Imatges de pÓgina

labour among them, and are over them in the Lord, and admonish them; and when in another Epistle, he says, "obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves." To this consistory, then, seems to belong the power of admitting persons to Christian fellowship, or of excluding them, upon sufficient grounds, from church privileges, or of judging in fact in all matters which come before them, the congregation over which they preside. The mode, too, of conducting discipline, in the first instance, appears to acquire confirmation, when, in Matt. xviii. 17, after private conference, and then in the presence of credible witnesses, the aggrieved party may tell the fault of which he complains to the church. Seeing that the word "church" occurs in this passage, without any notice of it having undergone an alteration in its signification from that in common use, in similar cases, prior to Christ's coming in the flesh; and knowing that, in God's church, under the former dispensation, to whose procedure allusion seems here to be made, judgment did not rest with one man, however high in official station, nor with the many, irrespective of office, then the conclusion appears perfectly legitimate, that the "church" in this portion of Scripture can signify nothing else than a council in the Christian Church, corresponding with that in the Jewish, in which a select number of the Levites, and of the priests, and of the chief of the fathers of Israel, sat for the judgment of the Lord, and for controversies, and for whatsoever came to them of their brethren that dwelt in their cities. If therefore the affairs of the synagogue, at the time of the Saviour's advent, were managed by a president and other rulers, whose number, Goodwin states, was never less than three; and if this council's decisions were final, excepting when carried by appeal to the Sanhedrim, then does it appear most convincing, that the Saviour meant the officers of the Christian Church, when assembled in session, to hear what cause soever which comes to them of their brethren in the congregation; and that they have authority to insist on obedience to the judgment given, unless protested against, and carried for revision to the Presbytery, the next higher tribunal in cases of ecclesiastical discipline.

That the PRESBYTERY forms a council in the church for the government of her affairs, Paul's first letter to Timothy abundantly proves, when it mentions the gift conferred upon him by the laying on of the hands of the Presbytery; and that it holds a higher rank in the church than that of the session, appears equally certain, not only from the circumstance

of its members being the ministers and elders of several congregations, but also from the jurisdiction assigned to it, in judging of the gifts, piety, and learning, of the candidates for the ministry of the Gospel; and from the honours of ordination which the Presbytery has, in the exercise of its delegated authority from the Almighty Redeemer, power to bestow. Considering then the high sanction under which Presbyteries act the qualifications of their clerical members to perform the honourable, yet awfully weighty, functions of ambassadors for Christ-the acquaintance which their education necessarily gives them with literature and ecclesiastical matters, and the minute knowledge, which their course of training ought certainly to confer, of the inspired writings, and of man's dispositions, the ministers of the church must, under the direction of His Spirit, be well fitted for governing God's house.

But though the space assigned to this discussion calls loudly for brevity in our remarks, yet any thing like justice to the subject requires us to allude to the fitness of a Presbytery, as a council in the church, for settling controversies of faith and intricate cases of discipline. This remark looks with a twofold aspect, inasmuch as it leads to a determination of the question, as to the constituent members of a Presbytery, and also to the advantage of having the collective wisdom of churches, extending over a wide range of country, or embracing a vast proportion of the community. That the church at Jerusalem was under the inspection and management of a Presbytery, there seems no reason to doubt, for her Presbyters, the nature of whose office supposes the existence of a Presbytery, appear, from the accounts given in the Acts of the Apostles, openly to transact her affairs and to be recognised by churches at a distance in their public capacity. * Besides, that many congregations were in the church at Jerusalem, after the dispersion of believers there by means of the persecution, as well as before it, the diversity of languages which prevailed among the believers who dwelt there, the number of ministers who constantly resided in that city, and the multitudes of Christians who then attended the ordinances of religion, render the matter in my mind morally certain. What advantage could "the devout men out of every nation under heaven," derive from discourses spoken in a language altogether unknown to them? From the address of James to Paul, Acts xxi.

* Acts xi. 30; xxi. 18, &c.

20, it appears that many myriads, or ten thousands of Jews, had believed the Gospel; and, making a liberal allowance for the believers dispersed throughout the little country of Judea, three of these myriads might belong to Jerusalem, could thirty thousand, with their families, assemble in a school-room, an upper apartment, or a private dwellingthe places where the primitive Christians usually met for the worship of God? And further, were the apostles and ordinary teachers of the church in those days so idle, slothful, and indifferent about the extension of the Redeemer's kingdom, as to remain at Jerusalem in vast numbers, superintending a congregation of two or three hundred people, or even of as many thousands? The conclusion, then, to which this investigation must conduct every candid mind, is, that there were several worshipping assemblies in that city, and that the many congregations at Jerusalem were under the government of one council, of which the apostles and elders, as representatives of the several congregations, were members,-thus constituting "the church at Jerusalem."

