Page images
PDF
EPUB

GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE AMERICAN PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH

(OLD SCHOOL).

This body met in Philadelphia, on being not the exclusive right of PreThursday, 21st May 1846, the same lates to the name of Bishops, which all day on which the two Assemblies in intelligent Episcopalians abandon, bu Scotland meet. Such, we believe, is the title of their bishops to be called the usual arrangement, andit is a pleas- apostles. ing evidence of the feelings with which our Presbyterian brethren across the

Title of Bishop.-When the roll was read

in the afternoon of the first day of the sesAtlantic regard the Scottish Church, sions of the Assembly, Dr R. J. Breckinridge that they seem to wish to have the moved that the word Bishop be struck out in meetings of the Supreme Courts simul- every case where it was applied to the clerical

delegates, and that the word minister be subtaneous. It is attended, however, with stituted in its place. This motion prevailed this disadvantage, that it makes the by a large majority. With regard to the course of formal correspondence long title Bishop, there are certain points as to and tedious; an inconvenience experi- stantially agreed.

which all parties may be considered as sub

One is, that in the New enced in the recent discussions about Testament, the title is given to those officers

in the Church who are appointed to rule, Slavery in this country, when some

teach, and ordain. Another is, that the misunderstanding arose from parties terms Presbyter and Bishop are applied to not considering that the letter of the same officers. Prelatists long contended the Commission of our Assembly, in against this position, but have at last, with

common consent, conceded it. In so doing, August 1844, could only be answered they have conceded almost the entire ground by the American Assembly in May of argument from Scripture in behalf of pre1845, and that answer could only come

lacy, and assumed the task of proving, that,

though in the apostolic age a Bishop was a before the Assembly here, in May Presbyter, and nothing more, in the imme1846.

diately succeeding age, he was a Prelate. A The following abstract of the pro- Bishop and Presbyter were convertible terms

third point

of beyond dispute is, that, though ceedings of the American Assembly, in the apostolic church, yet, as the hieraris taken with abridgement (but with- chial principle gradually gained ground, the out omitting any of the topics) from

term Bishop was appropriated to one class of

the clergy, and Presbyter to another, and the Princeton Review for July 1846.

that the usus loquendi of the whole Church It is a very able digest, and the topics for centuries has given this restrictive meanare deeply interesting. Our readers ing to the word Bishop: The question, then,

is, is it desirable to change this long-estawill bear in mind that the body of blished usage, and to restore the word to its Presbyterians represented by that As- Seriptural meaning. We have no hesitation sembly, are the section often called in saying, that, if practicable, it would be the - Old School,” whose theology may ble, we regard the attempt as altogether in

desirable ; but believing it to be impracticabe said to partake, on the whole, of expedient. We are glad, therefore, that the the character of that sounder Calvin

motion to substitute the word Minister for

that of Bishop in the minutes of the Assembly ism, of which we have so excellent a

prevailed, and we hope the matter will rest specimen in Hodge's tract on the Atone- where it is. ment, recently republished in this country.

II. The second topic is the “ vexed I. The first subject may seem of little question” of Slavery. We, of course, consequence, “What's in a name ?” It do not intend in this cursory way to was characteristic of American im- deal with so great a subject in the way petuosity, perhaps, that our friends of propounding our own views. We made the attempt to rescue the word submit, however, that the American

Bishop” from the unjust prelatic Presbyterians are entitled to the benemonopoly of it; it is characteristic of fit of the following calm, temperate, American good sense, that they aban- and manly exposition of their opinions, don it. The remarks that follow are in any subsequent discussions in which judicious; the real matter now at issue their conduct may require to be canbetween Prelatists and Presbyterians vassed.

Slavery.-This subject was before the Cbristian temper. The two brethren who Assembly on several occasions. The com. alone appeared as technical abolitionists, mittee on bills and overtures had this matter Messrs Fullerton and Thomas, we fear would brought before them in various ways, and lose caste with their own party, could the submitted, in referonce sto it, the following reasonable and mild spirit with which they report, viz.

presented their views be known. Whatever * Overture, No. 17. A collection of me- may be their doctrines, they certainly exhi. morials and petitions on the subject of sla. bited nothing of the animus which has disvery, containing an expression of opinion by tinguished and disgraced the abolitionists as the General Association of Massachusetts ; a body. No one could listen to the debate seven petitions from a number of ministers, on this subject without being satisfied that elders, and private members of our Church; in our Church there is a remarkable and corfive memorials from presbyteries, viz., the dial unanimity of opinion in regard to it. Presbyteries of Beaver, Hocking, Blairsville, Should a collision, in reference to this matNew Lisbon, and Albany, and a resolution ter ever occur, it must arise from misunderfrom the Synod of Cincinnati, all requesting standing, or from a culpable want of a right of the Assembly to utter additional testimony spirit. It is notorious that, in this country, on the subject of slavery, or at least to re- men are divided into three classes as regards affirm or explain its former testimony. In slavery. The one hold that slaveholding is view of these memorials and petitions, the in itself a sin, and ought to be made a term committee recommended the adoption of the of Christian communion; that every man following minutes, viz.

