ciples do obtain much of approbation and much of favour from the intelligent, educated, and thinking portion of the middle classes of society; and there is our stronghold. I have no great sympathy with my friend, Mr. Challis, in the remark which he made as to our distinctive peculiarities. If they are worth any thing they are worth every thing; if they are worth being propagated in any form, they are worth being inculcated in connection with the propagation of spiritual truth. So far from thinking this any diminution of their value, it is this which makes them pre-eminently valuable. If I could not enforce them from the desk-if I could not enforce them in the sanctuary - if I could not enforce them in the parlour--if I could not pray for their extension upon bended knees at the throne of grace, then I would throw them to the winds. But, Sir, if they do enter into the life and soul of Christianity--if they are inseparably connected with the spirituality of the kingdom of Christ, and with the advancement of the glory of the Saviour, then let us seek, by every suitable means, to imbue the minds of our young people with them? let us see that they rise up into life educated in them, and let us see that every practical value shall be derived from them in the efforts which we are making to advance the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ. I feel, Sir, from the position that we occupy to-day, that we are on the point of doing much more than we have hitherto done for British missions. I know we shall be subject to the ridicule, contempt, and scorn of the whole hierarchy of this country, if we do not come forward and do something on behalf of this great undertaking. I have just glanced at the report of the Pastoral Aid Society, and there I find, that during one year there have been collected between seventeen and eigbteen thousand pounds for the advancement of its peculiar objects. And is there not wealth, are there not means in our churches, to raise seventeen or eighteen thousand pounds annually for the advancement of our Home Missions? I am confident that there is. La us but feel the importance of the duty with which we are occupied, and we shall do it. Let us do it in united, prayerful, and humble dependance upon the Spirit of God, and our “work of faith and labour of love" will not be " in vain in the Lord." It is delightful to think that there is so much unity of principle and of feeling in this meeting ; that though we may differ on many of the details by which we are to carry out these plans, yet we all agree in recognizing the principles which have heen so ably and effectually put forth in this paper. I have very much pleasure in seconding the resolution which goes to its adoption, subject to the emendations and alterations which have been suggested.

The motion having been unanimously adopted, the Chairman called upon the Rev. A. Wells, who read the following paper :Hints for the Improvement of Associations of Independent Churches, and for promoting their more decided Home-Missionary character and efficiency.

“INTRODUCTORY OBSERVATIONS. . “ AssOCIATIONS AMONG INDEPENDENT CHURCHES OF EARLY ORIGIX.-AS sociations of Independent churches are not novelties. They have formed a part of the ecclesiastical polity of Independents from the earliest periods in their history at which they became practicable. In this country; in the states of New England; in Wales, Scotland, and Ireland; more recently in the colonies of Canada and Australia,--the Congregational churches, so soon as they began to multiply, began also to associate. The sentiment among Independents, that for some purposes, associations of churches are indispensable, and that for many they are desirable, advantageous, and pleasant, has been as strong as the conviction, that each church ought to act distinctly and independently for the management of its own affairs. Just about a century ago, our eminent and devoted Doddridge was labouring to improve the associations which he visited in Norfolk and Suffolk, as well as that in Northamptonshire with which he was more immediately connected. The object of his efforts was indeed more exclusively the promotion, through the associations, of the revival of religion among the pastors and churches they embraced; but it cannot be doubted that at this day he would have laboured with indefatigable ardour to promote, by the same means, the more extended operations of the British missions,

“ CHARACTER OF ASSOCIATIONS.- Associations of christian churches, such as have hitherto existed among Congregational Christians, or in that more efficient state into which it is now desired to bring them, are not pleaded for as formally and expressly of divine appointment; neither is it wished that they should be invested with authority, or invade the liberties and rights of any church or pastor. They are voluntary institutions, equally with Bible and Missionary Societies, and yet of a somewhat more scriptural character than they, inasmuch as there is no trace in the New Testament of christian organization except through churches ; but there are found in the Apostolic Records, indications of the fellowship, correspondence, and co-operation of churches, as such, for great christian purposes.

* DESIGNS OF ASSOCIATIONS STRICTLY SCRIPTURAL.—The objects for which these associations are formed, are strictly of divine anthority. They are, the recognized oneness of all churches,-the united concern of churches and pastors for the great interests of the gospel, their combined efforts for the advance of the Saviour's kingdom. It cannot admit of doubt, whether it is the will of Christ that such general, expansive objects should be regarded by his churches. In forming associations among christian churches for promoting these great designs, they are merely arranging the necessary means for the performance of unquestionable duties.

