§ Order read, for resuming adjourned debate on Amendment to Question [4th July], "That the Bill be now read a second time."
Which Amendment was—
To leave out all the words after the word 'That,' and at the end of the Question to add the words 'in the opinion of this House no approval should be given to any measure which has the effect of giving an Established Church this right to change or modify its creeds, or any formula of subscription thereto, without such change or modification being submitted to and specifically sanctioned by Parliament.'"—(Mr. Alfred Hutton.)
§ Question again proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."
§ *MR. COMPTON RICKETT (Scarborough)
, who was speaking in support of the Amendment on the adjournment of the debate, resumed his speech in support of the Amendment. He said that objection was strongly felt by many in Scotland, and by many more Noncomformists in England, to the introduction of Clause 5 into this Bill. He was fully aware that the differences in Scotland between the Established Church and the Free Churches were not so marked as those in England; they were more largely those appertaining to the ecclesiastical rather than to the theological side, whereas between the Church of England and Nonconformity the differences were theological as well as ecclesiastical. At the same time the principle involved was the same. He was quite aware that the Established Church 416 in Scotland had claimed for a long time the right to modify or regulate its own creeds, but he supposed it was the judgment given in the case of the United Free Church that had startled her persuading her friends to introduce this clause into the present Bill. They had endangered their claim by the course they had pursued. They had thought it right to raise in that House the whole question of Establishment by asking the State to give them powers which they were supposed already to possess. The religious difficulties which had provoked the trouble in Scotland at the present time, and which had brought about the introduction of this Bill, were contained in the 5th Clause, because really at the bottom of the whole difficulty, as he was informed, was a question of doctrine rather than of money.
The Bill had been introduced on the ground that it affected questions of property which required immediate solution, but, in fact, the movement which had been going on for a long time in the Church of Scotland had proved too much for the consistency of many of its ministers and some of its laity. Endeavouring to put themselves right, they had provoked a revolution, and had brought under the purview of this House the whole question of their position. The Bill had nothing to do with the Established Church except it were argued that if they were to give freedom to one Church it would be right to give it to all. He would like to point out that a great number of the English Nonconformist Churches had trust deeds similar to those which had given rise to this controversy in Scotland; that they were tied hard and fast by articles and formula from 1662 to 1690. Many of these Churches were already feeling the strain, and sooner or later would have to appeal to Parliament for relief. When that time came it would be pointed out that Scotland was willing to grant freedom to her spiritual brotherhood, and it would be argued that they ought to make the same concessions to the Church of England freeing her from bonds forged 250 years ago; bonds entirely contrary to the spirit of the age, practically ignored by the Free Churches and Established alike. On this account they 417 were bound closely to inquire into the reasons claimed for this relief to be granted to the Established Church of Scotland.
On the part of those whom he represented he disclaimed the idea that their opposition was inspired by jealousy of the supremacy of one Church, or of resentment against certain concessions. Their feeling was much more serious and deep. It was with surprise he observed that many in Scotland who entertained the same views with regard to Establishment as the members of the Free Churches of England were prepared to allow the Second Reading of this Bill, when they must be aware, and were aware, that Clause 5 embodied a grave principle. They held that there were two spheres—the sphere of the Church and the sphere of the State. The Church had an undoubted right to regulate its formularies and maintain its own order and discipline. Any claim she made to influence the State should be through individuals rather than by national methods, atmospheric rather than legal. He acknowleged that it was the duty of Parliament to listen to any appeal made to it by the Church of Scotland to modify or regulate her formularies. But, as matters stood, Parliament had not been told whether the Church of Scotland really desired that this power should be exercised—entrusted to a chance majority, it might be a majority of one. Parliament was bound to see that the interest of the minority in the Church was protected; that it should not be possible for a small, and perhaps uncertain, majority to make it difficult for the minority, on a matter of conscience, to remain in the Church of their fathers. To his mind the clause did not seem to be seriously drawn.
The freedom offered was either of no consequence, a matter of words, or it would go to the very foundation of the creed of the Church of Scotland. There were hundreds in the ministry who would never dare publicly to state their adherence to particular clauses in the Westminster Confession of Faith because they knew that whatever may have been the value of such a 418 declaration to a past age it would be outrageous to endeavour to give effect to such statements in the present. They were asked to recognise a revolutionary movement, the complement of the Reformation. That great deliverance was a moral reaction, from Catholicism, not an intellectual revival. The freedom desired affected not only the Protestant Churches, but all friends of liberty. He appealed to those who were indifferent to religion to secure for the Churches of this country the right to revise their creeds. Liberty was not a matter of compartments—freedom in Church life favoured democratic extension. But the State must effect this reform in the measured way, not by carelessly surrendering its control to the first indefinite appeal for revision.
§ MR. CRIPPS (Lancashire, Stretford)
said he had had some difficulty in following the argument of the hon. Member opposite. He had referred to this clause as being so abstruse that it could never be put into effective force. He thought that showed that the hon. Member opposite could not have studied the constitution of the Scotch Church, because what he had called an abstruse principle was but a well-known method adopted by the Scotch Church when it desired to take collective action.
§ MR. COMPTON RICKETT
said that his complaint was not that it was abstruse, but that it was so simple that it would be unworkable.
§ MR. CRIPPS
said this principle was at work every day, and had been at work for over 200 years, and it had been found not only to afford protection to the minority, but it had given fair weight to the views of the majority. He did not think it was possible to find a more effective system than that which had been worked out in the Church of Scotland. He wished to protest against introducing English difficulties and views on Church questions in a Scotch Bill. It ought to be realised that they were not dealing with one of those very bitter questions between Low Churchmen and Churchmen who held different views. They ought to put that entirely out of sight upon this occasion, 419 because it had nothing to do with the Scotch measure. The constitution of the Scotch Church was entirely different to the constitution of the English Church. The Scotch Church had liberty as regarded its Court for Church purposes, and this had always been denied to the Church of England. Surely English Members interested in the Church question ought not to seek under any guise to introduce into what had hitherto been a friendly feeling amongst all Presbyterian bodies those somewhat bitter troubles which, in his opinion, had done so much to endanger the true influence of religion in this country. He was somewhat astonished, the other day, to hear one of the hon. Members for Liverpool say that he could not imagine the idea of a National Church which had spiritual independence. There was no difficulty whatever in the Scotch Church in regard to this point. What was called the Disruption of the Free Church in the year 1843 took place on that very principle, which he thought was a very sound principle on all matters affecting Church government. In 1843 they disrupted because they thought they could have complete spiritual independence.
Considering this question purely as a Scotch matter, what was really being asked for? The hon. Member who had just sat down must feel that a Church to be effective in the best form ought to have a power of adaptation in its spiritual life to the growing opinions of the country from time to time. What objection was there to this particular section. He was not cognisant of Scotch opinion, but he had had many opportunities of gathering some forms of Scotch opinion, and he supposed that everyone interested in the religious question was very cognisant of Scotch religious history, which he thought was a great honour to Scotland, because no religious history went more deeply into truth and sincerity than the religious history of Scotland. He did not know whether hon. Members remembered the proposal of his right hon. and learned friend the Attorney-General upon this point, but it was thoroughly discussed and considered, and it was embodied in a measure which was known as Mr. Finlay's Bill. That measure was thoroughly, discussed and 420 it had everyone's approval who was interested in the true religious life of Scotland. [Cries of "Oh, oh!"] At any rate it had a very large measure of approval. It was quite absurd to suggest that this clause which had been introduced in the Bill and the principle upon which it was founded had not been thoroughly considered in the religious life of Scotland. He appealed to members of his own Church and to opponents as well in this House not to send their Church troubles where they were not felt. He hoped they would for once forget their own friction and let them now look into the truth and sincerity of a proposal of this kind. If they did that he thought they would be almost unanimous in supporting Clause 5 of this Bill. As far as he was concerned he did not seek to make a precedent out of something which was done under different conditions in the Scotch Church. He rather looked at the constitution of the Scotch Church and at its history in order to see what had been done in the past and to get to know what the religious feeling of the country desired. He hoped they would not introduce their own little religious bitternesses and difficulties, but, on the contrary, do all they could to introduce the true religious reform which was embodied in Section 5 of this Bill.
He understood that upon this particular Amendment they would be allowed to discuss a little more generally the principles of the Bill. In the first place he wished most heartily to congratulate the Lord-Advocate both upon his speech and upon the terms of this Bill. He wished to make one or two suggestions which perhaps the Government might see their way to carry out. If he thought that the Bill interfered with religious trusts or that it upset the decision of the House of Lords he would not be in favour of it. He agreed entirely with what had been said on that point. He agreed with almost every word of the admirable Report of the Commission to which this question was remitted. He would quote what the Report said in order that his opinion might be exactly understood. The word son page 17 of the Report were—The Legislature cannot reverse or nullify the final decision of the Law Courts without a violation of constitutional principle much more mischievous than any consequence, however 421 harsh, which may follow from the legal decision in a particular case.He entirely agreed with that.
§ MR. JOHN MORLEY (Montrose Burghs)
Do you agree that Parliament cannot upset a decision of the House of Lords?
§ MR. CRIPPS
said Parliament could, of course, do anything. They could pass a Bill of Attainder. They could pass a Bill to cut the right hon. Gentleman's head off. He never said they had not the power to do it. He was talking of whether it was right in principle.
§ MR. JOHN MORLEY
Does the right hon. Gentleman say that it is not right in principle for Parliament to take legislative action against the judgment of the Supreme Court.
§ ME. CRIPPS
said he had quoted the words of the Commission itself. Of course, there might be cases where it would be absolutely essential for Parliament to interfere. Everyone could imagine that there were special instances in which Parliament might very properly and according to every principle of justice interfere with a decision. The question referred to the Commission was whether the Free Church of Scotland, in whose favour the decision was given, could adequately administer the trust funds which they would have to administer under the decision of the House of Lords. The answer given to that was a very important matter. On page 22 the Report said that where it appeared that the Free Church were unable adequately to execute the trusts the Commission—that was, the Commission to be created by this Bill—should be empowered to see that the property was administered in accordance with the trusts affecting it. Therefore, what the Commission reported was that the Free Church in whom the funds had been vested by the decision of the House of Lords was unable adequately to administer those trusts. In dealing with the surplus which the Free Church was unable to administer, of course in a case 422 of this kind everyone would admit that the persons to administer the funds were the United Free Church. In the preamble of the Bill the question of religious trusts was made a very important matter. The words were—Whereas questions have arisen as to property between the Free Church and the United Free Church in Scotland, and judgments have been given by the Courts in favour of the Free Church. And whereas a Royal Commission appointed to inquire into the matter have reported that the Free Church are unable adequately to carry out all the trusts of the property, and that it is desirable to provide for the allocation thereof, provision being made for the equipment of the Free Church—To his mind the principle laid down by the Royal Commission and the principle in the preamble of the Bill was the absolutely just and proper method of dealing with the undoubted difficulty which had arisen. It was to the honour of the Government that they appointed the Royal Commission and proposed this Bill. He had some heart-searchings when he first saw the Bill as to whether it adequately recognised the conditions brought about by the decision of the House of Lords. That was the question which he thought most people would ask themselves when they were considering whether the Bill was justly framed or not. It appeared to him that it did on the whole adequately recognise the position brought about by the decision of the House of Lords. If the Bill had gone the length of disregarding that altogether and merely bringing the funds into a hotchpotch and giving no powers to the Commission, then he thought it would have been wrong in principle. It would have come within the very evils pointed out by the Royal Commission and might have led to a bad precedent in future. It was obvious from what the Lord-Advocate said that in the provisions of the Bill itself he had recognised—he was not now going to say how far the recognition went—all the rights of the Free Church, having regard to the fact that in the litigation they had succeeded—whether rightly or not was a matter with which the House had nothing to do at the present moment. This was a matter of law, which had been decided once for all. It was upon these grounds, and realising the great necessity of dealing properly with a matter of this kind, that 423 he should strongly support the proposal of the Government.
