Imatges de pÓgina
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speak flatteringly of any individual, yet I believe I can say with truth, that there are many of our people who can estimate aright the nature and the difficulty of ministerial labour, and on whose co-operation a minister may calculate, in his exertions to promote the interests whether of piety or Presbyterianism. Another circumstance from which I derive encouragement in the prospect of the arduous duties that lie béfore me, is, that on a dispassionate review of the whole matter, I cannot but conclude, that it is the special providence of God that has marked out the field in which I am to toil. There are various circumstances well known to myself, but which it is unnecessary to detail, that lead me irresistibly to this conclusion. I have all along, indeed, been well persuaded, that if there be any thing in this world worthy of the interference of a superior controlling power, the settlement of an individual in the ministry, an event on which so many solemn and awful interests are suspended, is pre-eminently worthy; and I can safely state it as the result of nearly two years' experience, that the likeliest method by which to be prosperously settled in the Church of Christ, is to follow, and not to attempt to force, the march of Divine Providence. And if my voice could reach the licentiates of our Church, I would assure them, that it is only by adopting such a course that they can expect to secure for themselves both present and ultimate tranquillity. Whether it may go well with me in time to come, I cannot tell, but I know that I should often be the victim of much gloomy and distressed foreboding, were I not firmly established in the conviction, that the hand of God is visible in my appointment here, and that now that I am called to labour in this vineyard, I will not be utterly forsaken. It may perhaps be expected that on an occasion like the present I should make some statement of the principles by which I would endeavour to be guided in my ministerial career. By way of meeting the expectation, if any such exists, I shall say a few words, although I confess that I myself have not been accustomed to set a high value on professions, however specious, when unaccompanied by a more severe and substantial test of character. You will believe me then, Sir, when I state in the first place, that I am conscientiously attached to our Presbyterian standards-and that I rejoice in their adoption by that portion of the Church with which we are connected, according to whose present constitution a belief in these is the acknowledged bond of ministerial fellowship. It was indeed an evil day for the Presbyterian Church in

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Ulster when she relaxed her hold of these venerable symbols, for then it was that the might of her arm was paralyzed, and her devoted children were made to mourn over her degeneracy. From the time when the substantial theology of her confession, and her catechisms began to lose that place in her regards to which it was entitled, our Zion became dormant and inactive; a monumental coldness crept upon her; and though the name of Presbyterianism remained, yet it was Presbyterianism "laid in state, surrounded by the silent pomp of death." There was peace indeed, but it was the peace that reigns at dead of night, when all is darkness and oblivion-there was unity, but it was the unity of those who were determined to hold fellowship by marring the peculiarities of the Gospel. It is true there were still a few who would have lifted a faithful testimony, but they could have no heart to do so, for they must have known, that amid the din of opposing elements, their voice would be completely overborne. He would indeed have been a bold and daring spirit who would have stood up for Reformation principles at such a period, when a hundred tongues would have assailed him as a disturber of the harmony of Zion. Such was the melancholy state of things for a long dark period, during which our Church, forgetful that a great work had been given her to do, sunk into security and undisturbed repose. The events of later years I need not recapitulate. They will ere long be embodied in the page of history, (and I rejoice to think that we have among ourselves a Presbyterian historian worthy of the cause) where they will remain for the delighted contemplation of other days, when those who have so resolutely fought our battles shall be gathered to their fathers. Meanwhile it is impossible to forbear remarking on the change that has been wrought-a change which testifies abundantly that God is ever mindful of his own cause, even although provoked to withdraw himself by a long course of defection and apostacy. Did it not savour of adulation, I might point you to the instrumentality, I might almost say to the individuals, by whose exertions, under the divine blessing, we have been raised to our present high standing among the Churches of the Reformation-I might tell you of many an arduous conflict, and many a hard fought field, through which they toiled; and having tried to estimate the mental energy, the unflinching fortitude, and the unshaking perseverance requisite for the undertaking, I might make a confident appeal to you and say, do they not deserve for these things to be held in grateful and

affectionate remembrance by the Presbyterian community? Yes, Sir, I believe that, under God, they have done a great work in the Church; and it is my sincere desire, as it is that of many of the brethren, that they may be emboldened to do more. I would, therefore, profess my willingness, as an humble individual, to aid them in their attempts at further Reformation; not, indeed, in the spirit of partizanship, but in a spirit of independence worthy of a free-born Presbyterian, whose truest glory is that he belongs to a Church in which, as no man has the right to assume the heirs of a dictator, so none will bow a single moment to dictation. And if those who have already signalized themselves in our behalf, or any others. of the brethren of experience, will but stand forward yet again for the maintenance and restoration of our Presbyterian discipline and order, I would express an anxious hope that they would be supported by the junior ministers of the body, and that by the united and harmonious exertions of the whole, our Zion might again be arrayed in her beautiful garments, and our Jerusalem might again become a praise in the land. And here Sir, let me express my veneration of those holy men of God, who, whether in our own country or in Scotland, were instrumental in setting up the frame-work of our ecclesiastical constitution. Fondly, indeed, would I desire to linger on their memory, and lift a feeble testimony in behalf of the illustrious dead. Although the present is a period of more than ordinary attainment, yet would I still invoke the spirit of the olden time; and looking on the Church in her comparatively feeble and paralysed condition, would raise this note of bitter lamentation on her, "How are the mighty fallen!" Holding the views and sentiments I have expressed, it is natural to suppose that I should give all due prominence in my pulpit ministrations to the leading doctrines of our standards-especially the depravity of our nature-the moral inability of man to save himself-the dignity and preciousness of the Redeemer-and the agency of that Spirit which in his mediatorial capacity he has been exalted to bestow. I believe the Gospel to be essentially a remedial dispensation, the great end of all whose revelations, however high and mysterious, is to restore to our ruined and apostate nature the lost image of its God. Its truths must, therefore, be expounded, not as topics of mere barren and unprofitable speculation, but as the grand and only means by which to sanctify the soul. In the inculcation of them I believe the best method is to make a direct and uncontroversial appeal to Scripture testimony. I say uncontroversial, for there is a

cold and disputative orthodoxy which treats the truth of God rather as an abstraction of the intellect or play-thing of the imagination, than as a doctrine after godliness. It is true that a particular form of error may require the presentation of the truth in a corresponding form, in order to its confutation; but I am well persuaded that it is not by the exhibition of any system, either of frost or fancy-work, that sinners who are at ease in Zion can be awakened from their slumber, and that we, the outcast and estranged inhabitants of earth, can be prepared for the felicities of heaven. While, therefore, Controversial Theology is necessary to confound the gainsayers, I would say, that it is by a pointed and searching statement of the didactic that the church of God can be revived, and that sons and daughters can be trained into a meetness for the mansions of our Father's house. At the same time, however, that I would, for myself, retire as much as possible from the troubled atmosphere of controversy to a purer and a more tranquil element, yet as there may be times when even the most timid spirit may be called to buckle on his armour, so it is the duty of the minister of Christ to hold himself in readiness to defend the truth, alike regardless of the number and the power of its assailants. One word again, as to the necessity that I conceive is laid upon me to maintain a testimony to the peculiar principles of our Presbyterian constitution. I believe, Sir, that all churches, as they grow in zeal and efficiency, assimilate their management to ours, and, in a period like the present, when some of the religious communities around us, which, like our own, had long been torpid, are beginning to bestir themselves, now surely is the time for the true sons of Presbytery to rally in firm phalanx, and give a tone to the general movement by a full and unfaltering exhibition of Presbyterian principles. We have nothing, Sir, to fear from such an exhibition. Presbyterianism is not a thing of sickly mushroom growth that dreads exposure, else it would long ago have bent before the blast of tyranny. Be it ours then to regard it as a noble vine which the hand of the Lord hath planted, and in a spirit of sympathy and Christian love to persuade our brethren of those denominations, who are ill at ease under another adminstration, to come and sit together with ourselves under its mighty shade.

While thus zealous for the interests of Presbytery, I would not be understood as being indifferent to the dissemination of sound Protestantism, in any of its forms. By Protestantism, I do not mean any piece of mere state mechanism, which may

be worked and wielded by designing politicians-but I mean that stable and stately structure of religious truth which was reared by the fathers of the Reformation, when by a bold and united effort they freed the simple and sublime theology of the Bible from the mass of error and absurdity with which it had been overlaid by the theology of the schools. And while I am cognizant of all the prejudice and ignorance that are opposed in stern array to the reception of the truth by many of our own countrymen, yet I cannot but think that there is a way in which the doctrines of the Reformation may be presented with effect, even to those who are banded in hostility against them—a way which, I regret to say, has been as yet but partially adopted in any efforts that have been made, to shed the light of the glorious Gospel on the dark places of our land. This way, Sir, is the way of kindness and conciliation. Kindness is the very key to the Irish bosom-and I am persuaded, that by the instrumentality of the truth, spoken in love, innumerable trophies of its power may yet be won even from among the number of those by whom its advocates are now regarded with a look of dark and lowering disaffection. I would, therefore, as far as my individual influence extended, address those of our fellow-countrymen who are in error, not in the language of denunciation and anathema, but in the tones and accents of compassionate concern; and though I might not say a spiteful word either of priest or priesthood, yet I am persuaded, that by the blessing of the Most High, I would do something to break the bonds by which they are enchained, and to raise them from their state of darkness and debasement, to the erect and independent attitude of the Lord's freemen. And oh! for the spirit of a Bedell or an Ussher, by which to renovate the moral aspect of our beautiful island, till, from being a proverb and a bye-word, we should become an admiration to the nations! As I have spoken of the degradation of our country, allow me, in connexion with this, to state the course I would endeavour to pursue, in reference to those schemes for its amelioration that are so much agitated in our day. And while I would express my conviction that a Christian minister, if he have the feelings of a man and of a patriot, must take a lively interest in every thing that concerns his country; and while I would repudiate the latitudinarian maxim, that religion has nothing to do with politics, I would state it as my unalterable determination, to stand aloof from all scenes of political contention and debate. I am persuaded that a minister of Christ cannot

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