§ Order for Second Reading read.
THE LORD-ADVOCATE (Mr. SCOTT DICKSON, Glasgow, Bridgton)
Sir, in rising to move the Second Reading of this Bill, I think it would be desirable that I should explain some of the main provisions of the Bill, but also it would suit the convenience of the House if, in view of negotiations and arrangements and conversations which have taken place, I should also indicate some of the alterations which the Government are prepared to consider in the terms of the Bill as they now stand. I am quite aware that perhaps, strictly speaking, that is not entirely in accordance with the rules of a Second Reading speech, but I am sure everyone in the House will regard it as 1004 eminently desirable for the convenience of those interested in the question. May I remind hon. Members who are not thoroughly well versed in this Scotch ecclesiastical position, of some of the circumstances which led up to the condition of affairs necessitating, in the judgment of the Government, the introduction of this Bill. Prior to 1900, in addition to the Church of Scotland, there were in Scotland two large Presbyterian Churches, known as the Free Church and the United Presbyterian Church. In 1900 a union was. arranged between those two bodies. The large majority of the Free Church was in favour of the union, but there was a. small protesting minority, and the union having taken place in October, 1900, it was followed by an action, raised at the instance of the minority, to have it found and declared that the union was ultraviresof the Free Church, and that legal effect could not be given to it. On the 1005 other hand, the majority took proceedings in Court with a view to having it determined that the minority, who had retained some few of the churches, some twenty-six or twenty-seven, were no longer members of the Free Church and ought to be evicted from the churches and houses they then possessed. Judgment was given in favour of those supporting the union in the Scotch Courts, but in the House of Lords this judgment was reversed, and two passages from the judgment I should like to refer to as they bear upon the terms of the Bill and the discussions we are now entering upon. The House of Lords declared that—"The association of a body of Christians, calling themselves the United Free Church, has no right, title, or interest in any part of the whole land, property, and sums of money.which, to put it shortly, were the property of the Free Church as at the date of the union. On the other hand, they declared that—The adults who constituted the Free Church of Scotland are, and lawfully represent, the said Free Church, and are entitled to have the said lands, property, and funds applied.—I direct special attention to the words I am now to read—according to the terms of the trusts upon which they are respectively held for the good of themselves and those adhering to and associated with them.That judgment affected a considerable sum of money, amounting to between, roughly speaking, £1,250,000 and £2,000,000, and hereditable property to a considerable extent also. The corresponding judgment pronounced in the House of Lords dealt precisely with some four churches, though I believe the result, if it had been adverse to the minority, would have decided the question as to all the churches they possessed. Following upon that a great deal of litigation took place in Scotland with regard to the congregational property which was in the possession of the united body, the majority; and which had not been, in point of fact, technically included in the part, made the subject of discussion and adjudication by the House of Lords sitting in this matter in its judicial and not in its administrative capacity. Ultimately, a Royal Commission was appointed to inquire and report upon the subject, and they reported, as all Scotch Members are aware, and many English Members 1006 also, in April of this year, recommending that the situation which had been created was one which required Parliamentary interference and that, that interference should take the shape of the appointment of an Executive Commission with power to deal with the property in question and the subjects in dispute between the two Churches. In particular they reported that, in the use and the administration of the whole or any part of the property, the first consideration should be the adequate provision for the purposes for which the funds were raised, but, where the minority, the smaller body, were unable to execute the trust, the Commission should have power to transfer the property to the United Free Church, but no such transference should take place except upon equitable conditions, and especially upon the due performance of the trust being secured. The Report said that provision should be made for the equipment: of the Free Church as a Christian Free Church according to the standard which prevails in the old Presbyterian Church of Scotland, proceeding upon a full estimate of its numbers, and making allowance in determining; the amount of allowance for such equipment for any unfavourable circumstances arising out of the poverty of the congregations or otherwise. Then followed several recommendations which I do not think I need trouble the House by reading, but which I refer to point out that all of them, dealing with congregational property, mission funds, and general trust property, had this in view, according to the judgment of the Commission, that provision should be made; for what they call the future development of the Free Church, that being, they thought, that the actual state of the Free; Church at the precise moment when the Executive Commission came to discharge its functions should not stereotype the-matter, but that some consideration should be allowed for the future development and growth of the smaller body.
The Report of the Commission was considered by the Government, and, as a result, the present Bill was introduced The Bill, I agree, differs in some respects from the recommendations of the Commission, and in some respects probably 1007 will be in favour of one body and in other respects in favour of the other, but the reasons for these departures were to a large extent found in the development and discussion which had taken place upon the Report of the Commission after it was issued and before the Bill was actually introduced into this House. I think I can probably, with the greatest advantage, explain the Government position if I ask hon. Members kindly to turn to the copy of the Bill. The first section, which has three sub-sections, deals with the appointment of the Commission, and in Subsection 1 it is provided that the Commission established under this Act shall-allocate between the Free Church and the United Free Church the property in question as defined by this Act in. such manner as appears to the Commission fair and equitable having regard to all the circumstances of the case, but subject to the provisions of this Act. Then, as the House is aware, in accordance with the promise I made in introducing the Bill, the names of the Commissioners were to be communicated to the House. That was done, I think, some ten days ago, the Commissioners being the three gentlemen who acted as members of the Elgin Commission, Lord Elgin, Lord Kinnear, and Sir Ralph Anstruther, with two others added, Sir Thomas Gibson-Carmichael, and Sir Charles Logan; and I think I may say that the names of the Commissioners have been received in a manner to show that they have the confidence of those interested in this matter.
The Government do not propose to make any alteration of that first subsection, but with regard to the second sub-section, which provided the method by which the Commission were to ascertain what congregations were to be dealt with as Free Church congregations and what as United Free Church congregations, in view of the meetings and consultations which have taken place, we do propose to consider as to making a change in the terms. The House knows that the Commission were to inquire as to the numbers of the Free Church as at the date of their inquiry, and if they had then a third of what 1008 the undivided congregation would have been they were to get the church. Various representations have been made, and as a result of these, the Government are not unwilling to consider this modification, that instead of taking the date of the inquiry as the time at which the Commission actually comes to deal with the case, or the date of the present Act—I do not care which it would have been—we should have been prepared to favourably consider the proposal to go back to the state of things as in 1900. But while that might result, roughly speaking, in the survivors of the 1900 congregation being taken as the basis, it appears to us that the reversal from 1905–6 to 1900 would require careful consideration of what the proportion should be, and whether it is not necessary, as a consequence of that, that the proportion should be reduced. [Cries of "Oh!"] I do not expect that my proposal will meet with universal acceptance on both sides of the House, but that is the attitude of the Government in regard to the matter.
There is a question on that clause. Members and adherents, the House will notice, are both mentioned. We propose to adhere to the inclusion of the adherents for a reason which certainly all who are acquainted with the Highlands will appreciate, where undoubtedly the greater part of the Free Church congregations are situated, and where special views are held as to the time and circumstances when the burden of membership of the Church should be taken up, and, of course, we adhere to the view that the adherents must also be taken into account. It has also been suggested that we should put a clause into the Bill defining an adherent, and while I have not, in the least, a conclusive opinion on that subject, I will tell the House frankly that I am not in favour of it, and for this reason. What we do propose is that the Commissioners, who are all Scotchmen, and all acquainted with the ecclesiastical situation and circumstances of the country, should have absolute and complete power to determine who are members and who are adherents, and we think it will be far better to leave that definition to them than to try to burden the Bill with it. They will, of course, see that no one but bona fide members and 1009 adherents are taken into account, and if the Bill does not provide—as I think it does—adequately and completely for their having complete power in that matter we are quite willing to make it perfectly plain, and accordingly the view we take in this matter is that we are acting wisely in leaving the Commission full discretion and judgment.
MR. SCOTT DICKSON
The proportion would be, if there should be a change, that instead of a third it should be a fourth. [Cries of "Oh!"] I can assure the House that there are considerations on the other side from those who murmur against my suggestion, which are well worthy of consideration. I do not think it would serve any good purpose on a Second Reading debate to enter into these details. I trust the House will take it that the proposal to make that change has not been made, and that the decision was not arrived at, without having very good reasons for taking these things into account.
Then on the same sub-section there are three lines on the top of page 2—lines 5,6, and 7,—which run at present as follows—With power, however, to make special arrangements where several church buildings are situated in the same neighbourhood, and in any other cases which appear to them" (the Commissioners) "to require exceptional treatment.That is to say, while a specific rule is laid down in the preceding part of the section governing the general case coming up to 1900, the Commissioners shall have full power to make special arrangements where there are several church buildings, or a church and hall in the same village or parish, or where in any other case there is necessity for exceptional treatment. I understand that those who are advocates of the United Free Church consider that that applies only to cases where there would be allocation to the Free Church. I do not think that is a fair reading of it, and if it be we are quite willing to insert words so as to make it apply to both Churches alike, giving to the Commissioners full discretion in the matter.
1010 I think I have sufficiently explained the considerations which the Government have adopted so far as Sub-section 2 is concerned. Then with regard to Subsection 3 there are four purposes, the House will notice which are proposed to be dealt with. That is the section which authorises the Commission, passing away from congregational property, to deal with the general] property of a church, and to declare how much the smaller body is to get. The sub-section is as follows—The Commission shall make adequate provision for the education of the students of the Free Church, for the support of aged and infirm ministers, and of widows and orphans of ministers of that Church, for supplementing congregational contributions towards the support of the ministers of that Church, and for the general, purposes of that Church, and shall appropriate for those objects either collectively or severally such of the property to be allocated by t hem as they think proper.I think these four purposes naturally divide themselves into two classes, the first class containing the first two, namely the provision of education for the students of the Free Church, and the provision for the support of aged and infirm ministers, and of the widows and orphans of ministers of that Church. The reason I put these in a separate class is that there are already in the general funds of the Church special funds set apart for colleges and bursaries, and special buildings appropriated for colleges and, accordingly, there is a fund out of which special provision can be made for anything that is required for the education of Free Church students without trenching on any other fund. In the same way aged and infirm ministers and the widows and orphans of ministers of the Church are provided for by the Aged and Infirm Ministers' Fund, which runs up to £170,000 or £180,000. There is also a widows and orphans' fund, so that there is a special fund out of which the Commission can make adequate provision for the Free Church without trenching at all on any other fund.
With regard to the matter of supplementing the congregational contributions towards the support of the ministers, that stands in a somewhat different position. As the Bill stood in its original form—the form in which it is now in the hands of Member—sit would have been in the 1011 power of the Commission to take from any funds, whatever their original purpose was, so much as was required to supplement the stipends of the Free Church ministers or to provide the funds necessary for the general purposes of the Church. Further information given since the Bill was introduced—and we have been anxious to get it from those engaged on both sides of the controversy—has satisfied us that there is a larger fund available of what may be called free money than was originally contemplated. I do not think I need trouble the House with the details of it, but shortly they come to this. There is the Sustentation Fund, the Home Mission Fund, the Highlands and Islands Fund, the various special congregational endowments, and what I may call miscellaneous funds, which would amount, using the term in quite a general way, to a free fund of something between £350,000 and £400,000. Then the House will notice that under Sub-section 2 of Section 2 there is power to the Commission, if they think fit, to order that any property other than congregational property allocated to either Church under this Act, shall be burdened with such bond or charge in favour of the other Church as they may direct. Having in view the increase beyond what we thought at the time the Bill was introduced—the increased amount of the free fund—and the negotiations we have had as to the powers of bond, we are of opinion that we can alter Sub-section 3 of the first section which I am dealing with in such a way as certainly to secure that there shall be no diversion of foreign mission funds at all, and I hope and believe no diversion of any special fund to the Free Church at all. But I state unhesitatingly now, that there will be no diversion of the foreign mission funds, and I believe and fully expect that we shall be able to frame the clause so that the free fund, plus the power of bond, will give the Commission an ample fund for anything that may be required to establish the Free Church.
MR. SCOTT DICKSON
Well, we do not propose to embark on any such 1012 enterprise. Perhaps a more fitting expression would be "to give an establishment to the Free Church." I mean, using the language of the Commission literally, to provide an equipment for the Free Church.
§ MR. WALLACE (Perth)
Does the right hon. Gentleman say that the free fund would embrace the endowments of particular churches?
MR. SCOTT DICKSON
What I meant was that there were, as far as we can judge, some of the churches which would undoubtedly be allocated to the Free Church with their special endowments, and it would be only to that extent. Of course, there is no proposal to divert the endowments of any particular church from that church to any other church. The result of that, of course, would be that the last three lines of Sub-section 3—And shall appropriate for those objects either collectively or severally such of the property to be allocated by them as they think proper.would be altered so as to be confined altogether, I believe, to the free money. Now I hope the House will agree that these are alterations which, at any rate, show our desire, so far as possible, to meet what we believe to be the justice of the case, and I am quite certain that no objection will be taken to the mode of communicating the proposed changes to the House. Of course, necessarily there will be terms to adjust as to the precise form in which the Bill is to be expressed. I have explained as fairly and precisely as I can all the changes we contemplate.