The Free Church was very desirous of effecting an arrangement with regard to the division of the property. He thought that was the right spirit in a matter of this kind. It ought to be made possible to settle by arrangement between the parties interested. He recognised that the only way outside of an arrangement between the parties themselves was the way suggested in the Bill. The fairest possible outside body must be got in order to settle the difficulty which, he thought, most people would have wished had been settled by the two parties themselves. With these reservations he hoped the Bill would go through without any introduction of what was threatened in regard to English sectarian questions in reference to Clause 5. If it did he thought a great act of justice would be done without any interference with what was the true principle in a case of this sort. He hoped the settlement might be final, and that these two great bodies, deeply permeated with the religious missionary spirit, deeply permeated with an earnest desire to carry out religious life in Scotland, would forget any friction which had arisen, concentrate their attention on what was their true vocation, and do what they could to encourage and keep alive the religious spirit of Scotland with as little animosity as they could.
§ *MR. THOMAS SHAW (Hawick Burghs)
said the speech to which they had just listened was interesting in two particulars. For a full half of it, it bore on the Bill only in respect of one clause; and as that clause appeared to have been an entirely unnecessary introduction of foreign matter alongside of the substantial remedy which was to be effected by the measure, he could only say that that speech was one of the many illustrations in the course of this debate, how, from the Parliamentary point of view, the Government had done the very best thing to complicate, to protract, and to harass the discussion of what would otherwise have been very simple. His hon. friend the Member for Shropshire had taken a true view of the Barrier Act. His hon. friend the Member 424 for Scarborough did not seem to be aware that for a couple of hundred years they had transacted their Presbyterian Government by the aid of the caution and the efficiency secured by the Barrier Act—a most excellent method under Presbyterian form of obtaining general and local agreement as to what should be the method of government for the Church. But, on the other-hand, the reference to the Barrier Act seemed to him entirely to condemn Clause 5. That clause was radically to effect a change in the sense of empowering the Church to alter its creed, but the Barrier Act, which was specifically made for the purpose of consulting the entire body of Church opinion in Scotland, and which would have secured the precautions and efficiency alluded to, was never put into effect before this Bill was Tabled in the House of Commons. In short, it was one of the most remarkable feats of Parliamentary dexterity that he remembered, that the Assembly passed a Resolution requesting a certain most important constitutional change to be made, and, within a week of this complaint, the Government embodied it in a Bill without the Church of Scotland through its organised machinery being consulted at all.
His hon. friend said there had been great peace in Scotland—peace in the development of ecclesiastical and theological progress. How had it been achieved? It had been achieved in the only sound method of achieving freedom in the evolution of theological opinion, viz., by throwing off the trammels of State support and control. The noblest chapters in the history of Scotland were those which were allied with religious dissent from organised authority attempted to be imposed upon Church Courts and the freedom and self-government which they should represent. These chapters had had an influence on the history of England, and had gone largely to make up the strong foundation of that British liberty which they enjoyed to-day. But all that had not been done under the cover of Royal authority or of Established religion. It had been done apart from it, and very often in defiance of it. If they had achieved peace in Scotland to-day in.
425 religious matters it was because they had bought it with a price. Therefore, for those within the Establishment who now not unnaturally looked to this juncture of affairs as one which might be used with profit to their interests, they should have perforce in consequence of observations on these debates to be pointed to what he and his friends thought a worthier and better remedy, namely, that Presbyterian union, ecclesiastical peace, and ecclesiastical freedom were more likely to be achieved not within but outside the trammels of the Establishment.
With regard to the observations in connection with Clause 5, the House would observe that so extremely dilatory were the tactics of the Government that it was almost impossible for any speech to be delivered without being largely occupied with substantially a Committee point. So introduced it was apt to confuse and harass the action of Members of Parliament who dealt with it as a matter of principle. He ventured to cross swords with his hon. and learned friend opposite who had dealt on a legal point which he had raised. He did not absent for one instant to the two lines cited from the Report of the Royal Commission. There was nothing de jure unconstitutional in a British Parliament reversing the decision of a judicial tribunal, however lofty. The whole question could be summed up in the old brocard which he employed, viz., Summum jus, summa injuria. To those who, like himself, had followed with deep and sympathetic interest the whole of those proceedings since the decision of the House of Lords on August 1st of last year, he should say that there never was a case more clearly made out of Summa injuria on a colossal, a national, and a religious scale. And if he had not been able to devise another method of getting all the remely really demanded, while paying formal deference to the judgment of the House to Lords—if he had not been able to excogitate that system for himself he should have had no hesitation whatever in taking the field as an advocate of the repeal of the judgment of the House of Lords. That was a strong thing for 426 anyone in his position to say; but he thought it was constitutionally defended by the maxim that you could not allow any permanent disturbance of social order and social peace to be effected on merely technical grounds, and apart from an inquiry into facts. But having said that with regard to his hon. and learned friend's argument, he rejoiced to learn from him—and he learned it with a shock of surprise—that the Free Church of Scotland was ready and willing to make an arrangement. That was a most admirable frame of mind; but he wished they had heard of it a little earlier.
In the course of this discussion the hon. member for Dumbartonshire seemed to throw on the Table of the House something in the nature of a sealed tender from the Free Church of Scotland, and they were asked to put in a counter scaled tender. This was the situation they had now reached—that the body which, from the beginning to this very day, had insisted on the last ounce and pound of its legal rights, was now confronted with the manifest intention of Parliament not to permit this great wrong to be continued, and was now in a position to say that it was willing to make an arrangement. Well, it was not too late; but they must have their Commission. And before the Commission the Free Church might then renew the operations which were hoped for in a former case, and which Lord Elgin and his colleagues alluded to when they said that all prospects of peace were very soon clouded when the Free Church witnesses entered the witness-box. The general situation touched by the Bill was very strange. In the midst of a law-abiding people at least one-third of the entire population of Scotland—represented in the United Free Church, a Church of unbounded, almost fabulous, Christian liberality—had been stripped entirely of its property. They had in that Church many men and women still alive who cherished the memories of the Disruption. But the Disruption was greatly different from the present ease, because in the Disruption they were dissevered from the provision made for them and their families by the State; whereas now, under the decision of the House of Lords, they had been stripped of and dissevered from the 427 very work and contributions of their own hands. The Scotch Judges took the sensible view of the situation which had been universally approved, apart from technical rule, by the judgment of the people at large—yet they were to-day discussing a Bill the urgency for which could not be concealed, for men were being dispossessed of their churches, their homes, and their dearest associations, and this was all done in respect of an appeal to the judgment of the House of Lords!
Certain misapprehensions existed as to the action of the United Free Church after the decision in Scotland, and before its reversal by the Lords. The Press of the country had been on the whole extremely just on this matter. He regretted for one that newspapers like The Times had, no doubt entirely unintentionally, been misled with regard to what they considered was some initial harshness on the part of the United Free Church. Let him state what was the position? Each minister of the Free Church who did not enter the Union was left in undisturbed possession of his manse. The congregations of each and all of those ministers were left in undisturbed possession of their churches. The congregations which did not wish to enter the Union were left in undisturbed possession of their church property: and no retired minister or evangelical agent of the Church who held office under the old regime, but who did not desire to enter the Union—not one of these men was deprived of his office or retiring allowance. Therefore, there was justice in every aspect of this treatment of the small minority by the United Free Church of Scotland. He could not understand how a delusion to an opposite effect, propagated from a quarter with regard to which he had his views, could have taken root so far, and spread even to The Times.
As to the decision itself which they were now remedying, for, after all, it was a reversal which was needed, he might say that there were many false and ignorant expectations of what would be done when the House of Lords pronounced its judgment on August 1st. These expectations—false and ignorant as they were—did not arise so much in 428 English as in what he would call Anglified minds—those superior persons who, being in Scotland, had imbibed Prelatic notions and extraordinary ideas as to the majesty of the law and how people should crouch before it. That kind of mind was shocked at the idea that the Scottish people should stand up against this judgment of the House of Lords. In the first place, they said, "Go back on the Union and wipe it out." He had been connected with the Union movement ever since its inception. A finer movement never existed; less sordid in its motives, prompted more by commanding liberal views; and no more enlightened appreciation of that Union was ever delivered than by the Prime Minister himself on its consummation. The Prime Minister, however, spoke before the Lord Chancellor spoke. Therefore, when it was said that they ought to go back on the Union and undo it, all he could say was that those who urged that plea little knew either the trend or fibre of the Scottish character. When, again, it was said, "Now that the decision has been given and it is indicated in the Lords decision that you have not the spiritual independence which you claimed, you had better sacrifice spiritual independence for the sake of the properties,"—little did persons who said that know of Scottish history. They in Scotland had in the past been able fearlessly to scrutinise all the dicta of authority, and when they found any device under which it would be made easy for them to get property if only they conformed to the law, they had a very strong suspicion of the policy of what such conformity might mean. In the mind of a Scotsman who had been born and bred in the traditions of his country, he had to see, in the first place, before he would conform to the law, whether the law conformed to those rights of a free people and to those moral equities without which the law was rather akin to brute force than to the reasoned expression of a people's will. History over and over again in Scotland had put authority, legal or Royal, in its proper place; and the people who were accustomed to stand erect before the head that wore a crown were not likely to crouch before the head that wore a wig.
429 But in the next place, how false and ignorant were those expectations, when it was supposed that they who belonged to the United Free Church were about to allow the sacred work itself to suffer and the sacred trust itself to go derelict in the hands of those who were unable to administer it. He quite admitted, from his own point of view, that he had cut before the point in this matter. He was so well apprised as to how matters stood, that from his first deliverance made on the subject on September 17th he went straight and clear for an Executive Commission. After all, if they were to reach firm ground on this matter, the House must go back to the time when there was no prospect of or temptation in respect of property on either hand; that was to say to 1900, in order to see the true relative proportions and powers of the parties. The result of the decision was that property of 300,000 people was to be given to be administered by 4,000; that 1,159 ministers were to be stripped of all their ecclesiastical possessions, and that all their duties were to be performed by twenty-seven ministers; and that 1,104 congregations were to surrender to twenty-six. Such a situation outraged the sense of justice, interfered with the prospects of ordinary Christian duty, and imperilled social peace. This kind of legality was very provocative of disrespect for the law and of lawlessness; and it was only because the people were strong in the belief that this House would act justly that they had borne the ordeal with such dignity and patience. It was for that reason that he regretted the delay in the introduction of the Bill. The general property affected amounted, roughly, to £2,000,000; the congregational property affected amounted to £6,000,000. It was truly because the magic word "trust" ignored the distinction between the dead hand and the living organism that the present situation had arisen.
The decision of the House of Lords might be good law—of that they had their own opinion—but it put Scotchmen in a hard case. The work would have to be carried on; and, therefore, he would revert to the situation before the Union. It was carried on then, not by accumulated funds, but by annual contributions—the work not 430 of the dead hand but of the living organism to which he had referred—the living Church. Out of £170,158 for home work, the Free Church—the successful litigant—only contributed £947. Thus far as to work at home. Then as regarded work abroad, missions had been, supported with the approval and admiration of all Christian men, and the United Free Church contributed £75,000 as against £320 by the other. It was from this point of view that the decision of the House of Lords should be regarded. For every £ required—absolutely required for home work—the successful litigants contributed only 4d., and for every £ required for foreign work the successful party only contributed 3d. The result was the serious prospect of a great dereliction of the trust accompanied by personal sufferings, religious loss, and sheer illegality. He rejoiced at the statement of the Prime Minister that the numerous litigations begun since the judgment of the House of Lords would not affect the judgment of the House of Commons in connection with this Bill. Yet, notwithstanding, what the Prime Minister and the Royal Commission said, the Free Church went on with litigation after litigation and had interdicted over a 100 congregations.
