Project Canterbury


The Mission of the Scottish Episcopal Church.











Published by Request.








"Walk in wisdom toward them that are without redeeming the time."--(Col. iv. 5.)

THERE is a twofold relationship wherein the souls of men stand before God; and neither form of this ought to be lost sight of by those who wish to know their own responsibilities, or to judge fairly of the responsibilities of others. Regarded in that point of view which the Psalmist indicates when he says, "No man can deliver his brother, or make an agreement with God for him;" and which the Apostle speaks of when he says, "Every man shall bear his own burthen;" and again, "So then each one of us must give account of himself before God:"--regarded in this point of view, every soul stands in a dreadful and terrible isolation in the presence of the awful JEHOVAH--a relation so distinct and so separate from every other, that, so far as its salvation is concerned, there would seem, while contemplating it, to be only two Beings in the universe--Itself, and its Judge.

But the soul occupies an associate as well as a distinct relationship to its Author. While it stands alone in its responsibility, it does not stand alone in its action. Placed in the body upon earth as its school of probation, it is placed amongst others who influence it, and [1/2] whom it influences in return. With some of these it holds more definite relationships than with others. Its associations exercise great weight in developing its powers and bringing out the full formation of its character; and these associations influence it throughout its triune constitution, alike in its animal, its mental, and its spiritual functions.

Hence it is manifest that the associate relationship wherein the soul stands to God has, though a great, yet an indirect, influence upon its ultimate acceptance with Him; while its separate and distinct relationship has a direct and immediate influence upon it.

Were I called upon to-day to speak to you of this direct and personal relationship wherein each one of you stands before Jehovah, it would be my mission to speak of the corruption of your nature, of the enormity of sin, of the wondrous revelation that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, of the necessity of your acceptance of this great Mystery, of Justification by Faith, of the regenerating and sustaining Grace of the Holy Spirit, of the duty of bringing forth fruit unto Holiness, if you hope to inherit the end,--Everlasting Life.

But these elements of the personal life of Faith, which are common to "all that call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ," are not the topics on which I am primarily called upon to insist to-day. Addressing you as called by Grace into the Church of the Living God, and made of His mercy members of Christ, children of God, and inheritors of the Kingdom of Heaven, I am to invite you to pour your alms with a liberal hand into the Church's treasury, and to encourage you in faithful and devoted allegiance to that special Branch of the Church Universal whereinto you have been born again. Nature grafted you into the World of Creation; Grace has grafted you [2/3] into the Church of Redemption. My mission of the day, therefore, rather affects your associate and corporate, than your personal and separate, relationship to God; and which, therefore, however largely, has an indirect rather than a direct effect upon your personal salvation.

I lay down this principle clearly and definitely, because I believe there is too common a reversal of the right order of these two important relationships wherein the soul stands to God. The Communion of Rome certainly, and probably some members of our own, would give what I conceive an erroneous precedence to the associate over the separate relationship. They would say to the soul seeking peace, "Find the True Church, and you are safe;" whereas, I believe the Scriptures of Truth, speaking peace by Jesus Christ, rather to say, "Find the True Saviour," and HE will graft you into that General Assembly and Church of the First-Born, where you may dwell with Him for ever! in peace on earth, in glory in Heaven!

Now, my beloved brethren in the Lord, whether you have as yet individually and personally found HIM, is not for me to say. But that you are in the way of finding Him I know, because you are grafted into a legitimate Branch of His mystical Vine; and if, with all the advantages that surround you, you do not find Him, and peace, and pardon, and love in Him, then do I believe the guilt of rejecting Him lies upon your souls; and that you who are unreconciled are alienated from God by wicked works, or by a blind and wilful indifference to the solemn privileges accorded to you in His Word and in His Church. I propose this morning to examine with some care into the position you occupy as members of the Scottish Episcopal Church, and, therefore, as called upon to support that Canonical Society that bears its name.

