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27. Have you a Committee Book? 21. Can you produce it?
TO THE MINISTER.
Quest. 1. How many Elders have you?
4. What is your opinion of the state of religion in the Congregation?
5. How is the Sabbath observed ?
6. What may be the average amount of attendance at public worship? 7. Is family worship generally maintained?
8. How many families maintain it daily?
9. Is the number increasing?
10. Is family worship maintained by the Elders?
11. Is it maintained by the members of Committee? 12. Is drunkenness prevalent?
13. Is profane swearing prevalent?
14. What is the state of your psalmody?
15. Is your singing clerk a man of good character?
16. Can he teach sacred music?
17. What is the number of families belonging to the Congregation?
18. What is the number of Communicants?
19. How many communicated on the last occasion?
20. How often is the Lord's Supper administered?
21. To what extent are Communicants examined before partaking of the Lord's Supper, for the first time?
22. How often does the Session meet?
23. Are the meetings opened with prayer, by the members, in rotation?
24. How are the people supplied with Bibles?
25. How are they supplied with copies of the Westminster Confession of Faith?
26. How is the poor's money applied?
27. What is the state of education with respect to daily schools? 28. Do you take up an annual collection for the Home Mission? 29. Have you an Auxiliary to the Mission in the Congregation? 30. To what extent is the general cause of Missions supported by the Congregation?
31. Have you any Sabbath-schools connected with the Congregation? 32. Do you keep a registry of births and marriages?
33. How many children were baptized in the last year?
34. How many marriages were celebrated?
35. Can you produce your Registry Book?
36. Is illicit distillation prevalent in this neighbourhood? 37. Do you denounce it ?
38. Do you discountenance the practice of assembling at wakes, and of serving out ardent spirits at funerals?
39. Have you any candidates for the Ministry in the bounds of your Congregation?
40. Is the worship of God maintained in the families where they reside?
41. Are they employed in Sabbath-school teaching, or in conducting Prayer Meetings?
42. Is their general conduct such as accords with their prospects? 43. Are you the patron of any daily schools?
44. Are you the patron of any Sabbath schools?
45. How many members are there in your Committee?
46. Do the members of your Congregation live in harmony?
Essays on some of the Principal Doctrines and Duties of the Gospel. By the Rev. JAMES MORGAN, Minister of the Presbyterian Church, Fisherwick-place, Belfast. 12mo. p.p. 236. Belfast: WILLIAM MCOMB. 1937.
(From a Correspondent.)
A MODERATE acquaintance with theological literature must satisfy any one that there exists a great want of brevity, simplification, and plainness, in treatises expository of Christian doctrine and duty. The shelves of libraries are loaded with ponderous tomes; often, indeed, the products of gigantic intellect, and the treasuries of deep research and extensive sacred learning, but, by these very qualities, virtually locked up from the perusal of the great mass of the Christian community. We will not call it an error,-on the contrary, we think it redounds much to the Church's honour and advantage,that many men, of the most varied erudition, and the rarest intellectual gifts, and occupying prominent stations as public watchmen of Zion, have dedicated their lives and powers to the noble task of defending her outworks, and expounding her laws. But while we admit that elaborate systems of divinity, and lengthened treatises, and voluminous collections of sermons, are treasures in themselves, we have still to complain that they are treasures which can be possessed or used only by those who enjoy time and means beyond the common lot. It may be said, that while we have these for the advantage of the learned, and of all who have opportunities of studying them, we have minor treatises without end, and religious magazines sending forth knowledge from a thousand springs, and humble tracts carrying light and truth to many a soul and many a family, that previously sat amid the rayless gloom of error and ignorance, and catechisms giving concise and systematic summaries of the doctrines and precepts of the Gospel. We fully admit the value of all these, and would greatly rejoice to see them reach every habitation in the land. If the press has done, and is doing immense mischief, by the dissemination of works calculated to poison the principles, taint the imagination, and debase the heart, we cannot forget the powerful instrument of good it places in the hands of the friends of truth and pure religion, the diffusion of the Scrip tures, and helps to the right understanding of them. Yet, with these means of general and popular instruction, works fitted to be text-books in the communication of scriptural knowledge, and yet much more than mere skeletons to be filled up by the teacher,-works, in fact, of doctrinal and
practical theology, so extensive, in point of outline, as to embrace a complete course of instruction, and included in such moderate bounds as to be within the reach of those who have neither access to more voluminous works, nor time for their perusal,-are still a desideratum. The smaller religious works are most commonly occupied with one topic, or a few topics, of a doctrinal or practical nature, or with biographic sketches. Similar, but on a still smaller scale, is the general character of religious tracts. Periodicals are often occupied with subjects of only ephemeral or local interest, and, at best, cannot furnish a complete and unbroken course of instruction. Catechisms cannot supply the defects, for such works as we desire are felt to be necessary as expositors of the standard catechisms themselves.
