ePub 版

ner of the committee on General Education, and be proposed that Dr Cunningham should be appointed to that situation. (Cheers.) Agreed to.

The Assembly then called for the report of the committee on


When GRAHAM SPEIRS, Esq. read the following:

“ The Committee have now briefly to report their proceedings in the discharge of the duty committed to them by the last General Assembly, of distributing the collection for behoof of their suffering and oppressed brethren in the northern parts of the country, especially in the counties of Sutherland and Ross. This collection, it will be remembered, was appointed to be made on a representation to the Assembly of the peculiar sufferings and distress of the ministers and people of these dis. tricts, which even in a time of great general privation, in consequence of the recent disruption, was universally acknowledged as giving them a pre-eminent claim to the liberality of the Church at large.

The Committee having regard to the terms of their appointment, resolved at their first meeting, · That, while the funds placed at their disposal were to be chiefly expended in giving relief to the oppressed in the counties of Ross and Suther. Jand, they did not consider themselves precluded from considering cases of special urgency, especially in the Highlands and Islands.'

“ The Committee, in considering the principles on which this pecuniary relief should be administered, were of opinion, that it ought, as far as practicable, to be applied in mitigating those privations, arising either from oppression and opposition to the principles of the Free Church, or from local circumstances, to which the minis. ters and people in those districts were peculiarly subjected. The Committee were well aware that those ministers would have rejected the offer of any pecuniary assistance as a compensation for the sacrifices they had made in common with their brethren, or any aid beyond what might be required to put them on an equality with other ministers of the Free Church in rural districts.

The Committee, in order to obtain accurate information regarding the state and condition of the ministers having claims on the fund, directed a printed circular to be forwarded to each of the ministers in the rural parts of Ross and Sutherland, and of those parts of Caithness which border on Sutherlandshire, containing queries in reference to those subjects on which the Committee required information. The Committee might perhaps have obtained this information from other sources; and there are some perbaps who may not approve of the views which guided the Committee in the course they adopted, of making a direct application to each minister, requesting him to state his peculiar circumstances, and in judging of his claim by his own statement, and by tbat alone. The Committee, from their knowledge of the character of those ministers, felt perfectly secure against the risk of any exaggerated statements from them of their peculiar trials; but they did not anticipate such instances of patient suffering—of such self-denial—such examples of men thinking more of the things of others than of their own, as have been elicited by these communications, and which they now gladly acknowledge to the praise and glory of God, who has put it into the hearts of his servants to give, in their lives, such examples of the sustaining power of the truth as it is in Jesus. But the Committee are sure it will be both more acceptable and profitable to give some of the answers to which they allude, in the ministers' own words.

“ One minister in Ross-shire, eminent for his piery, after stating in reply to the queries in the first part of the circular, that he had been refused a site—that he had to travel four miles to meet with his congregation for public worship-that he was upwards of fifty years of age, and has a numerous family, wbose ages vary from fif. teen years to three months,-returns the following answer to the query requesting bim to state any circumstances or peculiarity in his situation, that might give him a claim upon the fund.'—' I can state no circumstances or peculiarity in my situation not embraced in the foregoing queries arising from my connection with the Free Church, which give me any claim to a share of the Ross and Sutherland collection, nor do I either ask or expect any."

“ Take another example. A minister of a parish in Sutherland states in answer to a similar query, that having procured a site, “ I consider my case far more fortunate than that of most of my brethren in this country, and therefore, I do not consider myself

as having any claim to a share of the collection appointed by the As. embly for Ross and Sutherland.” But this same minister, while declining to urge any claim for bimself, strongly presses that of an aged catechist in bis parish, who had been deprived of the annual pittance of L.7 from the Royal Bounty, for adbering to tbe Free Church.

“ Another minister, in answer to a similar query, says, I have nothing more to say, except, that I never felt more happy in my life, than when I left the old manse on Wednesday last, and went a distance of thirty-one miles with my furniture through drift and snow. I had then no human babitation on earth I could call my own, but then I enjoyed the sweet peace of God, which passeth all understanding. I do not see that I have any claim upon that fund, as I fully believe that many of my fathers and brethren stand in far greater need of it.'

