§ Order for Second Reading read.
§ The SECRETARY for SCOTLAND (Mr. Munro)
I beg to move, "That the Bill be now read a Second time."
I rise to submit this Motion with a deep sense of responsibility, for I am persuaded that it is impossible to exaggerate the importance to the Churches of Scotland that this Measure should become law. I also rise with a deep sense of reverence, for the Bill deals with matters which touch the profoundest issues of human destiny but which are seldom discussed or can be discussed upon the Floor of this House. I am neither a theologian nor an ecclesiastic, and I venture therefore to claim the indulgence of hon. Members while I endeavour as briefly as I can to explain the provisions of the Measure. Of one thing I am quite confident, and this is that the atmosphere of the Debate will be worthy of the Bill and of its high purpose.
What is the purpose of this Bill? Its purpose is to facilitate union between the churches in Scotland. I apprehend that no one will deny the desirability of compassing that purpose. No one will deny that the present schisms in the churches are wholly deplorable, that they tend to retard and frustrate Christian progress, and that they involve a waste and dissipation of energy which it is quite impossible to defend. The Church will in vain urge the world to set its house in order until the Church has set its own house in order. The world to-day, I venture to think, is bemused and shocked by the eccelesiastical rivalry and strife which prevail. The churches, I believe, are grieved by it and even ashamed of it, but they are powerless under existing conditions to remedy it. It is practical considerations of that kind—a feeling that the country simply cannot afford the waste which present arrangements entail—which have given driving force to the union movement in Scotland. The shifting of the rural population in Scotland has aggravated the evil. We find that three-quarters of the population of Scotland to-day is located in the belt which runs between the Firth of Clyde and the Firth of Forth. And yet we find many churches in rural localities where people 1398 are few and comparatively few churches in the great cities where the people are many.
One cannot therefore be surprised to find that the idea of union has everywhere gained ground and is still gaining ground. And it is interesting to note that that movement is not confined to Scotland, but that in England and in Canada and in other countries which I could name the tide of public opinion is running strongly in the same direction. There can be little doubt that the War has done much to stimulate the movement towards union. The War knit the churches together. The ecclesiastical distinctions which divided men at homo seemed irrelevant, insignificant, nay, impertinent, in the war hospitals and on the battlefield. The measure of the difference which separated was realised to be as nothing compared with the measure of agreement which united, and hearts were melted and minds were warmed, and there came a great longing and striving for unity. In this Bill we have the first concrete result of that longing and striving—a Bill which I think is pregnant with hope for the future of Scotland. I need not then stress further the desirability of the object which this Bill has in view, namely, the union of the churches. I proceed to inquire, What is the history of the Bill?
The negotiations which resulted in the cordial approval of this measure by overwhelming majorities in the Assemblies of the Church of Scotland in May of this year began in 1907. These negotiations proceeded smoothly, if slowly, up till 1914, when they were pretermitted by the outbreak of War. The negotiations were directed to the formulation of Articles which should be declaratory of the constitution of the Church of Scotland in; spiritual matters, and which should forma basis of union. These negotiations were resumed with added zeal in 1919, when the War was over. The Articles which are scheduled in this Bill were then adjusted, and were in that year sent down to the Presbyteries of the Church for their consideration, in accordance with the terms of what is known as the Barrier Act. What is the result of that consideration? Out of 84 presbyteries, 82 made returns; 72 returns were in favour of the Articles, nine were against, and one was equally divided. In the assemblies of 1920 and 1921 the Articles were approved by overwhelming majorities. It is significant to observe that, if my memory serves me 1399 aright, no amendment directly challenging the principle of this Bill was moved in the Assembly, and that the amendment which was moved received the support of only 14 members, while 292 supported the deliverance which was moved by Dr. Wallace Williamson.
The attitude of the United Free Church has always been the same. It has all along been that the adjustment of the relations between the Church and the State is for the State and for the Church of Scotland to settle, and that it is a matter in which the United Free Church has neither a right nor a duty actively to intervene. While that is so, the United Free Church has all along been willing to define its attitude to any proposals which were made for the purpose of securing a basis of union. The United Free Church has now declared the claim in these Articles to spiritual autonomy to be adequate and full, and in its Assembly of this year by an overwhelming majority it expressed its satisfaction with the Bill. While you can never hope for complete unanimity amongst Scotsmen, for the Scot, as we know, has an independent mind, and certainly not amongst Scottish ecclesiastics, because, if I may say so with respect, they have exceptionally independent minds, you find that the Articles the lawfulness of which this Bill seeks to declare have, after a constitutional and deliberate reference to the Presbyteries of the Church, obtained overwhelming support. Someone ventured to say in a recent Assembly, "You have not the public opinion of Scotland behind you." My hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge) seems to be of that view. The answer which came in the Assembly is the answer to him—"You are right; the public opinion of Scotland is far ahead of you." I believe that statement to be profoundly true. And if Parliament failed to give effect to that view, it would fail, I think, in a high duty which it owes to the nation to-day.
What is the necessity for the Bill? Well, the constitution of the Church of Scotland is a statutory constitution. It dates back to the Statutes of 1560, of 1592, and of 1690, and also to the Treaty of Union, upon which, indeed, it rests. The Church is precluded by constitutional law from adopting these Articles, which embody their constitution in matters spiritual without Parliamentary sanction. On the 1400 other hand, it would be contrary to the whole genius of the Church that she should accept this or any other constitution as presented to her by Parliament. The matters of faith and of doctrine which are dealt with in the Schedule must first, in her view, be adjusted and approved of, as they have been, by the Church and not by the State. That is the necessity for this Bill. What are the provisions of the Bill? The House will see that it does not set out to effect union. It is a preface to union. It makes union possible by removing certain barriers which at present prevent it. In other words, it is an enabling Bill. It removes all doubt as to the capacity of the Church at its own hands to make these Articles in the Schedule effectual. Doctrine, discipline, worship—these hall-marks of the Church—will remain unaffected by this measure. The most important Clause probably is Clause 1, taken in conjunction with the Schedule. The Articles in the Schedule avow the spiritual independence of the Church, and Clause 1 avows the lawfulness of these Articles. Clause 1 further contains a general repeal of enactments which are inconsitent with the Schedule. Many of these have been found, in practice, to restrict and to limit the freedom which has been claimed by the Church in matters spiritual, but to amend or to repeal phrases scattered throughout the archaic legislation with which we are concerned is not a feasible plan. Hence, the general repeal with which I am dealing. It is a not unfamiliar provision to this House.
I now turn to the Schedule to run through its paragraphs, upon which I venture to make the following observations. Before I do so, may I say that the House will remember that all these Articles are the result of frequent and deliberate consideration by Committees representative of the two Churches, and, not only so, but, if I am not mistaken, the result of deliberation and consideration also by the Presbyteries of the Church, with whom these Committees consulted before arriving, after much difficult and, as it turns out, harmonious work, at the conclusions which are embodied in this Schedule which is presented to the House to-day. The Schedule is the result of years of deliberation between the Church Committees and' the Presbyteries of the 1401 Church, and is therefore not to be regarded lightly by anyone who values ecclesiastical union. Article 1 of the Schedule contains a summary of the essentials of the Faith of the Church. Article 2 sets out the standards, the government, and discipline of the Church. Article 3 affirms the continuity and identity of the historical Church of Scotland and sets out its duty as it is conceived to be. Article 4 asserts generally the autonomy of the Church in matters spiritual. Article 5 sets out the claim of the Church, in particular, to autonomy in matters of doctrine. Article 6 recognises the authority of the civil magistrate within his own sphere and affirms the mutual duty which the Church and the State are conceived to owe one to the other. Article 7 affirms the autonomy of the Church in reference to union with other churches, while Article 8, which is the last and by no means the least important, affirms the right of the Church to interpret those Articles subject to adequate safeguards—
§ Mr. MUNRO
Always consistently, my hon. Friend the Member for East Edinburgh, who says "Hear, hear," will also notice, if he will look at the article, "always consistently with the provisions of the first article, adherence to which as interpreted by the Church, is essential to its continuity and corporate life." In other words, Article 1 remains fundamental and impregnable. Clause 2 of the Bill conserves the rights of other Churches and has been inserted, as I understand it, at the request of both the Church of Scotland and the United Free Church. Other Churches are not to be prejudiced in any way by the provisions of this Bill. It is necessary to put in that Clause for a reason which is familiar to those familiar with Scottish ecclesiastical history, viz.: because the old statutes were framed at a time when there was only one Church which was tolerated or protected by the law, and when the existence, nay even the possibility of the existence, of any other Church was not recognised by the State. Circumstances are very different to-day. The language of some of these Acts is rather harsh as it sounds under new conditions, and, accordingly, for the protection of other Churches it is thought right by both the contracting parties in 1402 this Bill that that Clause should be inserted. Clause 3 affirms the rights of Courts of Law in all civil matters. The House will appreciate that to be appropriate as the correlative provision to that which affirms the right of the Church in spiritual matters.
§ Mr. MUNRO
I am glad to have the approval of my hon. Friend and which, on further consideration, I have come to regard as superfluous. Clause 4 provides that the Bill is conditional or suspensory; that is to say, its provisions will not come into operation until after the declaratory articles have been adopted by an act of General Assembly with the consent of the majority of the Presbyteries of the Church. In other words, they have to be sent down under the Barrier Act, subject to the checks and safeguards which are there provided. Such is the Bill which I ask the House to read a Second time.
I now proceed to ask what is the support for the Bill? I have already referred to the overwhelming majorities which have approved of it in the Assemblies of the two great Churches of Scotland. The Bill has also the substantial support of the Scottish Press. May I add further, that I have not in my time known my Scottish colleagues to be so united as they are upon this subject? Forty of them last year presented a Memorial to the Prime Minister asking that the Government should introduce a Bill of this kind, and to-day I am told that only five or six Scottish Members are opposed to the measure. I know quite well that the House will listen, as it always does, with respect and interest to the views of the minority. I would add further that there are many Scotsmen who sit for English constituencies, and they, too, were parties to the Memorial to which I have referred. One Scotsman who sits for an English constituency (Mr. Balfour) is at my side to-day, and I am sure that we welcome him to this Debate and hope to hear his voice in the course of it. I 1403 would, if I may, take this opportunity, of expressing my gratitude to him for his wise counsel and aid not only in connection with this Scottish matter, but also with many others. I have reason to know that in addition the Bill has the support of many other Members of the House, both Anglican and Nonconformist. In short, I venture to say that few important Measures have recently been presented to this House with such general agreement as this particular Measure commands.
May I say a word now about the critics of the Bill? One of them sits opposite to me (Mr. Hogge). So far as I know, the criticism follows, roughly, these lines. No doubt there will be other criticisms, which will be dealt with by those who follow me, but there is criticism on these lines. In the first place, there are those who say, with my hon. Friend the Member for East Renfrew (Mr. Johnstone), that the Bill should deal with the endowments of the Church as well as with her spiritual freedom. That may, quite possibly, be the ideal plan, but there are many difficulties in the way. The fate of a Bill has often been imperilled in my experience of this House by overloading, and to deal with endowments in this Bill would in my humble judgment be to overload the measure. The subject, which is highly technical, detailed and complex, is far more appropriate for settlement between the Chuch of Scotland and the State than for adjustment between the two great Churches who are to be the beneficiaries under the settlement which will be ultimately effected. Therefore, the course which the Government propose to pursue is that which was adopted in connection with the Church controversy of 1904–5. The Government propose to appoint a Committee or a Commission, whose personnel will command authority, to investigate and to report upon the temporalities of the Church, and, following upon their report, to introduce the legislation which may be appropriate. The main point in which this House will be interested is that Parliament will retain full control of the matter, and will have a full opportunity of discussing the question of the temporalities of the Church before that question is settled.
§ Mr. MUNRO
I prefer not to do so at this stage, but, if my hon. Friend elaborates his point, I have no doubt that it will be dealt with subsequently. The Churches are agreed even now upon certain points. They are agreed that the endowments should not be secularised. They are also agreed that the new Church must hold those endowments as fully and as freely as her own as the United Free Church holds her property to-day—that is to say, upon a tenure which is consistent with the freedom set out in the Articles—and that the State shall exercise no control over the Church as a quid pro quo for the enjoyment of those endowments. With regard to that, I do not think there is any difference of opinion in the Churches. Finally, the Churches are agreed that they will not enter into any union until the question of endowments as well as the question of Articles has been duly dealt with. The Bill is thus the forerunner of a further Bill dealing with endowments.
Let me emphasise this. There is surely no reason at all why in the meantime progress should not be made under this measure—and under the constitution of the Church of Scotland progress will be comparatively slow—with the authoritative settlement of the Articles as a basis of union. I go further and say that, on the contrary, there is every reason why that progress should now be made. The Churches feel that they cannot properly tackle the subject of the temporalities until this preliminary question of spiritual freedom has been settled and cleared out of the way. In other words, it is a condition precedent to the consideration, or, at any rate, to the solution, of the question-of the endowments. To get rid of this preliminary question will be to get rid of by far the most formidable obstacle to union, and will give a stimulus and an actuality to the movement in Scotland which it could not otherwise secure. Therefore, it seems to me that, not only is there no reason for delay in proceeding with this Bill until the other is ripe, but, on the contrary, there is every reason why the proceedings under this Bill should go on in order to help and to accelerate proceedings under the Bill which is to follow. That is one criticism, and I merely deal with it in these few words by way of anticipation. It will be further dealt with, if necessary, by 1405 those on this Bench who follow me. There is another line of criticism. There are those who say that the Presbyterian character of the Church of Scotland is menaced by the provisions of these Articles.
§ Mr. MUNRO
My hon. Friend opposite thinks so. I do not know whether he has read Lord Sand's reply. If he has, probably he is not convinced, because he is a very difficult person to convince, but, at any rate, the House will be interested to know that there is a reply, which I would like the House to consider on its merits. Lord Sands has pointed out that only the Scottish Presbyterian has really any right to advance that argument. But the answer, as he indicates, is that these Articles cannot be altered unless the alterations have received the assent, first of the General Assembly, and secondly of two-thirds of the whole Presbyteries of the Church in two succeeding years.
§ Mr. MUNRO
I have given my view. My hon. Friend is well entitled to hold and to express his. The answer to the problem put is that the General Assembly must assent to this alteration and two-thirds of all the presbyteries of the Church must also do so, in two succeeding years. I may remind the House that in the presbyteries, ministers and elders are numerically equal. In other words, the Church of Scotland cannot cease to be Presbyterian unless Scotland ceases to be Presbyterian, and that is a contingency so remote as to be entirely negative.
I have endeavoured as briefly as I could to deal with the purpose, the history, the necessity, the support, the provisions, and the criticisms of this measure. In conclusion let me say this. We all agree that union is desirable. I do not know of anyone who is opposed to union as such. But there are people who say—"Union, oh yes, by all means—but not in this way—but not at this time—but under other conditions." 1406 Ah, these "buts!" they have palsied and benumbed many a noble enterprise. I would beg of the House to see to it that they are not permitted to impede or frustrate this great movement towards ecclesiastical peace. A State Church and a Nonconformist Church have sat round a table, and have agreed upon a plan which, in their view, sacrifices no principle, and satisfies the ideals of both. That is a very fine thing. That is the churches' contribution towards the solution of the problem. The nation is weary to death of the wastefulness of the present system, and is deeply conscious of the shame and the peril of ecclesiastical strife. It remains therefore for Parliament to lend its powerful aid to an enlightened endeavour to usher in a new and brighter era in the history of Christianity. If this Bill passes, I believe in my soul it will make for the healing and the appeasing of ecclesiastical rivalry and strife. If it does not pass, then I do not believe a similar opportunity will recur during our generation. The choice between these two courses is surely not a difficult one. I confidently appeal to the House of Commons to rise to the full height of its privilege and its opportunity, to give authoritative sanction to an epoch-making and sacred compact, and thus to pave the way for the advent of a Church which shall be both national and free.
