Acts of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland 1638-1842. Originally published by Edinburgh Printing & Publishing Co, Edinburgh, 1843.
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The principal acts of the general assembly, convened at Edinburgh, May 19, 1836.
I. Sess. 1, May 19, 1836.—The King's Commission to the Right Honourable Lord Belhaven.
II. Sess. 1, May 19, 1836.—The King's most gracious Letter to the General Assembly.
III. Sess. 3, May 20, 1836.— The General Assembly's Answer to the King's most gracious Letter.
IV. Sess. 10, May 28, 1836.—Commission of the General Assembly to certain Ministers and Ruling Elde' for discussing Affairs referred to them.
V. Sess. 10, May 28, 1836.—Commission to some Ministers and Ruling Elders for the Reformation of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, and for Managing his Majesty's Royal Bounty.
VI. Sess. 3, May 20, 1836.—Act Disjoining certain Parishes from the Presbytery of Kintyre, and forming them into the Presbytery of Islay and Jura.
The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland did, and hereby do, disjoin the parishes of Killarrow, Kildalton, Kilchoman, Kilmeny, Oa, Portnahaven, Jura, and Colonsay, from the Presbytery of Kintyre, and form these seven parishes into a new Presbytery, to be called the Presbytery of Islay and Jura, the seat thereof to be at Bowmore; and the General Assembly appoint the first meeting of this newly elected Presbytery to be held at Bowmore, on the third Wednesday of July next.
VII. Sess. 6, May 24, 1836.—Act Disjoining certain Parishes from the Presbytery of Dunkeld, and forming them into the Presbytery of Weem.
The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland did, and hereby do, disjoin the parishes of Weem, Logierait, Dull, Kenmore, Fortingall, Killin, Rannoch, Foss, Glenlyon, and Strathfillan, from the Presbytery of Dunkeld, and form these ten parishes into a separate Presbytery, to be called the Presbytery of Weem, the seat thereof to be at Weem; and the General Assembly appoint the first meeting of this newly elected Presbytery to be held at Weem, on the last Wednesday of October next.
VIII. Sess. 7, May 25, 1836.—Act in favour of India Missions.
The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland did, and hereby do, nominate and appoint the ministers of the Presbytery of Edinburgh, and the following elders, who are members of Assembly, viz., Charles Fergusson, Esq., &c.; to be a committee of this Assembly for the propagation of the Gospel in foreign parts, and for managing the funds subscribed and given for that purpose, with the whole powers conferred by former Acts of Assembly, and with power also to appoint sub-committees; and particularly, a subcommittee of their number, consisting of nine, for more effectually furthering the great end in view. Of the general committee, nine are hereby declared to be a quorum; and of the sub-committee to be appointed, three are hereby declared to be a quorum. The committee shall hold stated monthly meetings, for dispatch of business, in the Presbytery Hall, or other suitable place, on the first Monday of every month, at two o'clock, with power always to adjourn as shall be needful, and to meet on all occasions when urgent business shall demand. And the said general committee are hereby enjoined and required, by themselves, and through their sub-committee, to attend to the instructions and regulations formerly approved by the General Assembly, for the propagation of the Gospel abroad; with power to make and carry into effect such farther regulations, and to adopt such measures as to them may seem most beneficial, such farther regulations and the measures adopted to be submitted to next Assembly; and the said general committee are hereby appointed to report their diligence, and that of their sub-committee, in calling forth the benevolence and support of the Christian public of Scotland, their prudence in the expenditure of the funds obtained, and generally their management, and the success and extent of their operations in foreign parts. The General Assembly renew their former recommendations to the ministers throughout the Church, that they continue their exertions in aid of the funds of the Mission, and earnestly recommend that in every parish there be a collection yearly, on behalf of this important cause; and that one minister in every Presbytery be appointed to receive contributions, and transmit them to the Treasurer.
