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viewed—see around you the choice of society—the Christian church, of all classes the most open to conviction and impressible by truth. In this select circle you hold office, and are looked up to as invested with a divine authority to repress evil and regulate well-doing. There is not a breath of controversy within your own communion as to the scriptural character of your rule. The Presbyterian churches in America are agitated on the question whether the presbyters of the New Testament included ruling as distinguished from teaching elders ; and it is lamentable to see such men as Drs Wilson, Smyth, and Hodge, restricting the epithet to ministers of the word, and thus leaving no solid ground for a ruling eldership at all. The dispute is not known here. You are with one consent owned to be scriptural presbyters, not less than ministers themselves, and it is needed only that you exercise the rightful superintendence with which you are confessedly intrusted. To preach the unsearchable riches of Christ is no doubt a high distinction, and gives the pastor a certain pre-eminence over other office-bearers. But the position of an elder has also its special advantages, and wherever religious profiting is to be advanced through liberal devisings and endeavours, the eldership is a more suitable mechanism for working out such measures than the ministry. No eloquence would enable a minister to do what some elders have accomplished on behalf of the Synod’s fund for aiding weak congregations.
I may be reminded that many of our elders are poor, and have as little time as money at their disposal. But this is not the condition of all of them, and if numbers are thus fettered, others should be the more earnest to supply their lack of service. Besides, I have known elders who were operatives render vast service to the church. I have found a large district of this city, including people of all denominations, and no denomination, pervaded with hallowed recollections of a zealous elder who lived and died a common weaver. Knowledge is said to be power, but the encomium is more emphatically due to the willing mind, which in the face of all disadvantages, secures knowledge itself, and all other attainments. Give us a right-hearted eldership, burning with love to the souls of men, and it is no impediment in their lot that will cause us to despair or even to doubt of their triumphant usefulness. See what elders are achieving wherever they have a mind large enough to admit a bold and generous conception! Some do more in this, and some in that way, but every one proves a benefactor who finds luxury and bliss in acts of beneficence. We have many examples-give us more. The church needs them; the world needs them; and however numerous they may become, they are amply purchased by the blood of Christ, and will be abundantly recompensed by the heavenly kingdom.
What a favourable season we live in for newness of effort ! Juster views of christian philanthropy are extensively replacing a stinted and antiquated standard of its claims. Religious societies have been thrown out of their old positions, and a time of change is the time for amendment; when things shall have settled down again, they will be next to immoveable. Other denominations are setting us a noble example, and are supplying us with facts all convertible into arguments, and available for the promotion of like achievement among ourselves.
It is especially important, since the overture on the Eldership is to
be considered at next meeting of Synod, that the subject should receive full and serious attention. Important measures may result from the discussion; and, at all events, the truth may be told-told with a fervour and energy that will send it to every corner of the church, and make it vibrate on the ear, and thrill in the heart, of all its officebearers.
The case is mainly in your own hands. Disregard it, and who then can show it effective respect ? Urge it in earnest, and who then shall withstand your noble efforts to advance, through your own improvement, the interests of true godliness? Trusting that you will pardon my freedom of remark, I remain, dear brethren, yours, with christian affection,
THERE is an idea abroad in the minds of a number of our ministersand, it may be, it extends to some of the elders and members of there being too great a desire in certain quarters to centralise our efforts, as a church. The feeling has met us in various directions, although, beyond a vague and undefined suspicion expressed, that the tendency is as we have indicated and that it is a bad tendency-we know not what the thing exactly is which is deprecated as an evil.
