Imagini ale paginilor
PDF
ePub

Dr David BROWN, Aberdeen, said it was evident the impression of the Gaelic ministers was, that the translation would not compensate for the expense, and would not serve the end of indicating to the Gaelic-speaking population the contents of the Record. He therefore thought it would be a pity if the Assembly were influenced by the judgment of those who could not be so competent to speak on a matter of this kind ; and from what he had heard, he was inclined to say that all the ends could be served by the Gaelic ministers translating portions of the Record, without incurring the expense of printing a separate edition. The motion was then agreed to.

DISTRIBUTION OF PROBATIONERS. Mr MACKENZIE, Dunfermline, in giving in the report of the Committee on Distribution of Probationers (No. XVI.), said this matter bad been hitherto on a very unsatisfactory footing, being left in a great degree to mere casualty on the part of congregations; while, in the case of probationers, there was often a rush of applicants, each with a bundle of certificates, as if it were the situation of some gate, or level-crossing keeper they were after, and not the case of a man offering himself for trial and experience of his gifts as one worthy the name of a probationer in a Christian Church. The consequences are injurious, and lowering to the character of probationers ; and if it is lowering to a class, it is lowering to the individual who puts himself more or less in the position of developing such undisguised selfishness, self-seeking, and forwardness; while the modest and retiring young man is the last to put himself forward. This year, for the first time in their history as a Church, something like satisfactory action had been taken to remedy this state of matters. There has existed for some years back a scheme for the distribution of probationers, which wanted little but to be transmuted from permissive into obligatory to render it all that the memorial of the students craves. For the success of the scheme during the past year, they were indebted entirely to the secretary, Mr Josiah Sinclair. (Applause.) His tact and energy in carrying out the scheme was worthy of all praise. But the scheme must be unsatisfactory to a certain degree, so long as its powers are of that permissive character. Congregations do not require to come under it unless they like, and probationers also know that they may take their position upon the roll without the intervention of the committee; and thus the matter must go on in many cases in the former hap-hazard way. Another point that must be provided for is the matter of expense; and there are various other things of a subordinate nature that call for attention. The request of the committee was, that probationers should be enjoined to come forward in accordance with the scheme, and in no other way, and that congregations co-operate also with them. Four years ago congregations were enjoined to take fortnightly supply from the committee. The committee now desired that Mr Sinclair should be communicated with, and men sent down regularly in succession to preach. They thought there should be no intermeddling with vacant congregations at all, but the whole be arranged as a simple matter of business—that no probationer should be entitled to preach with a view to a call except through the committee. If this were made obligatory, they ventured to hope that the work of the committee would go on satisfactorily from year to year.

Dr BEGG said the labours of Mr Mackenzie, with the effective help of Mr Sinclair, had very nearly brought about a solution of this important problem, and it would be exceedingly to be deprecated if the Assembly did not give the committee every facility in carrying out their object. The theory of the Church is, that the momenta congregation becomes vacant, it falls into the hands of the Presbytery, and that arrangements till the vacancy is filled up must be made by the Presbytery's authority. Now, it is of great importance that Presbyteries should act in such a way as to facilitate the operations of this committee. The suggestions made are, that every vacancy be reported to the committee ; and, secondly, that, as far as possible, the arrangements made for supplying it shall be made only through the committee. In the student's memorial a more modest proposal was put forth ; but the more the matter is considered the more it will be seen that their suggestions did not meet the whole case. So long as the arrangement continues of the congregation making supply every second Sabbath, there will be confusion, and the chance of men sent by the committee being heard on less favourable terms than those selected by the congregation, and of whom they may have more or less private knowledge. (Hear, hear.) In making their proposal, the committee did not intend to interfere in the least with any congregation which might indicate its desire to hear particular probationers; it is expressly provided that they should be indulged, as far as possible, in bearing the probationers they may desire to hear. All they wished was, that such probationers, and those coming in the ordinary way, should go with the same authority. Another point was, that when a student is licensed, the fact should be at once communicated to the committee, in place of leaving them to find it out from the newspapers. Again, the system of formal certificates, printed and sent round the congregations, should be as far as possible probibited. (Hear, bear.) The notion that the probationer must go about canvassing as a man would do for an ordinary situation should be repudiated. (Hear. The true theory is, that every man who has gone through the curriculum of the Hall is to be considered qualified, and instead of devolving the duty of judging of his gifts upon any man, or set of men, however great or learned, the people should judge of them for themselves. At the same time, he would not go the length of saying that they should not satisfy themselves in every way by private inquiry as to the character of the men they are to choose. The question is a very important one, and everything in the way of forcing men upon them, by influence from without, should be discouraged. In some churches they carry this to the extent of not allowing a man, when he proposed a candidate, to make a speech, in case be should quote the opinion of some one ; and this rule worked very well. Another thing which he hoped very few in their Church had done was this—ministers leaving one congregation for another actually taking steps to fill the vacancy before it was created-acting, in a sense, as patrons of the congregation. He thought ministers should not interfere in such cases. (Hear, hear.). The only other part of the report was that of finance, and he must say he thought that, even should the proper working of this scheme cost something, the money would not be misspent. He moved, “That the General Assembly approve generally of the report, and record its thanks to the committee, and especially to the convener, and enjoin Presbyteries to bave respect to the suggestions contained in the report in the filling up of vacancies, and in connexion with the licensing of students. They also authorise the committee to confer with the Sustentation and Home Mission Committees in regard to the expense necessary to the proper working of the scheme.”

