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engrossing motive of glorifying God, and advancing the kingdom of the Lord Jesus upon earth. He presided over this Committee during the period when, by its aid, direction, and encouragement, the gigantic work was carried through within four years, of erecting upwards of six hundred and seventy new churches, to afford places of worship to the congregations deprived, at the Disruption, of those in which they had been in use to meet, and he did so with an ability and discretion which tended largely to the success of this great undertaking, and gave universal satisfaction to the Church; while the example he has bequeathed, if duly followed, may be expected, under the blessing of God, to effect that which yet remains to be done for providing full accommodation to the congregations of this Church, and promoting her extension in some measure adequately to the wants of the masses of the people still destitute of the means of grace." I may mention, that since the last Report ⚫ of the Committee was given in, comparatively little has been done, and that chiefly in consequence of the want of funds. Something, however, has been added to the work previously accomplished. Since that period twenty-five additional churches have been finished, making the number of churches at present existing in connection with the Free Church, 701. But still there are others in the course of erection, and a very considerable number would be immediately commenced, if the Committee were in circumstances to hold out any pecuniary encouragement. (Hear, hear.) The brethren at large are aware that large demands are made on our Committee, and at the time of last Assembly, our means of meeting them were very limited, and are still very limited. I may state, for example, that the obligations incurred to contractors, in connection with our Committee, are £393:13:11; the sums promised to aid in the erection of churches, £2589, 5s.; to assist in the payment of debt, £809: 15: 2; application for aid by congregations which have not yet received any grant,-first, for the usual grant of 5s, per sitting, £1791, 10s. ; and second, for assistance to pay debt, £1535; applications for assistance to pay debt where the 5s. grant has been paid, £2990, 1s.; making the total amount of claims at present made upon the Committee £10,109: 5: 1. In the course of last year we received in all only £1125: 18:6; of that sum £178:15:6 was contributed from England, and £250 was a legacy from the late Mr Murray of Glasgow; £40 was received for the yacht Betsy; £27 for slates; and £50 as rent for Lothian Road Church; so that you observe that a sum scarcely amounting to £500 was contributed by the Free Church proper for building places of worship during the last twelve months. (Hear, hear.) I will advert to this again, and therefore shall not dwell upon it at present. There is a matter which has engaged for some time past the very serious attention of the Committee, namely, the tenure by which our existing churches are held. We took the liberty to issue a circular to all the ministers of the Church on the subject; and I may mention that, in answer to that circular, we have received 489 returns. We received all these returns, not in the first instance, but sometimes after a second application. Now, I may mention to the Assembly the analysis of these 489 returns. As far as we can see, the churches among those secured in terms of the model deed of the General Assembly, number 266; churches having regularly executed deeds, but not in terms of the model deed, but still secured as the property of the Free Church, 109; churches held by valid missives, securing the property to the Free Church, or where a regular deed in terms of the model deed is in progress of being executed, 100. Now, I may mention that this is far from being a secure way of holding the property, as it is accompanied with considerable danger, and difficult questions are apt to arise; and, therefore, it is a mode of holding the property which ought to terminate as soon as possible. Churches supposed not to be strictly or formally conveyed, 3; churches in which the use only is secured to the congregation, 3; churches held from year to year, 4; churches which are vested in private individuals, 4; one church built by the congregation themselves, and in which a deed does not seem to be executed; one church held by charter, executed before the Disruption in peculiar form; and one apparently without any title at all. But you must see that this number does not still exhaust the whole of the churches belonging to the Free Church, and, so far as it goes, is not very satisfactory. I trust, therefore, that the Assembly will give some deliverance, which will strengthen the hands of the Committee in prosecuting this investigation. (Hear, hear.) We are most anxious to prosecute it
