Sivut kuvina

never more

go, and we needed but to fly to a Throne of Grace to obtain strength, by which we might hold fast our faithfulness, and follow the path which we very evidently saw was pointed out to us. But now it almost seems as if, having had a plain path opened for us out of Egypt, we were brought to the shores of the Red Sea, and 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 faithful, 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 prepared to suggest any specific remedy. 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, that if we desire the devil to go out from amongst us, hegoeth not out but by prayer and fasting." On looking back on the way which the Lord hath 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 which 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 counsels. On them devolved the work of carrying out the ancient principles of the Church of Scotland, -of discovering and pruning away her ancient corruptions. By them the work of the Lord was vigorously prosecuted. Never was the word preached more faithfully,missions to the Jews and to the 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 herself 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 strive, but unsuccessfully, to carry forward the work of defence amid obloquy, and discouragement, and reproach-defence of privileges which our fathers purchased with their blood ; and of a constitution under which Britain had flourished for many a year-till at last here, too, we suffered a defeat, and the work of defence again gave place to the duty of testifying. This, also, we were enabled, by God's grace, to do. This great duty He has enabled us to fulfil. When he raised us up to the work of reforming, and called us to defend our constitution, he gave to the Church grace to be faithful. When he at last suffered us to be defeated, He called us to a still higher duty,--to the duty of witnessbearing. At this time last year our beloved Church ceased from the work of de. fence, declaring that she could no longer maintain the citadel of the constitution ; and, with a solemn protest against the principles of the Legislature and their supporters in the Establishment,- -our Church entered upon the work of testifying for God's truth. Now it had not been an unnatural, nor, according to former experience, a surprising sequel, if the very next stage in the history of our Church had been a transition from the work of testifying to the duty of suffering persecution. A ré. forming Church was called upon to the work of defence; a defending Church, finde ing her position untenable, was called on to the duty of testifying ; a testifying Church, Sir, is the Church most likely to suffer persecution, and it would have been in no way surprising had our testimony already been silenced, had our witness-bearing provoked intolerable hostility. But there is an interval in the transition from one stage to another. I think not that we are yet secure from that last stage hinted at. I am far from imagining that the present peace, auspicious as it may be, is a peace ever to last. I believe that principles are involved in our testimony,-principles, I hope, that we never can compromise or conceal. I believe that there are involved in it principles which are offensive to this world, and to the god of this world,- and that the latter is but taking time to marshal his forces for another and a fresh onset. And farther I believe that the work in which we are now engaged, or are now called on to engage—the work of evangelization-is making such inroads on the kingdom of Satan as cannot fail to provoke the strong man armed to put forth his utmost efforts. But, Sir, it is ours to watch the dealings of God's providence, not so much for the purpose of anticipating our future destiny, as of discerning our present duty. And whatever may be in the womb of time-whatever coming events may be casting their shadows before-of this much at least are we aware, that we have, in God's providence, as a Church, a breathing time, an interval of repose, a suspension of judgment, which if we do not improve aright, when the chastening time again comes woe be to us because of our unfaithfulness. Now, Sir, not only hath God brought us to this position, and evidently set before us this duty, but he has given us large encouragement to the discharge of that duty. It is not with any wish to depreciate what the Lord is doing on our behalf, but rather the reverse, because I am impressed with a sense of the divine favour in past dealings, that we ought to feel constrained now to come before the Throne and say, “ Lord, thou hast enlarged our way; thou hast brought us into a large place ; thou hast dealt bountifully with us ; thou hast disappointed our fears ; thou hast given'us peace in the presence of our enemies. Lord, to what end hast thou dealt thus graciously with us ? Lord, what wouldst thou have us to do ?" Sir, I need not dwell on the many tokens of the divine favour which we have had to acknowledge during the past year. I need not dwell on the comfortable provision which God has put it into the hearts of our people to make for their own accommodation in the worship of God, in support of a gospel ministry among themselves and their children. But there are some things which cannot but be adverted to, as shewing the loud call unto us to consider our ways, and wait upon God for direction and guidance. Sir, without at all undervaluing or depreciating the faith and labours of other evangelical bodies of Christians, it is impossible for us to shut our eyes to the fact that we occupy a position greatly more favourable for impressing the stamp of godliness on the community than is occupied by any other church at present ex. isting in this country. Do I say this from any desire to institute a comparison between the gifts and qualifications of our own ministers and elders with those of other churches ? Far from it. It is to contrast the Lord's dealings with us, with those towards other churches ; and, indeed, we may well take up the language of the Psal. unist and say, " He hath not dealt with any people as with us." He hath put us in a position in which we have readier access to the minds, and hearts, and sympathies, and affections, and feelings, and emotions of our countrymen throughout broad Scot. land, than any other body who have gone forth in it to preach the everlasting gospel. Sir, this is not ground of exultation, this is not a sentiment to be received merely with cheers and approbation,--but a sentiment to be met with feelings of a deeper and more solemn nature. If the Lord has brought us to such a position,-if one word from us is felt now to come from men whose honesty, at least, dare not be questioned,--and if our speaking is felt to come home to the dearest affections of Scotchmen, let us see that we have not miserably improved the advantages that God has given us. And when we call to mind that in the altered circumstances of our Church, all barriers and divisions are healed or thrown down, and the whole country laid open to our exertions; and when we call to mind that we have been driven forth from the Establishment possibly for this very end, that districts of this country long unvisited by the faithful preaching of the gospel might hear the gospel sound ; and when