The management of our missions is not more centralised than it has been, beyond what arises, in the very nature of the case, from the altered position of matters, caused by the extension of our missionary operations. The Synod declared unanimously, that, to do justice to these, there must be a secretary appointed, and he was appointed accordingly. Of course, he was not to be a peripatetic supervisor, but a resident agent, having a local habitation; and where so fitting to bave his abode as in the metropolis. of the kingdom, and at the ordinary seat of the supreme court of our church. The Synod itself has long contemplated having a Synod-house, to assist in erecting which a sum has been accumulating for many years; and as, on the appointment of the mission agent, the church undertook to furnish him with a house, and the nature of his duties required that he should have an office, it was surely the most convenient and natural arrangement to have the entire establishment in the same vicinity. If this be centralisation, it is to be ascribed not so much to new..fangled notions which have crept in, as to the indivisibility of our good friend, Mr Somerville. Edinburgh and Glasgow are the seats of our foreign and home com. mittees on missions—the transit between these places being so easy and frequent, as to have united them almost into one. The centralisation, in this case, however, has been produced by the power of steam, not by the machinations of ecclesiastical revolutionists. We have said nothing of a question of some importance, in reference to this matter, -namely, whether to centralise the executive of a society or church be wise or unwise. We have not stopt--and do not stop-to inquire whether these committees or boards, appointed by, and responsible to, the whole church, are not likely to act with greater promptitude, unity, steadiness, and effect, when composed mostly of the same men acting together, and bringing their matured judgment and experience to bear upon the exigencies and circumstances of the affairs committed to their management, than if change of men or place was regarded as a desirable thing. We do not now stop to argue this question ; we only assert that, in missions, at least, there has not been more of centralisation than necessarily arose from the nature of the case, and the appointments of the church.
It is not to be supposed, then, that the complaint or jealousy expressed can refer to missions. It is much more liķely to relate to those alterations proposed in the order of synodical business, which were submitted to our supreme court in May last, by a committee which had been “ appointed to consider and report what improvements may be advantageously made in the order of business and rụles of procedure in the meetings of Synod." From a pressure of business, this report could not be discussed either at the meeting of Synod in May or July ; but it is presumed, from the importance of the subject, it will be considered on an early day at the ensuing meeting ; and ere we notice particularly that part of the report of which, as we think, unreasonable and causeless jealousy is felt by some persons, we may glance, in passing, at one or two of the changes, of the propriety of which no one can entertain a doubt. i One distinct object of the proposed “ order of business," is to econo.. mise time. Several changes on the present system, having this object in view, have been suggested. For instance, on the first night of the Synod's meeting, much time is spent, and the patience of members completely exhausted, in making up the roll, calling over the names, and placing a mark to indicate the parties present. The remedy proposed is a very simple one, namely that, the presbytery rolls having been with the Synod clerķ some days before the meeting of Synod, he shall have his roll-book fully made up before the meeting, and that an assistant clerk attend in a convenient place, to whom members, on entering the court, shall give their names, and thus the first sederunt would be obtained quietly and sựrely, without either bustle or loss of time or temper. Another innovation, and, as we think, improvement proposed is, in appointing the committee on bills and overtures. This, at present, is also a tedious affair, and considering that the Moderator is called upon to name the members of committee only a few minutes after he is elected, it is not likely to be composed of the individuals best qualified for the duty. Two remedies have been suggested, one or other of which it is thought would tend to save time and secure a good selection of persons. The first plan indicated being, that the committee on bills should be appointed at the preceding Synod-an objection to which, however, might arise from the circumstance that, if the committee is to be composed of members of the court only, the Synod must be ignorant what elders would be returned the following year. The other plan, and that for which a preference is expressed, is that each presbytery should, according to its relative numbers, appoint so many members of the committee. This would give a fair representation of the whole church, and would secure the services of individuals who were known by their co-presbyters to be best fitted for the work. Another recommendation has been made to promote con-. venience, and to economise time, too,-although this latter attribute of the proposal may not at once appear to attach to it. It is suggested that the Synod, instead of adjourning each day at three o'clock, should sit till four, and reassemble at six. The change proposed here is unquestionably an improvement. If the suggestion that the Synod should not meet in the morning till eleven or twelve o'clock be gone into this latter arrangement will not only afford time for committees and presbyteries meeting, but will give members of the court who are not so engaged, opportunities of attending to those numerous little affairs of business er friendship, which most people have on hand when they from time to time visit the metropolis. Of the proposal to lengthen the evening sederunt we have more doubt, at least when it is said that the Synod should " not adjourn till ten, or even later, unless the business assigned for the evening sederunt be sooner despatched.” We are strongly of opinion that a court sitting day after day, will, in the highest possible degree, gain the ends at which it aims, by attention to these two things, having business thoroughly arranged, so as thạt no time be lost in extraneous discussion; and by short sederunts, especially by adjourning at an early hour in the evening. If“ ten o'clock or even later" be the rule, the members will soon become exhąusted ; men advanced in life, or not very robust, will have their health endangered ; family arrangements will be overturned ; and instead of members of court returning each morning refreshed and ready for work, they will come up to the house languid and oppressed. If the evening hour of meeting be six o'clock, and there are to be no committee meetings after the hour of adjournment, the court may sit till ten, but never later.
