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and with many special wants of the time. The underlying idea is eminently Scriptural and evangelical, and all must admit, in the language of the distinguished Convener of the Free Church Committe, that “union, and not division, is the normal condition of the Church of Christ." Whether, here or there, the different branches of the Church are ripe for union by a substantial agreement on essential points of doctrine, order and policy, is the question which is now occupying so much attention in the respective Assemblies; and which, on both sides of the water, is exciting so much earnest debate. But at a time when high-prelacy everywhere, as well as in Britain, is scheming for union in the interest of Anglo-Romanism, and when Rome herself is calling her Universal Council, including even schismatics-and only excluding heretics—so as to stretch her net for all who can possibly be brought in, it is no wonder if God, in His Providence, stirs the great heart of Presbyterianism to a union movement, in the interest of a pure and Protestant Christianity. Whether it shall occur within a year, or within a score of years, " PanPresbyterianism” is no vain dream, and may be regarded as, to some good degree at least, a foregone conclusion. And when this event shall take place, if it be wisely effected, on a true and permanent basis, this United Church, in both lands, with its Scriptural doctrine and order, and its simplicity of working and worship, will be the church of grandest proportions, and of most majestic operations for the evangelizing of the world.
“ The Fifth Annual Report of the Committee on Union” was presented to the Free Church Assembly, at Edinburgh, May 28th last, by the distinguished Convener, Dr. Robert Buchanan, of Glasgow. It was at his motion, five years ago, that the Committee was appointed on this important subject. And he was the man most fitted, by his high position in the church as well as by his executive gifts, to act as the Chairman, where so much work—and so responsible and delicatewas to be done to effect the desired result. Since the death of Chalmers, “the Moses of the Exodus,” it has fallen to Dr. Buchanan, to stand in this working headship, as Con
vener of the Sustentation Committee, as well as, now, of the Union Committee also. And, in active and hearty coöperation with him, is Dr. Candlish. The union contemplated is with the United Presbyterian and the Reformed Presbyterian bodies. But the discussions have reference, thus far, chiefly to the United Presbyterian Church. The five years already occupied with the preliminaries, have passed by no means peacefully; and the stormy debates of the committee have thrownout several of the Free Church members, while the most that is proposed by the fifth annual report is “a re-appointmentof the committee with former instructions," with the Assembly's expression of “unabated interest in the great cause of union
among the negotiating churches,” and of the “duty and necessity of proceeding in this great business with the utmost caution, and of affording to the courts and congregations of the church full time for deliberation regarding it; and earnestly hoping that existing differences of opinion, which the assembly lament, may be removed by further brotherly conference, on all the heads of the programme, in the committee and in the church at large. Also, that the Assembly deem it befitting, at the stage the negociations have now reached, to record it as their opinion, that, when the inquiries of the committee shall have been completed, the results should be communicated to the presbyteries of the church, with a view to receive such suggestions as they may think it needful to offer before these results are finally revised by the committee, and brought up for judgment to a future Assembly."
Thus far in five years. A “programme” has been framed by the Joint Committee, under several heads, and submitted yearly to the Assembly for discussion and instructions. The previous assembly, however, (1867) proceeded so far as, by resolution, to declare that, in their judgment, the matters covered by the first head of the “programme” formed no bar to union. This resolution has had the effect to stir
the most angry dissensions, considering that this “ first head” relates to the head and point of difference between the Free Church and the United Presbyterians. It is the great question of
CIVIL ESTABLISHMENTS vs. “VOLUNTARYISM."
VS. The whole union movement in Scotland has been chiefly complicated by this knotty and tangled controversy. All the excitements of the Exodus" are revived. Chalmers is brought upon the stage against the Voluntarics. Candlish is quoted as against himself-19 “throwing overboard some of his principles.” And the moderates on this subject, with Buchanan at the head, are charged with "making an open question of sin ;" while these in turn are warned by the Convener to “ take care lest, in their haste and restlessness, they be found implicating in the same condemnation the glorious Head and King of the church himself.” “For the one point that has, in this matter, to be determined, is this-has He, or has He not, made belief in the lawfulness of civil establishments of religion, a term of communion, or a condition of holding office in His church.” It is strongly maintained that this is fairly one of the open questions in the Confession-not positively laid down, only inferentially deduced—where, “if the proof-texts are to be pressed, they would prove as well the duty of persecution.” It is moreover maintained that the United Presbyterian doctrine is not against all possible connexion of the State with the Church, but only against civil establishments as they now exist. And further, it is argued that Voluntaries are already in the church, and are tolerated; and, hence, no such issue can fairly be made as a positive bar to union.