MR. SCOTT DICKSON
No, there is one matter which is not mentioned in the Bill, which has been the subject of discussion and consideration. The House will notice that in line 11, one of the purposes is—For supplementing congregational contributions towards the support of the ministers of that Church.1013 It has been suggested that there may be some nodules of Free Church population not large enough to be entitled to the church, and yet for which some provision must be made, and the question has been asked whether those should have supplements towards their congregational contributions. The Bill proposes that supplements should be confined to cases where the Free Church gets the buildings and that those small bodies of the dispersed Free Church people must be provided for by missionaries, on the principle of the ordinary home mission system, who would attend to their spiritual needs.
There is one other matter on which I would like to say a word. Clause 2, Sub-section 1, gives power to the Commission to make temporary orders in regard to any allocation under this Act. It has been suggested that it might be useful if powers were also given to the Commission to make orders for the temporary use of the buildings in the interval before matters are concluded. That involves a modification of the Bill and may be of great service, and I propose that that should be given effect to. I need not trouble the House by going over the powers given to the Commission under Section 2. The purpose is to give them full powers to make the orders, as suggested by the Elgin Commission, authoritative by executive authority, and to give a final judgment which shall not be reviewable or subject to suspension in any Court of law. If the parties do not agree to these orders it may be necessary to go into the Courts of law to get execution. There will be no power to review or to reconsider the judgment—it will be merely a power to see that the order of the Commission shall be carried into effect. Clause 3 deals with the constitution of the Commission. The full measure of the importance of that has been given to the House already when the Bill was issued.
Appropriately, in connection with Clause 4, which deals with the property, one very large question has been raised, and that is whether sums of money derived or to be derived from legacies left under these circumstances, where the will or trust deeds were executed before the date of the union, but 1014 did not come into operation until after the union, in respect that the testator only died after that date—whether these legacies are to be made subject to the disposal of the Commission. The consideration of both sets of circumstances as to how they should be dealt with are, I confess, weighty, and the question is not at all free from difficulty. The sum involved is, I admit, a large one. It amounts to £300,000, and I think in one case under a trust deed it amounts to £125,000 or £150,000. For my own part I should like to be more acquainted with the precise terms of the trust deeds before making up my mind on the matter. There are considerations which point in the matter of finance to reasons why the possibility or difficulty of putting these funds into the hands of the Commission should he removed, and I am in hopes that that will be done. Further then that I cannot go at the moment, and I trust that the House will be content with the statement which I have made. But the question is receiving the most careful consideration of the Government with every desire to arrive at a decision that is fair and just to both parties.
So far I have dealt with the alterations we propose to make in the Bill. I now come to the fifth clause, which deals with the proposal we have made in regard to the Church of Scotland. I am afraid I shall require to trouble the House with a little of the historical position of this matter. But I shall be as brief as possible. Especially I would like those of my friends on this side of the House who are Englishmen to appreciate entirely the situation of the Scottish Church. May I be allowed to say, dealing with the speech of the right hon. Gentleman the Leader of the Opposition when the Bill was introduced, and dealing with his remarks from no controversial point of view—because I can quite understand that it was difficult to appreciate the proposals we were making without having the terms of the Bill before him—but I think I shall be able to satisfy him before I have done that he hardly did justice in the remarks which he made at that time to what we actually propose. The right hon. Gentleman spoke of giving to the Church of Scotland a new constitution; of 1015 altering the constitution of the Church of Scotland; of tampering with the formularies and creeds of an ecclesiastical body; of rewriting its constitution and so on. I confess that I do not think that that at all fairly represents the proposal contained in this Bill. If I may remind the House, the foundation of our Scottish Presbyterian Church, so far as the matter we are now dealing with is concerned, is based on the statute of 1690—what I regard as the concluding statute of the Revolution settlement. That statute prescribes that—Likeas they by these Presents ratify and establish the Confession of Faith now read in their presence and voted and approven by them as the public and avowed Confession of this Church containing the sum and substance of the doctrine of the reformed Churches.That, I think, has always been regarded as a charter of the Church of Scotland. The House will observe it went only to this length, to ratify and establish the Confession of Faith as the public and avowed confession of the Church of Scotland; it required no subscription. It prescribed no formula, and we do not propose in any way to interfere with, omit, modify, or mitigate that statute. The Confession of Faith still remains the public and avowed faith of the Church of Scotland. But, following on that Parliamentary ratification of the confession, the General Assembly itself in that very year did prescribe a formula, because they passed an Act of Assembly by which it is required that all persons admitted as ministers, preachers, or elders should beobliged to subscribe their approbation of the Confession of Faith approven by former General Assemblies of this Church, and ratified in the second session of the current Parliament.So that the House will see that that was the first introduction of subscription or formula so far as the question with which I am dealing is concerned.
MR. AUSTIN TAYLOK (Liverpool, East Toxteth)
Can the right hon. Gentleman give the exact years?
MR. SCOTT DICKSON
In 1690 the General Assembly enacted that—For retaining soundness and unity of doctrine it is judged necessary that all probationers licensed to preach, all intrants into the ministry, and all other ministers and elders re- 1016 ceived into communion with us in Church government, be obliged to subscribe their approbation of the Confession of Faith, approven by former General Assemblies of this Church, and ratified in the second session of the current Parliament.
MR. SCOTT DICKSON
The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland. The Parliament did not enact anything except that the Confession of Faith must be avowed as the confession of the Church of Scotland, but it required no subscription. That is the position of the Church of Scotland as primarily and conclusively established by law under the Evolution settlement. The-Church Courts enacted what was required from their ministers and office bearers, but that was not a matter with which Parliament had anything to do. Now, that is a feature which, at any rate, English Churchmen and English Nonconformists should keep in view: that so far as the requirements of individual ministers and the elders are concerned in regard to subscription, Parliament did not deal with it at all. The view I have expressed arises from the statute of 1693 which was passed by what Lord Macaulay, who studied these matters better than any of us have done, spoke; of as a strange Parliament."
MR. SCOTT DICKSON
Lord Macaulay speaks of it as Erastus, as even King; William, would desire, and that Parliament undoubtedly did pass this Act, that the ministers and elders would be required to sign this declaration, that they professed and declared that the aforesaid confession was their Confession of Faith, andThat no person be admitted or continued for hereafter to be a minister or preacher within the Church, unless that he, having first taken and subscribed the oath of allegiance and subscribed the assurance in manner appointed by another Act of this present session of Parliament made therenent, do also subscribe the Confession of Faith ratified in the aforesaid fifth Act of the second session of this Parliament, declaring the same to be the confession of his faith, and that he owns the doctrine therein contained to be the true doctrine, which he will constantly adhere to.1017 Now, the reason for that Act being passed, was that at that time, when a change was being made from Episcopalian rule to the Presbyterian rule, there were a considerable number of clergymen who had formerly acted as Episcopalian clergymen, and it was believed that they were willing to conform to the Presbyterian Church. The Presbyterian Church declined to receive them, and this Act was passed to secure that if the nonconforming Episcopalian clergy were willing to make that declaration, and if they first took the oath of allegiance, and then accepted the Confession of Faith as the confession of their faith, the Church was to receive them. That was never accepted by the Church as a Bill which Parliament ought to have passed; but in the following year the General Assembly passed an Act of Assembly—and I ask the attention of the House to the preamble—That this Commission may receive into ministerial communion such of the late conforming ministers as, having qualified themselves according to law, shall apply personally to them, one by one, duely and orderly, and shall acknowledge, engage, and subscribe upon the end of the Confession of Faith,a declaration which did not materially differ from that contained in the statute of 1693. I refer to that as showing that the purpose of the Act of 1693 was, as the preamble of the Act of the General Assembly bears out, to allow the Episcopalian clergy who were willing to accept that declaration being received into the ministerial communion of the Church of Scotland. There seems to have been no change till 1711, when in that year the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland adopted a new policy and imposed more stringent formularies than those of 1693. That formula continued until 1889, so that so far as the records go from 1711 to 1889 it was not accepted as the formula for ministers, but on the contrary a formula prescribed by the General Assembly was taken, and it is only since 1889 that that formula has been really in operation.
It has been said that this question of formula is a new one; but that, surely, is not a correct representation. Everyone knows that since the time that the Church of England received the relaxation of its formula in 1865, there has been a consistent agitation in the Church 1018 of Scotland, and especially among those who were either engaged as teachers for the ministry or were young men desiring to join the ministry, to get a relaxation of its formula, and that relaxation was given, so far as the lay officers of the Church were concerned, by the Church's own hands. What we now ask, recognising that we are the Established Church, is that we should be given the same relaxation of that formula which has existed for 200 years, and we ask it on this ground—that we are dealing with a pecuniary question to a large extent, but which is of great interest, not only to the two Presbyterian Churches concerned, but to all Presbyterians and to all Scotsmen. And we find that the Church which is now the United Free Church is claiming to have the power not merely to alter its formula, but its subordinate standards including the Confession of Faith. We do not propose to give the Church of Scotland any power to alter the Confession of Faith, but we do say in this matter of subscription that the result will be, if you give the United Free Church the income of relief which we think it is entitled to and we propose to give it, that you will handicap the Church of Scotland in a way which would be intolerable and leave a sense of unfairness and bitterness behind it. Hon. Members who are not of the Church of Scotland may think that a matter of small importance. I can assure them that if the threat of the possibility of pecuniary disendowment is bad, there is a worse kind of disendowment which prevents the best men who want to enter the ministry from coming into the Church. That is a disadvantage and a prejudice to which, so far as I am concerned, I will be no party.
I think this clause is essential if we wish to establish ecclesiastical peace in Scotland, and to prevent a feeling of injustice, unfairness, and bitterness remaining which would be perfectly intolerable. To my mind there is no step being taken in this Bill beyond what is fair. The proposal is that the Church should have the power to alter the formula, but not the power to alter the Confession of Faith, and only if a majority of the Presbyteries agree to it. I am sure a good many English Members do not 1019 appreciate what that means. We have some eighty or ninety Presbyteries in Scotland, composed half of clergy and half of laity, yet every layman's vote counts as much as a clergyman's. In our synods, while there is a small preponderance of the clergy, there is an enormously large minority of the laity. Is there any suggestion in Scotland that the proposal we make would lead to any of the evils that have been conjured up through this clause?
MR. SCOTT DICKSON
We are dealing with a difficult and complicated question in Scotland, and we do not think it fair to deal with it in such a way as would handicap the Church of Scotland, and leave the non-established Churches free. The result would be that the younger men desiring to enter the ministry would seek the wider portals of the United Free Church and the Church of Scotland would not at least get the more tender consciences. We think we are entitled to be put on a fair platform with the others. I am quite satisfied of this; you will not find in Scotland any man, to whatever Church he belongs, who will oppose this proposal on its merits. The House will keep in view that the Church of Scotland differs from the Church of England in this respect—that so far as trials for heresy or false doctrine are concerned the Church of Scotland Courts are absolutely supreme. They cannot be ruled by any civil Court, but they have absolute discretion to say: "This man has erred in this doctrine," and "We shall call him to account," or "We shall not call him to account," and when they have pronounced judgment no civil Court can interfere with the judgment. I think that goes deep into the matter. I think I have indicated the grounds on which I support this Bill. I will only add that why I have one strong reason for supporting it is that if you left the Church of Scotland fettered as the Act of 1693 is said to do, you will raise a barrier against what I trust will come to pass, the unity of all the Presbyterian churches, the importance of which would be difficult to overlook. I say 1020 there is no point raised which would justify any Member on either side of the House or of the Tweed, to whatever Church they belong, in offering opposition to the Second Reading of this Bill.
§ Motion made, and Question proposed, "That the Bill be now read a second time."
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN (Stirling Burghs)
The right hon. Gentleman has reserved all the warmth and vivacity of his speech for its latter part. That shows which particular part of the Bill attracts the most attention. The right hon. Gentleman spoke avowedly as a Churchman. I find no fault with him for being a Churchman in his proper place. But while he is on the Treasury Bench he is the official representative of the Government, and a Member of a House of Commons which is very much less interested in the Church of Scotland than the right hon. Gentleman seems to be. The right hon. Gentleman began by giving us a succinct account of the origin of all this mischief. I will not apply any microscopic examination to his narrative. I will accept it as correct. The decision of last year came as a thunderbolt to the people of Scotland; but the people of Scotland, being law-abiding and legal in their disposition in the highest sense, have accepted loyally that decision, and have respected it subject to two reservations to which I think it is right to refer. In the first place, it would not be fair to conceal the fact that there is an underlying sentiment that the judgment is weak in one particular: namely, that it was the judgment of a number of eminent men perfectly, impartial and perfectly competent no doubt in their own sphere, but men who with one exception had no personal acquaintance with the conditions, history, sentiment, and feeling of the people of Scotland, and especially of the Church of Scotland, and men who did not possess full knowledge of the actual situation in Scotland. This point in Scotland, at every stage of its career of litigation from one Court to another, and by every Judge whose duty it was to form an opinion on the subject, was decided in an opposite sense to the decision 1021 given by the House no Lords. How-ever loyal we may be and are to the judicial arrangements of the country we cannot somehow get this thing altogether out of our hearts.
