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But this matter of patronage has always been offensive to the Scottish people, particularly to the more intelligent and pious, as tending to corrupt the church, and as virtually superseding popular choice, since it rarely happens that the nominee of the patron, be he who he may, fails to secure his induction. Indeed when the presentation has been obtained, in the estimation of all parties the induction followed as a matter of course. So offensive has patronage been, that it stands branded in the standard books as coming from the pope's kirk;' it produced the Secession 110 years ago; and twenty years after, the Relief, a large body of Presbyterian dissenters, followed on the same ground. To modify, if not to remove, patronage, therefore, was thought one of the best things the church could do to repopularize itself. With this view the famous Veto law of 1834 was passed by the Assembly. Our readers will be quite in the dark on the whole Scottish agitation, unless they comprehend this Veto law, and the change in ecclesiastical arrangements which it was intended to accomplish.
According to former practice, after the presentation was received, the parishioners were invited to call the candidate, that is, to subscribe a document inviting him to become their minister. As the parishioners knew well enough that the thing was arranged independently of them, few in general subscribed the call, which confessedly had become a sort of mock-form, preserving the appearance of election, when the thing did not exist. For if the presentation was legal, and no objection to the character of the candidate was made, his induction followed, irrespective of the call.
The Veto law was introduced for the purpose of increasing the popular influence. It was urged, that it had always been held as a principle in the church, (however widely that principle had been departed from in practice,) that no one should be intruded into a parish, contrary to the will of the congregation; and to provide for this, it was enacted by the assembly, that, provided the male heads of families, being communicants, should negative the appointment of the patron, should give their Veto against the presentee, even without assigning any reasons whatever for his rejection, the presentation should be set aside, and another candidate should be presented by the patron, in room of the unfortunate man, who had fallen under the Veto of the people.Subordinate provisions were made by this law; but such is the substance of it.
Our readers will perceive that a considerable change was thus made in the practice of the church of Scotland. It is true, popular rights were not conceded; no parish could choose, or even name a candidate, till the patron chose; free and unfettered election was not thought of, and has been denounced by the most zealous Veto men; only a small portion of the parishioners, the male heads of families being communicants, were enfranchised by their lordly superiors, who thus took upon them to sit in judgment on the rights of christian brethren, and to grant or withhold, or to dole out their spiritual privileges in such mutilated fragments, as they thought fit; election, in a word, was granted to none, but solely the power of negation to a few. Still this law was a check on patronage which did not exist before ; and the check, being new, was expected to please the people; and, being slight, was not expected to give great offence to the patron. Such is non-intrusion, let our readers bear in mind. This is Veto, let them remember. England scarcely yet knows the sounds, certainly is at little pains to catch their sense; but every ear in Scotland has been deafened, from Berwick-on-Tweed to John o'Groat's house, with the grating sounds, Veto and non-intrusion, for six long years.
The Veto being thus on its legs, what was to be done with the non-parish ministers of the church, was a question of pressing interest. There are about 930 parishes in Scotland; but there are other churches connected with the Establishment. These latter are of four classes : the old chapels-of-ease, amounting to about 60—the parliamentary churches, chiefly in the Highlands, in number about 40—the new extension churches, approaching to nearly 200—and a few who have gone over to the church recently, from a small party known by the name of the Old Light Burghers. All these had two important peculiarities; none of their pastors had a sitting or voice in any church court-and they had, and still have, no state endowment, (with the exception of the parliamentary churches,) but are supported entirely on the voluntary principle. A great change has been effected in the status of all the four classes, by the assembly, who took it upon them, without any legal sanction, first to assign to each, local districts, which they call parishes quoad sacra, and next, to introduce them into all church courts, having the same status and power with the ministers of the old parishes. By this arrangement various ends are contemplated. They are all, or nearly all, Veto and non-intrusion men, and thus the ascendancy of that party in the courts, especially in the assembly, is secured over their formidable opponents, the Moderates, who formerly prevailed—these newly elevated brethren have a zeal and an influence, which they would not otherwise have possessed—the arrangement pleases a numerous class of 'the laity, and thus the Establishment is still more popular‘ized'-and last, and chiefly, a claim is strengthened for legal endowments to those new men, whose status is equally lofty in all other respects with those who were endowed before.
It is to be remarked, however, that the legality of these arrangements
remains to be tried, and probably will be tried soon, in the court of session, by which authority it is nearly certain, the whole arrangement will be set aside, the assembly having stretched its authority ultra vires.
Let us now advert to the other, and still more vital question of the spiritual independence now claimed by the church. The general assembly passed the Veto law, and made these arrangements respecting new parishes and their ministers. But had they the power? The spiritualindependence men boldly assert their own inherent supremacy. They affirm that Jesus Christ is the only Head of the church-that they have derived from Him the undoubted right to manage the affairs of the church of Scotland, Veto and all, without any control whatever by the secular powers that in passing their Veto they acted in the exercise of these powers delegated to them by Jesus Christ—that neither judges, parliament, nor queen, have any right to interfere with them in such matters—and that, rather than surrender this spiritual independence of theirs, they will suffer the loss of all things.' On the other hand, it was pleaded in the assembly, that they were exceeding their powers—that were they only a christian church, unsupported by the state, they might do what they pleased, but that as an Establishment, they existed by civil statute, and by that statute were bound and astricted'--that to this authority they had themselves submitted, and received their status and their emoluments, on the fidelity of their obediencethat patronage is patrimony, civil property, bought and sold, and any part of which, or the value of which, the general assembly have no more right to invade, than to seize the park of a proprietor, and parcel it out amongst the parishioners—that if in this way they altered one part of the compact betwixt them and the state, they might alter others, or the whole—and that by following the path they had marked out for themselves, they exposed themselves to civil pains, and their whole establishment to jeopardy or ruin.
