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aim at more in that one direction, while there lay a wide waste around. . But if, to an extent not anticipated, this was denied, and if it began to be felt that in this also, as in many other respects, God might deal with us as a Church, then the very deferred desire of individual good, while by the delay it was strengthened in its own direction, was compelled even for the attainment of its own end to embrace a wider range, and to pray for the whole Church. That such or some corresponding process was carried on simultaneously in the minds of many appears to be proved by the interesting and striking fact, that of the various ministerial conferences, the great burden was their own souls, and a heart to care for their own flocks, while the very cause of their being gathered together must have been an enlarged desire for each other's souls and each other's congregations, and the feeling that individual was closely connected with general progress. And if any minister may have complained that in his own vineyard he had not seen the arm of the Lord revealed according to his expectations, he has now seen a breadth given to his hopes, in which all previous expectation must have been swallowed up; he was seeking to cultivate his own little field, and the Lord has shewn him the face of the wide land preparing for the plough and for the seed. Individual congregations will now be wrought with immense advantage; for it is here and in individual souls that the work must be done ; but the movement having taken its formal commencement from the assembled Church, and having thence received a mighty impulse, it will still retain its general and Catholic character, the parts will be recognised by themselves and others as belonging to the whole, and we trust as belonging not to this Church only, but to the Church of Christ universal.
The more external narrative of the origin of these proceedings may be given in few words. Fully six weeks before the meeting of Assembly the state of religion in our Church was considered by the Presbytery of Paisley, who unanimously agreed to overture the General Assembly on the subject, and the example was followed by the Synods of Glasgow and Ayr, Angus and Mearns, and Merse and Teviotdale. At the same time, and without reference to what was doing in Scotland, an esteemed brother in London wrote on the subject a most excellent letter to one of the brethren in Edinburgh, which resulted in a conference of the brethren being called on the day immediately following the April communion in that city. This conference was attended by many Ministers from the country, who had been assisting on that solemn occasion, and a most humbling and searching deliberation it was,—such power of God in casting down every high imagination having never been felt in any meeting of the brethren, except when they had assembled under the awe of some great impending trial. Then followed, and with equal or increased solemnity, the Synod of Lothian and Tweeddale, whose overture is printed ; and, lastly, on the Tuesday and Wednesday immediately preceding the opening of the Assembly there were conferences of Ministers and Elders, both forenoon and evening, numerously attended by brethren from all parts of the country, and each of them occupying from two to three hours. At the commencement of these meetings there was brought out, in the freeness of confidential intercourse, a most precious symptom of the melting of hearts into one, in those who had been honoured to take a prominent part in the business of the Church, expressing their earnest desire for a large place in the proceedings of the Assembly being given to matters purely spiritual, and their deep conviction, as men of business, that their success in that respect depended entirely on the amount of the spirit of prayer conferred, and that the more time and heart were given to religious exercises, the less time would be required for all other matters of deliberation. These most blessed and most memorable conferences were occupied not at all with debate, and very little with formal speaking. The presence of God was so felt by all, that every one seemed to speak out of the fulness of his own heart rather than in the way of discussing what any other might have said. The exaltation of God—the abasing of man,—and chiefly the necessity of seeking the end of the ministry in the salvation of souls, formed the topics of conversation, accompanied with much freedom, or, at least, an amount of freedom previously quite unknown among us, in confessing “ one to another,” as well as unto God, unprofitableness in the ministry,—lifelessness in personal religion,-in the preparation and in the delivery of sermons, aiming rather to preach than to obtain the end of preaching in the conversion of sinners,— want of intercession for the outpouring of the Spirit, before and especially after preaching, and of travailing in birth for souls,-lack of pitying affection for the lost,-apologetic instead of authoritative preaching, and preaching more in the strength of natural spirit than in the strength of Christ, with corresponding acknowledgments on the part of the Elders. The deep impression produced by these preparatory conversations, on the minds of very many, tended powerfully to ripen the Assembly for the proceedings it unanimously adopted.
On the proceedings of the General Assembly itself we offer no remark, except to express regret that pen and ink which carry the words cannot communicate to our readers the impression evidently resting on the minds of the speakers, and conveyed to a sympathising audience. It has now been proved that there is no need of keen debate, or interesting narrative, or any other excitement, either to attract a vast assemblage, or to awaken and sustain their liveliest interest. But written words, which are unequal to the communication of even natural feelings, are far less equal to convey the impressions produced by the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless we have a remedy for this defect which nature has not, and which lieth far beyond nature's bounds, in the prayers of Christ's “ little flock,” which we earnestly entreat for supplicating an unction from the Holy One to accompany the circulation of these most interesting and most edifying deliberations and exercises.
