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the congregations. Without these it is vain to expect the actual standard of liberality among Christians to approximate to that true and divine standard to which Christ is at this do summoning Protestant Christendom to advance.
Art. VII.-Brief Suggestions on Presbyterian Reconstruction
and Unification. Most of the matters connected with the practical completion of the re-union of the two great branches of the Presbyterian Church were so arranged in the concurrent resolutions,” that they will probably work themselves through to a satisfactory solution, in accordance therewith, withont serious friction. So far as now appears, the “imperfectly organized churches” will become perfectly organized in five years at the longest. The Missionary Boards of both bodies will become consolidated. Corporate rights, records, etc., are to be adjusted and combined. We presume this will be done in a manner acceptable to all parties. Three subjects only just now appear to require the light of further discussion, in order to reach safe practical conclusions :
1. The Basis and Ratio of Representation in the General
Assembly. The committee having this subject in charge have rightly judged that the present ratio of representation should be greatly reduced. This is a matter of overbearing necessity. The present Assemblies are each too large for the convenient dispatch of business and the hospitality of any but the largest cities. United, they would tend to become a huge crowd, rather than a grave, well-organized, deliberative assembly. Abont this there can be no doubt. The only question is as to the best method of reducing the ratio of representation, in order sufficiently to reduce the number of the body. The Reconstruction Committee have recommended the substitution of synodical for presbyterial representation. This has much to recommend
it. It will surely accomplish the object. It is making constituencies of existing ecclesiastical bodies or church-courts known to our system, instead of erecting new districts for the purpose. On the other hand, it is open to very grave objections.
The Synods generally meet but once a year. They cover large districts of country. Their members, to a great extent, are little known to each other. The candidates to be voted for will mostly be strangers to those who vote for them. On account of the distance and expense of travel, they are often attended by minorities only of their members. These circumstances furnish capital opportunities for men of a little activity and forwardness to electioneer, and plan, and get their favorite candidates ahead of others who would more fairly represent the mind of the Synod; and would be its choice if there were a fair opportunity to exercise such choice. We regard this as a very formidable objection. It becomes serious just in proportion to the numbers and geographical extent of the Synod, both which conditions are unfavorable to a full attendance, and to any effectual counteraction of the movements of cliques and ecclesiastical aspirants and politicians.
Again, all the habits of our people, the whole historical lite and development of our church, are in the line of presbyterial representation. They feel that in this way they know who they are voting for, and cannot often be outgeneraled by petty cliques or aspirants. Ordinarily, the active and effective ecclesiastical supervision of our churches; the knowledge of their ininisters, officers, members; and of the interests and wants of our congregations, is through our Presbyteries. These bodies will be reluctant to part with a prerogative to which they have always been accustomed, which invests them with much of their importance, and which they think more safely lodged with themselves than with Synods. The question then arises, is there no way of effecting the reduction of representation which all admit to be necessary, and still retaining it in the hands of the Presbyteries?
We throw out the following plans for consideration; recognizing it as quite likely that thorough discussion may show unforeseen difficulties to be involved in them :
Let every Presbytery numbering twenty-four ministers or less, be entitled to send one, and but one, commissioner, either elder or minister, as it may see cause. Let every Presbytery numbering over twenty-four and not more than forty-eight, be entitled to two commissioners, of whom one must be a minister and the other an elder; when over forty-eight and not over seventy-two, let it have three delegates, of whom one at least must be an elder and one a minister; when over ninety-six, four delegates, one-half ministers and one-halt elders. This allows one delegate for every twenty-four ministers and every fraction of that number. By thus doubling the unit of constituency, the number of commissioners will be reduced considerably more than one-half. This will be effected by the union of many of the smaller Presbyteries of the two branches on the same territory. We think exact figuring would show that the Assembly thus constituted, would not, after the re-union, much outnumber three-fourths of our last Assembly. However this may be, it will be easy to bring it to the exact size desired by adjusting the unit of constituency to it, making it-instead of twenty-four-twenty, thirty, thirty-five, or forty, and their respective fractions, as may be deemed best.
