Saturday, April 29, 2006

James Morison, the Scottish Finney. XIV

James Morison had been forced out of the Secession Church for his unorthodox beliefs. His church had, in sympathy for him, left the Secession (they were, in fact, seceders from the Seceders). Morison's theology had changed from a three-point Calvinism to a four-point Arminianism, holding to human ability, election conditional on faith, universal but resistible grace, universal atonement and the final perseverence of the saints.

Clerk's Lane Church, Kilmarnock was now an independent Church. It seemed for a while that Clerk's Lane would abide alone, an oddity in Calvinistic Scotland. True, many people listened when Morison preached, but he was one man. That changed in May 1842.
Morison's father, Rev. Robert Morison, had supported his son all the way through his trial, and as a result he had been made the subject of a trial of his own. Convening on 2nd May 1842, the Edinburgh Presbytery of the Secession suspended the elder Morison from the ministry. Robert Morison and his Church promptly left the Secession themselves. Morison senior had already embraced his son's theology, and so Bathgate Secession Church joined Clerk's Lane Church as an independent and basically Arminian church. One Church could stand alone; two looked like the beginning of a denomination.
Now several Congregationalists began to play a role in the beginnings of this 'New School' denomination (as Thornwell characterised it). The Congregational Union of Scotland was, at the time (see our previous series on W.L. Alexander) Calvinistic. But there were also men among them who had been influenced by the writings of the Americans Charles G. Finney and Albert Barnes.
Rev. John Kirk of Hamilton was the chief of these. Like Morison he had begun to preach universal atonement, and like Morison he had ended in Arminianism. He exchanged pulpits with Morison, and Morison's views on Church government shifted to Congregational views.
A denomination seemed about to come to the birth. Next time, God willing, we shall be seeing how the new denomination was formed.


Friday, April 28, 2006

James Morison, the Scottish Finney. XIII

James Morison had been deposed by the United Secession Church. An American observer, James Henley Thornwell, observed: "the leaven of New Schoolism, I am sorry to say, is beginning to work its way, even here. The Presbytery of Kilmarnock, at its last meeting, deposed a man from the ministry for holding sentiments somewhat similar to those of Albert Barnes. Error, however, has made little progress; and the prompt steps of the Presbytery, which were confirmed and applauded by the Synod, I sincerely hope may arrest it" (letter dated Glasgow July 15th 1841).

Morison's church had, however, stuck by him. He still recieved his full salary, and he still had his manse. What was more, his trial had brought him to the notice of a number of people in other churches whose opinions were moving in the same direction.
But Morison's theology was still in a state of flux. He believed in a universal atonement and that man had a natural power to believe the Gospel, but he was still trying to hang on to some kind of Calvinism.
The Five Points of Calvinism are not, however, an unrelated series of points, one or more of which may be held or not without affecting the rest. The Five Points are a chain, five points joined by a line. Each point depends on the others, and the removal of one weakens the others. The removal of two, as Morison had attempted, had seriously weakened his system. He held Calvinistic views on the other points more from a fear of Arminianism than for any other reason now.
Now Morison began to think through his views. He was trying to teach a universal atonement and a human ability to believe along with absolute and unconditional election. The attempt was impossible, and Morison's remaining Calvinism collapsed. If all men have the natural power to believe, then there is no need for irresistible grace, and election collapses too. Morison's logical mind led him into Arminianism save for one point. Morison never gave up the Final Perseverence of the Saints.

Morison's theology was fixed, but his destiny was not. Was he to be the pastor of one independent Church, or was Clerk's Lane the first of many such congregations? God willing, we shall see next time.


Thursday, April 27, 2006

James Morison, the Scottish Finney. XII

James Morison had been suspended from the Secession ministry by the 1841 Synod. He returned to the Clerk's Lane congregation, unsure of what would happen now. He met with his elders as soon as he could.
Four of the six elders supported him, two opposed him. It was a Saturday, and Morison explained that he was still the pastor of the church. The following morning he was going to continue his ministry in defiance of the order of suspension. He asked the elders if they were willing to support him. One elder proposed that the suspension be set aside. One of the two dissenting elders tabled an amendment that the suspension should be accepted, and Morison should be forbidden to preach the following day, the supply provided by Synod taking his place. The vote was, as expected, four in favour of the original motion, two against. It meant that Clerk's Lane Church had practically seceded from the denomination.
Such behaviour brought down a full deposition from the United Secession ministry. Since the Clerk's Lane congregation owned their own building and manse, as was normal among the Seceders, they were now an independent church.
The majority of the congregation adhered to Mr. Morison, and he continued as their pastor. He was in demand as a preacher around Kilmarnock, and he found support from ministers outside his denomination.

