Ministry At Back I

Call From Back

On 30th March 1881 the clerk laid on the table a Call from the congregation of Back to Mr Cameron, Lochs, signed by 195 members and 961 adherents.

It was agreed to dispose of the Call on 27th April on which date consideration of the Call was resumed. Commissioners were heard, and Mr Cameron was asked by the Moderator if he had any statement to make. Mr Cameron stated that he considered it his duty, for reasons which he proceeded to give, to accept the Call if the Presbytery saw fit to place it in his hands. By a majority of one the Presbytery refused to place it in his hands. Mr MacRae, Carloway. dissented, and craved leave to complain to the ensuing General Assembly. The Commissioners from Back also protested and appealed to the General Assembly against this decision.

On 15th June the Deliverance of the Assembly was read permitting Mr Cameron to go to Back, the Presbytery not now defending their judgment.

On 30th June 1881 Mr Cameron was inducted to Back, and on 20th July he was appointed Interim-Moderator of Lochs.

On 9th November 1881 the Interim-Moderator of Kinloch submitted to the Presbytery a Schedule of Queries with a view to seeking aid from the Church Extension Fund, the Presbytery approving of the same, and recommending it to the liberality of the Committee.

On 14th June 1882 an extract Finding of the General Assembly was read. which sanctioned the Station of Kinloch to be raised to a ministerial Charge.

On the 12th of August 1885 the Commission of Assembly admitted into the Free Church the Rev. John Macdonald, a native of Kiltarlity, who had been ministering in Prince Edward Island, and at Cowbay, Cape Breton. He had resigned from his Charge and returned to Scotland in 1884. At the same time the Committee dispensed with the customary year of probation. Mr MacDonald was inducted to Kinloch on the 11th of November of that year, eight months before the Park congregation got their first minister.

The church and manse at Crossbost were built shortly after the Disruption of 1843. when the Rev. Robert Finlayson was ministering there. The church had a double roof, and was rebuilt around 1880-1882. In 1880, on 15th September Mr Cameron laid

on the table a Schedule from Lochs to the Church Extension Committee, which the Presbytery cordially recommended.

In the meantime Mr Cameron was translated to Back. as we noted, on 30th June 1881, but had been appointed InterimModerator of Lochs. The foreman joiner working in the Crossbost church was Mr John MacKenzie from Grimshader, "lain Mhurchaidh 'ic Ruairidh". and he and Cameron crossed swords over the seating of the church. The foreman had fixed the pews in the church, but they were two rows fewer than Mr Cameron had asked for, Mr MacKenzie said he would put them in. if he so desired, but they would be too close to each other. This was done, and leaves this church one of the most uncomfortable churches in the island during a long service.

Mr Cameron was so displeased that he said that he would take it as a mark from the Lord, if he would receive a Call from another Congregation, which he did in June 1881; but continued to be Interim-Moderator of Lochs until June 1882, when he resigned because they had opened the church without consulting him, and so ignored his Moderatorship. The Presbytery accepted his resignation from being their Interim-Moderator, and strongly censured the Session, and the Congregation, for such irregular conduct. Mr Martin was then appointed the Interim-Moderator of Lochs.

There is a carved model of a dove above the pulpit in the church at Crossbost which is unique so far as Free Churches in Lewis are concerned. The "dove" was carved by the foreman. John MacKenzie, with his pen-knife. It was later removed by Robert MacLeod (Rob-Mor, Leurbost), who later became Free Church minister at Leverburgh. He knocked the "dove" down with his walking-stick, saying, "Cha bhi de 'sam bith eile agaibh a'm' lathair-sa." ("Thou shalt have no other gods before me.") Mr MacKenzie put it back up again, and there it remains to this day.

Ministry At Back

As we have already stated. Mr Cameron was inducted at Back on 30th June 1881. Here he had a long and fruitful ministry of 26 years, being favoured with a time of blessing such as he saw in Lochaber and North Argyll in his youth, and by his rousing, lively and instructive doctrinal teaching he grounded the congregation well in the faith. His sermons were highly prized by his judicious hearers. Yet eminent as he was as a preacher, he is said to have excelled in leading the prayers of a Christian congregation.

