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A CONTUMACIOUS BROTIIER.
when I solemnly protested against the proceeding; and the Presbytery would not entertain it, but required that I should be privately conferred with. Many weeks passed, but no one of them came near me, until the next meeting of the Presbytery was just at hand. Then the first mover of the matter waited upon me, and I laid before him the tract, instructing him to point me out the objectionable parts, when, to my amazement, he either would not or could not ; for though he shuffled over its leaves, he could not alight upon anything ; and then at length he said he would write what he objected to. But be never did it. I stood engaged to be in Ireland, and could not be present at the next meeting of Presbytery; yet in my absence he sought to force it on, and was again prevented by the Presbytery. When I returned, being appointed with two other members of Presbytery (for besides myself there were but three ministers in all), to confer with the young preacher referred to above, as desiring to withdraw his application for ordination, because he could not sign the Westminster Confession of Faith ; when the conference was over, these two brethren did request that we might converse together upon the tract; and they pointed out two or three passages in it to which they objected, for which kindness I was very thankful. But still the brother who had stood forth from time to time as my accuser took no opportunity of conferring with me whatever. And when, at the next meeting, he brought forward his motion indicting my book, and reading from it many passages to which he objected, I stood forth, and having first disabused the Presbytery, and also the people, of the errors laid to my charge, as if I taught that Christ sinned in instead of sanctifying our nature, I moved that the contumacious brother should be censured for setting at nought both the canon of the Lord and the order of the Presbytery, and be required to proceed regularly. But, to my astonishment and vexation, I found the very same Presbytery willing to indulge him, and these very members who had themselves sanctioned their own order by conferring privately with me. I then rose the second time, and signified to them what I could and what I could not submit to, the adjudication of that body of three ministers and as many elders, from whom I had no appeal. Everything which
IRVING SEPARATES FROM THE PRESBYTERY.
affected my conduct amongst them as a brother, I would submit to free censure and rebuke if necessary; but nothing affecting my standing as a preacher and ordained minister of the Church of Scotland, and as the minister of the National Scotch church in Regent Square, who, by the trust-deed, must be ordained by a Presbytery in Scotland, and not by the Presbytery of London. It was argued that I stood wholly and entirely at their tribunal; and when I perceived that there was nothing for it but either to give up my standing as a minister of Christ to the judgment of these six men, or to dissolve my voluntary connection with them, I resolved of the two evils to choose the least, and not to submit the authority of the Church of Scotland to the verdict of any six men in Christendom. And though I have tried my conscience much, I feel that I did right. But before taking this final step, I rose the third time and conjured them by every tie and obligation to Christ, to the Church, to myself personally, to my large and numerous flock, to the memory of my brotherly labours with and for them, to my acts of service and kindness to them individually, which I will not here, and did not there, enumerate, to take the regular process of the Lord's appointing, and I doubted not all would be well. Which when they would not do, I arose and went forth from them, appealing my cause to the Church of Scotland, who alone have rightful authority over me and my flock. The Presbytery, notwithstanding my solemn separation from their association, and likewise the separation of the elders of the National Church, and the whole Church with us, proceeded with their measures against me, and carried things to the utmost stretch of their power. For all which they are answerable at the bar of the Head of the Church, and not to
Another account of the same event, in which a greater degree of personal feeling and excitement appears, was contained in a letter which—a few days after the one previously quoted, in which he had arranged all the preliminaries of a Christmas visit to Scotland he addressed to Mr. Macdonald :
GIVES UP HIS PROPOSED VISIT TO SCOTLAND.
