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BAPTIST HOME MISSIONARY
The Annual Meeting of the Society was held on Monday, April 26th, in Finsbury Chapel, which was well filled on the occasion. The chair was occupied by SOLOMON LEONARD, Esq., A.M., of Bristol.
The Rev. W. LAROM, of Sheffield, having opened the proceedings by
The CHAIRMAN said-It afforded him great pleasure to have an opportunity of speaking a word in behalf of the Baptist Home Missionary Society; not because it was Baptist (though he liked it none the worse for that), but because it was a missionary society, the object of which was to give a wider diffusion to the Gospel of Jesus Christ; and especially because it was a home missionary society, endeavouring to secure that diffusion amongst the populous but neglected districts of our own beloved country He need not say that this was a field of Christian labour which had not by any means met with its proper share of attention and cultivation from the Christian church at large. Our Lord instructed his disciples to "begin at Jerusalem." This circumstance had often been referred to as indicating a wonderful compassion on the part of the Saviour, enjoining the efficacy of His blood to be proclaimed first to the nation that had been employed in shedding it; but was that all He intended to convey? It was not only the dictate of compassion but the suggestion of unerring wisdom, teaching us where to begin and how to carry on attempts to evangelize the world; not commencing at the utmost limits of our commission and then working our way doubtfully homewards, but beginning at home, securing the ground as we went on, even to the utmost regions of the world: or at least working in both departments simultaneously; certainly not making our interest in the salvation of the heathen a plea or excuse for neglecting that of those around us in a state of ruin and perdition. He was glad to find that Christians were evidently awakening to a sense of their
duty in this matter. The increase of
A summary of the report was then read by the Secretary, who also read the cash statement, in consequence of the absence of the Treasurer through severe domestic affliction. The report, which is now ready for circulation, and which contains several extracts from the communications of the missionaries in various districts, closes with the following statement respecting the management of the society:
For several years past the Committee have earnestly wished their respected secretary to relinquish his pastoral engagements, and devote his time exclusively to the interests of the society. They have found from experience that travelling agents or deputations, however excellent as such, could not constitute the link they felt to be necessary between themselves and their agents
and it is probable that their relation to several of their auxiliaries will gradually become much more defined and beneficial to both parties than at present.
and auxiliaries. On two previous occa- Committee will again be specially disions, therefore, they unanimously re-rected to this and to a kindred subject; quested their secretary to devote himself wholly to the requirements of the institution. But while he was willing to undertake the labour, and make the domestic and other sacrifices which were necessary, he was anxious, if possible, that the society should be spared the expense involved in such an arrangement, at any rate that it should not be incurred until other expedients had been exhausted. During the last three years, with the view of economizing the resources of the society as far as possible, no regular collecting agency has been employed. In many instances the churches have been left to make their own contributions; in others, in which deputations have been insisted on, they have been employed; and while the secretary has been obliged to be much more frequently from home than was compatible with due regard to his pastoral engagements, he has been quite unable to meet the exigences and satisfy the demands of many of the auxiliaries. At length it appeared indispensable to the efficient inanagement of the affairs of the society, that some such measure as that previously contemplated should be adopted. For the third time, therefore, your Committee unanimously and cordially invited Mr. Davis to undertake the treble office of secretary, collecting agent, and fraternal visitor of the stations; convinced that his doing so would operate more or less beneficially on the interest of the institution through all its auxiliaries. Sympathizing thoroughly in the convictions of the Committee, though feeling as solicitous as ever not to incur any expense that could by a true economy be avoided, the secretary determined to give himself, at least for a time, exclusively to the work. Since his full engagement he has laid before your Cominittee much information which is likely to lead to important modifications and changes; and through various channels they have become apprised that his occasional ministrations have proved useful to many of the churches. Their attention has recently been drawn to the importance of discriminating, both in the body of the report and in the cash account, between those auxiliaries which are in working co-operation with them, and others which are simply affiliated bodies. The cash statement of the present year makes a distinction between them. The attention of your
The times in which we are living clearly enough indicate the importance of healthful united action between the different sections of the same denomination, and, as far as practicable, between the several denominations; while if any rivalry be admitted, it should be without jealousy, and of the most generous and Christian character. Your Committee unfeignedly rejoice in the wide field which is occupied, and in the important results which through the Divine mercy, are being secured by kindred institutions whose resources and appliances are much more extensive than their own. They are thankful, too, that a very much larger amount of home evangelizing effort is put forth by the churches than could possibly be registered by any Society however comprehensive its organization. If the British churches are not doing all that they might for the scriptural enlightenment of the British people, they are doing more than desponding friends, or uncandid foes, are prepared to acknowledge. But while admitting this, it is not to be denied, and ought to be deeply felt, that there is sadly too much occasion for humiliation, self-reproach, and repentance; and for renewed self-consecration, effort, and prayer. Popery is steadily, earnestly, and systematically at work; and if the point from which it started only a few years ago be taken into the account, it has more comparative success than certain chapel building and other statistics, which overlook this consideration, would lead us to suppose. Semipopery, that form of the great apostacy from which our population has most to fear, is at work, if with somewhat less of Jesuit-like system, with numerous and important advantages which Jesuits cannot command. Infidelity is at work; both that which is indigenous, and that which is of German or German-American origin; boldly speaking out in some, and stealthily insinuating itself into much larger, portions of our literature. It behoves us, therefore, to endeavour to lay our plans wisely, and carry them out with " a zeal according to knowledge," not waiting, however, for a perfect organization, or perfect men; but doing our utmost with the means and
agents at our command; and in a spirit of suppliant and confiding dependence on Him with whom is the "residue of the Spirit," and who alone "can give the increase." The gospel, made known in a compassionate spirit by men who have been divinely taught it, and who have experienced its life-giving energy, is still "the power of God to salvation to every one that believeth." The true greatness of Britain depends under God on its wider diffusion amongst us, and on its more commanding influence. The eyes of many peoples, longing intensely, under the iron despotisms which for the moment keep them down, both for liberty and for religion, are turned towards us as examples, and that they may obtain our help. "The Lord have mercy upon us, and bless us, and cause his face to shine upon us; that his way may be known upon earth, his saving health among all nations."