As a man Mr Cameron was uncommonly warm-hearted, and although he was afflicted with a quickness of temper which caused him much anxiety, his honesty and transparency were such that men appreciated his sincerity and trusted him. He himself spoke to a friend of what he called "This devilish temper of mine". Such a confession calls for the sympathy and forgiveness of those who are not afflicted with such a temperament. As we have seen at the forming of the new congregations at Park and Kinloch he was inclined to give vehement expression to his views.

It is commonly thought that after four years at Lochs one of the reasons that contributed to his departure was a result of a rash conclusion pronounced from the pulpit. A dispute had arisen between two fishing crews, one accusing the other of having cut loose their buoy. Mr Cameron sided with one party and subsequently intimated this from the pulpit, naming the man he thought to be in the wrong, and asking him to return the buoy. But as it happened this man was in he right, and did not return the buoy, but took Mr Cameron to Court, and the minister lost the case.

Incidents like this are likely to give a wrong impression of the man. A writer in the Highland News left an appreciation of Mr Cameron under the pseudonym of "By one who knew him". He says:

"For years and to the very last the writer retained his friendship. His mistakes and faults were those of his virtues exaggerated. He had a great and generous heart, which again and again broke through the incrustation of tradition and party. One of his first acts on coming to Lewis was to call personally on the writer, and invite him to his Communion, assuring him at the time that he was sick of the controversies of ecclesiastical parties, and was determined to live them down ... He was a man, not only of strong convictions, but also of a strong way of expressing them; yet I have seen this strong man with eyes full, and voice quivering, complaining of what he called 'this devilish temper of mine'. He that is without sin among men let him cast the first stone. I say this frankly and fearlessly, that of all his fellow-ministers who saw it their duty to remain outside the Union, he was the sincerest, the noblest, the greatest, and the one who in his heart suffered most at the separation."

We have no Session Records at Back prior to 1905, and consequently we have to rely mainly on tradition there regarding his work and ministry. When the old School at Back was completed in 1877, the old Schoolhouse was offered for sale. Many offers were received, but the successful bid was that of a Back man, Mr Duncan MacKay, who was a joiner in Glasgow. Thus he came to live in Reay Cottage, as the house was then named and still is. Shortly after this Duncan was ordained a Deacon at Back. Later on Mr Cameron, having decided to build a new church at Back, left the purchase of the wood to Mr MacKay, with the stipulation that it must be of red-pine. Whatever the reason, Duncan used red-pine only in the pulpit and in the latron. The minister and Duncan had words over this, with the result that Duncan left the congregation. He probably felt ashamed for having quarrelled with the minister, and he would often say, "Anyway I did not steal any of it, I did not steal any of it."

Plans of the Back church were approved by the Presbytery on 5th November 1890, and the building was completed in 1891. On 2nd September 1891 the Quarterly Fellowship Meeting was held at Back, after which the Presbytery were to meet with the Officebearers. Mr Cameron however requested that the Presbytery should attend the laying of the Foundation-Stone of the church, so it was agreed to adjourn the visitation until after the ceremony. This would probably be a Quinquennial visitation.

Mr Cameron's preaching and character made a deep impression on the people he served, both at Lochs and at Back, and many anecdotes of his dealings with them are still floating around among the elderly. There was a pious woman at Back, who had the bad habit of calling at the manse with every tit-bit of news, both good and bad. On one occasion after a meeting of Session, one of the Elders related some item of business discussed, and this lady who happened to be present made for the manse with it. Mrs Cameron had to tell who her informer was, and were it not for the high standing of the Elder in question, he would most likely have lost his office.

On another occasion a couple from North Tolsta arrived at the manse, accompanied by their witnesses, in order to be married. Mr Cameron, noticing that one of the witnesses had imbibed some intoxicating liquor, said to them. "I will not marrv vou, for you smell of drink". (Cha phos mi idir sibh. tha faileadh na braiche dhiubh). Having walked the seven miles from Tolsta, they would have to trudge back the same seven miles, still unmarried. had not Mrs Cameron, as on many other occasions, poured oil on troubled waters.

Mrs Cameron, being a teacher, continued her profession at Back, when circumstances permitted her. Among the subjects she taught was Navigation, and it is said that one of her pupils, Donald (Uncle) MacRae, who was brought up near the manse at Buaile a' Bhaic, became a Captain on one of the larger boats on the Lakes in U.S.A., without a great deal of extra tuition, than that received from Mrs Cameron.

