Thursday, March 02, 2006

"Rainy wi'oot the Principal". XXIX.

Robert Rainy seemed to have come into a quiet, sunlit old age, which would be marked by literary activity rather than ecclesiastical politics. But it was not to be. The Free Church law case had been rumbling on in the courts, ignored by all and sundry, who assumed that the United Free Church would, as a matter of course, win.
The minority case was that the Free Church of Scotland, as "a voluntary association of Christians associated together under a definite contract involving the maintenance of definite principles." The "Contract" was the Claim of Right of 1842 and the Protest and Act of Separation of 1843. The majority had, it was claimed, departed from those principles, and threfore they had forfeited their claim to be the Free Church of Scotland.
The majority replied that the Church of Scotland had always held its Confessions and constitution as open to revision; what was more, the Declaratory Act of 1892 had modified that constitution.
In 1901 the Court of Session had found in favour of the majority. The minority appealed to the Inner House of the Court of Session, and in 1902 that court also found in favour of the United Free Church. A further appeal was mounted, all the way to the House of Lords, as the highest court in the land. Whoever won that case would be the final victor. There were six judges, and they sat from 24th November to 7th December 1903. Unfortunately one of the judges died before the judgement could be given, and so a new hearing was ordered with two judges in the place of the dead judge. It was to take place after the Assemblies of 1904, and at the Free Church Assembly an offer of an out-of-court settlement. The Minority were not interested so long as the name of the Free Church of Scotland was not a part of that settlement.
The House of Lords heard the case in June of 1904. Rainy was a constant attender on the case. He knew that a victory for the United Free Church was not certain. The minority had good counsel. As time went on, he realised that the minority were in fact on course to win the case. Indeed, on 1st August 1904, judgement was given. Five judges gave judgement in the favour of the minority, two in favour of the United Free Church. The Union of 1900 was legally to be regarded, not as a union, but as the majority of the Free Church of Scotland defecting en masse to the United Presbyterians. The minority were legally the Free Church of Scotland. But, with the name, came the whole of the property of the Free Church - including New College.
Rainy at once began to plan the recovery of the United Free Church, before both the United Free Church and the United Free Church destroyed each other.

Next time, God willing, we shall see what Rainy did in the Free Church crisis.



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