On Wednesday afternoon the debate on the second reading of
the Churches (Scotland) Bill was resumed in the House of Commons, the amendment attacking clause 5 coming under discussion. Mr. Arthur Elliot made a clear and conciliatory speech, and Mr. Balfour contributed the best statement which has yet been made of a somewhat complicated question. He urged that the clause giving relief to the Established Church was not aimed against the Free Churches, but was germane to the well-being of the whole of Presbyterianism. In ecclesiastical policy he declared that he would always be found "on the side of union and on the side of freedom." Spiritual independence meant the power to modify, "not the fundamental and essential doctrines which lay at the basis of their religious creeds, but those formulas of subscription which time inevitably makes old." The recent judgment of the House of Lords had raised the question for the Established Church as well as for the Churches directly concerned, and it was only right that the difficulties of all should be provided for at the same time. Clause 5 made no attempt to touch the Act of 1690, which is the Charter of Presbyterian faith, but only the Act of 1693, which dealt with the formulas of subscription, and had only a temporary justification. Elders and members of the Church already had the relief claimed ; the present Bill extended the same privilege to ministers. Mr. Balfour's speech, both in argument and temper, was all that could be desired, and undoubtedly made a great impression on the House. The amendment was rejected by a majority of 140, and the second reading passed without a division.