Imatges de pàgina

“ No one, at least, present at this Assembly, and conversant with its proceed. ings, could fail to notice, we are persuaded, its spiritual elevation; and let this show whose servants we are. On former occasions, the Assembly had not a little to do with others, and that in a way of controversy and resistance. This did too much abate the tenderness of our spirit, and make us unfit for open-bearted intercourse with God. It now seemed, however, as if the Church had no wrongs and no enemies to speak of_her eye was fixed upon herself—and the voice that went up from her lips was even this, . Search me, O God, and know my heart-try me, and know my thoughts. See the wicked way in which I have walked, and lead me in the way of old times. By the hands of an honoured servant, the Master sent his message as out of heaven, · Stand upon the watch-set thee upon thy tower, and hearken to my reproval. What a position was this to occupy! to stand still that we might be searched of God! As watchmen on the towers of Zion, our ministers and elders passed in review before Him who was given as their Commander,' and they showed him all their weapons, and all their services, and all their wounds in His cause, if they had any. Yet, behold this self-same tbing, what carefulness it wrought--what clearing-what indignation-yea, what fear-yea, wbat vehement desire-yea, what zeal-yea, what revenge!' God did stir deeply the compunctions of his servants-hearts were broken-godly sorrow did strike through the hearts of many; and perhaps but one laden sigh from a single bosom that could refrain no longer, would bave turned our hall into a place of weeping, such as Bochim. But self-abasement, however profound and sincere it may be, is inadequate, unless it terminate in self-renunciation; for what better are we if we stop short of Christ in our exigence, and rest on our contrite humility? We do think, however, that the Assem. bly were, to a very great extent, led off from themselves, and brought near their strength in Jesus. Evidently there was a desire in them to cease from man, and to open their ear to counsel from a bigber source. The Word-how sweet it was, and often consulted! The Throne-how near it seemed—in our very midst—and gladly we went to it! The Spirit-how needed, how longed for every one was set on fetching him down in his fullness! The Cross-how surely it was lifted up, and bow brightly it shed forth hope and gladness amid the gloom of our own spirits! It was good to be here, let all attest. We remember the time when any attempt to have turned the Assembly into a spiritual court, would have been put down by something as effectual as a vote. We remember the period, not long out of date, when even to many who hail most unfeignedly the better climate that is now around them, it would have felt strange, if not irksome, to have turned every day into a Sabbath, and made each deliberation assume the tone of worship. None, however, seemed alien to the new atmosphere be found himself breathing in this Assembly; none sought to turn away from the impressive influences under which it brought him; and none, we are sure, would count themselves released when their blessed opportunities of meeting were closed. We cannot speak for all. It is not our meaning to do so. But beyond all doubt, upon the Assembly as a whole, God's Spirit rested. He came rather as the penetrating dew, than like the rushing wind. If, however, these are the fruits of the Holy Ghost, even each one mourning apart, souls stirring themselves up to lay hold of the strength of God, troubled consciences casting their burdens of apathy and neglect on the Lamb, and finding peace,-much searching of heart,-earnest offers of service,-quiet charity,—and the helmet of all, hope, vigorous though chastened, -the Spirit was there! • How good!' exclaimed David, “is tbe Sabbatism of brethren, gathered together for the exercise of religion!' And such a Sabbatism we feel was ours during tbis Assembly. It was evident that the Church was not merely emancipated from her shackles, and content to respire the air of her freedom,

- she was awe-struck by the formalism she had so long indulged in, and was anxious to bring her soul as near as she could to those truths that would quicken every depth within. Mind, accordingly, canvassed mind, not so much to strike out the light, as to catch the power of the world. Every sentiment that carried the savour of holiness fell like the drop of honey from the end of Jonathan's rod. And liker tbe Master than all beside, brethren dwelt together in unity, and parted in con. cord, for they loved one another.

“ Next to the spiritual elevation in the tone of Assembly, which we just bare noticed, the most distinguishing feature it exhibited was, we think, its glowing catholicism. We never could rid ourselves of this impression, in regard to Assem. blies of old, that they were an enclosure, shut off by themselves, with which no other parties had anything to do, and who had no sympathies beyond the range of their own walls. At least, no one who ever sat in a former Assembly, or has been present at its debates, could ever bave imagined, we are sure, that the members were but the representatives of a large community, for whom, and not for themselves, they were bound to consult. Far less could it have occurred to any that tbis was but a branch of the church universal, standing on the same foundation, and owning the same Head, as the faithful, from Britain to the equator. It is no light charge ; yet we have no hesitation in saying, that in past times the Church of Scotland never stretched itself out to the real dimensions, and showed itself actuated by the true charity of a Christian church. As regards Scotland, she was a close borough, scarcely realizing the existence of ber own people, and insulated disastrously from all their sympathies. But in regard likewise to all Christendom, sbe bore herself as selfishly, and bardly ever relaxed from an attitude of proud sectarianism. From ber very commencement the Free Church put off this reproach ; and more especially was this Assembly a contrast to that bigotry and superciliousness which bad so Jong dishonoured us. No sooner, indeed, had our Church entered her present circumstances, than she sat down in the midst of her cherished people, and even as u ben gatberetb ber chickens under her wing, has she sought to collect, and guard, and fondle, and mature them. But freeing herself from every manacle of exclusiveness beside, sbe bas risen at once to the blessed consideration of her joint-membership in Christ with all who are bis children ; and nothing was there more delightful in this Assembly, tban to learn how widely ramified our lines of connexion with other cburches are, and how glad they were to strike with us a league of holy fellowship. England first, of our more distant brethren, had owned us in the day of trial, and already did we find ourselves knit to the saints of God there, in beartiest love, notwithstanding all our differences in regard to points subordinate. The European continent bad also been forward to make a free offer to us of their interest, and prayers, and countenance ; and now, when a representative of our brethren there appeared amongst us from Paris, we felt as if he were one of ourselves, and no stranger. But

