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a mind hostile to its declared principles and interests, as such, is so abhorent from every ingenuous feeling, that we cannot suppose any man of common integrity capable of deliberately taking such a step. What would'a society of worldly men of honour, who had associated for the avowed purpose of maintaining and carrying into effect a certain set of moral or political principles, think of a man who should offer himself as a candidate for member. ship in their body, when he was a secret enemy of the principles in question, and wished to become one of their number, with the deliberate purpose of opposing the object for which they united, and secretly assailing the essential principles of their plan ? No one can doubt, that he would be both despised and abhorred, and that he would richly deserve his fate. But if such would be the estimate of worldly men, how much more unfavourable must be the judgment of those who are governed by Christian principle, and who remember that, in the affairs of the church, if in any thing, “ whatsoever we do, we are to do heartily, as unto the Lord, and not unto men.”
The various ways in which Presbyterial order may be, and bas been invaded, are too numerous to admit of minute specification within the limits which I have assigned to these letters. •But there are a few, which as they are more frequent in their occurrence, so they are more injurious in their influence than most others, and, therefore, may deserve, on both these accounts, special notice.
1. The first irregularity that I shall specify is, the introduction of men into office in the church, without the qualifications which our form of government requires ; or without due regard to the subscription and engagements prescribed in our public fomularies. Church Sessions have consented to invest with the Eldership, persons who were notoriously unfriendly to the doctrine and order of the Presbyterian Church; and have either omitted to demand from them the prescribed adoption of the Confession of Faith, &c. or have allowed them to adopt these standards with an avowed laxity of con. struction, or an evident mental reservation, altogether inconsistent with Christian probity. Presbyteries, in defiance of the rules adopted for regulating such cases, have sent forth, as licentiates to the churches, young men so deficient in literature, so unfurnished with theological knowledge, such novices as to every practical qualification, and of such doubtful soundness in the faith, as to defeat the purpose of every regulation in reference to this important concern.
Nor have instances been wanting in which Presbyteries, after licensing young
men thus unqualified for the sacred office, bave proceeded to ordain them, without any suitable or legitimate inducement, and in spite of every law and remonstrance to the contrary. The mischiefs arising from this disorderly procedure are num. berless, and of an extent not easily measured. If the licentiates and ministers thus irregularly sent out, could, in all cases, be confined to the Presbytery which sent them fortb, the mischief might be less than it is often found to be. But a licentiate or minister, in the Presbyterian Church, belongs, of course, to the whole body, and expects to be received every where, as in good standing. Whenever, therefore, the licensing or ordaining power is exercised contrary to the spirit of the rules formed for its regulation, and admits into the class of public instructors, or pastors, an unqualified person, no one can estimate either the amount or the duration of the injury inflicted on the church. Whatever of evil, ignorance, indiscretion, fanaticism, and headlong violence, when exbibited by a teacher of religion, are capable of producing, may be produced by a single instance of irregular license or ordination,
may last as long as the life of the individual thus improperly introduced, and, indeed, long after he has gone to his account. As long as Presbyteries expect their licentiates and members to be received as in good standing by all the judicatories of our church, to whom they present their testimonials
, they surely owe it to common honesty to proceed in licensing and ordaining them, in strict conformity to those rules by which all have engaged to be governed. Where men are licensed or ordained in opposition to these rules, who can complain of sister judicatories for refusing to recognise them?
Instances of this kind, of the most distressing character, are by no means wanting. A signal example of licensing, and subsequently ordaining a candidate, in violation of the rules solemnly adopted, was hinted at in my first letter, as having taken place more than ninety years ago; and as among the events which contributed to rend asunder the Presbyterian Church. The mischief which followed that irregularity was probably a hundred-fold more than a counterbalance, to all the good which the candidate was instrumental in effecting through the whole course of his ministry. But the complicated evil arising from this kind of departure from Presbyterial order, was still more painfully exemplified in the Western country, particularly within the bounds of the Synod of Kentucky, about thirty years ago. One of the Presbyteries composing that Synod, during a remarkable revival of religion, being requested to license a number of young men, who, though entirely destitute of any suitable education, and partaking largely of the fanatical excitement around them, appeared to be pious, thought proper to comply with their request, hoping that, although not regularly qualified, they might still be useful. Candidate after candidate of this character was accordingly licensed. After giving them license, finding that they were acceptable as preachers to large bodies of people, as fanatical as themselves, the Presbytery went a step further and ordained them.
