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Here are the three great factors of the providential course -God, man, and the angels-with their characteristics and relations. One is purely wise and good; another is a mixture of good and evil; and a portion of the third is purely evil. The divine is always the dominant; the satanic ever the resistant. The human is partly with the one and partly with the other, with a providential movement, slow but sure, back from the starting-point of evil, through the coming conqueror, toward the triumph of the true, the beautiful, and the good.
ART. VI.-The General Assembly.
THE General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of the United States of America, convened in the First Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, on Thursday, May 19th, at 11 a. M.
Being the first General Assembly of the re-united church its proceedings were regarded with extraordinary interest, not only on account of the magnitude, the new composition, and circumstances of the body, but on account of the many grave and delicate questions of readjustment and reconstruction to be decided by it.
According to the plan of re-union, as adopted, both Moderators of the bodies now united presided jointly, until the election of a new Moderator was effected-the Rev. Dr. Fowler preaching the sermon, and the Rev. Dr. Jacobus performing all other duties of the office. Dr. Fowler preached from Eph. iv. 4: "There is one body and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling."
Among the many pertinent suggestions of this discourse, in regard to the best means of promoting the unity, purity, growth, and efficiency of the united church, we note one, which we trust will not be forgotten. He said :
"The great doctrines of grace are committed to our stewardship. It devolves on us to keep and dispense them. Our Baptist brethren, who profess them, are occupied with the mode and subjects of baptism, and our Congregational brethren
with their church policy. If Calvinism is cared for, it must be by us, and care for it we will. With all our hearts we embrace it. If not the whole of Christianity, nor the whole of the substance of Christianity, it is indispensable to Christianity. If not the entire soul of the Gospel system of truth, it is its spine, and upholds it. And never was Calvinism more needed than now. The theology of the day is effeminate and flimsy. We must give it backbone."
We hope this will prove the doctrinal key-note of the Presbyterian Church of the future.
Upon the nomination of Dr. Adams, enforced by a felicitous speech, Rev. J. Trumbull Backus, D. D., of the Presbytery of Albany, was appointed Moderator by acclamation, and, in his difficult and delicate position, presided to the entire satisfaction of all parties. With the like unanimity Rev. E. F. Hatfield, D. D., of New York, was elected stated clerk; and the Rev. Cyrus Dickson, D. D., of Baltimore, permanent clerk. Dr. V. D. Reed, Judge McCoy, and Mr. Ezra S. Kingsley were appointed temporary clerks. A resolution complimentary to the former clerks of each Assembly, not re-elected, was unanimously passed. It was impossible, without doubling the force, to make places for them in the united Assembly. While abundantly satisfied with the gentlemen elected, we should have been glad if some way could bave been devised by which the church could have still availed itself of the services of its former able and accomplished clerks.
Reports of the various committees appointed in Pittsburgh on re-construction, the boards, and other matters requiring adjustment in the re-united church were heard, docketed, and disposed of in their order. These consumed nearly the whole time of this unusually protracted session of the body. We can only refer to them in their order when we treat of the final disposal of them by the Assembly. Indeed, we can at most barely touch on a few of the most salient or controverted points.
Christianity and Common Schools.
The subjoined resolutions, accompanied by an able report from Dr. Prentiss, chairman of the committee on the subject, were enthusiastically adopted by the Assembly. They confirm the judgment we expressed in our last number, as to the
drift of the Protestant and Evangelical mind of the country on this great subject.
"1. Resolved, That the General Assembly regard the free public school as an essential part of our republican system, as conducive in the highest degree to the moral unity, common spirit, and kindly sympathies of American citizenship, and as closely connected with all the best interests of Christian society in the United States.
"2. Resolved, That in the judgment of the General Assembly the divorce of popular education from all religious elements, while involving a radical departure from the spirit and principles in which our public school had its origin, would be eminently unwise, unjust, and a moral calamity to the nation.
"3. Resolved, That the General Assembly are also entirely opposed to the appropriation of any portion of the public school funds for the support of sectarian institutions, and would regard the establishment of such a policy as fraught with the greatest mischief, not only to the cause of popular education, but hardly less to the interests of American freedom, unity, and progress.
"4. Resolved, That whereas the Bible is not only the Magna Charta of the spiritual rights and liberties of mankind, but is also pre-eminently our National Book, the best model of our mother tongue, and the fountain of our highest thought and of our ruling ideas, both in private and public life, the General Assembly would regard its expulsion from the schools of the people as a deplorable and suicidal act; nor can they perceive that any real advantage could thereby be gained to the cause of popular education.
