The James Begg Society

The James Begg Society

Publishers of Protestant, Reformed Christian Literature

Free Church Presbyterianism, by Rev. James Begg, D.D.

Opening Address:


and the vital importance of Free Church Principles.

Being an address delivered at the Opening of the General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland, on the 18th of May 1865.

THE MODERATOR, on taking the chair, said —

"Fathers and Brethren, It would be mere affectation were I not to acknowledge the sense which I entertain of the honour which this Assembly has been pleased to confer upon me, by placing me in a chair made illustrious by so many eminent predecessors. But it would be worse than affectation did I not express my deep feeling of unworthiness of such an honour, And did not cast myself — especially in the circumstances in which I have been placed, in the adorable providence of God, 1 — on the kind indulgence and support of this House in the discharge of the important duties to which I have been called. Such an event as this in one's history naturally leads to a personal retrospect; and I may say that I have been conversant with the principles of the Disruption from my infancy.

[Footnote 1: Dr Begg here referred to a severe wound which he had received from the upsetting of a railway carriage, and from the effects of which he had not then finally recovered. ]

I heard, many years before this Free Church was dreamt of, the doctrine of the spiritual independence of the Church, the struggles of Knox, Henderson, and others, the atrocities of the violent settlements, several of which took place in our neighbourhood, discussed in my father's manse by eminent men long since gone to their rest. I studied under Dr Chalmers, and sat under Dr Andrew Thomson. The first Assembly of which I was a member was that in which the Disruption struggle commenced. I was privileged to take a small part in the whole of the ten years' conflict, as I have since been in the probably still more important twenty-two years' work of rebuilding the Church in its present form. [Applause.] It would be entirely out of place in this venerable audience to expound the principles of the Disruption. They are well known, and time has only illustrated their great value and vital importance. It is admitted on all hands that Christ's people were in the early ages free to choose their ministers, even as they have always had, and must have, a solemn responsibility in determining under what ministry they shall place themselves and their children. They must not, at their peril, sit under a ministry that shall starve them by the want of true doctrine, or poison them by false doctrine; but this implies the liberty of choice.

"Thou shalt not hear the instruction which causeth to err from the words of truth."

"Believe not every spirit, but try the spirits, whether they be of God."

The first utterance of the Reformed Church of Scotland on the subject, bearing on its front the broad impress of John Knox, was, "It appertaineth to the people, and to every several congregation, to elect their minister." [Applause.] The opposite system of selling the souls of whole parishes, like cattle in the public market, to a patron so-called, and giving a man who may not only be no member of the Church, but its open enemy, a power of thrusting in its ministers, is a corruption so gross, that, as our ancestors said, it could proceed only from the Pope's Kirk and corruption of the canon law, and ought to have no place in this light of Reformation. [Applause.] It was both the emblem and the parent of spiritual declension, and was openly re-introduced for this purpose by the illegal Act of Queen Anne, after patronage had been swept away by the Revolution struggle. The Act of Queen Anne never was, therefore, entitled to any respect at the hands of the really honest Presbyterians of Scotland; and the first dawn of revived spiritual life in the Church made a struggle against it, or at least against the abuses of it, natural and necessary. Out of this struggle, however, arose a question far more vital, viz., the sole authority of Christ as the Head and Lawgiver of the Church; and it was, as is well known, mainly out of this latter question that the Disruption sprang.

A question has often been asked, Why was it necessary that a course so extreme as that of the Disruption should be adopted? We may say, in answer to this, with the poet, — "God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform." We fought for the Church Establishment as a proper homage of the State to Christ, and as in keeping with the homage which all nations must ultimately pay to Him; for "the nation and kingdom that will not serve him shall perish: those nations shall be utterly wasted." But it is one thing for a nation to serve Christ, and a very different thing for a nation to seek to make the Church of Christ its subordinate and slave. The one is right; the other is impious.

