Images de page


open that channel through which the mercies of Heaven flow down upon ourselves? We may not be prepared to go the length of affirming with an eminent Christian philosopher, that political aggrandisement is the proper fruit of national godliness; but we must surely concur in the sentiment of the sagacious Machiavel, that "there is no surer prognostic of impending ruin to any state than for public worship to be neglected and despised.” Neither can I forbear to add, that no judicious friend to our Church would divest her of those symbols of majesty which impress the senses of beholders; and render her venerable even in the

eyes persons who have not yet learnt to appreciate her intrinsic worth and grandeur. Is there any thing, I ask, in the structure of the human mind,-is there any thing in the history of past times to warrant an expectation, that religion, if stripped of her beautiful attire, and newly clad to the taste of infidel or puritanical economists, would command more respect, or be embraced with livelier affection, and a purer spirituality ?

But to return to our subject. How does this Society proceed in furnishing assistants to distressed parishes ? By rules which appear strongly marked with judgment, delicacy, deference to ecclesiastical order, and a religious solicitude to fulfil exactly a sacred duty. The applicant for help is requested to name the individual he wishes to engage, at the same time forwarding such testimonials and references as may satisfy the committee that, in acceding to the nomination, they shall not betray their trust. These documents are submitted not to the acting committee indiscriminately, but to its clerical secretary, in conjunction with the other clerical members; and the result of their investigation is final, unless the nominee should think fit to appeal from an unfavourable decision. It would seem barely possible for a more unexceptionable plan to be devised ; the committee not interfering with the incumbent in his choice one tittle, beyond what is requisite to satisfy the body of subscribers that no part of its funds is bestowed unworthily; but that for every 801. or 90l. cast into its treasury, a man of God, a devoted servant of the cross, a clergymen not in name only, but in spirit, is sent forth to labour in some field of extensive usefulness. Yet while the Society prefers, for the most part, ordained ministers, and has lent itself chiefly to that object, you are aware that it does not refuse to sanction the engagement of lay agents, and to assign them a stipend. When the need of spiritual help is urgent, and that of clergymen not to be obtained, it sees nothing in the word of God, nothing in ecclesiastical law, nothing in the measure itself when tried by reason and experience, to preclude it from calling into the service of the Church men not in holy orders. Every lay agent is under a solemn stipulation to abstain from functions that are not purely spiritual. He is selected by the incumbent whom he is paid to assist, is placed absolutely under his control, and is removable at his discretion. The Society takes no further part in the affair than first to ascertain the urgency of the case, then the qualifications of the nominee, and afterwards to pay his salary. One can hardly imagine any objection to this employment of laymen in the service of religion that would not bear with equal force upon the case of schoolmasters and district visitors. Our belief is, that improper agents can seldom be nominated, except through great incautiousness in the nominating party; and surely incumbents will be wary in a matter so nearly affecting their ministerial usefulness. They will be instinctively careful to let none into their fold as an auxiliary, of whom there is any shadow of reason to apprehend that he will prove turbulent and unruly, disloyal to the church, or ambitious to supplant his superior in the affections of his flock. Against such a grievance it is not in human wit to erect an insuperable barrier. But after estimating the dangers of the system as high as good sense will permit, we must contend that they are greatly overbalanced by its probable benefits. And is not the urgency of the case an overwhelming answer to objections that are based on remote and contingent inconveniences ? In doing good on a large scale something will occasionally go wrong; but it is not a large-minded wisdom that would cut down its machinery to a much lower rate of efficiency to avoid comparatively small and incidental evils. The reciprocal advantages to the Church and the people that would result from the fraternal association of laymen and clergy on religious

Can we pause

grounds, and from the cordial interlacing of their faculties, and exertions in the service of the sanctuary, is a field too large to enter upon, though not a little important and delightful. My friends, with such a work before us as

we have been just reviewing, with such obligations and such encouragement, can we faint and grow weary? for an instant, or slacken our efforts, so long as one spot of this land continues in a wilderness state,—so long as there remains a single soul to be converted ?

Is it not a reproach to us, who have long been favoured above all other nations with religious privileges, that millions of our countrymen are in almost Pagan darkness: that we cannot step beyond our doors without meeting wretched creatures who carry vice and irreligion in their countenances : that we cannot walk the shortest street without encountering some portentous signs that in this centre of Christendom Jesus Christ is still unknown and dishonoured ? To remove this stain-this curse from our country, is the holy purpose of the Pastoral Aid Society.

