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PRESBYTERIAN SYNOD., Issue 8051, 30 October 1889
The Synod resumed this morning, at ten o'clock. UNIVERSITY CHAIRS. The interim Act sent down to ministers and kirk sessions by the pro re nata meeting of Synod in January last, anent the filling of vacant chairs in the University of Otago by the Church Boaid of Property, was read, and without discussion passed into a regulation for the said Board. CHALMERS CHURCH, A memorial was received from Mr J. Wood, who prayed the Synod (1) to declare unconstitutional the aotion of the Dunedin Presbytery in permitting a charge seriously reflecting upon the Chalmers Church congregation to be opened up again and again by motion, after having dealt with and disposed of the subject matter of that charge ; (2) to declare unconstitutional the conduct of said Presbytery in dealing with a serious charge against said congregation behind its back and without notice; (3) to dismiss the reference, and grant such relief as the Synod may deem just. A discussion ensued as to whether the matter was sufficiently before the Synod, during which Rev. W. Will intimated that he intended to move that the memorial be not received, on tho ground that the memorialist had no standing in the case. The discussion was brought to a close by the Rev. Mr Mackenzie moving—"That the Presbytery and the memorialists be now heard from the bar," which was agreed to on the voices.
Rev, J. Ryley supposed it was understood that the Synod go into the merits of the whole case. He for one regretted that a matter so frivolous should have come before the Synod. He did not think that in the history of the church a more frivolous matter had ever wasted its time. The speaker proceeded to give a history of the trouble. Chalmers Church had resolved to build a house for itself, instead of continuing to dwell in tents. They came before the Presbytery of Dunedin, and asked that their locale should bo fixed, and said that they had resolved to buy a piece of land and insert in the title deed a clause excluding tho use of hymns and instrumental music. A deputation from the Presbytery waited on the congregation and asked them to alter their decision. The matter was discussed fully and fairly, and the deputation could not change their opinion. Tho result of the interview was reported, and the Presbytery expressed regret that the clause referred to should have been inserted jn the deed.— (Voices; "No, no,")— Well, that the deputation had failed to persuade the congregation, which amounted in his (Mr Ryley's) estimation to very much the same thing. He personally had not felt any regret, and in his place in the Presbytery moved as an amendment that the Presbytery take no further action in the matter. The Presbytery were evidently not of one mind on the matter, for Mr Will's motion was only oarried by a majority of one. It was then thought that the matter was settled, and that Chalmers Church would be permitted to go on with its good work without annoyance and trouble, And he (Mr Ryley) was glad of the opportunity of saying that this church was progressing satisfactorily. The church was about full, and it was carrying on God's work in such a way that if others did as well there would be less anxiety as to what they had termed " lapsed Presbyterians."
Rev. J, M. Sutherland interrupted to remark that the speaker was never authorised to refer to the affairs of Chalmers Church.
Several members enjoined Mr Ryley to proceed. Rev. J. Ryley went on to say that he knew a considerable number of those now members of Chalmers Church had not before the formation of that church been in the habit of attending any place of worship, but now felt comfortable in doing so, and numbers of others were spiritually happier than they had been for many years previously. That should be a matter in which all should rejoice whatever individual opinions might be entertained on the constitutional question. The matter was, as he had said, believed to be decided, but at the following meeting of Presbytery, when the minutes came up for confirmation, Mr Smith moved that this particular part of tho minutes be pot confirmed. A vote was taken, with the result that all present, with the exception of Mr Smith and Mr Gibb, voted for the confirmation of the minutes. Once again tho matter was thought to be settled, but at next meeting Mr Smith brought the question up again by the motion which now laid on the table. He (Mr Ryley) held that if Mr Smith thought the Presbytery were doing anything by way of violating tho constitution of the church, he, as moderator, Bhould have said sp at the time, and have properly directed the Presbytery. The speaker concluded by making a powerful appeal to the Synod not to lend its power to crush a congregation that was doing excellent work for God and for the truo interests of the ohuroh. Rev. J. Gibson-Smith maintained that
Chalmers Congregation were doing a thing which could not pos&ibly be sanctioned. He would admit that at first sight the matter seemed to be, as Mr Ryley had said it was, frivolous, but if the Synod would look at the whole question oarefully thoy would see that the main question was not as to whether hymns and instrumental music should or should not be permitted in a particular church. Other principles wore involved, and these were no less than the great dividing principles which separate Presbyterianism from Congregationalism and Independentism, He did not question the statements made by Mr Ryley as to the good Chalmers Church was doing ; that might be taken for granted, but that was not the question. There was a regulation that all congregations which reoeived grants from the Synod's funds must have their properties secured by title drawn in accordance with the model trust deed. Therefore, if Chalmers Church were to have its own way it could not have the Synod grant. The choice that tho church had be : fore it was either to have its own way in regard to tho deed or to have the Synod grant. There was no other alternative, and he (Mr Smith) could not see that the church deserved credit for foregoing a claim on the Synod funds to which it was by its own act disentitled. The question was: Did a congregation, by declining to
apply for a grant, obtain the right I to put anything it pleased in its title deed ? That was answered in the affirmative in the Presbytery, and, judging by the tone of the Synod, it was almost answered so by the Synod to-day. Was there to be no limit to the power of a congregation in such a case ? If there were not, then any congregation could to-morrow, if it chose, put in its title-deed a clause sanctioning the worship of the Virgin Mary.—(Voices : "Oh ! oh !") Well, if it could not, there was some limit to the congregation's power. Where was that limit? That was the question the Synod had to settle. Did a congregation in such a case buy the right to have absolute control of the order of worship ? If it had not absolute control, what was the limit of its control? He (Mr Smith) said that the buying of its own church was a matter that had nothing to do with the buying of its own liberty in regard to the order of worship. The second point was this: Had the Synod granted to every Presbyterian within its bounds the right to choose between having and not having hymns and organ worship in his congregation? He held that when the Synod allowed the first hymn to be sung and the first organ to be used, they threw free that question and allowed every man the right to agitate for the use of hymns and instrumental music. It took it out of the category of things prohibited, and put it into the category of things optional. His third point was this: Had the congregation by taking into its own hands the control of the order of worship, and taking it out of tho hands of the Presbytery—had the congregation by doing this contravened the authority of the Synod, infringed the administrative rights of the Presbytery, and placed an unlawful restriction upon individual rights ? He held that Chalmers Church had chosen its own way in defiance of the Presbytery and the Synod, and that the Synod could not expect reverence, if, after sanctioning the use of bymns and instrumental music, it permitted a congregation within its bounds to place the use of hymns and organs in tho same category as theft or any other breach of the Ten Commandments. Such inconsistencies should not be allowed tu exist.
Mr J. Wood, speaking in support of the memorial, gave a history of the matters referred to; and speaking of tho charges made against the Chalmers congregation, said more serious charges could not well be made, for they implied breach of contract and rebellion against the Presbytery. These charges had been kept hanging over the congregation most improperly, and were fitted to cause, and had caused, outsiders to look upon the congregation with distrust, to the great damage of the congregation. It was absurd to contend that notice had been given to the congregation because members of it might have seen in the newspapers an account of what had occurred, or because the minister and an elder of that church were members of the Presbytery. The petition, he submitted, was necessary, and its language justified ; and he trusted the subject matter of reference would receive the treatment it deserved.
Rev. W. Will said he supposed he had lost the opportunity of moving that the memorial be not received, but ho was of that opinion, for he did not see that the memorial in any way showed that Mr Wood had been injured by the Presbytery. Rev. A. M. Finlayson followed on the same side.
Rev. J. H. Mackenzie asked as to the wording of the record of Chalmers Church, so as to see what the Presbytery knew of tho matter.
