網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

they came sbe would be with Jobn Knox and the rest of ibe Scottish Reformers. (Applause.) Before concluding, I cannot but refer to the feelings with which the cbildren of God regard our question on the other side of the Atlantic, as to its pos. terior result on the church of God. I found that wbilst they sympathized with us in our difficulties, there was nevertheless mingled with it a feeling of joy excited in consequence of matters having come to that pass which bad sent us across the ocean to tell them the story of our wrongs. Our visit was thus held by them as being the means of establishing between their country and ours a bond of connection such as did not exist before, which would now continue to unite us as a cord of love, so that the feelings of the Christians in the one country might mix and mingle with the feelings and emotions of those in the other,—that it would operate as an electric cord, along which the sympathies of the one might unite with those of the otber, and the wrongs of the one meet a responsive sympatby from those of the other. (Applause.) It is gratifying, as Dr Cunningham bas said, to return and see the church flourishing in all her interests. When we left our native ground, she was mourning in sackcloth and ashes, and even wben we reached a foreign land to plead her cause, we could not but recollect ber desolations, and mourn over her difficulties; but the cheering welcome we everywhere received in her behalf, at length forced us to hany our harps upon the willows, and to sing the Lord's song in a strange land. (The learned gentleman sat down amid great applause.)

Dr Gordon then rose, and said,- Moderator, I am very sure that the motion which I am about to take the liberty of proposing to this Assembly, is one that stands less in need of any preface than almost any motion that was ever made. And yet I must preface it, Sir, with a remark or two. (Hear, bear.). I cannot help expressing the very strong feeling which I am sure you, and all the members of this Assembly, entertain as deeply as I do, the feeling of warm gratitude to Almighty God, who has brought home our friend and brother in peace and safety, and in circumstances of personal and family comfort. (Loud applause.) And I cannot help expressing another feeling, which is, I am sure, as universally entertained by this Assembly, and that is, a feeling of gratitude to Almighty God for this also, that she had a Dr Cunningbam to send to America. (Continued cheering.) I never from the beginning set much count by the dollars to be collected there. I I don't say this, Sir, in the way of undervaluing the great liberality of the American churches. Very far from it. But even if that liberality had been multiplied a thousand-fold, it would have been little, in my estimation, to the other benefits which not only our Free Church, but the great cause for which she is contending, will reap by the deputation of our friend and his colleagues. That our principles should bave been expounded in a way so clear and powerful, as we all know Dr Cunningham would ex. pound them, must itself be followed by moral and spiritual consequences, the value and extent of which cannot be estimated. And I think he has produced, in the extracts which be bas read from the living American dirine, whom, of all others of whom I have read, I do most honour and esteem-(loud cries of bear, hear)—in these extracts he has produced evidence, that the feeling which he bas awakened by the simple exposition of our principles is already working for good in America itself. And the response which bas already been given to the exposition of these principles, will go far to awaken a yet deeper interest than has yet been awakened in the Old World for those principles which it is our honour to maintain. (Applause.) For all this let us be thankful to God. And let us be thankful that it has pleased Him to endow our friend with talents for the advocacy of his cause, which, if he bad lived in other times, or in a different age, might have been comparatively little known,- talents which have eminently fitted bim for the times in wbich we live. (Continued cheering.) There is no Hattery in this, Sir. If there were, our friend bimself would be the first to repudiate it. But we are called upon to thank God for having given us such an advocate in a distant land. And on the same ground, baving given thanks to God, we ought also to give thanks to him; and now, accor. dingly, I move that through you this Assembly having beard Dr Cunningham, warmly congratulate bim on bis safe return, and communicate to him our best

thanks for what he has done in the way of expounding and spreading abroad the great principles of the Free Church, -not forgetting our acknowledgments to the excellent friend wbo last addressed us; and, by anticipation, to those of our friends wbo are still absent from us on the same work. (Loud applause.)