“ The Committee beg to state, with reference to the nature of the claims which called for relief, that the great and peculiar trials of the Free Church in these districts are fully confirmed by the information received in answer to their circular letter. Some of these trials and privations proceed from the hostility to the princi. ples of the Free Church, wbich is shown in the refusal of sites for churches and manses, and some from the local circumstances of the district, which afforded no houses for the reception of a minister's family after they left the manse. The families of not a few of the ministers bave been obliged to remove to the nearest town, at a distance of forty, fifty, or even sixty miles, while the minister has been only able to obtain a room for bimself, in some friendly but or inn, in his own or a neighbouring parish. Many of them are thus obliged to maintain two separate houses, which, besides the additional expense, involves the still more painful consequences of separating them from their families. One of the ministers of Sutberland states, that on account of the distance, he had only been able to see his family twice since the disruption. This was in the middle of last winter. Another minister from the same county reports that the distance between the residence of his family and the populous part of his parish, is not less than seventy-four miles.

“ As the Committee understand in some instances sites bave been obtained in Suther. landshire, and as they hope that the difficulties which still exist in procuring such as are suitable in other parishes will be removed, they refrain from dwelling on the hardships to which both ministers and people have been subjected from the want of regular places of worship during the inclemency of last winter. Suitable sites could not always be obtained, even for the tents which were sent to some of these parisbes ; and one minister states, that after trying many places, the storm not allowing the tent to stand, we got it up in a cave among the rocks on the sea shore. There were thirty men for three days preparing the place and getting it set, but when I went to it on Friday last to preach there, it being Christmas day, it was all torn down, and we had no shelter but the canopy of heaven. May the Lord grant them mercy, and lead them to repentance who did it. They bave done us a serious injury.'

The statement of even a small portion of the pereecutions of the adherents of the Free Church in these districts more particularly referred to in the appointment of the Committee, would occupy too large a space in such a report as this. The de. tails of the sufferings of a single family might form an interesting and instructive volume. The Committee wish it could be said that this persecution was limited to one district. They regret to state, and they do so with feelings of shame and indignation, that there is hardly a county in Scotland in which there are not instances of the same intolerant spirit. They do not refer merely to the refusal of sites for churches and manses, or to the churlish denial of the use of materials for building them, never refused for any other purpose, but to the more definite and positive acts of dismissing servants, tenants, and cottars, for adhering to the Free Church. In one parish in the north, 13 families were at the same time, and for that cause alone, ejected from their houses, and it is believed that the same system is still going on, and just for the purpose of driving, if possible, the remaining parishioners into the Establishment. It is lamentable, indeed, to see in a country boasting of its religious freedom, the spirit of persecution of a former age revived, and only less cruel, because it is less powerful, Though now, indeed, this intolerant spirit is for the present, at least, so bounded and circumscribed in its operation, that the poor and defenceless are its chief victims, they have for that reason the stronger claim to the prayers and the sympathy of those who, while they maintain the same opinions, are exempted from suffering on account of them. But the Committee forbear from making any additional remarks on this subject, in the hope and expectation, that even if those who have done, and are doing those things, should continue blind to the sin of interfering with the rights of conscience, they may learn enough of worldly wisdom to see the folly and infatnation of their impotent attempt to extinguish by such means a vital principle in the hearts of their fellow-creatures. It is plain that such attempts to obstruet the progress of the Church can only bave the effect of confirming the attachment of the people to her principles, which they find are impregnable against the fair weapons of argument and reason. Strengthened in their attachment to the Church by the very means that have been employed to undermine ber, the Committee are convinced that the people will submit to even greater trials, if such should be appointed, with the same patient determination which they bave already shown.

“The Committee may observe, that as all their communications bave been strictly confidential, they will not be expected to give more than a general statement of the appropriation of the funds which were placed at their disposal by the liberality of the Church in answering the appeal made to them. The collection amounted to

L.2286 17 74
Payments to ministers for travelling and other ex.

pences, and maintenance, the grants for mainte-
nance varying from L.20 to L. 125

L.1525 16 9
Teachers and Catechists, and others

73 0 0
To poor wbo had suffered persecution

70 8 0 For erecting and making tents, &c.

92 12 0 Deputation to Ross-sbire

32 17 8 Advertising, printing, and other expenses

64 12 11

1859 7 4

Leaving a balance of

L.427 10 34 “ This balance, which the Committee regret to state is very inadequate to the daily energing claims upon them, will, if the Assembly should approve of their proceedings, be distributed according to the principles already stated.

