BISHOP OF MORAY, ROSS, AND CAITHNESS, PRIMUS.
R. GRANT & SON, 107 PRINCES STREET;
RIVINGTONS--LONDON, OXFORD, AND CAMBRIDGE.
MILLPORT: DAVID WISHART.
"Be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear."
RELIGION, says Archbishop Leighton, is always the thing in the world that hath the greatest calumnies and prejudices cast upon it; and this engages those who love it to clear and disburden it of them. This they do chiefly by the course of their lives. The Saints, by their blameless actions and patient sufferings, do write most real and convincing apologies; yet sometimes it is expedient, yea, necessary, to add verbal defences, and to vindicate not so much themselves as their LORD and His truth suffering in the reproaches cast upon them. If when, through ignorance or prejudice, even an indirect blow is aimed at the holy profession or holy practices of Christians, and a word of defence may do something to ward it off, then we ought not to spare to do it.
Christian prudence goes a great way in regulating the manner of doing this, for holy things are not to be cast to dogs. Some are not capable of receiving rational answers, especially in Divine things; they are not only lost upon them, but religion is dishonoured by the con- test. But we ought to judge ourselves engaged and ready, always to "give an answer to every one" who honestly requires a reason or an account, not only for what we believe, but for what our belief leads us to do. Be he an enemy, if it gain him not, it may in part [3/4] convince and cool him; much more if he be one who ingenuously inquires for satisfaction, and possibly in clines to receive the truth, but is prejudiced against it by misrepresentations of it.
In the Primitive times the very name of Christians was made hateful by the foulest aspersions of strange wickednesses committed in their assemblies; and these passed credibly through with all who were not really acquainted with them. These misrepresentations led to many defences or apologies, as they were called, for there were always those found who were ready and able to vindicate the cause of CHRIST'S truth, and to give a reason for the blessed hope which was in them, and which enabled them to bear up, with meekness and fear, under the reproaches and misrepresentations with which they were assailed. And if now we find a prevalence of prejudice, or of misrepresentation through ignorance (for I would fain attribute it to ignorance), I am sure that we shall more successfully weaken prejudice if we meet it with meekness, and best remove misunderstandings which are based upon ignorance, by a calm and dispassionate statement of facts. The truth needs not the aid of passion, and certainly the use of rough speech never can profit when we are pleading for the truth. It has been well said, that "imprudence in speaking for religion makes some Christians lose much of their labour, and drives farther off those whom they would draw into it."
But it is well also that we should be choice as to the time when it may be most suitable to urge the claims of truth, to avail ourselves of opportunities, rather than appear to force opportunities; that the time and matter may harmonize, and that the mind of our hearers may willingly acquiesce in the fitness and propriety of the subjects brought before them at the time. I trust that [4/5] an occasion like the present may not be deemed un suitable for a calm and dispassionate statement of some historical facts connected with our Church, on which a large amount of ignorance prevails, and on which are based certain prejudices against us, which I would fain gladly remove--a statement, too, which may serve to explain that which may seem unaccountable to many, and especially to some of our brethren of the Church of England, who may chance to be present--viz., what may be the practical use and advantage, in these days, of erecting and establishing Cathedrals in Scotland, where the great majority of the people are Presbyterians, who, from the nature and character of their forms of public worship, may be presumed to have no sympathy with the order or form of Cathedral worship. My brethren, the needs and circumstances of our scattered flocks, not unlike those of the earlier Christians, are felt to require just such an organization as that which the Primitive Bishops established for supplying the needs of their scattered flocks; and hence we adopt that Primitive Cathedral organization as our model, which makes the Cathedral the centre from whence the Bishop may carry on the Missionary work of his Diocese, with the counsel and aid of his Cathedral Staff. The Primitive, not the Medieval, Cathedral is our model. Our need of such an organization will, I think, be clearly seen from a statement of the position in which, through the Providence of GOD, our Church is placed.
