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



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