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What, then, are the present and prospective necessities in this matter? “The thing which has been is that which shall be.” Read over the Secretary's successive Quarterly Reports, and while you will be moved to grateful emotion in view of the good accomplished by this agency, you will also be oppressed with a sense of the vastness of the work left undone simply for want of means. The statement of so many applications, ten, fifteen, twenty, rejected for the lack of funds, becomes a painful recurrence. Nor are these the same ever-waiting supplicants. Baffled in their suit, they retire, some to struggle on with adversity, some to die ; while others take their place at the suitors' stand, only to be kindly but peremptorily dismissed. Says one report : " But there are twenty-six churches now urgently pressing their claims for small appropriations, with many of which the question is, “to build or to disband ;'” and another: “Still back of these are scores of others, whose only hope of success is to be found in our treasury;” and one of the very latest says: "For scores that are waiting and longing for aid we must hold back until the givers shall afford us the means of aiding them.” It certainly must be a painful experience of the gentlemen who serve as the Trustees and the Secretary of this interest, to see these successive bands of Christ's disciples, in which are the elements of so much blessing, struggling for life upon the waves of adversity, while they are themselves powerless to respond to the cry for help.
Then we find that there are in Michigan, at the present time, fifty Congregational churches that have no houses of worship; in Illinois, forty-four; in Wisconsin, thirtynine ; in Minnesota, forty; in Iowa, fifty-eight ; in Kansas, sixteen; and many in other States; so that, in all, as nearly as we can ascertain, there are four hundred of these families of the Puritan sisterhood without homes, all of which need to be brought into the holy habitation.
Then there is no reason why we may not expect that in the next twelve years, as in the last, the churches of this pattern will, at the West, double their number, raising it from one thousand and eighty-four to two thousand one hundred and sixty-eight, many of which, in embryo communities, will need aid in securing that first of all requisites in a new country, a place to live in. There will always be, along our ever-receding frontier, a cordon of such feeble churches, the outposts of our Christian civilization, which will appeal to our sympathy. The opening of the Pacific Railway; the operation of the Homestead Law and of Soldiers' Warrants; the tremendous stimulus to new settlement afforded by the rich metals in all of the central mountain country; the flood of foreign emigration ; the manufacturing interest, the seat of which is working westward ; all these influences will tend to hasten the filling up of our intercontinental empire, which must be brought into allegiance to Christ. The extent of that country yet to be filled with living souls we can but little realize. The half-way place on the parallel of New York is yet two hundred miles beyond the Missouri, seven hundred beyond Chicago, the gateway of the North-west, seventeen hundred west of Boston! The Territories upon the Rocky Mountains are already coming to their majority, and asking of the paternal authority their portion of goods. Unborn Commonwealths are yet to come from that region to knock at the door of our national Capitol for recognition. The extent of territory in those oncoming States staggers comprehension. And yet into that region of vast distances and possibilities the enterprise of Home Missions is rapidly projecting itself, following in the path of the pioneer, the miner, the soldier. The Path-Finder threw out our glorious stars and stripes from the loftiest peak of those Rocky Mountains; and so the Home Missionary has unfurled the banner of Jesus upon the same Alpine range; even into the region and shadow of death has he borne it, setting up the claim of his King upon the adherents of that system of abomination which now occupies the heart of the continent. All over that region, churches of the Pilgrim faith will be born, and they must have
homes. Their Redeemer is already there, “ waiting to find room." And was the mother of Jesus looked up wistfully to the guest-chamber that cold night, drawing her Holy Thing to her bosom," so will these new-born churches of Christ look longingly to our spacious and amply furnished sanctuaries for hospitality and blessing.
Then, in the older portions of the missionary field, away from the original centers of population, away from the railway stations, in the isolated townships of well-to-do farmers, there is yet a vast work to be done. Many new churches are there to be organized ; many new houses of worship to be built. If we are to profit by the experience of New England, and by its awakened interest in home evangelization, we must forestall the “waste places.” Of this kind of work take an example: A banker in Michigan City, Indiana, goes out seven miles to a neglected neighborhood, cursed with a distillery, and starts a Sabbath school. A revival ensues. The distillery is turned into a flouring mill. A Church is organized, and the superintendent becomes the lay-preacher. The old school-house is enlarged ; a new one is built, and this is outgrown by the congregation and the aspiration of the brotherhood. A Church must be built. People poor ; prospect poorer. The “Union" proffers aid. A neat and commodious sanctuary is secured ; and, through the “Union," a young man in the Central Church of New Haven, Merritt W. Barnes, as a dying gift appropriates his little all to pay the last bills of three hundred dollars, - a legacy of love commemorated by a tablet set into the wall of that house of God. Last summer, during the vacation of the Chicago Seminary, one of the students, under commission of the American Home Missionary Society, relieved the lay pastor, and in the new house was permitted to welcome nine persons into that fellowship as the result of a spiritual refreshing in harvest-time.