James Morison's position was decided in relation to the Secession Church, but his theological position was not yet fully set. How his theology changed we shall, God willing, see next time.


Wednesday, April 26, 2006

James Morison, the Scottish Finney. XI

James Morison, now supported by his young wife, came to the United Secession Synod in Glasgow in June 1841. He came to appeal against his deposition from the ministry of the Church by his Presbytery.
First of all, Morison appealed that he had not deviated from "the main scope of the Subordinate Standards", and that the tenets which had been charged as heretical in Kilmarnock were Biblical.
Morison's appeal was to the Bible, but, as we have seen, Morison interpreted the Bible in a mildly rationalistic way. He noted "[men] are not required to do more than they have 'strength' to do, and, if they were, they could not be responsible for not doing it."
When Morison came to speak in his defence, the huge church building was full. Morison spoke openly and honestly. He confessed that he had not studied the Subordinate Standards of the Church as closely as he might have. He had assumed that his preaching was not contrary to the Standards. He complained that the Presbytery had misrepresented his teaching to the synod. Morison quoted theologians from every age of the Christian Church, and he appealed to Dr. Brown's teaching at the United Secession Theological Hall.
The Presbytery called for their sentence of deposition to be upheld. Although Morison had friends, including his own father and Professor Brown, the Synod decided that Morison's teaching was indeed contrary to the Subordinate Standards. He was suspended from the ministry of the United Secession Church.

Morison returned from the Synod meeting to Kilmarnock, unsure of what he would find in Clerk's Lane.
What he found we shall, God willing, see next time.


Tuesday, April 25, 2006

James Morison, the Scottish Finney. X

James Morison had confessed to most of the charges brought against him by the Presbytery, and now he waited for the verdict of the court.
The majority of the Presbytery voted, on the strength of what they had heard, so suspend Mr. Morison from the ministry. Morison protested against the action of the court. He appealed to the Synod, the highest court of the Secession Church. The Presbytery acted first. At their next meeting they removed Mr. Morison's name from their list of members, and they recognised the few members who had seceded from Morison's Church when he refused to accept the sentence of the court as the 'Clerk's Lane Congregation'. Their action was illegal, strictly speaking, and so Morison appealed against it. The Presbytery ought to have waited for the meeting of Synod and not pre-judged the issue.
Morison waited for the meeting of Synod. He continued to preach and to care for his congregation, who now wholly supported him. During this time Morison married.
He published on 1st June 1841 a small work on the extent of the atonement. It did nothing to endear him to the ortodox Secession ministers. Christ, Morison declared in a paragraph addressed to the reader of his work, "did as much for you on Calvary as he did for any other, say for Paul, or for Silas, for Calvin, or for Luther." [or, logically, for Judas - H.H.]

The synod meeting loomed large. Next time, God willing, we shall see what took place there, and how Morison's appeal was dealt with.


Monday, April 24, 2006

James Morison, the Scottish Finney. IX

James Morison was on trial before the Presbytery for teaching on the atonement contrary to the Westminster Standards. Proving this would be an easy task, for Morison's teaching had not been 'done in a corner.' He had taught from the pulpit of one of the largest and most important churches in Kilmarnock, and he had published his teaching.
The first head of charges was 'error taught'. The first error that he was charged with was "that the object of saving faith to any person is the statement that Christ made atonement for the sins of that person, as He made atonement for the sins of the whole world; and that the seeing of this statement to be true is saving faith, and gives assurance of salvation." The second was teaching "that all men were able of themselves to believe the gospel unto salvation." Thirdly he was charged with teaching "That no person ought to be directed to pray for grace to help him to believe." Forthly he was charged with teaching erroneously "that repentance in scripture meant only a change of mind and was not godly sorrow for sin." Fifthly, he taught "That justification is not pardon, but that it is implied in pardon; that God pardons only in the character of Father, and justifies only in the character of Judge." The sixth charge related to election, "that election comes in the order of nature after the atonement." Seventhly he was charged with using language that deprecated the orthodox teaching on the atonement, especially "that Jesus could not so suffer the consequences of sin as to liberate us from deserving punishment." The final and eighth charge was that Morison denied the imputation of Adam's sin.
On the first head, Morison frankly acknowledged that he did teach what he was accused of teaching. But he argued that he was not bound to every jot and tittle of the Westminster Confession. He believed that his teaching was Biblical, and he would not change his mind.
On the second count, Morison also declared that he agreed with this. That meant that he was not simply a four-point Calvinist, he was a three-pointer. Logically, Morison argued, man could not be held responsible for not doing what he could not do. The only sort of 'moral inability' that there could be was a determined indisposition of heart. All conversions were due to the Holy Spirit however, for the Spirit only disposed the heart to believe, He did not create faith.
Morison affirmed the third charge too. He believed that only believers could pray. Unbelieving prayers were unacceptable to God. The first duty of a sinner was to believe in Christ, and the Confession gave no countenance to prayer by the unconverted.
Morison also confessed freely to the fourth charge. The Greek word 'metanoia' meant 'a change of mind', he argued. He was only using the word in its proper meaning.
Indeed, Morison confessed that he was guilty on all the charges, except the seventh. He did not deprecate the atonement, but he believed that, through all eternity, we would have to say 'God be merciful to me, a sinner'.

