FIRST, as to the Memoir. I expected, when I undertook the
task, to be able to devote to it the cornparative leisure of the summer and
autumn months. Unfortunately, the necessary materials did not come to hand,
till my vacation was well nigh spent. Hence I have had the most of it to do,
amid the pressure of all my ordinary engagements. This must be my apology for
appearances of haste. I have found the labour very pleasant, as he to whom it
relates was himself very pleasant, to me. My chief difficulty has arisen from a
sort of "embarrassment of richnesses"; the letters preserved by Mr. Gray, as
well as his various scraps and memoranda, being exceedingly numerous. I have
examined them all pretty thoroughly, and have done my best to turn them to
account ; keeping in view, on the one hand, the interest which personal friends
naturally feel in dates md details ; and, on the other hand, the public
questions and events in which Mr. Gray had so large a share. In consequence of
this last consideration the biography may perhaps seem to be too much of the
nature of church history. But to many this may be rather an acceptable feature.
At any I felt that I could scarcely otherwise do justice to Mr. Gray, or to the
church; not to speak of myself.
Next, as to the Sermons. They are published exactly as I found them, arranged together, and numbered consecutively, from the first to the nineteenth. Evidently this had been Mr. Gray's own doing. I discovered, in one of his latest scrap-books, a list of titles of sermons, with the general heading, "Gospel Contrasts, Comparisons, and Similitudes ;" shortened in the margin, to "Gospel Contrasts and Parallels. This list very nearly corresponds, though not in exact order, to the series of discourses which he left, as I have stated, arranged and numbered, with an evident view, as I think, to the press. I have placed his general heading at the top of my title page; and I have put his own titles at the beginning of the discourses. The discourses are all fully written out; and they are printed, I may say, verbatim; with the single exception of a page or two at the close of one of them, which I had to supply from notes.
Edinburgh 18th December 1861.
MR. GRAY was born at Aberdeen on 2d November 1805. He was
the first-born child of his parents, William Gray and Ann Taylor. His father
came from the parish of Foveran, in Aberdeenshire, being the son of a gardener
there, and settled in Aberdeen, as a stocking-maker. His mother came from the
parish of Peterculter, in Aberdeenshire, and was residing with her widowed
mother in Aberdeen, when she was married on 29th January 1805. She, as well as
her husband, was in humble circumstances. But they were both of them eminent
By the father's side, Mr. Gray had two uncles; of whom the one lost his life in St. Domingo, on the occasion of the negro outbreak there in 1794 - his words in his last letter home being ominous of his fate: "We are all soldiers now; the other was a druggist in Aberdeen. He also died early, leaving a son and daughter, both still alive; the son being now a medical graduate of Aberdeen. Mr. Gray's uncles by the mother's side were three in number. Two settled in business in London, and one in Aberdeen. One of the two in London died early. The other, Mr. Andrew Taylor, having been very successful, retired to Tunbridge Wells, where he lived for nearly forty years, dying at the age of eighty-seven about four years ago. He was a decidedly Christian man, kind to his relatives, and liberal in every good cause. Mr. Gray often experienced the benefit of his liberality in the various plans of religious and philanthropic usefulness which he set on foot. His maternal uncle in Aberdeen, Mr. Peter Taylor, was also a man of marked Christian devotedness. He was a keen dissenter, and took a lively interest in the congregational "cause in Aberdeen.
Mr. Gray's early home was in keeping with his future character and career in life. His mother was endowed with a large measure of shrewdness and sagacity; and though tried much with a severe illness of long duration, was spared to reach her fifty-fourth year, and to see her son called to his first charge at Woodside in 1831. His father, who lived latterly in Mr. Gray's house at Perth, and died there in 1846, at the age of seventy-four, is described as having been, in guilelessness and simplicity, a perfect child; well meriting the appellation of a Nathanael He was easily imposed upon, having in his composition much of the "charity which thinketh no evil. So far he might seem to be but ill adapted to cope with the world and its ways. But he was remarkable for conscientiousness and uprightness, and a firm adherence to what he believed to be right. In church matters he was especially so, and on more than one occasion manifested something of that tenacity of purpose which marked so conspicuously the temperament of his son. He was a staunch churchman, warmly attached to the Church of Scotland, although he viewed with deep grief the defections of which, under the rule of moderate policy, she had become guilty. In particular he abhorred the yoke of patronage which that policy sought to rivet, in its utmost severity, on the necks of the people of Scotland. He was a member of Trinity Chapel. This was one of the earliest chapels-of-ease, which the dominant party in the presbytery was got with difficulty to tolerate ; - the population of Aberdeen having so enormously outgrown the supply of church accommodation in the old place of worship, that a new one, even in the obnoxious shape of a chapel-of-ease, could not for very shame be refused. It was a great blessing. For many years it was one of the few sanctuaries in Aberdeen in which the gospel was really preached.(** At that time, in connexion with the Establishment, the people who sought to hear evangelical doctrine conld find it only in Gilcomston Chapel, where the once famous Dr. Kidd ministered; in Trinity Chapel, which was occupied, first by Mr. Doeg, and then by Mr. Murray; in the East Church, Dr. Ross's; and in Belimont Street Chapel, Mr. Bryce's. A great change took place before the Disruption in ls4s, when all the ministers of Aberdeen, without exception adhered to the popular cause, and joined the Free Church of Scotand.)
In 1823, it was at last resolved by the authorities that the town of Aberdeen, which had up to that time been one parish - St. Nicholas' parish - should be divided into six; and the magistrates proposed to have one of the chapels-of-ease erected into a parish church. The offer was first made to Trinity Chapel Many of the members, including the minister, Mr. Murray, were inclined to entertain it favourably. It held out the prospect of some important advantages; and although it implied that the chapel, becoming a church, must be subject to the law of patronage, yet the magistrates, who would be the patrons, were willing to agree to such terms as might seem consistent with a large measure of freedom of choice on the part of the congregation. But a sturdy band of uncompromising anti-patronage men stood out. They were against the evil thing, root and branch, let it be "buskit ever so fine. Mr. Gray, senior, was one of the most determined; and at a congregational meeting, over which the minister presided, he made a speech on the subject. It was a rare effort with him, and it was short and pithy: "Mr. President, it is the opinion of certain members of this congregation that we'll be doing as we are. There was no need of more. The ground of the opposition was well enough known; the strength of it was abundantly apparent. The proposal then fell to the ground, for that time, at least. Another congregation got the boon.
It need scarcely he added of so true-blue a Presbyterian, that he was a zealous member of the Anti-Patronage Society, and its committee, from its commencement in Aberdeen. He was also an active promoter of the Bible and Missionary Societies in the town. He was in all this the sort of father that it was fitting such a man as Mr. Gray should have to train him. - Like the rest of his family, Andrew was taught to read by his father; sitting beside him while he was at work - the "A, B, C, with the Shorter Catechism, being, as usual in those days, his primer. He suffered much in his childhood from a disorder in his eyes; so much so, that he had to sit in darkness in the house, and be led along the streets, When he was about seven or eight years old, a simple operation completely cured the disorder, although, as had been anticipated, it left him ever after extremely near-sighted.