A number of these young men declined adopting the Confession of Faith of the Presbyterian Church in the usual form ; declaring that they were ready to adopt it, “ only so far as they considered it as agreeing with the word of God.” They were, however, freely licensed and ordained, notwithstanding. All this was fest and acknowledged at the time to be contrary to rule ; but it was hoped, on the old corrupt principle, that “ the end might sanctify the means." But, as might have been expected, trouble of the most serious kind soon began to disclose itself. Those who had been introduced in an irregular manner, encouraged irregularity in others. Disorders multiplied, Errors of the most serious kind were preached. And ministers of this unhappy character were in a fair way to become a majority; when the decisive course of the Synod of Kentucky, followed up by the enlightened and strong measures of the General Assembly, arrested the progress of the evil, by cutting off from the Presbyterian Church the greater part of those who had been thus irregularly introduced. The result mani. fested that the worst fears ofthe friends of truth and order were but too well founded. With very few exceptions, they all turned heterodox and disorderly; and could not have failed if they had remained in our church, to corrupt, as well as to disturb and disgrace it. A majority of these excluded men, formed the body since known by the name of the “ Cumberland Pres. byterians ;"' now consisting of a number of Presbyteries, pro. fessing to adopt the Presbyterian form of government, but avowedly embracing Arminian sentiments in theology. Another, but smaller portion, formed a new body, denominated "" Chrystians," and sometimes “New Lights,' or “Stoneites,'' (from the name of their principal leader,) and became a kind of enthusiastic noisy Socinians. While the remainder, under the same lawless impulse, took a third course, and fell into all the fanatical absurdities of « Shakerism." Such havé been the consequences of departing honestly, and with good intention from Presbyterial order! All the churches in that region were agitated, and some of them torn in pieces by their operation; judicatories were, year after year, occupied and perplexed in endeavouring to repair the injury done by one false course of procedure; and monuments of the most disas. trous character remain, for our instruction and warning, to the present day.
The truth is, as all the churches in the United States, under the care of the General Assembly, have solemnly adopted a written Constitution—have .pledged themselves to one another, and to the public, to walk together, according to a certain system of rules; they are bound to adhere to those rules in every jot and tittle ;" recollecting, that they act, in each case, not for themselves alone, but for the whole body; and that each act may, for aught they can tell, be brought, by reference, appeal, or complaint, before a higher judicatory, who must judge of it by the same rules which were prescribed for the lower judicatory, and which ought to have governed it.
It will, perhaps, be asked, can no case arise in which a Presbytery may be justifiable in dispensing with some portion of those literary attainments, in candidates for license and ordination, which our rules on that subject demand? To this question, I would respectfully offer an opinion, that there ought never to be such dispensation but in cases truly extra. ordinary; where a candidate, though he have not gone through a regular course of academical training, is, nevertheless, so distinguished for fervent piety, good sense, prudence, and aptness to teach all that he does know, that all who know him are ready to acknowledge that he may be useful as a religious teacher. For, in my judgment, no subordinate judicatory ought to feel itself at liberty, in any case, and especially in the delicate and important work of admitting the teachers and rulers of the church to their respective functions, to depart from strict rule, unless when the case is 80 strongly marked, and so unquestionable in its aspect, that, if the whole church were assembled by its representatives, in the highest judicatory, there is every reason to believe, it would approve of the proposed measure.
I shall finish what I have to say on Presbyterial order, in another letter.
SAMUEL MILLER. Princeton, March, 1833.
REV. J, IRVINE.
A Few days after the melancholy tidings of the late Mr. Irvine's death had reached me, I went to Drumbañiagher, with the view of improving the solemn dispensation, by preaching to his deeply-afflicted congregation, and I happened to call, on my way home, with a family wbere Mr. Irvine had paid many a kind pastoral visit. My mind, at the time, was full of the subject of his death; and while s was conversing with the family respecting the mysterious ness of the dispensation by which he had been removed, I was much affected by discovering the following lines traced with a pencil on the window-shutter of the room where we sat, which, they informed me, their departed much-loved minister had inscribed there a short time previous to his departure for Clonmel, on the duties of the Synod's Home Mission, where he fell a sacrifice to un. timely death by raging fever, and where be now sleeps, a stranger in a stranger's grave. They seem so singularly prophetic of his own affecting case, that I have thought of sending them to you for insertion in your useful periodical.
I am, yours, J- S.
Of fathomless eternity!,