Then who can compute the demand for aid in Church-erection at the South? The angel of the Lord is now saying to the Philip of our Evangelism: “Go toward the South . . . . which is desert.” If we had come across this newly-discovered missionary field in any other part of the globe, it would thrill the heart of Christians to occupy it at once. Though their treason, in seeking the life of our nation, has slain our sons and brothers, and now our beloved President, yet thither we are bidden to go with the gospel, even as the disciples were directed by their Lord to begin at Jerusalem, the very city which had rejected and crucified him, and even as Philip was to carry the Evangel of Jesus to that same Philistia which had been the perpetual enemy of Israel. We are likewise under special obligation to propagate there that system of Church-order, which, divinely appointed, like Christianity itself, is adapted to man as man in all parts of the earth; which by its simple form and catholic spirit is well fitted to unite and assimilate that disorganized material, which, by its affinity for freedom and its cleaner record, is suited to that recoil going on at the South in intelligent and conscientious minds; and which, in its reproduced style of Puritanism, though long rejected there, will be the most hopeful means of rescuing that fair land from its moral desolation.
Now, then, the churches which, among both the whites and the blacks, are there to spring up as by magic, must be housed. In that disrupted society, a chaste, comfortable Churchedifice will be a powerful attraction. Said Dr. Lyman Beecher, in the Albany Convention: “If you want martins about your house, you must put up a martin-box.” In the South there will be special need of using the economy of Church-erection in order to
work at its flood-tide. Not as heretofore in the gradualness of the opening of the Home Missionary field, now whole States, to the number of one third of our Federal Union, already populated and seething with the antagonistic influence of irreligion, are thrown upon our hands; and God says, Take these, reform them, Christianize them. In order to meet this exigency, we shall need all the attracting, sustaining influence of sanctuaries. When our soldiers went first into the service, in the abandon of
heroism, they cared little for intrenchments; but, wiser by experience, they will now work cheerfully at every halt upon some simple breastwork. The soldiers of Christ going South, in order to save all their gain and to make irresistible their advance, must have their series of fortifications. Neglecting this, though they may gain important strategetic points, their safety and success will be in jeopardy. At Hannibal, Mo., the “Union” has fortified one such position, which has stood through the rebellion a rallying center for loyalty, has sent a stream of influence along the line of railway that crosses the State, and now with its membership of one hundred, its home Sabbath school of three hundred and thirty pupils, its Mission school of one hundred and fifty, and its school of four hundred colored people, is accomplishing in that city a vast deal of work for Christ. Already applications are coming in from the South for more of such defences.
Such being the demand for Church-building at the West and at the South, how grave must be the consequences of neglecting it! Imagine this work of the last twelve years undone, a large proportion of these four hundred and twenty-seven missionary churches left without sanctuaries, and some of them dead. What apology could satisfy the Head of the Church for such dereliction? Then imagine the four hundred families in our Christian sisterhood, yet without homes, deprived of all prospect of aid from this source in the future, many of them doomed to a protracted feebleness, which shall deaden hope and finally life itself. Then consider the hundreds of churches yet to spring up, many of which, if not planted in the house of the Lord, will droop, and bear but little fruit. In the failure to provide these garners, vast harvests will go into the earth.
Then, as a consequence of neglecting this work, many of these Puritan flocks will be driven into folds not congenial. It would be a shame that the body of churches, which led the way in this scheme of benevolence, should fall behind in the enterprise, and actually turn its own people over to those of other faith and order for hospitality. It would be worse than a shame; it would be a crime: for “ if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” These which, by lineal descent or by adoption, are the children of the Puritan family, have a right, by all principles of equity and of grace, to look to the parent for nurture and for protection. The two denominations which have learned to do this work the most efficiently are those that would make the most of a draft upon the Congregational material. We honor those branches of Christ's people; we them in bringing their feeble churches into the sanctuary. But we think that we have a more excellent way; that the people of the Puritan faith can do the most good under the forms of their own simple polity, and that the Congregational swarms will do the best in Congregational hives. We believe that, as a miracle was wrought to convince the apostles that the gospel was to go beyond their own nationality, so now God, by the marvellous revelations of war, is teaching us that the same gospel is to be carried in the same Churchorder to all parts of our land, and that the crossing of no parallels of latitude or of longitude can justify an exchange of that system for any man-made establishment. And it will be neither with self-satisfaction nor with approval, human or divine, that we come to the confession, “They made me the keeper of the vineyards, but mine own vineyard have I not kept."
It is a favor of Providence that we have in the Congregational Union an organ of this enterprise, well-manned, skilled by experience, settled in its policies, and so prepared for the crisis. Though its work is germane to that of the Home Missionary Societies, yet a wise division of the labor, which has an appalling magnitude, the certainty of raising more funds by a double appeal, and the mutual helpfulness of the two departments, will make it wise to continue the present arrangement. All the other denominations but one give to this cause a separate organ, and one of these changed to a double-acting machinery
after having tried the single. The established principle of annual collections has, over an invested fund, the advantage of keeping the cause fresh in the thought and sympathy of the churches, and of avoiding the risks of an accumulated capital; while, under the present demands
upon benevolence, the raising of any competent endowment would seem to be out of the question. As to the amount that will be needed for Church-building, year by year, it will not do to put the estimate at anything less than fifty thousand dollars.