One of Mr Cameron's sons, Seonaidh Ruadh (Red Johnnie), was the leader of a local group of boys, and used to go with them to church, sitting on the gallery. It is said that he warned them not to misbehave until his father began to preach his sermon, but after that they could do as they liked. The reason for this liberty was that Mr Cameron kept his eyes closed during the delivery of his address, or as Rev. N. C. MacFarlane puts it, "He had the trick of reading off his sermons from the back of his mind." It was during Mr Cameron's ministry that Mr Murdo Stewart was the Catechist at Back, instructing and examining the people from North Tolsta to Tong. It was customary then, and in some places until recent times, for the Elders to have a say in inviting one of the ministers who were to assist at the Communion services. After Mr Cameron arrived at Back, Murdo Stewart said to him shortly before the Communion, "Would you ask such and such a minister for us to the Communion this year?" Mr Cameron did not like the suggestion nor the minister requested, and so replied: "Murdo, you have lost your authority". Thus the practice ended at Back. Someone informed Mr Cameron of a certain hearer who had slept through the whole of his sermon. Mr Cameron replied: "I would prefer him to be there, though asleep, than you when awake".

Even in my own day no lady would sit in the front seat of the gallery of the Back church, except strangers. The reason for this was that Mr Cameron had announced from the pulpit that only a brazen-faced woman would dare sit in the front seat of the gallery.

Mr Cameron had, like most ministers of his day, a male servant (sgalag), and two female servants. He also had some stock of cattle, sheep and horses. The village shepherd had to bring his sheep to the manse at shearing time, so that he would see them. Mr Cameron almost always wore his frock-coat, and coming out on one occasion to see the shepherd's shearing, he criticised his performance. The shepherd, however, replied by saying: "Why not try and do better yourself, minister?" (Cha chuirinn smal air mo dhreuchd le mo lamh a chuir ri lethid sin.) "I would not besmirch my office by setting my hand to the like of that" was the minister's reply.

Mr Cameron at a certain time while at Back noticed signs of a quickening in the congregation, but this did not seem to touch either himself or the Session. So at the next Communion he asked the Session if hey had noticed any signs of quickening among the people. One of their number called "Alasc. Pharlain", from Tong, said he had noticed a stirring among them, and knew the reason for it. He said there were three widows at the Coll crossroads who kept a prayer-meeting every Sabbath evening after the evening service, in each of their homes in turn. "Very good, very good" said the minister: "on your way home Alasc., call in and tell them to keep going".

The Tong people found fault with Alasc. Pharlain, because he attended the Back church only on alternate Sabbaths, going out to herd his cattle on the other. This used to be a common practice in Lewis up to the beginning of the 1939-45 war. Alasc. explained to the Session that it was laid on him as a duty long ago that he must take his own turn at herding" the cattle. Mr Cameron sided with Alasc., and there the matter ended.

Mr Cameron was once due to take the Fast-day services at the Barvas Communion, and on his way over on Thursday, he met a man with his horse and cart coming in the opposite direction. Mr Cameron stopped him and asked him why he was going to Stornoway on the Thursday of the Communion. The man informed him that he was going over to get provisions for the Communion. Mr Cameron exploded, and compelled the man to turn back home, saying to him: "How dare you go to Stornoway on the Fast-day when I am to be preaching in Barvas today!" When Mr Cameron arrived at Barvas he told the congregation of this incident, and how he turned the man back home. After rebuking them for their laxity, he then added "It is not you that I should blame, but the hornless minister sitting behind me." ("Cha sibh is coireach ach a' chaora-mhaol ministeir a tha 'na shuidhe air mo chulaobh.") This was Mr MacArthur, the minister of Barvas. The old lady, who had been a member in Cameron's day, told me this with great gusto, and seemed to be taken aback when I informed her that such conduct might result in Presbyterial discipline today.

Mr Cameron often dissented at the Kirk Session against some of those desiring to go forward to the Lord's table for the first time. but the Office-bearers just as often over-ruled him. I was informed of at least two instances in which he sent tokens to people whom he himself expected to appear but did not turn up.