The Rev. E. GRIFFITHS (of Upwell) moved the first resolution :
That the Report, an abstract of which has just been read, be printed and circulated under the direction of the Committee; that gratitude is due, and is hereby expressed, to Almighty God, for the measure of success which has attended the operations of the Society during the past year; and that while the great work of home evangelisation may be strongly enforced on recognised principles of Christian patriotism, it every day assumes increasing importance in consequence of the emigration of great numbers of our countrymen to our colonies and to other parts of the world.
[As time did not permit Mr. Griffiths to deliver the latter part of his intended address, the substance of the whole is given from his notes considerably abridged.]
Had I been permitted to choose the sentiments of my present speech, it would have been that the Home Missionary Society ought to be supported. There is a sense in which every Christian is a home missionary, and every Christian church a home missionary society; and a wider sense in which a county association is a home missionary society. I would now call your attention to a society whose operations are much wider than any of these. To the efficient working of such a society as intimated in the report, it seems necessary to have the services of at least one competent person, who, while he acts as secretary to the society and collector of its funds, shall be a missionary to the churches to stir up their missionary zeal, and a missionary to
the missionaries to counsel and encourage them in their work. The report speaks of the efforts of tractarians by means of the National Schools. We know that their favourite doctrine, baptismal regeneration, is recognized in the catechism which is regularly taught in those schools.
children may not believe the unscriptural The generality of the doctrines of the catechism, but by means of the schools in which it is taught they are precluded from receiving scriptural instruction. So that if the tendency of these schools is not superstitious, it is anti-religious. The belief is gaining ground that if fairly dealt with the people may safely be left to provide for their own comfort and education. But the question occurs, by what moral force are the people to obtain these things? Without engaging to answer this inquiry, we may safely affirm that some time must elapse before they can be obtained, and still longer time before their beneficial results can be realized. Meanwhile this society proposes to go to the people as they are, and preach to them the gospel of Christ. We are encouraged by the fact that it is easier to induce adults to hear the gospel, than to attend to any regular course of secular instruction. And it is generally found that when the parents become interested in the gospel, they are anxious for both the secular and religious instruction of their children. A Baptist home missionary has peculiar advantages. He has no political system to defend. He may. for every good purpose, be a man of the people. He has no ecclesiastical organization to uphold, he has simply to proclaim the truth as it is in Jesus. There is no scriptural doctrine or precept on which he is bound to neutrality; he may boldly declare "the whole counsel of God." However valuable other means may be for preventing the external manifestations of sin, it is only by the gospel that the heart can be changed. Other means may act against the outworks of sin and misery, but the gospel is mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. To elevate a people without the gospel, would be nothing more than a temporal elevation. They must still be left without hope for eternity. Nothing but the gospel can fit them for "glory, honour, and immortality." And it is only by keeping the spiritual and eternal blessings of the gospel permanently in view, that even
its temporal advantages can be fully and effectually secured. Home missionary efforts are pre-eminently reproductive. Churches formerly assisted by this society (several instances I happen to know) now contribute with comparative liberality to both home and foreign missions. And from these churches men of God are raised up to preach the gospel both at home and abroad. The report states that some of the churches have been diminished by emigration. However painful it may be to the churches to be thus deprived of their members, it is pleasing to know that a few individuals of the many thousands who are leaving our shores are true Christians, who may become the living epistles of Christ in distant lands. Who can calculate the good that might be effected in those distant lands, if but half of those who leave our shores were only converted to God? Seeing then the tendency of home missionary efforts to promote both the temporal and spiritual well being of man in every part of the world, we have every encouragement to persevere, knowing that we are employing means which God has graciously engaged to bless. May the Society be encouraged to go forward, praying "God to be merciful to us and bless us, and cause his face to shine upon us, that his way may be known upon earth, his saving health among all nations."