I remember well — for I was with him — with what overwhelming power Dr Chalmers urged this in his Church Establishment lectures before one of the most brilliant audiences that ever assembled in London. This, in truth, was the turning point in the whole debate on this subject. The Church of Christ must ever be free, established or disestablished, to serve Him according to His own Word. On this all our ancestors insisted as vital. 2 The moment it became otherwise, and the Church as established in Scotland was declared for the first time by the highest authority to be merely "the creature of the State," our position in it became indefensible and intolerable. On the part of the Church, therefore, the answer is, that she was left in the end no alternative but either to break off from the State, or manifest glaring treachery to her Lord and her people.

[Footnote 2: "This power ecclesiastical flows immediately from God and the Mediator Jesus Christ, and is spiritual, not having a temporal head on earth, but only Christ, the only spiritual king and governor of his Kirk. It is a title falsely usurped by Antichrist to call himself head of the Kirk, and ought not to be attributed to angel nor man, of what estate that ever he be, saving to Christ the only Head and Monarch of his Kirk. Therefore this power and policy of the Kirk should lean upon the Word immediately as the only ground thereof, and should be taken from the pure fountains of the Scriptures, the Kirk hearing the voice of Christ, the only spiritual King, and being ruled by His laws." — Second Book of Discipline.]

A few words from the celebrated John Livingstone to the people of Ancrum on a similar occasion, although in more tyrannical days, are equally explanatory of our case:—

"I could have been well content," said he, "although it had been with many discouragement's and straits, to have gone on and served you all as I could in the Gospel of Jesus Christ; but the prerogative royal of Jesus Christ and the peace of a man's conscience are not to be violated on any consideration, neither could there have been a blessing on ought that is done against these."

But on the part of the State also, on the other hand, we think we can see, in calmly reflecting on the subject, that the result, strange at the time, was wisely ordered in the wonderful providence of God, as that most conducive to the spiritual interests of the cause of Christ in Scotland and the world.

The state of vital religion was very low in many parts of Scotland, especially in the south, and in some parts of the north, under the blighting operation of a system which put men into the priest's office simply that they might eat a piece of bread.

In the Life of the late excellent Duchess of Gordon, by our friend Mr Moody Stuart — [applause] — an instance is given of this in the north.

The Duchess, then the Marchioness of Huntly, had erected a school in Strathbogie, and the parents and children had assembled for its opening. The parish minister was asked by the Marchioness to pray for a blessing, and, "having declined on the ground of not being prepared, she turned to her husband and said 'Huntly, will you do it?' He complied at once, and offered a brief prayer, to the great delight of the people."

I could give even more humbling illustrations of the state of matters from my own observations in the south of Scotland, where I was first settled.

In the palmy days of Moderatism, the lists of the great patrons were sent to the managers at Edinburgh, that they might be expurgated of the names of all suspected of evangelical principles; and "like priest like people" came to be the rule in many districts. I have heard the older ministers say, that to be a popular preacher, in other words, a preacher of the gospel, in those days was destructive to a man's prospects in life. Witherspoon, in ridiculing this state of feeling in his "Characteristics," supposes a case. A sermon has been preached with the greatest approbation before the Presbytery, but it is afterwards preached in a congregation, and they also approve of it. It is quite clear that, after all, both he and it ought to be condemned, for the Presbytery were never so uniform in judging right as the people were in judging wrong. [Applause and laughter.] Now, mark what was accomplished by the unexpected proceedings of 1843, — exactly this day twenty-two years ago. By forcing the matter to the issue of a Disruption, all our half measures, our vetoes, our liberum arbitriums, and so forth, were at once scattered to the winds, and the Church came out into perfect freedom. I should say, from what I know of Scotland, that nothing short of this could have accomplished the object at which we were aiming, at least during the present generation, if ever. Suppose the veto had been established by Act of Parliament, such is the enormous territorial power of many of our landlords, — greater than that of any landlords out of Russia, — that its exercise in many districts would have been entirely defeated.

This came out very clearly during the Disruption struggle, and probably emboldened our rulers to proceed to extremities, — a supposition rendered more probable by the extensive combination afterwards formed to make a Free Church impossible in certain districts by the refusal of sites.

