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they must have good companions. They cannot enter into bad company without being more or less injuriously affected by it.
The legislative action that is being taken regarding the liquor traffic plainly shows the growing feeling that something must be done to restrain the causes of intemperance. No fewer than nine Bills have been introduced into the House of Commons on the liquor question during the past year. Prominent among these are Sir Robert Anstruther's Bill, the leading provision of which is to limit the number of licensed houses to the proportion of one to 500 of the population ; and Professor Smyth's Bill, the object of which is to close public houses in Ireland on the Lord's day, as the Forbes Mackenzie Act does in this country. Sir Robert moved without comment the second reading of his Bill on Wednesday, the 14th of March last. A long and animated debate ensued, in which several leading members of Parliament took part. On a division 90 voted for, and 253 against the second reading. It was opposed by the Government, and Mr. Cross assigned as a reason for opposing it, that “ the Publicans Certificate's Act of last Session had not yet been tried, and that there was nothing to prevent magistrates in terms of its provisions to refuse all new applications till the number of licensed houses was reduced to 1 to 500 of the population,” which we hope the magistrates will do. The other Bill to which we have alluded for the closing of public houses in Ireland on the Sabbath, passed its second reading some time ago ; and is thus making progress in the right direction. It has been remitted to a Parliamentary Committee, who have been examining witnesses for several weeks, the last of whom, Mr. Alderman Freeman of Waterford city, was examined on Friday 27th ult. ; and he, along with the others who have been esamined, strongly favours total closing on Sabbath. The measure under review is a truly patriotic one, and we trust the time is not far distant when it will become the law of the land. There cannot be a doubt that great blessings would result to the sister isle from its operation, just as great blessings have resulted to Scotland from the operation of the Mackenzie Act. Previous to the passing of the latter Act, the most disgraceful scenes were witnessed in all our large towns and cities on the Lord's day. The peace and quiet of the holy Sabbath were ruthlessly and unblushingly interrupted. How could it be otherwise when over 40,000 visits were paid on each returning Sabbath to the open dram-shops of Edinburgh and Glasgow. Facts like these indisputably prove that the tendency of intemperance is to deprive us of the day of rest altogether—the day which has been specially set apart for the worship and service of our God, and by means of which His believing people are, in a pre-eminent degree,
prepared for the enjoyment of that unending Sabbath of rest which is in store for them in the future glorious world. Let us scrupulously guard against any thing that would rob us of this inestimably precious Christian privilege ; and let us hail with satisfaction any measure that would ensure its better observance either in our own or in other lands.
Last year your Committee suggested that a special sermon should be preached towards the close of the year, and they hope the suggestion has been carried out. For this year they venture to make the same suggestion, and it would be well for Presbyteries to inquire as to its having been carried out, and to use every laudable means for the suppression of intemperance within their bounds. We should all consider our duty with respect to the drinking customs of society, and seek to set before those with whom we come into contact an example which they can, with perfect safety, follow. Notwithstanding all that has been done a long and painful struggle is yet, in all likelihood, before the country, ere it is delivered from the fearful curse of intemperance under which it writhes and groans ; but let us not be discouraged, but rather incited to make greater and yet greater efforts for the attainment of the very desirable object we have in view. And let all our efforts be accompanied with earnest prayer to the God of all grace, who alone can our labours with success. —By order of Committee,
A. J. YUILL, Convener.
THE RECENT SYNODS AND ASSEMBLIES.
Not often have the sittings of these supreme Ecclesiastical Courts been looked forward to and watched with such intense interest and anxiety, by all parties, as they were on the occasion of their late meeting. It was well known that questions of a very grave and important character, which had been stirring the churches and the country for many months before, would be brought up and in all probability keenly discussed. Those consequently who were concerned for the prosperity of Zion and for the cause of Bible truth, anticipated and took part in, or viewed as onlookers, the proceedings of the different Courts with feelings of no ordinary solicitude-the hearts of not a few throughout the land trembling like Eli’s for the ark of God. Now that the meetings are over, and comparative calm has ensued, one finds it somewhat difficult, on a review of all that transpired, to form a satisfactory estimate of the significance and bearing of some of the discussions, and of the decisions come to, and still more difficult to forecast their probable issues. That there
was much both said and done fitted to gladden and make grateful the hearts of all lovers of sound doctrine and ecclesiastical consistency, must be readily and cordially acknowledged. At the same time there was not a little to be deplored as sadly indicative of a growing impatient desire to deviate more and more from those things whereunto as a Church and as a land we have attained an indication which cannot but be regarded in many quarters as ominous for the future. While there were things calculated to encourage such as desire and are resolved to hold fast what they have, until at least they discover something better to put in its place, there was little, if anything, fitted to allay their apprehensions for the time to come, and lead them to entertain the hope of being soon permitted to lay aside their weapons and cease contending for the truth. On the contrary all appearances go to indicate that the Churches in our land are but entering upon a life and death conflict around the very citadel of our common faith the results of which none can foretell. And in prospect of this it becomes all to look well to themselves, and to prepare for giving a clear and decided response to the appeal which rang of old through the rebellious camp of Israel, and which is even now being virtually sounded in our ears—“Who is on the Lord's side ?"
THE UNITED PRESBYTERIAN SYNOD.
UNDER the moderatorship of the Rev. William France, of Paisley, this Synod held its meeting this year in Glasgow. It is twenty-three years since it met there before, and during that period the Church has made remarkable progress both numerically and financially. In 1854 the Church's total income was £158,000, while in 1875 it was £419,965. For the last year it is not so much, owing to the loss of nearly a hundred congregations in England, which have united with the English Presbyterian Church; but making allowance for this, there has been the large increase of £16,870. Ten years ago the average stipend in this Church was £186 ; this year it is £254; while the minimum stipend has reached the comparatively high figure of £200.