You will observe that I use advisedly the legal title, [3/4] "The Scottish Episcopal Church." I am aware that to some this may appear tautology; for they who have studied ecclesiastical records know that a millennium and a half of the Church's existence had well-nigh passed away ere any were found who supposed that there could be a "Church" without its being "Episcopal." I am aware, too, that there are some who love more to dwell on the "Catholic" character of your Communion; and some again who lay greater stress upon its "Protestant" or "Reformed" characteristics. To use, however, either one of these latter terms to the exclusion of the other, would seem to take a partizan view of the subject, and would probably give offence to those who viewed the question from the opposite side. It would moreover seem to yield assent to that assertion laid down of late years by a distinguished lay member of the Roman Church, and adopted by some who have deserted the Church of England, "that it is impossible to be Catholic and Protestant at the same time." [Comte de Montalembert. Quoted by Mr Tickell in a letter to the Times newspaper at the time of his desertion of the Church of England for that of Rome.] As I believe the opposite of this to be the truth, and that he is most Catholic in the Faith who is most determinately Protestant against the errors and corruptions of Rome, I would carefully avoid the use of language that would seem to bring Catholicity and Protestantism into antagonistic positions. We ought not so to stultify ourselves as to say as Protestants, that we "believe in one Catholic and Apostolic Church," and to pray in our Liturgy for "the good estate of the Catholic Church," and yet cede to the opponents against whose errors we protest, that title of "Catholic" which is as dear to us as to them, and more truly ours than theirs. [4/5] But without entering more at length into this question now, I deem it desirable, on the present occasion, to use that title of your Communion which has a legal and a recognised meaning, and can neither be made subservient to partizan views, nor give any possible offence to those whose Christian Faith enjoins them to "obey magistrates," as well as to be "ready to every good work."

But here a reflection on the position you (or, indeed, I might say we--for though ordained, and ministering in the Church of England, I am yet by inheritance a member of the Scottish Episcopal Church)--a reflection on the position WE occupy in this country, immediately suggests itself as a difficulty. I said, it is a part of our Christian Faith to "obey magistrates," and yet we find ourselves in a state of separation from the National Establishment of Religion! [I would refer here to a "Brief Sketch of the History, State, and Prospects of the Scottish Episcopal Church." Published by authority, and appended to the Third Report, of the Scottish Episcopal Church Society, 1841.] How is the statement consistent with the fact?

I need not dilate to you, brethren, on the Scriptural proofs of a Threefold Ministry existing in the Church which the Son of God purchased with His Blood, which He established by His commands and ordinances, and which He still guides and animates by His Indwelling Spirit. I need not speak of the argument from analogy which suggests itself to every student of that Jewish Ecclesiastical Polity which had "a shadow of good things to come," while "the Body is of Christ." I need not speak of the illustrative proofs which the epistles of St Paul to the spiritual overseers of Ephesus and of Crete supply. I need not quote a Catena of authorities from Ignatius to the present day to spew the universal consent in all ages to the same fact. It is enough to remind you, that it is our [5/6] conscientious belief that the Episcopate forms an integral portion of the Visible Church of Christ, and that we may not without violence to conscience accept as truly representing Christ's ordinance, a system which rejects that government--a government which He Himself as the great Shepherd and Bishop of our souls fulfilled while on earth, and committed in solemn words to His Apostles to fulfil and to perpetuate, when He said, "I appoint unto you a Kingdom, as my Father hath appointed unto me" (Luke xxii. 30); and again, after His Resurrection, "As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you" (John xx. 21).