until we get a satisfactory account of the tenure by which every church in eonnection with the Free Church is held; and I trust that in prosecution of this object, our hands will be strengthened by the Assembly. Now, a question arose at this stage in the Committee in regard to the present mode of transmitting our property,-applicable, of course, to all the other property in the country,— namely, a question in how far we are secure in future times, in consequence of the deeds which are at present executed. The brethren may be aware of two things,—at least, if not aware of them at present, they or their successors will be taught them by experience, namely, that the charters must be renewed previous to the decease of all the existing trustees. (Hear, hear.) The renewal, even in that case, of so many deeds, will cost a very considerable sum. Calculating that sum at £12 each, for churches alone, it would amount to something like £8000 or £10,000, which would have to be incurred probably, on an average, every twenty or thirty years; and the same thing applies to manses and schools, if held by separate titles. But, as the matter at present stands, the danger is that the deeds will not be renewed until all the trustees die. From neglect that may occur. If that is the case, the renewal becomes much more difficult and much more expensive. An express process is necessary in the Court of Session in order to effect the renewal. In illustration of the danger of our getting into this state, I may mention, that when the Old Light Seceders were annexed to the Established Church, it was found that there was scarcely a single valid title in connection with all their places of worship; and the greatest amount of difficulty had been experienced, and very considerable expense had been incurred for the purpose of implementing the deficiency. (Hear, hear.) Now, in order to meet this difficulty, it occurred to the Committee that it would be of the last importance, if something like a corporate power could be vested in the congregations of the Free Church, entitling them to hold their property, and to hand it from one official to another, that the death of an official might have no effect whatever in disturbing the tenure by which the property was held. I may mention that we have made very considerable investigation in regard to the possibility of securing this object. All of us who were formerly ministers of the Established Church, are aware that no titles at all were necessary for holding parish churches. The mere destination of the churches to the public worship of God constituted, not only at the time, but in all ages, a sufficiently valid title, without any trouble or difficulty whatever. We corresponded with a very intelligent man in America, who was deeply conversant with the matter; and from him we found that the law there, where there is no Established Church, secures the property of all churches in substantially the same way as the parish churches are in this country,-that is to say, when a church is built, there is a certain simple process gone through by which it is made over to trustees who have corporate powers. The securing of the property once for all is sufficient; and throughout all ages no change whatever in the title-deeds is necessary. We found, moreover, that the same kind of power is enjoyed in this country. For example, in the act in regard to the proprietors of entailed estates authorising them to feu or lease on long leases, portions of the same for the building of churches, manses, and schools, there is a clause to this effect,"That the recording of this feu-charter in the General Register of Sasines shall, without any infeftment thereupon, validly and effectually rest and seise the grantees in such charter in the land thereby conveyed; and such feu-charters and leases shall be effectual to the successors in office of the persons in whose favour the same shall have been granted, for the trust purposes for which they were granted, without any transference or renewal of the investiture, in all time thereafter." I also hold in my hand an Act of Parliament in regard to friendly societies in this country, which contains a provision of precisely the same kind in reference to them. The clause to which I refer has reference to the property which such societies hold. It provides, that after the death or removal of any treasurer or trustee, the property shall vest in the succeeding treasurer or trustee for the same estate and interest as the former treasurer or trustee had therein, and subject to the same trusts, without any arrangement or conveyance whatIt is further remarkable to see that the very same power is not only given
to friendly societies, but is also given to the College of Maynooth, or rather to the trustees appointed to manage that College. The following is the passage in the Act:
"It is provided (8 and 9 Vic., c. 25), that the trustees of the said college or seminary, and their successors for ever, shall be one body politic and corporate, by the name of the Trustees of the College of Maynooth,' and by that name shall have a perpetual succession and a common seal, and by that name shall and may sue and be sued, and shall have and possess the several powers, &c. conferred by the several acts therein recited. That all lands, tenements, or hereditaments, which have been at any time heretofore purchased, or in any manner acquired by the trustees of the said College, or any seven or more of them, in terms of the powers vested in them, shall be, and the same are hereby vested in the said body politic and corporate, incorporated by this act, subject to the trusts upon which the said lands, tenements, and hereditaments are now respectively held."