It aims (as we have seen) at realising the magnificent object of our Church. It aspires to enable our venerable mother to spread her wings over the breadth of the land, and to foster with her genial warmth every soul within its circuit. Let our Society meet with due support, and this noble scheme of evangelical charity will be accomplished. A now era will have begun. The whole country will be comprehended in the embrace of pure religion. Churches will be multiplied, and able ministers will arise in sufficient numbers to supply them. Here will be no dearth of scriptural teaching, nor of sacred ministers, nor of pastoral superintendence, as well in petty villages as in great and crowded cities. Vice, with its associate misery, will be incalculably abated: the voice of joy and singing will resound throughout the island, and all the nations of the earth will rise up and call us blessed. Brethren, I am bold to ask for the largest patronage for a Society which aims at diffusing true religion thus extensively, and which takes its measures for that purpose soberly, wisely, and in humble dependence on the great Head of the church. Indeed, I cannot but consider the

birth of such an institution at the present crisis as of happy augury. It assures me that Jehovah hath not so beheld iniquity in his people as to intend the removal of our candlestick out of its place. No, surely God is with our Zion, and “ the shout of a King is among us."

Dear brethren, let us not be slack. The foundation has been laid, but the edifice is only just rising. A few thousand pounds have been contributed, while hundreds of thousands are wanted. And shall they not be forthcoming? To my mind there is something almost terrible in the reflexion that a sum equal to a single one of the first-rate fortunes in Britain would, if annually devoted to a measure such as this, suffice, under God, to change a moral desert into a paradise. Yet, with all the appeals and exertions that have been made, not a tithe of that sum has come in from all quarters of the land ! It would not be so, dear brethren,-it could not be so if the love of God and of our neighbour were understood and felt.

But the path of duty is obvious—it is to go forward in the name of the Lord. Be the Cross our banner, with the text for our mottoms Seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy we faint not." friends,“ in the day of small things,” but “gird up the loins of your mind;" " be strong and of a good courage.” Already you have the satisfaction of knowing that sixtyeight parishes and districts throughout the country are rejoicing in the accession of spiritual teachers through your instrumentality. In these thirsty places you have opened a new fountain.

You have sent light into many a and cheered

sorrowful heart. Only listen to the language in which the grateful feelings of a pastor and his congregation for the aid of this Society are affectingly declared. * Permit me,” (says the writer to the clerical secretary,) through you, to express my lively gratitude to the Society for its truly liberal grant of £150 for a year towards supplying with two curates; and to assure you that I can sincerely attest, that feelings similar to my own are deeply felt by my people. The kind and truly Christian communication of the Society reached us immediately before Afternoon Service on Sunday, October 9th. I felt constrained publicly to return thanks to

Falter not, my Almighty God for this signal and seasonable mercy, and therefore when I entered the desk, I briefly stated the circumstances of the case. Had

many a

dark corner,

you, reverend sir, and the committee been present to witness the feeling that pervaded fifteen hundred persons when, at the appropriate place in our Liturgy, thanks to Almighty God ascended from us as if from one voice : above all, had you the sweet persuasion that there were many of them knowing the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour, and worshipping a reconciled God in spirit and in truth, you would have felt confirmed in your decision, and blessed the wonderful Counsellor who had guided you aright."

To such a picture who among us can be insensible ?-a large congregation unanimously blessing God for the benefits conferred upon it through your pious liberalities !—fifteen hundred hearts and voices mounting up with one accord to Heaven in supplication for ability and grace to be vouchsafed you to proceed in this sublime walk of Christian philanthropy! Go forward then in the strength of him who has accompanied you hitherto. Dwell much in thought on the wretchedness of those who are aliens from Christ and from the hope of salvation; and reflect on the mercy that has made you to differ from the myriads who by nature are nothing worse than you. Never fancy that you love the Saviour unless you heartily endeavour to give scope and effect to his Gospel. Be active, yet circumspect ; fervent, yet blameless; praying always in the Holy Ghost: looking up to God under every emergency to strengthen your hands, and giving him all the glory. It may then be safely predicted that you will be steadfast and immoveable in your labour of love, and that God will direct it by his providence, and crown it with his blessing.

« PrécédentContinuer »