Some conversation followed, Dr Buchanan, Mr Macgreger, Paisley, and others, expressing a difficulty as to the motion as implying approval of the regulations.

Dr Berg said bis motion pointed only at a general approval, and was framed with the view of securing for the committee the authority which he thought the whole of that House would be willing to give them.

Mr Adam, Aberdeen, said it still left indefinite what it was wished to make obligatory, which had hitherto been permissive.

Professor Douglas said, perhaps the wisest course would be to send this report down to Presbyteries—not in terms of the Barrier Act, which he believed would be mischievous, but to get the mind of Presbyteries in the way that had been done in other cases; and if this were done, he would suggest that Presbyteries, which were the seats of divinity halls, should appoint committees to meet with the students on the subject(hear)-whom they ought to deal with tenderly in such a matter, though not formally giving them a voice in regulating it. With regard to the matter of certificates, the best way to check the use of them would be to point out to the Church and congregations that they are really of much less value in such cases than is supposed, being pretty frequently written by those who know least about the holders of them. (Hear, hear.)

Mr Cowan, Troon, expressed the opinion that they were not prepared at this stage to come to a decision. He suggested that there should be no approval of the report meanwhile, but that the committee be instructed to confer, and report to a future diet.

Professor Rainy was very much of the mind of Mr Cowan. He did not think they could hammer out a deliverance just now without too great a waste of time ; and would propose, that “The Assembly approve generally of the report, and remit the proposals contained in it to the committee, with instructions to confer with the Home Mission, Sustentation, and Finance Committees, and to bring up a proposed deliverance to a future diet of this Assembly." Dr Begg acquiesced in this proposal, which was accordingly agreed to.

RETURNS TO OVERTURES. The Assembly called for the report of the committee appointed to class returns to the overtures sent down to Presbyteries by last Assembly, which was given in and read by Mr Main, the Convener. It appeared from it that 39 Presbyteries had approved of the Overture anent the representation of Presbyteries, that 9 Presbyteries had disapproved of it, and that 24 Presbyteries had made no return. The Assembly finding that this overture had been approved of by a majority of Presbyteries, passed it into a standing law of the Church and enacted :-“That hereafter, when a charge has been sanctioned for the first time, it shall not be counted as increasing the number of the charges in a Presbytery, with a view to representation, until a pastor has been inducted into it.”

OVERTURE ANENT CHAIR OF EVANGELISTIC THEOLOGY. It appeared from the report that the overture anent a Chair of

Evangelistic Theology bad been approved of by 54 Presbyteries, that 15 Presbyteries had made no return, and that the remaining 3 had approved with such conditions as must cause their returns to be counted as disapprovals. The Assembly, finding that this overture had been approved of by a majority of Presbyteries, passed it into a standing law, enacting: -" That a Professorship of Evangelistic Theology be established in this Church, the Professor to be chosen by the General Assembly of 1867, and to be a member of the Senatus of the New College, Edinburgh, but to lecture also, from time to time, on subjects connected with the duty and privilege of spreading the Gospel throughout the world, in the other Colleges, in conformity with arrangements to be made by the College Committee in concert with the authorities of each of these Colleges; the salary of the said Professor to be paid from the annual interest of a sum of £10,000, which has been subscribed by friends of missions, and is now available for the permanent endowment of it. In passing this Act, the General Assembly think it right to record that they have had communicated to them, on sufficient authority, the wish of the liberal founders of the Professorship, to the following effect--that, without prejudice to the free discretion of the Church in filling up vacancies, regard should be had to the peculiar character of this Chair, as one that must very largely deal with the subject of foreign missions; and that if there should be any missionary, or retired missionary, thoroughly qualified in the judgment of the Church at large, whose services might be secured, he should have a preference over other candidates."

APPOINTMENT OF DR DUFF TO THE CHAIR. The Assembly called for the report of the Committee on the Election of Professors, which was read by Dr Beith. It appeared from the report that returns as to the appointment of a Professor to the Chair of Evangelistic Theology had been received from 61 Presbyteries and 10 Synods; that these returns all agreed in suggesting to the committee that they should recommend the election of Dr Alexander Duff, and that the committee made this recommendation.

Principal CANDLISH then said, I have great pleasure in proposing that Dr Alexander Duff should, following out the unexampled unanimity of the Presbyteries and Synods, be elected to this chair. We know that the establishment of this chair is largely owing to Dr Duff's name and reputation and influence; and we know that the appointment which has been so cordially proposed is in entire accordance with the wishes of the donors-(applause) of those liberal friends who have enabled the Church to set up this Chair. They very generously abstain from making any condition at all as regards even the first appointment. They have left that entirely in the hands of the Church ; and the result bas proved that they were right in doing so, and that they might safely trust to the good sense and good feeling of the Church. Of course it would be altogether impertinent in me to expatiate on the claims which Dr Duff has to this honour, in so far as it is an honour and not a duty. I say it would be impertinent in me to venture on any eulogium or on any setting forth of the claims of Dr Duff to this Chair. I suppose that throughout the wbole bounds of our Church we could not possibly have put our finger on any individual who could come within a hundred miles of Dr Duff as regards qualification for this particular Chair-(applause)—and I rejoice exceedingly that it is to be in his hands in the first place, for I very cordially concur with those who would deprecate any minute regulations or any particular arrangement as regards this Chair in the first instance. The setting up of this Chair is certainly a sort of experiment; and we require the benefit of the experience of a few years—and long may he be spared to discharge its duties—under so eloquent a lecturer and so effective a missionary as Dr Duff, by which time he will have become so conversant with the Professors of the several Colleges and with the students as to be able to suggest to the Church more particular arrangements, and a more detailed constitution. I rejoice therefore in the overture, as regards this matter, that very large discretion and liberty is left to Dr Duff to carry out such views as may seem to him best. He will there have opportunities of acquiring experience in this direction, so that in the course of a few years he may be in a position to advise the Church fully on the subject. All that is designed in the overture is, that Dr Duff should be the Professor of Evangelistic Theology, that be should be a member of the Senatus of the New College of Edinburgh, and that he should be also called upon to lecture in the other Colleges, from time to time, on subjects connected with the duty and privilege of spreading the Gospel throughout the world, in accordance with arrangements to be made by the College Committee, in concert with the authorities of these Colleges. I have another remark to make, and it is that it must be perfectly clear that a professorship of this nature must have very large reference to the subject of foreign missions ; but I rejoice that it is not to be strictly limited to this subject. It is generally for the purpose of stirring up men's minds, and the minds of the students, to a right spirit as regards the evangelisation of the world, both at home and abroad. Of course, as might be expected, the field abroad being the widest and most difficult perhaps, a large measure of attention must be paid to foreign missions; but even those prelections and conversationsfor I anticipate as much from Dr Duff's conversations as from his lectures—as much from his personal intercourse with the students as from his prelections in the class—and all that he can do in the way of stirring up zeal on behalf of the foreign missions, will tell in the direction of awakening kindred zeal on behalf of home missions. (Applause.) The spirit is the same that is demanded for all missionaries, whether at home or abroad, so that whatever time and attention Dr Duff can pay to the subject of foreign missions will be all available for stirring up the minds of our students; and a missionary spirit will be evoked at home as well as abroad and in the colonies. I do not therefore look upon the preference, or the large measure of time and attention, that will be necessarily given to foreign missions, as in any way a deduction from the time that will be given to other missionary and evangelistic topics; for all will tend in the direction of awakeuing a missionary spirit and missionary zeal on the part of our students. I close by saying, without, in doing so, throwing a single reflection on our students attending the hall, who, I believe, are decidedly in advance in many ways of those who were attending it many years ago, that, judging from the experience I have had in the College, and from the information wbich I have received in regard to the other Colleges, that if there is one thing more needed tban another in regard to our Colleges, it is an outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the professors and students, and the awakening, through that out

« ÎnapoiContinuați »