« PreviousContinue »
the last year, amounted to between four and £5000, the excess of which, over that of the previous year, is chiefly to be attri. buted to the impulse given to the cause among the Scottish people, by Dr. Duff, that man of expansive soul and apostolic devotedness, who has been raised up to accomplish a great work in India, the scene of his important labours. (Hear, hear.) Let us hope that his new model of Christian Missions to the heathen will realize all the anticipations of the Church of his native land; that India, whose moral scenery, so dark and lowering, stands out in fearful contrast with the natural beauty and magnificence which it presents to view, when lighted up in the full blaze of an Eastern sun, shall, through the instrumentality of the Church of Scotland, rejoice in a still more splendid and overpowering illumination. “ Thus sball it be proved, to adopt his own energetic language, “that the Church of Scotland, though poor, can make many rich,--though powerless, as regards carnal designs and worldly policies, has yet the divine power of bringing many sons to glory,ếof calling a spiritual progeny from afar, numerous as the drops of dew in the morning, and resplendent with the shining of the Sun of Righteousness,-a noble company of ransomed multitudes, that shall hail her in the realms of day, and crown her with the spoils of victory, and sit on thrones, and live and reign with her, amid the splendours of an unclouded universe.” (Hear, hear.) Next in order in the proceedings of last Assembly, but certainly first in importance, as it indicates more of a reforming spirit than any of its decisions, is the measure which has been carried, requiring that all elders in Church Courts shall be “ bona fide acting elders” in their different parishes. (Hear, hear.) A most extraordinary and anomalous feature in the Presbyterial Courts of the Church has been, that many of their members have been persons without any official character or status in the Church. The influence of these persons has generally, as may be supposed, been exerted in opposition to ecclesiastical reform. The vote, however, of last Assembly, will, it is confidently expected, lead to the return of a superior order of lay members; inferior they may be in legal knowledge and attainments, but not inferior, it is hoped, in the possession of those high qualities, which alone should confer dignity and privilege on men, (hear,)—and by being endowed with which, the peasant with a bonnet on his brow, (hear, hear,) may be a more effective auxiliary, in the deliberations of the Church, than the most learned casuist who has, at heart, no spiritual concern in her prosperity. It is pleasing, however, to observe, that there are instances in the Assembly of individuals in the Eldership, who, together with the higbest legal attainments, and the most exalted station, combine all that could be desired in character and qualifications, and who adorn, with their piety, their office in the Church. The only other topic suggested by the review of last Assembly, to which I shall advert, is that of pa. tronage. The minority for its abolition, a “fearful minority, " as it was termed by some of the friends of patronage, was ninety ; being more than double that of 1834, and nearly treble that of 1333. (Hear.) Thus, even in the last reforming Assemblies of the last few years, the cause has gained. Notwithstanding the operation of the veto Act, which was a most important advance towards the reinstatement of the Christian people of the Church in their spiritual privileges, the cause of the abolitionists is moving with rapid strides, and there seems little reason to doubt, but that in a very short period the monster, which the entanglements of the veto had checked in its career of devastation, will be strangled, amid the congratulations of an enfranchised people. (Hear.) Then may the Church of Scotland walk abroad rejoicing in her deliverance; and, standing in the noble attitude of independence, may she bid defiance to the usurped authority of all by whom she has been held in bondage ; strong in her attachment to the old cause of reformation,-stronger than ever, because restored to the affectiuns,and girt about with the protection, and encouraged by the prayers of her emancipated children. (Hear.) Then will the fond anticipations of her truest friends be realized; and then will she be seen, as described by him to whom we have referred, as rejoicing even in the remotest symptoms of reformation, the biographer of her reformers, as “rising from the dust and shaking herself, putting on her beautiful garments, and looking forth, as in the morning of her day, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners,—to the confusion of those who would have quenched her light, and plucked her from that firmament, in which she once shone with surpassing brightness.” Other points might still be noticed, as illustrative of the reviving and reforming spirit abroad in the Church of Scotland, --such as ber growing activity, in opposition to the growing power of Popery,-her educational exertions, and the efforts made to revive the old practice of Presbyterial visitations, which, strange to say, some of ber members seem to contemplate with alarm. All these topics are suggested by last Assembly. Were we to go back to those of former years, we should find many additional grounds of thanksgiving. These, however, sufficiently indicate, that a mighty movement is going on within her, and that she is likely, by the blessing of God on her exertions, to become, ere long, as efficient as in the days of an older generation. Such, then, being the present condition of our Mother Church in Scotland, who is there among us that will refuse to cultivate her friendly recognition ? Or who is there, that does not perceive a prospect of advantage in an alliance between the Churches ? Little advantage, comparatively, can accrue to the Parent Church from the alli.
and in labours, in numbers and in name, in prayer and preach. ing. We can, indeed, rejoice with her in her prosperity, and mourn in her afflictions. We can lend our sympathy to all her enterprises and projects of reformation. We can even stand up in her defence, as one of our number has nobly done, and vindicate her insulted name, whenever, as in our own day, she is exposed to the rude onset of her enemies, who would tri. umph in her downfall. We can, if need be, also give her the benefit of our experience of the operation of those measures, from which many of her members seem so sensitively to recoil. We can testify, that popular election is not that dreadful thing which some would represent it, and that Presbyterial visitations are a means of most wholesome oversight, both as it regards ministers and people. We can tell, through our deputed representatives, if we are allowed to send them, (and that we shall be represented, at no distant day, in the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, we have good encouragement to be. lieve,) what great things the Lord has done for us in past times, and what He may from time to time accomplish in the upbuilding of our Preshyterian Zion. (Hear.) All this we can do, if we have opportunity; and though in doing it we may not render much direct service to the cause in Scotland, we may perhaps encourage and strengthen the hands of those to whom has been committed the important work of purifying and advancing the Church of our father-land. It is difficult to state precisely the amount of advantage to be gained by us from the contemplated alliance, of which the restoration of ministerial fellowship between the Churches is the earnest and indication. 'It may safely be maintained, in general, that union both in sentiment and action was never more to be desired between the different sections of the Presbyterian community than in the present times. (Hear.) The principle of associated effort has, in our day, been universally recognised and acted on, in every department; and alliances for the dissemination of com. mon principles are forming daily before our eyes, and that, too, even by the most discordant minds. And shall the world alone reap the benefit of union and confederation ? Shall the Churches slumber, while all around them is awake? (Hear, hear, hear.) Shall not those, especially, who recognise in each other followers of the same Presbyterian standard, join heart and hand together for the defence and extension of their peculiar principles,-(hear, hear,)—that, by presenting an appearance on the side of Presbyterianism, they may convince all its opponents, whether political or ecclesiastical,-(hear, hear,) that while other systems are changing and falling asunder, theirs is is still unmutilated and unimpaired,-(hear,) --worthier than ever of the men by whom it was reared of old, fitted to outlive the changes and the agitations of the times (Hear, hear, bear.) But, although no substantial benefits accrued from our alliance, will there be to us nothing elevating in the consciousness, that we have the good wishes of the Parent Church of Scotland ? (Hear, hear, hear.) Shall we not, as a Church, derive much comfort and encouragement from the persuasion, that, in the land of our fathers, and in its General Assembly, there are those who cherish towards us the kindly and considerate sympathies of brethren in the Lord. (Hear, hear, hear.) And is not union between us in itself a blessing, although none others should follow in its train ? (Hear, hear, hear.) We are not left, however, to general considerations on the subject: we can urge specific advantages as likely to result from such a recognition. Our own character will be materially elevated by it in this country, and in other lands. Though we can trace back our descent to the fathers of the Scottish Reformation,~(hear,)-yet we are known to other religious communities as an obscure, but adventurous people, rather than as a branch of that vine of the Lord's planting, which has grown in the Scottish territory,(hear, bear,)—and has sent forth its shoots to the most distant nations of the earth. Accordingly, when we go on missionary enterprises to the South and West of Ireland, we often find con. siderable difficulty'in making ourselves known. Many associate our profession with doctrines which we have denounced as dangerous and unscriptural, inasmuch as these have been maintained