Ernst Troeltsch has pointed out that Calvinism effected a
compromise between two opposing ideas of the nature of the
Church. On the one hand, it accepted what Troeltsch cells the
sect-ideal of a 'holy Community' composed of those who are
true believers in Jesus Christ. On the other hand, Calvinism
accepted what Troeltsch calls the Church-ideal, of a national
community, and of national responsibility for religion* The
ideal of the holy community was applied to the whole nation
and civilization. This fusion of ideals produced within
Calvinism a tension between the C urch ideal of a national
religion, and the sect ideal of a holy community. This tension later shattered the solidarity of Calvinism, and often
threw the Church into conflict with the State. This was
particularly true where Calviniatic conceptions of Spiritual.
Independence clashed with Erastian ideas of State supremacy.
In Scotland, this inherent tension was magnified by the
spirit of the times, and came to a head in the struggle over
disestablishment which took place from 1829 to 1843. While
it remained a conflict of Church parties, it had its greatest
intensity between 1832 and 1839. When it elevated the ideal
of Spiritual Independence, it threw the Church into conflict
with the State and thus had a direct bearing on the Disruption
of 1843, and the formation of the Free Church of Scotland.
The conflict over disestablishment was one of church
parties. In favor of establishments, was the Presbyterian
Church of Scotland, established in the days of John Knox,
and re-established by William and Mary, after the struggle
with the Stuarts who had attempted to set up Episcopacy as
the Established Church in Scotland. Allied with them, and
sympathetic to their cause, were the Original Burgher Synod
of the Secession Churches, and the Reformed Church, or
Cameronians. Opposed to them, and denouncing establishments,
were the United Associate Synod (the United Secession), the
Relief Church, and the Independent Churches.
The controversy, which was to be called the "Voluntary
Controversy", was opened by a sermon preached by the Rev.
Andrew Marshall on April 9th, 1829, in the Greyfriars Church,
Glasgow, before a meeting of "the Glasgow Association for
propagating the gospel in connexion with the United Secession
Church." This sermon was published, and was reviewed at
length in the August, 1829, issue of the "Christian Instructor", which was the organ of the Evangelical party in the
Church of Scotland, The editor was the Rev. Andrew Thomson,
minister of St. George's Church Edinburgh. The Review called
forth a reply from Mr. Marshall, which he published in 1830
in the form of a letter to Dr. Thomson, The next year, 1831,
Mr. Marshall published a more elaborate treatise entitled,
"Ecclesiastical Establishments further considered," and the
controversy was in full swing.
After this exchange, Voluntaries continued to be concerned with dis-establishment. They did not, however, Insert themselves actively Into the events which were leading to the Disruption. Rather, they sat on the sidelines, and awaited the
outcome. Truce had, in effect, been declared. After the
Disruption, there was some feeling that the controversy should
be revived, but Dr. Heugh and others expressed themselves
against holding a public meeting for that purpose, and for
the purpose of evaluating the position of the then newly-formed Free Church, with regard to the Voluntaries. They preferred rather that the new church should have time to find itself,
and to mare its own adjustment to the fact that it was now
die-established, and dependent for its support on the voluntary
principle, or the voluntary benevolence of their supporters.
Thus ended this phase of the struggle for dis-establishment of the Church. The Voluntary contention of the necessary
corruption of the Church, when dependent on the state, had produced a hardening of opinions in the minds of Churchmen. Their
vehement assertion of spiritual Independence, in the face of
court decisions to the contrary, played a large part in the
Disruption, and the establishment of the Free Church as Independent of State control, with Christ truly as its head.