In saying this, let me not be supposed to feel a single harsh or uncharitable sentiment towards the principles or the practices of the National Establishment. I cannot suppose our conscience to be a rule for that of her members, who have been trained in the belief that we are wrong; and we are bound to give them that full liberty of conscience which we claim for ourselves. Let us hope that the day is past when conscientious differences are to encourage the growth of enmity amongst followers of the same Redeemer. He has given us a lest whereby we may be proved, "By this shall all men know that ye are My Disciples, if ye have Love one towards another. Whenever our differences are conscientious, they ought to be amicable. The age wherein we live claims for itself great liberality and boundless toleration. Let us shew that we deserve this characteristic by making all allowances for those who think differently from ourselves; and while our difference exists as strongly as ever, let us unite to exorcise that fiend of discord that loved to develop difference into hostility and hatred, and stereotyped the term of "odium theologicum" as a permanent sneer against the professing followers of the Gospel of Peace.

[7] The text I have chosen gives us a rule of action, "Walk in wisdom toward them that are without: redeeming the time." The remarks just made prove, I trust, that this expression is not adopted in an invidious spirit. It is used as I would have our Presbyterian brethren use it of us. They are "without" our rule, we are "without" theirs. We are to walk in wisdom toward them. They are to walk in wisdom toward us.

The distinction drawn between the separate and associate relationship of the soul to God, may here be brought

st usefully to your recollection. We believe that in the right apprehension of this, will be found the essential difference between the Scottish Episcopal Church and the National Religious Establishment. Faith, and the Word, and the promises, as revealed to Abraham, and given to the world through Christ, we believe our brethren to possess in their personal relationship to God. In their associate relationship we believe their system defective, ours effective. Our own Church we believe (as to its form) to be perfectly, theirs imperfectly, constituted.

And while I urge that our differences must beget in us charity, and not enmity; that if we have a more perfect organization, we must prove it by our love and our "wisdom toward them that are without;" I must urge also an interpretation of the latter clause of the text, which has very strongly suggested itself to me. The Apostle added, "redeeming the time." Now, that he meant to use the phrase in the sense I am about to suggest, I will not presume to say. He may merely have intended to impress on the Colossians the necessity of using well the occasion--of profiting by the opportunity then afforded them;--probably that was all that he meant; but I am certain the humiliating sense I desire to indicate must do us good to reflect upon.

[8] Have not we--the Episcopalians of Scotland--reason to look back with bitter shame and humiliation upon the way in which the outside, the mere crust, of our principles was attempted in former days to be thrust down the stifled consciences of those who differed from us? And are we not then bound to "redeem that time"--to "buy back," by sentiments of tolerant love, and by offices of unceasing good-will, that "time" of intolerance and persecution when men were hunted like the partridge on the mountains--like the ptarmigan of our own northern hills--for what was to them a point of conscience, even though that conscience was ill-informed? "There was a time," one of the mildest and ablest advocates of the Scottish Episcopal Church Society is recorded to have said, "in "the reign of Charles II., when Episcopacy was presented to the people of Scotland, but presented in connexion with an arbitrary system of civil government, which was calculated JUSTLY to offend tile minds of men, and to throw discredit upon pure religion." Let us seek to redeem that time. All honour, I cannot but exclaim, while differing most entirely from their views, doctrinal, ecclesiastical, and political,--all honour to those noble and self-denying hearts who endured the boot, the rack, and the stake, rather than yield their Faith and their conscience victims to the Moloch of compulsory formalism! Christ won not His Triumphs so. He was mighty in them to suffer. The Form of His Church was impotent when it sought to tyrannize. I know no scene more inspiring to the imagination, and scarcely any more kindling to the Faith, than those hill-side gatherings, where all the chivalry of Religion was developed in men who dared to be rebels for the rights of conscience, and [8/9] who exhibited, with the romance of Faith, all its purposelike reality, though divorced from its sobriety and its gentleness. But the spirit that evoked those bygone scenes has, I trust, for ever passed away. So late as the latter half of the last century, we ourselves suffered from it. The penal laws against Episcopalians from 1746 to 1792, would have crushed any less truthful system than our own. We prophesied in sackcloth then; and the legislation against us was almost equally severe with that against our opponents of former days, though the personal persecution was of less debased and less brutal character. Surely the fact that we thus found something of a Nemesis in the retributive Judgment of Providence, should teach us justice, tenderness, and charity towards others now, and make us "walk in wisdom toward them that are without: redeeming the (past) time." [Speech of the Right Hon. W. E. Gladstone, M.P., in the Appendix to the Scottish Episcopal Church Society Report, 1840.]