He had suggested that there should be an Executive Commission right away. The Government not unnaturally hesitated: they required to be convinced as to the necessity; they instituted inquiry; the Royal Commission was appointed; and its Report confirmed entirely his original view. The Royal Commission stated—It is not, we think, inconsistent with respect for the decision to say that while the legal title of the Free Church has been placed beyond question, it is still to be noted that for practical purposes it is only an inconsiderable minority of the original and undivided Free Church, apart from the single divergence from the original constitution which has deprived it of its claim to be identified with the Church of the Disruption, it does still, for all practical purposes, answer the description of the institution which the endowments obtained on Dr. Chalmer's circular were intended to maintain.Then as to whether the Free Church could adequately execute the trust, the Commissioners stated—It appears to us that if they were to undertake to administer them according to their terms they must almost certainly fail.431 Parliament was, therefore, apprised of the fact that unless measures were taken, there must be a dereliction of trust. The Commissioners were anxious to give effect to the views of the hon. and learned Member for the Stretford Division; but they could not. They stated—But there is no evidence that anything of the kind is even probable. At the utmost it may gain a few congregations or even a few thousands of additional adherents at the expense of a deplorable amount of animosity and bad feeling.Therefore, from the date of that Report the way was as clear as day if the Government wished to be loyal to the Commission and not to mix the matter up with anything else. But the Free Church, intoxicated with the view taken by the House of Lords of their legal rights, had done many strong things. They hurried on their interdicts, obtaining over fifty of them after they saw that the Royal Commission was likely to decide or had decided against them. They worked on the principle of the penny-in-the-slot. They put in the House of Lords' judgment and pulled out a church. A splendid idea front the Scottish point of view, because they had all the advantage of the penny-in the-slot arrangement, without even contributing the penny. Throughout all this there was one man who held a firm and just view. That was Lord Dunedin. His conduct was beyond all praise. He had heard both sides before appointing the Commission; then he acted with firmness, promptitude and decision. And as regarded the Commissioners they had every reason to be satisfied with the fulness and accuracy of the inquiry. He regretted that they had not been given a freer hand. That would have given more simplicity with reference to the framing of the Bill; and greater elasticity, freedom, and justice in working out the scheme. As to the pooling of funds he had heard the speech which the Lord Advocate addressed to the House with a great feeling of relief. The Free Church agreed to the original proposal of this Bill because they could put their hands into the general pocket and scoop out anything they desired for undefined purposes. The Commission said—It is manifest that they can make no proper use of churches and manses in districts where 432 they have few or no adherents, and to turn real property appropriated to special purposes into money which might be applied to the general purposes of their Church would, in our opinion, amount to a breach of trust.Would the House believe it? That was the very breach of trust which this Bill in its original shape was going to sanction! He was glad to know that the pooling scheme had been abandoned. Still he should like to have the exact alteration which the Government proposed; and he would suggest the committal of the Bill pro forma in order that they might have an opportunity of seeing the changes in type.
The Bill spoke of "adequate" provision for the Free Churches. What did that mean? Adequate provision had meant in the past a provision, the main portion, of which consisted of annual free will offerings on the part of the people themselves. But this Bill abandoned, or appeared to abandon that; it was merely a scheme for the creation of perpetual endowments, and that was a system which even the successful litigants could scarcely have the confidence to claim because it was a system which was inconsistent with their best traditions. To all appearance this was a body which would have little-living force or progress in the country, and he did not say this in any hostile sense because they were entitled to their belief, but they really appeared to be little hope of that Church ever growing into a great progressive body in Scotland. They were perpetuating a cause with little real vitality, and in religious matters the worst policy that could be adopted was to give permanence to the external body regardless of the vital spirit within. All over Scotland would be seen the spectacle of "Tulchan" churches, imitation calves stuffed with hay which were put down in front of the cows in order to help to extract milk from the cow. If separate endowments were to be set up, where were they to come from? Out of the offering of the members of the Free Church community as capitalised. And these bodies were to be set up, and were to be lodged in buildings given to them for nothing, and were to be supported by endowments to which they had not contributed a farthing. They would have just enough appearance of 433 establishment as to enable them to extract the milk from that good cow the United Free Church. It was very necessary, therefore, to get at the mind of the Government and see what they meant by adequate provision.
With regard to the congregational arrangements he did not think the Government fully realised that they had in their hands material for settling the arrangements for the ownership of the churches in the model trust deed of the Free Church itself. That deed was most ably drawn, and had stood the tests of sixty years, and was ingenious, simple, and perfectly equitable. It was sufficient to remember that the Free Church had in view the fact that a question might arise as to which was the true Free Church, and in such event it settled what the arrangement was to be. This was the language of the Act of Assembly in 1844—That the congregational property which is ordinarily to be regulated by the majority of the Assembly should, in the event of a split in the Church, be determined by a majority of the congregation, whatever the Courts of law may determine as to which of the contending parties is to be held to be the Free Church.The congregation in each case was to be allowed to determine that matter for itself and to determine it by a majority. They had, he thought, with regard to this matter, hotter go back to the old practice of the majority ruling, and that all these proposals as to thirds and fourths should disappear forever. That something of this kind had been expected was perfectly clear from what had happened in the history of the Free Church. And Lord Davey, who delivered judgment in the House of Lords, made utterances in the same sense. In a letter published in The Times on the 26th September Lord Davey said—If I had been asked (which I was not) I should have suggested that each congregation should retain its property and be at liberty, by vote of the members, to join either one party or the other.But what had been going on? Take one or two instances, say the case of Campbelltown. The property was worth £10,000, there was an endowment of £1,180, a membership of 700, and there was an adherence of 430. There were nearly 2,000 souls attached to that congregation. On the 30th of August last, at the end of 434 the month in which the House of Lords judgment was pronounced, the Campbell town congregation met and decided formally that they would adhere to the Union, but on the 17th September the following advertisement appeared in the Argyllshire Herald, a paper published in Campbelltown—All friends in Campbeltown and neighbourhood who adhere to the whole doctrine, worship, and discipline of the Free Church at the Disruption will please send me without delay their names and addresses, with a view to forming a congregation in connection with the said church.He remembered the Attorney-General for Ireland telling the House a story about an artist who said that the subject of his picture was "Adam before he was created." Here was a Free church which was not created until the 16th of September, and the House, would scarcely credit it, but that church so formed was, as the result of law proceedings, in the possession of the whole of the property, and nearly 2,000 souls had been evicted, only forty of the former members being in the property now. I Let men go back to 1900, because membership since then was possibly tempted by property. When they went back to 1900 they got rid of this scandal and got upon firm ground, but when they got back to 1900 they should not do a bad thing, they should not give to one quarter of a church that which ought to belong to the whole, when the three-quarters who were to go out were to get no compensation of any kind or description. It was clear to those who knew the facts that when once the quarter which was left was installed in these hugh properties they would crush them to the ground, whilst the majority of the people were abandoned to find places of religious worship for themselves. The entire community were in dignant at the idea, because they knew that these large and suitable properties, now that the majority had been excluded, would by-and-by fall into decay.
What happened in the case of Dumbarton only the other day while this Bill was being discussed? In that case 924 members and 300 adherents were excluded from the magnificent building, which had been largely added to since the Union. Fourteen members only 435 remained, and those fourteen members got all the property, on which £3,500 had been spent since the Union. All this was very much akin to legalised piracy. With regard to the difference between the one-third and the one-fourth, there were some serious cases he would like the Government to consider. The minister of Rogart wrote—We rebuilt the church and added a new hall. The work was begun in June, 1899, and finished in 1902 (two years after the Union). I, personally, gathered between £1,300 and £1,400. Under £40 represents the contributions of the legal Free Church. The whole cost £1,700, and I got £550 since the Union. … To hand over the whole under the third rule would be a cruel wrong to our own people.He, therefore, again put forward the plea that the majority should be preferred. There were places, such as Strathaird in Skye and Knock in the Island of Lewis, where the congregations were excluded from the churches, many of which were standing empty, and the people had to worship on the hillside or in caves by the seashore in circumstances of gross and cruel hardship. If any consideration were had to the equities of the case, note must be taken of the sources from which the money and property had been derived. Ninety-nine per cent. of the property had been contributed by those who were now attached to the Union. He hoped he had said enough to show that the Bill in these cardinal points must be amended, and amended in so specific a way that the House of Commons was entitled to see exactly where it stood.
He was disinclined to enter upon the fifth Clause. It was a great pity that it had been introduced into the Bill as it had nothing whatever to do with any of the wrongs he had been describing. The Lord-Advocate had said that the Act of 1693 was passed by a strange Parliament. Yes, and it had taken two centuries to get such another strange Parliament to do what was now proposed. Without a Barrier Act and without the people of Scotland being consulted, this clause was inserted into a Bill which had nothing to do with the subject. Out of the Dissenters' extremity the Church of Scotland was finding what one of its ministers unctuously called a providential opportunity. English Nonconformists were entirely mistaken if they thought that Scottish Nonconformists, who knew 436 what it was to go out and suffer and to pay their own way, were deserting them in this instance. Their feeling was that the Bill was worthy of a Second Reading, but that this clause should not be passed by the House of Commons. It was proposed by this Bill to take away the personal and individual test which the Act of 1693 set up. But the Act of 1690 still contained the confession of the Church of Scotland, embodied in an Act of Parliament; it was to be the "public and avowed Confession" of the Church of Scotland. It was too mysterious, too casuistical, for him to understand how, if a document was the public and avowed Confession of the Church, a person was allowed to sign under a signature which meant that he privately disavowed that Confession. It was the Church's public and avowed belief, but the ministers' private and disavowed belief. He did not pretend to know how that could be squared, or how it was possible to make a signature of that kind without more troubles of conscience than existed under the present system.