Special provisoes might be made, if deemed desirable, to guard against any undue preponderance of clerical or lay representation in the Presbyteries entitled to delegates in odd numbers. It might be ordered that the odd commissioner should be alternately minister and elder, or that, whether minister or elder, he should have the major vote of the elders separately, and the ministry separately. Doubtless other devices and arrangements might be made to meet all reasonable objections.
The great objection to this is that it would aggravate our present inequality of representation-giving to twenty-three ministers who together constitute five Presbyteries five times as many representatives as twenty-four ministers composing one Presbytery.
To obviate this and other difficulties we look with favor upon the following plan which has been laid before us : Assuming that the ministers in the united body number not far from 4,000, let the church be divided into districts comprising
single or conterminous Presbyteries, which districts shall be so adjusted, as to contain as nearly as possible, fifty ministers each, or multiples of fifty. For every such fifty ministers (or as near fifty as practicable) let two commissioners to the Assembly, one a minister, the other an elder, be allowed. Let each Presbytery be required to nominate at least one minister and one elder for commissioners to the next Assembly, and more in proportion to its numbers, at its first stated meeting after the adjournment of the previous Assembly, said nominees to be from any Presbytery or Presbyteries within the district, as may be preferred. Let the election from these nominees take place at the first stated meetings of the Presbyteries concerned, after the nomination, and before the meeting of the Assembly. This would give an Assembly of not far from 160 meinbers. In size it could not be better. It would give equal and just representation to all parts of the church. It would give direct representation to the Presbyteries. It would prevent all sudden springing and rnshing of elections by surprise or artifice. It would fairly represent the deliberate mind of the church. It seems to us to obviate most of the difficulties and to combine most of the advantages of the various other plans proposed.
2. The Board of Publication. The concurrent resolutions declare that “The publications of the Board of Publication and of the Publication Committee should continue to be issued as at present, leaving it to the Board of Publication of the united church to revise these issues and perfect a catalogue for the united church, so as to exclude invidious references to past controversies.”
How shall this purgation be effected? Who shall judge and determine what books, and what passages, contain these “invidious references”? The few books that are mainly polemical, and replete with reproaches, accusations, and innuendoes from one side against the other, might be dropped withont serious trouble. Occasional books and pamphlets on either side, mainly designed to put the other in the wrong with respect to the division in 1837 may be of this character. But the difficulty respects books of another kind. They are valuable contributions to theology, doctrinal, practical, experimental, casuistical, to the cause of our common Presbyterianism and Christianity. Yet they may contain passages here and there tinged by the controversies of the time when they were written, and which are decidedly offensive and seem “invidious" to the parties against whom they are aimed, or on whom they reflect. What shall be done with such passages ? Shall they receive the imprimatur of the new Board of Publication, especially, if any earnestly object? But if not, who shall decide which passages ought to be weeded out, and who will undertake the work of revision and elimination? We do not envy the makers of that Index Expurgatorius, whoever they may be. Besides, the authors of most of these books are in their graves. Have we a right to make such alterations without the author's consent, whether he be dead or living? If not, shall their works be suppressed—and shall the church melt the stereotype plates containing so precious a portion of her literature ?
It seems to is there is one and but one way out of these difficulties. That is plain and simple. Let all issues of the Board of Publication and Publication Committee respectively prior to the time of consolidation, be published afterward, as heretofore, with the imprint of the Board or Committee which originally published them. Let all subsequent issues be published with the imprint of the new Board. Then the new Board will be responsible only for what it expressly sanctions. The previous issues will simply bear the sanction of the bodies which published them. If they contain any thing objectionable to either side, they will pass for what they are worth, and will show who have been their real indorsers. The few books and tracts which, as a whole, are objurgatory and acrimonious, can be dropped entirely as respects future publication. Catalogues can be constructed accordingly, crediting to the several Boards and Committees, past and future, the works respectively issued by each.
Thus every good end will be answered, which the offensive and “invidious” work of clearing books of“ in vidious references to past controversies” will be avoided.