Imatges de pÓgina

ture upon the observance of the Sabbath, and the observance of the Lord's day. The very change in the day itself is intended to fix our thoughts on our risen Sa. viour, and on the triumph he achieved by rising from the dead.

Our Lord bas specially claimed for himself the title of the Lord of the Sabbath ; and under that title be claims the services of those who regard him as their Lord and Master; and he promises special blessings to as many as acknowledge bim in this character, by the observance of those ordinances wbich be bas appointed for that ballowed day. I fear that, with all our zeal, we have not attached sufficient prominence to this subject. I do not mean that we bave neglected the principle that one day in seven has been marked out as the Lord's day, as the Lord's own day, -not merely as the day he has exempted from labour, because man was always exempted from labour on the Sabbath ; but I mean, that we cannot, in the circumstances in which we are placed, give sufficient prominence to the fact, that that one day has ceased to be exclusively # day of rest, and has been assumed as the day in which our Lord and Master is specially to work his own work as the Lord and Master of his people. I will call to notice that God, in a special manner, is to be recognised as reigning on the Sabbath day; and this must be regarded in a different sense than the Divine injunction which requires man to cease on lhat day alike from labour and amusement. He is alone to occupy the thoughts of his people ; and it is only his work that is to be worked throughout the world. When the servants of a master work six days out of seven, he expects a blessing on their labour, and be is entitled to expect it. And just in the same way has our Lord reserved this one day, wbich we are to recognise and keep. I think that when that hallowed morning rises on the dwellings of our ministers-when the sun bas risen in the sky, and there is stillness over the earthwhen our Lord has bidden the wbeels of machinery to cease, and the ploughman to leave the furrow-when man is bidden to pray in his own house, and Christ reigns in it, I think, under these circumstances, we may come to see a large beam of hea. ven, through which strike down some rays of light upon the great questions which are afterwards to occupy our minds, and we hope that it may even carry its intluence, and impart a distinguishing character to this Assembly. When we consider that this day has been granted of God to his Son, as a special season for his own work, and that the Son also has chosen that season in which to manifest bis graciousness, when we consider this, our minds should be leavened with the thought of the manner in which we can best fill up that precious portion of time. That day has been given over to the Redeemer for bis special work. Let us consider how it can be best applied. It is a day, then, set apart for holy intercourse, and for secret prayer, each one in his chamber. Let us endeavour to bring about the general revival of familyworship, and encourage the religious meetings which sometimes occur on the morning of the Lord's day with those who bave families; and then let us assemble in the house of God under a deep and holy impression that this is the manner in which we may improve the day set a part by the Lord. I make these remarks for the purpose of saying that I approve of the report being general, as it is ; and also very much because this is the first Assembly that can be said to set itself properly to the question of Sabbath observance as a Free Assembly of the Church ; and further, because it is of the last importance ro take up the strong ground on this great questionground which will become stronger the more we labour in the cause. I sit down by moving the adoption of the report.

Robert Paul, Esq., begged to second the motion. He knew no better test of the progress of religion in any country than the way in which they observed the Lord's day. They should, therefore, strive to induce the most sacred regard for tbat holy day; and he did earnestly hope, that the Free Church would feel it to be its duty to remonstrate against every act which would tend to its desecration.

Rev. D. SIMPSON of Aberdeen, could not refrain from expressing his cordial concurrence in these sentiments, and bis high gratification at the importance given to this subject. The subject was worthy of all the importance that could be attached to it. We bave arrived at a crisis in the history of Sabbath profanation, as now the subject of railway travelling was everywhere exciting attention. In the progress of these railways be felt deeply interested, — but he could not feel the same desire for tbeir promotion as he otherwise would when be contemplated the inroad likely to ba made by them on the sacredness of the Sabbath. He hoped that the Free Church would raise such a testimony against the practice as might yet, under the blessing of God, prevent it. He regretted to find from the report that the funds of the Committee were exhausted. He hoped every member of Assembly would feel it to be bis duty to replenish them, and effectually direct the attention of the people to the subject. (Hear.) If collections were made occasionally for the benefit of the fund, it would be well. They might then be able to circulate addresses in the country on the subject of Sabbath desecration, which alone would be attended with higbly important results.

