Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The History of a denomination: XII.

1911 was a fairly quiet Assembly. It was overshadowed by preparations for the coronation of King George V. The Moderator was Dr. James Wells of Glasgow, a noted evangelist whose voice was familiar to many in that city through his open-air work. In his address Wells warned against the spirit of the 'Social Gospel' and of Socialism, the temptation to neglect the preaching of the Gospel to the poor in favour of mere social work. Here Wells spoke with authority, as his church, located in the slums of Glasgow, did both. He was glad the Church had woken up to the terrible social evils of Edwardian Scotland, he said, but he was afraid that some would use the amelioration of social ills as an excuse to neglect evangelism. History proved that without true religion no civilization worthy of the name could long exist. Every effort to secularize the Church, in the supposed interest of the poor and of untried theories, must be resisted. The tendency of some to postpone the evangelization of the poor until their outward conditions were improved was the sign of decaying faith in the true mission of the Church to preach the Gospel to every creature under heaven. The Open-air preacher's voice filled the Assembly Hall as he appealed, on behalf of millions of living souls of men and women, souls that would have to spend eternity in heaven or in hell, that the Church remain focussed on the Gospel!
What else is there? 'Woe is unto me is I preach not the Gospel', said the Apostle. Yes, woe is unto me if I preach social reform only, woe is unto me if I preach slum clearance, woe is unto me if I preach Socialism, woe is unto me if I preach politics, woe is unto me if I preach teetotalism AND NOT THE GOSPEL! 'Woe is unto me if I preach not the Gospel!'
'But we preach Christ Crucified' is the motto of the Church of God. Let others preach social justice, 'but we preach Christ crucified'. Let other preach socialism, 'but we preach Christ Crucified.' Let them preach politics, 'but we preach Christ crucified.'
How we are grateful to men like Dr. Wells who saw through all the plausible talk of social reformers to the core of the matter - that what must be changed is the man himself, not his surroundings. Change the man, and then you truly will change his surroundings. But if you only change his surroundings, you throw good money after bad.
We cannot hope to stop the decay of our society by petitioning parliament, nor by providing social care, but by preaching the Gospel. Do not misunderstand, those are good things to do, to care for the widow and the fatherless. But we ought to remember to care for their souls as well as for their bodies. 'These things ought ye to have done and not left the others undone.'
The 1911 Assembly saw the attempt in the Temperance debate to force all Kirk-Sessions to use only unfermented 'wine' in Communion. Mercifully this wrong-headed attempt was thrown out and the choice put freely before the individual Sessions. Thus a throughly unnecessary battle in the Church was narrowly avoided.
Here let us remark that we hold this to be one of the drawbacks of denominations, the tendency to centralise all decisions in the Assembly. Presbyterianism at its best is a thoroughgoing federalism, with local issues decided locally. The Assembly's purpose it to co-ordinate local Congregations, Synods and Presbyteries and to deal with Church-wide matters like foreign missions and the training of the ministry (and indeed false teaching). It is not intended to settle every little detail of Church life, and if it is looked on to do this, it will fail badly.
A great step was taken in the direction of Union. The Church of Scotland agreed that Spiritual Independence (i.e. that in purely spiritual matters the government had no authority over the Church) was a necessary requirement of union. Most of the Assembly were overjoyed at this - for it was the United Free Church's main issue in the matter. A small group of hard-line supporters of Disestablishment was however beginning to emerge who threatened to block Union no matter what.

God willing, next time we shall look at the 1912 Assembly's progress.


Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Works of Thomas Hayburton (4 Volumes)

Thomas Halyburton was one of the great eighteenth century Scots theologians. Born on 25th December 1674 (into a family that did not celebrate Christmas due to its connection with a persecuting government), Halyburton was, like Matthew Henry in Wales, the son of an ejected minister. Unlike Phillip Henry, George Halyburton was persecuted into his gave and died in 1682, not living to see freedom to worship in 1688. His wife and family spent the next few years in exile in Rotterdam until the Glorious Revolution of 1688 allowed them to return to Scotland. Thomas followed in his father's footsteps and was ordained to the Ministry in 1700. In 1710 he was appointed Professor of Divinity in St. Mary's College, St. Andrew's. He died on 23rd September 1712 and was buried beside Samuel Rutherford.
Halyburton's public ministry covered just over twelve years and he died at the comparatively early age of thirty-seven. This accounts for the fact that his collected works occupy just four hardcover volumes (Vol. 1. 358 Pp, Vol. 2. 417 Pp, Vol. 3. 439 Pp, Vol. 4. 387 Pp). Yet these four volumes contain some of the best Reformed theology and preaching ever to come out of Scotland in the period.

Halyburton was no ivory tower theologian, he passed through deep waters and his writings are pre-eminently EXPERIMENTAL. He not only knew the doctrines of Grace and loved them, but he FELT them. With Joseph Hart he bears witness that
"True religion's more than notion,
Something must be known and felt."
No DRY doctrine is to be found in these volumes, but doctrine that is dripping with marrow and fatness. 'Rabbi' Duncan said, "I advise every theologian to acquaint himself with Halyburton." We would echo his advice.
This is without a doubt one of the best reprints of recent years. It is not just a reprint of a Victorian edition, but a completely new edition, re-typeset, fully indexed, and containing hitherto unpublished works of Halyburton. Each book is individually titled and indexed and bound in an attractive photographic hardcover binding.

Volume 1 has been titled 'Faith and Justification'. It contains three essays by Halyburton and ten sermons. The essays are:
'An Essay Concerning the Nature of Faith' discussing the nature of true divine faith.
'A Modest Inquiry whether Regeneration or Justification has the precedency in Order of Nature' deals with a question that still refuses to go away.
'An Inquiry into the Nature of God's Act of Justification' deals in particular with how God makes justification known to believers.
The sermons are all gems of experimental and doctrinal preaching - which we feel to be the sort of preaching the Church needs today.

Volume 2 has been titled 'Faith and Salvation'. It contains a work of Halyburton's entitled 'The Great Concern of Salvation'. It is doctrinal, practical, experimental and evangelistic. Beginning with an introductory sermon on Acts 10.29 cosidering the motives of those who call a Gospel preacher, Halyburton then lauches out into a demonstration of man's state by nature. He follows this with a clear display of the remedy, opening up the freeness of the Gospel, and finally deals with the life of a Christian. This is far more Biblical than a certain course which is still quite popular. Ministers might consider using Halyburton as a guide in dealing with the unconverted.