“ IMPORTANCE OF ASSOCIATIONS.-It is obvions, that such objects cannot be attained by churches which limit their regards and actions to their own particular affairs. It should not be thought that because the primary object of the organization of each church is its own welfare and increase, it has no further duties to discharge, or even that its own spiritual prosperity can be effectually secured without attention to some objects of more general interest and import. Experience of the need of some such fellowship, before associations existed, and of their benefit when formed, has led to general conviction in their favour. It is now only sought to improve these associations, by advancing them to all the efficiency of which they are susceptible. No other design has given rise to the following suggestions, which are submitted respectfully to the judgment of the churches throughout our country; not withont hope that they will meet with good acceptance, and contribute, through the improvement of associations, to the general prosperity and efficiency of the entire Independent community.

" UNIFORMITY AMONG ASSOCIATIONS DESIRABLE.-In general, it may be remarked, that the brethren united in the several associations, do not so much need instruction how to improve their organization, as to have their attention called to the importance of this object. Their efforts once directed to it, their own wisdom and experience would easily effect all necessary arrangements. And yet as it is now more than ever necessary that, with a view to combined action, there should be agreement among all the associations, at least in some leading principles and plans, these recommendations, respectfully submitted by the general Union, may be, on that account, of the greater value and use.

" OBJECTS OF AssOCIATIONS.—The primary object of associations of Independent churches is- TO OBTAIN THE BENEFIT OF EXTENDING CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP-in the following particulars.

“1. In the recognition of the churches and pastors admitted into association as sound in faith and practice, and worthy of fellowship with all churches of a like faith and order.

“ 2. In the devout, fraternal intercourse of the pastors of the associated churches, on all subjects, interesting to them as ministers of Christ.

« 3. In combined efforts for the spread of the gospel within the limits of the associated churches; conducted in harmony with their own distinctive principles.

4. In united proceedings for promoting the general interests of the associated churches, whether sacred or civil.

“ 5. In a wise care to promote, within the association, the spirit of love, and the power of religion.

* 6. In establishing, for the accomplishment of like purposes, on a more extensive scale, a connexion between the several associations and the general Congregational Union of England and Wales.

“ MEANS FOR ACCOMPLISHING THE OBJECTS OF ASSOCIATIONS.—The means for the accomplishment of these objects, are chiefly the following:

" 1. The conscientious and diligent care of each church, and its pastors, to sustain the general movements of the association, by carrying them into vigorous effect, so far as they apply to each community and locality.

“ 2. The stated and liberal pecuniary contributions of the combined churches :first, for their own local objects and efforts; and then, in aid of the more extended movements of the denomination, through its general union.

“ 3. General annual meetings of the association which ought to include, " I. Distinct meetings of pastors only, for strictly ministerial fellowship.

“ II. Meetings of the pastors and delegates of churches, for the management of the funds of the association, and for confidential discussion on all its affairs.

“ ]II. Devotional meetings; including prayer, sermons, and administration of the Lord's Supper.

“ IV. Public meetings for business; to excite the interest and to obtain the sanetion of the brethren and friends generally for the proceedings of the association.*

“4. A county association may often, with great adrantage, be divided into several districts. The immediate care of the Home Missions of each district, to be confided to its Committee. The district meeting to be held half-yearly. These meetings, from the number of brethren present being fewcr, and those more intimately acquainted with each other's position, and having less business to transect, may be most beneficially devoted to purposes of religious improvement.

"5. The assisting of chapel cases within the bonnds of the association, and the giving them its sanction for a guarantee in more extended applications for aid.

“6. The wide circulation among the members of the associated churches of an annual report, exhibiting the proceedings of the association, and arousing the brethren to greater efforts for its objects; besides the circulation of the reports, documents, and publications of the General Union; as also of tracts and books, illustrative of the history, principles, and interests of the Independent denomination.

" 7. The securing of accurate statistical returns relative to education and religios, and the transmission of copies of such returns to the Committee of the Congregational Union of England and Wales.