It is manifest that serious diversity exists in the Free Church on this point of civil establishments. It is, clearly, a very tender point with many leading men in the Church. Dr. Wood, of Dumfries, Dr. Begg, Dr. Gibson, and Sheriff Galbraith, wax warm in the opposition, threaten disruption, and already predict a new exodus as the result of carrying out the plan of union with Voluntaries, by relaxing a whit the testimony on this vital subject. Happily our negociations for union are cumbered by no such dispute. So far as we have any question of Voluntaryism it is quite a different thing—a question of policy in conducting the great enterprizes of the Church. And we rejoice to know that, bitter as was the disagreement on this point at the time of our disruption, the voluntary system is abandoned on all hands, for the ecclesiastical mode of operation.
MINISTERIAL SUSTENTATION. Another embarrassment with the negotiating churches of Scotland, is the scheme of Ministerial Sustentation so succesfully at work in the Free Church. On this subject there are several articles of agreement suggested for the United Church, looking to an adoption, so soon as possible, of the Chalmerian plan for the entire body. This will require only such temporary arrangement as shall accommodate the present circumstances of the United Presbyterian Church-and it will be all the less difficult to adjust, inasmuch as that Church has already been "approximating to this financial system”—and “having found, by experience, the insufficiency of annual congregational collections, they have been organizing a system of congregational associations and termly contributions, essentially at one” with the admirable Free Church plan. “A temporary, permissive
A arrangement” is proposed, for crediting on the books of the Sustentation Scheme, moneys paid to the minister as certified, without passing through the hands of the Committee, as paid in, and drawn out; but this only for the time, till the uniformity aimed at shall be complete. On this point it is objected that the United Presbyterian and Reformed Churches have conceded nothing—and to this it is replied by Dr. Buchanan that they have conceded more than would have been done by the Free Church, and that so important an accommodation to their case, for charity's sake, is an item too small to be noticed.
PROPERTY QUESTIONS. The property questions arise chiefly under “the Model Trust Deed” by which the Free Church holds her possessions. It is provided in that instrument, that if, “ at any time, onethird of the ordained ministers should separate from the body, each congregation shall decide for themselves to which section they will adhere, as most truly carrying out the objects and principles of the Free Church—and in such case, the minority
will be entitled to a share of the property proportionate to the number of the minority.” It would seem from the debate that the legal bearings of the Union have been brought into the discussion, with threats to bring the property titles before the civil courts. To all this, Dr. B. replies, that while “no one would ever think of consummating the Union without carefully considering the legal bearings of that step on the immense amount of property, in places of worship, manses, and schools, which the churches collectively and individually possess, yet the first thing to deal with, and dispose of, is the question of principle—the question of duty—the question whether or not our continued separation, as churches, from each other be any longer justifiable in the sight of God.” “And when the churches have that great and sacred question in hand, (he asks,) is it right or reasonable to attempt to frighten them from their property by threats of being dragged by hostile minorities into the civil courts, and of having, by adverse decisions, the great mass of our property wrested from our hands? This appeal to base fear and to baser self-interest is that to which this Free Church and this Free Assembly, by all that is noblest and grandest in their history, are bound to put away-an appeal to which they will not and dare not listen." Here follows an article on "the Relations of the Church, if
“ united, to the Churches and Ministers beyond the limits of Scotland." It is proposed that “the closest and friendliest relations shall exist between the Scottish churches and those south of the border, yet that, in jurisdiction, they shall be distinct and independent. The scheme of a British Presbyterian Church is set aside, but a close compact and correspondence is aimed at, which shall include the Irish Church with the English, in alliance with “the great Free United, Reformed, Presbyterian Church of Scotland.” Beyond this, it is aimed ultimately to create such a spirit of kinship and mutual regard among "all the Presbyterian churches throughout the world, of the Anglo-Saxon blood and tongue, as will yet make Presbyterianism a power among the nations of this earth for good, on the side of the Gospel, such as past ages have never seen.