Volume 3, 'Faith and Revelation', is polemical in tone, embodying Halyburton's book 'Natural Religion Insufficient and Reaveal'd Necessary to Man's Happiness in His Present State; or, A Rational Enquiry into the Principles of the Modern Deists'.
As a young man, Thomas Halyburton's faith was all but destroyed by Deism (the heresy that teaches that God, having created the world, leaves it to carry on according to natural laws). Halyburton had been made to doubt the very existence of God by this scheme, so he knew its dangers. John Newton felt this book of Halyburton's to be among the most valuable in his library, and he recommended it to Thomas Scott when he was guiding him out of Deism.
Modern unbelief borrows heavily from Deism, and while the organised movement has faded, Halyburton's defence of the Bible is still utterly relevant to us today.
Volume 4 of Halyburton is perhaps the most valuable of the whole set. 'Faith and Experience' consists mostly of Halyburton's 'Memoirs'. This was one of John 'Rabbi' Duncan's three great autobiographies, Augustine, Bunyan and Halyburton. We would place Halyburton's 'Memoirs' with Warburton's 'Mercies of a Covenant God', Hart's 'Experience' (though Hart is far shorter), Fraser of Brea's 'Memoirs', John Kershaw's Autobiography, and of course the three works mentioned by Duncan. In short, it is one of the greats. It is the account of how a young man came through unbelief to Christ. This edition includes the preface of 1718 contributed by Isaac Watts.
Also included in this volume are two hitherto unpublished sermons by Halyburton, 'A Discourse Concerning the Obligation of Oaths on Posterity' (also hitherto unpublished), which is a defence of the Covenants of the Seventeenth Century and their binding nature on the Church of Scotland, and a short account of the death of Lady Anne Elcho. The last item is not by Halyburton, but is based on an account by him. Lady Ann Elcho was a godly woman who died after a tragic accident in which she was badly burned.

'The Works of Thomas Halyburton' are not for shallow non-doctrinal Christians. They are not for Christians who are afraid of experience either. But those who appreciate Biblical doctrine and experience will find in these volumes a true feast. 'Rabbi' Duncan compared Halyburton to Owen, and the two are alike except that Halyburton is easier to read! The clear typeface of this edition is another reason to applaud the efforts of the James Begg Society in bringing Halyburton back into print in a very up-to-date dress.

The Works of Thomas Halyburton are available at the price of £13 per volume and £45 the set from The James Begg Society Here. Individual volume prices include postage and packing within the United Kingdom, the price for the set includes postage and packing to anywhere in the world.


Monday, January 29, 2007

Monday Quote : Thomas Chalmers - Preaching the love of God

"It was not the redemption of Christ which originated the mercy of God, but it was the mercy of God which originated the scheme of our redemption. He so loved the world as to send His only begotten Son into it, and herein is love, that He sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. It is of the utmost importance that you give a primary, a presiding place to the kindness of God the Father in the great work of redemption. You are not to represent Him as devoid of all movement or affection to mankind till propitiated and made placable, as it were, by the sacrifice of His Son upon the cross. You must ever remember to impress it upon your people that the tender mercy of God to his strayed children lay at the bottom of the whole of this marvellous dispensation."


Saturday, January 27, 2007

D. R. Davies XII: The Bed of Sickness

As we have seen, D. R. Davies' ministry in Southport had been somewhat successful, if very liberal. He had retained his socialist, humanistic ideas, and applied them to the Bible. The result was a reasonably successful ministry, with numbers increasing. But God was soon to show that He was sovereign over the liberal minister.
Shortly before the commencement of the winter 1924 session of meetings, Davies was struck down by an attack of something akin to rheumatism. He was unable to preach for almost three months, and when he did re-enter the pulpit, he could only walk slowly, with the aid of a stick.
It took two years before Davies could resume his pastoral duties. Two years of treatments that caused him to become more and more isolated from the church at Southport, as he had from the church at Ravensthorpe. Again, D. R. Davies retreated into a private world of books.
It was at this time that an even occured that was, ultimately, to lead to the end of Davies' minsitry at Southport. Indeed, to the end of his ministry as a liberal. He was approached by a young man from a local engineering works, who wished to be married by Davies because he had heard the pastor of Hawkshead Street described as 'a bit of a Bolshie.' By 1926, Davies was holding meetings for Trade Unionists at Hawkshead Street Chapel, much to the disquiet of his deacons.
While many men from the Vulcan Engineering Works came to the chapel, the result of the Tuesday meetings was that Davies' preaching became more stridently political. Then, on 1 May 1926, the dreaded event happened: the miners of Great Britain, in dispute with their employer over wages and hours, were locked out by the mine-owners. Since the Trades Union Congress had promised that any lock-out of the miners would be answered with a strike of all unionised workers. The General Strike had begun.


Friday, January 26, 2007

Ministers Behaving Badly. In Assembly

As readers will have noticed, the Church and State Committee of the United Free Church of Scotland became rather an embarassment over time. In 1911 Mr. R.M. Adamson of Ardrossan moved that the Committee's activities (which included involvement with Liberal disestablishment campaigns) be suspended for a year.
A member of the Assembly rose and asked if it was in order to move that a standing committee of the Church should be silenced. Was it in order to appoint a committee to do nothing?
The Moderator of the debate, Dr. John Young, rose and surveyed the assembled ministers and elders.
"Oh, it is quite in order," he said. "A standing committee may be one that never sits."

The whole Assembly was convulsed with laughter for several minutes.


Thursday, January 25, 2007

The History of a denomination: XI.

The Assembly of 1910 met under something of a cloud. Just three weeks before King Edward VII had died, and the nation was in deep mourning for him. Thus the Assembly had such business as sending a loyal address of sympathy to the Prince of Wales (George V) already set before it.
The Moderator in 1910 was Dr. John Young, a former United Presbyterian. Like Dr. Hutton, he took the chair in ordinary pulpit dress. Unlike Dr. Hutton, he said nothing about it. With his long experience in home mission work, he concentrated on that in his address, as well as referring to the death of the King and also the death of Alexander Maclaren of Manchester, the noted Scottish Baptist minister (Note: Maclaren's name is spelt in several ways. It was really McLaren, but on his published works he spelt it 'Maclaren', therefore both of these are acceptable. All other spellings are simply incorrect).