From what has been already said with reference to conscience and to principle, it will be manifest that there is one very popular argument for Forms of Faith that is entirely repudiated by us. "The people wished for a Presbyterian Church: why should we not follow the wish of the majority?" Now, without entering into the views of a distinguished statesman, already quoted, who states, "So far as I have looked into the history of Scotland, I am NOT convinced that Episcopacy is a plant that can take no root there"--without now raising the question how far the clamour of the noisy prevailed at the settlement of the Religious Establishment over the Faith of the thoughtful--even assuming the truth that the large majority did (as they undoubtedly now do) prefer the Presbyterian to the Episcopal Form of Government,--our principles repudiate altogether the idea of majority [9/10] in number deciding a question of Truth. [See Mr Gladstone's speech, quoted above. This view is advanced with considerable force, and supported by many facts, in Stephen's Life of Archbishop Sharpe.] We cling to what we believe is the True Form of Church Government, because it is true, and not because it is (as in England) popular. No majority--not even universal consent--could make that true which was not so. We believe that there is a great tendency to Materialism in the devotion to majorities which too much characterizes the present age; and we have painful and reiterated experience from the history of the Modern Religious Establishment in this land, that the principle of ministerial parity is not only, as we believe, unsupported by Scripture and history, but that it has in itself, by referring every question to majorities, a necessary tendency to frequent and continuous disruptions.

For the authority, then, of the ministrations of the Scottish Episcopal Church, we refer not to numbers, but to evidence. We demand that our Polity, our Doctrines, our Formularies, shall be tested by the Word of God and by the testimony of the Universal Church of Christ. If they stand not these tests, we are ready to give them up and adopt those that do. We ask to be examined whether we have or have not those notes or tokens which are generally accepted as the evidence of a True Branch of the Church, viz., Unity, Holiness, Catholicity, Apostolicity? We believe that we have them all: while, if we look to the National Establishment, or its active and zealous rival, we find them more than doubtful as to their possession. The want of the first is proved by the present schism, apart from other testimonies. That they both possess the second, I for one firmly believe; and the possession of this one will be deemed by many sufficient to counterbalance the want of all the rest. The character of the third is certainly impugned by the narrow and exclusive views taken of the Freedom of Gifts of Divine Grace, as laid down in some of their Formularies. While the fourth [10/11] is undoubtedly invalidated by their arbitrary assumption of a Modern Form of Government, and by their breach of Order in Apostolical Descent.

The Scottish Episcopal Church is therefore a Protester against the Establishment and its offshoots; but not so strongly on the ground of their Doctrine, as of their Discipline: while, on the other hand, she is a Protester against Rome far more on the ground of Doctrine than of Discipline. In the Thirty-nine Articles which she holds in common with the Church of England, she is emphatically Protestant against all the later innovations upon the Truth as it is in Jesus which the falsely called Oecumenical Council of Trent endeavoured to palm upon Christendom; and she holds determinately all those great principles of Evangelical Truth which it is the business and mission of all Churches of Apostolic Order to dispense freely.

In speaking of the identity of the Scottish Episcopal Church with the Church of England (which it has become a fashion with some to dispute), I prefer using the words of one more qualified to bear witness than myself, inasmuch as he had officially been called to minister in both Communions. He has thus recorded the fact, and his own impressions upon it:--"To all practical intents and purposes, the Established Church of England and the Episcopal Church of Scotland are the same. Occasional differences there may be in the preference of this or that of two Offices (and you must excuse me if I, for one, express a hope that even this shadow of variance may be removed), but this is not the test of oneness. The only legitimate test is, what are the Articles of subscription? what is the rule of Faith? we reply--the same in both Branches of the Church." [Speech of the Rev. Mr Hitchen, reported in the Appendix to the Seventh Report of the Scottish Episcopal Church Society, 1845.]