Rev. George MacKay, who had come over with other ministers from the Free Presbyterian Church, when the Free Church repealed the Declaratory Act in 1905, was inducted to the Stornoway Free Church congregation on the 24th of January 1906. Mr Cameron retired from Back shortly after the General Assembly of 1907. He had, because of failing health, been unable to attend the church services for some time before. He had Mr MacKay assisting at his Communion, and as Mr Cameron was not able to attend Mr MacKay had to preside at the Session. On Saturday evening after the prayer meeting Mr MacKay was very late in returning to the manse, and Mr Cameron had concluded that he must have gone to visit friends after the meeting. When Mr MacKay eventually arrived, Mr Cameron was furious and accosted him in the door. "Come on" he said, "Upstairs with you, and pack your bags, and home you go to Stornoway." ("Cha bhi thu idir a'falbh sitigean a'Bhaic aig an am so air oidhche a'Shathuime.") "Oh, but Mr Cameron," said Mr MacKay, "I was not visiting at all, for I have just come from the Session where we had ten new applicants for the Lord's Table." "Oh," said Mr Cameron, "Well they knew that I was not to be there before them." 'smath a bha fios aca nach bithinnsa rompa.) The minister of Back had his own standards!

Mr Cameron was a deeply exercised and spiritually-minded man. His method of finding the path of duty was by earnest prayerful waiting upon the Spirit of the Lord in the Word. With "divisive courses" in the deepest sense of these words he had no sympathy. "Sitting beside him in the unbroken Free Church Assembly prior to 1900, one could easily see that his heart and thoughts were little engaged with what was going on, but that he was travailing in spirit, and holding conversation with the Unseen. To him things seen were assuredly temporal, while those unseen were assuredly eternal."

Leadership in anti-Union Policy in the Free Church

But the man who had the least notion of all men of becoming an ecclesiastical leader, became the leader of many thousands in the Long Island, who resolved at all costs to retain the great tradition of Disruption days.

It may be difficult to understand why so many pious and able ministers entered the Union in 1900, both in the Presbytery of Lewis and elsewhere. The Presbytery of Lewis, as we understand from the Presbytery Records, were assured by the leaders of the South that the Union would make no difference to the Constitution of the Free Church. But not everyone was so well grounded in constitutional matters as Mr Cameron. Born in 1836, he would only be seven years at the time of the Disruption, but as his father came over from Roman Catholicism to the Free Church from strong convictions, we may be sure that discussion of constitutional matters were humming around his ears from his early youth.

A movement for Union between the Free Church and the United Presbyterian Church was initiated in 1863, when Committees were appointed by both churches to inquire as to the measure of agreement between them in doctrine and principle. They soon found that they differed in their views on the relationship between Church and State. The Free Church viewed both Church and State as divine institutions under the Headship of Christ. It is a nation's duty to confess and establish the true religion. "If a Church ceases to assert the Crown Rights of Christ as King of nations she can no longer fairly assert His Crown Rights as King of Zion."

It soon became evident that the United Presbyterians' view of the Atonement was not in accordance with that of the Free Church. The Free Church Presbytery of Lewis were truly concerned regarding what might be the outcome of these deliberations. On 15th October 1866, we see the Presbytery resuming consideration of the Report of the General Assembly's Committee on Union, and of the Assembly's Remit thereanent. While approving of Union on a Scriptural basis, they resolved to transmit the following suggestions to the Committee:

1. That the Committee should endeavour to ascertain more fully the views of the negotiating Churches regarding Christ's Headship over the Church and State, and whether they are prepared to maintain in their integrity the distinctive principles on this subject always held by the Reformed Church of Scotland, for which the Free Church sacrificed so much at the time of the Disruption, and which she cannot now regard as of secondary importance.

2. The Committee should obtain full information as to the views held by the negotiating Churches on the Atonement, there being an impression abroad that some of the parties concerned in these negotiations held views on this subject inconsistent with the teaching of our Standards.

3. To ascertain whether it is seriously proposed by any of the negotiating Churches to alter or modify the Westminster Confession, or to interfere with it as a subordinate Standard.

4. That enquiry should be made regarding the agreement of the negotiating Churches respecting the Law and Practice of the Church as to Public Worship.

5. That considering the great practical importance of Government grants for Education, and remembering that this Church must maintain the duty of the State to grant aid from the National resources to teach the young in the principles of Christianity, that full enquiry be made as to whether the other negotiating bodies are prepared to admit that duty, and to what extent the views of all the negotiating bodies on the question are capable of being harmonised.

6. That the general principles and constitution of the Sustentation Fund should not be interfered with, and that the Committee should carefully consider the bearing of Union on Free Church property according to the provisions of the Model Trust Deed of 1851.