Dr. C.G. M'Crie, Moderator of the 1907 Assembly, also died in 1910
The business of the Assembly was also dominated by the final property settlement in the court case with the Free Church of Scotland. It was finally settled in 1910, leaving both churches free to pursue the aims of Christ's kingdom in Scotland, no longer burdened with a financial question. Of course the United Free Church was unhappy that they had to give any money to the Free Church. They had counted on the opponents of union being turned out of their manses and churches. In this climate wild rumours flew about that many of the Free Church manses had broken windows and were homes only to rats and mice. In fact they were, if not already homes to settled pastors, used as accomodationfor visiting students on wekkends, and the only broken windows had been broken by unwise and over-zealous United Free Church supporters.
A word of explanation is necessary here. We are in full and undisguised sympathy with the 'Wee Frees' on the matter of 1900. Provision ought to have been made for the protesters in the Union settlement, and as the United Free Church did not need the name 'the Free Church of Scotland' any more, it ought to have been left to the protesters. Certainly demanding the property of congregations that did not feel able to enter the union of 1900 was hardly a Christian action. We do not agree with everything the Free Church did in the period 1900-04, but believe that tey were seeking the redress of a real and serious wrong.
The other major question, raised in the previous Assembly, had been the question of Jewish evangelism in Scotland. It was pointed out that this was in fact the responsibility of those Presbyteries which had a significant Jewish population. Nevertheless the committee on Jewish evangelism made clear that it was willing to assist those presbyteries.
The question of the transfer of ministers from one charge to another arose, and with it the perennial question - are long or short pastorates most desirable? Some were all for adopting the Methodist system, in which pastorates were limited to a fixed term with a compulsory change at the end. Others felt that ministers ought to be allowed to request a change, while still others were in support of the old system where it was the responsibility of the local congregation to call a pastor. We will not disguise our preference for the last scheme, while noting that some ministers benefit from short pastorates. Yet our preference is for longer settled pastorates.
The unfermented 'wine' issue came up again in 1910, with two members of the Rutherglen congregation protesting that the Kirk Session had illegally substituted grape juice for wine at the Lord's Table. Unfortunately the appeal was dismissed. Again, we would complain that it is fermentation that makes wine. Any other 'wine' is not real wine at all.
We say this as a total abstainer (apart from the Lord's Supper, of course).
Co-operation with the Church of Scotlnd was proceeding quietly, while the Church and State Committee appared more and more as a group of reactionaries dedicated to wrecking a process that was proceeding towards a favourable conclusion. Dr. Kelman of Edinburgh actually moved that the activties of the committee be suspended!

God willing, next time we shall see how 1911 continued this trend.


Monday, January 22, 2007

George Matheson by Gary Brady

While we do fully intend to complete the Free St. George's series on George Matheson after the United Free Church series is complete, for those who cannot wait, Gary Brady of Child's Hill Baptist Church, London, has written a brief piece on Matheson here . For this reason we have added Gary Brady to the blogroll.


Preaching Report

Yesterday I was preaching at Salhouse Baptist Church, Chapel Loke (a Norfolk word for a very minor road), Salhouse. Salhouse Baptist Chapel is one of the oldest Baptist chapels in Norfolk, dating from about 1802. It is a four-square red brick building with a gallery around three sides and a huge pulpit on the fourth. An oil lamp still hangs from the ceiling, although the chapel is now lighted with electricity. The Baptistery is fed by a spring behind the chapel and there is a graveyard beside the building. The old stables, separate from the chapel, have been converted into a lounge and kitchen. Photographs will follow, God willing.

I had been warned that the congregation would be small, and it was. The galleries were empty, and there were just a few people in the pews. Yet I trust the Lord was there to bless us. The congregation were attentive and friendly, and there are some unbelievers who often attend (they didn't yesterday). The church is dependent on visiting preachers, mostly from Suffolk (there are six churches listed in the Grace Directory in Norfolk and thirty-six in Suffolk).

Humanly speaking, Salhouse chapel seems doomed to closure. Please pray the Lord would keep it open.


Friday, January 19, 2007

Preaching this coming Lord's Day.

This Lord's Day I am due, God willing, to preach at Salhouse Baptist Church in the Norfolk Broads. Above is a map of Salhouse, reminding me how to get to the chapel. Services are at eleven in the morning and two-thirty in the afternoon. Salhouse is a historic Particular Baptist Church in Rural Norfolk that still proclaims the Gospel it was founded on. For which we all ought to be glad.

Last Lord's Day I was preaching at Bethel Chapel, Guildford, a small Strict Baptist Chapel in the city centre (and a gem of Edwardian architecture, built 1910, see picture). AlthoughBethel is located almost directly across from Chertsey Street Baptist Church (the Old Baptist Chapel, as I've heard it called), Guildford's a big place, well able to support several churches. Bethel has a small, mostly elderly congregation, who are commited to the church and the Gospel. Services are at eleven in the morning (there is a prayer-meeting at ten that is well attended) and six in the evening. The evening service is followed by fellowship in the house next door to the chapel.


The History of a denomination: X.

The Assembly of 1909 saw at last the beginning of a movement that had been preparing for some time. No longer would the advocates of Union with the Church of Scotland be content with opposing disestablishment motions that were apparently directed against the Church of Scotland itself. Now they would be the leaders. With Dr. Hutton dead it seemed the Disestablishment cause had been fatally weakened.
The Moderator of the 1909 Assembly, Dr. Archibald Henderson of Crieff, was an enthuiastic supporter of the movement towards union with the Church of Scotland. A former Free Churchman, he had been pastor of the United Free Church in Crieff since 1862 (when it was of course the Free Church of Scotland).
The Assembly was required once again to appoint a Principal for New College, and to appoint a Professor of New Testament, since Marcus Dods, who had held both these posts, had died a broken and disappointed man. There were some who looked to A.R. MacEwen, the historian and Rainy's successor in the Church History Chair, as the natural next principal. But the support for Dr. Whyte of Edinburgh was overwhelming, and it was decided to appoint, for only the second time in the history of New College, a principal from outside. The last such man had been Dr. Whyte's predecessor at Free St. George's, Dr. Robert S. Candlish. Whyte himself was unwilling to accept the office, but he was pressed and at last consented.

The great event of THIS Assembly was the answer to the Church of Scotland's invitation the previous year. The initial aim of the Church of Scotland seemed to be co-operation, with union condidered the end of a long process (as indeed it proved to be). Dr. Henderson felt that this was not going far enough! He was one of many who saw that the existing situation was untenable. Here were two churches practically identical in every way, yet they were two. The issue between them was on the matter of connection with the state. Therefore he moved that the Assembly did not regard conference or co-operation as offering the path best fitted to lead to union, but they were ready to enter into unrestricted conference with the Church of Scotland on the existing situation and bars to Union. The motion was unanimously adopted with cheers and loud applause.
The next day (21st May) saw a sign of things to come. Both Assemblies sat down together in the High Kirk of St. Giles to commemmorate the birth of John Calvin four hundred years before. It was seen as a prophecy of things to come.
Alas! Calvinism was in short supply in both Assemblies, and the poison of liberalism was already established.
Within a week the Church of Scotland had replied to the United Free Church motion, accepting the proposal.
It arrived on the night of the Church and State report. There too was another sign of the change. The House was thin, the galleries more than half empty. Time had moved on, leaving the Church and State committee (really the disestablishment committee) an irrelevance.