“MY VERY DEAR FRIEND, - I have now had an opportunity of consulting both my session and other influential men of the congregation, and they are all of one mind, that, even though it should precipitate the present mixture of good and evil in the Church, and bring down upon my head wrath, I should do it*; but not immediately, because of our own trials. The Presbytery of London, that is, three members, one of them just taking his leave, and another of them having oftentimes declared his agreement with me, and two elders, one of them having done the same,-these five persons, in the face of my protest against their power, Mr. Hamilton's against their injustice, and the elder of Woolwich and the elder of London Wall's entire disapprobation, have condemned my writings, excommunicated me from their body, and recommended their sentence to be read from the pulpits. Our session met last night and drew up, and subscribed with their hands, a solemn testimony to the truths taught by me and held by us; and I have added a brief explanation of the principles on which I acted by the Presbytery and the Presbytery by me; and it will be published in all ways, and read from our pulpit next Sabbath. We are as one man, blessed be the Lord, and so is all my flock. What a grace!
“ Nevertheless, some thought that I should be at my place for a few Sabbaths, and I wished every day to visit the flock and establish them. So that we must pass from the Christmas recess, and without at present saying when, hope and pray that it may be as soon as possible.
should see any likelihood of its being perverted send me instant notice, and I will come at all hazards rather than lose the opportunity, which I perceive to be a golden one. My plans are the same for the subjects as in my last letter. If any change arise I will communicate. Now pray much for us here, because there are many enemies; but, oh, what a wide door, and effectual! The Lord has given me the honour of being the first to suffer; blessed be His name!
“ Your faithful friend and brother,
“ EDWARD IRVING.”
Referring to his projected sermons in Edinburgh.
FRIGHT AND AGREEMENT OF THE PRESBYTERY.
This somewhat wilful and lofty step of denying the jurisdiction of the London Presbytery, left Irving in an isolated position, which, though it did not in any respect, as yet, injure his external standing, touched his brotherly heart. He seems to have intrenched himself stoutly, like the impracticable visionary man he was, behind that divine rule of procedure, which has long ceased to be, if ever it was, the rule of ecclesiastical proceedings. To require men to do, even in Church matters, exactly and literally what their Lord tells them, is a thing few think of attempting ; and the ordinary spectator will doubtless sympathise to some extent with that hapless Presbytery of London, whom the great preacher, in the simplicity of his heart, called to private conference with himself, before they ventured on public condemnation. He was not aware, as his unfortunate accuser was, that in private conference, the weaker man naturally goes to the wall; nor could comprehend, in his ingenuous greatness, how antagonists, so unfit to cope with him individually, might be glad to huddle together, and express, in what
, language of condemnation they could, their confused sense of something beyond them, which they could neither consent to nor understand. Nothing can be more expressive than that pertinacious agreement which, when they were thus put to it, united the alarmed presbyters, each man of whom well knew that, in private conference, he must infallibly break down and yield. They seized their opportunity with a vulgar but wise perception of it, refusing the perilous ordeal of private personal encounter; and with a lofty indignation, which might be almost arro
ISOLATION OF IRVING.
gance, were one to name it harshly, the accused arose and went forth. He had no insight into that expedient of weakness. He called that harshly injustice, which was mere fright and natural human poltroonery — and so left them, giving, in his own elevated thoughts, a certain grandeur to the petty persecution. Henceforth he was alone in his labours and troubles; no triumphant gladness of conscious orthodoxy, because the Presbytery had so decided, could hereafter give assurance to his own personal certainty. They of his own house had lifted
up their heel against him. Notwithstanding all his independence, the profound loyalty of his soul was henceforward balked of its healthful necessities. The only authority which could now harm or help him, the sole power he recognised,—was distant in Scotland, apart from the scene of his warfare and the knowledge of his work, judging coldly, not even without a touch of jealous prejudice. He was cast unnaturally free of restraint and power; that lawful, sweet restraint, that power endowed with all visionary excellences and graces, to which the tender dutifulness so seldom wanting to great genius naturally clings. It was hard, it was sad,— it was almost fatal work for Irving. He could not live without that support and solace; and when this disjunction was accomplished, he found his presbytery, his authority, the needful concurrence and command which were indispensable to him, in other things.
The statement drawn up by the Session, to which he refers above, was as follows: