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PRESBYTERIAN SYNOD OF OTAGO AND SOUTHLAND., Otago Witness, Issue 1928, 2 November 1888
PRESBYTERIAN SYNOD OF OTAGO AND SOUTHLAND.
The annual meeting of the Presbyterian Synod of Otago and Southland was opened in the First Church on Tuesday evening. The opening service, at which there was a numerous congregation, was conducted by the retiring moderator, the Rev. J. M. Davidson. APPOINTMENT OP MODERATOR. At the close of the sermon the Rev. J. M. Davidson (the Moderator) said: Fathers and Brethren,— l have greatly to thank you for the h : gh honour you have conferred upon me in placing me in the moderator's chair, for the patience with which you have borne with my many infirmities in the discharge of the duties . thereof. My course of service is now expired in that capacity, and it simply remains for me to nominate, in terms of the synod, my successor, the Rev. James Baird, minister of Wiaton. He is familiarly known to you and to me. He is a minister of large experience in the church; characterised, I think, by zeal and wisdqm. I have not the slightest doubt, therefore, that he will preside over the court gracefully and efficiently.
ROLL OP MEMBERS. The Clerk of the Synod, the Rev. Wm. Bannerman, read the roll of members, which was as follows :— Presbytery of Dunedin: MinistersRevs. W. Will, Dr Stuart, Professor Watt, A. Greig, J. M. Sutherland, J. Kirkland, A. M. Finlayson. R. R. M. Sutherland, R. Waddell. J. Ryley,;Wm. Campbell, John Christie, D. Borrie, A. Cameron, J. Gibb, J. M. M'Kerrow, R. J. Porter, J. G. Smith, Hugh Kelly, D. Dutton, and Dr Dunlop|; Elders—Messrs J. Allan, Wm. Dymock, J. Louden, J. Waugh, J. Findlay, Peter Grant, Alfred Catherwood,D. Hood, John Paterson, Wm. Reid, Henry Berwick, Wm. Roundell, Wm. Hutton, Wm. Somerville, C. Moore, R. Findlay, Rev. A. Bett, John Runciman, Thomas De Lacey, Wm. Alexander, and John Gillies. Presbytery of Clutha : Ministers—Revs Wm. Bannerman, J. M. Allan, J. Ohi3holm, J. Skinner, George B. Inglis, J. U. Spence, George Hall, A. M. Dalrymple, S. W. Currie, W. G. M'Laren, Wm. Scorgie, A. Don, Joseph White, Isaac Jolly ; Elders— Messrs J. Smail, H. Clark, S. Passkeson, J. Wright, Thos. J. Agnew, J. Edmonds, James Somerville, Wm. Dallas, J. M'Lay, D. Wright, J. Taylor, and A. C. Begg. Presbytery of Southland: Ministers— Rev. A. H. Stobo, T. Alexander, D. Ross, A. Stevens, J. M. Davidson, R. Ewen, J. Baird, J. Ferguson, J. H. M'Kenzie, W. P. Brown, W. Wright, A. M'Kay, R. Wood, J. Blackie, T. Neave, J. Johnstone; Elders— Messrs George Dawson, Robert Chisholm, James Adam, Donald Collie, A. Cowie, D. L. Matheson, Jas. Gray, A. Johnston, J. Dickie, P. Calder, R. A. Lawson, K. Ramsay, R. Heaney, J. T. Mcakerras, and J. Johnstone. Presbytery of Oamaru: Ministers— Revs. J. Clark, Dr MacGregor, Geo. Lindsay, J, A. Will, A. Bruce, A. B. Todd, P. 8. Hay, John Steven, A. Bruce Todd ; Elders— Messrs J. Strain, J. Hill, Geo. A. A. Goodall, J. B. Taylor, D. Dunn, Thos. Robertson, and John Jackson. Presbytery of Dunstan: Ministers— Rev. R. Telford, J. M ( C. Smith, J. Lothian, J. Henry, and G. P. Hunter; Elders— Messrs E. B. Cargill. George Moir, W.S.Fitzgerald. * THE MODERATOD'S CHARGE. The Rev. James Baird, the newly-appointed moderator, then delivered the following charge: — Fathers and Brethren.— Permit me to thank you sincerely for the honour conferred in calling me to occupy this chair. I make no claim to fitnesß for presiding over the synod's deliberations, and it ia with diflidence I undertake the responsibility. But I simply accept the call of the synod to this honourable office ; and while I shall endeavour to discharge its duties, I feel, at the same time, I must crave from you that kind forbearance which has hitherto been readily accorded to former occupants of this chair. During the past year death has, as usual, brought changes. I recall the name of one who held an honoured place— l mean the late Hon. Dr Menzies, M.L.O. As a man he was held in esteem for bis learning, culture, and honourable dealing; as an educationist he was the true friend of the young, and ever sought to have their training placed on a sound religious basis. Hence he never ceased to regret the expulsion of the Bible from the schools of the land ; and with unflagging zeal he used his best efforts, in and out of Parliament, to have it restored to its true place as the best foundation of moral training. As a Presbyterian ha was a steadfast friend of the church of his fathers, and as a Christian his religion maintained a quiet consistency in public and private. He took an active Bhare in Sabbath school work, and in the religious welfare of his district generally. Use and wont prescribe to the moderator an opening address. The topic I have chosen for the subject of remark is THB LATENT POWER OF THE CHURCH. Let us thank God that the personal influence and active labours of Christians have done so much for the world, and are now doing more than ever. Jesus Christ described His disciples as " the salt of the earth," and commissioned them to go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every, creature. When the Master beotows grace, He never intends '
that the recipients should selfishly hoard it up, or hide one talent even, in the earth. " Heaven doth witli vi as we with torches do— not light them for themselves." Those who live on His gracious bounty should make a chserful and profitable return to Him in holy influences and aggressive work. His promise always takes it for granted that Hit grace shall not lie unused like unprofitable capital which brings in no adequate return. He says, "I should have received mine own with usury." Never before in th^ history of the church has its life been so consecrated and active, its operations so extended and diverse, and its missions at home and abroad so numerous and successful. But I wish to speak not so much of Christian power which is used as that which is not used ; not so much of that which is in exercise as that which is latent ; not so much of the capital which has been called up as that on which there has practically been no demand made. Perhaps the beau ideal of a church is the one which in the clearest manner justifies her own existence as a living, working, and witness-bearing church. Closely connected with this is the view which Christians take of their personal responsibility to God. With many it is to be feared that there is too much of the " rest and be thankful " policy. In the story of the celebrated Webster it is stated that on one occasion he was asked what in his view was the greatest and most impressive thought. "Individual responsibility," was the pregnant and suggestive reply. And this is one of the most influential of thoughts, for it contains the germ of all true action. Take away, or lessen even, the believer's sense of responsibility, and you cut off an essential element of his working power, and you paralyse his arm. And this is precinely how Herbert Spencer's ironbound system of the mechanical " evolution of humanity " would unnerve man. Ib owns no personal God to whom we are accountable, and thereby deprives maa of a powerful motive to action. Man is mere bubble in the waste of waters— a leaf in the wind— a creature of necessity in the hands of a ruthless Power which he can never know. He is responsible to no one, and has no individual immortality. In such a case man is nob stimulated by high impulses and lofby motives to noble deeds, bub ia unmanned, unstrung, and robbed of the strongest energising principle of life. Similarly Matthew Arnold, in what has been termed his modern gospel, refuses to own a personal God to whom we are responsible. But he speaks of "a stream of ! tendency, a power not ourselves making for righteousness." This, however, is a nvre blank abstraction which nobody can love, and in the business, and tear and wear of life men care nothing for such a " stream of tendency " wherever ib is going, and it can exercise no influence over them. Ft is directly against the Bible, which ever points us to " Him with whom we have to do." And ia this connection we are reminded of a saying of Hugh Miller to this effect— that a belief In God- ; without a sense of accounbability to Him would i have no more influence on the conscience and life than a belief in the great sea serpent. Only under a deep sense of personal responsibility on the part of believers may we ever hope to see the Christian ! church rise to her true character and standing as a body of earnest workers. Love, inspired by Christ, is the real working 1 capital of the Christian church, her atock-in-trade, so to speak, and, in the good providence of God, not a little of this has been called up and laid out, without doubt, to the besb advantage. Considering the small outlay of Christian labour and anxiety, and the nature of the work done, the result is often Buch as to astonish. But it is only too evident thab much of this force of love and spiritual energy 1b lying unused or running to waste— if I may use the expression— jusfc like a stream that rolls idly to the sea, until the hand of skill and