God willing, next time we shall see how the movement for union progressed through 1910


Thursday, January 18, 2007

The History of a denomination: IX.

The United Free Church Assembly of 1908 was presided over by Robert Laws of Livingstonia, the veteran missionary, in the Moderatorial chair. Welcoming him to the chair, Dr. M'Crie joked that, "They looked foward to a very amicable, well-ordered and peaceful Assembly, inasmuch as it was to be an Assembly under the reign of Laws." Dr. Laws often had to suffer jokes on his name, although on one occasion the joke was on another. A lawyer who was not familiar with the United Free Church missionary, seeing on a list a book entitled 'Laws of Livingstonia' had ordered it and been most upset to discover it was not an obscure legal treatise but a missionary biography!
Much of the Assembly was, of course, taken up with the usual business matters, but there were a few very important developments. The first was the introduction of a kind of 'Social Gospel' view in the report of the Home Mission and Life and Work committees. Horrified (justifiably so) by unemployment levels and by poverty, it was urged that social service was almost a necessary preliminary to the Gospel. What was the point, it was argued, of preaching the Gospel to people in these conditions? Surely their living conditions had to be improved first, so that the Gospel seed could grow in the slums of Glasgow and Edinbugh?
Is this wrong? Certainly it is! It is, as George Reith of Edinburgh noted, an invesion of the Bible's teaching and a subtle incursion of materialistic philosophy into the Church. 'Improve his surroundings and you will improve the man' says this philosophy. To which we have to reply that it is all backwards. No, improve the man and he will improve his surroundings.' The Gospel is addressed to the outcasts of society, the offscourings. Some United Free Church ministers had made theirs a middle-class religion. Have we done the same? Others had adopted the philosophy of socialism, thinking of human social welfare, as George Reith put it, "in terms that would be equally applicable to a well-conducted piggery." (p. 94).
The Church and State debate (one of our special topics in this series) was noteworthy for the large number of elders who participated, mostly opposed to the report, which once again reccommended disestablishment. THe old breed of disestablishment enthusiasts were dying, and they were being replaced by men who were first for UNION, not disestablishment. A number of motions that would have had the effect of putting disestablishment out of the question were moved but not accepted. The status quo remained, but it was evident it could not do so for long. Dr. Hutton was enraged, declaring he had nothing to say to 'the Establishment'. But it was a rearguard action. Hutton's attempt to bar religious instruction from the Church's teacher training colleges after they had been handed to the state was defeated.
And the great event of the Assembly was an official letter from the Church of Scotland Assembly inviting the other Presbyterian Churches of Scotland to a friendly conference on the ecclesiastical condition of the country with a view to closer fellowship and co-operation.
At once the Old Guard rushed to attack it. But their day was over. Instead a committee was set up to consider the proposal. Great cheers greeted the almost unanimous passage of the motion to establish the committee.
As if as an omen, Dr. Hutton died before the Assembly was over. His day, and the day of those like him, was over.

God willing, next time we shall consider the 'ever memorable' Assembly of 1909


Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The History of a denomination: VIII.

On 22nd December 1906 (see this blog passim) Dr. Robert Rainy had died in Australia. He was buried in Edinburgh on 7th March 1907. He had been a towering presence over the Free Church Assembly and latterly the United Free Assembly for decades, and what his absence meant cannot easily be explained. But on the other hand, without Rainy the disestablishment party in the United Free Church was further weakened.
The Moderator of the 1907 Assembly was Dr. Charles George M'Crie of Ayr, the grandson of Thomas M'Crie the biographer of Knox, and the third in a line of historians. As such it was hardly surprising he did not follow Dr. Hutton's example in dress. M'Crie was not as orthodox as his grandfather, but he had a long ministry in Ayr, where he had been for thirty years when he was elected United Free Church Moderator.
The Assembly Hall was now officially theirs, as was New College, although some rare books had vanished from the New College Library. This was blamed on the 'Wee Frees', but the books later turned up concealed in a ventilator, having apparently been hidden there by a worried librarian before the Free Church took possession and then forgotten about, but we digress.
The greatest question before the Assembly was the question of who ought to be the new Principal at New College. Although Rainy had been a great leader, there was a feeling that the Principal of New College should not be the unofficial archbishop of the United Free Church the way Rainy had been. The names that finally came up were Alexander Whyte, not a Professor in New College but the minister of Free St. George's, one of the leading Edinburgh churches, and Marcus Dods, the liberal professor of New Testament in New College (see this Blog passim). The choice of the Assembly fell on Professor Dods, who was declared from the floor to be quite orthodox, although his published works say something different. Apparently the United Free Church orthodoxy was something rather different from the old Free Church version.
The question of the Aberdeen College came up yet again, as the retirement of Robert Johnstone, Professor of New Testament at Aberdeen, created a reason to question the need of the college. There was a huge debate, but at last it came down on the side of keeping the Aberdeen College open.
1907 saw another great milestone in the co-operation of the United Free Church and the Church of Scotland, as their Calcutta missions were effectively merged. Yet the Church and State Committee continued to push for disestalishment, sending a memorial to the Prime Minister, Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, reminding him of his 'duties and opportunities' in regard to disestablishment. This was done without consulting the Church, and it was objected to in a way it never would have been in the United Presbyterian Church. Dr. Hutton and his associates could not see that times had changed, and their fervour for disestablishment was no longer the mood of the Church, but it was a liability. When the mood was towards union, they were seen as promoting dissention and strife. As a Free Church minister who preferred English exile to the Scottish disestablishment strife wrote in the late 19th century: "In the proposal to disestablish the Church of Scotland I see nothing but an ignoble sectarian temper" (Donald Fraser, D.D). More and more in the United Free Church were coming to the same conclusion. In his closing address Dr. M'Crie dwelt on Presbyterian unions in the colonies, and his hope for reunion in Scotland. Reuinion, he said, was coming, although there might have to be quite a wait for it.

He, not Hutton, represented the future. How that hope of reunion grew will be our subject, God willing, next time.


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The History of a denomination: VII.

