Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

own translation of a part of Virgil, and call it, “ Extracts” from “ Dryden's Virgil," as offer to Protestants, under the deceptious title of “ Extracts from Scripture," a new and incorrect translation of a part of Scripture.

6. We regard the system as an unwarranted infringment on the rights of parents. By vesting in an Educational Board “ complete control orer teachers and school-books, and books for separate religious instruction, the power is unjustly wrested from the hands of those on whom the direct and awful responsibility rests. (See Deut. vi. 6,7; Psalm lxxviii. 5.)

7. We object to the Government committing such absolute power to a Board constituted of such heterogeneous materials, that the Members could not CONSCIENTIOUSLY agree respecting the fundamental principle of all religion--the character of God.

8. We consider it little less than absurd, to call any system of education National, which sacrifices the interests and outrages the feelings of upwards of two millions of Protestants, besides many Roman Catholics, to gratify the prejudices of another class, who will not permit the perusal of the Scriptures, which, they profess to believe,“ were given by inspiration of God.”

9. We object to the system, because, holding, as we do, that Jesus Christ is exclusive Head of the Church, and that all his Ministers are equal, the Government have broken in upon this distinguishing principle, by the appointment of one Member of our Body to a lordly prelacy over his brethren,

, 10, We highly disapprove of the covert attempts that have been made to dupe the public into the belief that all that is wanting to secure for .children as much scriptural instruction as their parents desire, is to "fix the hours for reading the Scriptures." This we regard as a most despi. cable trick, unworthy of any man calling himself a Christian. Should the patrons of schools fix five or six hours of each day for Bible-reading, the Board roould not and could not grant the liberty.

11. We consider that the Board are acting unfaithfully to the trust reposed in them, in receiving schools under their patronage without know. ing the wishes of the people. We are persuaded, that one-third of the schools in Ulster, now under their control, would not have been so situated had the people been fairly consulted.

We observe in conclụsion, that, as schoolmasters are the principal sufferers, while the aecustomed gratuity cannot be obtained, and as they have been made the principal agents in applying for Government patronage, we earnestly recommend, that associations be formed and funds raised to indemnify those who șteadily adhere to the unrestricted use of the Scriptures. We farther recommend to our people, to stand aloof from the present unscriptural system, and to approach the Legislature with petitions, respectfully, but firmly, stating their dissatisfaction, and urgently entreating a redress of their grievances. Let us not be accused, in making these statements, of any personal bostility to our Roman Catholic countrymen. Most gladly would we sacrifice interests merely temporal, to promote their improvement or conciliate their good-will; but to permit the Bible to be removed from our schools, is a sacrifice which, we think, none has a RIGHT to demand, and which we never can consent to make.

Signed by order, * Noe, 20th, 1832.

JACKSON GRAHAM, Moderator.

221

THE PRESBYTÉRIAN.

No, IV

(From Miller's Warrant, Nature, and Duties of the Office of the Ruling Elder.)

«RULING ELDERS ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY IN THE

CHURCH. “By this is meant, that the laws which Christ has appointed for the government and edification of his people, cannot possibly be executed without such a class of officers in fact, whatever nume they may bear. But that which is the necessary result of a divine institution, is of equal authority with the institution itself. All powers or instruments really indispensable to the faithful and plenary execution of laws which an infinitely wise Governor has enacted, must be considered as implied in those laws, even should they not be formally specified.

“Now, all serious impartial readers of the Bible believe, that, besides the preaching of the gospel, and the administration of the sacraments, there is very much to be done for promoting the order, purity and edification of the Church, by the maintenance of a scriptural discipline. They believe that the best interest of every ecclesiastical community requires, that there be a constant and faithful inspection of all the members and families of the Church ; that the negligent be admonished; that wanderers be reclaimed ; that scandals be removed ; that irregularities, be corrected ; that differences be reconciled ; and every proper measure adopted to bind the whole body together by the ties of Christian purity and charity. They consider it as vitally important that there be added to the labours of the pulpit, those of teaching from house to house, visiting the sick, conversing with serious inquirers, catechizing children, learning as far as possible the character and state of every member, even the poorest and most obscure, of the flock, and endeavouring, by all scriptural means, to promote the knowledge, holiness, comfort and spiritual welfare of every individual. They believe, in fine, that none ought to be admitted to the communion of the Church, without a careful examination in reference to their knowledge, orthodoxy, good moral character and hopeful piety; that none ought to be permitted to remain in the bosom of the Church, without maintaining, in some tolerable degree, a character proper for professing Christians; that none ought to be suspended from the enjoyment of Church privileges but after a fair trial; and that none shoold be finally excommunicated from the covenanted family of Christ, without the most patient inquiry, and every suitable effort to bring them to repentance and reformation.

