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REV. DR. MCAUSLANE.
The eminent Minister of Victoria Park Congregational Church, has exercised, and is exercising, a power in the metropolis which it is somewhat difficult to estimate, and certainly impossible to describe. The reverend gentleman's influence whilst at Finsbury Chapel was felt to be all but miraculous, and in that central and important metropolitan district was most beneficial. Since he has succeeded Mr. Lovell at Victoria Park Congregational Church, the good reputation of that imposing structure has also considerably increased.
Alexander McAuslane, Doctor in Divinity, was born on January 11th, 1836, at Renton, Dumbartonshire. He was educated first at the Grammar School, Alexandria, whence he proceeded to the Glasgow University and the Theological Hall, of which (the Hall) the Professors were the late Rev. Dr. Wardlaw and the Rev. Dr. Thomson, now of Manchester. Dr. McAuslane was ordained on May 26th, 1852, in Dunfermline, Fifeshire, to the church of which he was afterwards appointed. He found the fabric on the commencement of his ministry practically empty. The reverend gentleman speedily filled it, however, and his ministry left a mark in historic Dunfermline that will not easily be effaced. For a period of some six years Dr. McAuslane laboured in his first charge, but on September 5th, 1858, he commenced a series of fresh labours at Newport, in the County of Monmouth. Monmouthshire is, for all practical purposes, a Welsh county, and is distinguished for Cymric enthusiasm, and a keen appreciation of such earnestness and eloquence as the new pastor was so well known to possess. It is not to be wondered at therefore, if Dr. McAuslane soon found himself very popular on the borders of the Principality. The doctor, however, is nothing if not practical, and before he left Newport, he had not only enlarged its Congregational chapel but greatly increased the membership of the Church. Dr. McAuslane came to London in 1862, at a time when the great city was filled to overflowing with visitors to the Second International Exhibition, commencing his ministry on March 16th, in that year. We believe (if we may use the expression without irreverence) that up to this time the huge chapel in Finsbury had been a white elephant to its old pastor, the Rev. Dr. Fletcher, and deacons. At any rate,
the worshippers were sparse, the members being few in proportion. Dr. McAuslane, as may have been anticipated, very soon filled it, and where his labours continued until March 14th, 1880, a period of exactly eighteen years. It was a striking scene to attend this place of worship, especially on a Sunday. Everyone knows that the City of London is a deserted village on the first day of the week. The feeling on entering it (especially to one familiar with its busy activity during the working days) is almost painful. It seems in the space of a single night to have been transformed by the angel of death from a metropolis into a necropolis. No sound of life; scarcely a fellow-being to be met. As a contrast to this exterior desolation, however, the well filled chapel in Finsbury was startling. It seemed as if all the City had found its way to a common centre and the al fresco solitude was apparently explained. An interesting characteristic of Dr. McAuslane's ministry was (and is) his unique power in winning over young men, in whose welfare, spiritual and temporal, he has ever taken a lively interest. The public press, also, not generally given to chronicle the pulpit utterances of a Protestant Dissenter, frequently gave summarised extracts from Dr. McAuslane's sermons and lectures. It was at once seen that a power had been established in what had hitherto been a barren waste, a focus of spiritual impotency. Space will not allow of our going further into detail with regard to the creative work of Dr. McAuslane whilst at Finsbury, but before proceeding with him to the East of London we may give an extract from a letter written to us by an eminent Anglican clergyman who casually heard the Doctor one Sunday morning, and who had travelled many miles to London on purpose to listen to the almost inspired voice of the unrivalled preacher and saintly divine, Canon Liddon, at St. Paul's, in the afternoon of the same day (the Canon then being in residence). “I saw," said the Rev. Mr. “a somewhat ungainly looking building, which I mistook for the pro-cathedral at Moorfields, and a few earnest looking persons hurrying in. As I did not wish to get to St. Paul's Cathedral until a little after two, I thought I would go in, if only for the purpose of ‘killing time.' Judge of my pleased surprise when I found an extremely reverend-looking man, of exceptionally pleasant exterior, and robed in a black academic gown, in the act of giving cut the text, or, rather, in reading a chapter. I found out afterwards that the discourse (founded on the chapter so read) was an exposition, and that I was to have the rare intellectual and spiritual treat of what I may call a 'second sermon,' for it is Dr. McAuslane's habit to first expound a chapter (any ordinary man's discourse), and then preach a sermon, technically so called. His reasoning, theology, flow of words—especially in the exposition_left an impression upon me of so pleasing a character (which, strangely enough, was fortified by Dr. Liddon, who preached on the very same subject in the afternoon), that on my return home I entered the following heart-felt words in my diary: — I have spent a most pleasant and blessed day. Heard two divines of undoubted piety and equally undoubted power. The second was Henry Parry Liddon; the first a preacher whom I had never before heard, and scarcely heard of, Dr. McAuslane, of Finsbury. Can there be, after all, so much difference between the Church of England and Congregationalism when one can hear a sermon in London's Cathedral within two hours after hearing a similar doctrinal discourse in what our forcfathers were wont to contemptuously term a'conventicle?' It was a red-letter day in my Sunday experiences." Without naming the clergyman, we may state that he is now a Professor in the University of Oxford. Referring to his query as to the difference between Anglicanism and Nonconformity, we believe that whatever misunderstandings may have existed in the past, they are now being rapidly forgotten, each recognising the paramount importance of fighting a common battle against a common foe-Worldliness. Of course, two hundred years ago, when the breach took place the on-looker may have sang with Homer in the “Iliad,"
“Loud clamours rose from various sections round,
These Mars incites, and these Minerva fires." But now, through the cultured amenities of the present day teachers of religion, both clergymen and ministers may and do meet on a common platform. Dr. McAuslane has compassed much in this direction.