The Lord-Advocate had raised the question of whether they believed that Parliament should regulate, tighten, or slacken that bond. Personally he was reluctant to enter upon such topics, but, since the challenge had been made, he must speak his mind. He held that Parliament had nothing whatever to do with this question. He did not think it was the duty of the State to go beyond the relations between man and man. All his thinking life he had held that the work of civil polity was quite enough for the State, and that it was a presumptuous act on the part of any Parliament to attempt to regulate the relations of man with the Unseen. That general principle was confirmed by the experience of Scotland where freedom from State alliance had produced in religious matters a vitality and liberality such as the world had seldom seen, and a learning and erudition of acknowledged excellence all over the English-speaking world. The living contact of the people with the responsibilities of self-support and religious freedom from State control had done no injury whatever to religion, but, on the contrary, had been its bulwark. The freedom here sought 437 could never be conferred by the State. It was no right of the State to confer upon any Church its freedom, and that freedom could never be obtained except by separation from the State, even at the cost of defiance of the State. All Scotch history confirmed the view that wherever religion was vital and sincere it could pay its own way. He therefore deplored the unctuous references to the "providential interposition" and the "providential juncture" which enabled the State at this time of day to attempt to slacken the bond. If the people wanted freedom let them dare to be free by coming out. He would put the matter from a Parliamentary point of view in such a way as would, he thought, convince every man in the House. If this clause had had to be a Bill, as it might well have been, it would never have seen the light. No Government would ever have brought it in—amongst other reasons because the Church of Scotland itself had made no uncertain pronouncement on the subject. The matter had been discussed in the Assembly of the Church of Scotland. One of the most distinguished leaders of that Assembly, Principal Story, said in 1902—Whether in the present condition of the British Parliament it was hopeful to approach it with a proposal in favour of such a change in the formula as they would desire was a very doubtful question.DR. Marshall, also a well-known leader, said—Had a case been made out of such urgency that they should, at this time, enter upon the matter which, if it was entered upon, would bring with it momentous issues, it would lead to long and bitter controversy.Why had that long and bitter controversy, foreseen by the Established Church itself, been dovetailed into this measure for the relief of a great trust and a patrimonial wrong? Then Dr. Scott spoke his mind very plainly, saying—He could not conceive it probable in the state of political opinion now, and for years to come, to go to Parliament to get rid of this formula. Their own people would rise against them—There had been nothing in the way of consultation with the Church of Scotland on the matter, and on the testimony of 438 Dr. Scott their own people would rise against them. Dr. Scott continued—Certainly the Dissenters of Scotland would rise against them; the Nonconformists of England would oppose them; and even those members of the Cabinet who were favourable would oppose them; because they had to depend as a Unionist Government on the votes of Nonconformists. They would till them, 'You wish to get rid of the statute; well, let us drop the connection between Church and State.'Then Dr. Mair, a distinguished man of blunt expression, said—He did not want to go into Parliament to make a fool of himself. The present Parliament would not handle such a question.This was only two years ago, and yet within a week of the Established Church passing the proposal it was embodied by the Government in a clause of this Bill! Dr. Scott also said—If they went to the State to get a modification of the Confession of Faith or their relation to it, they would be opposed by their own people; they would be opposed by the whole Dissenters of Scotland; they would be opposed by their very friends in the Government; there could not be a more insane proposal than to go to the State and ask that modification.It was this "insane proposal" which was embodied in Clause 5. He altogether objected to the political surrender by the State of its powers. Reference had been made to the Act of 1865 with regard to the clerical subscription in England. The Act of 1865 was clearly in favour of quite a different course, and it allowed the State to see upon the face of the Statute-book how things stood, and in three different sections that was specifically provided for.
While they sympathised with the objections raised to Clause 5, the House might take it from him that they were extremely anxious that there should be no division of opinion with regard to the Second Reading of this Bill. He perfectly well understood the position of his hon. friend the Member for Morley Division who had moved this Amendment, and he largely shared his views, but speaking from a Parliamentary point of view he thought this Bill ought to go through its Second Reading, leaving them all a free hand when this objectionable clause was reached. This Bill had been too long delayed, and although cramped and restricted it would remove an intolerable 439 wrong. In this long trial Scotland had stood well. Her sufferings in the past for religion's sake had ennobled her character and had taught her to put authority at no more than its proper value. Even should this Bill fail to pass, even that would not shake the tenacity of the Scottish character. But with proper despatch and concessions of Amendments such as he had asked for, this Bill would not fail. It was not a constructive Bill in the ordinary sense. There should be no mistake. This Bill truly reformed, truly inaugurated, nothing, but it was perhaps none the less valuable because it proposed to undo a great wrong which, whatever might be its legal aspect, was a wrong morally undeserved, and a wrong on a national scale which Parliament would do well at once to remedy.
§ MR. ELLIOT (Durham)
said it occurred to him that the hon. and learned Gentleman had been dealing at great length with a state of things which a decision of the House of Lords had brought about, and he had pointed out that it was necessary to take some step if they were not going to face greater wrongs, possibly leading to the disturbance of peace. He imagined that the hon. and learned Gentleman was speaking rather as the representative of one of the interested parties. He wished to say a few words upon the main principle of the Bill. They were now legislating to redress the effects of a judgment of the House of Lords. They might call it reversing that judgment or reversing the state of things which existed between two litigants upon which the House of Lords had given a decision. That was a very serious step for Parliament to take, because it meant practically that they were enacting by State authority that property which had been declared by the highest Court of Appeal in litigation to be the property of A should now become the property of B. He could not imagine a much higher action of a State authority than that. He thought, however, that State action was justified by the present condition of ecclesiastial affairs in Scotland. They had heard some remarks about the House of Lords with which he could not agree. The function of Courts of law 440 was to decide as to the rights of property between individuals, and they had to look to the principle which they laid down. Courts of law had not merely to look at a particular case which they had in hand, but they had to consider that if they laid down a principle in a particular case it might be extended to other particular cases. Hon. Members of this House, and still more persons outside, had criticised the Courts of law as if it was the duty of those Courts to decide who could make the best use of curtain property and who was best fitted to use it in the most advantageous way to the State. As Lord Robertson said with great point it was the function of a Court of law to see that property went to those to whom it belonged, and not to those whom it might best happen to fit. The State had now been called in to remedy a state of things which would produce disaster and trouble, and would probably lead to a disturbance of the peace in considerable portions of the United Kingdom if some remedy was not found. The reason for the interference of the State through Parliament had been proved by all the evidence of the case, and he would deal with it from that point of view. The Free Church might have some grievances, but the United Church evidently had been most harshly treated, and in a manner which it was quite impossible for them to allow to proceed.
With regard to Clause 5, which really was the only important matter, he should be extremely surprised if any considerable portion of the Liberal Party went into the lobby to maintain a closer restriction in regard to religious tests, and he felt sure they would do their best to lighten the burden of those tests, and stand on the side of maintaining liberty of conscience. It had not been denied that this formula would serve to exclude from the Church of Scotland those who might very likely become the most respected and admired of the ministers of the future. He could not conceive a Liberal who boasted of Liberal principles coming forward and doing his best to maintain the rigidity of the tests, which would keep out broad-minded men whose only fault was that they were in unison with the sentiments 441 of their own age rather than with the sentiments of their ancestors who lived 200 years ago. He was quite aware that it might be held by that removing this burden from the Established Church of Scotland they were to some extent trenching on the rigidity of the established system. As had been pointed out by his hon. and learned friend the Member for Stretford, there had always been the greatest distinction between State Establishment as understood in England and State Establishment as understood in Scotland, because the latter was recognised as involving a very considerable amount of legislative power. They had legislative power within limits and they were limited by Acts of Parliament. To declare, however, that they would not allow any relaxation of tests was to his mind asking the House of Commons to take up a more retrograde position than Parliament had taken up for the list thirty years. Let those who wanted greater liberty for - their churches get it step by step and not take up the position that they would have no more liberty because they could not free themselves absolutely and entirely from the State.
All those views about the connection between Church and State and Church endowments wore from year to year undergoing very considerable change. They were undergoing a change in this direction. There was an idea that as time went on the Established Church and the voluntary Churches were insensibly becoming more like each other in regard to property. There was a time when the property of the Church of Scotland was common to the State, and when the great bulk of the wealth came from the State. That state of things had long passed. It was certainly the case that far less than half of its wealth was derived from the State. All the rest of its wealth came from the sources which furnished the great endowments of the Free Church before the union with the United Presbyterian Church. In respect of property the two Churches were constantly assimilating. He ventured to say also that the two systems were assimilating from the constitutional point of view, because there was more and more a tendency, rightly or wrongly, to give to Established Churches much greater liberty of self- 442 government, almost approaching the self-government given in voluntary Churches. In both these respects the Churches were rapidly assimilating the condition of things which lay at the basis of voluntaryism and Establishment. They ought to be a little on their guard as to giving liberty to a Church. Giving liberty to a Church when worked out generally meant giving liberty to a Church council or assembly. That might be a very different thing from giving liberty to the members of the Church. He ventured to say that there were Churches in existence in respect of which the interference of the State by the strong hand of the law, and the position which the State held in regard to the law, were a great security for liberty within those Churches. As to the main question dealt with in the Bill, he hoped they were all at one in desiring a remedy for the terrible state of things brought about by the House of Lords' decision. He hoped also that when the House came to divide on Clause 5 there would be no considerable majority of the Liberal Party who would go into the lobby to support the rigidity of tests.
§ MR. CHARLES DOUGLAS (Lanarkshire, N.W.)
said the Bill when amended in Committee, as they hoped it would be, gave the prospect of the settlement of the difficult and distressing question which had agitated Scotland during the past year. It was a matter of practical urgency that this difficulty should be brought to a conclusion soon. In Scotland there was not only a sense of hardship and inconvenience in connection with this question, but this condition of things was aggravated by the strong consciousness of practical injustice in the working of the Church system at present. That was a state of matters which they could not remedy too early. He did not speak of the danger of breaches of social order, but he said it was a very bad thing for religion to have the state of feeling which they had in Scotland at the present moment. It was because he believed this matter to be so urgent that he deprecated the introduction into the Bill of Clause 5 dealing with the formula of the Church of Scotland. He thought it would have been better if this Bill had dealt only with the simple question of 443 restoring a proper state of matters in expect of the judgment of the House of Lords. The responsibility for the course which had been taken rested with the Government. It was a very grave responsibility. They would find it very difficult indeed to answer to the people of Scotland if they pursued an end other than that immediately concerned, however good that end might be, and thereby imperilled the passing of a Bill which was so urgently demanded by the condition of the Free Churches. The Government must be aware of that responsibility. They must take it as entirely of their own doing if difficulty arose in connection with this matter, and they must take it as entirely of their own doing if they protracted the state of hardship and bitterness which was working so much havoc in the religious life of Scotland just now.
Since this question had been raised they must deal with it on its merits. He perfectly understood the apprehension on the part of his hon. friends which led them to oppose Clause 5 dealing with the Established Church of Scotland. He would appeal to them not to do anything to aggravate the danger which might exist of losing so important a Bill. They had made, and were making, a fair protest on a matter of principle. Nobody could dispute their absolute right to do so, but he sincerely hoped that they would allow this most essential piece of legislation to proceed without any undue delay. He wished them to appreciate the urgency of the matter, and also the great distinction there was, as the hon. Member for Stretford had pointed out, between the ecclesiastical system of Scotland and that of England. He could not help thinking that their apprehensions would be removed if they realised the extent to which the State Church in Scotland was a self-governing and democratic Church. It was not a Church governed clerically. It was a Church governed by the people constituting it. Surely it was an entirely different proposition to give liberty to the people of a Church to decide their own affairs from giving liberty to a certain number of clergymen to decide those affairs for them.
He would explain in a few words why on the merits of this case he was 444 in favour of the general policy of the proposal in the Bill without committing himself to any of the details. He supported Clause 5 because it embodied the traditional claim of the Scottish Church to be free to regulate its own spiritual affairs. That was a claim which had been made up to the time of what was called the Disruption in 1843. It was made not only by those who afterwards became the free Church of Scotland, but by the whole of the Church of Scotland, although they did not all take the same course when their claim was denied. If this House chose to admit sixty years afterwards what most of them in Scotland thought ought to have been admitted long ago, he did not see why those who had always held that it was a just claim should deny it now. He did not deny that it was a claim inconsistent with the bond between Church and State. It was inconsistent with that. He did not think it was a position in which they could permanently lest that a Church was to be specially recognised by the State and yet remain free to regulate all its own affairs. He thought the error lay not in the claim of freedom of doctrine but in the bond which brought that freedom into question at the hands of the State. He regarded this clause as in reality a step away from State connection—a loosening of the bond which existed between Church and State in Scotland. Whether that was so or not, he would ask those who wished to bring about a dissolution of the bond between Church and State by making the bond more galling to reconsider so dangerous and serious a view. He did not think they should seek disestablishment by that which would cause injury to religion.