who holds slaves, should, after duo admoni. « Our Church has, from time to time, dur. tion, be excluded from the Church. We are ing a period of nearly sixty years, expressed not aware that this doctrine had a single ad. its views on the subject of slavery. During vocate on the floor of the Assembly. Even all this period it has held and uttered sub- the two brethren above mentioned, who stantially the same sentiments—believng claimed to be abolitionists, carefully avoided that this uniform testimony is true and ca- taking this ground, and so long as northern pable of vindication from the word of God; churches of any denomination repudiate this the Assembly is, at the same time, clearly of unscriptural dogma, there can be no justifiopinion, that it has already deliberately and able cause of schism, as far as this matter is solemnly spoken on the subject with saffi. concerned, between them and their southern cient fulness and clearness, Therefore, brethren.

Resolved, That no further action upon A second class go to the very opposite ex. this subject is at present needed.”

treme, and maintain that slavery is a good It was moved as an amendment to the and desirable institution, and ought to be resolution with which this report concludes, perpetuated; that is, since there must always that a clause should be added, declaring that be a labouring class of society, it is best in the decision of the Assembly of 1845 on the an economical, social, and moral point of subject of slavery was not to be understood view, that they should be in a state of slaas contradicting or rescinding any previous very. They insist that the slaves are better testimony of the General Assembly on the off, not merely as to physical comforts, but subject. The majority of the house prefer- in their moral and social condition, than the ring a direct vote on the report, laid this free labouring population of any nation in amendment on the table, and the report was the world. This is a doctrine which had few adopted by a large majority. Whereupon, if any advocates, even among men of the the Rev. R. M. White gave notice of his ina world, in this country, until within a few tention to enter a protest against the above years; and we know no Presbyterian minisdecision; and Rev. Thomas S. Thomas gave ter who has ever avowed it. This doctrine, a similar notice, for different reasons. In as far as we know, is confined to certain pothe afternoon, however, Mr White moved the liticians and men of the world. following resolution :'" Resolved, That, in The third class, which includes the great the judgment of this house the action body of our Church, and of the enlightened of the General Assembly of 1845 [in re- and good men, in every part of our country, ference to slavery] was not intended to maintain the doctrine which our General deny or rescind the testimony often uttered Assembly has from first to last inculcated, by the General Assembly previous to that and which was proclaimed so clearly, and date.” As substantially the same thing had with so much unanimity, last year at Cincinbeen proposed in the morning as an amend. nati. That doctrine is : ment to the report of the committee on bills 1. That since Christ and his apostles did and overtures, some doubt was expressed as not make the holding of slaves a bar to comto whether the above resolution was in order. munion, we have no authority to do so. The But as the house did not reject the amend. Assembly says, they cannot pronounce slavement, and had not in any way expressed a holding a heinous and scandalous sin, calcujudgment contrary to the sentiment which it lated to bring upon the Church the curse of expressed, it was pronounced in order and God. adopted, ayes 88, nays 32. The report of the 2. That the laws of many of the states recommittee was adopted by a vote of ayes 126, lating to slaves are unjust and oppressive ; nays 29; but Mr White and five others sub- that it is sinful to traffic in slaves for the sequently declared themselves satisfied with sake of gain, or for a like motive, or for the the subsequent action of the house on this convenience of the master, to separate hussubject, the vote, therefore, should stand bands and wives, or parents and children. ayes 132, nays 23.

3. That the slaves have a right to religious The results above indicated were not ar- instruction, and to be treated as rational, acrived at without a good deal of debate, which countable, and immortal beings; and, consewas conducted in an uniformly kind and quently, that it is the duty of their masters

so to regard and treat them, performing to- by the former to the latter, that they wards them all the duties belonging to this relation specified in the Word of God. The

should join together in the celebration Assembly, therefore, exhorted masters to re- of the Lord's Supper. The proposal member that they have a Master in heaven, was declined: and the declinature has and that they are bound to do unto others been represented as illiberal and unSoch is the obvious sense of the declaration charitable. We sincerely regret to adopted by the Assembly of 1845, which has find Dr Cox, who belongs to what he commended itself to the judgment and con. science of the vast body of our own Church,

calls the “ Constitutional Assembly," and of true Christians in every part of the -in a letter addressed by him to the land. Such has ever been substantially the Editor of the Presbyterian Review, testimony of our Church on this subject. Though there is this general agreement on

dated Edinburgh, 23d July 1846,this subject throughout our Church, it is [Presb. Review for October,] indulging very evident there is great diversity of sen- in a strain of observation, upon this timent as to what ought to be the action of the Assembly in relation to it. Some take

subject, certainly very inconsistent the ground that the Assembly bas no right with the spirit in which his “ Constito say a word on the subject; that slavery is tutional Brethren" professed to make a civil institution, and lies as much beyond

the the province of Church courts, as matters of

Dr Cox was on his way

proposal. government or politics. It is, however, as to the Evangelical Alliance when he far as we know, only one here and there who

passed through Edinburgh. We trust take this extreme ground. It is too obri

he would not have penned the paraously untenable for any but excited men to venture to assume.

