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BODY; " while at the rear end of the Church were seen the date of the division with that of the Reunion: 1837,
1870. An audience, that crowded every portion of the building not reserved for the Assembly, gladly united with its members in the services of praise and prayer which preceded the sermon of the Rev. Dr. Fowler, the last Moderator of the New School branch. This dis course at once entered upon the subject of the Reconstruction of the Reunited Church, and suggested its outlines.
Dr. Fowler's text was Ephesians iv. 4: "There is one Body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling." The preparation of this dis course was somewhat advanced before it was noticed that the Rev. F. Allison, D.D., had chosen the same text when preaching in Philadelphia, May 24, 1758, before "The Reverend Synod of Philadelphia and the Reverend Commission of the Synod of New York," on occasion of the former Reunion of the Presbyterian Church. Instead, however, of changing the text, as was his impulse at first, Dr. Fowler retained it, as sanctioned by such an authority for it, rather than interdicted by such a use of it.
The portion of the sermon which relates to Recon struction is as follows:
First, the Reunion lays upon us a work of reconstruction. I will not intrude on the part assigned to committees appointed to report to this General Assembly. They are charged chiefly with the necessary changes in the boundaries of our judicatories, and with the combination of our two sets of evangelistic agencies. The further question arises, Is any modification of our ecclesiastical administration desirable and feasible?
Everything distinctive in our polity is beyond inquiry, of course. As none of us entertain a thought, so none of us could present a proposition
looking the most remotely to the least alteration of our Presbyterianism. We fully approve it. We ardently love it. Study and observation and experiment commend it to our judgments and hearts. But is our method of operation incapable of improvement? Has trial developed no faults or defects in the organs we furnish for the functions of our Church?
For example, how is it in reference to supervision? Our organization provides for it. Indeed, it is characterized by it. We define Presbyterianism as "a series of courts of review and control." But ours is a supervision by bodies. Presbyteries, Synods, and the General Assembly excrcise it. Is there not a measure, and is there not a method of it, that could be entrusted to individuals, and that would be useful to the Church? None of us could be reconciled to an Episcopacy-technically so called. The parity of the ministry is inviolable among us, and imperiousness and inquisitiveness are intolerable by us. We must be freemen and peers. And we would not sacrifice self-training, self-incitement, self-restraint, for the quickening and check of a bishop's crook and eye. We must be, we will be, laws to ourselves. But cannot individualism be reconciled with a supervision by individuals, and would not our Presbyterianism be helped by it? Prelacy and Methodism largely owe their efficiency to it, and guarded against excess and abuse, and an appendix to supervision by judicatories, might it not add to our force?
This would be no novelty in Presbyterianism, as it would be no intrusion upon it. John Knox established it in the Scotch Kirk, which he divided into ten dioceses, for each of which a superintendent was appointed. The first Book of Discipline directed that these superintendents should have their own special kirks, besides the common charge of others, and that they should not "remain in their own kirks above three or four months, but should pass again to their visitations." Their duty was described as not only to preach where they went, but to "examine the doctrines, life, diligence, and behavior of the ministers, elders, and deacons; " to "consider the order of the kirk, the manners of the people, how the poor are provided, how the youth are instructed, how the purity and discipline of the kirk are kept, how heinous and horrible crimes are corrected,” and to administer and dress things out of order with their counsel the best way they may."
The genius of Presbyterianism presides in the study. Our ministers are the thinkers and scholars of their profession, and particularly set apart for the inculcation of principles and doctrines. Diligently do they prosecute their special mission, and they need little additional incitement and guidance in it. We feel our shortcomings and deficiencies more in out-of
door work, and who of us but often need responsible counsel and help, and how invaluable they would be to the juniors among us!
Our churches suffer from the lack of oversight. Pastors tend well the folds over which they are severally set; but, with here and there an exception, our Presbyterics and Synods very imperfectly watch the shepherdless flocks. As ecclesiastical bodies do not and cannot whisper caution and advice and encouragement and stimulus to those of their members who call for the delicate administration of such an office, so they are too cumbersome for all the activities of a missionary field. They are compelled to undertake them by the exigencies of new settlements, and are occasionally aroused to them in established communities, but their efforts are generally transient and fitful. And the result is disastrous. Scores and hundreds of churches die of neglect, and scores and hundreds of opportunities for churches are lost. Episcopacy has an advantage here, and Methodist Episcopacy is making the most of it. It takes up our expiring flocks and puts them in well-tended folds.