IX. Sess. ult., May 30, 1836.—Act in favour of Colonial Churches. (fn. 1)
The General Assembly called for the Report of the Committee on Colonial Churches, which was given in and read by Principal Macfarlan, the convener, who was farther heard on the subject. The General Assembly approve of the report, and appoint the following ministers and elders, viz., the Moderator, &c.; a special committee for carrying the measures suggested by said report into effect, to be called, "The General Assembly's Committee for promoting the Religious Interest of Scottish Presbyterians in the British Colonies." Appoint this committee to meet in Edinburgh on the Wednesday after the rising of the Assembly, at eleven o'clock, a.m., and thereafter statedly on the Tuesdays before the stated meetings of the Commission, with power at their first said meeting to choose their own clerk, and, if necessary, their treasurer; and with power to appoint sub-committees to meet in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, and elsewhere, for the purpose of collecting funds, and furthering the objects of their appointment. The Assembly recommend to the Presbyteries of the Church to make public collections within their respective bounds, so as to enable the committee to send ministers and other teachers to stations in the Colonies, where their services are required, and to assist those already employed there, whose circumstances call, in a peculiar manner, for sympathy and assistance; and the committee is empowered to apply the funds put under their management to the purposes above mentioned, and instructed to continue in correspondence with the several Synods, Presbyteries, and where these have not been formed, individual clergymen in said Colonies. This committee is farther instruced to correspond and co-operate with the Colonial and other societies having the same benevolent objects in view; and it is a special instruction to them to renew, in the name of the Assembly, the application made by the last General Assembly to his Majesty's government, in support of the Memorial presented by the clergy of Upper Canada respecting the Clergy Reserve Fund. It is also made a special instruction to this committee, that they act in terms of the report in matters respecting the churches in Van Diemen's Land. And the committee is instructed and empowered to embrace every proper opportunity of asserting and practically maintaining the rights of members of the Church of Scotland resident in the British Colonies, to all the privileges and emoluments secured by the Treaty of Union to the Established Churches of the United Kingdom. The Assembly appoint the report, with their deliverance thereon, to be printed, with such documents as the committee may think proper to add in an appendix, and to be circulated throughout the Church and in the Colonies.
X. Sess. ult., May 30, 1836.—Act anent a Hebrew Exercise.
The Committee on Returns to Overtures, having reported that a majority of Presbyteries had approved of the Overture on a Hebrew Exercise, the General Assembly pass the same into a Standing Law of the Church.
The General Assembly, therefore, with the view of more effectually promoting the great end of the Christian ministry in our National Established Church, did, and hereby do, resolve, enact, and declare, that as nothing can be more important to the interests of the Christian Church, than the adequate preparation of those who are to sustain the office of the sacred ministry, for the discharge of the duties of that office; and as an exact and critical acquaintance with the Scriptures in the original languages is an attainment that is indispensable for enabling them, by the Divine blessing, to convey to the minds of the people a just and accurate knowledge of the revealed will of God; a critical Hebrew Exercise on some portion of the original text of the Old Testament shall henceforth be appointed to be prepared and delivered by every theological student in the course of his attendance at the Divinity Hall, in addition to those exercises which are already prescribed by the Church.
XI. Sess. ult., May 30, 1836.—Overture and Interim Act, with Regulations for carrying into effect the Act of Assembly, May 29, 1835, on the Calling of Ministers. (fn. 2)
Whereas the General Assembly have declared, enacted, and ordained, in terms of their Act, passed into a law of the Church on the 29th May 1835, on the subject of the Calling of Ministers; and whereas it is necessary, for regulating the forms of proceeding under that Act, that some precise and definite rules should be laid down, the General Assembly do, therefore, with the consent of a majority of the Presbyteries of this Church, declare, enact, and ordain, that the following directions and regulations shall be observed:—
1. That, at the first meeting of any Presbytery, after a vacancy occurring in any parish, or on any application regularly brought before the Presbytery, for the appointment of an assistant and successor, the Presbytery shall ascertain that a roll of the male heads of families, being members of the congregation, and communicants in the church, has been completed in the manner herein after directed; and that, if such a roll has been made, they shall proceed to purge the same, by striking off the names of all persons who may have died, ceased to be members of the congregation, or fallen under church censures, since such roll was so made up.