7. That the Committee should not countenance the suggestion made in some quarters of leaving important subjects, whether relating to the doctrine, discipline or government of the Church as open questions, as these would in all likelihood prove to be a source of discord and heartburnings in the United body.

These enquiries reveal the concern the Presbytery felt regarding the Free Church principles and constitution, in the event of Union. Yet in his eagerness for Church Union even Big MacRae underestimated its effects, although he opposed Union later on grounds of expediency rather than principle.

By 1871 opposition to Union had, however, become so formidable that the Union Committee were instructed to restrict their attention to closer cooperation between the Churches rather than to Union. The Higher Criticism soon entered the Free Church Colleges, and doctrines that were not founded on the Word of God, or on the Confession of Faith, were openly published by certain Professors, Principal Rainy declaring in the Assembly that these men must carry on their teaching in class and elsewhere from their own convictions. When the rot entered the Colleges it soon spread through the Church.

In 1879, the United Presbyterian Church had passed a Declaratory Act, the purpose of which was to relax subscription to the Confession of Faith. A Declaratory Act is an Act which declares what the Assembly understands the Law of the Church to be, and it is perfectly competent for Assemblies to pass such Acts. In 1889 the Free Church made preliminary moves to bring herself into line with the United Presbyterian Church. The Committee appointed reported in 1891, and it was agreed by an overwhelming majority to send the proposed Declaratory Act down to Presbyteries, under the Barrier Act. The Barrier Act was meant to prevent any innovation being passed by the Assembly without the approval of the Church as a whole. The returns from Presbyteries showed a large majority in favour of the Declaratory Act, and the Assembly thus passed it as an Act of the Church, a finding from which numerous dissents were lodged by those who opposed it. In February 1892, Mr Greenfield gave notice in the Lewis Presbytery that he would move at the next meeting the non-approval of the Declaratory Act sent down to Presbyteries under the Barrier Act, and on 30th April the Declaratory Act was disapproved of by the Lewis Presbytery, there being no amendment to the motion.

On the 28th of March 1883 Mr Hector Cameron moved that the following Overture regarding the use of Instrumental Music in public worship be transmitted to the ensuing General Assembly:

"Whereas it is plainly the doctrine of Scripture and the Confession of Faith that, since the salvation of the sinner must be only of grace, the religion of the sinner, in the principles on which it rests, the methods by which it is realised, and the very forms by which it is expressed, must originate with God, and be dictated by Him to us, whereas, though the use of Instrumental Music as part of the Old Testament Worship had been prescribed by God, yet it is utterly without support either in the New Testament application of the Law to the Gospel, in the practice of Christ and His Apostles, or in the history of the Christian Church for several centuries after the close of the Canon of Scripture, and whereas our own Church at the Reformation has been thoroughly purged from, and has since that period to the present day strongly protested against the use of Instrumental Music as positively unscriptural, and therefore the essence of 'Will-Worship', and teaching for doctrines the commandments of men, and whereas for these and other reasons, any Church that may permit the said use of Instrumental Music must be guilty of dishonouring God, injuring the cause of true religion and vital godliness, as well as damaging her own harmony, peace and prosperity: It is therefore, humbly overtured by the Free Presbytery of Lewis to the Venerable, the General Assembly, to give no countenance or encouragement to the agitation presumably going on for the introduction of Instrumental Music into the Public Worship of the Free Church of Scotland."

Mr Greenfield seconded the motion, which was then agreed to.

Many of our young people, and of those not so young, should give careful consideration to what is expressed in this Overture. and so be able to give a reason for the present Form of Worship in the Free Church to those who are ready to question its scripturalness.

In January 1893 the Presbytery proceeded to consider the proposed Act anent Questions and Formula. Previous to the discussion Mr Cameron lodged the following Protest for himself, and any others who might adhere:

"Before taking up this question, I wish, in my own name, and that of any others who may adhere to it, to protest that in taking part in this discussion I shall not be understood as admitting the right or competency on the part of the Free Church of Scotland to alter her Standards by changing the Preamble, Questions and Formula by which those she admits to Office are taken bound to adhere to those Standards, and to give effect to changes in doctrine sanctioned by the Declaratory Act, passed by last Assembly in face of a dissenting and protesting minority: and that we shall not hereby be held as having prejudiced any rights belonging to us as bona-fide Office-bearers of the Free Church of Scotland."

