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THE RECENT SYNODS OF SCOTLAND.
The Diocesan Synods of the Scottish Church are all over for this year, and the Episcopal Synod will meet in Edinburgh in a few days. We are glad to hear that an effort will then be made to induce the Bishops to restore peace to the Scottish Church, by replacing Mr. Cheyne in his status as a clergynan in that Church. The amount of sympathy for Mr. Cheyne, which has been elicited, much of it from unexpected quarters, shows clearly that there can. not be any peace till he is restored. Mr. Cheyne's friends and his theological opponents profess, with equal zeal, their readiness to “ beat their swords into ploughshares ;” they alike declare how delighted they would be to see Mr. Cheyne again officiating in the Church which he so long and so faithfully served and adorned ; but they dispute about the means. On the one hand, Mr. Cheyne's friends insist, as a preliminary step, on the withdrawal, by the Episcopal Synod, of the 4th of November Finding. On the other hand, those whom, for lack of a better name, we must call Mr. Cheyne's opponents, insist that the first step must be taken by Mr. Cheyne, that he must come before the Episcopal Synod to declare his “sincere repentance,” before the Synod can move canonically in the matter. There are intermediate points of difference, but these are the two main positions in which the opposing parties have respectively entrenched themselves. Which of them is right ? Let us briefly examine the matter.
It is stated that Mr. Cheyne must "give evidence of a sincere repentance," before the Bishops can do anything towards his restoration. But for what offence is Mr. Cheyne to “ give evi. dence of a sincere repentance?" For heresy ? If the Bishops reply in the affirmative, then we would very respectfully ask them to explain the acquittal of the Bishop of Brechin, who taught essentially the same heresy? If they reply in the negative, we put it to them, whether any phase of doctrine short of heresy can justify the severity of the sentence which they passed on Mr. Cheyne? Either it was wrong to dismiss the Bishop of Brechin with an unmeaning censure, or it was wrong to inflict on Mr. Cheyne a sentence of perpetual suspension. Both sentences cannot be right, one of them must be wrong. There is no possible escape from that conclusion. And the question is, which of the two sentences is the wrong one? Surely the first; for, if " second thoughts are best," we may presume that the thoughts of Scottish Bishops form no exception. Moreover, the Bishop of Moray, in his recent Synod, expressed his opinion that the judgment in the case of the Bishop of Brechin had “given general satisfaction
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to the Church ;” which is certainly more than can be said for the judgment in Mr. Cheyne's case. If then the sentence on the Bishop of Brechin was just, it is evident that the sentence on Mr. Cheyne was not just. And if the sentence on Mr. Cheyne was not just, it is equally clear that Mr. Cheyne received an injury at the hands of the Bishops. And now behold the conclusion : Mr. Cheyne must "give evidence of a sincere repentance”-for having patiently submitted to an injury !
But we have been told, ad nauseam, that Mr. Cheyne's language is “provocative.” “Provocative" is a relative term. When one man is accused of being more “provocative” than another, the charge can only be sustained by an induction of facts. Are the Bishops prepared, then, to prove that, as a matter of fact, Mr. Cheyne's Sermons provoked more people than the Bishop of Brechin's Charge ? If they cannot do this, the charge of “provocativeness” against Mr. Cheyne, as a differentia between himself and the Bishop of Brechin, vanishes into thin air.
But let us grant, for argument's sake, that Mr. Cheyne's language is “ provocative ;” and then the question comes to this—Is a Clergyman, venerable by age, and eminent for his piety and learning, to be suspended for life for using “ provocative language? We do not believe that there is a single Churchman in Scotland who would commit himself to the affirmative of this question. When, therefore, the Bishop of Aberdeen asked Mr. Lee in Synod, if Mr. Cheyne was “ready to make an explanation or retractation which would be calculated to improve the baldness of statement, or to modify the provocative form with which the language of the six sermons, which he condemned, were justly liable to be charged ?” we wonder he did not see that his own question was an indirect condemnation of the sentence which he had passed on Mr. Cheyne two years previously. To suspend a clergyman for life, because he has taught heresy, is intelligible and fair if the heresy be clearly proved and persevered in ; but to suspend a clergyman on the simple ground of “baldness of statement," and "provocative form of language,” is simply monstrous.
