The Ashburton Grardian. Magna est Veritas, et Prevalebit. TUESDAY, DECEMBER 12, 1882. Mr A.C. Gillies and the Press.
In the Australasian colonigs we have become accustomed to considerable eccentricities of practice and doctrine on the part of those who style themselves Christian ministers. We cannot, indeed, go so far as to endorse the statement made to us some time back in this colony, by one son of an English clergyman, that England sends out all her clerical rubbish to this part ot the world. But some of it apparently comes here; and the two clerical gentlemen mentioned in our news columns last Saturday do not seem to be bright samples of the members of their profession. Of Mr Charles Fraser, of St Andrew’s church, Christchurch, we shall at present say little, because the final hearing of his case by “ libel ” is still subjudicc. He is charged by one section of his congregation, and by the majority of the Presbytery, with immorality, dishonesty, and disobedience to the laws of his Church. It is possible that at the last moment lie may bring forward conclusive evidence to disprove all the charges made against him ; but in endeavoring to fence himself round with all manner of technical objections to the court before which he is tried, instead of giving a flat denial and disproof of the charges made, he is certainly furnishing people generally with very strong suspicions adverse to his innocence. As regards Mr Gillies, the case is different. His offence consists in what he has said or written, rather than in anything he has done. We do not know this gentleman, and have no desire to possess that honor. Whatever else he may be in reality, he is certainly not a Christian minister in sentiment. He writes to a reporter for the Otago Daily Times , whom he appears to have mistaken for someone who has given him offence:—“Your presence is not required in the North Dunedin Presbyterian Church so long as I am the minister of it. Only Christians and such sinners as are worth saving, or, at least, are capable of being saved, are welcomed there.” We are not going into any theological discussion respecting these sentiments, but as a test of their Christianity we will transfer them to one of the most characteristic passages in the Sacred Book of Christianity, and leave our readers, whether lay or clerical, to form their own conclusion. In Mr Gillies’ version it should stand as follows ; “ Then came near unto him all the most respectabe Scribes and Pharasees, and other orthodox Jews, whose souls are worth saving, or, at least, capable of being saved, to hear him.” We will ask our readers with confidence whether such a burlesque of Christianity ns this is anything like that Christianity they prize as the noblest thing on earth ? Yet this is the Christianity of Mr A. C. Gillies. Looking at the matter from a secular point of view, Mr Gillies’ utterance is nothing but a piece of consummate impudence. As if it rested with him to decide whether a reporter for the press —or, for that matter, anyone else —should be allowed to enter a Christian Church ! Why, all Christian people have long ago made up their minds that it is an exhibition ot narrow-minded fanaticism when a
Mahommedan mosque is closed against them ; but to close a Christian church against anyone, no matter whom, desirous to listen to the Divine message to man, is not Christianity, whatever else it may be. It is of the very essence of Christianity that it should he universal, free as the air of heaven. For any man ostensibly a teacher of Christianity to display his petty vanity and bad temper so far as to desire even to exclude a single listener from his church shows him at once no Christian at all, but only a wolf in sheep’s clothing. We laugh at Sir Anthony Absolute telling his son who has offended him that he will have an atmosphere of his own, but even he is not in the least more absurd than Mr Gillies. We have not attached the prefix “ Reverend ” to the nani 's of either Mr Fraser or Mr Gillies. We have made the omission advisedly. The fact is, the title would have no meaning as applied to either of them ; for what man of the slightest intelligence regards either of them at the present time as being really a “ man to be revered,” for that is the meaning of “ reverend.” When we speak of Dean Stanley, or of Dr. Pusey, or the late t Archbishop of York, or of Doctors Norman McLeod, Guthrie, or Caird. “ Men whose life having faith and pure intent would have been held in high esteem by Paul,” to use Milton’s words, we do not use the term reverend, because it is felt at once to be quite unnecessary, as the feeling is so obviously demanded there. In the case of Messrs Fraser and Gillies, different as their offences are, we feel at once with regard to each, that the title of honor, if it be one at all, is utterly misplaced. The sooner, in fact, this prefix is dropped altogether out of common usage, the better it will be for our truthfulness of speaking. With ignorant people all such misapplied terms of sacredness do harm, and cause them gradually to lose sight of the thing, so strangely travestied by current forms of expression. The terms “ divinity ” and “ divine ” have also come to be most strangely misused, and in their usual signification are utterly preposterous. We find boys of fifteen years of age, committing to memory the logical arguments in Paley’s “Natural I heology ” or “Evidences” and then they are publicly announced as having “ passed a good examination in divinity.” In the same way a young man, on leaving his college, is advised by his friends to go into the Church, because there is a good living in the gift of the family, and he forthwith gets ordained, and thenceforth is sty'jJ, as we often read in newspapers, “ a divine,” when all the time there is nothing more of a divine in him, or of divinity in his knowledge than there is in a stockbroker’s knowledge of the currency question and practice of it in speculating on the Stock Exchange. These inappropriate terms of sacredness, where there is no real sacredness at all, should certainly be abolished as soon as possible. As old Chaucer says of the grand monkish and priestly equipages of his times, All suche like falsehede note nedis fall.