industry draws its waters aside to turn the works of the factory, or to give motive power to grind the corn, or to lead it forth to irrigate the thirsty land. The same desirable end may bn attained in the spiritual sphere by employing appropriate means to lay hold of the unused forces of Christian love and sympathy, of intellectual capacity and sanctified learning, of tnlent and influence, and turn them into channels of the highest usefulness In the Kingdom of Christ. Dr Schoolbred, a veteran in the mission field, lately urged upon his church that each member should be a worker in the vineyard. The emblems employed in the New Testament point to the united efforts of all the members to achieve the grand conception of Christ, to accomplish the salvation, not merely of a province or a country or a continent, but the world itself. The Christian church is spoken of as an array, of which Christ is the Captain : if so, each member must be a soldier to carry hiß spiritual armour and do duty in the field. It is spoken of as a body, of which Christ is the Head and each believer a member : and thus each is called upon to perform his function so as to ensure the health of the whole body. It is spoken of as a great temple,, of which Christ is the chief corner i stone : then each member should be a living stone, i adding to the strength as well as the beauty of the ] whole fabric. This is a high ideal, no doubt, but It is the New Testament one. We are accustomed to read and sing of the army of the living God and of itß victorious march ; but the pioneering and skirmishing and toils and hard-won battles are not undertaken by the rank and file of the army, but by the leaders, officebearers, teachers in our Sabbath schools, and a limited number of other workers. But why should this be so ? We are not allowed to procure represen- ] tatives to do our personal share of the work while we < stand idly by. As we cannot exeroiße faifch by proxy < nor be sanctified by proxy, so neither can we hope 1 to do our own 6hare of personal work by proxy, c There is by far too much tendency to roll over upon c the shoulders of others what rightly lies to our own \ hand. The Master says, "Son, go work to-day in t my vineyard." It is a personal living service with t our hearts and hands which the Saviour claims to a receive from each follower. He does not provide for c a leisured class of workless members, nor does He s send others away on furlough, nor does He provide for early retirement from the toils and honours of s the field. He makes a life engagement in which the r servant must not weary in well doing. But to how \ many at this hour In the fold of the church may not a the reproachful question be put, "Why stand ye a here all the day idle ?" r When a person seeks to join the communion of the 1 church, he makes a profession of religion,- and is b dealt with a 9 to his saving interest in Christ, and . f another member is added to the church. But it is fi nob taken for granted that one more worker is added b to the congregation. The church, probably looking r too exclusively at doctrinal belief, and too little at o the active, practical side of Christian life, does nob a assume that each believer, as he joins her rankß, o should be a labourer, humble or otherwise in the d Redeemer's kingdom. Nor does her polity or estab- h lished practice provide for the question being asked d of each new disciple : What good work can you do fi for the Master? If this high ideal was a rule of membership, it might restrain some from uuiting d with the church ; bub not such as had a mind to v work. However, we look forward with confidence p to the time when the business faculty of the church o will be such as to provide work for all, even the t< dullest, and when all will be willing to work. Life ai in the church would certainly be intensified, and a p clearer line drawn between the kingdom of God and fc the worJd. At present they often so shade Into each pi other that we caunot tell where the one begins and h the other ends. The house of God, at any rate, m would have more the appearance of a beehive, and a hi state of things would be realised which ardent and it devout disciples had long prayed and hoped for. ©i One man would not, of course, be expected to do ir everything, but every member should try to do hi something. Too few do all the work. If it were spread over a larger number a wider interest would be diffused and more work done. Thus the leaven of the Gospel working in a living church would touch and permeate with new life the dead world around.
