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which makes up its proper parish; in other words, “ parochial evangelization.” It may not allow itself to be turned to any other object; nor can it safely unite with other churches as a constituent in societies, either secular or semi-secular, whose operations involve large material interests or weighty financial cares. One thing it has to do; and that is so immense and difficult, that it cannot give itself to anything else. In one precious and eternal bond is it united with all other churches of the Lord Jesus Christ; and it may not imperil this most sacred of all conceivable relations, so peculiarly delicate and sensitive, by grosser mixtures, so often fruitful of strife. It is essential that each Church both hold fast to its exclusively spiritual end, and to its own separate identity and responsibility, maintaining, indeed, the closest possible spiritual union with other churches, in love, but refusing all corporate and business ties with them, all authority (in the worldly sense), and all subjection. This we hold to be essential to the prosecution of a thorough and universal parochial evangelization.
When churches have thus been organized of the right material, in the right form, and for the right end, it remains, fourthly, that they adopt the right methods for the accomplishment of this end. The end, as already stated, is the working-out, under God, of human redemption from sin, into love, blessedness, and holy service; and the work of the Church may be viewed in three aspects, as related directly to God, to believers, and to man still in a state of alienation ; thus having the three divisions of worship, edification, and conversion ; and its efficiency in all these is necessary to its success in parochial evangelization.
WORSHIP. The first great duty of the Church is worship. This is God's due; and it is essential that every Church render a pure and acceptable worship before the throne of the Divine Majesty. But inasmuch as God is most glorified by that which is so ordered as to be also the greatest blessing to his children, its method may appropriately be considered when we come to treat of what is essential to Christian edification.
The second great object of the Church, prominent in its work of parochial evangelization, is the edification of its members in the divine love.
By Worship. The first means by which it furthers this aim is a worship in which it becomes a channel of divine grace to all participants, and offers itself, as such, to all witnesses of its act.
Worship is rendered (1) when the hearts and minds of a devout assembly are reverently yielded to the guidance of Holy Writ - records of the divine dealings, breathings of penitence, prayer, and thanksgiving, and the story of redemption - motions of minds moved by the Holy Ghost. This is the river which makes glad the city of God. We need to go back ever to these flowings of the primal springs.
There are two ways in which this benefit of Scripture may be enjoyed by a worshipping congregation : viz., listening to an expressive reading, which re-clothes the sacred words with their original life; and chanting. It is to be regretted that the latter is no more in use among us ; as, with singing, it is almost the only way in which an assembly can properly join in the outward expression of worship through the lips. Our congregations will probably never satisfactorily realize and appropriate the meaning and preciousness of the most ancient songs of the Church until they have learned to chant them, and this in more reverent and less hurried style than prevails elsewhere. We should not be altogether wide from the truth, if we were to say, that it requires the strength of a great multitude to bear into our hearts the weight and sense of these words of God. Our children ought, from the beginning, to be made to feel the grandeur and the gladness, the lowliness and the tenderness, of these inspired Psalms. Each Church needs them in the evangelization of its parish.
The two methods that have been mentioned are the only seemly and proper methods in which congregations can use the Scriptures in the public services of the sanctuary.
(2.) The "service of song” in the Lord's house, it is now generally conceded, needs to be chiefly rendered by the whole congregation, led by a choir. But our churches have by no means, as yet, entered upon the exceeding riches of the inheritance of the saints, contained in this elevating, comforting, and transporting service — so full of blessing to devout hearts, in its nearness and sweetness of communion with our Lord, and so universally attractive and impressive. There is a mighty power of edification and of persuasion in rhythmic, melodious psalms and hymns and choral harmonies, which our churches and their schools have only begun to realize. It can unquestionably be made a powerful instrument in the evangelization of communities and of classes that now neglect the sanctuary; and, indeed, has already often been of great service in attracting children to the Sunday School, and their parents to the place of public worship.
(3.) As the mere reading of Scripture - in seemly style — becomes a way of worship, so the preaching of the divine word often leads the hearts of a congregation, in a contemplation of God and a beholding of his glory, to thanksgiving, adoration, confession, and yearnings of deepest aspiration and longing. If we dare look toward the Christianization of whole communities — and what minister or Church dares aim at anything less — how must we abjure all merely literary, logical, disputatious, denunciatory, or melodramatic and sentimental preaching, and strive to bring our hearers in view of the eternal mountains of God, the mighty truths whose foundations and whose summits are equally out of sight! In those mountains is peace and joy; they are homes of power; and from them flow the living waters. The deepest truth is most divine ; and is not merely pleasant, beautiful, and moving, but awful, glorious, transforming, and transporting. It is our privilege to wield this truth ; and, for our work, we need it. The people must worship while they hear. It were vain to think of the Christianization of communities if we were to forget this.
(4.) In public prayer, the most perfect union of hearts is probably reached when one man of fervent and devout spirit leads the multitude, in words, which, with his tones, are the birth of the moment the breathing of the Holy Ghost. But, that this may ordinarily be secured, even in moderate measure, it is necessary that the person who leads should be habitually in communion with God; and, furthermore, should be accustomed to turn his inward communings into words. The usage of our churches now lays this demand upon their ministers. It is a wholesome burden, and ought by no means to be removed. Having adopted the highest possible ideal, we ought to seek to rise to its demand. The effort, in our work of parochial evangelization, is to bring all souls into communion with God; and the Church maintains these public acts of communion, in part, from the hope that the spirit of devotion may spread, like leaven, from soul to soul, till all be leavened. But, that the leaven may spread, it must be real, and real at the time which is its opportunity.
By Instruction, The second method in which a Church promotes the edification of its members is by supplying instruction.
The instruction furnished in the Church aims at the reconciliation and sanctification of
souls by bringing them face to face with God in Christ, that, beholding his glory, they may be changed into the same image. If it exhibit not that glory, it fails of its end. So far as it deals with other than eternal realities, and with thoughts lower than the thoughts of God, or is satisfied with a beauty inferior to that of Christ, it stoops from its state, and abases its sovereignty. It ought to unveil eternity; to unfold the mind of God; to take divine things, and show them unto men; to make plain the ways of a heavenly life here on earth; and to breathe something of the dignity native to souls regenerate and sanctified — the dignity of a love like Christ's. While considering the methods of parochial evangelization, neither the ministry nor the churches may forget this.
In Organization. But verbal instruction is not all. As has been already remarked, the very structure of the Church, when what it should be, is mighty for the instruction of its members and of the community at large. But while, in its constitution and the general spirit of its administration, it needs to express and teach the Christian love, and while in its worship and the ministrations of its pulpit it must not fail to edify, it ought to do this, thirdly, by furnishing special facilities and opportunities for the development among its members of an active love.
Arrangements should be made by every Church for bringing its members together, so that they should become acquainted, and acquainted as Christians. For this purpose, the weekly prayer meeting is of priceless value. So, too, are the smaller neighborhood prayer meetings, and all social religious gatherings, and indeed all religious social assemblies — in many places too much neglected. In every practicable way the Church needs continually to strive to bring about among its members the fulfilment of the Saviour's prayer — that “they all may be one." Upon this largely depends the possibility of an extended Christian influence and of the development of a system of churchwork. The love is indispensable to union in labor; and for the awakening and cherishing of love, there must be acquaintance and intercourse. Our church members have all been welcomed with covenant vows of affection and help, which deserve to be better kept ; and, to facilitate this, special arrangements are necessary.
But not alone in the delight and the impulse of love does the Church need to build itself up; it should edify itself also in love's wisdom — in that spiritual wisdom which only comes from living out Christ's precepts. These precepts involve the most fundamental and comprehensive principles, which principles must be studied in their application, and not simply heard of from a teacher, in order really to possess the soul. Accordingly, the Church needs to throw upon its members the responsibility of decision, in the application of Christian principles, especially of those which are fundamental; and any Church leader who undertakes to decide for his Church, or, worse still, to force his judgment upon them, or, worst of all, to carry a judgment by intrigue or intimidation, misconceives his office. His office is to guide, not to dictate – least of all to manipulate. It is his privilege to lead his brethren in the study of the mind of the Spirit, so that they, all together, shall apprehend it — not to declare it by authority. He is guide, not governor. No man can be a master in the Church. And whoso departs from Christian simplicity, and assumes control, or uses "art,” grieves the Spirit, sins against the brethren, and breaks the constitution of the Church. In like manner, also, any Church which submits to a dominion that dulls its life transgresses its fundamental law.
It is only by familiarizing men with the practical application of principles that they can be put in possession of them. This the Church does when organized and adminis. tered faithfully after the New-Testament model. When organized and governed after any other plan, its efficiency is necessarily impaired.
Again : not only must the responsibility of decision, especially in important questions, be thrown upon the members of the Church, but for their own spiritual good they all need also a share in the responsibilities and the manifold benefits of church-work. So essential is this privilege, that we may even declare it indispensable. But of this we shall speak more at large under another head.
In Fellowship. Again : each Church needs to stand in suitable relations with other churches — recognizing and feeling its oneness, not only with those of its immediate neighborhood and its own time, but with all true churches of every age. With its neighbors it should join in counsel and labor; and it has no right to allow any bonds of authority to divide it from such communion. All should be counted its neighbors with whom it can join, or whom it can reach, to bless. Nor should it lack a sense of unity with the churches of other lands, of other days, and other names. Great strength comes from a consciousness of *the oneness of the Lord's kingdom; and this needs not at all a corporate unity, so sure to work disaster, and to defer the accomplishment of our Saviour's prayer, but can best exist without it.
In the Sacraments. Finally: each Church needs for its edification to cherish most solemnly ar.d tenderly a sense of union with the Lord.
The unity of all true churches of Jesus Christ with one another, and of all believers with their head, is commemorated, figured, ratified, and perpetuated in the sacraments those universal signs and seals, which, shared by all, are a manifestation of their oneness from the beginning — of their oneness with Christ. We cannot hold in too dear affection, or celebrate with too loving and careful solemnity, these seasons of grace, in which all ages join and all disciples remember their only Lord. Churches which propose the Christianization of their parishes need to take all possible pains to secure the full blessing of these sacred opportunities.
CONVERSION. The third great end of the Church remains; viz., the bringing into a state of reconciliation the souls that are alienated from God.
We have, it is presupposed, a Church composed of believers — persons who have begun to love with a love like Christ's; organized a brotherhood ; worshipping God; instructing and edifying its members in the wisdom, the power, and joy of divine love; entering into sacred bonds of communion in the sacraments.
But the chief labor of Christ's militant Church on earth has ever been the reconciliation of alienated souls, the saving of the lost. Not only do our churches find their principal work here, but they cannot even be faithful toward their own members unless they engage them in efforts for the spiritual benefit of those who are still out of personal covenant with God. Very properly, therefore, is the inquiry urged home upon us: How can a Church be faithful and successful in this momentous work?
Trust in God.
First of all, it needs to be keenly sensible of the fact, that the work of saving and sanctifying souls is the work of God and that it is only as in union with him that men are privileged or able to engage in it.
The Doctrine of the Church. In the next place, it is in a high degree important that the Church should understand its own nature and office. Its members need to be so well instructed in the Doctrine of the Church, that the thought of God's kingdom, and of his earthly kingdom and family, should
occupy and thrill their minds. There are no truths more full of light and power than those which center here. Without them, churches will but imperfectly grasp the idea of what they have to do, and will lack both the courage and the faith indispensable to sustained activity and a comprehensive and permanent success.
In the third place, it is important that every Church should definitely recognize and accept its own particular work — its parish. The very form of the statement proposing for this Council's consideration — the subject of " Parochial Evangelization” seems to assume that this has already been done; and yet how seldom, in our day, is it really done!
But, if a Church is to do its work, it must know its work — know it as a Church. Nor can we reflect at all upon this matter, without perceiving that when once this work has taken definite form in the mind of the Church, and has been solemnly acknowledged before God as his commission, one important step has been gained. The divine call now sounds clear, has been understood, and the Church has answered, “Here am I."
Furthermore, so soon as a definite work has thus been recognized, its parts begin to be distinguished — some, perhaps, very difficult, but others more immediately hopeful; and so an order begins to appear; and now, no sooner has it been determined where to commence, than methods suggest themselves - a really intelligent beginning can be made, a beginning of the whole; and the motive drawn from the whole urges and helps the prosecution of each part; furnishing a great advantage to every working member, and especially to the pastor, whose duty it is to superintend and incite.
In most rural districts, and in some villages, the natural “ parish” of the Church is so obvious that no question can arise concerning its boundaries; and where two or more churches stand side by side, and draw their congregations from the same communities, the question is still one of no difficulty; for here the churches obviously have a joint parish; and, having agreed upon such division of labor as the case demands, may each go forward with its own, recognizing, in reference to the whole, a joint responsibility, while also owning a distinct care and duty. Nor, where churches of other denominations are found, does this bring in any serious complication. For, acknowledging with joy their work for the Lord, we shall find enough for our hearts and hands in caring for our own and for neglected families.
But it may be said that this system of parishes is impossible at the West, where missionaries sometimes have whole counties under their charge. On the contrary, it is quite as easily arranged there as elsewhere, and is, perhaps, of greater importance than in Eastern communities; in every case, there is a community that forms the proper parish of the Church which the missionary makes his principal center. This is that Church's field ; the rest is the minister's outfield, over which he exercises inspection, and where he temporarily bestows a certain amount of labor, in preparation for other laborers who shall enter in and establish permanent centers and parishes. It is of the utmost importance that the young churches of the West, now in their formative period, be educated to the idea of Church responsibility for communities.
The plan suggested may possibly be thought to be impracticable in cities. By no means; for it would supply what city churches so greatly need -- a definite object and mode of practical union; and, indeed, is absolutely necessary to the thorough occupation of their field. A certain geographical allotment will, it is believed, be found expedient in all our largest towns.