« PreviousContinue »
a-drowning, another is going to the place of execution to die, another is sick unto death, all of them may by this shift say,
“ We must not pray, lest we take the name of God in vain, till the Spirit breathe upon us.
We may not thus suspend prayer till the Spirit breathe from on high, for we are to pray for the Spirit's breathing, and for enlarging of heart, that we may pray and praise (Ps. li. 15). Wind fetches wind here, and fire begets fire, as cold flint begets hot fire. atheist saith, “ Let them pray, that can ; I am no minister.” This is but witty laziness, as when the seaman will sleep and attempt no voyage, and lays the blame upon the wind, which is not after his mind. It appears he is but a sleeper. Or a husbandman, who forbears ploughing and sowing upon the account only that he finds not the season desirable (Eccl. xi. 4). We are to refer to God's holy Sovereignty, the flowing of the Spirit, and to set about holy duties, as if the flowings were in our power. The command of spiritual duties is laid on us as reasonable creatures and hearers of the Gospel, as the creditor and the law charge men to pay their just debts, not as they are rich or poor, but as they are debtors. David's being overclouded with a temptation is no excuse for adultery or murder, nor is he thereby freed from praying, “ Lead us not into temptation.”
Under indispositions moral we rejoice that simple indispositions do befriend us, and smile upon us to promote sin. Some espouse false light to be God's secret and approving will, that they should commit
So Eve (Gen. iii. 6) substitutes the temptation for the precept, and false light fosters and cherisheth a sinful lust and wicked disposition to sin. It is a sort of tempting of the tempting disposition, whereas it were good to complain under a sinful disposition, as under the bondage of a part of the body of sin, as Paul doth (Rom. vii.); for a sinful disposition is but a branch and bud of the body of sin, which we are to wrestle against. Sometimes indeed a spiritual disposition to pray or praise goes along with the command. The obligation of the command to praise is ever one, and it is good where the man can say, “My heart is fixed, I will praise,” (Psa. lvii). The command to wait on the Lord lies ever on us, and it is a rich mercy when the disposition goes along with the command (Psa. cxxx. 6). Farther, not to pray till the Spirit moves us is weakness in some godly, who may be overtaken with that error, but in knowing men, who are libertines, it is wickedness. It is to make the Spirit's acting our Bible, and to confound the Spirit and the Scripture, as Calvin saith.
The command lays a tie on us, consequently, ever to be in a savoury disposition, and to savour of the things of the Spirit. So our Saviour rebukes the disciples, “Could ye not watch one hour ?" Though in pain and extreme soul-heaviness that the man cannot speak (Ps. lxxvii. 4);
though Hezekiah can but chatter as a crane or a swallow (Is. xxxviii. 4); though the Church can scarce breathe out a word of prayer (Lam. iii. 36); yet, doth not the Lord, in sending a physical or judicial indisposition, contradict His own moral obligation, which He hath laid on by His command to pray at all times. If a more spiritual heat of the Spirit inclining to pray, preach, or praise, be on David, Ezekiel, or Paul, then two fires being stirred, should flame more vehemently, when to this fire there be a command added. Thus the sanctified heart would close sweetly, both with the believed precept and the Spirit's holy impulsion. The Spirit and the Word go along together. No Scripture saith, “Stand still and act no duties, till the Spirit of grace first strongly breathe upon the heart.” This were to render the Word useless, whereas it is enough for us that the command cries to the conscience, the voice of the Lord sounds in the Word, and none can plead contrary actings of the Spirit. The Spirit with the Word is the only guide.
We are now, after Scripture is closed and the canon complete, to follow no duty, but what is warranted by the Word. All that (it is pretended) the Spirit above works not by the Word must be wild corn, and no part of the Lord's husbandry, and so not from the Lord. To look to feelings as a rule, before we obey a command of God, and to make the feelings of breathings our rule, hath no colour of truth. Yet, though the heart's dispositions be no rule, to fall upon duties looking only to the command, and so to fly to acting in our own strength, is also not good.
For, first, it is required that, besides that it be an uncontroverted duty, other spiritual circumstances should be considered, as whether the Pharisees breathe after the honour of God in alms-giving and praying, or if only a thirst to be seen of men do blow the trumpet and encourage to do the work. Secondly, the power of heart should be considered. “Do this in remembrance of me warrants us to eat the Lord's supper ; but to rush on the duty before some preparation of self-examination precede, so far is clear against another command of God, “Let a man examine himself.” A fixed and set preparation before every duty is not requisite, but sure a preparing of the heart to seek the Lord should go before solemn actions. Godly prudence, which dwells with wisdom, saith that both a fool's bolt is soon shot, and a fool's sacrifice is soon offered (Eccl. v. i). Some receive the Word suddenly (Mark iv. 16). If the heart be smoking with some fiery disorder, that distemper should be mourned for and prayed against. Headlong and precipitate duties done in haste argue great profaneness and irreverence to the Holy Lord whom we serve. They speak an irreverent not eying of God, and want of bentness of heart in holy duties. I speak not this as if praying or ejaculatory suites were to be delayed.