we think, moreover, of the success which has attended the preaching of the gospel during this summer, by men going forth at large preaching by the hedges and highways, and in hamlets, and wherever they could get two or three men gathered together,-may we not also think how much more might have been done had we gone among the dense population of our towns,-among those whose shadows never darken a church door, and proclaimed to them the unsearchable riches of Christ? There are various other circumstances connected with our position, which equally shew that God has given us this opportunity,--that he is affording us place and time for this work, as he has given us most ample encouragement to engage in it. As regards our own people, who have come forth with us from the bondage of an Erastian Establishment, let us ask ourselves, are there not symptoms among them of some deficiency on our part in improving the advantages that we have had in our intercourse with them ? All of us can bear testimony to this striking fact, that we find our con. gregations,--some of them perhaps diminished a little, waiting on our ministrations with a seriousness, and attention, and devotion, such as we never before observed ; and oh! is it not a most solemn question this to every minister, “ During the year that is past I have had a congregation more attentive, more devout, more serious, and more earnest than I ever had before. I have had the young more open to instruction,-I have had the aged more anxious for consolation, the careless more ready to be awakened, the worldly more ready to be rebuked, the people of God expecting large advances in the divine life; and I have been addressing a congre. gation, all of whom laboured under the impression that something ought to come out of this great work of God. And, oh! it is a solemn question for me how much all this has been counteracted by my unfaithfulness,by my want of an adequate sense of the importance of this most important event. Sir, I purposely abstain from eu. tering into further details, in calling on the General Assembly to adopt these overtures. We are all of us, Sir, under solemn and anxious impressions as to what may be coming on our country and on our Church. It is but a few years since we beheld a revival of evangelical religion in the high places of the land. It is but a few years ago since evangelical religion began to be fashionable in England and Scotland ; and there was scarcely a noble or aristocratic family to be found in which there was not some pious member, and some strong disposition to receive the messengers of truth, and listen to them as Herod Agrippa did to Paul of old. But in both countries Satan has interfered to mar the progress of the work. Do we not see, that at the instant evangelical religion began to be popular, Satan invented a subtle imitation, and that this semi-religion, in the form of Puseyism or Tractarianism, is now supplanting the true evangelical religion among all the rich and fashionable of the land ? This evangelical revival has called forth something of more spiritual appearance in this most subtle resurrection of Popery. And so in our own land can we fail to trace in like manner the band of God! It but recently seemed that in Scot. land Evangelical ministers were courted and caressed by the great, and had access to all their drawing rooms and to their palaces; but here, too, we find Satan marring the good work. Have we not found him put it into the hearts of many of the great among us to thrust us out of their presence, and to refuse to hear the gospel at our lips 2 Sir, is it not a striking fact, that the aristocracy of this land were so nearly persuaded to be Christians, and had the gospel brought so close to them, and yet sud. denly an obstacle was raised up to put them at, perhaps, a greater distance than for years they have been from the faithful preaching of the truth ? I speak, of course, of classes, not of individuals. And is it not as if God were saying to the Free Church, “ You have not now perhaps the access you once had for preaching the pure gospel among the higher classes of the community; but a wide door and an effectual has been opened for you to the hearts of others.” Sir, let us not mistake the purpose of God in all these his dealings with us. For oh! Sir, if the people of our hamlets, as of our palaces, should reject the preaching of the gospel, if it should turn out that the great masses of the community should prove inaccessible, may we not fear that the day of grace for Scotland may have passed away? But I speak as one persuaded that there are better things in store. I think, Sir, that degenerate as the Church of Scotland has been,-degenerate as she has become from her first love, a holy seed is in that Church. I speak as thoroughly believing that God has now brought us into a position in which he is peculiarly near to our Church, and peculiarly willing to bestow the blessing of his Spirit, and that he is waiting to be inquired of for this great thing that he is prepared to do. It is not our part to deal with conjectures in regard to what our success may be ; but it is our part to have a solemn conviction as to what is present duty. Most undoubtedly we have not in this Assembly any measure calling for our attention comparable in importance to this vast and momentous subject. I say again, that I have no scheme or device to suggest. I feel in this matter, and I desire to feel it more and more, that we should all look upon ourselves as if we were reduced to utter hopelessness—as if we had no plan, no scheme, no expedient, but that of earnest prayers and fasting, and seeking counsel of our Master. The Lord has done great things for us. Let us not forget to be thankful to him for all his mercies; and let us go about the consideration of this subject, not in a spirit of discontent--not in a spirit of doubting or despondency, but rather in the spirit of cheerfulness and right-hearted joy, for the Lord has done great things for us; but let us also go about the consideration of this subject in a spirit of deep humiliation. If any one say these are incompatible--if any one say the joy of which I speak cannot consist with the humiliation I desire-he knows but little of the experience of the true believer, or of the meaning of that promise of the Lord, “ He that humbleth himself shall be exalted." Now, Sir, I will not longer detain the Assembly. I have expressed, with as much simplicity as I could, the feelings I entertain on this matter, and which, I believe, are entertained to a large extent by many of my fathers and brethren in this Assembly. I repeat that I do not propose we should instantly go into the consideration of our sins, and failings, and deficiencies, the want of fruit in our ministry, and what may be the sin that is the occasion of this. It is not my purpose to go into an examination of all the reasons why the Lord has a controversy with us still ; nor is it my intention to ask the Assembly to go into the consideration of the remedies that may be devised and suggested. I believe that the more this subject is canvassed and considered, the more it will be seen that, as in our last contending we had no new principle to discover,--no new faith to devise,-so, in our present troubles, we have no new machinery to find out,

-no new device to discover. It is not the first time the Church of our fathers has been in this position, it is not the first time that she has testified for great principles, and been honoured by God in suffering for those principles,-it is not the first time that the fathers and brethren of our Church have met together, after some signal deliverance or grievous persecution, to mourn over the low state of religion in the land, --it is not the first time that the Church has been called upon to ask the question, Why is it that the Lord's work is not prospering more in our hands and I believe all we have to do is, to enter more into the mind of our fathers,--to confess our sins as they confessed and mourned over their sins,—and to go about the use of ordinary means and influences, as they did, not expecting to cast out devils by any power of their own, but looking for the Lord's work prospering, in his own time, and in his own way, by the manifest power of his Spirit. As the Assembly, if they go into the proposal I will take the liberty to submit, will have other opportunities of considering the subject at large, I will not enter farther into the subject. I shall deeply regret if we enter into any consultation as to what ought to be done before we have thoroughly and truly humbled ourselves before God, and spread out before Him our sins and failings. It is not our part to measure the success of our ministry by what may be discerned, nor is it our part to say to the Head of the Church what the success of our ministry ought to be ; but it is our part to connect any want in our ministry with our own sins—and to say, that if souls are not won to Christ, there must doubtless be blame attached to us. What I have to propose to the Assembly is, that having considered the overtures on the table, the Assembly resolve to set apart Tuesday first as a day of solemn humiliation and prayer in reference to the subject of these overtures, and also for consultation and deliberation thereanent, and that the Assembly appoint a diet of public worship to be held on that day in the forenoon, and leave it to the Committee for appointing preachers to name a brother to conduct the services, not restricting that Committee in their choice to the members of the Assembly, but leaving them freely to name such father or brother as they think may be best enabled, under Almighty God, to bring this subject suitably under the attention of the Assembly.