[12] And now that I have endeavoured, however imperfectly, to set forward the solemn fact, that in the Scottish Episcopal Church the associate and separate relationships of the soul to God are both kept ever in view, while in less perfectly organized Christian Communions the corporate element is lost sight of, and amid the stains and assumptions of Rome, the purity and freedom of the individual element are grossly interfered with; let me ask one very serious question, which I would desire every member of the Scottish Episcopal Church to lay solemnly to heart. What is the distinct and peculiar Mission of this Communion, in a land so decidedly advanced in Christianity as to be at once an object of admiration to the believer, and of a sneer to the sceptic? Is it, think you, to be a mark of exclusiveness for the gentility of Scotland, or an encourager of religious controversy among the body of the people, too much rent by it already; or--as some would weakly or wickedly suggest--a halting ground for vacillators between England and Rome?

Assuredly, brethren, it has a nobler Mission than words like these could indicate! It was well said by a noble orator, that "the Episcopal Church of Scotland presents a model of Apostolic Christianity embodied in Institutions of a primitive simplicity." [Speech of Lord Dalmeny, reported in the Appendix to the Sixth Report of the Scottish Episcopal Church Society, 1844.] These words imply the true intention of its existence. The faithful, earnest, and eloquent ministers of the Establishment preach the Gospel--the good tidings of salvation to perishing sinners throughout Scotland, in their individual capacity: but God would have the Church of His Son represented in its integrity, as well as the Gospel of His Son preached in its freedom from human corruption. Hence He not only permits, but strengthens, by the marked extension of late years, the Communion to which [13/14] you belong. O then let me implore you to remember, that a portion of this Mission, and a portion of the responsibility it involves, rests upon each one of you. "God hath set every member in the Body as it hath pleased Him." And though "all members have not the same office," yet each member has its distinct and separate office. Every one of you has something do for his Lord. Ask then of your own soul, if you know what it is? If you have done it? If you are still doing it? If you are seeking to know how to do it?

Brethren in the Lord! it was with a view to give greater efficiency to the Scottish Episcopal Church, both as a witness for Christ's Church to the nation and to the world, and as a preached of the Gospel to the souls covenanted within its own boundaries, that the Society which bears its name was instituted, nearly seventeen years ago. A far-seeing and thoughtful and holy man, who in still and prayerful quietude has watched, and continues to watch, its subsequent career, originated, and for a long time conducted, its affairs. [The estimable Dean of Edinburgh, the Very Reverend E. B. Ramsay.] He saw it rise, "small as a man's hand," like the prophet's cloud out of the horizon, and he now sees it covering the length and breadth of the land, and irrigating with showers of blessing the thirsty soil. "The well-being," it has been justly remarked, "of a great part of the Scottish Episcopal Church is now bound up with the operations of this, its Canonical Society: a bond of unity has been provided, and, in carrying forward its objects and purposes, a field of usefulness is opened, in which all members of the Church may co-operate. Whatever differences of opinion, and [13/14] whatever causes of dissension occur elsewhere, there need be none in the management of the Church Society." [Sixth report of the Scottish Episcopal Church Society, 1844. Pp. 16,17.]

I cannot suppose, brethren, that in a congregation like that now assembled, who are annually invited to make their offerings to this Society, any ignorance can exist as to its design or its objects. Nevertheless it may be proper, lest any strangers should be present on such an occasion, briefly to recite them, as defined in the fortieth Canon of the Church.

"1. To provide a fund for aged and infirm Clergymen, or salaries for their Assistants, and general aid for Congregations struggling with pecuniary difficulties.

