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ject the proposed arrangement. Any other course would have been in fact a relinquishment of the rights of the majority. We copy a paragraph of the answer of the Assembly to a protest of a portion of the minority, which sets the matter in a clear light.
The settled belief of the majority of the Assembly is, that the operations of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, with its numerous auxiliaries, both ecclesiastical and voluntary, within the bounds of the Presbyterian church, present the best arrangement for the promotion of the cause of missions by our churches; and it was to prevent the ecclesiastical conflicts and divisions which have resulted from the operations of other similar organizations, that they have thought it their duty to decline the organization proposed. They have made their decision for the purpose, and with the hope of securing and promoting the union in the missionary work which has so happily existed in former years. With these views and hopes, they commend the cause of missions and their solemn and conscientious decision to the blessing of God, and pray for the peace of Jerusalem.
A principal object of the author in the third and fourth chapters is to prove that the proposal to organize a foreign missionary board of the General Assembly originated in the Pittsburgh Convention; a voluntary association of forty-seven ministers and twenty-eight elders, representing forty-eight presbyteries or minorities of presbyteries, which met at Pittsburgh, in May 1835. The following from the Memorial of that Convention will show the general spirit of its members :
Our fourth item of grievance is : The existence and operation, within our church of a Missionary Society in no sense amenable to her ecclesiastical jurisdiction. Again
This institution operates largely in our congregations; first, by sweeping away, from our own board the funds which, by the laws of all social order, ought to come into the treasury of the body to which its possessors belong. Again
We are unspeakably distressed to be constrained to view this as a part of the great system of operations whose tendency is to subvert the foundations of our Zion. The evidence of such a system forces itself upon us. We cannot shut our eyes against it, if we would, and we would not if we could. Painful as the vision is, we are determined to behold it steadfastly; and we crave the attention of this venerable body to the same. And again, We pray this General Assembly to sustain her own Board of Missions, by solemnly enjoining upon all the churches to contribute to its funds, and by rescinding the resolutions formerly passed, which recommended to their patronage “ The Home Missionary Society."
The object of the writer of the Plea, is not to prove that the first proposal, of any form, to establish a General Assembly's Board of Foreign Missions originated in the Pittsburgh convention. The excellent Dr. John H. Rice, of Virginia, just before his death, in 1832, drew up an Overture, which recommends the annual appointment of a committee by the General Assembly, “ with directions to report all their transactions to the churches ;”, but it makes no provision for a permanent board of foreign missions exclusively responsible to the Assembly. - Particularly," does it “ rejoice in the divine favor manifested to the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, whose perseverance, whose prudence, whose skill, in conducting this most important interest, merit the praise and excite the joy of all the churches.” It provides that the Committee of the Presbyterian church shall, as far as the nature of the case will admit, be coördinate with the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, and shall correspond and cooperate with that association, in every possible way, for the accomplishment of the great object which it has in view.*
* The spirit of Dr. Rice was remarkably kindred to that which glowed in the bosom of the eminently pious president Davies. We quote the following passage from his sermon on “ The sacred Import of the Christian Name:"
“My brethren, I would now warn you against this wretched mischievous spirit of party. I would not have you entirely skeptical and undetermined even about the smaller points of religion, the modes and forms, which are the matters of contention between different churches; nor would I have you quite indifferent what particular church to join with in stated communion. Endeavor to find out the truth, even in these circumstantials, at least so far as is necessary for the direction of your own conduct. But do not make these the whole or the principal part of your religion: do not be excessively zealous about them, vor break the peace of the church by magisterially imposing them upon others. • Hast thou faith in these litile disputables,' It is well ; but have it to thyself before God,' and do not disturb others with it. God forbid that my ministry should be the occasion of diverting your attention to any thing else. But I am so happy that I can appeal to yourselves, whether I have during several years of my ministry among you, labored to instil into you the principles of bigotry, and make you warm proselytes to a party: or whether it has not been the great object of my zeal to inculcate upon you the grand essentials of our holy religion, and nake you sincere practical Christians. Alas! my dear people, unless I succeed in this, I labor to very little purpose, though I should presbyterianize the whole colony."