Dr CANDLISH hoped that the conveners of the Committee would not press the Assembly to accept their resignation in present circumstances. (Hear.) He hoped that the Assembly would refuse to accept their resignation, (bear, bear), and that they would feel it to be their duty to continue to discharge the important duties which devolved on them for another year. (Hear, hear, and cheers.) Dr Candlish tben moved that the Assembly gratefully acknowledge the efforts made by the friends of Sabbath sanctification, in connection with the Edinburgh and Glasgow railway, to induce the shareholders to discontinue running the trains on the Lord's day, and express an earnest hope that they would continue to persevere in that course until the end sought were obtained. He entered very much into the feelings of his reverend brother from Aberdeen, who preceded bim on that important subject; and agreed with bim, that serious consequences indeed were to be apprehended by the multiplication of new railways all over the country. It might appear almost bopeless to expect tbat their efforts would succeed, in remonstrances against these practices, and inducing those railway proprietors, to wbich the resolutions more immediately referred, to abandon the traffic; yet it was, nevertheless, their bounden duty to persevere; and be did hope that the directors would yet yield to the feelings of so large and respectable a portion of the community,-a portion, on whom, after all, the welfare and honour of the nation depended,-and discontinue Sabbath-day trains. (Hear, bear.)

Professor Duncan seconded the motion. He suggested that the motion should be worded so as to show tbat the Assembly not only beld, that in running the trains on Sunday, the directors did violence to the consciences of many, but acted contrary to the express authority of the word of God.

Dr Candlish thought the resolution embodied that idea, and having read it,

Dr Duncan said, Well, if I were preaching from that as a text, I daresay I could deduce the conclusion intended by it. (Laughter and cheers.)

J. Bridges, Esq., with all deference to the high authority of Dr Candlish, was yet sorry to hear him speak in such desponding terms of the results wbich might be expected to flow from the continued efforts of the Committee. He was far from being of opinion that those efforts would be fruitless. (Hear.) They had done more good already than at first sight appeared, and he was glad in being able to say that when in England lately he made some inquiry, and found that the influence of the movement in favour of the proper observance of the Sabbath bere, was felt across the Tweed. (Hear, bear.) It had been argued frequently by several of the shareholders of the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway, that they could not, even though they deemed it desirable, discontinue the Sunday trains, on account of the great influence possessed by the English shareholders,—(bear)—and it had been made to appear that the influence of England bad done much to maintain the system of Sabbath desecration in Scotland, which they all had so much deplored : and that the Sabbath desecration was substantially English. He was happy to say, that there was now a growing feeling in England against the desecration of the Sabbath, by the running of the trains. (Cheers.) Some of those who beld property in the Edinburgh and Glasgow railway, ha been made acquainted with the feeling wbicb prevailed in Scotland on the subject, said, they considered not only that the directors were wrong in resisting that feeling, but that ibey had committed á blunder. (Cheers.) On one of the great English railways, measures were already taken to bring the subject before their meetings of shareholders; and this, be believed, was


one effect of the labours of his friend, Sir Andrew Agnew, and the Committee wbose report they bad just received. (Cheers.) The flame thus kindled, would spread farther and farther, until its light and heat were felt all over the world. (Cheers.)

Mr BLACKADDER hoped their lay friends would help the Committee in the great work they had to perform. (Hear, hear.) If they would purchase the stock of the Edinburgh and Glasgow railway, that would do good. (Cheers.). When they went as a deputation to the meeting of the shareholders, they had little influence,their shares were counted up, and being but few in number, they were sneered at. (Hear.) But if the Free Cburch would purchase the stock of the Edinburgh and Glasgow railway, and of all the other railways—(laughter and cheers)—be did not mean all, but as much as would give them a preponderating influence in their meet. ings, great good would be done. No other kind of argument would tell on these men-they would pay little attention to God's law; they (the ministers) might take the fourth commandment, and show that, in violating it, they were violating the law of God in principle, as much as if they committed murder, and yet they would not hear them. (Hear, bear.) They would only be moved when their own interests were in danger; and if the Committee were expected to do good, they must have money, and the support of the lay members of the church.

Rev. Mr Gibson of Glasgow said, it was not to be concealed that there was a strong feeling in the minds of many of their friends, that it was not lawful to bold property in a company which made its gains by violating the law of God. Tbat subject had been discussed at a meeting in Glasgow, and arguments had been used there which had the effect of removing from the minds of some impressions to which he referred. (Hear, bear.) They were these,-Ist, That the constitution of railway companies did not necessarily involve Sabbath desecration; 2d, That the desecration was generally the result of vicious administration of the railway laws. Now, if that view were correct, then it would be the duty ratber of those who had scruples of conscience to continue to act out, as far as they had the means to do so, the spirit and letter of the constitution, and endeavour to get an influence great enough to carry them fully out.