For a short time he resided with his uncle, Mr. Peter Taylor; and while there, attended his first school - the Town's English School, Drum's Lane, then taught by Mr. Gilbert Falconer; - whose son, the late Forbes Falconer, Professor of Oriental Languages in University College, London, was afterwards a fellow-student of Mr. Gray's at college. In his uncle's house he imbibed a strong taste for reading, which his uncle's library seems to have exercised and stimulated. But he did not remain long with his uncle. If he had, that good man's zeal for dissent might have led to his nephew being one of several whom his influence drew to the ministry among the Independents.
Upon his return to his father's house, Andrew was sent, along with his younger brother, to a school in Long Acre, kept by Mr. John Paterson. Mr. Paterson was a neighbour of the Grays, living, in fact, in the same tenement; and he was thus enabled to bestow much pains on their tuition, in private as well as at school.* * Mr. Paterson was a devoted Christian; a strong Old Light Anti- burgher; and as such, a stern protester against the defections of the Church of Scotland. And yet, strange to say, one of this man's occupations was the preparation, for pay, of the Presbyterial exercises of young men, candidates for the ministry, in that Church! It is to be hoped that, like Othello's, that occupation is now gone. Mr. Paterson at all events, was a faithful teacher. It seems that he found difficulty in getting the young Grays to study Latin - it was so hard. The difficulty was overcome, in the case of Andrew, by his impatience of being in the same class with a girl, and his ambition to occupy a more manly place,
Under him,Andrew made such progress in Latin, as well as in English, that at the competition for the bursaries in Marischal College, in November 1820, he succeeded in gaining the second bursary of £8 or £9 a-year. This was a small sum, but taken along with certain exemptions as to fees, which it secured, it was to one in his circumstances a material help. On the strength of it, he was able to enter college.
This brief record of Mr. Gray's earliest days may be closed with the testimony borne by those who knew him then, to his remarkable truthfulness and sense of justice, as well as to the determined spirit of self-assertion and self-defence which he had occasion to manifest in meeting the taunts and threats, if not the violence, of companions apt to presume on the bodily infirmity that got him the name of "blindy. That he profited also by the religious influences amid which he grew up, is sufficiently attested generally, although details are not given. The first book which he bought with money that he could call his own was the "Pilgrim's Progress; - a poor enough copy, but much prized.
At Marischal College, Mr. Gray passed through the usual four years' course of literary and philosophical study, required by the church as preliminary to the study of theology; and at the close, in 1824, he took with credit the degree of A.M. "He had the reputation of a first-rate scholar when at college " - so Dr Cruikshank, Professor of Mathematics, writes; and his progress was signalised by several high marks of honour. He took an interest in chemistry and natural science, but was especially devoted to mental and moral philosophy. In that department he so distinguished himself as to carry off the Rector's Prize at the end of his fourth session.
Like many of our Scottish youth at college, he had to maintain himself, in whole or in part, by private teaching, in summer as well as in winter. His brief vacations, in June and July, were more than once spent in the manse of Rosskeen, in Ross-shire, with Mr. and Mrs. Carment, to both of whom he used to express him.- self as having been thus laid under the deepest obligations. Mrs. Carment on one occasion nursed him through a very severe illness; and between her husband, then a minister of old standing, and the youthful student, an intimacy then began which soon ripened into the closest and most confidential friendship.
The influence of that remarkable man is very apparent in Mr. Gray's first grappling with the public questions of his day. In frequent contact with so shrewd, quaint, and original a mind as Mr. Carment's, as well as in the practice of the College Debating Society, in which he took an earnest part, Mr. Gray might seem to be well rehearsing the sort of part which he was to be afterwards called to play in the drama of life.
Having taken his degree at Aberdeen, Mr. Gray apparently contemplated a change of residence. In July 1824, he sent in, through an influential friend, an application for the situation of teacher of mathematics in Heriot's Hospital. This, if he had succeeded, would have led of course to his studying theology in Edinburgh. He continued, however, in his native city, being still dependent for his support on his own exertions. During his attendance in the Divinity Hall, he was engaged in private teaching; and he had also several more permanent appointments. He taught the parish school of Cluny, Aberdeenshire, for some considerable time, as substitute for the master.
He was himself the master of the Seaman's School, Aberdeen; his management of which is said to have been characteristic. Without fuss or effort, he maintained perfect discipline; and although he had often rough enough customers to deal with, - especially in the evenings, when big fellows of sailors came to learn navigation in the intervals of their voyages, - he had the rudest of them thoroughly under the control of his mere word and look. Failing health occasioned his resignation of that appointment. But he afterwards taught successfully in Mr. Thomas Meston's academy, and continued, it is believed, to do so until about the time when he was a candidate for his first ministerial charge.
Mr. Gray's theological course in Marischal College (1824 - 1828) does not require particular notice. One of his fellow-students, well entitled to speak on both of the points which he notices, says of him generally: "Mr. Gray was well known among us all as a man of the highest logical power. But he was also well known among us as a man of transparent personal piety and devotedness. I remember one or two of us meeting under his worthy father's humble roof, in a garret room there, for prayer. But details have now escaped my memory. Another recalls his first meeting with him in a debating society, when Mr. Gray, as essayist for the night, had to stand the brunt of a fierce attack for thrusting religion into a literary discussion, as well as for the narrowness of his religious ideas. The same friend adds that "Mr. Gray was known as a steady champion of evangelical orthodoxy in the Hall and of the evangelical party in church politics, and that he played an important part in the change which about that time took place in the character of the Aberdeen Hall.
It had long been remarkable for the prevalence of Moderate opinions, in theology and church politics, among the students; but the tide was now turned, and the evangelical party was in the clear ascendant, not so much in numbers as in talent. The true men, feeling this, took their position, and their opponents quailed before them. Mr. Gray's indomitable spirit appeared conspicuous in the movement. One instance is remembered; and as it is really creditable to all the parties concerned, it may be, at this distance of time, mentioned without indelicacy. When the son of one of the professors, and the most influential among them, applied for admission to a theological society, Mr. Gray strained every nerve to induce the members to reject him - his conduct being notoriously and flagrantly inconsistent with his standing as a student of divinity. The applicant was rejected accordingly. "It was, as his friend asserts, "a very noble act on the part of Mr. Gray, and tended to add to his weight in the Hall, and the just influence of the principles which could prompt it. Nor was it done without personal risk. It brought upon him, as one of the prime movers in the business, the wrath of the young man's father, at whose hands Mr. Gray experienced for a time not a little of what was very like persecution. But he had his reward, and the young man "took a noble revenge. One day, at a subsequent period, when Mr. Gray had preached in the National Scots Church, Regent Square, London, his old fellow-student, who had abandoned the profession of theology for that of medicine, came into the vestry after service, and "warmly thanked Mr. Gray for his noble consistency; acknowledging that he knew himself to be unfit for a Theological Society and Divinity Hall, and that he now honoured the man who had kept him out, for what he had done.
