Ad Gloriam Dei

"Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God." - 1 Corintians 10:31

"Let us pursue the things which make for peace and those by which one may edify another"- Romans 14:19

"As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend." - Proverbs 27:17

Monday, September 24, 2007

The 19th Century: Evangelicalism, Missions, the Great Disruption, the Ulster Revival, Divisions and Unions, and Arianism and Liberalism

1800’s In both Scotland and Ireland, the evangelical revival leads to a great increase in missionary activity throughout the world. The British Empire and the Pax Britannica are vital to the spread of the good news of the Gospel to all the ends of the earth.

1806 Scottish Anti-Burgher Synod divides into Old Light and New Light factions over the same questions as the Burghers did in 1799.

1808 Synod of Ulster starts to prepare its Code to formalise a set of laws for order and discipline for the first time. This seemly bureaucratic measure would be important in the battle with Arianism to come.

1810 The RPCS large enough to form a Synod.

1811 The RPCI large enough to form a Synod.

1812-36 Presbyterianism revived in England by the establishment of Presbyterian congregations by Scottish immigrants, but these congregations remain part of Scottish Church, and are not a distinct English body until 1836, when the Church of Scotland congregations become the Presbyterian Church in England.

1818 Irish Burgher and Anti-Burgher Seceders unite to form “the Presbyterian Synod of Ireland, distinguished by the name Seceders.”

1819 John Paul of the RPCI publishes various writings against Arianism, and in defence of creeds and confessions

1820 United Secession Church formed in Scotland by union of New Light Burghers and New Light Anti-Burghers. A remnant remains of the New Light Burghers.

1821 The Arian Controversy – Henry Cooke begins his battle against Arianism by following and speaking out against a visiting English Unitarian as he toured the country.

The half measures adopted by the Synod of Ulster in dealing with the Non-subscribing Presbytery of Antrim were beginning to bear fruit. Cooke, when addressing the Parliamentary Commission on Irish Education in 1824, estimated that about 35 out of the 200 ministers in the Synod were Arians.

“For at least half a century, subscription to the Westminster Confession of Faith had fallen into disuse, and candidates had been admitted to license without any reference to their religious principles.” (Reid).

Professor Bruce chosen for the Chair of Greek in the Belfast Academical Institution by those who hold Arian and unorthodox views, causing a great controversy, though there is no evidence that he was himself not orthodox. The problem was that the Arians’ candidate one through, even though better men were possibilities.

1822 Cooke brings before the Synod of Ulster his concerns about the Arian influence in the Belfast Academical Institution. Cooke stands alone at this stage of the controversy as the courage of his brethren fails: “I seem this day to stand alone. Yet I am not alone. Men may draw back in fear, but God and truth are with me!”

Dr Bruce Sr., the father of Professor Bruce, and a member of the Presbytery of Antrim publishes the “first printed avowal and defence of Unitarian opinions in Ireland since the time of Emlyn.” (J.S. Porter). He asserts that Arian principles are making extensive, though silent progress in the Synod of Ulster.

John Paul of the RPCI publishes “an acute and powerful polemic” against Dr Bruce’s theses.

1824 The Code for the Synod of Ulster is finished by a committee including Cooke. After the falling away of Subscription, the Code re-asserts that “presbyteries, before they license candidates to preach the Gospel, shall ascertain the soundness of their faith, either by requiring subscription to the Westminster Confession of Faith, or by such examination as they shall consider best adapted for this purpose.”

Strangely the Arian party welcomes this as “tantamount to a repeal of the law of subscription” (Reid).

Synod rejects Bruce Sr.’s assertion that Arianism was spreading extensively within it.

William Porter of Limavady admits publicly to Parliamentary Commission on Irish Education that he is an Arian, and that Arianism was “gaining ground amongst the thinking few”.

1827 The Report of the Parliamentary Commission on Irish Education is published and Porter’s profession of Arianism becomes known. A motion is tabled to removing him from being Clerk of Synod for his opinions.

