|Rev Dr John Dunmore Lang (1799-1878) - Turbulent Presbyterian leader|
|Written by Dr Rowland S. Ward|
|Wednesday, 25 June 2008 14:36|
JOHN DUNMORE LANG (1799-1878) TURBULENT PRESBYTERIAN LEADER
This is the wikipedia article as at February 2008which is substantially as written by Rowland S. Ward, May 2006
Lang was the first Presbyterian minister on the mainland of Australia, arriving in 1823.
Background and Family
Lang was born near Greenock, Inverclyde, Scotland, the eldest son of William Lang and Mary Dunmore. His father was a small landowner and his mother a pious Presbyterian, who dedicated her son to the Church of Scotland ministry from an early age. He grew up in nearby Largs, and was educated at the University of Glasgow, where he excelled, winning many prizes, and graduating as a Master of Arts in 1820. His brother, George, had found employment in New South Wales and Lang decided to join him. He was ordained by the Presbytery of Irvine on 30 September 1822. Arriving in Sydney Cove on 23 May 1823 he became the first Presbyterian minister in the colony of New South Wales. On the way back from the second of his nine voyages to Britain (1830-31) he married his 18-year old cousin Wilhelmina Mackie at Cape Town. They were married for 47 years. Lang fathered ten children, only three of whom survived him.
Lang and the claims of the Church of England
Lang found the Presbyterian Scots to be a small minority, dominated by an Anglican administration and outnumbered by the Irish Catholics. There was no Presbyterian church in the colony and he commenced building one before he had applied to the Governor of New South Wales, Sir Thomas Brisbane, to provide public funds for it. Governor Brisbane refused. Lang had laid the foundation stone for the Scots Church on 1 July 1824 and it was completed with significant debt by William and Andrew Lang and opened 16 July 1826 with a Trust Deed that tied it to the Church of Scotland. Lang visited Britain 1824-25, where he successfully lobbied the Secretary for the Colonies, Lord Bathurst, to recognise the legal status of the Church of Scotland to the extent that he was allowed a stipend of £300 per annum. During this visit he was made a Doctor of Divinity by Glasgow University, and recruited Rev John McGarvie for ministry at Portland Head.
Lang resisted the claim to exclusive State recognition and support by the Church of England involved in the establishment of the Clergy and School Lands Corporation in 1826, and it was suspended in 1829 and abolished in 1833. Also in 1826 he claimed the right to perform marriages by virtue of a British Act of 1818 relating to the Diocese of Calcutta which protected Church of Scotland ministers there, and thus broke the Church of England monopoly, New South Wales then being part of that Diocese. The Church Act of 1836 gave State-aid to the Church of England, the Church of Scotland and the Roman Catholic Church on the same basis. The Methodists were added in 1839.
Lang founded the Caledonian Academy in 1826 but it soon folded. Lang made a second visit to Britain in 1830-31 and recruited several teachers as well as acquiring a library and equipment for a school he was to call the Australian College. It opened at the beginning of 1832 on land adjoining the Scots Church. It had considerable promise which was not realised due to Lang's lack of administrative ability and his failure to achieve more general support because of his own flaws of character and ability, particularly financial mismanagement. By 1840 it had only about 30 students. In 1842 the College became simply a day school for boys meeting elsewhere, and was no more by 1852. Lang dreamed of heading an educational institution of standing. Not surprisingly, he was a supporter of the Presbyterian Theological College, St Andrew's College within the University of Sydney, although he used his political influence to try and change the legislation, and hoped in 1872 to be appointed its first Principal.
Lang and journalism
Lang returned from his third visit to Britain (1833-34) with more ministers and teachers as well as a printing press and tradesmen to operate it. He commenced The Colonist in January 1835 which he used to promote his schemes, and attack those with whom he disagreed. While he was absent in Britain 1839-41, and until it ceased in 1840, Rev William McIntyre edited the paper and it reported impartially on matters then agitating the Presbyterian Church. Lang commenced a new paper, The Colonial Observer, in October 1841 which ran until 1844. He also conducted The Press for a period in 1851.
Lang was certainly a turbulent Scot but was not quite the fiery fundamentalist who hated all other denominations that some have claimed. Examination of his sermon manuscripts indicate they were orthodox by the standard of the Westminster Confession of Faith as adhered to by the Church of Scotland. He was influenced by Rev Dr Thomas Chalmers and held a form of the premillennial view of the future. He related quite positively to other denominations of evangelical Protestants, particularly Congregationalists, Lutherans and Methodists. He admitted Congregationalists and Baptists to the Synod he operated 1850-64, and in 1856 ordained two Lutherans, regarding the Lutheran questions and Confession, which he used on the occasion, as the same in substance with those of the British Presbyterians. His ecclesiastical fights were with exclusivist Anglicans, other Presbyterians and the Catholics.
