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Dr. Wm. A. Scott, of San Francisco, was elected Moderator. He discharged the duties of his office with great ability, and with Christian affection and simplicity.
THE AMERICAN BIBLE SOCIETY.
The subject of the recent edition of the Scriptures, published by the American Bible Society, came before the Assembly by the reference of Dr. Breckinridge's overture by the preceding Assembly. Dr. Breckinridge presented a minute, which was read; and, pending the question of its adoption,
Dr. Howe inquired whether the paper of Dr. Breckinridge contemplates the version in use when the American Bible Society was organized in 1816, or the version of 1611.
Dr. BRECKINRIDGE replied by reading from his paper, and added, that he bad intentionally left the description somewhat vague, from a disposition to avoid en. tering upon a discussion of the points of difference between the versions nained.
Dr. Howe desired not to make a speech, but was persuaded that the true course of the Bible Society was to reproduce the edition of 1611, with no changes except such as are demanded by modifications of spelling; and if Dr. Breckinridge's paper aims at this result, it meets with his approbation.
Dr. BreckINRIDGE in the main agreed with Dr. Howe, and had tried to draw up a paper that might restore harmony to the Protestant public. Good has been done by the agitation of the subject. Vigilance had been awakened, and the public eye fixed upon the subject. He gave notice of a paper, still in his pocket, containing a commentary with a specific text.
The following is the minute on the American Bible Society:
By a vote of the General Assembly of 1857, an overture to that body, which is printed in its minutes, pp. 35, 36, relating to the American Bible Society's new standard English Bible, and to the best method of preserving in its integrity the common version of the English Bible, was specially referred to the consideration of the present General Assembly. During the year which has intervened, the attention of the Christian public has been directed to this important subject in a very unusual degree, and, so far as the Assembly has the means of judging, it is apparent that the Presbyterian Church throughout the country is decidedly opposed to the line of conduct, in the premises, pursued by the late Committee on Versions of that Society, and to the circulation by that Society of their new standard English Bible. It is a matter of great satisfaction to this General As. sembly that the directors of the American Bible Society have resolved to cease publishing the aforesaid new standard Bible, and to resume the publication and circulation of the standard English Bible in exclusive use by the Society before the late work of collation and change, commenced about the year 1847. We also cordially approve the further action of the Board of Directors, so far as it secures a more vigilant oversight, in future, of the work of its Committee on Versions, and prevents any future change, either of the text or its accessories, without the careful consideration and special order of the Board of Directors.
With regard to any change whatever, either in the text of the English version of the Bible commonly called King James's version, or in the accessories to that text, as they were commonly printed at the formation of the American Bible Society, we do not admit that the said Society has any power or authority to make any alteration in said accessories or said text, except such as appertain to a printer, and not to an editor. By the text of King James's version we do not mean a copy corrupted by errors and unauthorized changes, no matter where that copy may have been printed, nor how those errors may have occurred, nor who may have ventured to make those changes; but we mean a true text in English, produced and published after the labours of the translators appointed by King James the First, of England, which for nearly two centuries and a half has been the standard Bible of all people speaking the English language, and which the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America is resolved to preserve in its integrity and purity, and to use and circulate.
Along with the greater portion of the Christian public in this country, we have confided to the American Bible Society the great work of circulating the English Scriptures in the version in common use; and while we deeply regret the serious error into which it was betrayed, its recent action in the premises demands a cordial response from all the earnest supporters of the great work in which it is engaged. In discharge, therefore, of our duty as the General Assembly of one branch of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ, to which he has committed his most blessed Word, for the guidance and salvation of men, we have made this deliverance. And, upon the terms herein set forth, we reiterate our approval of the principles upon which the American Bible Society was founded, our desire to co-operate with our brethren of all Christian denominations in united efforts to furnish the whole world with the Word of God, and our earnest recommendation to our people to give liberally to the support of this good cause.
The minute was unanimously adopted.
PROPOSITION OF UNION WITH THE UNITED PRESBYTERIAN SYNOD.
When this subject first came up, near the close of one of the sessions, through the communication of the two Delegates of the Synod, Rev. C. H. Read, D. D., and Rev. M. Marshall, brief remarks were made by a few members, but no definite motion was proposed. It was finally moved to refer the paper, without reading, to the Committee on Bills and Overtures. This course appeared to the Chairman of that Committee disrespectful to the Knoxville brethren, and he urged the Assembly to defer the time of adjournment till pight, if need be, in order to hear at once the communication. This motion prevailed unanimously, and the communication was read and put upon the docket.
When the subject came up again, some difference of opinion prevailed in regard to the best course to be pursued. Dr. BRECKINRIDGE and others were, at first, desirous of action, without any intercourse with the Committee of the Knoxville Synod. Others wished the whole subject referred to the Committee on Bills and Overtures, or to some other Committee. Finally, the Chairman of the Committee on Bills and Overtures, after a few remarks advocating the importance of observing the spirit and forms of courtesy on the occasion, moved that a Committee of three be appointed for the purpose of meeting the Knoxville Committee, and reporting to the Assembly the nature of their propositions for union. On this motion, Drs. BRECKINRIDGE and Hoge made long and able speeches on the general subject of union with the United Presbyterian Synod, opposing all attempts at union at the present time, and even discouraging the appointment of a Committee for any purposes whatever. The motion for a Committee was supported by Thomas R. R. COBB, Esq., a Ruling Elder from Georgia, who delivered one of the most powerful speeches addressed at any time to the Assembly during its sessions. This speech was particularly in reply to that . of Dr. Breckinridge.
This was the first time that this eloquent Elder had made his appearance in the General Assembly; and he was consequently unknown, personally, to most of the members. He soon made himself well known. His exordium was, in the highest degree, attractive and striking. His Christian spirit, his earnest utterance, his playful wit, his skilful attack on the weakest points of his opponent, his ready logic, his simplicity and warm-hearted eloquence, gained for him on that day a place among the highest orators that had ever appeared in the Assembly. All the positions of his speech did not indeed obtain the assent of the Assembly. The main points of Dr. Breckinridge's argument could not be successfully assailed; nor do we consider the Kentucky orator to have lost, on the occasion, his right of Presbyterian championship. It belonged to the Georgia orator to rise to a position, by his side, as an able and successful speaker and logician.
The following account of the proceedings of the Assembly on the subject, is taken from “The Presbyterian.”
Rev. Dr. Bowman moved to take up the unfinished business, viz., the matter of the United Presbyterian Synod (New-school). The papers having been read,
Rev. Dr. BRECKINRIDGE proposed as a compromise measure which might har. monize all parties, that the paper offered by himself lie upon the table until the paper of Dr. Van Rensselaer be passed, and the information it contemplates be reported to the Assembly.
The motion was adopted; and the motion to appoint a Conference, was then agreed to.
Rev. Drs. Van Rensselaer and Palmer, and Rev. Mr. Cunningham were appointed this committee.
Rev. Dr. Vax RENSSELAER, from the Committee on Conference with the Committee of the United Presbyterian Synod, subsequently reported that they had a meeting with that committee, and that they had in their possession the terms on which they are willing to unite. He said the two brethren from that body had been waiting here near a week, and would be glad to have the subject come up at once. On motion, it was made the second order of the day for to-morrow.
The subject of union with the Knoxville Synod was resumed; and Dr. Breckinridge's Overture, after some slight modifications, was unanimously adopted, and is as follows:
[See June number of “PRESBYTERIAN MAGAZINE,” page 285.]
A NEW COMMENTARY ON THE BIBLE.
Dr. Breckinridge presented the following paper, providing for the publication, by the Board of Publication of the Presbyterian Church, of a commentary on the entire Bible.
Inasmuch as the want of a sound, godly, and thorough commentary upon the whole Word of God, composed in the sense of the constant faith of the Church of God, as that is briefly set forth in the standards of the Westminster Assembly held by the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, has long been felt to be a grievous want, whereby a great lack of due service to God and to bis truth occurs, and whereby constant danger arises to men of needless ignorance on the one side and of dangerous misguidance on the other; therefore be it
Resolved, By the General Assembly, that the Board of Publication shall be and it is hereby directed to proceed with all convenient despatch, to have such a commentary prepared for the press and published. And, in the execution of this great work, the following rules and orders, together with such further orders as may be adopted from time to time by the General Assembly, shall be carefully observed by the Board of Publication, and by all others in any way engaged in the execution of any part thereof:
1. The commentary shall be prepared exclusively by the members of this Church; and, in the preparing of it, they shall have all such indulgence as to time as they shall respectively demand ; and, for their compensation, they and their heirs shall receive, for the legal time of twenty-eight years, a fair percentage on the price of the work sold, which shall be settled in advance by the Board of Publication, and which shall be uniform, and in lieu of all claims and costs of every sort, in any way connected with said work.
2. The said commentary shall be fitted for common use by all men, and, in the preparation of it, free use may be made of all materials that may exist; the design being to procure, not so much what may be original, as what may be best in the way of enlightening and saving men. It shall not be prolix, but so arranged that the whole may be embraced in five or six royal octavo volumes, of good print, containing, besides the commentary, the English text in full, together with the usual accessories thereof, and such other suitable helps to its understanding as plain people need. And the text used in it shall be strictly that of the version prepared by the translators appointed by James the First, King of England.
