15 JULY 1876, Page 12



[To THE REIM Or THIS " SPECTATOR1 Sur,—Lord Henry Lennox is not an idiot, but he has contrived to persuade the whole of Scotland that he is, by a transaction in which he has been merely following the ignoble traditions of the present Government in the matters of the Scotch Church.

The ancient town of Dunfermline, which was once the home of kings, became in the middle of last century the cradle of the " Secession," and now that the originators of that movement in Scotland, like the Wesleys in England, have come to be looked upon as heroes and martyrs, the Dunfermline people claim to be foremost in their tribute of honour. Lord Henry Lennox, as First Commissioner of the Board of Works, has a certain control of the old abbey church of that town. Within that church the Dunfermline people desire to place a simple marble tablet in honour of Thomas Gillespie, commemorating the only famous in- cident of his life, viz., that he was " deposed by the General Assembly, for refusing to take part in the settlement of a minister at Inverkeithing in 1752."

For "settlement," understand " forced settlement." The mass of Scotch Presbyterians believe that this, the great event in Gillespie's life, was also the most honourable. But Lord Henry Lennox knew better. Was he to allow within the walls of a church an inscription reflecting on the General Assembly? Was he to admit, even after the abolition of the law of patronage, that a minister deserved commemoration for throwing up his benefice rather than enforce that law on a protesting congregation ? Would this not be a triumph to the Free Church ? And what would Gillespie's United-Presbyterian successors say? Accordingly, backed by foolish Tory advisers in the Kirk, the First Com- missioner positively and repeathdly refused to allow the tablet to be erected, unless the inscription were altered into one saying that he simply seceded from the Church on the date referred to. Of course, the decision was received with laughter and disgust. It was pointed out that causeless secession from a Church was held in Scotland to be dishonour, not praise. Protest after protest was sent up, but all in vain. Last week, however, witnessed a still more absurd conclusion to an absurd affair. Talked over and talked down by a deputation of Scotch Members of Parliament and ecclesiastics, the too pliant Chief Commissioner wrote a letter with- drawing unconditionally his whole objection. The letter is a gem of official correspondence. Lord Henry is now afraid of being

thought disrespectful to the deceased Mr. Gillespie. Accordingly, he hesitatingly calla him Dr. Gillespie, a brevet degree which, as conferred by the Board of Works, must be soothing to the manes of the humble Scotch pastor of the last century, but which has been intensely amusing to his followers. Further, he is willing now to admit that this was "the principal act of Dr. Gillespie's life." But he repeats his absurd conviction that "the principal act of Dr. Gillespie's life might have been made evident with equal clear- ness [.9 by the simple statement that he was the founder of the Relief Church." He assures the deputation that his only reason for originally objecting was "an earnest desire that the strife which had so unfortunately distracted the Church in those days should not be perpetuated." This was the " object he had from the beginning." But he is now satisfied that the object he had from the beginning " will, on the whole, be best promoted by the withdrawal of his opposition."

There is a fatality in it. Mr. Disrseli's officials never touch Scotch-Church matters without some stain of meanness emerging from the contact. And it is difficult in this case to say whether the original refusal or the final surrender is more unworthy in its tone. It is precisely the Patronage Act of 1874 over again. Gillespie's case, in 1752, as all Scotchmen know, was simply that of the Free Church in 1843. He, like it, hated Patronage, but never dreamed of seceding because that system existed in the Kirk. He refused to do so, even when he saw incumbents thrust in all around him, contrary to the old laws of the Church and the will of their congregations. He was only shut into a corner at last by the ingenious tyranny of the Moderate leaders, who refused to accept his passive obedience, and insisted on his actively taking part in " intruding," after he had finally intimated it was irreconcilable with his conscience. And even then he did not "secede," he was " deposed," and founded congregations for the "relief" of conscience, which then and ever since looked forward to uniting with all free Presby- terians in Scotland. For all this, and especially for the calm and meek way in which he suffered deposition on that well-remembered day, Scotland honours him. Lord Henry Lennox even now de- clines to do so, but intimates that the unpleasant subject may be best avoided by his yielding to those who have the heart to honour him. So, in 1843, when the General Assembly which deposed Gillespie had come round to his views, and its members were ordered, not this time by the Church, but by the State, to yield, not mere passive obedience, but precisely that active exer- cise of oppression which alone they and Gillespie refused, and ordered to do it, too, on pain of fines and imprisonments, and denied even the delay of a few months, until the law of Patronage might be modified,—when, under the pressure of all this, they stripped their endowments from around them and walked out into the wilderness, men began dimly to conceive that they had seen a noble thing. Thirty years passed, and all men knew that it was noble indeed. All men except the Con- servative Ministry of England, which, forced by public opinion in Scotland to abolish Patronage, confessed they had done wrong in 1843, but had not the heart to make the slightest reparation, even in words, to those who had suffered so deeply at their hands.

There are forma of concession which are worse than refusal, and it is hard for men to be magnanimous who persist in being unjust. When the Lord Advocate confessed, two years ago, that the Free Kirk was in the right in 1843, his grudging acknow- ledgment was promptly translated by that body into the words, " This is the heir ; come, let us kill him, and the in- heritance shall be ours." And when, on Friday week, the Com- missioner of Works intimated that his Established-Kirk advisers thought it would now tend to peace to erect the tablet to Gillespie, it was rumoured in Dunfermline that Lord Henry and his friends proposed on their own account to carve an additional inscription, " Our fathers slew them, and we,—build their