These observations have been suggested to us by the perusal of the volume, the title of which we have transcribed. The greater number of the Essays it contains had previously appeared in our pages, and in that form had been read with pleasure and profit; and we rejoice that the solicitations of many of our judicious readers have prevailed on the author to give them publicity in a more connected form. They supply, to a very great extent, the desideratum of which we have spoken, though we would rejoice to find such works issued frequently from the press. The author might have made them more completely a manual of divinity, had he inserted distinct essays on a few additional subjects,—such as the covenant of grace, adoption, and final perseverance; yet the instructions given upon kindred heads of doctrine, so far supply any defect that might be supposed to exist, that those who may employ the work in improving their own minds, or instructing others, will scarcely be conscious of any chasm in the train of ideas presented to their view. He possesses the felicitous art of expressing his thoughts in a style as remote from verbiage as we could conceive, and proportionally luminous and energetic. It is characterised by the beauty of correct and simple perspicuity, as if he made the attainment of these the object of patient and painful labour: yet the entire absence of all the studied ornaments of composition, and of all the play of imagination, the language severely sifting out the idea, and presenting it in the simplest and most obvious form to the intellect, irresistibly impress the reader with the conviction, that something much superior to neatness and elegance of expression occupied the mind of the author while he wrote. It would, indeed, be difficult to find a more decided illustration of the principle, that clearness of thought will produce a corresponding quality of style. This, however, is valuable only as it becomes a more efficient vehicle
of truth. It is not the casket, but the gem,-it is not the drapery of the picture, but the true perspective, it is not the corruscations of literature, or mere intellectual splendour, but the genial influence of sound Christian knowledge, warming the soul on which it beams, that we admire in the work before us. It presents us not merely with simplicity of language, but remarkable condensation of thought. The latter, indeed, naturally, if not necessarily, flows from the former. It presents us with the stamina of what might, by mere expansion and amplification, with scarcely the introduction of a new thought, be extended through ponderous volumes, and take its place beside the richest treasures of theological learning that our language can boast.
It will, we presume, assist the reader in forming some idea of the usefulness and importance of the work, to remark, that it seems to us peculiarly adapted for the purposes of family, Sabbath-school, and pastoral instruction. It is deeply to be lamented, that parents so very generally either neglect the religious education of their children, or perform it in a very defective and culpable manner. That those who professedly disbelieve and deride Scripture truth, should act thus in respect to Scriptural knowledge, though it must necessarily grieve, need not surprise any who value the truth themselves; but that parents maintaining and acknowledging the Bible as able to make wise to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus, and sensible of the evil influence of ignorance and prejudice on the minds of the young, should yet leave the religious education of their children to others, or attempt it by feeble and casual efforts themselves, is an inconsistency so palpable, that, antecedent to our knowledge of the fact, we could not have supposed any guilty of it. How frequently do parents content themselves with teaching their children to repeat the words of the Lord's prayer, without the slightest attempt to impress their minds with the important ends of prayer. How often do they speak in the most self-complacent terms of having taught their children the catechism, as if they had fully discharged their duty to the young heirs of immortality, whom God has entrusted to their tuition, while they have merely stored their memories with words, with hardly an effort to impress a single idea on their minds. This, we are ready to grant, often happens because the parents want an accurate and systematic acquaintance with the truth; and to all who feel the honest desire to attain the truth, and effectually and rightly to impress that truth upon the understandings of their children, we would earnestly recommend this volume as a most useful auxiliary in this interesting and delightful work We can scarcely imagine a Sabbath evening spent in a mor
pleasing manner, than in the perusal of one of these Essays, and in the catechetical exercises, the instructive conversation, and the Bible reading that would thence arise.
Here we may take occasion to observe, that the author, in his divisions of the subjects, has, we conceive, decidedly enhanced the value of the work, by availing himself of the lucid definition of doctrines and ordinances given in the Assembly's Shorter Catechism. He has thus been able to present the truth in a more systematized, simple, and concise manner, than would have been practicable by any other means. To those who are acquainted with the Shorter Catechism, it is unnecessary to observe, that among uninspired symbols of doctrine and practice, it has rarely, if ever, been equalled for brevity, combined with such exactness and fulness of definition, as makes it in the highest degree comprehensive, for admirable method, for scripturality, and for the faithful exhibition of truth, unassociated with aught of a sectarian spirit. The answer to each question is a complete proposition, almost every word of which conveys a distinct idea. As instances of this, we may refer to the answers to the questions," What is God?" "what is Effectual Calling "what is Justification ?" "what is Faith in Jesus Christ ?" "what is Prayer ?" and where, it may be asked, could examples be found of expositions of Scripture so satis. factory, and in so narrow compass, as the explanations of the requirements and prohibitions of the decalogue, and of the constituent parts of the Lord's prayer? Our aim, however, is not to panegyrize the Shorter Catechism, but to convince our readers of the usefulness of the work before us; and we think there is another reason why its usefulness is much enhanced, by adopting much of the method of this formula. It is very generally made a text-book for the young. Children, so soon as capable of reading, are made to commit its questions and answers to memory. It is associated with their early school remembrances, as far as the Presbyterian community have not become renegades to the salutary practice of uniting religious and moral instruction with the acquisition of the elements of useful knowledge. Now it must be remembered, that with all its excellence, its clearness, and almost mathematical exactness of language, the very fact of its embracing a complete summary of doctrine and duty, in so small an extent, as to be within the grasp of the most ordinary memory, renders some such treatise as the present necessary, as an assistant, or, at least, a remembrancer to the parent, the schoolmaster, or the pastor, in endeavouring to make the use of the catechism more than a mere repetition of words. We have spoken of the utility of something of