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Scotchmen in disputes pertaining to religion. Being in general hostile to the oath and its adherents, they viewed with suspicion and dislike many excellent men because they were on the opposite side.
Before the ahjuration oath had ceased to harrass the minds of the Scottish clergy, a circumstance of a dif. ferent kind arose, which was for some years a source of disputation and strife. An anonymous book written in England during the time of the civil wars, entitled, « The Marrow of modern Divinity,” which had floated silently down the stream of time with the mass of middling publications, fell into the hands of a minister in Scotland, who was greatly delighted with the manner in which the writer had stated the doctrines of the Gospel. From him it was handed to others, till at last Mr. Hog, of Carnock, one of the most eminent of the clergy for piety and zeal, in 1718, published a new edition with a recommendatory preface. · An alarm of heresy was instantly raised; the book was brought before the general assembly, in 1719; and numerous errors extracted from it were condemned. The favourers of the Marrow Doctrine, as it was called, remonstrated against the measure and asserted the orthodoxy of the author, but in vain ; for by an act of the assembly, in 1720, a sentence of condemnation passed upon the book itself. Its friends, among whom were Mr. Boston, Mr. Riccal. ton, the Erskines, and many of the best men of that communion, stood forth boldly in its defence, both in the ecclesiastical courts and from the press. The majority however was against it: and by the assembly, in 1722, the former decree was confirmed; and the brethren who contended that the Marrow of modern Divinity was an orthodox book, were rebuked at their bar.
The condemnation of heretical books is a measure which has often been resorted to by established churches, but seldom, if ever, with success. Rome, relying on her infallibility, thundered out her anathernas against erroneous publications: , but even infallibility could not insure efficacy to the measure. In the Jansenian controversy, where she strained every nerve to ruin the reputation of particular authors and their works, the effect was only to make the authors more popular, and to give their books a greater sale and wider circulation. The humour of condemning books seized the convocation of England in the reign of queen Anne, and with as little success and honour; for the writers of the erroneous volumes escaped unhurt: and all the learning and orthodoxy in the venerable budy were trampled in the mire by the queen, who as head of the church, and consequently supreme judge of controversies in religion,
did not think proper to confirm their decision. - With both these warnings before her eyes, the
church of Scotland enters the field and exercises her inquisitorial power, but in circumstances more awkward than either of her sister establishments. The book which she condemned, was written by one who was neither of her own communion nor of her own country'. By the friends of evangelical doctrine it was conceived to have stated with singular perspicuity · many important truthis : but it contained expressions
• Principal Haddow, one of its greatest adversaries, in a pamphlet which he published in the controversy, asserted, that it w8 written by a London barber in the time of the commonwealth.
of a paradoxical kind, which though capable of being interpreted in an orthodox sense, might yet convey a very heterodox meaning. For the orthodox sense, as conveying the ideas of the author, the advocates for the marrow ardently contended, and its adversaries were as keen for the opposite side; and on account of this difference they entertained the most unfavourable ideas of each other, as hostile to the principles of holiness, or the doctrines of grace. The injury done to the Christian people by such disputes no tongue can express,
The peace of the ehurch of Scotland was again disturbed by the opinions of a man who held one of the most important ecclesiastical stations. John Simpson, professor of divinity in the university of Glasgow, was accused of maintaining a variety of notions either contrary to scripture or beyond the line of divine revelation, Of these sentimenưs and his conduct, the general assembly, in 1717, expressed its disapprobation. Some years afterwards, a more serious accusation was brought against him ; for he was charged with denying the divinity of Christ, and teaching the arian doctrine to the students. The 'alarm throughout the country was greater than we can now conceive: horror seized the zealous members of the church; and the cause was brought before the general assembly. The accusations of his opponents he endeavoured to confute by a confession of his faith in orthodox language, and for offensive expressions which he had used he expresseự his sorrow. The assembly however, in 17:28, conceived that heresy enough was proved to justity them in suspending him from the exercise of his functions; and in the following year they declared him unfit to be entrusted with the education of youth for the ministry of the Gospel P.
Professor Simpson is said to have been a man of talents, learning, and respectability. Some have asserted, that he was not an arian : and in this sentiment several of the students from England, who attended on his lectures, concur. On the contrary, those of his countrymen who examined the subject, confidently assert that he denied the divinity of Christ. Whatever he was found to be at that higher tribunal before which he has long since appeared, he seems evidently to have been destitute of some qualifications of great importance to a professor of divinity. The fancies, to call them by no harsher name, for which he was first brought before the ecclesiastical courts, discover a mind eager to pry into things not rèvealed, enamoured of novelties, and calculated to produce a race of conceited whimsical young men, who losing sight of the grand principles of the Gospel, will employ their time and strength in the pursuit of trifles.
If he was an arian, it was necessary for him in order to be an honest man, not to continue a day longer as a professor of divinity in the Scottish church. Her creed is calvinism in every part, and for calvinists only her offices and her honours are designed. If an arian, he should have imitated the heroes of the reformation in their conduct towards Rome : he should have forsaken her altars, and hidden adieu to all her advantages, for what he deemed the cause of truth. But such was not the spirit of professor Simpson: he ate of her barley loaves and fishes to the day of his
* Boston's Memoirs. Brown's History of the Secession. ..
death; for the assembly had the humanity to allow him to retain his salary, while they stripped him of his office.
But by far the most important event relating to the church of Scotland during this period, was the secession which took place in 1732. Ebenezer Era skine, minister of Stirling, son of Henry Erskine a con fessor whose name adorns the catalogue of the nonconformists, being appointed to preach a sermon betore the synod of Perth, with great boldness enu. merated what he conceived to be the sins and defeca tions of the church: and among these, patronage, and the evils arising from its rigorous exercise, were not forgotten. Clerical men have never been famed for being humble and docile hearers ; nor did the present instance furnish an exception. Instead of meekly receiving the word of exhortation, for three days the synod warmly disputed concerning the obnoxious preacher; and at last determined that he should be rebuked at their bar, both for the matter and the manner of his sermon. From this decision twelve ministers and two elders dissented, and Mr. Erskine appealed to the general assembly; but here too he found the same reception, for embracing the sentiments of the synod they ordered him to be rebuked at their dread bar. Conceiving that he pleaded for the cause of God and truth, Mr. Erskine protested, that without violating his conscience he could not submit to the rebuke, and insisted that he should be Jeft at liberty to deliver the same testimony on every proper occasion. Three other ministers William Wilson, Alexander Moncrief, and James Fisher join. ed in his protest. The meekness and gentleness of
elders disambly; buring the