صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

had already seen a draft of a Bill intended to be brought forward on the subject. He thought the best course for them to pursue would be, not to start in the matter themselves, but to instruct their Committee to communicate with other bodies. He thought that would be much more like to effect their purpose. Therefore he would suggest that they should come to the deliverance that it should be recommended to the Convener of the Committee, to join with other parties who had already moved in the matter in procuring a general measure.

Mr BRIDGES, suggested that the object which the Assembly wished to gain in regard to this matter, might be obtained in burghal parishes, by obtaining from the magistrates seals of cause, by which means congregations would obtain a corporate existence.

Mr DUNLOP said, although that might be done in burghal parishes, he thought the Assembly would be rather inclined to hold their titles under a general

measure.

Mr Gibson said, there was a subject closely connected with this, which he believed this was the proper time to notice, and which he craved liberty for a moment or two to state. Those who remembered the proceedings of the Assembly shortly after the Disruption would recollect that a very important question was raised in regard to the manner of vesting the property of the Church, so as best to serve the great ends which the Church had in view. There was a considerable variety of opinion on that subject, and he thought they should know what the state of the case now was. In the first place, he apprehended that the act of the Assembly, recommending that the property should be vested in one particular way had been inoperative; and, in the second place, he maintained that that recommendatory act had never been properly sanctioned. When the Act was sent down to the Presbyteries, it was sent down but ten days before the meeting of Assembly; and it was therefore impossible at that time to get any adequate number of returns in regard to that important matter, and all the returns which were sent up were thirty-one. At that time, difficulties existed in regard to the mode of vesting the property of the Church so as to save it from the interference of the civil courts, and this mode was adopted; namely, that the trust-deed should proceed on the principle of merely giving a narrative of what the Church had done, for the purpose of shewing the object for which the property was held in connection with their principles.

Dr CANDLISH said, he had no objection to go into that discussion, but he would ask Mr Gibson whether or not that was the proper time for taking it up, seeing that the same matter would come to be discussed afterwards in relation to another question.

Mr Gibson thought it was quite a favourable time for discussing the question, when they were talking about some special mode of vesting the property, or, at the least, as to regulating the trusteeship, and placing it on a different footing than at present.

Mr DUNLOP said, the proposition had nothing to do with the terms on which the property was to be held, and only referred to the giving facilities for procuring proper title-deeds, and to provide that in future, when an infeftment was once taken and recorded, that it should remain as a good and valid investiture in perpetuity.

Mr Gibson said he was perfectly willing to confide in the legal advisers in a matter of this kind, but it was important that the Assembly should really know the whole case. He was quite aware that the matter might be brought out in the discussions as to the vesting of the College property, and he trusted he would be allowed then to state the actual facts of the case,-facts bearing on the principles and existence of the Free Church.

Dr CANDLISH hoped Mr Gibson did not imagine that he shrank from discuss. ing the whole subject, but he believed, in point of fact, this Church could not legislate on the subject at all. He had some doubts if the Church could legislate authoritatively in regard to the churches, seeing they belonged to the congregations, although they might legislate authoritatively in regard to the College, which was their own property. Passing from that, he thought there were only two points raised in the Report before them. In the first place, the extreme importance of its hring known to the Assembly what the titles were, and how