by some who have adopted our Apostolic forms. Explanations of our views and objects had to be presented, and difficulties had to be removed from the minds even of many who are well affected to genuine Presbyterianism. But, mark the beneficial cousequences resulting from connexion with the Parent Church. Bearing in our hands the symbol of her faith and discipline, we present a statement of our profession, that may be known and read of all men. Having the name of the Scottish Church associated with all our enterprises, we have a favourable introduction to all of kindred sentiments, in every portion of this land. (Hear.) In like manner, our character is raised in the estimation of other Churches,-a circumstance of much importance to the extension of our cause. For years, we have been gradually rising into importance, in the sight of all the Churches. Some of them begin to mark our bulwarks, and consider our palaces, and to wish that, in their extremity, they had such a defence as ours. (Hear.) The Church established in Ireland, in particular, manifests the spirit of a godly reformation. (Hear.) Notwithstanding her imperfections, the natural offspring of her constitution and Erastianism, she has evinced a spirit, which the friends of truth cannot but hail with thanksgiving and congratulation. (Hear, hear.) On the firmness and
faithfulness of the Presbyterian Churches, their reformation, under God, must, in a great degree, depend. Many of her ministers, sore pressed and hampered under the present system, are already longing for deliverance: and where shall it be found, unless in the substantial benefits of Presbyterianism? While, therefore, I maintain it is the Christian policy of this Church to stand aloof from all confederacy with those who seek the downfall of existing establishments,- (bear, hear,)-yet it is equally our duty to press upon the brethren of the Establishment of Ireland the advantages of Presbyterianism, that, in the changes which their Churches are destined soon to undergo, something of a purer and more efficient system be incorporated in its constitution. And shall we not be greatly strengthened in our exertions in this matter, by the recognition of a Church, kdown to our brethren in this country as the Establishment of a sister kingdom,—an Establishment, assailed, too, as well as theirs, and therefore the more likely to obtain their sympathy, in all its actions ? Another consideration, illustrative of the desirableness of the recognition of the Church of Scotland, is, that it should be regarded as an earnest of co-operation and assistance. This can be evinced in various ways, in more than can be here enumerated. The Church of Scotland may, if she pleases, furnish us with means. She has already supplied us with occasional labourers in the vineyard,-workmen who need not be ashamed. (Hear, bear.) But what are their exertions and ours together, in comparison with the necessities of our native land? They are but as a drop in the troubled ocean of Ireland's agitations. Let us hope that others of her ardent youth will, in the same spirit with those who bave already visited our shores, “come over" to our assistance, and that, contemplating the great things that have been effected for us since the colonization of Ulster, by their forefathers and ours, they will join their hands to ours, in anticipation of a still more glorious and abundant renovation. I am sure that we shall receive them joyfully, and recognize them as fellow-labourers in the work of the ministry, and that our people will not be bebind in giving them an Irish welcome. (Hear, hear.) The harmonious settlements that have lately taken place amongst us, of licentiates of the Church of Scotland, amply testify, that the Presbyterian people of our charge still cherish the old affection for the Parent Church, and for her children. (Hear, hear.) Nor is it to be expected that the pecuniary resources of our Scottish brethren will be withheld from our missionary and educational exertions. Considering our cause as their own, they will extend to it their kindest sympathy and contribution. (Hear, hear.) They have already done so. The first-fruits already have been offered, and in the promptitude with which, in the metropolis, the call of a distinguished member of this boily was responded to when be pleaded our cause, on the very first Sabbath after his appearance on our behalf in the Assembly, is a most gratify