New Church Worthies
Rev. Dr. Jonathan Bayley
And the Church in Scotland
THE Conference being held in Edinburgh for the first time in 1852, and Mr. Tuting being the representative of the Edinburgh Society, I was enabled to form an acquaintance with him and his excellent lady. He was one of the eight persons of whom the Society in the beautiful capital of North Britain was formed, in 1816. I visited him in the house at Trinity which he subsequently left as a legacy to the Conference, to be used I presume for the advantage of the Church in Scotland.
Mr. Tuting was a man of a pious, patient, thoughtful character, and on several occasions showed his interest in the Church and the Conference by attending its sittings, and recognising its services for the general good. The property he left is now reported to be at the disposal of Conference, and will it is hoped be so used as to carry out the wishes of its former worthy owner, to aid in the progress among mankind of the Lord's kingdom of Goodness and Truth. Mr. Tuting at one time kept a library of New Church works, that he might. circulate them at his own expense and trouble. Amongst the readers was Mrs. Crowe, who wrote the work entitled, The Night-Side of Nature, and no doubt she received from his library such spiritual views as appear in that remarkable book. Both within and without the Church Mr. Tuting was greatly respected. He left two hundred pounds to the Edinburgh Society, and one hundred to that of Glasgow, and the property now in hand will realise no doubt some hundreds of pounds. Mr. Bruce estimated it at seven or eight. Of Mr. Tuting himself, Mr. Bruce wrote, "I have known him intimately for very many years, and have always entertained a high opinion of him as a New Churchman; and many besides will long remember him as an example of a true Christian."
The New Church made its way very slowly in Scotland, though Mr. Glen, who took so earnest a part in proclaiming the truths of the New Kingdom in America, was a Scotchrnan. Here and there, however, in the early part of this century, a very few individuals in Edinburgh had obtained a knowledge of the truth, a few in Glasgow, and in Dundee. The chief leader in this respect was no doubt Mr. T. Parker, a retired barrister, who had received the doctrines in London through Mr. Hindmarsh, in 1788. He had been a Wesleyan for twenty years, and a good part of that time a local preacher, and both himself and Mrs. Parker were greatly respected by Mr. Wesley. Meetings of the early members were held at his house in Red Lion Square. His reception of the New Church principles was a great pecuniary loss to him, as his business was principally among his religious friends, and this was entirely withdrawn. While connected with the Methodists he published a Bible with notes, in two large volumes. Having relinquished the bar, he went to Scotland, and it was principally through his instrumentality the church was planted there. He preached the doctrines for some time in Glasgow, and then removed to Edinburgh. He taught the truth privately for a year or two to souls who hungered and thirsted for it; but after the memorable visit of Mr. Hindmarsh, in 1817, he began to preach the doctrines publicly, and a considerable number, among whom was the young man who became the Rev. W. Bruce, looked back to him as the blessed medium of their entry within the gates of the Holy City. He was, however, rather a burning than a shining light. He died in 1829, at 90 years of age. The first public proclamation of the power and great glory in which the Lord is descending to the spiritually-minded, was made by the Rev. Robt. Hindmarsh, who visited Scotland in 1817, and lectured and preached first at Glasgow, and then at Edinburgh.
He lectured every evening for several days at the house of a gentleman named Atwell, to audiences of from 16 to 20 persons. It was the day of small things. On Sunday, however, our friends were enabled by the liberality of the Unitarians to obtain the use of their chapel for morning and afternoon service, and by the equally generous conduct of a Rev. Mr. Douglas, the Andersonian Hall, which that gentleman was in the habit of using and which would contain a large congregation, was obtained for the evening. In consequence, Mr. Hindmarsh states he had a congregation of five hundred persons in the morning, of seven hundred in the afternoon, and in the evening of twelve hundred, many going away who were unable to enter.
In Glasgow there is always great eagerness to hear, and great attention to discuss afterwards what is heard, as I have often experienced ; and so Mr. Hindmarsh found it in his time; but as the friends had then no permanent place of worship, what real results followed this season of sowing broadcast the Divine seed is known to the Lord alone. But in 1834, when the Rev. D. G. Goyder went there to labour as regular minister, he stated, "The place of worship was exceedingly small, and I think I may say that forty persons would have rendered it inconveniently crowded. The Society, however, was equally limited in number, I think not exceeding twenty-five." That is after SEVENTEEN years. They were persons in the middle rank of life, possessed of the ordinary means of subsistence, but their liberality was great, greater than I have ever found in any other society. They subscribed generously towards the support of the Church, as well as of myself. They were very orderly in their general conduct, and punctual and regular in their attendance on the public services of the Church, and I may here say, once for all, that during my FOURTEEN years' residence in Glasgow, I never found the congregation remiss in their religious duties on the Sabbath. At the appointed time, they were found in their places, and neither the minister nor the congregation were annoyed by persons coming in late, except indeed in the case of occasional visits by strangers."
