Monday, May 01, 2006

James Morison, the Scottish Finney. XV

The year of 1843 is best-remembered by evangelicals, and quite rightly, as the year in which the Church of Scotland split, and the Free Church of Scotland was born. But, two days before the mighty Disruption launched the Free Church of Scotland, another denomination was born. While the Free Church was the longest lived of the two, the smaller denomination born on May 16th, 1843 was arguably the better indicator of the Times.

James Morison had been expelled from the Secession Church in 1841 for teaching, contrary to the Westminster Confession, that Christ's atonement was universal, that Christ died as much for Judas as for Peter (for that matter, as much for those who died in the Flood as for Noah), and that all men had the ability to believe. Following his expulsion, Morison had become a four-point Arminian. Others had joined him, and a new denomination was clearly coming to the birth. Its birth took three days (although the birth-pangs were longer, of course). A conference was held in the Session-house of Clerk's Lane meeting-house, consisting of thirteen men, four ministers (all expelled Secession ministers), one Evangelist, and eight elders. A Confession and a name for the new Church, consisting at that time of three congregations, were discussed. They decided to call themelves the Evangelical Union. The Union was to be purely voluntary, their basis of faith short.
'Faith' the new denomination declared to be a 'simple belief of God's record', the saving influence of the Spirit was declared to be available to all, and the doctrines were summed up in 'the three universalities', the universal love of God the Father, the universal gift and sacrifice of Jesus, and the universal work of God the Holy Spirit in applying the death of Christ.

Calvinistic Presbyterian Scotland had produced its first Arminian denomination, a denomination that would welcome Charles Finney to Scotland, and that would have a deep and lasting influence upon Scotland - all due to James Morison.

The Evangelical Union Church, popularly known as the Morisonian Church, throve during the lifetime of its founder. But it was a denomination founded on a man, and Morison died in 1893. In 1897 the Evangelical Union merged with the Congregational Union. In practially every Scottish denomination Morison's doctrines had been accepted.

Note on sources: The two principal sources for this series were William Adamson, The Life of the Rev. James Morison, D.D. (London, Hodder and Stoughton, 1898), and Oliphant Smeaton, Principal James Morison the Man and His Work (Edinburgh, Oliver and Boyd, 1902).



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