Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

288 On the Necessity of increased Liberality in Christians, May,

ON THE NECESSITY OF INCREASED LIBERALITY IN

CHRISTIANS, AND THE MEANS OF PRODUCING IT. It is most impressively obvious to all who reflect upon the subject, that greatly augmented means are necessary to carry out the plans which are formed, and in partial operation, for evangelizing the world. It is in the nature of christian zeal, when once kindled, to go on multiplying its objects : and one religious institution gives rise to another. Already the number of societies is so great as to be almost bewildering, yet not one of them is useless or unnecessary; and there is no reason to suppose that the inquisitive mind and exploring eye of benevolence, will discover no other yet unoccupied ground in the regions of sin and sorrow. Now it is impossible that these societies can be well worked with the present amount of public liberality. Indeed all of them are doing far less good than they could do, if they had greater resources, and some of them are painfully limited by the scantiness of their funds, amidst extensive and widening fields of moral culture. Much more property then, must and can be contributed to sustain the active spirit of holy enterprise by which this age and country are so happily characterized. Professing Christians, and especially those of them who are possessed of wealth, or competence, have never yet, notwithstanding the amount of light that has been poured upon their minds, duly estimated the responsibility that attaches to property. Immortal souls are perishing by hundreds of millions, because they who have wealth will not part with it for their salvation. The property of many Christians smells of blood, the blood of souls; for it has been withheld from those who have perished for lack of knowledge. How many more generations of mankind are to go down unredeemed to the pit, before the professed followers of the Lamb will spare their superfluities, or retrench their luxuries, in order to save them from the burning lake? How many ages more are to roll away, ere the possessors of wealth shall consider that it is granted them to spend for God; and that for the use of it they must account to the uttermost farthing at the bar of Christ? When is the happy era to arrive that shall present the church of Christ, so alive to her duty and her privilege, as to pour forth her treasure, according to her ability, at the dictate of enlightened conscience for the conversion of the world.

My object in this paper is to press upon the attention of both ministers and their flocks, one or two methods of raising money for the support of religious institutions which, though well known, are not pushed with that degree of vigour which may be brought to bear upon them. It would create a deep interest in, and call forth much liberality for particular missions, whether home or foreign, or particular agents of these missions, if churches or individuals, were, in addition to what they already contribute for the cause in general, to raise a certain sum for the support of these specific objects. Suppose, for instance, that a church were to read that a missionary was wanted for some part of the world, but that the Society's funds were not so affluent as to enable it to meet the call, and were of itself,

or in conjunction with some other churches, to say, “ We will raise the necessary sum to send forth a labourer to that field of enterprise," how much would the prayers and feelings of the church and its pastor be engaged for the prosperity of that mission. It may be a correspondence would be entered upon and kept up between them, and the missionary's heart be cheered by knowing that there was one church that considered him, without neglecting others, as the special object of their solicitude and prayers.

And what could be thus done by churches, could also be done by individuals. Suppose some of our wealthy professors were to say to the missionary directors, “ You want a missionary for such a station, find a suitable man, and I am willing to support him, and will consider him as my substitute in the great harvest field.” Or, as there are not many who could thus take the charge of a missionary upon themselves, two or three might join together and sup. port one. This is already done in principle in the support of a native teacher in the East, by subscribing ten pounds; but why may it not be carried on and applied also to the maintenance of a missionary ? The same plan may be adopted in reference to the various other societies which are formed for the United Kingdom and our colonies. The writer of this paper is willing to join with any other persons who may be disposed to unite with him in supporting an agent for Ireland; for the newly-organized Home Missionary Society; for the Colonial Missionary Society; for the Continental, or as it is now called, the European Society; and for the London Missionary Society, in the proportion of twenty pounds for each; and he is anxious that many should enter into his views.

The advantages of such a plan, I have already hinted at. There is something pleasant in knowing exactly how our money is disposed of; in watching its operation; tracing its effects; and seeing its fruits. Trne, we ought to give in faith, and so, even in this case we might, but our faith is sometimes weak and needs a prop. Such a plan would more deeply interest our hearts, and call forth more specific and earnest prayers. Our petitions are ordinarily too vague, indefinite, and general; but this would present us with something specific. This no doubt has been felt to be the case with those who have given their money and their names for a native teacher in the East. It is probable that these teachers have not only excited the interest, but called forth the fervent supplications of those who supported them: and this interest would in all such cases be greatly augmented, if an account were furnished to the subscribers of the operation and success of the agents they support.

This, then, is one plan of increasing the support of our numerous and various religious institutions. Another and a very important one is to multiply our Congregational collections. This mode of raising money, is perhaps, of all, the most facile, if not the most productive. It gives an opportunity to all persons, however small and inconsiderable their individual offerings may be, to deposit them without notice, or at any rate without scouting. They are an admirable plan for gathering up the pence of the poor, the shillings of those who are just above them, and the pounds of the rich. There

[graphic]

290

On the Necessity of increased Liberality in Christians, May,

is no trouble in collecting, and no one is put to the mortification of actually saying, “ No," even when it is not convenient to give. This plan of raising funds should be carried on to a much greater extent than it is. There is with the ministers and deacons of some churches a most censurable unwillingness to allow public collections, from a groundless dread that they will disgust and repel the congregation. They scarcely ever allow an appeal to be made from the pulpit for any object, beyond a quarterly collection for themselves. The very proposal to allow a sermon to be preached for any public society fills them with anxiety and alarm. Such timid and watchful guardians of the pockets of the people, should, however, know, that they are far more careful of the congregation's resources than the congregation are themselves. The people who are most annoyed and offended at the announcement of a collection, are those to whom it is most rarely made; to whom it comes as a startling novelty; while those feel the pressure least, if pressure it may be called, who are most accustomed to it. The time is coming when it will be almost necessary to adopt the Irish practice of having a collection after every sermon. In their case, I believe it is made for the expenses of their own worship, but in ours it must be made for the public cause. I think a monthly collection ought to be made by all our congregations for some object connected with our own place of worship, or with the cause of religion generally. At the conmencement of the year the ministers and deacons should fix upon the objects to be supported during its continuance, with the sabbaths on which the collection is to be made: this list should be suspended in the vestry, that every object might be embraced in its due order and season. This would prevent the necessity of discussing the propriety of granting collections for any particular society when the application is made, and enable the minister or deacons to say, "Our list is filled up this year, but we will consider you in the next.” This is the plan of the church with which I am connected. January is the only month of the present year which has not its allotted object. There are four quarterly collections; one for the Sunday-school, the choir,* the Society for relieving the Sick Poor, the County Associations, the Colonial Missionary Society, the London Missionary Society, and the Home Missionary Society. In my own judgment, even this is hardly enough, as there are many other objects which ought to be embraced. The collection for most of these objects is, of course, annual, but for one or two of them it is biennial; this gives us an opportunity of taking in a few others at intervals. In such an age as this, we certainly ought not to be satisfied with less than twelve of these annual congregational contribntions. What a large amount of money could be raised without much difficulty, if this plan were adopted, and which is now lost to the cause, through the fastidiousness and fear about multiplied collections, which is felt by some of our ministers and deacons.

There is another thing connected with our collections which de

* This includes the expenses of the organ, which is, I must confess, rather a costly appendage in this age, when money is so much wanted for living organs.

serves attention, and that is the expense incurred by deputations. I am aware that, in some cases, this is indispensable, and in the end, is economical; for there are places which can be stimulated only by the appeal of some popular and esteemed stranger. But for the ministers of our large towns, who themselves are the very men usually engaged as deputations to other places, to require such aid, is a wasteful expenditure of public money ; for while the stranger, be he who he may, does not procure a larger collection than the minister of the place would do, his travelling expenses occasion a considerable deduction from the amount. It is quite time this plan of deputations was as much dispensed with as possible, and the offerings of our congregations gathered up by their own pastors. The most rigid economy ought to be observed in the management of all our public institutions, for it is a check to the liberality of the people, to see that property dissipated in large salaries, useless printing, and expensive deputations, which, at considerable sacrifice, they contributed to the Society.

I wish to lay the responsibility of raising and sustaining the liberality of our congregations upon those to whom it chiefly appertains, I mean the ministers and the deacons. They, to a considerable extent, have the purse of the people at their command : and if they are cautious, timid, and frightened about the subject of collections, the people will follow their leaders in this spirit of selfishness, and our societies will languish for want of support. On the other hand, if the officers are bold, generous, and ardent spirits, ever willing to throw open the pulpit to the advocates of the various objects of christian zeal, the congregations will catch their enthusiasm, and come, in process of time, to consider it as much their duty and their privilege to give as it is to attend the solemnities of public worship. It ought to be considered by those who profess to understand our mental constitution, that habit renders every thing comparatively easy; and that while in some cases it requires great and painful efforts to perform a solitary act, that very act, by repetition, becomes at length not only facile but pleasant. No grace is more strengthened, or in the end becomes more agreeable in its exercise, than liberality.

Professing Christians, of this country and this age, a dispensation is committed to you, the holiest, the sublimest, the most benevolent, ever entrusted to human hands since the days of the apostles-I mean, the conversion of the world to Christ. Show yourselves in some measure worthy of the high commission, by the estimate you form of its importance, and the sacrifices you are willing to make for its accomplishment. Let the public see that there is something dearer to your heart than money, or all the luxuries it can purchase, and that in your account the chief value of money consists in enabling you to instruct the ignorant, relieve the wretched, to reclaim the sicious-in short, to convert the world to Christ.

REMARKS ON DR. SMITH'S CONGREGATIONAL LECTURES. The object of the venerated author of the sixth series of lectures is to prove that the assumed discoveries of modern geologists perfectly accord with the statements of inspiration correctly understood and explained. The object is doubtless one of high importance; still it is equally manifest that the writer who, in the present state of geological science, makes the attempt to secure it, does not undertake a service unattended with risk : for, if he should fail, he will strengthen the prejudices of philosophical infidels against the Bible; or, if he should succeed, by giving an interpretation of certain scripture statements which mere philology would not have suggested, though perhaps it may not forbid, he may create a suspicion that the interpretation of the Bible is a work of extreme uncertainty; or that its statements generally bear a recondite meaning, beyond the discovery of mere good sense and piety, and to be reached by high attainments in science alone.

It is the impression of the present writer that Dr. Smith has not succeeded to the extent of his wishes and hopes; that his interpretations of scripture, designed to make geology and the Bible speak the same thing, are snggested by geology, and are not such as mere philological considerations would have led him, or any other man, to adopt; and, finally, that the time has not yet arrived, from the imperfection of science, when it would be expedient to attempt the work which Dr. Smith set himself to accomplish. Let me not, however, be misunderstood here. I have the firmest confidence that there is no discrepancy between the works and the word of God. I have no doubt that, as the criticism of the Bible and the discoveries of the philosopher advance, the true reconciling principle will appear; but I have strong doubt whether there may not be an unwise impatience to discover that principle leading to modes of explaining the Bible, which will ultimately affect injuriously the interests of divine truth.

Dr. Smith supposes that the first verse of the first chapter of Genesis is an independent proposition, denoting generally the creation of matter, or of the primordial elements of things the very small number of simple bodies, each endowed with its own wondrons properties; and that the following verses describe a series of operations, after an indefinite but immense period of time, by which God made the earth fit for the residence and support of man. He further thinks, now at least, that the word earth, in the second verse, does not denote the entire surface of the globe, but that portion only which was to become the dwelling place of the first men, and the animals connected with them; that this portion or region, comprebending a large part of Asia, had been brought, immense ages after creation, into a condition of superficial ruin, probably by the subsidence of the region, leading to the flowing in upon it of a sea of rivers, constituting the “deep” mentioned in the second verse; that this subsidence was accompanied by extreme darkness, not indeed the total privation of light, but partial or comparative darkness;

« VorigeDoorgaan »