SYNODS constitute the third and only remaining class of councils which are warranted in the Christian Church. This class, however, has usually been divided into provincial, national, and œcumenical or universal assemblies. Synods have the sanction of Christ from the very nature of his kingdom, whose unity in the general assembly and church of the first-born, consummates her glory and happiness; and from the specific example afforded by the Synod which met at Jerusalem, for the settlement of a reference from the church at Antioch, in regard to circumcision. But our views upon this topic must be summed up in the words of Dr. Owen, page 427, "Yet this I shall say, that whereas it is eminently useful unto the church catholic, that all the churches professing the same doctrine of faith, within the limits of the same supreme civil government, should hold constant actual communion among themselves unto the ends of it, before mentioned; I see not how it can be any abridgment of the liberty of particular churches, or interfere with any of their rights which they hold by divine institution, if, through more constant lesser synods for advice, there be a communication of their mutual concerns to those that are greater, until, if occasion require, and if it be expedient, there be a GENERAL ASSEMBLY of them all, to advise about any thing wherein they are all concerned."

Thus did Presbyterianism once flourish in England; and

then, when its Sessions, and its Presbyteries, and its Synods, were in full and in holy exercise, did piety and vital godliness diffuse a fragrance and a healthfulness throughout the land, which have never been surpassed. But reader! think how the mighty have fallen! Pour forth your lamentations into Jehovah's ear, when you reflect how the hundreds of sanctuaries once employed in the dissemination of truth, are now employed in propagating deadly error! Earnestly implore that the revival begun, with respect to Presbytery, may, under the unction of the Holy Ghost, rapidly spread, until all Presbyterian chapels in the kingdom are restored to their rightful owners—until those who inherit the sentiments of their Orthodox founders, shall have the unquestioned freedom of proclaiming in them the healing virtues of the cross to perishing sinners.

An extract from the works of one whose sentiments on this subject are exceedingly apposite, and whose historical knowledge and weight of character ought to give a point and a powerful emphasis to the remarks contained in it, will terminate the present essay.* "Let sober thinkers only reflect for a moment, what advantages would have ensued, if religion had been settled agreeably to the plan recommended by the Westminster Assembly, and if that settlement had been allowed to stand. Of what benefit would it have been to England, if a lordly hierarchy, together with an unprofitable mass of human rites and ceremonies, and an inefficient clergy, had been removed; and if, in their place, an evangelical, pious, laborious, and regular ministry had been settled in every parish, with elders to inspect the morals of the people, and deacons to attend to the wants of the poor, under the superintendence of Presbyteries and Synods! Would not this have proved of incalculable advantage to that nation, in a religious, moral, and political point of view? Would it not have been a powerful check on the spread of error, the increase of schism, and the prevalence of ignorance, profaneness, and sin? Of what benefit might it not have been to unhappy Ireland, which has been perhaps more indebted to colonies from Scotland, and to the religion imparted by them, than to any boon it has received from England? And would not great benefit have redounded from it to Scotland herself, whose ecclesiastical constitution and liberties, as well as the religious principles and habits of her people, have suffered much from her intimate connexion

* Dr. M'Crie on the Unity of the Church, page 121.

with a country, in which a system opposite in various respects to hers has been established? If there is any truth in the representation now given, let me again ask, is it not matter of the deepest regret, that this work should have been interrupted and overturned? That it continues still buried; and that an opposite system was reared on its grave, which has been productive of manifold evils ?"

Whatever truth these remarks may contain, as to the irreligion which prevails in England, let Presbyterians remember that their own supineness in former days had much to do with the alienation of their chapels and the inefficiency of their church; and let them, in future, in the exercise of Christian meekness, prudence, and zeal, pursue the path of duty, looking to heaven for success. R. E.

Nov. 18th, 1833.

N. B. Since the preceding article was concluded, the writer of it has learned, that the Unitarians in England have published a circular, inviting all Presbyterians in that kingdom to unite in a general assembly. union of Unitarians, with ministers from the established church of Scotland, and from the secession! what a mixture of heterogeneous materials! The policy of this proposed union, however, upon worldly principles, cannot be questioned, as it is thereby designed to secure the funds, left by Orthodox Presbyterians, to Unitarians, as well as to those who advocate the principles of the old Presbyterians of England. This one fact alone demonstrates the necessity of having the sentiments and practices of the original Presbyterians of England distinctly stated and widely circulated.

R. E.

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WE have of late been directing the attention of our readers very fully to the subject of Sabbath observance. And we persuade ourselves, that in this we have been promoting the interests of humanity; for whether we regard the temporal or the eternal welfare of our race, the rest of the Sabbath seems equally necessary. To allege, that the man of toil, or even the beast of burden, may labour on, without any intervening rest, is to discover gross ignorance respecting the physical constitution of both; and to suppose that a Christian can live to God, without holding communion with him, as in the services of that holy day, is to betray equal ignorance of what Christianity is and surely if he, in whom we live, and move, and have our being, saw it right to bestow on us, in respect of both, this day of weekly rest and holy enjoyment, he is guilty of the grossest presumption, as well as injustice, who would either lessen its authority, or interrupt its observance. To do so, would be to act presumptuously towards God, and

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