But how can the treasury be kept in a condition equal to this draft? We believe that all that will be needed will be to afford every congregation in our fellowship the opportunity of making an annual offering to this cause, and that, in order to this, every Church place this ohject upon its calendar. During the last reported year, only one hundred and fiftyfive, or one in eighteen, of the Congregational churches contributed to this object. The secret of the success of the Old-School Presbyterian Church Extension Board seems to have been in getting collections from a large number of churches. During the last year, seven hundred and fifty-one Church-contributions were acknowledged; and these, if we leave out the gifts of two congregations in New York City, averaged only seventeen dollars and sixty-seven cents, while four hundred and nine of the churches gave but ten dollars and under. If but one half of the Congregational churches would simply “go through with the motions” of a collection for this cause, the treasury would not labor. But if, as one of the latest applicants, the Congregational Union can scarcely find room in the calendar, then it may be well for this Council to advise the churches to make a place for this feeder of all the other charities. In the plans recommended by the General Associations of Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, and Wisconsin, this cause has its specific month; the system is growing in favor, and this object meets with a peculiar appreciation. Indeed it should be said for the encouragement of Eastern friends, who have given so freely to the West, that the seed thus sown is now coming to the harvest. A generous spirit is growing up in those Western churches, which will join the East in liberal giving for the new West and the South. That stream of New England theology and of Puritan ideas, which has been poured across the West, has given character to its institutions, and has thus magnified its power for good, as now the swelling current shall sweep down to the Gulf. And if the parental household, by the exhausting of itself for the welfare of its emigrating offspring, shall ever come to the need of succor, then with grateful, loving attention will the children, natural and adopted, delight to reciprocate the blessing.
But still, in order to the filling of this treasury, in common with those of all other benevolence, in order to our rising to the sublimity of this providential occasion, we need a national dispensation of the Spirit that shall lead to a consecration of property and of life wholly unto the Lord.
This report was accepted, and reference ordered to a special committee.
The committee appointed to report on the subject of Home Evangelization presented their report by Rev. Daniel P. Noyes, of Massachusetts, as follows:
The Committee appointed to introduce to the National Council of Congregational Churches the subject of Parochial Evangelization report the following
STATEMENT. The work of our churches divides itself into several departments. Efforts in behalf of other nations we call Foreign Missions; the founding of new churches and the assistance of such as are feeble, within the limits of our own country, we name Home Missions; while all churches exist for a particular work, styled, in the resolution appointing this Committee, Parochial Evangelization — a work which looks towards the reconciliation and sanctification of all the souls embraced within the communities that severally constitute the proper parishes of the churches, and which aims at a general and complete Popular Christianization.
The object of the present paper is to bring clearly to mind this glorious duty and privilege of the churches, with some of the ways of its fulfilment. To this end, it is necessary briefly to recall the true idea and office of the Church, and to consider somewhat more at length the modes in which its established services and its administration may be most efficient.
THE CHURCH UNIVERSAL,
It is the chief end of man to glorify God, and share His joy; and of the world, to be a place of nurture for souls thus fulfilling their end. The Church on earth embraces all who have begun to glorify and enjoy God, and so is the essential realization of the end of creation; but being the “body of Christ,” wherein he dwells and whereby he works, it is also the means of its realization. The conquest of the world is its proper function ; and it is no more really the natural quality of salt to save from corruption, or of light to annihilate darkness, of leaven to leaven the lump, or of a living seed to assimilate earth, air, water, and light, into its own body, according to its own law, than for the Spirit of Christ, working in and through the Church, to cleanse from moral corruption, disperse moral darkness, fill society with a divine leaven, and incorporate with its own body, and build up in heavenly beauty, the alienated and lost souls that surround it. God ordained the churches for this end; and they must be esteemed equal to its accomplishment. In entering upon the consideration of our subject, we properly start with this assumption.
But, obviously, in order that our organic churches — which are, at best, but an imperfect realization of their idea-may justify such an expectation, they must be really churches, and must be nothing else.
To this end it is necessary, first, that they should be composed of believers — of those who have begun to love with Christ's love; a love in which they are holy and a brotherhood.
Furthermore, every Church must needs embody its essential idea in its organization, and be a brotherhood in form as well as in spirit; avoiding all semblance of such authority and subjection as are common in the world. No “greatest” and no “master” can be recognized here. As believers, we have one Master, and he is above: all we are brethren. The apostle disclaimed dominion, and aspired only to be a helper of joy to his fellow-disciples; and our blessed Lord specifically instructed his followers with regard to the spirit and law of his Church, when he washed their feet.
The structure of a society embodies ideas and fixes relations; and these ideas it is always teaching, and these relations are always shaping character and action. The Church needs to have the true Church-form — of a brotherhood — or its organization will be subtly, or perhaps very openly, counterworking its work. Its very organization should be the birth of a love which annihilates caste and sense of hierarchy.
When churches have thus been organized of the right material, and in the right form, they need to be careful, thirdly, to confine themselves to their true end.
The one end of the Church universal is the glory of God in human redemption; and the local Church finds its one chief end in the same result throughout the community