Notwithstanding the progress made, however, the increase in the membership over the whole Church is represented as having been of late years inadequate, and a Committee reporting on the subject assigned several probable reasons for this state of things, and suggested certain means to be employed with a view to remedying the evil. Prominent among these means was the proposal to issue a small, popular manual of the distinctive principles of the Church, for the instruction specially of the young. Complaints were freely made that the Church's voluntaryism was not so prominently brought forward as it should be, and that the rising generation are certainly not being made aware of the distinctive principles of the denomination as they ought to be. On reading this we confess we were rather startled, and we felt that one thing at all events is pretty certain, viz., that if ministers are neglecting to inculcate voluntaryism from the pulpit and in the Bible class, there has been of late no lack of this in semipolitical harrangues on “disestablishment” platforms. Against what he described as a proposed “attempt to write the unwritten creed of the U.P. Church, in regard to the Church's relation to the civil magistrate,” Mr. Brown of Paisley uttered an earnest protest, in which, however, he met with little sympathy; and the suggestion of the Committee was approved of. So this manual will likely soon make its appearance, and if it obtain Synodical sanction it will be interesting to compare its statement of voluntary principles (made without any hampering union negotiations) with the famous “ Articles of Agreement,” which were considered so satisfactory that the Free Assembly declared, in view of them, that there was no bar to union.
The question before the Synod which eclipsed all others in respect both of its intrinsic importance and of the interest displayed, was of course that of the proposed revision or rather reconstruction of the Subordinate Standards—particularly the Confession of Faith. The discussion on this subject, which was the event of the occasion, was ably conducted and animated, and on the whole as satisfactory as was anticipated, though, as was to be expected, a great variety of conflicting sentiment and opinion was given expression to in the course of the debate. Four overtures on the subject were laid on the table of the Synod; the Session of the Gourock Congregation desired the Subordinate Standards set aside altogether, or brought into harmony with the Church's faith—a proposal which involved Mr. Macrae's charitable insinuation, that the Church does not believe its professed creed; the Glasgow Presbytery by a majority declared the time had come when revision was urgently called for, and prayed the Synod to take steps to have them revised accordingly; the Perth Presbytery asked the Synod to avow itself ready to engage in the work of revision as soon as it shall be judged seasonable, but to refuse to enter on this work at the instance of parties who, on the pretence of revising the Standards, would abandon the creed which they teach, and change the God whom the Church, by its adherence to them, confesses : and Dr. Logan Aikman, of Glasgow, for himself, overtured the Synod to add " The sum of saving knowledge” to the existing Standards, so as to present a complete view of the teaching of God's holy word on the great question of man's salvation.
Each of these overtures was supported by those who favoured them. And in this Mr. Macrae, true to his character, took the lead, his speech being simply a reiteration of views and sentiments with which his hearers and the whole country had previously been made familiar. The monstrous, unfounded allegation that the God of the Confession is not the God of the Bible was again made by him ; the old caricature of the doctrines of grace was reproduced once more in all its offensive features; the denial of the Scriptural foundation for these doctrines as stated in the Confession was boldly repeated; he even went the length of characterising the theology of the Confession as “that brimstone theology of the gospel of damnation ;" and he expressed the hope that what (with remarkable charity toward his brethren) he described as a "policy of hatefulness to the truth, directed apparently by idolatry of the Confession of Faith and timidity and nervous anxiety about what others might think of them, would before long be reversed.” It was gratifying to see so little sympathy manifested toward this Quixotic assailant of his own Confession, who has for months been rushing at theological “windmills” set up by his own erratic imagination. Even Mr. Ferguson remained silent. Dr. Joseph Brown, in supporting the Glasgow overture, delivered a speech, which, while moderate in tone and guarded in language compared with Mr. Macrae's, was nevertheless an urgent pleading for something being done by the Church to bring the Confession into accordance with “ their present convictions of Bible truth”—which implies of course, as he endeavoured to show, that it is to a certain extent out of harmony with these convictions. The supporters of the Perth overture spoke out strongly in defence of the Confession, and against those who, while professedly advocating its revision, were really seeking its destruction, and who had the hardihood to charge their brethren with dishonesty in adhering to a creed they neither believed nor preached. In these speeches there was much with which we heartily sympathised, and we only wish the finding of the Synod had been more decidedly in the line of the overture thus supported. For assuredly "the shrewd person" in Coupar-Angus was right when he remarked to Dr. Marshall—“These men are makin' a great noise aboot the Confession and aboot alterin' it. If they only haud on as they are doin' we shall sune hae nae faith to confess." Well might the Dr. remark—" I say, there is sober, solemn truth in that, and if you do what you can to arrest the erring brethren and keep them from going further in error, I believe in plain speaking such as this." And he did speak more plainly than was relished by some that heard him, but we suspect there must be something more than speech, if the object desired is to be gained. In supporting his overture, Dr. Logan Aikman made a bold stand in behalf of the maligned Confession, and of an honest adherence to it on the part of all who accept it. He emphatically declared that there was not one statement in the Confession of Faith, so far as the doctrines of grace were concerned, for which there was not ample Scripture warrant, and in the very texts adduced by the Westminster divines ; that the Church Standards contain as full a gospel as their ministers preached ; that whilst they had a Creed they must have a bona fide subscription of the Creed, that no rebellion against their Creed was to be tolerated, and that there was a stern necessity that there be no man among them who signed with their hands what they did not believe with their heart. At the same time he made the inconsistent, damaging admission, that the Confession of Faith might well be restricted to the doctrines of grace as essential to salvation. If all the Confession contains be Bible truth why not retain it all? It was surely all given by God to be believed, and if so, why not profess belief in it?