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The DUTY of PRAYER ILLUSTRATED and RECOMMENDED from SCRIPTURE, and from the Opinions and Conduct of Inspired Persons; with Forms of Prayer, for the Use of Families and Individuals. By the Rev. ALEX. WHYTE, A. M. Fettercairn. Oliphant & Son, Edinburgh. P. p. 403. 1834.
THE design of this volume is thus comprehensively expressed by the author at the outset, "to inquire, what is prayer, and to whom we are to offer it? Why we should pray? For what we should pray ? And how we should pray? By what means we may learn to pray, if yet prayerless; or improve in it if we have already learned, what are the most common pretences and the real causes for neglecting prayer ?” These topics are clearly, fully, and satisfactorily treated. No one can read what is written, with attention, and a proper spirit, without being instructed and edified. Though we perused the volume with the eye of a critic, yet were we often led to forget that to review it was our object, while our attention was carried away with its conclusive reasonings, or powerful appeals, or devotional exercises. We tender our thanks to the author for the profit which we hope we have derived from the work. It is distinguished by two peculiarities. The first is, the illustration of the various topics, not merely from Scripture, but recorded sentiments of the wise and good, who have already treated upon the subject. In the preface, this feature of the work is thus explained. "The uninspired extracts contain the sentiments of many of the most eminent theological writers of the first five, and last three centuries, of the Christian era-a class of men, whose studies, habits, and characters, certainly entitle them to be heard, on such a subject as this, with some degree of deference." These extracts are the most varied, judicious, and valuable. We were amazed by such a mass, and have not met with any composition more deserving of Solomon's description of "a word fitly spoken," it is "like apples of gold in pictures of silver." We read it as we do the Proverbs of Solomon, the attention being so arrested with each, that we involuntarily stop and reflect until the attention is absorbed with it. The other peculiarity of the volume is its devotion. The argument is irresistible, but its devotion is constraining and overcoming. It is thus, the subject of prayer should ever be treated. For while it is right to silence the caviller and convince the reasonable, yet the great object is to engage the mind in exercises of devotion; and while we are drawn out by our author in the language of devotion, we are not merely persuaded to allow that prayer is a duty, but constrained to feel it to be a privilege and a delight.
ORDINATIONS.-On the 1st inst., the Rev. W. Gibson was ordained to the pastoral charge of the congregation of Ballibay. In our next number we shall oblige our readers with a full account of the interesting and important services upon the occasion. On the following day the Rev. John Morell was ordained over the newly erected congregation of Ballibay.
"THE HISTORY OF THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH IN IRELAND.”
"God hath taken away my reproach." This was the language of Rachel upon the birth of her long-desired first-born, and it may well be adopted by the Presbyterian Church of Ireland, upon the appearance of this work, which, in the modest language of its author, is "the first attempt towards filling up a chasm which has long existed in the ecclesiastical history of the empire." It is more than two hundred years since our forefathers settled in Ulster, and brought with them, to the land of their adoption, the arts of industry and the blessings of the reformed religion. Since that time, their descendants have passed through many and important changestheir history has borne an intimate connexion with the religion, and literature, and politics of the country-at the present time they constitute one of the largest and most influential portions of the community; yet, strange to tell! their history has, to a great extent, remained hitherto unexplored and unknown, and Dr. Reid has been the first who has entered upon a full and fair investigation of it. Why has it been thus ? To answer the question requires, perhaps, a more accurate knowledge of all the circumstances of our church than most of us possess. The fact, however, is truly humiliating; and whatever minor causes may have operated, one thing is certain, that the neglect of which we complain, argues the want of religious zeal or literary taste, or of both. The history of our church was indeed preserved, by some of her sons, for a considerable period. Livingston, and Blair, and Stewart, and Baillie, were not inattentive to her history, and have left important records behind them. But after the final and permanent settlement of the church in the country, no one ppears to have felt the importance and obligation of presenting
the public and bequeathing to posterity a continued and full record of its history. For a season, the zeal of both ministers and people was great, but their zeal gradually sunk into luke
warmness. In the process of time error crept into the body, accompanied with all its indifference and death. And we are constrained to remark, that at no period of our church's history was its literature so low as during the prevalence of the Arian heresy. It is among the vain boastings of the teachers of this class of errors, that they are superior to all men in intelligence and learning. But the history of the Synod of Ulster teaches the very opposite, showing that true religion and real learning have ever gone hand in hand, while error and the want of literature have mutually contributed to one another. Religion is the soul of literature. It produces the zeal which alone, generally speaking, will prompt and maintain the diligence necessary to attain it. The history of the one, therefore, has been, and ever will be, the history of the other. And never will any church attain the place it ought to hold in the literary character of its country, until it is inspired to do so by the zeal which religion engenders. Let that be as lively as it ought to be, and it will count no sacrifice too costly, no pains too hard to endure, in order that it may be able to investigate the stores of literature, and make them tributary to the purposes of religion. This view of the subject is confirmed by the present aspect of our church. Fifty and even thirty years ago error had spread widely in it, and then literature was at the lowest ebb possible. Scarcely any individual was distinguished for literary attainments, and almost no work, of any merit, proceeded from the body. During the last twenty-five years, the spirit of revival has been increasing and extending. Whereas many were sunk in error and its consequent indifference, a goodly number have become enlightened and devoted men. The taste for literary attainments has kept pace with the zeal for religion. Of late years, various productions have been issuing from the press, of more or less importance and merit. And as a bright evidence of the growing literature and religion of the body-as a consummation of the progress which has been for some years accelerating-and as a presage of better days and higher attainments, we now enjoy the unspeakable happiness and honour of introducing to our readers, as the able and valuable work of one of its members, "The History of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland."