2. That, in case a roll has not been so completed, they shall at that meeting appoint one of their number to act as moderator, with the elders of the parish, to constitute a kirksession, or, where there are no elders, two or more of their own number to act as a kirksession, in making up a roll, in terms of the regulations hereby enacted, and shall ordain the said roll, duly attested, to be produced to them at their next meeting, or any special meeting to be appointed for that purpose.
4. That, in order to ascertain definitively the persons entitled, at any particular time, to give in dissents, every kirk-session which has not already made up a roll of the male heads of families, in conformity to the enactment of last General Assembly, shall, within three months of the rising of this present General Assembly, make up a roll of the male heads of families, who are members of the congregation, and in country parishes resident within the same, and who are, at the date thereof, and have been for at least twelve months previous thereto, in full communion with the Church. And, lest any doubt should arise as to who are heads of families, it is hereby declared that the term includes unmarried men and widowers, as well as married men, provided they occupy houses of which they are proprietors or tenants, and eldest sons when their fathers are deceased, provided they are of the age of twenty-one years or upwards, and reside in the same house with their mothers, they being always in full communion with the Church.
5. That the roll so made up shall be open to inspection by any parishioner or member of the congregation, for the space of one week, of which notice shall be given from the pulpit, and thereafter shall be authenticated by the moderator and session clerk, and then transmitted to the Presbytery; and after being inspected by the Presbytery, and countersigned on each page by the moderator, shall be returned to the kirk-session, and form part of its record for the foresaid purposes.
6. That the said roll shall be revised and re-adjusted immediately after the occasion of dispensing the sacrament in the parish which shall have last preceded the 22d of November in each year, and shall be open for inspection in the same manner as before, and shall be re-transmitted to the Presbytery before the expiry of the first week of December.
7. That the said list or roll, as last revised before the vacancy in the parish, or before any application, as aforesaid, for the appointment of an assistant and successor, where a roll has been duly made up, revised, and authenticated, after being examined and purged, as provided under the first regulation, or the roll made up immediately after such vacancy or application, where none had been made before, shall be the only roll for determining the persons entitled to be reckoned in any dissents to be offered against the admission of any presentee to be minister, in the moderating in a call; but it shall still be the duty of the Presbytery to remove from the said rell the names of all persons who may have died, removed from the parish, or become otherwise disqualified, previous to the time appointed for moderating in the call.
8. That when a presentation shall be received by the moderator of a Presbytery, he shall, within two days after it comes to his hand, call a meeting of Presbytery, to take place not less than eight, nor more than twelve, days from the date of such intimation; provided that no meeting of Presbytery shall have been already fixed to take place within three weeks; and that, if such meeting has been appointed, he shall merely give notice that the presentation has been received, and will be laid on the table at that meeting.
9. That when any Presbytery shall be prepared to appoint a day for moderating in a call to the person presented, they shall appoint one of their own number to preach in the church of the parish on a day not later than the second Sabbath thereafter; that he shall, on that day, intimate from the pulpit that the person presented will preach in that church on the first convenient Sabbath, so as it be not later than the third Sabbath after such intimation, and also on some other Sabbath; and that he shall, at the same time, intimate, that on another day to be fixed, not later than the next Friday after the day last appointed for the presentee to preach, the Presbytery will proceed, within the said church, to moderate in a call to such person to be minister of the said parish in the usual way; but that the Presbytery, if they deem it expedient, may appoint the presentee to preach oftener than twice, provided that the day for moderating in the call be not more than six weeks after that on which it was appointed.
10. That on the day appointed for moderating in the call, the Presbytery shall, in the first instance, proceed in the same manner in which they were in use to proceed before the passing of the Act of Assembly, 1835, anent Calls.
11. That if there shall not be dissents by a major part of the persons standing on the roll, made up and regulated in manner herein before directed, and if no special objections be made, the Presbytery shall sustain the call, and proceed to the trials and settlement of the presentee, according to the rules of the Church.
12. That if dissents are tendered by any of the male heads of families, whose names stand on the roll above referred to, such dissents shall either be personally delivered in writing by each of the persons dissenting separately, or taken down from his oral statement by the moderator or clerk of the Presbytery; but that no person shall be entitled so to dissent who shall have previously petitioned the patron for the appointment of the person presented; it being always open to him to state special objections at the proper time.