3. In order to secure the fittest men for this great work, the Board of Publication should make special application to the General Synods of our Church at their next stated meetings respectively; and the said Synods shall, upon careful consideration, nominate to the said Board of Publication any number of their own members, not to exceed five from any one Synod, of such as they shall consider qualified to undertake the work; and the Board of Publication may add not more than four, in addition to the whole number thus nominated to it; and it shall communicate the list of names, thus obtained by sifting the Church, to the General Assembly at its stated meeting in May of next year; making, at the same time, and from year to year thereafter, a report of its doings under and by virtue of this minute.
4. The General Assembly of 1859 will take such further order in the premises, especially with regard to the selection of persons out of the list communicated to it, to the distribution of the work amongst them, and to all things needful for its effectual prosecution, as shall seem expedient.
We again copy portions of the debate from “The Presbyterian.” Rev. Dr. BRECKINRIDGE said he had, at the beginning of this Board, suggested something similar to this. He is gratified to know, from what the Secretary has stated, that the Board has already published something in this way. Several of our ministers have prepared Commentaries on particular portions of Scripture, who might be able to put them into a form to suit this particular design. He had long and often felt the want of a Commentary which he could recommend to persons asking his advice. By adopting this scheme, you would have reported to the next Assembly forty or fifty-perhaps one hundred and fifty-names for this work. You can then make your selection from among them. Say, for instance, to Dr. Addison Alexander, “You have written on the Psalms; just revise and adapt your work so that it will answer for popular use, and meet the object in view in this movement." Go on in this way, and in thirty or forty years you will have the best Commentary the world has ever seen.
The debate was continued by Rev. Messrs. Parke, Eagleson, Rankin, Hill, Floyd, Dr. Junkin, Dr. Mitchell, Professor W. J. Hoge, Dr. Hewitt, and Dr. Hoge. Motions were made, at intervals, to use in the Commentary "the version in com. mon use," to refer the subject to the Board of Publication, to the Presbyteries, and to the Synods; but all these motions were negatived.
On the following day,
SUBJECT OF COMMENTARY RESUMED.
The unfinished business, being the consideration of the paper of Dr. Breckin. ridge in regard to a Commentary, was taken up.
Rev. Dr. Van Rensselaer said that he was opposed to the adoption of Dr. Breckinridge's proposition for a new edition and Commentary on the Bible.
First, because the plan proposed opens anew the controversy about the true edition of King James's version, and pledges this General Assembly to a position different from that of the Christian world. Why should this Assembly attempt in any way to dishonour the version now in common use? It is substantially the version of King James; and although, by the natural course of things, it has received here and there a few unessential variations, I deprecate the agitation of any such question as exciting, unnecessary, and disparaging to our own Church. The American Bible Society has agreed to circulate the version now used and circulated by all evangelical Churches, and why should we, Old-School Presby. terians, set ourselves against the universal sentiment and practice of the rest of the Christian world ? In the second place, I am opposed to this plan of a Commentary, because the Church, as a Church, is not called upon to make an authori. tative interpretation, in its own name, respecting the meaning of every passage of Scripture. Sir, there are hundreds of passages on which the most orthodox and eminent divines have differed in opinion; and some of these passages have received scores of interpretations. Then there are other passages, wbich involve doctrines-such, for example, as the millennium-which the Church cannot ex. plain in a Commentary without hazarding its peace and unity. Third. Besides, the mode of getting up this new Commentary is exceedingly complicated, and probably impracticable. Sir, you cannot obtain five able commentators in each Synod; and there are more than five Synods who will refuse to appoint any. It is, to my mind, exceedingly doubtful whether any of the Northern Synods (with which I am more particularly acquainted) will take any action on this subject
, and, if they should, whether any of their ministers would undertake any such work. The writing of Commentaries must be undertaken from the spontaneous conviction of those who may feel that they possess gifts for such a high service. The Church cannot expect to find suitable commentators in all the Synods. A Commentary produced in such a manner, if produced at all, would not be likely to possess the requisite unity, or to command in other respects the confidence of the Churches.
I shall move to refer this subject to the next General Assembly, for two reasons. First, because this is a most important subject, requiring more deliberation than this Assembly is able to give to it. There are many details which cannot be now examined with sufficient care; and the whole thing ought to receive the examination of the churches at least for a year. In the second place, the character of the Presbyterian Church is very much concerned in an undertaking of this kind. The public mind will be fixed upon us; and if we hastily begin so great a work, and should not be able to finish it, or should finish it in an imperfect manner-which are the two most likely alternatives—we shall suffer loss as a Church, and even bring reproach upon our character and standing in the Christian world. I therefore move that Dr. Breckinridge's proposition be referred to the next General Assembly.
The motion for reference was adopted.
THE CENTENARY CELEBRATION.
The last General Assembly took measures to commemorate the union of the two Synods of New York and Philadelpbia, in 1758.
The following is from “ The Presbyterian.” The appointed time for the celebration of the one hundredth anniversary of the union of the two Synods of New York and Philadelphia having arrived, the