In short, if the Parliament of Great Britain chose to deal forth the same simple justice to the Free Church of Scotland and other Evangelical Dissenters which had been already accorded, and in some cases which had been accorded probably too fully, to other denominations and other bodies, the whole object at which we aim would be effectually secured. All trouble in regard to our titles would terminate at once, and by having them once secured, they would be secured for ages, notwithstanding any change which might take place in the officebearers of a congregation. (Hear, hear.) I think this is an object in which all the Dissenting Churches throughout the three kingdoms are deeply interested. I have mentioned the matter to leading men of other denominations, and I am confident that if we put forth our claim in this matter, it will not only be recognised as a just claim,‚—as a claim which will cost no one anything, whilst it will save us much, but I have no doubt that it will be energetically supported by other denominations who stand in need of the very same legislative provisions. (Hear, hear.) There is one other matter in connection with this, which has engaged the attention of the Building Committee, and that is the safe custody of these titles. It is quite certain that the titles of our churches are kept at present in a great variety of very unsafe places throughout the country. (Hear, hear.) It would be very easy to have them deposited in a safe place. Let those to whom they belong have a copy of them; and let them by all means have access to them at all times. Having disposed of the mere matters of business, he would like to draw the attention of the Assembly to the position in which we really stand in regard to our obligation to congregations, and the paying off the debt on the churches. In the first place, for a number of years,— for several years at least, the circumstance that such a very large sum was put at the disposal of the Building Committee at first,- -a sum amounting to upwards of £100,000—that circumstance was made a reason why nothing, or very little, had been done for augmenting the Building Fund. It was plain, however, that unless it was augmented, the Church must make up its mind, in the first place, to putting a comparative arrest on the present efforts to build additional places of worship; and in the second place, it must make up its mind to this, that many of our ministers and our congregations will be left, by the existing imperfect arrangements, in circumstances of great trouble and perplexity. (Hear, hear.) Indeed, often very pressing letters are poured in upon us, from our worthy ministers and our excellent people. For example, the following is from a minister:-" The urgency of the demands for the settlement of the contracts can no longer be resisted. If I had been in circumstances to advance the money myself, I would have done so; I really feel my situation to be extremely painful." Another minister writes thus: "I was waited upon some time ago by two of the members of the Free Church, who requested me to write you, as Convener of the Building Committee, to ask for a portion, at least, of the grant which you voted them. I found that this poor congregation, who have no wealthy men among them, are frequently in serious difficulties for want of funds to meet their contractors, who, being also poor, require part of their money from time to time to get on with their work. It would be desirable that the
ruinously expensive system of bills should be put an end to in such a case as this." Now, it is manifest that the Church must not leave as we are forced to do these men to struggle single-handed with their difficulties. (Hear, hear.) The Committee have not felt themselves warranted to go beyond the means put at their disposal; for we hold it to be a fixed principle that the Committees of the Church ought to spend no money until they get it; and we are determined as a Committee, that that principle shall be ours,-(hear, hear);-but, at the same time, when this church is extending her hand to help men in all parts of the world, and may she be able to do so a hundredfold more,—is it right that we should leave our own churches half built, and leave our own ministers and people to struggle with pecuniary difficulties? (Applause.) Is it right that we should have our ministers actually under terror of arrestment, because of the bills for which they became liable, to pay the tradesmen who erected their places of worship? It is important to notice further, that if we are left without funds, it will prevent our having it in our power to stimulate the efforts of our congregations in the way of clearing off their debt. Debt is just as ruinous to them as it would be to us. I hold that every congregation should abjure debt, especially that every minister should abjure debt in connection with his congregation; because whatever debt rests on the congregation, the minister will find that it must be paid by him. Well, then, it has been part of the labour of our Committee hitherto to help congregations and ministers in extricating themsclves from debt. Our strong claim on the sympathy of the Church is to get the means of accomplishing this object. But then there are other considerations. The Church must not be inattentive to the proceedings that are going on in regard, for example, to the site question. I rejoice to see, and I am sure the Church will share in the feeling,-that the question has at least gained footing now in the House of Commons. (Applause.) I am sure that the Church will rejoice that the bill to secure sites, and to compel recusant proprietors to grant them, has at last passed a second reading in the House of Commons. I trust also that it will pass the House of Lords, although I am not sure of that at present. Ultimately, however, I have no doubt that it will pass the House of Lords. The Church would be deeply criminal if she rests for a single moment until it hath passed the House of Lords, and receives the signature of the Queen. (Applause.) Well, but suppose that the measure was the law of the land, observe in what position it would place the Building Committee. We are labouring to procure sites; the people come to us and say,-sites being obtained, --we have no means wherewith to build our churches. They come to the Building Committee, and say, will you give us means for building churches ?