Dr Makellar seconded the motion, which was then unanimously adopted by the Assembly.


The Assembly met to-day at eleven o'clock,

There was a very large attendance of members, and the Hall was filled in every part. At eleven o'clock, according to previous announcement, the Rev. C. J. Brown entered the pulpit, and commenced the services of the day, by giving out the first four verses of the 80th Psalm; and thereafter having joined in prayer, suited to the solemnities of a day of humiliation, and again sung in the 51st Psalm, from the 11th to the 13th verse, Mr Brown gave out, as the foundation of the following discourse,

Habakkuk ii. and 1st, “ I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see what he will say unto me, and what I shall answer when I am reproved."

FATHERS AND BRETHREN, In endeavouring to fulfil the duty which has been assigned to me, I would bear in mind that the object of our assembling to-day is not so much to speak to one another, as to speak unto the Lord our God, to pour out our hearts before him in sorrowful confession of our many, many shortcomings and sins; in order that, betaking ourselves to the fountain of Emmanuel's blood, and taking hold of the strength of the good and holy Spirit of Christ, we may humble and heartily offer ourselves to the Lord, that if he have any delight in us, and if we have found grace in his sight, it may please him, in infinite mercy, to make some use of us as his instruments, as workers together with him, in the great work on which his own heart is set, and for which the Son of God died. And thus I think that I may best fall in with the character and design of this service, if I shall make it the simple object of these remarks, to suggest some things which may form the materials of our after devotions ; and, specially, if I endeavour to mark, successively, some of the chief lines of our exceeding guilt and shortcoming before the Lord, first, in reference to the Ministry, and then, more briefly in reference to the Eldership, and the People.

I. I would first call upon myself, and every Minister present, every watchman on the walls of Zion, to take up the language of the text, “ I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see what he will say unto me.' “ Speak, Lord; for thy servant heareth.” I will watch to see what thou wilt say unto me of mine iniquities and sins, as one set by thee to “ watch for souls as they that must give account.”

1. And I feel constrained to begin, as the root and spring of all our sins as Ministers together, with the low state of our souls as Christians, the low state of religion in our own hearts. I assume in this, fathers and brethren, that we are Christians, that we are converted men; although the Lord is witness that I assume it not as thinking it a matter of course in reference to myself, at least: and I do believe that it were a very salutary thing this day, be our state and character before God what it may, if we were bearing solemnly in mind, that a man may preach the gospel to others, and be himself a castaway; that Ministers are in singular hazard of deceiving themselves in this matter; that many will say another day, Lord have we not prophesied in thy name, and in thy name cast out devils, to whom he will answer and say, I never knew you, depart from me; that Judas was the last of all the twelve, when the announcement was made “one of you shall betray me,” to put the question, “ Lord is it I?” O it were well if we this day heard that great and gracious One addressing the inquiry to each of us, with which he thrice prefaced the command, my sheep," my lambs,” “ Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me ?” Blessed, if we shall be able, with humble hope, to answer, “ Lord, thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee.”

As we ought not to be Ministers at all, however, if we be not Christians, regenerated men, so, assuming this, I believe that one of our chief sins, and the parent of all other evils in the really Christian Ministry together, is to be found in the low state of godliness, of the life of God, in our own souls. I am aware that this state. ment is liable to be misunderstood; and all I can afford time to say, to obviate misapprehension, just this, that I am not here comparing us with our former selves. In this view, perhaps, we may have made some happy progress; and this, that we are not quite so far off as before, may just be the secret of our seeing more distinctly to-day our fearful distance from the mark. I am comparing our spiritual state with such words, such notes of a lively and prosperous Christian as the follow

[ocr errors]


« EdellinenJatka »