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of Sinim ;' and you are cheerfully recognising your obligations to preach the Gospel in the regions beyond you, so that the Dayspring from on high may visit those who for untold generations have been sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death. While holding on in this course, you may confidently anticipate success in your labours, and the blessing of the Lord to rest on all
undertakings. While we, the agents and representatives of Presbyterian Missions in these islands, taking the past and the present of your history as a pledge for the future, feel morally certain that you will sustain us by your sympathies and your counsels, your earnest prayers,
your liberal contributions."
THE LAY ELEMENT.*
It is not uncommon to hear people speak of the advantages that accrue to the Presbyterian system from the admittance of the lay element into the Church Courts. This must be a misunderstanding altogether. None but elders—teaching and ruling elders—are competent to sit in any Presbyterian Church Court, from the Session of a congregation up to the General Assembly; and, as we have already seen, all elders are equal in point of official standing, for though their departments of duty are in some respects different, yet the office is one and the same. No elder of any kind is a layman, but an ecclesiastical office-bearer, ordained with the laying on of the hands of the Presbytery, and appointed to the oversight of the flock and to the discharge of spiritual duties. Nor does an elder sit in our Church Courts to represent the laity. He represents the laity in no sense different from that in which the minister represents them; both are chosen by the people, and both fill the one office in the Church, the only difference between them being one of education, of labour, and of reward. The notion is only plausible from the fact, that most elders are engaged in secular pursuits. But it should be remembered that all ministers were so engaged at the first. Even an apostle lived by his trade, as he repeatedly informs us (Acts xx. 34; xviii. 3 ; 1 Cor. iv. 12; 1 Thess. ii. 9; 2 Thess. iii. 8); and it was part of Paul's charge to the bishops of Ephesus, “that so labouring they ought to support the weak” (Acts xx. 35). If the pursuit of secular employments proves our elders to be laymen, then the bishops of Ephesus were laymen, and the Apostle of the Gentiles was a layman too. It is equally in vain to argue that, as the brethren were present in the apostolic council (Acts xv. 23), the laity are entitled to be represented, and are represented by the elders in our Church Courts : for, as every one knows, elders and brethren were both present in that council, and therefore the one could not represent the other-each class had a place and a function of its own. Elders sit, in their own right, as spiritual rulers in the house of God. There are in our Church Courts no lay representa
* From Professor Witherow's “ Apostolic Church: Which is it?" an admirable little book on Church Government.
tives and no lay elders—a name which ignorance invented and malevolence has preserved, in order to bring the office into contempt and disrepute.
It is, however, only candid to say, that such grotesque notions of ecclesiastical order, as these terms betray, have received countenance from the disparity that in the course of time has risen between the elders who teach and the elders who rule. This disparity is not the result of any ecclesiastical enactment, but was at the beginning, and still is, the effect mainly of a difference of gifts. The most gifted of the elders was in the beginning set to preach, and what at first was only a difference of gifts has grown, in the progress of time, to wear the appearance of a difference of rank. One is here reminded of the truthful remark of Dr Campbell—“Power has a sort of attractive force, which gives it a tendency to accumulate, insomuch that what in the beginning is a distinction barely perceptible, grows in process of time a most remarkable disparity.”
The disparity existing among teaching and ruling elders among Presbyterians, instead of being defended, is very much to be lamented, and ought as much as possible to be removed. This is to be done, however, not by lowering the teaching elder, but by elevating the ruling elder, and appointing to office those only who are distinguished from the people by more than a common measure of graces and gifts, who are aware of the responsibilities of the eldership, and who are determined, for the Lord's sake, to the best of their ability, to discharge its duties. Besides, the office of the deacon, existing at present only in some congregations, should be revived in every Church, where elders can manage temporal matters only by neglecting the spiritual concerns peculiarly their own. These and other defects can be remedied, when once they are seen to be defects; for it is one among the many recommendations of the Presbyterian Church polity, that it possesses within itself a purifying and reforming power, by which, while always preserving the Scriptural and essential principles of the system, it can alter any arrangement that experience has proved in its practical operation not to be productive of good.