I suppose that fifty years ago it had scarcely entered into the heads of any but a few far-seeing men that the Church of Ireland would within that period be disestablished and disendowed, and still less was it anticipated, I suppose, that within the same period a Bill should be introduced into the House of Commons for the disestablishment and disendowment of the Church of England. [5/6] But both these things have happened; and it is proposed to treat the Established Church of Scotland in the same manner. Proposals, so sweeping in their character, and so unlike anything they had ever contemplated, startled the minds of many, and of that large number especially who had never been led to think of the Christian Church as any other than the Established Church; and the inference they drew was that to sweep away the one was to destroy the other. Such, however, was not the feeling of the members of the old Church of Scotland. We knew that the Church of CHRIST and the Established Church were not necessarily synonyms. We knew from experience that, as Establishment had not made the Church, so the Church of CHRIST could exist in any land without being Established. I say, from experience. We were the Established Church of Scotland; we were disestablished and disendowed, but we are the Church of Scotland still. The ermine and the crown do not make the King; strip him of both, and he is yet a King; nay, rob him of his subjects, he is still a King. I believe that the great majority of the people of England, who may ever care to think of us at all, do think, to this day, that the present Established Presbyterian Church of Scotland was always the Established Church of Scotland, and that what is now called the Episcopal Church of Scotland consists of a small number of persons who, without much reason, being aesthetically inclined, and having a preference for Episcopacy, have dissented from the Established Church. My brethren, we never dissented from the Established Church. By an Act of Parliament, in the year 1689, we, as a Church, were disestablished and disendowed, because, as the preamble of that Act states, the Presbyterian form of Church government was "more agreeable to the inclinations of the people." However true that may be now, it is very [6/7] questionable whether it was really so then. However, by that Act of Parliament the present Established Church of Scotland was substituted, in our room, as the State Church; the parsonages and stipends of our Clergy were taken from them at once without any compensation, and the rents and emoluments of the Archbishops and Bishops and of the Deans and Chapters of the Cathedrals were forbidden to be paid to them any longer, and, "by their Majesties' authority," were to be uplifted and received by the Lords of the Privy Council. This was quick and summary work. When, at the Reformation in England, the Popish Bishops were deprived, they were allowed to hold and possess two-thirds of their benefices to their dying day; and in the recent disendowment of the Irish Church the life-interests of the Archbishops, Bishops, and Clergy were carefully guarded. But our Bishops and Clergy were not so gently dealt with. The supplies to both were stopped in six months, and the rents and emoluments which had belonged to the Bishops and Chapters were swept into the Exchequer, without allowing the former possessors the smallest portion of them for their necessary subsistence.
Such was the external position of a Christian Church in this Christian land; the Bishops turned out of their governments, and most of the Priests out of their ministry; and Episcopacy itself so far as an Act of Parliament could do it, struck down at one blow. But Episcopacy was not created by the State. Wealth and temporal power were only human accidents of it. These the State could take away, and it did, and thus left the old Established Church penniless. No wonder that, when the shepherds were taken away, the sheep wandered and were scattered. This, however, was not all it had to suffer. Its cup was not yet full. Its very existence, even in poverty and destitution, was an offence. The [7/8] fire of persecution by the State burnt it, indeed, but could not consume it. From its supposed complicity in the rising of Prince Charles Edward in the '45, another Act of Parliament was passed, by which its worship was forbidden in any of the small churches and chapels which it then possessed, and was allowed only in the Clergy man's private house; but even there the number of worshippers allowed to meet together was limited. More than four persons, besides the family, were not permitted to worship together at the same time. The penalty upon the officiating minister for transgressing this law was, six months' imprisonment for the first offence, and transportation for life beyond the seas for the second. Such was the condition of the old Church of Scotland up to nearly the close of the last century. But, in spite of all that was perpetrated against it, it never failed to preserve unbroken the Episcopal succession, and its Priesthood never quite died out. When its cup of suffering was full, four Bishops and forty-two Priests remained, where, one hundred years before, fourteen Bishops and Archbishops and a thousand Clergy ministered to the people of Scotland as its Established Church.
During all this period the Established Church of England seems to have forgotten, or to have ignored, the existence of its disestablished sister in Scotland. Scarcely a voice had been raised in England in deprecating the hard and severe measures which had been dealt out to her, until indeed that wealthy and powerful Church discovered that its very establishment deprived it of the power of extending the Episcopate of the Church of CHRIST beyond the boundaries of the British dominions; and was constrained to admit that this poor, oppressed, and persecuted Church of Scotland was a pure branch of the Church of CHRIST, possessing the same spiritual power which she possessed, and, moreover, able to [8/9] exercise that power when she herself was so bound by the State that she could not.
When, in the year 1784 (after the Declaration of Independence by the United States of America), just one hundred years after our disestablishment, Dr. Seabury came to England to seek consecration at the hands of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the English Bishops, they were very reluctantly constrained to tell him that it was out of their power to do so; but, at the suggestion of Dr. Routh, the venerable President of Magdalen College, who happened to be present at the interview between Dr. Seabury and the Archbishop, they recommended him to go to Scotland and seek consecration at the hands of the Scottish Bishops, "of whose succession," the President added, "there was no doubt." [Since the Sermon was preached the Very Rev. The Dean (Torry) of St. Andrews has written to inform me, that he could confirm the substance of the Statement here made, from having had the opportunity of hearing it related, many years ago, by the Venerable President of Magdalen, himself.] The English Church thus acknowledged that neither disestablishment nor disendowment had lessened or weakened the Church's inherent powers--that Consecration by our Bishops would be as valid as her own, and that she would recognize as a true Bishop any one whom we might Consecrate. Not in a Cathedral, for they had none; not in a Church, for the law then prohibited Episcopalians in Scotland from worshipping in a Church, but in an upper chamber (still existing) in the City of Aberdeen, three Scottish Bishops met--Bishops Kilgour, Petrie, and John Skinner--and consecrated the first Bishop of what is now the great and flourishing American Church, at the very time when the severest penal statutes were in force against the Church of which these three then were Bishops. [Dr. Samuel Seabury was Consecrated Bishop for Connecticut, at Aberdeen, on November 14, 1784, by Kilgour, Bishop of Aberdeen, and Primus; Petrie Bishop of Moray; and John Skinner, Coadjutor-Bishop of Aberdeen.]
Another century elapses. The Government refuses to obtain the Queen's license for the Archbishop of Canterbury to consecrate a Missionary Bishop for Madagascar. Under these circumstances, the Archbishop suggests that application be made to the Primus and Scottish [9/10] Bishops to consecrate this Bishop, "for that," he says, "the Episcopal Church of Scotland has, under somewhat similar circumstances, when like difficulties intervened, lent its aid in previous times: by the consecration of Bishop Seabury in 1784, for Connecticut: by the consecration of Bishop Luscombe in 1825, for the benefit of our countrymen residing in Paris: and, quite recently, by the consecration of a Bishop for the Orange River Territory, when obstacles occurred to his consecration by myself." You know the result. A godly and well-learned man was presented to us, and, in the year 1874, Bishop Kestell-Cornish was consecrated by us, in St. Paul's Church, in Edinburgh--a truly Apostolic Missionary Bishop! Disestablished and disendowed as our Church still is, and ever will be; crippled as she is in every direction by her want of means to carry out her work; yet, in the face of such facts as I have stated, she may be permitted, with humility and gratitude, in the consciousness of her inherent and inalienable powers, conferred upon her, not by man, but by CHRIST her King, she may be permitted, I say, to use the language of St. Peter at the Beautiful gate of the Temple, "Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have give I thee."
I need hardly say that the penal statutes against us have been repealed, the last, however, only within the last few years. They did their work very effectually. They cut the old tree down to the ground, but they left the roots in the earth. The dews of GOD'S grace have watered them, and they are again springing up into life; and, if it be not our own fault, the old tree will again put forth blossoms, and bear fruit abundantly.