The Synod of Ulster discusses this and originally intends to condemn certain parts of Porter’s testimony, while permitting him to retain his situation to avoid the imputation of “persecution for the sake of opinion” (Reid).

Henry Cooke tables a resolution that the members of Synod “for the purpose of affording a public testimony to the truth, as well as of vindicating their religious character as individuals, declare, that they do must firmly hold and believe the doctrine concerning the nature of God contained in these words of the Westminster Shorter Catechism, namely, that ‘there are three persons in the Godhead, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, and these three are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory.’”

A heated debate begins and Henry Montgomery, the leader of the Arian party within the Synod of Ulster, attacks the “iniquity of creeds or confessions” (Reid). However, Cooke’s motion is carried by an overwhelming majority.

Montgomery’s speech is printed and circulated throughout the land.

Scottish New Light Burghers remnant unites with Old Light Anti-Burghers.

1828 John Paul of the RPCI “demolishes” Montgomery’s arguments in his own publication.

At the Synod of Ulster, Cooke moves a series of overtures to establish a committee for the examination of candidates for license and ordination, with a view to excluding those who denied fundamental doctrines, such as the Trinity. He struggles against the orthodox who want less stringent measures. A heated debate ensues, but over two-thirds of the ministers and ruling elders vote for the measures.

At a public meeting, the New Light party adopted a Remonstrance, threatening to secede from the Synod of Ulster and form a separate association unless the overtures were withdrawn.

1829 John Ferrie, a Scottish Arian, is appointed to the Chair of Moral Philosophy in the Belfast Academical Institution.

Ferrie’s election causes a heated debate in the Synod of Ulster. Montgomery speaks to Synod for three hours (!), during which he slanders Cooke with lying and threatens division. Cooke defends himself successfully.

A special synod is called to discuss the overtures from 1828, but the Arians agree not to attend. At the pro re nata meeting of Synod, memorials are received approving of the overtures and calling for Arians to be excluded from ecclesiastical communion. The Remonstrance is also received and the Arian representative asks that if the overtures are approved that arrangements should be made for their separation.

1830 Remonstrant Synod of Ulster – The Arians officially separate from the Synod of Ulster.

Edward Irving condemned by Church of Scotland for holding heretical views of Christ.

1833 Thomas Chalmers, at the General Assembly of the Established Church of Scotland, proposed that “no pastor should be intruded on any congregation contrary to the will of the people.” The vote was lost by a small majority, but showed that the Evangelical Party were soon to gain the ascendancy over the Moderates.

1834 The Veto Act – The General Assembly of the Established Church of Scotland approves a motion to allow the people to veto any candidate proposed by the patron.

The Chapel Act – The Assembly also approves a motion to allow the preachers in chapels of ease to exercise their ruling as well as teaching roles in the Church. (The Chapels of Ease were to augment the parish churches due to the vast increase of people in the towns, were not under patrons and generally had evangelical preachers.)

Henry Cooke convinces the Synod of Ulster to reject the Government’s proposal for a National System of Education as he saw that it sought to undermine the freedom to use Scripture in the schools and would allow Romanist and Unitarians, as well as unbelieving aristocrats to have control over the Church’s schools.

1835 Irving deposed after further erroneous teaching and practice, including supposed miracles.

The Synod of Ulster passes an overture in favour of unqualified subscription to the Westminster Confession.

1837 The Auchterarder Case – The patron presents a candidate that was rejected by the vast majority of those able to exercise the veto. The patron and the candidate brought the case to the Civil Courts, who found against the Established Church of Scotland by a majority of 8 to 5 of the judges in the Court of Session.

1838 The Church appeals to the House of Lords in the Auchterarder Case, but is rejected.

The Lethendy Case – Mr Clark, a vetoed presentee, appeals to the civil courts to apply an interdict against a candidate approved by the people, Mr Kessen. The civil courts apply the interdict. The Commission of the General Assembly instructs the Presbytery of Dunkeld to proceed with the settlement of Mr Kessen, the people’s choice. Mr Hope, the leader of the Moderates, threatens the Presbytery with imprisonment. The Presbytery proceeds with ordination despite the threats.

The (Civil) Court of Session instructs the members of the Presbytery to appear before it and reprimands them. The Presbytery are sentenced to provides damages worth several thousand pounds to the vetoed presentee, Mr Clark.

1839 Majority of Old Light Burghers (Seceders) unite with the Established Church of Scotland. A remnant remains.

The Marnoch Case – The Presbytery of Strathbogie in north Aberdeenshire (an area “studded with Moderate clergy from the days of Prelacy” – McCrie) resolves to intrude a presentee upon the parish of Marnoch, despite only one man signing the call, who was the publican of the house at which the Presbytery met, and despite the orders of the Commission of the General Assembly.

The Commission passes the sentence of suspension upon the seven ministers of the Presbytery of Strathbogie. Hypocritically the Moderates cry out for respect for their consciences!

1840 Presbyterian Church in Ireland (PCI) formed from the union of the ‘mainstream’ Synod of Ulster with the Irish Seceders (Associate Synod).

The system of National Education in Ireland is modified sufficiently to be accepted by the PCI and its schools join the scheme.

The Eastern RP Synod – This is formed by a minority, led by John Paul, who split from the RPCI, and which is based in Greater Belfast, the Londonderry/ Donegal area and at Cullybackey, near Ballymena. The division is the culmination of 10 years of heated debate about the role of the civil government in matters of religion between two parties in the Church led respectively by Thomas Houston and John Paul. Dr Paul states that the reasons for secession were Synod’s decisions in support of Mr Houston and “were directed against Mr Houston on the grounds that he taught persecuting principles; that he has represented the Covenanting Fathers as wanting to extirpate not principles but persons; that had accorded to the Civil Magistrate in a Gospel Age, powers that were consistent with the Mosaic Law; and that intolerable burdens were placed on the consciences of Christian People by such teaching.” (Loughridge) One sees similarities with the modern debate on Theonomy.

Later on, half of the Eastern RP Synod will come back into the RPCI, and half will join the PCI.

The Presbytery of Strathbogie applies for and receives an interdict against the General Assembly of the Established Church of Scotland from the civil courts. The Commission of the General Assembly prepares a libel against them.

1841 The Presbytery of Strathbogie proceeds to settle the vetoed presentee at Marnoch. An elder confronts them and asks if they appeared by the authority of the General Assembly. They refuse to answer. A representative of the congregation presents their objections to the settlement. The people as a body pick up their Bibles and leave the church building, never to return. The farcical and illegal act of ordination proceeds nonetheless.

The Presbytery of Strathbogie applies for and receives an interdict from the civil courts forbidding any member of the Church from preaching within their bounds. Candlish, Chalmers and others disobey this tyranny. Candlish was due to be appointed to the Chair of Biblical Criticism, but the appointment is withdrawn as punishment for this act.

The General Assembly of the Established Church of Scotland approves the parliamentary bill proposed by the Duke of Argyll to establish the ecclesiastical Veto Act of 1834 in civil law.

At the General Assembly, the Presbytery of Strathbogie is deposed and the illegally ordained presentee of Marnoch has his licence removed. A Commissioner of the Court of Session presents the Moderator with an interdict, applied for by the Presbytery, prohibiting the General Assembly from deposing these men. The Assembly passes various resolutions asserting the rights of the Assembly and resolving to communicate these to the Queen in council.

A public meeting is held after the Assembly at which 1200 office-bearers attend and over which the Moderator, Dr Gordon, presides. Gordon declares to the meeting, “It has come, I say, to this, that I am called upon either to renounce these principles [that the Church has a spiritual authority distinct from the civil government], or to renounce the privileges which I hold as an ordained minister of the Church of Scotland.”

The Culsamond Case – The Presbytery of Garioch in Aberdeenshire seek to ordain against the dissent of people and the laws of the Church. The people crowd the church building with a “noisy and tumultuous assembly,” forcing the Presbytery to ordain the presentee in the manse with barred doors.

