« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
instead of all looking direct to the preacher. Our friends at South-street are to be congratulated upon the sweetness and heartiness of the musical part of the service. In a day when singing is so often done by proxy, the congregation listlessly gazing at half a dozen people in the choir, who take their turn at yawning as soon as they have perfunctorily done their part, it is worthy of note that there is in Sheffield, at least, one chapel where the people sing, and where they sing with a fervour that is contagious and inspiring. The opening sermon was a beautiful exposition of Hebrews xii. 1, "The Christian Life a Race,” by Rev. J. Le Huray, at 10.30. The * Official" sermon was preached by the President, the Rev. W. Longbottom. “Official ” is doubtless a grand word to apply to a sermon, but what is meant is the well-considered deliverance which the President gives in his official capacity. The sermon in question was especially practical and searching. The subject was “Christ, the cnly Master of the Christian." The authority of Christ was shown to rest not merely on His creative and redemptive acts, but on the essential wisdom and love of which He was the highest embodiment and expression. The preacher maintained that Christ's claim was universal ; that no domain of our life could be exempted; that it demanded every possession, and occupation, and faculty of body and soul.
In the afternoon the Lord's Supper was administered to a large number of communicants, the Rev. T. D. Crothers delivering a very toaching address. In the evening the chapel was crowded to hear the Rev. J. Medicraft preach a missionary sermon. The discourse was founded on Rev. v. 12, and was a lucid and complete exposition of a subject often treated in a piecemeal and fragmentary way. It showed that every excellence centred in Christ, and that the happiness of every being in heaven or on earth consisted in devoting its all to Him.
The next morning South-street Chapel presented a very lively scene for half an hour before 9 o'clock, the time of opening Conference. Friends who had been sundered for a twelvemonth cordially grasped each other by the hand, and loud were the greetings of some of the more demonstrative brethren. There was a large attendance of visitors in the gallery. Punctually at nine the President gave out the hymn, always sung with deep feeling, “And are we yet alive, and see each other's face ?” After devotional exercises and the legal constituting of the conference, business was begun by the election of a guardian representative to fill the place of the late Mr. William Scott, concerning whose death a suitable resolution was introduced at a later stage by Dr. Stacey, who spoke in a voice quivering with subdued emotion, of a lifelong friendship
suddenly interrupted. There was no difference of opinion as to the right man, for nearly all the districts had nominated by common consent Mr. Alderman Ridgway, J.P., of Hanley, who was accordingly unanimously elected.
The same unanimity characterised the next election—the most important of all—that of President. The election of Rev. Thomas Rider was hailed with satisfaction by the whole Conference.
Mr. Alderman Ramsden was elected Secretary; Rev. Samuel Walker, Journal Secretary; and Rev. John Hudston, Corresponding Secretary
The Rev. T. Rider was introduced to the chair by the ex-Presi. dent, who delivered to him the Connexional seal and other insignia of office. In his address, Mr. Rider asked the Conference to remember that success in the great work of winning souls did not depend upon the agency and skill of men; fallen men could only be lifted into the realm of spiritual grace and beauty by the power of the Holy Ghost. This was the keynote of the Conference-ovr dependence for ultimate success not so much on" measures" or on “men," but on the effective agency of the Holy Spirit.
The Conference Missionary meeting was held in the evening, and was well attended. The chair was occupied by Mr. Aldcrman Edwards, who expressed his deep sympathy with Mission work both at home and abroad, and after a brief survey of the Mission field, called upon the Connexion to gird itself for the great work it has to do. The report was read by Dr. Stacey, indicating general progress, and especially progress and consolidation in China. It was listened to with profound attention, as were the excellent addresses of Revs. H. T. Marshall, Dr. Ward, and E. Gratton, and Messrs. A. Pilling, A. Ramsden, and G. Hirst.
A large part of Tuesday, as also of the two following days, was taken up with the examination of probationary ministers' testimonials; the certificates from the circuits where they have laboured, the result of the general examinations at the district meetings, and the examinations in specific subjects by the Theological Committee, were all carefully considered in every case. Whether the Theological Committee has been more severe than usual, or the young ministers less painstaking, need not be inquired into now; but it is an unquestionable fact that the Conference was not satisfied with the progress of a considerable number, and in many ways testified its desire that the young men, while not neglecting their preaching and pastoral duties, should more earnestly give themselves to reading and to systematic study.
In the afternoon of Tuesday a discussion was begun, which in various forms came up again and again. The Australian Mission
elicited a greater diversity of opinion than any other subject. Brethren expressed themselves strongly, because they felt strongly; but no element of an unpleasant nature was introduced into the discussion. It is one of the healthiest signs of the Conference that no question is “burked”; there is perfect freedom, and a man may say the thing he thinks. Actuated by financial considerations, and influenced by the fact that the Australian Mission makes but little headway, some contended that the Mission should be given up, and our whole effort devoted to the fruitful field of China, where great doors and effectual are continually being opened to us. Others maintained that the work should be prosecuted with fresh ardour ; that difficulties ought only to excite and strengthen determination to conquer; and that, with more prayer and faith and effort, the Mission contributions of the circuits could be greatly increased. The whole question was debated and re-debated in various forms, until the decision was ultimately reached, in which the great majority concurred, that the Revs. T. Masterman and M. J. Birks should be thanked for their past services and recalled, and that the Revs. E. Gratton and W. Shaw should be sent out to fill their places.
