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manner, against Mr. Leslie's appointment; both upon the grounds now stated personal to himself, and upon the separate ground, that they had a right to be previously advised with by the Town Council, respecting the election of a Professor, in terms of the Charter of James the Sixth erecting the University ; by which the power of electing Professors is vested in the Town Council
, under the express provision of its being exercised with the advice of their Ministers, (" cum avisamento tamen eorum linistrorum."')
The claim of the Ministers of Edinburgh, under the Royal Charter, will naturally fall to be discussed in a civil court. But they would account themselves deficient in the duty they owe to the Church, if they did not also take the proper steps for bringing the whole of this interesting case, if it shall be found necessary, under the consideration of the General Assembly. In the mean time they are disposed, if they shall err, to take their chance of erring on the side of lenity and forbearance, rather than on that of severity and rigor : and upon this principle they have resolved, that if Mr. Leslie shall consent to withdraw what is offensive in his publication, either by cancelling the leaves of the book which contain the note referred to, or by any other means, equally effectual, that may be more agreeable to himself, they will, in that event, cease their proceeding as far as concerns him individually, and content themselves with following out the necessary measures against the Town Council
, for establishing their right of avisamentum in future cases. But as there is hitherto no prospect of Mr. Leslie giving this satisfaction for the offence he has committed against the religion of his country, in which case the dangerous opinions contained in his book would continue to be circulated and published among the youth of the land, under the sanction of the name of a Professor in the University of Edinburgh ; it is likely there will be an unavoidable necessity of discussing the whole affair in the General Assembly; with a view to that Venerable Body employing such means of redressing the grievance, as to them may appear wise and competent.
The Ministers who thus object against Mr. Leslie's appointment as a Professor, think it their duty at the same time to mention, that though they take to themselves the name of the Ministers of Edinburgh, as being a considerable majority of that body, and though, in this case, they had at first the countenance of several of their ordinary ecclesiastical opponents; all these gentlemen have now deserted them. The reasons and motives of this desertion, they will not rashly judge or condemn. But they are aware that their own motives are at present called in question, upon a supposition of their being influenced by a regard to the interest of their brother, Mr. Macknight, as a candidate for the Mathematical Chair, or by other personal considerations. To the persons who lay this charge, they make no reply. But to others they think it their duty to state, that only one or two of their number ever solicited an individual in favor of Mr. Macknight; and that, before their proceedings in this case commenced, Mr. Macknight's pretensions were entirely out of [the] question; to which facts they only desire to add, that, were they actuated by any view to their future interest, or that of Mr. Macknight in particular, in relation to the Chairs of the University, the measures they are now adopting would be the most effectual they could employ for defeating their own purpose.
At any rate, the case which has been stated ought to be judged of upon the single ground of its own merits. The opposite opinions which men may entertain, whether of the motives of those who bring forward this question, or of the general merits of Mr. Leslie as a gentleman and a scholar, cannot with reason be allowed in such a case to influence their judgment of the question itself. For, if the charge that is laid be well founded, it is obvious that the judgment to be pronounced must affect the vitals of our Christian faith, and our Church establishment. It is therefore hoped, that the laity, connected with the Church, will not, in this instance, refuse to a question more immediately religious, that candid and attentive consideration which the clergy have so often (given] to the views of their lay brethren, in cases which more immediately involved the civil interests of the country. And it is not doubted that the Clergy, even in the most distant corners of the Church, will feel a commanding interest in the discussion of a question, in which the credit of religion and the ecclesiastical establishment appear so deeply committed.
presents best compliments to Mr.
and begs leave to recommend the preceding paper to his perusal.
20th April, 1805.
List of the Members of the Presbytery who voted for
dismissing the Business relating to Mr. Leslie, when it was first brought before that Court, by the Ministers of Edinburgh, on the last Wednesday of March.
Dr. Hunter, Professor of Divinity.
* Dr. Johnston did not stay to vote, but gave his opinion, and at next meeting adhered to the dissent from the judgment of the Presbytery.
| In the first edition, the name of Dr. Davidson was by mistake inserted in this list. He was not present at the meeting mentioned above ; but his opinion on the question then under consideration is well known to have agreed with that of the gentleman with whom his name was connected; and it had been not only previously expressed in a letter to a meeting of the Ministers of Edinburgh, but was referred to in the Minutes of their proceedings which they laid before the Presbytery.
List of those who voted in the Majority on the same
Ministers of Edinburgh.
Whether the Reverend Gentlemen whose names are contained in the first of these Lists, or those mentioned in the second, are the soundest Divines, according to the standards of the Church of Scotland, is a question upon which it does not belong to me to offer an opinion. The former have certainly shown themselves, in the speculative argument connected with Mr. Leslie's Note, by far the soundest philosophers.
To another praise, of a much higher kind, they have been eminently entitled, in all the proceedings relative to this unfortunate contest; the praise of a genuine and truly Christian moderation, reflecting credit on themselves and on their order.f
* Dr. Moodie, Professor of Hebrew, and one of the Ministers of Edinburgh, was not present (if I am rightly informed) at the meeting of Presbytery ; but he spoke afterwards in the Synod, in favor of the Reference to the General Assembly. Dr. Meiklejohn, Professor of Church History, (a Member of the Presbytery of Linlithgow,) voted in the Synod for the same measure.
Mr. Fleming of Collington was Moderator of the Presbytery at this Meeting. His sentiments are known to have coincided with those of the Minority.
SINCE the foregoing pages were printed, I have been informed, that some offence has also been taken at the following passage in Mr. Leslie's Note. What is the specific objection to it I have not learned, nor can I easily conceive. I can therefore at present, do nothing more than to transcribe the paragraph, and to place in contrast with it a speculation of Dr. Reid's, to which it appears to me in its principal features to bear a very strong resemblance.
“But in conceiving the relation that subsists between cause and effect, do we not feel something more than the mere invariable succession of events ? I will admit the fact; but I maintain, that, like many other spontaneous impressions, it is a fallacious sentiment, which experience and reflection gradually correct, yet never entirely eradicate. It is a vestige of that extended sympathy which connects us with the material world : It is the shade of that propensity of our nature to bestow life and action on all the objects around us; to clothe them with our own passions and habits, and to discover the image of ourselves reflected from every side. This disposition is very conspicuous in children; nor is it even wholly effaced by the progress of age. Hence the true foundation of what is called figurative language. Vivid imagery always implies a real, though transient belief. Personification is the most familiar either to those not accustomed to repress the spontaneous emotions, or to those who have cultivated the power of recalling the passions in all their native glow. A choleric man, who happens to strike his foot against a stone, vents his rage on that obstacle, because, for the moment at least, he actually believes it to be animated like himself. The efforts of the poet and those of the philosopher are diametrically opposite. The one endeavours to subdue the passions, and to correct our early and false impressions; the other seeks to renew our infant visions, and to expand the warm and illusive creation of untamed fancy. Yet, after a severe exercise of reason, the mind