And why, my brethren, have I brought these things before you? and why, to-day? I have brought them before you, first, because I know that many a calumny and prejudice has been raised and brought against our [10/11] Church, and, as Archbishop Leighton says, have passed credibly through with those who are not well acquainted with the subject; and because I believe that a calm and dispassionate statement of facts would most successfully weaken prejudice and remove misunderstandings, and the more so when we have reason to believe that such prejudice and misunderstandings are based upon ignorance. I am ready and desirous to give an answer to any man who asks who we are, and what we are, in this Presbyterian country. And it appeared to me that the best and simplest mode of doing this was by a brief narrative of such facts as are matters of history, a mere outline of which I have endeavoured to give. And the vast amount of ignorance which I have seen displayed, even by members of our own Communion, as to who they are, and what they are, in this country, has convinced me that many of the facts which I have now mentioned must be classed amongst things not generally known; but which, when known, will, I trust, not only remove prejudice, but enable them to give an answer to any man who asks them why they are not members of the Established Church of the country in which they live. It is not numbers which constitute a Church. There was a time when it consisted of 120 disciples. Wealth cannot purchase its prerogatives, nor poverty destroy its independence. We have a numerous and wealthy sister Church beyond the Border, and we some times hear people speak of our Scottish Church as the "English Church." That it is not the English Church, but is recognized as an independent Church by the Church of England, small and poor as she may be, is, I think, sufficiently evidenced by some of the facts which I have already stated. If we were a part of the Church of England we could not have assisted her in her difficulties. It was just because we were not the Church of [11/12] England, but an independent Church, possessing, as she does, an unbroken Apostolic Succession, that she asked and obtained our assistance in the midst of certain difficulties which the State had ungenerously thrown in her way. I have desired, by this statement of historical facts, to show that our Church is here by the Providence of GOD. That it existed before, and did not rise up to oppose the present Established Church, is sufficiently clear from the fact that it was displaced in order to make way for the present Establishment. And if, after such long persecution, and through so many trials, we still, through GOD'S good Providence, survive, we may reasonably hope and believe that GOD has yet a work for us to do in Scotland, but which we can only expect Him to bless if we remain faithful to our principles, loyal to our Church, and at peace and unity amongst ourselves.
And the reason why I have brought these things before you to-day, is to lead you to see and understand how it is that our Church has been brought into such a position as to render the revival of the Cathedral system and organization of so much value. You see, from our history, how difficult, nay, how impossible, it was to maintain, after our disendowment, and in the face of persecuting edicts, a sufficient number of Clergy to minister to the spiritual necessities of our people. In the course of four generations our thousand Clergy were reduced to under fifty, and our fourteen Bishops to four. With no possessions of our own, with no shepherds of their own to feed them, as time went on the sheep wandered, and in the course of a century the great mass of them was, very naturally, absorbed into the dominant Church. It was many years after its establishment that Presbyterianism was accepted in the northern parts of Scotland. In Aberdeenshire, and in the Northern and Western Highlands, although Episcopacy long held its [12/13] own, the families and individuals were gradually scattered, and it required the untiring and unwearied exertions of the few scattered Clergy to provide the Church's ministrations for them. As an illustration of this, I may mention the case of one well-known and much loved Priest, who began his labours in this Diocese, and after wards laboured and died in mine, who told me that he constantly walked between forty and fifty miles on a Sunday, sometimes ministering in the open air, some times in one of the cottages, and this for many years, his income not exceeding from his poor people, in money, £40 a-year, and yet, he added, "I never wanted a shilling." Nor was it himself alone who walked these great distances--many members of his flock would walk ten or twelve mi to meet him at the spots where he ministered to their spiritual wants. But no Church could long go on and prosper with such uncertain and precarious ministrations as these. One of the earliest convictions at which I arrived on coming to Scotland, after opportunity had been afforded me to take a survey of the many scattered members of the Church in my Diocese, was, that I must some day have a Cathedral, based on the Primitive model, if the Diocese was to be worked