Scotland in the Age of the Disruption

By Stewart J. Brown; Michael Fry | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TEN
The Disruption and Church Life on the Mainland of Europe

FRIEDHELM VOGES

IN THE SCOTTISH DISRUPTION OF 1843, two developments came to a head: the Evangelical revival showed its power -- and, perhaps, its limits -- and the relationship of Church and state quite literally reached a point of no return. In both areas, there are a number of parallels and connections with the life of Continental Churches, and this chapter will therefore have those two lines of attack. We will have a brief look at various European revival movements, and then go on to deal with the Church--state problem in the respective countries.

This remit is wider than merely focusing on direct reactions to the Scottish events. With few exceptions these remained on a fairly superficial level. Many Continentals seem to have had problems similar to those of the British government. They found it hard to look beyond London and England. If foreign observers were interested in British Church affairs, their concern was more with Irvingism and Puseyism, i.e. with questions of doctrine. Both these movements had a number of sympathisers as well as critics on the Continent, and their debate claims some space in the ecclesiastical journals. The Scottish troubles emphasised questions of Church discipline, which were more difficult to relate to one's own situation. Of course the relationship of Church and state became an issue in many places on the Continent too, but local conditions were very different.

Few foreign observers seem to have had a sufficient understanding of the events that so much troubled Europe's north-western corner. Reports in the ecclesiastical magazines are generally friendly to the Free Church, but short; they take notice, but remain at a distance. There is admiration for the energy and moral backbone of the Free Church people, and when they had to suffer from the refusal of sites for their churches, sympathetic notices appeared. But this is on a moral rather than an analytical level. Two German authors, Sack and Sydow, who had spent some time in Scotland, tried hard to explain the situation more thoroughly, but although their accounts are well done, the echo was limited. Perhaps they tried rather too hard: Sydow in particular was completely on the Free Church side and could easily be dismissed as

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