The dispute was not long confined within the walls of the assembly. There were patrons in plenty, who knew their rights, and were resolved to assert them, in spite of these claims of spiritual independence and supremacy on the part of the church. In illustration of this, the two following important cases deserve special notice.
The one is the famous Auchterarder case. The patron of this parish is the Earl of Minnoul, by whom a Mr. Young, a licentiate of the church, was presented to the living. He was proposed to the parishioners in terms of the Veto law, and in the new ecclesiastical jargon of the north, had the misfortune to be vetoed. But his lordship disregarded the law of the assembly, and so did Mr. Young, the presentee. His lordship would not
present another, and he and Mr. Young brought the case before the highest Scottish tribunal--the court of session, who after long and patient hearing, found not only that the presentation was valid, but that the Veto law of the church was illegal, inasmuch as it affected the patrimonial rights of patrons, over which the church has no power; and appointed the Presbytery of Auchterarder to take Mr. Young on trial, in order to his induction. The case was brought by appeal to the House of Lords, by whose authority the sentence of the court of session was confirmed. Here was direct collision betwixt the law and the church, the former setting aside as illegal a law of the latter, and appointing the church to act in opposition to its own law. The independents were roused. The Veto law was a law of the church, with which, in their creed, the state had no right to interfere--the act of ordination is a spiritual act, with the appointment of which the civil powers have nothing to do—' we will not ordain Mr. Young,' they said, ' let judges and peers do their worst.' And they have neither ordained him to the ministry, nor taken him on trial, up to this hour; in consequence of which Mr. Young has brought an action of damages against the Presbytery for £10,000, which will be decided by a jury some of these days; and on which Lord Cunningham, one of the judges, has already given an opinion from the bench, in favor of Mr. Young, arguing his case with uncommon clearness and
power. The other case is that of Marnoch, in the Presbytery of Strathbogie, one still more complicated, embarrassing, and stirring. So far back as 1837, a Mr. Edwards was presented to the parish of Marnoch, but was vetoed by a majority of the male heads of families. Had the law of the Assembly been obeyed by the patron, the presentee, or the presbytery, Mr. Edwards would have been set aside, and another candidate presented. But these parties were not like-minded with the parishioners, or the Assembly. Mr. Edwards brought his case not before his ecclesiastical superiors, but their superiors as well as his, the Court of Session, praying the court to find his presentation valid, and to secure to him its legitimate consequencesinduction to the living. The court decided in his favor, and declared that the presbytery, notwithstanding the law of the church, were bound and articled' by a prior law of the state, to take the candidate on trial in order to his induction. Of the eleven ministers of which the presbytery consists, seven agreed to take Mr. Edwards on trial, thus preferring obedience to the law of the land, to obedience to the law of their church.
How does the church act? The General Assembly, our readers may not be aware, meets only once a year; but they appoint a large committee to meet quarterly, which committee is known by the name of The Commission, and to which body very ample
powers are delegated by the Assembly. By the authority of this body, the seven ministers composing the majority of the presbytery of Strathbogie, were suspended from all their functions, the minority of four were constituted the presbytery of Strathbogie, and Mr. Edwards was prohibited from acknowledging the majority by appearing before them for trial. The seven ministers, meanwhile, not liking this said suspension, apply to the Court of Session to set it aside by interdict, which the court does ; in consequence of which these suspended presbyters, setting at nought the authority of the Commission and the Assembly, exercise all their functions as if no sentence of suspension had passed against them, take Mr. Edwards on trial, and declare him duly qualified for induction into the church and parish of Marnoch. This happened early in 1840. Not wishing to be over-hasty in their proceedings, and possibly hoping that some expedient might be devised for healing the breach betwixt them and the Assembly, the seven brethren delayed the induction of Mr. Edwards till after the next meeting of the Assembly. This took place, as usual, in May; great excitement prevailed; the seven suspended brethren would yield nothing; their case was again remitted to the Commission to proceed against them by libel, with a view to their deposition, should they remain contumacious; and the Commission was also enjoined to libel Mr. Edwards for disobedience to the church. Meanwhile the ministers are continued in their suspended state, and others are appointed to supply their pulpits, as if they were vacant.
What refuge had Mr. Edwards and his seven friends against these ecclesiastical fulminations ? The broad shield of the law. The sentences of the Court of Session have proved an ample protection against the sentences of the General Assembly. From the former authority the seven brethren obtain an interdict, by which the delegates of the Assembly appointed to occupy their pulpits are prohibited from preaching either in their churches, school-houses, or church-yards; and they continue to preach and to hold meetings of presbytery as before. Still they are in no haste to induct Mr. Edwards ; but he himself does not choose to delay. He again applies to the power that has already protected both him and the suspended seven, praying it to appoint the presbytery to do their duty, otherwise to pay him large pecuniary damages. With all legal form and authority the presbytery are ordered “forthwith to admit and
receive the said Mr. John Edwards as minister of the church
and parish of Marnoch according to law, and to take all the ' necessary and competent steps for that purpose.' Obsequious to the stern law, and disregarding their church, the seven brethren appoint his ordination; and amidst crowds of onlookers, much altercation, and not a few missiles from an excited