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might be too strict, or too lax, for others. This is another difficulty in the way of universally adopting the details of any plan.
“The duty and privilege of christian churches have not been properly considered or understood. The irregularities that have taken place in connection with lay preaching, may mainly be traced to this circumstance. The church has not placed this departinent of public christian labour under their own direction and control; it has been left either to the pastors or to the agents themselves, and these have done what was right in their own eyes. The church, to which they belong, in whose name they go forth to preach the Gospel, and who assist in defraying the expense incurred, are never consulted either collectively, or through any of their number appointed “to manage this business. The consequence is, that less interest is taken in the labours of the brethren than ought to be ; and when any case of difficulty occurs, the dernier resort is the pastor, who has generally quite enough to do, without this unnecessary responsibility. The church, in fact, either forgets, or is ignorant of its duty.”—pp. 100–102.
“But supposing it is granted that every church of Christ has a right to approve of, to direct, and to control, in some way or other, the public conduct of their members in promoting the religious instruction of men, how is it to be done in this case? Is the choice or rejection of the village preacher to be determined at a church meeting, convened for that special purpose, after a full discussion of the merits or demerits of the individual in question ? My own decided conviction is, that this plan would be attended with peculiar difficulties, and endanger the peace and comfort of church meetings. To raise discussions at such meetings about the qualifications of some of the members for village preaching, might produce some of the very evils we now lament. I am afraid that even the ballot would not prevent or cure these. Many of the members might not know the gifts of the members proposed, and would therefore be unable to vote conscientiously. Besides, when parties were much interested in the matter, perhaps in the very cases where the calm, deliberate judgment of the church was most required, the feeling might be so strong, that the ballot might furnish a list of names by no means discriminating, and the pastor might regret the choice made in such a way.
“The plan that I would respectfully suggest is the following :- Let it be proposed at a church meeting, after the minister has fully pointed out the duty of every church, in calling out the gifts of all the members, according to what God had bestowed upon them, that a certain number of the male members be chosen to form a lay agency committee, along with the pastor and deacons. Let the number be six, eight, or twelve persons, according to the size of the church and the destitution around. The object of the committee to be simple and definitenamely, to bring out the moral strength of the church in the department of lay preaching, and teaching from house to house, in the villages and destitute districts around. Let the church take care that those who are chosen to manage this business have their confidence, and are decidedly men of piety, prudence, and intelligence. Let it be the duty of the committee to look out for suitable persons in their own church to engage in this service, if it is really required. It should also be left to them to use proper means to ascertain the gifts of the brethren, in the most delicate and prudent manner. When this is done with regard to any one member, let it be intimated that a special church meeting will be held for the purpose of choosing such an individual. At that meeting the pastor can state the case, and call one or more of the members of the committee to give their reasons for selecting that particular member, and the evidence they have obtained of his fitness for village labours. Let it then be put openly to the vote of the church, whether or not he should be requested to engage in the work of preaching under the sanction of the church. The suffrages of the assembly will show the feeling of the people. If a few dissent from the rest, they can be requested to speak with the pastor, or any of the brethren on the committee, privately. If any thing should be stated to them, calculated to alter their opinion as to the moral fitness of the individual in question, they can delay procedure till they are satisfied. I
do not think that, in cases like these, the character, the attainments, the infirmities of members, who are sought out by some of the brethren for a work like this, should be discussed at church meetings. Some of our best men would shrink from such an ordeal."-pp. 108–110.
" The advantages of the proposed plan are these: it takes away a heavy and inconvenient responsibility from pastors; it places the most experienced members between the church and the lay preachers; it is a check upon the latter, if any of them should be disposed to be troublesome; it gives the church a greater interest in the labours of the members, without agitating it by unprofitable discussions; it is a more likely way to discover and bring out the best materials to be found in the church; and it is more likely to be satisfactory to the persons appointed to the work in question, when they find that they can attend to an important duty with the full sanction and approbation of the brethren : they have the consciousness that they have not gone unsent."- pp 110, 111.
Now, on the comparison of these extracts, it will be evident, that a principle of agreement may be found in the recognition of the church's right to sanction and confirm; and therefore to examine the acts of the “ Executive" in any specific proceeding affecting the usefulness and honour of the associated body. Dr. Matheson would shield the pastor's responsibility by a “committee of trial,” which we fear would, in many cases, lead to the same practical inconvenience which a public probation would involve. In all cases a pastor would arail himself of the judgment of such as he might deem competent to assist him in determining the eligibility or fitness of an individual; and how far any preparation, be it more or less extended, might be desirable.
But in our view of the matter a standing committee would be found a tronblesome, and as to its results, a very doubtful arrangement. It would have the power of a veto, independent both of the church and the pastor, as to the precise question before it; its appointment would involve tendencies to the creation of an authority of an anomalous character, and nothing would be gained by it that would not, under the prudent government of a church by its pastor, be more safely secured without it. Let the pastor take the initiative in this matter as in other cases affecting the church's welfare ; let him state all he deems it proper to state, in order to give foll and satisfactory information, and then refer it to the church for approval and confirmation. If there be a diversity of opinion as to eligibility or fitness, let it be frankly stated by such as object. The responsibility would, of course, in that case, be with the objecting parties, and the church would be called npon to exercise its candour, its fidelity, its patience, and its charity in its attention to such objections. No pastor that deserves to "rule" would desire to compel; and the more there is of mutual confidence and love between a church and its spiritual " overseer,” the less will there be of discussion or dispute respecting the extent of prerogative and the limits of subjection.
In both of the Essays before us, there is much of judicious saggestion and valuable détail on the subject of lay preaching. If the “ Congregational Union" succeed in its plans as to Home Missions, it will be desirable to adopt some recommendations, founded on the results of matured experience in the several “ Unions” of the country, respecting the best method of preparing members of our churches for effective labour in village preaching, or as “ helps" to pastors and churches in large towns. We are convinced that lay preaching must be an integral part of the operations by which the truths of the gospel are to be brought to the minds of immense masses of the people inaccessible by the labours of ordinary pastors; and that to be safely and wisely conducted, the pastor must superintend their movements, and provide suitable arrangements for their preparation. The times and stations of labour must be brought under systematic appointment. The agent employed rust circulate; the several localities must be visited in order by the pastor, as the true “ overseer” of the district. Small, feeble, and dependent congregations not able to support, it may be, even a Sabbathschool, will not then be led to start at once into importance, and claim the prerogatives of the churches. The principle of independency will not be shrivelled to an insulation that represents nothing but weakness and mendicity. Societies will not become churches, strictly so called, till they do possess somewhat of the reality of independence. They had much better be “ parts and parcels" of larger churches, meeting the body of each church at some stated times of communion ; be visited by the pastors at regular and recurring periods; and on other occasions of worship be aided by the gratuitous services of local preachers, than be constituted at once, as they often are, into separate and distinct societies, with no means of carrying on their own movements without foreign aid, and providing, in too many instances, for a weak, incompetent, and dependent administration. In such circumstances how often would it have been far better if those who are induced to forsake their worldly callings, and become settled pastors, had remained “ lay preachers,” and thus have avoided inconceiveable anxieties to themselves and their families. The entire system wants revision. Let the poorer churches, formed in circumstance where distance from more powerful churches prevents union and incorporation, have all practicable help in every possible form, and provision be amply made for the support of the pastors, that they may be really “ without carefulness." But in very numerous cases, we are persuaded that the plans of the Wesleyan body in this country, and of the Calvinistic Methodists in Wales, might be so adopted and modified as to harmonize with the essential principles of our Congregational polity, and to increase to an amazing extent the usefulness and the honour of our churches.
We have been led to more extended remarks on this subject, because that form of lay agency, which respects preaching, is the most important matter, and will require more of consideration and caution than any other. In all that respects Sunday Schools, Christian Instruction Societies, and City Missions, District Visiting Societies, fc., our readers will find ample and minute details in the work of “ Jethro.” We are not prepared to agree with every opinion, or to think some of his plans easily practicable. This remark will apply to the sectional districts into which churches are recommended to be divided; simply because he gives the lay agents too much to do; makes the machinery too complicated; and places on the pastor a burden which « Atlantean shoulders” could not sustain. But even these proposed arrangements are full of valuable hints and suggestions. And here we cannot but advert to a worse than captious criticism which we recently met with, and in which from some latent cause that we cannot explain, the work of Jethro has been treated with no small measure of literary injustice. Because in the sketch and outlines of his plan, his propositions were made to assume the natural form of “ rules and regulations," and therefore the terms of futurition were employed, the author was accused of displaying an arrogant and dictatorial spirit; and hints were thrown out as to what might be expected under such a jurisdiction as Jethro wished to establish! Because he referred to an order of the ancient Kirk of Scotland, in the “ First Book of Discipline," published in the days of Knox, that in the fellowship of the church, all should exercise their gifts for its edifying-and“ every man be constrained by fraternal admonition and correction, to bestow his labours, when of the kirk he might be required”- the author is represented as if he sanctioned the actual infliction of personal severity, and as if his principles were identified with the spirit of coercion and persecution! Such misrepresentations as these, must have originated either in strange misconception, or in feelings more dishonourable to a christian reviewer! Another journalist of less calibre, has cited the censure of the heavier contemporary, as justifying his lighter projectile! We can only express our surprise and regret at such violation of candour.
Some of the most valuable parts of Jethro's essay respect the. training of agents, whether for Sabbath-schools, districts, lay preaching, or other departments of beneficial operation. He avails himself of the plans of different denominations to illustrate his general principles; and his work is a treasury of interesting information respecting the diversified forms of machinery employed in the principal sections of the christian church. There is a noble spirit of catholicism pervading the volume; and its working is in harmony with the principles of the denomination, for the benefit and extension of which he has, in this volume, so successfully laboured. His remarks on the claims of the children of the church, and the practical uses of infant baptism, are invaluable. Well may our pastors and churches generally take “ shame and confusion of face to themselves," that in this department of the duty devolving upon both, there has not been a more solemn recognition and a more devout application of the principles on which the baptismal administration is founded! The subject demands the most thoughtful consideration.
Dr. Matheson's Essay is more adapted to the village districts and the smaller towns, than to the more densely populous parts of our country. Like the work of Jethro, it commences by affecting statements of the moral necessities of the land, and the inadequacy of existing means for their relief. It points out the advantages and defects of those means, and presents instructive information respecting N. S, VOL. IV.
the statistics of various bodies. From the familiar knowledge possessed by our esteemed friend respecting the American churches, as might have been anticipated, he has supplied very interesting details on the subject, especially as to the distribution of tracts and their results. He has also suggested important hints for the improvement of Sabbath-schools. On this subject he agrees with Jethro, as to the necessity of pastoral connexion with these institutions, and the indispensable importance of personal piety in the character of the teachers. It is the aim and wish of both, to elevate the standard of qualification, as to moral and intellectual habits, and to purify the sources of influence in our Sabbath-schools. We cannot withhold from our readers the following judicious observations.
“Might not the character of our Sunday-schools be greatly improved ? In two respects I would suggest improvement. First, to have fewer very young children, who can learn little except the elements of reading, and more boys and girls above fourteen years of age. Secondly, to have a greater number of decidedly religious teachers. If the former alteration take place, the latter must of necessity follow : at least if there is to be any consistency between our principles and our practice. We consider a converted ministry essential to the proper and successful preaching of the Gospel; and if the duties of teachers, in schools for conveying the first principles of the Gospel, are to be efficiently performed, it cannot be less necessary that they be converted also. How can any one, whose heart has not felt the power of divine grace, correctly explain and enforce on the minds of children, the solemn and affecting truths of Scripture? I know that there have been teachers themselves brought to the knowledge of the truth by their engagements in Sundayschools; but I cannot help thinking that the good thus effected has come far short of the evil done, by the introduction into our schools of too many unconverted persons, some of thern, perhaps, incompetent to teach even the theory of religion. Who can tell the amount of evil influence, affecting the minds of thousands of children, when they discover that some of their teachers have no love to the truths they teach them that they are vain and trifling- and not even mindful of the Sabbath-day to keep it holy. Children are very quick in marking inconsistencies of conduct; especially in the examples of those who are strict to enjoin on others what they do not practise themselves. Besides, our schools can never be efficient as nurseries to the churches, unless some plan be devised to retain the youth of both sexes longer under christian instruction. At present, when a young person attains the age of fourteen or fifteen, he generally considers himself as above being taught in a Sunday-school any longer. The truth is, he dislikes restraint on that day, which by so many around him is spent entirely for their own pleasure. But there are other circumstances unfavourable to his continuance at school: so many very young children are his school-fellows, that his pride is wounded ; and he dreads the banter of his companions, should be remain among them. Perhaps, too, most of the teachers are men in a rank of life as humble as his own, and he foolishly imagines that he is now their equal, and will submit to them no longer. This is especially the case in manufacturing towns; where the young can get employment, and assume airs of independence at a very early age. It may be, also, they find that they are learning nothing - there is no advancement or enlargement of the instruction afforded them; and when, for such reasons, they leave the school, it is too generally the case, that they forsake the means of grace altogether. If any thing could be suggested to encourage their attendance for two or three years longer, providing, at the same time, for the enlarging capabilities of their minds, it would be one of the greatest benefits conferred upon society, and upon the church of God. This, to a considerable extent, has been accomplished in some places, by removing the pupils, as they