Sunday, July 23, 2006

Glasgow's School of the Prophets: The Free Church College VII

Following the decision of the College Committee that the four students were not in error it might have been thought that the row was over. This would have been to reckon without Professor Gibson’s fighting spirit. Gibson flatly refused to abide by their conclusions. He believed that, as a teacher appointed by the General Assembly, it was his duty to protect the doctrine of the Church. Certainly he would be remiss in his duty if he did not bring these heresies held by men who hoped to be Free Church ministers to the attention of the Church. Gibson published a pamphlet criticising the essays. In the pamphlet he also criticised the College Committee, stating that it was shielding the heretical students by raising prejudice against himself and the orthodox students. Suce a statement sounds harsh, but Gibson had good grounds for making it; the father of one of the heretical students, Mr. Archibald Henderson, was none other than Dr. James Henderson, convener of the College Committee. The personal interest was blatant.
So the College Committee passed the case to the General Assembly, the final court of appeal where there could be no such controversy over the outcome.
The Assembly took up the case on Tuesday 24th May, 18759 and spent all day and all night on the case. The final vote was not passed until half-past three in the morning on the 25th! No-one could say that the Assembly did not take the matter very seriously indeed. While the Assembly debate was firece, with James Begg as always supporting the conservative side, it was eventually decided to pass a motion that was more cautious than that of the College Committee. While the Assembly declared that it found no heresy in the essays it praised Gibson for his theological concern and his watching over the soundness of the students, while recommending that he deal more tenderly with any such cases that might arise in future. It also moved the four students in question to Edinburgh, where they would no be able to antagonise Dr, Gibson any more.
Gibson retired from the Glasgow College in 1871, and his place was taken by Professor Thomas M. Lindsay, whose biography of Luther is currently republished by Christian Focus. By this time Fairbairn had gone, to be replaced as principal by George Douglas and in his New Testament chair by Alexander Balmain Bruce. Hetherington had been replaced by Islay Burns, who himself would be replaced in 1872 by James S. Candlish, son of R.S. Candlish.
What these changes meant to the College we shall, God willing, see next time



Blogger Jenson's Blog said...

"Alexander Balmain Bruce" - AB Bruce? The one who wrote Training of the Twelve? I enjoyed his book, but was duly warned by Col. Underwood about something - cannot remember what, though. Perhaps your next post will tell me!

Just as a side issue, what is the Free Church College like today?

12:11 pm  

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