charity is as insatiable as the grave, and wide as the universe, when kindled at the cross. The Free Church has crossed even the Atlantic, that she may give and receive the embrace of the friends of Jesus in the churches in Ame. rica ; and it seemed almost as if we were men who dreamed,' when the beloved brother who was our messenger' to the Western hemisphere, did relate so power. fully to us all the kindness and honour wbich, for the sake of our suffering Church, as well as for his own, were shown him. On the whole, never bave we so fully realized, and never so thrillingly have we felt the glory that there is in the communion of saints.' It is but a little way that we have seen into this mystery, and the catholicism of spirit that now glows in tbe bosom of our Churcb will daily unfold it better. But of this are we deeply persuaded, that charged though we be with schism, the fellowsbip we now are cultivating with all wbo love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity, is the apostolic unity to which we are called in the requisition, that there should be no schism in the body—but that the members sbould have the same care one for another and whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it—or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.' It is said of Moses, that be made fifty taches of gold, and coupled the curtains one unto another with the taches ; so it became one tabernacle.' Why may it not be after this same pattern with all tbe churches of the faithful? Let us ask not whether we are a golden link, or an embroidered curtain-enough that God is making use of us for himself-let us keep our separate place, yet draw togetber, to form a habitation for Jesus upon the earth. Well bas Lord Bacon observed, the robe of Christ was without seam, but the vesture of tbe Church is not without


colour, in veste varietas sit scissura non sit. God grant that churcb may contend with church, as the vine with the olive, which of us shall bear the best fruit, and not which of us is most unprofitable, as the briar with the thistle."

“ The last characteristic of the Assembly which we would single out, is its irrepressible zeal. · The night is far spent.'. The time past may suffice to bave wrought the will of the flesh.' It is high time to awake.' These were the powerful considerations under wbich the Assembly seemed to have been brought in connexion with the review it bad taken of its past shortcomings; and in response, the appeal was urgent, • Lord! what wilt thou have me to do.'' • Here am 1-send me.' It was not enough that former languor and apathy were realized, and confessed, and lainented. A desire at the same time was awakened for deep, thorough, vital, commensurate reformation. Every one felt that the Lord who bad not only brought us into the wilderness, but bad even assembled us around Horeb in awe, must have some pattern to show us,' by which he would have our course governed. It is true,' says Leighton, we have no particular prophecies to assure us. But certainly when God awakes his children, and makes them rise, this is a probable sign that it is near day. I mean when he stirs them up to more than usual hopes, and prayers, and endeavours, it is very likely that he intends them some special good. But yet more, when he himself is arisen, -that is, when he is begun to appear in a more than ordi. nary manner of working by singular and wonderful footsteps of providence, this is no doubt a sign that He will go on to show remarkable mercy to Zion, and that the time to favour ber, yea, the set time, is come. This was the very impression that lay upon the Assembly—a feeling of expectancy, and desire, and much longing. Which ought to be the field? Where is ibe road? This was a difficulty, almost a stumbling-block. But there was no cowardice, nor sloth in entertaining such ques. tions,—they were the real perplexity of zealous men, who wished only to be zeal. ously affected in a a good thing.' No man pleaded exemption from duty, no man feared the conscription,-110 man grudged his uttermost, but all were willing and waiting to know how at last they might transmute an unprofitable ministry into what would edify and save. To trench upon territory occupied already by servants of Christ, was very far from the mind of the Assembly. Well content would they be to go out hand in hand with all who truly know the way of salvation, to assist in bringing bome the outcast and the lost, and repelling the assaults of the alien. It was not imagined that any single process or mode of operation, one kind of frame, work or channel would meet the exigency, and enable us to give full proof of a well. furnished ministry,—but every hint and suggestion was invited, that by being cast into the general mind, it might ferment the whole lump. The great question was, -How may we raise Scotland to what she was in her more Augustan periods,-yet the aim and resolution were to stop not, until to every creature the gospel was preached, -whether it was missions or schools, churches or colleges, with irrepressi. ble zeal the Assembly threw itself into the design, exclaiming with David, • I made haste and delayed not.' One or two patriarchal servants of the Lord there were in our Assembly; the Simeons and Zachariases of our temple, who, having seen the consolation of Israel, could now sit by for very age, till God shall call them to a higher priesthood. But for the most part, the free Church is composed of men in all the robustness and activity of life's prime, and who may well go forth, and labour till the evening. If then, there be only grace poured down to hallow and vitalize all our means and all our agents, we cannot bound our exulting hopes, but even as yet we are inclined to adopt the language of Paul, and say, "Now thanks be to God who always causeih us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place.'