13. That if dissents so lodged do not amount it number to the major part of the persons standing on the roll, and if there be no special objection requiring consideration stated, the Presbytery shall sustain the call, and proceed to the trials and settlement, according to the rules of the Church.
14. That if it shall appear that dissents have been lodged by an apparent majority of the persons on the said roll, the Presbytery shall adjourn the proceedings to another meeting, to be held not less than ten free days, nor more than fourteen, thereafter.
15. That it shall not be competent to receive any dissents, except such as shall be duly given in at the meeting for moderating in the call, as above provided; but it shall be competent to any person, who may have lodged a dissent at that meeting, to withdraw such dis sent at any time before the Presbytery shall have given judgment on the effect of the dissents.
16. That in case the Presbytery shall, at the second meeting appointed, find that there is not truly a majority of such persons on the roll dissenting, and no special objections be stated, they shall sustain the call, and proceed to the trials and settlement according to the rules of the Church.
17. That in case the Presbytery shall, at that meeting, find that there is a majority of the persons on the roll dissenting, it shall be competent to the patron or the presentee, or to any member of the Presbytery, to require all or any of the persons so dissenting to appear before the Presbytery, at a meeting to be appointed, to take place within ten days at farthest, at some place within the parish, and there and then to declare in terms of the Act of Assembly, 1835; and if any such person shall fail to appear, after notice in writing, either personally or at his dwelling-house, shall have been duly given to him, or shall refuse to declare in the terms required, the name of such person shall be struck off the list of persons dissenting, and the Presbytery shall determine whether there is still a major part dissenting or not, and proceed accordingly.
18. That if the Presbytery shall find that there is at last a major part of the persons on the roll dissenting, they shall reject the person presented, so far as regards the particular presentation, and the occasion of that vacancy in the parish; and shall, within two days thereafter, intimate this their determination to the patron, the presentee, and the elders of the parish.
19. That if, at the meeting for moderating in the call, dissents by a majority on the roll shall not be stated, and if any special objections to the settlement of the person presented, of whatever nature such objections may be, shall then be stated to the Presbytery by any person entitled to object by the general laws of the Church; and if such objections appear to be deserving of deliberate consideration or investigation, the Presbytery shall delay the farther proceedings in the settlement till another meeting, to be then appointed, not later than eight days thereafter, and give notice apud acta to all parties concerned then to attend, that they may be heard.
20. That if the special objections so stated affect the moral character or the doctrine of the presentee, so that, if they were established, he would be deprived of his licence, or of his situation in the Church, the objectors shall proceed by libel, and the Presbytery shall take the steps usual in such cases.
21. That if the special objections relate to the insufficiency or unfitness of the presentee for the particular charge to which he has been appointed, the objectors shall not be required to become libellers, but shall simply deliver, in writing, their specific grounds for objecting to the settlement, and shall have full liberty to substantiate the same; upon all which the presentee shall have an opportunity to be fully heard, and shall have all competent means of defence: That the Presbytery shall then consider these special objections, and, if it shall appear that they are not sufficient, or not well-founded, they shall proceed to the settlement of the presentee, according to the rules of the Church; but if the Presbytery shall be satisfield that the objector or objectors have established that the presentee is not fitted usefully and sufficiently to discharge the pastoral duties in that parish, then they shall find that he is not qualified, and shall, within two days thereafter, intimate the same to the patron, it being always in the power of the different parties to appeal from the sentence pronounced by the Presbytery, if they shall see cause.
22. That the Presbytery shall not receive such special objections in any case, until after it has been finally ascertained whether there are dissents by a majority of the persons on the roll; but it shall always be competent, as soon as this is ascertained, to state special objections.
23. That if the Presbytery shall have rejected the presentee, and if the patron shall give a presentation to another person within the time limited by law, the proceedings shall again take place in the same manner as above laid down, and so on, in regard to successive presentations within the time.
24. That if no presentation shall be given within the limited time, to a person from whose settlement a majority on the roll do not dissent, or who shall not be excluded in consequence of special objectious, the Presbytery shall then supply the vacancy, tanquam jure devoluto.
25. That cases of settlement by the Preshytery jure devoluto shall not fall under the operation of the regulations in this and the relative Act of Assembly, but shall be proceeded in according to the general laws of the Church applicable to such cases. But every person who shall have been previously rejected in that parish shall be considered as disqualified to be inducted into that parish on the occasion of that vacancy.
26. That in case any appeal shall be taken against any judgment or proceeding of the Presbytery, previous to the time when they are prepared either to proceed to the settlement, or to declare the presentee to be disqualified, and reject the presentation, such appeal shall not sist procedure; but the Presbytery, if they resolve to proceed to the settlement, shall delay doing so till the appeal be disposed of; and, if they reject the presentee, it shall be still competent to him to discuss the merits of any appeal which may have been duly entered.
27. That, in the districts of Orkney and Zetland, the Synod of Glenelg, and the Synod of Argyle, the number of days appointed by this Act with regard to meetings and for other purposes, shall be double the number above provided.
28. That the regulations in this Act shall be applied to all cases of vacancies in which the Presbytery has not already appointed a day for moderating in the call; but the General Assembly hereby renew and continue the Interim Act with regulations, enacted and transmitted by last Assembly, in regard to all cases in which the day for moderating in the call may have been already appointed; declaring it to be still in force as to all such cases, but no others.
29. That the Presbyteries of the Church are hereby enjoined to use all diligence to see that the regulations hereby laid down are duly observed and followed out; and also to use their utmost endeavours to bring about harmony and unanimity in congregations, and be at pains to avoid every thing which may excite or encourage unreasonable exceptions in people against a worthy person, who may be proposed to be their minister.
The General Assembly, in transmitting this revised and amended overture for regulating the due execution of the Act of Assembly on Calls, now passed into a Standing Law of the Church, think it of importance that the people of the parishes in Scotland should not be misled as to the nature and effect of that Act. It gives to them a negative voice against the intrusion of any minister into the parish, whom they are compelled, under the solemn sanction of their conscientious belief, as Christians, uninfluenced by any extraneous consideration, to declare to be unfit for the ministry in that parish. But the Act is not intended to confer any rights of a different nature; and any attempt to wrest it to other purposes must defeat its object, and injure the fair interests of the people which it is meant to protect. All canvassing and caballing, therefore, for obtaining the appointment of a particular person to be minister, and all combination beforehand for that purpose, are inconsistent with the principle of the Act, and ought to disable every man who acts with a due regard to his Christian character, whatever may be his opinion on the law of patronage, from conscientiously declaring in the terms which may be required of him. The Act has been proposed, and after much deliberation, passed by the whole Church, for the benefit of the people, according to the view taken by the movers of it, of their rights under the existing law. But, in order that it may have any chanee of producing such benefit, it must be fairly acted on by the patrons, the Presbyteries, and the people,—each party using the rights, and discharging the duties belonging to each, with the honest and single purpose of obtaining a good and faithful minister for the parish. It is only when this spirit shall duly influence all the parties, that any measure devised by the General Assembly of the Church can be expected to accomplish the great ends for which it is intended,—the spiritual edification of the people, their peace, happiness, and prosperity, and the strength and stability of the Church of Scotland.
XII. Sess. ult., May 30, 1836.—Overture anent the Qualification of Representative Elders.
XIII. Sess. ult., May 30, 1836.—Overture on the Form of Process.
XIV. Sess. ult., May 30, 1836.—Overture anent the Annual Examination of Students of Divinity.
XV. Sess. ult., May 30, 1836.—Overture for the Examination of Students on the Catechetical Standards of the Church.
XVI. Sess. ult., May 30, 1836.—Act for Altering the Day of Meeting of the Synod of Sutherland and Caithness.
The General Assembly appoint the next meeting of the Synod of Sutherland and Caithness to be held as hitherto, on the third Wednesday of July, and the meeting of Synod immediately following, on the last Wednesday of April 1837, and thenceforth, annually, on the last Wednesday of April.
XVII. Sess. ult., May 30, 1836.—Overture on New Churches.
XVIII. Sess, ult., May 30, 1836.—Overture on the Appointment and Ordination of Professors of Theology.
XIX. Sess, ult., May 30, 1836.
The General Assembly, having considered and approved the Overtures recommending a renewed Admonition for the purpose of stirring up the people of this land to the faithful and regular observance of the worship of God in their families, did, and hereby do, require the following Pastoral Letter to be read by all the ministers of this Church from their several pulpits, on the first convenient Lord's Day after it shall come into their hands.
On your behalf, brethren, we thank God, whom we serve with our spirit in the Gospel of his Son, that your faith and devotion have long been spoken of throughout the world; and we are bound always to have remembrance of you in our prayers night and day, greatly desiring that, like your forefathers in times of clearest light, you may continue stedfastly in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, abounding in the exercises of that unfeigned godliness, which is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.
In compliance with the solicitations of many who watch for your souls, and are jealous over you with godly jealousy, we have resolved to issue this brotherly exhortation on the sacred and indispensable duty of family worship,—not as if we had any recent ground for apprehending that it is likely to fall into more extensive neglect, but because we know too well that it is by no means universally practised, and because even the purest minds require to be stirred up by way of remembrance, that, while they hold fast the profession of their own faith without wavering, they may consider one another to provoke and encourage, by good counsel and good example, to the love of truth and holiness, and to the habitual and serious observance of those offices of piety, whereby, as surely as the body is nourished and refreshed by its daily bread and its nightly rest, the soul of man, through the nurture and admonition of the Lord, is progressively matured in excellence and strength, till it is advanced to the perfection and glory of its immortal existence.
In calling your attention to this momentous topic, we think it superfluous to enlarge on the high obligations by which the duty is enforced-obligations which are involved in the very constitution of our frail and dependent being, and impressed on the understanding and the heart by the persuasive voice of Scriptural authority, opening the ears of men and sealing the instruction, by which God speaketh, not once or twice, but at sundry times, and in divers manners, adding line upon line, precept upon precept, promise upon promise, and threatening upon threatening, so as to bring perpetually to remembrance both the blessings which are multiplied to them that fear the Lord, and the fury which is poured out on the families which call not on his name. The appointment of the reasonable service of bowing down at the domestic altar before the Lord our Maker, that, in waiting for the promised effusion of the Spirit of grace and supplications, we may be filled with the fruits of righteousness, has ever been regarded by all men of sound mind and Christian experience, not as the imposition of an irksome yoke, but as the conveyance of an inestimable privilege; for as often as we mark the tokens of God's power and presence in making the outgoings of the morning and evening to rejoice, must every enlightened and purified heart, lifting up its affections to the Father of spirits, acknowledge, with triumphant satisfaction, that it is a good thing to show forth his loving-kindness in the morning, and his faithfulness every night.
To those only who have tasted and seen it, can we speak intelligibly of the tranquil delight which is awakened and sustained by such periodical acts of household worship, as are not a mere formal ceremony in which the members join with reluctant or cold compliance, but the fervent utterance of lips, which, out of the abundance of the heart in which the love of God is shed abroad, are, by the influence of that unquenchable affection, most pleasingly constrained to celebrate the mercies which are new every morning, and to offer up the spiritual incense of prayer, with as unceasing regularity as from the sanctuary of Israel the smoke of the evening sacrifice arose, or as the early dew of Hermon descended on the mountains of Sion, when there the Lord commanded the blessing—even life for evermore.
Without all controversy, the benefits produced by this hallowed exercise are ineffably precious. It is not enough to say that thus are devout and greatful emotions awakened,—thus is faith in the superintending Providence and holy promises of God confirmed,—thus are the graces of humility, resignation, and patience, nourished and increased,—while, with the contemplation of the infinite excellence, the unwearied beneficence, and the everlasting strength of the Lord Jehovah, we contrast the instability, deceitfulness, and desperate wickedness of the heart of man. By the infallible testimony of Heaven we are authorised to affirm constantly that there is an efficacy in the prayer of faith, which, though inexplicable by our feeble understaudings, must, through all ages, continue to avail as much as it did in the days of those patriarchs, prophets, and righteous men, who, as princes, had power with God, when receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, they had grace to serve him acceptably, with reverence and godly fear. The Lord is ever nigh unto them that are of a broken heart, and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit, when, taking with them the words which inspired wisdom has taught them to utter, they lift up their desires at his footstool, not seeking great things for themselves, or panting after the dust of the earth, or sighing for the vain delights of the sons of men, but thirsting and longing for the blessedness of the man whose transgression is forgiven, and who, being justified by faith, has peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have no encouragement to hope that, but if we aspire for temporal satisfactions, we shall find grace in the sight of the Lord; but if we aspire after the best gifts which are the heritage of the faithful, seeking first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, we believe and are sure that his divine power will give us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him that hath called us to glory and virtue. Though our Father in the heavens knoweth what things we have need of before we ask them, and though the purposes of his everlasting kindness are often fulfilled more substaintially by withholding than by granting the desires which we naturally cherish, it is only to them who worship him in spirit and in truth that he has promised to do exceeding abundantly above all that they ask or think; and we have no more solid ground to expect that we shall receive without asking, or that and we have no more seeking, than the husbandman has to look for an abundant harvest springing up in the fields which he has neither planted nor watered, or than the merchant has to calculate on receiving his own with usury for the talent which has been tied up in a napkin or buried in the earth.
It is not for us to unfold the laws of the spiritual world, so as to demonstrate why and how it is that the communications of heavenly influence and favour are in any degree suspended on the frequency and fervency of our supplications. But this we know, that, as in old time the father of the faithful commanded his children, and his household after him, to unite with him in the exercises of a holy life, that the Lord might bring upon Abraham that which he had spoken of him,—even so, in all generations, may the willing and obedient hope, that while seeking unto God, and committing their cause to him who doeth great things and unsearchable, they place their confidence not in their own importunity or their own efforts, but in the exalted merit and prevalent intercession of the Mediator of the New Covenant, they cannot fail to be made partakers of that abundant grace which ought to be the chief object of all our prayers, and which is never denied to the humble. We know assuredly that our heavenly Father giveth his Holy spirit to them who ask him; and if, for the sake of his beloved Son, he is pleased to bestow this unspeakable gift, in answer to the prayer of the believing soul, why should we hesitate to admit that it is of the Lord's mercies that, by the eternal ordination of divine wisdom, prayer has been rendered one of the sure and sufficient means of transmitting to the faithful every other good and perfect gift which cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning?
To the duties of social prayer and thanksgiving, accompanied with that instruction in righteousness which the reading of the Scriptures is calculated to impart, let the benefits thus conferred on your several domestic circles operate as a strong incitment. It is not, indeed, within the compass of human ability to infuse grace into the souls which are most tenderly beloved. But great will probably be the influence of a pious example on those who confide in your affection, and have cause to revere your worth. If your children and dependants perceive that, while you are not slothful in the business of time, you are also fervent in spirit, serving the Lord, and that, while you provide for your own the food and the raiment, which are obtained by the blessing of God on the hand of the diligent, you ask for them that bread of heaven which strengtheneth the heart, may you not hope that they will be stirred up both to pray and to labour for the meat which endureth to life everlasting, and that they will learn to regard the favour of God as a better portion than the abundance of corn and wine? May you not hope that, while your own minds are elevated, by contemplating the works of creation, providence, and redemption, and by reflecting on the dignified and endearing relation to which you have been raised, in having "received the spirit of adoption, whereby you cry, Abba, Father," they who look up to you for guidance and protection will take pleasure in approaching to God, and, through the experience of the peace of walking with the wise, will be taught to abhor the enticements of sinners, and to hold fast that which is good? And even in the case of those who, through perversity of heart, and the snares of an evil world, have forsaken the path of integrity and truth, may it not be hoped that the wise counsels which they have for a season forgotten, and the devotional habits which they have long failed to imitate, will, like the bread cast upon the waters, be found after many days? Small must have been your experience of the discipline of Providence, if your have never known so much as one who had wandered so far from the way of peace as to disappoint the earnest expectations of his father, and to turn the joy of her who bare him into bitterness, but who, after his own wickedness had corrected him, and his backslidings reproved him, has been awakened to new obedience, by recalling to his agonized mind, with reverential awe, the solemn image of the parental guide, in whose quiet habitation the daily exercises of prayer and praise hallowed every pursuit, lightened every care, soothed every sorrow, and seasoned every enjoyment, so as to render the voice of rejoicing and salvation in the tabernacles of the righteous a lively type of the blessed conversation of heaven, and a delicious foretaste of the fellowship of the saints in light.
