« PoprzedniaDalej »
was absolute, and hesitation or compromise unknown. They confronted each other for a moment, a wonderful spectacle; the prophet soul bestowing lofty benedictions upon the awed and wondering statesman. It is a picture with which we may well close the record of this momentous year.
year 1831 dawned upon Irving solemnly, full of all the prognostics of approaching fate. He was himself separated from the little ecclesiastical world which had hitherto represented to him the Church of his country and his heart. The Presbytery, in which he had heretofore found a sufficient symbol of ecclesiastical authority, and which stood in the place of all those venerable institutions of Church government and legislation on which he had lavished the admiration and reverence of his filial heart, had rejected him, and been rejected by him. While still strenuously upholding his own title to be considered a minister of the Church of Scotland, he stood isolated from all the fellowships and restraints of Presbyterianism, virtually separatedthough always refusing to believe in or admit that separation — from the Church upon which he still and always looked with so much longing love. His closest and most prized friends were in actual conflict with the same ecclesiastical authorities ; or at least with the
popular courts and theological controversialists, who were all that Scotland had to represent the grave and patient authority of the Church. Mr. Campbell, of Row, after
years of apostolical labour, the efficacy of which was testified by the whole district which his influence pervaded, a man whose vital piety and apostolical life nobody could impugn; and Mr. Maclean, younger, less wise, but not less a faithful servant of his Master, were both struggling for bare existence in the Church, and approaching the decision of their fate within her bounds. Their names were identified and united with that of the solitary champion in London, whose forlorn but dauntless standard had risen for years among all the enmities which can be encountered by man. He who had not hesitated to adopt the cause of both with warm enthusiasm, stood far off in his solitude, watching, with a heart that ached over his own powerlessness to avert it, the approaching crisis, at which his beloved Church was, according to his conception, to deny the truth, and condemn her own hopes and future life in the persons of these “ defenders” at her bar.
. Nearer home, Mr. Scott had temporarily withdrawn from the contest, which, in his case also, was to be decided at the sitting of the General Assembly, in the ensuing May. Without even that dangerous but beloved henchman at his elbow, supported only by an assistant, who, doubtless entirely conscientious and trustworthy so long as his support lasted, was yet to fail him in his hour of need, Irving stood alone, at the head of his Session, clinging to that last prop of the ecclesiastical order in which during all his former life his soul had delighted. Condemned by his Presbytery, and held in suspicion by the distant Church to which he owed allegiance, the little local consistory stood by him loyally, without an appearance as yet of division.
REFERENCE TO THE MOTHER CHURCH.
Every man of them had come forward in his defence and justification, to set their name and credit to the stake on which he had put his heart and life. They were his earliest and closest friends in London, stout Churchmen, pious Christians, sufficiently Scotch and ecclesiastical, attached to all the traditions of the Church, to make it possible to forget that they stood, a little recalcitrant community, and “inferior court,” in opposition to the orthodox jurisdiction of the next superior circle of rulers. Minister and Session alike delivered themselves triumphantly from this dilemma, by direct reference to the Church of Scotland. It is possible that a little unconscious jesuitry lay in this appeal; for the Church of Scotland was as powerless to interfere on the southern side of the Tweed, as the Bishop of London would be on the north ; and so long as the minister of the National Scotch Church refrained from asking anything from her, could not interfere, otherwise than by distant and ineffectual censures, with his proceedings. Such, however, was the attitude they assumed ; a position not dissimilar from that of certain English clergymen in Scotland, who, professing to be of the English Church, refuse the jurisdiction of the Scottish Episcopal, and live bishopless, and beyond the reach of government, in visionary allegiance to their distant mother.
Amid all these outward agitations, Irving's heart still throbbed with personal sorrows and joys; from the sad experience of the former comes the following letter, written to his sister, Mrs. Fergusson and her husband, on the loss, so well known to himself, of one of their children :
THE USURY OF TEARS.
“London, 17th January, 1831. “MY DEAR BROTHER AND SISTER, —You have at length been made to prove the bitterest of mortal trials, and to feel it is a season of peculiar grace to the people of God. George* felt desirous to answer your letter communicating the painful information, and I was glad to permit him, that you may see he has not forgotten you. I think he is very true-hearted and honest in his affections.
“Now, my dear brethren, while you are exercised with this sorrow, while the wound and smart of it is still fresh in your hearts, be exercised much in faith and prayer towards God, in humility, and repentance, and confession of sin for all your house. That being exercised with the affliction, you may be made partakers of His holiness. I remember well when I lost my darling Edward: it taught me two lessons; the first, how little I had dealt faithfully towards God in his baptism, not having surrendered him altogether to the Lord, and used him as the Lord's stewardship, to be surrendered when it seemed good to his Father and to my Father. Let me pray you to take this view of the children who are still spared to you. The second lesson which I learned was, to know how little of human existence is on this side the grave, and by how much the better and nobler portion of it is in eternity. This comforted me exceedingly, and I seek to comfort you with the consolation with which I have myself been comforted of Christ.
“For our own affairs, I have had much to suffer for the truth's sake since I was with you, and expect to have much more to suffer in the course of not many months. I know not where nor how it is to come, but I know it is coming; and in the foreview of it, I ask your prayers and the prayers of all the faithful near you.
Early in the year, the mournful household was gladdened by another prosperous birth, that of the only surviving son of the family, Martin Irving, now Principal of the University of Melbourne. On this occasion, Irving, writing to his father-in-law, Dr. Martin,
* His younger brother, then practising as a surgeon in London.