Images de page
PDF
ePub

mitting of schoolmasters, in the allotting of glebes, and perhaps some other things of a similar nature, That the presbytery in these matters does not act as an ecclesiastical court is evident, not only from the nature of the thing, but from this further consideration, its not being in these, at least in what relates

to churches, manses and glebes, as in all other mat• ters, under the correction of its ecclesiastical superiors,

the provincial synod and the national assembly, but

under the review of the highest civil judicatory in this ::country, the Court of Session.

Another kind of civil power committed to presbyteries, is the power of presenting (as some understand the law) to vacant parishes, upon the devolution of the right, by the patron’s neglecting to exercise it for six months after the commencement of the vacancy: In this however, our ecclesiastical ideas and our political so much interfere, that the power of issuing out a presentation has never yet, as far as I know, been exerted by any presbytery, in the manner in which it is commonly exerted by lay-patrons, or in the manner in which it was formerly exerted by bishops in this coun

try in the times of episcopacy, or in which it is at present · exerted by bishops in Ireland, as well as in the southern

part of the island. Presbyteries do commonly, I think, on such occasions, consult the parish, and regulate their conduct in the same manner, as though patronages were not in force by law. I should perhaps add to the aforesaid list of particulars not properly ecclesiastical, the concern which the pastor must take along with the heritors and elders of the parish in the management and disposal of the public charities, also the power of church-judicatories in appointing contribu

tions for pious uses to be made throughout the churches within their jurisdiction.

The conduct of a minister in regard to the few cases, which in strictness are without the sphere of his spiritual vocation, is, it must be owned, extremely delicate, and not the less so, that in some of the particulars enumerated, as in what regards manses and glebes, he will naturally be considered as a party, from the similarity of situation in which they all are placed, in the very cause in which he must act in the character of a judge. Whether it is a real advantage to us to possess this kind of secular authority, is a question foreign to my present purpose. For my own part I am strongly inclined to think, that if the legislature had made proper provision for supplying parishes and ministers in sufficient churches and manses, by means of the civil magis. trate only, it had not been the worse for us. the one hand, we should have been freed from temptations to partiality, which will no doubt sometimes influence our judgment as well as that of other men, so on the other hand, we should have been freed from the suspicion and reproach of it, from which the strictest regard to equity and right will not always be sufficient to protect us. And in a character on the

purity whereof so much depends, I must say it is of no small consequence, not only that it be unbiassed by any partial regards, but even that it be beyond the remotest suspicion of such a bias.

As the trust however is devolved upon us by the constitution, the most pertinent question is, in what manner it ought to be discharged. The point is not considerable enough to be regarded here as a separate

As on

branch of the office, though it is of so peculiar a nature as to deserve at least the being taken notice of. Every judicious person will admit that a confusion of tempo. ral and spiritual jurisdiction is alike repugnant to the principles of true religion and to those of sound policy. The more sacredly the natural limits of the two offices of magistrate and pastor are preserved, the ends of both will be the better answered. Each indeed has been denominated the minister of God. But the title is applied to them in very different senses. The magistrate is the minister of divine justice, the pastor is the minister of divine grace. The former beareth not the sword in vain, being appointed for the terror of evil doers. The weapons of the latter are not carnal but spiritual. The motives of the first are taken from the present life only, of the second principally from the future. Whilst the one employs compulsion, which affects the body, the other sets on work the gentle powers of persuasion, which captivate the soul. For my own part, I am disposed to think, that there is not only an essential difference, but even a repugnancy in the two characters, which makes that they cannot, without injury to both, be blended in the same person, and will never perfectly be made to coalesce. It certainly more becomes the preacher of the gospel, who is by his office the messenger of peace, to act the part of mediator with the magistrate, than to stand forth as the avenger of secular wrongs. I can indeed conceive such a degree of probity in a human society as to supersede the necessity of all compulsive power. I can figure to myself a community wherein piety and hùmanity would prove sufficient motives, remorse and shame sufficient checks, a thing which may be imagined, but cannot reasonably be expected on this earth. But even in such a society, I should not say, that the authority of the magistrate might be safely lodged with the pastor, but that the virtue of the people rendered magistracy itself unnecessary; for of this power we may justly say, what the apostle says of the law, that " it is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and the disobedient.” What I have said on this article, it will be observed, militates chiefly, if not solely, against what may be called a coercive power in the ministers of religion, either direct, by seizing the persons and distraining the goods of obnoxious people, or, which in my judgment is still worse, an indirect coercion, by employing ecclesiastical censures as the tools for effecting the same worldly purpose. Thus much only by the way.

I now return from what will be thought perhaps a digression, though very closely connected with my subject, and of considerable importance for conveying a just idea of the nature of this sacred charge. All that concerns government in the pastor with us, in re. lation to discipline, ordination and civil rights, may be comprehended under this general title, the judicial capacity of the minister; in which case the whole of what relates to the pastoral function, may be branched out into these three, pulpit-eloquence, purity of manners in private life, and the observance of propriety in the character of judge, both in ecclesiastic matters and in civil.

I have in this, and the preceding discourse given a short sketch of the several branches of study, for the better prosecution of which by the candidates for the ministry, professorships of divinity have in this coun

try been instituted. The plan you see is very large and comprehensive. To do justice to all the parts (and all of them, as hath been observed, are of importance to a minister) would, even though the utmost conciseness were attempted, require a course of many years. What can be effected to any purpose with us, where the time employed in the study is commonly but three or four sessions, and where the attendance in general is so irregular, and so much interrupted, it would be difficult to say.

But whatever relates to the manner in which it will be most conducive to the edification of the students, to treat these several topics from this place, I shall reserve as a subject for my next lecture.

« PrécédentContinuer »