The Committee cannot, in concluding their report, find words so appropriate as those used by an aged servant of God in a letter to them acknowledging the receipt of a remittance: May the Lord bless all the contributors to the fund. It is a good call to us not to distrust the goodness of the Lord, also a call to carry on the Lord's work in the face of all opposition. May the Lord Jesus give us the grace of faithfulness in discharging the trust committed to us, and may we have a single eye to his glory in this dark and cloudy day in all we do.'

“ GRAHAM SPEIRS, Vice-Convener." Mr SPEIRS, after reading the report, said-Perhaps I may be allowed to say a few words in addition to the report which I have now read. And in the first place in reference to those parts of the country about which the Free Cburch bas evinced so great an interest, -I mean the county of Sutherland. I was lately in that county, and therefore speak from my own personal knowledge. I believe it is only an act of justice to say, that it is the intention of the Duke of Sutherland that suitable sites should be obtained throughout the whole of that county for the Free Church. I am aware that at present there are difficulties in some parts of that district ; but when I see that in other districts good sites bave been obtained for churches and manses, I cannot but think that these difficulties have arisen in such places from the different views which the factors on the estates have taken of the Duke of Su. therland's intentions. On this subject, permit me to say, that I regret the services of a minister of this Church have not been acknowledged in the way they ought to bave been ; and I now take the liberty of Lere making some tardy acknowledgment of the services conferred by that gentleman in this matter. (Hear.) Any concegsions made to the Free Church of Sutherland, I believe, have arisen out of Dr M-Farlan's exertions. (Hear.) I am persuaded that, till manses are found for the ministers in Sutherland, the state of the Free Church in that county will not be what it ought to be, as regards the comforts of ministers and people; for till manses are got, it is impossible that the ministers can look after their flocks with the same care that they would otherwise do. (Hear.) The difficulties experienced in many quarters are matters calling for serious reflection, and more particularly for the great moral lesson which they afford. It was only the other day a clergyman came to me to ask my advice as to what right he could have to make an erection on the sea. sbore. (Hear, bear.) He was driven, for the want of a site, to think of erecting a church actually upon the shingle of the sea-shore. (Loud cries of " Hear.") Now, I refer to the county of Sutherland as an instance of what the people will get if they only remain firm to their principles. (Cheers.) It is a great moral lesson ; and if the people in other districts where they are suffering oppression will stand by their principles, and show that they are not taken up lightly, but that they are with them matters of conscience, then I am as certain as I am of my own existence, that all these difficulties will vanish away, and that, though they have sown in tears, they will reap in joy. (Cheers.) I intended to have made a few remarks in reference to other countries where persecution bas been experienced; but at this late hour it is impossible to enter upon the subject. Had I done so, however, it should bave been more in sorrow for the infatuation that is exhibited, than in anger at the persons who are guilty of oppression. But I may remark, that had we a few years ago gone abroad to those countries, of wbich we have this night heard so much, we would have told the people there of the religious toleration we enjoyed in this land; but I am sorry to say, that of late, examples have been given of intolerance, which manifest a disregard of the rights of conscience absolutely fear. ful—(cheers)—and which show that, however true it may be in theory, that we live under a constitution of which it is the boast that it respects the rights of conscience, that there may be few countries in the world, where these rights of conscience are more practically disregarded than in this free country. (Cheers.) I am afraid it is too true that it is matter of theory, but certainly not a matter of fact. (Hear.) If time had permitted, I intended to have shown that, laying aside the question of the principles of religious toleration altogether, the treatment which the Free Church has received at the hands of many men in this country, is not only a violation of the rights of conscience, but, under the circumstanees, it amounts to more,—it amounts to the most positive and glaring injustice I ever knew. (Cheers.) Yes, if you remember, while we were within the Establishment, the principles we maintained were recognised and acknowledged at all hands. We were told that our principles might be very good, but that they were too good for the Establishment. (Hear.) We were taunted for maintaining those principles, and yet remaining in the Establishment. They said to us, “we acknowledge your principles may be good, and founded on the Bible, but they cannot receive practical application within the walls of an Established Church; therefore, if you are honest in maintaining these principles, it is your duty to leave the Establishment in peace,– leave the Establishment, and when you cease to claim the character of an Established Church, why then, you may enjoy your principles in peace.” Has that peace and protection been afforded us? (Loud cries of Hear.) 'We left the Establishment, not at their bidding, but impelled by the dictates of our own consciences; and I am afraid, when I look over the names of those very men who have been most distinguished in the persecution of the Free Church, I will find those who were loudest in bidding us leave the Establishment. (Cheers.) I ask, what did they expect? Was it ever to be supposed that 470 ministers leaving the Establishment were to lay down the credentials under which they preached the gospel at the door of St Andrew's Church, and abandon the flock's that were determined to follow them ? And if this was not to be expected, was it not the grossest injustice, as well as delusion, to endeavour to sever those ties the people were willing to respect, and just the more willing on account of the sacrifices which had been made ? (Cheers.) I believe the very worst wish which I could express for the preservation of the Free Church would be a wish for this success. They cannot succeed in putting down the Free Church, but they may create confu. sion. Can society subsist in the state in which it now is ? (Cheers.) I have seen this house as full of worshipping Christians of the Free Church as ever you have seen it during your sittings here ; and what a reflection is it that these people were worshipping here, honoured and respected by their fellow-citizens, while, if you figure them taken to a parish fifty or sixty miles from this, they would be placed as if ihey were beyond the pale of the constitution—(hear)—treated as vagabonds and marauders, and not allowed to meet even on the wayside to worship! (Cheers.) I say saints cannot subsist in that society. Suppose they force every man in the Free Church back into the churches of the Establishment, would that strengthen the Establishment? I say they would have within the Establishment men as prisoners within a well-guarded fortress, who would rise on the first opportunity, and overthrow their prison, that they might make their escape. (Cheers.) I was much struck by a remark which fell from Dr Wilson. It tended to show that intolerance exhibits the same front in every country. It is a remarkable thing that the Scotch lairds should be acting on the same principle as the Sultan at Constantinople. He would not allow a Christian Church to be built where one was not built before; but some of our landed proprietors prevented the building of churches where the people were accustomed to worship before. All I say to these persons, in the way of expostulation, is, to take care what they do. It is in vain for them to contend against our principles. The great priuciples which we hold were taught at the beginning of Christianity, and have never been put down. If our principles were of men, they would fail, but if they be of God, they cannot be put down. (Cheers.)