Professor DUNCAN said, that explanation had removed every difficulty in his mind but one, and that was, Could they receive the profits of the company with impunity? He thought that difficulty might be got over, by applying the profits to the purchase of shares, and thus increase their influence in the stock. (Cheers.)

The MODERATOR tben conveyed the thanks of the Assembly to the convener and Committee, who continue as formerly.


The Assembly then proceeded to take up the overtures transmitted with regard to the state of religion in the land. The following overture on this subject, from tbe Synod of Lothian and Tweeddale, was read:

“ Whereas the whole aspect and signs of the times, with the Lord's recent dealings of great mercy in the midst of judgment towards this Church, conspire in ad. dressing to her the divine call,- Awake! awake! put on thy strength, O Zion! loose thyself from the bands of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion!' And whereas, along with such a call, the Lord has, in the same dealings, been opening before her special facilities, and prospects of the advancement of bis work and kingdom in the souls of men; and wbereas, amid much that is ground of thankfulness and encou. ragement, and some tokens of the Lord's spiritual and saving presence in certain parts of His vineyard, there is but little to be seen amongst us generally of what can be well regarded as the full issue and scope of all the great things wbich the Lord has done for us ; while the danger and the guilt were very great of our failing to know the time of our visitation, and bow to carry out to their proper spiritual ends those external arrangements in wbich, as a Church, we have been so much countenanced of God : Therefore, and for other reasons, this Synod overture the General Assembly that they take into their serious consideration the state of vital godliness in this Church and land, and use such means as may seem best fitted, under the Spirit of all grace, for fixing the solemn attention of the Church, and especially of the ministry, more

and more on their high function and work of the gathering in of sinners, and the building up of believers in holiness and comfort through faith unto salvation."

Overtures on Puseyism and family worship were also read.

DR CANDLish rose and said,-Moderator, I do not think that at this stage we should embrace in our deliberations this evening the other overtures which the Committee of business have classed along with the overtures on the state of religion. There are two other overtures which have been passed along with these, on subjects inti. mately connected with the state of religion throughout the country and throughout the world, but not so directly bearing on the great, the momentous object, of the overtures on the state of religion in our own churches, as would warrant us to mix them up in our consideration. In introducing, then, with all possible brevity, this momentous subject to the General Assembly, I shall leave out of view altogether the overture on Puseyism, and the overture on family worship-not because these two subjects are of minor importance, but just because they are of so great importance tbat they ought not to be, as it were, lost in the discussion on a subject still more momentous, at least still more immediately coming home to our consciences and hearts as ministers and members of a branch of the Church of Christ. I say it with all sincerity, that I approach this subject with great fear and with great anxiety. It is a subject on wbicb I could have wished there had been others in the house to speak-on which I could have wished that fathers and brethren in the house had given first a statement of their views. And I feel it to be a subject of such overwhelming magnitude, as regards the best interests of our native land, and of such tremendous responsibility as regards the position of the Free Church of Scotland, that I would desire to speak of it, not as discussing an ordinary topic of debate or of conversation, but as I would bandle the bighiest and boliest theme of the sanctuary of God. (Hear, bear.) I bad hoped that our venerable father, Dr Chalmers, would have been present this night to take a part in introducing this subject to the notice of the General Assem. bly. But I bold in my hand a note, a portion of which I shall read, containing bis apology: “ I am grieved that I cannot be present with you this evening, when by far the most important subject is to be mooted which can come before the notice of the General Assembly.” Then be mentions that he is labouring under a slight indisposition, and continues,—" It is my earnest prayer that the presence of the Spirit may be with you all, and that the exercises of your devotional meeting may result in the gracious supply of his blessed fruits, and the abundant outpouring of his blessed influences on the ministers and elders, and all the other office-bearers and members of the Free Church of Scotland.” The only consideration which reconciles me to the task which I now undertake, is that I have to bring before the Assembly to. night, not so much the topics which would occupy our attention if we were entering into the merits of this overture, but rather the reasons which ought to weigh with the Assembly in inducing it to give to this overture a far more serious--a far graver -a far more devout and deliberate consideration than we are accustomed to give to ordinary overtures on ordinary matters of business ; for at the outset, I beg to men. rion that, after consultations held with many of the brethren, I intend to propose, not any substantive resolution upon this overture-not even the appointment of a committee to consider what steps the General Assembly ought to take in regard to it-but that I mean to conclude with proposing that the General Assembly should set apart a convenient day of next week for waiting upon the Lord our God, to ask counsel of him in reference to this important subject; and, therefore, Sir, it is not my province now to spread out before the Church, and before the great Head of the Church, tbe existence of the evils, and shortcomings, and sins, and deficiencies of which we are all so conscious-lior is it my province to suggest remedies, to suggest expedients, which might be resorted to in order to lessen or remove these ; but, rather, my province this night is to show that God is calling on the Free Church of Scotland, in this crisis of her history, to search and try her ways in the sight of her great all-seeing Head—to examine into the controversy wbich' He may have with ber—to ascertain the reasons why his Spirit is in any measure straitened-to wait on him alone and implicitly for counsel and for guidance. Sir, I cannot but contrast the circumstances in which the General Assembly meets now, with the circumstances in which she was accustomed to meet a year or two ago. Why, Sir, then, when the meeting of the General Assembly drew near, we were enabled, by taking counsel one with another, to determine pretty exactly and minutely beforeband the measures which we ought to pursue, and the steps which we ought to take.

