Изображения страниц

men's souls ? our efforts to recover and reclaim the dense mass of heathenism that is fast gathering around us? and, in reference to our own infant mission in particular, what are we doing to diffuse the spirit of the enterprize among the people ? It is melancholy to observe, that, by the report of last year, more than one-half of our congregations have, during all that time, given no practical proof that they are at all interested in the cause.

What then, it is natural to ask, what mighty movement are they employed in forwarding, that they have no resources left to apply to this? Are their silver and their gold so unreservedly devoted to the Lord in other ways,

that they have not one poor offering left to lay at the feet of Christ, for the advancement of his Gospel in that form which, above all others, should be hallowed in their regards ? or if no other means are forthcoming, have they no expressions of sympathy, no words of encouragement to address to the church, in reference to the great work in which she is engaged ? Alas ! it is to be feared that none of these suppositions will satisfactorily explain their conduct, and we are impelled to carry the inquiry further, and to ask whether, in part at least, it be not to the apathy of their ministers that we are to ascribe the apathy of the people. And is it so that we can style ourselves a renovated church, while, after all, there are those to be found among us, wbo, Sabbath after Sabbath, stand upon the loftiest eminence which mortals can ascend to, even upon the high ground of their commission, as ambassadors of Christ, and who can all the while be silent on a subject so invested with moral dignity and grandeur as the extension of the Gospel of the grace of God? I am aware, Sir, that this matter should be referred to with as much delicacy as possible, although, at the same time, I trust that no consideration of this kind will ever deter the church, or any of its members, from honestly and openly lifting a faithful testimony. These are not the times when sound words of reproof should be restrained, or when vain and idle compliments should be tolerated in the church of God. Action, resolute and united action, is imperatively called for in our day, and we are verily guilty concerning our brethren, if, while we see them slumbering on the post of duty, we do not warn them of their delinquency and danger, and if we do not call upon them to come forth and do valiantly, when the watchword runs along the lines of the armies of Israel, “To the help of God against the mighty."

After an expression of humiliation and regret on the ground


that so many of our ministers and people display so little zeal and liberality in furthering her missionary operations, and having devised measures by which, in part to remedy this evil

, a number of resolutions were recommended to Presbyteries and Sessions, by adopting which they may carry into effect the general injunction of Synod at its last stated meeting. This injunction, as your readers may remember, was, that the various ecclesiastical compartments in the church do resolve themselves into missionary associations for the furtherance of the Synod's mission within their bounds. And here allow me to state, in justificatioa of the measure which has been characterized as an injunction, that it accords with the whole spirit of our Presbyterian constitution. It is, as you are aware, one of the peculiarities of our ecclesiastical polity, that it can command a uniformity of management in all its departments; and that instead of simply dealing out advices which may be disregarded, it may issue forth its mandates with an authority not rashly to be contravened. In this respect it is similar in its administration to the early Christian churches, its jurisdiction being the same as that implied in the authoritative enactments, the dogmata kekrimmena of apostolic days. It is a remarka. ble fact, however, that in proportion as the Presbyterian Church, in any period of its history, has receded from the distinguishing doctrines of its early founders, just in the same proportion has it receded from the administration of their laws. Thus it is in the present day in England, where there is little left of Presbyterianism but the name. In that kingdon there was once a noble array of faithful worshippers, alike devoted to the interests of piety and Presbyterianism. But in the course of time another race arose, who forsook all their principles, introducing error into their pulpits, and laxity into their parishes, till such has been the downward course of English Presbyterianism, that with the exception of a remnant which has been preserved from the taint of heresy, it now presents the anomalous appearance

of independency, under the garb of presbytery, having the form of both, without any portion of their spirit or their doctrines according to godliness. In the same position, as you know, we were nigh circumstanced ourselves, when so discordant were the materials that constituted our courts ecclesiastical, that unity of action was not much insisted on, because it could not possibly be attained. It is pleasing to reflect, however, that now with a return to our ancient standards of doctrine, we seem to be returning to our ancient forms of government

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]



[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]


[ocr errors]

AGREEABLY to your request, I shall proceed to offer to your readers some remarks upon the late Missionary Meeting of the General Synod at Dungannon. As you have already published the resolutions that were adopted, it will not be necessary that I should refer to them particularly. I shall, therefore, content myself with a general comment on the most important, premising, however, that on a subject on which so much has been said already, you are not to expect much originality, either in the way of argument or illustration.