efficiently. Certainly the descendants of those men who continued firm and faithful to their Church under every conceivable discouragement, and who themselves, under great spiritual privations, still hold firmly to the faith of their fathers, could not be neglected merely because they were few and scattered. It is because they are so scattered that the machinery of a Cathedral becomes so valuable. For a Cathedral, to be a practical institution, is not intended only or chiefly to serve as a standard and model of services and ritual for the Diocese, but it should be the centre and life- spring, under the immediate authority and control of [13/14] the Bishop, of all Missionary work in the Diocese; that, by means of its Clergy, provision should be made, as far as possible, for affording the ministrations of the Church for its members dispersed throughout the Diocese, and especially for its poorer and feebler members, who are quite unable to provide such ministrations for themselves. And if; in our inland Dioceses, where we possess the advantages of railway communication, the provision of a Cathedral is so valuable, how much more so must it be for such an island-studded Diocese as this. And it is for the purpose of consecrating this beautiful Church, henceforth the Cathedral Church of the Diocese of The Isles, that we are gathered together this day. And if, through the bounty of its noble Founder, a Seminary of useful and Theological learning is attached to it, in which I may express the hope that the Gaelic element will be permitted to have its fair share, the Church may well rejoice in this additional handmaid to her own central College at Glenalmond. Of that noble Founder it would ill become me to express from this place, and in his presence, all that the Church of Scotland feels, and all that this Diocese in particular feels, for the offering which he has here laid at his SAVIOUR'S Feet, in presenting this munificent gift to His Church. It will go up as a memorial before GOD, with our own most earnest prayers that GOD may remember him and his for good, for this that he has done for His Church.
In conclusion, my brethren, I would remind you in what our real strength lies. Not in controversy, though from that we must not shrink if it be forced upon us, but in those blameless actions and patient sufferings by which "we do write, as did the Saints of old, the most real and convincing of apologies." I believe that in "quietness and confidence" will be the perfection of our "strength." No words of my own can so forcibly [14/15] express my deep conviction of what is the special duty and office of our Church in Scotland at this time, than the words addressed to the congregation gathered together at the Consecration of my own Cathedral by as true-hearted a Scotchnan as ever lived, and the noblest type of a Missionary-Bishop--the deeply-lamented Bishop Douglas, of Bombay. Though dead, he shall once again speak to the members of the old Church he so dearly loved. "Hold fast," he said, "that thou hast, as Philadelphia was charged to do. For what thou hast is nothing less than CHRIST Himself, given to you to hold as your own life, and to hand on to those who follow you, that they too after you may live. CHRIST is not dead and departed. CHRIST lives on earth still, and 'the Word is nigh thee,' with thee, in thee. CHRIST has committed Himself to thee, in the gifts by which He manifests GOD to man. Keep this great deposit. Remember that 'it is required of stewards that they be found faithful' to their trust. Hold fast the Word of GOD, as given by Inspiration. Hold fast the Ordinances of the Church, as real and not fictitious means of grace. Hold fast the Creeds, and among them that Creed, which, when a philosophy, falsely so-called, claims for itself an exclusive right to dogmatize, is the surest bulwark of religion. Hold fast the Apostolic Orders of the Ministry. Hold fast your own distinctive usages, and especially your Communion Office, so majestic, so primitive in its distinguishing characters, and so clear in its assertion of the truth. In things indifferent meet your Presbyterian brethren in a spirit of conciliatory love, and be all things to all men, that you may win them. But hold fast and let no man take from you your crown. That crown is yours in actual possession, and if now it should be a crown of thorns, and pierce you with those trials which are your cross here, think of that Brow which bled [15/16] for you, think of the jewels into which those thorns shall change when He who comes quickly shall come indeed." "Change is everywhere at work, and moves quickly. Whither shall GOD, by all these changes, lead us? Will He call upon us to reconcile the present with the past? Will He confer on us the privilege of drawing our dear countrymen, whose eye is fixed too closely on the present, to those older ways and forms of truth for which Calvinism, by its figures and abstractions, has been so narrow and so meagre a substitute? We know not. Time will reveal His will. But we must continue to keep His Word, and not to deny His Name. Built on that Rock, nothing can shake us. 'The world passeth away, and the lust thereof, but whosoever doeth the will of GOD abideth for ever.'"