On March 21st, 1880, the reverend subject of our sketch commenced his ministry at Victoria Park Congregational Church. The church was established nearly twenty-five years ago, the Rev. H. D. Northrop being the first pastor. He resigned at the end of 1865, preaching his farewell sermon on January 7th, 1866, and was succeeded by Mr. Seddon (who now ministers at the adjacent Victoria Park Tabernacle). This gentleman felt it necessary to resign in 1868 (September), being succeeded one year later by Mr. R. H. Lovell, and who ministered at the Victoria Park Congregational Church for the space of a decade. He resigned in 1879, and in 1880, on March 21st, as we have stated, Dr. McAuslane commenced his ministry. Springing from an iron church, opened by the Rev. Dr. Stoughton and the Rev. Samuel Martin on January 19th, 1864, the present handsome structure was developed, and was dedicated for public worship on March 23rd, 1869, the late Rev. Dr. Raleigh preaching the first sermon. The Church, as originally formed, numbered fifty members, these receiving their first communion at Peel Grove Hall, Bethnal Green. Now the books show the names of seven hundred, of which three hundred have been added since Dr. McAuslane commenced his ministerial labours. Large though the building is, it is not sufficient to accommodate all those who wish sittings, so great is Dr. McAuslane's reputation as a preacher. Since the reverend gentleman has inaugurated his pastorate in East London, he has taken a deep interest in the welfare of young men—a distinguishing feature of his ministry in Scotland, Wales, and Finsbury. Many hundreds have passed through his various classes, some of whom are now at the head of similar classes in different parts of the world. It has, also, ever been Dr. McAuslane's aim to help weaker Churches, and he has preached for these rather than for the stronger ones. With regard to the Sunday School, he has devoted much time in advocating its claims, both in London and the provinces, and has written much on the same subject to various periodicals.
As we have stated, it is Dr. McAuslane's habit to give at every Sunday service a carefully prepared exposition of some portion of the Bible, in addition to the sermon. The exposition occupies some fifteen minutes, and the sermon about half an hour. We have no copy of any one of these discourses at hand as we write, or we would gladly set it out, in order to show the literary style of the doctor, although he should be heard in order to be appreciated, so much depending on pulpit style. We append, however, a copy of Dr. McAuslane's last published address to his flock. The individuality of the author runs through every line. Dr. McAuslane wrote :
"One year has just passed away since I became your minister. During that comparatively short period, we have had many Divine favours. Two hundred and fifty have joined the church. Several of these have come from our Sunday Schools, many by transferences, but the majority for the first time. Three hundred and fifty sittings have been let. We have now only thirty-five available sittings not let; but by enclosing the lobby of the church, to some cxtent, we hope to add between sixty and seventy more to the number.
“The Prayer Meeting on Monday evenings has been well sustained, at which I always expound some part of the Bible. The meeting of the Young Men's Christian Association on Tuesday evenings has greatly increased, and many are there acquiring the noble art of expressing their thoughts to others in a definite, orderly, and logical manner. A Bible Class for Ladies has been originated. It meets every Wednesday evening in the Church Parlour, at eight o'clock, and the number of members are now two hundred. Sectional meetings, as you know, of members and seatholders, have been held on several Thursday evenings, and there we have become acquainted with each other as we could not otherwise have done. On Friday evenings the Training Class for Sunday School Teachers has been well attended. There thoughts have been given by many friends, and these have imparted mental power to the teachers for their onerous and responsible labours.
“For all this success we most devoutly thank Him without whom we can do nothing ; still, there is a necessity for improvement in various directions. Some of you might take a deeper interest in the poor mothers, who, to the number of one hundred, meet every Monday afternoon. By giving a little to this Society, you would encourage the ladies who superintend it, and introduce gladness into many homes of the deserving poor. Some of you might become teachers in our Sunday Schools. These are in a prosperous condition ; yet their operations could be extended until three thousand young persons were listening every Sabbath to the words of eternal life. The Dorcas Society might be increased fourfold. If many of the ladies who do not attend were connected with it, they would find it to be a source of true joy to themselves, and a happy medium of usefulness to the poor. The Band of Hope, which meets every Friday evening, requires special consideration ; for