While still a student, Mr. Gray began to show an active interest in the public questions then beginning to agitate the Church and the country. Early in the second session of his attendance in the Divinity Hall, he sent an able letter to an Aberdeen paper (21st December 1825) in defence of the Anti-Patronage Society, and he had an article in the Christian Instructor (November 1825) on the rights of chapel-of-ease ministers. In the Assembly of that year, his friend, Mr. Carment, had almost single-handed supported an overture on that subject. It got little or no countenance from any quarter. Mr. Gray, in fact, was from the first the main originator, as he was all along the most indefatigable promoter, of the movement which issued in the Chapel Act of 1834. His article in the Instructor was probably the first clear and bold assertion of the principle that pastors of congregations were, by their ordination, entitled to rule as well as teach in the church; from which it followed that the prevailing practice of refusing to chapel ministers seats in church courts, was unconstitutional and indefensible.
The matter soon began to take practical shape; and Mr. Gray was still the prime mover. In 1828, he drew up a petition to the General Assembly of that year, which was signed by parties connected with chapels-of-ease in Aberdeen, praying that their ministers should be acknowledged to have the right of holding kirk-sessions in their congregations, and sitting in the superior church judicatories. The rejection of that petition did not discourage its supporters. For, in the following year, 1829, Mr. Gray again exerted himself to have a similar application made; the circular and draft of petition being this year also prepared by him; and the minister of Rosskeen being again .the advocate of the measure in the Assembly. Both parties in the Assembly - Dr. Inglis proposing and Dr. Thomson seconding the motion - concurred in refusing the prayer of the petition. This procedure was substantially repeated in the Assembly 1830; and thereafter the question seems to have been in abeyance till it was re-opened in 1833, mainly through the persevering zeal of Mr. Gray, who by that time had become a chapel-of-ease minister himself. It is curious, however, to notice how early and how keenly he took up the cause, when he was simply a student of divinity, and could have no idea of ever having any personal interest of his own in its advocacy.
Mr. Gray was licensed as a preacher of the Gospel by the presbytery of Aberdeen, on 25th June 1829. He preached his first sermon in the South Church of that city, from the text Colossians ii. 14. Thereafter, he used to officiate frequently in the churches of Aberdeen, and in other places; as in Edinburgh, for Dr. Andrew Thomson of St. George's, by whom his services were highly commended, and in whom he found a warm friend. He was brought into connection with that eminent man by occasional contributions, about this time, to the Christian Instructor. His signature was a characteristic one, - "An Old Light Presbyterian, of the Established Church. he had warmly espoused also Dr. Thomson's side in the Apocryphal controversy. It was chiefly by him that an elaborate statement was drawn up in 1828, in name of the Aberdeen Bible Society, ably vindicating the cause of pure Bible circulation, and exposing the policy of the opposite party.** The friend already quoted gives this account of the affair: - The sad Apocryphal controversy brought Dr. Andrew Thomson, among other places, to Aberdeen, where he held a large audience rivetted for no less than the almost incredible space of six hours and a half, with certain brief pauses only, which gave both him and them breath and refreshment. An Aberdeen Bible Society was at once formed, to be in connection with the new Edinburgh one, dissevered from the British and Foreign. Dr. Thomson lived with my eldest brother, who, with Mr. Andrew Gray and myself, resolved that a Statement' of our own should be prepared, submitted to our Committee, and if approved, published, for the information and direction of the friends of pure Bible circulation in the North of Scotland. By common Consent, the task of drafting it was devolved on Mr. Gray.
But he did not subscribe to all Dr. Thomson's views. He felt keenly on the subject of Catholic Emancipation, and was actively engaged in the agitation against that measure. He published a strong pamphlet in 1829, "taking to task the Protestant supporters of Popery. Apart from the question of Emancipation, it was a good exposure of the false charity, apologising for Popish errors, which had been manifested by influential persons in Aberdeen. It had a large sale. Already Mr. Gray was known as a champion in the Romish controversy. While he was a preacher, he held the appointment of Lecturer on Popery to the Aberdeen Reformation Society, and delivered lectures, once a fortnight, on alternate Wednesdays, to crowded audiences.
His reputation, at the same time, as a faithful and eloquent evangelical preacher, was increasing and extending, and led to his being chosen, by the Managers of the newly erected Chapel of Ease at Woodside, a suburb of Aberdeen, to be one of a leet of three candidates, to be presented to the subscribers, who were entitled, under the constitution, to elect the first minister. Mt Gray was elected by a considerable majority over the other two, on 23d September 1830. These proceedings having become matter of dispute in the Church Courts, on the ground of certain alleged violations of the constitution, the case was in suspense till the Assembly of 1831. Mr. Gray's election was then confirmed.
In the interval, while the question was undecided, Mr. Gray was invited to preach in Regent Square Church, London, then vacant by the deposition of Edward Irving, with a view to his being brought under the notice of the congregation, as one well fitted to be their pastor, in the difficult, and painful circumstances in which they were placed. But he felt himself bound to the people who first called him; and his lot accordingly continued to be cast in his native land.
The opposition to Mr. Gray's settlement, however, was not put down by the Assembly's decision. There was still a determination, on the part of some of the minority, who were much in the moderate interest, to stand out against him. - 'The Presbytery, in the usual form, moderated in a call to Mr. Gray on 3d August 1831, and, found that "the call was subscribed by a very respectable number of seatholders. But a charge was brought forward by certain parties to the effect that on the afternoon of 8th August 1830, when preaching as a candidate, Mr. Gray had advocated "the doctrine of the peccabiity of Jesus Christ. Mr. Gray, it is understood, delivered the obnoxious discourse, exactly as he had preached it in the Woodside Chapel, before the Presbytery, in the presence of Professors and learned Doctors, including Dr. Mearns, Dr. Forbes, and others, by no means favourable to his evangelical views. The complainers, who, when they heard of his being about to preach before such judges, were beginning to exult, were somewhat disappointed by the issue. Dr. Forbes, their great friend, speaking, it was believed, for, his brethren as well as himself, pronounced the discourse to be, not only an orthodox, but a masterly production, and its author to be an honour to the University and the Church. In the end, the Presbytery overruled the charge, on the ground of misapprehension by the parties of what Mr. Gray was affirming. They found him quite sound in doctrine, in all his discourses and exercises before them.
Mr. Gray was ordained and admitted to Woodside Chapel on 1st September 1831.
The district of Woodside presented the very field of labour for such a man to cultivate, in the first fresh vigour of his days. It was fallow ground, rough and thorny; and he was the sort of workman to break it up. Lying about two miles and a half north from Aberdeen, it embraced three villages, with a joint population, at that time, of nearly four thousand souls. The people, employed chiefly in two large manufactories, for cotton and flax, on the Don side, - though a considerable number of the men worked in the great granite quarries in the neighbourhood, - had been for years in good steady employment, and were generally well off as regards their worldly condition. But there was great destitution of the means of grace. The parish church of Old Macbar, which is the Old Cathedral of Old Aberdeen, was a mile and a half distant; and the services there were not attractive. A small chapel, originally intended for occasional evening service by preachers of all denominations, but latterly appropriated by the Congregationalists, was of use to a few; and some of the older and better disposed of the inhabitants frequented the rare places of worship in Aberdeen in which the Gospel was preached. Among the general body of the people, however, great indifference to spiritual things prevailed. There had been recently, before the erection of Woodside Chapel of Ease, some little stir, chiefly in consequence of an Anti-patronage movement; and it was this partly that led to the chapel being built. The contest about the election of the first minister was fitted to keep alive the excitement; and Mr. Gray, happily, was the one of all the candidates most likely to follow it up to good results, and make it serve the cause of vital and personal godliness.(* * By appointment of thc Presbytery, the Chapel, after it was opened, and before a minister was settled, had for a time the benefit of the services of Mr. John Duncan, (Rabbi) now the Rev. Dr. Duncan, Professor of Hebrew in the New College, Edinburgh. This was a circumstance highly favourable to the awakening of an interest in Divine things. Dr. Duncan was even then distinguished for the deep thought, the racy originality, and the searching insight into the mind of the Spirit, which have since been so noticeable in his pulpit ministrations, and theological disquisitions. He could not fail to be a useful precursor to one, between whom and himself, as kindred and congenial spirits, he closest intimacy subsisted.)
