The cause of this is difficult to set down in a few words, but basically it boiled down to the State wanting a commitment from the Church that, in return for subsidies for its maintenance, the State should have the last word on the placement of Ministers in their churches, and other matters. The dissenting clergy would have nothing to do with this "bowing to Mammon" and carefully prepared to separate at the next General Assembly
You can see here a copy of the Introductory Page of the Pulpit Bible used at all
Assemblies after the Disruption
Thomas Chalmers at the top, Robert Candlish near the foot of the document.
Much of the fuel that stoked the fires of separatism came
from the disgraceful affair of Marnoch.
See here an account of this, with some more interesting information, and some pictures.
LETTER TO MR. LENNOX. THE DISRUPTION.
Writing to Mr. Lennox of New York, on the 81st December Dr. Chalmers says,
" You may perhaps have, by this heard of the proceedings of our Convocation in November. Between four and five hundred of our best ministers have subscribed a Memorial to Government, by which they commit themselves to the relinquishment of the Church's temporalities, are not permitted to hold them but on the condition of subjected to the Civil Courts in things spiritual, on the footing of the decision by the House of Lords in the case of Aughterarder. And, if the Parliament grant us no redress, I have no doubt that the decision of our Convocation in November will be the decision of our General Assembly in May. It lies therefore with our statesmen whether there shall not be an utter disruption of our Church in a few months. None of us are at sanguine of a favourable measure at their hands, and we are laying our account with the conuexion being dissolved early in summer. The eyes of the country are opening to this fact as to a coming certainty, and I feel great confidence that with the blessing of God, we shall be able to resolve ourselves into a great Home Mission, and take possession of the land.
" I do hope that henceforth our friends the Voluntaries will think seriously of us than they have done hertofore. Not that we renounce the principle of a National Establishment of Christianity, for we think it quite possible to harmonize this with the principle of spiritual independence. It will be the fault of our rulers if the two are not harmonized; and I do hope that we shall get a little more credit at the hands of our adversaries when they find us giving up all the endowments of a National Church so soon as it is determined that we shall not be permitted to hold them but at the expense of our Christian liberties."
The fruits of all this toil shall presently be laid before the reader. Meanwhile let us preserve one interesting notice of its progress. Writing to Mr. Lennox again, on the 19th April 1843 Chalmers says :-
" Our crisis is rapidly approaching. We are making every effort for the erection and sustenation of a Free Church, in the event of our disruption from the State which will take place we expect in four weeks. I am glad to say that the great bulk and body of the common people with a goodly proportion of the middle classes, are upon our side, though it bodes ill for the country that the higher classes are against us. Notwithstanding this, we are forming associations for weekly payments in rapid progression all over the country, and I am glad to say that by this day's post they amount to four hundred and five. We expect that by the meeting of our General Assembly, the country will be half organised ,and are looking for a great additional impulse from the Disruption, when it actually takes place. I am hopeful that ere the Summer is ended, we may number about a thousand associations or as many as there are parishs in Scotland, so that unless there be an attempt to crush us by persecution, I have no fear of us getting on. But the Lord reigneth, and He alone knoweth the end from the beginning. Let us look to His providence and grace, without which there can be no security from without, not vital prosperity within." THOMAS CHALMERS
Rev. Dr. Grant in the Presbytery of Edinburgh exemplified those who would bow -
"It has been. tauntingly asked how, even if we were successful we could carry on the Church? I should like to know, before answering the question, how many of our opponents are to leave us?
But we find the Rev. Dr. Cumming of London, after the Convocation, and with full knowledge the honour and good faith of more than four hundred Scottish clergymen were solemnly pledged to retire from the Establishment,publicly affirming
" If Government is firm, I venture from pretty accurate information, to assert that less than one hundred will cover the whole secession. . . . The few manses and pulpits to be vacated, will be filled up with good and holy ministers. . . The missionary schemes of the Church will not be overthrown; they will prosper more than they do now, by being released from party domination and incessant quarrels and squabblings. . . . But I am not satisfied that any will secede."
One notable citizen of Edinburgh predicted that "not forty will come out!"