But how is this hidden power which lies dormant in many excellent people to be utilised for the benefit of the kingdom? Various Christian bodies in the Home land are casting about at the present hour to get hold of some agency to increase their working power and widen their influence. There are signs of breaking through a strong conservative spirit to extend and popularise the church's influence for good. In the late Convocation of Canterbury a decided expression was given to this feeling when a committee was appointed to consider what new organisation was necessary to grapple more effectively with the masses outside church influences. Need we say that all Scripture truth, in its length and breadth, has nofc yet been realised, nor have the manifold and benevolent applications of which it is capable to the ever-varying ways and wants of men. We sometimes read with regret of the lost arts which flourished in remote ages and involved rare discoveries of the man of science, as well as the daring applications of the skill of the architect and trie engineer. But the inventive resource of Christian love has the best and brightest of arts yet to discover — how to utilise the dormant energy, and evoke the latent talent of which the church of Christ 1b undoubtedly possessed. But no invention could equal the discovery of such an art as this. A living scientist of tho first rank says in
effect if it were possible for the nation to buy & James Watt with his inventive genius, a. Humphrey Davy with his power to save life, or a Michael Fara« day with his knowledge of nature's secrets and his power to apply them to the things of life,' such a purchase, he concludes, would be dirt cheap at £100,000. But this art of which we" speak would simbly be priceless in its power to reform and elevate and bring about the happiest results to mankind, Borne piece of machinery has got to be constructed by Christian hands which will fit into our present organisations to draw out, on a scale hitherto unknown, the love and peacable activities which are wrapt up within the bosom of the church. We have no single word of depreciation for our venerable system of church order. It iB still elastic enough to admit of expansion on Scripture lines. In recent years the Presbyterian Church, in common with others, is stretching out her arms in all directions to the cry of need— for example, to guard and build up the young iv Bible truth, to seek by home missions to raise the lapsed, by ichools and special means to save the gutter children, in giving more attention to the social condition of the toiling multitude, in efforts to reolaim the victims of strong drink by temperance societies, while at the same time her interest in foreign (missions has also increased. For years and years we have heard a voice -now from our ministers— now from office-bearers— now from members— testifying to something lacking in our church machinery to gather up the threads of power and weave them together to make their united force felt. The requisite provision does not exist, to draw out, to train, and lead into practical Christian usefulness those who live within the fold of the church, but who are not numbered amongst the army of workers. Some other churches have called into existence lay preachers, who have been extensively employed and iargely owned of God to promote His cause. 15 is an inherent part of Wesley's Bystem to watch for, draw out, and train members for this laudable work. We cannot shut our eres to certain drawbacks which have marked its history, but it has not a few excellences which we are delighted to own. Through that system the light of the Gospel has been kept burning in districts which would otherwise have been spiritually dark. That cheering fact should cover many deficiencies. Certainly that church has drawn out lay workerß on a scale altogether unknown in our own beloved church. The strong cry for something to be done in this direction has given birth in these times to extremer forms of lay agency with which we are familiar. While we cannot, on the one hand, approve of their methods, we need not, on the other, refuse the lessons which they teach. We may learn, at any rate, that some measures beyond strict ecclesiastical organisation are needful— that our present methods require to be supplemented. A probable solution might be hoped for in Eome intermediate scheme which would care- | fully avoid the extremer forms of evangelicalism on [ the one hand and the cold-looking forms of church order on the other. If the united wisdom of the church could devise and mature some measure which would embrace the excellences of lay organisation while it would strive to avoid its defects, it might be able to secure enthusiasm without extravagance, zeal without ignorance, and earnestness without irreverence. Need we doubt that there are restless, eagor spirits, under the impulse and power of true piety, who would be ready to help in the cause of the Gospel. But they need to be brought under Borne system trained, directed, and work laid out to their hand. Such an agency we do not suppose oould properly originate in any isolated congregation, but from the head and centre of the church's life. ■ Let me illustrate. During the Crimean war the British public were appalled withlthe "horrible and heart-rending sufferings " of the sick and wounded soldiers. There were surgeons, hospitals, medicines, and stores, but there was utter disorganisation. A new agency was orgently needed, and at the call of Sydney Herbert, Miss Nightingale and her band of skilful nurseß appeared m the hour of extremity upon the inene. She was a woman of