Rev. Mr M.Gillivray wished to express, in the name of the people of Sutherland, thanks for the aid and encouragement which had been given them. . Very unsuitable sites, had, in some instances, been given in Sutherland; and he declared, that he attributed the blame to the agents employed on the estates. He hoped no such expression of feeling would go forth from the Assembly, as that the people of Sutherland ought to take unsuitable sites, or that they were wrong in refusing them. He had heard people say they ought to take sites wherever they could get them; but in many instances this ought not to be done. In the parish of Lairg, which was about twenty miles long by ten broad, a site was given within half-a-mile of the farthest part of the parish ; while in another parish in the neighbourhood, a site had been given in the near vicinity of the parish church. This convinced him that the agents were to blame. He trusted that nothing would go forth from the Assembly indicating that the people ought to take unsuitable sites.

Rev. Mr M.Tavish of Ballichulish said he would take the liberty of mentioning a few facts to illustrate the state of matters in the district with which he was connected. It was well known to many here present, that the tent which his predecessor erected on the lands of M.Lean of Ardgour, was removed at his (M.Lean's) in.

He (Mr M.Tavish,) then placed it on Lochiel's properly, and wrote to him intimating this; shortly after, he received a letter, desiring it to be taken down; but since that, its erection had been tolerated, so that they had a covering beneath which to worship Jehovah. But no such permission had been granted on any part of the property of Sir James Riddle of Ardnamurchan, which was upwards of thirty miles in length, and with M.Lean of Ardgour's, gave upwards of fisty miles in this condition. Having been on terms of intimacy with Sir James some years ago, he had written him a strong letter on the subject, and not receiving an answer, sent him some time thereafter a copy thereof, with a postscript subjoined, and had for answer a request that he would cease writing to him. Sir J. professed great regard for the temporal and spiritual welfare of his people; but the large congregation at Strontian were prevented from worshipping God, except in the open air, all last winter, except on one Sabbath, on which they met in a tent which had been provided for them, and which was erected on that occasion without the factor's permission; and on one Sabbath they had to meet within the sea-mark during the ebb-tide, as the snow covered the ground, so that they could not sit on it with safety. Sir

James hoped, that by such means he would succeed in driving them back into a Church, the ministrations in which


« 上一頁繼續 »