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PRINCIPAL RAINY., Issue 7993, 23 August 1889
TO THK EDITOB. Sik,—The Rev. Robert lUiny, P.D., Principal and Professor of Divinity and Church History, New College, Edinburgh, delivered on August 18, 1889, two Bermona —one in the First Church, and the other in Knox Church, Dunedin. Dr Rainy is a venerable looking gentlemac When he •tood up in the First Church pulpit one might have supposed that Dr Burns had just risen from his grave and paid a morning visit to his former flock. Principal Rainy has the Bame patriarchal and dignified rppearance. He is, indeed, a man of greit presence, and fr e from erratic attitudes and eccentricities of derortmen*. He makes no gesticulations. He is a man of culture and sobriety of speech and de meanor. He selected a really beautiful text from the Gospel of Mark, chap, iii., and the last four vcraea— notably the last verse : "Whosoever shall do the will of God, tho name is my brother and my sister and mother." He had a divine mission, and all other considerations must bend before the prosecution of that work. It is a glorious text; but tho preacher handled it very indifferently. The utterance was great, and well fitted to elicit a noble sermon. Dr Rainy has published a book on ' The Delivery and Development of Christian Doctrine.' He, however, upon this occasion did not display any signal manifestation of delivery, or power of developing the doctrine explicitly and implicitly—latently and patently enfolded in that glorious text. If his hearers mangle rather than do the will of God, the pteacbet most certainly mangled rather than explained its spiritual significance. He, indeed, iterated and reiterated his text so that the perpetual reiteration raised up an emotion of indignation in the breasts of the people. He forcibly reminded me of the minister recorded by Carlyle. He chose for his text "He that is filthy, let him be filthy still," and continually harped upon the words, so that the squire "of the manor, 1 sing all patience, rose up in bis seat and audibly addressed the minister thus : "And he that is a jackass let him be a jackass still," and indignantly walked out of the church. I did not, indeed, follow that example, but I felt very much annoyed at the painful tautology, and disappointed at the absence of original cognition. The sermon in Knox Church was based upon the conversation at the well of Jacob between Christ and tbc woman of Samaria. It is one of the best stories in Holy Writ. If a good textualist is a good divine, tin n Dr Rainy bids fair to merit such a distinction.
" If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith unto thee Give me Ho drink, thou wouldest have asked of Him, and He would have given thee living water." We were favored with a plain, simplo, and popular homily upon these word?. The gift is eternal life ; but what that is, and what it includes, the preacher gave slight information. Here is a remarkable dialogue between a degraded woman and incarnate God, and no wonder that the woman's conscience was aroused and her heart touched with religious emotioD. The living water was the Holy Spirit; but what is that Spirit ? God in Christ is the stumblingblock of theology, and we get only vague platitudes about it from preachers generally. Dr Rainy gave a peroration on the prompt acceptance of this divine gift. The transformation of the whole character necessarily flows from the reception of this sweet, holy, and good gift of God. The prepcher has not a full-orbed voice, but it is clear, distinct, albeit somewhat equeakish. The churches were literally crammed to suffocation.
I do abominate the hymns—notably 'Tell me the old, old story,' etc. How inferior in piety and sublimity they are to the Psalms, or even the Scotti«h paraphases ! No wonder that the chufehes are becoming choral
halls, where "evensongs" are chanted to the sound of musical instruments, since the age of preaching is almost at an end. Chalmers, according to Carlyle, was the last of the great preachers. What a descent from the first Principal of the new college to the fourth ?
The new college was inaugurated in a hired room in George street, Edinburgh, in 1843, under the presidency of that glorious star, Dr Chalmers. The foundation Btoneof the new buildings was laid by Chalmers in 1840, and in 1889 we have the fourth Principal in Dunedin—a city that had no existence until IS4B. Oamaru enjoys the ministrations of the third Professor of Systematic Theology of the New College. In one word, the Rov. Principal Rainy lacks life, energy, and inspiration. He may be an instructive teacher, but never can be a popular preacher. On the evening of the 2lst August Principal Rainy lectured in Knnx Church on 'Some Phases of Church Life in Scotland.' The lecture was discursive, desultory, and superficial. We got literally nothing about the present state and tendencies of faith in Caledonia. There were with all due respect to Dr Rainy—great men in Scotland before the Reformation and Knox. _ The discipline of the old churoh was quite as resolute, and the piety as marked before as after Knox. Who founded the Universities of St. Andrews, Glasgow, and Aberdeen, nearly two centuries before the Reformation?
Despite the dictum of Carlyle, echoed by Rainy, the peasantry were better cared for by the church th n they were by the nobles who appropriated the vast estates of the church. We got some stereotyped notions regarding the struggles and persecutions of the seventeenth century in defence of Presbyterial v. Episcopal government. But why did the Scottish nation so slavishly bend the knee before the house of Stuart, and finally restore them to the throne ? Why that inconsistency ? Again, how happens it that there are now three great ecclesiastical corporations in Scotland, all subscribing to the Confession of Faith, and yet separated, and at daggers' heads with one another ? We got no explanation of this anomaly. Again, the Moderates, or Erastians, of tho eighteenth century, were scholars and religious men. But in this nineteenth century notably tho latter half of it whatever Rainy may say to the contrary, men rebel not only against the church, but even against the Bible, and dispute the authoiit/ of both. Under such circumstances, how can Dr Rainy say that the church is sound to the core? The Principal's eulogy of the Erskines is not borne out by history. They were self-willed fßnatics, and the Church of Scotland did all she could to reclaim them, but in vain. Excommunication was the only alternative. If Presbyterianism is so devoted to organic unity will Dr Rainy explain the reason of so many schisms—on trivial, not fundamental matters—in Scottish Presbyterianism. Let anyone reflect upon what he heard in Knox Church, and he will be forced to own that the lecture was singularly shallow, and unworthy of a professor of Church History. There was re dly no information regarding the existing phases of religious belief in Scotland.—l am, etc., J, G. S. Grant. Dunedin, August 23.
PRINCIPAL RAINY., Issue 7993, 23 August 1889
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