-they come to us and say, now that we have been exposed to the storms of winter year after year, and when we have the prospect of a legislative enactment for getting us under shelter, will you give us such a shelter? (Hear, hear.) How could we comply with their request, when our operations are thoroughly arrested at present by the want of means. Is that a state of matters with which the Church can rest satisfied? (Hear, hear.) That is not all, for we have to meet the question in regard to quoad sacra churches. We must be prepared for a result which may lead us under the necessity of providing for the large number of congregations that may be dispossessed of these places of worship. (Hear, hear.) There will be another large demand on the Building Fund; and in what a position must we be, if we have not a farthing to meet these calls? And, last of all, I have a very strong feeling, that even if all these were met, we would still have very much work to do, and especially in the large cities of our land. It is well known that at the beginning of the Building Fund the cities postponed, and justly postponed their claims, to the superior urgency of the demands of the country districts. It is well known, for example, that in Edinburgh there is scarcely a church,-I believe there is just one,-suitable to this great metropolis, which is free from debt, and that many of our congregations, and these in the poorest and most helpless districts, have no churches at all, and others very poor ones. The case is very much the same in Glasgow, Dundee, and the other towns; and therefore there is immense work before the Building Fund, unless the Free Church is to sit down and fold her hands in sleep. Now, the question
is, how is all this to be accomplished? I will mention, in the first place, what we have done. The last Assembly authorised the Convener to raise an annual subscription for the purpose of filling our exhausted treasury. We have endeavoured to work this plan. We secured the agency of a most zealous individual, Mr Black, whose labours in connection with the Sustentation Committee were of great importance. He has laboured for the last few months in the Building Fund cause in England and in different parts of Scotland; and the result is, that a considerable sum, taking all the circumstances into account, has been raised. But probably, as a result of the deliberations of the Committee in regard to the permanent arrangement of the Schemes and the collections, all extra and random efforts of that kind will be put an end to,-at least in regard to Scotland. I trust that the result of the deliberations of that Committee will be, that they will not only give a collection to the Building Fund, but that they will make it one of the most important and productive of all their Schemes. (Hear, hear.) If we provide not for our own ministers, and for the wants of our own people, I fear it will infer a wrong state of feeling in regard to the cause of the Church as a whole. In addition to what I have stated, I trust that there will be separate associations formed, particularly in our large cities. (Hear, hear.) I may mention that several meetings of excellent individuals have been held in Edinburgh for the purpose of considering how far we can and ought to form an association to bring the state of the congregations in our own city under notice, and to raise, by some means, local subscriptions, by which we may be enabled to go from church to church, and never to rest until we have something like twenty-five suitable places of worship built for congregations of the Free Church in Edinburgh. The same thing might be done in Glasgow and the other towns; but in the mean time, what I press on the Assembly is, that if the Committee to which I have referred report on the propriety of giving a collection to the Building Fund,-that collection should be of sufficient magnitude, not only to extricate us from our present difficulties, but to enable us to meet cases that press upon us from all parts of the land, and especially from those poorer districts which ought to engage the special sympathy of the wealthy. We shall be enabled thus to build the old waste places, as the Scripture says, we shall repair the foundations of many generations, and men shall call us the repairers of the breach, the restorers of paths to walk in. (Applause.) Mr DUNLOP said, that before the Assembly proceeded to the more essential matters of this Report, he wished to say a single word about the legal question which had been brought before the house. It was certainly one of very great importance. His idea was, that though they did not now feel the additional expense, yet the time might come when they would feel it,-just as the brethren of other denominations who had built their churches long ago, were now beginning to feel the most injurious evils in regard to their titles, owing to it being impossible to find out the heirs of deceased trustees; and so much expense attending the creating of a new title was created. He had no doubt but these evils could be easily remedied. (Hear, hear.) He had considered the subject for some time past, and he had communications with parties most likely to have an interested voice in the introduction of some measure applicable to all Dissenters. He did not expect they could succeed at all in getting any thing like a corporate power conferred on their congregations, nor did he think it desirable that corporate character should be attained, but if obtained as a matter of right as in America, perhaps it might be so. But our notions of corporation are, that they flow always from the crown. The law in America was, that when any congregation or charitable association acquired property, they applied to the Supreme Court of their own State, for a judgment incorporating them; and that being intimated to the Attorney-General, if he could not satisfy the Court, that the object of the applicants was an illegal one, they were entitled to an act or decree of incorporation as a matter of right. Such a law could not be expected in this country, but all they required would be fully accomplished by a general enactment in favour of all churches, such as was made in regard to the particular case of the bill passed a few years ago, simply empowering the heirs of entail to grant sites. The body who were feeling the evil most just now, he meant the United Presbyterian Church,--had already stirred in the matter, and he