I remember of visiting — to give only one instance — during that period, with Dr Guthrie, a large village of nearly a thousand people. There were two inns in the place, with halls for meetings; but all the people and innkeepers were tenants-at-will of a powerful nobleman. Both of the innkeepers told us that they durst not allow us to address the people in their halls, as the factor had intimated to them, that if they did so they must immediately quit the place. The people told us that a similar intimation had been made to them even if they came out on the street to hear us in the open air, although they all intimated that they agreed entirely with our views. — What would have been the value even of an absolute veto in such circumstances? Nothing. Only the break-up and crash of the Disruption could have set such a people free, as it actually did, for in that place there is now a flourishing Free Church. [Applause.] Suppose even patronage had been abolished, it would have required twenty, thirty, or forty years to terminate existing incumbencies, and bring the new system into general operation. During that period the power of the parochial system would have effectually prevented the gospel from crossing the limits of certain districts, whilst during that period also the Church again might have largely gone to sleep.

On the other hand, it was so arranged by the sudden crash of the Disruption, that all these artificial boundaries were levelled at once; all the strongholds of Moderatism, the growth of generations, were rendered accessible in a day; the entire people of Scotland were emancipated from all trammels; the gospel had free course through the green dales and scattered villages of the south, amidst the sturdy peasantry of the Don and the Dee, throughout the wilds of Argyll, Inverness, and Sutherland, and to the uttermost ends of Scotland. [Applause.] Nay, whilst a small reform would have made no impression, the earthquake shout of a self-emancipated people re-echoed to the ends of the earth, and made the Christians of other lands thank God and take courage, because of a new proof thus afforded that Christianity was as strong to endure and as mighty to triumph over all difficulties, and if necessary, over the potentates of earth, as in the apostolic age. [Applause.] These are mighty results of the Disruption, for which all generations will be thankful; and I do not see how they could have been accomplished except by a Divine wisdom, which defeated our well-meaning but short sighted plans, and led us, like blind men, in a way that we knew not. [Applause.]

Another great result was necessary to be accomplished, and, so far as I can see, could be accomplished also in no other way.

The flood of apostolic benevolence had been dried up, and the liberality of the Church had become stinted, both in and out of the Establishment. A vast work required to be done, both for the neglected heathen at home and the perishing millions abroad. Something was necessary to break up the fountains of benevolence anew, and to prove that the Church of Christ, under the reviving power of the Spirit of God, is equal to her mighty task, nay is, in this respect, entirely independent of the principalities and powers of earth. And never did the power of spring more suddenly break up the frost of a northern winter than the Disruption opened the hearts of the people of Scotland to give as they had never given before. God seemed to act towards our Church as He did towards Solomon. Solomon, when asked to choose, chose wisdom, and God threw in unasked, in addition, abundance of silver and gold. Our Church had grace to choose the honour of Christ in the hour of trial; our ministers abandoned their pleasant manses and gardens for Christ's sake; and God has not only in a wonderful way replaced these blessings, but He has placed wealth at the disposal of this dis-established Church far greater than the Presbyterian Church of Scotland ever possessed even in her palmiest days. [Applause.]

It was formerly remarked that Dissenters would build a meeting-house whilst heritors discussed a broken pane. Dr Chalmers asked in vain for �10,000 a-year from the Government; and the old inveterate "bawbee" had come to be the limit of a Scotchman's contribution for benevolent objects. [Laughter.] But the strong heat of the Disruption made all this vanish like smoke.

Now a Scotchman's liberality, although still far short, like the faith of the ancient Roman Christians, is "spoken of throughout the whole world," and "our zeal hath provoked very many." Ever since the Disruption, the contributions towards the Free Church have averaged about £350,000 a year, or £50,000 a year more than the revenue of the Church Establishment, including the value of manses and glebes. We would thus not only have been false to truth, but, as it has turned out, immense pecuniary losers, apart from the Disruption. The amount contributed to the Free Church since 1843 has been no less than about £7,000,000 sterling. [Applause.]

Now, the world and the Church needed this lesson, and yet it is hard to see how it could have been obtained in Scotland in any other way than by the Disruption. Our financial arrangements in regard to the support of ministers have also, by the Divine blessing in guiding our counsels, been managed with singular wisdom. Our Sustentation Fund, as hitherto conducted, has enabled the Church to plant and uphold ministers in all parts of Scotland, — in the poorer districts as well as in the richer, — to fill not only the Lowlands, but the noble Highlands and Islands, with the gospel which the people prize so highly. It has given us many of the advantages of a Church establishment without its disadvantages, and helped to solve the question of ecclesiastical finance for all the Free Churches of the world.

Yet this is only the beginning. The whole world still remains to be subdued to Christ, and these are only the first openings of the fountain previously very much sealed, — the first drops of that mighty shower which shall at length make the wilderness and the solitary place to be glad everywhere, and the moral deserts to rejoice and blossom as the rose, when God shall say to the north, Give up, and to the south, Keep not back; bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth. [Applause.] Another very important result of the struggle may yet be in the future.

The prevailing view at the time of the Disruption was, that it was a process merely of scattering and breaking to pieces. The dearest ties of families were often rent asunder; and we sang, with great sincerity,

"O Lord, thou hast rejected us,
And scattered us abroad;
Thou justly hast displeased been:
Return to us, O God.
Unto thy people thou hard things
Hast showed, and on them sent;
And thou hast caused us to drink
Wine of astonishment."

Thus we sang at the very time when we could add with joy, as the only apparent solution of the problem, —

"And yet a banner thou hast given
To those who thee do fear,
That it by them, because of truth,
Displayed may appear;
That thy beloved people may
Delivered be from thrall.
Save by the power of thy right hand,
And hear me when I call." [Applause.]

But He who is wonderful in counsel and excellent in working might, after all, be preparing, by that process of breaking to pieces, for a more comprehensive and vital union. Some time and sifting may still be necessary; but if, in a way thoroughly consistent and honouring to God's truth, without which union is a mere conspiracy against truth, the scattered children of the Covenanters, the sons of Erskine, Gillespie, and Chalmers — [applause] — shall be brought to meet around a common centre, and in these days of trouble, and rebuke, and blasphemy, to blend their several protests into one broad standard uplifted on high, and emblazoned with Christ's crown and covenant, Scotland may again become glorious as in the days of old; nay, her latter end may become better than her beginning. [Applause.]

In the preface to the last work of the celebrated and godly James Durham, published in 1659; it is said, describing the then state of things, —

"He who some time made us a praise in the earth hath now made us a hissing reproach to all that are round about us. He who once by our unity and one shoulder service did make us beautiful as Tirza, comely as Jerusalem, and terrible as an army with banners, hath now, alas! (which is one of the most embittering ingredients of our cup), instead of giving us one heart and one way, in His anger divided, sub-divided, weakened, disjointed, and broken us, so that Judah vexeth Ephraim, and Ephraim envieth Judah, and every man's hand almost is against his brother; and through our lamentable and most unseasonable intestine jars and divisions we bite and devour one another, and are like to be consumed one of another. O, tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Askelon, lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice, lest the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph, that when God hath cast us all down together, we endeavour to keep down and to tread upon one another; that when He hath been justly angry with our mother, her children are sinfully angry with one another; and when He hath cast us into the furnace, we are even there struggling and wrestling one with another, to the increasing of the flame."

The students of history know that this strife was soon quenched in blood; but they also know that the best men of those times, whilst earnest friends of truth, were also, as they ever are, earnest friends of union.

The whole struggle of the Second Reformation was in one aspect a struggle in behalf of a great union of true Presbyterianism; and it is interesting to notice with what wisdom Durham seeks to deal with the perplexing divisions of his time. In the work to which we have referred he gives the following advice, which is still most worthy of our study: —

"Choice," says he, "also would be made of the subject first to be spoken of. What may be thought most subject to mistake, heat, or contention, would be left to the last place, and what may be conceived most plausible-like to both would be begun at, that it may be rather known wherein men agree than wherein they differ, at the entry at least. Possibly also, union in fundamental things being accorded unto, it may make way for moderating affections in other things less fundamental, ... because, beginning at some point of doctrine or particular of practice wherein the difference is highest, doth often at the entry ruffle men's humours, and break off conferences abruptly." [Applause and laughter.]

