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and which the people themselves expect, that the energies of the society are cramped, and its usefulness greatly abridged. Yet that this is not altogether owing to the unwillingness of our people to give liberally, the subscription lists of other valuable societies and the opportunities offered them of obtaining collections in our congregations, will abundantly prove. The defect, I am strongly inclined to think, Sir, is to be found in the want of proper modes of application. Annual collections do well for taking up the small sums which can be given by any member of a congregation, but there should also be regular annual subscriptions, and in these l'observe, by our Treasurer's Account, we fall very far short. I hope, however, that in this year they will increase. I know the society has, in the anticipation of receiving larger funds, already acceded to the urgent requests for assistance which have been laid before the Directors from different parts of Ireland. "What is your society doing?" is a question often asked me. An Irishman's answer would be the proper one, "What have you enabled the society to do?" The forthcoming volume, containing an account of the proceedings of the Synod's Missionary meeting in Dublin-which, by the way, is too long of making its appearance, will in some measure answer the first question; and I trust the Treasurer's Account for the present year, will give a satisfactory and substantial reply to the second. We require a general agent. It is utterly impossible for our valuable Secretary, engaged as he is with his ministerial duties, to attend to all the minutiae of the society's business. Our agent ought to be at the disposal of the society, and ready to appear at whatever place the interests of the society required him, carrying with him satisfactory information of the labours of the society, cheering the hearts of the aged with good hope, that they shall not descend to the grave without witnessing a brighter era in the history of our church, and encouraging the young to come forth to the help of the Lord against the mighty. Ought we not also to solicit a help which is found very efficient, both in obtaining support and in calling attention to the operations of other societies, viz. the formation of Ladies' Associations. Our male population are, for the most part, occupied in agricultural or mercantile pursuits, and therefore can seldom give up their time; but I presume there are many towns and villa
* From the difficulty of obtaining so many manuscripts from the most distant parts of the country, the publication of the work alluded to has been too long delayed; but as all the materials are now forward, the printing will proceed as speedily as possible EDIT.
ges as well as congregations, where all that is wanting is to point out the mode of working, to induce many ladies to undertake so pleasing and becoming a work, as the procuring of friends and funds to the Presbyterian Missionary Society for Ireland. Trusting that the ladies of Belfast will set an example in this good and necessary work, I conclude with the words of Scripture, "whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might, for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave, whither thou goest." AN ELDER.
The LIFE and DIARY of the REV. RALPH ERSKINE, A. M., of Dunfermline, one of the Founders of the Secession Church. By Rev. DONALD FRASER, Kennoway. OLIPHANT & SON, Edinburgh. P. p. 564. 1834.
THE perusal of this volume has awakened various reflections, as we thought, of the writer of the subject of the memoir, and of the general question of the Secession. Of the writer we are free to express our opinion, that, he has executed his task well. His book discovers much research, minute and patient investigation, and, what is no little merit in these times, a large measure of candour and impartiality. We might indeed have known, without having been informed by himself, that he was a member of the Secession Church, for the general strain of his writing, and some particular argumentations, plainly proclaim his profession; yet he appears to us to have given the details of Mr. Erskine's life fairly and impartially. On the whole he has acquitted himself worthy of a descendant of his distinguished ancestor. If we would find any fault with his book, it is, that there is some confusion in the arrangement, arising out of the plan of classifying the topics discussed, rather than simply following the thread of the history. With regard to the subject of the volume, Ralph Erskine, we have long been accustomed to venerate his memory. He is one of the mighty dead who has laid posterity under the greatest obligations. He was a highly gifted man, an accomplished scholar, a profound theologian, a faithful minister, and a holy man. Being dead, he yet speaketh in some of the most sweet, practical, and profitable works extant in our language. And this is not our opinion only, but that of other people and nations, among whom his works have been so prized, as to have been translated into their native tongue. He had his failings, for no man liveth and sinneth not, yet we can never think of him but as having been in his day "a burning and a shining light." Upon the question of the Secession, the most important practical measure with which his name is associated, we feel more difficulty in expressing our opinion. Its founders appear to have been forced out of the Assembly of the Church of Scotland; yet we cannot overlook the fact, that some of the greatest and best men the church ever saw remained in their places at the same time, and testified against the originators of the Secession, that they followed a divisive course. Such were Boston and Willison. The truth appears to be, that in their zeal for the reforma
tion of the church, they committed themselves to one measure after another, until their separation became necessary. Whereas, had the final issue of these measures been anticipated, it is doubtful whether they would not themselves have avoided them, and retaining their place, have endeavoured to restore the church to its former purity. It is a difficult problem whether that course would, upon the whole, have been productive of more substantial good, than the plan of the Secession which they adopted. It is now one hundred years since the Secession took place, and it has no doubt been productive of many happy influences on the religious interests of Scotland. It has increased the ministry, stimulated the efforts of the established clergy, and promoted the attachment of the people to the doctrines of truth and grace. At the time when the Secession took place, many and great evils existed, and were tolerated in the Established Church. Error in doctrine and laxity in discipline prevailed to a great extent. In both these respects a great revival has of late years taken place in the establishment, and how far the influence of the Secession may have contributed to this, we are not competent to say. It has been to us matter of sincere grief, however, to find, that as the church returned to the great truths for which Erskine and his companions testified, the breach between the church and the Secession, instead of closing, appears to be widening. One cause of this is the introduction of a question not agitated in those days, the principle of establishments. Upon this subject the ministers of the Secession have generally adopted views, different from those entertained by their forefathers. Among these were some of the ablest defenders of establishments. Witness the works of Brown, of Haddington. It has hence come to pass, that when the two bodies should have been coalescing, they seem to be departing more widely asunder. Had the Church of Scotland been, in the time of the Erskines, what she now is, the Secession would not have taken place. And yet the descendants of these men are now abusing her with greater virulence than ever was done before. This strife is surely the work of the common enemy; and we would entreat all our brethren to whom our feeble voice can reach, to consider the result of present measures, and instead of appearing to take pleasure in discord, to think what might be done to restore the peace and unity of the church. In this country the question has often been asked, wherein do Seceders and the Synod of Ulster (who are supposed to be the representatives of the Church of Scotland) differ? and it is really not easy to give a reply. Especially is this so at the present time, when with both the Confession of Faith is the standard of Orthodoxy. Did these two bodies consult for their own respectability and influence, and for the interests of religion in the land, it is the decided conviction of the writer of this notice, (and he speaks only for himself,) they would without delay devise measures in the hope of effecting a union. The mere circumstance of their being separate bodies tends to injury. They become rivals to one another. Hence arise countless jealousies and misunderstandings, whereby their hands are mutually weakened. United, they would, on the contrary, form the most powerful and influential body among the Protestants of the land. May the time speedily come when Ephraim shall not envy Judah, nor Judah vex Ephraim! Let us pray for the peace of Jerusalem. We cannot but say, "peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces!" It is only a due improvement of the record of the Secession, in the life of Ralph Erskine, that the Presbyterians of Ulster should unite to proclaim and advance the truths which he preached while he lived, and in which he triumphed when he died.
A TREATISE on the AUTHORITY, ENDS, and OBSERVANCE of the CHRISTIAN SABBATH; with an Appendix, containing a variety of Documentary Evidence respecting Prevalent Abuses, and Means for their Suppression. By the Rev. Duncan MACFARLANE, Minister of Renfrew. Glasgow, COLLINS. P. p. 270. 1832.
THIS is the most satisfactory book upon the Sabbath which we have perused, for a considerable time. The subject is treated under three divisions, the primeval, the Mosaic, and the Christian Sabbath. And each of these again is divided into three parts, the authority, ends, and observances of the Sabbath. By a train of clear, irresistible reasoning, it is proved that the Sabbath has been substantially the same under all dispensations,‚—an institution divine in its appointment, moral in its nature, and unchanging in its obligations. At the same time, it is most satisfactorily shown how the institution, though unchanged and unchangeable in its nature, has been made to subserve various, and sometimes different purposes under the different dispensations. This feature of the book is to us the most interesting and novel part of it. It is the principle which at once and satisfactorily accounts for all the changes which have attended the Sabbath in its history from the creation. Many things connected with it have been changed, such as the events commemorated by it, and the day on which it is observed, while the institution itself, in all that is really essential to it, has undergone no change. On the other parts of the subject, such as the ends and observances of the Sabbath, the illustrations are full, satisfactory, and instructive. We wish we could, by any recommendation of ours, persuade our readers to make themselves acquainted with the work. Its perusal will richly reward their labour. Especially ought such a work to be studied in the present day, when the most sceptical sentiments prevail, respecting the divine authority of the institution, and the most profane practices dishonour its sacredness. We enjoyed the high gratification of hearing Mr. Macfarlane open up his views of the Sabbath, in the sermon which he preached at the last meeting of the Synod in Cookstown. And we believe we speak the sentiments of all who then heard him, when we say that his discourse, on that occasion, ean never be forgotten by us. In the volume before us, those views will be found, amplified, confirmed, and illustrated. In the Appendix there is a mass of the most important evidence, illustrative of the desecration of the holy day prevalent in these lands. We recommend the volume to the attention of all who can obtain it; and we pray that its perusal may be one means of promoting that "righteousness which exalteth a nation." We are sorry we cannot afford space for extracts in the present Number.
In our last Number, in the Article on “ Presbyterianism in England.”
Page 134, line 4, instead of "1683," read "1638."
IN our last paper, under this head, we announced that the subject of the present article would be creeds-their nature, necessity, and advantages. Every person acquainted with the diversified subjects of theological controversy, must be aware that this has been disputed with as much keenness as any other peculiarity of ecclesiastical polity. In entering upon its consideration, then, it cannot be expected that we will be able to display much originality, or advance many new arguments in favour of our peculiar views; the ground has been repeatedly traversed by men ranking high in theological knowledge and intellectual power; we cannot be supposed capable of inventing now modes of refuting the objections usually brought forward against the use of creeds; these objections have again and again been refuted, and have been shown to be groundless as often as they have been advanced ;-nor can any person imagine that we will be at the trouble of forging for our opponents more powerful arguments than they have ever yet been able to discover, that we may have the gratification of immolating these creations of our own ingenuity. But we trust that we will be able so to condense the argument in favour of creeds, that it will come home with more power to the understanding, and also throw into new combinations those reasons for their adoption which have long remained unanswered, and unanswerable. As we write, however, rather for the information of the Presbyterian people connected with our church, than for the purpose of attacking the opponents of its doctrines and its usages ;- -as our object is rather to promote the cause of truth, than to gain a victory over an enemy already vanquished, we shall endeavour to consider the question of creeds, in the plainest possible method, consistent with the homage which we owe to that truth and our devotedness to its advancement.