The first part of this important work consists of an Introduction, which proposes to give a "sketch of the progress of the reformed religion in Ireland during the sixteenth century." In this Introduction we have been particularly engaged with three things-the early purity of the Irish Church, its subse
quent degradation under the yoke of Rome, and the defective measures adopted for its reformation. It is a vulgar prejudice that the Irish Church was, from the first, one of the most closely united and attached portions of the Church of Rome. The very opposite, however, is well known to every historian to have been the true state of the case. It maintained its purity when other churches and people had bowed the neck to the great enemy of the rights of men. It was distinguished by the unrestricted use of the word of God, and the acknowledgment of the doctrines of grace, as taught in the primitive church, and afterwards revived at the Reformation, while it rejected the supremacy of Rome, and the corruptions and traditions of that apostate church. For a length of time, all the efforts of the Roman Pontiffs to enslave the church and nation were in vain. It was the last of the churches of the west to yield its independence. Nor was it until the middle of the twelfth century that the unhallowed usurpation over the rights and consciences of men, allowed in other places, was wholly submitted to by the Irish Church. Our land deserves to be called "The Island of Saints," not because it acknowledged the false worship and practices of the Church of Rome, but because it bore its testimony to the sufficiency of the Scriptures and the doctrines of grace, long after the neighbouring nations had fallen under the slavery and darkness of Popery.
"The free and commanded use of the Scriptures-the inculcation of the doctrines of grace and of the efficacy of the sacrifice and intercession of Christ, without any allusion to the mass, to transubstantiation, purgatory, human merit or prayers for the dead-the diversity in the forms of celebrating divine worship-the rejection of the papal supremacy-the marriage of the clergy-the scriptural character of the early bishops, each having the charge of only one parish, and being labourers' in word and doctrine'-the presbyterial order of the Culdees and their singular piety and zeal-all these important points of doctrine and discipline which were maintained and practised in the ancient Irish church, clearly indicate its opposition to the papał system." P. 2.
When Popery was at length established in Ireland, its dominion was supreme, and all its fruits were borne in the utmost luxuriance. The clergy became ignorant, intolerant, and immoral; the people were sunk in superstition and sin; and the whole nation lay in the depths of the lowest degradation. The influence of Popery was then what it always is, when not restrained or influenced by external causes. True, it can suit itself, as any Proteus, to the circumstances in which it is placed. Among the learned it becomes learned too, and is able to wield with dexterity any weapons with which it is
thus furnished. Among those who are moral, it declares its respect for external purity. But, left to itself, it will cultivate neither learning nor morality. Its whole history affords no example of such a thing. It is only when it has been found necessary to self-defence that it has attended to such things. But we are told it has changed. Its external character it may change, but its real nature it never has nor will change. One of the most fearful evils pervading society at present is, a spirit of unbelief upon this very subject. A false liberality has seized upon the minds of men, and Popery is in favour with the nation. One reason for this state of things is, no doubt, the length of time that has elapsed since Popery enacted its bloody doings in these lands. Despoiled of its power to persecute, it feigns the utmost meekness of spirit. And we daily witness the monstrous phoenomenon of Popery in league with liberality. But let it be restored to its former power-let this land be subjugated to its influence once more-and its unfortunate children will have a practical comment on its nature, which, alas! it will have learned too late. They will find the plea of immutability to be no vain pretence. Popery will prove itself to be what it ever has been-the enemy of the rights and liberties of men. Let the people read its historylet them acquaint themselves with its transactions of old-and from the record of the past let them anticipate what may be the future. In Dr. Reid's pages they will find Popery pourtrayed in its genuine colours, and by its fruits they may know
Yet we regret to have to add, that our censure must not be confined to Popery and its doings. The light of the Reformation happily dawned upon Ireland soon after the Sun of Righteousness had shone on the nations of the Continent. But, alas! that cause has never prospered, as it ought to have done in the land. Whether it was that the proper means for the propagation of truth were not then sufficiently understood, or that Ireland was particularly unfortunate in those who, from time to time, were entrusted with its affairs, no reasonable and scriptural measures for the extension of the reformed faith were ever generally adopted; but, on the contrary, plans were devised highly objectionable in their nature, and executed in a manner far more fitted to prejudice than recommend the truth. To any one acquainted with the word of God and the history of the primitive church, it must at once have been obvious that the only legitimate method of extending the reformed faith was the education of the people, the translation and circulation