“ 8. Diligent inquiry at every meeting of the Association, in the assembly of pastors and delegates, into the state of religion; and into those methods for poo moting its prosperity among the associated churches, which present circumstances shall seem to require; and the communication to the more public meeting, of the conclusions arrived at on these points, so far as may be deemed wise and beneficial, with a view to interest the people generally, and to secure their com operation.

“ GENERAL OBSERVATIONS. “ ZEAL FOR THE ASSOCIATION, THE DUTY OF EVERY PASTOR AND CHURCH MEMBER.-Every pastor, every member of our churches, according to their several opportunities of usefulness, after the duty to their own particular church has beca fulfilled, should regard the interests of the Association, as having the next immediate claim on their care and efforts, and as opening the next most adva tageous opportunity for usefulness in the cause of Christ. Associations should be consciously sustained and served. Contributions to their funds, attendance at their meetings, interest and effort for their prosperity, should be universal throughout the churches.

“ PASTORS SHOULD PUBLICLY AND ZEALOUSLY ADVOCATE ASSOCIATIONSIt is certainly the most effectual way, perhaps it is the only way, by which pablic objects can obtain the approval and secure the interest of Congregational churches, that they should be zealously and frequently recommended by their pastors. Were associations thus recommended, they would not long remain crippled for

* « The following is submitted as a sketch of the proceedings of an associatioa meeting :

“1. First proceeding-a meeting of pastors for ministerial fellowship, to commence at four o'clock, and continue through the evening.

“ II. On the following morning, an early public devotional meeting, to begin at seven o'clock.

“ III. A morning meeting of pastors and delegates, to commence at nine o'clock, and to be continued in the afternoon.

“ IV. A sermon in the evening, followed by a Communion service.

“ V. On the following day, the early devotional meeting, and the meeting of pastors and delegates to be repeated

“ VI. In the evening, the whole to be closed by a public meeting for business.*

want of support. The people are ready to respond to the appeals of their pastors. The responsibility in this most important affair, rests with the ministers of the Congregational body,

“EVERY ASSOCIATION SHOULD INCLUDE BOTH CHURCHES AND PASTORS. No association should be limited to pastors only, nor to the purposes, however delightful and beneficial, of brotherly ministerial fellowship. These should be invariably included in the arrangements of every association ; but to be completeto be what the present times demand—to be in harmony with the principles of our Independent polity, an association should consist of churches and their pastors; should be formed for public objects, and conducted by the pastors and delegates, freely chosen by the associated churches.

“ ASSOCIATIONS SHOULD BE OF MODERATE EXTENT.-It would greatly promote the regular attendance at the meetings of associations, and in that and many other ways secure their prosperity, if the districts embraced be of moderate extent, and their boundaries skilfully arranged with a view to the objects specially designed, without any scrupulous regard to the divisions of our country for civil purposes.

"AssOCIATIONS SHOULD SUSTAIN AND MANAGE HOME MISSIONS.—Home Missions, within the limits of each association, should not be severed from it; they form the appropriate work and care of the association of the churches and their pastors; which, deprived of this, its natural object, must greatly fail of public interest and importance. And the association should, wherever practicable, be itself the auxiliary in aid of the British missions of the Independent body.

" PRACTICAL OBJECTS OPEN TO ASSOCIATIONS.-There seem to be open to the direct, beneficial action of the several associations, the following important public objects, in addition to all the wise proceedings by which, within themselves, love, truth, and godliness, may be promoted :-1. Home missions within their own districts. 11. The support of colleges for the education of our ministers. III. British missions in England, Ireland, and the Colonies, in connexion with the Congregational Union. IV. Enlarged fellowship; and the publication and statistical departments of the General Union.

* DEPUTATIONS AT ASSOCIATION MEETINGS RECOMMENDED. - It might greatly promote the interests and efficiency of the several associations to obtain, at their public meetings, deputations from the Committee of the General Union in London, or from other associations; thus would fellowship be enlarged, and intelligence diffused.

" ASSOCIATIONS NEEDED FOR PRESENT DEFENCE AND PROMOTION OP CONGREGATIONAL PRINCIPLES.— The great points of doctrine, and of the administration of Christ's kingdom, for which Independent churches bear witness, are at this time of such manifest importance as to demand the faithful and combined efforts of all those churches and their pastors for their maintenance and diffusiona duty which has unhappily not hitherto been adequately performed.

“ ASSOCIATIONS DESIRABLE IN ORDER TO A GENERAL UNION OF THE INDEPENDENT CHURCHES.–The Independent churches, secure in the uninvaded right of administering the laws of Christ, each with itself, yet require, for enlarged communion, mutual support, and general efforts in the cause of religion, a union, organized first in district associations, and through them in a more extended confederation.

“ CONCLUDING ADDRESS. “ Fathers and brethren of the Congregational body! Beloved pastors, deacons, and members of Independent churches!-the Committee of the Congregational Union, with great brevity, address a respectful appeal to you on this important subject. Very generally you stand connected with district associations of churches and pastors. Universally the sentiment prevails among you, that such fellowship is as delightful as it is necessary. It is needless to reason on behalf of associations, for you are already convinced of their value. It is needless to plead for love, unless it be for more love; for already ye are taught of God to love one another. But associations, at present, are not wbat they ought to be ; they are not doing what they ought to do. Their meetings are not attended by the numbers that ought to flock to them, nor characterized by the deep feeling and holy results that ought to attend them. They are not sustained by the ample funds they both require and deserve. They do not excite and strengthen warm attachment to Congregational principles in the degree they ought to do, and might do. They do not effectually

form a medium of oneness among all the churches, nor call up the sentiment and feeling in the minds of all the brethren that the Independent churches are one conmunity--many churches, but one body-having the same doctrines, discipline, worship, interests, and objects. They do not, as yet, aid British missions near and remote-the education of ministers - the diffusion of intelligence-as they might do.

“These defects are honestly and plainly stated, that they may be remedied. You can remedy them. Where the organization of associations is defective, you can improve it. If interest in their objects and proceedings be at a low ebb, you can increase it. If their meetings are wanting in life, power, importance, you can raise them to a higher tone. If they have not heretofore embraced great practical objects, you can in future include such purposes in their range.

“How noble an opportunity is here before you, to render such unions of churches and pastors hallowed combinations for the noblest purposes! What ineetings may you not obtain for ministerial fellowship, in which the mature wisdom and piety of aged pastors may instruct, confirm, and elevate the sonls of their younger brethren! What seasons would present themselves for communication and counsel on all the great interests, changes, and wants of this eventful age! With what power, with what wisdom, might the brethren and the churches be prepared by such fellowship to act for their country, and for the world! How different the position and the efficiency of the same number of churches when united, than when isolated! How happy, how invigorated, how improved, will the churches be, when in each district the meeting of the association is looked to as the season of deepest interest kuori within their fellowship, its proceedings the most spirit-stirring ; its objects the most approved ; its communion the most intimate and endeared!

“ The Committee refer the whole subject to your candour and your wisdomto your prayers and your efforts. On their part they delight to be your servants for Jesus' sake; and in any way to promote a cause equally dear to you and to them."

The Rev. R. Elliott, of Devizes, very briefly proposed,

“That the paper on the improvement of Associations, now read, be received by the meeting for discussion, chiefly in respect to the principles and proposals embodied in it; but that attempts to settle alterations in the phraseology be avoided, though suggestions on such points may with great propriety and advantage be offered." Observing, that many of his brethren present felt an intense interest upon this subject.

The Rev. Thomas James, of Woolwich, in seconding the motion, observed that the subject was one of the most delicate nature, and which might, perhaps excite the jealousy of some of the brethren. It ought, therefore, to be entered upon with the greatest care and in hunble dependance upon the Spirit of God. He thought that the associations were greatly improving; and the intention of the Committee who drew up the paper was simply that the associations should take the various points here suggested to them into consideration, leaving it their own judgment whether or not they would adopt them.

On the clause “ importance of associations,"

The Rev. G. SMITi observed, that the practical value of the associations would be greatly augmented if they were to keep in view the recognition of the parties. An individual coming from Cumberland to Cornwall might contrive to fasten himself upon a church without any knowledge being obtained of his real character, and then, simply because he was a pastor of that church, le would get into the association. He was exceedingly pleased, on a recent occasion, when his respected brother brought with him a letter of recommendation, signed by the Chairman and Secretary of the association he had left, and thought that great advantage would accrue if such an excellent practice were generally adopted. There were many worthless vagabonds going about the country and fastening themselves on churches for the want of some regulations of this kind.

The Rev. J. SIBREE, of Coventry, begged to say that the Leicestershire

« VorigeDoorgaan »