BLTC Press Titles

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The Pictorial Key to the Tarot

Arthur Edward Waite

Leaves of Grass

Walt Whitman

Knowledge of Higher Worlds and its Attainment

Rudolf Steiner

The Revolt of the Netherlands

Friedrich Schiller

History of the atonement controversy

by Andrew Robertson



Brief reference to the causes of the Secession—The Marrow Controversy; its origin, progress, and results.

Soon after the Revolution of 1688, which, by placing the Prince of Orange on the throne of these realms, put an end to the tyranny of the second James, hundreds of the Episcopal clergy in Scotland were not only allowed to keep possession of their livings, but were admitted, " upon the easiest terms," into the communion of the Presbyterian establishment. This instance of extreme leniency, for which the Commission of the Church of Scotland took credit, in an address presented to Queen Anne in the year 1712, was a fatal mistake, as it laid the foundation of that Moderate party which has ever been distinguished for its opposition, alike to the doctrines of grace and to the privileges of the people. Its hostility to the former manifested itself not many years before the Secession took place, particularly in the cases of Professor Simson, the Auchterarder Presbytery, and the Marrow of Modern Divinity.

As to the first of these cases: Professor Simson, who filled the Chair of Theology in the University of Glasgow, was libelled at the instance of the Rev. James Webster, a distinguished minister of Edinburgh, ' for having taught Arminian and Pelagian errors; and yet, although it was proved he had been inculcating on the youth under his care the most erroneous sentiments respecting original sin—man's condition by nature, and the value of divine revelation—he was continued in office, and dismissed from the bar of the General Assembly, with no other caution for the future than what is contained in the following finding:—" That he had vented some opinions not necessary to be taught in divinity, and that he had given more occasion to strife than to the promoting of edification ;—that he had used some expressions that bear and are used by adversaries in a bad and unsound sense, and for answering more satisfactorily, as he supposed, the cavils and objections of adversaries;—that he had adopted some hypotheses different from what are commonly used among orthodox divines, that are not evidently founded on Scripture, and tend to attribute too much to natural reason and the power of corrupt nature ; which undue advancement of reason and nature is always to the disparagement of revelation and efficacious free grace : Therefore they prohibit and discharge the said Mr Simson to use such expressions, or to teach, preach, or otherwise vent such opinions, propositions, or hypotheses as aforesaid."*

The above deliverance given in 1717, indicated

* Printed Minutes of Assembly, 1717.

but little zeal " for the faith once delivered to the saints," while as regarded the Professor himself, it had no beneficial effect whatever, as he persisted in teaching his heretical views, and even aggravated his offence by the addition of the Arian to the Pelagian Creed. This led to a second process being instituted against him, from which it appeared he was accustomed to teach.—" That the necessary existence of the Son is a thing that we know not; that the phrase necessary existence was impertinent, and not to be used when speaking of the Trinity; that the three persons of the adorable Trinity are not said to be numerically one in substance or essence ; and that the terms necessary existence, Supreme Deity, and the titles of the only true God, may be taken, and are taken, by some authors, in a sense that includes the personal property of the Father, and so not belonging to the Son."

Such are the sentiments the Professor was in the habit of inculcating from the chair, in addition to the heresies for which he had been previously taken to task; nevertheless, instead of being deposed from' the office of the ministry, and excluded from the fellowship of the church, he was simply deprived, yet not without difficulty, of his Professorship, and suspended from the discharge of his ecclesiastical functions; this sentence having been preceded by an expression of " high dissatisfaction with his conduct," which the Assembly, at a former meeting, " found themselves obliged to give forth, for the honour of truth, and in order to prevent the spreading of error." *

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