the churches were vested; and in connection with that, in the second place, the extreme importance of having the titles securely lodged-in having some place of security where the titles could be securely deposited, while copies remained in the hands of the parties, and access was allowed at all times to the originals. The only other point raised in the report, and which had been adverted to, was the having facilities afforded by Parliament for saving the expense and risk attending the renewal of titles from age to age, and having provision made for the titles continuing in perpetuity to the existing office-bearers and their successors. They must all agree in thinking those objects extremely desirable, for it was of great importance to have the title-deeds of their churches in a place of absolute security; and, at the same time, for the Church to know what the titledeeds really were, and to secure their free transmission from age to age. He would now refer for a moment to another topic. He thought the Assembly should record a passing token of their respect for the memory of the late Convener of this Committee. He did not think the Assembly should seek opportunities, or step out of their way for the purpose of doing acts of this kind; but he thought it was only becoming and appropriate that they should record their sentiments of respect for the memories of those departed men, so many of whom, alas ! had been removed from amongst them of late. In this case they did not step out of their way. They could not help doing what he proposed. They were receiving the Report of a Committee which had only an interim Convener, and the Convener of which had been removed from them since they last met. In these circumstances, he thought they ought to record, in reference to that Report, the sense this Church entertained of the services of the well-beloved friend who had been removed from them. He would not say any more on this subject, it touched too closely on his own private and personal feelings. Passing then, from this subject, he had just to call their attention to the fact, that Dr Begg had brought before them in that Report, namely, the exhausted state of their Building Fund, and the absolute necessity of the treasury of the Committee being replenished, if they desired to deal justly with many of their existing ministers and congregations, and deal righteously with the necessities of the land. On both of those accounts they must exert themselves for the replenishing of the treasury of the Building Fund. Many of those ministers and congregations had stronger claims upon them than those who were deprived of their churches at the time of the Disruption. They were those who had come out of their churches for the sake of the truth, and were now called upon to build their churches when the excitement of the Disruption was passed away. Many of them had been put into great straits, and they had great claims upon them; and whether they got sites from recusant proprietors, or under the bill now before Parliament, it was equally necessary to have money for the Building Fund. Just let them take for an illustration the minister of Lerwick in Shetland. He had been for a long time deprived of a site, and had had great difficulty in procuring one. At length, however, he was about to obtain a site on land belonging to the Government, after the officials had interposed some difficulties in the way, and what was he to do, after having, like some of his brethren in the north, suffered more than the ministers in other parts of the country, from the recent calamities which had visited the land, if the Building Committee had no funds with which to help him in the building of his church. How unjust it was to leave congregations so visited in their present straits. If they took a larger view of the subject, and contemplated erecting churches in the Highlands,

where they were much wanted, and where the great mass of the people adhered to the Free Church, it was still the more necessary that they should liberally replenish the treasury of the Building Fund. Indeed, he looked forward to the necessity of making a great effort similar to what was made at the Disruption. He had very little hope in reference to their retaining the quoad sacra churches. Hope from Parliament he had none. In the House of Commons all their own friends were taking different views of that case, and they could not therefore entertain the shadow of a hope from Parliament. They would not for a moment abandon the claim for sites for the building of churches in which people might worship, but they would not go on wasting their time in regard to the quoad sacra churches. The question of sites was simply a carrying out of the fair principle of toleration, and that they would never surrender. They must agitate and agitate till the matter be carried. (Hear, hear.) With regard to the other question, it might be their duty to throw the burden of refusing justice upon Parliament, for it was a claim of justice; but thereafter it would not be the mind of this Church to continue factiously knocking at the door of the Parliament thereanent. (Hear, hear.) Having very little hope ultimately from the courts of law, he could not but look forward to something like that which took place at the time of the Disruption ; but, in the mean time, they had to look to the fact of a good number of ministers and congregations being still without churches, and to the necessity of their exerting themselves more and more for the building of churches. In these circumstances the replenishing of the Building Fund was absolutely necessary. Agreeing as he did with Dr Begg, as to the result of random and desultory efforts, -agreeing in the necessity of raising the money with less inconvenience to the Church, in particular places,-he thought they might be able to make a suggestion to the Assembly in regard to the Building Fund, which might effect their object without increasing the collections upon their people. The collection for this purpose he held to be an indispensable duty. They could not do without it. He begged to conclude with the following motion :

“ The Assembly approve of the Report, express their deep and solemn sense of the dispensation of Divine Providence, which has removed from the Church on earth the late respected Convener of the Committee, whose valuable services in the great work of the erection of places of worship for the congregations of this Church, they hereby record with thankfulness to Him, whose servant he was, and whose cause he delighted to promote. The Assembly instruct the Committee to communicate with such other non-established bodies as may be interested in obtaining an alteration of the law, to do away with the necessity of the renewal of the investiture of places of worship on the death or failure of the trustees originally named, and to co-operate with such bodies in obtaining the passing of an Act of Parliament for that purpose. The Assembly commend the important object of the building Committee to the liberality of the congregations of the Church; and further, the Assembly re-appoint the Committee, with Dr Begg as their Convener.”