Then there is another thing. After all, the Church is not a limited liability company or a great engineering concern. It exists for a higher, nobler, and more beneficent purpose. The sight of this great ecclesiastical organisation, which permeates Scotland and which reaches out its hand in missionary effort to the ends of the earth—an organisation sustained by efforts and sacrifices perhaps as splendid as anything the history of mankind can show—being stripped of its power to fulfil its great functions, and its funds handed over to a small number of men who have no pretension that they I can fulfil these great duties, moved the heart of all Scotland more than anything in our generation. Therefore, while we accept the decision of the Supreme Court we accept it subject to these feelings and convictions; and we feel, with all respect, that the tribunal ought to have taken into account the ultimate result of their decision. At all events it became clear that this legal wrong must be remedied. I am bound to say that unfortunately the smaller Church involved in this controversy has done much to exaggerate the feeling which existed by pushing its efforts far beyond the limits of any parishes in which it could claim predominance or even considerable support. I think that is very unfortunate and has exasperated feeling, and I think the Government would have been wise if very early in the matter they had introduced a suspensory Act preventing the possibility of this action on the part of either one side or the other. But they preferred not to do so, and I daresay saw good reasons for the line they took.
They appointed a Royal Commission for inquiry, a Commission which had the confidence of us all and which has increased that confidence by the nature of their examination and the Report they have produced. What I say is, why did they not trust this Commission a little further? They are now asking to revive this Commission, as the Lord-Advocate said, with two ad- 1022 ditional names, but why did they not allow this second Commission to deal with the matter in the light and in the spirit of the Report already rendered, and why did they think it necessary to interfere with the sub-sections and clauses to which the Lord-Advocate has referred; to interfere and prescribe conditions to this new Commission which vary considerably from the recommendations of the former? I think the right hon. Gentleman himself took refuge in this Royal Commission whenever he found himself in a difficulty. There was a question of defining an adherent, and he said the members of the Royal Commission were so well known and so trusted that they could do without a definition. Well, if they can define an adherent they can do most things, and no one can doubt that they could have apportioned the funds in question in such a way as, after perhaps a little heart-burning at the time, would at all events ultimately have brought peace and given satisfaction to the Scotch people. That would have been the simplest thing to do, but the Government thought fit to introduce these clauses, two of which have been specially referred to, namely, the one affecting the trenching on actually-designated trust funds in order to find the money necessary and the other where it is sought to discover whether a congregation has a right to congregational property. I am glad to know that the right hon. Gentleman has been authorised to announce material improvements and modifications in those clauses, because if they had stood as they stand now in the Bill I am bound to say I should have found great difficulty in voting for the Second Reading of the Bill, but the right hon. Gentleman has promised great modifications which I think, though not perhaps quite satisfactory, go a great length. I may say incidentally that I think the Bill should in the meantime be only committed pro forma, in order that when we go into Committee we shall have the amended Bill before us and not this Bill at all. I will not dwell on those points, because the right hon. Gentleman explained them very fully and there is much that is satisfactory in them. When we have done with them and seen the ultimate shape they assume 1023 we shall be better able to know how we are to regard the Bill.
But the Bill does not stop there. Here is this great misfortune befallen Scotland affecting two Churches, and the Government for some mysterious reason which no one can fathom introduces another provision altogether affecting another Church, and the fact that it is a very important matter that has been introduced is proved by the long, elaborate, and historical argument that the Lord-Advocate had to employ in order to justify the clause. My right hon. friend behind me interrupted him by saying he wanted to know why it is here, however good it may be, and no doubt that is the most important point of all. We are all agreed that there must necessarily be some differences if we attempt in this House to lay down the actual apportionments of the funds, but we are all agreed, at all events, that there should be such an apportionment, and the whole of the clauses of the Bill, except Clause 5, are perfectly germane to the main purpose we have in view, and which is close to the heart of the Scotch people. But "Medio de fonte leporum surgit amari aliquid" An apple of discord coming heaven knows from where is flung on the field, and we are told that if this Bill is to be amended, which in its original form dealt rather hardly, as most people think, with the funds of the United Free Church, and the Government themselves acknowledge it and their willingness to amend it—if alterations are to be made in this Bill there is this Clause 5 which we must swallow as the price of it. I object altogether to the House of Commons, as a public body, being treated in this way, and I think our business here to-day is to separate the two subjects. The hon. Member for Halifax has given notice to move an instruction that the Bill be divided into two Bills, and whether the form in which he has framed that instruction is right or wrong, he is perfectly right, because the two things are totally distinct, and ought to be dealt with in separate Bills. Let us today pronounce on the contention between the two Churches and leave out of count this undesirable alien who has been dumped upon the shores of this unfortunate Bill, and who is likely to do more 1024 harm than most other aliens do. However, this can be dealt with in Committee, but the right hon. Gentleman has entered into so elaborate an explanation of it that there are one or two things I should like to say.
In the first place, so far as I know, it is a wholly new thing and without precedent as applied to a State Church, and in the second place it is not a thing to be sprung upon us without full opportunity for consideration. The right hon. Gentleman has shown what an elaborate story it is. He has brought in Lord Macaulay, King William, and I do not know whom, and a series of Acts of Parliament and Acts of Assembly, but the fact remains that this restriction, if restriction it be, is in force in the Scotch Church, and if it is desirable to have relief from it let it be sought for in a deliberate, formal, and constitutional way. We have a recent precedent, and that is a precedent of a case which is on all fours with this case. I refer, of course, to the Clerical Subscription Act of 1865. Now under this clause the whole question of defining the formula of subscription of ministers is to be left to the Church Courts, to the General Assembly, with the support of a majority of the Presbyteries. The right hon. Gentleman claimed that the presbyteries were about as much lay as clerical, but I doubt as a matter of fact whether that can be maintained at all in practice. I do not know why he did not extend his reference down to the Kirk Sessions. They are undoubtedly to a large degree laymen, and why should not they have a voice as well as the Presbyteries in settling a matter so vitally affecting their-well-being? I merely throw that out as an idea, but that of course can hardly be done by a left-handed clause such as is now before us, but would require special legislation. But the Church is left free to change the subscription as it likes. Was ever State Church treated in that way, or rather was ever a State so treated in reference to a. State Church? What is this Act of 1865? The right hon. Gentleman is afraid its portals are so narrow that all young men of intelligence and large views will be shut out, and in some way he tries to make out that the Established Church would be handicapped as 1025 regards the other. How is it handicapped? We do not alter the formulas of the United Free Church.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL-BANNERMAN
The right hon. Gentleman will perhaps explain afterwards in what way we have altered the form of subscription of the ministers of the United Free Church. What was the reason for the Act of 1865 being introduced? Here is what Sir George Grey said, and it is exactly what the Lord-Advocate has said in this instance. He said he hoped that the objections felt to these subscriptions and declarations which had a tendency to prevent entrance into the Church of men of the highest character and most undoubted attachment to the Church would be removed by the Act. That is the very thing the Lord-Advocate has in view, but what they did in the English Church was this. It is entitled, "An Act to amend the law as to the subscription and declaration to be made and the oaths to be taken by the Clergy of the Established Church of England." This is the declaration of assent—I. A. B., do solemnly make the following declaration. I assent to the thirty-nine Articles of religion, and to the Book of Common Prayer and to the ordering of Bishops, priests, and deacons. I believe in the doctrine of the Church of England as therein set forth to be agreeable to the word of God, and in public prayer and administration of the sacraments f will use the form prescribed and none other, except in so far as will be ordained by lawful authority.That is the declaration which has to be made by every person instituted to a benefice after reading the thirty-nine Articles before the congregation after he has been instituted or collated. The House will observe that Parliament in that case prescribed the formula. It was to be a declaration of assent. They did not hand it over to the Church to enact anything they chose and to disenact it the next year. So that if we are to follow precedent, and surely we ought 1026 to follow it in this case, it will not be by such a clause as this is that that will be done. But this Bill was introduced following a Royal Commission to examine into the question, and they did not act in. the darkness as we act. Many Members of the House did not know anything about it until the Lord-Advocate gave his Scotch history. The Scotch people had never heard of it, and were amazed when they heard it was included in this Bill. The members and adherents of the Church of Scotland themselves had not been consulted in the matter, and I shall be surprised if there is not a great deal of friction and trouble over it. What knowledge have we of the feeling of Scotland on this subject and even in the Church itself? Therefore, in my opinion, before moving in the matter we ought to have a Royal Commission or else ample time whereby my countrymen may be able to come to a conclusion for themselves. The Church of Scotland, its leaders and friends, have most of them played a most generous, sympathetic, and patriotic part in the events of the last year. They have behaved with great credit to themselves. They have been ready for the sake of peace and the cause of religion to help even those between whom and themselves there might be a certain in natural feeling of resentment. But their help has hardly been so conspicuous that they can set up as the honest broker for bringing about a peaceful solution of this question, and, above all, they cannot surely ask that the favour they now seek should be given them as a sort of brokerage commission. On what possible ground is this inserted in the Bill unless it be to take the opportunity of giving a quid pro quo to the Established Church? I do not know what the quo means. What does it? This is giving something, but what has been got in return? I object to treating the whole of these things by way of bargaining, but when we find this clause mysteriously inserted here, we have to come to the conclusion that there must be some object other than that stated. I do not believe any object has been stated. Let the Church of Scotland seek the favour which they desire by the manly and open constitutional process of Parliament, and I, for 1027 my part, shall be ready in a proper constitutional way to meet their desires so far as it is possible they should be met. I object altogether, by a side wind and in this unconstitutional way, to bringing in a matter of controversy into a Bill which ought to be without controversy, and bringing delay to a Bill whose essence is in the direction of rapid action. I object to this clause being' introduced in this way. At this stage, however, I for my part support and should advise others to support the Second Reading of the Bill. We can deal with Clause 5 in Committee. We shall see the changes proposed by the Government when they take shape and when they come out of Committee, and then we can determine our future course. For my part, I earnestly hope that the result of the consideration of this Bill may be such that the Bill may secure general assent not only here but in Scotland, and that the final decision of the Royal Commission may meet with the approval of the Scotch people so that a new era may open with the cause of religion freed from the impediments, heart-burnings and anxieties which have formed an unhappy era of dissent in Scotland.
§ MR. CORBETT (Glasgow, Tradeston)
said the speech of the Lord-Advocate would give a great deal of encouragement to those who had been apprehensive. He was glad to hear the observations he made with regard to the pooling of the funds. They hoped with the Lord-Advocate that none of these trusts would be interfered with, but that they would all be kept for their right purpose. Then he was glad to hear that hope which he expressed that to this Commission might also be referred the legacies which had been left in recent times. He referred to a legacy of a large amount. It was distinctly a case for reference to a Commission to investigate the will and intentions of the donor, because otherwise the money would go to those with whom the testator was not in sympathy and for purposes which he did not wish. He could not agree with some of the conclusions drawn by the Leader of the Opposition from Clause 5 of the Bill. He alluded to it as a kind of bargain. The United Free Church as a central 1028 organisation had made no declaration as to Clause 5. Certain Presbyteries of the United Free Church had made declarations as to the possibility of the progress of the Bill being facilitated by that clause being omitted, but, taking that clause upon its merits, a very large number of the United Free Church felt as keenly in favour of it as any member of the Established Church. It was no question between rival denominations; it was a question for earliest men who wished to see the moral and religious progress of their country best advanced through both channels. The clause in no way changed the legal position of the Established Church, but it relieved any member of it from having to sign a declaration as the declaration of his individual faith which more or less damaged and strained his conscience. Christian men everywhere ought to welcome a proposal which did not change the legal status of the member beyond relieving him of the obligation to sign as a matter of personal faith that which did not fully express his religious opinion. It was a question whether the inclusion or exclusion of this proposal would facilitate the progress of this Bill, but he wished it to be clearly understood that there were very many in the United Free Church who welcomed most cordially what they believed to be an advance in the right direction.
