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Dick, Andious Corentega

SUBSTANCE

OF A

SPEECH

DELIVERED

AT A MEETING OF EVANGELIGAL DISSENTERS

OF DIFFERENT DENOMINATIONS,

HELD IN

EDINBURGH on 13th SEPTEMBER 1832.

PUBLISHED AT THE REQUEST OF THE MEETING, BY THE COMMITTEE OF

THE VOLUNTARY CHURCH ASSOCIATION.

EDINBURGH:

JOHN WARDLAW, ST ANDREW STREET,

EDINBURGH ;
AND DAVID ROBERTSON, GLASGOW.

1832

BX
5 350
D54

OFFICE BEARERS

OF

The Woluntary Church Association.

REV. DR PEDDIE, CHAIRMAN.

..

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Committee.
Rev. Dr RITCHIE, Edinburgh Messrs Jn. Drysdale, Edinb.
Rev. Chris. ANDERSON, ditto.

A. C. Dick, ditto.
John CLEGHORN, ditto.

A. FYFFE, ditto.
G. D. CULLEN, Leith

THOMAS Gibbs, Leith. .. James Harper, ditto.

ROBERT JEFFREY, Edinb. JAMES KIRKWOOD, Edin.

ANDREW Jack, ditto. David King, Dalkeith.

JAMES MARSHALL, Leith. Francis Muir, Leith.

WILLIAM Renton, Edin. John M‘Gilchrist, Edin. Robert Simpson, ditto. .. JAMES TURNBULL, ditto. ARCHD. SMITH, ditto.

John Watson, Musselb. GEORGE Wilson, ditto.
Messrs WM ALEXANDER, Leith. James Young, ditto.
Adam Black, Edinburgh WILLIAM STARK, ditto.

Treasurer,
JAMES DUNCAN, Esq. W. S.

Secretaries,
Rev. DR JOHN BROWN.
Rev. WILLIAM LIMONT.
JAMES PEDDIE jun. Esq. W. S.

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A. C. DICK, Esq. Advocate, moved, “ That this Meeting ap

“ prove of the Report of the Committee now read; and that
“ the gentlemen present do now, agreeably thereto, FORM
“ themselves into a Society by the name of the VOLUN-
“ TARY CHURCH ASSOCIATION, and adopt the
“ fundamental principles and rules recommended in said

Report as the Fundamental Principles and Rules of said
Society."*

66

Having read the motion, Mr Dick proceeded :

I presume it is unnecessary for me to say much respecting the Committee's Report to which the motion refers. It is very plain and short; and is, or will immediately be, in general circulation. It contains their statement of what they think ought to be adopted as the fundamental principles of the proposed Association,—the end and the means of its operation,—the rules and framework of its constitution. And upon all these points it appears to be unexceptionable. The declaration of principles is at once just, comprehensive, and powerful, clothed in language perfectly precise and firm, yet perfectly temperate, being no stronger than is required by the strong opinions which it conveys.

To propagate these principles, and further the other objects of the Association, the chief instrument which it is proposed to employ is the public Press,—a fair and honourable weapon, of which the use is equally open to all, and by which we can make an impression only upon the reason and conscience of our countrymen.

For the success of our cause, for a deliverance from the evils which we oppose, this Association will hence be seen, not to look to any temporary agitation of the popular mind, nor to force, nor to accident. We are

* Vide Appendix.

ready, indeed, to accept the boon, from whatever quarter it may legitimately come ; —but we would rather that this, like all happy changes in national institutions, should be preceded by a revolution in the sentiments and opinions of men ; should bring dismay and sorrow to no virtuous mind—but be demanded by the reason, and attended by the good-will, of at least the great majority of the community.

The Rules and Regulations also which have been proposed by the Committee, deserve I think our approbation. They are at once simple and efficient. To one only I would beg to call a moment's attention, because I am aware that elsewhere, if not here, its propriety may be questioned. I refer to that Regulation by which membership is confined to persons connected with evangelical denominations. This restriction will, undoubtedly, make our Association appear to some to be unreasonably exclusive. They may be unable to discover why we should refuse to co-operate, in a cause like the present, with persons of any religious denomination. And, seeing that one peculiar grievance alone, and one particular opinion, have called us forth from the privacy of our respective communions, and united us publicly together, they may hesitate about the policy of offering any thing like a guarantee to the world for one another's sentiments and profession beyond the actual cause of union. In these views I myself have been inclined to participate—but as the Rule was understood to accord with the general wish at last meeting; as it is perhaps unavoidable, by a society which ineans to publish Ecclesiastical Treatises; and as it has been approved of by many experienced persons, who indeed have made its adoption an indispensable condition of their adherence to us; -every one, I am persuaded, will waive his scruples and acquiesce in the arrangement. To this course we shall be rather inclined, because the rule in question is not unaccompanied with advantages. We can point to it as a guarantee, effectual even with churchmen themselves, that the arguments which will be submitted to the public shall be free from any taint of irreligion or immorality; shall never, under the pretext of exposing the abuses, assail the essentials of Christianity; but on the contrary shall vindicate and uphold them. It has long been a favourite artifice with unscrupulous defenders of Ecclesiastical Establishments, to identify these institutions with Christianity itself, and to accuse who

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soever opposed the former, of being enemies of the latter : an accusation for which there is not only no just foundation, but the very reverse of which is more nearly the fact ; for it would not be difficult to show that the most skilful enemies of religion, those who, hopeless of destroying its sentiment and form, seek to degrade its spirit and misdirect its aim—have invariably taken part with the friends of Establishments. But this accusation, whether true or false against other assailants, must be for ever impossible against us. This Regulation will prevent it. Agreeing as we do in religious belief with the members of the Establishment itself,—not seeking to supplant them in the possession of the riches and honour of a State alliance, the most fertile invention will be unable to trace our present union to a sinister motive, or to throw the shade of suspicion over the honesty and benevolence of our intentions. All will be compelled to acknowledge, that at least we mean to befriend Religion, and that our enmity is pointed exclusively at that system with which the endowed church in this country is artificially bound up, by which we believe it to be shackled, and against the untoward influence of which we regret to see it daily wasting in ceaseless struggles, the vigour which might be expended in achieving new conquests.

But not to consume your time, by farther remarks upon the details of the proposed Association; I would remind you, that at our last meeting, we entrusted to the Committee a delicate and important task, wbich they have discharged well, and that they have now resigned into our hands the direction of future proceedings. The next step is to form the Association which they recommend; and the question before us is, whether this step should now be taken ? Is the dissenting interest in Scotland at last to organize its numbers, and to acquire an authorized channel of proclaiming its united wishes? or, is it to continue broken as heretofore, into small detachments, distinguished by differing, and sometimes hostile names, and acting only in desultory and occasional movements ?

There are some, I am aware, who disapprove of the former course; who hesitate respecting the policy of our proposed Society, because the measure is new, because it is bold, because it may be irritating to certain classes of the community. There are dissenters, few in number no doubt, but yet dissenters in principle

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