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rural “Moderates.” Many of them were clever, and their skill in debate showed that they would have been capital lawyers or politicians. Many of them could write English with elegance, and they did not allow their style to jolt over the “corderoy road” of Calvinistic logic, but they took the smoother way of the moral law. Stout Cameronians, “Old Lights,” and all the grim zealots of Secession, turned aside with disgust from the “cauld morality” of the Moderates, saying that it had not an ounce of the Gospel from one
ear's end to the other, and that it was little §: than heathenism. It was precisely the dislike to that “cauld morality” that caused the Disruption. The parishioners of Auchterarder did not pretend that Mr. Young was morally bad, nor did those of Marnoch specify any such blot in the character P Mr. Edwards as could have been seen by a Court of law. Each band of devotees thought merely that the man of the patron's choice had not unction enough to be a fit teacher of the Gospel, and they refused to accept “cauld morality” in its place. But the Moderate minister was as certain of the laird's or the lord's favour as of the devotees' frown. A deposed minister once pathetically pleaded that he had been deprived of a manse, a stipend of a hundred and fifty pounds a year, and the privilege of periodically dining with his Grace the Duke of Argyll. The Moderates further disdained the fanaticism which fled from whisky, and, when whisky took the etherealized form of toddy, they believed in its virtues much more fervently than they credited the Confession of Faith. Many a deep carouse did they comfort themselves with when they met at Presbytery dinners, or when the business of the Gospel drew half a dozen of them to the same manse. They bore the scars of spirituous battles on their glowing faces. The rich coppery hue of many a reverend countenance had been got only by dint of long and persistent effort, by nightly touching and retouching, by the laying of tint on tint, by the determination never to throw away an opportunity of giving mellowness to the alcoholic colouring of
ears. Some of their faces could not
ave been tinted for less than five or six hundred pounds, and if they had drunk old port instead of toddy, the operation might have cost them half as many thousands. There were “drunken Presbyteries,” filled, of course, with theologians who, even in the last stages of articulation, boasted that they were Moderates.
One, which played a great part during the Ten Years' Struggle of the Disruption, consumed as much toddy as would have drowned the General Assembly. Even the leaders of the Moderate party did not disdain the spirituous comforts of this life. “Jupiter Carlyle,” as the stately and convivial minister of Inveresk was called, sends up a steam of toddy from his wonderful diary, when he does not soak it in claret. Indeed, he and the rest of the intellectual Moderates drank as hard as the lawyers of their time; and it would not be easy to find a more vigorous comparison. That they were also a band of clever and cultivated men, it is needless to say, when they included Robertson, Blair, Hill, and other writers or preachers of only one degree less mark. These men deliberately set themselves to the task of stripping Scotch Presbyterism free from provincialism, and so triumphant were they that most of their sermons might have been preached in a Catholic church or in a heathen temple as fitly as in St. Giles's. They taught the moral law with politeness; they made philosophy the handmaid of Christianity with well-bred moderation; and they so handled the grimmer tenets of Calvin as to hurt no susceptibilities. They were masters of theological deportment, and they would have been Fathers of the Church, if the Church had been a school of manners. Hence, their supreme effort was to write a good style. They aspired to rank with the men of letters who were making Paris and London the New Jerusalems of Literature. Robertson polished his sentences as laboriously as an old Covenanter would have tried to smooth the way unto eternal life, and we fear that he rather disdained the jerky rhetoric of St. Paul. He treasured the compliment of Horace Walpole that his style was fine, as fondly as a Cameronian might have nursed the remembrance of the day when he was hunted to the hills by the dragoons of Claverhouse, or when he smote those messengers of Satan hip and thigh at Drumclog. Blair was even more careful to smooth his rhetoric until it should satisfy the imperative decorum of the Schools, and he has had his reward in the fact that his sermons, if they do not yield inspiration to the theologian, are valued in grammar-classes for the Pharisaic cleanness of their style. The leaders of the Moderates were men of the world, as well as writers and theologians. They could play whist with a skill worthy of an Episcopalian training; they went to the theatre as freely as if the Covenanters had never lifted up a testimony against unhallowed amusements; they were on excellent terms with David Hume ; and they did their best to prove the justice of his glowing compliment that their Church was more favourable to Deism than any other in Christendom. The storm of the Disruption blew away the old Moderates from their place of power. Their ability and culture had been sensibly declining before that revolution ; the wave of earnestness which brought the change having also lifted the most powerful and original minds of the Church into a region of aggressive Calvinism which stunted the growth of philosophic indifference to dogma, or of such a style as would have satisfied Dr. Blair. Cook, Bryce, and Robertson of Ellon, the leaders of the Moderate party, were all able men; but they were far more than outmatched, both in the pulpit and in debate, by Chalmers, Cunningham, Candlish, Welsh, Guthrie, Begg, and the other leaders of the Non-Intrusionists. The Disruption carried the flower of the clergy to the Free Church. But before many years had passed, it began to be seen that they were to have no successors. The very zeal of the Free Church had generated an impatience of independent thought and a demand for the rigorous Calvinism of the Covenant which were strangely out of harmony with the growing Liberalism of the age. Young men of real power did not find such fetters congenial, and the Free Church is paying the penalty which always awaits those institutions that shut themselves into an iron shroud of dogma. The leaders whom it followed into the Wilderness of Voluntaryism are all dead, with the exception of Dr. Buchanan, a respectable debater, and Dr. Begg, who had the most earthy mind of them all, and who is indeed a vigorous political agitator rather than a theologian ;
a debater who would have become the
equal of any man in the House of Commons in the power of sheer hard hitting, if he had been caught young enough; a born pugilist, an incarnate denial of the precept “Blessed are the meek,” but not a Father of the Church. The only worthy successor of the vigorous band is Dr. Rainy, and he stands alone. Bold minds, like Mr. Knight, of Dundee, can find no resting-place in the Free Church, and hence it is undergoing a process of intellectual starvation. The traditions of the Establishment, on the other hand, have been so much more favourable to individual freedom, that it affords a better field of work to the men who do not choose to forget that this is the nineteenth century, and that the theological point of view cannot be the same to-day as it was two centuries ago. Hence the Established Church has been gaining command of mental power as fast as the Free Church has been losing that regulating fly-wheel of influence. It has found room for a Broad-Church party, led by such men as Principal Tulloch and Dr. Wallace. Those men represent the old Moderates, but they are as different from them as this age is from the last. Intellectual prudence has ceased to be their chief distinction, and in truth it has given place to an intellectual boldness which Knox and Melville would have smitten with anathema. They represent as faithfully as Dean Stanley himself that rationalistic influence which is shaping the dogmas of traditional Christianity to suit the subtle intellectual and moral demands of an essentially scientific age. They further differ from Robertson and the old chiefs of Moderatism in the indifference or the hostility with which they look at patronage, the sheetanchor of their school a hundred years ago; and the Duke of Richmond's Bill is a confession that the old Moderates of the Scottish Church have passed away.
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