The Bishop of Argyll defends Mr. Cheyne's suspension, by an argument which puzzles us immensely. First, he says, with reference to the trials of Mr. Cheyne and the Bishop of Brechin :
“I declined to go into judgment involving penal condemnation, inasmuch as upon the question of the Holy Eucharist, I conceived our Church had sanctioned a considerable latitude by her toleration of two separate offices for administration of the Holy Communion ...... the fact being so, I conceived it scarcely within our province at present to adjudicate narrowly upon the point in question, and, I trust, we never shall incline to do so. I cannot say I regret having come to the conclusion I came to at the trials; and I am borne out by the fact that, while those judgments have inflicted a severe blow upon the Church,
they have done little towards placing her upon a more permanently healthy or stable foundation.”
All this is very plain and very sensible. The Bishop of Argyll thinks that one of the Liturgical Offices of the Scottish Church, —the Office “of Primary Authority,” as one of her Canons describes it,-sanctions the Eucharistic teaching of Mr. Cheyne and the Bishop of Brechin; he “ declined,” therefore, “ to go into judgment involving penal condemnation ” of such teaching; he “conceives it scarcely within the province” of the Scottish Church “to adjudicate narrowly upon the point in question;" he “ trusts” she “will never do 80;" and he states it as a “ fact," that “those judgments have inflicted a severe blow upon the Church,” while they have done little towards” bettering her condition. All this, we repeat, is very sensible, and, from our point of view, very satisfactory. But how does it tally with the following statement ?
“He (Bishop Ewing,) thought at the time of this (Mr. Cheyne's) trial that it was very undesirable to suspend Mr. Cheyne, and he went to the trial with the intention not to concur in any such suspension ; but that was to some extent done away with by Mr. Cheyne's evident impracticability. He forced himself upon the Bishops in such a way as that those most charitable and most willing to do justice and love mercy could not have done otherwise than they did.”
Wherein did Mr. Cheyne's “impracticability” consist? How did he“ force himself upon the Bishops ?” The story is soon told. Mr. Cheyne published six sermons; he was presented for heresy; he was tried in the Diocesan Court with such flagrant injustice, that the Bishop's own legal assessor, and the Chancellor of his diocese, resigned their offices there and then; he was suspended till he should retract his doctrine; he appealed to the Episcopal Synod; the Court of Appeal inflicted a new sentence altogether-severer than the one appealed against; Mr. Cheyne refused to retract his own teaching and to accept Bishop Wordsworth’s “Opinion;" and then the Appellate Court dismissed his appeal. We ask again, where is Mr. Cheyne's “impracticability ?” Bishop Ewing's argument really amounts to this : “ The Communion Office of primary authority' in our Church sanctions the teaching of Mr. Cheyne's sermons; therefore I could not be a party to the infliction of any penal sentence upon him, for he can claim the authority of the Church for his doctrine. Accordingly, I went to Mr. Cheyne's trial with the intention not to concur in his suspension; but I found him so impracticable, that is to say, he would not withdraw the doctrine for which, I think, he had the authority of the Scotch Communion Office—that his judges could not help condemning him, much as they loved him. In short, I conceive that our Church has no right to make Mr. Cheyne's doctrine penal, so long as she sanctions the Scotch ComVOL. XXII.
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munion Office; but I think the Bishops did right to suspend Mr. Cheyne, because he would not retract his doctrine, and make a public apology for having ever taught it !”