§ MR. BLACK (Banffshire)
said he was sure every Member in the House was glad to see the Bill introduced, because it dealt with a state of matters in Scotland which, if it had occurred in any other country, would have resulted in riot and bloodshed, and social serious disorder. At the present moment, about 100 men were being turned out of churches which were associated in their minds with everything most sacred to the human being, at the instance of persons who had contributed nothing to their erection, and who in some cases had up to this time had no relations with the congregations. And the parties who were being treated in that way were still further provoked by the knowledge that they themselves were the parties who had subscribed the funds for the erection of these churches. If it were a fact that the parties now in possession 1029 of these churches were able to make full use of them the position would not be so acute, but in many cases these parties who had gained possession of the churches had shown themselves entirely unable to make full use of them, and in point of fact the churches were found empty for many Sundays, instead of being filled by their regular congregations. What wonder was it that throughout the whole English-speaking world it had caused amazement that such a position should be permitted so long to continue in Scotland! Had it occurred in any other country it would have resulted in scenes of the very greatest social disorder. The good order which in circumstances so trying had been preserved was a very good reason for the House intervening, and that rapidly, to remedy those evils and grievances. "Who were the parties who were being treated in this way? Were they malefactors or persons who had done anything worthy of censure? No, they were parties who, in accordance with the universal sentiment of the civilised world, entered into a union against which no reasonable person saw any good ground. The cause of difference between the two churches who had united was a very abstruse question of the legitimacy of civil establishment, but that that question had never been made a term of communion in the Free Church b afore its union with the United Presbyterian Church in 1900. It was an open question in that Church, and over and over again the contrary proposition had been affirmed with by large votes of the General Assembly when the questions of the maintenance of the existing establishment had been before it. He thought the House would agree with him that they, at all events, should not be the parties to be punished for having carried out this very desirable operation of union.
It was asked what about the House of Lords judgment and how that affected the situation? Were they not bound by that judgment, and ought they not to carry it out in its entirety? He submitted that that was not a correct position to take up in this House. In; this House they were representatives of 1030 the people, and they were called upon to administer common sense and justice, and therefore they were entitled to examine how far the House of Lords decision conformed to the dictates of common sense and justice. The Leader of the Opposition mentioned one or two points in which the decision of the House of Lords was open to criticism as regards its essential characteristics. At all events it had failed to realise that the Free Church had in fait prior to 1900 freely exercised the power of joining with other bodies and that it had before 1900 asserted and did now assert its right to define and alter its doctrinal standards. It was one of the good features of the present Bill that, recognising this right in the part of the United Free Church, Parliament was restoring the property dealt with in the Bill on the basis of the United Free Church, through its Assembly in the future, exercising full rights as to union with other bodies and alteration and definition of its doctrinal standards. It was true the Bill did not in express terms make any statement on this head, but after the Declaration passed at the last General Assembly of the United Free Church and the Lord-Advocate's speech at the First Reading this was clearly implied.
In the second place, the facts were obviously not known to the House of Lords when they gave their decision. It was a matter of common notoriety in Scotland that only a partial statement of the facts was put before the House of Lords, because the Judges in the Court below were fully informed of the true position of matters from 1843 onwards in regard to the Free Church. They knew all this of themselves and therefore it was not considered necessary to lead formal proof upon matters of common knowledge in the Court below. But in the House of Lords the Judges were in. the main not aware of these matters of common knowledge. Now what was the original attitude of the Free Church with regard to this question of union with other bodies outside itself? The Lord Chancellor in his judgment quoted one dictum of Dr. Chalmers, but there were other 1031 dicta to which he paid no attention whatever. Dr. Guthrie, speaking in the Disruption Assembly, in 1843, said—I am for the union in the meantime in the way of cooperation. We cannot stop there, and I defy any man to stop there.Dr. Chalmers said on May 2nd, 1843—I trust we are now upon the way immediately to co-operation, as I trust that by itself it will be a very great and important step towards incorporation.These were dicta laid down at the very launching of the Free Church, to which no attention whatever was apparently paid in the House of Lords judgment.
Another fact which was not ascertained by the House of Lords was in regard to the intention of donors to the funds of the Free Church. No evidence at all was led upon that head, and it was a matter of regret that even the Royal Commission, who had otherwise done their work so well, did not admit evidence in regard to the intentions of donors. There was reason for believing that a very large proportion of the money contributed to the Free Church before the Union was contributed by parties who were favourable to the Union. He would give one illustration. In the year 1899 he had the privilege of being the means of communicating to the Free Church a gift of £1,000 from a lady, and that lady gave this sum of money in express terms communicated at the time of the gift-as a token of her approval of the approaching Union. Now what was the effect of the House of Lords judgment in this case? It was that this particular gift had been transferred to those parties who were opposed to the Union. If that was true with regard to this particular case it was equally true with regard to a very large percentage of the other funds held by the Free Church at the time of the union. This was evidenced by the fact that in 1873, while Union negotiations were broken off at that period, very great progress had been made in that direction by resolving upon mutual eligibility between the two Churches. That was to say, ministers of both Churches were eligible to be transferred from one Church to the other, and were in fact interchangeable. The small differences existing between them were not considered to be a 1032 barrier to the election and ordination of ministers of one Church into the congregation of another. Now the proportion of funds contributed since the year 1873 had been very large indeed as compared with what was contributed before that time. He was not very wrong in saying that not less than three-fourths of the whole central funds dealt with by the House of Lords judgment was contributed after everyone knew that the Union was only a matter of time. He had the privilege of being born in a Free Church manse, and, therefore, he knew the sentiment which animated the Church in 1873 and onwards. All throughout the Church it was looked forward to as an early and argent matter that this union should be consummated.
Did this Bill meet the case even with the Amendments suggested by the Lord-Advocate? Did it conform to the requirements of the situation? Did it not, even with the Amendments now suggested, unduly penalise those persons who had carried out a great and sacred duty in uniting with their brethren? Did it meet the standard which might be reasonably set up of their requirements in the Way of participation in the funds of the old Free Church? He concurred in the observation made by his right hon. friend the Member for Stirling Burghs, why not trust the Commissioners? They were a body of trusted men in Scotland, and they were trusted with the very important duty of defining adherents, and why not leave the whole thing to them to say what was an equitable solution of this problem? He thought they should have an answer upon that point before the Second Reading of this Bill concluded. The second point was, did the provision in this Bill meet the requirements of the case as regarded the model trust deeds of the old Free Church? There they found that members only were to be voters in disposing of congregational property, and that a majority of them we to decide as to such disposal. In regard to this point he would give the substance of the ninth Article of the trust deed. That Article provided as follows—If at any time hereafter one-third of the whole ordained ministers shall not only publicly separate from the said body, but at the same time publicly claim and profess to hold 1033 truly and in bona fide the principles of the protest of the 18th May, 1843, in that case it shall be competent to, and in the power of a majority of the congregation to provide and declare that the congregational property shall, from henceforward be held as in connection with the body of Christians adhering to the ministers who shall have separated as aforesaid,That was precisely the case with which they were dealing, except that they were dealing with less than a third of the ministers who professed to remain by the old position, but this was a difference against, not in favour of the legal Free Church. He thought this House, if it studied the reasons set out by the Lord Chancellor for disallowing the application of the trust deeds to this case, would find very great difficulty in following them as a matter of ordinary common sense. What he felt this House ought to do and appreciate was that this very case which had arisen was dealt with, and was provided for, by the men who invited contributions towards this Church in 1843; that it was easy to see what they intended to provide, and that this intention had in point of fact not been given effect to by the judgment with which they were now dealing. He suggested that the Government should revert frankly and without reserve to the terms of the model trust deeds, and give congregational property to the majority of members, and members only, of the congregations affected. It was said that this would not do in some Highland places because the adherents were there more numerous than the members. That was quite true, and he knew that there were congregations where adherents formed a large proportion of the congregation. But, after all, the probability was that in each congregation the same proportion of members and adherents respectively adhered or dissented to the union. It was improbable that in any congregation a large proportion of the adherents dissented from the union while a large proportion of the members entered into it, so that neither party took advantage nor suffered disadvantage by adhering to the membership as forming the constituency which was to determine the destination of congregational property. There was this very great advantage in that course, that they had no difficulty in ascertaining the parties who were to vote and who were to exercise 1034 their rights in relation to congregational property.
Another provision of this Bill related to the endowment of the ministers of the legal Free Church. It was very natural that the parties connected with the Established Church should think that some endowment should be made in connection with the establishment of a congregation. But in the Free Church it had not been the habit to endow ministers. Upon the whole the inclination had been to hold that the ministers were better dependent upon the general freewill offerings of the people. That had been the principle acted upon up till now in the Free Church, and it was a principle which seemed to him should not be departed from without very grave and earnest consideration, and only for very good reasons. On that point he hoped the Government would give the matter their very careful consideration.
Now he came to Clause 5. With regard to this clause, he should not say very much except that when the decision was given by the House of Lords many of them felt that a great opportunity had arisen in Scotland for the promotion of further union between the various Churches. That was something very near to the heart of many in Scotland, but what he rather feared was that this clause was, if anything, anteunionist in its effects. The mountain having been in travail had brought forth a mouse. He regretted that those responsible for advising the Church of Scotland had not brought forward proposals to bring about a comprehensive union, even though it might have been at some cost in the matter of endowments. He was satisfied that if what had been proposed had been directed to that end it would have had large support throughout Scotland, and happier results would have flowed from this great upturning than if the clause as it stood was pushed through. As had been intimated by his right hon. friend the Member for the Stirling Burghs, it was not proposed, so far as could be seen at present, in view of the concessions which had been made by the Lord-Advocate, to divide on the Second Reading of the Bill, but he hoped that the points he had mentioned would be kept in mind and that they would receive 1035 further consideration in Committee. He sincerely hoped that the net result would fee an era of greater peace and quiet in Ecclesiastical Scotland than they had during the past year.
§ MR. WYLIE (Dumbartonshire)
said he wished to congratulate the Lord-Advocate on the able and lucid manner in which he had explained this difficult Bill. He thought it was a great pity that the necessity for such a Bill had arisen. The people of Scotland and the Government had fondly hoped that the two Churches would have come to an amicable arrangement, which would have been much better for all concerned. Recently, however, they had given up almost all hope of such an arrangement. But he thought there was still a faint glimmer of hope in connection with this matter. He might mention that he had been authorised by the leaders of the Free Church to hand to the Lord-Advocate a private statement of the terms which they were prepared to recommend to their constituents for a friendly settlement in connection with this matter, including the share of the buildings belonging to the Free Church on the Mound at Edinburgh, the number of churches in connection with the free churches which they were prepared to accept, and the amount of money which they also would be prepared to accept as a settlement. It was a very simple statement; it was contained on a half-sheet of notepaper, and his suggestion was that the other Church, the United Free Church, should send to the Lord-Advocate a similar private statement of what they were prepared to accept to secure a friendly settlement. The Lord-Advocate had shown the greatest interest and, he thought, the greatest impartiality in this matter, and there might be associated with him the Attorney-General, whose clear understanding in connection with all Church matters, in Scotland especially, would be of the greatest benefit. These two hon. Gentlemen would act as advisers and as the general recipients of the views of both parties. He would suggest that the Churches should be represented not so much by the clerical and legal element as by laymen from 1036 both sides, business men of common sense.
If an amicable arrangement were adopted, which he thought there was some small chance of there being, then it could go before the Commission which was about to be appointed, who could accept and legalise it, and there would be enormous advantages connected with the reception of such a friendly arrangement. In the first place, it would prevent the recurrence of those squabbles and bickerings which had been so frequent before the Royal Commission which was appointed to investigate this subject. It would also prevent the irritation which must necessarily follow from any decision come to by the Commission. He had been receiving letters stating the feelings of the people who thought that if a friendly settlement was nit arrived at, and if there was a compulsory settlement, there might not be the same law-abiding feeling on the part of the people who had suffered so much. He thought these expressions were exaggerated, and that the people of Scotland would prove themselves to be the law-abiding people they had been in the past. But the advantages would be enormous if there could be a friendly settlement in connection with the matter. It would be the beginning of that great friendly settlement which would include all the Presbyterian Churches in one great union, and it would show that the people of Scotland connected with those Churches, which had done so much in the past for the religious life of the country, were now prepared to bury all their animosities and go forward in a common union. It would prevent the disagreeable friction between the two Churches in their future conduct of the religious life of a very large portion of the people of Scotland.
He just wished to say in one word as to what was his own position in this matter. He was entirely and absolutely a friendly neutral. He had all his life been connected with the Established Church of Scotland, but he had warm friends in both the Free Church and the United Free Church, and it was entirely in the interests of peace and religion that he had intervened 1037 in this matter to make the suggestions which he now did with all diffidence, to the leader of the United Free Church, that they also should send in a private statement similar to that to which he had referred in connection with the Free Church, and that they should leave it to the advice given to them by his right hon. friends the Lord-Advocate, and the Attorney-General. He had some hope, at any rate, that a friendly settlement might be arrived at which would be in the interests of not only the United Free Church and the Free Church, but of the whole people of Scotland, and, he thought, in the interests of religious concord throughout the world.
