The Earl of Rosebery
had to present to their Lordships a petition from the parishioners of Marnock, approving of the conduct of the General Assembly in the case of the suspension of the seven ministers of the Presbytery of Strathbogie. The petition, went much into detail, he would content himself with stating the substance of it. The petitioners disapproved of the conduct of the seven ministers of Strathbogie in not obeying the directions of the commission of the General Assembly, their ecclesiastical superiors; and they applauded the conduct of the General Assembly in supporting the jurisdiction and the liberties of the Church against the intrusion of objectionable ministers. They earnestly trusted and hoped that the Church of Scotland would not suffer from the attempts of any of her own office-bearers to set at defiance her just authority, and overbear the religious privileges and conscientious feelings of her people, and they prayed that their Lordships would adopt such measures as may seem best for reconciling the differences which have occurred between the civil and the ecclesias- 408 tical courts, and enabling the Church to give effect to the principles of her constitution relative to the settlement of ministers.
§ The Earl of Aberdeen
said, that the prayer of this petition called upon their Lordships to adopt some measure to reconcile the differences between the civil and ecclesiastical courts; but the petition itself was manifestly directed against the solemnly delivered judgment of their Lordships' House. The noble Earl had given no opinion on that judgment, and, as he had said nothing against it, he was warranted in concluding that the noble Earl coincided in its justice. It was very proper that the petitioners should pray, that an end should be put to the present state of things with respect to this question; but he must observe, that neither this year nor last year had any petitions been received on the subject from the General Assembly. No: the petition then before their Lordships stated, "That the Church was engaged in a negotiation for the settlement of the whole matter in dispute." In the course of that negotiation, it might be attempted to impose terms which could not be acceded to. The Assembly did not come before their Lordships as they ought to do, but they came before their Lordships as a party negociating with the Legislature for a satisfactory settlement of this question. The only complaint made against the seven ministers mentioned in the petition was, that they had obeyed the law. No human wisdom or ingenuity could devise any other charge against them. A decree was pronounced by a competent tribunal, to which they were obliged to yield obedience, otherwise they would have been liable to an action for damages. Their obedience to that decree was the whole matter of complaint urged by the petitioners against these ministers who, if they had disobeyed the law, would have been exposed to a legal proceeding.
§ Petition laid on the table.