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ence of the Sabbath and its services, and, leaving earth behind, commune with heaven. The traveller of the southern desert hails with rapture the oasis which, at intervals, springs up in his route, breaking the monotony of his desert life, and furnishing refreshment on his way. So grateful to us should be such interruptions of our weekly toils as the prayer meeting makes; and, if rightly minded, no urgency will be required on the part of ministers to secure our presence there.
Your attendance at the prayer meeting is of great importance to the congregation, as well as to yourselves. The word and ordinances unblest will communicate no blessing; nay, in such a case they will prove the “ savour of death unto death ;" but it is only in answer to prayer that we can hope for the Spirit which giveth life. Where, then, is our desire of the blessing, if we restrain prayer before God? In what state can these congregations be where prayer is restrained, but in that of the Sardian or Laodicean church? An awful condition this! The dwelling-place of the Most High become the temple of Satan--the reservoir of the water of life, whence should flow the streams making glad the wilderness, become a stagnant pool, whence no healing waters can issue—that which should communicate life and light to the world, to become itself dead and dark, all hope for the world consequently destroyed! There may be a name to live,—so there was in the church of Sardis; there may be a profession maintained,-so there was in Laodicea. The words of truth may be proclaimed from its pulpit as Sabbath after Sabbath comes round, but it is the letter which killeth, for the vivifying spirit is gone. A more melancholy spectacle cannot be contemplated. Brethren, let not such be the condition of any congregation with which you are connected. Suffer no spiritual slumber to cast its soporific shadow over your societies. And how are you to prevent this ? Among other things, by a diligent attention to the prayer meeting. There, wrestling in united
prayer for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on all your means of grace, you will reap much profit, and experience the promised presence of the Saviour. Your minister will proclaim the message of God's mercy with the power of the Spirit, and, upheld by a praying people, he will labour with all encouragement and success. Your church will become the birthplace of souls, the very gate of heaven, where God the Lord descends to dwell with men. The amount of spiritual life in a congregation, and consequently its power of communicating life to the dead around, may always be measured by the spirit of prayer prevailing in it.
Do your endeavour that the congregational Sabbath school be vigorously and efficiently conducted. This institution is now almost universally established in connection with our churches, and by many of them is employed with much success, as a means of evangelising the ignorant and debased around them. But it is as existing for the young connected with the church that I now speak of it, and, in this point of view, I would seek to impress on you its vast importance. Parents professing religion are bound to attend to the godly upbringing of their children, as a duty primarily devolving upon them. That parent is himself little interested in the great salvation, who does not labour and strive that his children may be partakers of it with him. His instructions the teaching of the Sabbath school is meant not to set aside, but to assist ; and each congregation, as a church of the living God, has its own duty to discharge to the young connected with it. In receiving an infant member by baptism, the congregation stands pledged in fact, if not in form, to train the child for heaven, and, for this purpose, to do its part along with the parents, that its youthful member shall be in truth one of the lambs of Christ's flock; and should the child be deprived of its parents, the church will, in things temporal as well as spiritual, supply their place. Too frequently, indeed, this obligation is forgotten, but it is nevertheless a Scripture obligation. And more than this, grace is not hereditary.
The children of godly parents may not follow in their footsteps, and will not so do unless they are trained therein. How then are the children of the members of the church to be retained in connection with the church? Dost clearly, by the church taking a lively interest in them, and discharging its duty to them when the mind is most plastic, ready to receive the character which the hand of love and wisdom may impress upon it. We know the promise given to the faith. ful performance of this duty; and if a congregation sees its youthful members, who have been incorporated with it by baptism, falling off as they grow up, and straying into the world, let it look to itself, for assuredly it has been unfaithful. Do not look upon these defections as a matter of course. Seek by every means to prevent them. The young are the hope of the church : cultivate that hope diligently. If it is your duty to seek the salvation of all men, it is peculiarly your duty to seek the salvation of those united to you by the ties of congregational connection, and whom, as we have seen, you have pledged yourselves to train up amongst you for heaven. It is by the
young that the membership of the church is to be recruited. As one Christian after another enters into his rest, there must needs be those to step in and fill up his place, or how is the church to maintain its ground ? And if it lose as many by desertion as it gains by conversion from the world, how is it to grow ?
Moreover, if you would wish to produce a higher type of Christianity than that which now prevails, see to it, brethren, that the Sabbath-school be vigorously and efficiently maintained. There is no feature of our present Christianity which, in our opinion, is so full of hope for the church as the attention which is now paid to the young.
But the design of the Great Master is not merely that his church should cherish the sacred truth in her bosom, and thus preserve it in the world ; His purpose is, further, that she diffuse it abroad among the nations to the uttermost ends of the earth. This we do not stop to prove, as no Christian will question it. But from this unquestionable truth it follows that that congregation of professing Christians
which is not doing its utmost to accomplish this great purpose, is so far failing of its duty. Not only should each have its machinery for carrying out this design, but this machinery should be wisely organised and kept in energetic operation, so that the resources of each congregation may be fully developed and faithfully applied. It is a gratifying fact in the history of the church in our day, that so much attention is now given to this duty~that is, much as compared with what formerly obtained. Still there is great room for improvement, for the church is yet coming far short of what she ought to do—her efforts are yet utterly inadequate to the great enterprise before her. Of your duty in this matter as respects the realms of heathenism at home and abroad, we shall afterwards speak; we now urge it upon you as a duty you owe to the church herself. As with the natural so with the spiritual faculties, one principal means of promoting their vigour and activity is exercise. The child, “ by nature's kindly law,” finds its delight in the boisterous mirth and unceasing activity by which its animal powers are developed to the mature strength of manhood, and those born of the Spirit must necessarily give scope and exercise to the incipient principles and faculties of their spiritual nature, if they would attain to the full stature of perfect men in Christ. Brethren, we are called to be Christlike,-"Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus ;” and surely it is the earnest and unceasing desire of every Christian to be as his Master. Now, what was this mind which was in Christ Jesus ! It was the mind of self-denial for the good of lost men. Though He was “in the form of God, He took upon Him the form of a servant, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." But if we exercise not this virtue, how are we to grow in likeness to Christ? And if we exercise it not unceasingly and vigorously, how can our grace ever grow beyond the feebleness of its infancy to the full stature of the Christian ? What is true of saints individually is true of the church collectively. Do your duty towards her, then, brethren, that, by a full exercise of every grace, she may acquire ardent activity and strength, and with these purity and peace.
Besides, it is only in the path of duty that we can look for blessing from on high. If we are faithful to God, He will be faithful to us; but surely it would be presumptuous in us to hope that God would prosper us in unfaithfulness, would connive at our lukewarmness and dilatoriness in his service, by shedding his blessing upon us in such a state. Our perishing fellow-men of every kindred and clime are embraced in the love of Christ and in the offers of the gospel, therefore should they be embraced in our love and in our efforts. Our duty most clearly is to carry out the design of Christ's mission into the world; and is it not just that our reward should be proportioned to our diligence in this duty ? We must devise liberal things if we would receive liberally. For our own sakes, brethren--for the sake of the church, let us prove the Lord of hosts by all zeal and devoted self-denial in this great work, “ whether He will not open the windows of heaven and pour us out a blessing till there be not room enough to receive.”
“It is more blessed to give than to receive.” This is true even of temporal benefactions,—emphatically true of spiritual gifts. The church, in distributing the bread of life instead of diminishing her own stores augments them. Her own strength consists in this—the increase of her own good. Blessed as the efforts she has made have been, in many parts of the heathen world, causing the wilderness to be glad and the desert to rejoice, they have been fully as much blessed to herself, and she has received more than she has conferred. As you love Zion, therefore, and seek her good, and pray for her peace and prosperity, help her to accomplish her great work, pouring forth all her resources, mustering all her strength, summoning all her activity, to subdue the kingdoms of this world to Messiah the prince.
CHURCH ECONOMICSOUR SYSTEM OF FINANCE.
THERE cannot be a doubt that a fresh impetus will be given to the external prosperity of many of our congregations by the present general overhauling of their rules of procedure in the management of their affairs,--a work to which every presbytery of our church, in obedience to the Synod's instructions, will ere this time have been giving its earnest attention. We have before us the ably drawn up report which was presented to the Synod in 1849, containing a view of the mode of management and financial arrangements of four-fifths of the congregations of the body, from which it appears that of these, 88 had no rules of management whatever, while 111 had rules of their own, established by use and wont, or formally adopted, but only partially resembling those which are recommended in the Rules and Forms of the church. In some churches, the number of which is not given, the regulations or constitution differed in important points from the sanctioned model. Nothing is more certain than that confusion and languor must inevitably attend the state of things existing in those churches which have no regulations to guide them in the conduct of their affairs. Where there is no business-like order or system in congregational transactions ; where the office of manager is only a name; where little or nothing is done, or is attempted to be done, to interest the members of a church generally in its external condition, that church cannot but droop; and no marvel if it become by and by crippled and disabled ; and if inattention and listlessness be the precursors of decay. In such cases the adoption even of a defective set of rules which shall secure order, exactness, and a measure of interest in the church's secular affairs, on the part at least of the official men-or, what is of more consequence, throughout the members generally, is sure to be followed by the most beneficial results. The present movement, if presbyteries do but fulfil their high trust, is certain to reduce to very small dimensions the class of congregations who have no business books, properly kept and annually audited; no elective management nor body of deacons charged with the administration of secular matters; and no annual meeting at which these matters are reviewed. The probability is, however, that the movement will be found to be incomplete without the appointment of a central Synodical committee empowered to correspond with churches respecting the adoption of a constitution if there be none, or the improvement of their regulations if they be anomalous or unsound. It is our firm persuasion that by means of the labours of such a committee every irregularity of this description would speedily disappear. Were it empowered, for example, to supply copies of the set of rules which is recommended in our Forms of procedure to our congregations, they would probably be adopted without scruple by the great majority ; with an occasional modification, perhaps, to meet some local predilection or usage, which would not at all change their general scope, and which could without difficulty be introduced. Immense advantage would in this way accrue to the church. An admirable constitution would thus, in many instances, supersede imperfect or objectionable ones ; uniformity in congregational management, throughout our church, would be to a great extent secured ; and, printed copies of these rules, in a separate form, being always obtainable at a trifling cost in any required quantity, our people could be easily furnished with the means of making themselves acquainted with our regulations for the conduct of congregational business.