Attitude to Roman Catholics
The traditional evangelical Protestant belief concerning the predicted Antichrist or Man of Sin in 2 Thessalonians 2 was that the Man of Sin was not an individual as such but a movement of error in history under the guise of friendship to Christ. Lang shared this belief and saw the Man of Sin as illustrated in the Papacy. When the immigration of poor Irish Catholics was running at a massive level he campaigned against Irish migration. His fear was that the colony would be swamped by such persons and that Protestant and British liberties would be lost. In 1841 he published The Question of Questions! or, Is this Colony to be transformed into a Province of Popedom? A Letter to the Protestant Landholders of New South Wales, and in 1847 he followed up with, Popery in Australia and the Southern Hemisphere: and How to Check it Effectually: An Address to Evangelical and Influential Protestants of all Denominations in Great Britain and Ireland. He strongly opposed Caroline Chisholm's campaign to sponsor the immigration of single Irish Catholic women to Australia. But Bridges is right to state: "Lang considered opposition to harmful errors of Catholicism part of his duty as a minister but he consistently championed the cause of Irish and Catholic civil liberties and deprecated any incitement to Protestant-Catholic or Anglo-Celtic disturbances." He visited Archbishop Polding when the Roman Catholic leader was dying in 1877.
Lang and the Presbyterian Church
The Presbytery of New South Wales (which then included what is now Victoria and Queensland) was formed on 14 December 1832, despite the intemperate habits of two of the ministers, and the opposition of John McGarvie, who had turned out to be a Scottish Moderate. This Presbytery ordained a minister for Launceston and in turn the Presbytery of Van Diemen's Land was constituted on 6 November 1835 by Lang and two others.
The Presbytery in New South Wales had a number of unsuitable ministers. Lang determined on a further visit to Britain in 1836, securing about 20 men from the Church of Scotland and from the Synod of Ulster. Lang had a pre-arranged plan to set up a rival church court to the Presbytery. When he returned in 1837 he found that an Act to regulate the temporal affairs of the Presbytery had been secured from the Government, the terms of which made the Presbytery the only legal representative of the Church of Scotland in the colony. The Presbytery Moderator's certificate was necessary for payment of stipends under the Church Act. Lang thereupon represented the Temporalities Act as 'monstrous and disgraceful in the highest degree' and having the effect of forcing him and his supporters out. This was complete fabrication, but Lang and five of the new recruits joined in constituting a Synod on 11 December 1837. Lang placed men in the same localities as Presbytery ministers to draw off adherents and drive out the drunkards. A full-blown schism operated until union was effected in 1840.
The Presbytery expelled Lang for schism on 18 January 1838. Lang used The Colonist to spread contention. As James Forbes put it, 'week after week he poured forth vollies of abuse against the Presbytery, unequalled for satanic bitterness and vulgar scurrility, by the worst of the London Sunday papers.' Lang was on a further trip to Britain and America 1839-41, and in his absence terms of union were agreed and the union consummated on 5 October 1840 under the name 'Synod of Australia in connection with the Established Church of Scotland.' The Basis did not give the Church of Scotland any legislative or judicial jurisdiction, but the Synod was committed to the same doctrinal basis as the Church of Scotland. Presbyteries were created subject to the Synod. Lang was admitted on his return in March 1841.
In 1840 Lang published a substantial volume entitled Religion and Education in America in which he advocated support of churches by voluntary givings rather than the State, and went so far as to advocate no connection between Church and State. This conflicted with the official views of the Church of Scotland as set out in the Confession of Faith, which can be summarised thus:
Lang's views brought opposition from many including some who had previously supported him. Lang's repute had already declined in Scotland. When he was censured for allowing to preach in Scot's Church a Congregational minister who had been rejected by the Synod, he reacted negatively. On 6 February 1842 he told his congregation that he would go to New Zealand and be supported by voluntary givings. In an extraordinary blast of invective, and alluding to the narrative of Joshua 6:20ff, he said that the Australian church could not prosper until she renounced with indignant scorn the Babylonish garment of an infidel establishment of religion and abandoned the wedge of gold that corrupted all who touched it. At length he consented to remain when the bulk of the 500 adults in his congregation agreed to sever all connection with the Synod and with the State. On 8 October 1842 the Synod deposed Lang for slander - calling the Synod a synagogue of Satan particularly displeased the brethren - divisive courses and contumacy by an 8-4 vote. Ultimately, on 9 September 1851, the Presbytery of Irvine in Scotland declared Lang no longer a minister of the Church of Scotland, but did not tell Lang what was afoot nor give him an opportunity to defend himself.
Lang and politics
|Last Updated on Friday, 05 September 2008 15:21|