Discussion on the point as to whether the question could be asked of those at the bar was ended by the Moderator stating that the document did not exist in the hands, of the Presbytery. Rev. Dr Macgregor moved as follows : "The Synod find that the Preßbytery ought not to have taken any further action in the matter after receiving the report of the deputation to Chalmers Church, and especially that the congregation was not justly treated after that point in respect of the Presbytery's dealings with the matter in its absence, and without giving it due warning ; and the Synod hereby declare that tho matter shall now take end, and that Chalmers Church be left to act in it as permitted by the constitution of this church, which does not give power to Presbyteries to interfere with congregational property beyond what is especially provided in relative church constitutions. The Synod further congratulate the Chalmers Church on their success in peculiar circumstances, and wish them God-speed in continuance of the same " Mr Beoc; seconded tho motion.
Mr Stkingek moved as an amendment—- " The presbytery having taken no definite action in the matter, the reference and memorial be dismissed, with the recommendation to the Presbytery to interfere no further in the matter." He moved this so that they might avoid passing censure upon the Presbytery. Mr J. Paterson seconded the amendment. On a vote being taken, the amendment was declared to be carried by 40 to 529. The Synod adjourned at 1.40 p.m., to meet this evening at seven o'clock. It is expected that the evening session will be chiefly occupied by consideration of the following REPORT OF SYNOD'S COMMITTEE KE THB "CONFES9I- N OV FAITH." The Committee appointed at the last meeting of Synod, re the overture adopted anent the Oonfessiou of Faith (printed on page 104 of the report of the Synod's proceedings for 1888) met for the first time on the 9th April last. The result of that meeting was a general or provisional understanding that the real solution of the problem to be dealt with would be found in the adoption in whole or in part of the articles which form the vital part of the Declaratory Act adopted by the Synod of the U.P. Church, May, 1879. At a subsequent meeting of your Committee, held on the 15th July last, the declaratory statements in t v e Act above referred to were read article by article, and duly considered; and it was unanimously resolved to recommend the Synod to send down the five following ar icles to Presbyteries and Sessions for their consideration, with a view of their being framed ii.to a Declaratory Act at the ensuing meeting of Synod. 1. That in regard to the doctrine of redemption, as taught in the Confession of Faith, and, in consistency therewith, the love of God to all mankind, His gift of His Son to be the propitiation for the sins of the whole world, and the. offer of salvation to men without distinction, on the ground of Christ's perfect sacrifice, are matters which have boen and continue to be regarded by this church as vital in the system of Gospel truth, and to which due prominence ought ever to be given. 2. That the doctrine of the divine decrees, including the doctrine of election to eternal life, is held in connection and in harmony with the truth that God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance, and that he has provided a salvation sufficient for all, adapted to all, and offered to all In the Go3pel; and also with the responsibility of every man for his dealing with the free and unrestricted offer of eternal lie.
3. That the doctrine of man's total depravity, and of his loas of "all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation," is not held as implying such a condition of man's nature as would affeot his responsibility under the law of God and the Gospel of Christ J or that he does not experience the strivings and restraining influences of the Spirit of God, or that he cannot perform actions iu any sense (food; although aotions which do not spring from a renewed heart are not spiritually good or holy—such aB accompany salvation. 4. That while none are saved except through the mediation of Christ, and by the grace of His Holy Spirit, who worketh when, where, and how it pleascth Him; while the duty of sending the Gospel to the heathen, who are sunk in ignorance, sin, and misery, Is clear and imperative; and while the outward and ordinary means of salvation for those capable of being called by the Word are the ordinances of the Gospel; in accepting tho Confession of Faith it is not required to be held that any who die in infancy are lost-, or that God may not extend His grace to any who are without the pale of ordinary means, as it may seem good in His sight. 5. That in regard to the doctrine of the Civil Magistrate, and his authority and duty in the sphere of religion, as taught in the Confession of Faith, this church holdß that the Lord Jesus Christ is the only King and Head of the Church, and is " Head over all things to the church, whioh is His body "; disapproves of all compulsoiy, or persecuting and intolerant principles in religion ; and declares that she does not require approval of anything in the Confession of Faith that teaohea or may be supposed to teaoh such principles.
PRESBYTERIAN SYNOD., Issue 8051, 30 October 1889
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