This is very high praise, and still I believe truly deserved by our friends of the Glasgow Society.
Dr. Goyder laboured very arduously during his time, as preacher, lecturer, and publisher of the Glasgow series of tracts, and then returned to England. The present respectable place of worship in Cathedral Street was opened soon after Dr. Goyder's time, and has of course afforded more ample accommodation for the Society's growth, which has been continuous and considerable. Mr. Hindmarsh went to Edinburgh, and found there a state of welcoming excitement even greater than that which he had experienced at Glasgow.
He stayed at the house of Mr. Bruce (I presume the father of the Rev. W. Bruce), and was warmly received by Messrs. Dichmoss, Tuting, and Parker.
"He preached on Thursday evening in the Freemasons' Hall, to about seven hundred persons, and three times on Sunday. The curiosity excited in the town was such that the place was excessively crowded. Above a thousand were present at each service on Sunday, and it was thought as many more had to go away unable to get in. Each time the attention was remarkable, and the effect produced was stated to be very great. One person said his faith was well shaken. Another was heard to declare that now he was in possession of a clue by which he may understand the Scriptures as he reads them by himself. A third, a venerable old lady, said, 'At last, in my old age, I have found the true way of salvation, the sure road to heaven.' A fourth said that at the conclusion of one of the discourses it was with difficulty he could restrain himself from calling upon all present to hold up their hands in approbation of what they had heard.
"Several of our friends have more than once quoted the words of Simeon at the birth of our Lord.
"If a great interest was excited in Glasgow, it appears that a still greater was excited here. Many who attended the first meeting on Thursday evening were determined to be present at each of the three services on the succeeding Sunday, and expecting the place would be crowded BROUGHT THEIR DINNERS with them in the morning, and actually continued in the hall the whole day, that they might suffer no disappointment.
"It would almost appear that the primitive times were returning upon us, for what an Evangelist writes in relation to the Jews of old when they had seen and heard the Lord in person, may not inaptly be repeated in reference to the people of Edinburgh on the occasion of the Lord's second appearance in the spiritual sense of the Holy Word, namely, that they were all amazed, insomuch that they questioned among themselves, saying, What new doctrine is this? (Mark i., 27). Some have come from Glasgow, almost on purpose to hear me again, a distance of forty-two miles."
In a letter written by the friends after the visit, and dated August 9th, 1817, they say, "Mr. Hindmarsh had arrived there from Glasgow, bringing with him a rich supply of heavenly instruction; that he preached to crowded audiences, who seemed amazed yet delighted with the simple yet sublime instruction thus proclaimed in their ears. That all the members of their little Society had felt an uncommon elevation of their affections since his arrival. They have had, as it were, some foretastes of the joys of heaven, and they feel their bosoms heave with gratitude to our Heavenly Father, who hath thus visited and refreshed His infant Church with the Divine truths of His Holy Word.
"The number of true receivers they reckon about twenty-two, and there are about a dozen more who attend pretty constantly: and of these there is reason to think the greater part will now become cordial recipients.
"They think it very probable that the Old Church will die hard in Scotland; her people being wedded to her dead formalities, and unwilling to part with their offended justice, their atonement, their reconciled God, and their external sanctity on sacramental occasions.
"The phrase die hard in Scotland will be better understood if we take a glimpse of the grim and melancholy effect the Calvinistic Church of John Knox and his followers had produced upon the country. The cruelties of Charles I. and II., and James II., in attempting to force the Church of England upon Scotland, had made the people especially cling to their clergy; and the state of gloom realised by the noble Scotch people from the blight of Calvinism was most withering. It is presented in vivid and terrible colours by Buckle, in his History of Civilisation, and evidenced by the records of the Church and the sermons of the clergy.
"According to their code, all the natural affections, all social pleasures, all amusements, and all the joyous instincts of the human heart, were sinful, and were to be rooted out. It was sinful for a mother to wish to have sons; and if she had any it was sinful to be anxious about their welfare. It was a sin to please yourself, or to please others; for by adopting either course you were sure to displease God. All pleasures, therefore, however slight in themselves, or however lawful they might appear, must be carefully avoided. When mixing in society, we should edify the company, if the gift of edification had been bestowed upon us, but we should by no means attempt to amuse them. Cheerfulness, especially when it arose to laughter, was to be guarded against; and we should choose for our associates grave and sorrowful men, who were not so likely to indulge in so foolish a practice.
"Smiling, provided it stopped short of laughter, might occasionally be allowed; still, being a carnal pastime, it was a sin to smile on Sunday. Even on week-days, those who were most imbued with religious principles hardly ever smiled, but sighed, groaned, and wept. A true Christian would be careful in his movements, to preserve invariable gravity, never running, but walking soberly, and not treading out in a brisk and lively manner, as unbelievers are wont to do. So, too, if he wrote to a friend, he must beware lest his letter should contain anything like jocoseness, since jesting is incompatible with a holy and serious life.
"The Rev. Mr. Lyon mentions that some of the Scotch clergy, in drawing up regulations for the government of a colony, inserted the following clause: 'No husband shall kiss his wife, and no mother shall kiss her child, on the Sabbath day.'
"It was wrong to take pleasure in beautiful scenery, for a pious man had no concern with such matters, which were beneath him, and the admiration of which would be left to the unconverted. The unregenerate might delight in these vanities; but they who were properly instructed saw Nature as she really was, and knew that as she, for about five thousand years, had been constantly on the move, her vigour was well-nigh spent and her pristine energy departed. To the eye of ignorance, she still seemed fair and fresh; the fact was, however, that she was worn out and decrepit; she was suffering from extreme old age; her frame, no longer elastic, was leaning on one side, and she soon would perish. All the senses were evil, but the eye was incomparably the most wicked. Hence, it was especially marked out for Divine punishment, and, being constantly sinning, it was afflicted with fifty-two different diseases, that is, one disease for each week of the year.
"The world afforded nothing worth looking at, save and except the Scotch Kirk, which was incomparably the most beautiful thing under heaven."
Trained and taught for generations, with fervent zeal and perseverance, and with earnest preaching as contrasted with English sermon-reading, we need not be surprised that a nation saturated with Calvinistic theology would receive slowly the Gospel that God is Love, and Wisdom, and has formed all things in Wisdom and Order, that man should be happy. There was, however, quite as much reception when the truth was lovingly set before them as could have been expected. A Society was begun at Dunfermline, under the leadership of a worthy man, Mr. Paton, the father of the present distinguished artist, Sir Noel Paton.
Another was commenced at Alloa, by a most intelligent and excellent blacksmith, Allan Drysdale.
Dundee had a very curious experience. While the Church was being founded in an orderly way in Glasgow and Edinburgh, by the open proclamation of her doctrines and the acknowledgment of Swedenborg as the Lord's special messenger to the world for their publication, a gentleman named Whitefield, of great attractiveness as a speaker, but not very Christian in his life, had quietly read some of the New Church works in Manchester, where he had resided, but where he does not seem to have been known to the New Church people. He went first to Edinburgh, and remained a short time, and then visited Dundee. He learned there that there was a large chapel without a minister. He preached for them, and was approved. He offered his services, and was told they were willing to accept him if he would be content with such income as came freely in, whatever it might be.
He was willing to commence on those terms, and his eloquence soon attracted great congregations; and though his doctrines were new and strange to the people, they heard him gladly, and admired and esteemed what they heard. After a time, the instability of the man began to appear; he was found to have been intemperate at Edinburgh, and the unhappy weakness in this respect was repeated at Dundee, and his influence declined, so that he could no longer remain in the town. How sad that so promising an effort should have been destroyed by such morbid self-indulgence!
A minister, to lead his people truly, must be felt to be an example, as well as a teacher, and beyond the very suspicion of self-indulgence, as well as guiltless of the reality, or he will lose sooner or later the respect of his people. The minister will not be trusted and esteemed, unless the people believe that when good is to be done self-denial is his law, not self gratification. It was not so with this poor gentleman, Whitefield. It became known, however, before he left, that he owed what was most valuable in his teaching to Swedenborg's Heaven and Hell, and quite a number of his hearers began to read some of the works with great profit, and especially one most worthy character, Mr. Peter Smith.
They sent, in 1824, an invitation to young Mr. Bruce, who had been secretary of the Edinburgh Society for seven years, and had deepened his acquaintance with New Church works by thoughtful and diligent study, and shown much aptness to teach.
A distinct Society was thus formed in Dundee, and for three years was constantly increasing, when the labours were found to be too much for Mr. Bruce's delicate health, and he returned to Edinburgh, leaving the worthy Mr. Smith as leader, who was very successful and universally respected, but removed by accidental death on the 27th of December, 1834. Since that time, for want of ministration, the Society has decayed, but latterly, with greater missionary activity in Scotland, Dundee is having renewed attention, and may well become a field for a powerful and abiding New Church Society.
The Scottish Missionary Society, led by our esteemed friends in Glasgow and Paisley, headed by the warm-hearted ministers Potts and Allbutt, has of late years been most enterprising and energetic. Their activity and devotion have been beyond all praise, and increase in their own borders, as well as a great modification of the general tone of thought in Scotland, is the gratifying result.
It almost seems sometimes, at present, that dear old Scotland is going too fast; that the old is dying off before the new can fully take its place; but of course the Lord knows best, and the whole movement is under His most Wise, most Merciful and Providential care.