Andrew Clarkson's Lie, or not?

Discussion in 'The Law of God' started by NaphtaliPress, Aug 26, 2016.

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  1. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    I'm finalizing the Collected Sermons of James Durham and have come across a serious allegation against John Carstares, editor of his later works, his brother in law, and fellow minister at Glasgow who preached his funeral sermons. Who was Andrew Clarkson and why did he make the following allegation without proof in Plain Reasons for Presbyterians Dissenting from the Revolution-church in Scotland (1731)? It’s a serious charge and thus one would think the ninth commandment would dictate, show proof or don’t say it? The original statement in Clarkson’s work in reference to the Resolutioners’ deposing Protestor ministers from their ministries,* reads

    "which malignant resolutioners excommunicated worthy, pious and zealous Colonel Strachan also (for his adherence to the Remonstrance, agreeable to sound Covenanted principles, against the Public Resolutions) with design to gain the favour of the court: and by Mr. John Carstares, in the High Church of Glasgow, was that unjust sentence pronounced; the man that doth preface all Mr. Durham's posthumous works, some of which are alledged to be vitiated [adulterated] by him, particularly that upon scandal, which seems inconsistent with itself, and clearly opposite to his other works, especially his writings upon the Revelation, Chap. ii. but particularly on the church of Pergamos."

    This was unfortunately repeated in a form by John Howie in his Biographia Scoticana. In his life of Guthrie, Howie reduced this to, “This unjust sentence was pronounced in the high church of Glasgow by Mr. John Carstairs, who prefaceth Mr. Durham's posthumous works some of which are supposed to be vitiated by him especially his treatise on scandal.” M'Gavin in his revision of Biographia Scoticana reduced this again to just the first clause, which may or may not be true, but which the full historical context would render a meaningless fact.

    Whatever the demerits of the actions of the Resolutioners, this seems mainly to be geared to cast doubt on the integrity of James Durham's treatise on scandal, presumably because it was perceived to cut against the stance of remaining out of the settlement church (Glorious Revolution, 1788). First, Carstares is painted as some unworthy character because of his reading of the notice of Strachan’s excommunication, and then because he is supposed to have had a hand in the text of the work on scandal, the ‘rumor’ is suggested that he adulterated the true text. I know of no evidence for this smear against Carstares’ character. I have compiled the facts to dispute it but wondered if anyone actually addressed it in the past? It's pretty scandalous, to turn a phrase. This ring a bell with anyone?

    *The Protester-Resolution schism in the Church of Scotland took up most of the 1650s. "In contrast to the religious pluralism in contemporary England, a large majority of Scots agreed on matters of theology, worship and piety, and most accepted the essentials of presbyterian government. In 1650-51, however, the Church split into two parties, the Protesters and Resolutioners. At stake were the compromises made by the men governing Scotland to reach an agreement with Charles II after his father's execution, and to defend the country from conquest by Oliver Cromwell. The majority, the Resolutioners, accepted the king's promises to uphold presbyterianism, and were prepared to allow former royalists to hold civil and military offices. The Protesters dissented from the Resolutioners' judgements in both respects, and refused to obey the church courts controlled by their opponents. To justify their actions, the Protesters argued that conscientious individuals and members of the lower church courts had a right to disobey what they saw as sinful commands issued by the higher courts. This called into question the presbyterian principle of majority rule within a hierarchical court structure. Nevertheless, most of the adherents of the two parties continued to advocate a national presbyterian Church. Alasdair Raffe, The Culture of Controversy: Religious Arguments in Scotland, 1660-1714. Woodbridge, Suffolk: Boydell Press, 2012. 30-31.
  2. MW

    MW Puritan Board Doctor

    Chris, When I was recently studying the life of Hugh Binning I found his printed Case of Conscience has been questioned as to authenticity and/or interpolation. It was printed in 1693, and said to be "Usefull for these times: And therefore published for the benefit of all those, who desire to know or retain the sworn to Principles of the sometimes famous Church of Christ in Scotland." The response to the Revolution Settlement bears on the historical question.

    On Durham, Howie appears to acknowledge his middle view in the division.

    The Dying Man's Testament and the comments in Revelation on the constituting of true churches seem to me to be of the same latitude.
  3. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    Thanks Matthew. I've heard that the later Covenanters staying out of the settlement church expressed similar dissatisfaction with Shield's work by laying the fault with an editor. I can't speak to that or Binning but I can defend Carstares. In brief. 1. Durham gave Robert Blair the MS of Scandal to prepare for the press. Carstares owns that he had to make up for incompleteness in the later publications of the sermons, but he did not have the main hand in Durham's first two works, Durham having lived to make arrangements himself for their publication. 2. Carstares was a Protestor and not a Resolutioner; he in fact is faulted for being a lead 'trouble maker' in Glasgow by Baillie. 3. Strachan committed treason by defecting to Cromwell; his relative godliness over the lesser man Middleton doesn't negate that. He had rendered himself odious and a liability to even Patrick Gillespie by entering into independent negotiations with Cromwell to throw the west to the English. 4. Durham himself sat on the commission meeting that voted for the excommunication and I've found no indications he objected; I suspect he would not have, having preached to Cromwell's face for his unlawful invasion. And as a soldier himself in younger days I don't see him turning a blind eye to the treason. Scots had been killed in the thousands by Cromwell. 5. The commission ordered the sentence first read by a Rev. Alexander Rollock in Perth where the commission sat, and to be read subsequently by the presiding minister the next Lord's day as news reached other places. Carstares, assuming the claim is true, read the sentence only because he was preaching in the high kirk in Glasgow as the news reached there. If he is to be faulted; no more so than any other that read it. 6. If anything is askew it is the commission pronouncing sentence before the government (which a few months later did convict Strachan of treason); but the Protestors were fine with that order of things when Gutherie was able to get Middleton excommunicated, which stood briefly. Middleton had too many royalist connections and that was overturned the next commission when the Protestors did not have the same majority. At the end of the day, Clarkson should simply have disagreed with Durham for any supposed inconsistency than smear an innocent John Carstares. But to cite David Hay Fleming in another context, Thus it is that history is falsified and good men slandered.
    I suspect that this does have to do with Durham's laying a very high bar on the nature of the unity of the church and that the 'some places' that Clarkson found troublesome simply cut too much against remaining separate. Durham's work on Revelation 2 and the Nicolaitans is brief; Scandal is the treatise in which he intentionally expands upon Rev. 2&3. Also, his manuscript sermon on Ephesians 4:11-12 preached years earlier is fully in keeping with the later work on Scandal.
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2016
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