1842 Original Secession Church formed in Scotland by union of Old Light Burghers remnant and Old Light Anti-Burghers.

“The Forty” – Forty of the Non-Intrusionists (i.e. those who opposed the intrusion of a patron’s presentee against the wishes of a congregation) divide from the others, begin separate talks with the Civil Government and show signs of compromise. This compromise undermines the efforts of the Church in its negotiations with the State and McCrie goes so far as to say that “at the doors of these unfortunate men lies the ruin of the Scottish Establishment.” These men would remain in the Establishment at the Disruption.

The frustrated presentee of the Auchterarder Case of 1837 seeks damages of £16,000 against the Church in the civil courts, precipitating what was soon to come to pass.

Argyll’s parliamentary bill to support the Veto Act of 1834 fails.

At the Assembly, Cunningham’s motion against patronage, and to petition the Civil Government concerning it, is passed.

“The Claim of Rights” – Chalmers’ motion to the Assembly asking for adoption of this document is passed by 241 against 110 votes. It consisted of three parts:

A Claim to certain legal rights granted to the Church by Parliament guaranteeing her freedom.

A Declaration that they cannot intrude presentees against wishes of the people or be subject to coercion by the Court of Session.

A Protest that they hold all infractions of their legal rights by the Parliament at the time of Union to be null and void, that they or their successors shall be free to claim restitution of the those civil rights and privileges that they may be compelled to give up to preserve their freedom.

The Commissioner agrees to convey the Claim of Rights and the petition against patronage to the Queen.

500 Non-Intrusionist preachers meet in Edinburgh on 27th November. Prior to the business meeting, worship is held as which Chalmers preaches on the text, “Unto the upright there arises light in the darkness.” Only preachers are present to allow the men to feel free to voice their mind. Over six days they discuss the state of affairs, and agree that the Church could not submit to the civil authorities without losing her character as a true Church of Christ, that they should apply to the civil authorities for protection in the exercise of their freedom, and that if this application should fail then, rather than protract the struggle and embroil the country, they should leave the Establishment.

1843 The Chapel Act of the Established Church of Scotland (1834) is declared invalid by the Civil Courts. At this stage there are around 50 lawsuits against the Church.

Parliament rejects the petition of the Established Church of Scotland. The Prime Minister, Robert Peel, argues that the Church was exceeding its boundaries in relation to non-intrusion and that the rights of the patron are a civil matter, not an ecclesiastical one! He also states that repealing the Patronage Act was “no less injurious to religion than dangerous to the state.”

The leader of the Moderates, Dr Cook, moves at a meeting of Commission prior to the Assembly that the Quoad Sacra ministers (i.e. those in the chapels of ease) be expunged from the Assembly’s roll in obedience to the Civil Authorities. After he loses his motion, the Moderates retire from the meeting in protest.

“The Great Disruption” – The battle between Evangelicalism and Moderatism/ Erastianism leads to 40% of the preachers (470), a similarly large number of ruling elders and 33% of the people seceding from the Established Church to form the Free Church under the moderatorship of Thomas Chalmers.

Interestingly, a huge portrait of William III, which had stood for nearly 150 years in Holyrood Palace, falls from its place on this fateful day, and the cry goes up, “There goes the Revolution Settlement!” referring to the Erastian compromises made in the Church of Scotland through the power of that King.

At their first Assembly, the Free Church signs an Act of Separation from the Establishment.

The Free Church people leave manses, church buildings and seminaries behind at the time of the Disruption, and build new ones, suffering great loss.

During the period before and after the Disruption, Scotland produced many gifted preachers, theologians and historians such as Robert Murray McCheyne, Andrew and Horatius Bonar, Thomas Chalmers, William Cunningham, James Bannerman, George Smeaton, Patrick Fairburn, Robert Candlish, Hugh Martin, John Kennedy, John ‘Rabbi’ Duncan, John Paton, the Symington Brothers, Andrew Thomson, J.A. Wylie, Thomas McCrie and James Beggs. However, some are infected by Evolutionary beliefs, e.g. Thomas Chalmers and Hugh Miller.

