Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

son, religion had kindled a bright flame of patriotism: purity of soul, contagious eloquence, and iron strength of will, shone resplendent in them all. But the Revolution of 1688 produced no tribune of the Church. The name of the then principal of Edinburgh University is, perhaps, her highest name; partial historians have, indeed, painted him as a man, the dint of whose pen had been felt by Stillingfleet: but we suspect the polemical bishop was more annoyed with the dint of the pen of John Locke than aught ever written by Gilbert Rulc.

In point of fact, the ablest man connected with the Scottish Church at the Revolution had become what no Scottish minister had ever been,—à courtier; and to comprehend exactly the position of the Church of Scotland, and rightly trace the progress of the Erastian element in her constitution, it is necessary that we look for a little at the character of this extraordinary man. William Carstairs was, unquestionably, one of the most remark able men of the Revolution. We may almost say that Glasgow has the honour to have been his birth-placehe was a native of Cathcart. Educated by a most distinguished scholar, an indulged Presbyterian minister, under whom he acquired the most complete mastery of the classics; to save him from embroilment in the politico-religious troubles of the times, under the disguise of a wish still further to perfect his education, his father sent him to Utrecht. On his journey to the con

tinent he carried with him a letter of introduction to an

eminent and public-spirited London physician, who happened to be one of those men with whom Flagel, a pensionary of Holland and one of William's agents, carried on an active correspondence. The physician gave young Carstairs a' letter of introduction to Flagel, and the pensionary was so much struck with the superior abilities and polished address of the Scotchman, that he at once introduced him to his master, the Prince of Orange. The perfect comprehension of the state of parties in Scotland which Carstairs evinced, won the favour of William, and from that day until the day of his death the great Dutchman and the Scottish divine were fast friends.

Carstairs while in Holland was made chaplain of the Prince of Orange, and minister of the English Protestant congregation at Leyden. On every battle-field he was William's companion; and when the army of the Prince landed at Torbay, as yet it stood along the beach, Carstairs, placing himself at the head of the host that was to deliver England, invoked the divine blessing upon the enterprise; the entire body of the troops uniting in the jubilant notes of that grand old Hebrew song of deliverance and triumph, the 118th Psalm, in that hour consecrated by the biblical genius of our countryman as the Marseillese of the Revolution. Carstairs counselled William to observe the strictest impartiality towards the various parties into which Scotland had been split, and to be very careful to abate nothing of the royal prerogative. He did not wish ill to the Church of Scotland, but he wished her in a greater measure subordinated to the royal will, than the Scottish reformers could ever brook.

Not that in him we detect the full-blown Erastianism

which, a little later, characterized the leaders of the Scottish Church. In ecclesiastical politics, Carstairs occupies a position midway between Henderson and Robertson He did not share the religious enthusiasm of Henderson-he had not stooped to model his church principles upon the philosophy of Hobbes. His name, however, marks the epoch when diplomacy, rather than religious earnestness, became the one thing needful in an ecclesiastical leader. With the last of the Cameronians, the brave Renwick, perishing on the Castle Hill of Edinburgh, religious earnestness was gone from the Scottish Church. The Church did indeed yet struggle for supremacy, but the struggle was continued more in the spirit of a paltry personal egotism, than in the broad and generous spirit that had characterised the contendings of her early reformers. It vindicated its rights with the narrowest bigotry. Patronage was indeed abolished, much against the will of William ; once and again had he given it to be understood, it was his wish, that nothing should be done prejudicial to the

interests of patrons. Nor were the assemblies of the Church to meet except at his pleasure. “The walls of Jericho,” which whoso should attempt to build, Alexander Henderson had cursed with the curse of Heil the Bethelite, were thus again rising all around.

A glance at the muster-roll of the Church at the period of the Revolution Settlement, will enable us to comprehend, not only how it was her liberties were so indifferently secured under William, but also how they were so easily filched from her in the succeeding reign. When the Prince of Orange became king of England, there were three parties in the Scottish Church. First in order and in honour were the aged ministers ejected at the beginning of the persecution-now the representatives proper, the old guard, of the second reformation. Next there were the indulged clergy, and lastly, the unconquered followers of Cargill and Cameron. Of the men who had shared in the work of Alexander Henderson, not more than sixty remained; of the indulged ministers there were at least twice sixty; and of the Cameronians there were but three. With the evangelical and patriotic party so outnumbered, with no commanding mind to direct its energies or shape its policy, it is not wonderful that party should have been unable to make much headway against at once the indifference, if not absolute hostility of the majority of the Church, the king's Erastian policy, and the temporizing management of his adviser Carstairs. Nor, while such was the aspect of its outer, was the Church's inner life greatly more satisfactory. In her best days, the perfection of her government was not more marked than the purity of her doctrine. Now, alas ! she had in a great measure become a nest of heresy. In such circumstances it had not been surprising if we found the more earnest minds among the clergy, in an age yet so unenlightened upon the principles of toleration, resorting to rather harsh measures for the conservation of what they esteemed orthodox opinions. Not that we are prepared to justify the narrowness that characterized even the best men of that time. This much only we may state, if not in defence, at least in explanation of their intolerance, ---almost all of what is now designated liberality of thought was then, in Scotland at least, associated with principles subversive at once of civil and religious freedom. The dissidents from the confessedly rather stern creed of their country, were generally found on the side of the oppressor.

The case of Greenshields, which has been so often pointed to as a proof of the intolerance of the Presbyterians, doubtless evinces an exhibition of temper with which we are apt to be equally surprised and disgusted. It should be remembered, however, in palliation at least if it do not excuse the spirit of the people, that

« EdellinenJatka »