And would not an arrangement for a kind and measure of supervision, by individuals as well as by bodies, abate an evil, of which both our church and ministers are the victims? I can hardly bring myself to publish the fact, for it seems like proclaiming either our weakness or our shame, and yet the stress of the case compels me to state, that while our last minutes report 4,181 ministers, and 4,330 churches, more than 1,000 of our ministers are stated supplies, or without permanent engagements;' and nearly 800 are wholly unemployed, and less than 1,500 are pastors; and more than 1,500 of our churches are served by stated supplies, and nearly 1,000 have no regular supplies of any kind. Suppose that onehalf of these unemployed ministers are aged or infirm, or otherwise incompetent for pulpit and pastoral labor, we then have 400 ministers, qualified to preach and visit, without pulpits and parishes. Most of the 1,000 vacant churches are small and feeble, but the greater their need of care, and with 400 able-bodied and well-trained ministers disengaged in our bounds, they ought to be served,
The impossibility of a support for these 400 ministers in these 1,000 churches is not the reason of their being unemployed, for long-continued experiment by a sister denomination shows that it can be furnished. What is needed, though not all that is needed, is an accepted medium of communication between the two, and also some degree of authority to bring them to terms. Left, as each church so much is left, to provide for itself, and left, as each minister so much is left, to settle himself, our Minutes will continue to report their humiliating tale. And is it not distressing to
think of this amount of cultivated and consecrated power lying idle in the
midst of this abounding waste, and must there not be something faulty or wanting in the administration that admits of it?
All modification of our methods of ecclesiastical action may seem too perilous to be risked; but more is to be feared from a timid conservatism than from a bold amendment. None of us, I am sure, are content with our present degree of efficiency. We make no comparisons with other denominations, but we are dissatisfied with ourselves. We have not the life, the vigor, the enterprise that become a Christian church in this day and in this land.
According to the plan of Reunion adopted by the Assemblies of 1869, the Moderators of the two Assemblies of 1869 jointly presided until the new Moderator was chosen. By this arrangement the Rev. Philemon H. Fowler, D.D., Moderator of the Assembly that met in May, 1869, in the Church of the Covenant, New York, having preached the sermon, the Rev. Melancthon W. Jacobus, D.D., LL.D., Moderator of the Assembly that met in May, 1869, in the Brick Church, New York, took the chair, for the purpose of putting the votes and deciding questions of order.
Prayer having been offered by Dr. Jacobus, the Rev. J. Trumbull Backus, D.D., was by acclamation elected Moderator. Also by a unanimous vote, the following gentlemen were elected clerks :
The Rev. Edwin F. Hatfield, D.D., Stated Clerk, the Rev. Cyrus Dickson, D.D., Permanent Clerk; and the Rev. Villeroy D. Reed, D.D., Hon. S. F. McCoy, and Ezra M. Kingsley, Esq., Temporary Clerks.
The following telegram was read, and received with applause:
ALLEGHENY CITY, PA.,
To the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church :
immediately preceding the separation, sends greeting to the first Reunited Assembly of the same through their Moderator, praying that their proceedings may be distinguished by the wisdom that is from above, and cemented by the charity which is the bond of perfectness.
The Rev. Dr. Hatfield, by appointment of the Assembly, prepared a reply, using for the purpose the words of Psalm xcii., verses 12-15: "The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon. Those that be planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be fat and flourishing; to shew that the Lord is upright: he my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.”
After the preliminary organization, in which was thus exhibited an entire unanimity, the Assembly commenced its appropriate work. A Joint Committee on Reconstruction had been appointed by the Assemblies of 1869. This Committee, of which the Rev. Dr. Musgrave was Chairman, and the Rev. Dr. Hatfield, Secretary, reported at an early stage of the proceedings. The consideration of this report, that involved the boundar ies of the Synods, arrangements for the formation of new Presbyteries, and important constitutional changes, occupied more of the time of the Assembly than any other subject. It originally proposed the establishment of all the Presbyteries during the sessions of the Assembly of 1870, a plan being suggested by which the various representatives of the Synods in the house should meet and nominate bounds to be afterward ratified by the whole Assembly. For this, the method finally adopted was, after not a little discussion, substituted. The