loving heart, tender sympathies, rare organising power, and preferred a life of active usefulness to one of fashionable inactivity. The result justified the wisdom of the choice. The Red Cross was established ; and since then it has followed, with its mission of mercy, in the wake of armies to do its noble work amid scenes of suffering. Here we had love, skill, and sympathy lying latent in the Home laud, while in the Crimea many were dying miserably for want of these. What was required was the organisation to bring together those who were in need, and those who could minister to that need. So, there are many perishing for lack of knowledge— many in dire need ; and there are many full of love, sympathy, and skill if.only we could bring these together by some new agency. There is a suitability, too, in the rank and file of the Christian church falling into line and working in the easy yoke of Christ. For, it is not high birth, great learning, eminent talents, anJ worldly consequence which impressed the world and led to its reformation and refinement. " Not to the noble, not to the strong, To the wealthy or the wise Is given a part in that angel-song, That music of the aides. But those who in humble and holy fear, With child-like faith and love, Have served the Lord as their Master here, Shall praise their Lord above." It in only the Spirit of Jesus that will tell in the conflict with evil. For the conquest of sin we rely on one weapon only- the Gospel. Its sword is as keen as ever ; but then it should be in the hands of every disciple as the logic of his life, which no enemy could gainsay. We glory iv it as the power of Godunique, peerless, life-giving. We shall be in no hurry to give up the Evangel of Life as if we foolishly thought ourselves to have outran ib. Our anchor shall not drag, and we shall not lift it to shift from our old and safe moorings. The anchorage is good, and will hold to the last. In a word, with this glorious remedial scheme of salvation and comfort, we may well labour on in hope. There is everything to stimulate the Christian worker. The Divine forecast we have of the future assures us that the time to come shall be brighter and better than any in the past. In the ancient, mythology we read fanciful accounts of what the heathen fondly described as their "golden age," burled far away In the mists of a remote antiquity. .Of that happy age their poets have sung and their famous men have spoken. Wißtfully did they look back and dream of a time in which innocence, truth, right, and happinesß prevailed. Then the weapons of war were unknown, and the earth yielded fruits abundantly. Peace and plenty were the pleasant lot of men. This was their " golden age " ; and no wonder if in the deep despair which filled the heathen heart it was often the subject of their fondest dreams. But it was only a pleasing dream— an airy fancy. The Christian, too, has his golden age. It is no dream ; but a sober, living reality. It is wrapped up, not in the mists, and myths, and shadows of the past ; but it is looking out upon us from that glorious future, which prophets in glowing language foretold, and which Jesus Christ in later days declared as theraillenium of His kingdom. It is the exalted privilege of every Christian man and woman to help forward with heart and hand the happy times of peace, of truth, and goodwill to man. Surely no higher nor holier ambition could fire the mind of each member of the Christian church than to have the honour of aiding, in however small a way, to usher in the glorious golden age of peace— the blessed times of the Messiah— when men " Bhall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks." " Soldiers of Christ, arise, And put your armour on ; Strong in the strength wh'ch God supplies, Through his eternal Son." FORMAL BUSINESS. The usual formal business was transacted, committees being appointed, leave granted to certain presbyteries to meet durißg the session of synod, and certain motions were given notrce of, one of which was to the effect that the next meeting of the synod be held at Invercargill. The Rev. J. Ferguson moved for the appointment of certain ministers and elders as the Records Revision Committee. The Rev. Mr Inglis, as an amendment to this, moved another set of names, as the committee proposed contained the names of a number of inexperienced men. The Rev. Mr Ferguson said this was the first time a revision committee had been challenged, and there must be something behind it. The Rev. Dr MacGeegor thought it unfortunate that the Rev. Mr Ferguson had proposed a committee, and considered the fact that it had been challenged evidence that there was something wrong with the proposal. The Rev. J. M, Sutherland moved, so as to avoid taking a vote on the two lists of names— "That both should be taken as constituting the
committee." The insinuation thrown out by the Rev. Mr Ferguson was a most unheard of one, and he was sure Mr Ferguson regretted having made the statement. The Rev. Mr Inglis hoped that Mr Ferguson would withdraw his insinuation. The. Rsv.Mr Ferguson said he had made no insinuation, and he would not withdraw any remark he had made unless compelled to do so by the synod. After some general discussion, the motion! were put to the synod, and tho committee pro* posed by the Rev. Mr Ferguson waa elected. * The Rev. Wm. Gillies, of Timaru, was, on the motion of the Rev. Mr Will, associated with the synod, and the synod adjourned at 10 p.m. until 10 o'clock this morning.
PRESBYTERIAN SYNOD OF OTAGO AND SOUTHLAND., Otago Witness, Issue 1928, 2 November 1888
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