In May 1906 the United Free Church Assembly was back in the Assembly Hall in the Citadel on the Mound, although the hall was still officially the property of the Free Church of Scotland. The non-uniting minority had in fact gained their point - their legal title to the name 'the Free Church of Scotland'. It would be untrue to say that they did not also desire the Citadel, the great symbol of the Free Church, but as a commission had been set up to divide the property of the pre-union Free Church on the basis of who could use it, it was clear New College and the Assembly Hall were going straight back to the United Frees.
The Moderator of the 1906 United Free Assembly was the colourful champion of disestablishment, Rev. Dr. George C. Hutton, the old United Presbyterian leader.
It was the custom of the old Free Church with its claim to be indeed the Church of Scotland, Free, for the Moderator to wear court dress, breeches, white stockings, a shirt with ruffles on the sleeves, and so on. Illustrated in the rather grainy picture below:

This costume was worn out of respect for the Royal Commissioner, who was there representing the monarch. George Gutton would have none of that. He turned up wearing a simple Geneva gown over his ordinary ministerial dress. That was fine, there was no rule requiring him to wear the traditional robes, and as they had to be made specially for each Moderator it might be argued he had better things to do with his money. But he began his address with an explanation; he intended no retrospective criticism, he said, he was only 'Dispensing with any relic or symbol, real or supposed, of obsolete court connection.'
Which was, as George Reith of Edinburgh notes, a retrospecive criticism.
Encouraged by Hutton's Moderatorship and a Liberal government in Westminster, the Church and State Committee ventured on their most aggressive report since the Union, not only renewing the Assembly's former instruction, but asking instructions 'to watch over the development of the question, and take such steps from time to time as they may find suitable to protect and advance its claims." George Hutton saw it as quite moderate (no pun intended), but others in the Assembly thought it was excessive. It seemed to be a step back to the old United Presbyterian pro-disestablishment position. Some of the younger men moved an addition to the motion suggesting that the Church situation in Scotland might be settled by agreement between the Churches, something Robert Rainy, in his last Assembly, firmly quashed. Any conference on the matter between the Churches he declared to be 'futile'. It seemed Disestablishment and Liberalism had renewed their strength - but the appearance was illusory.
Another major argument blew up over the use of 'unfermented wine' (AKA grape juice) in the Assembly communion services. The fervour of the total abstainers of that day would surprise many - as would their arguments to prove that the wine used at the Last Supper was not alcoholic (although the aruments are still used by a few today). It may also surprise some that Presbyterians would be against drinking alcoholic wine!
The question was deftly dealt with by being sent to a committee.
The 1906 Assembly also had to deal with the Free Church teacher training colleges, which were in the process of being transferred from the Church to the Provincial Education Committees. There was concern that religious instruction should be maintained in them, provoking (how justly we will not say) the wrath and indignation of the Moderator, who came down from his chair to enter an impassioned protest that all religious instruction should be excluded from the national schools and colleges, and provided only by the church.
Some of you may read that again. Could a CHRISTIAN MINISTER really have said that? Yes. Dr. Hutton's extreme disestablishmentism played into the hands of the Secularists.

In the 1907 Assembly there was to be a great difference - Rainy was dead. But more of 1907, God willing, next time.


Monday, January 15, 2007

Monday Quote

1.From Heavenly Jerusalem's towers,
The Path through the desert they trace;
And every affliction they suffered
Redounds to the glory of grace;
Their look they cast back on the tempests,
On fears, on grim death and the grave,
Rejoicing that now they're in safety,
Through Him that is mighty to save.
2. And we, from the wilds of the desert,
Shall flee to the lands of the blest;
Life's tears shall be turned to rejoicing,
Its labours and toils into rest.
There we shall find refuge eteral,
From sin, from affliction, from pain,
And in the sweet love of our Saviour,
A joy without end shall attain.
David Charles (1762-1834)
Translated by Lewis Edwards (1809-87)


Friday, January 12, 2007

Ministers Behaving Badly. The Colonial Minister

A Presbyterian minister in one of the Australian goldfields of the 19th century was visited by a man who wanted his child baptized. The man sprinkled this request with many oaths and curses. The minister told him:
"I can baptize only the children of Christians, and it is evident you are not a Christian."
The gold-digger was enraged: "Either you will baptize my child or I'll give you a thrashing!" was the meaning of what he said, though he said it in a far more colourful manner.
"Well," the minister replied resolutely, "I can't baptize your child, so if you mean to thrash me you might as well do it now, and have it over."
The prospector agreed, and the fight began. In a couple of minutes the burly prospector was lying flat on his back gasping and the athlectic young minister was still standing. The prospector got up slowly and eyed this example of muscular Christianity.
"You're a better man than I thought you were," he admitted.
The man was influenced for good by the minister afterwards.

[Adapted from G. Reith 'Reminiscences of the United Free Church General Assembly' P. 69]


Thursday, January 11, 2007

The History of a denomination: VI.

The United Free Assembly of 1905 did not meet in the Assembly Hall at New College. The Law Lords' decision in the Free Church appeal case had awarded the name of the Free Church of Scotland (which readers are reminded is what the case was actually about, not money) to the 'Wee Frees', the present-day Free Church. It was decided that the Free Church majority had legally joined the United Presbyterian Church en masse and therefore the Free Church property belonged to those who had not done so.
The howls of anguish from the United Free Church side may be imagined. It was avowed that the Lord Chancellor's nefarious plot to despoil the United Free Church had succeeded. The small body of Free Churchmen who had been awarded the property, it was said, would have no way to use it, they would fail completely... all sorts of libels and slanders, which we shall not repeat here but brush under the carpet of history, were uttered and circulated. The 'Legal Free Church' as the UF Church contemptuously nicknamed those who desired to uphold their right to a noble name, were depicted as grasping, rapacious Highlanders who wanted to take everything. Panics were created, the faculty of the Glasgow and Aberdeen Colleges took fright that they would be turned out of their buildings...
They were not. In fact the Free Church was most interested in establishing their identity with the Free Church of the Disruption. Had they not done this they would have been turned out of their churches even when no-one in the congregation supported the United Free Church. The UF Church was not interested in compromise, and their reaped the result. Part of the identity of the Disruption Free Church, however, was the 'Citadel', New College and the Free Assembly Hall on The Mound. Thus when the time came for the Assemblies of 1905 it was the Free Church Assembly who met in the vast Assembly Hall (one hundred in a space built for fifteen hundred) and the United Free Church had to meet in the old United Presbyterian Synod Hall (pictured at the end of its existence). Old Uinted Presbyterian ministers ensured that old Free Churchmenen did not get lost in the labyrinthine passages of the building - which had been adapted from several distinct buildings, including a theatre.

