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HERESY HUNTING., Issue 15662, 28 November 1914
Wr. ore all born fighters. If wo can’t fight ourselves we love to see others at it. How the war nows thrills everybody! There is still something of the savage left in most of u* yet. Even good Christian people are conscious of this survival. Wo can appreciate the desire of the Border chieftain. When he was about to bo received into the Christian faith ho asked that hi® right arm might bo left unbaptised so that bo could still deal a vigorous blow to his enemy. There is an unsanctified faculty in the natures of most Christians—faculties that smell the battle from afar and hasten to join or witness the contest. It is a reversion to type, as tho scientist would say. For man has ever been a fighter. He has had to battle his nay forward ard upward—battle for every inch he has won. He has had to fight for his individual existence, for his tribal existence, for his national existence, for his religion. Almost every human result, certainly everything worth keeping, has been blood-bought. - We had been hop. ing that tho days of the brute methods and garment* rolled in blood were near an end. But evidently we are a long way off that yet. * Nevertheless it will come. Alan is working out the ape and tiger—• slowly, painfully. The age of reason will supersede that of the sword. Love shall be lord of all. We have advanced a good way towards that. What once would have cost the axe or the Inquisition we settle now by discussion and argument. The weapons , aro different and less deadly. But the fight is as real and interesting as ever. That is the reason why tho Burns Hall was crowded with listeners the other day when the Heresy discussion emerged in the Assembly. Reports about weightier matters of the law—the state of religion in tho country, the drift from the Church, the j efforts to reach tho young and push out the frontier of the Kingdom of Christ into foreign fields, these wer<y of small concern compared with the wa"r dance of Air Fraser round Professor Dickie. This was what drew tlvo public. And tbo- Press liked it also. It was far better copy tba>n the other subjects to which we have referred. A New York minister asked a city editor why he never mentioned tho prayer meeting in his paper. The latter replied: “ Prayer meetings are not news ; “ they are part of tho regular life of the “ community. But I should welcome a “fisticuff between him (the minister) and “his elder, because so far ns the com“munity knew that did nob'often happen. “It would be real nows.” And so this may explain how newspapers did not miss giving a full report of the Heresy Hunt, whatever else was omitted. It was nows, and it was news that the readers particularly liked. And so it came about that both Press and public crowded to tho Burns Hall. ****** * The mam who led the hunt, is an experienced hand. He is, as Stevenson described ono of his characters, “a bonnie fighter." He ha* been the kero of scholastic as well as ecclesiastical tournaments. Ho seems to like it. A Highland*gamekeeper, ou being asked one day why a certain terrier of singular pluck was so much more solemn-looking than r othcr dogs, replied ; “ Oh, sir, life’s full of sariousness “ to him ; he just never can get eneuch o' “ fechtinAir Fraser is not unlike the Highland terrier. Ho enjoys drinking dolight of battle with hi* peers. He has a keen noee for heresy. He guards carefully the tradition committed to him, and he is determined that others shall do the same. In his earlier political days it was said of the present Lord Haldane that he had nearly lost his eyesight in trying to j determine what way tho winds blew. We do not say that of Air Fraser. To do him justice, he is quite fearless. He does not care whether he is in a majority or not—rather the opposite. But if wc might vary the aphorism regarding Lord Haldane, wo should be inclined to affirm that Air Fraser has nearly lost the sense of the smell of heresy by too keen an anxiety after orthodoxy. There is such a thing as losing the idea* of proportion and becoming ridiculous or grotesque in our actions and our judgments. We would not say that Air Fraser has quite done that. But certainly it seems to us that the charge ho brought against Professor Dickie was very illadvised. What was the charge? It was that Professor Dickie had recommended to ■ certain students the study of certain books, j There ncre some things in those books that, in Air Fraser's view, contravened the AVcstminster doctrine. Me do not know whether' that is so or not. And Air Fraser offered no specific proofs. But Professor Dickie did not afilnn that he homologated everything that was in tho text books. What professor does? He must write a text hook of his own, and then his next neighbor would differ from him. For no two of us arc alike, and the statement or interpretation of doctrine by one author would not be identical with that of another. As we say, there was no evidence that Professor Dickie agreed with everything in these inks. There, was, indeed, evidence to tho contrary. For Professor Dickie only went the length of affirming that “in some respects” these were the best text books on the subjects. But even supposing these books to have the heretical teachings that Mr Fraser found in them, it is quite conceivable that it may just have been for that reason that Professor Dickie chose them. Ho may have wished to point out the error or inadequacy of doctrine they contained. He knew that j his students would have to face these doctrines in the world without. It is a quite mistaken policy to think that students in these days can be trained in a hothouse of orthodox}'. They are certain to encounter heresy both in philosophy , and theology outside their class rooms. And it is infinitely better that they should have these dealt with by competent authorities within the fold. How these books would bo dealt with by a professor must depend on his character—ou his honesty. Air Fraser’s charges implied that Professor Dickie was unfaithful to the vows he had taken. He produced no