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CHAPTER VI.

PUBLIC INTERESTS OF THE CHURCH OF SCOTLAND.

Dr. Macgill, though not an out-and-out antipatronage man, held very strong views as to the necessity of a most essential change on the existing law of patronage in Scotland. He always held it to be “ an irrational thing, and very hard upon the people of Scotland,” “ that an individual who may be deficient in principles, knowledge, and morals, should dictate to the worthy and respectable people of Scotland whom they should receive as their minister. The hardship is greater,” said he, “ because a patron may be of any religion, except the Roman Catholic, nay, directly hostile to the principles of the people over whom he appoints a minister. The evil is further increased by this, that the patronage which was originally a trust for the good of the people, may be bought by any individual wholly unconnected with the parish, who may have no privilege nor interest in it whatever.” He adds with great energy, (addressing the Committee of the House of Commons, before whom he appeared as a witness) “ I would entreat and implore the gentlemen who now hear me, to use their powerful efforts to remove this dreadful stigma from the Church and people of Scotland, and let them no longer be exposed to the shame of having their ministers dictated to them by persons who have no common feeling or interest with them;

who

may even wish to overturn their church; nay, even to destroy religion, or at least to diminish its influence.* By the excellent laws of our Church,” he says afterwards, “simony is severely punished; but, is it not evident how easy it is under such a system to do what is the same thing, so far as the public interest is concerned, under a different form ? It is in vain to talk about simony if a man can buy a patronage, and put in his friend, and then he sells it again at a low price. There is no choice whatever in the selection of a man when he is appointed by a friend who has bought the patronage with the view to provide for him.t”

On the question of the power of the Church to judge and decide on the qualifications of presentees, his views appear to have been remarkably judici

Presentees must in one sense be “ qualified.” They must be licensed by the Church, and no objections found by the Presbytery, to their life, doctrine, and knowledge. But beyond these technical qualifications there are many things which seem essential to the fitness and suitableness of a minister, which do not come at all within their range. A man may be a respectable preacher in general, while he may not be fitly qualified for a particular charge. He may be sound, and ortho

ous.

Patronage Report, pp. 298, 299.

+ Patronage Report, p. 305.

dox, and learned, and personally pious, and yet his manners may be uncouth; his mode of delivery dry and revolting ; and his whole composition such as to render it extremely reasonable, that a congregation of pious and intelligent persons, looking to the edification of themselves and their families more than the mere benefit of this man, should bid him away from them. “ If,” says Dr. Macgill, “the Church exercised the power of controul over the appointments of patrons uniformly and steadily, it would be a very great controul ; but, in the first place, the General Assembly who have the final decision, meet by representation; and unless there was an alteration of the law, I do not think that the decisions would be uniform. Besides this, there is a part of the act 1592, which gives to the patron the power of retaining the stipend in certain

Now it is a disputed point whether or not those qualifications of a minor order, not minor in reality, but for the sake of describing them, that we hold to be necessary, may not be considered by the patron as necessary qualifications; and were he to bring the question before a civil court, and that court entertain the same opinion, they might give authority to the patron to retain the stipend.' What Dr. Macgill anticipated in the spring of 1834, was soon after realized in the case of Auchterarder; and the principal effect of that decision is, to deprive the Church of her temporalities in any

cases.

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case in which a settlement is refused on other grounds than those of disqualification on technical grounds merely. Looking calmly at the operation of such a state of matters on the general scale, we must say, that the result must necessarily be a disruption of the ties which connect Church and State together. Such a result does not take place instanter; but a principle is evolved, the continued operation of which must sooner or later terminate in such an issue. Dr. Macgill saw this clearly, and he did not find any effectual remedy either in the negative of a veto, or in the positive of a call. As a member of the Presbytery of Glasgow, therefore, and afterwards as one of the witnesses before the Committee of the House of Commons on Patronage, he proposed a plan of his own, which may be viewed as an improved edition of the act 1690. He proposes the abolition of the act of Queen Anne restoring patronage, and suggests a scheme of parochial election, calculated, as he thought, to avoid the opposite extremes of unrestricted patronage and unlimited popular election. Let every parish be considered as represented by three bodies; the Heritors, but exclusive of mere feuars; the Elders; and the male Communicants of a certain standing. Let each of these bodies meet separately, and choose, say three delegates each, to form together a committee of nine, with whom may be entrusted the initiative or nomination of the pastor. Let the person who has the majority of votes be proposed to the people at large; and let all disputes that may arise on the subject of a concurrence on their part be settled by the Church courts.

Among Dr. Macgill's MSS. I find the following statement of his views on patronage in 1834 :

“1. If by the constitution and standards of our church are understood our two books of discipline, and the opinions and wishes of the assemblies of the presbyterian church for the first 200 years; 1 conceive, that our constitution and standards were directly opposed to the intrusion of ministers, contrary to the will of the congregation.

“2. I conceive that the statute of 1712 loudly demands, both from its own nature and the state of the country, a great alteration, or modification, if retained. Nothing, I conceive, can be more repugnant to the rights and feelings of the people. Patronage is, by the present law, much worse than in early times. It was at first a reward for the building and endowment of churches; it is now a matter of ordinary barter. The patron may not have an inch of ground in the parish, nor bear any of its burdens; he may have no interest in its welfare ; he may buy it for his friend, and sell it again after he has given the presentation; the law affords no security for fitness, much less excellence, in the presentee. The patron also may be an unprincipled profligate—no qualification of character or of principle is required; and independently of religious considerations, I cannot conceive any thing more galling to the proprietors and inhabi

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