Signed: Hector Cameron, James Greenfield, John MaeDonald (Kinloch), Neil M. Morison, George MacLeod, Hector Kennedy, John MacDougall, Alexander Thomson, Alexander MacLennan, Roderick MacRae (Min.), Malcolm MacLeod (Knock), and Ranald MaeDonald.

Mr Cameron, thereafter, moved that the Presbytery strongly disapprove of the Act anent Questions and Formula. Mr Greenfield seconded, and this became the finding of the Presbytery. This Protest was signed by all present at the Presbytery except Rev. D. J. Martin, and Mr John MacKenzie, his Elder.

On 29th November 1893 Dr Ross, Borve, gave notice of the following motion with regard to the Declaratory Act; "Whereas the Declaratory Act, which was adopted last year by a majority of the Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland, has, contrary to the intention of the Church in consenting to the framing of such an Act, caused even greater feelings of difficulty and doubt than formerly existed regarding the views and teachings of many within the pale of the Church in connection with the doctrines and questions dealt with by the Act: Whereas the adoption of the Act has led to and intensified widespread dissatisfaction, dispeace and division within the Church, more especially in the Highlands and Western Islands of Scotland, and almost universally within the bounds of this Presbytery: Whereas the discussions and estrangements which have resulted from this deplorable state of matters, have already done great mischief to the cause of religion throughout the Country: and whereas it is certain that unless immediate steps are taken to remove the principal cause of dissatisfaction, the consequences will prove disastrous to the prosperity of the Free Church in this island, as well as in many other districts in Scotland, it is humbly overtured by the Free Presbytery of Lewis to the General Assembly of the Free Church of Scotland to repeal the said Declaratory Act, and to adopt some more suitable method for meeting any wellfounded difficulties and doubts which may be felt by some as to the agreement of certain portions of the Westminster Confession of Faith, and the words and teachings of the Holy Scriptures."

This motion was moved by Dr Ross on the 15th January 1894 and seconded by Mr Hector Cameron, and it was unanimously agreed to by the Presbytery.

We may well wonder what was wrong with the Declaratory Act of 1892 that caused so many to oppose it. The Act was so obscure and vague that it became possible for both the Voluntary and Higher Critic to subscribe to the Confession without yielding their positions. As the Act appears to have been intentionally vague for the smoothing over of the difficulties in the way of Union, we can see the truth of the statement that "The Confession of Faith, with and without the Declaratory Act, are two, not only different, but essentially different theologies."

The term "Voluntary" was applied to those who held that the State had no obligation to uphold religion, whereas those who believed, like the Free Church, in the Establishment Principle maintained that it was the duty of the State to maintain a national recognition of religion. As Dr Chalmers expressed it from the Moderatorial Chair in 1843, "We are advocates for a national recognition and a national support of religion, and we are not Voluntaries."

There is no reason why the Constitution of the Church should not be expressed in terms so unambiguous and clear that every member of the Church, who could read, would be able to understand what exactly it meant. The Declaratory Act left even some of the ablest ministers in the Church divided as to the implications of its obscure terms.

Various Presbyteries and Synods sent up Overtures to the 1893 Assembly craving that the Declaratory Act be rescinded, but the Assembly, on the motion of Dr Rainy merely passed from the Overtures. Rev. Donald MacFarlane, of Raasay, and Rev. Donald MacDonald, of Shieldaig, seceded from the Free Church, accompanied by several theological Students and Office-bearers, and a considerable body of people, and these formed the Free Presbyterian Church. In Stornoway several hundreds left the Free Church because of their dissatisfaction with the Declaratory Act, and formed the Free Presbyterian Congregation of Stornoway. But this did not silence the opposition to the Act in the Free Church, and when the Highland Presbyteries, including the Presbytery of Lewis, who had unanimously agreed to a motion by Dr Ross, overtured the General Assembly of 1894. to repeal the Act. the crave was not granted, but it sisted for the time being the proceedings which were to change both the Questions put to Probationers before ordination, and to ordained ministers on admission to Charges, and the Formula which bound them to the acceptance of the Confession of Faith.

