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In one peculiar feature do we differ from our Presbyterian brethren in the United States and Scotland. In the different branches of these most eminently distinguished churches, their elders are chosen for life. With us they are chosen to serve for two years in succession. And if they do their duty they are again eligible, after having been out of their office one year. If they have not fulfilled their office to edification, they may be left off the ticket; and no offence is given or taken. This, we believe, has most essentially contributed to preserve the peace, and promote the edification of the church, and to stir up good men to increased faithfulness to God and the church.
IV. THE FORM OF WORSHIP.
This is nearly the same as that of all those who adopt the Presbyterian form of worship. With us, the ancient and time-honoured custom and mode is this: the minister and people, who are members, upon entering the church, bow down, and in secret worship the King of Zion. In the morning, the pastor begins the solemnity of the day by reading the ten commandments; and in the other services of the day, by reading a chapter of the holy scriptures. The assembly then sing; then there is the solemn benediction ; then a brief address, called the exordium remotum, containing an outline of the subject to be discussed ;* then prayer; then singing; then the sermon; then a prayer; then a collection of alms for the poor; then singing, and the benediction.
Our psalmody is that which has been carefully prepared by a committee of our General Synod. It consists of the psalms of Watts, greatly improved and enlarged, and two books of hymns. It is a rule of our church that each pastor shall lecture on a section of our Heidelberg Catechism, in the afternoon of the sabbath, so as to go through the whole in a definite time. These lectures exhibit an entire system of pure and holy doctrine to the people, in a regular course. And to this admirable system do we humbly and prayerfully ascribe the uniformity and strictness of adherence to pure doctrine in our churches. The design is to secure doctrinal preaching, and that of the entire system, to our people, in a regular course, from year to year.
This has, by a late regulation, been left discretionary, and by many it is dispensed with.
V. THE STATISTICS.
The annual report for 1843 presents this summary of the church: There are twenty classes; two particular synods, that of New York, and that of Albany, under one general synod, the highest court of appeal, which meets annually. There are two hundred and sixtyseven churches, and two hundred and fifty-nine ministers, and twenty three theological students, at present.
The number of families, as reported, is 21,569; the ascertained number of individuals in the congregations, 96,302: total in communion, 29,322. The increase of members on confession of their faith, from June, 1842, to June, 1843, 3202, by certificate, 1021: total increase in the year, 4223. Baptized in the year: infants, 2211, adults, 682. Number of catechumens, 5664; number in biblical instruction, 3988; the number of sabbath schools, 269; the number of pupils in these, 15,534.
Our college and theological seminary are located at New Brunswick, N. J. These institutions have been richly endowed by the liberality of our church. The two institutions are so far connected that the theological professors render certain important services in the college. The venerable Dr. Milledoler lately retired from these institutions, after having rendered for a series of years most valuable services, as professor of didactic and polemic theology, and as president of the college, which last laborious office he performed gratuitously, with the utmost fidelity and great success, for nearly sixteen years. Since that, the Hon. A. Bruyn Hasbrouck, a gentleman of distinguished taste and scholarship, has been elected president. The college is now in very successful operation, under his care, and that of an able and learned faculty.
In the theological school, there are three professorships, occupied by distinguished men, who instruct the youth for the ministry in every branch of a complete theological course. At the close of the theological year, there is a public theological commencement, at which the graduating class pronounce, from memory, suitable discourses. This will have a very happy tendency to encourage our youth to study, more than heretofore, true pulpit eloquence, and tend to bring back the good old custom of pronouncing, instead of reading, discourses. *
* By “pronouncing discourses,” we do not mean “extemporaneous preaching." . We mean the writing fully out of discourses, and delivering them from memory and judg. ment. To preach "extempore," and without laborious preparation, is one of the worst habits, into which any preacher or minister can fall.
To the seminary are attached twelve scholarships, for the aid of eminently gifted youth, whose hard lot has been to struggle with adversity. The Van Benschooten Fund of $20,000 produces a considerable annual revenue. By the will of the pious donor, the proceeds are applied to carry youth through the college course, as well as the theological course.