graphs to which we refer on his way Others again, who readily admit that the home again from the Alliance. He Assembly has the right to speak on this as on other subjects involving questions of duty,

surely must see, upon reflection, that still hold that the less that is said the better; the tone of triumph which he assumes, that such is the state of mind of southern

on the score of greater liberality, and men that they receive with impatience the annunciation even

of truths which they them- the sharp and unbrotherly terms in selves are ready to avow, when that annun. which he speaks of the hesitation of ciation comes from non-slaveholders, and

the other party—are rather apt to that more good would be done by allowing the matter to rest in southern hands. Thero

foster, than to allay, the suspicion, may be some foundation for such remarks, that some, at least, of the liberals but it must be remembered that the General might go into the proposal with Assembly is not a northern body, it is the

the representative of the whole Church, of the more complacency from their south as well as the north. It should be re. perceiving that it might put their membered too, that the Church is one; it has stricter and more strait-laced brethren a common character and common responsi. bility. If false doctrine, or evil practice pre

“ in a fix." We do not allege this : vail in one part of the Church, it is the sin nor does the writer of the following of the whole, and of course the obligation to explanation assert it. He calmly correct the evil lies on the whole. Thingene gives the view which his own Assemwhole Church, has not only the right, but is bly took of the matter, which certainly bound to declare the duties of her members,

places their conduct in a different wherever they may live. To the General Assembly, therefore, other churches have a

light from that in which Dr Cox reright to look, and, in fact, ever have looked presents it. For ourselves, we give no for a testimony on this subject.

opinion on the point, either of the III. We the rather direct the at- propriety and seasonableness of the tention of our readers to the next ex- proposal being made, or of the wartract, as explaining a proceeding which rantableness of its being declined. has been somewhat misconstrued. It We may observe, however, that we so happened this year, that the Trien

are somewhat afraid of an artificial nial Assembly of the other section of and scenic use of this holy ordinance, Presbyterians, (who are sometimes as it were, ad captandum, or for effect; called “ The New School,”—though to make a display of closer union they disown that appellation, and than ordinary church-fellowship alclaim to be considered the “ Constitu- lows; and to cover over differences tional” body), met at the same time, and divisions which the parties thus and in the same town, with the Annual joining still regard as of magnitude General Assembly, whose actings are enough to require continued separanow before us. A proposal was made tion, and even mutual protest.

Slavery.—This subject was before the Christian temper. The two breth Assembly on several occasions. The com. alone appeared as technical abo? mittee on bills and overtures had this matter Messrs Fullerton and Thomas, we f brought before them in various ways, and lose caste with their own party, submitted, in referonce (to it, the following reasonable and mild spirit with report, viz.

presented their views be known. ** Overture, No. 17. A collection of me- may be their doctrines, they cer morials and petitions on the subject of sla- bited nothing of the animus r very, containing an expression of opinion by tinguished and disgraced the a' the General Association of Massachusetts ; a body. No one could listen seven petitions from a number of ministers, on this subject without being elders, and private members of our Church; in our Church there is a remar five memorials from presbyteries, viz., the dial unanimity of opinion in Presbyteries of Beaver, Hocking, Blairsville, Should a collision, in referer New Lisbon, and Albany, and a resolution ter ever occur, it must arise from the Synod of Cincinnati

, all requesting standing, or from a culpable of the Assembly to utter additional testimony spirit. It is notorious that on the subject of slavery, or at least to re- men are divided into three affirm or explain its former testimony. In slavery. The one hold th view of these memorials and petitions, the in itself a sin, and ought committee recommended the adoption of the of Christian communion following minutes, viz.

who holds slaves, should “ Our Church has, from time to time, dur. tion, be excluded from ing a period of nearly sixty years, expressed not aware that this doci its views on the subject of slavery. During vocate on the floor of all this period it has held and uttered sub- the two brethren ab stantially the same sentiments—believng claimed to be abolition that this uniform testimony is true and ca- taking this ground, pable of vindication from the word of God; churches of any deno the Assembly is, at the same time, clearly of unscriptural dogma, opinion, that it has already deliberately and able cause of schis solemnly spoken on the subject with suffi. concerned, between cient fulness and clearness, Therefore, brethren. * Resolved, That no further action upon A second class

yterian

She elders this subject is at present needed."

treme, and maint

hlar memoIt was moved as an amendment to the and desirable in

o were placed resolution with which this report concludes, perpetuated; the that a clause should be added, declaring that be a labouring

gate to the other

is city. After my the decision of the Assembly of 1845 on the an economical

saw in the Christian subject of slavery was not to be understood view, that the

from the pen of a lay. as contradicting or rescinding any previous very. They i

a joint celebration of testimony of the General Assembly on the off, not merel

uy the two Assemblies. It subject. The majority of the house prefer in their mora ring a direct vote on the report, laid this

my feelings. I was defree labouri

suggestion. I felt as if I amendment on the table, and the report was the world.

with higher conceptions of the adopted br a large majority. Whereupon, if any adventory of our common Christithe Rer, R. M. White gave notice of his in- world, in tention to enter a protest against the above years; and table, so learned, so influential,

poristed to see two such bodecision; and Rev. Thomas S. Thomas gave ter who

so alienated, sit down together a similar notice, for different reasons. In as far as

's table. Without committing the afternoon, however, Mr White moved the liticians following resolution: “ Resolved, That, in

The the

wholly under the impulse of

I arose in our Assembly and the judgment of this house the action body of

the Committee on Devotional of the General Assembly of 1845 (in re

be instructed to confer with the ference to slarery] was not intended to mainti of the other Assembly upon this deny or reseind the testimony often uttered Asseme

without debate, unanimously, and by the General Assembly prerious to that and w

acclamation, the resolution date." As substantially the same thing had with

is the origin of this matter." been proposed in the morning as an amend. nati.

from his account, the motion, ment to the report of the committee on bills 1

cher Assembly was concerned, and orertures some doubt was expressed as

matter of impulse, and that as to whether the abore resolution was in order.

real movers in the business were But as the house did not reject the amend. A9

I was intended as preliminary to ment, and bad not in any way expressed a

for the union of the two bodies. judgment contrary to the sentiment which it la

Mie Campbell informs us that expressed, it was pronounced in order and

[graphic]
[ocr errors]
[graphic]

her gave rise courtesy and fellowship, and by placing the
ng speak- refusal of the invitation upon the ground of

usage, deprived the refusal of everything that
could wound the feelings either of the other
ssembly or the Christian community.
The last matter that we shall

up (reserving several
ixt) is the discus-
irting educa-

ft of it is

oportance ill well re. rusal. Our clear and calm iments on both

ntous question of nes respecting eduartily rejoice in the fied by the Assembly; or the reasoning in fa. quite unanswerable. We

commend the summary of ning, as given in what we umit, without farther note or ilt, to the judgment of candid Christian minds. Our American

thren have every possible induceient and temptation to acquiese in the plan of mixed and miscellaneous education. They have also had a trial of

it. And their testimony in favour of у

the same system, substantially that the

Free Church of Scotland is seeking to par

ught carry out, is peculiarly impressive and il to un emphatic. Iraw our ols against Parochial Schools.- A committee, of which wel testimony. the Rev. Dr James W. Alexander was chairrence from the man, appointed by the last Assembly, made together would an important report on the subject of Paro. : adequate reason chial Schools, which was read and ordered to

they ought now to be printed for the use of the members. The wonderful that those report closed with the following resolutions, thatter in this light, viz: vise the measure. We “ Resolved, 1st, That, in the judgment of - as a single member on the General Assembly, any scheme of educaLubly, who was prepared tion is incomplete which does not include inch he regarded as a recan. struction in the Scriptures, and in those doc.

nony borne in years past trines of grace which are employed by the .alent errors of the New Di- Holy Spirit in the renewal and sanctification .) regarded the union of the two of the soul. ut present constituted, as even Resolved, 2d, That, in consideration of

hless as desirable. There were the blessings derived to us, through our fore. irge portion of the Assembly, who fathers, from the method of mingling the docLave gladly voted for accepting the trines of our church with the daily teachings

n, could it have been done with una- of the school, the Assembly earnestly de. *, but who thought it undesirable after sire as near an approach to this method as .natter had been so much debated and

may comport with the circumstances of this gwood. The minute adopted was a compro- country.

satisfying no part of the Assembly en- Resolved, 3d. That the Assembly regards tirely, yet generally agreed to as the best with great approval, the attempt of such thing that could be done under the circum- churches as bave undertaken schools and stances. That minute, by distinctly recog- their proper direction; as well as nising the other Assembly as a branch of the which has led individual friends of church, by professing towards them Christian to aid the same cause.

[ocr errors]

Teas

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »