Billeder på siden

elders of the church of Ephesus, mentioned Acts xx. 17, probably all resided in that city. On any critical occasion they could easily avail themselves of each other's advice and co-operation. I would, therefore, strongly urge the immediate division of our Presbyteries.

I would remark farther, that our stated meetings of Presbytery should be much more frequent. Instead of being quarterly, I would propose that they should be monthly. This recommendation proceeds, of course, upon the supposition, that the extent of our Presbyteries will be reduced. At present more frequent meetings would be in. expedient or impracticable. I shall now briefly state a few of the reasons which may be urged in favour of this proposal. According to synodical law, our existing Presbyteries, some of which consist of from twenty to twenty-four congregations, require to hold only two visita.. tions in the year. Thus, when no special complaint is preferred, the usefulness of the pastor and the state of his flock may be examined but once in every ten or twelve years. In the interval, however, the congregation may vanish, and the meeting-house may fall into ruins. I do not suppose that the period during which a minister continues in the discharge of the active duties of his office would average more than twenty or twenty-four years. It would seem, then, upon these principles of calculation, that a member of some of our overgrown Presbyteries cannot expect a visitation more than twice in his life. time. And now, Mr. Editor, I would ask you, is this the efficiency of Presbyterial government ? Is it not a pitiable evasion of the spirit of our ecclesiastical constitution ? I believe that every bishop of the Episcopal establishment holds an annual visitation of his whole diocese, and yet we see that many ministers of the Synod of Ulster are not called upon to give an account of their charge more than once in a dozen years ! I know, indeed, it may be said that Episcopal visitations are exceedingly superfcial and unsatisfactory, and that a whole country is generally reviewed in the time which would be allotted by us to the examination of a particular congregation. Still, however, we should imitate the frequency with which our prelates repeat their investigations. By the plan to which I have referred, this could easily be accomplished. If every Presbytery, consisting of from six to nine congregations, were to assemble monthly, and if every alternate meeting

were a visitation, the whole might be examined every year or eighteen months. Another important benefit which would result from this arrangement would be, that we could bestów much more attention upon our young candidates for the ministry. In most cases their examinations are little better than a form. It usually happens that the press of other business scarcely affords any time to hear their exercises, or to ascertain their acquirements. How much might they be stimulated and improved were three or four meetings of Presbytery, during the summer months, devoted almost exclusively to themselves. Besides, should the system which has been mentioned be carried into operation, ministers would become much more intimately acquainted. It is well known that some members of the same Presbytery have now rarely any intercourse. They are removed from one another at the distance of half a province, and they are seldom found together except at Synod. By new modelling our Presbyteries, and by multiplying our meetings, ministerial communion could be materially promoted. We would thus have increased facilities of becoming acquainted with each other's characters, and of submitting to each other's cognizance our designs, our encouragements, and our difficulties. The establishment of a monthly meeting of Presbytery cannot be condemned on the score of novelty; it would be but a return to the good old ways of our Presbyterian forefathers. We

may all have heard of the "monthly exercises" which were maintained shortly after the period of the Scottish Reformation. I trust that the Presbyteries of the Synod of Ulster may soon recur to this ancient usage.

I would ohserve, likewise, that a greater portion of purely religious services should be introduced into our meetings of Presbytery. At present they furnish a very scanty supply of the means of grace-they are almost entirely courts for the exercise of government and discipline. Our printed code directs that a sermon should be preached at every meeting, but we all know that this regulation is seldom respected. The quantity of ecclesiastical business is often so great, that it would be exceedingly inconvenient to comply with it. Hence a Presbytery has no attractions for the well-disposed laity. Curiosity may in. duce some to be present at its proceedings, but few will attend for the sake of edification. The arrangements which have been mentioned would prepare the way for a better order of things. They would afford time for en. gaging more freely in religious exercises, and thus, under the influences of the Divine Spirit, they would serve to make meetings of ministers an eminent blessing to the church. Would it not be most desirable that every member in rotation should be required to preach before his brethren? In this way, every minister would officiate at least once in the year. Ministers are now rarely present at each other's services. They may be members of the same Presbytery for the quarter of a century, and yet they may never have a specimen of each other's gifts. Might not the standard of preaching be elevated, were they supplied with an opportunity of copying one another's excellencies, and of fostering one another's zeal? They are wont to exhort the laity to duty, but would it not be well that they were themselves frequently put in remembrance of their own peculiar responsibilities? Would it not be well that they were warned against unfaithfulness, and worldliness, and sloth, and stirred up to diligence in the discharge of their sacred functions ? · And where can this be done so appropriately as at the meeting of Presbytery ? Would not the laity, more especially in our country parishes, where they have not an opportunity of hearing a variety of preachers, be particularly gratified by the occasional services of a strange minister ? Might not their edification be thus greatly promoted ? Some of our religious societies now regularly hold monthly meetings, and ministers are often brought from a considerable distance to address the people in their behalf. But, should not the concerns of our Missionary, and Bible, and Sabbath School Societies be taken up by the Presbyteries, and might they not, within their respective bounds, be so many fixed committees for advancing the general interests of the Gospel at home and abroad ? And how delightful would it be were our people to resort to a Presbytery as they would to a Missionary prayer-meeting; and were our ministers, instead of dissipating the day in strife and debate, to seek rather to quicken each other's piety, and to provoke each other to love and to good works.

I know, Mr. Editor, that we cannot expect the best con. certed plans to be successful if they be not entered upon in humble reliance upon the blessing of Him who alone is excellent in counsel and wonderful in working. I verily believe that Presbytery is an ordinance of God, and that it is the form of ecclesiastical polity which shall yet be generally adopted throughout Christendom; but I am firmly convinced, that if it be not administered by men who are partakers of the faithful and the heavenly Spirit of the New Testament, it possesses only the symmetry and vigour of a strong, but lifeless skeleton. I would, therefore, conclude my observaticns with the prayer of the psalmist :-" Arise, O Lord, into thy rest, thou and the ark of thy strength-let thy priests be clothed with righteousness, and let thy saints shout for joy-for thy servant David's sake turn not away the face of thine anointed.”. Psalm cxxxii. 8-10. I am, Sir, yours, &c. &c.




At a Meeting of the Northumberland Presbytery held in Alnwick, on the 26th day of June, 1832, it was unanimously resolved to establish a Home Mission. The ministers in this part of the country have long lamented their inability to give support to decaying chapels within their extensive district. They have seen with deep regret, some of their brethren become oid and infirm in the service of their Master, without the means of engaging the youthful and the vigorous, for their relief; they have witnessed the struggling of others amid that poverty which godliness with contentment was unable to conceal ; and they have long had to deplore their want of power to aid in the defraying of such expenses as were incurred by indispensable repairs in small places of worship belonging to their connexion. These, among many others, are some of the disadvantages under which the Presbyterian denomination has laboured for many years in the North of England; and which have gone far to diminish the number of its flocks, to damp the energies of its friends, and thus to injure the best interests of that portion of the church of Christ to whose doctrines and discipline it professes to adhere.

In order, then, to remove, in some measure, these and other inconveniences, so prejudicial to the general interests of the church, it has been determined to establish a permanent fund, under the direction and at the disposal of the aforesaid Presbytery: and that this be made up from collections obtained once in the year from every chapel subject to its jurisdiction ; and also, that one of its members be annually sent to preach in furtherance of the same design, in those parish churches in Scotland to which admission may be obtained through the indulgence of the incumbent; and likewise that the same object be statedly prosecuted by a similar communication with chapels in the southern districts of England.

It is not the intention of this Presbyterian Home Mission, to trespass on the boundaries of other sects of Christians, but principally to support those chapels which have for a series of years, been in connexion with the Presbyterian Church, but which, from various causes unnecessary here to

specify, have fallen into a state of decay.-When it is considered that many of these places of worship have been long in the Presbyterian connexion, and have afforded places of refuge in times of persecution, to some of the most eminent martyrs for the cause of religious truth; it is confidently hoped, that they will be found worthy of the gratitude and sympathy of every devoted disciple of the Christian faith ; and that the object now proposed will meet with the most cordial reception from the ministers of the people of God, and that it will be supported both by the giving of their substance, and the offering of their prayers.

GEORGE BOAG, Moderator.


TO THE EDITOR OF THE ORTHODOX PRESBYTERIAN. Sir,—At the meeting of Synod in June, 1831, two subjects, closely connected with our interests as a church, were discussed at some length. lst. Whether the Theological Examination Committee ought to be continued. 2d. Whether subscription to the Westminster Confession of Faith be enjoined on all future entrants into the ministry in connexion with our body. Their vast importance seems to have been felt by you since, in the Orthodox Presbyterian; for the July following, you proposed to open your pages to a temperate discussion of these weighty points. The question relating to subscription, having been settled at the late meeting in Monaghan, shall be passed over by me without comment; but as none of your correspondents have favoured us with their views respecting the above-mentioned Committee, you will please to receive the sentiments of one who would rejoice in the adoption of any measures that might tend to the advance. ment of vital godliness in our church, and secure to her an efficient and evangelical ministry.

One objection that may be made to the Theological Examination Committee, as at present constituted, arises from the manner in which the members are appointed. Hitherto they have been nominated, not by the body at large, but by a few individuals : the names, it is true, are read over in open Synod; but as a matter of course, they are approved of. What reason can be assigned why this Committee, in the appointment of its members, should differ so widely from the Synod's Fixed Committee, or the Entrance Examination Committee ? The members of these, if I mistake not, are specified by their respective Presbyteries, and not by the committees of the preceding

« ForrigeFortsæt »