“ Upon a general review, is there any ground for being ashamed of this Assembly? Unquestionably not. On the other hand, we feel that God has remembered us in our lost estate,' and we bless his name that he has allowed us to extol his praises,- for he that is mighty hath done to us great things.' Do we mean it to be understood, that there was no spot upon our raiment, nothing but wbat we can think of with delight? God forbid. • In every thing we offend.' But this de. partment of our subject we leave to more impartial censors.---fas est ab hoste doceri, even though we fear it is not probable that the enemy will light upon that for our sin, which truly is'sin. And what then remains for us as a Church to which the Lord has been very gracious ? Even to be faithful in redeeming the pledge we have given, and resolute in effecting the designs we have commenced. The work to which we address ourselves, under a Divine call, is most glorious in its issues; but it is not less certain of accomplishment, and this is an assurance enough to set us all on working, even of itself. In this field we cannot sow without being sure to reap, -on this fonndation we cannot build without feeling persuaded that the top-stone sball be yet brought forth. No labouring in vain here,—no disappointment here. God shall accomplish all bis schemes with the right arm of his zeal. What then? Why, if 50,- let us basten to take part in a design that cannot miscarry_let us press forward an achievement that shall yield immortal glory. We cannot tell that our fields will bear a crop, yet we plant them. We know not that our ships will return freighted, yet we despatch them. We know not that we shall live to use our wealth, yet men do heap up from day to day. Why sball we not then commit ourselves to an enterprise where there is no hazard, but in wbicb, sure as we wrestle, we shall gain the prize? Nay,—and let this be for our consideration, that if we decline or neglect to assist God in his work, be shall summon others to his aid, and cast us ignobly away, both as a church and a nation. It cannot be that because we may choose to fold our arms in this day of energetic impulse, the work we ought to bave done will stand by. No. The chariot of salvation in which Jesus rides over our world to gather up his elect, presses on, and if we hail its progress, and advance with it in its course, blessed are we. But if we are pleased to loiter—if we refuse to speed it on its way, then shall it thrust us aside, and demand the assistance of more faithful souls. God's plan must be realized. God's net must be filled. God's mansions must be occupied of those for whom they are prepared, and if we neglect this honoured work, he will find churches more suited to his design, and we shall be wiped out of mind.

“ An idea very generally prevails, that it lies chiefly with ministers, and missiona. ries, and others in the public stations of the Churcb, to constitute God's agencies, and carry forward God's schemes for the coming of the kingdom. Against this perilous misconception of false humility, or real indolence, we must enter a caveat. The whole army of the faithful inust come into the field, and every soldier without exception must fight. This is the order of our Captain ; and it was an order well obeyed in the primitive church. Indeed the very reason why the truth did flourish so gloriously in apostolic times, seems to have been, that every Christian was a labourer, or a warrior-all were employed. They did not merge their individual responsibility in the exertions of their pastor ; but all in their respective spheres, did in some way the work of an evangelist. Which of them would ever be heard saying, O! Paul is a host in himself, he needs no one to be his coadjutor? On the other hand, just the more the great apostle laboured, the more seem his disciples to have laboured also; for we read, the beloved Persis,' a private in the ranks, who laboured much ;' help those women,' privates too, who laboured with me in the gospel ;'

with Clement,' another private ; and with my other fellow-labourers,'-all privates! In these days, however, the Church has never wrought upon this noble pattern, nor viewed its obligation as amounting to this measure. The Moravians do furnish pastors for a body of heathen converts or catechumens equal to five times their own number. The body itself is no more than ten thousand strong, yet they take charge of fifty thousand souls at their different missionary stations. And the explanation is just this, that each soldier is called into service, and throughout all its ranks the army is in conflict with the powers of darkness. To any thing like this, however, the churches of Christ generally have never aspired. Not a half per cent. of our professing members are actively engaged in the service of Immanuel; and in all our congregations we may count hundreds who, whilst professing to owe their own selves to Jesus, have never spoken to a single soul in behalf of his name. But this is preposterous. The conversion of sinners, whilst the bounden duty of minis. ters, is not their reserved prerogative ; and when haughıy men have dared to say so of themselves in our day, how quickly we have resented their supreme absurdity.

But it is not enough, that as Presbyterians we deny to certain individuals the exclusive power of saving the lost, and aver that all must work whilst it is day, we must enter on our bishopric, and as Christians, bear ever in mind that the whole Church is bound to work for Christ, and must work. That with all the advantages it conveyed to our office-bearers, this impression may be conveyed to our people at large, by the Assembly, of whose proceedings the subsequent Report is presented, is our hope and prayer. For never can we say that we are fully resuscitated until all shall take their part in Christ's boundless scheme, and each believer does truly wish and labour to do the work of his generation."

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