Libertines waiting on the Spirit's flowings, and so deferring prayer and hearing, is a sad delusion, for-
1. It is hardening of the heart while it is to-day. Then the foolish virgins had good reason to be foolish, and neglect the market and buy no oil, till the market of mercy was gone and over! Why, the Spirit blew never fair for this Spiritual trading, and therefore they are to be excused in that they slept all their life!
2. It is a confounding of the rule, the Word of God, and of the Spirit, who quickens the Word and makes it effectual.
3. It is to excuse all wicked men, and to turn them from the law of God. “We can do no better. Blame," say they, “the Spirit, who breathes not.” Many other absurdities follow.
Nevertheless, so to wait on the Spirit's actings, as with a less measure of grace to fetch more, and with the two talents to gain four, is as lawful a waiting for His breathings as to plough, and yet wait patiently for harvest. This is commendable, and is to “bring forth fruit with patience.” This is to welcome and adore the Lord in these high manifestations, and wisdom requires that the soul, which is taken “into the King's chambers,” and finds many out-lettings and rich and sweet access in prayer, should multiply petitions, and, being heard for His own pardon, as David was, should put in a petition for the building of the wall of Zion (Ps. li. 18). So should the soul, being in a higher strain, and admitted to a more than ordinary feast of fat things, eat and drink more abundantly. So Esther, finding the king in a strain of graciousness, lays hold on the opportunity, (Esth. v. 3). To leave off wrestling too soon is a sort of violence done to, and a damming up of the Spirit's mighty flowings. No doubt lazy pursuing of the victory, when we prevail with God, is a mighty neglect.
So to wait for the Spirit's high manifestations, as to set bounds to Him, and look, " This shall be a great feast, for the instruments are eminent,” is a limiting of God. Hope of that kind should be humble and submissive, for there is no word of promise concerning the measure of the out-lettings of His influences. That is His own Sovereignty, to do with His own as He thinks good. We should be more careful to receive, believe, and praise, than to widen our hope because of instruments, to wit, on “such a shining prophet ” (or preacher), since believing the Spirit's Word is better than measuring His Sovereignty. Idolatry of means is crafty and subtile. If, however, any speak of preparations going before the real stirrings of saving grace, there are not any upon our part, except we say with Pelagians, that we begin and the Spirit follows.
MEETING OF THE SYNOD OF UNITED ORIGINAL SECEDERS,
HELD AT GLASGOW, OCTOBER, 1876. The United Original Secession Synod met within Mains Street Church, Glasgow, on Tuesday. the 31st October last, and was opened with a sermon by the retiring Moderator, the Rev. William Robertson, Dundee, from Psalm cxlix. 2, “Let the children of Zion be joyful in their King."
After public worship the Synod was constituted with prayer by the Rev. William Robertson, Moderator. The roll was then called and the attendance of members marked. The Rev. John H. Forsyth, Culnady, and the Rev. John M.Kay, Glasgow, being present, were requested to take their seats in Court and deliberate. It was moved and unanimously agreed to that the Rev. Thomas Hobart, M.A., Carluke, be elected Moderator, in room of the Rev. William Robertson, and Mr Hobart took the chair accordingly. The clerk submitted a statement of the business to come before the Synod, and it was agreed to enter upon it on Wednesday forenoon in the order stated. A Committee on Bills and Overtures was appointed to receive any other papers designed for the Synod. The Rev. John Robertson, Ayr, was appointed to conduct devotional exercises on Wednesday forenoon, after the Synod was constituted. The following are the principal matters that came before the Synod on Wednesday 1st November :
1. ELECTION OF A PROFESSOR OF SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY. –The returns from Presbyteries anent the nomination of one to occupy the Chair of Systematic Theology, were laid on the table and read by the Clerk. These indicated that the Rev. Professor Aitken, M.A., Rev. Thomas Hobart, M.A., and Rev. James Spence, had been duly nominated as suitable persons to fill the vacant Chair. The Rev. John Sturrock had also been mentioned in one Presbytery as a fit and proper person for the Chair. After mature deliberation, it was moved by the Rev. John Ritchie, and agreed to unanimously,-after another had been proposed and seconded, and subsequently withdrawn, that the Rev. Professor Wm. F. Aitken, M. A., be appointed as Professor of Systematic Theology: The Moderator having intimated this appointment to Mr. Aitken, he stated that at present he could not see his way to accept of the office, and asked the Court to appoint a Committee to confer with him about the difficulties he had. The Synod agreed to accede to Mr. Aitken's request, and accordingly appointed the Moderator and Clerk, the Rev. John Robertson, Rev. John Ritchie, and Mr. William Howie to meet with him,--the Moderator Convener. At a subsequent stage this Committee reported, that various reasons connected with the proper discharge of his pastoral duties deterred Mr. Aitken from entering on the preparation absolutely required for the efficient discharge of the duties devolving on the occupant of such a Chair, and the Committee felt that, in these circumstances, they could not press Mr. Aitken to accept of the Professorship. It was then moved and agreed to that the Synod fall from the appointment made; continue Mr. Aitken in his present Chair, and proceed to the appointment of another Professor of Systematic Theology. The Rev. John Robertson moved, and the Rev. James Patrick seconded, that the Rev. James Spence, Auchinleck, be appointed to the Chair of Systematic Theology. It was also moved by the Rev. William Hamilton, and seconded by the Rev. Thomas Matthew, that the appointment be conferred on the Rev. Thomas Hobart, M.A., Carluke. This motion was subsequently, with the Synod's consent, withdrawn.
