As a mark of the high esteem in which he is held by the Magistrates and Council as a Churchman and a Theologian and in recognition of his outstanding services in bringing to a successful issue the negotiations for that Union of the two great Scottish Churches which is about to be consummated.
"It is a kind thought of the Lord Provost and his colleagues to do this thing at this time. It is a picturesque and symbolic way of conveying the civic benediction on the united Church, and I know that the churches appreciate it highly. There can be no higher honour conferred upon any Scotsman who loves his kirk and his country than the freedom of a city like this, so rich in traditions of church and nation.
On Wednesday we shall see the most significant happening in our history for generations. The annals of this city in many ways resemble and illustrate the history of the Church. It wins and holds the devoted attachment of every Scotsman, not simply for what it is, but for what it has been, not only for its unrivalled scenic and architectural beauty, but for the story and history of the classic mile that leads from the Castle through the old High Street and Canongate to Holyrood. Blot out all that the old stands for and who will be drawn by the modern remnant? Incidents there are that no one today can justify, but they all go to form a part of the long list of heroic and tragic happenings that we would not lose, and which the genius of Sir Walter Scott has made our own for all time, and the possession and joy of the world. So it is with the Church: we cannot justify many things done and left undone, but they all go to make up a history we are proud to possess. We judge the past of the nation by what we see today, and the Scotland we see and love today is chiefly the work of her continuing Church. No Scotsman who loves his country and its history will readily and easily criticise the Church that has made it.
Mention of Sir Walter leads me to acknowledge the indebtedness of the Church to Scott. Newman acknowledged that the Oxford Movement owed much to him. Then there is that other great Scotsman - Thomas Carlyle - who, not less than Scott, and in more reasoned form brought the influence of the romantic movement via Germany to bear on the religious development of last century, and cut through materialism an open swath for the free and immortal spirit of man to pass and breathe again. Both these great Scotsmen helped to create the historic sense, providing us with a life picture instead of a dry chronicle of the past. I shall, therefore, claim them both, each in his own sphere, as having made a rich contribution to the revivifying process in history, thought and religion that has exercised no small influence on what we are about to do this week.
These two great men, Scott and Carlyle, did much to deepen the spirit of reverence in Scotland, which is not only a potent, spiritual force, but a social safeguard. It is a question whether this primary moral quality in the individual and in the nation is as strong as we would wish, for, after all, reverence is essential to a virile manhood and a worshipping people. To keep alive the traditions of the city, the traditions of the city, the nation and the Church, is to deepen this spirit of reverence. The other day an eminent American said:- 'The absence of traditions militates against reverence,' and he bemoaned that while in the old world one could stand in cathedrals a thousand years old, in the presence of customs hoary-headed with antiquity, and walk by city walls which had seen many a battle between liberty and despotism, and that these old cathedrals and these old cities and these old customs awakened the spirit of reverence, there were no such cathedrals or cities in America, and reverence had weakened.
On Wednesday we hope to do something that inadvertently will quicken this spirit of reverence. Sectarianism is always hostile to reverence for it despoils our religious symbols of a right and high regard. Reverence and unity go together. Principal Martin has referred to that characteristic of Presbyterian Scotland where we are not credited with seeking too much after unity, but rather we are accused of -having a genius for discerning and making differences. When we differ intensely we also differ conscientiously, and sooner or later we seek for a line of convergency which will gather up all those differences and thereby enrich our possessions. And so this week we are going to do something that I trust will win the loyal regard of the people and quicken their religious interest in and reverence for the symbols of the deeper things of life, by a reunion which will give us a Church national and comprehensive, Presbyterian, Evangelical and Catholic, free and inclusive of different types of Christian thought."
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