Mr. M. SCOTT
I beg to move to leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, and to add instead thereof the wordsinasmuch as the object of the Bill, as stated in the Preamble, is to facilitate the union of churches in Scotland, and as the United Free Church has affirmed that it will not consider union until the Church of Scotland has been freed from State control, not only as regards matters spiritual but also as regards national endowments, and as the Bill deals only with the constitution of the Church of Scotland in matters spiritual, this House declines to proceed further with the Bill until the policy of the Government with regard to the endowments of the Church of Scotland has been formulated and submitted to the House.I rise with some difficulty, as well as with some diffidence, to address the House because I am just recovering from a very severe attack of lumbago, and I hope the House will pardon me for any defects which are due to that disability. The general effect of the Amendment is that further proceedings upon this Bill be postponed until 1407 the Government is in a position to submit to the House, to the country and to the members of the Church of Scotland, the full policy of which this Bill is only the prelude. I listened with great interest to the speech of the Secretary for Scotland. It was an able speech and he is an able advocate, but the ability of his advocacy concealed many of the difficulties which beset the path of this Bill. I agree with every word he said about the solemn importance of this Bill as far as Scotland is concerned. It is a Bill of first class magnitude, but never before, either in the history of the Scottish Parliament or of this Parliament has a Measure of such importance been introduced with a statement so extraordinary. The extraordinary character of that statement has been concealed by the ability of the advocacy of the Secretary for Scotland. He has told us that this Bill is not complete in itself: that it is but the prelude to other important and fundamental legislation dealing with the Church of Scotland; that it deals only with the question of the spiritual constitution of the Church, and that the whole question of the temporal constitution of the Church, and its ancient endowments, has yet to be dealt with in another far-reaching Measure. He has told us, or it is implied in what he has said, that this Bill in itself would not leave matters in a satisfactory position; that this Bill in itself is inadequate, and incapable of fulfilling the purpose for which it is designed, namely, the purpose of securing union between the two churches. It is a matter of agreement that the union cannot be consummated until the other part of this policy has not only been submitted to the House but has been carried through the House.
This Bill is like the foundation upon which some edifice is to be raised, and we know not as yet what kind of edifice is to be raised upon it. We are all familiar with those architectural fragments which crown the heights in the neighbourhood of some of our large towns, like the Calton Hill in Edinburgh and the hills outside Oban. These edifices which have never been completed are known, according to the names of their authors, as "So and So's Folly." An essential part of this policy has yet to come, and it is postponed on account of those difficulties, the existence of which the Secretary for Scotland has frankly confessed. 1408 How can he guarantee that in the uncertain political future the vast and controversial complement of this Bill will be dealt with. It is very improbable, and if it is not dealt with the architectural fragment which is submitted here to-day will be known to future generations as "Munro's Folly."
Not only has he not been able to expose to us the nature of the policy of which this Bill is the prelude, but he has indicated that he does not himself know its nature as yet. I specifically asked him if he could indicate the broad lines of the subsequent policy dealing with the ancient endowments of the Church and he was not able to do so.
He says "Yes" now, but what he told us was that he was going to refer it to a Committee or Commission. He has not in his own mind what he is going to do, but he is going to appoint a Royal Commission to investigate the subject and report on the method by which these ancient endowments are to be dealt with. After that has been done, he is going to submit legislation to this House, but he does not know what the Report of the Commission is going to be.
That is my point. I do not know and my right hon. Friend does not know, and therefore he does not know the lines on which subsequent policy is going to be based. I notice further that the ecclesiastics of the two Churches—I am not speaking of the laymen just now—have combined in recommending, not only that this be referred to a Royal Commission, but that a Departmental Committee be appointed to draft the instructions which are to be given to the Royal Commission. That is an extraordinary state of affairs. We are asked to lay the foundation of a building the design of which is not yet made, and the instructions have not even been given to the architect.
What is the reason for all this hurry? This Bill, even if passed to-day, cannot be effective for the purpose for which it is professedly designed. It cannot bring about the union of the Churches, because both Churches have expressly informed us 1409 that the union cannot be consummated until the further policy foreshadowed has been dealt with and passed by this House. Why should the Bill not be postponed until the Secretary for Scotland is in a position to lay before the House, if not the Measure itself, at least the Report of the Royal Commission on which further policy is to be based? In the name of the people of Scotland—[an HON. MEMBER: "No, no"]—I say in the name of the people of Scotland, I ask what is this policy which the ecclesiastics and the Secretary for Scotland have in view with regard to our most ancient, our most venerable, and our most valuable national institution? The history of the Scottish nation and the Scottish Church has been one long struggle against ecclesiasticism. That is the very essence of our Protestantism. This is an ecclesiastical Measure; it has been framed by ecclesiastics, promoted by ecclesiastics, and it has never been approved by the people of Scotland or by the lay members of the Church. It has never been before them, and I challenge anyone to say on what occasion it has been before the lay members of the Church. My right hon. Friend said the Bill has been before the presbyteries, but they are not the lay members of the Church; they are local assemblies of ministers and Church officials.
Submitting this matter to the Presbyteries is not equivalent to submitting it to the congregations, to the lay members of the Church. This has never been before the laity of Scotland in any shape or form; they have never pronounced upon it, and it comes with no mandate from them. It is in a situation such as this that we are asked to take a leap in the dark, hand in hand with a blindfolded Secretary for Scotland. It is from that point of view that I propose to deal with this Bill, and that I appeal, as I think we have a right to appeal, that before we are asked finally to pronounce on this Bill we should have disclosed to us the full policy in the light of which this Bill must be viewed and without which it is impossible to form an adequate appreciation of it.
Making that appeal, I desire to make my position clear upon two points. I am more than an admirer of the Church of Scotland. I am one who takes a personal pride in 1410 that great national Church, with its venerable history, which has played so great a part in the moulding of Scottish character and in the shaping of our national destinies. It has been a mighty force, both in the spiritual and in the material world. It is difficult for one who is a stranger, who has not been brought up in Scotland, to understand how great is the influence which that Church has exercised, not merely on the spiritual life and on the moral development of the people of Scotland, but also on the civil life and on the political development of Scotland. The history of the Church is the history of the nation. The two streams do not flow in parallel streams; they are mingled in one current, and those other Churches which have sprung from its loins have reason to be proud of their spiritual ancestry.
The second point which I wish to make clear is this, that I am not merely a supporter of union of the Churches, I am a warm and strong advocate of it. It is true I adhere to the United Free Church, to the Church of my father and the Church in which I was brought up; but there is no difference in doctrine or practice between the two Churches. The controversies which divide us are controversies which have long since disappeared—I think it was in 1874 that the Patronage Act was abolished—and we are one in spirit already. It is only obsolete partitions, frail and unsubstantial, the relics of those settled controversies, which still divide us, and therefore I say, why not unite now with that other Church with whose doctrine and with whose practice we are in complete agreement?
It may be said that if we unite now, under present conditions, the State may possibly—I do not say it is probable—impose some doctrine or practice upon the Church to which we could not consent. If it did, I should come out of it, as my fathers have come out before. That has no terrors for me. That same danger of a doctrine or practice which one cannot support will confront us even if the United Free Church retains its attitude of independence. That Church is free. It may at any moment ordain some innovation of doctrine or of practice to which I could not adhere, and I would have to come out. That is the possibility which confronts the stickler for doctrine in any Church, and I venture to say that if there is no union, that danger is still 1411 greater in the Free Churches, because it is a matter of historical fact that the schisms which have divided have been more frequent in the Free Churches than they have been in the Established Church of Scotland. Therefore I say I am not merely a supporter of union, I am an advocate of union, and I advocate it now. Why not now?
The present leaders of the United Free Church have said officially—it is on record—"We cannot consent even to negotiate for union until the Church of Scotland has secured its entire freedom from all restraint," not merely in matters spiritual, which this Bill deals with, but also in regard to the ancient endowments of the Church. This Bill deals only with matters spiritual, and they have assured us that if this Bill is passed, one of these barriers to union will be removed. Is it the case that this Bill fulfils the condition which they have themselves laid down? I look at the Bill, and in the first Article of the Schedule I find it laid down—and I summarise, but I am prepared to justify it in detail—that the Church of Scotland is Trinitarian and Protestant. Now turn to Article VIII. It is there laid down that the Church may modify, alter, or add to any of these Articles with the exception of the first Article, which is fixed and immutable. The Church may not modify or alter the first Article. Does this conform with that entire freedom which the present leaders of the United Free Church have demanded? Are they who make so resounding a profession of their voluntaryism, of their complete independence of the State, content to be statutory Trinitarians or Protestants by Act of Parliament? That is what is required in this Bill. This Bill in that respect does not alter the position. They are still subject to the Statutory enactment of the State with regard to the doctrine of the Trinity and to Protestantism. Therefore I repeat, Why not enter into the union now? What is the reason for this delay?
I am often asked by people who have not devoted much study to this Bill—and there are very many such people—"If you are in favour of union, why do you oppose this Bill?" That question displays a remarkable misconception, both as to the issues which are involved in this Bill and as to the attitude of those of us who appeal that before consenting to it we should have the full policy disclosed to 1412 us. The Secretary for Scotland made a good deal about the object of this Bill being to unite the Churches. It certainly has been most adroitly and most skilfully advertised as a Union Bill. I think it was foreshadowed in the King's Speech as a Bill to promote the unity of the Churches of Scotland. It is referred to in the Preamble of this Bill—the Preamble, which has no legislative effect—as a Bill designed to promote the unity of the Churches, and the Secretary for Scotland made the chief appeal in his speech the appeal for unity, but this Bill does not enact union. It does not purport to do so. It deals simply and solely with the constitution of the Church of Scotland in matters spiritual. We know from the assurances given that even if this Bill passes into law still union, according to the view of some, would be impossible, because we would still have to deal with that further portion of policy which it is admitted is difficult, controversial; and which has been for that reason postponed.
The right hon. Gentleman does not admit that that matter is controversial. I think I will have an opportunity before I have finished for dealing with that. My point now is that this Bill does not enact union in any shape or form. It leaves the whole question of union an open question. The whole of the negotiations for union, even if this Bill is passed, and even if the future Bill which has been foreshadowed is passed, the whole question of union is still open; negotiations are still to be inaugurated and carried through all their stages, and therefore I say this is not a union Bill.
It is a Bill dealing with the constitution of the Church of Scotland and making fundamental alterations in that constitution. This Bill, dealing with the constitution of the Church of Scotland in matters spiritual, makes an abrupt and sudden break with the past. It makes a break with the whole historic continuity of the relations between the Church and the State in Scotland. It is a tearing up of the Revolution Settlement of 1690. It contains in so many words, which the Secretary of Scotland quoted, in Clause 1 the statement—and this Schedule of the Act was not capable, 1413 I suppose, on account of the paper shortage, of containing all the Statutes repealed—yet it contains this broad and sweeping statement:All such Statutes and laws"—passed by the Scottish Parliament for the Scottish Church and principally the Revolution Settlement of 1690—in so far as they are inconsistent"—with the new constitution put in the Schedule, and which cannot be altered—are hereby repealed and declared to be of no effect.This Bill is a revolution in the constitution of the Church. It is a break with the past. It is tearing up the Revolution Settlement. From that point of view it deserves a careful scrutiny and a most watchful vigilance.
What is the nature of the change which it makes? That matter can be put very simply. The Secretary for Scotland put it in a somewhat longer form than I should put it, and I think it could be put more clearly. The essence of this Bill is embodied in the Schedule and the Articles which are declared to be the new constitution of the Church. The Secretary of State has gone over them from his point of view. I will go over them, even more briefly, from my point of view. The first Article declares that the Church of Scotland is Trinitarian and Protestant. That is the Article which is fixed and immutable and which the Church has no power to alter or change.
Yes, but it must be a bonâ fide interpretation. There is no power to alter. That is an Article which the Church is to have no power to alter. In the other Articles it is provided that the Church adheres to the Westminster Confession of Faith, that it is Presbyterian—That its system, principles of worship, orders, and discipline areas set forth in the various documents which are cited, and that it is an historical continuity with the Church of Scotland reformed in 1560. Itacknowledges its distinctive call and duty to bring the ordinances of religion to the people of every parish of Scotland through a territorial ministry.It acknowledges the authority of the civil magistrate within his own sphere. I am sorry the Secretary of Scotland has gone for the moment. Here was a point 1414 on which I challenged him. We look at Article VIII. It is specifically provided there that the Church shall have power to modify and add to these Articles in any way that it thinks fit. The Secretary for Scotland truly said there is an elaborate procedure to be gone through, certain majorities have to be obtained, and a certain space of time occupied in putting these changes through, but these arrangements are subject to the same provision that the Church can alter or modify them as it thinks fit. I see my right hon. Friend the Member for the City (Mr. Balfour) on the front Bench. I would like him to take note of that point. It is one, I think, that his mental temperament will appreciate, if I may say so. The Secretary for Scotland challenged me when I said that the Church would have power to do away with these safeguards of slow and cumbersome legislation spread over a period of time and passing through various Committees. The Barrier Act has been mentioned, but it is expressly provided that the Church shall have power to alter or modify these arrangements as it thinks fit. I was surprised that the Secretary for Scotland contented himself with a mere denial that it was so, and did not justify his denial.
That is the essence of the constitutional change which is brought about by this Bill. The whole thing may be summed up in one single sentence—provided the Church of Scotland remains Trinitarian and Protestant its constitution shall be whatever the Church may from time to time declare it to be without any reference to or consent by the State.
What is the extent of and measure of powers there conferred? How far does that power go? What is the amount of the change possible under this constitution? I want to make it clear that I give this merely as an illustration as the measure of the extent to which the Church under this constitution will have power to change, without any reference to the State. It would have power to abandon Presbyterianism and to adopt the Episcopal system, to divert the whole national endowment of religion in Scotland from Presbyterianism to Episcopalianism without the cosent of the State. I do not know if that is challenged. I have heard it challenged from the Front Bench months ago at Question Time. Is it challenged now? There are 1415 two replies, one of which appears in the speech of the Secretary for Scotland.
The first is: "How ridiculous it is to suppose that the Church of Scotland is going to become Episcopal; it cannot cease to be Presbyterian unless Scotland ceases to be Presbyterian. How ridiculous to suppose there is danger there!" I did not say there was any immediate danger, but I give it as the measure of the powers conferred. Let us consider why this was not put in the first Article of the Schedule, which the Church has no power to change? In the first Article it is stated that the Church is Trinitarian and Protestant. The Church is just as likely or unlikely to desire to become Trinitarian or Roman Catholic. But why has this Bill been so framed to provide, and provide explicitly, that it shall have power to abandon Presbyterianism and that it shall not have power to become Unitarian or Roman Catholic? Why is that not in the first Article?