The day of trial at last arrived. For some days previously unprecedented
influx of strangers into Edinburgh foreshadowed the approach of some exciting
event. Thursday, the May, the day named for the meeting of the General Assembly
rose upon the city with a dull and heavy dawn. So early in the morning as
between four and. five o'clock, the doors of the church in which the Assembly
was to convene opened to admit those who hastened to take up the most
favourable positions, in which they were content to remain for nine weary
hours. As the day wore on, it became evident that to a great extent all the
ordinary business of the city had suspended, yet the crowds that gathered in
the streets wore no gay or holiday appearance. As groups of acquaintances met
and commingled, their conversation was obviously of a grave and earnest
Towards mid-day, the throne-room at Holyrood, in which the Marquess of Bute, as Lord High Commissioner held his first levee, was filled with a numerous assemblage of noblemen, clergymen, military and naval officers, country gentlemen from all quarters of Scotland. A portrait of King William 111 hung upon the wall of the room, opposte to the spot on which Her Majesty's Representative was standing. The throng of the. levee was at its height, when, loosened somehow from its holdings, this portrait fell heavily on the floor; and as it fell a voice was heard exclaiming " there goes the Revolution Settlement." When the levee closed the customary procession formed itself. In his state carriage, accompanied by a splendid cortege, and escorted by a troop of cavalry, the Commissioner proceeded to the High Church. The service was conducted by the Rev.Dr. Welsh, the Moderator of the preceding Assembly, whose discourse was made all the impresive by the frequent allusions to the event by which it was so instantly to be followed.
Elsewhere, within the Assembly Hall, as hour after hour passed by, the strained feeling of the multitude, by whom every inch of sitting and standing ground had for so long a time been occupied, was beginning, occasionally to relax. At last~ however, the rapid entrance of a large body of ministers into the space railed off for members told that the service at St. Giles was over. Every sympton of languor at once gave way and expectation was its utmost stretch. Dr. Welsh, the Moderator, entered and took the chair. Soon afterwards, His Grace the Lord High Commissioner was announced, and the whole assemblage rose and received him standing. Solemn prayer was then offered up. The members having resumed their seats, Dr. Welsh rose. By the eager pressure forward- the hush! hush! that burst from so many lips, the anxiety to hear threatened to defeat itself. The disturbance lasted but a moment.
"Fathers and brethren" said Dr. Welsh, and now every syllable fell upon the ear amid the breathless stillness which prevailed, "according to the usual form of procedure, this is the time for making up the roll. but, in consequence of certain proceedings affecting our rights and privileges, proceedings which have been sanctioned by Her Majesty's Government, ana by the Legislature of the country; and more especially, in respect that there has been an infnngement on the liberties of our Constitution, so that we could not now constitute this Court without a violation of the terms of the union between Church and State in this land, as- now authoritatively declared, I must protest against our proceeding further. The reasons that have led me to come to this conclusion, are fully set forth in the document which I hold in my hand, and which, with permission of the House, I will now proceed to read."
In this document, after the wrongs of the Church had been succinctly recited, the parties who signed it proceed at its close to say-" We protest, that in the circumstances in which we are placed, it is and shall be lawful for us, and such other Commissioners chosen to the Assembly appointed to been this day holden as may concur with us, to withdraw to a separate place of meeting, for the purpose of taking steps, with all who adhere to us, maintaining with us the Confession of Faith and Standards of the Church of Scotland, for separating in an orderly way from the Establishment, and thereupon adopting such measures as may be competent to us, in humble dependence on God's grace, and the aid of the Holy Spirit for the advancement of His glory, the extension, of the Gospel of our Lord and Saviour, and the administration of the affairs of Christ's house, according to His holy Word: and we now withdraw accordingly, humbly and solemnly acknowledging the hand of the Lord in the things which have come upon us, because of our manifold sins, and the sins of the Church and nation; but, at the same time, with assured conviction that we are not responsible for any consequences that may follow from this our enforced separation from an Establishment which we loved and prized, through interference with conscience, the disbonour done to Christ's crown, and the rejection of His sole and supreme authority as King in His Church."