1845-49 The Irish Potato Famine – Terrible famine grips the land and the landlords evict many from their homes, forcing vast number of Irish Catholics to emigrate, particularly to America. What is often not mentioned is that Presbyterians in various parts of the country are also affected.

From 1728 to 1851, there were 24 failures of the harvest in Ireland.

1847 United Presbyterian Church (UPC) formed from the union of the United Secession Church and the Relief Synod

1850 Temperance Association in connection with the General Assembly” of the PCI is formed, pledged to total abstinence from intoxicating liquors. (It should be noted that whisky was the staple of the Scots-Irish, not beer or wine.)

1851 UPC introduces man-made hymns. (Mainstream American Presbyterianism was influenced by Methodism and Congregationalism in the 18th Century and so some of its congregations adopted hymns earlier.)

1852 Majority of the Original Secession Church unites with the Free Church.

1859 “The Ulster Revival” takes place, when it is estimated that 100,000 people are converted. These are products of the sovereign work of God’s Spirit and not the man-made creation of revivalism.

This is why, in God’s grace, this tiny nation has been greatly influenced by Evangelicalism, despite a significant Roman Catholic minority. It is worth noting that there is a not insignificant stream of Gaelic Irish blood amongst the Scots-Irish Presbyterians due to the power of the Gospel in the land, but we long to see our fellow Irishmen to be completely delivered from the bondage of Rome.

1861 The Established Church of Scotland introduces man-made hymns.

1863 Majority of RPCS vote that “the members of the Church, who may be led by the resolution to exercise the elective franchise, or take the oath of allegiance, shall not be visited with the infliction of ecclesiastical penalties to the effect of suspension and expulsion from the privileges of the Church.”

A minority dissent and divide from the majority. These declare themselves to the true RPCS and the RPCI and RPCNA only recognise this minority.

1865 The Established Church of Scotland allows all aspects of public worship to be ordered by the presbyteries, leading to the introduction of instrumental accompaniment.

1868-86 Every year the General Assembly of the PCI is exercised with debates about the use of instruments in worship. In 1882, instruments are formally banned, as a few congregations had introduced them, and discussion on the topic is banned for 5 years from 1886. Instruments were gradually introduced despite the fact that even today they are technically illegal!

1871 The disestablishment in Ireland leads to the PCI losing the ‘Regium Donum’ (money from Government) which they had received since the Revolution.

1872 The UPC (or Seceders) lifts its ban on instrumental accompaniment in worship.

1873 The Free Church introduces man-made hymns.

1876 RPCS (Majority Synod) joins with the Free Church, because it has freed itself from Erastianism.

Free Church (including one former RP congregation) and UPC congregations in England unite to form Presbyterian Church of England.

1875-81 Professor William Robertson Smith of the Free Church writes articles in the Encyclopaedia Britannica without endorsing the Bible as literally true in 1875. This leads to a heresy trial from 1878 to 1880, when he is formally cleared of heresy but cautioned to abstain in future from expressing “incautious or incomplete public statements”. Soon after, another of his publications comes out which shows that Robertson Smith’s higher critical views are unchanged and he has been dishonest. He is dismissed from his chair in Aberdeen.

The problem was that in their pride, the Free Church had “gone one better” than the Established Church, which they had left, and sent their students to finish their studies in Germany, where they imbibed Higher Criticism, leading to the introduction of Liberalism.

1879 UPC issues a Declaratory Act relaxing subscription to the Westminster Standards, including six-day creation.

1883 The Free Church lifts its ban on instrumental accompaniment in worship.

1892 The Free Church, following the example of the UPC and the Church of Scotland (1889), passes a Declaratory Act relaxing the stringency of subscription to the confession, which is widely perceived as paving the way for unification with the UPC.

1893 Those opposed to the Declaratory Act and union with the UPC divide into two groups: one which advocates staying and fighting, and another which advocates secession. Those who secede from the Free Church form the Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland, which is not to be confused with the FPC of Ulster.

1896 Man-made hymns introduced into the PCI.


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