§ MR. EUGENE WASON
congratulated the Lord-Advocate upon the very lucid statement he had made in moving the Second Beading of the Bill. He was especially glad that he had gone back to the bedrock of 1900 as the date at which the Churches should be dealt with. They ought, however, to insist that the proportion of one third should be retained. For his part, he should endeavour to get the Bill amended in that respect and he believed if that was done it would in a great measure satisfy the people of Scotland. The Lord-Advocate asked whether any Scotchman would stand up and say that the Scottish people did not approve of the fifth clause of the Bill, which was the most controversial in it. He had in his hand letters from two distinguished gentlemen in regard to this clause. One said in his letter—I dislike exceedingly the trick of tacking on Clause 5 dealing with the Established Church formula, but far more do I resent the two leading features of the Bill.The other gentleman wrote—The fifth clause—Established Church—is extraneous. Let the two things be kept separate. Ours is an emergency measure. That is an historical fact, and by the clause injustice is done to our cause by diverting attention to a matter with which we have nothing to do. Let the Established Church attend to her own affairs and not saddle us with them.He had received innumerable letters protesting most strongly against the 1038 fifth clause being introduced by a side wind into the Bill.
§ MR. EUGENE WASON
said he thought that did not alter the point he was endeavouring to make, and when the Member for Halifax came to move his Amendment to separate the Bill into two he should most heartily and cordially support it. The hon. Member for Banffshire said it would be impossible for a gentleman from the South of the Tweed to go into a Free Church or a United Presbyterian Church and to tell which Church he was in. He would go one better than that. Before the Union in 1900, they might take a Southerner into an Established Church, a United Presbyterian, or a Free Church, and he would not be able to say which Church he had been to. He remembered having a friend in Scotland whom he took round to those different churches; he never could tell which was which, and he said that he did not understand why the people of Scotland should not have disestablishment when they were all of the same religion. His friend stated that it was quite different in Wales because there the forms of worship in the Established Church and in the Nonconformist Churches were quite different. He was a strong supporter of the Union which took place in 1900. That year was a black one for this country; it was the year of the. Boer War and of the Khaki elections. The one brilliant feature in the whole year was the great union of the United Presbyterian and the Free Churches, which everyone looked to as an event which was to bring about the larger union of Presbyterians which had been alluded to, and which he was sure every Scotsman wished to see carried out. They had been spoken about as a law-abiding people in Scotland. Well, the relations were getting very much strained. He did not wish to allude to what took place at Newton-on-Ayr last Sunday; those who wished to know could read it in the Scotch papers for themselves. They could strain loyalty too far. He was reminded of the petition which was sent by Robert Burns to the right hon. and 1039 hon. Scotch representatives in the House of Commons—For God's sake, Sirs, then speak her fair,And straik her cannie with hair,And to the 'Muckle House' repair Wi instant speed,And strive a your wit and lear To get remead.They were trying to put an end to an intolerable state of things in Scotland. He hoped this Bill would get a Second Reading, that they would get it amended in Committee and make it a better Bill, and that they would get what was so ardently desired for the ecclesiastical peace in Scotland.
MR. PARKER SMITH (Lanarkshire, Partick)
said he thought every man in the House felt the absolute necessity-of closing the strife which there had been in Scotland of late months. He believed that Church and State were now much nearer to an understanding with each other than in the past. The Disruption of 1843 was a blunder. It was a magnificent performance on the part of those who went out, but it arose to a great extent from a lack of understanding between Church and State. He hoped that now they were nearer to that understanding. He was quite sure that any attempt to go back on the judgment of the House of Lords would not solve the difficulty in which they found themselves; but it was absolutely necessary to stop the course of evictions. They must assuage the religious war which was now raging and. quiet the feelings which were so keen when men felt themselves outraged in regard to their deepest sentiments. This conflict in Scotland had been between a small and tiny handful of men strong in their own beliefs. This handful of men had a greater strength in the most backward districts of Scotland and among the least educated of the people. On the other side there was a great body, who could, in vigour and power of education, bear comparison with any religious community in England. To that small handful they must give justice. This had been done; their claims had been fully recognised. But they must take care that in doing them justice they did not impair the great Christian work carried on by the larger section, the United Free Church of Scotland.
1040 Now, the House of Lords had declared the Free Church to be the legal owners of the property of the late Free Church, but they were owners as trustees and the trusts had to be regarded. The Elgin Commission had declared that the Free Church could not adequately discharge many of the trusts in connection with the property in question, and that in such cases the property should be given back to the United Free Church subject to a liberal provision being made for the Free Church. It was a great relief and satisfaction to find from the Lord-Advocate's speech that the Government was able to take that line, and that the House would be asked to use for the satisfaction of the claims of the Free-Church only the free funds and not those destined to particular purposes. The Lord-Advocate spoke with confidence in regard to sonic trusts, but not with the same confidence with regard to others. He thought the feeling of the House would be strongly expressed not only in regard to foreign missions but also in regard to all special and particular trusts. It was the duty of a trustee to use the funds in his charge for the benefit of the specific objects of the trust which should be considered as permanent. He believed that the free funds would be sufficient for all purposes of providing liberally for the Free Church. If not it might be necessary for the United Free Church to pledge its credit-to raise any further sums that they needed for the purpose. He hoped that the result of the Bill would be that sufficient funds would be obtained by the Free Church in that way, and that those funds which were earmarked for special purposes would not be touched, or their destination in any way altered.
If that was true of the funds it was; still more necessary in regard to buildings, both central and congregational. There was as great a difference between buildings and funds in this case as between a, money indemnity and a loss of territory in the case of war. Money might be replaced, but the memory of the possession of lost, provinces remained. "While he thought that money compensation should be given to the full amount of the requirements of the Free Church, he trusted, to the greatest possible extent, all the 1041 buildings which had been used by the larger body would remain in the future in their hands. Everyone who had spoken had felt that the Lord-Advocate, by fixing for counting the number of members and adherents, had indicated a way of putting an end to t he scramble for increasing the number of members and adherents which had, in many cases, shocked Scotland. With regard to legacies, he hoped that that question might be fully and completely settled before the Bill passed out of their hands without the need of any future litigation. There were difficulties in connection with legacies, but this was one of these matters which might be fairly and readily left to the Commission to deal with. Without going so far as some hon. Members wished to do, and without feeling it right to give the Commission an absolutely free hand to deal with all matters as they might please, he would leave them to deal with legacies in a spirit of equity. There was one point he would like to ask the Lord-Advocate about, namely, whether funds not connected with the trusts of any particular Church, such as the Ferguson Bequest Fund, were to be touched. The trustees of that fund were composed of representatives of the different Presbyterian Churches of Scotland and they had a free hand in distributing this fund. He hoped there was nothing in the Bill that would interfere with the continuance of that freedom, or make it necessary for the Commission to lay down any more hard-and-fast rule than existed at the present moment.
One important point was raised by the Leader of the Opposition with which he could not agree, and that was that the present Bill made no change in the constitution or tests of the United Free Church. He thought it made the very greatest change in the constitution and the position of the United Free Church and its trusts in the future. Under this Bill the property allocated to the Free Church was allocated according to its constitution. What was the constitution of the Church? He hoped that the United Free Church would have full and ample time to decide what its constitution in the future was to be, and upon what trusts it desired to receive 1042 back the property that was going to be re-allocated to it. They had just found that the compact which united their members was too straight for them. In all the discussions in the House of Lords the question was whether, under the form of compact or bond of union, the General Assembly had the power to vary the doctrine of the Church, and what were the limits of such a power. The present difficult. I had arisen because it had been decided by the House of Lords that under the old constitution of the Free Church they had not the power which they desired to alter or vary its doctrines, or the bond of union which united its members. The Free Church, since the time of the Disruption controversy, had always asserted the fullest spiritual independence, but no such assertion of independence could ever displace the right and duty of the State to interpret the compact and bond of union whenever the question arose as to what the compact between the members was. That was decided long ago in the Cardross case. That was the whole principle and point on which the present case was decided. If power was assumed by a Church in the compact entered into by its members to alter from time to time its formularies and standards, and if that was clearly and precisely explained and laid down, then, of course, the State would recognise it, as they would recognise any other form of the constitution of a Church. But the choice must be made. Either a fixed and settled standard might be adopted or freedom must be given to change. They could not have both. The Church might either assert that her standards ware to be those which were held and asserted from time to time by the majority of her own body, or it might declare that certain principles were to be accepted as cardinal principles for all time. Now the United Free Church was prepared to ask full freedom and to lay aside any fixed standard or formularies except the fundamental standard of the Bible, as contained in the Old and New Testaments. This principle was declared in the resolution of the last General Assembly—That the Church has the sole and exclusive right and power, from tune to time as duty may require, to her Courts to alter, change, add to, and modify her constitution and laws 1043 according to the standard and formularies, and to determine and declare what these are, and to unite with other Christian Churches.That gave full and complete liberty to the United Free Church. Supposing, to take an extreme, that the majority of the General Assembly and of the Presbyteries agreed to join the Church of Rome, they would have full liberty to do so. That was an extreme illustration—but it was quite possible that in future this freedom now claimed by the United Free Church might lead very far to the adoption of other principles than those now held by the majority of its members. The same principle of absolute freedom was being laid down in the declarations of trust which were taking the place of the old model trust deed, out of which this difficulty had arisen. This was a very large step. It was giving the Church the right to reconstruct its formularies as and when it pleased and to relax its standards if and when it was convinced that that was right and necessary. He agreed in principle, because he believed in the principles of evolution and development. He held that—Through the ages one increasing purpose runs,and he would rather leave to the wisdom of the Church in the future the decision on points that arose from time to time than try to confine them according to ideas that were held at the present time.
The freedom which was thus given by the Bill was not realised by the Leader of the Opposition, and necessarily reacted upon all other Churches, and most directly upon the Church of Scotland. Therefore, it was upon Clause 5 that so much of this debate had turned. There had been no clear objection to Clause 5 on its merits. He could not make out what the views of the Leader of the Opposition were. He told them this was an apple of discord, and amari alquid, but he did not know whether he objected to it on its merits. He raised difficulties about the Established Church altering its formularies, but he should like to know whether he objected to it on its merits. He wished the right hon. Gentleman had not used words which were hardly worthy as to the attitude of the Church of Scotland in this matter. He talked of brokerage or bargaining. That 1044 was not the right way in which to approach a subject of this sort, and it was not the way in which leading men in the United Free Church or other prominent men had approached it. A great religious problem was under discussion in this Parliament, produced by the case of the United Free Church, but that problem stirred the waters altogether, and it was right that it should be dealt with as a whole. What the Lord-Advocate said was true as to the effect upon men desiring to join the Church, and who found in the one Church rigid and archaic standards, and that they were tied down to every single word of the declaration 200 years old, of which the manner at any rate had become obsolete altogether, and which was no longer believed by one man in a thousand. It was a serious matter, when a man was considering what Church he was to join, whether he found himself pledged to sign his full and exact belief in a declaration of that sort, or whether he was called upon to give his assent and approval to the standard as a whole. In that case he accepted and believed the main principles, but he could leave out of consideration smaller details which were no longer part of our modern method of thought. It would be a grave thing for the Church of Scotland if the most promising young men with tender and delicate consciences were lost and driven into other Churches whose activity was as great, and whose ideals and views on all other points were so closely akin to those of the Established Church. When this problem was once opened they ought to deal with it as affecting all Churches and not the one only, therefore this relaxation of formula, was sought.
The right hon. Gentleman spoke of it as if it was some new idea, and that they did not know what the feeling of Scotland was. As if the thing had not been under discussion for many years and accepted unanimously by the General Assembly. The Church of England obtained a similar relaxation forty years ago in regard to the Articles. Under the Clergy Subscription Act a similar change was made from a form which made a man declare his absolute assent and consent to everything prescribed in the Thirty-nine Articles 1045 and the Book of Common Prayer. There was a certain difference, for that Act prescribed the exact terms of the formula which was to be substituted for a too narrow and rigid formula, and this Act while maintaining the standard of the Confession of Faith, left it in the hands of the Church to decide upon the exact formula. That difference was a very small one. The right hon. Gentleman said there was no precedent; but there was the Scotch precedent of 1690, that great Act of the Revolution settlement to which they wished to return. What they wished was to take away the stringent test imposed for a temporary purpose and to return to the strong principle which was embodied in the first Act. That was what they desired and the difference was very small. The constitution of the Church of Scotland, in which the governing body was infinitely more a lay body than in the Church of England, and the certainty that any proposal of serious change would arouse the keenest interest in Scotland, and would be fully discussed in each independent Presbytery before it was accepted, should be an amply sufficient protection against any rash or ritualistic changes which some Members seemed so to fear. It was absolutely and completely a Liberal principle to relax tests and to give freedom of opinion to men in all positions, to professors as well as to ministers, and he could not conceive any real objection being taken to the change on the merits.