Once again Robert Rainy was Moderator. A masterly leader (some said 'evil genuis') Rainy was seen as the man for the hour. A great deal of shouting was done, mostly denouncing the other side (over whom some had been gloating in anticipation only two years previously). Over this we think it best to cast a veil. Mr. Reith thought differently in 1933, but some of the things that were said about the Free Church we think were foolishly said.
The Church and State debate was further reduced now that the possibility of reuinon witrh the Church of Scotland was becoming a real possibility. The old guard such as Rainy saw disestablishment as the only way to that, but younger men were beginning to think differently. What if they could have freedom AND establishment of some sort?
But really the 'Free Church Crisis' gripped the Assembly. Of the outcome we shall read, God willing, next time.


Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The history of a denomination: V.

The Assembly of 1904 met under a cloud. The Free Church case had not yet been decided by the Law Lords, as Lord Shand, one of the number who were dealing with the case, had died unexpectedly. In the events that followed Lord Shand would be unaccountably canonized by the United Free Church, but more of that anon.
There were whispers in the Assembly Hall that, for nefarious reasons of their own, the Law Lords were engineering a verdict unfavourable to the UF Church. The Lord Chancellor was openly said to be the evil genius behind this conspiracy (although we are glad to report that no-one actually suspected him of having Lord Shand bumped off). Lord Shand's favourable opinion, found in writing among his papers after his death, it was rumoured, was being supressed.
So the Assembly were apprehensive. The triumphalism of 1903 was gone, replaced by fears that they would be dispossessed by a nefarious government conspiracy (the thought that the 'Wee Frees' might be in the right never seems to have occurred to the United Free Assembly).
The Moderator of the 1903 Assembly was Rev. Robert Gordon Balfour of the New North Church, Edinburgh. Balfour was a cousin of Principal Rainy and a keen golfer who used to play golf with George Reith of Edinburgh.
The Colleges were the major issue in 1903. As well as the matter of the Natural Science Chairs (which were vacant) there was a vacancy in the Chair of Systematic Theology in New College following the resignation of Professor Laidlaw (author of 'The Bible Doctrine of Man' rept. Stoke-on-Trent, Tentmaker 2006, a book we would reccomend to all our readers). Laidlaw had held the Chair since 1881, and he was a deeply respected man with, by 1903, more involvement in para-church movements than in the Free Church. A convinced evangelical, he could not feel at home in a church that accepted liberalism, but he loved the Free Church too much to leave it. Dean Stanley once heard Laidlaw preach when Laidlaw was a pastor in Perth and the Dwan commented, "I have this day listened to the best sermon I ever heard by the ugliest man I have ever seen." We provide a picture so our readers can judge for themselves whether the Dean was just or not.
The Natural Science Chairs, originally concieved when it was feared the Universities would be closed to Free Churchmen in the years after the Disruption, were thought by some to be an anachronism. Their second use, to defend the Bible doctrine of creation, was already derided. Some thought they ought to be supressed, but then there was the matter of the classrooms and museums. Besides, the Glasgow Chair had been occupied by the famed Henry Drummond (we at Free St. George's have read most of Drummond's books, and we do not have a high view of him. For what we think of him see blog entries passim).
Eventually it was decided to appoint ONE professor for both Glasgow and Edinburgh, Dr. J. Y. Simpson. It was objected by some that he was unordained, but then it was pointed out there there are more important qualifications than Ordination for a Professor of Natural Science (and more than a class medal in natural science from school, but this is not about Henry Drummond).
There were two candidates for the Edinburgh Systematic Chair, Dr. H. R. Mackintosh of Aberdeen and Dr. John W. Oman of Alnwick. A large majority decided on Dr. Mackintosh.
There was also an attack mounted on the Aberdeen College by a small group of men. They pointed out that it was very small, had few students, and cost rather a lot of money. However only two presbyteries moved the question, and so the matter dropped there.
The Church and State report (really the Diseastablishment report) came up as usual, and Dr. George Hutton was as bellicose as ever. The result was a foregone conclusion - the UF Church once again declared its support for disestablishment. On the other side there was a spirited move to have the Disestablishment question dismissed from the Church Courts.
What was notable, however, was that no longer was the hall crowded for this debate. The disestablishment question was going off the boil! What was more, the calls for the Church of Scotland to be disendowed had died down. Even some supporters of disestablishment now opposed disendowment. The supporters of disestablishment had hoped that the union of 1900, creating a free Church almost as large as (some UF Churchmen said larger than) the Church of Scotland, would form a new base for an aggressive disestablishment campaign. It had not. Instead it had created in many UF hearts the wish of Dr. Cameron Lees, that this union should be the first step in the formation of a reunited Church of Scotland. Disestablishment was a dying cause! One symptom of this was a motion that came before the Foreign Missions Committee that the United Free and Church of Scotland missions in Calcutta should be united.
There were other debates, but our interest lies with the matters we have already mentioned.

By the time of the 1905 Assembly the Law Lords would have reached their decision. What that was we shall see, God willing, next time.


Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The history of a denomination: IV.

1903 saw the General Assembly of the United Free Church meeting in the reconstructed Free Assembly Hall in Edinburgh, which had been enlarged to vastly increase the building's seating capacity. Other improvements had also been made, chief among them the provision of two small lecterns at the front of the Hall for speakers. These lecterns were only ever seen in 1903, subsequently they disappeared mysteriously.
The Moderator, Dr. Gerge Robson of Perth, came from a family that was remarkable for the numbers it had contributed to the United Presbyterian ministry. His father and brother had previously been United Presbyterian moderators, and two other relatives of his had shared the honour.
The 1903 Assembly made a worrying discovery. It had been anticipated (it always is) that the union of the two churches, churches with their own foreign missions and many supporters of missions at home, would lead to an increase in donations for mission. Instead giving had actually DECREASED substantially, and while the missionaries in the field were pressing on and extending the work, it appeared that the people at home were too many of the apathetic. Either that or some people had supposed that there would be some cash infusion to missions from the Union. Perhaps people from both uniting denominations supposed the other's missions would all be given up and the income diverted to THEIR missions (a bizarre leap of logic, but possible). Either way, Union had not brought the revival some had hoped it would. The Assembly was horrified, and none more so than the noble moderator, whose family had supplied many foreign missionaries to the United Presbyterian Church.
Worse followed. Not only was foreign mission giving down, but the Presbyteries had turned down the great home-mission scheme proposed by the Glasgow Assembly.
Dr. George C. Hutton, the great anti-establishment leader of the United Presbyterians, was much in evidence at the Assembly, George Reith thought he was like a terrier - a very United Presbyterian Terrier. Any move that seemed to threaten the United Presbyterian position he opposed - even when it was in the direction of compromise between Free Church and United Presbyterian practice, or when his proposals were just plain silly. When the Committee on Romanism and Ritualism reported, Hutton declared that the advance of Roman Catholicism and the planned Roman Catholic Universit y for Ireland, Hutton laid the whole blame on the 'Established Church'. When James Orr proposed a motion that the Assembly welcomed all moves towards Presbyterian union, Hutton objected. The only body with which such union could seriously have been contemplated was the Church of Scotland.
The Church and State debate once again ended, after rather vicious debate, with a motion in favour of disestablishment.