And this I would regard as one of the many proofs of the Lord's goodness, which were vouchsafed to us during the whole of that arduous struggle,– I say this was one of the many proofs of the Lord's goodness to us, that whatever difficulties encompassed us, when we considered our position, in reference to human views of expediency, yet when the time of action came, we always found ourselves so shut up to a particular course, that there was no room for besitation,-we bad only one course to choose. This was matter of encouragement to us in many an hour of trial,-in many a time of despondency,--and when it seemed to us as if our feet bad well nigh slipped, we saw ourselves so hedged in that we had not two opinions as to the line of duty wbich we would have to follow. And, accordingly, before the meetings of the General Assembly, we were aceustomed to appeal to the Church and the country, to ask their prayers for the members of Assembly, that they might receive grace to be faithful, -strength to follow out the course of duty wbich was presented to them in the providence of God. We were not then in the position in wbich we stand now,-utterly at a loss to know what steps the Lord would have us to take. He then made our way plain before us,-the way in wbich we should go, and we needed but to ply the Throne of Grace to obtain strength, that we might have the gift of faithfulness, and follow the path which we very evidently saw was pointed out to us. But now it almost seems as if, having bad a plain path opened for us out of Egypt, and brought to the shores of the Red Sea, we were constrained to stand still, and see the salvation of God-to stand still, and ask of him what He would have us to do. For, Sir, in asking the prayers of our people in behalf of this venerable Assembly, we have to tell them not that the faithful majority of the Assembly saw it to be their duty to follow such a course, and needed Divine strength to enable them to follow it, to make them faitbful-faithful to the end; but that the General Assembly, met at this time, have under their consideration an allimportant matter, on which not one man among them is prepared to propose any specific measure,- have under their consideration, and are mourning over, the past shortcomings and deficiencies of the Church, and not one man among them is prepared to suggest any specific remedy. Now, I hold that this is precisely the position in which we are, most of all, entitled to expect the blessing of our Great Head ; and I should regard it as an omen of evil-as a token that the Lord was not blessing our deliberations on this subject, did we this night hear many expedients proposed, or many practical suggestions made. For I think the Lord is now calling upon us, not to suggest expedients in the first place, or to devise remedies; but would teach us, if we desired the devil to go out from amongst us, that he “goeth not out but by prayer and fasting." Sir, on looking back on the way which the Lord bath led us, we cannot but be struck with the different stages of our successive progress, and the different duties which have successively devolved upon us. It is but a few years we have to look back upon, and yet they are years in wbich the Lord has laid upon us successive duties and successive trials. It is but as yesterday when the evangelical men in the Church of Scotland acquired the majority in her councils. On them devolved the work of carrying out the ancient principles of the Church of Scotland, -of discovering and pulling away ber ancient corruptions. By them the work of the Lord was vigorously prosecuted. God gave them grace to be faithful. Never was the word preached more purely,--discipline more faithfully administered, -never were missions to the Jews and to ibe heathen prosecuted more zealously, than when the evangelical majority ruled the counsels of our Established Church. But very shortly the work of reformation in which the Church was engaged, provoked the enmity of the adversary, and the Church found berself arrested in her reforming career; and the work of reformation had to give place to the work of strenuous defence. Then the Lord called us to stand at our post, and maintain His cause against the assaults of the adversary: and long did we stand and strive, but unsuccessfully, to carry forward the work of defence amid obloquy, and discouragement, and reproach

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