There are no doubt questions of great delicacy in the projected unions of the present day, although there never was a time when union, if it be only in the truth, was more loudly called for. [Hear, hear.] The very difficulties which lie in our way ought to lead us to distrust mere carnal wisdom, and to cast ourselves on the care and guidance of Him who hath hitherto made our way plain before us. And if by Him we and the mass of the other leading Dissenters of Scotland, on the basis of Scripture, are brought to see eye to eye, and to sing together with the voice, we may surely, with more emphasis than ever, be enabled to sing the old song of 1843, —

"When Sion's bondage God turned back,
As men that dreamed were we."

And still we may add to it a new song, which at that time we did not sing so much, —

"God doth build up Jerusalem,
And He it is alone
That the dispersed of Israel
Doth gather into one." [Loud applause.]

But whilst it is right to contemplate for the glory of God the many past and prospective blessings which have flowed from a firm adherence to principle at the time of the Disruption, it may be well also to glance at the opposite course of procedure, — the result of an abandonment of the principle of the sole Headship of Christ in the Church.

In our own Establishment, the result was the immediate intrusion of Mr Young at Auchterarder, followed by similar acts of intrusion since, — the reponing of the deposed Strathbogie ministers by the mere authority of the civil court; and whilst our protest has never been answered, the settling of so sacred a matter as the ordination and induction of ministers is managed now by a mere Act of Parliament, just as if ministers of Christ were only so many higher policemen. [Laughter.] The Church has thus consented to merge herself so far into the State, and to become even in the most sacred matters only a part of one of the kingdoms of this world, — all this, of course, to secure her endowments. In other words, she sells her own freedom and the Kingship of Christ for self; and if the sinful and fatal concession thus made has not yet been driven to farther issues by the civil courts, it is only because an emergency has not yet arisen.

Between obeying Christ and Caesar, the distance is infinite. No doubt, even the Establishment still professes to uphold the Headship of Christ; but there are two principles which effectually settle this claim. The one is, "No man can serve two masters;" and the other is, "His servants ye are whom ye obey." [Loud and prolonged applause.] The obedience rendered to C�sar rather than to Christ at the testing time of the Disruption, and since, settles the question.

The ministers of the Established Church, even though willing, cannot now obey Christ in settling ministers, except in so far as they are allowed to do so by Lord Aberdeen's Act; and that Act expressly excludes the will of the people, apart from mere technical reasons, as entitled to the least weight in a matter so important; so that both Church and people are now equally enslaved by the civil power. The Jews might therefore as well have claimed to be loyal to Christ when they arrayed him in a scarlet robe, and put a reed in his hand, and a crown of thorns upon his head, crying, "Hail, King of the Jews," at the very time when their conduct as well as their words said, "We have no king but C�sar," as our modern Churchmen are entitled to claim that they are loyal to Him when in every case of debate they regulate their conduct by Acts of Parliament, and not by the Acts of the Apostles. 3 [Applause and laughter.] Besides, no one can tell now whither the Establishment is tending.

[Footnote 3: This sentence has been perverted by one of our newspapers, which affirmed that I had "exhibited a parallel between the members of the Established Church and the Jews aiding in the Crucifixion." It is scarcely necessary to say, that there is not one word about the "Crucifixion" in the sentence. It was intended to convey, and, fairly interpreted, only does convey, an illustration of the contrast between professed loyalty and true submission to the kingly authority of Christ.]

It is well, however, that the ultimate bearing of Erastianism can be tested more effectually now than it has yet been in Scotland in modern times viz., by the experience of the great and powerful Church of England, many of whose ministers are excellent, but whose constitution is essentially Erastian. In her Articles, she proclaims, and makes no disguise of the matter, that "the Queen's Majesty is supreme judge in all questions and causes, ecclesiastical as well as civil." This was one of the invincible grounds of opposition to that Church on the part of our wise and discerning ancestors. "This was the needle," said one of them, "which drew in the whole thread of corruption" — [laughter] — and so it has turned out. The Popish element in that Church has often been developed with impunity; and lately, on what is called Good Friday, at Norwich, two ministers of that Church produced a wooden cross and an image of Christ, the one exclaiming, "Behold the wood of the cross!" the other responding, and teaching the people to respond, "Come, let us adore" when a scene of as abject idolatry followed as ever took place in the Church of Rome.

These men maintain their positions with impunity because the free action of the Church is hampered by the Erastian form of her connection with the State. But in our day it has further been solemnly declared that a man may hold essentially infidel opinions and still be a minister of the Church of England. Not only can infidels and reprobates compel the administration of sacraments as a civil right, as hitherto, but a minister of that Church now who denies — to use the language of a friend — the whole source of truth, viz., to an undefined extent the inspiration of the Word of God, — the whole substance of truth, viz., the substitution of Christ's righteousness by faith as the ground of our acceptance with God, — and the whole sanctions of truth, viz., the doctrine of future punishment, and consequently of reward, — may still remain a minister of the Church of England, and set all men at defiance.

A man that is a heretic can no longer be rejected, as the Apostle commands. No doubt, ten thousand ministers of that Church have protested against two of these conclusions; but what is the value of their protest, after issuing which they have quietly sunk again into inaction? [Hear, hear.] This course only emboldens the aggressors. What they should protest against is the vicious principle which makes such a result possible, — which puts it in the power, not of the Queen — for that is a mere legal fiction — but of civil judges, who may be of any or no religion, — who may be, as Dr Pusey has justly said, moral or immoral, to give law to the Church of Christ. This decision is now final, and can only be altered by an Act of Parliament, not likely to be passed.

Such a startling result is, in our opinion, a sufficient vindication of all that we or our ancestors in all ages have done and suffered in the way of protesting against this monstrous system of Erastianism. [Applause.] When the Disruption was about to happen, Dr Chalmers wrote a strong letter to the Bishops of England, urging the importance of the principle involved; but I think he told me that from not one of them did he receive an answer. Whether any of them may be disposed, now that the case has come to their own doors, to fight a battle for the liberty and purity of their Church, remains to be seen. Some great purgation of the temple is obviously necessary. [Laughter.] They have a stronger ground to struggle than old Azariah the high priest, with his fourscore priests, that were valiant men, had when they resisted, with Divine approbation, the aggressions of Uzziah, and said, "It appertaineth not thee to burn incense: go out of the sanctuary, for thou hast transgressed — [applause and laughter] — neither shall it be for thine honour from the Lord God." But if this may not be, and if matters are to proceed, as they undoubtedly will after such a decision, from bad to worse, here is at least one alternative that all the many good ministers and people may adopt in England, as we have adopted it in Scotland, viz., to come out and be separate. [Applause.] There is a text of the Bible which seems to have been written to meet this very case, — "Be, not unequally yoked together with unbelievers; for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness, and what communion hath light with darkness, and what concord hath Christ with Belial, or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?" The apostle adds, as if anticipating the very conjunction of infidelity and Romanism, now found in ominous development in the Church of England, — "What agreement hath the temple of God with idols? Wherefore, come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. [Applause.]

Our struggle, therefore, of which some would make light, really turned upon the grandest and most momentous issue which can be presented to the minds of men, viz., whether Christ or C�sar is to rule in the Church of God. To maintain the undivided supremacy of Christ in His Church is worthy of any sacrifice. It is a principle to be surrendered only with life. Next to a dying Saviour, a living, present, reigning Saviour is the most vital truth of spiritual religion. [Applause.] That "the government should be on the shoulder" of the child born, the Saviour given, was the burden of ancient prophecy. That "all power is given to Christ in heaven and on earth" is the only basis of every minister's commission; for Christ says, "Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations." That Christ is "by the right hand of God exalted," was the true origin of the mission of the Holy Spirit, and is the only ground still on which we are entitled to expect His continued presence and blessing, — that blessing without which all preaching is vain.