His first sermon was characteristic. On the day of his settlement, he had been admonished by the presiding minister, a well known Moderate Doctor, to avoid the monotony of continual harping on a few doctrinal topics, and rather, by way of variety, to discourse upon the virtues and moral duties one by one, according to the approved moderate method. On the following Sabbath, having been introduced to his congregation in the forenoon by his friend Mr. Carment, he took occasion, in the afternoon, preaching on 1 Corinthians i. 23, 24, to enlarge uppn the vast reach and compass of the Apostle's glorious theme, its power on earth, and its charm even for heaven; closing with the quaint remark, that those who found it wearisome on earth, would be inclined, if suffered to enter heaven, to exclaim, "Oh the dull monotony of this place! I wish I were out! His Sabbath ministrations, thus begun, very soon told upon the people.
They were especially attractive to the young. Without any parade of intellect or learning, they had the effect of quickening the mental faculties of his hearers in a remarkable degree, as well as touching their consciences and hearts. Many a young man got his first start in thinking from Mr. Gray's early sermons. He was indefatigable as a worker. At first, and indeed all throughout, he had considerable opposition to encounter, chiefly from the efforts of a few influential parties, who disliked his zealous ways. As the old minister of Bosskeen said to him, by way of encouragement, it showed that he had been coming up upon the Devil, or "he wadna hae been kicking at him sae.
But very soon he gathered round him a staunch body of effective coadjutors. He had a large Sabbath-school in his church, and the teachers in it became his allies in every good work. Hundreds of children, formerly neglected, attended; and "never, says one who used to help, "have I seen a finer sight than this school when met in the large church, which was dotted all over with classes, above and below, with the young minister moving about from class to class, and encouraging teachers and scholars with his kind and hearty smile. One portion, says the same person, "of the Sabbath-school exercises was going over one or both of the services of the day. Mr. Gray's sermons were peculiarly fitted for such an exercise being always so clear that the youngest of the scholars could get a hold of them. Often have I been astonished to see one of his masterly discourses fairly mastered by young boys and girls, and the ideas so rooted and fixed in their minds that it would have been impossible for them ever, to be erased. Indeed this, in my opinion, was one of Mr. Gray's excellences, that he could, and did, imprint himself upon the minds of his hearers. "In the Sabbath-school, he says again, "there was great interest. It was new in the place; and it was conducted with such an amount of life that it was felt to be a pleasure to be there; and not only for the children, but I have seen hundreds of the parents gathered around the classes, listening with interest as the teachers and scholars went over their lessons; especially when the sermons of the day were under review. Many have told me how much they benefitted by hearing the sermon thus gone over again, and how easy it was for a teacher to go through this part of the lesson. The subject handled, though in one view exhausted, so that little more could be said about it, was yet handled in so suggestive a manner that I have often wished to occupy the whole evening with it. The writer, somewhat shrewdly, adds, "How different we used to find it when some other men occupied the pulpit for the day; when we had either to attempt to make a sermon - I mean, supply it for the class - or pass it over altogether. I often thought it a fine test of the quality of a discourse, when put through this ordeal.
Mr. Gray set himself to complete the ecclesiastical establishment at Woodside; and although the raising of large funds for such objects was not so well understood then as now, he succeeded in having a commodious hall added to his church, for prayer-meetings and other similar purposes; in erecting a large day-school; and finally, in procuring a suitable manse. So thoroughly did he do the business, in his short incumbency of five years, that his active successor had scarcely any occasion to add to it; and to this hour, the church, school, and manse at Woodside, secured now to the Free Church, stand very much as its first minister left them.
Nor was it only the "outer things of the house of God that he attended to. He wrought a decided moral change in the district. He fairly stirred the minds of men in it. They had been, as a community, wholly taken up with the drudgery of their daily tasks, and the doubtful recreations that relieved it. But they were now observed, on all hands, to manifest an entirely new interest in religious matters generally, and especially in the various works which their pastor was carrying on. He soon thoroughly gained the affections of the people; especially of the young, many of whom were attached to him by the strongest tie as the instrument of their awakening to spiritual life.
As one instance out of many, proving what a hold he had of their hearts, a simple incident may be noticed. Some years after his removal to another charge, Mr. Gray was returning from a visit to the north on the Church's business, and had occasion to pass through Woodside. It was late in the evening, indeed almost dark; but as he wished to make a call in the village, he left the coach, intending to walk to Aberdeen. He was seen entering the house, which, in a few minutes, was surrounded by a great crowd of young people, all anxious to see his face and hear his voice again. He waited only to have a cup of tea, being in haste to have his walk to Aberdeen over. When he came out, he was pressed upon by the throng; and there being an open field before the house, he walked into it, the crowd still pressing him so that he could not speak to, or shake hands with, every one of them. "I think I see him yet, says the friend who was with him. "He walked down to the middle of the field, and seemed unable to speak. But, throwing off his hat, and lifting his hands and eyes to heaven, he prayed. Soon were the young ones about him subdued to tears; and several of the group have told me since, that they never forgot that prayer in the field, when they thought the very stars in heaven were interested in it. We walked together to Aberdeen; and we were more than half way on our journey before he could resume the subject about which we had been talking, when he made his call in the village.
Mr. Gray began a course of Lectures on John's Gospel: and these, as well as his other sermons, drew hearers frequently from Aberdeen, in addition to those from his own neighbourhood. Considerable discussion was the consequence, and in some quarters considerable hostility. Accustomed to the style of preaching which Mr. Gray had been advised, at his ordination, to adopt, there were not a few who disliked the style which, in spite of that advice, he actually did adopt. The cry of heresy was not, indeed, raised again seriously. But it was not allowed to drop altogether. The prejudice against him in certain quarters continued unabated.
Certainly Mr. Gray was not the man to conciliate in any special manner the leaders, lay or clerical, of the moderate party in Aberdeen. Even before he obtained a seat in the church courts, he was a troubler of their peace. On all public questions, he was on the popular or reforming side. In particular, he kept up the agitation in which he had taken part while yet a student, on the question of the rights of Chapel of Ease ministers - a question now, of course, become of double urgency in his eyes, in consequence of his own ecclesiastical standing being involved in it.
It was mainly at his instance that a movement was again made in 1833, of a much more decided and effective character than any former one. In concert with the other ministers of Chapels of Ease in Aberdeen and its vicinity, five in number, he had a memorial presented to the Presbytery, on 27th March, 1833, which the Presbytery agreed to transmit to the ensuing General Assembly. He exerted himself vigorously, by correspondence and otherwise, to get similar measures adopted in other Presbyteries: and the result was that now, for the first time, the Assembly was obliged to look the question fairly in the face.
The Chapel ministers, as a body with one or two remarkable exceptions, were held to be at the Assembly's bar, demanding a recognition of their right, as having been competently ordained to the pastoral office, to rule as well as to teach in the Church. With some difficulty, upon a motion in the House, carried by a majority of twenty, they were allowed to be heard by counsel.(* * The opposition to this just motion was significant. At this very Assembly, a few days before, the ministers of the parliamentary churches in the Highlands had been heard by counsel, as a matter of course, and without a whisper of objection. They were asking the very same thing that the chapel ministers were asking; to have kirk-sessions, and to be allowed to sit in church courts. And they got it. The Assembly at once conceded their claim to the full. With the single exception of Dr. George Cook, the Moderate leaders all seem to have held that the Assembly had power to do this, at its own hand, without any civil sanction. Certainly the Act of Parliament erecting these churches gave no such power. It might rather be supposed to have an opposite effect, since it very expressly defined the conditions of their institution. Still it was held that the Church had in herself power to do for the ministers of parliamentary churches what she could not do, without the State's permission, for the ministers of Chapels of Ease. When the struggle came, it turned out that Dr. Cook was right. The civil courts admitted no distinction between the two cases. The admission of ministers of parliamentary churches was declared to be equally illegal with that of Chapel of Ease ministers; and in obedience to the civil courts, both alike were excluded. The reason for the distinction made in 1833 is obvious. The Moderate party expected benefit from the one class of ministers, and damage from the other. The popular party made no difference between the two.)Their advocate was Alexander Dunlop. His whole heart was in the cause. He had been in close correspondence with Mr Gray and his friends, advising with them in all the preliminary steps that had been taken. His speech, which was afterwards published separately as a pamphlet, went thoroughly into the merits of the question, constitutional as well as scriptural, and may be held to have virtually settled it.
The debate vhich followed ended in a very narrow division; the numbers being 106 to 102. Dr. Cook's motion, approving of the object, and appointing a committee, was thus carried against an amendment, expressly recognising the church's power in the matter. The amendment was proposed by the late Sir James Gibson Craig, who, in supporting it, used these memorable words - as memorable now as then: "If the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland cannot determine whom it shall admit to, and whom it shall exclude from, its church courts, it is of no use that it sit at all
This result was encouraging, and gave a fresh stimulus to the agitation. Accordingly, before the next meeting of Assembly, while Dr. Cook's Committee were deliberating, the chapel ministers and their friends were actively organising. In church courts, and through the press, the controversy was keen. Mr. Gray was the chief agitator. He carried on an extensive correspondence in all quarters. And he published a pamphlet under the title of - Letter to Dr. Cook, by the minister of a Chapel of Ease " - in which he entered fully into the law and constitution of the church applicable to the question, and met the arguments of the two classes of opponents with whom he had to deal
For now, besides the old moderates, who, like Dr. Cook, doubted or denied the church's power, as established by the State, to do the thing sought, without the State's intervention, - a small but influential portion of the evangelical body were maintaining the necessity, - or at least the extreme desirableness, - of endowments being got for the chapels, before they were placed on the footing of churches. This, was Dr. Chalmers' opinion; which he urged, with characteristic force, in a pamphlet published with a view to the Assembly. The same view was held by the ministers of the three chapels in the parish of St. Cuthbert's, Edinburgh.
These ministers, accordingly, appeared in support of their view at the bar of the Assembly, 1834 ; - setting themselves thus apparently in opposition to their brethren, the other chapel ministers throughout the country. For they also appeared at the Assembly's bar, by their representatives. And they chose the right men; Andrew Gray, of Woodside, Aberdeen, and Charles J. Brown, of Anderston, Glasgow; both chapel ministers at the time, but both soon after translated to Parochial charges.
The case was argued with consummate ability from the bar. And thereafter, in the House itself, a motion in favour of the claims of the chapel ministers was carried by a majority of 153 to 150.
To this result, which took both sides not a little by surprise, two causes very much contributed. The corninittee named by the Assembly of 1833 had brought up a report, prepared chiefly by Dr. Cunningham, and adopted, as it would appear, without a division, which very elaborately and powerfully vindicated the claims of the chapel ministers. It is one of the ablest papers which its author has written, And in the debate, the telling speech of Mr. Dunlop, who was not now an advocate at the bar of the House, but himself a member, made it all but impossible for any one who held true presbyterian principles, on the subject of ministerial parity and the pastoral office, to refuse a measure which simply put all the ministers of congregations throughout the church on their just footing of scriptural equality.
The Assembly, as a matter of course, passed an act, in terms of the motion which had been carried. It was simply a Declaratory Act. It declared the ministers of Chapels of Ease to be members of church courts equally with other ministers; and it made provision for their congregations having kirk-sessions formed, in the usual manner, and also for their having districts assigned to them, as parishes, quoad spiritualia.
Thus the object of Mr. Gray's early and continued exertions was accomplished. So far as the church was concerned, it was accomplished thoroughly. An attempt, indeed, was made, first in the inferior courts, and then in the Assembly of 1835, to unsettle the question again. The pretence was that the Assembly of 1834 had passed the Act without consulting presbyteries, according to the Barrier Act But the attempt was easily and conclusively put down. It was felt that within the Church no distinction could be made between the Parliamentary churhes and Chapels of Ease, and that if a declaratory act was enough for the one, it must be held sufficient for the other. The Assembly of 1835, accoplingly, confirmed the decision of 1834. And in 1836, so thoroughly was the settlement accepted by all parties as final, that on the suggestion of the moderates themselves, Dr. Norman Macleod, of Glasgow, one of their number, and then the minister of a quoad sacra church, - or what used to be called a Chapel of Ease, - was unanimously elected Moderator of the General Assembly, and took the chair in that capacity, solely in virtue of the Church's Act in 1834.
So the matter stood till the question was raised in the civil courts, in connection with the wider question of the church's independent jurisdiction. Then Mr. Gray was again summoned to defend what was to no inconsiderable extent his own work - a work in which he always felt it to be one of his best distinctions to have lent from the beginning to the end a helping hand* * Mr. Gray has left a volume containing all the proceedings in this matter, from his own letter in the Christian Instructor, in 1825, down to the election of Dr. Macleod as Moderator in 1836. Reports from newspapers are carefully pasted in, together with reports of committees, memorials, circulars, and other documents. The Assembly debates, Mr. Dunlop's speeches, Dr. Chalmers' pamphlet, Dr. Clason's, and his own, form part of the collection. The whole is carefully arranged in chronological order; and there are prefixed a printed titlepage, and a printed table of contents. The volume is bound as a book. It is a very interesting record. And according to his understood 4lesire, it will be deposited, with other similar collections, in the Free Church College Library, Aberdeen.
By the Assembly's Act, 1834, Mr. Gray became a member of the Presbytery of Aberdeen, and in that capacity he began to take an active and leading part in the management of its affairs, and in the public questions that came before it. His power and value as a counsellor and debater were acknowledged by all his brethren ; - .-so much so indeed that when he was leaving them, on his translation to Perth, even those who were most commonly opposed to him expressed much regret, and paid a warm compliment to his high talent, and his uniformly straightforward, honest, and honourable conduct.
In his congregation, the Act entitled him to have a district assigned to him for pastoral superintendence, and a session formed of elders chosen by the people. In both of these objects, he was sadly thwarted, and harrassed by the vexatious petty tyranny of some of the "millocracy in the neighbourhood. They happened to have the control of a private bridge over the river Don, and also to be the masters of a considerable number of operatives employed in their manufactory. By the former of these powers, they were able to coerce Mr. Gray, and the Presbytery of Aberdeen, and the Commission of Assembly, in fixing the bounds of the proposed quoad sacra parish of Woodside ; - obliging them to leave out a village properly fitting into it, and much needing to share in the benefit, because the inhabitants, excluded from the private bridge on Sundays, must have gone four or five miles round to get to church. By the latter, they were able to interpose a veto, when some of their workmen or overseers of the better class were elected elders, by threatening them with dismissal from employment if they should presume to accept office. Some of those elected were willing to accept office, even in the face of the unworthy menace. But Mr. Gray dissuaded them, and deemed it better to postpone the whole affair until men's minds were cooler ; - working on, meanwhile, as he best could, with the aid of his noble band of Sabbath-school teachers, and such of the elders of the original parish of Old Machar, as had been associated with him under the old Chapel of Ease system, before the Act 1834 was passed.
But these things, much as they were fitted to weaken his hands, and chafe his spirit, did not materially hinder his work. He was daily rising in reputation, and was in the very midst of growing influence and usefulness, in the pulpit, among his flock, and in his parish, as well as in the presbytery, and among the community generally, when he was summoned to another sphere of labour, in the beginning of the year 1836. While he was minister of Woodside, Mr. Gray was married, on 23d July, 1834, to Barbara, second daughter of Mr. Alexander Cooper, manufacturer, Grandholm, Aberdeen - a worthy Christian man, and one of the elders connected with the congregation. Mrs. Gray proved to him a true helper, both in his ministerial work, and in his manifold private trials. She survives him, after having been his patient and tender nurse in his long illness. They never had any family.
The part which Mr.Gray took in the "Chapel Question, and especially his speech at the bar of the Assembly, 1834, gained for him immediately a very high reputation. This was increased by a lecture delivered in Edinburgh, and afterwards published, as one of a series of lectures on the Voluntary controversy, in which leading ministers took a part. These things naturally led to his being prominently in the view of several influential congregations, and made it obvious that his promotion could not long be deferred. (* The lecture was delivered on 30th April, 1835; and was published immediately after, under the title, "Lecture on the means of promoting a retnrn to the Parochial Economy of the Church of Scotland, and on the true character and highest dignity of that church, as the church of the people, the church of the poor. It went through several editions, and was highly prized. It was very much in the line of one of his favourite and most powerful arguments in the "chapel question. For he was accustomed to plead for the Chapels of Ease being put on the footing of parochial churches, çuoad sacra, not only on the ground of their ministers being entitled to the same right of ruling in the church as the parochial clergy, but even still more on the ground that the people would be better cared for and provided for, by the parochial system, with all its advantages, being carried out in the districts in which the chapels were placed.
The most affecting and telling part of his remarkable speech at the bar of the Assembly, in 1834, was upon that topic. It is in itself so noble an appeal, and it is so characteristic of the man, that it may not be improper to give here a specimen of it: - "Our object, then, is not adverse to the parochial system. We are ready to erect, and to work it, if you will only give us the power. The materials are all at hand; and we wait with anxiety for your flat. At the risk of being thought egotistical, I will mention that I am stationed in a manufacturing district, whose population exceeds 5,000 souls, and is rapidly increasing. We have a Sabbath-school in the chapel, attended by nearly 500 young persons connected with the congregation, and taught by nineteen teachers, among whom are the most influential, and enlightened, and attached friends of the Church of Scotland residing in the place. But I wish to go beyond the congregation, and, as far as possible, to diffuse religion throughout the locality. We have many hundreds of heathens who never go to a place of worship. These I am desirous to bring within the pale of Christianity. Drunkenness and Sabbath profanation prevail to a fearful extent. On these I would fain impose some check. But how is this to be done! It can only be through the labours of a numerous and an indefatigable eldership. The ministerial visitations of such a district, unless followed up everywhere by the much more frequent, and the regular periodical calls, as well as hy the constant superintendence of an elder, would do nothing.
But I cannot appoint elders. I have Sabbath-school teachers, as many as are necessary, and I would have elders too in abundance, were I possessed of the powers of a parish minister. What, then, is the obstacle in the way of the parochial system at Woodside? Is it the lack of an endowment? True it is, an endowment would he acceptable enough, as the stipend is not by any means too large; but fifty endowments would not make me either more able or more willing than I now am to carry on our parochial operations. Our chapel is large, and our seats are cheap; and what we need is a numerous and active eldership, who, headed by the minister, may go into the streets and lanes, and compel them to come in. The chapel minister has his station in that part of your ecclesiastical territory, which is overrun by the profane and the revolutionary, by the enemies of religion, and of the Established Church. You have put him there to defend the cause of truth, to resist the encroachments of a spreading infidelity, and to fight for his country's most sacred institutions.
But consider the disadvantages to which he has been subjected. There he stands in front of the foe, like a general who has no officers to his army; or like a general whose army is ill-officered, and the officers of which are not under his command, but receive their orders from the general of another army twenty miles off! In the face of a well disciplined, and, in all respects, properly appointed enemy, stands he, surrounded by a crowd, the greater part of whom know not wherefore they are come together! The opponents, whether they assume the form of a political union, or of a dissenting congregation, are always organised, so as to act with the concentration of an individual, while they have the force of a multitude. But the numbers by which he is attended are of little use, because he is denied the power to unite, and combine, and direct them.
But our deliberate and solemn conviction is, that it will he for the good of the church in every respect, if our congregations and ourselves obtain forthwith our constitutional status. We are persuaded that the chnrch will thereby be strengthened, her influence extended, the support of the people more generally secured, and her connexion with the State perpetuated, as well as made more prolific of endowment, than it has been, heretofore; and, if it were possible for us to unveil the feelings and motives which are at work within our breasts, the House would see that it is more on public than on private grounds that we nrgo our claims: and that it is more from affection to our venerated church, from a deep anxiety for her prosperity, and from a desire for the disappointment and utter confusion of her enemies, than from a concern about our personal interests or respectability, that we have this day come to crave that all the powers and privileges of the pastoral office may be bestowed upon us.
The congregation of the West Church, Perth, became vacant in December, 1835. On the recommendation of the elders, - and after a deputation of their own number, sent to Woodside to hear Mr. Gray, had reported favourably of his preaching, - the congregation united in a cordial and earnest request to the Town Council to exercise their right of patronage in his favour. This accordingly was done. And Mr. Gray, having preached on two Sabbaths, in terms of the Veto Law then in force, and having thereafter received a call numerously signed by the whole people, was inducted as one of the ministers of Perth, on 14th July, 1836.
On the following Sabbath he began his ministry in the West Church, with a sermon. on Acts x. 29, "I ask, therefore, for what intent ye have sent for me? The impression made on his first coming among his new flock for the most part was highly favourable. Some, it is said, thought him rather rough in his style, and a few left the church, not relishing his rugged manner. But their places were soon supplied by others, who were attracted by his vigorous, strongly evangelical and evangelistic preaching, and his force and manliness of character. Most of his hearers were from the first much taken with the great firmness and force of mind which he showed; and the congregation, which had been a good and flourishing one under his predecessor, the Rev. Samuel Kennedy, continued to be of about the same size, until the era of the Disruption drew near, when it became much larger than ever it had been before. It is believed, moreover, upon good grounds, that there was very soon a considerable change in the character of the congregation. An interest was manifested in religious matters generally, and in home ecclesiastical matters in particular, which at an early period began to be very marked. This might no doubt be partly ascribed to the stirring times then running their course. But there can be no question that it was mainly the effect of the enthusiasm and zeal of the minister.
In public matters, and in the affairs of the Church, Mr. Gray's removal to Perth contributed not a little to his being brought more prominently forward, both for action and for counsel. His position as a city minister gave him new standing and influence; and his comparative vicinity to the eastern and western capitals of the country, led to a closer intercourse and intimacy with his brethren at head-quarters, on whom naturally and necessarily a large share of that sort of work was devolved. Already, as has been seen, while resident in Aberdeen, he had taken a leading part, especially in the Chapel question; and he had been called to assist in Edinburgh as a speaker and lecturer, in the Voluntary controversy, which was then at its height.
At Perth he continued to show his usual zeal in the cause of Establishments, as well as in the movement for additional endowments set on foot by Dr. Chalmers, and in the proceedings of the Royal Commission for inquiring into the religious destitution in Scotland which that movement occasioned. There is preserved among his papers a full collection of documents relating to what he calls "The Stonywood controversy ;" a somewhat keen correspondence between him and a dissenting brother, arising out of the evidence which he gave before the Commissioners on the subject of his late charge at Aberdeen. On various occasions, he distinguished himself as a defender of Established Church principles and institutions, against the attacks which were then vigorously made on them in all the three kingdoms. Within the Church, in his place as a member of presbytery, he was the strenuous advocate of all measures of reform. While he was always a staunch anti-patronage man, he stood by the Veto law through all the trials it had to sustain. And he earnestly promoted the efforts made to place the eldership on a purer footing, both in congregations and in the General Assembly, by requiring the consent' of the people to their election, and by excluding from the supreme court those who held the office only nominally, and to serve a purpose.
But it was when the "ten years' conflict became critical, that Mr. Gray became conspicuous as one of the ablest expounders and defenders of the Church's principles. His pamphlet or treatise, "The Present Conflict", may be said to have become the text-book of the controversy. It was prepared in the spring of 1839, and issued about the time of the meeting of Assembly in that year. The previous Assembly, 1838, had passed, on the motion of Dr. Buchanan (Glasgow), the memorable declaration of Independence. With reference to the Auchterarder case, then on its way for final decision, in its first form, to the House of Lords, the emphatic note of warning was sounded. It was declared that the Church, while acknowledging the right of the civil courts to dispose of all questions of property or of civil interest arising out of her proceedings, must maintain ber own exclusive jurisdiction in matters spiritual. This declaration was rendered necessary by the shape which the Auchterarder case had taken in the Court of Session. That Court was not content with the exercise of its unchallenged power over the temporalities of the Church's establishment, - a power enabling it to give or withhold the stipends, glebes, and manses at its pleasure. A majority of the judges held that it was entitled to control directly the action of the Church, and to issue orders and interdicts in matters purely spiritual, such as the conferring of the pastoral office and the dispensing of ordinances. The plea was that the Church, by being established, virtually surrendered some of her original independence, and must be held bound to obey the instructions of the State, given through the ordinary civil tribunals, even when she was discharging her own proper functions within her own proper province. This plea Mr. Gray set himself to examine in the light, not only of abstract principle, but of the actual history and constitution of the Church of Scotland; and he did his work very thoroughly.
In fact, he produced a treatise which, while valuable as a contribution to the pending controversy, was still more valuable as fitted to be an enduring record of the consummate wisdom and care with which our ancestors discriminated between things civil and things sacred; so as to lay a sure foundation for that religious liberty which modern worshippers of a universal State supremacy, either cannot understand, or will not tolerate.
Of the countless crowd of pamphlets and speeches that kept the press going in these eventful times for Scotland, Mr. Gray's is one of the few that will now bear more than a cursory perusal It will always be studied by those who wish to master the ecclesiastical polity of the Scottish Reformation. Its facts and reasonings have never been seriously called in question.
It was circulated widely everywhere; it was constantly quoted and referred to by the leading speakers and writers on the side of the Church's independence; and their opponents utterly failed in all attempts to impugn it. It may be truly said, indeed, to have been all but admitted, on all hands, that Mr. Gray had made good the main point in his argument; and that, considered in themselves, the three parliamentary settlements of the Church's liberty, in 1567, 1592, and 1688, with the ratification contained in the Treaty of Union, fully vindicated all that the Church claimed in l,838, when she sought to be allowed to act upon her own conviction of duty, by refusing to intrude ministers upon reclaiming congregations, without being exposed to the risk of any civil interference, beyond what might be implied in the undoubted right of the civil courts to dispose of all the temporalities of her benefices. It was mainly on the Act of Queen Anne, restoring patronage, passed after the Union, and in violation of its terms, that the judges and lawyers opposed to the Church, as well as their clerical and lay admirers, depended, as giving a turn in their favour to all the old usages and enactments. That, and the mere general clap-trap that came to be in vogue, about State pay implying State control, may be said to have mainly decided our great question in the courts of law, in the country, and in Parliament. The historical deductions and constitutional arguments of Mr. Gray and other authorities in the controversy, stand to this hour untouched. They may one day, perhaps, become noticeable for practical purposes again.* * Some specimens may be given of the manner in which Mr. Gray's Treatise used to he appealed to in the course of the controversy. Let the folloning suffice: - "Mr. Gray was, we believe, among the first writers, if not indeed the very first, who came forward on the side of the Church in the present controversy; and for nothing did we more admire his pamphlet than for the judgment it displayed in taking up the proper ground at so early a period. Not a single outjet or barbican did he erect that has since been deserted. - Hugh Miller in Witness Newspaper, March 14, 1840. "For an account of the constitutian of the Church of Scotland, as recognised by the State, see a very able pamphlet l,y the Rev. Andrew Gray of Perth, titled, The Present Conflict between the Civil and Ecclesiastical Courts Examined.' " - Answer to the Dean of Faculty by A. Dunlop, Roy., Adrocate, p. 47. Second Edition. "You never refer to Mr. Gray's admirable pamphlet on the present conflict between the civil and ecclesiastical courts. You must have felt that the pamphlet was one which you could not answer, and therefore you have wisely refrained frons referring to its existence. - Rev. Mr. (Dr.) Cunningham's Letter to the Dean of Faculty, p. 18. On this subject (viz., the constitutional jurisdiction of the Church of Scotland), see the pamphlet of the Rev. Andrew Gray of Perth, which contains a complete, aud, we think, an unanswerable demonstration. In the necessarily brief and general notices that we bestow on this part of the subject, we are glad that we have it in our power to make this reference to one of the most masterly and conclusive reasonings that ever issued from the press; which the Dean must have known, and which makes it all the more surprising that he has not made so much as one allusion to the existence of it. - Dr. Chalmers' Remarks on the Dean of Faculty's Letter to the Lord Chancellor, p.40. "For a full exhibition of the manner in which the Church of Scotland maintained her ground, I beg to refer your Lordship to an admirable pamphlet by the Rev. Mr. Gray, one of the ministers of Perth, entitled The Present Conflict.' " - Rev. Mr. (Sir H. W.) Moncrieff's Letter to Lord Melbourne, p. 84.