After all, these questions of government were questions of machinery—questions of ways and means to an end. But they ought not to injure or retard the religious life of the country merely in order to prove that their own theory of the proper relation between Church and State was the best. Do not let them sacrifice in any degree the end to the means, and do not let them destroy the result simply in order that they might make the machinery theoretically more perfect. For his part he 445 believed that the case for the absolute equality of all religions was unanswerably strong. Do not let them travesty it by trying to bind Churches by law in the name, above all things, of a religious freedom. Let them go past forms, past theoretical constructions, and consider the reality that was behind the desire to have a formula making the relation of the individual to the Confession more visible. Surely they ought to do everything they could to simplify the situation for a man entering on the ministry. They should ask themselves, if they thought of opposing Clause 5, whether it was necessary for them—and unless it was necessary they should not do it—to say that every man entering the Church should be able to conform to what was required in the seventeenth century, or whether it was not enough that he should be able as an honest man to satisfy the Church which he sought to serve that he was substantially at one with it in faith and purpose.
There was another aspect of this question which was of very real importance, namely, that while the Church of Scotland derived certain material advantages from the State, these, as the hon. Member for Durham had pointed out, were not its only resources. As a matter of fact, the Church of Scotland had very large property which was derived from exactly those sources from which the property of the Free Church came. It had property in the shape of £4,500,000 worth of endowments which had been contributed voluntarily to the Church. They ought to remember that in view of the decision of the House of Lords—on which he did not wish to express any opinion—the whole position of this property was imperilled. Supposing that the Church of Scotland were to desire to enter into a union with another Church which did not take exactly the view which the Confession of Faith took. As things stood, without Clause 5 in the Bill, it would be open to any minority of that Church to take possession not merely of all those resources which that Church derived from its connection with the State, but of all the resources provided by private persons to forward the interests of religion in Scotland within that Church. When 446 that danger had been revealed for the first time by the decision of the House of Lords, surely it was not unreasonable that they should wish to protect the Church of Scotland against that which all recognised to have been inequitable and intolerable in the case of the United Free Church. What was unjust in the one case, should not be allowed to take place in the other. He desired to see greater freedom of conscience, greater power of development, and greater security for the trusts committed to them in the case of all the Scotch Churches; and on these grounds he felt bound to give his support to Clause 5 at every stage.
But there were other matters which he wished the Government to take seriously into consideration. He was quite sure that the Government quite realised that they must make this Bill a reasonable and permanent settlement. They welcomed the changes which had been foreshadowed in the speech of the Lord - Advocate, for the maintenance of the purposes of the trusts, and the inclusion within the Bill of all the property which could possibly be dealt with in the future; and, above all, the assurance that the bona fides of members and adherents of the Free Church should be strictly regarded by the Commission to be appointed. He sincerely regretted the change which the been suggested as to the number of persons in the Free Church who were to be allowed to claim to be a congregation. It was a large enough order to allow one-third of the old congregation to claim the property without respect to the rights of the remaining two-thirds; but when the proportion was reduced to one-fourth a step was taken which made it very difficult for the majority of any such congregation in any degree to acquiesce in. The Lord-Advocate had been engaged lately in trying to arrange a compromise, and he did not for a moment wish to blame the hon. and learned Gentleman, but the time had come when the question of compromise must be left on one side and when they must really make a respected and enduring settlement. By all means let provision be made for all the personal rights and interests of those who took great risks when they entered 447 into the action which they had gained. They should receive full consideration at the hands of the Government; but, in regard to property, the facts and the substance of the case must also be considered. He did not for one moment wish to speak in a partisan spirit, but the public, moral, and religious interests of Scotland ought not to be sacrificed to any temporary convenience or bargain. From the point of view of the United Free Church he thought it would be a very serious calamity for the whole Presbyterian Church in Scotland if the United Free Church were to be impoverished; but it would be a far greater calamity if the Free Church were unduly and unnecessarily enriched. That would be a positive evil and danger to the religious life of Scotland, because after a time, he believed, the Free Church would grow weaker, and in many districts, especially in the Highlands, there would be nothing left of it except its endowments. They might call it the Free Church to the crack of doom, but it was not to be compared to a National Church and it was not willing to be free. It ought not to be treated as a large and growing factor in the religious life of Scotland. All this doctrine about its being the nucleus of a great Church was fraught with disaster to Scottish religious life; and he begged the Government to face the facts of the situation and endow the Royal Commission with full powers to make an enduring settlement.
§ MR. PERKS (Lincolnshire, Louth)
said that the subject of this Bill was of deep interest to the whole of the English Nonconformists, and one portion of it would certainly receive their strongest opposition. They were engaged at the present moment in taking away, by the paramount force of Parliament, property from a small ecclesiastical section of the Presbyterian Church in Scotland which had been declared by the Courts of law to be the rightful owners thereof, and transferring it to another section of the religious community of that country. That was a position which had been absolutely justified by the relative position of the two Churches in Scotland and by the clear necessities of the religious and moral progress of Scotland. The Government had presented an alternative to the 448 United Free Church which he could not help thinking was a cruel alternative. The Government said, in effect, that the United Free Church must leave their religious brethren in Scotland in a state of friction and of religious persecution, or else accept a clause in this Bill which was repugnant—although it might be accepted by a few members of the United Free Church—to the greater portion of the members of Scottish Nonconformity. They had been told in the course of this debate that English Nonconformists ought not to intervene in this particular issue, even on Clause 5 of the Bill. But surely they were not to accept the doctrine that in ecclesiastical, educational, or social questions they were not to interfere with the local opinion of other portions of the United Kingdom. The Church to which he belonged had considerable interests, religious, educational, and otherwise, in Scotland, and it was their duty to inquire how Clause 5 of this Bill was going to affect these and the interests of other religious federations. The Methodist Church in Scotland was far more numerous than this little Highland Church with its twenty-seven ministers. It had more congregations and raised a great deal more money; but it had more rigid ecclesiastical tests than either the United Free Church or the Free Church. He did not suppose that the Prime Minister had had occasion to study the constitution of the Scottish Methodists; but he could assure the right hon. Gentleman that they were tied up by more rigid conditions than those contained in the Westminster Confession of Faith. No Methodist minister in Scotland, or in England for that matter, could preach any doctrine which was not supposed to be discovered inside the standards of Methodism—which were John Wesley's sermons and his notes on the New Testament. If he did not do that he could be evicted from his church and could no longer be recognised as a Methodist minister or preacher.
They had to look at this Bill in view of certain union movements which were to take place in several of the Free Churches of this country. At the present moment there was a very strong movement for the union of three 449 of the minor Churches of Methodism which split away more than half a century ago for a variety of reasons. If the union of these Churches was effected they would have to come to Parliament for authority, and when they came with their scheme to Parliament would be told that they could not be allowed to vary their original constitution, that they could not reunite, and that they would have to remain under conditions of antagonism, rivalry, and isolation, unless they liked to give to the Church of England some freedom in connection with its formulas. That was what they were bound to consider, as English Dissenters, in looking at this Bill. Nothing had been more striking during the last twenty-five years than the way the Methodist Church had been drawing away from the Church of England and assuming and exercising absolutely independent rights of her own. And that movement was likely to continue. This Bill was, therefore, a dangerous precedent to set to the Church of England, and it was the duty of English Dissenters to oppose it.
§ THE PRIME MINISTER AND FIRST LORD OF THE TREASURY (Mr. A. J. BALFOUR,) Manchester, K.
I have listened with interest to the brief, but very clear, statement which the hon. Gentleman who has just spoken has given of his views, but I frankly admit that, to my thinking, his argument was one, not against Clause 5, but in favour of Clause 5. What is the legislative future which the hon. Gentleman pictures for this House? He says, and, in my judgment, he says with perfect truth, that it will in the future be found that the assent and assistance of this House is required in order to enable some of the great Nonconformist Churches in England to develop, to unite, to obtain that measure of spiritual freedom which is not always attained by separation from the State; and I can assure him that, in the prospect which he thus holds out, I for one shall always be found upon the side of union and upon the side of freedom. But how he thinks that either the cause of union or the cause of freedom can be furthered by this parlous objection to the smallest alteration being made in the Act of 1693 in relation to the Scottish 450 Established Church altogether passes my comprehension. I do not wish to go into the niceties of argument which from time immemorial have been raised when questions of the relations between Church and State have come before either secular or ecclesiastical tribunals. In truth, the history, not merely of the Protestant Church, but of all Churches, is largely taken up with attempting to find some clear, logical, impeccable formula which shall, in unmistakable terms, determine the precise relation in which the civil power should stand to the spiritual. No such formula has ever yet been found; no such formula, in my opinion, ever will be found. And for a very plain and pregnant reason, which is that human society and the interests of various portions of human society are so intimately interwoven, and are so absolutely inseparable in practice, that, devise what theories you please, lay down what principles you like, you will always find the spiritual interfering with the secular, and you will never be able to avoid the secular interfering with the spiritual.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I think not. And could I have a better proof of it than the speech which has just been made? The hon. Gentleman has told us that in the interests of the spiritual welfare of the great religious community to which he belongs, he looks forward to coming to this House for assistance in dealing with property, no doubt, in the first case; but you cannot deal with charitable religious trusts without touching the doctrine; connected with them. It cannot be done; and, although there is not any mention in this Bill of any formulas of either of the two Churches to which the Bill primarily belongs, can anybody deny that, implicitly if not explicitly, this House is creating, aid cannot help but create, a religious trust? And directly you create a religious trust you must, explicitly or implicitly, settle on what religious terms that religious trust is to be held.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I understood the hon. Gentleman looked forward to a period when he and his friends would have to apply to this House on a question on which their existing trusts, which are bound up with religion, with formulas, with doctrine, which are inseparable from doctrine—
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
I do not know the precise terms on which the trusts of the Wesleyan Church are held; but if that great religious Church carries with it any doctrinal significance at all, and I presume it does, then if the doctrinal terms are to be altered, the Wesleyan Church will have to come to this House to enable it to retain the property while altering its formulas. And for my own part—I do not speak for anybody else; other people may, and do, take a stricter view of the nature of religious trusts than I do—I shall always be found on the side of union and on the side of freedom. But do not let anybody imagine that by any refinements of logic you will ever be able wholly to separate the interests of an ecclesiastical body from that great secular organisation of which, after all, it is a part, from which it derives its authority, and by whose support, and by whose support alone, it retains its property. After all, let it be remembered, when appeals have been made to us, as they have been made, not to destroy the utility of the United Free Church by depriving it of its property, or what is supposed to be its property, that, in itself, is an appeal to Cæsar, as was said by my hon. friend the Member for Durham.