The great object, I may observe, in general, which all the measures adopted bad in view, was to impart a missionary character and spirit to the whole church with which we are connected, by calling into action those powers and aptitudes to missionary operation, which, though latent and undeveloped hitherto, have all along been an essential portion of the Presbyterian constitution. Strange, indeed, that with such an admirable mechanism, our church should have ever lost an interest in missionary schemes. When planted in this northern province of the island, a spirit of expensive enterprize and Christian daring burned within the bosoms of her sons. Much did they mourn the darkness of this our country—sorely did they toil for its illumination-often did they concert together for the enlargement and establishment of Zion. A blessing rested on their labours--an abundant increase recompensed their toils. The Presbyterian temple was reared in strength and beauty upon the sure foundation-the banner of the cross waved over it triumphantly-within its walls were tbanksgiving and the voice of melody. I need not tell the story of that sore degeneracy which our church sustained, when the holy and beautiful house became a desolation—when the lamp within the sanctuary burned with a sickly ray, and


strange fire was offered on its altars. The experience of our own short-lived day can testify to all these melancholy reverses, inasmuch as it was but the other year that they were all before our eyes in mournful contrast with the zeal and faithfulness of former days. Divided in religious sentiment, it was not possible that any great or noble enterprizes could engage the attention of our ecclesiastical assemblies, and, accordingly, their members often met and separated, as though no gospel were to be proclaimed beyond the limits of their own peculiar territory; or if an occasional attempt was made upon that of the enemy, it was but feebly and imperfectly sustained. I reiterate a common, I had almost said a hacknied, sentimento in saying that a great work has been commenced among us. a work which God hath wrought; for however much we may applaud some of the buman agents who were concerned in it, yet it is to the God of the church that the church's renovation ought to be ascribed. Well, therefore, might the church declare, at the commencement of the late missionary proceedings, that her most fervent gratitude was due to the King of Zion, for all the good that has already been accomplished ; and well may every genuine and true-hearted Presbyterian rejoice in the late transactions and enactments of his church, as her harbinger of better days.

As the Synod was not assembled, however, to dilate upon the past, but to deliberate for the future, it was acting altogether in the spirit of a reforming church, when it immediately after recorded its humiliation and regret that so little had as yet been done in furtherance of its missionary operations. It is, indeed, too true, that we have great reason to be humbled for the scantiness of our attainments, and the pitiable and paltry nature of our services, when compared with our high privileges and responsibilities, as a church of the Lord Jesus Christ. For is it not a fact, that there are whole districts, even of that territory we call our own, where spiritual desolation reigns ? Have we not in many things a name to live, while we are comparatively dead? Is there not among those of us who minister at the altar, too much of the spirit of a cold and calculating selfishness, and too little of the high, selfdenying spirit of that sacred profession and name we bear? Instead of seeking the enlargement of the church at home and abroad, do we not often rest contented if we can only retain in our communion the same amount of respectability and numbers that belonged to it when we undertook the ministerial charge? Where are our longings for the conversion of and order. Let us hope that such a spirit will, ere long, be ascendant in all our councils as will incline the brethren to submit themselves to one another in the Lord ; so that an order proceeding from the highest tribunal among us, will be regarded as a sacred thing, to which all will feel solemnly called on to yield a willing and unhesitating obedience.

This much, then, for the principle of the injunction. In the resolutions engrafted upon it, the means are specified by which its objects may be forwarded by those to whom it is addressed. For the details I refer your readers to the 59th number of the Orthodox Presbyterian. Allow me to remark, in å general way, on the necessity that is laid on every minister of the Gospel to rouse his people to a sense of the importance of the great duty which the church now requires of them, namely, the duty of assisting, to the utmost of their means and influence, in forwarding the work of missions. Through some fatal supineness and indifference, the great bulk of professors in our day seem to forget that they have any thing to do with the dissemination of the Gospel and the advancement of the work of God. It is not practically felt, that if I am a Christian, I am not my own, neither is my property my own; but all is the Lord's. The high standard of Scripture requirement and devotedness has been let down, and members of the church have been allowed to enter it, without ever having been asked in seriousness, whether they are determined to devote themselves and their possessions to the glory of God. Accordingly, instead of counting it a privilege to bring their gifts to the altar, many are quite at a loss to know why we are so urgent and important in our calls upon their liberality, and a grudging and contracted spirit shrivels up the heart of Christendom. Now it is by the ministry that the true spirit of the missionary enterprize must be enkindled and inflamed. Each individual minister must invite attention to the subject from the pulpit, plying all with arguments, by which to engage their sympathies, their contributions, and their prayers. Nor will he find it a difficult or uninteresting part of ministerial duty; for the field it opens up to view is fascinating, and rich in scenes of moral loveliness and beauty. Standing at a distance, he can look abroad across the seas, and call upon the people to admire the salvation of God. He can tell them how the silence of the polar solitudes has been already startled by the preaching of the cross of Christ our Saviour; and how the simple hearers have believed. He can depict the goodly spectacle of gardens blooming in the wilderness, embowered with all the

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »