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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No. I. Three acts of the generall assembly, for promoving the knowledg of the grounds of salvation, and observing the rules of discipline.
Sess. 17, August 2, 1652, ante meridiem.—Overture for ordering of Lecturing and Catechising, to be observed wkill the next Generall Assembly.
The Generall Assembly, after consideration of the great controversie the Lord hath against the land, for the manifold transgressions of his known commands, and continued despising of grace and reconciliation offered through Jesus Christ, whereby transgressions might have been, and yet may be pardoned and amended; and after acknowledgment of the just quarrell he hath against us all his ministers, for the sins of our persons and calling, for which he hath so shaken the Judicatories and Assemblies of this Kirk amongst us and doth threaten to cast down altogether the hedge of discipline, and to thrust all his ministers for a time from their places; do seriously exhort and charge all and every one intrusted with the holy ministry, to stir up themselves to seek the Lord more carefully, and settle their own peace with him, and to make full proof of their ministry, so long as the day of his patience continueth; and, in particular, to bee more diligent in the means of acquainting the people with the Scripture, and grounds of religion held forth in the Catechism, and to this end does recommend,
1. That every minister do so dispose of the time appointed for the reading of Scripture, as both the order of the Directory, and Act of Uniformity, in the point of lecture, may be observed; that two chapters being read, one of the Old Testament, and the other of the New, after reading of the first, some few observations of the chief doctrines being held forth, and propounded briefly and plainly to the people, time may be left to read the second chapter, and to give some brief observations on it also, as the time allowed will suffer.
2. For promoving the work of catechising, the Assembly, besides that they renew the act for catechising weekly, 1. Recommends that also every Lord's Day, when the people do most frequently conveen, some competent portion of the Catechism be explained before the whole congregation, (without prejudice of the preaching;) and recommendeth that in this publike catechetick instruction, the points that are handled be propounded by question, to be answered by some called up for that purpose. 2. And because many being bashfull to speak in publike audience, do either altogether absent themselves, or, if they must compear, are so distempered with fear, that their edification is marred; the Assembly recommendeth this overture, that the minister, in the publike catechetick instruction, call up some that are more able in knowledge, and prepared before, to answer the points that are to be interrogat and explained, that all the congregation may the more freely drink in knowledge, and more frequently attend such exercises; and that others, that are not so fit to speak in publike, be tryed in their knowledge, at the more private dyets of examination, or in their families. 3. That ministers, beside publike teaching and instructing, be carefull, and make conscience to teach and instruct from house to house, and frequently visite the families within their charge, on purpose for this very work; and try what pains parents and heads of families take to instruct such as are under them, accord ing to their station; and, if they find them negligent herein, to admonish them; and if, after oftner admonition, they continue in that sinfull negligence, to bring them to more publike admonition before the Session. 4. That the ministers and sessions of every congregation see that such as have schools in their bounds exercise the young ones under their charge in getting the Catechism by heart, which will much serve to further the publike catechetick doctrine. 5. And that the minister, with some of the session appointed for that effect, do, every quarter of a year, or so often as they can conveniently, visit the schools in their bounds, to try what diligence is used in this. And if these that teach schools shall be found negligent herein, and after admonition shall continue so, that course be taken to get them removed, and others put in their place.
The Assembly recommends to Presbyteries to be seriously thinking upon further overtures, which may be conduceable for making catechizing further usefull, and may serve for promoving the knowledge of God in the land; and to bring their thoughts to the next General Assembly.
Sess. 19, August 3, 1652, ante meridiem.—Act concerning Admitting Expectants to their Trials, and Ruling Elders to act in Presbyteries and Synods.
The General Assembly having, out of their earnest desire of the peace and unity of this Kirk, condescended upon an Overture of Peace, and not onely propounded it to some brethren who were here, opposite to the publick judicatories of this Kirk, but also in pursuance of that end, ordained the said overture to be presented and offered by the severall Presbyteries or Synods, to all in their respective bounds, who hes protested against, and declined, or consented, or adhered unto the protestations and declinatours made against this and the preceding Generall Assemblie, and the conditions therein contained, to be required of them; and, considering the great prejudice like to arise to this Kirk, by increasing of our unhappie differences and distractions, if young men shall be admitted into the ministry, which shall still blow the fire of contention, and continue in avowed opposition to, and contempt of, the publick judicatories; therefore, ordaines Presbyteries to take speciall care, that upon the calling of any expectant to a particular charge of the ministry, before they admit him to his trialls, they require him, under his hand, to passe from the protestations and declinatours against this and the preceeding Generall Assemblie, if he hath been accessory to the same, and to promise and give assurance that he shall abstain from holding up debates and controversies about matters of differences in this Kirk, since the Assembly, 1650, in preaching, writing, or other wayes. Upon the performance whereof, the Presbyterie shall proceed to his trialls, if not, in that case, the Presbyterie shall forbear to proceed untill the next Generall Assembly, leaving liberty to the Presbyterie and congregation for planting of the place otherwise. And the Assembly ordaines and requires that Presbyteries be not sudden to lay by such young men as at first refuses or scruples to perform these conditions mentioned, but that pains be taken upon them to convince them of the reasonablenesse thereof, and to perswade them to embrace them, and to give them a competent time for that effect.
Likeas the Assembly, considering the prejudice of elders comming to Presbyteries for strengthening a faction in opposition to the publick judicatories, ordains, that Presbyteries shall require the same things forementioned of every ruling elder that comes to sit and act in Presbyteries, and in case of his refusall, shall not admit him to act as an elder in the Presbyterie, but require the Kirk-session from which he is sent to make choise of, and send another, who, for the peace of this Church, shall agree to perform the conditions required.
Sess. 20, August 3, 1652, post meridiem.—Act for putting in execution former Acts and Constitutions of Generall Assemblies, anent Trying, Admitting, Removing, and Deposing of Church Officers, Censuring of Scandalous Persons, Receiving of Penitents, and Debarring of Persons from the Lord's Table.
The Generall Assembly, considering the obligations that lyes upon all ecclesiastick judicatories, and ministers within this land, by the commandement of God, and our Covenants and engagements taken upon us before God and the world, (whereunto they resolve, in the power of the Lord's might, constantly to adhere,) and to shew themselves faithfull and zealous in all their administrations for the Lord, and for advancing the work of reformation; and, particularly, considering that the condition of this time doth require in speciall wayes, that in trying, admitting, removing, and deposing of church officers, censuring of scandalous persons, dispensing of ordinances, receiving of penitents, the rules of the Word of God, and constitutions of this Kirk, be diligently put in execution, and acuratly observed.
Therefore, the Assembly ordains, that Presbyteries and Synods, in admitting of persons to the ministry, be acurate in their trialls, according to the order prescribed in this Church, that none be admitted to the holy and high function but such as are qualified according as is required in the Word of God and constitutions of this Kirk, both for knowledge in the mysterie of godlinesse, and abilities to teach and convince the gainsayers, as also in conversation and godlinesse, that they lay hands suddenly on no man, nor be partaker of other men's sin; and for this end, that every Presbyterie be carefull to have gathered together such Acts of Assemblies as concerneth the triall of ministers, and have them before them, whensoever any person is called to any place of the ministery, and is upon his trialls.
2. Ordaines that Presbyteries and Synods, in their respective bounds, make conscience that such ministers as are found either ignorant, and not apt to feed the people of God with knowledge and understanding, or erroneous in their judgement in matters of religion, or are scandalous in their life and conversation, and are not examples unto their flocks in godly and holy walking, or disaffected to the work of reformation, be censured according to the degree of their offence and Acts of Assemblies. And for this end, that they be frequent and acurate in visitation of kirks, and therein make consciensious use of the rules prescribed for visitations, and of such Acts of former Assemblies, as holds forth the duties of ministers, and the grounds and causes of censure.
3. Ordains that where ministers lawfully deposed are unlawfully admitted, and not according to the order prescribed in the Acts of Generall Assemblies, or intrudes themselves into places, Presbyteries and Synods make use of that power and authority which Christ hes put in their hands, to remedie the same, and to censure such disorders and enormities as they deserve; and that people be not accessory unto, or concurring with any ministers that are deposed, in intruding themselves into places, nor give them any countenance that does so, as they would not draw upon themselves the wrath of God, by contemning and despising Christ's ordinance of discipline; and that no Presbyteries nor Synods proceed to open the mouths of, or re-admit unto the ministery, any deposed ministers, but according to the order prescribed in the Acts of Generall Assemblies, as they will be answerable unto the Generall Assemblie.
4. Ordaines that sessions be carefull that none be admitted to be elders in congregations but such as are in some competent measure able and qualified, with knowledge of religion, and understanding of the duties of their calling, for discharging the duties of that office, and of a blamelesse Christian and godly conversation. And that before any be admitted to be an elder, the person's name that is designed be publickly intimate to the congregation the Lord's Day before, that if any have any thing to object against him, they may come and present the same to the session or to the minister. And that if any elder be found negligent in the duties of his charge, and continue so after admonition, or scandalous in his life and conversation, or to be a neglecter of the worship of God in his family, he be removed from, and purged out of the session.
5. Ordaines that Sessions and Presbyteries be carefull, and make conscience by all means to censure impartially all persons of whatsoever rank or condition that are scandalous, either in things of the First, or in things of the Second Table, according to the rules and order which Christ hath prescribed in his Word, and to proceed to the highest censures with such as are grossely and obstinatly scandalous, or are ignorant, and contemn and continuedly neglect the means of knowledge, as publike and private catechizing, &c., after they are made inexcusable by sufficient means used to reclaim and gain them.
6. Ordaines that ministers and sessions in congregations be carefull, as they will be answerable to Christ Jesus, to debar from the Lord's Table all such persons as are found not to walk sutably to the Gospel, and being convinced and admonished thereof, do not reform; as also all such as have not knowledge to examine themselves, and to discern the Lord's body. And that for the more orderly performing of this, the minister, in examination of the people, have some of the elders alwayes with him, and represent unto the session such as are found grossely ignorant, that by order of the session they may be debarred.
7. That Presbyteries and Sessions make conscience that such persons as are found scandalous, and are under censure for that cause, be not received nor absolved from their censure, unlesse they give such satisfaction and evidences of their repentance as are expressed in the Acts of the Assemblies concerning the receiving of penitents.
No. II. Admonition and information respecting the profanation of the lord's day.
At Edinburgh, the 26th day of May, 1794 years. Which day, the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland having called for the Report of their Committee appointed to consider the Overtures from the Presbytery of St Andrews, and Synod of Perth and Stirling, respecting the Profanation of the Lord's Day, the same was given in and read; together with the Opinion of his Majesty's Solicitor-General, given at the request of the said committee, in the absence of the Procurator of the Church, who was confined by severe illness. Which Report and Opinion having been considered by the Assembly, the said Opinion, together with extracts from the different Acts of Parliament therein referred to, are, in name and by authority of the General Assembly, hereunto subjoined; and the whole is ordered to be printed, that copies may be distributed by the special committee appointed for that purpose among the several Presbyteries of this Church: And, at the same time, Presbyteries are enjoined to circulate the copies hereof transmitted to them throughout their several bounds, for the information of all concerned; and to act in other respects conformably to the power vested in them, in such a prudent manner as shall seem best calculated for checking the further profanation of the holy Sabbath. And the Assembly, thinking it expedient to confine the prosecutions which it may be necessary to carry on, to those cases which shall be judged to be proper subjects of prosecution by the several Presbyteries, it is particularly recommended to the inferior judicatories of the Church, that no prosecution shall be raised, at the instance of any minister or kirk-session, or of any person appointed by them, without the special advice and consent of the Presbytery of the bounds, after the said Presbytery shall have deliberately considered the case. And the General Assembly, impressed with the warmest sense of gratitude to the Divine Author of our faith, for the appointment of that day which was made for man, and reflecting with much satisfaction upon the advantages which the people of this country have derived from that devout observance of the Lord's Day by which they have long been distinguished, do earnestly beseech and admonish all ranks to resist, by their example and their influence, every violation of that day, and every attempt to diminish the veneration in which it is held: in particular, they admonish parents, as they value the most essential interests of those who are dearest to them; and masters and heads of families, as they desire to preserve their servants from those habits and practices which are most destructive of the good order of society, to employ every method which appears to them most winning and effectual for rendering the stated returns of the Lord's Day subservient to the instruction and improvement of the children, apprentices, and servants, over whom they have influence.
The statutes now in force, with respect to the observance of the Sabbath Day, appear to me to be sufficient for checking the evil complained of. The statutes which I mean are the following:—Act 1661, c. 18; 1672, c. 22; 1693, c. 40; 1695, c. 13; and Act 1701, c. 11.
By these statutes, every person guilty of profaning the Sabbath Day, in any manner whatever, is made liable in a pecuniary penalty, toties quoties, to be recovered by prosecution before sheriffs, justices of peace, or any other judge ordinary. And the minister of every parish, the kirk-session, or the presbytery, or a person named by them, is entitled to prosecute.
There appears, therefore, to be no defect in the law as it stands, if duly executed. And the power of enforcing execution is lodged with the Church judicatories themselves. Perhaps it might be proper to cause print the above statutes, and transmit copies thereof to the different presbyteries, so that due notification may be given to all concerned.
The King's Majesty, considering how much it concerns the honour of God that the Sabbath Day be duly observed, and all abuses thereof restrained; and that, notwithstanding of several Acts of Parliament made in that behalf, particularly the third Act of the sixth Parliament of King James the Sixth, of blessed memory, the said day hath been much prophaned by salmond-fishing, going of salt-pans, milnes, and killes, hiring of shearers, and using of merchandise on that day, and otherwayes: Therefore, our Sovereign Lord, with the advice and consent of his Estates of Parliament, ratifies and approves all former Acts of Parliament, made for observation of the Sabbath Day, and against the breakers thereof; and, by these presents, inhibits and discharges all salmond-fishing, going of salt-pans, milns, or killes; all hiring of shearers, carrying of loads, keeping of mercats, or using any sorts of merchandise on the said day, and all other profanation thereof whatsoever, under the pains and penalties following, viz., the sum of twenty pounds Scots for the going of ilk salt-pan, miln, or kill, on the said day, to be paid by the heritors and possessors thereof; and the sum of ten pounds for ilk shearer and fisher of salmond on the said day—the one half thereof to be paid by the hirers and conducers, and the other half by the persons hired; and the said sum of ten pounds for every other profanation of the said day; and which fines and penalties are to be uplifted and disposed of in manner contained in the Act and Instructions anent the Justices of Peace.
Our Sovereign Lord, considering the many and great violations of the law of God, and of the laws of this kingdom, established by his Majesty and his royal predecessors, against cursing, swearing, &c., profanation of the Lord's Day, mocking or reproaching of religion, and the exercises thereof;—it is hereby statute and ordained, that besides the exercise of Church discipline, according to the laws and practice used in this Church, in every paroch within royal burgh, or wherein any of his Majesty's Privy Council or Lords of Session, Sheriff, Lord, or Bailiff of Regality, or their deputes or commissaries, have their residence, or keep courts, that the saids Counsellors or Lords of Session. Magistrates of such burghs, the Sheriffs, and the Lords and Bailiffs of Regalities, or their deputes, the Commissaries, or any Justice of Peace, they, or any one or more of them, execute or cause execute the saids laws, against such delinquents in the several paroches where they reside, as shall be dilated to them by the kirk-sessions, or other Church judicatories. Providing always, likeas it is hereby provided, that the minister and kirk-session, with the heritors of each parish, or such of them as, upon public intimation by the minister from the pulpit, upon eight days' warning, shall meet with the minister, and his assistants in discipline, have the nomination of a collector, who is to receive and compt for the fines so imposed; excepting to the royal burghs the nomination of their collectors, who have been accustomed so to nominate, they always being accomptable, as other collectors, for the uses after specified: And where there be any paroches in which there is none of the saids above-named persons in authority resident, the minister and kirk-session, and heritors of the parish, or major part of them, who shall convene, upon public intimation by the minister, upon eight days' warning, shall nominate, so often as they see cause, a person resident within the paroch, whom they find most fit for executing of the saids statutes, and shall, under their hand, offer the person so chosen to the Sheriffs, Lords, and Bailiffs of Regalities, Stewarts, Commissaries, having the ordinary jurisdiction of that place, who are hereby authorised to give commission and deputation to the persons so chosen for conveening the persons transgressors of the foresaids statutes, and to judge them according to law. And it is hereby declared, that all execution shall pass upon the decreets and sentences of the saids judges and commissioners, as do or may pass upon the decreets or sentences of Sheriffs, Bailiffs of Royalty or Regality, for executing of the saids statutes, conform to the tenor thereof in all points. With power to the said minister, kirk session, and heretors of each paroch, conveened in manner aforesaid, to modifie and appoint such part and portion of the sums arising by the saids decreets to the collectors nominat by them for their services, as they shall find just, according to their pains and diligence. And it is hereby declared, that the remainder of the saids sums shall belong to, and be made use of for, the poor of each paroch respec. tive, in manner following, viz., the one-half thereof for the use of the poor of each paroch, to be sent to the correction-houses, for being bred to lawful trades, conform to an Act of Parliament made in this session of Parliament; and for which the collector shall be comptable to the heretors of each paroch, and shall deliver to them receipts from the masters of the correction-houses of the one-half of the saids sums, towards the allowance of the said poor people, appointed to be payed out of each paroch by the said Act; and the other half of the saids fines shall belong to the poor of each paroch respective, who, by the said Act, by reason of their age or infirmity, are appointed to be entertained within each paroch by the contributions at the paroch kirk, and for which the saids collectors are to be comptable to the minister and kirk-session of each paroch, or to the elders during the vacancy; and to be applied by them for the use of the poor, as they shall see cause.
Our Sovereign Lord and Lady, taking to their serious consideration the profanity and immoralities that so much at present abound, and how much it concerns the glory of God, the honour of the Protestant religion, and the good and peace of the kingdom, that they be repressed and restrained; do, therefore, with advice and consent of the Estates of Parliament, hereby ratify and revive all Acts of Parliament formerly made against Sabbathbreaking, prophane and idle swearing, drunkenness, or other immoralities whatsoever, ordaining the same to be put to strict execution with all diligence. And for the better effectuating thereof, do hereby empower and ordain every Presbytery within this kingdom to appoint one or more within their respective bounds, whom they shall think fit to choise, to take notice of the foresaid vices and immoralities, and to dilate and prosecute the persons guilty thereof before the magistrates of the bounds, conform to the tenors of the saids Acts; and allowing to them, out of the fines and penalties that shall be incurred, not only their whole charges and expences of the said prosecutions, but also such further rewards as the Lords of their Majesty's Privy Council shall think fit.
Our Sovereign Lord and Estates of Parliament, considering that the twenty-fifth Act of the second session of this current Parliament, intituled, Act against Profaneness, and the Acts generally and particularly therein ratified, has not taken the wished effect, through the negligence of the magistrates, officers, and others concerned to put the same in execution; do hereby authorise, and strictly require and enjoin all Sheriffs and their deputes, Stewarts and their deputes, Bailies of bailiaries and regalities, and their deputes, Magistrates of burghs royal, and Justices of Peace, within whose bounds any of the sins forbidden by the said laws shall happen to be committed, to put the saids Acts to exact and punctual execution at all times, without necessity of any dispensation, and against all persons, whether officers, soldiers, or others, without exception; with this certification, that such of the saids judges as shall refuse, neglect, or delay, to put the saids laws in execution, upon application of any minister or kirk-session, or any person in their name, giving information, and offering sufficient probation against the offender, that every one of the saids judges so refusing, neglecting, or delaying, shall, toties quoties, be subject and liable to a fine of one hundred pound Scots, to be applied for behoof of the poor of the parish where the scandal complained on was committed: declaring hereby that the agent for the Kirk, the minister of the parish, or any other person having warrand from him, or from the kirk-session within the parish whereof the scandal complained on was committed, shall have good interest to pursue, before the Lords of Session, any of the foresaid judges who shall happen to refuse, neglect, or delay, to put the saids laws against profaneness to exact and punctual execution, who are hereby ordained to proceed summarily without the order of the roll: and that it shall be a sufficient probation of their refusal, neglect, or delay, if the pursuer instruct, by an instrument under a nottar's hand, and witnesses thereto subscribing, and deponing thereupon, that he did inform the saids judges of the saids scandal, and offered a sufficient probation thereof, unless the judge so pursued condescend and instruct that, within the space of ten days after the said application, he gave order to cite the party complained on to compear before him within the space of ten days; and that, at the day of compearance, he was ready and willing to have taken cognition and trial of the scandal complained on, and instruct and condescend on a relevant reason why the saids laws were not put in execution against the person complained on.
—Ratifies and approves the Acts following, viz., the Act of Parliament, 1672, intituled, Act against Profaneness, whereby all members of his Majesty's Privy Council, or Lords of Session, with all judges ordinary, having their residence, or keeping courts in any paroch, are ordained to execute, or cause execute, the said laws against any such delinquents therein as shall be dilated to them by the kirk-sessions or other Church judicatories, with power to the kirk-session and heritors to name a collector of the fines; as also, where none of the foresaid persons in authority reside, to nominate a person resident within the paroch, whom they shall offer to the judge ordinary of the bounds, to the end he may grant them a deputation to the effect foresaid: As likewise to modify and appoint such fees to the said collectors out of the saids fines as they shall find just, and that the remainder of the saids fines be applied for the use of the poor, in manner specified in the said Act. The Act of Parliament, 1693, also intituled, Act against Profaneness, whereby every Presbytery within this kingdom is empowered and ordained to appoint one or more within their respective bounds to take notice of all vices and immoralities, and to dilate and prosecute the persons guilty, conform to the tenor of the former Acts; and allowing to them, out of the fines, not only their whole expenses, but such rewards as the Lords of Privy Council shall think fit. The Act 1595, likewise intituled, Against Profaneness, whereby all the judges ordinary and their deputes, and all Justices of Peace, within whose bounds any of the said offences shall happen, are authorised and enjoyned to put the said Acts against Profaneness to exact and punctual execution at all times, without necessity of any dispensation; and against all persons, whether officers, soldiers, or others, without exception; with certification, that any of the said judges that shall refuse or neglect to put the said laws in execution, upon the application of any minister, kirk-session, or any person in their name, informing and offering sufficient probation, he shall be liable and subject, toties quoties, to a fine of one hundred pound Scots for the poor of the paroch where the scandal happened; declaring that the agent for the Kirk, the minister or kirksession of the paroch, or any having their warrand, shall have good interest to pursue, before the Lords of Session, any of the said judges refusing or neglecting as said is; and that the said refusal or neglect shall be sufficiently proven by an instrument under a nottar's hand, and witnesses subscribing, and deponing that the said information was given, and probation offered; as the said Act more fully bears. And, lastly, the Act 1696, also intituled. Act against Profaneness, in the haill heads, articles, and clauses thereof, all which laws and Acts of Parliament generally and particularly above narrated, his Majesty, with advice and consent foresaid, ordains to be put to strict and punctual execution in all points; and farder, all ministers, and kirk-sessions, and heritors concerned, are hereby required and ordained to do and act their parts faithfully in the premises, as they will be answerable; and in case any person shall be excommunicate for not answering, or for not obeying and satisfying the Church, when processed before them for profaneness and immorality, or in case that any person, cited on the account foresaid, shall be declared by the Church to be contumacious, then, and in either of these cases, his Majesty, with advice and consent foresaid, statutes and ordains, that, upon application made by a Presbytery, Provincial Synod, or General Assembly, to his Majesty's Privy Council, representing the same, the Lords of Privy Council shall represent the said matter to his Majesty, that he may be duly informed anent the foresaid person found guilty or contumacious, as said is, as a person not fit to be employed or continued in any place of public trust, civil or military.
No. III. Warning and admonition to the people of scotland, by the commission of the general assembly, met at edinburgh, march 1, 1798.
The Commission of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, in conformity to the instructions which they received, "to advert to the interest of the Church upon every occasion," have met at a season which summons all the friends of every civil and religious establishment around their standards; and while other orders of men, roused by the dangers which threaten their country, are making every exertion to diffuse the public spirit which their own conduct displays, the Commission judge it their indispensable duty to issue this Warning and Admonition to the people under their charge in the different parishes of Scotland.
In the arduous contest in which we are at present engaged, we have not as yet met with any national disaster; but, while the other states of Europe, intimidated by the progress of the French arms, are bending under the yoke, we have hitherto been able to protect our commerce, and to ward off the hostilities which have been directed against our shores. While, brethren, you celebrate the gallantry of our seamen, the vigilance and activity of our naval administration, the skill and alertness of our commanders; while you honour, with daily expressions of your good will, the illustrious heroes who led to victory, and pay every tribute to the memory of the brave and faithful men who fell in the cause of their country;—amidst the acknowledgments due to human exertions, look up to Him whom the wind and the seas obey. Recollect the circumstances which render the time and the measure of a naval victory completely dependent upon the will of Heaven. In the train of success which has attended us round the globe, mark the continued interposition of Providence for our defence; and, after the example of the noble admirals who, in the presence of their Sovereign, presented upon the altar of God the colours which have been won in the great naval engagements of this war, let all ranks of men unite in saying, "Not unto us, O Lord, not unto us, but unto Thy name be the glory!"
The succession of naval victories, which we trust, brethren, you recollect with pious gratitude, has filled our enemies with rage. They are indignant that there is one nation in Europe over which, in the unexampled career of their fortune, they have never gained any advantage; which has persevered in opposing its influence to the wild progress of their ambition, and has had the magnanimity to extend its views to the independence of Europe, and the liberties of mankind. They are indignant that there is one free government which repudiates their false maxims; one established constitution which exposes the chimerical nature of their system; one happy country, where the complete security which the subject derives from the legal administration of justice, forms a striking contrast to the precarious tenure by which every man holds his life, his property, and his place in society, under the unlimited despotism which has been engrafted upon their doctrines of liberty and equality. They have declared that the French Republic and the British Government cannot subsist together. They are collecting on their coasts a great army, which, with a view both to insult and to intimidate us, they call "The Army of England;" and, having rejected the equitable terms which we offered, without proposing, in their turn, any plan of pacification, they boast that they will send this army to dictate in London the terms upon which they will condescend to give us peace.
After these declarations of the enemy, the war is not, on our part, a matter of choice: it is a war which the first law of nature, the great duty of self-preservation, renders just and necessary: it is a war not for wealth, for distant possessions, for commercial advantages: it is a war in defence of all the blessings which we have received from heaven—in defence of the honour, the independence, the existence of the nation. Imagine not, brethren, that it is only a temporary interruption of your tranquillity which you have reason to dread. The enemies with whom you now contend come to seize your property, to lay waste your lands, and to repay the armies which invade you with the spoil. In the fury of their rapine, they will make no distinction; but the houses of the peasant and the landlord, of the farmer and the cottager, will be consumed in one flame. They come to wrest out of our hands the dominion of the sea, to annihilate our commerce, to render us completely subject to their power, and to reduce Great Britain to the condition of Venice, which, after pretending to make free, they sold to the Emperor; of Holland, which their friendship has ruined; of the combination of States, called the Cisalpine Republic, which hold a precarious existence under the protection of a victorious French General. They wage war against your form of government; and, if they accomplish their designs, you will be no longer a free people. Instead of that security which every man enjoys, by knowing that he cannot be condemned till his conduct has been fully investigated, and the sentence of a jury has pronounced him guilty, there will be substituted the mandates of a government which, under the pretext of liberty, sets no bounds to its despotism; which, without even the form of a trial, sends the suspected to public or to secret death, to prison or to banishment; which confiscates their effects, and extends its persecution to all their connections. Instead of a subordination of ranks, which we know to be the best guard of liberty, by which no man is excluded from rising to riches and honour, and the different orders of the state minister to the subsistence, the protection, and the enjoyments of one another, there will be an equality of wretchedness, in which the rich are stripped of their property; the poor, without being permitted to share in the spoil, are deprived of their comforts; and all are alike subjected to arbitrary requisition, to insult, and oppression. Your enemies come, brethren, not only to dethrone your King, and to dismiss your Parliament, but they come to overthrow that religion which you and your fathers have professed, and the free exercise of which is one of the rights of a British subject. They wage war against the Scriptures which you revere; against the God in whom you trust. They have effaced from their calendar that day upon which Christians have, from the beginning, celebrated the resurrection of the Lord Jesus; and they are endeavouring to obliterate every memorial of the Christian religion. All religious establishment of every kind, all Christian belief and worship, they ridicule and proscribe. Were their impious threatenings to prevail, in those churches where you are now met, you would assemble no more; the voice of your pastors would never again be heard there. Instead of the cheering, consoling, elevating doctrines of the Gospel of Christ, there would be publicly inculcated in this land that gloomy, degrading system, which banishes mind from the universe, which declares that death is an eternal sleep, and that beyond the grave there is no punishment to the wicked, no reward to the righteous, no recompence for the troubles of life. The sound instruction of the Scriptures would yield to the delusive doctrines of a false philosophy, which shakes the security of government, destroys the innocence and tranquillity of private life, and gives licence to a multitude of crimes: and the dereliction of every religious principle would, in this country, be accompanied with the same brutality of rage, and the same flagitiousness of conduct, which have appeared in the atrocious deeds that have marked the progress of the French Revolution. Nor would it be in your power, brethren, to fly, as many inhabitants of France have fled, from these horrors; for whither could you go? If this island become a province of France, there will be no longer an asylum for the wretched; no other habitation of religion, truth, and justice; but one sound of tumult and uproar will be heard around the globe.
We beseech you, brethren, seriously to consider the dangers of which we have given you a faithful picture. And we earnestly recommend it to all the ministers of this National Church to endeavour, by public and private instruction, to impress your minds with a sense of the duty which, in such circumstances, you owe to your country; and to encourage people of all ranks to resolve, like our King and his two Houses of Parliament, that they will stand or fall with our religion, our laws, and liberties. Is there a Briton whose heart will not accord with such admonitions? Is this a time to contend about political differences, when we are struggling for the very existence of the nation? Shall speculative improvements of the best constitution in the world, shall attachment to a party, or private dissatisfaction, unnerve the British arm, and lay our side open to the dagger of the foe? We have seen, with much satisfaction, the voluntary associations for the defence of the country, in which persons of rank and property, mingling with merchants, manufacturers, and mechanics, form a body of men trained to the use of arms, who, without forsaking the occupations of peace, are ready to repress internal tumult, and to guard our shores against the approach of the foe. We behold, with equal delight, another expression of the same patriotic spirit, in the alacrity with which money is furnished for the public service. While the taxes that have been lately imposed do not, in the smallest degree, affect the lower orders of the community, those who pay the largest share of them are so far from complaining of the burden created by the demands of the State, that we see them pressing forward to testify their zeal in the common cause, by the voluntary contribution of a large portion of their income. It is wise to think, that wealth cannot be so profitably expended as in preserving all that renders existence desirable: it is virtuous to learn private frugality from the extent of the national expenditure: it is magnanimous to relinquish every paltry scheme of hoarding up superfluities and savings when all is at stake, and to trust that every sacrifice will be abundantly recompensed by the gratitude of the country, and a share in the national prosperity. Let those who are restrained by the narrowness of their income, or the demands of their families, from emulating the liberality of their brethren, be the more solicitous to exhibit every display of public spirit which their situation admits. A season of danger, of alarm, and national exertion, is a time when the laws should reign supreme; when every man should be found at his post, waiting in silence to receive the orders which may be given him; prompt in yielding obedience, and ready to lend to the community all his talents and all his vigour. At such a time, all who love their country, forgetting former quarrels, should, without recrimination, encourage one another under every hardship, and bear, without murmuring, every burden. Let every sinner think, that he adds to the sum of national guilt, and conspires, in his place, to draw down the vengeance of Heaven upon the land which nourishes him. Let the frivolous manners, the languid, careless, selfish spirit, and that corruption of the whole character, which the continuance of peace and national prosperity tends to foster, yield the place which they have usurped in this country to those manly virtues which the pressure of the times demands. Maintain, brethren, a secret regard to all the rights of your neighbours: abandon every vicious pursuit; and concentre, in love to your country, those affections which, at other times, follow after vanity. By this union of sentiment and of effort you will expose the falsehood of that insidious distinction which our enemies affect to draw between the government and the people of Britain; and you will exhibit to their view a nation whom their emissaries were not able to corrupt, whom their boasting has not intimidated, and whom the history of their eventful Revolution is daily confirming in attachment to that unrivalled constitution, of which, with an envious eye and an usurping hand, they attempt to rob us.
Let a firm faith in the superintending Providence of God establish your minds, brethren, in perfect tranquillity, with regard to the issue of the present contest. To resist the rude attask of the spoiler, to set bounds to lawless ambition, and to prolong the reign of order and justice, is a duty which God hath imposed, a service which accords with the whole plan of His righteous administration, a work which He approves, and which He will bless. The combination of His enemies cannot shake the pillars of His everlasting throne. The Church of Christ is founded upon a "rock, against which the gates of hell shall not prevail;" and, notwithstanding the assertions and efforts of infidelity, the public establishment of Christianity shall continue to be the barrier erected by the God of truth against the return of idolatry and superstition. "He that is higher than the highest regardeth, and there be higher than they."—" He beholdeth mischief and spite to requite them with His hand."—"He hath bent His bow;" and when His time is come, "He will make ready His arrows upon the strings," and "will find out them that hate Him." By continuing our successes at sea, He may still turn the battle from our gates: or, if He has destined that upon our own land we are to contend, whether Great Britain shall retain its rank amongst the nations of the earth, or become an appendage of the French Republic, He may employ the confusion and destruction which await the invader as an instrument of accelerating the return of peace. Be not afraid, brethren, of the threats of the foe; but "sanctify the Lord of Hosts himself, and let Him be your fear, and let Him be your dread." Recollect the glorious struggle by which your ancestors purchased the blessings of a free government; and, proving yourselves worthy of the precious inheritance which they have transmitted to you, trust in that arm which made them strong. "Remember the Lord which is great and terrible; and fight for your brethren, your sons and your daughters, your wives and your houses." Set up your banners in His name, and He will spread over you His impenetrable shield. "The right hand of the Lord, which doth valiantly," shall again overthrow those who rise up against you; and your children's children shall, in this land, worship the God of their fathers. Amen.
The above Warning and Admonition having been read and fully considered, was
unanimously approved by the Commission of the General Assembly of the
Church of Scotland; and they appoint the same to be forthwith printed,
and copies thereof sent to all the Ministers of this Church; who are hereby
appointed to read the same from their respective pulpits, on Thursday next,
the 8th of this present month, the day appointed for a National Fast, or on
the first Lord's Day after it comes to their hands. Subscribed by
William Greenfield, Moderator.
Andrew Dalzel, Clk.
No. IV. Report of the committiee of the generalassembly anent the gaelic Bible.
Edinburgh, May 18, 1826.
Which day the General Assembly's Committee on the Gaelic Scriptures met in the Society's Hall, according to appointement. Present, Rev. Dr Campbell of Edinburgh, Convener; Rev. Principal Macfarlan of Glasgow; Rev. Dr Anderson of Edinburgh; Rev. John Stewart of Blair-Athole; Rev. John Macdonald of Urquhart; Rev. Colin Macvean of Kenmore; and the Rev. Mr Macarthur of Dairsie; and having appointed Principal Macfarlan Preses, there was laid before them a Report of the Directors of the Society in Scotland for Propagating Christian Knowledge, announcing the completion of the Quarto Edition of the Gaelic Bible, with an Octavo Edition of the New Testament in the same type, and a revised metrical version of the Psalms and Paraphrases.
On this work being finished, it was suggested to the Directors by a member of the Committee, that, to render the work still more complete and useful, it would be very desirable to have the metrical version of the Psalms and Paraphrases revised and printed along with it. This measure appeared to be indispensably necessary, as there were in circulation two editions of the Psalms, which differed materially from each other, and which, on this account, produced much inconvenience. In order to remove this inconvenience, the Directors, with the unanimous consent and advice of the Committee, resolved to publish a version of the Psalter, which should unite the merits of both editions already referred to, and which, if approved and sanctioned by the General Assembly, might be adopted as the standard version.
This has been accordingly executed. And as great care has been taken to correct the errors of former editions,—to improve the harmony of the verse,—and to restore the literal rendering of passages that had been paraphrased, as well as to expunge, so far as was possible, obsolete and Irish words, the Directors confidently hope that this edition of the Psalter will meet the views of all parties, and that, under the sanction of the General Assembly, it may be adopted in public worship in all the Churches and Chapels of Ease in the Highlands of Scotland.
Two copies of the whole Scriptures in Quarto, and two copies of the New Testament in Octavo, each accompanied with a version of the Psalms and Paraphrases, thus revised and corrected, are ready to be laid upon the table of the General Assembly.
In closing their final report, the Directors believe that a brief statement of a few facts, illustrating the progress of this undertaking, may not be unacceptable to the Committee, and may afford some information to those who had not an opportunity of being much acquainted with the various steps which led to its present termination.
The Directors found it necessary to yield to the sentiments and wishes strongly expressed by many respectable individuals conversant with Gaelic literature, for an improved edition of the fourth part of the Old Testament, containing the prophetical books, which should be more literal, and more conformable to the original Hebrew text. This service having been declined by the Rev. John Stuart of Luss, by whom the third part had been translated, and the two preceding carefully revised, the Directors then applied to the Rev. A. Stewart, minister of Dingwall, who cheerfully undertook the work proposed; and, accord ingly, a new edition of the Old Testament, including the fourth part revised and corrected, was published in 1807.
After the publication of the second edition of the Old Testament, it was suggested by the learned and pious translator, that a new edition, carefully revised, and receiving all the improvements of which the version was still susceptible, would be a work of great importance, and highly beneficial to our countrymen in the Highlands. In this measure, Dr Stuart was warmly encouraged by the Society, and every facility afforded him for its execution. The assistance of his friend, the Rev. A. Stewart of Dingwall, whose qualifications for the service were well understood, and highly appreciated by all conversant with Oriental and Celtic literature, was requested and obtained; and in him he found an able and willing coadjutor. The plan of a new and improved edition of the Gaelic Scriptures was then submitted to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in May 1815. The Assembly approved of the plan, and appointed a committee to superintend the progress of the work.
In May 1821, a portion of the revised and improved translation, containing the Pentateuch, and extending to the third chapter of First Samuel, was laid on the table of the General Assembly. At this period, the unexpected and deeply lamented death of the two gentlemen who had been engaged in the undertaking, within a few days of each other, involved the whole business in great confusion. By all who were best acquainted with its nature, the loss thus sustained was considered as irreparable. Though different gentlemen were known as distinguished by their acquirements in Oriental and Celtic literature, yet there was none whose qualifications were universally acknowledged to be so pre-eminent as to procure from him that confidence from Gaelic scholars, which had been enjoyed by Dr Stuart, Luss, and by his friend, Mr Stewart of Dingwall. In these circumstances, the members of the Assembly's Committee unanimously recommended, that the plan of a revised and improved version should be relinquished, and that a reprint of the last edition, without any alteration on the text, should be undertaken with as little delay as possible. It was proposed, however, that the few instances of Irish phrases or idioms, occurring chiefly in the prophetical books, should be altered, and that the whole orthography should be conformed to that of the Pentateuch; which had been superintended by Dr Stuart himself. In this view, the Directors and the Society judged it their duty to acquiesce, and the plan was afterwards sanctioned by the General Assembly in May 1822.
This resolution was the more easily adopted, as the specimen of the corrected version published by Dr Stuart himself, although certainly improved, did not contain corrections which were either so numerous or of such importance as materially to affect the sense; and by this means a perfect uniformity in the Gaelic text was happily preserved.
In entering on this work, the Directors felt themselves peculiarly happy in being able to secure the services of Mr John Macdonald, preacher of the Gospel, who had been for several years employed by Dr Stuart in correcting the press for the Quarto Gaelic Bible, and whose intimate acquaintance with Dr Stuart's principles of translation, and the rules which he prescribed to himself in printing the Bible, rendered him peculiarly well qualified for the undertaking. Mr Macdonald has been enabled to bring this important work to a conclusion, with the entire and cordial approbation of all the members of the Committee; and to his minute accuracy and indefatigable attention, it is indebted for that high degree of excellence which it is acknowledged to possess.
It was found that the Irish phrases and idioms abounded much more in the New Testament than in the Old. Dr Stuart, in his revised Translation, had uniformly expunged them, wheresoever they occurred; insomuch, that not a single instance of the kind is to be found in the Pentateuch. This was a decisive proof of his own judgement in the case: And the Committee of the General Assembly unanimously judged it proper that the same alterations should be made in the New Testament; and that phrases and idioms purely Gaelic should be exclusively used, in order that a perfect uniformity might be maintained through the whole of the Scriptures.
Thus the Directors have endeavoured, to the utmost of their power, to avail themselves of the means within their reach, for rendering the present edition of the Gaelic Scriptures as perfect as possible. Though this work may not possess all the advantages it would have derived from the gentlemen originally employed in conducting it, had it pleased God to prolong their lives; yet the Directors are assured, by gentlemen well qualified to judge of its merits, that it is marked by such superior excellence, as will render it a precious and acceptable gift to their Highland countrymen, and secure for it lasting and extensive usefulness. To the members of the Assembly's Committee, they beg leave to express peculiar gratitude, sensible as they are how much the work is indebted to their minute attention and indefatigable diligence, in superintending its progress. The unanimity, alacrity, and zeal, with which they co-operated in furthering the revised edition of the Psalter, the Directors are willing to consider as a proof of the fidelity with which the whole work has been conducted, and as affording a favourable presage of the approbation of the venerable Assembly, and of its usefulness and acceptableness to our countrymen at large.
The Directors look up with unfeigned gratitude and thanksgiving to that Divine Providence who has so graciously delivered them from the apprehensions with which, at one time,
they were ready to be overwhelmed, and has permitted them to see the work now brought
to so happy a termination. May He crown its circulation with His effectual blessing, and
render His Holy Word the means of eternal life to generations long to come.
J. Campbell, Convener.
The Committee, on receiving this report, feel themselves called on to express their high gratification in the information which it contains, and their gratitude to Him by whose blessing this important work has at length been completed. They beg leave to state to the General Assembly their approbation of the report, with their sense of the singular zeal, energy, and perseverance, which the Directors of the Society have shown, during the progress of this undertaking, and the accuracy and fidelity with which Mr Macdonald has discharged the important duty entrusted to him.
The Committee further beg leave to recommend, that the General Assembly, if they see
proper, authorise this version of the Scriptures, with that of the Psalter, to be used exclusively in all the churches and chapels within their bounds in which public worship is conducted in the Gaelic language.
D. Macfarlan, Preses.
No. V. Pastoral Admonition on the Sanctification of the sabbath.
The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland having taken into consideration the
evil of Sabbath Profanation, as described in the Report of their Committee on that subject, resolved to issue the following Pastoral Admonition, which is hereby required to be
publicly read by all the ministers of this Church, from their respective pulpits, on the first
Lord's Day after receiving printed copies of the same.
John Lee, Cl. Eccl. Scot.
Edinburgh, June 2, 1834
Dearly Beloved Brethern,—Knowing well that there are many among you who are zealously exercised in having consciences void of offence towards God and man, whose hearts' desire and prayer it is, that pure and undefiled religion may flourish, and that iniquity may stop its mouth, we cannot conceal from ourselves that there are multitudes who bring reproach on our land, by disregarding the form and denying the power of godliness; and who, instead of humbly endeavouring to walk in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless, make light of that holy commandment which was first promulgated when the heavens and the earth were finished, "and God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it;" and which will continue to be binding on all the generations of men till the heavens and the earth shall pass away.
We solemnly entreat you, brethern, to bear in mind that this precept rests on an authority not to be challenged or explained away by human reason,—that, though the Sabbath was made for man, man is not entitled to frustrate the beneficent purpose of God, by renouncing or foregoing the inestimable blessings which the institution was intended to secure; and that, though the evil heart of unbelief, and the prevalence of corrupt example, may tempt many to make a mock at this presumptuous sin, and to act as if their time were their own, and not included among the talents for which an account must be rendered in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ; yet the faithfulness of the Sovereign Judge will be vindicated by shutting out from his presence all who have wilfully departed from him, despising the riches of his goodness and forbearance, and set ting at nought the threatened vengeance which will assuredly be executed against them who obey not the truth, but obey unrighteousness.
We call upon all, in every rank, to consider seriously in how many ways the command to sanctify the Sabbath is disobeyed in thought, in word, and in deed. Even among those who have prepared their hearts to seek God, it must be confessed that there is no small danger of suffering the mind to be unduly occupied on this holy day with vain imaginations and worldly cares; and that though idle and foolish talking may not be deliberately indulged, the conversation is not always with grace, seasoned with holiness, and many things are inconsiderately done, whereby the profane may be countenanced and encouraged in their worldly-minded pursuits, and weak brethren offended or made to stumble. But whatever may be the estimation in which you are held, and whatever the stations which you occupy, we cannot forbear to remind you, that all violations of the Fourth Commandment are utterly inconsistent with the principles of the doctrine of Christ, which you are bound toadorn, and, with the example of Christ, which it is your highest honour and in interest to follow; and that those gross acts of profanation are especially perilous, which, while they betray contempt of the Divine Lawgiver, have a manifest tendency not only to grieve and wound every serious spirit, but to ensnare and mislead the giddy and careless, and thus ultimately involve them in everlasting ruin. Though we trust that some transgressions of the law of the Sabbath are less frequent than at former periods, we have too great cause to fear, that there has been, upon the whole, an increased abounding of this flagrant iniquity, and that many things are done, without hesitation or scruple, of which it is a shame even to speak. With deep concern we have learned, that in various parts of the country there has been, for a number of years past, a great increase of unnecessary travelling on the Lord's Day, both for purposes of business and amusement; that shops have been kept open on that day for the sale of provisions and other articles of traffic; that multitudes, forgetful of their most sacred duties and their immortal interests, have become accustomed to wander in the fields, to frequent scenes of recreation, or to spend their time in riot and drunkenness, and other immoralities. We do not attempt to enumerate the multiplied and aggravated offences of this description, of which we have received most unwelcome information; but we have ground for apprehending that many of these offences may be traced to the neglect of the religious instruction of children,—to the inattention of masters to the spiritual welfare of their servants,—to the inadequate provision for accommodating the population in places of public worship,— to the consequent deficiency of pastoral superintendence,—and, above all, to the temptation presented by the almost unlimited number of public-houses, which, in many places, are so inconsiderately licensed from year to year, with too little regard to the characters and habits of the landlords.
As we cannot shut our eyes to the alarming extent and enormity of these evils, the progress of which it is our duty to counteract by all the means within our reach, we earnestly warn you to beware of outraging the sancity of the Sabbath, by engaging in any ordinary employment, or in any occasional labour which you cannot in your consciences, and in the near prospect of eternal judgement, regard as a work of necessity or mercy. As the Lord God has appropriated the Sabbath to himself, it is an impious encroachment on his inalienable prerogative to attempt to convert it either into a day of business or a day of idleness and pastime. In the entire cessation from secular pursuits, in the strict exclusion of all worldly cares, in turning away the eyes from vanity, in avoiding all corrupt communication, and in endeavouring to unite the heart to fear the Lord, and to attend on his service without distraction, a spiritually-minded man, far from accounting the Sabbath a weariness, finds it to be a delight; and has the satisfaction of knowing that, by the light of a good example, he is employing the most likely means of encouraging others to serve the Lord with gladness.
We exhort those who possess power and wealth, not only to set an example of the regular observance of the offices of divine worship, in public and in private, and to abstain from making any unnecessary demands on the time and the services of their dependants, that none may, on their account, be detained from the house of God; but diligently to exert themselves in discouraging and repressing the ensnaring haunts of guilty excess, and liberally to devise and promote more ample means of attending on the solemnities of religion, for those who have too good grounds for alleging that no space has been reserved for them in the churches of the Establishment. If, during the personal ministry of the Lord Jesus, it was matter of just commendation to a man of rank, who was an alien from the commonwealth of Israel, that from the love of that nation he had built a synagogue; much more must it become every Christian patriot, according to his ability, to provide access for men of all conditions to the house of prayer, that the small and the great meeting together may, with one accord, pour out their common supplications, intercessions, and thanksgivings, before the throne of the Universal Father, who hath made of one blood all the families of men to dwell on the face of the earth, and who, in proclaiming it to be his pleasure that to the poor the Gospel shall be preached, has emphatically admonished the rich, that, in proportion as they know and value the truth, they ought to do with all their might whatsoever their hand findeth to do, for the free and copious communication of this inestimable privilege.
We exhort parents and masters that they be faithful and earnest in commanding their children and their households after them, to walk in the ways of the Lord, restraining them from the pernicious liberty of finding their own pleasure, imparting to them instruction in righteousness, and setting before them such an edifying pattern as may be expected to convince them that the duties of devotion are not only reasonable, but in the highest degree beneficial and pleasing to all who exercise themselves unto that vital godliness which is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.
We exhort the humble in station to remember, that to them the Sabbath of the Lord ought to be peculiarly precious, as it provides for them not only a periodical relaxation from toil, but frequent opportunities of calmly considering the things which belong to their peace, and making preparation for entering on the rest which remaineth for the people of God. We beseech them to call to mind the honourable distinction which their fathers possessed in times past, when almost every household, poorly provided as it might be with the accommodations and comforts of life, offered up the morning and evening sacrifice of prayer and praise, day by day continually, and when more especially the mornings and the evenings of the day of holy repose were passed either in sweet meditation on the power and glory of God, or in taking sweet counsel with brethren and companions in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ. How unlike to such days of refreshing followship are the polluted Sabbaths to which many lost souls will forever look back as to the wide gate and the broad way which swiftly and surely led them to endless destruction. Let it no longer be the reproach of this land, once so renowned for purity of faith and decorum of Christian practice, that there are many of its degenerate inhabitants who have broken down the domestic altars, and profaned the sanctuaries, and on whom the weekly Sabbath opens and closes with no other distinction except that of being more exclusively than any other day devoted to folly, dissipation, and vice. Encompassed as you are with light, how great will be your condemnation, if of you it can be said, that in the tabernacles of grace neither your prayers nor your alms ascend in memorial before God; that the words of truth and soberness are seldom heard in your families; that not one thought of yours is bestowed on the care of the precious souls for whose good you are bound to watch; but that every expression, every action, and every relaxation, is as carnal, earthly, and devilish, as if man had been created for the purpose of dishonouring his Maker, degrading his own nature, and multiplying injuries and sorrows to his fellow-creatures;— that clamour, strife, sensuality, violence, and worse than brutal intoxication, with other kindred offences, fill up the measure of that day which God, in his mercy, appointed for the refreshment of man and beast, but which is so far from yielding refreshment to infatuated myriads of human beings, that, more than the most laborious of their other days, it exhausts their strength, and wastes their substance, and impairs their present comfort, while it fails to awaken any solid hope of future happiness.
Knowing the terrors of the Lord, we would persuade and adjure the hardened, by all that is bitter in remorse, by all that is intolerable in an awakened and unpurified conscience, by all that is fearful on the deathbed of impenitence, by all that is searching in the frown of an unreconciled Judge, by all that is repulsive in the fellowship of accursed spirits, by all that is woefully agonising in the gnawing of the worm that dieth not, and in the fire that is not quenched, to awaken from the dream of guilty insensibility, and to flee from the wrath to come to the hope set before them in the Gospel. Most tenderly do we beseech them, by the mercies of God, by that forgiveness which is with him, that he may be feared, by the love and the pity, the blood and the agony of the Lord Jesus, whom they have crucified afresh, and by the ineffable consolations of the Spirit of Grace, to whom they have done despite, that they seek the Lord while he may be found, and call upon him while he is near. It is presumptuous to expect that the Spirit will always strive with the rebellious sinners who do always resist and grieve him; but while the door of hope is not shut, we pray you, in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.
We need scarcely admonish those who have experience of the holy satisfactions of a religious life, to continue to walk in the ways which they have found to be pleasantness and peace. But we entreat them to suffer this word of exhortation. Let no one say, am I my brother's keeper ?—when he sees a fellow-creature walking in the way which leadeth to destruction. It is the office of brotherly kindness to warn and rebuke, and restore to counsel, erring souls, and not to suffer sin upon them,—" of some having compassion, making a difference, and others saving with fear, pulling them out of the fire." To such labours of Christian love, applied to the godlike object of gathering the outcasts, and regaining the lost, the highest rewards have been promised and secured. The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he that winneth souls is wise. They that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and they that turn many to righteousness, as the stars for ever and ever.
Now, unto Him who is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wis God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.