I myself think there is a good deal of confusion about this question of spiritual independence as it was conceived by our forefathers, and as it is conceived at the present time at any rate by large bodies of Christians. I feel confident that no student of ecclesiastical history will ever suppose 452 that those who struggled for spiritual independence struggled for the right to modify their creed. They never took it into their heads that their creed either could be modified, or ought to be modified, without serious spiritual danger to the whole religious body to which they belonged. Now when people talked of spiritual independence they did not mean the desire simply to keep as free as possible from State interference. They mean also the power not to modify the fundamental and essential doctrines which lay at the basis of their religions creeds, but to modify those formulas of subscription which time inevitably makes old, which the progress of knowledge, the changes that take place in the sphere of philosophy and the sphere of criticism, the changes which no formulas will guard you against, render somewhat inappropiate to the religious needs of any given time. These two meanings are quite distinct; and when I hear hon. Gentlemen talk as though they were now struggling, as though they now desired, to retain the sort of spiritual independence of which our forefathers spoke, I think they have not taken adequate account of the great change which has taken place, no in one body of Christians, but in all bodies of Christians, not in one Church, but in all Churches.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
We are not suggesting any change. It is historic fact. I think a change has taken place, and I think every Church is conscious of it, The hon. Gentleman who has just sat down told us that he had reason to believe that the great body of the United Free Church in Scotland were opposed to Clause 5 of the Bill. I believe he did that great body an injustice. He also talked as if we had deliberately tried to put a pistol to the head of the United Free Church and to say to them, "We know you strongly object on conscientious grounds to doing anything in regard to the Act of 1693, but unless you will do this violence to your beliefs you cannot 453 have that relief from Parliament which otherwise we should be ready to give you." Sir, just as I think the hon. Gentleman greatly misrepresented the views of the United Free Church when he said that they objected to this relaxation, so he certainly has greatly misrepresented the views of His Majesty's Government in introducing this clause into the Bill. We desire no corrupt bargain in the matter. It was no question of do ut des, no question of giving up on either side a cherished conviction.
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Well, because, as the hon. Gentleman knows, if it were in two Bills it would not pass. [Ironical cheers.] May I ask what there is in that perfectly plain and candid statement to provoke ironical cheers? Is that a discreditable motive, is that a Parliamentary intrigue, is that a course which any statesman need be ashamed to take? On the contrary, I think it is plainly justified and plainly consistent with common sense and common prudence.
§ SIR H. CAMPBELL - BANNERMAN (Stirling Burghs)
May I ask, as we were challenged for the reason for cheering, why would it not pass in two Bills, if it is so excellent and good a thing?
§ MR. A. J. BALFOUR
Well, now, did anybody ever hear anything like that? The right hon. Gentleman listens every day to a cross fire which I have to undergo at Question time with regard to measures as to which it is impossible for me to promise the smallest hope that we shall be able to pass them into law this session. They are all good Bills, all excellent measures; does that secure their passage? Does the right hon. Gentleman's experience of his own period of office suggest that all the good Bills which he and his friends contrived to devise, because they were good, were therefore likely to pass? We all know under what pressure legislation is carried on in this House, we all know the difficulties which beset 454 its path. We think that this clause is really relevant to the interests of Presbyterianism in Scotland; and in dealing with what will be a great settlement of a great Presbyterian difficulty we think that we are amply justified in taking the course we are taking. I defend that on general grounds as well as on particular grounds.
I spoke just now of the interests of Presbyterianism in Scotland. I refuse to regard the interests of the Presbyterian Churches in Scotland except under the broader formula of the interests of Presbyterianism in Scotland. The hon. and learned Member for the Border Burghs was good enough to praise some words which fell from me long before this unhappy controversy arose, on the occasion or the junction of the then United Presbyterian Church and the then Free Church. Sir, I withdraw nothing that I then said. I rejoiced in that union; I mourn over the separation which has since taken place. I regret it. I think it is melancholy. I look forward in the future, perhaps not in the near future, but in the future, to a union amongst all these bodies. All of them sprang from one fountain - head. The paths which they have severally pursued have never widely deviated so far as doctrine or theology is concerned; and though there have been controversies, bitter controversies, they have been connected, not, as I think, and not, I believe, as any impartial critic will think, with the essential doctrines of religion, but rather with the external relations of the Church and the State. Still, surely, it is not beyond the powers of Christian wisdom, and that which is the root of Christian wisdom, Christian charity, to do something in the future which will heal these most unnecessary wounds, self - inflicted, as I think, upon the great body of the Presbyterian Church in times gone by. That is a general reason why I think anything which is germane to one of the greatest of these bodies, the parent, after all, of all of them, is not out of place when we are dealing with the best interests of the United Free and the Free Church.
But I think there is a more particular and even closer reason why you 455 should do this thing. I think that the judgment of the House of Lords, and especially some observations made by the Lord Chancellor in the course of that judgment have, rightly or wrongly, made many of the adherents of every Presbyterian Church in Scotland consider whether the precise formulas of subscription, which in the case of clergy of the Church of Scotland we owe to the Act of 1693, ought not to be modified. Let me remind those Members of the House who are not Scottish Members of a reason which affects the Church of Scotland in a manner in which it can affect no other religious body that I know of, certainly none on this side of the Tweed, and certainly not the Church of England The ecclesiastical Courts of the Church of Scotland are the absolute arbiters in all cases of heresy; that is to say, the test whether a man has or has not violated the ecclesiastical and theological principles of the Church goes, not to any civil tribunal or any tribunal with a civil admixture, but to ecclesiastical Courts with which the civil tribunals have no title whatever to interfere. And who constitute these tribunals? They are constituted, as everybody knows, of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland; and in that General Assembly there is, if not a half, very nearly a half of lay elders. The lay elders, therefore, are a part of the spiritual organisation of the Church. They are not merely members, but a part of its spiritual organisation. They form an element in its Courts. They have power of deciding on the great questions on which the Church is the only arbiter. The Church has the power of deciding the formula of subscription of these office-bearers, and it has decided it, and decided in a very wise, sober, and conservative spirit, which makes it perfectly certain, I think, that no liberty that will be given to the Established Church is likely to be abused.
But is there not an extraordinary inconsistency in giving the Church liberty to settle the terms of subscription of some of its office-bearers and denying any liberty of settling the terms of subscription of other office-bearers? Mind, it is bound in both cases by the Act of 1690. It is not 456 suggested in this Bill that any power should be given to the Church to depart from the Act of 1690, or to prove faithless to the sum and substance of the Reformed doctrine as set forth in the Westminster Confession. That is not proposed, and I do not believe that any power of that sort is even claimed by the United Free Church, although I believe that they arrogate to themselves, and perhaps rightly, a theoretical claim to alter their formulas and make themselves into Roman Catholics or members of the Orthodox Church, or of any Church which exists or ever has existed. Whether a liberty of that kind is of any value I do not know, but I am sure that it will never be exercised by the United Free Church. They will do in the future as they have done in the past; they will do in the future what I hope the Church of Scotland will be permitted to do—they will adhere to the sum and substance of the doctrine of the Reformed Church, and they will not put aside as a statement of useless historical doctrines the Westminster Confession, which has borne so marvellous a part in educating and developing the mind and the religious feeling of the people of Scotland.
Now, Sir, the point I want to press on the House is that until the Lord Chancellor gave his judgment it was possible—I think it is still possible, but it was not only possible, but easy, before that—for the members of the Church of Scotland to say that the Ecclesiastical Courts were really the authority that determined the theology of the Scottish Church, and that doctrines which were never regarded as heretical by the Church Courts were doctrines which might be held and preached by the ministers of the Church. I do not myself individually dissent from that view now. Speaking for myself, I should be inclined to hold it still. But if you do not introduce this fifth Clause you will touch the consciences, perhaps the over-sensitive consciences, of many of those who are anxious to be ordained, who are ready to devote their lives to the spiritual interests of the Church, become its ministers, and preach its doctrines, but who examine, with perhaps over-scrupulous care, the terms of 457 subscription and do not take into account those broader considerations to which I individually should be inclined to give so much weight. Cannot we, ought not we to do something for these people? Is it not monstrous unfairness to say to them, "The theology of the Established Church does not differ from the theology of the United Free Church, but the way to the one is barred, and the way to the other is not barred." It is no question, of course, of competition for ability. The House will not suspect me of looking at it from so poor and mean a level. But I think it is a very great hardship that you should allow a man with conscientious views, such as I have described, to be an elder of the Church, to be a member of the General Assembly of the Church and to form part of the Court which judges cases of heresy, but should not allow him to be a minister of the Church. I think it is a great absurdity. I think it is worse than an absurdity. I think it is a great hardship.
As to those who think we are uprooting the historical foundations of the Church of Scotland, may I remind them that the legislative Charter of the Scottish Church is not the Act of 1693, which Clause 5 does touch, but the Act of 1690, which Clause 5 does not touch. It may seem a paradox, but it is nevertheless a historical truth that the Act of 1693 was more or less forced upon the Scottish Church in the interest, strangely enough, of what would now be called liberal theology. The Act of 1693 was passed by William III. in order to compel the Scottish Church to admit certain ministers who had been Episcopalians and whom the Church was desirous of excluding from the ministry at the time of the Revolution. It is that stringent Act which was then passed, strangely enough, in the interest of so-called liberalism, and that Act alone, which we propose to alter. What was thought sufficient for the mother Church of all Scottish Presbyterians at the time of the great Reformation settlement surely is enough for the Established Church of Scotland in the year 1905? I venture to claim that, while doing an act of justice to the members of the Scottish Church and doing it in a Bill which, in my judgment, is strictly relevant to that object, we are doing it in 458 a manner so moderate, so constitutional, and so carefully observant of all the traditions and foundations of Presbyterianism in Scotland, that I do not believe even those who are most anxious to stand by the old ways, those who are most suspicious of all modern innovation, can, in truth, find any just reason to complain of our action.
§ MR. FINDLAY (Lanarkshire, N.E.)
, speaking from personal knowledge of the circumstances, said the desire for union which had gone on for many years matured during 1900. A small minority dissented, and the present troubles grew out of that dissent. The United Free Church represented one-fourth of the whole population of Scotland, while not 2 per cent. of the population was connected with what was known as the legal Free Church. It was believed that the union would open up a new era in the religious life of Scotland. As a member of the United Presbyterian Church, he had his own views on certain matters which had been introduced into the Bill. He respected the small minority of ministers who did not feel disposed to enter the union, but he could not fail to realise that they represented on this question a dying; cause, and one which could not in the spirit of the age make progress, whereas the United Free Church, notwithstanding the past year of great peril, had gone on progressing, and raised over a million of money, and had shown a spirit and heart which they should all rejoice to see in connection with Christian work.
In regard to the judgment given in August last, he could not permit himself to express his opinion of it. He did not regard this Bill as an appeal to Cæsar. The United Free Church did not ask for liberties which it did not possess already. The judgment, which had been characterised by many as a monstrous injustice, had required the United Free Church to come to Parliament to get the wrong righted. The conscience of Scotland in regard to the equity of the situation had been aroused, and a demand had been raised for a speedy judgment and a free-handed Executive Commission to deal equitably with the matter at issue. He felt privileged at being in Parliament 459 when this great issue was before it, and it would be a great satisfaction if he were able to help in righting the wrong which had been done. He hoped the Bill would quickly pass, and that the result would be to restore harmony in Scotland and enable that Church which had shown such marvellous recuperative power to continue its great work not only for Scotland but for the nation and the Empire. He regarded the introduction of Clause 5 as a mistake, but he hoped the Bill would be pushed through and put an end to the litigation and heart-burning which they all regretted.
§ *SIR WALTER THORBURN (Peebles and Selkirk)
deeply regretted that the old sore had to some extent been reintroduced into this debate. The desire of the House—at all events the object which he and many others had in view—was to bring back peace and concord to Scotland. No one was more sincerely anxious than he to see a just and equitable settlement of this question. He regretted it had not beef possible for the two parties to meet in conference and arrive at a settlement which Parliament would have been only too glad to confirm, as it would pass the wit of man to frame a measure which would be considered just by all parties, and he doubted whether even the Angel Gabriel could satisfactorily perform the task. Being a member of the Church itself he approached the question with an absolutely unbiassed mind. The Church of Scotland had admittedly endeavoured to steer an even keel between the parties. Whatever settlement was arrived at he was anxious to see just, and even generous, treatment given to the smaller body, the great majority of the congregations of which would be non-self-supporting. He wished most sincerely to see the United Free Church put in possession of ample means to carry out the great work which must fall upon it. A very large proportion of the congregations which would remain connected with the United Free Church were wealthy congregations; but at the same time he wished to see absolute justice meted out to them in connection with this matter. He was very glad indeed to notice that his right hon. friend the Lord-Advocate had deemed it fit and proper to make con- 460 cessions in connection with this Bill. The Lord-Advocate was in possession of all the facts, and knew exactly what means the Church had at its disposal, and he was therefore in a better position to judge than hon. Members of this House who were not so familiar with the facts. Consequently he was glad to find that the Lord-Advocate saw his way to provide for the Free Church, and at the same time to avoid what was considered objectionable by the members of the United Free Church, namely, the pooling of all the resources of the Church.