The second line of reply is to say: why should not the Church become Episcopal if it so desires? I agree. Why should it not? Episcopacy is an admirable form of religion—for those who like it! Why, it is asked, should not the Church of Scotland become Episcopal if it desires? But why should it be given the power to divert the whole of the national endowments for religion in Scotland from Presbyterianism to the support of another system without the express consent of the people of Scotland, whether expressed through a Scottish Parliament or through the Imperial Parliament? Why should that power be given to divert these endowments without the consent of the people because, after all, the Church of Scotland, though it is a great Church, does not comprise in its borders the whole of the Presbyterians in Scotland. If it desires to change, that change might be taken by a majority and not by the whole. It is quite clear that the majority of the Presbyterians in the Church might be a minority of the Presbyterians of Scotland. Still the power is distinctively conferred in the Bill to carry out that change without the consent of the Scottish people. This brings me to the very heart of my argument.
The Church of Scotland is a National Church, and it is a church whose doc- 1416 trines and practice are guaranteed to be in conformity with the views of the people of Scotland as a whole. It is as a national church that the people of Scotland have entrusted it with the monopoly of those funds which are a religious patrimony of the people of Scotland. I have sometimes heard the teinds or tithes referred to as the patrimony of the Church. That is an error. They are not the patrimony of the Church, they are the religious patrimony of the people of Scotland by whom they have been entrusted to a church which is a national church. If this Bill is passed into law the Church of Scotland ceases to be a national church. It would have power to change its practice and doctrine in fundamental respects, without the assent or authority of the people of Scotland. It will become merely an endowed sect. It will merely be one Presbyterian sect among many Presbyterian sects in Scotland. You can justify a monopoly of these national funds which are the national patrimony of religion, by a national church; you cannot justify the monopoly by a single sect. Sir, the ecclesiastics who framed this Bill desired to take the best of both worlds. They desired to have an absolute monopoly, absolute independence in spiritual matters. They desired also to have an absolute monopoly of national funds in temporal matters. They cannot have it both ways. If the Church is going to remain a national church there must be some guarantee of broad fundamentals. There must be unity and conformity between the Church and the people of Scotland who have endowed it with a monopoly of those national funds. These are the lines on which I appeal to the Secretary of Scotland that, before he asks us to come to a final decision on this Bill, he should be in a position to lay before us, if not the Bill itself, yet the broader line, the full policy of which this Bill is regarded as only the prelude.
§ Mr. JOHNSTONE
I beg to second the Amendment moved by my hon Friend, and I think I am quite correct in saying that the desire expressed in the Amendment that the Measure before the House should be a more comprehensive one not only dealing with spiritual freedom, but also with the endowments is also expressed by the leaders of the United Free Church in Scotland. They also desire that the Measure should be a comprehensive one 1417 but I am bound to admit that they acquiesce in the course that is now pursued, the course that has been taken of setting up this Bill to give to the Church of Scotland the Measure of spiritual freedom which they desire. But I have to direct the attention of the House to two declarations by the United Free Church of Scotland and by the General Assembly of the Church. The first was that "the United Free Church cannot accept or share endowments involving any State control or restraint of the Church's spiritual freedom or continued dependence on statutory support. A union of the churches would be possible only if such funds and properties as Parliament shall make over to the Church of Scotland are made its own as the funds and properties of the United Free Church are its own." Also in June, 1920, the Minutes of the Conference Committee of the United Free Church contained these words:Further, that they make it clear that in no case can the United Free Church enter upon negotiations with the Church of Scotland for union until the whole question, including the settlement of the temporalities, has been effectually dealt with by Parliament.I think that is some justification for the action which the hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. M. Scott) and myself have taken. The United Free Church of Scotland will not even enter into negotiations with the State Church until the question of temporalities is disposed of and settled. I am going later on to say something about the method in which the temporalities are to be disposed of. I am bound to say that this Bill, in my opinon, will set free the Church of Scotland to change its government, its doctrine, its worship, independently of any State control, even to the extent—I agree with my hon. Friend—of abandoning the Presbyterian form of government, and at the same time to retain the privileges and the emoluments of an established church. There are three essential elements in the position of the Established Church of Scotland that ought to be solved before a Free Church should enter into communion with it. The first is the one that is dealt with in this Bill, the question of spiritual freedom; the second is the connection between the Church and the State; and the third is the endowments. Now in all these negotiations that have taken place and in all the discussions we have had, and in all 1418 the statements that have been made here to-day—and I noted particularly what the Secretary for Scotland said, and may I say how ably he presented the case for the Bill; we all delight to hear the Secretary for Scotland; there is no mistaking his reasons and arguments; it was a most lucid, clear and full statement that he made—the one supreme obstacle is not, in my opinion, the question of spiritual freedom or endowments. The one obstacle that stands between the union of the Church of Scotland and the United Free Church or with any Free Church, is the question of the connection between the Church and the State. Solve the connection between the Church and the State and you solve the question of spiritual freedom and of the endowments. I should like to direct the attention of the House to Clause 2. Clause 2 in this Bill is defective inasmuch as it omits from the Clause words agreed upon by both the Established Church of Scotland and the United Free Church, and I should like to have some explanation as to why those words have been omitted. If you will turn to Clause 2, it says:Nothing contained in this Act or in any other Act affecting the Church of Scotland shall prejudice any other Church in Scotland as a Christian Church.May I say, Mr. Speaker, that the putting in of those words was suggesttd by the Church of Scotland itself? I think it is creditable to the Church of Scotland and to the United Free Church that in these negotiations they expressed the desire that no other Church in Scotland should be prejudiced by any arrangement that might be made for the uniting of the two great Churches into one great ecclesiastical organisation. I am going to quote from the report of the Church of Scotland in 1919, when these words were used:It has been suggested by the representatives of the Church of Scotland that the recognition of the position and work of other Churches in Scotland shall not be prejudiced by any legislative provision in regard to the Church of Scotland or ancient statutory expressions based on the theory that there is—according to the ancient statutory expression—nae ither face of kirk within this Realm.That is a quaint old Statutory expression that occurs—there should be nae ither face of kirk.
It is desired by the representatives of both Churches that, while not wishing of prejudicing any other Church in Scotland, the Clause should be amplified by the 1419 insertion of the words "shall prejudice the recognition of any other Church in Scotland." Now the framers of this Clause of the Bill left out the words "recognition of." I suppose we must assume that they could not see their way to recognise any other Church in Scotland but the Established Church, and we are faced with this position, that while many United Free Church people delude themselves with the idea that the Church of Scotland is going to be practically disestablished and disendowed, the fact, remains that the Church of Scotland remains an Established Church, with all its privileges, with all its Statutory possessions unimpaired, untouched, and when the United Free Church enters into union with the Established Church of Scotland it will become part and parcel of the State Church and will be absorbed in the State Church.
I am bound to say that I think the attitude of the Established Church in Scotland all through has been most consistent. I have followed the course of this union discussion for many years. I happen to be an elder in the United Free Church and I have been a member of the assembly on a number of occasions. I have just recently come from attending at Edinburgh all the sittings of the United Free Church Assembly. My hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton said he was brought up in the Free Church. I happen to be a United Presbyterian, and the United Presbyterians were the Voluntarys in Scotland. We have no traffic with State Churches or State endowments. My Free Church brothers were rather suspicious. They were not sure that we were the pure and unadulterated Free Church of Scotland. What I have found all through is that the attitude of the Established Church has been quite consistent, quite honest, and quite sincere. I believe that our brethren on the Established Church find it absolutely impossible to disestablish themselves. If that is to be done it can only be done by Parliament. The present office bearers and the members of the Established Church must regard themselves as trustees of a great historic Church and consider that it would be a breach of faith with future generations if they should surrender any part of the privileges of that Church that sets them 1420 apart as the great historic Church of Scotland.
I have followed the course of all these negotiations and read most of what has been said by leading ministers and laymen of the Church of Scotland, and I have found that, with all the courtesy and smooth words to the members of the United Free Church, there was running through it all this determination, that whatever the Church of Scotland can do in any way to make it easy for their brethren of the United Free Church to come into her fold once more, they will do, but they will not surrender the principles of an Established Church as a Church recognised by the State. They will not surrender any of the privileges appertaining to that superior and exalted position of the Established Church, and I will be perfectly frank and say that when I attended the Assembly recently I attended with this thought, that the United Free Church were up against the position that they realised that the State connection was to remain unimpaired, that the endowments were only to be a wangling manœuvre,and that as far as the endowments were concerned they would be taken out of one pocket and returned to another. I thought when the United Free Church came up against the position of the Church of Scotland still remaining an Established Church and resting upon Statutory authority as a State Church with endowments handed over to them after going through the manœuvre of surrendering them to the State, when the United Free Church of Scotland came up against that proposition I thought they would have nothing to do with union on those terms. When you remember the past of the United Free Church, and when you remember that the two branches in the past stood up in Scotland for disestablishment and disendowment and added that on the front of their banners; when I find that the United Free Church is quite prepared to surrender the position and the policy she has hitherto pursued of being in favour of a Free Church and the principle of religious equality; when I find she is ready to surrender the position of a great democratic Church in Scotland and enter into the Establishment, I say that is a most extraordinary position. You now find that great democratic Free Church, after long years of agitation for the State Church 1421 to be disestablished and disendowed, abandoning that position and preparing to become part and parcel of the Establishment and to place herself in a favoured position.
The House must not be under any false impression as to the position. You are giving spiritual freedom to a State church and presenting grants of money and you are giving a measure of spiritual freedom such as no church has ever asked for before or has ever obtained. Yon are going to hand over public properties to a State church without any control over that property. I agree with what my hon. Friend said, that all churches should have the right of adopting any form of government or creed they like, but that cannot be a State church. It is the duty of the State so long as such connection remains to compel the State church to observe the form of church government, doctrine and worship upon which it has been established and for which State funds have been provided. Such control by the State over a church may be entirely alien to the spirit of Christ and yet it is one of the restrictions that must attach to a State church. In its policy and worship, if State funds are provided, it is essential that she should obey the powers of the State, and compulsion may be exercised to compel the church to conform to the conditions under which she was established. There ought not to be free independence in the church without control when it is a State church.
My hon. Friend says that under these articles the Church of Scotland may depart from Presbyterianism and adopt Episcopalianism. My objections to these Articles are that after keeping out this power in regard to Article 1 you put into Article 2 that the Church of Scotland may so modify her position as will enable her to depart from the Presbyterian form of worship and adopt Episcopalianism. I think the leaders of the Scottish Church are fully aware of that. If the people of Scotland desire to depart from Presbyterianism and adopt Episcopalianism, let them do so. I believe the leaders of the Scottish Church have in view the possibility of union with the Episcopacy. Many people in Scotland desire to have a bishop over them and have all the exalted position which is supposed to attach to a minister of the Episcopal Communion. The people of Scotland 1422 should not be humbugged by this process and they should fully understand what is meant by the Articles, because by the power obtained under these Articles they can change the form of church government to which they are attached and adopt Episcopalianism, to which they have for centuries been opposed. Let me point out the phrase in Article 1 which says:The Church of Scotland adheres to the Scottish Reformation.I find that many people who have studied this Bill and read the Articles I have mentioned say that it means adherence to Presbyterianism. At the Reformation we had only the broad beginnings of what is now known as Presbyterianism. John Knox held Episcopacy to be lawful but not convenient. The first Book of Discipline makes no mention of the Courts of the Church. The second Book of Discipline, though it treats at large of the assemblies of the Church, does not as yet mark out the Presbytery as a Court distinct from the Kirk session on the one hand and the Provincial Synod on the other. It was not until 1581 that Presbyterian polity was in this respect definitely and fully set up, and the General Assembly resolved as follows:That a beginning should be had of Presbyteries instantly in the places after named to be exemplares to the rest that may be established afterwards.It was a question, long in the balance, whether the reformed Church in Scotland was to be Episcopalian or Presbyterian, and Presbytery only emerged completely triumphant in the Second Reformation of 1638 and after the long and bitter struggle in the Revolution Settlement of 1690. It would be very easy for clever State lawyers to argue that Presbyterianism was no necessary part of the Reformation in Scotland, hence this reference in Article 1 of the Church of Scotland which is not to be altered. That is the one Article that the Church of Scotland cannot modify or alter in any sense, although all the other Articles they may alter. You put deliberately into Article 2 thatits Government is Presbyterian, and is to be exercised through Kirk Sessions, Presbyteries, Synods, and the General Assembly.If the Church of Scotland desire that for all time the Church of Scotland shall remain Presbyterian, it should be put into Article 1, but because she desires to keep it perfectly open—I am not complaining, but I think the people of Scotland should 1423 understand where they are being led—it is confined to Article 2, which may be altered or modified by the Church of Scotland itself. With regard to Article 1, I am not a theologian, although I know it is charged against all Scotsmen that they are theologians, and I scarcely know one Scotsman who could not enter into a discussion upon theology in some phase or form.
I think Article I has been thrown together in a haphazard way and contains the seeds of endless controversies between the Church and the State. The danger of a Presbyterian Church passing from Presbytery to Episcopacy may be near or it may be remote. Should it be so desired, it is not the business of the State to prevent it, either by Article I, by the bestowal or withdrawal of endowments, or any other way, and yet it belongs essentially to the notion and function of a State Church that it should be so controlled. When you give a State Church full freedom to adopt what government it will, as under Articles II and VIII, saving for adherence to Article I, you cease to differentiate it from all other Churches holding the same essential faith and adopting creeds and governments of their own. In this Bill the Church of Scotland makes claims to retain even more glaring the injustice of special privileges and receiving State endowments. It was this aspect of the question that led the Bishop of Manchester to say, in opposing the passing of the Church Enabling Act:In affect what you are asked to do is to give the same freedom that you would give to any other religious corporation while at the same time retaining for the Church the special privileges which it enjoys as a national church. You cannot expect such a serious consideration as that to be made without arousing the attention of all the other voluntary corporations in the country. They cannot fail to ask if you put yourselves in the position of a voluntary religious corporation why you should be more privileged than all the other religious corporations of the country.The right hon. Gentleman the Member for Central Glasgow (Mr. Bonar Law), in the discussion on the same Bill, said:In this as in other matters you cannot have your cake and eat it. You cannot have a State church and yet have the absolute freedom which applies to a non-State church.Under this Bill Parliament is still to exercise control as far as the enforcement 1424 of Article I is concerned, but for the rest it abandons its function of exercising national control over national expenditure. The Church is to receive public moneys and divest itself of public control. The Church, even in the form of its government, is to be independent of any State control, and at the same time to retain the privileges and the emoluments of an Established Church. The whole proposal stands in direct contradiction to every accepted tenet of sound government and sound finance, and especially to the fundamental principle that all grants of public moneys, whether to churches, public bodies, or individuals, should be subject to effective public control. It ill becomes either the Christian Church or Parliament itself thus to attempt to break down that most salutary and indispensable principle of ail public life. I wish to call the attention of the House to this aspect of the case. The claim is made by the Church of Scotland, and I hope the House will note what I am reading from the report of the Church of Scotland:That all the endowments of the Church of Scotland must be vested in it under a tenure which is consistent with the freedom set forth in the Articles and which recognises no right of the State to exercise any special control over the Church in virtue of its enjoyment of those endowments.The Church of Scotland desires Parliament to grant to her a form of spiritual freedom greater than any Established Church has ever had, and at the same time it declares that no price is to be exacted and no sacrifice demanded in respect of this new and enlarged freedom. Not only is no concession to be sought from the Church of Scotland for this, but more than that, the Church of Scotland demands that the endowments must be vested in her under a tenure which I have just quoted, and it recognises no right on the part of the State to exercise any control in virtue of the enjoyment of those endowments. A more outrageous demand was never made! If something had been taken away from the Church of Scotland, if some sacrifice had been made on her part, a desire for compensation for the loss she had sustained might have justified the setting up of some claim. But she has said she has all the spiritual freedom she requires, and yet on the top of that, she makes this demand that all her property and all her funds controlled at present by the State shall 1425 be handed over to her and become her own property to do with as she pleases, without any restraint or control by the State, and Parliament is to be asked not to exercise that proper control which it should exercise. Therefore, we claim, quite properly, as I think, in the Amendment we have submitted, that the policy of the Government with regard to the endowment of the Church of Scotland should be submitted to this House before proceeding further with this Bill. The proposed union with the United Free Church will not be satisfactory unless both Churches are to be in an equal position of freedom. It is impossible to have the two Churches entering into joint arrangement for discussion or union unless both Churches are absolutely free. In this case the Established Church occupies a superior position and the United Free Church will be in a depressed or inferior position. The only way whereby the union can be carried out satisfactorily to both parties is that they should have religious equality and freedom from State connection and State control and State endowments.