The verdict of the court was eagerly waited. We shall, God willing, see what it was next time.


Saturday, April 22, 2006

James Morison, the Scottish Finney. VIII

Rev. James Morison was facing trial before his Presbytery for his abandoning the Westminster doctrine of Limited Atonement. The date fixed was 3rd March 1841.
When the day came it was a beautiful clear day, calm and bright. Clerk's Lane meeting-house was packed, every corner filled by people hoping for a fight.
The Moderator conducted the meeting in a fair, honourable manner. The congregation of Clerk's Lane presented a memorial complaining that the Presbytery was persecuting Mr. Morison. His church was almost wholly behind him, a situation that encouraged Morison.
But forty-one members of the church disagreed. Many of them long-standing members, they presented a counter-memorial, complaining that Morison was not orthodox and calling on the Presbytery to 'give them relief from their present position.' The battle lines were drawn.

The Presbytery declared that their only aim was to discern whether or not Morison taught doctrine which was opposed to the standards of the United Secession Church. Morison did not know the charges until he was called before the Presbytery. He had to give his defence on his feet, as it were.

He was on trial for his post as a minister of the gospel. Next time, God willing, we shall see how the trial went.


Wednesday, April 19, 2006

James Morison, the Scottish Finney. VII

Despite controversy, Rev. James Morison was ordained and inducted to the pastorate of Clerk's Lane Secession Church, Kilmarnock on 1st October 1840.
Morison took his ministry extemely seriously. His people appreciated that, and the previously disunited church drew together. Numbers were added to the Church, many were converted.
Morison's preaching was brilliant, but his preaching was not only on sensational topics. He began to preach through the Epistle to the Romans.
His preaching was Amyraldian; Morson declared that Jesus had died for all, and he called everyone to believe this. Those in trouble and in distress about their souls came to James Morison, and he counselled them.
But controversy was never far away. On 1st January 1841, Morison published his third publication, a short work on the doctrine of the atonement. He wrote what he believed, and Dr. John Brown, his old professor at the Secession Theological Hall, applauded it, declaring that most European and English evangelicals held Amyraut's view.
The Presbytery, who had suspected Morison from the beginning, once again considered investigating the young preacher. They decided to try him for his unorthodox views.
The trial was fixed to take place in Clerk's Lane Church on 2nd March 1841. The people of Kilmarnock looked forward with expectation to the trial, some hoping that Mr. Morison would be deposed, others that he would be cleared.

What happened we shall see, God willing, next time.


Thursday, April 13, 2006

James Morison, the Scottish Finney. VI

James Morison had revied a call to the divided Secession congregation of Clerk's Lane, Kilmarnock. The call, signed by a majority of the people of the church, was brutally honest. Morison could not expect anything but trouble at the church.
Morison took it as a call from God. As a soldier of the cross he had no option, he could do nothing but obey it. He accepted the call.

For Morison knew that he was himself in trouble. There were people in the Secession Church who suspected him of heresy. To take charge of a divided church in Kilmarnock might distract his opponents, as well as giving him a God-sent opportunity to be a true pastor. In order to be a minister, Morison had to pass the 'trials' before the Presbytery, a series of tests that were supposed to test his orthodoxy and aptitude. It was well known that Morison believed Christ died for all, and he was sure to be tested on it. Morison passed through the trials, and he then had to prepare for his next hurdle, ordination.
It was rumoured that the Presbytery was going to put pressure on Morison to conform to a five-point Westminster Confession Calvinism. The day came, and one of the ministers of the presbytery challenged him about the teaching of his tract. Morison produced a copy of the tract from his pocket, and explained his teaching. He admitted that he had been unwise, and he promised to supress the tract and to be more careful in future. The Presbytery was satisfied, and James Morison was ordained was inducted into the pastorate of Clerk's Lane Church, Kilmarnock.