"It is, no doubt, true, that the very suggestion of the necessity and importance of discipline in the Church is odious to many who bear the Christian me The worldly and careless portion of every

Church consider the interposition of ecclesiastical inspection and authority in reference to the lives and conversation of its members, as officious and offensive meddling with private concerns. They would much rather retain their external standing, as professors of religion, and, at the same time, pur sué their unhallowed pleasures without control. They never wish to see a minister, as such, but in the pulpit; or any Church officer in any other place than his seat in the sanctuary. To such persons, the entire absence

of the class of officers for which we are pleading, together with the exercise of all their appropriate functions, would be matter rather of felicita. tion than regret. Hence the violent opposition made to the introduction of Ruling Elders into the Church of Geneva, by the worldly and licentious part of her members. And hence the insuperable repugnance to the establishment of sound and scriptural discipline, manifested so repeatedly, and to this day, by some of the largest national Churches of Europe.

“But I need not say to those who take their views of the Christian Church, and its real prosperity, from the Bible, and from the best experience, that enlightened, and faithful discipline is, not only important, but absolutely essential to the purity and edification of the body of Christ. It ought to be regarded as one of the most precious means of grace, by which offenders are humbled, softened, and brought to repentance; the Church purged of unworthy members; offences removed, the honour of Christ promoted ; real Christians stimulated and improved in their spiritual course; faithful testimony borne against error and crime ; and the professing family of Christ made to appear holy and beautiful in the view of the world. Without wholesome discipline, for removing offences, and excluding the corrupt and profane, there may be an assembly; but there cannot be a Church. The truth is, the exercise of a faithful watch and care over the purity of each other in doctrine, worship, and life, is one of the principal purposes for which the Christian Church was established, and on account of which it is highly prized by every enlightened believer. And I have no doubt it may be safely affirmed, that a large part of all that is holy in the Church, at the present day, either in faith or practice, may be ascribed, under God, as much to sound ecclesiastical discipline, as to the faithful preaching of the gospel.

“And if the maintenance of discipline be all important to the interests of true religion, it is a matter of no less importance that it be conducted with mildness, prudence, and wisdom. Rashness, precipitancy, undue severity, malice, partiality, popular fury, and attempting to enforce rules which Christ never gave, are among the many evils which have too often marked the dispensation of authority in the Church, and not unfrequently defeated the great purpose of discipline. To conduct it aright, is, undoubtedly, one of the most delicate and arduous parts of ecclesiastical administration; requiring all the piety, judgment, patience, gentleness, maturity of counsel, and prayerfulness, which can be brought to bear upon the subject.

“Now the question is, by whom shall all these multiplied, weighty and indispensable services be performed? Besides the arduous work of public instruction and exhortation, who shall attend to all the numberless and ever-recurring details of inspection, warning and visitation, which are so needful in every Christian community ? Will any say, it is the duty of the pastor of each Church to perform them all? The very suggestion is absurd. It is physically impossible for him to do it. He cannot be every where, and know every thing. He cannot perform what is expected from him, and at the same time so watch over bis whole fock as to fulfil every duty which the interest of the Church demands. He must give himself to reading;' he must prepare for the services of the pulpit; be must discharge his various public labors; he must employ much time ia private, in instructing and counselling those who apply to him for instruction and advice; and he must act bis part in the concerns of the whole Church with which he is connected. Now, is it practicable for any

men.

man, however diligent and active, to do all this, and at the same time to perform the whole work of inspection and government over a congregation of the ordinary size? We might as well expect and demand any impossibility; and impossibilities the great and merciful Head of the Church requires of no man.

“But, even if it were reasonable or possible that a pastor should, alone, perform all these duties, ought he to be willing to undertake them; or ought the Church to be willing to conmit'them to him alone? We know that ministers are subject to the same frailties and perfections with other

We know, too, that a love of pre-eminence and of power is not only natural to them, in common with others ; but that this principle, very early after the days of the Apostles, begangto manifest itself as the reigning sin of ecclesiastics, and produced, first Prelacy, and afterwards Popery, which has so long and so ignobly enslaved the Church of Christ. Does not this plainly show the folly and danger of yielding undefiped power to pastors alone? Is it wise or safe to constitute one man a despot over a whole Church ? Is it proper to intrust to a single individual the weighty and complicated work of inspecting, trying, judging, admitting, condemning, excluding and restoring, without control ? Ought the members of a Church to consent that all their rights and privileges in reference to Christian communion, should be subject to the will of a single man, as his partiality, kindness, and favoritism, on the one hand; or kis caprice, prejudice, or passion, on the other, might dictate? Such a mode of conducting the government of the Church, to say nothing of its un. scriptural character, is, in the highest degree, unreasonable and danger

It can hardly fail to exert an influence of the most injurious character, both on the clergy and laity. It tends to nurture in the former, a spirit of selfishness, pride and ambition ; and instead of ministers of holiness, love and mercy, to transform them into ecclesiastical tyrants. While its tendency, with regard to the latter, is gradually to beget in them a blind, implicit submission to clerical domination. The ecclesiastical eneroachments and despotism of former times, already alluded to, read us a most instructive lesson on this subject. The fact is, committing the whole government of the Church to the hands of pastors alone, may be affirmed to carry in it some of the worst seeds of Popery; which, though under the administration of good men, they may not at once lead to palpable mischief, will seldom fail of producing, in the end, the most serious evils, both to those wbo govern, and those who obey.

“Accordingly, as was intimated in apreceding chapter, we have no example in Scripture of a Church being committed to the government of a single individual. Such a thing was unknown in the Jewish Synagogue. It was unknown in the apostolic age. And it continued to be unknown, until ecclesiastical pride and ambition introduced it, and with it a host of mischiefs to the body of Christ. In all the primitive Churches we find a plurality of “Elders ;” and we read enough in the early records, in some particular cases, to perceive that these “ Elders" were not only chosen by the members of the Church, out of their own number, as their representatives, to exercise over them the functions of inspection and ruling; but that, whenever they ceased to discharge the duties of their office acceptably, they might be removed from its actual exercise at the pleasure of those by whom they were chosen. Thus plainly evincing, that the con: stitution of the primitive Church was eminently adapted to guard against eeclesiastical tyranny; and that if that constitution had been preserved, the

ous.

evils of elerical encroachment would have been avoided. Accordingly, it is remarkable that the pious Ambrosej a venerable Father of the fourth century, quoted in a former chapter, expressly conveys an intimation of this kind, wheta speaking of the gradual disuse of the office of Kuling Elder. Which order,' says he, by what negligence it grew into dis, use, I know not, unless, perhaps by the sloth, or rather by the pride of the teachers, WHO ALONE WISHED TO APPEAR SOMETHING.":

« "It is a vain apprehensioni,' says the venerable Dr. Owen, 'to suppose that one or two teaching officors in a Church, who are obliged to give themselves unto the word and prayer, to labour in the word and doctrine, to preach in and out of season should be able to take care of, and attend with diligence unto, all those things that do evidently belong unto the rule of the Church. And hence it is, that Churches at this day do live on the preaching of the word, and are very little sensible of the wisdom, goodness, love and care of Christ in the institution of this rule in the Chureh, nor are partakers of the benefits of it unto their edification. And the supply which many have hitherto made herein, by persons either unacquainted with their duty, or insensible of their own authority, or cold, if not negligent, in their work, doth not answer the end of their institution. And hence it is, that the authority of government, and the benefit of it, are ready to be lost in most Churches. And it is both vainly and presumptuously pleaded, to give countenance unto a neglect of their order, that some Churches do walk in love and peace, and are edified without it; supplying some defects by the prudent aid of some members of them. For it is nothing but a preference of our own wisdom, unto the wisdom and authority of Christ; or at best an unwillingness to make a venture on the warranty of bis rule, for fear of some disadvantages that may erisue thereon.''

If, in order to avoid the evils of the pastor standing alone in the in, spection and government of his Church, it be alledged, that the whole body of the Church members may be his auxiliaries in this arduous work ; still the difficulties are neither removed nor diminished.

“For, in the first place, a great majority of all Church members, we may confidently say, are altogether unqualified for rendering the aid to the pastor which is here contemplated. They have neither the know. ledge, the wisdom, nor the prudence necessary for the purpose; and to imagine a case of ecclesiastical regimen, in which every weak, childish, and indiscreet individual, who, though serious and well-meaning enougb to enjoy the privilege of Christian communion, is wholly unfit to be an inspector and ruler of others, should be associated with the pastor, in conducting the delicate and arduous works of parochial regulation, is too preposterous to be regarded with favour, by any judicious mind. Can it be believed, for a moment, that the all-wise Head of the Church has appointed a form of goverpment for his people, in which ignorance, weak. ness, and total unfitness for the duty assigned them, should always, and almost necessarily, characterize a great majority of those to whom the oversight and guidance of the Church were committed ? Surely this is altogether inbredible,

“Aud if this consideration possess weight in regard to old and settled Churches, established in countries which have been long favored with the light and order of the Gospel; how much more to Pagan lands, and to

* True Nature of a Gospel Church, p. 177, 178.

« ForrigeFortsæt »