Of course the point might be raised that it was a separate matter, and might be dealt with in a separate Bill. He had tried to show it was not-a separate matter, but was more closely akin to the rest of the Bill than appeared at first sight. In addition to that they all knew there was a practical reason for joining the two, viz., that it was extremely difficult to get a Bill through Parliament which had not the immediate pressure of urgency behind it. That was a practical answer to the suggestion that the Bill would be better separated. Seeing that there was not the smallest chance of this clause becoming law if it was not taken as part of this measure, he did not think it should be 1046 separated. The objections to it had merely been that it would endanger the Bill, because it would be a stumbling; stone and would raise opposition. All that went if it did not arouse opposition, and people were content to take it on the merits. He believed and trusted this measure would bring back peace to Scotland and that it would be a great boon to all the Presbyterian Churches of Scotland.
§ MR. ALFRED HUTTON (Yorkshire, W. R., Morley)
, as an English Member apologised for intervening in a debate which related purely to a Scotch matter, but the whole of the discussion had gone to prove that every speaker was conscious of the fact that-there were questions raised by the Bill different from the particular effect on the Free Churches. The introduction of Clause 5 into this Bill had created a feeling of surprise and alarm amongst a good many people interested not only in these questions from the Scotch point of view, but in the question of the relationship-existing between Church and State in England as well as in Scotland. In the first place, he thought, and hon. Members on the other side must feel, that it was-not exactly a praiseworthy action on the part of the Government to take advantage of the present difficulties of one Church to advance the interests of another, while many other Members could not possibly accept the principle laid down in Clause 5. A very great price might be paid by his hon. friends who accepted this Bill with this clause in it, for it was more far-reaching than any Committee point. They had had a learned defence of Clause 5 from the Lord-Advocate and an able defence from the hon. Gentleman who had just sat down. The Lord-Advocate referred to the handicapping of the Church of Scotland and the hon. Member for Partick referred to the tender consciences of the clever young men who wished to enter the Church who had grave difficulties in regard to the present Confession of Faith. It was the first time he had ever heard of the handicapping of the Established Church or of the State with regard to the Established Church. Up to the present the Established Church had had all the advantages. Other people had been 1047 handicapped and had tender consciences, but they had had to come out of the Established Churches both of England and Scotland. He was surprised also to hear the hon. Member for Partick in that portion of his speech dealing with the Disruption of the Church speaking of that Disruption as a blunder. He was perfectly certain that had it not been for the Disruption they would never have heard anything of Clause 5.
MR. PARKER SMITH
I made a mistake. What I meant to say was that the Disruption was the result of a misunderstanding.
MR. PARKER SMITH
I daresay I used the word "blunder," but I never should have described it as a blunder; it was a misfortune, and the result of a misunderstanding in the Church.
§ MR. ALFRED HUTTON
said it was due to the Disruption that we had that liberty of conscience of which we had hoard so much. This clause went much further than the limitation as to the subscription to the Confession of Faith. When they left it to the Church from time to time to alter its formula of subscription it was certain that the Confession of Faith was itself in danger. But when they could draw up a formula of subscription the State could say they no longer insisted on the Confession of Faith as a test of the basis of faith. It was an extraordinary thing that the Government never paid any attention to the Reports of its own Commissioners when their Reports were inconvenient. The Commission appointed in connection with the Scotch Churches never referred to the conditions of the Established Church at all, yet the Government presumed to introduce this clause. The Government also appointed a Commission to inquire into the question of the Scotch Universities' tests, and in the face of the recommendations of that Commission they proposed to hand over all the power in regard to the religious tests to the Ecclesiastical Board. What about the tender consciences in that case? They were to appropriate all 1048 these positions of emolument, position, and power but when it came to giving any real and satisfactory relief they gave the lie direst to the Commission and were going to hand over the power in regard to the tests to the Ecclesiastical Board and withdraw the powers which the State had hitherto held over their own Universities. He presumed the friends of the National Church, the State Church, were not merely friends of the State Church from the £s. d. point of view. They were friends of the Established Church because they believed in its principles; because they believed the nation had some duty, some rights to exercise, which it could only exercise through a Church; some duties and rights, spiritual and moral, which it could only perform through the agency of a Church.
When the State withdrew from the performance of its duties to the Church and handed over to the Church the right to draw up its own formula of subscription: and test of profession of faith that was a denial of the principle of Establishment, and the advocates and supporters of this Bill knew the State were taking the first step towards disestablishment. I But when they took the first step they had no right to stop where they did. If they were going to claim a right of freedom spiritually they must claim the whole of the rights of free property. They must retain all the power and patronage and freedom of property, which was really the meaning of a State Church. That would be creating a precedent which he could imagine the noble Lord the Member for Greenwich using in a very formidable manner in times to come. It would delight the heart of the noble Lord to hear that this House was going to abandon the principle which governed the Established Church, and to adopt new one which left it to the National Church to draw up its own subscription, its own formula, its own creed, and to practice its own ritual; because that was bound to follow in the long run. In fact, it might obviously take the form of saying that they were not bound by any particular Confession of Faith or the whole Thirty-nine Articles. This was legislation to justify that doctrine of reservation which came under the contempt of all honest men, and he thought the 1049 action the Government was taking in connection with the Scotch Churches was a very doubtful one. He begged to move.
§ MR. GEORGE WHITE (Norfolk, N. W.)
said he desired to second the Amendment submitted to the House so ably by his hon. friend, and should like to emphasise the objection he hid taken to Clause 5. He should have called it an extraordinary clause were it not for the fact that they had been treated by the present Government on many previous occasions to similar legislation. The object of this Bill had been very ably and adequately described by the Lord-Advocate in introducing it, and he could not help feeling that in the latter part of his remarks the right hon. Gentleman himself showed he must be aware of the invasion made by this clause in the Bill. It appeared that the authors of the Bill saw an opportunity of dealing with a question which had often, no doubt, been referred to, but as to which there was no fielding in the House or the country. Clause 5 dealt with the Established Church. It must be noted that the two Churches coming to the House of Commons to seek relief were neither of them Established Churches, and therefore it was a matter of apportioning property belonging to either one or the other. But when they came to deal with property belonging to the Established Church they were on altogether different lines, and it seemed that in framing this Bill the Lord-Advocate and those acting with him had framed it on lines which they knew would not pass this House, but which would meet the opposition of the bulk of the United Free Church. They must have been aware that this Bill could not find acceptance with the large body of the Free Churches represented in this House, and the question therefore was, why was this Bill framed on principles which were known to be unacceptable? Clearly so that the rest of the Bill might be used to bargain for the retention of Clause 5. It was not a high moral proceeding to frame a Bill on principles known to be unacceptable in order that they might be bartered with. The Bill savoured more of the horse-dealing principle of do not 1050 bid as much as you mean to give; but leave a little to bargain with."
He was quite sure that the Lord-Advocate was wrong when he said that as a body the United Free Churchmen would not object to the principle of Clause 5. He believed they did object to it, but the position was this: They were offered the Bill with certain Amendments which would to a large extent meet the needs of their own Church, but those Amendments were offered on, the condition that this fifth Clause was accepted with the amended form of the Bill submitted by the Lord-Advocate. That was a principle which they too often treated with in the House. Members of the Government, and he ventured to say the Prime Minister, on more than one occasion had offered to this House Bills on the principle that "I will do justice to you if you will allow me to do an injustice to somebody else." That really was the position of this fifth Clause in the Bill now before the House, and on the whole he regretted that the members of the United Free Church had not stood firm in demanding what the Lord-Advocate had given them in the amended form in which he proposed to introduce the Bill without at the same time assenting to the principle of the fifth Clause to which he believed they almost universally objected, because in assenting to this principle they were doing it at the expense of the Free Churches generally. He could well understand the anxiety they had to see a just Bill carried through the House, and he could well understand the vast issues at stake. The Prime Minister understood that, and he was perfectly sure he was playing a game in which he must ultimately be victorious, but he thought it would have been more worthy of the past traditions of the United Free Church of Scotland if they had determined to adhere to their own righteous demands without sacrificing a principle which must put the Free Churches generally into a position of disadvantage. Moveover, he believed that their friends of the United Free Church would have carried a Bill worthy of the claims which they made, because, whilst he knew the Prime Minister would probably have threatened the withdrawal of the Bill, he did not feel that even he, who was very 1051 often capable of defying public opinion, would dare to risk the withdrawal of such a Bill in the present state of religious affairs in Scotland and in face of the disorder which would be likely to grow out of such withdrawal.
The Free Churches of England looked upon this struggle with the greatest possible interest and sympathy, although he feared the admission of the fifth Clause into the Bill would somewhat lessen the sympathy which would otherwise have flowed out in the fullest and freest manner. They felt that that clause contained a most dangerous principle, and by sacrificing the present advantage for the sake of a great principle, they would perhaps have found the easiest way out of the difficulties which now surrounded them. Like his hon. friend who had preceded him, he would not enter into those matters which entirely affected the interests of Scotch Members, but, in acceding to the Bill with this fifth Clause in it, he felt they would be conceding a principle to which they were diametrically opposed. The attitude of the Free Churches was very easily defined. They believed that every Church had a right to proclaim its own creeds and Confessions; but the clause in question dealt with what claimed to be a National Church, and therefore Parliament, in their opinion, should keep complete control over its property. The fifth Clause proposed to make a stupendous change. It was like the Redistribution Bill. It was very simple, but it had to do with great constitutional questions which had occupied the attention of many of the ablest ecclesiastical minds, as well as lay minds, for generations past. It would give to the General Assembly, or to Convocation if the same principle were carried out in England, the disposal of all that property which was regarded as national property with no responsibility resting upon it as to the creed to which it adhered. Therefore it claimed all the advantages without the disadvantages which they felt belonged to a National Church. He thought that the argument had not been recognised with regard to freedom of conscience and liberty of subscription and so forth. They contended that those things were incompatible with a National Church, and that 1052 if a Church claimed, as they thought it ought to rightly claim, religious freedom in these respects, it could only do so by resigning those emoluments and properties which it had in trust for the nation. It submitted in a sense to be handcuffed, and yet wanted to slip those handcuff a and enjoy freedom whenever it saw fit to do so.
Down to a certain period in our English history Royal hands were laid upon this property and it was dealt with as they thought best until limited by Parliament. Then the property was transferred to Parliament, and right down from that time to now it had always claimed to exercise its authority over it. Therefore the title, he thought, was good enough for the contention he placed before the House. It is for those who supported the clause to justify the change which it brought about. They had to convince Parliament that it had no claim over a Church which claimed to be a National Church holding property on behalf of the nation, and that it had no more control over such Church than it had over Nonconformist Churches which had never held allegiance to Parliament at all. Perhaps it might be thought a matter in which he, as a Free Churchman, had no right to interfere, but they claimed to have certain rights in connection with the National Church so long as it remained allied to the State. To what extent could a National Church alter its beliefs and still remain the same Church and have the same hold upon the properties entrusted to it by the nation? There, he thought, was the gist of the whole matter. The question presented to many members of the Established Church now was how far could a Protestant Church go towards Romanism without sacrificing its claims to be considered a Protestant Church and, therefore, losing its claim upon properties which it now administered on behalf of the nation. He contended that the fifth Clause asked Parliament to resign its control over the Confessions and formulae of the Established Church, and that was the serious part of it in their judgment If that clause passed, the General Assembly in Scotland would have power to subscribe practically to anything which the predominant party 1053 in that General Assembly might desire to carry. He thought the clause far too serious a one to be inserted in a Bill brought in for another purpose, and that it was far too serious a question for a Parliament in senile decay to attempt to settle when it had engaged the attention of the ablest men in this country for generations past. If the Church of Scotland desired to complete its freedom and to have none of those restrictions referred to, it knew the way by which that freedom could be obtained. It could not in its present position deny the right of Parliament to interfere, and could not ask Parliament to give it complete liberty in regard to matters of its belief. It had only to follow the example of those Churches relying on voluntary aid instead of State funds to secure that precious inheritance.
To leave out all the words after the word 'That,' and at the end of the Question to add the word" 'in the opinion of this House no approval should be given to any measure which has the effect of giving an Established Church the right to change or modify its creeds, or any formula of subscription thereto, without such change or modification being submitted and specifically sanctioned by Parliament.'"—(Mr. Alfred Hutton.)
§ Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
MR. BRYOE (Aberdeen, S.)
said that without in any way attempting to throw any disparagement upon the speeches of the mover and the seconder of this Amendment he should like to recall the the House to the provision which was intended to be made by this Bill for settling this question in Scotland. He joined in the satisfaction which had been expressed in regard to what the Lord-Advocate had said in moving the Second Reading of the Bill, for he had removed a great many difficulties out of their path by the changes which he had announced on behalf of the Government. The Lord-Advocate knew that there had been some dissatisfaction with several of the provisions in this Bill, but the majority of those difficulties had been removed by his statement and so they might now expect a comparatively easy passage for the Bill. He did not deny that there 1054 were some questions which still required very careful consideration, but a great many of the difficulties which previously existed had now been removed. He did not quite follow what the Lord-Advocate conveyed by his reference to the free funds. He did not know whether he considered the fund belonging to the colleges were free funds.