The Sunday-school Convention was held in Scotland-street Chapel in the evening, Mr. Councillor C. T. Skelton, in the chair. The Rev. F. H. Robinson read an excellent paper on Sunday-school “Discipline.” He described discipline as that mode of life which was in harmony with law and order. Many valuable suggestions were made to obviate irregularities that exist in many schools. An address on " Doctrinal Teaching "was given by Rev. J. Ogden; and a healthy and stimulating discussion on various topics connected with Sunday-school work was conducted by Mr. J. Flather, Rev. S. Walker, Mr. Renwick, Rev. T. Scowby, and others.
The chief matters of public interest on Wednesday were the visit of the Nonconformist Ministers of Sheffield in the morning, and the report of the Annual Committee in the afternoon.
A fraternal address, beautiful both in spirit and expression, and signed by all the Nonconformist ministers of the town and neighbourhood, was presented to the Conference. The Conference was . also addressed by Rev, C. C. Tyte, Professer at Rotherham Independent College, and the Rev. H. Hastling, Chairman of the Wesleyan district. Both recognised the work which the New Connexion, in common with other Evangelical Churches, was doing to repel error, and establish the kingdom of Christ, and in the name of the sister churches bade the Conference God speed. Dr. Cooke replied, in a speeeh delivered with his wonted unction and power. He reciprocated all the loving sentiments that had been
expressed, and prayed for the Churches to be drawn nearer together. Observing that in the comprehensive gathering of ministers on the platform, representatives of the Establishment were conspicuous by their absence, the Doctor remarked that had the Archbishop of Canterbury been amongst them, the Conference would have given him also a hearty welcome. So rapid were the changes transpiring around them, that the day might not be far distant when his Grace would take his place on such an occasion; and if he (the Doctor) lived till then he would be one of the first to exclaim Hallelujah!
The report of the Annual Committee was a review of the most notable incidents in the Connexional year. No ministers had died, and none had been so seriously afflicted as to require the intervention of the Committee. After reference to various matters on which the judgment of the Conference was sought, the good news was made known that there was a net increase of 668 members, making up the grand total of the Connexion to 29,299. This is the ninth consecutive year of increase, and the numbers gained in this period amount to 6,000.
In the evening the Ordination Service was held in Broomhill Chapel, which has been painted and decorated with considerable taste. The chapel was filled to its utmost capacity. The ministers who have successfully passed through their probation are Revs. J. Dudley, J. W. Ogden, G. G. Nicholson, J. Allen, and F. J. Smith. Dr. Cooke questioned them as to their religious experience and their divine call to the ministry. The President presented each with a copy of the Holy Scriptures, and offered, with deep feeling and comprehensiveness, the Ordination Prayer. The service was one of great interest from beginning to end.
On Thursday morning, Dr. Stacey delivered the charge to the newly-ordained ministers. All who know Dr. Stacey expected a great treat in his deliverance on a theme he is so remarkably fitted to handle. The charge was founded on Jeremiah iii. 15, and Acts iv. 4. Its main topics were: (1) Pastors divinely given; (2) Habitual Prayer; and (3) the Ministry of the Word, as their distinctive occupation. There was a full attendance of members of Conference, and the gallery was well filled with visitors, and the Doctor held his audience spell-bound for an hour and three-quarters. It is earnestly hoped that Dr. Stacey will comply with the unanimous request subsequently presented by Conference, that he will publish 80 invaluable a contribution to pulpit literature in a permanent form.
The Band of Hope meeting was held in the evening, the chapel being quite full. There was a choir of 250, who rendered with
splendid effect a number of temperance melodies. One of these, depicting the growing triumph of temperance, was emphasised in a way that took the audience by surprise. The shout of victory with which the song ended was accompanied with the waving wildly of 250 handkerchiefs by 250 excited hands. Miss Barlow, of Bolton, sang two solos very sweetly. The chair was occupied by Mr. R. Hankinson, J.P., and interesting addresses were given by Revs. J. C. Watts, D.D., A. R. Pearson, F. Jewell, and Mr. Councillor Skelton. The report, read by Rev. J. C. Story, showed that there were 221 societies in the Union, an increase of 12 ; with a membership of 27,632, an increase of 2,525.
The next morning the Conference received a deputation from the various temperance associations of the town, headed by the wellknown veteran in temperance work, Mr. Alderman Clegg. After addresses from the deputation, Dr. Watts replied on behalf of the Conference, assuring them that the Connexion regarded true temperance workers as engaged in one of the most important works of Christian philanthropy and patriotism.
In the afternoon the ex-President read the address to the Connexion. It was a lucid statement and practical application of Church principles to the circumstances of the community. The wish was expressed that it should be read in all our chief congregations. After a cordial vote of thanks to the ex-President, and the presentation of a handsome copy of the Bible and Hymn Book as the memorial of a successful year of office, the rest of the session was devoted to a free conversation on the work of God, and ended with a prayer-meeting.
The Conference tea-meeting was held in the evening, and there was a crowded attendance, friends being there from most of the principal circuits. Tea was provided in the large school-room of the Hanover-street Methodist Free Church. The meeting was held in the Conference Chapel, and was presided over by Mr. Alderman Lindley, Mayor of Nottingham. The chairman, in his genial, happy way, spoke of the friendly relations between ourselves and the Wesleyans, and urged that each should do his duty for the elevation of the people and the strengthening of his Church, and the time would perhaps come when several of the Methodist bodies would be drawn together in one grand organisation. Other addresses followed by W. E. Brownfield, Esq., and Revs. J. F. Goodall, A. R. Pearson, and J. Medicraft.
Saturday morning was mainly spent in the transaction of College business. The afternoon was spent by the members of Conference, wearied with a week's close attention to business, in seeking recrea