It must be owned that there are congregations whose business arrangements are tolerably complete ; but the living soul of zeal and active interest is absent from the body of the membership. They have their debit and credit account, accurately kept and regularly balanced and audited; they have their managers who meet either statedly or occasionally; they have their annual meeting too, at which the managers report their proceedings, and the places of those who retire are supplied by a fresh appointment, and the annual vote of thanks is passed to the treasurer, and to the committee, with the chairman at its head; but the people are ignorant and unconcerned about all these proceedings; and their supineness is betrayed by the beggarly attendance at the so-called meeting of the congregation, about a thirtieth or perhaps a fortieth part of the membership being present on the occasion. One excellent means of curing this great and crying evil is the substitution of a social gathering of the church for the lifeless affair which a congregational meeting too often is—a plan which we are glad to see is becoming every year more frequent in our denomination, and apparently with the best results. Let means be used to invest such an occasion with something of an attractive air ; let the opportunity be seized for bringing before the people the state of the congregation as to numbers and funds; but, specially, let a vidimus be given of what the church has been doing throughout the year as an institute for doing good for converting and saving men—including the Sabbath school—the Bible class—the prayer meetings—the library—the missionary society—the juvenile offerings--the doings in tract distribution—all the machinery of the church, in short, as an instrument of evangelization or an aggregate of benevolent agencies ; let a goodly number of the members of the church be enlisted, by previous arrangement, in these proceedings ; let the meeting be one which, instead of repelling by irksome detail or wearisome discussion, will afford room for the play of Christian love, and evoke the warm gush of kindly sentiment in the breast of each towards his neighbour; and it needs not a prophet to foretell that ere the recurrence of another such annual festival, the state of the congregation will reveal the beneficial impulse which it has received.
The reform of our system of finance is emphatically the measure which is at present loudly and urgently demanded. Were it necessary, in order to the accomplishment of such a reform, to put in abeyance for a time every other scheme by means of which the church is aiming at the improvement of her internal condition, such is our sense of its paramount claims that we would say, by all means let this have the precedence of other questions. Happily, however, this course is not called for. The measure looks with a friendly eye on every one of our enterprises as a church; it may go hand in hand with them all; and there is not one of them on which, if adopted, it would not tell powerfully and beneficially.
It appears from the report on congregational finance already referred to, that 217 congregations have frequent deficiencies in their yearly income, and are obliged to have recourse to various expedients for the purpose of recruiting their exchequer. It also appears that about 90 of our ministers hare an income in money not amounting to L.90 per annum; and that the average stipend of 386 of our ministers, as reported, is L.122. Placing these facts alongside of the other fact, which is on all hands allowed, that the resources of our church, as applicable to the maintenance of the Gospel, admit of being developed far beyond anything that has yet been realised—it is manifest that something needs to be done here; and after years have been expended in efforts to prepare our people for a vigorous measure of financial reform, the time for action cannot surely be far distant. We speak of such a reform as embracing the kindred questions of an improved system of congregational contribution for the support of Gospel ordinances, and an improved rate of minis. terial maintenance. These two things are so closely connected as to merge in each other.
The inadequacy of a stipend below the proposed minimum of L.150 must be obvious to every one who has any knowledge of the expenditure of a household occupying the social status which properly belongs to the family of a minister. How any Christian pastor, with a family to support, can, from a stipend of L.100 or L.120, meet the expense of living and the et ceteras of clothing, education, fuel and light, servants' wages, books, life insurance or widows' fund premium, stationery, congregational, missionary,