Page images

for whatever relates to the personal history, and to the individuality of Dr. Chalmers, we have held to those points which touch his course as the PRINCIPAL PERSON, religiously, of his time; and, especially, as the Leader and soul of that course of events which issued in the establishment of the Free Church, and so, in the present ecclesiastical partitionment of Scotland. It is as connected with this great movement (in our opinion) that his name will take a foremost place in the religious history of this current century. In professing so to think, we do not involve ourselves in any questionable surmises, as to what, to use a secular phrase, may be called the "future fortunes" of the FREE CHURCH. In truth, as to this futurity, we are quite disinclined to risk any conjecture whatever. And that for several reasons -such, for example, as these; that a course of events which must hinge upon a thousand contingencies-each of them incalculable, is very likely to disappoint even the most probable conjectures; that, personally, we yet need a mass of various evidence bearing upon the subject, and pre-requisite to the formation of any such predictive opinion; and, conclusively-that the utterance of an opinion of this kind would not tend to promote any desirable end.

What is far more safe, and more likely to be serviceable is, in a word or two, to note those two or three religious and ecclesiastical problems to which, in the Disruption movement, a marked prominence was given; or which received, in the course and issue of it, a solution, more or less complete. In attempting so to specify these problems, one is moved to introduce a name fitting to stand by the side of CHALMERS-the name of ARNOLD. An attempted comparison between men every way so dissimilar, would be a failure; they were not men of the same order, or of the same intellectual genius: both, indeed, were such that, in modern times, Scotland has only one to boast of, and England only one both were men whose minds, by structure, always took in and grasped the widest aspect of the things with which they concerned themselves: both lost, in the presence of those things, all thought of selfish ends; both were morally prepared to do, and to dare, any work they should be called to undertake: both, with deep throes of the soul, revolved the conditions of the social system, and pondered the remedial means that should be used. But, as Arnold was incomparably the more accomplished man of the two, Chalmers had more in him of the statesman, and more of practical force, and of appliant energy; and he must, we think, be regarded as, in a Christian sense, the more advanced man of the two. But the point of contrast just now before us is this, that, while Arnold started several great problems-leaving them as he found them, unsolved, Chalmers brought the questions he

Problems involved in the Disruption.


touched a stage or two forward, if he did not actually bring them on to a conclusion.

The first of these problems, and the one which we hold to have been conclusively resolved in the course of events ending in the Disruption, is that, the CONCLUSION of which may thus be given :-That Scotland should never again look to Parliament, or to an English Government, as if expecting from either any enactments, or any course of proceeding touching its religious welfare, which shall truly meet its interests, or which shall, in any enlightened and liberal manner, do it good. Scotland must henceforward look to itself; that is to say, must bring itself, and its parties, and its population, into a state of preparedness for measures which, when thus the country is ripe for them, it may apply for in a tone which no Government will dare to misunderstand. Parliament never does understand things that are a long way off; nor is it easily persuaded to hold itself together, for an evening, forty-strong, while distant interests are explained and pleaded for. How hard a matter has it been, often, to get or to keep a House, for the affairs of India, or of Canada, or of Ireland, unless indeed when the Ministry and the opposition were joining issue upon some single question. But as to Scotland, and the religious welfare of its people, every chance is against it! Its own aristocracy has long been alienated from that wellbeing, and is Episcopal, so far almost as it is religiously minded at all; its true wellbeing involves much that is obnoxious to English tastes, and, worst of all, no ecclesiastical questions, purely and properly Scotch, can be cut off from their bearing upon questions relating to which the English ecclesiastical feeling is intensely sensitive and jealous.

The Free Church part of our readers, or some of them, will say," We care nothing for Parliament, or for Government, as related to our religious welfare: we have done with Establishments, with Parliaments, and with Sir Robert-and Sir Jamesand Lord John-and their successors for ever." We reply, so you may think, just at this time; but it is not certain that your successors may not come to such a mind, as to what is, or would be, best for Scotland, as would lead them-not again-this will never be to petition, and to crave attention, and to invite interviews, and to besiege the residences of Statesmen; but to make known the wants and wishes of Scotland, in peremptory terms, and to get them sanctioned and carried out by Parlia


A great problem, which was brought forward by Dr. Chalmers, and carried on under his auspices, a stage or two toward a conclusion; but not concluded, was that of NATIONAL ESTABLISH

MENTS;-to wit, the abstract desirableness of these institutions or their necessity, and the conditions under which they may be so framed as to consist with the Independence of the Church, and with a perfect development of individual civil liberty. We do not forget the fact that there are those who will triumphantly appeal to the Disruption, and to the founding of the Free Church, as affording evidence more than sufficient to outweigh whatever Dr. Chalmers himself, or others may have said in favour of the Church and State principle. Let this be thought by those so interpret the facts. We can ourselves imagine a course of events, as not impossible, which would turn the scale decisively on the other side, and thus bring to bear upon the question, with a new force, whatever he had written and uttered, thereto relating, at an earlier period. A course of events tending toward this issue, would not, or need not be, of a sort disastrous for the Free Church: the contrary rather. Let that Church extend itself continually; let it realize, more and more completely, Dr. Chalmers's own idea of a complete territorial occupation of the country; let it bring itself into frontage, if we may so speak, with the population of Scotland, and let it measure itself and its means, more statistically, against the unreclaimed thousands or millions of the people; and when it has done so, two results will then come into view-namely, first, the immense insufficiency of any means, and of all imaginable enlargements of such means, which the spontaneous zeal of the christianized portion of a community can furnish for christianizing the unchristian portion. Wonders have been effected upon spots by such means; and wonders have been done over wide surfaces on extraordinary occasions; nor need we look further than into the pages of these Memoirs for such instances, worthy of all admiration and imitation as they are. But neither these instances, nor any other, touch the great argument involved in the problem, How shall the masses of the people, already vitiated in the last degree, be brought under a systematic and effective and permanent process of religious instruction and discipline? Say-" by the efforts of spontaneous zeal :" yes, when Christianity has already possessed itself of the social system, in a manner of which hitherto we can cite no examples.