It should be remembered that when these two great Churches come together they will only embrace within their borders one-half of the population of Scotland; the other half will be without the pale of the two Presbyterian Churches. The endowments and properties after all do not belong to the Church of Scotland. They belong to the State for the benefit of the Church, and the tiends were intended not only for the supply of religious ordinances, but were also meant for the maintenance of the poor and the education of the young, and in any union of the two Churches, whatever wangling there may be with regard to the State endowment, the interests of the whole nation of Scotland and not merely a section must be taken into account. I am satisfied with this, that while the great bulk of the United Free Church people may be willing to enter into the union, it will be found there is more room for disruption, and undoubtedly the union will lead to further disruption. The result will be not to bring about a mitigation, but an aggravation of the disunion which already exists between the two Churches in Scotland. The United Free Church is going to cease to be a free church. She is going to abandon her policy of religious equality, and in entering into a 1426 union with a State church, she will bring about another disruption in Scotland.
I do not hold with what the Secretary for Scotland said with regard to the Scottish Church divisions. The Secession Fathers, who came out of a spiritually dead church, gave an impulse pure and unfathomable to the spiritual conditions of the times, and we owe much to them for the work they did in raising the spiritual level of the Church. The Disruption of 1843 was one of the greatest outstanding instances in Scottish ecclesiastical history. Where can you find a country in the world which would have shown such a spirit of self-sacrifice? We Scottish people are accused of thinking too much of our bawbees and of our properties, but where can you find in the whole ecclesiastical history of the world such a great demonstration as the fathers and brethren of the Free Church made when, not in hot blood, but after cool, calm and deliberate consideration they abandoned their churches and manses and glebes not without counting the price, but knowing it, and marched out of the Established Church. Dr. James Morrison founded the Evangelical Union Church upon principles that were opposed to the hard unchristian Calvinistic doctrine of the church of his day. His doctrines were jeered at and scoffed at. He was flung out of his church, but those doctrines are held to-day in all the churches in Scotland, and it is a tribute to the upbuilding and uplifting of the spiritual life of Scotland what he accomplished.
The United Presbyterian Church proved itself a great foreign missionary church. It founded missions in China, in Africa, and indeed all over the world, and this comparatively small church was one of the outstanding missionary churches in Scotland. The Free Church established missions in the Highlands and Islands, and put its impress on the life and character of the Scottish people. All this reacted on the Established Church, and made her the living force she is in Scotland to-day, delivering her from spiritual sloth and materialism. Those connected with the Established Church disruption in 1843 say that one of the best things that ever happened was the taking of the Established Church out of the slough or rut into which it had fallen. They made it an active church, a really religious body. 1427 Competition in activities amongst churches is not a bad thing. It has its limitations and drawbacks, but there is a still greater danger in Church Union, and that is of producing a dull uniformity. It is just as undesirable in church life as in any other form of life that people should settle down into dead and formal ecclesiastical institutions out of touch with the great masses of the Scottish people.
About 40 years ago the great majority of the Members returned to this House from Scotland were pledged to the Disestablishment and Disendowment of the Church. It was the one question that excited intelligent consideration in almost every working man and women in Scotland. I believe it was calculated that all the Members who were returned to this House opposed to Disestablishment could be packed into a single compartment of a first-class railway carriage. Mr. Gladstone was pressed at the time to take up the question. He refused to do so, and from that day the great influence and power which he had had over the people of Scotland waned, because the people of Scotland were disappointed. They had set their hearts on the question being settled once and for all, and Mr. Gladstone having failed them, he was never able to exercise the same power over the people of Scotland again.
It may be said that there is now no popular demand for Disestablishment. That may be so, but no swaying of popular feeling can destroy the principle of religious equality and the doctrine of a Free Church in a free State. If there is apathy on the part of the people now, there is something more significant behind that apathy than consideration for the Established Church. The great mass of the people of Scotland are drifting away from all Church influence. The Church is losing its hold on the mass of the people, and, when union takes place, that hold may relax more than ever, and it will be a nice exhibition to the people of Scotland, when the two great Churches join together, and one which hitherto has made its testimony unmistakable for freedom, is seen entering into an agreement to share in the endowments and the favoured position of an Established Church. We live to-day in an age of compromise and coalition, when principles and convictions are easily 1428 scrapped or surrendered. The House should realise that the proposals contained in this Bill are unprecedented. No Established Church has ever had such freedom, and until now none has ever dreamed of asking for it. What is contemplated is not only inconsistent with the whole idea of Establishment, but is unreasonable and unjust. It would involve a wrong to the State, would be prejudicial to good government, and would abolish the salutary principle of public control over public property.
§ The LORD PRESIDENT of the COUNCIL (Mr. Balfour)
My hon. Friend, in the closing observations of his speech, asserted, and may have asserted with truth, that the large masses of the population of Scotland are no longer under the same religious influences as they were in former generations. I do not think that that unhappy phenomenon, if, indeed, it be a fact, is peculiar to Scotland. It is a world-wide experience, and, doubtless, is one which the Churches in the great Christian communities must profoundly consider. But I would ask my hon. Friend whether he really thinks that this evil, in so far as Scotland is concerned, has not been embittered and aggravated by the divisions prevailing between the Presbyterian Churches. Can anything be of worse effect to those who look at things as they are, without having considered the historical causes which have gradually led up to them? How could anyone look at the existing ecclesiastical condition of Scotland among the Presbyterian Churches, and not feel shocked at what they see? Here are two great Churches, holding, not merely in a general sense, but down to the most minute particulars, precisely the same dogmatic theological system, differing in no single religious doctrine—here they are, each dealing broadly with the same area, and yet unable, by the very circumstances in which they find themselves, to turn to the best account those resources which are as absolutely necessary to carrying on effective Church work as they are to the human side of every great endeavour. I cannot imagine anybody who has the spiritual good of the people of Scotland at heart not feeling that to bring these two great bodies together in the same unity of organisation which their unity of belief justifies and suggests would be an enormous advantage to the whole spiritual life of the country.
1429 My hon. Friend, indeed, as I am aware from the whole tenor of his speech, takes quite a different view. He thinks that schism is the great source of spiritual improvement; and all the advantages, all the changes for good which have occurred in Scottish religious life, according to him, are due to the fact that Scotsmen, who agree in all the fundamentals of theology, and in the essentials of Church government, have not been able to agree upon certain not unimportant, but still, surely, very subordinate, circumstances. My hon. Friend quoted, in words of great feeling and great eloquence, the disruption of 1843. What does he think that Dr. Chalmers would have thought of this Bill? He knows—for he has studied these questions as well as any man—that Dr. Chalmers would have welcomed every line of this Bill, that he would have thought that could it, or even less than that, have been in existence before 1843, he never would have countenanced that great movement of which he was the memorable leader. How my hon. Friend can look back upon that event with the unqualified pleasure which seems to animate him, how he can find in that event the source of all future benefits to the spiritual movement in Scotland, how he can have thought of the opinions of the men who led that movement, and yet disapprove of this Bill, I confess, utterly passes my comprehension.
About this Bill there is, I believe, an almost overwhelming unanimity among those who represent Scottish feeling. Indeed, I think there is more fundamental difference of opinion between the Mover of this Amendment and the Seconder than is to be found really in the great ecclesiastical bodies between which Scotland is at present divided. My hon. Friend who spoke last makes no pretence of regard for the Church of Scotland. He considers that its endowments are what he calls "public funds," not to be distinguished, I gather, from those which we reluctantly pay in our taxes. He considers that they ought to be dealt with, I suppose, by the Auditor-General, and he has very little regard or historical reverence for the Church of Scotland. He does not pretend that he wants union. Disunion, as he explained to us, is really the source of all spiritual benefit. But that is not the attitude of the Mover of the Amendment. The Mover of the Amendment takes quite the opposite 1430 view. He says, "Union by all means. Union is what we want; union is what we must have; but this is not the way to get it." He has all sorts of objections—with some of which I may deal briefly in a moment—to the method which is being pursued. He thinks that it is very wrong for the House of Commons to do in two Bills what might be done in one; and he has other objections of a similar kind. But he has no doubt that the object of the Bill is a good object. He never questions for a moment that union between the United Free Church of Scotland and the Established Church of Scotland, would be good for both Churches and good for Scotland. He differs fundamentally, therefore, from my hon. Friend (Mr. Johnstone). They agree, indeed, in their desire to reject this Bill, but they agree in nothing else—neither in the policy which they wish to see adopted in the future, nor in the method by which they think spiritual and religious interests can be properly served in Scotland.
I do not believe that either of my hon. Friends represents any important section, if they will forgive me for saying so, on this subject. They may be, and doubtless are, most representative on other subjects, but on this subject I do not believe that they are representative. I do not believe that they are representative of the general opinion in Scotland any more than they are representative of each other. But they agree in the desire to see this Bill rejected, and here, I think, that, perhaps, in many of my opinions, I feel nearer to my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton (Mr. Scott) than I do to my hon. Friend the Member for East Renfrew (Mr. Johnstone). Although I feel nearer to my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton in regard to many of the opinions which have been expressed, I think that the opinions of my hon. Friend the Member for East Renfrew are much more direct, plain and intelligible. He likes divisions; he approves of divisions; he regards it as a spiritual misfortune that spiritual quarrels are made up. That is a perfectly plain, straightforward, sound reason for trying to reject a Bill which intends to heal spiritual divisions.
§ Mr. JOHNSTONE
I hope the right hon. Gentleman will excuse my interrupting him, but I did not say that I was 1431 in favour of divisions. I said that the divisions in the Scottish Church in the past were not without their compensations, that the disruption of 1843, and the coming out of the Secession Fathers and the establishment of their Church did something to uplift the spiritual life of Scotland.
§ Mr. BALFOUR
I quite realised that that was what my hon. Friend said, and, honestly, I did not think I misrepresented him. After hearing his explanation, I still do not think so. He has enumerated a considerable number of events which most of us think were misfortunes in the history of the Church. He regards them as blessings.
§ Mr. BALFOUR
It is rather more than that. We agree upon this, that all his enthusiasm is for division. There are many other things of which he approves, but the thing that warms his eloquence is the reflection upon the points upon which Christians who agree in almost everything else have found it necessary to differ. My hon. Friend, I understand, thinks that the endowments of the Church are public funds in the same sense in which the receipts of the Exchequer are public funds, and, therefore, he objects to all this question of endowment. May I ask why he cannot leave those objections till the second Bill comes up? This Bill does not touch endowments. This Bill, no doubt, is a preliminary to another Bill which will have to touch endowments, and then his very peculiar views on these questions of endowments will be fully considered by a House which is dealing with the question and subject of endowments. I venture to suggest that these questions, perhaps, may be deferred until some more appropriate season.
My hon. Friend who moved the Amendment takes quite a different line, as I have already indicated. He thinks that if we pass this Bill, it requires another Bill. That is true. He also thinks that that other Bill may be found so difficult to frame, or, when framed, so difficult to pass, that the Bill with which we are asked to deal to-day may remain an incomplete part of an uncompleted policy. He compared it with some picturesque and uncompleted efforts that adorn a 1432 city which he and I know very well in Scotland. Let us suppose the worst, which I do not anticipate, but which in this world of disappointment might conceivably occur. Let us suppose we give these two churches an opportunity for union, without carrying out this other part of the work which would be necessary before any union would yield its full fruition. I do not think it would be any very serious misfortune even if that did occur. At all events, the House would feel it had done all in its power towards helping the great movement towards peace. I cannot take a tragic view even of that situation. But I do not anticipate it. Is it not evident, from all that has happened in these divisions of recent years, since at least 1907, that the leaders of religious thought in Scotland, belonging to both churches, have approached the whole of this subject in a spirit of sincere desire to come to a permanent union, and to heal for ever these ancient wounds? Why are we to suppose, having gone as far as they have gone along this path of peace, that their hearts should suddenly fail them by the way, that the remaining steps should be abandoned, and that they should rest with their work half accomplished? I see no ground for believing that that would occur at all.
Mr. M. SCOTT
They say officially, and it is recognised by the authorities of both churches, that they cannot even enter upon negotiations for union unless not only this Bill has been passed, but the further Bill which is in contemplation has also been placed on the Statute Book.
§ Mr. BALFOUR
My hon. Friend is perfectly accurate in a historical sense, but it does not touch the argument I was endeavouring to address to the House. Two things have to be done by the House, and the only question raised by my hon. Friend is, Shall they be done in one Bill or in two? If he had to deal with any practical matter outside ecclesiastical politics, could he doubt for a moment that the course the Government have adopted, and which the churches have recognised, is the course of sound reason and true statesmanship? Nobody knows anything of the history, I will not say of Scotland, but of any part of the civilised world who doubts that of all questions the solution of which is difficult these ecclesiastical questions are the most 1433 difficult of all. They more than any other, for some reason, which it is difficult to explain, raise difficulties which practical men in other walks of life brush aside as irrelevant. Points which I should have said to the serious student, certainly to the ordinary man, might appear in a perspective of life and thought to be relatively unimportant somehow, when these controversies start, collect round them a mass of very excited feeling and over-subtle argument which poison differences that might otherwise easily, rapidly and effectively heal. Therefore in this question, of all others, you ought, in the attainment of your end, not to multiply unnecessarily the difficulties which must beset your path, but pursue a course which will take each difficulty in turn, solve it, get it over, and, by one step after another, gradually reach an end infinite in its importance, but, as history shows us, very hard of attainment.
