Billeder på siden

ral other Presbyteries the same harmony has prevailed. There is just one other feature of our Presbyterian elections to which I would at present advert. I refer to the discrimination which the people generally discover in the selection of their pastors. With few exceptions, the most efficient minister is appointed to the most important charge. A man of sterling' talent and of true piety is almost uniformly placed in a sphere of extensive usefulness.

Another feature of our church government is, that whilst it maintains the perfect parity of its ministers, it provides that all must be responsible to the Presbytery. Some have ignorantly asserted that Presbyterianism is an incomplete system

-that it leaves its Ministers without restraint—that it places them under no spiritual oversight. It is, however, the only perfect form of ecclesiastical polity. It is thus distinguished both from the laxity of independency and the slavery of prelacy. According to the Independent scheme, every worshipping society is in itself a distinct body, connected with others by no ecclesiastical bond. The sole power of government is vested in the congregation. Its decisions are not subject to appeal. Hence when a Minister offends his people, he is completely at their mercy. They are at once his accusers and his judges. They cannot be controlled by any unprejudiced tribunal. Besides, according to this system, there is no ecclesiastical body to guard against the introduction of improper teachers into the church.

Prelacy, on the other hand, usually deprives the people of all power. Episcopalians are permitted neither to elect nor to control their Ministers. Their congregations contain no court before which transgressors may be cited and tried. The laity have no ecclesiastical influence. They are simply permitted to wait upon their teacher, and to receive the ordinances at his hand. The inferior clergy are equally dependent on their superiors. They are ordained, and presented to livings, and suspended according to the will of the bishop. In every system of prelacy, however, the individual who is first in rank may act as he pleases. He is not amenable to any ecclesiastical overseer. He may be a bishop, or an archbishop, or a primate, or a patriarch, or a pope, or a king; but as he acknowledges no spiritual superior, he cannot be controlled.

Thus prelacy usually begins and ends in despotism. It commences by stripping the people of all power, and it terminates by freeing the highest dignitary from all responsibility. Our system avoids all these evils.

It establishes a session in every com



gregation, before which the guilty may be easily brought to trial, and it organizes a Presbytery, to which the Ministers themselves are accountable. No Minister can pretend to dictate to another, and yet every one is subject to his breth

Hence we may see the efficiency of Presbyterian guardianship. Every pastor may be said to be acting under the eye of as many overseers as there are members in his Presbytery; as his conduct must, however, be submitted to the judgment of the whole body, he is at once subjected to a system of the most watchful superintendence, and sheltered against the unwarrantable ebullitions of individual jealousies and antipathies.

From what has been said, we may learn why it is that bitrary governments are invariably hostile to the spread of Presbyterianism. Our ecclesiastical system recognises popular rights, and is consequently

the friend of civil liberty. By placing the election of all its officers in the hands of the people, it releases the church from the trammels of court patronage. Prelacy, even in its least ostentatious form, may, with much greater ease, be made subservient to the purposes of ambitious and domineering statesmen. It must always be much more practicable to conciliate a few bishops, whose power with the inferior clergy must be necessarily great, than to secure the support of a whole multitude of Ministers, who neither dread the displeasure nor hope for the favours of any ecclesiastical dignitary. According to an arrangement by which the bishops, who appoint the parochial teachers, are themselves nominated by the crown, the Government must possess a direct and commanding influence over all ranks of ecclesiastical officers. In fact the church thus becomes the mere creature of the state. Rulers have found that Presbytery is not so accommodating and manageable a machine. We would not by any means insinuate that Ministers of the Gospel should suffer themselves to be drawn aside from the high duties of their calling, that they may promote the purposes of any political party; but we utterly repudiate the doctrine, that they have nothing to do with the measures of statesmen. We hold that they are bound by the most sacred obligations to watch over all the interests of religion, and honestly to bear their testimony against the unrighteous acts of their legislators. We hold that they are guilty if they do not lift up their voice like a trumpet against every attempt to exclude the Bible from our schools, or to arrest the progress of the Gospel amongst our countrymen.

I cannot conclude this article without adverting to the responsibility of Ministers as members of Presbytery. In this capacity they are entrusted not only with the charge of candidates for license and ordination, but also with the oversight of their brethren. If they are accessary to the introduction of teachers who are either tainted with heresy or chargeable with immoral practices, they participate in their sins. If they do not take strict cognizance of the delinquencies of unworthy members, they suffer the church to be scandalized, and are themselves guilty of Presbyterial unfaithfulness. A single Minister of ability, and piety, and fearlessness, may be instrumental in the regeneration of a whole Presbytery. Whilst the pastor of our church possesses no arbitrary power, he is, in fact, invested with all that is valuable in the prerogatives of prelacy. He may say with Paul, that there cometh upon him the care of all the churches. By sanctified zeal combined with Christian prudence, he may contribute in imparting a higher tone to the character of the whole Presbyterian body, Above all, it becomes him to abound in prayer for himself, Iris people, his brethren in the ministry, and the church at large.