It is not necessary to dwell on the progress and issue of the struggle. Dr. Buchanan's "Ten Years' Conflict,' and Dr. Hanna's "Life of Dr. Chalmers, are accessible to all. Nor is it intended to narrate particularly Mr. Gray's share in it. Before the General Assembly met in 1839, the adverse judgment of the Court of Session in the Auchterardcr case had been affirmed by the House of Lords. The Assembly accepted the judgment and acquiesced in it, as determining that the Church, in rejecting a presentee on the ground of his being unacceptable to the people, must be held, in the view of the civil courts, to have acted illegally; and that consequently she must run the risk of their disposing of the benefice, in such a case, adeording to their own opinion of the law, and without respect to her spiritual procedure. In this way, it might come to pass that the benefice might go in one direction and the cure of souls in another. The Assembly of 1839 regarded that as a serious evil; and resolved to aim at the removal of it, by procuring an Act of Parliament giving civil effect to the Church's law against intrusion. The Assembly also took precautions to avoid further collision and complication in the meantime, and to prevent any new case arising; in the hope that all parties might be willing to pause, and allow time for a satisfactory adjustment. It was, however, clearly enough avowed, on the one hand, that the Church would continue to reject unacceptable presentees; and, on the other hand, that she could not recognise the judgment of the civil court as binding upon her in matters spiritual or as going a hair's-breadth beyond the mere disposal of the temporalities. No such interval of virtual suspense as the Assembly craved was granted. On the contrary, the enemy pressed forward the war, until it soon became plainly war to the knife. The Auchterarder case was urged on a step further in the Court of Session. The judges were asked to interpret and apply the judgment already got, as implying a right to control the Church directly, by civil process, to be enforced by pains and penalties, in the spiritual act of admitting a man to the pastoral office. And they did so.
It was the assertion of this right by the Court of Session, and the confirmation of it by the House of Lords in 1842, that brought the contest to a crisis.
In point of fact, the right in question had been assumed and exercised already, as if it was established, in various processes before the Scottish judges. Ministers disobeying their ecclesiastical superiors, were sustained in their disobedience by the civil courts. Suspended and deposed by the Church, they had the sentences of suspension and deposition reduced by the civil courts. Interdicts against preaching and dispensing the sacraments in particular districts became so common, and were so coolly disregarded with impunity, that men began to feel alarm lest the civil authority should come into contempt, even in its own province, by being thus impotently paraded in a province wholly out of its reach.
Thus the conflict grew more and more embarrassed; extrication was evidently becoming more and more hopeless; when the second Auchterarder judgment of the House of Lords made it plain, as already indicated, that all these assumptions, on the part of the judges, of direct authority over the Church in matters spiritual, would be sustained as legal in the court of last resort; and that it must be broadly held to be the condition of the Church's establishment that she is subject to the civil courts, and bound under a civil obligation to take directions from them, in the discharge of her own proper functions as a Church, determining who shall be her ministers and who shall be her members.
Singularly enough, towards the close of the struggle, Mr Gray found himself once more in contact with his old friend, the "chapel question. And some noteworthy "passages of arms are still remembered, turning upon the Church's act admitting ministers of chapels of ease, with their elders, into the church courts.
It was a great object with the moderates, then in a minority, to have these ministers and elders, who usually voted on the popular side, thrust out of the courts again. They were well contented therefore to have it declared by the Court of Session, that the chapel act of the Assembly 1834, was illegal and incompetent, and ultra vires. They did not, indeed, themselves directly move in the matter, in the first instance. They could scarcely do so. For - with the single exception of Dr George Cook, who had consistently objected, on this ground of incompetency, both to the chapel act of 1834, and to the analogous act of 1833, respecting the parliamentary ministers in the Highlands - the Moderate party generally seemed to be satisfied that the Church had not gone beyond her province in either case. But when that point was mooted from a quarter outside of the Church, and when the Lords of Session came to an adverse decision upon it, these churchmen were found ready, with all alacrity, not only to acquiesce in the decision, but officiously to urge its practical application to the uttermost. The decision was to this effect : - that the church had no power to say to one of her own ministers that he should take the spiritual oversight of souls within a defined district adjoining his church, - or to say that he should be held entitled to rule as well as to teach, - without the express sanction of the civil court. That is now the law to which the Established Church consented at the Disruption. While the judges were in course of making it the law, the church, true to her principle of spiritual independence, was prepared to resist to the last. But before that second question could be carried to the House of Lords, the crisis had come upon the first.
In the prospect of the Assembly 1843, both of the contending parties in the church clearly saw this. The Evangelical or Popular party, then in the majority, had come to the conclusion that it was not their duty to prolong the contest. The Supreme Civil Court, the House of Lords, had finally decided, in the second Auchterarder judgment (1842), that it was entitled, not only to declare the law or condition of the church's establishment, to the effect of disposing of the temporalities, according to its own view, but also to compel the church, by civil power, and civil pains and penalties, to accommodate her procedure to that view, in her own spiritual actings ; - in the trial and ordination of ministers, and in the forming of the pastoral tie. The church had solemnly applied to the Government and the Legislature, asking inquiry with a view to her relief, and had been decidedly refused redress. In these circumstances, the only fair and legitimate conclusion seemed to be this: that the State held, and meant to hold, the terms of the church's establishment to be such as the church had declared that she could not conscientiously submit to; and that, since undoubtedly the State alone has the right and power to determine whether the church is to be established or not, - and on what conditions, - the church had really no alternative but to relinquish her position of affiance with the State, and maintain her liberty apart. Under this conviction, the . Evangelical majority had come to be of opinion that the Assembly of 1843 would probably be the occasion of their conclusive separation from the State.
But it soon appeared that that Assembly was not to be allowed to meet as a free and constitutional Assembly at all The Moderate minority precipitated the impending schism. The presbyteries in which ministers and elders of chapels of ease, or, as they were now called, quoad sacra churches, had seats, were about to elect their commissioners to represent them in the Assembly. In some, as in the Presbytery of Glasgow, in which this class of ministers and elders was numerous, the Moderates refused to sit along with them; so that two Presbyteries met, each claiming to be the Presbytery of Glasgow, - the one by the decree of the Court of Session, the other by the constitution of the Church, under Christ, her only Head, - and each choosing its own representatives to the Assembly. This of course implied that there must be two Assemblies. But this was not all. In the Presbytery of Perth, an interdict was asked .......
Continued in Part Two
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