And there was the matter of the Free Church minority. Since they were not there a great deal of pure vitriol was spoken of them and of Highland religion in general. Much was said that was neither fair nor Christian, and which the present author is unwilling to repeat. Suffice to say that the United Free Church was looking forward to turning the troublesome Highlanders out of their manses and Churches and stripping them of the name of the Free Church of Scotland.

What actually happened we shall see, God willing, in our report of the 1905 Assembly.


Monday, January 08, 2007

Honourable Mention

Taking a short break from D. R. Davies, but continuing on the theme of the rise of liberalism in the Welsh theological colleges:

It has long been the practice of theological colleges to send their students out to preach on Sundays in different chapels. The South Wales Baptist College in Cardiff (pictured) is one such institution. Founded on the Word of God, it has been taken over by liberalism. As this was happening, so the students began to subtly preach another gospel.

One Baptist Church in the South Wales valleys held fast to that which is good. The deacons, seated in the 'Sedd Fawr' (big seat) in front of the Pulpit, there to support the preacher with prayer and exhortation, werre converts from the Revival of 1904-5. They would listen to the morning sermon of the student, and if he did not preach the Gospel of Christ, they would pay him and send him home there and then. The evening sermon would be the Gospel.

We must not be ashamed of the Gospel, nor should we be ashamed of defending that Gospel. Liberalism triumphed because good Christians did not guard pulpits.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

D. R. Davies XI: Southport

David Richard Davies' next Pastorate was at Hawkeshhead Street Church, Southport; '...a pleasing little building in the Gothic style, with a seating capactity of just over 400.' I had seen greater days, but there were very few churches in the 1920s of whom that could not be said. For this was the era in which the 'hearers' dropped away. There were one hundred members on the books at Hawkeshead Street Congregational Church, but the morning service averaged only thirty to forty. The evening meeting was in a healthier state, averaging eighty to a hundred. The Young People's Fellowship, held during the winter months, comprised between twenty-five and thirty, while the Sunday School; 'as is the rule in seaside towns [...] was less than the church membership." There was a single mid-week fellowship meeting and a Sunday afternoon Bible class. The church was, like that at Laodicea, neither not nor cold. Given the state of their new minister's heart, it could not be expected that he would improve matters.

But, while it is not possible to warm men's hearts by human actions alone, it is possible to create excitement, and by that excitement to move men's bodies. And D. R. Davies had determined to concentrate on the business of the church. He was to be the minister he had never been at Ravensthorpe. He began to read philosophy and theology properly. He also began to read contemporary literature, in order to be 'up-to-date.' While there were some complaints from older members of the congregation that their new minister's preaching was a bit 'Socialistic,' on the whole his ministry was accepted without murmur.

Davies also altered the mid-week meeting, which; '... was a miniature Sunday service, except that it was held in the schoolroom, and that one of the deacons used to take the prayer.' Davies changed the format into that of a popular lecture, his first series being "Prophets Ancient and Modern." This series was to start with Amos and end with George Bernard Shaw. The reader may draw their own conclusions from this. The series featured, among others, Paul, Augustine, Dante, Savonarola, Luther and St. Francis of Assisi; the modern prophets including Marx, the Welsh Atheist and Socialist Robert Owen, former Labour Party leader Keir Hardie, Dostoievsky, and the poet Francis Thompson. It was, as Davies later admitted 'a mixed lot.' He printed a syllabus and visited most of the congregation to encourage them to attend.

And it worked. Davies' enthusiasm and knowledge, coupled with his talents as a speaker pushed the attendance up from under fifteen to between sixty and seventy; something which added also to the sunday evening service. The little schoolroom was filled, a large number of young people being drawn in. In response to this, Davies: '...copied a practice of the famous Dr. R. F. Horton of Hampstead. On the last evening of each month, I delivered what I called a Monthly Lecture on a subject of topical interest.'

These things attracted the people Davies was looking to attract. While we may disagree with his choice of 'prophets,' it is not necessarily wrong to have a series of lectures which touch on historical as well as Biblicl themes. Nor is it wrong for a minister to deliver a talk on some topical matter, so long as he does not use the main Sunday meetings to do it. The problem with Davies was that the subjects in question showed a commitment to Socialism that ran far deeper than his commitment to Jesus Christ, a commitment that would be brought out by the turn of events just around the cormer. But before that, Davies was to be brought low. Just as he was about to start on his second series of mid-week lectures, "The Search for Eternal Life," when he was struck down with rheumatism. Davies spent most of the summer of 1925 on his back.

But far worse trouble was waiting round the corner.


Friday, January 05, 2007

The History of a denomination: III.

Owing to the need to enlarge the old Free Church Assembly Hall, the United Free Assembly of 1902 met in the St. Andrew's Halls, Glasgow (pictured). The main hall could hold 4'500 people, and the other parts of the huge building were used as offices and committee rooms. The Moderator, Dr. Robert Howie of Govan, addressed the Assembly on the matter of home missions.
The first pieve of business they were faced with was the retiral of George C.M. Douglas and George C. Hutton, who had been joint-principals of the United Free Church College, Glasgow, since the union of 1900. The two candidates for the post were James Orr and T.M. Lindsay, two towering intellects. Both were very capable men, but Dr. Lindsay was an old Free Churchman, and Orr had been United Presbyterian. It was feared that Lindsay would win because all the old Free Churchmen would vote for him. In fact, while Lindsay was elected, the voting was not on party lines, with men from both sections voting for both Candidates.
The other College vacancy was in Aberdeen, and that was filled by James Stalker.
Disestablishment remained a majotr issue, and oil was poured on the flames by Rev. T. J. Wheldon, Moderator-elect of the Presbyterian Church of Wales, who was a guest of the Assembly and who could not resist a few attacks on the Welsh Establishmet. Referring, for example, to the Welsh Bishops, and their claim to be descended from the Apostles, "If so, the descent is great," he said. This sort of thing is not helpful.