Mr MAKGILL CRICHTON begged leave to second the motion, and in doing so, he said he would confine his observations to a single point, that of the raising of funds for the building of churches in connection with the Free Church. He could not altogether go along with Dr Candlish, and he was always grieved when he was forced to differ from him in any respect, in regard to the character which he had given of the Parliamentary friends of the Free Church. Oh! that their best

friends should be so divided on a question,-as they were on this question of the quoad sacra churches,-in which the principles of equity and common justice is so plainly involved! Dr Candlish would pardon him in saying this, for he was of opinion that in estimating their true friends, they should not swell their number by endeavouring to add uncertain friends to the list, but that they should rather free themselves from those from time to time who shew themselves the friends of the Erastian and secular Establishment, which was overbearing the Church in this matter. The pending question with regard to the quoad sacra churches, in so far as they were concerned, was one of equity, and it was that alone on which their claims were founded. With regard to the raising of funds for the building of churches, it would be a lame and impotent conclusion if, after they had done all they could to acquire the right to obtain sites, and had acquired it, they should then want funds to build the churches which were yet required. It would be a lame and impotent conclusion, if the right to acquire sites was given them, and they had not funds raised to assist those congregations who had so long been deprived of places of worship. As a humble office-bearer of this Church, perhaps from his sin, or from his not husbanding his means sufficiently, or probably partly from both causes, he did find that, in various respects, ho had given to the Free Church objects more than he had been able to afford; but this he would say, hampered as he felt himself, and

checked as his desire was to be a helper in this noble undertaking, although it were to cost him a personal sacrifice, and he believed he spoke the sentiments of many of the elders as well as himself, he would promise, when the collection for the Building Fund came to be made, that they would make a long pull, a strong pull, and a pull altogether, to make that collection not only double, but treble, or quadruple, to any of the other collections of the Church. (Hear, bear.) He had only farther to say, that he cordially seconded the motion proposed on the subject before them by Dr Candlish.

Mr J. F. MACFARLAN said,—The case of Lerwick had been referred to, and there had been considerable difficulty in that case; but, in reference to the observations of Mr Makgill Crichton, it was but fair to remark, they had found that whatever difficulties had been encountered, had not been interposed by the Government authorities. Within the last ten days he had been in correspondence with the Government authorities on the subject, and they seemed to him most anxious to aid that congregation. They were most desirous to put them in possession of that little property, and were very sorry that they could not give it to them free, but they had given it at the least rate they could,-namely, 10s. per annum of feu-duty. If difficulties arose, they did not arise there; and he hoped that, although difficulties arose in the minds of legal gentlemen, who saw through legal spectacles, and whom they found a difficulty at the Disruption in convincing that they were not rebels, they would find that the Government authorities would take a common-sense view of all the matters of this description which came before them. With regard to the site question, he was afraid that many of their ministers and congregations thought that, because the bill on that subject had been read a second time by a large majority, it was certain to pass, but he would banish the delusion from their minds. He happened to be present in the House of Commons when the second reading was carried, but it was by some sort of a mistake. They did a very wise thing in one respect; they voted first and spoke afterwards ; but the consequence was, that it gave a very bitter tone to the speeches. He mentioned this, that their congregations might continue to pour in petitions to that House for the purpose of showing the Legislature and the Government that they would not be satisfied till they obtained their object.

Dr CandLisH wished to explain, that the original difficulty in the way of obtaining the site in Lerwick, which had now been acquired, was interposed by one or two officials on the spot, and thus an odium was attached to the government in regard to the maiter, but he happened to know that all the government authorities in this country wereextremely anxious to accommodate that congregation from the first. The Lord Advocate, he knew, was extremely anxious that the site should be granted whenever it was proposed; but some difficulty arose afterwards among the law officers in England. That caused difficulty and delay; but be hoped he had not created the impression that the Government authorities in this country had caused any unnecessary delay by throwing obstacles in their way.

Mr SAWERS said, he perfectly agreed with the Report, so far as it went, and approved of the motion submitted, but he'rose to state he felt strongly the importance of the questions put by Mr Gibson, and the necessity of the explanation which had been given. He was surprised, indeed, at the way in wbich the property contributed by the Free Church for her principles and her worship was vested and administered. It struck him that, though it was not in the Report, it might have been in this Report, or in some previous one. He thought that that was a matter of first importance. The motion of Dr Candlish was then unanimously agreed to.

DEPUTATION FROM THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH OF IRELAND. Mr Wm. MACFIE stated, that, alo with Mr Moody Stuart and Mr Campbell of Melrose, he had attended the late meeting of the General Assembly of the Irish Presbyterian Church as a deputation from that Assembly, and had been received with all Christian kindness; and he hoped that they would receive the deputation now present from the sister Church in the most cordial manner.

The CLERK then read an extract from the minutes of the proceedings of the Irish Assembly on occasion of receiving the deputation from the Free Church of

N

Scotland; and the Assembly's commission to the Rev. William M'Clure (their Moderator), Professor Gibson, and the Rev. A. Henry, ministers; with John Boyd, Esq. M.P., Benjamin Digby, Esq., and Thomas Drury, Esq., elders, to appear as their deputies at this meeting of the General Assembly, was then read.

Mr M'CLURE said, -I appear before you to-day for the purpose of reciprocating the feelings of kindness which you have so frequently manifested to the Presbyterian Church in Ireland; and to assure you of the continued and increasing interest we take in the prosperity of the Free Church. It would be quite unpardonable to detain you with observations of ours, amidst so much and such pressing business before you--some of which is connected with our own Church. It would be equally unpardonable not to take advantage of the present public opportunity of returning to you our most heartfelt gratitude, and of expressing our thankfulness on account of the interest you have

manifested and the efforts you have put forth in behalf of our unhappy country. This you have done, Sir, in two ways,-both by money and by men. Your contributions to the funds of our Home Mission have been marked by a spirit of the most noble generosity. They were much larger than could have been at all anticipated, especially during a season of wide-spread distress both in the commercial and agricultural world. We have some reason to fear that the collections made on our behalf may have in some degree interfered with those appointed for the support of your own missionary plans. And I would venture to suggest, that if you kindly intend in future to receive our deputations, the time of their visits should be fixed by you, and thus arrangements might be made convenient for both parties. I wish it to be distinctly understood that the contributions received from Scotland will be appropriated only to the religious instruction of the Roman Catholic population of Ireland. (Hear, hear.) We have reason to hope that among ourselves the instruction of the Roman Catholics is exciting a deeper interest. I might mention that some of our best students are about to devote themselves entirely to the instruction of the Roman Catholic population,-giving up all their expectations of being settled over congregations, and proceeding as missionaries through the Roman Catholic districts of the kingdom. (Cheers.) There is another way, Sir, in which you have most effectively aided the missionary cause in Ireland that is, by sending over some of your most zealous and devoted men, who have proclaimed in the face of error the truth as it is in Jesus. We hope that those friends who visited our shores are only the harbingers of very many who are yet to follow. We would invite ministers, and, if possible elders, of this Church. It would be useful to themselves. After witnessing the superstitions, the miseries, and the crimes of Ireland, they could not fail to prize more highly their own religious knowledge and privileges. They could not fail to return home with their spirits stirred within them,—with their hearts more deeply affected than ever with the importance of the missionary cause, and anxious that all around them should feel its vast and incalculable importance too. Our deputations have so lately traversed the greater part of this kingdom, that I deem it unnecessary in this place to describe the operations of our Mission. There is one thing, however, which I wish especially to be borne in mind,—that is, Ireland is now open to the preaching of the gospel. We cannot indeed tell all the motives that may influence the people to attend on the ministrations of our missionaries. But the fact is affirmed by many who have visited the darkest regions of our land,--that the priesthood seem now to feel that the Word of God is beginning to tell on them. The door is now wide open. There can be no question as to the line of duty we, as Evangelical Churches, are called on to pursue. It is surely to go forth and proclaim the Lamb of God, who taketh away the sin of the world, against the prevailing errors and superstition,—to proclaim amidst the multitude of saints' days and festivals appointed by man, the command of God, Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy. (Cheers.) I have often very greatly admired the motto of the western metropolis of your kingdom—“Let Glasgow flourish by the preaching of the Word.” I would wish exceedingly to take this motto for my native land. Let the sound of gospel truth be heard throughout that land, and the strongholds of superstition will fall down before it. Let the light that beams from the page of inspiration be shed abroad over that land, and then, and not till then, can we expect that Ireland will flourish. Then, and not till then, will it be

« السابقةمتابعة »