ANDREW GRAY (PERTH)
Still greater enthusiasm was stirred up in May, 1845, by
the arrival of Dr. Merle D'Aubigne. Never since the day of the Disruption had
the building of Tanfield been so crowded. Men hurried up from the country, and
eagerly competed for places. The benches open to the public, the seats of the
members, the passages were all densely filled. In fact the magnificent
hall presented an unbroken mass of human beings. The greatest orator of
Scotland was going to introduce the most eloquent writer of Switzerland to a
Scottish audience. In striking words
Dr. Chalmers spoke in name of
his country, and gave a welcome to the illustrious stranger. And no less
striking was the reply.
"I come from Geneva, and I am in Scotland. Three centuries ago, a man came from France to our city at the foot of the Alps, on the borders of Lake Leman, and there he reared the standard of truth. His name was John Calvin. Some years afterwards, another man came across the Jura to our magnificent country. He had been taken prisoner, and made his escape from the Castle of St. Andrews. He had been driven out of England and Scotland. His name was John Knox. These two men embraced as brothers. John Knox shook hands with John Calvin - the representative of Scotland and the man of Geneva. Well, dear friends and brethren, I see in this Assembly the successors of Knox and his people. The Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland is before me, and I come from Geneva to give you a brother's hand. After three centuries, Geneva and Scotland shake hands together in the name of the Lord to whom we belong, and who shed His blood for us - in the name of His exclusive dominion, and the independence of His Church from any temporal power. We shake hands in a spirit, not of pride, but of love, of humility, of peace.
Thus his address opened, and from point to point the stream of eloquence flowed, profoundly impressing the great audience, aud stirring every heart into enthusiasm. But more eloquent than any speech was the course of events which immediately followed. A disruption took place in the Church of the Canton de Vaud. It was inquired into on the spot by Mr. Andrew Gray of Perth, who was sent over for the purpose, and so favourably reported on that a collection was made on behalf of the outgoing brethren; and to a considerable extent that Free Church was aided in the midst of her initial difficulties by the contributions of the Free Church of Scotland.
Then followed, in 1848, the disruption of the Protestant Church in France, and the appearance of Count Gasparin, along with the Rev. Frederick Monod, to plead the cause of the Free Churches. And very cordially was the appeal responded to in name of the Assembly by Dr. Cunningham, who bore his testimony on behalf of the movement. The deputation were welcomed as representing the noble Church of the old Huguenots.
From time to time a succession of such men appeared at the Assembly. Dr. Capadose, Count St. George, Professor de la Harpe, and many others came from different quarters. The platform at Tanfield became a meeting-place where the representatives of many nationalities and Churches came together in love and loyalty to the same Saviour, and to express their sympathy with the Free Church in her principles and struggles. Sometimes the addresses were delivered in somewhat broken English. Often they were interspersed with foreign idioms and pronunciations; but none the less - rather all the more - they arrested the attention and spoke bome to the hearts of the people. It was with unfailing interest that ministers and laymen united in giving them welcome. In view of the outside public, as Lord Cockburn remarked, "the moral impression of the party [the Free Church], " and its almost European station, elevated it above all other native sects more than even the splendour of its voluntary treasury. Its hall at Tanfleld was crowded, though it be supposed to hold 3000 people. The Assembly was bowed to and shaken by the hand by deputations from religious communities that never sent their representatives on such a pilgrimage before.
But gratifying as all this was, there was some risk, as Dr. Candlish remarked, lest the kind of statements addressed to the Free Church from so many honoured brethren, should fill them with pride and vainglory. But, I confess, he continued that a very different impression was made on me. "A spirit of solemn awe took possession of my mind, not only from the consideration of the unworthiness of this Church, which occupies so high a position, but still more from the risk and hazard there may be of our dishonouring, not only our position, but that God who has assigned it us to occupy. While men were animated by such feelings, it is easy to see how the Free Church, from the very outset of her history, was led to take the deepest interest in the Protestant Churches of the Continent, struggling, as many of them were, with formidable difficulties, while upholding the cause of Christ. At first, the great object was to raise money on their behalf, and aid them in their work. Along with this, certain towns were fixed on, where ministers were planted and congregations formed, as centres of Evangelical influence. At a later period, the plan was adopted of giving supply, during certain months of the year, in places much frequented by English-speaking strangers. In this way the Free Church has made her influence increasingly felt in Germany, France, Switzerland, Italy, and even in Spain and Portugal.
ANNALS OF THE DISRUPTION.
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