He was in favour of giving large powers to the Executive Commission. The was upon that Commission a number of gentlemen of whom no one in Scotland could deny that they were high-minded and honourable, and he felt sure that they would give the most careful and independent consideration to everything that was put before them. They would hear all the evidence pro and con, and he was convinced that whatever judgment they propounded would be looked upon by the vast majority of the people of Scotland as being satisfactory and in the interests of justice. He felt that although their judgment might not be agreeable either to one or both of the bodies immediately concerned, at the same time he felt certain that their judgment would be founded on justice.
With regard to the 5th Clause, only the same liberty was being asked for the Church of Scotland as was enjoyed by the two other bodies. He did not know anyone in Scotland who objected on principle to the passing of Clause 5. It was admitted on all hands that this clause was desirable, and, if it was desirable, surely the House should not object to puss it. He regretted very much that hon. Members connected with the Nonconformist bodies of England had seen fit to interfere in this debate, and to move a Resolution which, if passed, would prove fatal to this Bill. Personally, he felt that those hon. Members were more actuated by the deliberations of the Liberation Society than by any particular interest in the settlement of this question. He looked upon the passing of Clause 5 as the first and most important step towards that greater 461 union which he hoped was not very far distant. He believed it would pave the way for parties coming together, and the greatest aspiration of his life was to see all the Presbyterian bodies of Scotland united under one National Presbyterian Church. At the present time there was not the slightest doubt that both in the home field and in the mission field there was an enormous amount of overlapping, and this would be avoided by the union which he hoped to see brought about before very long. He trusted that if a division was pressed upon this question at any rate all hon. Members for Scotland would vote against this Resolution, and he hoped sincerely that when they divided upon the Second Reading of this measure it would be read a second time with very little difference of opinion between hon. Members representing Scotland.
§ MR. WHITLEY
said that his hon. friend appeared to have based his remarks almost entirely upon the speech which preceded his own, and which he confessed himself not able entirely to comprehend. Therefore, perhaps, he would be pardoned if he endeavoured to put what he believed to be the position of English Nonconformists in this matter. First of all, he felt confident that as long as the Church was established they had a right to take an interest in its proceedings and its methods, and, indeed, in both the creed and the formula of the Established Church. Otherwise why was the Church established and connected with the State. He thought the right hon. Gentleman would be prepared freely to admit that they had a right as Members of Parliament to take an interest in any Church that was by law established. So much for the justification of hon. Members taking an interest in a Bill which did not appear at first sight to affect their particular part of these islands. In his opinion there was a question of great importance brought in by Clause 5 of this Bill. They had been told over and over again that all Clause 5 did was to alter the formula of subscription for the Westminster Confession. Surely if the creed or Confession of the Church was out of date they ought to be able to alter it, and he entirely agreed with the Prime 462 Minister in the view that men ought not to be "cabined and confined" to the formula of bygone ages. He would like to see the utmost liberality and freedom in the revision of creeds which, after all, were not divine, but were merely the attempts of men putting into words what their conception for the time being was of the ideas they were trying to preach. To come forward with the proposal to relax the doctrinal requirements of a Church by means of retaining the creed as it was and altering the formula of subscription seemed to him not exactly a straightforward proceeding. They must look on this matter not merely as it affected the comfort of a particular Church. The chief thing was not the comfort of persons in a Church, but the effect on the Church as a mission to those outside the Church. His chief objection to the proposal lay in the fact that this was a step toward relaxation not by the courageous method of revising a creed out of date, but by inventing some formula of subscription which might ease tender consciences. The effect of this on the opinion of those outside the Church was not likely to lead to the effectual carrying out of the mission in which the Church was engaged. He believed the Prime Minister would agree with him entirely in that. He did not like to use the word dishonest, but it seemed to him a little evasive to alter the formula of subscription while retaining the creed unaltered.
What kind of formula were they to have under Clause 5? It was not stated in the Bill. It might be altered, he presumed, from time to time. He would ask the Prime Minister whether it would not be possible to draw up a formula to enable a person to subscribe to the Westminster Confession in a frame of mind such as that which was shown in the right hon. Gentleman's most interesting book "Foundations of Belief." He had no doubt that such a formula could be invented. While he and his friends were certainly in favour of the utmost liberty in doctrinal matters, and ready to do all they could to enable not only this Church butall Churches to march with the progress of knowledge and of thought, they could not see that either by the device of Clause 5, or by retaining 463 State control over a Church, those ideals could ever be reached.
With regard to the endowments of the legal Free Church—the smell minority which won the case in the House of Lords—he said as a Free Churchman that he believed there was no greater evil which they could do to a Church than to provide money which would remove the incentive to effort. The words "to provide adequately for the free Church" as they stood in the Bill meant that out of the moneys belonging to the United Free Church enough was to be taken to support the ministers and fabrics—in fact, to provide the money required in full and ample quantity for this tiny Church consisting of about twenty-six congregations. It was a proposal to endow that Church with an amplitude of money which would make them independent of any of their own efforts. As a Free Churchman he said there was no surer way to kill a Church than to do that. Although a particular Church might ask for, and wish to get, as much money as they could get the right hon. Gentleman would find, if be considered that aspect of the question, that the most cruel thing he could do to any Church was to endow them in such a way that no effort was required from their own supporters.
§ MR. CALDWELL (Lanarkshire, Mid.)
said the Bill was the result of litigation between the majority and the minority of the members of the Free Church in order to determine their rights as to the property of the Church at the time of the union with the United Presbyterian Church. The result of the litigation had been to deprive the majority of all property in the Church, the whole of it being given to the minority. The Royal Commission had reported that the minority was not in a position to carry out the trust which had been handed to them by the House of Lords, and in these circumstances Parliament was called upon to legislate in order that a trust which had practically lapsed or become inoperative might be made operative. It made no difference to Parliament what was the purpose of the trust. It might, as in this case, be a Church, or it might be an educational endowment, or it might be 464 a beneficiary scheme. In all cases Parliament dealt with the trust and endeavoured to legislate in such a manner as to make the trust operative, having regard to the changed circumstances, with the view of carrying out the intentions of the donor. He quite agreed that the decision of the House of Lords was a final judgment of a Court of law in this matter, and he also agreed that any action which this House might take must be based on principle. Therefore, as the Lord-Advocate had stated, the first consideration should be the adequate provision for the due performance of the purposes for which the funds were raised. Neither was he disposed to quarrel very much with the Lord-Advocate's second proposal that the-provision made for the equipment of the Free Church must be according to the standard in other Presbyterian Churches.
Now, Churches did not exist for private profit; if that had been the case the House of Lords would have distributed the money at once to the parties legally entitled to it. There was this peculiarity about Church properties, that they were endowments gathered up for the purpose of carrying on the work of the Church and in order to aid the voluntary efforts and self-sacrifices of these who carried on the work of the Church. Therefore, in carrying out the trust it was not a question of giving money to this person or that, but of imposing on the Church which got the money a burden in order that she might carry out the trust by an equipment suitable to the number of its members. He quite recognised that the minority were entitled to some consideration. They were conscientiously opposed to the Church going into the Union, and they fought their case in the Courts of law, and succeeded in the end in vindicating their rights. On the other hand, he had considerable sympathy for the United Free Church, and for this reason; that that Church separated from the Established Church in 1843 on the ground that they desired the Church to have spiritual independence, and to have the right to legislate on Church matters free from State control. The Free Church was told at that time that they could not be a State Church and receive State endowments, and at the same time have 465 spiritual independence. On being told so, the ministers and members of the Free Church at once acquiesced in the situation, gave up their churches, manses, and all their other property, and formed themselves into a Church founded and supported entirely on the free-will offerings of the people. Having done that, they naturally thought that the Church had obtained her freedom. The very object of a constitution was to protect the rights of a minority, and to bind down the Church to a certain course of action. The effect of a constitution was to bind the Church as a whole, and it enabled the Law Courts to come in and interpret the contract. That was exactly what was done in this case. The Free Church founded itself on a purely voluntary principle, by which he meant the principle of self-sacrifice and of paying their own way. Many of the members stated that they still adhered to the Establishment principle, and that they would prefer to be an Established Church, but having been told that that was impossible so long as they maintained the principle of spiritual independence, they accepted the situation, and the Establishment principle then became a merely academic question, and the Free Church thereafter was carried on in every respect as a purely voluntary Church.
What, then, was the position of the Free Church and of the United Presbyterian Church? They found that in Scotland there was a good deal of over-lapping in Church work, and they came to the conclusion that, as they were both voluntary Churches, they should unite on the basis of being supported by the free-will offerings of the people. They took the very highest legal opinion in Scotland on the subject, and that opinion was that a union would be perfectly lawful, and that it could be accomplished without any danger to their funds or their property. The Scotch Law Courts also unanimously decided in favour of the Union. What more could an association of persons for Church and religious purposes have done to protect themselves than to act according to the highest legal opinion in Scotland, corroborated by the unanimous opinion of the Scotch Bench? The 466 decision of the House of Lords had certainly caused the greatest surprise throughout the whole of Scotland, and the members and ministers of the Free Church and the United Presbyterian Church were in no way to blame for the result. Forty years ago he had to do with a similar matter when the Reformed Presbyterian Church united with the Free Church. He was in the position of advising the minority in the Reformed Presbyterian Church, who wanted to claim the property of that Church, and he took the view that the property must go with the majority. He was as satisfied then, as the House of Lords was now satisfied, that the minority had a good title to claim the property of the Reformed Presbyterian Church; but if they had got that property it would have been a trust which would have had to be carried out at great expense. What he advised, then, was that they should hold fast; and now, by virtue of the House of Lords decision, they had the whole property.
Reference had been made to Clause 5. He considered that it ought not to have been introduced into the Bill at all. It had no relation to it. What Parliament was doing was practically settling a dispute between two private parties respecting private property. If the matter had been dealt with by a Committee upstairs it would have been held that the Church of Scotland had no locus standi. The Act of 1693 imposed certain formulas on the Church; but anyone who was a lawyer would know that in a Church there was not only spiritual jurisdiction, but civil rights. It was not sufficient to hold that a clergyman must be bound by the Confession of Faith; he got the living through the patron, and that was a civil right which the ecclesiastical Courts could not interfere with. In 1693 it Was necessary to bring in an Act of Parliament to make it obligatory on ministers to sign the Confession of Faith; and under that Act the Civil Courts were given jurisdiction. He thought it was a mistake that Clause 5 should have been introduced into the Bill at all. There was no use in saying that the Church of Scotland was supreme in these matters, because there was an appeal to the Courts as to whether any action of the 467 General Assembly was ultra vires or not. The House was asked on the ipse dixit of the General Assembly to give power to alter the formula, but the King's Commissioner who opened and closed the General Assembly declared that the Church was under the control of the State; and that its creed must be ratified by Act of Parliament. He thought, therefore, it was a pity that the Church of Scotland, taking advantage, apparently, of the necessity of the Free Church, should have interfered at all. Where were their interests affected? Whatever might be argued in this House there could be no doubt whatever about the feeling of the people of Scotland regarding what seemed to be a little sharp practice on the part of the Church of Scotland. No one would object to the Church of Scotland having freedom, if it did not have a State endowment. It was monstrous to say that a Church which had all the endowments of a State was to have the same freedom as those
§ which paid their own way. In the voluntary Churches if the people were not satisfied they stopped the supplies, but in an Established Church where there was an endowment there could be no question of such a thing; the people simply left. Was the Church here to have the power of altering its formula and changing it by the vote of a majority. It was not reasonable. If there was a minority opposed to that change was there to be another split? Was the House of Lords to be once more applied to to say that the change in the formula was ultra vires, and that therefore the property must pass to the minority who protested against this change. If they once opened a door of that kind there would be no end to disagreements in the Church. Let them put their formula into an Act of Parliament and then the Church would have to obey it.
§ Question put.
§ The House divided:—Ayes, 203; Noes, 63. (Division List No. 275.)469
|Ainsworth, John Stirling||Cavendish, V. C. W. (Derbysh.||Finch, Rt. Hon. George H.|
|Allhusen, Augustus Henry E.||Cecil, Evelyn (Aston Manor)||Findlay, Alex. (Lanark, NE)|
|Anson, Sir William Reynell||Chamberlain, Rt. Hn. J. (Birm.||Finlay, Rt Hn Sir R.B (Inv'rn'ss)|
|Arkwright, John Stanhope||Chamberlain, Rt. Hn J A (Wore||Fisher, William Hayes|
|Arnold-Forster, Rt. Hn. H. O.||Chamberlayne, T. (S'thampton||Fison, Frederick William|
|Arrol, Sir William||Chapman, Edward||Flower, Sir Ernest|
|Atkinson, Rt. Hon. John||Churchill, Winston Spencer||Forster, Henry William|
|Bagot, Capt. Josceline FitzRoy||Cochrane, Hon. Thos. H. A. E.||Fowler, Rt Hon. Sir Henry|
|Bain, Colonel James Robert||Coddington, Sir William||Godson, Sir Augustus Frederick|
|Baird, John George Alexander||Coghill, Douglas Harry||Gordon, Hn. J E (Elgin & Nairn|
|Balcarres, Lord||Cohen, Benjamin Louis||Gore, Hon. S. F. Ormsby-|
|Baldwin, Alfred||Colston, Chas. Edw. H. Athole||Gorst, Rt. Hn. Sir John Eldon|
|Balfour, Rt. Hn. A.J.(Manch'r||Compton, Lord Alwyne||Guthrie, Walter Murray|
|Balfour, Capt. C. B. (Hornsey)||Corbett, A. Cameron (Glasgow)||Haldane, Rt. Hn. Richard B.|
|Balfour, RtHnGeraldW(Leeds)||Craig, Robert Hunter (Lanark)||Halsey, Rt. Hn. Thomas F.|
|Banbury, Sir Frederick George||Crombie, John William||Hamilton, Marq of (L'nd'nd'rry|
|Bartley, Sir George C. T.||Cross, Alexander (Glasgow||Hardy, L. (Kent, Ashford)|
|Bathurst, Hn. Allen Benjamin||Cubitt, Hon. Henry||Hare, Thomas Leigh|
|Beach, Rt Hn Sir Michael Hicks||Dalkeith, Earl of||Harmsworth, R. Leicester|
|Bentinck, Lord Henry C.||Dalziel, James Henry||Heath, ArthurHoward (Hanley|
|Bignold, Sir Arthur||Davenport, William Bromley||Heath, Sir Jas. (Staffords, N.W.|
|Bigwood, James||Denny, Colonel||Henderson, Sir A. (Stafford, W.|
|Blundell, Colonel Henry||Dickinson, Robert Edmond||Hill, Henry Staveley|
|Bolton, Thomas Dolling||Dickson, Charles Scott||Hornby, Sir William Henry|
|Bond, Edward||Dobbie, Joseph||Hoult, Joseph|
|Bowles, T. Gibson (King's Lynn||Dorington, Rt. Hn. Sir John E.||Hozier, Hn. James Henry Cecil|
|Brassey, Albert||Douglas, Rt. Hon. A. Akers-||Hunt, Rowland|
|Brodrick, Rt. Hon. St. John||Douglas, Chas. M. (Lanark)||Jebb, Sir Richard Claverhouse|
|Brotherton, Edward Allen||Dyke, Rt. Hn. Sir Wm. Hart||Jeffreys, Rt. Hn. Arthur Fred|
|Brown, George M. (Edinburgh)||Egerton, Hon. A. de Tatton||Jessel, Captain HerbertMerton|
|Buchanan, Thomas Ryburn||Elibank, Master of||Joicey, Sir James|
|Bull, William James||Ellice, Capt EC(SAndrw'sB'ghs||Kenyon, Hn. Geo. T. (Denbigh|
|Buxton, N.E (York, N. R, Whitby||Elliot, Hn. A. Ralph Douglas||Kenyon-Slaney, Rt.Hn.Col W.|
|Caldwell, James||Faber, Edmund B. (Hants, W.||Kimber, Sir Henry|
|Campbell, Rt Hn J A.(Glasgow||Faber, George Denison (York)||Lamont, Norman|
|Carson, Rt. Hn. Sir Edw. H.||Ferguson, R. C. Munro (Leith)||Law, Andrew Bonar (Glasgow)|
|Cautley, Henry Strother||Fergusson, Rt.Hn.SirJ(Manc'r||Lawrence, Wm. F. (Liverpool)|
|Lee, Arthur H (Hants, Fareham||Pryce-Jones, Lt.-Col. Edward||Stroyan, John|
|Legge, Col. Hon. Heneage||Purvis, Robert||Talbot, Lord E. (Chichester)|
|Leveson-Gower, Frederick N.S.||Pym, C. Guy||Talbot, Rt. Hn J.G(Oxf'd Univ.|
|Long, Rt. Hn. Walter(Bristol,S||Rankin, Sir James||Tennant, Harold John|
|Lonsdale, John Brownlee||Reid, James (Greencock)||Thorburn, Sir Walter|
|Lowe, Francis William||Reid, Sir R. Threshie(Dumfries||Tollemache, Henry James|
|Lucas, Reginald J(Portsmouth||Renshaw, Sir Charles Bine||Tomlinson, Sir Wm. Edw. M.|
|Lyttelton, Rt. Hon. Alfred||Ridley, S. Forde||Tuff, Charles|
|Macdona, John Cumming||Ritchie, Rt. Hn. Chas. Thomson||Tufnell, Lieut-Col. Edward|
|Macnamara, Dr. Thomas J.||Robertson, Herb. (Hackney)||Tuke, Sir John Batty|
|Maconochie, A. W.||Rolleston, Sir John F. L.||Ure, Alexander|
|M'Crae, George||Round, Rt. Hn. James||Wallace, Robert|
|M'Iver, SirLewis(Edinburgh, W||Royds, Clement Molyneux||Walrond, Rt Hn Sir William H|
|M'Kean, John||Rutherford, John (Lancashire)||Warde, Colonel C. E.|
|M'Killop, James (Stirlingshire)||Sackville, Col. S. G. (Stopford||Wason, Eugene (Clackmannan|
|Martin, Richard Biddulph||Sadler, Col. Samuel Alexander||Wason, John Cathcart (Orkney|
|Maxwell, RtHnSirH.E(Wigt'n)||Saunderson, Rt. Hn Col Edw. J.||Whiteley, H.(Ashton undLyne)|
|Maxwell, W.J.H.(Dumfriesshire||Seely, Charles Hilton (Lincoln||Whitmore, Charles Algernon|
|Mitchell, William (Burnley)||Seton-Karr, Sir Henry||Wilson, John (Glasgow)|
|Montagu, G. (Huntingdon)||Sharpe, Wm. Edward T.||Wilson-Todd, Sir W. H. (Yorks.)|
|Morley, Rt. Hn. John (Montrose||Shaw, Thomas (Hawick B.)||Wodehouse, Rt Hn E. R.(Bath)|
|Morton, Arthur H. Aylmer||Shaw-Stewart, Sir H.(Renfrew||Wolff, Gustav Wilhelm|
|Mowbray, Sir Robert Gray C.||Skewes-Cox, Thomas||Worsley-Taylor, Henry Wilson|
|Murray, Chas. J. (Coventry)||Smith,Rt, Hn.J Parker (Lanarks||Wyndham, Rt. Hon. George|
|Parker, Sir Gilbert||Smith, Samuel (Flint)||Wyndham-Quin, Col. W. H.|
|Parkes, Ebenezer||Smith, Hon. W. F. D. (Strand)||Younger, William|
|Paulton, James Mellor||Spear, John Ward|
|Pemberton, John S. G.||Stanley, Edward Jas(Somerset)||TELLERS FOR THE AYES—Sir|
|Percy, Earl||Stewart, Sir M. J. M'Taggart||Alexander Acland-Hood and|
|Pierpoint, Robert||Stirling-Maxwell, Sir John M.||Viscount Valentia.|
|Pilkington, Colonel Richard||Stock, James Henry|
|Pirie, Duncan V.||Stone, Sir Benjamin|
|Powell, Sir Francis Sharp|
|Pretyman, Ernest George|
|Abraham, William (Cork, N.E.||Hutchinson, Dr. Chas. Fredk||Slack, John Bamford|
|Austin, Sir John||Jacoby, James Alfred||Taylor, Theodore C. (Radcliffe)|
|Baker, Joseph Allen||Jones, Wm, (Carnarvonshire)||Thomas, Sir A. (Glamorgan, E.|
|Barlow, John Emmott||Kearley, Hudson E.||Thomas, David Alfred (Merthyr|
|Brigg, John||Lambert, George||Tillett, Louis John|
|Bright, Allan Heywood||Layland-Barratt, Francis||Tomkinson, James|
|Broadhurst Henry||Levy, Maurice||Toulmin, George|
|Brunner, Sir John Tomlinson||Lewis, John Herbert||Villiers, Ernest Amherst|
|Burt, Thomas||Lloyd-George, David||Warner, Thomas Courtenay T.|
|Cameron, Robert||Lyell, Charles Henry||White, Luke (York, E.R.)|
|Channing, Francis Allston||M'Kenna, Reginald||Whiteley, George (York, W.R.)>|
|Dunn, Sir William||Morgan, J. Lloyd (Carmarthen)||Whitley, J. H. (Halifax)|
|Edwards, Frank||Nussey, Thomas Willans||Whittaker, Thomas Palmer|
|Evans, Samuel T. (Glamorgan)||O'Mara, James||Williams, Osmond (Merioneth).|
|Fenwick, Charles||Parrott, William||Wilson, Chas. Henry (Hull, W.|
|Fuller, J. M. F.||Perks, Robert William||Woodhouse, Sir J.T. (Huddersf'd|
|Griffith, Ellis J.||Rickett, J. Compton||Yoxall, James Henry|
|Harcourt, Lewis||Roberts, John Bryn (Eifion)|
|Hayden, John Patrick||Robson, William Snowdon||TELLERS FOR THE NOES—Mr.|
|Helme, Norval Watson||Russell, T. W.||Alfred Hutton and Mr.|
|Henderson, Arthur (Durham)||Shackleton, David James||George White.|
|Higham, John Sharp||Shaw, Chas. Edw. (Stafford)|
|Humphreys-Owen, Arthur C.||Shipman, Dr. John G.|
Bill read a second time, and committed for To-morrow.
§ And, there being no further Business set down for the Afternoon Sitting, Mr. Speaker left the Chair until the Evening Sitting.