If ye know these things by your own experience, or by the incontrovertible testimony of them who have tasted that the Lord is gracious, happy are ye if ye do them. Nor can you have peace and safety if, knowing what is good, you leave it undone.
And while you present your supplications for yourselves and your families, forget not the eternal concerns of the families which call not on the name of God. If it be, as it ought to be, your hearts' desire that they may be brought to the obedience of the Gospel, brethren, pray for us, and for all the ministers of the truth, that the word of the Lord may have free course and be glorified, even as it is with you. Such an intercession as this will assuredly prove efficacious towards the enlargement of the household of faith, if all of you, both small and great, not only in the congregations of the upright, who, in heaviness of heart, sigh for the abounding of iniquity and the failing of truth, but in your families apart, and in your unseen retirements, prostrate yourselves at the footstool of your Father in heaven, who seeth in secret, and pour out your desires before him in that effectual fervent importunity which, like the long and patient waiting of the husbandman for the precious fruit of the earth, will, according to the sure word of promise, issue in plenteous showers of blessings, not confined to any favoured spot, or any privileged community, but dropping down fertility far and wide, over fields co-extensive with the inhabited world, filled as it shall be in that evening-time of light with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea; and thus the God of the whole earth, in remembrance of his holy covenant, and in fulfilment of the good pleasure of his goodness, will arise and have mercy, not only on the mountain of holiness, in which he had his dwelling in time past, but on all in every place who call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord; so that, while he clothes his priests with salvation, and makes his people shout for joy, the ways of Zion, which have mourned, because few came to the solemn feasts, shall be thronged with the multitudes who keep the holy day with thanksgiving in their hearts, and the high praises of God in their mouths,—wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of those times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord, when his work shall appear before the face of his servants, and his glory to their children; and they that fear the Lord, being all replenished with the riches of grace, shall take that sweet counsel together which revives the inward part, and knits the brotherhood of Christians in the unity of the faith and the holy bond of perfectness. "Then shall the offering of his people be pleasant unto the Lord as in the days of old, and as in former years." "And the Lord will create upon every dwelling place of Mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night; for upon all the glory shall be a defence."
XX. Sess. ult., May 30, 1836.—Act recommending Collections for the Four Schemes of the General Assembly.
The General Assembly, considering the obligation which lies on this Church to promote to the utmost extent of the means wherewith God hath entrused them, the progress of the Gospel of Christ among our own people, our brethren in the colonies, and the heathen throughout the world; and considering farther, how greatly our efforts have been impeded from a want of due arrangements for properly collecting the contributions of our several congregations, and coufiding in the liberality and Christian zeal, were fit occasions regularly presented to them for contributing to the advancement of the four great Schemes now prosecuted by the Church, and recited in the Overtures above mentioned, earnestly recommend to all the ministers of this Church to make collections on behalf of each of these objects, viz. (1.) The Church Extension Scheme; (2.) Colonial Churches; (3.) Education; (4.) Foreign Missions. And the Assembly direct, that within eight days after each collection every minister shall transmit to the clerk of his Presbytery a return of the amount of the collection in his parish; and the said clerk shall communicate to the committee of Assembly for the Scheme for which the collection is made a statement of the whole returns within his Presbytery; and that the committees for the several Schemes shall annually re port jointly to the Assembly the collections of the several Presbyteries for each of the said objects, with the names of the ministers who have failed to make the collections as recommended. Farther, the General Assembly appoint every minister, on the Sabbath immediately preceding that on which each collection is to be made, to give due intimation thereof from the pulpit, accompanied with such information on the object of the collection as he may deem fitting; and they earnestly urge on their faithful people seriously to consider the duty under which they lie liberally to contribute towards the advancement of Christ's cause, according to the means wherewith God has blessed them. And, finally, the General Assembly appoint this Act to be read on every Sabbath when intimation of a collection is given as aforesaid.