Supposing you had, as the Amendment suggests, your whole policy in one Bill. In the first place, the General Assemblies of the two churches would have an incomparably harder task to perform than they have at present. This task has taken us 14 years with the best will in the world, with every desire on both sides to come to an agreement, and no essential or fundamental difference dividing the parties. The United Free Church takes no steps in this matter, though it thoroughly sympathises, as I understand, with the procedure which has been taken. But the Church of Scotland comes before the House and says, "Here is a Measure which, if you pass it, makes in our view no fundamental alteration in the relations of Church and State, but which removes an immense difficulty that has stood in the way for generations of a complete understanding between men who are otherwise in perfect ecclesiastical agreement.
Let us get over that difficulty first. When that is done, we shall meet together, and we shall discuss these other questions, doubtless questions of immense difficulty, also requiring immense and detailed study, but we shall approach that second set of questions in a frame of mind far more fitted to deal with them satisfactorily. Half the obstacles to success will already have been removed, and we shall go on, encouraged by the thought that there is now no question of principle dividing the churches, that all that have 1434 to be settled are questions which, relatively speaking, are questions of detail. I do not believe these further questions will be found so very difficult. The Presbyterian Churches of Scotland have shown a great power of co-operating with each other, in missionary enterprise, and otherwise, and I believe that power of cooperation and that unselfish desire to see the resources at the disposal of the Churches used to the best advantage of the population of Scotland under the changed conditions which history in these many generations has brought about in the distribution of our population—I am quite sure, with that ideal before them, they will not find it beyond their power for a moment to bring forward, or to assist in bringing forward before this House, some scheme which will commend itself to the House, and which will carry out what must be carried out before union of the churches is an accomplished fact.
Is that policy likely to be promoted by the scheme of the framers of this Amendment? They know the world. They know the political world, they know the House of Commons, they know the difficulties and obstacles which lie in the way of legislation; and therefore they must know perfectly well that if you mix up the two questions—the theological question and the practical question—everyone who has an objection to the theological part of your Bill will support everyone who has an objection to the practical part of the Bill, and you will increase your opposition, and you will entirely confuse the issues, because the two points which have to be dealt with are quite different. The actual practical use to which the churches are to put their resources is entirely different from the spiritual question.
The relation between Church and State, between the temporal power and the ecclesiastical power, has in every country in Europe, in every communion, in every different Church, including some of the Nonconformist Churches, proved itself a stumbling block during the whole period of ecclesiastical history. You may argue these questions for an indefinite period. I think it is an admirable work which has been performed by the leaders of religious thought in Scotland that they have framed these articles in a way which to every unprejudiced mind seems to remove, without offence to anybody, some of the greatest difficulties to 1435 religious co-operation. I think it is an admirable performance. It has not been an easy one, it has not been a quick one; but I think it has been an effectual one. I am certain the work which they have accomplished is going to be a fruitful work, and I am certain that it can best be dealt with by this House if they take it by itself, reserving to a future occasion all those other practical considerations which must be dealt with undoubtedly as time goes on, and which will be required before the full fruition of this policy can be enjoyed by the people of Scotland.
Really some of the arguments which my hon. Friends have addressed to the House leave me in a very perplexed frame of mind. I cannot make out whether my hon. Friend the Member for Bridgeton thinks this gives too much liberty to the Church of Scotland or too little. Part of his speech seemed to indicate that it gave too much liberty. We might all wake one morning, and find we were Buddhists, or had completely forgotten the traditions of our Church. On the other hand, when dealing with another branch of his argument, he seemed to think the United Free Church, if they joined with the Church which passed the first part of Article 1 would, as it were, hamper themselves by taking doctrinal pledges, and joining to a Church which was bound by doctrinal pledges in a manner that was inconsistent with their fundamental principles.
Surely these fears are fantastic and over-subtle. This Bill affords ample protection, if ample protection be required, and I do not think it is, against any rash changes, any reckless interruptions in the historic continuity of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland. All the Presbyterian Churches of Scotland have shown a quite exceptional regard for tradition. There has never been in the Churches in Scotland any of that separatist and theological schismatic tendency which is common, or at any rate has been found in other communions. I cannot believe that my hon. Friend is serious when he thought it was an objection to which this House need listen that members of the Church of Scotland under this Bill could or would make rash changes in the constitution of the Church of Scotland, because there is no stronger protection against wild revolutions than that things should be passed by the General Assembly two years 1436 running, and then be submitted to every Presbytery in the country for its discussion and its vote before it could possibly be embodied in a practical measure. I do not think my hon. Friend need be afraid. His fears are wholly illusory, and if they are, as I am sure they are, illusory, does he not think that he is taking upon himself a great responsibility by opposing this Bill?
Is Christian unity a thing so very easy of attainment that we should over-criticise any step in that direction? My hon. Friend criticises it, and over-criticises it. Let him look to the great end. Let him see things in their true perspective. Let him see the important things as important, and the relatively unimportant things as unimportant; and then I am perfectly certain that he will feel that the policy that has been adopted is the right policy—that we should first deal with one half of the whole scheme, and when that is settled, proceed, heartened up by what we have already accomplished, to the working out of the second half. Then, when that policy has reached its final consummation by two possible stages instead of by one impossible stage, we shall, at last, see the scandal brought to an end of these two great religious bodies, differing in nothing, differing neither in their zeal for religious improvement, nor in the methods by which they think religious improvement can be brought about among the people, nor in their doctrines, nor in, their practice, nor in their views of methods—differing in nothing, divided only by a vanished past, we shall see them united, as they ought to be united, in the great task which is taxing, and will tax to its utmost, the energies of every Church in every country in the world.
I have watched with the deepest sympathy the gradual growth of the movement which has reached its culminating point, though not its termination, in the framing, and I hope in the passage, of this Bill. In the very first year that I entered Parliament, now many years ago, in 1874, I supported a Bill which abolished lay patronage, lay patronage imposed upon Scotland, to which it was wholly alien and unsuited, by an unhappy Act of the Union Parliament. It was abolished in 1874. The Act that abolished it was the remote beginning of this movement, and rendered possible all the other stages that have taken place. The 1437 movement was a gradual one. I think that the Union of the United Presbyterian Church and the Free Church of Scotland was a step in the same direction—though not always completely accomplished, if I may judge by the speech of one of my hon. Friends who came from the United Presbyterian Church, and of the other who came from the Free Church, and who differ on some rather important points even now. However, those are small matters. At all events, the uniting of these two bodies was a great step in the right direction, and it has rendered the later steps possible. These later steps began, as my right hon. and learned Friend the Secretary for Scotland, in his admirable speech, told us, in 1907.
Since 1907 the discussion between the two Churches has been, as I think, a model of Christian charity, and of scholarly and theological ability. It has shown a perfectly uniform and steady progression towards mutual understanding and mutual desire for union and has culminated in all that has passed in the General Assemblies of the two Churches. It has culminated in the almost universal feeling throughout Scotland in favour of union; and I am certain that this House, mindful of its duties, will do what it can to further one of the most beneficial, though one of the most difficult, things obtainable—common understanding, common action, and complete unity between two Churches, which are divided, so far as I can discover, by no doctrine, by no sentiment, not even by differences in their historical past, who realise to the full that as they both spring from a common origin, and as they both owe their existence to one great movement, so the events which have divided them in the past may well be thrown into comparative oblivion, and they may be regarded as only the preface to that deeper, profounder, and more perpetual unity which, I hope, will make them one great religious body for the infinite benefit of the country to which they belong.
§ Mr. HOGGE
It is always difficult and yet a pleasure to follow my right hon. Friend in a matter of this kind. Those of us who are acquainted, as he is, with the religious life of Scotland, know the very great and honourable part he has played in it for many years, and the intimate knowledge that he has of the religious differences in Scotland. One has 1438 considerable respect in attempting to differ from the conclusion which he has reached in his reply to the two hon. Members who have moved and seconded this reasoned Amendment. As he sat down he appealed to us to remember that the majority of Scottish opinion had been turned round to support what he calls the union of the Churches. That is not really so. If we are going to discuss this question at all, let us discuss it with accurate facts. It is true to say, and I do not think my right hon. Friend will deny it, that these two Churches combined do not represent one-half the population of Scotland, and that, therefore, if it is a matter of necessity at all, which I do not dispute, it is a matter which concerns only one-half of the population of Scotland, The other half of the population is drifting further and further from the Church, primarily because the Church has no real message for the people of this country to-day. The Church has failed signally on every great public issue and at every great critical time in the history of this country to give any sort of guidance or any sort of lead, or to put any moral backbone into the people of this country. Apart altogether from artificial attempts to create union, if the Church is to resume its place in the public life of this country it needs, from its pulpits and from its platforms, to tackle the great problems that affect this country with a great deal more courage than it has evinced in the last few years.
This afternoon we are discussing a problem which has a peculiar history, and which is associated with very big names. I presume that my right hon. Friend was a contemporary in Scotland of some of the men who bore these very great names. In those days this question was in the hands of principal Rainer, Dr. Cairns, Dr. Hutton, Dr. Cooper, Dr. Chalmers and other great names. When it is said that we seem to have fallen on evil days, it is true in our history as a Scottish church, and it is true in politics, and also in our art and our literature, that to-day we are experiencing a leaner time in what we might call very big men than we have known within our recollection. These names come back to me because my right hon. Friend wanted to know what Dr. Chalmers would have thought of the question raised by my hon. Friend who seconded the Amendment What had Dr. Chalmers to do with dis- 1439 establishment? If my right hon. Friend remembers his Scottish ecclesiastical history correctly, Dr. Chalmers came out of the Established Church, believing in establishment, and was always for establishment. He came out on the question of patronage. Therefore, when my right hon. Friend asks what Dr. Chalmers would have thought of this proposal embodied in the Bill we are considering to-day, he is asking a purely rhetorical question to which he does not and cannot expect an answer, because, obviously, Dr. Chalmers would have voted with him in the Lobby in favour of this Bill.
§ Mr. HOGGE
My right hon. Friend followed by asking such an extraordinary question as to what Dr. Chalmers would do in these particular circumstances. I do not want to enter into a discussion about Scottish theological problems connected with this Bill, but I am going to try to reply to my right hon. Friend as to the position which we take up. To those who are not interested and who only listen to this as a Debate it might seem that there is a great deal in the point which he makes that we ought first to get rid of this Bill and to leave the more complicated the difficult problem of the endowment until the Bill is settled. My right hon. Friend is one of the oldest and one of the most experienced parliamentarians in the House of Commons. He has led the House of Commons; he has been Prime Minister. He knows therefore the habit of this House with regard to Bills and Acts of Parliament, and he will agree that when we introduce a Bill of any kind we are prepared to allow that Bill even under the most modern system to go upstairs and be discussed in our Grand Committees. But we do not allow it to go any further until the Financial Resolution dealing with the Bill has been agreed to on the floor of the House. Those who are not Scottish Members ought to understand that the other section of the Church in Scotland, which to a large extent desires what is called Christian union, has stated explicitly that its final attempt to consummate that union will depend altogether upon what is in the second Bill. I have here—I daresay my right hon. Friends 1440 have read it in the Scottish papers—the finding of the Assembly on the 30th May last in Edinburgh with regard to this particular point. I may be allowed to read a portion of it so that we may understand exactly where we are:Inasmuch as both churches have put on record their agreement that negotiation for union are not to be entered upon until both articles and endowments have been dealt with, the Assembly assume that the Government will without delay place before Parliament and the country the measures which will complete the processes of which the present Bill is the initial stage by which the church in Scotland will secure its entire freedom from all restraint through its statutory obligations to the State and its financial and other relations with it, so that both churches shall be alike free in deciding for themselves all matters involved in any incorporated union.That means this and only this, that until the United Free Church section of the Church in Scotland see what the Government is going to do with regard to the temporalities, they are not prepared to go any further with the question of union. My right hon. Friend is very desirous of seeing union. He said so in his speech. He emphasised it. If he is, does it not make him hesitate to know that one large section of the two bodies concerned is not prepared to face the question until the other question is settled? That is going to retard union. After all the United Free Church is composed of two Dissenting Churches. There was the Free Church of Scotland and the United Presbyterian Church of Scotland. Personally I think it is true to say that the United Presbyterian Church was a much stronger voluntary organisation than the Free Church of Scotland. It always has been. We must not forget that in the United Free Church to-day you have that large admixture of united Presbyterians who, in spite of all that has happened with public opinion in Scotland, do hold to the question of disestablishment and disendowment as a vital principle. If you want agreement, you want real agreement. Then why force union in this particular way?
Let me turn for a moment to show why exactly I think that a process of this sort is dangerous. The Articles are entered in a Schedule which we have in our hands. This House of Commons cannot alter those one jot or one tittle. I am not sure whether my right hon. Friend has read them closely, but we have had a great deal of theological disquisition upon those 1441 Articles. In the first Article I am quite unable to find any reference to the doctrine of atonement which might be the subject of a very interesting discussion here. Those are printed and we cannot alter them. If this Bill becomes law these Articles become law like any other law that we pass, like the criminal code, with this exception—I want to be quite clear about this; I hope the Solicitor-General when he speaks later will deal with this point—that the Church has the right to interpret those Articles. If my right hon. Friend will look at Article 8 in the Schedule he will see:The Church has the right to interpret these Articles and subject to the safeguards for deliberate action and legislation provided by the Church itself, to modify or add to them, but always consistently with the provisions of the first Article hereof, adherence to which as interpreted by the Church is essential to its continued and corporate life.The hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. M. Scott) and my hon. Friend who seconded took the line that Clause 1 of the Schedule was immutable. I would like to know my right hon. Friend's interpretation of that, because he is keen on these dialectical points. I believe that he could make a case on Article 8, that by Article 8 the Church has the right to interpret Article 1 just as it chooses, and can modify and add to it. But in addition to modifying or adding to what is contained in Article 1, I am of the opinion that the interpretation of those words is that they can interpret Clause 1 just as they like, and that creates a situation to which dissenters in Scotland would never consent. We do not mind the Established Church in Scotland having as great freedom as it chooses to have so long as it disendows itself of any endowments from the State. I believe that it is fair to say this, and it is true to say that nothing in the history of the Church in Scotland is more remarkable than the way in which the two great Churches in Scotland have contributed magnificently from time to time for the objects in which they were interested, most obviously of all in the creation of foreign missions. If anybody went into the history of that, he would find that people in Scotland have made a magnificent contribution for many years to objects of that kind.
A Church that can do that can raise all the money it requires for its own purposes; it can afford to neglect and do without 1442 endowments for any scheme. When if does that it would have the right to have all the liberty which it requires with regard both to doctrine and discipline, and no opposition would come from any voluntary adherents in Scotland. Therefore, I think the Government ought to concede the point. I presume that the Government will put their Whips on in this Division. If I remember aright, the Government did not put the Whips on for the enabling Bill which dealt with the Church in England, but in this case the Government are going to put the Whips on in order to get the thing through. I hope that adherents to the Church will understand that we have no opposition to increasing the liberty of the Church. We put our case simply on the ground that we think it inexpedient and unwise to stake out a claim and secure a site if we have not made the roads up to it. Just as during the War, for instance, we made many mistakes in purchasing, say, a large tract of ground, and after we had spent a lot of money on it found we could not reach it, and it had to be abandoned. So the Government may be spending their time increasing controversies in Scotland by passing this Bill, and may find when they come to creating the roads that will lead up to it, which are controlled entirely by the question of endowments, that the two Churches cannot reach that particular site. That is our case. It is quite a simple business case which does not raise, and should not raise, any questions of controversy with regard to doctrine, and which if pursued by the Government might reach the union which my right hon. Friend, in the closing passages of his speech, thought should be reached.
§ Sir ARTHUR STEEL-MAITLAND
I think that one feature of the Debate which must have struck nearly every Member of the House with regard to the three speeches that have been made against the Bill is that they tended really to get away from the broad realities as to the needs of the situation to what are comparatively subordinate points. I do not want to do any injustice, but that was the impression made on me and, I think, on a number of Members of the House. I will deal briefly with one or two of the points which have been made by the hon. Member for Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge). At the beginning of his speech he stated that the two Churches have failed in their mission, that when any occasion arose 1443 calling on them to justify their position, they failed to come up to what ought to be expected of them. I think that a little later he modified that with regard at least to foreign missions. But what I would put to the House is, surely that is an argument for trying to concentrate the powers that are spent on the controversies of the two Churches. I agree wholly with the hon. Member who said that what we want now is to see the Churches doing their utmost. What is at the bottom of much of the evil in the country at the present time is that probably there is too little of the Christian spirit abroad. Any impartial observer would say that two Churches which otherwise are one in spirit should join together so that the small rivalries which would otherwise exist can be sunk and the Churches can concentrate upon their proper work.
The hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge) made a point which I could not understand. He said that we were trying to force union by means of this Measure. I cannot imagine what proof or what argument he can bring forward in support of that view. Let me consider the history of the movement during the past 14 years. Little by little opinion in favour of union has grown in both the great Churches. If there is a minority against it, it is quite a small minority. Can anyone say, therefore, that we are trying to force union by one method or by another, or can anyone hold that view when the method now adopted has been cordially and wholly approved by both Churches? It is not as if the Church of Scotland were wanting this Bill when the United Free Church did not want it. I hold here a report of the committee of the United Free Church, and in it there are these words:It cordially desires the recognition by Parliament of the claims therein made by the Church of Scotland as a Church of Christ.There is no question of forcing this Bill. Probably I am the only Member of the House who has been continuously a member of the Church of Scotland Assembly since the question of union came to the front. Throughout that time there has been increasing agreement on this particular subject, and it is not now a question of forcing union but of lagging behind and trying to keep up with the wishes of the 1444 Scottish nation at large. I do not accept the statement that only 50 per cent. of the Scottish people are contained in these two Churches. The number of communicants represents nearly a third of the whole population, and that figure does not take into account others, young and old, who are members without being communicants. I am certain that on investigation it would be found that the minority against the Bill is very inconsiderable.
The hon. Member for Bridgeton (Mr. M. Scott) said this was an ecclesiastics' Bill; he said the Bill was hatched by ecclesiastics and the Secretary for Scotland. Let the fact be placed on record that it is nothing of the kind. The two General Assemblies are composed just as much of laymen as of ecclesiastics and in those assemblies it was not the ecclesiastics who took the lead. The laymen of the Church have taken as much action and initiative as the ecclesiastics. This Bill is desired by all but a minute fraction of the whole of the two great Churches which, I believe, between them contain 75 per cent. of the population of Scotland.
I have heard much of the objection that we are not dealing with the endowments at this moment. It has been said that by not dealing with the endowments we shall retard union. Does the hon. Member who said that really think it? If so, he is quite singular in his belief. Both the Churches are agreed on the method of procedure. The hon. Member is a parliamentarian. He knows that if you get a Bill overloaded in a busy Session it is not easy to pass it, and once dropped the whole of it is dropped for that Session and it may not be possible to introduce it in the next.
§ Sir A. STEEL-MAITLAND
I fail to see that it would accelerate procedure in the least. Though no formal negotiations take place when this Bill is passed there may be informal negotiations such as have taken place time and time again. This is the quickest procedure in the end. But there is another argument in favour of proceeding with this Bill at once. It 1445 contemplates, as I contemplate, a step towards union. But it is desirable in itself, even if no union were consummated in the end. The hon. Member shakes his head, but surely his position, if I may say so without disrespect, is an unworthy one. He says he is a member of a Church which is proud of its freedom, a Church which has doubts whether the Church of Scotland really possesses the freedom which we claim we have. Yet, that being so, he would deny us a Bill declaring us to have the freedom which he is so proud to enjoy himself. That is not the attitude taken up by the leaders even of that small fraction in the United Free Church which objects to union. When I read the speech of the Chairman of that small section I find he quite definitely says that he "grudges not all the freedom the Church of Scotland might gain under Statute." So far as the Church of Scotland is concerned, we claim that we have this freedom and that it is only because of doubts in the minds of friends that we wish to have the matter put beyond possibility of dispute.
There is one other point on which there has been misconception. It is at the bottom of the very small opposition there is to union and to this Bill. It is a misconception about what is really meant by "Establishment" and "Disestablishment" of voluntarism. I have heard phrases this afternoon about a State Church and the limitations which ought to be imposed upon a State Church. The criticism was made that the Church of Scotland was still claiming to be placed or kept in a position of privilege as the one State Church. What is our position? In the first place, I think I am right in saying that the whole body of the Church of Scotland is quite anxious and ready that recognition should be given to other Churches as well as to them. When we are told that the Church of Scotland is to be privileged as an established Church, to my mind that means that those who make the statement have not made clear to themselves what they mean by establishment. What is the ideal aimed at, both by members of the Church of Scotland in their present position and also, I think, by members of the United Free Church who agree with this Bill? The ordinary idea of establishment is that the State confers authority and rights upon the Church. The connection, as we wish 1446 to have it made clear, is something quite different.
It is really this: It is neither establishment in the old sense nor is it voluntarism in the old sense. It is something much more consonant with the real facts of the situation, if they are carefully analysed. It is that we recognise that there are religious influences which exist and have a power upon men's minds quite apart from any action of the State; that they do not draw their power from the State or from any constituted authority, and that it is only where they in their action impinge upon State rights that the State comes into conflict with them or takes action with regard to them. In so far as those influences are there the State cannot but recognise the fact that they are there. Men's minds are one and indivisible, and influences so working upon men's minds must affect the whole of their life and behaviour. The State consequently recognises that they are there, but it does not feel called upon to take action unless civil rights are affected. State rights and civil rights exist in one plane, so to speak, but religious motives and powers and influences are in quite a different plane. It is only where the two planes cross one another that then State action comes in. That is really what I wish to try and convey. It is a new type of relation which we have in mind. Not a Church in any way that is set up by the State, controlled by the State or drawing its authority from the State; but a Church which has got religious influences which are quite outside the State but which, as they operate in men's minds, are a fact that the State takes note and recognises and, in so far as it is a Christian State, also approves.
I wish, however, to urge on the House once again to go back to the two really broad facts of the situation. In the first place, that the union is desired by the vast majority of both the great Churches, and, in the second place, that this Amendment, however it may be argued, will really destroy the possibility of that union, probably for another generation, if the House gives effect to it. Consequently, though there may be imperfections in any Statute, might I quote again with regard to it the words used on a great historic occasion which 1447 I heard quoted recently. When the proposed Constitution of the United States came to New York for ratification Chief Justice Jay there spoke these words:Let us beware, whatever our objection, and no human document is perfect, lest if we reject this we may let go an opportunity that will never come again in our lives for making a great nation out of feeble and divided parties.I ask the House not to let pass an opportunity for making one great united Church out of two others which, though not feeble, are as yet divided.
§ Sir HENRY CRAIK
I will preface the few words I wish to say by thanking, as I am certain I do in the name not only of all Scottish Members, but of Scotsmen generally, my right hon. Friend the Lord President of the Council for the speech he has made to-night. I am perfectly certain that that speech will be echoed in every part of Scotland; that it will have a most powerful effect upon this movement, and that it marks a step forward in that movement which can but advance it very greatly in the minds of every Scotsman, both within the borders of Scotland and without. I touch this question of an ecclesiastical dispute with some of that diffidence and shrinking that I think most laymen share with me in approaching such a topic. We feel we are treading on and perhaps profaning sacred ground. It is with difficulty that a layman who thinks deeply on these things ventures to take part with ecclesiastical experts in discussing them, but my earliest associations and my dearest associations are with the Church of Scotland, and I cannot but have an interest in her future. I have beside me the fact that I have every clergyman, both of the Church of Scotland and of the Free Church, as a constituent of my own, and I feel that in anything I say I shall be speaking words that will be canvassed by severe and very expert judgment.
Beside that, as a Scottish layman, I feel that in this Bill we are touching the very core of a very important stream in Scottish history. It has been my lot to study that history in various phases. Perhaps those who listen to me may feel sarcastic, but I have rather been, as far as I could, a supporter of the moderates who leaned rather to the Erastian view of the Church. The Church in Scotland has thrown her roots very deep into the soil, and they are firm there, but she has to 1448 go through all the changes of that very changeable climate which belongs to our part of the globe and yet remain firmly rooted in the life and thought of our country. Opinions change and circumstances change. No doubt echoes of some of the old controversies are aroused in the matters argued in regard to this Bill, but we have got past those controversies. I am almost tempted to plagarise from the speech of one of the leaders of the Free Church in the Assembly, who gave a homely anecdote and illustrated how we might be too much afraid of memories of former days. He told of a farmer who used to ride an old horse. One day, in the winter season, the horse found itself in great difficulties in crossing a stream. It managed to get across, but the memory remained. The next time the farmer came to the stream it was in the summer, and the water had run dry. The horse the farmer was riding, however, showed the same dislike to cross that stream again. The farmer addressed his horse in the words, "Poor beast, I think better of your memory than of your judgment." Of some of our friends who are raising old controversies I might perhaps say that we think more of their memory than of their judgment. I wish in only one word to refer to the topics raised by the hon. Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge) and the hon. Member for East Renfrew (Mr. Johnstone). They were in one way or another attacking the Bill as being opposed to the Church. I know that within the Church itself many of its faithful sons have their doubts. Many of their letters have reached me. I would urge them to think whether they are not unduly afraid of the difficulties that may arise. Are not these faithful sons of the Church, who are earnest and devoted to that Church, perhaps a little too nervous as to what this change may mean?
This change will broaden and deepen the power of the Church throughout the whole of Scotland. I can quite understand the argument of those members of the Church of Scotland who have hesitations and doubts about what they think is an innovation. They say that the Church is the possession of every Scotsman. I fully understand that, but will it not be a greater possession of every Scotsman if it manages to carry in one great stream a body of opinion which is united in religious belief and which, 1449 after generations of division, is now prepared to hold out its hands to one another? Can I, as representing so many of the faithful clergy of both Churches, refuse my cordial support to this Bill which is, after all, the fruit of long years of anxious labour on the part of the wisest leaders, lay and ecclesiastical, of the Church, and which is endorsed by the approval of an enormous majority within both Churches and of the people of Scotland? Can I refuse, as their representative, to give my cordial support to a Bill which has come none too soon, and which is the first step in a very important movement for Scotland in which I trust my right hon. Friend will have every measure of success?
§ Mr. A. SHAW
We have listened to an extremely able and interesting speech by the right hon. Gentleman the senior Member for the City of London (Mr. Balfour). He certainly touches nothing that he does not adorn, but when he dealt with the question of the correlative nature of the two Bills which are required to carry out the object in view, he rather failed to convince me. The right hon. Gentleman's idea seemed to be divide et impera. His idea, if I correctly understood him, was this, that if we go forward with our whole scheme in one Bill, that scheme as a whole may not commend itself to the House of Commons or, at any rate, may not pass so easily and so speedily through the House of Commons, because we shall consolidate forces which, if divided, will be, much more easily encountered. That is ingenious, but I do not think that an expedient of that kind is any real commendation of the merits of this Bill to the people of Scotland, or of the merits of the scheme as a whole to the general sense of the House of Commons. I would remind the right hon. Gentleman that this is rather putting the cart before the horse. The Government attempted to put the horse before the cart in the last Session of Parliament, but unfortunately a calamity overtook the horse from which it has never recovered. In other words, it was proposed to deal first with the question of tiends, and then to proceed to the question of articles.
When the right hon. Gentleman seems to contemplate that this scheme as a whole will easily go through, I feel entitled to remind him of the fate of the Teinds Bill. That Bill was carefully 1450 drawn, and, I think he will agree, made most generous provision for the Church of Scotland. The right hon. Gentleman seemed to give us to understand that this is really a very easy question to settle, and that there are no controversies which gather round it. What happened to that Bill? The Bill, of a character so generous that it was never likely to be repeated, met with such unflinching opposition from the fathers of the Church of Scotland, who sent to the Scottish Members in this House a strong deputation on the subject, that it failed at the very hands of the people whom it is designed to benefit. To think that when we pass this Bill we have got over the difficulty is to live in an entirely unreal world. The pathway to reality for my right hon. Friend lies not in those most interesting and excellent generalisations which he has addressed to us on the subject of this Bill, but in a resolute attempt to tackle that thornier problem, the question of teinds, and to get his own friends to agree to a scheme which would be commendable to Parliament and would really make for the union he desires. His labours during last Session were on entirely different subjects to this, but those of us who had to be present here had always that great aspect of the question before us. I desire union most fervently, and I would be extremely sorry to say a word which would stand in the way of unity. I know the amount of labour and enthusiasm which has gone into these negotiations. I have some information as to the work which has been done so willingly, and with such unselfish enthusiasm by people like Lord Balfour of Burleigh, who has practically laboured night and day for years, but if you are going to have union let it be union upon a real basis, union which will stand the test, and which will endure. What is likely to happen in this Bill is not a new union, but two entirely new schisms within the religious life of Scotland. The right hon. Gentleman has deplored schisms, and we all deplore them, but there is something far more deplorable, and that is disloyalty to essential principles. When these are at stake it is far more important that the principles should be preserved than that there should be merely the facade of unity with the real core of unity left out.
There are two sets of people whom it is proposed to unite. One set are keen 1451 advocates of the principle of Establishment; the other set includes people who hold the views of the old days of the United Presbyterian Church and believe in the teachings of a succession of great thinkers, whose plea was for freedom. There are arguments to suit both. My friends of the Established Church are told this Bill is to establish the Church of Scotland more strongly than ever with added freedom, new scope and privileges and to maintain her position and her association with the State. That argument in its naked simplicity is unsuitable to convince the other class of persons whom it is necessary to bring into cooperation, so the tenor of the argument is changed. The people who hold the old United Presbyterian view, or the Free Church view which so nearly approximates to the United Presbyterian point of view, are told that this Bill is really equivalent to disestablishing the Church of Scotland. Such a contradiction appears to me not to offer a very safe or sound or secure basis for union. On the terrace of the House recently I met a reverend Principal, a man widely respected in Scotland, and I told him that my difficulty arose from the fact of contradictory arguments being used to placate two different sets of people and bring them into unison. I asked, "What will be the position of the Church if this Bill is passed; will it be Established or Disestablished?" I understood from him that the position would be neither Establishment or Disestablishment, and that has been repeated by an hon. Member to-day. Is it then to be some entirely novel intermediate state, which cannot be precisely explained but, apparently, must be accepted as an article of faith? It is unfortunate that a Bill which is intended to promote union should depend for its support upon exhibitions of casuistry which would have been a credit to the Middle Ages.
I desire nothing more than that those who are agreed upon fundamental things should co-operate together, but I should deplore nothing more than setting up the facade of unity while the reality of unity was not present. Instead of carrying out the dream of those who fought for ecclesiastical peace in Scotland, we would be driving a wedge into Scottish religious life and we would be sacrificing the life-work of men like Dr. Orr and Principal Dainey, whose names are honoured in 1452 every household in Scotland, men who upon an ample stage would have rivetted the attention of the world, and the latchets of whose shoes many of those who to-day are crying for unity, would be unworthy to loose. I feel so strongly on the subject I can hardly trust myself to express some of the things which arise in my mind. One has to remember that there are others who differ and differ sincerely from one's own point of view. I realise the sincerity of their conviction, I deplore the conclusions to which they have been drawn, and I sincerely regret I cannot join them in support of the Bill.
§ Mr. J. BROWN
I regret that the hon. Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. A. Shaw) feels so very strongly on this subject. I had thought that he like so many others would be desirous for Christian unity. I am not an ecclesiastic, and I am not going into the finer shades of argument which ecclesiastics may take up. I am a plain member of the Established Church of Scotland, and I am very desirous of seeing Christian unity and desirous of bringing about that unity as quickly as possible. I do not believe that the Christian Churches have failed. That statement has been made, and I am afraid some of the friends to the Bill have acquiesced in it. In the old days of the Cameronians they enacted laws to compel people to attend kirk. I have an old mother at home who tells me often that there are no men now, such as there were in her young days, and that the girls were far nicer and bonnier then. The sun always shines brighter when we are young. I want the House to consider this, that the great Christian Churches in Scotland never were more active, never were doing more beneficent work and never entered into the life of the people as they are doing now. We are hoping that the union which is to be the consummation of the present Bill will help the Churches to strengthen their stakes and spread their beneficent work yet further throughout the land. I am proud to identify myself with this Bill and I hail with delight the effort that is being made to bring both of these great religious bodies together as an effort worthy of the high statesmanship. They should never have been disjoined. It was regrettable that that step had to be taken. But the step was taken, and many men whom every Scotchman realised were great men and lovable men felt compelled to go out. 1453 As has been already said, that barrier has been removed. It was alien to the mind of the Scottish people, but now we elect our Ministers freely and the obstacle is out of the way. Every lover of religion and of his country, every true Christian, everyone who believes in the Presbyterian form of Church Government will rejoice that he has lived to see this day and to take a part in this great movement towards unity and peace. I realise that many of the things I intended to say have already been much better said, but I want to emphasise one point which has already been made, namely, that both the Churches are desirous of getting this Bill and of seeing it brought speedily forward. It must not be thought the great United Free Church of Scotland is standing coldly aloof.
Reference has also been made to the difficulties that stand in the way, but what we have to do is to take the first step first. I believe that as an ordinary principle of life the ills we fear most never come to pass. So in achieving this union that we are all desirous of, I believe the ills which my right hon. Friend fears will never come to pass. Difficulties, when we see them from afar off, seem insuperable. The hills of difficulty seem unscaleable, but as we approach them nearer we will discover that there is not only a footpath, but a magnificent highway along which we may all be able to walk abreast and hand in hand for the good of the community in Scotland and of the world as a whole. What has the Church of Scotland to gain or the United Free Church of Scotland to lose supposing this Bill becomes an Act of Parliament? The Church of Scotland will not gain financially, but she will gain the satisfaction that her efforts, which she has been making for so long in the past, are about to be crowned with success, she will have the satisfaction of knowing that she has taken part in this great forward movement, and she will get rid of that feeling of impotency that sometimes possesses every one of us and paralyses every one of our efforts. We hope that the United Free Church will also gain this satisfaction, and she will lose that feeling of soreness, which I believe had almost passed away, and that sense of injustice by which she was impelled to leave the Establishment in 1843; and I do not think that any of the 1454 Churches in Scotland have anything to fear at all.
I understand, if I understand anything about the ideals that the leaders of both Churches have set before them, that their desire is that the Church in Scotland shall be open and free to all that she will be able ultimately to embrace within her fold all who believe in some Christian doctrine and who are willing to come within her walls, and if that is so, surely it will be a good thing for us to try to foster that feeling, to try to strike a friendship with every Christian in the land, and to give each other the opportunity of knowing each other better, to deepen and broaden Christian intercourse and fellowship and strengthen and sweeten that sense of comradeship and friendship which would make the work of the Christian ministry more active and more effective amongst our people. I do not know what any of the opponents of this Bill have to fear at all. I know it cannot be spiritual freedom that they are afraid of. I know they believe in spiritual freedom as much as I do, and I also know, if I know anything about human nature at all, that the person or the Church who is willing to fight for its spiritual freedom and to die, if it is necessary, for itself, will never hesitate to give that freedom to everyone who may desire it. What I have to suggest is that neither of the two sides can afford at this time of day to draw their robes of spiritual pride too closely around them, and refuse to give way in anything at all, and I should not like to belong to the party that raised any barriers or placed any obstacles in the way of this Christian unity.
The point that the people of Scotland are not behind the Church in this Bill has been put, and the retort in the General Assembly has already been given, and it is absolutely true. The people are wondering what is hindering us from going forward. It has already been emphasised that we are the very same people, we are the same in doctrine, we are governed by our Kirk sessions, our presbyteries, and synods, and assemblies, our Church government is the same, our mode of worship is exactly the same, and there is absolutely no difference between any of the great Presbyterian communions in Scotland to-day, except that one little barrier that seems to stand in the way and frighten everybody off, the temporali- 1455 ties that were given to the Church to do Christ's work. I am not going to touch on that to-night. I was saying that the people are asking what is hindering us. There is no obstacle in the way to-day such as stood some years ago, and all the secessions that ever took place in the Kirk of Scotland never took place because the secessionists were against Presbyterianism. Nay, it was because they were ultra-Presbyterian that those secessions took place. The old original secession—and I am bound to say that as a Scotsman I admire those old fighters for freedom who were willing to go out into the wilderness rather than to bow the knee to what they considered to be Baal—to every one of those secessions in turn the original secession contributed fully, and soon after the burghers and the anti-burghers, the Auld Lichts and the New Lichts, that added piquancy to the religious life of Scotland—all those denominations who felt compelled to leave the union were gathered together in the one great stream, because after all they were gathered in that great United Presbyterian Church which in turn found it wise and prudent to amalgamate with the Free Church. Neither the Cameronians, nor our forefathers, nor any who were against our doctrine in those days were against the true Presbyterianism as they understood it. They were always jealous for the religion of their country and for Presbyterian Church government, and I believe that to-day the descendants of those old Scotch bodies will be doing the very best thing for the religious life of the country and for the social and industrial life of the country if we are able to get our Bill through so that both Churches may begin their beneficent work of getting unity.
This Bill is now before us. It will be necessary for this House and the other place to give the necessary sanction to the declaratory Articles, and I believe that if those old fighters for freedom were in any way cognisant of our proceedings now they would bless our efforts to bring this unity about. There are many folds, but there is only one Shepherd, and the fold that sheltered Wishart and Knox, Ruther-ford and Melville, Henderson and Warriston, and Carstairs, aye, and even such men as Thomas Boston and the two Erskines, is a fold, I hope, that everyone of us can take refuge in and find ample protection in for all the work that is 1456 necessary. It sheltered Robertson and Blair, and Home, and, as has already been stated, enfolded the great Chalmers, for the greater part of his life, along with his colleagues, and it sheltered too the great and noble Norman MacLeod, whom every Scotsman is proud of to-day. In spite of what has been said, it has in its fold to-day men who are worthy of those old forefathers of ours, men who are worthy not only to tie the shoes of the men named, but men who are worthy of taking the place of those men named, and of leading the. Christians in Scotland to a fuller realisation of all that is possible in a full and free Christian life. Both the Kirk of Scotland and the United Free Church have a great and goodly heritage which I am sure every Scot is proud of today. Let us go hand-in-hand together and make that heritage more fit for those who are to come after us. Let us enlarge it, and strengthen it. Let us see that both the Kirks being united will become indeed a Church united, and national, and free, and though there may be trials and vicissitudes before the Church, I am sure they will face them in the spirit of their Master, and that they will bear them as they did in bygone days, amidst the fiercest persecution, and will still keep that flag unfurled, with its insignia of the Burning Bush, of which every true Presbyterian is proud, and he is no less proud of the scroll around it, "Burning, but not consumed." I give my wholehearted support to the Second Beading of this Bill.
The SOLICITOR-GENERAL for SCOTLAND (Mr. C. D. Murray)
The Bill has been so well discussed that it seems to be almost unnecessary that I should speak at any length in appealing to the House to pass this Bill through its Second Reading. We must all have been impressed with this from the tone of the discussion, that the House is seized and is fully sensed of the vitality and importance of this issue throughout Scotland. Tribute has been paid by those, happily few in number, who have supported opposition to the Second Reading to the sincerity and conviction of those who support the Bill, and to the eloquent expression of their views. I should desire to do the same for them, but while I acknowledge the sincerity of their convictions, I am bound to say that it does not in the least detract from what seem to me to be the plain, broad facts of the case, and they 1457 are these, that for the first time in the movement which has been active for half a century in Scotland, and which in recent years has become so much more pronounced, you have what I may say, almost without exaggeration, is a practically unanimous declaration, on behalf of these two great Churches of Scotland, that they Lave after much pains found a resting place of which they say each of them, "Here we can at last stand together." More than that, although the opposition may be sincere—I think perhaps a little old-fashioned, if I may be allowed to say so—I am not sure that one could point to any big movement of the kind as far-reaching in its effects as this, in which, if there must be dissension, we who go forward shall leave so few behind us. Yet unless I am very mistaken in my belief, they support the Bill, as in their hearts do the great majority of our Scottish Members.
I do not propose to say more than a word in regard to the two topics which have been already sufficiently dealt with. The first is as to the desirability of union. With the solitary exception of the hon. Member for East Renfrewshire (Mr. Johnstone), who is in a situation of splendid isolation, there are, I think, none of us from Scotland but who re-echo what has been said, that the past divisions between these two great Churches, which have much in common—the strife between these two great Churches who have in common points of doctrine, worship, and Church government has been little less than a scandal, and has acted to the prejudice and efficient service of the Churches. The Churches themselves have gone further. Not only is it desirable, but under modern conditions what is proposed has become a necessity. What then is in the way? One thing I think, and one thing only, is in the way, and that I should like to say one word about. Some doubt has been expressed as to whether the Church to which I belong has full spiritual freedom. The only matter, however, before the House is that contained in the reasoned Amendment. Unless I do it an injustice, its short statement amounts to nothing more than this: it does not profess in the least to be adverse to the principle of unity. The whole opposition translated into plain English is: "We, the opponents, are not prepared to take step No. 1, which we regard as essential, unless at the same time the others 1458 are prepared to take step No. 2." That appears to me to be unreasonable.
Something was said behind me with regard to the connection between Church and State. I have read with care, as no doubt have all my Scottish colleagues, the reports of the conferences, the records of the conferences, and the deliberations of the Assembly bearing upon this matter. The connection between the Church and State has been the difficulty, but it has never been a principle. It has been a difficulty and it has been manfully faced. I remember the late Lord Guthrie—and one does not need to apologise for using his name—whose weight and influence in our sister Church was great—his forefathers were bred in the Church, his grandfather was a minister of the Established Church, and his father was one of the trusted leaders of the Free Church—Lord Guthrie himself, with all these traditions, said—I remember it—in 1907: "The Church and State connection is a difficulty, but make no mistake, it is not a principle; it is not essential; it is the things that lie beneath it that are essential, and those two things are the national recognition of religion on the one hand and the spiritual freedom of the Church upon the other." Hon. Members will not, therefore, be surprised, on reading the history of these conferences, to find that it was upon these two topics, from the beginning to the end, that the Churches concentrated until at last they arrived at agreement. I do not need to go through or to quote from the records of these conferences, but I would just like to refer to what seems to me to be the splendid climax of it all. After stating in so many definite words that there is no difference between the one Church and the other in the national recognition of religion, and that they are agreed that the declaration of spiritual freedom which is contained in the Constitution is adequate and full, the report concludes by saying: "Under these conditions the Churches which will unite upon the terms of the Constitution described in this Bill will be at once national and free."
I only want to add in regard to the arguments in support of the Amendment that the only reason which is put forward for delaying the matter is the question of the endowments of the Church. Our view is that question does not arise at all. It is not before the House now—and 1459 properly so. The United Free Church of Scotland has declared what its attitude towards the matter of the endowments will be—and that in no ambiguous terms—and it appears to me that the demand which is being made—and it is the only demand that we have had to meet to-day—that these things must be treated in a Consolidated Bill arises from complete confusion in the mind of some as to the position and the purport of this Bill. Let me make them clear. The fallacy is the complete confusion between the meaning of union and the meaning of negotiations. It is a complete confusion between two perfectly distinct things. Let me explain exactly what I mean in regard to this Measure. The things themselves with which this Bill, and the Bill of which it is the prelude, deal are two distinct matters. In the first place, the parties who are in essence concerned are entirely different. It is quite true that the United Free Church does not come here as a party to a treaty upon this, but in essence there is an agreement between the two Churches. It has not been pretended on behalf of my own Church that there is a treaty of union between them. But it is the plain purpose of this Bill that it will for the first time remove the obstacle to union and prepare the way for union.
There is an agreement between the two Churches upon three vital matters. Firstly, that there is to-day in the United Free Church an obstacle to union; secondly, that the terms of this Bill will remove that obstacle; and, thirdly, that if and when that obstacle is removed negotiations will go forward for union, but not till then. The two parties vitally concerned in that agreement, which is an agreement to negotiate, are my Church on the one hand, and the United Free Church on the other. What about the second Bill? The parties to that Bill are the Established Church of Scotland and the Government. That Bill is to regulate the question of the endowments. In the negotiations between these two different parties the United Free Church takes no share beyond this—agreement upon three matters: that the endowments shall not be secularised, that they shall be held upon a tenure which is consistent with the freedom of the Church, and thirdly, there shall be conservation of existing interests. But that has nothing to do 1460 with this Bill. The two things are distinct. In this Bill the Church has control. In the second the control will lie with this House.
Let me reply here to a question put to me by the hon. Member on this side (Mr. Scott). It must be clearly understood whatever particular form this procedure may take the last word must lie with this House. The policy and procedure is this: It is plain there must be conferences and our friends will unite with us in this; the Churches must consider the terms of reference and then either one of two things must happen, either there must be a report upon which an Executive Commission will sit with the delegated authority of Parliament or Parliament will itself draw up the terms for legislation. In either event control in regard to the present matter will rest with the Church and control in regard to policy must be with Parliament. Therefore, I say, the two things, properly and wisely, have been kept separate.
There is one other matter to which I should like to refer, and that is the-practical considerations—very wisely kept apart. They are these: It is said that in the present matter, in which we all have a part, that the only obstacle to resuming negotiations will be to declare the spiritual freedom of the Church. I cannot help but think that that is an extraordinary mistake. It is idle to pretend that you can get the same stimulus and force out of a people who are in a state of uncertainty as out of those who are not. There is all the difference in the world—and it is matter of psychology. Ministers and men of the Churches are but human, and if you tell them that there is line after line of entrenchments to be overcome and they must remain inactive until they are in a position to take the whole defences at once—will you, I say, have the same result there as if you were able to tell your men you were already victorious over the first and the main entrenchment? We know what happened in the field. So it will happen here. We hope and trust that this Bill will go through. If it does it means that the Churches will be crowned with success in their initial effort. To-day it may seem different, but having taken the first step they will take the second in their stride. A question was addressed to me from the other side by the hon. Member for East Edinburgh— 1461 addressed to me, I suppose, as a lawyer—as to the effect of paragraph (1) in conjunction with paragraph (8). It seems to me that those Articles are simply declaratory of the freedom of the Church, including the right of the Church to interpret its own standards. He asks, "Does that mean that the Church can interpret its own standards so as to defeat Article 1?" which he declares to be fundamental. The Church has the power of interpreting its standards consistently with Article 1, but it must be interpretation.
I do not think the hon. Member was present when the question to which I am replying was put to me from the other side of the House. I will read the Article—The Church has the right to interpret these Articles, and, subject to the safeguards for deliberate action and legislation provided by the Church itself, to modify or add to them—Then there follow these words to which my attention was directed—but always consistently with the provisions of the First Article hereof, adherence to which, as interpreted by the Church, is essential to its continuity and corporate life.I am not sure that my hon. Friend under stood to what I was addressing myself. It is the words, "as interpreted by the Church." My legal opinion has been asked as to whether that means that the Church as a Free Church has a power of interpretation. In law, if my opinion was asked, I think there must be a limit. It must at least be "interpretation," and in the long run, of course, you have to have recourse to judicial interpretation. Provided that the Church loyally and bonâ fide interprets its standard as there set forth, it has the right to determine that standard. That right is only limited by the right of the judiciary, where there has been misinterpretation or absence of interpretation, to control. I regret to have occupied some little time in concluding the Debate. The importance of the subject is my only excuse. I for one, and I am not unacquainted with my own country, believe that there must be some who, like my hon. 1462 Friend the Member for East Edinburgh (Mr. Hogge), entertain serious and honest fears in this matter, which we all respect. But I believe, and it is in that belief that the Government are resisting the present Amendment and are promoting this Bill, that if Parliament thinks fit to pass this Measure through its Second Beading it will receive the grateful thanks not only of the Ministers and office-bearers of the two great Churches which represent nine-tenths of the religious community in Scotland, but the thanks also of hundreds and thousands of plain Scottish men and women who are impatient with the present state of affairs and are looking forward, and have been looking forward, to the time when there will be unity between the Churches, when there will be an absence of that schism by which the Church is rent, and when they can say with truth, as we have all sung since we were children:We are not divided, all one body we.I beg to appeal to the House to pass the Second Beading of this Bill.
§ Viscount WOLMER
This Debate has been exclusively occupied, as was only right and natural, by Scotsmen and Scottish Members. May I in two minutes state to the House why many Englishmen who view this matter from an outside point of view desire to support this Bill by every means in their power? We do so because, looking at it as outsiders, we realise the world-wide importance of the Bill. We feel that it establishes a landmark in the history of Christendom, and that the effects of the movement which this Bill is designed to assist will be world-wide and far-reaching for many years to come. There are three great things we welcome and rejoice over in the movement. First, it is the first practical step for re-union. So much has been said about that this afternoon that I will add nothing more, but it is surely a fact of momentous importance that this great re-union of two great Christian Churches is taking place. The whole rest of Christendom is trying to feel its way towards closer union. Here we have the first practical step, the first bridge that has been built. Its second great importance is that it is re-union on the basis of establishment. That is very important and very interesting, and must have a great effect not only in Scotland, but in other countries as well. The third and most important fact is, that it is estab- 1463 lishment on the basis of freedom. That, again, is a fact which, I believe, will prove a veritable landmark in the history of the relations between Church and State. It is quite easy to see why that has come about in Scotland, but the effect of it will extend far beyond the borders of Scotland. You have here a solution of the eternal problem of Church and State such as must have a most tremendous influence not only in the British Isles but throughout the whole world. You have the first practical realisation of Cavour's greatambition of the free Church in a free State. You will have the established Church in Scotland as free as the freest Church in Christendom, and that must have a profound significance for all who are studying these problems in other parts of the world. To us in England it comes as a challenge and an invitation to try to follow in the path along which the Scottish Churches have led; to try, South of the Tweed, to do our bit for re-union; to try to raise the standard of establishment with complete freedom; and it is because we believe that the precedent which is thus set will be of enormous importance to the whole future of Christian Churches in Europe that we support this Bill. We believe that the results of this movement in Scotland will be to stimulate other communions and other countries to follow, and we wish our Scottish fellow Christians God-speed in their endeavour, and we assure them that the rights which they are claiming for themselves we gladly support them in and hope to see those rights enjoyed by ourselves and by others as well in the years to come.
§ Mr. J. GARDINER
One of my colleagues on the other side of the House said he was speaking because he had the privilege of being a leader in the United Free Church and of being present at the recent general assembly of that Church. I have had the privilege of being there in the same capacity, and I would like to remind the House of what took place there when the question of union was being discussed. In the United Free Free Church there was a difference of opinion. The hon. Member for East Renfrew (Mr. Johnstone) seconded the motion against union. The minority was a very small minority, and it was a divided minority. The great majority of those who voted against the union did so on the ground that has been discussed 1464 over and over again this afternoon. They thought that both Bills should be brought in simultaneously and discussed by this House as one Measure. Most of the speakers agreed, as did the mover of the Amendment this afternoon, that union was a highly desirable thing. As one who in the past was a keen disestablisher, and in favour of disendowment and liberty of every kind that it was possible to obtain, you can understand that something must have happened ere I and others associated with me would occupy the position we do to-day. I do not know if I am right on this point, but I would not be surprised if the father of the right hon. Gentleman who introduced this Bill to-day did not come out shortly after the disruption. My forbears came out at the disruption, and so something must have happened. It is true what the hon. Gentleman the Member for Kilmarnock (Mr. A. Shaw) said, that there were giants in those days—Hutton and others. I suggest that we have in Scotland to-day men of equal calibre, men who are respected the world over, men who in many ways lead religious life and thought and the theological thought of the world. And yet you find that some of the finest old champions of voluntaryism and disestablishment, men who were leaders in the old U.P. Church are to-day the most anxious that this union should be consummated at the earliest possible moment. Have we sacrificed our principles? Certainly not. There are many people who talk about principles although principles do not seem to do much for them. I remember immediately after the union of the United Free Church, when they were in difficulties, especially in the North, an occasion on which two men were walking together and discussing the effects of the union. One was a Wee Free and the other was a United Free. They went on discussing the differences and the Wee Free man was maintaining that the U.P. people had forsaken their principles. The two of them went together to the little town and stayed rather long, but the one left before the other, and unfortunately stumbled into the ditch and could not rise His friend came along, and looking in the ditch said to his friend, "Oh, Donald, you must not lie there, there is going to be a frost to-night." Donald, who was sensibly drunk, shook his fist and said, Don't touch me, don't touch me. You 1465 have departed from our principles." As we look back to those who led us in bygone days, some of us would wish that we could resurrect them and bring them here to listen to this discussion, and I am sure their hearts would be made glad by seeing this Bill introduced. The United Free Church of Scotland almost universally welcome this Bill, and desire it to be passed at the earliest possible moment. I have come into touch with the public opinion of Scotland on this Measure, especially among the middle classes, and everywhere there is the cry, "When are we going to have the Union?" I think that as a result there is a universal desire in the hearts of Scotsmen to be united and have their old sores healed.
If this Bill does not pass it sets back the hands of the clock very far indeed. I cannot imagine that that will happen. Only a few weeks ago I was in a little Highland town of something like 100 inhabitants, and we had there an Established Church, a United Free Church, and a Presbyterian Free Church. They were all of them Presbyterians, and on six days of the week they were the greatest possible friends and associated together. Many of them fought together on the fields of France and Flanders, but when walking out on Sunday morning you generally look up to see who is coming down the road and you pick the other side, if necessary, because you do not wish to meet anybody who worships in the other building. I can recall the time when I would no more think of going inside the Established Church of Scotland than I would think of going to—well, I do not know where. You had to go to your own kirk, and if you did not go there you were told that you would go to a very bad place in the end. That feeling has finished. The men have come back from the War. I know many of them are not related to the Church as closely as we would like them to be, but in my judgment there is a great devotion to the Church of Scotland. I associate myself with every word that was spoken by my colleague the Member for South Ayrshire (Mr. Brown) from the Labour Benches, and I trust we shall have many more such speeches from Labour Members in the days that are ahead.
§ Mr. R. McLAREN
I am a member of the United Free Church of Scotland and a member of the Presbytery and one of the body which has been 1466 conducting the Church negotiations, and I have for many years been a member of the General Assembly. For these reasons, I think I should say something upon this question. I agree that laymen are most anxious that this Bill should pass into law. In listening to the speeches on the Opposition side, I was very much struck with what has been said about the reasons for Articles I and VIII. This reminds me of a story told by a Sheriff of Edinburgh. In the days before the Forbes-Mackenzie Act in Scotland it was very common for the people to travel long distances. There was an old lady who came from Ruther-glen and she was in the habit of going into a certain public-house to have a dram. On this particular day she forgot her purse and she asked the publican if he would give her credit, but he refused. Suddenly, she said to him: "I will leave my Bible until I come back to-morrow and pay you." The publican replied: "No, this is not a pawnshop, I cannot do it." Then the old lady retorted: "You are the strangest man I ever met. You will neither take even my word nor the word of God for a glass of whiskey."
These Articles have been formulated upon what has been agreed to by both sides, and I think great credit is due to those who have carried on the negotiations ever since 1907. It was a great source of comfort when I thought that probably by-and-by we should have in Scotland an end to all the various divisions in connection with our Church work. As an old Church worker for 40 years, I have found it difficult to get parties; together in connection with certain work in the Church. It seems to me that it will be a calamity for Scotland if this Bill does not pass its Second Beading, thus affording an opportunity for the two Churches to come together. What are the facts? If you take the United Free Church of Scotland, the Free Church, and the other Churches of Scotland, they are alike in doctrine and in worship. You will find they use the same form of worship and the whole service is identical in all the Churches. The only thing that has separated these Churches is State interference. It is a good thing that at last an opportunity is to be given to the Church of Scotland to negotiate with the United Free Church in these matters. I know several districts where a very small community used to have an Established Church, a Free Church, and a United 1467 Presbyterian Church. In such instances one church could serve the whole parish, and two men could be released to do work in our great cities. Many of our large cities are under-churched, and we want these young men liberated to serve in the churches in our large cities. The United Free Church members throughout this controversy have shown clearly their position towards the Bill.
The hon. Member for East Renfrew (Mr. Johnstone) quoted from a circular issued in 1920, but he might have quoted from one issued only last May, and there he would have found that the United Free Churches have taken a very decided and a very fair position. In this pamphlet they say thatIn the matter of spiritual freedom and Church of Scotland Endowments they had agreed to submit the following suggestion to the Secretary for Scotland, namely, 'that if the Government agree to go on this Session, the Secretary for Scotland should, in introducing the Bill recognising the Articles, state that the endowments of the Church of Scotland will require to be dealt with, and that meantime he is appointing a small Departmental Committee to frame, after consultation with the representatives of the Church of Scotland and others interested, the times of the instructions which, if approved of by the Government and by Parliament, may be given to an Executive Commission to be appointed by Parliament.'There is nothing about the, United Free Church having anything to do with the question. Instructions will be given to the Committee and then the pamphlet goes on to say:The Church of Scotland representatives recognise that the United Free Church are not prepared to enter into negotiations for a union until both the Articles and the Endowments have been dealt with, and that both Churches shall be alike free in deciding for themselves all matters involved in negotiations for an incorporating union.They want to have freedom on both sides to deal with all matters of Church life, and they claim that until the Church of Scotland has absolute freedom in connection with the statements made by both sides, these negotiations cannot go on. In the meantime they think it a good thing for the Bill to be proceeded with and for a Departmental Committee to be set up to collect all the necessary information.
I have received from many sources circulars in opposition to this Bill. The last was a manifesto from persons who call themselves the United Free Church 1468 Association, and they make a statement which I want to contradict. They state that the United Free Church has never accepted for herself these Articles and has refused to acknowledge them in any sense as Articles of the Union. They may be true in the sense that they may not have been directly consulted. But, on the other hand, it is a fact that the Church has had this question before it for a very long time, and it has been consulted in the method adopted by the Presbyterian system of government. Therefore I think the statement ought to be contradicted, and I take this opportunity of doing it. I was sorry to hear my hon. Friend the Member for East Renfrew say that if this Bill is passed and negotiations with the Union take place there is likely to be disruption. My hon. Friend has always consistently been for disestablishment, and the United Presbyterian Church also must be recognised as having been consistent on this matter, and as having been against establishment from the first. But, as a matter of fact, the established principle was always a principle adopted by the Free Church, and it was only on the question of patronage that the disruption took place in 1843. I am satisfied that, if I had lived in 1843, I, too, would have gone out on the question of patronage. We Scotsmen are proud of our forefathers, who, for the sake of principle and of religion, left their churches and manses and sacrificed all in order to demonstrate to the world that, on a matter of principle, they were willing to make such sacrifices. My hon. Friend is afraid there will be disruption again, and I have no doubt that in both Churches there will be men who, on principle, will go out. We must honour them for doing so. But, after all, they will just be the die-hards of both sides. Voluntaryism is a good thing in theory but not in practice, and the United Presbyterian Church people who are likely to go out were not so consistent in 1900. A voluntary is a person who will not take money or grants from the State, and the Free Church of Scotland always took grants of money from the State. Yet these very people who now pose as voluntaries were those who, in 1900, did not believe in voluntaryism at all. Those who were opposed to Church Establishment in 1900 are just as opposed to it to-day. If this union takes place they are bound to come out 1469 on principle. There will be disruption. I regret it very much. It is a great pity it should occur. What we want in Scotland is absolute unity in connection with church work. I would ask my hon. Friend where, if he and those who think with him come out, they will go? They cannot go back to the United Presbyterians, who do not now exist. They cannot now go back to the Free Church because the Free Church people to-day in Scotland are called the "Wee Frees." They are a small body, but they believe in the establishment principle. They cannot join the Free Presbyterians, who do not believe in either side and so will not take them in. They cannot join the Baptists because they are too wet. The Congregationalists would not have them; they do not believe in presbyteries; they believe in every church doing its own work. The hon. Gentleman and his friends will, therefore, go into the wilderness. There will be no water there; there will be no one to strike the rock. No manna will be sent from Heaven, and they will be in a very bad state. They will get instead the dry crust of voluntaryism and withering hatred against their brethren mixed with the bitter herbs of mortification. I do not know what they will call themselves. In the olden times, when people came from Egypt, they called it an Exodus, and if my hon. colleague and his friends were coming out of Egypt I would call them Exodonians. In the olden times in the Exodus the children of Israel were led by the hand of God. In this case I am afraid they will be led by men like the Rev. James Barr, who is out and out for disestablishment. I hope the House will give this Bill a Second Reading and that after the Debate that has taken place, my hon. Friend will withdraw his Amendment and let us get to business.
Question, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question" put, and agreed to.
Bill read a Second time, and committed to a Standing Committee.