There is a child's puzzle, which consists in passing a number of links through each other, so as to form a regular chain. To the uninitiated it is, of course, a great mystery how the links are made to hang together. Now it is quite possible that Bishop Ewing himself may know how to unite the above disjointed sentences in one consistent chain of reasoning; but those who are not in the secret, and who merely see the Bishop's premises and conclusion lying before them in separate links, will find it hard, if not impossible, to make them hang together. We have tried it very diligently, and we are obliged to give it up,
The truth is, the Scotch Bishops feel that they made a mistake in condemning Mr. Cheyne, but they are unwilling to confess it. Had they known that his doctrine was so prevalent, and his friends so numerous and powerful, they would never have condemned him; but having condemned him, they find it necessary to say something in self-defence. The acquittal of the Bishop of Brechin has compelled them to drop the charge of heresy against Mr. Cheyne; but some reason must be given for his condemnation, and so they have extemporised a charge of “ provocativeness” and “impracticability.” The answer to this is very simple. It is an undoubted fact that Mr. Cheyne was not condemned for being “provocative," or "impracticable," but for heresy; and in the second place, the Bishops would not have dared to condemn a man like Mr. Cheyne for mere " provocativeness” of language. Moreover, the Bishop of Moray declared at the trial of Bishop Forbes, that if he (Bishop Forbes) had “tried” to find language more “ provocative” than another, he could not have succeeded better than he did in his Charge; yet he did not consider that a sufficient reason for suspending Bishop Forbes. How, then, can it be a sufficient reason for suspending Mr. Cheyne? Let the Scotch Bishops not deceive themselves. By acquitting the Bishop of Brechin, they have proclaimed to the world that the sentence on Mr. Cheyne was unjust; it is, therefore, their bounden duty to revoke that sentence. Mr. Cheyne is an injured man, by their own admission ; let them do him justice-simple British justice—and rise, for once at least, superior to the petty feelings of personal dignity.
Let it not be supposed, however, that we have any desire to damage the dignity, or even wound the feelings of the Scotch Bishops. We respect their sacred office far too highly to admit of such a wish. We feel keenly that the characters of the chief rulers of a Church cannot be injured without injury to the Church over which they preside. That the Bishops, indeed, have done a grievous wrong to Mr. Cheyne is patent to all the world; “for this thing was not done in a corner;" the press inside and outside the Church
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has rung with it. Yet let the Bishops now retrace their steps, and they will find all, whose opinion they ought to value, ready to forget the past, and eager to " walk” with them again “in the house of God as friends." We verily believe that the Bishops might now restore Mr. Cheyne without any real sacrifice of dignity or consistency. In truth, they are immersed in inconsistencies, and every step they take towards Mr. Cheyne's restoration will be a step in the direction of consistency. This is an allegation which it is easy to substantiate.
In the Diocesan Synod of Aberdeen Mr. Lee brought forward the following motion :
“That a respectful request be made to the Episcopal College to withdraw its Finding of the 4th of November, 1858, in the Appeal of the Rev. P. Cheyne versus the Bishop of Aberdeen.”
Of this motion the Bishop of Aberdeen said,
“ It asks this Lower Court to supplicate the Court of Supreme Authority to undo a judgment which itself deliberately and seriously recommended ; a judgment, which being appealed against, was solemnly and deliberately affirmed by the Supreme Court of Appeal.”
Craving the Bishop of Aberdeen's pardon, we beg to say that he is altogether wrong as to his facts. He confounds two things which are very different, and which must on no account be confounded—the November and December Findings. Mr. Lee's motion did not “ask the Lower Court to supplicate the Court of Supreme Authority to undo a judgment which itself deliberately and seriously recommended.” Nor is it true that the judgment “appealed against,” “was solemnly and deliberately affirmed by the Court of Appeal” in November, 1858. The judgment which the Court of Appeal then affirmed, or rather invented, was a judgment totally different from the one appealed against. The judgment appealed against is as follows:
“Having resumed consideration of this case, I hereby, in presence of the Synod assembled as aforesaid, suspend the Respondent, the Rev. Patrick Cheyne, from his office of a Presbyter of the Episcopal Church in Scotland, and I prohibit and discharge him from exercising any of the functions belonging to that office, both in the Church of S. John the Evangelist, Aberdeen, of which he is the Incumbent, and also in every other place within the diocese over which I exercise spiritual jurisdiction, as a Bishop of the Episcopal Church in Scotland, until such time as he shall renounce and purge himself before me of the erroneous teaching contained in each and all of the quotations from his sermons quoted in the third branch of the Presentment, under the head marked B, and sections a b c.1
“ (Signed) Thos. G. SUTHER, Bishop.”
1 The quotations are as follow: " a. The Sacrifice of the Eucharist is substantially the same as the Sacrifice of