I may, perhaps, in some future communication, trouble you with a few additional observations upon this subject. Meanwhile I am, &c. &c.,



Ar a late ordination of ruling Elders in the Presbyterian Church, Fisherwick-place, Belfast, the

following questions were addressed to the candidates, and answered in the affirmative :

1. Do you believe that the doctrines contained in the Shorter Catechism of the Westminster Assembly are founded upon and agreeable to the word of God? and as such, do you confess them to be your faith ?

2. Do you believe that the Presbyterian Church government and discipline are agreeable to the Holy Scriptures, and do you resolve to maintain and promote them?

3. Do you promise faithfully and impartially to exercise the government which Christ has established in his church, as you shall have opportunity, in this congregation :

4. Do you promise to conduct all the meetings of your session with gravity and a sense of accountability to Jesus Christ, the King and Head of the church--beginning and closing them with prayer?

5. Do you promise to visit the sick of the congregation when called on to do so, and when not hindered by any necessary calling, praying with them and exhorting them ?

6. Do you promise to maintain the daily worship of God in your own households, judging such to be a Christian duty and a becoming example in the Elders of the church?

7. Do you promise to seek and embrace opportunities of furthering the interests of religion in this congregation, as God may enable you?

& Do you promise to promote the cause of Christ in the world by the support of such institutions as shall appear to you calculated to advance knowledge, and holiness, and happiness among men?

9. .Do you accept the office of ruling Elders in this congregation ?


[We bave received the following letter from a worthy Elder of our church.

We entreat attention to its contents, as being at the present time highly interesting and important. The position in which the Synod stands, with respect to the great question of national education, is briefly this. They have been deprived of the benefits long enjoyed under the Kildare-street Society—they have condemned the system put into its place by the Government-many schools, whose teachers are too conscientious to receive support from the Board, are languishing for want of means many schoolmasters are sunk in porerty, and others are tempted to violate their conscience. What, then, is to be done? Will the Synod, or the Presbyteries, or the Presbyterian people do any thing? or will they allow the schools either to die, or be forced into the measures of the Board ?--Edit.]


The Synod of Ulster having, at two general meetings, condemned, as highly objectionable, the system of national education lately introduced by his Majesty's Government, it appears somewhat strange,

that to this moment no active measures have been taken to prevent the spread of that system. To enable us to judge fairly of the extent of the evil of the proposed system, it will be necessary, in the first place, to call your attention to the benefits we have enjoyed under the Kildare-street Society.

The object of that Society is, “To diffuse throughout this country a well-ordered system of education for the poor of all classes of professing Christians, without any attempt to interfere with the peculiar religious opinions of any. Where the Scriptures shall be read without note or comment, where all catechisms and books of religious controversy shall be excluded; and further, that a sufficient supply of Bibles should be provided for the schools. To accommodate the Roman Catholics, the use of the authorised version might be substituted for that preferred by the Roman Catholic clergy, but without notes.' On the due performance of these regulations depended, whether any gratuity was given to the master, or requisites to the schools. After a strict in. vestigation of the proceedings of the Society by a commission appointed by parliament in the year 1825, no charge was brought for a departure from the regulations laid down.

[ocr errors]

The Society, in addition to private subscriptions, enjoyed the countenance of Government, and received a grant of £25,000 per annum. It provided requisites for the schools, lending libraries for the children, gratuities to the deserving masters, and also instructed them in the inost approved system of teaching. It also assisted liberally in erecting schoolhouses. The Society exercised no authority of appointing or dismissing teachers, of regulating the hours of the school or use of the school-house after school hours--every thing of that nature was entrusted to the patrons or local committees; thus by interesting every well-wisher of his country on their side, they drew forth from private individuals, for the education of the poor, a sum exceeding the annual grant from parliament. It might naturally be expected, that the advantages to be derived from the Society would be sought after with more avidity, where education had already made some progress, and this was the case particularly in the province of Ulster. In the bounds of one congregation with which I am acquainted, where I am sure there had not originally been accommodation for one hundred children to read and write, ten school-houses have been built or enlarged to accommodate at least nine hund dred, and this at a cost to the Society of £250, or thereabouts, and upwards of £1000 from the landed proprietors and farmers. It is not merely the loss of these advantages which we deplore, but the adoption of an opposite system which excludes the Bible, and against which the Synod of Ulster has twice objected.

They object to the selection of extracts from Scripture made by the Board. They object to the Government, the Board, or any member of the Board, exercising any control over the books used by our Ministers in the separate religious instruction.

With respect to the first, it is but fair to admit, that the use of the extracts is not imperative; but if not used, there may be an entire absence of religious education. With respect to the second objection, there seems to be some mystery. The Board have declared they do not conceive they hold any such power

from Government as to interfere with the books used in separate religious instruction.

The Government have refused to relinquish this power. It is not at all unlikely that a representation may, at some future period, be made, that the books used at the separate religious instruction cause feuds, and heart-burnings, and dissensions, and the Government may then think fit to call into action the power they will not consent to abandon.

« ForrigeFortsæt »