The motion being unanimously agreed to,

The MODERATOR addressed Dr Cunningham.— With much pleasure I convey to you the high satisfaction with wbich this Assembly contemplates the services you have rendered to our Church, and return you our warm and hearty thanks for all your labours of love, and for the interesting narrative with which you bave now favoured us. We are happy to include in our vote of thanks our respected friend Mr Ferguson. We duly estimated the zeal and devotion that made you willing to undertake so long and arduous a pilgrimage; followed you with our best wishes and prayers across the Atlantic; we beard with pleasure of your safe arrival at your destined port, and traced your path in your various route over the extensive district which was the scene of your journeyings. We have been much gratified by the approbation of our principles and proceedings, expressed by such large bodies of our brethren in Christ, of various denominations; and even where some speculative differences of opinion remained, by their ready acknowledge ment of the uprightness and consistency of our conduct, as conscientious and faithful servants of the one great Master. To the Presbyterian Church in America we especi. ally look with esteem and gratitude,--the largest Presbyterian cburch in the world; wbile we duly appreciate the liberality of Christians of other denominations, who suffer not minor differences to intercept the flow of Christian sympathy, or close the band of friendly belp. We have heard with much pleasure the expression of your favourable opinion of the state of religion in the United States, and of the fidelity and efficiency of the Christian ministry, not only in the Presbyterian body, whether Old or New, but also in the Baptist and Congregational Churches. We are happy to understand that their controversies are dying away, and that a greater and more comprehensive charity begins to prevail. In a country where all forms of opinion find ready advocates, and where discussion is car. ried on with a freedom that scarcely submits to any restraint, divisions and dis. sensions are but too likely to prevail ; and I cherish the hope that your visit, and that of our other messengers, has presented a rallying point for uniting, in one good cause at least, some who in otber respects may have differed; and that while you bear bome some good fruits of your labour for our benefit, you have also left behind you a blessing on those who have ministered these. A practical demonstration of Christian principle seen from a distance, and, therefore, exempt from the distorting or discomposing influence of party feeling and personal prejudice or rivalry, fails not to conciliate esteem, and to draw out kindred feelings in the candid and upright. Our friends on the other side the Atlantic have, indeed, in this particular instance, the advantage of us, since it is more blessed to give than to receive." Yet I trust both parties may be encouraged and comforted by the exercise and interchange of the mutual faith and charity of both. Your visit has, I trust, laid the foundation of a friendly correspondence that will not soon be dropped, and will prove beneficial to the Churches of Christ in both hemispheres, has done much to foster and confirm a kind and Christian feeling, that may even contribute, in no small degree, to the preservation of peace, and of all the relations of friendship, between two great nations, united in respect of tbeir origin, their language, their religion,-nations that ought to “love as brethren,” but that will never be brought to obey that royal law till they be more thoroughly imbued with the spirit of the gospel, and find in its sacred influence that perfect uniting bond that can never be broken,—that “ bond of perfectness” which joins in one, nations the most remote, ranks the furthest asunder, the rich and the poor, the master and the servant, the freeman and the slave. Let but the United kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and the United States of America, be brought to a thorough union, not merely as freemen each in his own territory, but as subjects of the kingdom of Christ, and the Church and the world will have reason to rejoice in such prospects of national and individual happiness as never before cheered the nations. Again we welcome your return to your family, your friends, and the Church here, which hopes again to profit largely by your counsels as well as your active labours; and may your services be not less effective in the important sphere on which you are about to enter, than in those, of various character, which you have already occupied. We are fully satisfied, not only of the zeal, and ability, and energy of your efforts, but of the Christian prudence, and meekness of wisdom, and Christian charity, with which you have prosecuted your object. We congratulate you on your success, and the blessing from on bigh that has mania festly rested upon you.

The General Assembly then called for the Report on the

ser

ADMISSION OF MINISTERS AND PROBATIONERS FROM OTHER CHURCHES

INTO THE FREE CHURCH. Dr CANDLISH said, I have a short report to give on this subject from the committee appointed last year to consider it. But before doing so, I cannot but take this opportunity of expressing the obligations under which I think we lie to our friends of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, for their courtesy in the matter ; especially the obligation under which we lie to one who has rendered us vice on many occasions, and who rendered us prompt service on this; I mean our excellent friend Dr Cooke of Belfast (Loud applause.) For immediately after the decision of the last Assembly, refusing to sanction a call from one of our congregations to one of the ministers of the Irish Presbyterian Church, some misapprehension arose among the brethren in Ireland, and there appeared some risk of considerable excitement, as though our Church were treating the sister Church in Ireland with somewhat of discourtesy. And I believe we owe it to the prompt interference of Dr Cooke of Belfast that this unpleasant feeling was put down, and the Irish Church thoroughly satisfied on the point. Not only did he interfere publicly by letter in the newspapers ; he also went to the presbytery of Belfast, and gave such an explanation as there set the matter at rest. Of course, by that decision no discourtesy was intended. The single reason why they had refused to sanction the call was, that they had not then considered on what terms the ministers of the two Churches were to be eligible to each otber's charges. The report which I am now to read proposes what these terms should be :