MR. SCOTT DICKSON
I meant free in this sense, that they would be available for the education of ministers of the Free Church.
§ MR. BRYCE
said he did not dissent from that view, but he thought that it would require some further consideration when they reached that point. He would now say a few words about the sustentation fund and the provision for the legal Free Church. It was very difficult to put an interpretation upon the words "adequate provision," for that might mean a great deal. He thought it would have been a great deal better, considering what an admirable Report the Commissioners gave them and how thoroughly they appeared to understand the question, to have left them rather more freedom than the use of the words "adequate I provision" would give them. He felt uneasy lest the Commissioners should think that they would be tied by the word "adequate" to make a provision for the legal Free Church which would be, so to speak, adequate to bring the incomes of its ministers and manses up to that obtained from the sustentation fund previously. Before they agreed to the principle of saying that funds must be taken from the United Free Church to make a full and ample provision for the legal Free Church, he thought the House should consider what the actual facts were. The congregations of the legal Free Church had nearly always been small and poor congregations. According to the admirable principles laid down and enforced with so much eloquence by Dr. Chalmers they had been supported by the rest of the Church and in particular by the richer congregations. The endowments of the sustentation fund had given them this assistance, and the annual gifts which the poorer congregations had received in addition to the income from the 1055 sustentation fund had also come from the richer congregations. The richer congregations belonged to the United Free Church and the poorer congregations to the legal Free Church. These richer congregations had now a new burden thrown upon them, and they would have much to do in the way of supplying the property which the decision of the House of Lords had taken from them. They would have to expend larger sums, not only for their own poorer congregations, but also to make up what they had lost in other ways. Was it right that, in endeavouring to allocate property between these two religious bodies, they should consider that everything was to be taken from the United Free Church to supply all the needs of the legal Free Church He submitted that that would be going a good deal too far and this Bill, even after allowing for the alterations which had been suggested by the Lord-Advocate, was too much in the direction that full provision must be made for the legal Free Church at whatever cost to the other Church. It was all very well to be generous, but they must look at the facts and at what had been done by the two parts of the community which had now been separated into these two Churches. It would be a very great hardship to impose upon the United Free Church majority the obligation of requiring them to take from their libraries and buildings, and from their funds, all that might be supposed to be necessary for the purposes of the congregations of the other Church.
He would turn now to the question which had raised a certain measure of controversy—he alluded to the question raised by Clause 5. It should be remembered that this Bill was properly an emergency Bill which had been brought in to deal with an acute question which, if not dealt with, might give rise to social disorder. Although the people of Scotland had, as a rule, a great deal of restraint and control over their feelings, he might say that upon this question those feelings had run very high, and if a measure of this kind was not Immediately passed nobody could say what would happen in Scotland. It was a Bill which dealt with the question of property only and property between two 1056 Churches, neither of which was an Established Church. There had suddenly arisen a new and large question which raised enormous and wide issues which stretched far beyond anything contemplated when the Bill was first promised. This was a question which effected not only the clergy but the laity of the Established Church, because the laity were profoundly affected by anything which affected the Church. When a clergyman was appointed and there was a new creed every member of the congregation was affected, and the security which the members of the congregation had before was removed. What was now proposed was nothing less than a provision that the Established Church of Scotland should be allowed to change its creed. It was said by the Lord-Advocate that the General Assembly of the Established Church of Scotland was composed of laymen as well as clergymen, but the Lord-Advocate must know that the representation of the laity in that Assembly did not prevent the clergy, owing to their superior knowledge, powers of speech, character, and influence, from exercising a predominating influence and consequently the security of the Scottish laity was really to be found in the control of Parliament.
The Lord-Advocate gave an interesting historical sketch of what happened in 1693, and he drew the moral that we should do what was done in 1690. The Parliament of 1690 and the people were not satisfied with the way matters were left at that time. Although the nation and the Church were then regarded as coterminous, still the General Assembly was not considered a body to be left entirely to itself in a matter of such gravity, and consequently Parliament stepped in, in 1690, and considered that this was a question which affected the whole laity, and, therefore, nothing else than a council of the nation could deal with it. Consequently they decided that they would not leave the question in the hands of the assembly, and they took it over themselves. That action had been allowed to remain good from that date until now, and until quite recently no question was raised as to Parliament being the proper body to deal with a matter of such extreme gravity and importance. It was nothing less 1057 than changing the creed of the country. [MINISTERIAL cries of "No, no!"] Hon. Gentlemen opposite said "No, no," but he would endeavour to make that point clear. The proposal of this Bill was to allow the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland to alter the form of subscription, and that, in his opinion, was altering the creed. He thought the Attorney-General would not deny that that was the ease. That was the whole burden of this controversy. With every deference to the authorities he saw before him, he submitted that there were many formulae, which would be within the meaning of Clause 5, which would be entirely different from the declaration of assent which was made by a minister now when he took his declaration. Let them suppose, for instance, this formula: "I assent to the Confession of Faith in so far as the same is agreeable to Holy Scripture." With great deference to the Attorney-General, he was not prepared to accept his ipse digit on that question. He thought there were forms which would be more complicated, and which would give more opportunity for captious criticism. He thought that was a form which would be within the term of the clause. It would be a formula of subscription to the Confession of Faith, and yet it would be a formula under which very large liberty of confession would be left in the individual case. He did not deny that the matter was open to controversy, but he did not admit for a moment that the Attorney-General was right in saying that a Court would reject that as not within the meaning of Clause 5.
Should an Established Church possess the power of making its own creed or altering the formula of subscription? Why did the State in the seventeenth century establish a particular Church? It was because that Church held the truth as delivered by Christ and His Apostles. It did not choose the Church from a particular body of men; it chose the Church because it held the doctrine which the State believed to be true. The nation said, "We believe this creed to be true, and therefore we adopt it, and establish the Church accordingly." It was the act of the nation, and not the act of the Church, or, rather, it was the act of the nation acting in its capacity as 1058 a Church, because they were assumed to be identical. Well, they had passed a long way from those times. The nation and the Church were no longer identical. The nation now consisted very largely of persons who did not belong to the Church. In the Presbyterian Churches there were about a-half, broadly speaking, who did not belong to the Established Church, and if they took the whole of the population, church-goers and non-church-goers, it would be still more apparent that the Church and the nation were no longer coterminous. Was it right and proper that the nation should abrogate the function which it had hitherto held of determining what was to be the creed of the National Church, and leave that to a body which no longer represented the nation, but only a particular part of it? That was really the main question which they had now to discuss. It would involve a very protracted discussion, and, therefore, he would not attempt to examine at present the propositions which were submitted by his hon. friends the Members for the Morley Division of Yorkshire and North-West Norfolk, who brought this question before the House in an Amendment. It might be that they would have to argue that in Committee. It would take a long time to argue it now, and, therefore, he preferred to leave it to the Committee stage. But he did desire to emphasise the point before passing from the matter, that, so far as he knew, there was no Established Protestant Church in the world which left the determination of the faith of the nation to an ecclesiastical assembly. It was certainly not so in Germany and Holland. The Roman Catholic Church was in an entirely different position. It was the Church Universal according to its own claims. It was the Church which claimed to be the universal Christian Church of he world. Where it was established it was established not in respect of any Act of Assembly. It was established in respect of the doctrine which was held to be the doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church as declared by the Pope, or the General Council, or the Pope and the General Council combined. That was a very different position from the position taken up by any Protestant Church. He 1059 asked, and he hoped he would have an answer, whether there was a Protestant Church in the world which left, as this Bill proposed to do, the determination of the national faith to an ecclesiastical power.
Let him examine one argument raised by the Lord-Advocate. He said that it had become necessary to restore to the Established Church the position of freedom which would enable it to compete with the United Free Church. He must say that there was something distasteful to him in talking about competition between Churches. It was rather unfortunate, he thought, that this Bill should be put forward as a method of securing competition between two Churches. That was not the spirit in which they were accustomed to approach these questions in Scotland, and he was sorry to think any countenance should have been given, no doubt quite unintentionally, to that view by any language used by the Lord-Advocate.
MR. SCOTT DICKSON
You have misrepresented my argument. I used no language which would convey to anyone the meaning which the right hon. Gentleman says.
MR. SCOTT DICKSON
I do not withdraw the expression. I object to the misrepresentation of the expression.
§ MR. BRYCE
said nothing was further from his mind than to misrepresent the Lord-Advocate, and he was very glad to have elicited the explanation that nothing of the kind was present in the mind of the right hon. and learned Gentleman. He thought the best way would have been to withdraw the expression. The remark of the Lord-Advocate appeared to him to be founded on a misconception. He seemed to think that something was being done by this Bill to give to the United Free Church a freedom which it did not previously possess, but that was not the fact. What 1060 had happened was this. The United Free Church conceived itself, until the House of Lords gave decision, to be the Free Church of Scotland as it had gone on from 1843. The House of Lords had said it was not so. It had said: "You are a new body altogether, you are not the old Free Church." That body did not wish any gift of freedom from the Government. It had its freedom already, and enjoyed it as a new body. Therefore, there was a complete misconception on the part of the Lord-Advocate, and it was one which was shared by his right hon. friend the Member for Partick. He saw nothing in the rest of the Bill to justify the introduction of this novel and highly controversial element. He thought this was a very great question to be undertaken at this part of the session. He ventured to believe that the proposed change was not accepted with perfect unanimity in the Established Church itself. They had all received statements purporting to come from organisations of the Church protesting against it, and he thought time ought to be given for the due expression of the opinion of the Established Church as to whether or not they desired this change to be made.
There was one other point to which he wished to draw attention. It was the provision in this clause in regard to Universities. Now the House knew that it was only in the Faculty of Divinity in the Scottish Universities that tests were still imposed on the professors, all other tests having been abolished. The Royal Commission on the Scottish Universities was directed to make a special Report on this question. The Royal Commission made a special Report in 1892 in which, by a majority, they recommended the abolition of tests in the theological faculties. That Report was signed by extremely influential members—by Lord Elgin, by two Judges of the Court of Session, and by three gentlemen belonging to the Conservative Party; so that it was in no way a Party question. No Party issue was raised. This deliverance was given on the ground of what was best for Scotland and the Scotch Universities; and the majority of the Commission observed that to 1061 maintain the tests was most unfair to the other Churches. This Bill proposed not only to provoke and maintain, but it to aggravate, that feeling. Hitherto the tests had been imposed by Parliament, but this Bill proposed to leave it to an ecclesiastical body which was no longer representative of the nation, but only of a part of the nation, to impose any test it pleased upon the Chairs in the theological faculties of the national Universities. It declared the Universities to be pro tanto not national but denominational. That was an unheard of novelty and it had created great astonishment in Scotland that the Government should have taken the opportunity of this Bill to try to sectarianise the Scottish Universities. Although the tests had remained under the Established Church, it was in virtue of an Act of Parliament; they were not imposed by the Church itself. This was a matter which would require to be dealt with in Committee. He proposed to move an Amendment in Committee which would have the effect of throwing open these Chairs, as was proposed long ago by the Royal Commission, and, as he thought, the general opinion of Scotland desired.
They were all glad that the Government should have chosen the Commission which they had done. They had confidence in the gentlemen composing that Commission, and wished that it should have, if possible, wider discretion than the Bill gave it, because they believed it would be wisely exercised, and that it was extremely difficult to state in the words of an Act of Parliament the precise principles which ought to be applied. He was quite sure they would all join in desiring for this Commission that blessing which had been promised to those whose labours made for peace.
§ SIR MARK STEWART (Kirkcudbrightshire)
said he desired to speak only a few words on this occasion. He must say he was somewhat disappointed in the latter part of the speech of the Tight hon. Gentleman opposite; but in the first part of his speech the right hon. Gentleman spoke very convincingly of the Bill as being all for the good, and 1062 he seemed to think that the Government had, on the whole, satisfactorily devised a scheme to adjust the claims of the two Churches. He also predicted that the Bill would have a comparatively easy passage through the House so far as his friends were concerned. He hoped that that would be the case. It was all-important that this Bill should be read a second time, and passed through all its stages as speedily as possible, to show the country that they Were all in earnest in it is matter. If that were not the case the result might be painful, and in some respects worse than painful. He did not wish to stir up any Party feeling whatever. He viewed this question from an entirely non-Party standpoint. They all knew the circumstances since the decision of the House of Lords was given. They also all knew that it was absolutely impossible to satisfy everyone concerned in every detail. There must be compromise, and there must be give and take. The Free Church in the meantime was master of the whole of the revenues as well as of the whole of the buildings and lands, and the United Free Church could hardly expect to get entirely what they had before; but, at the same time, they expected justice to be dispensed by the Commission. In that case he was satisfied that this Government Bill was the only engine to bring about that result, although he could not say he agreed with every sentence in it. On the whole the Bill was wisely conceived, and with the Amendments foreshadowed by the Lord-Advocate, especially as to the non-alienation of the trust monies and of the legacies, he thought it would be a very good Bill for the purpose they had in view.
