Principal Rainy had made a great effort to answer Dean Stanley in his first two lectures in the Music Hall (pictured), but it was the opinion of many that his last lecture in the 'tourney' was the best. In it he dealt with the religious issues that Dean Stanley had raised. Rainy stepped onto the platform with a sense of the great responsibility he bore. He was the champion of Scottish Presbyterianism. If he unhorsed the Dean, all Scotland would triumph in him. If he did not, he would be put to shame before the English, and he might put his country to shame.
"I confess that the topics whichought to be disposed of to-night are so weighty and so many that I approach them withhesitation; and cannot conceal from myself the probability that my lecture will be only too visibly overloaded and overlaid. If, then, the transitions prove sometimes abrupt, and the treatment insufficient, it is due simply to difficulties which I have been unable to overcome. I intimated that in to-night's lecture I would consider the views of the gospel and of Christianity in the light of which the history of our Scottish Churches is to be understood; without a reference to which, therefore, it cannot be estimated.
"It appears to me that the life and power of our Scottish Churches have always been dependent on two closely connected conditions. One is their theology; that which they have taught for truth on the relations of the human soul to God, on the way of salvation, and the principles of the administration of grace."
Dean Stanley had described the Scottish Theology as 'negative'. That was not true. In fact it was the fact that the Scottish Church knew what they did
believe that allowed them to state so firmly what they did not
believe. Scottish theology was far from being merely "a thing of negations". It was a scriptural theology, not a difficult and scholastic theology, "it is in reality simple, and grows obviously out of the scriptures." In substance it was the Reformation theology, pivoted on two points, the fall of man and the atonement of Christ. It was a theology that emphasised the Gospel teaching "ye must be born again."
'Moderatism', the theology championed by Dean Stanley, was a distorted and deffective version of this theology. It had started with an ignoring of the need for regeneration; preaching sound doctrine but forgetting to address men's need for conversion. It forgot the experimental
element in true religion. As Joseph Hart wrote:
True religion’s more than notion;
Something must be known and felt.
The 'Orthodox Moderates' made religion into nothing but notion. What positive theology did they have that attracted the Dean? None. Dean Stanley liked their tone and their literary ability, that was all. "Did ever mortal trifle so with life questions?" Rainy exclaimed.
Dean Stanley had made every effort to identify some representatives of 'Moderatism' who would appeal to the Scots. The first was Robert Douglas, a Covenanter. But Douglas had been a staunch Presbyterian, calling Prelacy "that stinking weed" - hardly moderate language!
The second candidate was Robert Leighton, author of the justly famous commentary on 1 Peter. It was true that Leighton cared little for the debate on Church government, but that
did not make him a Moderate, and his experimental teachings on religion were utterly un-Moderate in tone.
Principal Carstairs, author of the Revolution Settlement of 1688 was not so much a Moderate as a man who united in himself elements of Moderatism and Evangelicalism.
Dean Stanley's attempt to make Thomas Boston (see the 'Free Grace and
a Free Gospel' series on this blog: 1
) a representative man of the Moderate age was quite incorrect, for the Moderate age had not quite begun when Tomas Boston was called to his eternal home.
But the Moderates were good, tolerant men, Dean Stanley had contended. Again, that was not true. They disliked Evangelicalism with something akin to a 'perfect hatred'. They in fact did all that they could to ruin evangelicalism. What was more, it was the Moderates who had closed the pulpits of the Scottish Churches to ministers of other Churches. Dean Stanley had praised the Moderate spirit of the Church of Scotland for opening her pulpits to Church of England men, but it was in fact the Moderates who had barred them in the first place, in 1843, while Free Church and United Presbyterian ministers had been possessed of the same rights for years!
Dean Stanley trumpeted certain things that had happened 'under the reign of the Moderates', things like the evangelisation of the Highlands, the revivals at Cambuslang and Kilsyth. Yes, but it had been the evangelicals
who had been involved in those movements, not the Moderates. Moderatism had produced men of letters, historians and literary essayists, not preachers and theologians. It was a movement away
from theology and religion, not simply a movement in
those fields. Culture was set before truth and life, and Moderatism became opposed to the Scottish theology, and to the teaching of the need for conversion.
True, Moderatism was
a lot like Dean Stanley. But like Dean Stanley's ideas, it tended to end in unbelief and a mere formal religion. As a proof of that Rainy brought forward David Hume. Stanley had referred to the "truly Christian character" of Hume, yet Hume did not believe in Christ at all! "I say that without the faith of Christ there is no true Christian character." Rainy declared.
Stanley had applauded the Scottish national poet, of course. Burns was a Moderate.
"Can no one stop the din that profanes the grave of Robert Burns? Has no one the heart to hear the 'inhabitant below,' or to understand his voice? Of all perverse destinies with which earth could perplex his fame, did it ever visit his imagination that crowds of rhetrical men would go about in never ending floods of eloquence to prove his life a great moral victory?... Shame upon them that are so destitute of love for Burns, who have so little sympathy with the pathos of his own view of his own life, so not to understand they are to let that alone!" Poor Burns had been, humanly speaking, ruined by the Moderate ministers who did not understand the trials of his soul, "wretched men, that called themselves ministers of Christ, and had not the heart to preach Him."
No, the Church should not give up the Westminster Confession or the old Scottish theology. Quite the reverse, she should rejoice in them, for it was only faithful service of Christ that would win the battle. Only a maintainence and increase of the Reformation theology and teaching on conversion could justify the existence of the Scottish Church. "Nothing else will; nothing else ought. And then how securely might we smile at the poor talk which balances culture against faith! for then how surely and how completely all things should be ours."
So Dr. Rainy closed his last lecture. Dean Stanley never replied to him. It was a conclusive victory, and Scotland feted the Free Church professor. But his next entry into controversy would not be one in which he carried the Free Church wholly with him, as the rift opened by the second Ten Years' Conflict began to grow wider. God willing, next time, we shall see what happened.
Labels: Principal Rainy