“ Ist, The committee are of opinion that in considering this question of the propriety of recognizing the ministers of other Presbyterian denominations as admissible to hold fixed ministerial charges in the communion of this Church, one of the prin. cipal points to be ascertained is the sufficiency of the course of education for the minister ordinarily required in these denominations, as well as the Standards held and subscribed by the ministers of said Church. Witbout meaning to cast a doubt on the educational arrangements of any sister Church, but rather presuming that these will be found fully satisfactory, the committee feel it to be indispensable that Churches proposing not merely to consider individual applications, but generally to recognize these ministers as mutually eligible to ministerial charges within each other's bounds, should have tbe fullest communication with one another on this vitally important subject.

“2d, Any ministers of another denomination admitted to a charge in the Church, must be bound to subscribe the formula, and adhere to the testimony of the Church, without qualification.

“ 3d, It seems to the committee that a distinction is to be made between the ordained ministers and the probationers of any sister Church with whom this Church may be in alliance. It is the ordained ministers alone who are to be regarded as having received the full stamp and seal of the church which has ordained them. The class of preachers are men still in their probation merely, liable to farther trial and examination, and not yet finally sanctioned by the chureh as qualified for the office of the ministry,

“4th, Keeping this distinction in view, the Committee suggest in the case of those sister Churches with which this Church has come to an understanding on the point first referred to in the report, that their ministers generally should be consi. dered not only entitled to officiate in the pulpits of the Church, but eligible also to

ministerial charges on the call of the congregation, provided such minister be prepared to sign this Church's formula and testimony, and provided also that they produce to the presbyteries of the church before which they may have to appear, the usual presbyterial testimonials from the presbyteries of the church to which they belong.

"5ch, In regard to preachers licensed by any Presbytery of such sister church, the committee would suggest that, before they are employed in giving supply within the bounds of any presbytery of the Church, they should, in terms of the law of this Church, applicable to ber own probationers, appear before the said presbytery, to present the extract of license and presbyterial certificate, and submit to such examination as the said presbytery may deem it right to require, and thereafter such preachers being received and licensed as probationers within the bounds of the said presbytery, will be placed on the same footing with the other licentiates of the Church."

This report was unanimously approved of.

On the motion of Dr Candlish, a committee was appointed to draw up an overture to be transmitted to presbyteries as to the churches with which they should reckon themselves on these terms, to be presented at a future diet. The Assembly called for the report of the committee on

PREPARING OF A TESTIMONY. Dr Candlish, in the absence of Dr James Buchanan, Convener, gave in the report of a committee on tbis subject, to the effect, that after several meetings, they had come to the conclusion that it was not expedient for the Church to issue a testimony at all, the Act of Separation and Deed of Demission being held sufficient as a statement of tbeir distinctive principles as the Free Church, The only alteration they suggested was, that the subscription of these two documents should be required of ministers at their ordination. The Assembly approved, and remitted to a committee to consider what alterations or additions might be necessary on the formula, and to prepare an overture and interim act.

The Assembly called for reports of Synod of Moray and Galloway, as to change of Synod seats, and remitted to a committee.

Application wss made by the Presbytery of Glasgow to take on trials two young men, who had only been two full sessions at the Hall, though they had attended three courses of divinity lectures. Remitted to committee on plantation of charges.

TUESDAY, MAY 21. Assembly meet-Sermon by Rev. C. J. Brown-Speeches on the state of religion by Dr Chalmers Dr

Vakellar, Mr M.Farlane, Dr Laird, Mr Brown, Mr Murray, Dr Cunningham, Úr Duncan, and Dr Candlish.