In this narrative, where we have spoken of impressions or desires having been
general" throughout the Church, we must explain ourselves as meaning not confined to one class of persons or one part of the country, and not as intending to assert that, even within the bosom of our Church, the sheep of the good shepherd may not still be only a little flock. And, again, when we have spoken of the presence of the Holy Spirit in our conferences and in our Assembly, we would not be understood to intimate that the sense of that presence has been at all either as manifest or as powerful as has been promised, and is to be desired, and may be obtained. We do not expect in future Assemblies to hear exhortations more faithful, or wiser, or more seasonable, or confessions to God and to men more honest and sincere, and we shall count our Church singularly happy, if in the speakers and preachers on future occasions she shall be equally privileged. But we have only begun to consider our ways, and must go forward in the work; we have but touched the surface, and present impressions must not simply become permanent, but be indefinitely deepened. If God shall grant this grace, then, in future Assemblies we may have both freer communication of the Spirit from above, and freer expression of feeling between the members of the Church, and a more ready and cordial and ample reference to the word. The past Assembly may stand to Assemblies to come somewhat in the relation of the preparatory fast to the communion Sabbath,—in the one sin being more prominently brought out,-in the other the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world. But when Christ is set forth in his broken body and shed blood, the heart which was humbled and searched before is often broken and melted and poured out like water, more free to weep than it was, looking on Jesus, and sorrowing as for an only son, yet looking and rejoicing, for “ I am he that liveth and was dead, and behold I am alive for evermore.' We have been endeavouring, through grace, to sift and to abase ourselves, but having been self-exalted and self-satisfied, it has been an effort to reduce ourselves to the dust, and our very looking to Christ has been very much for the purpose of bringing ourselves lower. But when once we are in the dust, willingly and without effort, then also without effort and without restraint we shall behold the Lamb of God, our eyes will clearly and fixedly contemplate Him who is the Chief among ten thousand and altogether lovely, and, a company of sinners, yet redeemed, we shall together, even on earth, sing the song of Moses and the Lamb,“ to Him that loved us and washed us in his own blood.'
We shall hear our God say, “ I, even I am he that blotteth out thine iniquity, and will not remember thy sin," and we shall “ love much, because to us much shall have been forgiven."
THE General Assembly of the Free Protesting Church of Scotland met at Edinburgh on Thursday 16th May, when, after sermon by the late Moderator, the Rev. Dr Brown of Glasgow, the Rev. Henry Grey of Edinburgh was elected Moderator. The forenoon of Friday was occupied in devotional exercises and the consideration of the missionary schemes of the Church, and it was agreed that in the evening, after the subject of Sabbath observance, the overtures on the state of religion in the land should be considered. Throughout the proceedings recorded in the subjoined Report, the vast hall of Canonmills in which the Assembly met, seated for nearly 3000 persons, was filled with a deeply impressed, interested, and devout audience.
FRIDAY, 17TH Y.
STATE OF RELIGION.
“ Whereas the whole aspect and signs of the times, with the Lord's recent deal. ings of great mercy in the midst of judgment towards this Church, conspire in addressing to her the Divine call, — Awake! arise ! put on thy strength, o Zion ! loose thyself from the bands of thy neck, O captive daughter of Zion !' And whereas along with such a call, the Lord has, in the same dealings, been opening before her special facilities and prospects of the advancement of His work and kingdom in the souls of men; and whereas, amid much that is ground of thankfulness and encouragement, and some tokens of the Lord's presence in certain parts of His vineyard, there is but little to be seen amongst us of what can be well regarded as the full issue and scope of all the great things the Lord has done for us, while the danger is great of our failing to know the time of our visitation, and how to carry out to their spiritual ends those external arrangements in which, as a Church, we have been countenanced of God: Therefore, and for other reasons, this Synod overture the General Assembly that they take into their consideration the state of vital godliness in the Church and land, and use such means as may seem best fitted, under the Spirit of all grace, for fixing the attention of the Church, and especially of the ministry, more and more on their high function and work of the gathering in of sinners, and the building up of believers, through faith unto salvation.”
Overtures on Puseyism and family worship were also read.
Dr Candlish rose and said —Moderator, i think it may be as well, at this stage, not to embrace in our deliberations this evening the other overtures which the Committee of business have passed, along with the overtures on the state of religion. There are two other overtures which have been passed along with these, on subjects intimately connected with the state of religion throughout the country and throughout the world, but not so directly bearing on the great, the momentous object, of the overtures on the state of religion in our own Church, as would warrant us to mix them up in our consideration. In introducing, then, with all possible brevity, this momentous subject to the General Assembly, I shall leave out of view altogether the overture on Puseyism, and the other overture on family worship-not because these two subjects are of minor importance, but just because they are of so great importance that they ought not to be, as it were, lost in the discussion on a subject still more momentous, at least still more immediately coming home to our consciences and hearts 'as ministers and members of a branch of the Church of Christ. I say it with all sincerity, that I approach this subject with great fear and with great anxiety. It is a subject on which I could have wished there had been others in the house to speak
-on which I could have wished that fathers and brethren in the house had given first