We might go into other suggestions contained in the report before us, most if not all of them, as we think, fitted to promote the order of the court, the comfort of members and of the public, and to economise time, which, according to present arrangements, is sometimes little else than wasted. But we come back to that part of the report which possibly has been the occasion, in some quarters, of those jealousies of centralisation of which we have spoken at the outset, and of supposed concomitant or consequential eyils to which it is alleged the system leads. . The report of the Committee of Synod contains a recommendation, unquestionably the most important in it,--as to the time and mode of electing the committee on bills and overtures, and the manner in which it shall discharge its duties. The question, as to the time and manner of electing the committee, has already been noticed ; the matter of chief importance is the time and manner of preparing its business for the Synod. The present plan, as every body conversant with synodical business knows full well, is, that the committee appointed late on the first Monday night meets on the Tuesday morning. The clerk of committee has first handed to him masses of papers then various discussions necessarily arise on such points as these.what papers shall be read ?-what papers shall be read first ?—what parties shall be heard ?
how shall the point at issue be stated ?-and, in what order shall the causes be recommended to the Synod? The settlement of these points is often postponed, and, when Tuesday's devotional services are overfrom which the committee-men are likely to be kept by their attendance down stairs—it is found that a partial report must be communicated to the Synod, or the court be informed that the business is not yet matured. Now, the new system proposes to get rid of all this by appointing a permanent clerk, chosen by the Synod, and having the same allowance as the Synod clerk. To this officer are to be sent, from the various presbyteries, the extracts of the minutes appointing the members of committee on bills and overtures, and all papers intended to be laid before the Synod. On ordinary occasions, and without special reasons for the delay, all such documents, it is proposed, are to be forwarded at least fourteen days before the court meets. These papers would then be arranged by the clerk, a vidimus of the cases prepared, and laid before the committee, whose first meeting should be on the Tuesday of the week before the meeting of Synod. From this day to that of the meeting of Synod, the committee should convene as often as requisite, and, having carefully considered as to the best mode of putting the whole business before the court, the matter should be finally considered on the forenoon of the day when the Synod meets, and a resolution adopted approving of, altering, or modifying, what had been previously suggested. At this last sederunt, individuals having causes, and conveners of committees having reports, could be in attendance; and, after communicating with parties, the committee on bills and overtures would then fix the order of the business before the Synod. The committee, having the whole matters fully under their notice, could far more intelligently and judiciously arrange the order of proceedings, than if the entire court were consulted, while the time and forbearance of the Synod would not, as is too much the case at present, be tampered with. Of course, the committee would require to meet occasionally during the sittings of the Synod, to receive, consider, and arrange papers, which, from the nature of the case, or accident, or some sufficient cause, had not been forwarded to the clerk earlier; and to the committee an entire discretion would need to be given, not of prejudging any case, but of considering how the merits of all the cases might most completely be exhibited to the court, and of ordering, in very special circumstances, some of the papers to be printed, for the information and deliberate consideration of members.
Another suggestion has been made which we conceive quite practicable, and most important, namely, that it be the duty of the committee on bills, not merely to fix the order in which synodical business is to be taken up, but the time when each particular cause or concern shall be considered. To some this may, at first sight, seem impracticable; but its practicability is proved from the fact that such an understanding or arrangement has long existed, and wrought easily in the Established Church, and is one of the few things which the Free Church retains as an acknowledged good. We are well aware that the printing of the proceedings, and admitting of counsel to plead, enable the General Assembly to make arrangements which could not with equal stringency be enforced among us. But we cannot help feeling persuaded that, were the thing attempted-were it known that a cause was understood to terminate with a particular sederunt, both the parties and the mem