evidence in support, beyond the fact that he had prescribed these books for his students. He said that he wanted to force Professor Dickie to declare his beliefs. But he knew quite well that Professor Dickie has already done this in his ordination vows, five years ago. And there was no shadow of a proof that he was acting a Jesuitical part in eating the Church’s bread while he was subtly undermining the Church’s faith and poisoning the minds of its students. That was a serious, indeed, one might say, an odious charge. It had been hanging over Professor Dickie’s head for over a year. It was intolerable that it should continue. It was unjust to Professor Dickie, and if it were allowed to go on it might seriously injure the future of Knox College. The Assembly therefore rightly demanded that Air Fraser should at once .substantiate his impeachment of Professor Dickie or withdraw the charges. He attempted the formed, but we think every unprejudiced person must agree that ho signally failed. It seems to us that the Assembly on the evidence before it could come to no other finding than the one it finally reached. By 'a
majority of 105 to 4 it resolved that the charges against Professor Dickie wqre not sustained, and. it “ records its re- “ gret that Air Fraser should without “justification have aspersed the soundness of an honored teacher, and disturbed the peace of the Church." ***.* •* * * Of course, Air Fearer was quite within his right* in' raising this question. We arc not of those who think that creeds aro like German treaties—mero scraps of paper, to be binding only as long as it is convenient. The Church is bound to conserve its purity of doctrine, and any minister who sincerely thinks that such purity is threatened should take the necessary steps to counteract it. It is very doubt- ’ ful if Air Fraser went the right way about j his business. But such a, stickler for law and order is hardly likeiy to have erred , in this respect. There was evidence, in- j deed, lhat he had taken steps to make ; sure of his legal position. And yet law ! is not everything. Air Fraser, as an exponent of the Gospel, will know that. Ono may keep the whole Jaw and yet fail in his j Christianity. It is not our business to! expound Christian ethic*. But it seems \ to u* that Professor Dickie hinted to Air . Fraser the more excellent way. He sug- ; gested that'.'f in the first instance Air' Fraser had come to him and asked him j for an explanation he might have been j able to satisfy him that there was nothing i so dreadful in his prescribing these books. But Mr Fraser did not do that. He said lhat it would then have been urged against him that he was trying to wmm evidence out of Professor Dickie. Some “lewd fellows of the barer sort ” might have said ; that. But even if they had. it was not | a question of what tho man in the street | might say. but of what war, right. And i we believe that this would have been the right course. V7e believe it on an authoI rity which Air Fraser will acknowledge ; “If thy brother trespass against thee, go “and tell him his fault between thee and “him alone.” lie who said that is greater ; than all lawyers. And it ought to be the first step in all legal procedure, especially nhere a. church, is concerned. Were it .“-o acted upon, the world and the Church , would have been saved many a sorry spectacle. Charles Lamb once said: “Don’t, “introduce me to that man. I feel it is j “my duty to hate him, and you can’t | “ hate a nmn when you know him." But! it is impossible to know him if you do not j assume the best about him—if you stand j outside his acquaintance, and only ap- . proach him as a lawyer ora detective. In I ninety-nine cases out of a hundred suspicion | and hostility are due to misconceptions, to j lack of knowledge of the person. “He j “ threw tho water, not on me, but on the i “ person ho thought I was.” This was J the calm comment of Archclaus of Alaoe- j don on tho citizen who thus behaved to j him. Says Stevenson: 'With a little more patience and a little less temper, a gentler and wiser method might be found in almost every care. Ana tho knot that wo cut by some fine heady quarrel scene in private life or in public affairs, by some denunciatory act, against what wc aro pleased to call our neighbor's vices, might yet have Been unwoven by the hand of sympathy. It might. It assuredly often has been. The world looks to tho Church to set an example in this respect. It oit-ru fails to do so. Its member*, and even its ministers, do not always remember, as Tennyson sings : That one small touch of Charity Could lift them nearer go;!!ikc state Then if the crowded out should cry Lika those who cried Diana great. We do not know that Air Fiarer will rest satisfied with the -Assembly’s verdict on i His actions. But Professor Dickie should. Wo congratulate him on possessing in so marked a degree the confidence of his I Church. His frankness, his honesty, and j Ins ability have become conspicuous since j he look up his residence amongst us. He | has the esteem of nil his students in a j very marked degree. The ordeal through j which he has passed, painful though it | must have been, will yet not have been j in vain, since it serves to reveal to Pro-1 lessor Dickie the- practically unanimous j sympathy of his brethren. Heresy hunts | aro sometimes necessary. But they might ■ oflcn be avoided in the way wo have sug-! gested. And they should never bo under- ' taken without a serious een.se of tho ; gravitv of the issue. When they are they j | damage the Church. They give cause to . the enemy to blaspheme. It is \ remember* “ that the ethical output of any j “religious system must justify the claims | “that it makes on the faith of men; or, j “to speak in terms of the market-place ! “and exchange, tho dividends in the ehape ‘‘of good works must justify the capital | “ that is invested in the way of faith. > It does not do this when heresy hunt® • such a* the one we have been considering j are spuing upon tho community. i
HERESY HUNTING., Issue 15662, 28 November 1914
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