REPORT OF TRIENNIAL VISITATION OF CONGREGATIONS OF THE REFORMED PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, SUBMITTED TO THE SYNOD—1869.
PRESBYTERY OF KILMARNOCK. The Report we now present, as the result of another Triennial Visitation, can scarcely be characterised as one of marked progress. Adverse influences, in almost every department of congregational interests, have rendered this impossible. In such circumstances it is much for one to be able to say, that he has kept his own. This we can truly say, and something more; for, in every detail we are in the habit of noticing, as symptomatic of a prosperous congregation, we can speak of increase, however small that increase may be.
In a general way, we may say that all the congregations within our bounds enjoy a complete organisation; the ordinances are regularly dispensed; the weekly prayer-meeting has become a standing institution, and is more or less appreciated by us; the members receive stated pastoral visits; and the poor, in all cases, are seen to.
There are, in all, 6 congregations of us, with an aggregate membership of 718, as against 697 of last Report; showing an increase of 21.
In the oversight of these the pastor is assisted by a staff of 34 elders, who all, more or less, visit in their several districts,—one congregation reporting, that the elders visit twice a-year. In all the congregations the Session meets as occasion requires, while in two of them there are regular monthly meetings, to which the elders come together to consider the spiritual interests of those over whom they are placed.
The children of our congregations are all well looked to. The ministers here are joined by a band of Sabbath school teachers to the number of 63. 466 children wait upon them for instruction every Sabbath evening. Besides these there are 8 ministers' classes, at which our young men and young women attend to the number of 230.
Of purely missionary work—work, that is to say, engaged in for the direct benefit of such as lie beyond the pale of common ordinances—the Presbytery seems to be doing its fair share. True, there is no one employed in any of the congregations to give his time exclusively to such work-our funds wont admit of that;—but the ministers, one and all, as time and circumstances permit, are employed in it. In villages where the means of grace are either neglected, or are not readily accessible, the Gospel is preached of a Sabbath evening. In two of the congregations the Sabbath school, which is attended by large numbers, is altogether a mission school. In two congregations there are three Bible classes, all of them with a large attendance, and that attendance consisting of sons and daughters, and, in one instance, of fathers and mothers, of non-church-going families. In two of our congregations there is regular evening service (Sabbath), for the benefit of the same class of our population ; while in one of our congregations several of its members visit quite regularly in the houses of our home heathen.
Notwithstanding of the fact that the last three years have been one long period of commercial depression, we are thankful to have it to report, that our financial affairs are in a satisfactory condition; the several congregations being all able to meet their pecuniary liabilities. Last year, an average one, there was collected, for all purposes, the sum of £914:1: 73, as against £750 of the previous Report; showing an increase of upwards of £164. Of this sum, £85 have been contributed for missions, and, as near as may be, £15 for the poor. The average per member rises, in the several congregations, from 16s. 103d., the lowest average, to £1:16: 63, the highest. As the three highest congregations in point of numbers are the lowest in point of contributions, the average all over the bounds is reduced to the comparatively low figure of £1: 5:51, as against £1:1: 6 of former Report. In the manner of raising these funds there are symptoms of improvement- the weekly offering in some of the congregations fast
supplementing the cumbrous and altogether unsatisfactory way of private subscription. The good effects of this movement are apparent in the increased, and still increasing, command of funds. In one congregation the church door collections have, during the last three years, been doubled, while the income as a whole has increased by precisely that amount.
As to the most crying sins within our bounds there can be no doubt whatever. With one heart and one mouth the Sessions speak here. In the first place—and, alas ! it would seem almost as a matter of course, there is the sin of uncleanness, occupying now, as ever, its place of unenviable and unhallowed pre-eminence. Since last Report almost every Session has had to deal with it. Then comes, and scarcely second to it, the sin of drunkenness. And following hard upon these, and bidding fair soon to surpass them in point of clamancy, what hitherto we have not had so particularly to notice, the sin of Sabbath breaking. Not that altogether this is a new feature in our Report, but that during the three years that have elapsed since our last Report, it has acquired such a prominence as to attract the special notice of all the Sessions within our bounds. So much is this the case, that the phrase, “A Scottish Sabbath,” which was received most complacently by us as a compliment from strangers, can hardly, without considerable inward struggle, be accepted by us, now, as such. It would be well if Synod were to take the premises into its serious consideration, and to inquire into the causes, past and present, of this state of things ;what are the effects it is likely to have on our Scottish type of piety, and the state of religion generally ;—and how the tendency may best be counteracted, and the evil itself dealt with.