The Assembly met to-day at eleven o'clock, for the special purpose of prayer and conference, and consultation on the overtures on the state of religion. There was a very large attendance of members, and the Hall was filled in every part. The Moderator baving constituted the Assembly, called on the Rev. J. C. Brown to conduct the devotional exercises. Mr Brown entered the pulpit, and commenced the services of the day, by giving out the first four verses of the 80th Psalm; and thereafter having joined in prayer, suited to the solemnities of a day of humiliation, and again sung in the 51st Psalm, from the 11th to the 13th verse, Mr Brown gave out as the foundation of discourse, Habakkuk ii. 1, “I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see what he will say unto me,

• This sermon has since been published at the request of the Assembly, and it is therefore unneces sary to insert it here. As the subject, however, is of deep importance, we insert in an Appendix, the speech delivered by Mr Brown on the subject, which gave occasion to it in the Synod of 'Lothian and Tweeddaie, vide Appendix, No. I.

and what I shall answer when I am reproved." When Mr Brown had concluded, the 11th, 12th, and 13th verses of the 51st Psalm were sung, after which Dr Duncan being called upon, offered up a suitably earnest prayer.

Dr CHALMERS then rose and said,—Moderator, I bave been asked to state what should come next in the proceedings of this day; but I cannot refrain from expressing my sense of the vast and unspeakable importance of the services in which we bave now been engaged, and, let me add, of such services being more largely admitted than heretofore into the business of the Assembly. I am almost afraid lest by any feeble words of mine, I may disturb the impression which the preacher, or rather, let me say, which the Spirit of God, through the instrumentality of the preacher, may have awakened in the hearts of this auditory. Oh that we knew more what it was to have our hearts exercised unto godliness, so as not only to un. derstand, but to experience the longings and the labouring of soul in earnestness, in following bard after God! Without this, ours is but a vain show of a church,a body without a soul,—our sermons are but as sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal,-a mere uttering of the words of sacredness, while all heedless or unfeeling as to their mighty import, because destitute of that faith which is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen; so that we can speak, as we have been most closely and searchingly told in the sermon we have heard, —we can speak of God, and of Christ, and of eternity, without a realising sense in our own hearts of the things which are above, or of the unseen world to which we are fast hastening. I confess that what went home most to my experience, and, I believe, told on the hearts and consciences of all present, was our not seeking after the fruits of our preaching -our not doing what our forefathers laid on the elders of the Church, - trying to find out the fruits of the sermons delivered by the minister on the Sab. bath; and our discharging ourselves, with the inere performance of the duty, of all further anxiety on matters which are settled and set by, as it were. The minister has preached, the people were pleased, and there is an end of the work. And it is not merely true of the manner in which we perform our work in the pulpit, that the preacher is well satisfied if he get comfortably through with bis work; but we may carry it back from the delivery to the preparation of the sermon. He is not so concerned about the success of the sermon, if, in the hour of prosperous study, he is pleased with the success of the sermon-making,--turning it into a mere literary and intellectual exercise,-making the intellectual overshadow the spiritual; and thus suffering tbe element to go altogether into extinction, which is indispensable to the efficiency of our ministrations. How can these things be avoided ? 'Here we have arrived at tbe limit of our helplessness. We cannot conjure up this element from the recesses and arcana of our own nature. It must be fetched down from above; and those who are most really in earnest, and who have bad most experience of these things, are the most shut up experimentally to understand how it was that the apostles gave a co-ordinate importance to prayer and the preaching of the word. May the Spirit of grace cause these searching truths, which have been propounded to us by His servant, and I trust to great purpose, he has not said peace when there was no peace; he has not healed our hurts slightly,-may the Spirit of grace cause those searching truths to come home and sink deep into our hearts, so that they may come to us not in word only, but in the power of the Holy Ghost, and with much conviction. More especially, may they deepen our convictions of sin, and more particularly the sins of our holy things; and with a sense of our own nothingness, our own belplessness and vileness, thus laid bare before us, may we learn henceforth to keep closer than heretofore to the great fountain head of our strength and nourishment. It was a saying of good old Riccarton, one of the worthies of the Church of Scot. land, that the summit of creature perfection-he called it creature perfection is reached and attained to by the constant habit of bringing our own emptiness to the fulness that is in Christ Jesus. We have heard this day a striking demonstration of the utter emptiness of our carnal aud corrupt nature. Oh! may we be directed to this fulness, that we may realise a mystery unknown to the world, even that when we are weak, then are we strong, and so enabled not only to utter words of faith, but to live a life of faith in the Son of God. I was not fully aware of the

« 上一頁繼續 »