If now we imagine the Free Church to prosper, and to be setting the stakes of its tabernacle further and further outward every year, it will, as we think, while doing so, only convince itself the more of the vast and immeasurable inadequacy of its utmost powers of overtaking the work before it. A spontaneous Christian machinery grows, as related to a dense manufacturing population, at the rate of an arithmetical progression; but the

Waste of Religious Organization.


vice, ignorance, and misery of that population-to the fuller knowledge of which it is coming, swells and spreads at the rate of a geometrical progression. Thus thinking, we take Dr. Chalmers's early and powerful advocacy of National Establishments in the one hand, and in the other, the history of the Disruption, and the entire mass of facts attaching to the progress of the Free Church, since his death; and we hold the two in contiguity, not as if they were elements, contradicting and counteracting each other, but as elements of a problem which is still in progress toward a genuine conclusion;-that conclusion not unlikely to be of the sort we are supposing, whether the Free Church prospers or declines.

But again. We are most willing to imagine, not only that the Free Church shall prosper, and shall spread itself over the land; but that the Church Established shall hold its own ground, and that, instead of becoming more and more secularized, as might have seemed probable, it shall at once disappoint the anticipations of its opponents, and thwart the views and purposes of its false friends, and that it shall, in good measure, partake of every better influence around it, and thus hold on, and go on, abreast of its sister community. Besides this, we are willing to suppose that each of the Dissenting or separate (orthodox) communions shall also hold its own, and shall win ample conquests from the wilds of impiety around it. Now, as the consequence of this state of things-and which is the best and the happiest we can picture to ourselves as probable-there would still present itself, not perhaps before our own old eyes-too long used as they have been to look indifferently upon such thingsbut to the young and undamaged eyes of our successors, that Enormity of our modern Christianity-that damning sin of Protestantism—that source, direct, of the perdition of the lost millions anear us-that inestimable prodigality which squanders the Infinite, and which wastes the funds of Eternity-(we will not allow that we are at all indulging in exaggeration when thus we speak of) that ill consequence of our boasted liberties, which shows itself in the overlapping of so many costly religious organizations-each Church, out of five or of seven, interlacing its operations with every other-each planting itself athwart the path of every other, and each spending, upon the very same acres, an amount of ministerial body-and-soul power and of popular contribution, which, if it were wisely economized and carefully distributed, would suffice for reclaiming a wilderness!

It is this same reckless spontaneousness-it is this spurious product of a misunderstood conscientiousness-it is this wilful resolution to have things managed precisely in our own way—

it is this opiniative egotism, sprouting itself out in wasteful committeeism, which, more than the obduracy of the heathen's soul, has stayed the course of the Missionary Work, filling our Annual Reports with sickening repetitions of vast labours, and vast expenditures, and slender results, and hopes always in the distance! So it is abroad-so it is at home-so it is that the heathen millions, at home and abroad, must wait until "youand you-and you-and I," can be content to see the world saved, otherwise than just to our taste!

Here we say is a problem, urgent, and of incalculable importance, to which Chalmers, with his large soul, just gave the inchoative impulse, but died, leaving it to be taken up and solved by the men of a better age. But how was he minded toward its solution? Just so minded was he as we might be sure such a man would be; and so minded as that, if this great question had come on to stand in a more tangible and a more advanced state, directly in his path, he would have applied his giant strength to it, in the endeavour to bring things into a condition more Christian-like and rational. On one occasion, (after the Disruption,) with indignant vehemence, and "in the fervour of intense excitement," he rejected the imputation of sectarian aims, and thus spoke at a public meeting held at Edinburgh,-" Who cares about the Free Church, compared with the Christian good of the people of Scotland? Who cares about any Church but as an instrument of Christian good? for, be assured, that the moral and religious wellbeing of this population is of infinitely higher importance than the advancement of any sect."-Vol. iv. p. 394.

At this moment the supposition would be scouted as utterly chimerical, and fit only to amuse the meditations of a recluse, knowing nothing of mankind, that a time shall come when religious folks shall, with a sort of instantaneous and involuntary impulse, solve this above mentioned problem in a moment, and without the help of argument or persuasion. All that is needed for bringing about so vast and desirable a result is this—that Conscience should be brought, perhaps by some accident, to take a right turn, instead of holding on to a wrong turn. We have all thought it an axiom in Christian ethics, that, in matters of religious opinion, of worship, and of discipline, we may and we must, individually, follow our particular convictions; but let it appear, nay, let it be demonstrated before our eyes, that the practical consequence of our adhering, all round, to this mistaken supposition is, that the gospel, instead of blessing all nations, and of running and being glorified in all lands-instead of confounding infidelity by its triumphs, and absorbing impiety by its spread, is pinched in upon a few spots, and is even

« PreviousContinue »