Let him say one or two words in regard to the fifth clause. The Leader of the Opposition asked why should not the elders be consulted as well as the ministers? The right hon. Gentleman really forgot the constitution of the Church of Scotland, by which one-half of the members of the General Assembly were elders. When they had this lay element in the General Assembly, and in the Presbyteries also, was it to be supposed that they would throw away any advantage, that they would not look on 1063 both sides of the question? The right hon. Gentleman said that this clause had been sprung upon the country. That was quite an inaccurate statement. The subject of the formula was mooted in 1877, and it had since been brought up five or six times in the General Assembly, and in divers ways. In 1889 there were sixty-four Presbyteries which approved of a relaxation of the formula, and only sixteen dissented, while four desired alteration. In 1900 the Presbytery of Auchterarder forwarded to the General Assembly an overture on the subject, and the attention of the General Assembly was called to it by Sir John Cheyne, the Procurator of the Church, who took a very active part in this matter. In 1901 a committee of the General Assembly presented a report on this overture, and in 1902 and 1903 the subject was discussed. In 1904 the resolution in favour of the relaxation of the formula was carried unanimously in the General Assembly. Therefore, it could not be said that the Church of Scotland or the people of Scotland were taken unawares on this matter. There was a general consensus of opinion in Scotland that the formula was obsolete. They were asked only to go back to the Act of 1690 from that of 1693, so that ministers might give a general assent to the Confession of Faith instead of making every word of that Confession their own. He thought this ought to be conceded to the Established Church of Scotland. In after years they would have in Scotland a strong Church like the Free Church. He would warn the House that the Free Church must be dealt with justly and fairly. It would not do to keep up old animosities. They could not forget that the Free Church had made great sacrifices for a cause which they believed to be sacred to their principles, and they had carried it out most nobly. The great point was whether one Church should get better terms than another, but they should bear in mind that union might be established between the three Churches, than which nothing could be better for Scotland. There was not such a difference between these great communities, and if they could help them by passing this Bill, and if the result were an United Presbyterian Church, they would have done more good to Scotland than would 1064 be done by any other measure they were likely to pass that session. There were many points which would have to be discussed in Committee, but he hoped the Second Beading would pass to-night, and that the Bill would be law within a few days.
§ MR. SAMUEL SMITH, (Flintshire)
speaking as a Free Churchman and as a Scotsman, said his point of view was not exactly the same as that of the hon. Member who proposed the Amendment. He was very familiar with the theological opinion of Scotland, having followed it for forty or fifty years, and he felt an amount of sympathy for a clause intended to give a certain amount of liberty to the Established Church of Scotland. His view was that Churches should assist each other as far as they could. He belonged to a Church which had assumed liberty and paid very heavily for it, but that was no reason why it should not assist any other Church in obtaining liberty. During the last few years almost every Presbyterian Church except the Established Church of Scotland had sought to change their subscriptions to the Confession of Faith, and he hoped the House would deal generously in the matter and give, as far as possible, substantial justice to that Church. He quite admitted the present was a very inexpedient moment to raise such a question as the rights of the Established Church, and if he thought that perseverance with the clause would imperil the Bill he would certainly vote against it, but he hardly thought that would be the case. He believed the opinion of Scotland was practically unanimous that such a change was necessary, and he reminded the House that there was a far wider breach between the Nonconformists of England and the English Church than was the case in Scotland. He doubted if there was a single intelligent man who believed everything contained in the Confession of Faith. It was drawn up in an age of religious persecution, and was full of persecuting principles, and so every Church had made declarations that they did not believe in those persecuting principles. He could not conceive anything more demoralising than to require a man 1065 to subscribe to doctrines he did not believe in, and if they once destroyed truth in a man they destroyed everything.
He guarded himself against saying that it was not a reasonable thing to give to an Established Church some identity. He agreed with the right hon. "Member for Aberdeen that there must be some limit. There must be real identity in a Church. If it was to be an Established Church there must be some means of establishing identity. It was quite possible to see a union between the Presbyterian Churches of Scotland such as had taken place elsewhere. He suggested that in place of Clause 5 the Government should adopt the exact language used in the Assembly of the Established Church this year. A resolution was passed unanimously that everyone subscribing in future should subscribe to the Confession of Faith as containing the sum and substance of the reformed faith. That would tie them down to what might be called evangelical doctrines, from which no church could deviate. He believed himself that the feeling of Scotland was entirely in favour of this measure of relief.
§ MR. AUSTIN TAYLOR
said he felt the same reluctance that other English Members felt in addressing the House on a matter which Scottish Members regarded as of a purely domestic character. But as he thought the clause to which the Amendment now before the House referred had a certain bearing on all Established Churches, he wished to be allowed, as a member of the Established Church of England, to say a few words. He did not wish to enter into the merits of this controversy between the United Free Church and the Free Church of Scotland. He did not share the view that no change was made in the status of the United Free Church by this Bill, because it would be open to that non-Established Church to remodel, not only its formula, but its subordinate standards and Confession of Faith without losing its property at the will of a bare majority, whilst the minority, however strong, would have no Parliamentary title. That was a considerable change. A similar change would be brought about by the clause under discussion with regard to the Established Church of Scotland, in so far 1066 as the formula of subscription was concerned. There was no question of relaxation about Clause 5. What was done by Clause 5 was that it abolished from the Statute book the present formula of subscription dating from 1693, leaving it to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland to substitute such formula of subscription from time to time as seemed to them good. From the point of view of an Established Church that seemed to him to be a fundamental change, and he could not understand the frame of mind of those who thought the form of subscription was a secondary matter. It was perfectly true that the present intention of the General Assembly had been expressed in the direction of a relaxation of the formula of subscription, but practically what the State said to the Church of Scotland by the fifth clause was this "Your, subordinate standards and Confessions of Faith will remain on the Statute-book, but the terms by which you secure unity from your individual adherents can be modeled as you please, we want to know nothing about it, and no inquiries will be made." He thought that was a very remarkable change to bring about in the relations between the State and the Church as they had known it in this country, and even in some Continental countries.
He could not understand the frame of mind of some hon. Members on his side of the House, who seemed to think that the real formula of subscription was quite a secondary matter. Why, in the Church of England it was everything. From his point of view, the formula was in some ways more important than the subordinate standards. If His Majesty's Government would only keep the formula of subscription in their minds they could almost do anything. So far from disestablishing Churches, he did not see why something should not be done to establish every Church. Why should not all their creeds be on the Statute-book? Why should not a formula be invented, a theological master-key, which would fit them all? The only drawback would be that you might have a Church so comprehensive that no one would comprehend it. If it were once recognised that formulæ of subscription were in some cases of more importance 1067 than the standards, then he thought they would appreciate the true bearings of this momentous change.
With the terms of the Amendment before the House he did not altogether agree, but, to use a phrase which he thought not inappropriate, with "the sum and substance" of the Amendment he completely agreed. He had not the least desire to withhold spiritual liberty from the Established Church of Scotland. He wished to make that point clear. If it were a question of the relaxation of the formula of subscription, he would be the last man in the House to get up and oppose it. The Church of Scotland was so democratic that he had not the least fear of a relaxation, but what he did feel was that the Government in introducing this particular point had raised the whole question of Establishment as between Church and State. If the proposition were, as the hon. Gentleman who last spoke suggested, something that would give them in the Statute-book the formula which it was proposed to adopt, which would give to Parliament the power of review, then he thought there might be a great deal to be said for the clause as it would then appear. Bat the clause as now drafted appeared to him designed not to keep the Church in connection with the State, but to put all Established Churches in the extraordinary position that whilst the State maintained their standards upon its Statute-book it was to have no further real concern in their spiritual development.
He did not see his right hon. friend the Prime Minister present, but for some time past he had felt the greatest desire to put to him one question: What did he think was meant by a State establishment of religion? He knew no man more competent to answer a question of this kind, and he would gratify the House if he would tell them what, when this Bill had been passed, was going to be left of the ideas which had hitherto governed the relations between Church and State. Surely a State, in choosing a particular Church to represent it, affirmed that in that Church lay the national idea of religion, and that that Church was the most proper vehicle for its expression. How was it 1068 then possible, putting aside all questions of temporalities and pounds, shillings, and pence, for the State to say, as he maintained it did, if it passed Clause 5, that it was absolutely of no concern what turn spiritual events might take in that Church, which was the national embodiment of religion? How was it possible for a member of the Church of England to contemplate without alarm a precedent of that kind, which possibly sooner or later might be applied to his own Church. He hoped the Government would see their way to modify the clause. As the country South of the Tweed became possessed of the real significance of it, he was quite convinced it would excite considerable apprehension. He sympathised so strongly in every fibre of his being with every Scotch sentiment in religion and with the warfare they had had to wage in times past for principles which he held dear, that he would be the very last man to do anything to arouse their susceptibilities, but, after all, there was a solidarity in the Establishment principle that could not be ignored. He hoped that this matter would be again considered by the Government. The General Assembly did not ask for what was proposed in the Bill. They asked for something much less and quite different, and he was quite sure if time were given for consideration some modification would be found possible which would enable them to withdraw opposition to a contentious clause in a Bill which they all desired should otherwise have a safe and speedy passage.
§ MR. COMPTON RICKETT (Scarborough)
said he sympathised with the last speakers who said that it would be much better to leave Scotsmen to settle this question for themselves. Although they might be inclined to blame the United Free Church for want of consideration to the minority, they felt that by the introduction of the fifth clause in this Bill, England was brought into this question. They could not understand why a Clause which opened the whole question of the relaxation of creeds and the revision of trust deeds throughout the length and breadth of these islands should have been introduced accidentally in a Bill which 1069 touched a question largely of money, and which affected two Churches which were not established. It would not he very long before the effect of the judgment in the case of the United Free Church of Scotland would be felt among the Free Churches of England. Indeed, it was already being felt, and their trust deeds had been already challenged. It would probably be the fate of someone in the next session of Parliament to approach this House with a Bill relaxing the conditions under which trust deeds were interpreted, giving power to many more Churches than the United Free Church of Scotland to bring themselves in line with the spiritual feeling and intellectual standard of the thought of the day. A clause which laid down a principle so grave as that which was found in the fifth Clause of this Bill would naturally arouse suspicion, and be likely to create the impression that it was only the harbinger forecasting changes that might be introduced into the Established Church of England.
There were two ways in which this clause had been approached. One was to minimise it by stating that it was merely declaratory, simply the interpretation of a great historic creed, a little relaxation of the bonds. If that were so, then they were asked to sanction words in the form of a declaration and to explain away statements in a nonnatural sense. They were to introduce into the theological arena a diffentiation of meaning in clear statements of fact. This was certainly demoralising and would not be entertained in the world of business or in the domain of philosophy. Therefore on moral grounds they would be justified in resisting the suggestion that they were to allow religious teachers in any part of the country to interpret a creed in a sense in which they would not interpret any other formula and which they would scout under the ordinary conditions of daily life in the intercourse of man with man. If on the other hand this minimising was declared not to be the form desired then, in fact, as some speakers had argued, it really meant a revolution in the creed of the Established Church of Scotland. She was free to open her windows to the 1070 light to get into touch with the thought; the culture; and the revelation of today.
There could be a very great deal said in favour of the claim made on behalf of the Church of Scotland, and nobody realised more than he did the injury done to both countries from, he would not say the cast-iron, but the wrought-iron creeds which bound the religious bodies of to-day. The effect of it was shown in diminished attendance in churches, the want of support to religious movements, and the reaction in the spiritual and moral thought of the country. The liberty which was demanded was perfectly fair, and it should even go farther. To attempt to standardise the statements of theologians who lived 250 years ago, and to endeavour to encumber the thought of to-day, with its broader outlook and its larger knowledge with a fetish of ancient formulæ was doing great harm to religion, particularly among the working classes of the country. A great many of them on his side of the House, even a mongst Free Churchmen, were in favour of this relaxation of bonds, were they not arrested by the fact that for an Established Church, the Government of the country assumed a sponsorship and there must be some kind of definition of its faith. The State could not support a chameleon Church, differently coloured at one time and another. That was one of the great objections to the principle of an Establishment. On the one hand it was necessary for Parliament to undertake the duty of definition. To enter upon theological discussions was inappropriate to that House. Members of an Established Church were tied closely to formulas and creeds which they did not believe, and were driven to adopt every kind of expedient which intelligent men could devise in order to get behind them. [Cries of "Divide, divide."] With the freedom for which they asked, many in that House had much sympathy. How was that to be reconciled with the position of an Established Church?
And, it being half-past Seven of the clock, the debate stood adjourned till this Evening's Sitting.