But James Morison could not be an obscure pastor. Controversy followed him. How it followed him, we shall see next time, God willing.


Friday, April 07, 2006

'Christ for the World' Conference report

The forth annual conference of the Amyraldian Association was held on 5th-6th April 2006 at Hargham Road Chapel, Attleborough, Norfolk. While the three previous conferences were small affairs held in the living room of Rev. Dr. Alan C. Clifford, this conference was well-organised and held in a small but well-equipped Brethren chapel in the attractive market town of Attleborough.
There were about thirty attendees at the conference, people coming from England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. There was a small conference bookstall, including material from Quinta Press.

Conference attendees were treated to a real feast in terms of papers and lunch. There was certainly a lot to think about in the six papers that were read in the two days of the conference. It wasn't the Westminster Conference, nor the Banner of Truth Conference, but it was a good two days.

Dr. Alan C. Clifford opened the conference, and after opening worship he read his paper, A Quick Look at Amyraut. The title, he explained, was a reference to the Puritan John Quick, who had brought the plight of the French Reformed Churches to the attention of an English audience.
We were introduced to Moise Amyraut (1596-1664) as a great pastor and theologian. His godly life and influence were outlined, and we all felt deeply that Amyraut has been sadly overlooked.
Dr. Clifford's paper served as an introduction to the second paper, Reading Amyraut: Other Religions, given by Mr. David Llewellyn-Jones. Mr. Llewellyn-Jones' paper was based exclusively on one of Amyraut's books, his Treatise Concerning Religions. Mr. Llewellyn-Jones' paper was deep and scholarly. Unfortunately we only heard about half of it, dealing mostly with Amyraut and the Philosophers. We were however given printed copies of the paper to read at our leisure later. This the present author has not yet done, due to pressing work.
After a delicious lunch made by the ladies of the Norwich Reformed Church, under whose auspices the conference was held, Jewish studies specialist and missionary to the Jews in North London David Bond gave a very stimulating paper on Amyraldianism and Assurance. We were given an insight into Mr. Bond's testimony, and he explained how the love of God is the only object of faith. Thus ended the first day.

The second day was of equal interest with the first. Following worship we were treated to Rev. Stephen Quinton of Norwich Reformed Church gave a paper on 'Faith' in John Owen and Richard Baxter. Mr. Quinton gave a good, reasoned exposition of the differences between these two Puritans on the definition of Faith.
The second paper was a real treat. Rev. Nigel Westhead of Trinity Academy, Doncaster, spoke on The Preaching of Jean Daille. Those of us who have the little cheap Tyndale Bible Society edition of Daille on Philippians were much enlightened. Mr. Westhead gave an insightful analysis of a great French preacher's pulpit work, with interesting seed-thoughts for modern preachers.
After a delicious lunch, and a final blitz of the conference bookstall, Rev. Hazlett Lynch of West Tyrone spoke on Evangelistic Preaching, Amyraldian Style. His passion was communicated to the rest of us, and it was a glorious conclusion to the two very full days of the conference.
It is hoped that the conference will, God willing, be repeated next year. The present writer has been asked to give a paper on Thomas Chalmers' theology at next year's conference.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

James Morison, the Scottish Finney. V

James Morison had been asking himself 'what is the Gospel?' What, he asked, was he to preach to people? What ought they to believe? Influenced by his own logical mind and his reading of Charles Finney, Morison answered that Christ died for every creature. Logically, he reasoned, if Christ is to be preached as a saviour to all, he must have died for all. From then on James Morison rejected the doctrine of Limited Atonement. He preached instead an unlimited atonement.
James Morison went on preaching. It was a time of great blessing in Scotland, and Morison's preaching was blessed to many. He preached for decisions, and he insisted on evidence of a changed life and a true hatred of sin. He preached in various places and even considered becoming an itinerant evangelist. He published anonymously a tract entitled The Question 'What Must I do to be Saved?' Answered. The answer was substantially Charge Finney's, it was 'believe Christ died for you.' At this time Morison was an Amyraldian.

Morison had no thought of the settled ministry, but in 1840 he received a call from the United Secession congregation meeting at Clerk's Lane, Kilmarnock. They had a meeting-house capable of holding a thousand hearers, and a comfortable manse adjoining the building. The Church was in a divided state, and they needed a pastor to draw them together. Morison's call was signed by the majority of the congregation.
Morison was warned by those who signed the call that the Church was divided, and that, while they would stand by him, he would have a tough job. They thought the the intenselt earnest Morison was the only man who could bring the congregation together.

What was Morison's response? We shall see next time, God willing.