"5. Resolved, That the General Assembly, conscious of being actuated in this matter by no other motive than the greatest good of the whole country, hereby profess their readiness to co-operate with all Christian people, of whatever name, and with all good citizens, in so modifying and perfecting our noble public school system, as to obviate as far as practicable the conscientious scruples and difficulties of any of its friends, and thus to render it a fountain of still greater light and benediction to us and our children after us to the latest generation."
We wish we also had room for Dr. Prentiss' eloquent report on the subject.
Laying of the corner-stone of Re-union IIall in the College of New Jersey.
The following document was presented to the Assembly :"PHILADELPHIA, May 20, 1870.
"To the Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of America:
"The trustees of the College of New Jersey are about to erect a suite of rooms to accommodate the rapidly increasing number of students, and intend to call the building 'Reunion Hall,' in honor of the re-union of the two branches of the Presbyterian Church, and it will be deemed a very great favor by the trustees and faculty if the General Assembly will make an arrangement to lay the cornerstone of the hall at a time it may appoint. It may be interesting to the members of the Assembly to know that we have at present a larger number of ministers' 28
VOL. XLII.-NO. III.
sons and of young men studying for the ministry than we have ever had in our old college, and it is believed that the interests of religion will be subserved by thus countenancing us on this occasion.
Judge WM. STRONG: Mr. Moderator: I move you, sir, that a delegation of twenty members of this Assembly, to be appointed by the Moderator, be sent to attend the laying of this corner-stone on the 28th inst., one week from to-morrow.
I need hardly say, sir, that a more interesting ceremony can hardly be devised. As Presbyterians we are deeply interested in the College of New Jersey.
It is our institution more than any other collegiate institution of the country. It well befits us, therefore, I think, sir, to attend the ceremonies of laying the corner-stone of a new building to be dominated Re-union Hall. My motion, therefore, is for a delegation of twenty members of this Assembly, to be appointed by the Moderator, to attend the laying of that corner-stone, and that the day be fixed for the 28th inst., to-morrow week.
Dr. BREED: I would make an amendment. In addition to the delegation of twenty, I move that any others be sent who may choose to accompany them.
The motion as amended was passed.
On Saturday, May 28th, from two hundred and fifty to three hundred of members and others connected with the Assembly, came up from Philadelphia to Princeton, to participate in this solemn and significant ceremony. The corner-stone was laid with due solemnity by Dr. Backus, the Moderator. Happy addresses were then made by him, Drs. Adams and Jacobus, by Judge Strong, and Hon. Wm. E. Dodge; and at the collation by Drs. Prentiss, Nelson, R. Patterson, Prof. Stoever, Hon. S. F. B. Morse, Hon. J. McKnight, and others. The interest of the occasion was enhanced by the unusual religious attention which has prevailed of late among the students. We trust that the Re-union of which it is a monument will prove lasting and happy, on foundations of truth and piety, more lasting than the rock of which the edifice is built; and
that the college in her future expansion, as well as in her past history, will evermore be devoted Christo et ecclesiæ.
Change in the Structure and Composition of the Boards.
The Boards of the past Old School Church have been composed of a large number of ministers and elders, generally exceeding fifty, selected from all parts of the church, divided into four sections, each one of which was in turn elected by the Assembly every four years. The result is, that the business of each Board must be conducted by the few members residing convenient to its principal office, and, in all ordinary cases, by an executive committee of these. Saving a few exceptional instances, the relation of the distant members of these Boards to their actual conduct and operations has been merely nominal. The advantages of this plan have been supposed to be, that it tends to awaken interest in the cause under the care of the Board in all parts of the church, and that in case of emergency, involving serious conflict of opinions, the more distant members could be summoned, so as to represent the mind of the whole church. This is good in theory. In a more compact body, like the churches of Scotland or Ireland, or our own half a century ago, it might be so in fact. But as it is, it is notorious that members of our Boards at all remote from their place of business, have little more to do with them, or the causes under their charge, than if they were not members. The only way in which the whole church is felt in shaping the policy of the Boards is in the annual meetings of the General Assembly, to which they report, from which they receive all instructions it may be pleased to give, and by which their vacancies are annually filled. This essentially corresponds with the actual working of that oldest and most successful of our foreign missionary organizations, the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, so far as an ecclesiastical organization can correspond in its movements with a close corporation acting as agent for the Congregational churches of our country, and such others as may choose to employ it for the purpose. The actual ordinary business of that Board is done, not under its immediate direction, but under the supervision