DR. DUFF AND THE FREE CHURCH.
[TO THE EDITOR OF THE "SPECTATOR:1
SIR,—Would you allow me to express the pleasure and satisfaction with which I read your most admirable article in last Saturday's Spectator on the proceedings of the recent General Assemblies of the Kirks of Scotland? I feel quite sure every thoughtful adherent of both these Churches, without endorsing all your views, will at least feel very grateful for the spirit of impartiality and judicial calmness with which you have exercised your high vocation of critic. Not but that these qualities are characteristic of the Spectator ; only they came out into more prominence in contrast with an article that appeared on the same day, and on the same subject, in one of your weekly contemporaries. It has long been eminent for a certain style of criticism, which the late Sir James Graham would have designated as that of the scalping-kuife and
the tomahawk, and which Mr. Bright immortalised by a stinging epithet I do not care to repeat. One can admire the occasional employment of these weapons when allied to real earnestness, and profound knowledge of the subject under discussion ; but when found in company with what is simply ribald flippancy and the grossest ignorance, they only evoke for the unfortunate writer "pity and contempt."
You are among the very few journalists who have been able to enter into the true spirit and meaning of the open- ing address of the Moderator of the Free Church Assembly. Its immense length was early and eagerly seized upon to raise a sorry sneer, the fact being, as I have reason to know, the Moderator intended it to be a manifesto as to the pre- sent actual condition of things in the world, and the attitude it behoved the Churches to maintain. It was never intended it should be read to the Assembly in its entirety, and as a fact, the Moderator did not address the Assembly for more than two hours, surely not an unreasonable length of time for such an occasion. Bat this is a small matter, and what is of far more consequence, is the frequency with which its general purport has been misinter- preted. Your criticism as to its " undue copiousness of words " and "its erroneous estimate of things" is one with which many of the Moderator's beat friends and admirers may find it possible to sympathise, and from my knowledge of him, I think he himself will in no way—not in the very least degree—be ruffled by such an expression of your judgment coming, as it does, from one who evidently sympathises with him in the high aim he had set before him.
Your statement that " the speech struck the ,right key-note, and it did not go without its reward," is, I am very confident, the judgment of every member of the General Assembly, clerical as well as lay. It is well for Scotland that there is one of the leading journals of England competent to understand its Ecclesiastical questions, and to form a sound and intelligent judg- ment upon them. How necessary for the sake of truth to have such a representative in the journalism of the country may be illustrated by an incident, for the accuracy of which I have had the clearest evidence placed before me. It would appear the Times deigned to notice the proceedings of the Ecclesiastical Parliaments of Scotland in its issue of the 7th inst. There was little to com- plain of in the general tone of the article, although it did contain a misrepresentation, doubtless quite unintentional, of the Moderator's address. The difference of the judgment formed by the Times and that formed by yourself I attribute simply to your superior know- ledge of the subject on which you were writing, and not to any wilful antagonism on the part of the other. But what does appear to me most extraordinary is, that when the attention of the editor was drawn to the misrepresentation, he refused to rectify it, and so it has gone out to the world on the authority of the Times that the purpose the " Moderator " had in view was " very unsuccessful." It is enough to know, however, that in your esti- mation the Moderator not only "struck the right key-note," but that he was eminently successful, since, to use your own words again, "the speech did not go without its reward." To Dr. Duff personally I feel sure the unfair treatment to which he has been subjected is a matter of very small moment, if indeed be gives it a thought ; but while his many friends in this country and in India will resent the injustice to which he has been subjected by some journals, and will despise the vulgar abuse to which he has been exposed by others, they will gratefully acknowledge that, at all events, in the columns of the Spectator the high end and aim he had in view has found a friendly and most intelligent vindication.—I am Sir, &c.,