volume has been

published recently, consisting of two courses 1 "Church and State.” A Sermon on the of lectures, which he delivered to the mem. Principles of the Free Church of Scotland. bers of the Philosophical Institution of EdinBy R. s. Candlish, D.D, preached in St. burgh; the first on “Wicliffe and his Times," George's Free Church, Edinburgh, on Sabbath, and the second on “ The Huguenots." They Nov. 13 (1859), the day appointed by the As show careful study, are written in an earnest, sembly for advocating the principles of the truthful, candid spirit, and will incline those Free Church of Scotland, and making a col who may have perused them to regard with lection on behalf of the Ante-Disruption more respect the sentiments of the author on Ministers.

the subject at present under consideration.

“tired, does not touch the doctrine of “ Christ's Headship as taught in Holy “ Writ, so as to give any true ground for “saying that we uphold, and that the “Established Church denies, that Head“ship. The whole question at issue “ between us has respect alone to the “functions and government of the “Church, regarded as an external or“ganized society. But it is not of any “incorporated society of professing “ Christians, however pure its member“ship, however exactly its institutions, “laws, and government, may correspond “with those set up by our Lord and his “ Apostles, that Christ is said in Scrip. “ture to be the Head. The Church, “which is his body, is composed alone “ of those who, by true faith, are in “ vital union with Him through the “indwelling of the Holy Spirit. All "the descriptions given of that Church, " all the attributes and prerogatives " assigned to it, all the promises held “out and made good to it, are such as - can belong alone to the body of true “believers, the company of faithful men “in Christ Jesus our Lord. They do “not and they cannot apply to any “ organized society whatever, viewed as “such. There has been no greater per“ version of Holy Writ, none more “ widely and fatally misleading, than “that by which those descriptions, "attributes, powers, prerogatives, pro“mises, which belong alone to the “spiritual brotherhood of true believers, “have been transferred and attached to “ an external institute calling itself the “ Church.”

“The attempt has been made to throw “a peculiar and additional sanctity “ around that testimony, by erecting it “into a separate religious dogma or doc“trine—that, namely, of the Headship of "Christ over the visible Church. That “attempt I have endeavoured to expose, “by showing that no such separate “ dogma is taught in Holy Writ; that “so far as it is taught there, it resolves “itself into the general truth of the “supremacy of Christ's revealed will,

, "and that, as thus taught, our oppo“nents cannot fairly be charged with

"repudiating it. For other and wider “purposes, I have endeavoured to un. “ fold to you the true idea of the Church, “hy teaching you to distinguish care“fully between that Church of the first"born, of whose birth and life, dignities "and destiny, such glorious things have “been spoken, and any outward and “organized community of professing “Christians. Keep this distinction “steadily in view, and the spell of that "arrogant assumption will be broken by “which the Church of Rome claims for “herself all the powers and prerogatives “of the unseen Church of God. Keep “this distinction steadily in view, and, “under cover of an unconscious confu“sion of the two different meanings of “the term Church, you will discover “some stern substantial embodiments, “and some thin ghosts of the Popish " theory stalking in regions remote “enough from Rome."

Some of the other recent pamphlets show this sermon to have met with a reception from a large and influential part of the Free Church, revealing a danger to its liberties which may be greatly more serious, although more insidious, than any which can be anticipated from the Courts of Justice. The free expression of conviction is plainly essential to its life ; and all attempts by means of misrepresentation, calumny, public accusations of heresy or treachery, or by other similar too familiar weapons, to resent or preclude the utterance of those differences, which in every truly Free Church must exist, ought to be regarded as acts of hostility to its liberties, and disavowed and reprobated by all its real friends. One or two of these publications might, indeed, justly fall under this censure, but they had best be forgotten, and will not be here named. From another out of this bundle a few sentences may be quoted, as written in a different spirit.'

“It will surprise no careful observer to “find that, while the simply practical “Free Churchmen have been for years “quiet and silent, the other party in the

1 «The Recent Sermons on the Headship Reviewed.” by the Rev. Walter Smith, Free Roxburgh Church, Edinburgh.

« AnteriorContinuar »