Thomas Robertson's appointment to the first vestry
of St John's is significant as he was closely connected to the Minister of St
Cuthbert's, Sir Henry Moncrieff Wellwood. They were first cousins (Thomas'
mother was Sir Harry's aunt), brothers-in-law (Sir Harry had married Thomas'
sister Susan), and did business together (Sir Harry was an executor of Thomas'
will, and at his death owed him £528). It seems likely that this was a
deliberate appointment to strengthen friendly links between Episcopalian and
Presbyterian churches in the West End. Daniel
Sandford told the clergy of Edinburgh,
With regard to those who conscientiously differ from us, the
laws which are to regulate our conduct are clear and plain. 'We judge no man;
seeing that every man standeth or falleth to his own master'. With regard,
especially, to our Christian brethren of the Established Church, it is our duty
to avoid, if it be possible, giving offence to any; to repay the tranquillity
which we enjoy, by a mild and charitable deportment; to show that we do not
consider difference of opinion in religious matters as any apology for acrimony
or violence (13)
The joint social projects in which Sandford engaged with his Presbyterian
neighbours shows that this was an active tolerance. It was a very different
attitude to that of some Episcopalians such as his younger colleague James
Walker, whose 'charity towards all men' involves a dogmatic attitude to faith,
and thinly-veiled scorn:
To be well disposed, and candid, and charitable towards all
men, is certainly the duty of every Christian; but the spirit of indifference
which is recommended along with this, and which is very slightly concealed under
a fair name, is equally contrary to the spirit and precepts of the Gospel and to
the nature and powers of man. If, indeed, it were just, why not extend it a
little father, and include Jews, Turks, and Infidels? But Christianity is an
exclusive religion, and he who professes it, denies the truth of any other...
What the Established Church of Scotland may have to fear from the numerous
sects which have separated, and which daily separate from her, it becomes not us
to judge; but from us, who never separated from, because we never belonged to
her, most certainly she has nothing to fear. (14)
Thomas was replaced on the vestry by a connection of Margaret Hope, Major General John Hope. It is
possible that this was intended to continue what would now be termed the
'ecumenical link' on the vestry, as one branch of the Hope family was of
importance in St Andrew's Presbyterian Church on George Street.