The great talking-point in the corridors and of the stairs (pictured) of the great St. Andrew's Halls was George Adam Smith's book. Certain Evangelical ministers (of whom Mr. Reith speaks most condescendingly) had sent a memorial to the Assembly advising of the dangerous teaching of the work.
George Adam Smith was a frank disbeliever in the miraculous element in especially the history of the Old Testament. He believed that the religion of Israel had evolved from polytheism, and that therefore much of Old Testament history was myth and legend. The bankrupt 'Documentary Hypothesis' was assumed to be true, and the Pentateuch rent into shreds cobbled together by an incompetent redactor who had not the sense to see contradictions that were obvious to th eye of a cultured Victorian. The idea that the Old Testament contained prophecies of Christ was ridiculed, and Isaiah 53 applied to Jeremiah. In short the book was one of the most advances productions of the 'Higher Criticism' (better, as James Begg put it, 'the Lower Scepticism').
The challenge to Smith was doomed. The United Free Church leaders had decided that absolute freedom should be allowed on the critical question, and so it was decided once again to fudge the issue.
The matter lies before us today. Will we allow theologians untrammelled freedom to call into question the inspiration of the Scriptures, or will we stand against them? That is not my decision alone, it belongs to all of us.

God willing, next time we shall consider the Assembly of 1903.


Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The history of a denomination: II.

The Assembly of 1901 met in the Assembly Hall at New College on Tuesday, 21st May. The first thing that ocurred to them was that the hall was too small.
Rainy's opening sermon contained a wonderful Rainyism, "there is something in all of us that objects to God." The phrase is too pithy to pass over in silence.
The old U.P. Synod and Free Assembly had not worked in quite the same way, and so it was decided that, until there was enough experience of working together for the new Assembly to evolve its own methods, things would be done as they had been in the Free Church Assembly.
The first matter that came before the Assembly was the election of Principal Rainy's successor as Professor of Church History in the New College, a chair Rainy had been forced to resign due to increasing infirmity. The candidates were Prof. T. M. Lindsay of Glasgow, who was already Professor of Church History there, Dr. James Stalker of Glasgow, Dr. A.R. MacEwen of Glasgow, Dr. D.D. Bannerman of Perth, and Mr. C. Anderson Scott of London. In fact the choice was between Lindsay and MacEwen. More, the question was whether MacEwen would be at Glasgow or Edinburgh, as he would have taken Lindsay's place had Lindsay gone to Edinburgh. Of course he did not, and Macewen was elected to the Chair at Edinburgh.
Dr. R.A. Watson of Dundee called the Assembly's attention to a very worrying book published by one of the church's professors, George Adam Smith (already notorious for having, as the Free Presbyterians put it, 'sawn Isaiah in sunder' and having questioned the inspiration of Old Testament Prophets). Entitled 'Modern Criticism and the Preaching of the Old Testament', it was of a similar character to Harry Emerson Fosdick's 'Modern Use of the Bible' (a title that lacks the letters A and B to make it truly accurate). Since Watson had not approached the Assembly in the proper manner the book was not considered that year.
The Anti-establishment party (who made up the majority of the United Free Church) were by no means pacified by the union. The 'Church and State' committee's report was the subject of serious debate, the minority pleading for the exclusion of Disestablishment from the church courts on the ground that it alienated the Church of Scotland. On the other side were those partisans of Disestablishment who never referred to the Church of Scotland as such, but only as 'the Established Church' - a custom unlikely to promote harmony between the two bodies. Disestablishment, they cried, was "a necessary step towards the relations between churches in Scotland which, we believe, are very widely desired."
Rainy just said "The union of Presbyterianism in Scotland is coming. Nothing, I think, can be more certain. But when it comes, it must come as a Free Church in a Free State." Both sides could agree with this, a characteristic that rendered the statement a classic piece of Rainy's churchmanship.

Next time, God willing, we shall look at the 1902 Assembly


Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The history of a denomination: I.

In 1900 the United Free Church of Scotland was formed by the union of the United Presbyterian Church and the majority of the Free Church of Scotland.
One of the members of that great uniting Assembly of 1900 was the Rev. George M. Reith of Edinburgh (not to be confused with Rev. George Reith of Glasgow, father of Lord Reith). For twenty-nine years George Reith was to edit the 'Blue Book', the official record of the Proceedings and Debates of the United Free Church. In 1933 he published a valuable work entitled 'Reminiscences of the United Free Church General Assembly (1900-1929). In this series it is my hope, God willing, to use Mr. Reith's book to sketch the changes that occurred in the United Free Church from its formation in 1900 as an aggressively Free Church body to the union of its majority with the Established Church of Scotland in 1929.

George Reith was not the Clerk of the Assembly in the Union Assembly of 1900, but he was a member of it. As one of the Free Church majority, he gathered with his fellows in the courtyard of New College (the Free Assembly Hall was locked to prevent the minority taking possession of it and refusing to vacate). It was raining and so the delegates carried umbrellas. Fortnately the rain stopped so that (as Reith records), the crowds "were spared the sight of a testudo of spread umbrellas" as the procession moved to the Waverley Market, the only building in Edinburgh large enough to contain both the Free and United Presbyterian Assemblies and the audience of seven thousand.
After the oldest members of the Free and U.P. Assemblies moved and seconded the uniting act, Dr. Robert Rainy, Principal of New College Edinburgh, was elected first moderator of the United Free Church of Scotland. In his address Rainy voiced the general feeling that this union was but one step in a wider union.
One of the most telling parts of the Uniting Assembly was Joseph Parker's speech. The pastor of London's City Temple and representative of the Congregational Union, could not resist a dig at the Church of Scotland in his speech. A decided English Nonconformist and supporter of Disestablishment, he declared that "it was unbecoming of the bride of Christ to be the concubine of Caesar." A loud murmur of protest broke out, and the remark was excised from the 'Blue Book' (This is another indication that the Blue Books do not represent the full proceedings, but an edited and sometimes sanitised version).
There was no official Church of Scotland delegate. Both Free and United Presbyterian ministers had been involved in attempts to disestablish the Church of Scotland, and therefore relations between the three churches had remained dstinctly cool (one may have treated someone badly in the past, but one is unlikely to change one's attitude if the offended parties anre busily engaged in a plot to burn one's house down). The minister of St. Giles', Dr. Cameron Lees, took it upon himself to be there, however, in the interests of his Church. Indeed, he suggested that there might yet be a wider union!

Thus the Uniting Assembly passed. Both attitudes, the agressive antiestablishmentarianism of Joseph Parker and the uniting temper of Dr. Lees, spoke of things to come.

God Willing, we shall look at the 1901 Assembly next time.