In the course of his discussion, the author makes the following important remarks on the catholic spirit of the Presbyterian church:
Presbyterians ought not to have “ a separate organization" for missions, because the Presbyterian church is much more liberal in the structure of its constitution, and far less exclusive in the terms of its communion, than the denominations above named, excepting perhaps the Moravians. It is the glory of American Presbyterianism that it opens its arms to the reception of all evangelical Christians. It unchurches none of the denominations who hold the fundamental doctrines of the gospel. It recognizes as valid the accredited ministry and ordinances of all such denominations, notwithstanding their great diversities of external form and order, and Presbyterians invite the members of these denominations to their communion. The constitution of our church, as well as the spirit of our profession, as Christians, invites the co-operation of all denominations, who hold the like precious faith. And so far as the American board is concerned, we are not desired to extend our co-operation beyond a few of the most homogeneous denominations. The members and missionaries of that board, are all Presbyterians, or belong to denomi. nations in correspondence with the General Assembly of our church, who agree with us in essential doctrines, and do not materially differ from us in the general principles of their order and discipline. Instead, therefore, of inquiring why Presbyterians should be deprived. of a separate organization for conducting missions, we cannot forbear to ask, why Presbyterians should desire such an organization? To be consistent with the spirit of our professions and the expansiveness of our constitution, we ought rather to regret that, on account of the impediments thrown in the way by other denominations, we are obliged to confine our associations to so small a portion of the professed disciples of Christ, in the great work of evangelizing all nations. Few, if any, can be induced to unite with us, in this glorious enterprise, excepting those who are substantially Presbyterians, and the terms of whose communion are equally liberal with our own. Why, then, should we desire to reduce to still narrower limits the circle of our influence, as a church, by adopting organizations which shall exclude the co-operation of the few denominations who are ready to unite with us
One of the advantages of the voluntary associations is that they bring into efficient action the energies of pious laymen. It is nothing more than reasonable, that the men who contribute largely to the funds of philanthropic associations should have a prominent place in the control and disbursement of these funds. Our author well remarks :
Enlightened and liberal men, who feel their individual responsibility of seeing that their contributions are well appropriated, will choose to patronise societies, whose agencies are, in some degree, within their own control, and whose abuses of trust and of confidence, may be reached and corrected by the very men who furnish the means of their support and efficiency. The influence of monied men, then, cannot be separated from the immense pecuniary means which are required for the conversion of the world, and the least of all dangers connected with this influence is, that those whose hearts are so warmed with love to the heathen, that they are willing to contribute largely of their means to send them the gospel, will desire to make use of their pecuniary patronage for sinister ends.
On the proposed division of the Presbyterian church the writer of the Plea makes the following forcible and very timely appeal. With it, he appropriately concludes his argument:
In view of this state of things, then, we address ourselves to American Presbyterians, and ask, cannot these divisions be healed? If they have resulted from the perversion of official influence, is not that influence within the control of the church which has conferred
Tay it not be arrested by the voice of her members: Has it come to this? Must the church submit to be divided and distracted by agencies of her own appointment? We put the question to all her members. We press it upon the consciences of her ministers, her elders and her communicants. Where will they draw the line which shall separate us? Imagine it cleaving, asunder synods, presbyteries, congregations, churches, and families, weakening the energies and wasting the strength of both divisions of their distracted body! And what good end can our brethren hope to attain by such a measure? Instead of producing peace, it will probably increase discord ; instead of promoting truth, it will probably render error triumphant: instead of advancing the interests of Presbyterianism, it will probably destroy its influence. And, then, where will be the strength of the church to sustain her mighty responsibilities in regard to the work of missions ? Let our brethren, who would both call us away from other associations and divide us among ourselves, on such a subject as this, look to it, that they do not mar and destroy the work which they endeavor to promote. Our confidence, how. ever, is strong that it cannot be destroyed. The Providence of God, in regard to the American churches hitherto, and the signs of the times assure us that he will not prosper the counsels that would divide us. We have one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and instead of being alarmed at the differences of doctrinal belief which exist among us, we ought to be thankful, that, on the essential principles of the
gospel there is so general an agreement. We are essentially one
and it cannot be that American Presbyterians, amid all the light which is concentrated upon the present age, and upon the destinies of this country, will be allowed to lose sight of the high vantage-ground on which God has placed them for the sake of all other nations, or long to forget how much they are debtors to the whole world. We beseech our brethren, therefore, who would divide the church, on such grounds as we have considered, to pause in the midst of their excitement, and reflect on their responsibilities, in common with us. The
eyes of all nations are upon us, and the hope of the world, under God, hangs upon our determinations. And we are rich in the treasures of experience; history has recorded her long story for our instruction; the results of the wisdom of many ages have come down to us, while he who is Head over all things to the church is, in a special manner, lifting up his standard in the midst of us. All things are ready for decisive action, and the circumstances of the times, as well as the spirit of our profession, urge us to press every advantage and improve every talent. We have confidence in God, therefore, who has ordered all these encouragements, and placed us under these responsibilities, and waked in the minds of so many thousands among us, the spirit of missions, that he will not suffer us to be torn asunder by the influences which are diverting the minds of so many of our brethren, as we think, from the right ways of the Lord. To him we commit this most momentous inter. est, and urge our brethren, who adhere to the principles of the adopting act, to use with the utmost discretion, the liberty which the con. stitution of the church guaranties to all its members and ministers; and" by pureness, by knowledge, by long-suffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, by the word of truth, by the power of God, and by the armor of righteousness, on the right hand and on the left," endeavor to avert the calamity which threatens us, and “ to keep the unity of the spirit,” throughout our communion, " IN THE BOND OF PEACE.