VOLUNTARYISM IN THE STATE CHURCH
Voluntaryism is as difficult to define as spiritual independence. I have never seen an intelligible definition which was also consistent with itself, In its bare and logical consistency it is supposed to mean that the State, or, as the reformers put it, the civil magistrate, has nothing to do with religion - that the sphere of the national ruler is purely secular. . . . It is, that a nation, as a nation acting through its civil ruler, shall take no account of religion; that civil legislation shall be confined to outward and secular affairs of communities; that for the nation, as a nation, there shall be no God and no Saviour; that it is not righteousness that exalteth a nation; that the civil magistrate is not Gods minister for good; but that to ignore God is the highest civil freedom. I think we understand that not only does it proscribe any natural recognition for the religious education of the young, or for religious ministrations to the poor and perishing - it means much more. It means that the legislator does wrong if he secures to the toiling millions their right to rest on the day God has made; if he maintains the divine purity of the marriage law; if he hallows the administration of justice by oaths wherein the appeal is unto him who sitteth upon the throne. It means that wrong is done if on any public and national occasion God is acknowledged as King of kings and Lord of lords, whether by prayer in Parliament, or by a national thanksgiving, or by humiliation under the burden of mercies or of chastisements. We ask ourselves if it is to the adoption of such principles as these men are leading the Church of Chalmers. Ah, sirs, I know no historical precedent for such national degradation as this would bring us to, save when the maddened populace of Paris, who had banished God with clamour from their ways, worshipped a strumpet as the Goddess of Reason. I. there, then, any modified Voluntaryisin to which the Free Church and other Presbyterian Churches may betake themselves! There is. But it is barely intelligible, and it is certainly inconsistent with itself. We find it in articles of agreement among the Dissenting Churches .f Scotland as printed in 1869 Stripped of all verbiage and driven from it. vague-sounding phrases, this emasculated Voluntaryism comes to mean a strong desire and longing that the present Established Churches shall be deprived of their endowments. It rests on no broad principle of polity, and the moment they come with actual struggle and combat, its advocates will be compelled to tako broader ground and to fall back on the atrocious Voluntaryism which at present they denounce. They cannot stir the country with intimations that they would like to deliver us of the Church of Scotland from our endowments; they cannot persuade a godly land that they have a good case when they seek to confiscate the national endowments of religion to provide (or the education of Scottish children In everything but religion. If we were seeking a victory at the expense of our brethrens honour we should bid them persevere in their suicidal folly. - Prof. Charteris, DD, Lecture from Chair of Biblical Criticism, 1874.
THOMSON' S REPLY
I shall not quote the more offensive sentences, because there are signs that the professor who uttered them is becoming half ashamed of them. But I will say this: that when men seek to represent the views of a Church, and especially when that Church has through its supreme court stated and explained its views, common fairness demands that we should turn for information to its own authoritative utterances. Now, there are the well-known Articles of Agreement united with the Articles of Difference, which have more of synodical authority and sanction upon them than anything else recently emitted by our Church, and I defy any man of common understanding and candour to read these and to adhere to that most obnoxious charge.
The fact is that this is an old slander raised from its grave, in which we were charged with holding that religion has nothing to do with the civil magistrate, and that this civil magisrtrate hath nothing to do with religion. Both limbs of this sentence were repudiated then by the champions of our Church; explanations followed; one great historian, who had been temporarily misled by these misrepresentations, acknowledged his mistake, and I hope the professor to whom I refer will show the same magnanimity and justice now as Dr. Merle dAubigne did then. Why, it is in the very name of religion, and on time ground of Christs authority that we tell the civil magistrate that he has no right to prescribe anything to a Church or to Interfere in its Internal administration.
- Rev. Andrew Thomson, D.D.
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