« AnteriorContinuar »
circumstances. We can scarcely conceive of a situation in which more practical wisdom might be acquired than in our General Assemblies, if only the members would come together, with hearts all alive, and attention all awake to this great object. They who compose this venerable body, are for the most part members of all the inferior judicatories of the Church. As pastors and elders, they belong to Church Sessions, where all the measures adopted to promote the conversion of sinners, and the holiness of Christians, in their particular congregations, are of course, subject to their personal inspection. Then there are Presbyteries and Synods, where the state of religion, and the means used to build up the kingdom of the Redeemer, are matters of particular inquiry, and of formal report. And finally, there is the General Assembly, in which are gathered representatives of the Churches, from the Presbytery of Londonderry to that of Missouri. These great councils, too, are held every year. The order of the Assembly requires an annual report of the state of religion. It is possible, then, to bring together the knowledge and experience of more than a thousand men, and afford the whole to each member of the Assembly. We have wished with inexpressible earnestness, that the protracted, and often warm discussions of matters of mere personal and local interest, which so often occur, might give place to the careful consideration of other, and we hope to be forgiven for saying, more important business. And it occurs to us, that a close union and free correspondence with foreign Churches may belp to produce this change. For let our former remarks be recollected ; that Christians abroad are beginning to waken up, and look at the events which are taking place in our country. The report of what the Lord has done for us, has travelled into distant lands. And our brethren from afar, are inquiring with much solicitude on this subject. The Minutes of the General Assembly are sent abroad ; and they will be read with
great eagerness. When it is seen that twenty or thirty thousand are added to the Churches in a year; and there is great glorying in the wonderful achievements of redeeming mercy, these authentic records of our Church will be studied with much care, that it may be known what are the measures thus signally blessed by the great Lord of all.
In a word, our General Assembly might be made to feel that they are acting on a wide theatre; and not for them. selves and for petty interests at home :-that they are “encompassed with a great cloud of witnesses ;" and that they ought to lay aside every weight, and the sin that doth so easily beset them, that in a word, they ought to constitute the centre of an influence which shall be felt through the whole world. And why may not such things be? Why may not the third Thursday in May constitute an epoch in the history of our Church? And the future historian in tracing the progress of religion, ought to be able to see in the measures adopted by each General Assembly, a new impulse given to the great enterprise of making this land the land of Immanuel; and this world his kingdom.
It is most admirably taught in the constitution of our Church, that “truth is in order to goodness ;" and that " the great touchstone of truth, is its tendency to promote holiness.” According to this doctrine, if our Church is, as we maintain, the purest, so it ought to be the holiest in the world. And if our system of ecclesiastical polity is nearest to the great principles laid down in the New Testament, then in its administration, it ought to produce the best results.
The strongst argument that possibly can be produced in these times of contention and division, would be the superior zeal, liberality, kindness, self-denial, humility-or to say all in one word, the superior holiness of Presbyterians. Let the country and the world, feel that we are a blessing to them, and they will receive us: let them feel that we are a greater blessing than any other people, and they will admit our greater purity both in doctrine and discipline. Any measures which have a tendency to produce a result like this, shall always have our warm approbation, and decided support. Indeed, one prime object of our labours, in conducting this journal, is to raise the standard of piety in our Churches, and especially among our ministers. And whatever else we may be able to accomplish, we shall feel all the mortification produced by failure, if we are favoured with no success, in this our leading purpose. None, we trust, can question our zeal for sound Presbyterian orthodoxy. But we value our doctrine and discipline for this very reason, because we believe, that, when fully received and carried out into practice, they are entirely adapted to make men more active, benevolent, liberal, and pious, than any other system of which we have any knowledge. When convinced of the contrary, we shall be ready to change our plans. We are especially desirous that the General Assembly may be the instrurnent of doing all that good, which, by its constitution, it is adapted to do; that it may diffuse blessings, in every direction, to the greatest possible extent; and divine benefits from every source opened by the great Head of the Church,
OF FABER'S DIFFICULTIES OF ROMANISM.
The difficulties of Romanism. By George Stanley Faber, B. D. Rector of Long Newton. London printed. Philadelphia reprinted— Tower & Hogan, 1829. 12mo. pp. 293.
At first view, scarcely any thing could appear more wonderful, than that, at the beginning of the nineteenth century, and especially in this country, where more than nineteen twentieths of the whole population are Protestants, it should be deemed necessary to put any portion of these Protestants on their guard against the allurements of Popery. The sys. tem of superstition and of spiritual tyranny built up by the Church of Rome, is so manifestly unscriptural; so unreasonable ; so essentially subversive of all the rights of conscience, and of private judgment; and so utterly at war with all the interests of good morals, that it might be supposed no intelligent man or woman in the country could be in the smallest danger of becoming a convert to such a system. But, aster all, the stubborn matter of fact is, that such danger really exists. There are those to whom, in the midst of Bibles, and of Protestant feelings, the system of the Papacy presents a real and formidable temptation. The appearance of this book on the other side of the Atlantic, taken in connexion with its history, is proof enough that this is the fact in Great Britain. And its republication in this country, is sufficient evidence, that, in the opinion of good judges, such a work is needed among ourselves. We think, moreover, that the existence of this necessity will cease to surprise those who look somewhat attentively at the subject.
Many, indeed, seem to consider that system of religious belief and practice, which Mr. Faber very properly designates by the term, Romanism, as a sort of spiritual and ecclesiastical monster, which has arisen in some unaccountable manner, and which is reducible to no rules but those of the all-grasping ambition of profligate ecclesiastics. But this is certainly a superficial view of the subject. The system of Popery is no lusus naturæ. It is no chance medley work. It is the religion of human nature. As Mr. Toplady has said that every man is born an Arminian; so it has also been said, and with equal truth, that “every man is born a Papist.” That is, every man is born with such principles and tendencies as, left to themselves, will naturally conduct him to the substance of this system, as the foundation of his hope, and the guide of his life. The Bible represents the condition and character of man, by nature, as truly deplorable and alarming. He is corrupt in his original: a rebel against God: born in a state of total alienation from Him : under his righteous displeasure, as well as altogether indisposed to his service and communion. And unless he receive both pardoning mercy, and sanctifying grace, he must perish. For his deliverance from this guilt and pollution, the same Bible which unfolds his disease and his danger, proclaims an effectual remedy; a remedy as wonderful as it is glorious. A remedy, however, which, throughout, takes away all glorying from the sinner, and lays him in the dust of abasement. The plan of deliverance is this--A Divine Redeemer has consented to become the substitute of the guilty; to obey and suffer in their room; and to bring in everlasting righteousness for their justification. He has, in a word, “ finished transgression, made an end of sin, and made reconciliation for iniquity;" so that all who believe in his name, are freely justified from all things, from which they could not be justified by the deeds of the law. It is never to be forgotten, however, that this plan of pardon is essentially and necessa