For farther particulars, I refer the reader to the following: The Outline of the History of the Dutch Reformed Church, by the late Dr. Romeyn, in the pages of the Christian's Magazine, vol. i.; to the extended Outline of the History of the Dutch Reformed Church, in the pages of the Magazine of the Dutch Church, vol. ii.; Dr. Gunn's Life of Dr. Livingston ; The History of New York, by Judge Smith; Dr. Janeway's Abstract of the History of Rutgers's College ; The Minutes of the Particular and General Synods of the Dutch Reformed Church ; The Appendix to Dr. Bradford's Sermon of 1813, containing the Address of the Committee of the General Synod of 1807; The Encyclopædia of Christian Knowledge, article Dutch Reformed Church; Watson's Olden Times ; Olden Times in New York ; Benedict's History of all Religions; The American Quarterly Register, for May, 1833, and February, 1834 ; and, finally, Dr. Dewitt's History of the Dutch Reformed Church, which he is now (1843) preparing by the request of our General Synod.
DISCIPLES OF CHRIST.
BY THE REV. R. RICHARDSON,
THEIR RISE, PROGRESS, FAITH, AND PRACTICE.
The religious society, whose members prefer to be known by the primitive and unsectarian appellation of “ Disciples of Christ,” or by that of “ Christians,” the title first given to the followers of our Lord at Antioch, A. D. 41, but who are variously designated in different sections, as “Baptists,
• Baptists,” “
“ Reformed Baptists,” “Reformers," or “Campbellites," had its origin in an effort made, a few years since, to effect a union of the pious of all parties, by the ties of a common Christianity.
Thomas Campbell, who had been long a minister of high standing in the “secession” branch of the Presbyterian Church, in the north of Ireland, his native country, and who had been at all times characterized by his love for the Bible, and for godly men of all parties, without respect to sectarian differences, having visited the United States, as well for the recovery of his health, which had become much impaired, as with a view to a permanent location, was, after a lapse of nearly three years, followed by his family, under the charge of his eldest son Alexander, then a young man, and took up
his abode in Washington county, Pennsylvania, where his time had been chiefly spent, since the period of his arrival, in supplying with ministerial labour the destitute congregations of the seceder connexion.
Continually deploring, however, the divided and distracted condition of the religious community at large, and deeply convinced that its divisions were unnecessary, unscriptural, and most injurious to the interests of religion and of society: he at length formed the resolution to make a public effort for the restoration of the original unity of the church. Being joined in this resolution by his son Alexander, whose views of religion had been much liberalized and extended by an intimacy with Greville Ewing and the Independents of Glasgow, in Scotland, during his studies, which he had just completed at the university in that city; and whose talents, learning, and energy have, since this period, so widely disseminated the principles of union then adopted: an attempt was made, in the first instance, to obtain the cooperation of the people and ministers with whom he stood associated.
The great fundamental point urged at this juncture was, that in order to Christian union, and the full influence of the gospel, it was absolutely necessary that the Bible alone should be taken as the authorized bond of union, and the infallible rule of faith and practice; in other words, that the revelations of God should be made to displace from their position all human creeds, confessions of faith, and formularies of doctrine and church government, as being not only unnecessary, but really a means of perpetuating division. Containing, indeed, much truth, and embracing, for the most part, the great leading facts and doctrines of Christianity, each one, it was argued, superadded unfortunately its own peculiar theory of religion, and blended with the Christianity common to all, speculative opinions respecting matters not revealed, which, nevertheless, were, in these theological systems, exalted to an equal authority with the undoubted facts of the gospel. These conflicting opinions, uncertain for want of clear scriptural evidence, were, whether true or false, unimportant in themselves, as contrasted with the great and plainly revealed truths of Holy Writ; and, as derived from human reason, and being the offspring of human weakness, were regarded as constituting essentially human religions, and as being therefore wholly devoid of any regenerating or saving efficacy. It was conceived to have been a small matter that the Lutheran Reformation should have freed the church from the religion of the priest, if she persisted in substituting for it the religion of men, rather than the religion of God, as God himself had given it. For, while it was admitted that the various formularies of religion contained the great and leading points of Christianity, and the pleasing reflection could be indulged that almost all parties were agreed in those, as, for instance, briefly summed up in the Nicene, or Apostles' Creed: it was urged, that the various systems of human opinions, commingled with these truths, had so diluted, weakened, and even perverted them, as to have deprived them in a great measure of their power in the salvation of the world; so that the gospel, in the hands of Protestantism, had become a vague, contradictory, incomprehensible religion, quite unable to effect the conversion of the world, or accomplish the grand, extensive, and blessed results, for the attainment of which,