|NOTES OF ADDRESSES
BY THE LATE
REV. WILLIAM C. BURNS,
MISSIONARY OF THE ENGLISH PRESBYTERIAN
CHURCH TO CHINA.
M. F. BARBOUR,
Author of “The Way Home,” “The Child of the Kingdom,”
“The Soul-Gatherer,” &c.
JAMES NISBET & CO., 21 BERNERS STREET.
EVE OF THE DISRUPTION.
[This Address was given on the evening preceding the Disruption, by Mr. Burns, in the church of the Rev. A. Moody Stuart, just before the Disruption ministers assembled in it to arrange their course for the morrow. At the close of Mr. Burns’s Address, we observed, in walking past St George’s, that the door was open. The Rev. Dr. Candlish was about to dissolve one of the Societies connected with his Congregation. As only a few auditors were present, it may be interesting to insert here the last brief and striking words spoken within its walls by the revered minister of St George’ s.—See pp. 87-91.]
THE woman of Samaria asked our Lord concerning the Jewish worship and her own. From His answer, it is very evident that Christ’s great object was to enlighten this woman’s mind in the matters which most concerned her. In times when important controversies agitate the land, men are constantly making them a shelter in which to escape from direct personal drawing near to God in Christ. Thus we see, that when the Lord came to close dealing with the soul of this poor woman, she turned off His searching words by asking His judgment on the great controversy of that day. It is much to be feared, that this is just what men are doing in Scotland now. They shift off all inquiry as to the state of their hearts and consciences, into the taking up of a side, and embracing of a principle: and though the side be the Lord’s, and though the principle be good, yet it is plain, that if this be all the length to which their religion goes, it cannot save them. It is hard to see them holding fast a truth which condemns, while they let go a truth which might save them. For this truth they contend, that Christ is the King and only Head of His church. But then, that is a truth in the order of God which grows out of this first truth, that Christ is the King and the Head of each man who believes. If a man blindly hold the second, and neglect the first; if he contend that Christ reigns in the church, while he has never yet been enthroned in his own heart,—the truth he holds will not be silent; no, but it will speak to condemn, it will arise in judgment, and strike him dumb eternally.
Let believers beware of this in days like these; let them plead for a great outpouring of the Spirit of the Lord (as we are this night met to do) upon all the church, and especially upon the body of ministers and elders now assembling. It is easy to perceive that, if these trials, which are at the door, do come, without a great measure of the Spirit along with them, the most fearful consequences will ensue. Where will ministers be who do not receive that, when they lose the influence belonging to their present position? They will either get influence by carnal means (and they are to be pitied who get it in that way), or they must get it by being men evidently full of the Spirit of their Master, and publicly owned by Him, as those who are winning many souls to Christ.
But though we must mark the dangers of times like these, and though we must declare that this principle, that Christ is Head of the Church, only arises out of the first principle, that Christ is the only Head and lawful Lord of each soul whom He hath bought with a price, we dare not neglect this truth for which the Church of Scotland is now contending, and for which all God’s faithful people in the land are called to be the witness. Christ did not neglect to set the woman right in her inquiries regarding the true worship: he told her that salvation is of the Jews. Some in the present time say that this truth ought to be kept back, because men will substitute it for the truths regarding their own salvation. My dear friends, we sin and err when we withhold one of God’s truths to give place to another; and we dare not call it a secondary truth. This single truth is worth a thousand worlds. It is of more importance than the salvation of all men. It is more precious than all creatures, for it concerns the honour, the crown, the kingdom, and the glorious person of Immanuel, who is head over all things to the church. Therefore let us hold it fast. But do not make the holding it a test of salvation; many who defend it, are not the Lord’s; many who adhere to it, adhere not to the kingdom set up in the heart where Jesus reigns.
Plead for God’s ministers who are going forth. Plead that they may be like the company of the early Christians, who were filled with the Spirit, and who went about publishing abroad the gospel of the kingdom. If our ministers were but men full of the Holy Ghost at this time, they would be a light to Scotland, to Britain, and to the world. Scotland could not hold them. Britain could not contain them. The field would be the world. Oh, there is danger, lest the prospect of a settlement in some parish with a few people, should be the means of dragging them down from the position which God has given them. The command is to preach the Gospel to every creature in the whole wide world. The Lord has given them wonderful light hitherto in the ways of His commandments. Plead for more of this. Plead for humbling to us all, ministers, elders, and people. Plead for this much forgotten and neglected work of God’s convincing Spirit, even humbling, because of His hand upon us. If a time of blessing be near at hand, it will be given. Oh, that our Assembly were like the assembled hundreds of years ago, which was indeed a Bochim, a place of weeping. But where are our tears? How few are gathering into God’s bottle. Where are the tears of ministers, preachers, elders, and people?