Having finished the reading of this Protest, Dr. Welsh laid it upon the table, aimed and bowed respectfully to the Commissioner, left the chair and proceeded along the aisle to the door of the Church. Dr. Chalmers had been standing immediately on his left. He looked vacant and abstracted while the Protest was being read; With Dr. Welsh's movement awakened him from the reverie. Seizing eagerly upon his hat, he hurried after him with all the air of one impatient to be gone. Mr. Campbell of Monzie, Dr. Gordon, Dr. Macdonald, Dr. Macfarlan, followed him. The effect upon the audience was overwhelming. At first, a cheer burst from the galleries, but it was instantaneously restrained. It was felt by all to be an expression of feeling unsuited to the occasion; it was checked in many cases by an emotion too deep for any other utterance than sad and silent tears. The whole was now standing, gazing in stillness upon the scene. Man after man, row after row moved on along the aisle, till the benches on the left, lately so crowded, showed scarce an occupant. More than four hundred ministers, and a still larger number of elders, had withdrawn.
A vast multitude of people stood congregated in St. George's Street, crowding in upon the church doors. When the deed was done within, the intimation of it passed like lightning through the mass without, and when the forms of their most venerated clergymen were seen emerging from the church, a loud and irrepressible cheer burst from their lips, and echoed through the now half-empty Assembly Hall. There was no design on the part of clergymen to form into a procession, but they were forced into it by the narrowness of the lane opended for their egress through the heart of the crowd. Falling into line and walking thre abreast they formed into a column which extended for a quarter of a mile or more. As they moved along to the new Hall prepared for their reception, very different feelings prevailed among the numberless spectators who lined the streets, and thronged each window, and door, and balcony on either side. Some gazed in stupid wonder, the majority looked on in silent admiration. A few were seen to smile, as if in mockery; while here and there the wife or child of some outgoing minister caught sight of a husband's or father's form accomplishing an act which was to leave the family homeless and un-provided, warm tear-drops formed, which as if half ashamed of them, the hand of faith was in haste to wipe away.
There were Judges of the Court of Session there,who had placed themselves whee they could be unseen, observers of what took place, who must have been perlexed, it may be saddened, when they saw realised before their eyes, the fruits of their decisions. Elsewhere in the city, Lord Jeffrey was sitting reading in his quiet room, when one burst in upon him, saying "Well, what do you think of it? More than four hundred of them are actually out" The book was flung aside and springing to his feet,. Lord Jeffrey exclaimed, " I'm proud of my country; there is not another country upon earth where such a deed could have been done."
The large hall at prepared for the new Assembly, up so as to receive 3000 auditors, had been filled in the part allotted to the public from an early hour in the morning. When . the procession from St. Andrew's Church arrived, the space marked off for ministers and elders was fully occupied, Dr. Welsh opened the proceedings with prayer, after which he rose and said (we quote now from a contemporary account):" Reverend fathers and brethren, I presume our first duty, in circumstances in which we are placed, unquestionably is to constitute ourselves by the choice of a Moderator; and I feel assured that the eyes of every individual in this Assembly-the eyes of the whole Church and country - the eyes of all Christendom, are directed to one individual whom to name is to pronounce his panegyric. In the exhausted state in which my duties have left me, it is scarce in my power to say more, but indeed I feel that more would be superfluous. The extent of his labours in connexion with our present position would justly entitle Dr. Chalmers- (the mention of Dr. Chalmers's name here, was received with extraordinary enthusiasm, the whole of vast audience rising, cheering for some minutes with the utmost enthusiasm, and the house presenting a perfect forest of hats and handkerchiefs)-would justly entitle that great man to hold the first place in this our meeting. But surely it is a good mien, or I should say a token for good from the Great Disposer all events, and the alone Head of the Church, that I can propose, to hold this office, an individual, who, by the efforts of his genius and his virtues, is destined to hold so conspicuous a place the eyes of all posterity. But this I feel is taking but a low view of the subject. His genius has been devoted to the service of his Heavenly Master, and his is the high honour promised to those, who, having laboured successfully in their Master's cause, and turned many to righteousness, are to "shine as the stars for ever and ever."
In taking the chair Dr. Chalmers proposed that the proceedings should be commenced by another act of prayer aüd praise. The psalm selected to be sung commenced with the verse - "0 send thy light forth and thy truth; Let them he guides to me, And bring me to thy holy hill, Ev'n where thy dwellings be."
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