This grand principle pervaded and formed the very essence of the entire struggles of our ancestors. The "Cloud of Witnesses," — that noblest record that any modern Church possesses, — is simply a record of an intense love to a present Christ, and a faith ready to brave all dangers rather than practically deny a living and reigning Saviour. They overcame, not only "by the blood of the Lamb," but also "by the word of their testimony" in behalf of this imperishable truth. This noble principle has been the parent of all our liberties.

The great despotisms of the world have all been established on the basis of ignorance of the Word of God, and by combining all power, civil and ecclesiastical, in a single human centre, as we see at present in the Pope of Rome on the one hand, and the Emperor of Russia on the other. True liberty, on the other hand, has ever sprung from the Bible, and had for its motto, "Render to C�sar the things which are C�sars, and to God the things which are God's." Lord MaCaulay says of the undoubted founders of English liberty, — "The Puritans espoused the cause of civil liberty mainly because it was the cause of religion." The eloquent Dr Charters says, — "The standard of the Scottish Covenanters upon the mountains of Scotland indicated to the vigilant eye of William that the nation was ripe for a change. They watered with their blood the tree of liberty, and we have risen to eat of the pleasant fruits." This grand principle of the supreme authority of Christ is the true foundation of all loyalty; not that base selfishness which sometimes usurps the name, but which only licks the hand by whom it hopes to be fed; but that noble spirit of manly duty which obeys not merely "for wrath, but for conscience' sake." The great Marquis of Argyll said on the scaffold, — "I would caveat this. People will be ready to think this a kind of instigation to rebellion in me; but they are very far wrong that think religion and loyalty are not well consistent. Whoever they be that separate them, religion is not to be blamed, but they. It is true, it is the duty of every Christian to be loyal; yet I think the order of things is to be observed as well as their natures, — the order of religion as well as the nature of it. Religion must not be the cockboat; it must be the ship. God must have what is His as well as C�sar what is his; and these are the best subjects that are the best Christians." [Applause.]

This great spiritual principle of the Headship of Christ is the very life of missions, as all our missionaries at once proclaimed at the Disruption. The noble object of every true missionary is to gather the millions of a conquered world around the throne and cross of Jesus, until the cry goes up under the whole heaven, "The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ." The prayers of David, the son of Jesse, will end and be swallowed up in praise, when the glories of Christ are inscribed on the highest mountain tops of earth, and all its authorities yield a willing submission to Messiah the prince. This time shall come, not withstanding the coldness and infidelity of the present age. To wait and work for this time is the duty entrusted to this Church, and to all the people of God. This time shall surely and quickly come. "His name shall endure for ever; His name shall be continued as long as the sun; men shall be blessed in Him; all nations shall call Him blessed."

Nay, we may ascend to a still higher platform.

There will be no Erastianism in Heaven. Heaven will be the consummation of Messiah's glory. There shall be cast at the feet of Christ, when all His enemies are made His footstool; and the song of eternity shall for ever "worthy is the Lamb that was slain, to receive wisdom, and power, and glory and honour, and blessing." The Lord hasten it in His own time [Applause.]

Fathers and brethren, every new Assembly reminds us of losses sustained, in the holy providence of God. Besides beloved brethren in the ministry carried away to their rest and reward, amongst whom I would specially mention the late Mr Forman of Leven, the loss of such men as Robert Morrieson, Professor Miller, James Bridges, William Campbell, Richard Kidston, and Hugh Tennent, cannot fail to be deeply felt. They have left behind them a noble example.

But our great consolation is, that the Head of the Church, who never dies or Ages, can raise up other equally large hearted and zealous friends to supply their places. Amongst these causes of sorrow, however, there is at least one of joy: Dr Duff has been brought back amongst us — [applause] — to give, let us hope, a new and more permanent impulse, by the Divine blessing, to that noble cause to which he has devoted his life. I deeply regret that he is prohibited by his medical advisers from being present in this Assembly but I trust that his heart will be cheered by the results of the present meeting.

Above all, let us each seek by earnest prayer the special presence and blessing of our exalted King, and Head in this Assembly, and that all our business may be conducted as in His presence, and with a single eye to His glory." [Loud and prolonged applause.]