"2. To assist Candidates for the Ministry in completing their Theological Studies.

"3. To provide Episcopal Schoolmasters, Books and Tracts for the Poor.

"4. To assist in the formation or enlargement of Diocesan Libraries."

Those objects commend themselves, and need no word of exhortation from me; but I cannot allude to them without expressing my thankfulness for the marvellous progress made in the second and third points for which the Society was designed, through instrumentalities which are to a large extent independent of its aid. The neighbouring Diocese has seen a noble structure reared as a Theological Seminary, and conducted with all the advantages hitherto peculiar to the more ancient Universities; while an Institution specially devoted to the Training of Schoolmasters, has been established with considerable usefulness in the Diocese wherein we are worshipping to-day.

And now, in drawing to a conclusion, let me remind you once more of the Mission of the Church whereof you are members. The time is apparently not far distant [14/15] when the Churches of the Reformed Faith will meet in recognised conferences and co-operate in definite action. Acts of Union and Communion of high and significant character have recently been consummated between the American, the Colonial, the United English and Irish, and the Scottish Churches. It has been my privilege to join, on more than one occasion, in Holy Communion, in one of the grandest of our ancient English ecclesiastical edifices, with Prelates and other Clergy, and thronging Laity of all those Communions. Acts of most friendly Intercommunion have also taken place between that American Church, whose oldest Bishop received consecration at the hands of your spiritual Fathers and the Church of England; [Bishop Samuel Seabury.] and as the Bishops of these Reformed Churches are now more than twice the number of those Romish Prelates who troubled Christendom with the decrees of the Tridentine Council, we cannot but feel that a common declaration from such a source, speaking a common Faith, and promulgating a common Doctrine, would do much to calm the troubled waters of controversy, and hold out the olive branch of coming peace to the world and to the Church of God.

It may be, indeed, that such a meeting of the Fathers of the Protestant Church will be forced upon them against their will. One of your own gifted nobles [Lord Lindsay.] has developed an able theory which he calls "Progression by Antagonism;" and an illustration of this may be found in the conference of Romish Bishops declared to be summoned by the Pope, to promulgate a New Article of Faith as the belief of the Church. [A letter from Rome, in the Ami de Religion, announces that the Pope has just published a notice that a universal jubilee is to take place in October or November next, to obtain-1st, peace between Christian princes; 2dly, the calming down of the spirit of revolt and sedition; 3dly, the removal of the visitations of cholera and famine; and, 4thly, the enlightenment of the Holy Ghost on the Pope in the dogmatic decision of the immaculate conception. In addition, an invitation of the Holy Father convokes all the Bishops of the Roman Catholic world to Rome, to be present at a solemn assembly relative to the promulgation of the belief of the Church on that point.] The Faith once for all [15/16] delivered to the Saints needs no new development of Doctrine; but if such be attempted, it may become a DUTY on those who wish to walk in the old paths, and neither to add to nor diminish from the words of the Book of Life, to meet in solemn Synod and enunciate afresh the old and orthodox Faith of the Catholic Church of Christ.

Should such be the case, the Fathers of the Scottish Episcopal Church would not be backward to vindicate by their zeal, their learning, and their piety, the Truth as it is in Jesus. But that they may be cheered on their way, let them see, through the zeal, the piety, and the love of the Laity over whom they preside, that theirs is a faithful and working Church, acting in the spirit of her Head, who fulfilled His Father's will in all things, and left us an example that we should follow His steps. Let them see, too, that you are united in action, and vigorous in a willing and unconstrained support of that unendowed and unestablished Communion whereto you are conscientiously attached. Let them feel that the Spirit of Him that raised Jesus from the dead is mighty in operation in quickening you as members of His Visible Body. And on this day let them realise a proof of your attachment to the Invisible Lord, whose Sacraments and whose Ordinances they dispense, in the ready oblations you present in behalf of their Canonical Institution, "The Scottish Episcopal Church Society."

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