It was likewise moved by the Rev. Thomas Hobart, M. A., and seconded by the Rev. William B. Gardiner, that the Rev. John Sturrock, Stranraer, be appointed to the vacant Chair. Members having expressed their minds in the order of the roll, the Synod proceeded to vote on the iwo motions. The vote being taken, it was found that 7 voted for Mr. Sturrock, and 14 for Mr. Spence, some declining to vote ; therefore the highest number of votes being for Mr. Spence, he was de. clared duly elected. Wherefore the Synod did, and hereby do, appoint the Rev. James Spence, Auchinleck, as Professor of Systematic Theology accordingly. The Moderator having intimated this appointment, Mr. Spence craved some time before he declared his acceptance of the office. This the Synod readily granted, and appointed a Committee to confer with Mr. Spence, and report at a future sederant. At the afternoon sederunt this Committee reported that Mr. Spence had, after considerable anxiety, expressed his willingness to acquiesce in the finding of the Synod, and now declared his acceptance of the Professorship. It was thereafter remitted to the Hall Committee to make the necessary arrangements for carrying on the work of the two Chairs.
2. REFERENCE FROM GLASGOW PRESBYTERY ANENT BRIDGETON TERRITORIAL Missiox.— The Synod considered a reference from the Glasgow Presbytery anent the formation of the parties worshipping in London Road Hall into a regular Territorial Mission charge. Papers bearing on the application were read, and the Convener of the Home Mission Committee, and members of the Glasgow Presbytery were heard in explanation. Messrs. William Peterkin, and James Scott appeared as commissioners in support of a petition, subscribed by sixty-six individuals, who ask to be organized into a Territorial Congregation. The Commissioners having been heard, and members of Synod having expressed their opinion regarding the application, it was moved by the Rev. James Patrick, and unanimously agreed to, that the Synod heartily concur in the resolution of Glasgow Presbytery to have the Bridgeton Mission-station formed into a regular Territorial Mission Congregation with all convenient speed.
3. MEMORIAL FROM AYR PRESBYTERY ANENT State of Religion.-A memorial from Ayr Presbytery anent the state of religion in the Congregations under its inspection, and in the Church generally, was taken up. The memorial was read, and was to the following effect : At a meeting of Presbytery held on the 6th September, the state of religion in the different Congregations within its bounds was considered at length, and after various opinions had been stated, and suggestions offered, it was agreed to call the attention of the Synod to the subject, with a view to action being taken in the course of the ensuing winter, towards calling the attention of our Churches and people to the matter, and seeking "times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord.” Members of Ayr Presbytery were heard in support of the memorial. The members of Synod were then asked to express their mind on the important subject brought forward in the memorial, and the roll having been gone over, it was moved by the Rev. Professor Aitken, M.A., and unanimously agreed to, that the memorial be received, and the subject adverted to recommended to the serious consideration of Presbyteries and Sessions, so that they may take action in seeking a genuine revival of religion as they may see cause. It was also agreed to appoint a small Committee, consisting of the Rev. John Robertson, Rev. Professor Aitken, M.A., and Rev. John Ritchie, ---Mr. Robertson, Convener, to prepare and submit some practical suggestions on the subject introduced in the memorial, at next meeting of Synod.
4 REFERENCE FROM EDINBURGH PRESBYTERY ANENT ORDINATION OF Mr. WALKER.–Took up a reference from the Edinburgh Presbytery anent the ordination of Mr. James E. Walker, B.A., Cheltenham. The reference was read by the Clerk, and was to the effect that, in view of entering a new place of worship, Mr. Walker was desirous of being ordained, so as to enable him to carry on the Lord's work more efficiently than he can do as a probationer. The Presbytery had unanimously agreed to accede to Mr. Walker's request, and now asked the Synod's concurrence in this being done. Having heard members of Edinburgh Presbytery anent the Cheltenham preaching-station, it was moved by the Rev. John Robertson, seconded by the Rev. Alex. Stirling, and unanimously agreed to, that the Synod cordially concur in the proposal to ordain Mr. Walker to the