. . . . . . . . .
The following is an extract from the prayer:—
“We roll the case of the whole church upon Thee. Pour out Thy Spirit of grace on Thy ministers now assembling in this place. Pour it out upon elders, upon preachers, and upon all holding more private positions in the church. Lord, pour it out upon the students of divinity. Raise up such a race of young men in Scotland, so full of Thy Spirit, so devoted to Thy service, as shall put all of us to shame, and make us begin to doubt our being born again, and begin to ask whether, indeed, the Lord himself hath given us our commission, to preach the gospel of His Son.”
. . . . . . . . .
In closing the meeting in St George’s, Dr. CANDLISH said,—“I have to request, that on the conclusion of this meeting, those who take an interest in the St. George’s Indian Missionary Association, remain to pass a resolution which the office-bearers of our society have put into my hands. It is to the effect that the St George’s Association be this night dissolved. It is evident, brethren, that the dissolution of an Association like this, must remind every one of the winding up, now nigh at hand, of many other similar associations; nay, that it is the immediate forerunner of the breaking up of this congregation in its present connection. It is a thought as solemn as it is difficult to realise, that this night we are on the very eve of an event which is to bring about so many momentous consequences, and the sounding of which will be heard more or less distinctly to the utmost bounds of Christendom, even the event of the disruption of our National Establishment. We can now speak of it as a thing certain, in so far as we can speak of any event not yet past, that tomorrow’s sun will behold its goodly structure rent in twain; that before the setting of tomorrow’s sun, scenes will be enacted, which will find the Establishment of the country as the company of two armies; and to prevent this, I believe that nothing short of a miracle would be sufficient. We are very apt, when living in times like the present, and in circumstances such as those in which this night we stand, very much to underrate and underestimate the magnitude of the results of these events which are passing around us. Unable to grasp a comprehensive view of these in all their extensive bearings, and surrounded and engrossed by the passing and trivial occurrences of ordinary life, such events often produce a far deeper influence on the minds of those who behold them from a distance, than they do upon the men who are themselves the actors in them. Be that as it may, and be our insensibility ever so great, the truth, I believe, is this, that tomorrow will see the spectacle of the consummation of a great revolution in this land, the effects of which, as I before said, will not be experienced in this land alone—a moral and a religibus revolution, the greatest that has taken place since 1688, if not the greatest that has taken place since the grand revolution of the Reformation. We are familiarised with hearing such an event spoken of as an everyday occurrence is spoken of; and we almost begin to listen to the recital, of what a few years ago were unheard of transactions, with coolness, and sometimes with apathy. But, brethren, I ask not, ‘How do Scotchmen look on the scenes passing around them?’ but I ask, ‘ How do men of other nations look upon us?’ I do not say in England. England has her faithful ones; but, alas! over her there is come a cloud of awful delusion and heresy. But cross the Channel, or cross the Atlantic, and how do men there look upon us? I speak of the serious, the thoughtful, the religious men of other lands. Brethren, they know the value of these principles for which we contend, and they see that, though not indeed too dearly bought, that yet we are willing to sacrifice to them our earthly all; and they look on with intense interest to see what will be the end of this momentous struggle. And the eyes of our own countrymen are beginning to open. If they resist not the light, they will soon believe, what the people of the living God have been too slow to learn, that the world and evangelical religion must soon part company. A state of things was coming about in this land, for which no provision is made in the word of God, and therefore we might have foreseen that it could not last long. Evangelical religion was beginning to be fashionable,—at least a profession of it was in no way inconsistent with fashion. It was finding its way, esteemed, unopposed, and sometimes flattered, into the drawing-rooms of the great; and the purest form of the religion of Jesus had begun to be dandled on the lap of this world’s ease and favour. Such an order of things could not last long. The law of God forbids that it should be so: the enmity of Satan renders it impossible: and so to rid himself of these obnoxious truths, he usually employs two means, of the practical working of both of which the British empire offers abundant proofs. The one method—perhaps the most effectual, and the most like to that which would deceive, if it were possible, the very elect—is that of introducing, through the channels of pure religion, a spurious substitute for it, assuming its appearance, but wholly destitute of its essentials, nay, full of the most soul-destroying delusions—these being the most dangerous, the more imperceptible they are, and the better they are concealed. That is the one weapon used by the great deceiver to destroy the power of the truth. The other is very different in many of its features, for it consists in the open persecution of the woman’s seed by the serpent, and through his willing agents upon the earth, and in the raising up of a storm of opposition to the truth when faithfully preached. Both these methods are now employed in these lands; the former in a sister church, the latter in our own country. This war seems to be but beginning,—what shall be the end thereof?”