In fine, from the reports handed in of the several congregations, it would seem that they are all in a healthy state, and manifesting considerable spirit in the several departments of congregational life. True, much has fallen out to them in the course of the past three years that is calculated to depress; but herein they reckon that no strange thing has happened unto them, but that, on the contrary, these conditions of theirs are fraught with the highest blessings to such as get grace to fall in with the arrangements of an all-wise Providence. In this spirit all are working, holding forth in their several districts the word of life; diligent in gathering together Him the travail of His soul; striving that those so gathered may be built up in their most holy faith. And though not without evidence that they are in some measure fulfilling the several ends for which a Church exists upon the earth, what they most desiderate is, a larger outpouring of God's Holy Spirit, that the means of grace may be made instinct with life and health to those who enjoy them.
PRESBYTERY OF DUMFRIES AND NEWTON-STEWART.
The Presbytery aimed at making this examination as thorough and as satisfactory as possible, and, for this end, appointed two of its members to visit each congregation.
A week-day meeting was held with elders and managers, when the position of the congregation was fully inquired into; and on Sabbath one of the deputies, who remained for the purpose, exhorted the assembled
congregation on the more prominent points brought out in the investigation.
The following is a condensed report of the statistics obtained and submitted to Presbytery.
The total membership is 1170, with an ordinary attendance on public worship of 1435 daily. Of ordained elders, with assigned districts, there are 43, being 1 to about 27 members.
The “Diets of Examination,” at one time so common in the Presbytery, are now almost abandoned for the more popular annual visitation of the congregation by the minister and elder of the district.
All the congregations have meetings for prayer : two have three each weekly, and one has as many as fifty in attendance regularly.
A good work is done in the Sabbath schools; and the ministers' classes are popular, and largely attended. The several libraries have a fair number of readers : one of these has over 700 volumes of excellent reading.
The extra special services of the congregations are chiefly confined to district preachings, and cottage and mothers' meetings.
The sins prevalent are drunkenness and uncleanness, but comparatively few cases have called forth the exercise of discipline.
All the congregations have been nearly able to meet their liabilities. £150 of debt rests on a manse, and £250 on a church; but all the other properties are without burdens.
The annual income raised by the ordinary means amounts, in all, to £1436, being over 25s.
member enrolled. The Missions of the Church receive a large amount of support; one respected and liberal ruling elder having, for the last six or seven years, given £50 annually to the Schemes of the Church,—the half of the sum being given by him for Foreign Missions.
MANAWATU, STATION OF REV. JAMES DUNCAN. FROM LETTER OF REV. WILLIAM WATT.
Oct. 1868. On Thursday, the 21st of this month, we started at six o'clock in the morning for the Manawatu, a place with which all of you were once familiar, through the letters of Rev. James Duncan.
Manawatu is seventy miles from Wellington, and your way literally lies by mountain, stream, and flood. Leaving Wellington, the path lies along the sea-shore until you arrive at the entrance of the Ngauranga Valley, up which the coach wends its way for five miles, the mountains rising high on each side; the road, which in most places is only broad enough for a single vehicle, crossing and recrossing the stream just as the nature of the hill on each side permitted its being made. It must have been made at great labour and expense. The hills rise in majestic grandeur; and the deep gorges suggest the idea of some terrible upheaving in which the mountains were rent asunder. Whatever be the cause, the trees up this valley are all decaying, so that the scenery is sadly deficient in this respect. At the head of the valley is Johnsonville, a small, straggling village, and your descent again begins until you reach Porirhua Bay. Between Johnsonville and Porirhua the scenery was tamer, and the same want of trees, but a great improvement in verdure. Houses are to be met with all along