In 1895, the Free Church General Assembly resolved by a majority to approach the United Presbyterian Church with a view to Union, and that Church lost no time in agreeing to unite. In 1897 a Union Committee was constituted which later laid a plan of Union before the General Assembly. From the outset of these negotiations, Mr Cameron had sensed a tendency to compromise on issues that were vital to the maintenance of the Reformed witness of the Free Church of Scotland as formulated by the Disruption Fathers. When, therefore, in 1897, he received a circular from a group of Free Church Constitutionalists, inquiring as to his willingness to join with them in action that would ensure the preserving inviolate of the Church's testimony, his reply was characteristically prompt and definite. Addressed to the Rev. C. A. Bannatyne, Secretary to the Defence Committee, it was as follows:

F.C. Manse
Back
Stornoway.

18th May 1897.

My Dear Sir,

I thank God with all my heart for the receipt of your statement anent the proposed union: and for the fact that there are even four faithful ministers in the south of Scotland prepared at all hazards to stand by the banner given by God to the Free Church of 1843 to be displayed because of the truth.

Dr Rainy's ominous statement on the subject of Union in last Assembly filled my mind with no small amount of anxiety and alarm which had been increasing and intensifying every day ever since as I was neither seeing nor hearing of any movement on the part of Constitutionalists in defence of the distinctive principles and testimony of our Church for which they contended so faithfully in 1873 and since. I was quite prepared to have nothing to do with a union effected at the expense and sacrifice of those principles and in the basis of which the Declaratory Act of 1893 was meant to play an essential part. I made up my mind for this even if no one else did the same. I have been of late so deeply grieved to hear it rumoured every where here that Revs. McAskill of Dingwall and McKenzie of Inverness were prepared to abandon their former principles and professions in favour of the proposed Union. And you cannot realize my joy this morning on the arrival of your communication coming as it did immediately on the back of such rumours.

It is significant that the names of McAskill and McKenzie are not to the statement you favoured me with. The Lord bless you all who have been concerned in issuing it at such a time. I hope it may be the means of causing many to rally around the old time-honoured principles of the Reformation Churches and to arrest the unfortunate movement already originated towards Union. The Lord grant that the time to favour Zion may soon arrive.

With my heartiest wishes and prayers for the success of the movement with which your name is so honourably identified.

I am,

Sincerely yours,
Hector Cameron.

In June 1895 Rev. Peter MacDonald was translated from Free St Columba's, Edinburgh, to Stornoway Gaelic Free, and when Rev. D. J. Martin was translated from Stornoway English to Oban in March 1897, Mr MacDonald was appointed clerk to the Presbytery in his place. Mr MacDonald had an older brother, Alexander, who was minister at Ardclach, and who was a frequent visitor to Lewis. Both were natives of Stornoway, and on perusal of the Presbytery Records one cannot help but notice the influence of the new clerk over the other members of the Presbytery.

In December 1898 the Presbytery agreed to consider the Report anent Union between the Free Church and the United Presbyterian Church, transmitted by the last General Assembly to Presbyteries, at their next ordinary meeting on the 11th of January 1899.

Mr Cameron gave notice of motion that when the Report would be considered he would move that the presbytery would disapprove of the same.

A full report of this meeting was published in the Highland News of 14th January 1899, and is worthy of inclusion here to give us a full picture of the situation at the time in the Island of Lewis. The Report is as follows:

"A meeting of the Free Presbytery of Lewis was held within the Free Gaelic Church, Stornoway, on Wednesday, 11th January 1899. It being known that the Presbytery were to have the question of the proposed basis of Union with the United Presbyterian Church before them, there was a large and representative gathering of the general public from all parts of the island throughout the whole of the four and a half hours of the Sederunt.

The opinion of the outside public seemed to be pretty evenly divided, and feeling so frequently found expression in applause, that on several occasions members of the Presbytery had to appeal for conduct more becoming the occasion of the weighty matters under consideration. The members of Presbytery were: Messrs John MacKay, Kinloch, Moderator, Hector Cameron, Back, Roderick MacRae, Carloway, Neil M. Morison, Barvas, George MacLeod, Garrabost, D. M. MacDonald, Ness, John MacDougall, Crossbost, John S. MacDonald, Stornoway English, and Peter MacDonald, Stornoway Gaelic, Clerk, Ministers; with Messrs John MacKenzie, Stornoway English, Norman MacDonald, Ness, Torquil MacLeod, Leurbost, Donald MacLeod, Bayble, Alexander Thomson, Tong, Alexander MacLennan, Marvig, John MacLennan, Stornoway Gaelic, and Malcolm MacLean, Bragar, Elders.

Rev. Hector Cameron, before entering on discussion of the subject, read a Protest defending his own position in taking any part in the consideration of the question. The Protest was as follows: 'We the undersigned, members of this Court, bound to consult, vote and determine in all matters that come before us, to the glory of God and to the good of His Church, and according to the Word of God and Confession of Faith, and agreeably to the constitution of His Church, hereby protest, that whereas Union on the basis of these proposals involves the subversion of the Constitution of the Free Church of Scotland, we the undersigned do therefore protest that we shall be considered as taking part in the discussion of these proposals only on the understanding that we do not admit that it is competent for this or any other Court of the Free Church to alter her Constitution, which all the officebearers are solemnly pledged to assert, maintain and defend.' Signed: Hector Cameron.

Mr Cameron further stated that Mr Alexander Thomson, Elder, Tong, would adhibit his name; to which Mr Thomson, who was present, assented.

On the motion of the Clerk the Protest was accepted, and held in retentis, and a copy was ordered to be engrossed in the minutes of the Presbytery.

Rev. H. Cameron, in terms of notice given, then rose to move his disapproval of the basis of Union, having special regard to Questions and Formula.

At this stage a discussion took place as to whether the Presbytery should deliberate in Gaelic or English, when it was agreed that the business should be conducted in Gaelic, the Rev. J. S. MacDonald acquiescing.

Rev. H. Cameron, in support of his motion, delivered a speech of over two hours duration. He said he was not against Union, but against Union with the United Presbyterian Church on the basis submitted. There had already been Unions between the Free Church and other two Seceding bodies, but they never heard a loud or bad word, or saw a letter in the papers against them. They were carried out peacefully, and the reason for this was that the Seceding bodies joining held the same principles as the Free Church itself. This question of Union with the United Presbyterians had been before the Church for 35 years, but had not been consummated because of the disunion and strife within the Church on the matter. There would not be, he said, so many sensible, learned and godly men against this Union, if they did not see a serious disagreement between the Constitutions of the two Churches. Proceeding, Mr Cameron read lengthy extracts from the opinions expressed by several of the leaders of the Evangelical Churches at home and abroad on the points at issue. Those bore chiefly on the relations of the Church to the Declaratory Act, and chiefly to the relations to the principle of Establishment.

Mr Cameron's reference to the Declaratory Act not being clearly understood, the Clerk, Rev. Peter MacDonald, interposed to ask him if he wanted to convey the impression that the proposed Union would alter any relation which they had at present to the Declaratory Act. Mr Cameron replied that he objected to the Declaratory Act.

The Clerk said the question before them was the relation which the Union would bring about in connection with the Declaratory Act, and read from the preamble of the Formula, and from the Acts of the General Assembly, the authoritative utterance of the Church on the subject, and showed that the Declaratory Act in the United Church would be as at present; it was not to be imposed upon any of the church Office-bearers as part of the Standards of the Church any more than it was at present.

The most interesting point was reached when Mr Cameron came to consider the question of the Establishment principle. He quoted at considerable length from Dr Candlish to show the difference between the opinions held in the Free Church and the United Presbyterian Church on the matter. If this Union took place, he said, the question of Establishment would be left an open question, and the Free Church would be departing from the Scriptural view of Establishment, which was one of her principles.

The Clerk again interposed, and challenged Mr Cameron to show to them where the Bible said that there must be a connection between Church and State.

Mr Cameron seemed a little taken aback, and said he founded his statement on the Testimony of the Reformed Churches. Mr MacDonald said that while he respected the Testimony of the Reformed Churches he respected his Bible more, and when it was asserted that this was a Scriptural matter, he demanded that Mr Cameron there and then, in presence of the Presbytery, should show where Scripture insisted on a connection between Church and State as the only Christian form of national religion.

Mr Cameron did not accept the challenge, but reiterated his statement that it was contained in the Testimony of the Reformed Churches, and complained that Mr MacDonald was treating him unfairly in interrupting him in this way. Mr MacDonald said he had no wish to interrupt Mr Cameron, but that when a statement was made calculated to convey the impression that they were departing from a Scriptural doctrine they were entitled to know what Scripture it was.

Ministry at Back II...