The Rev. W. LANDELLS (of Birmingham) seconded the resolution. He said: the question-how to evangelize our country, is now occupying a large share of the attention of the church. The time has happily gone by when home was in danger of being overlooked, in consequence of the superior eclût connected with foreign operations. The infidel cannot now taunt the Christian with insincerity, in professing to care for the heathen abroad while he feels not for the more wretched heathen at home. Various institutions for the benefit of our country have sprung into existence, and various means have been wisely chosen and are now vigorously worked and extensively supported by the most active spirits of the age. The fact is gratifying as an indication that the church has become more alive to her first duty, and to the interests of a class who have a first claim upon her benevolent regard, and also as affording reason to hope that an increased interest, leading to more commensurate efforts, will be crowned with enlarged success. But
the gratification is not unmingled; the increased interest indicates the existence of evil; it has been awakened by deplorable facts which have forced themselves upon public observation-facts which show that the interest, great as it is, is not equal to the occasion, and that every argument by which it may be augmented, and the church stirred up to vigorous and persevering efforts should be diligently and incessantly plied. It is not unusual on these occasions to prove the necessity of such societies as this by quoting facts illustrative of popular ignorance. But it is not needful to appeal to the accident of popular ignorance, while there is the essential fact of human depravity. Man's derangement is not so much in his intellectual as in his moral nature; and it will avail little that his intellect be cultivated while his affections are unchanged. Even in this age of vaunted enlightenment and progress, when the world is to be regenerated by the diffusion of knowledge, much of the literature provided for the people is comparable only to moral poison. It is like pitch-you cannot touch it without being defiled, Nor do we forget that knowledge, which is good in itself, may be rendered by depravity the instrument of greater evil. Could you combine the intellect of a Newton with the passion of a Nero, the intellect would not subdue the passion, but the passion would press the intellect into its service; the result of the combination would not be a philosopher of such commanding force of character as the strong passions of the monarch would lead you to suppose, but an intelligent monster, in which the brute and the fiend were nearly equal. When I hear the talk which is now so common of the moral results which are likely to accrue from the diffusion of knowledge, I ask, Do facts justify the expectation? I think of Rosseau who was alike distinguished for his intellect and his vice;-of the profligate Mirabeau, who had the most commanding intellect, perhaps, which France in his day could produce ;-Napoleon comes to my remembrance, the man of the greatest mental capacity, not only in France but in Europe, but who was, withal, "a boundless liar," a thief, an assassin, a slanderer, “a scamp Jupiter," as he was well called, who trod upon the neck and waded through the blood of thousands, that he might obtain the object of his ambition;-the name of Byron presents itself; Byron, who rose
at one bound to the very pinnacle of fame, who was familiar with nature in her wildest and her softest moods, but who, with all his genius and all his fame, was, ere he reached life's meridian, a worn-out debauchee, weary of living, and yet unfit to die. When I think of these things I see the utter inadequacy of knowledge to regenerate the character and remedy the evils of society; and I see that we perform a gratuitous task when we attempt to prove the necessity of home missions by appealing to popular ignorance; for, however far man may have advanced in knowledge, though his intellect matched that of an angel, there is still need for the application of a more efficient remedy. Neither is it necessary to adduce particular instances as illustrations of the depravity and wretchedness of many of our countrymen. It may with propriety be assumed that there are facts sufficient for our purpose with which you are all acquainted. I communicate no intelligence when I say that only a small proportion of the inhabitants of this land profess to have become partakers of a new, a spiritual, and a higher life; and when you reflect that, while destitute of that life they are passing on to a dark and dismal futurity, is not the thought sufficient to make your hearts throb with the strongest emotions, and to excite in you the deepest sympathy? You cannot be ignorant of what is again and again being brought to light-the existence of thousands in your own city, and of proportionate numbers in every large town in the country, who are as low in the social scale, as far removed from the ameliorating influences of the gospel, as brutal, as savage, as wretched as the most degraded heathen tribes. It is, alas! a too palpable fact that, long as the gospel has been proclaimed in the laud, that, studded as our towns are with sanctuaries, the mass of wickedness remains as compact and unbroken as ever. From some cause or other, the measures which the church employs exert but little influence on those by whom their influence is most needed. In the very neighbourhood of the sanctuary there are thousands who never cross its threshold, and to whom the gospel is never proclaimed. They crowd to your fields, they throng to your publichouse, they lounge about their homes in idleness, or are engaged in some employment having nothing congenial, but directly at variance with the sacred cha
racter of the day. Nor is the condition of these parties in relation to Christianity merely a negative one; that of many of them, at least, is one of direct antagonism. Religion is so associated in their minds, that the slightest allusion to it excites their intense hostility; its badges, its professors, but especially its ministers, are the objects of ridicule and scorn. To sneer at it is manly; to seek its destruction is to prove yourself a benefactor of, and to merit the gratitude of, mankind; to profess it is an indication of weakness or of fraud; to be completely devoted to its promotion is to practise an organised and systematic deception for the furtherance of some sinister end. That this is no exaggerated description of the condition of the working classes, especially in our manufacturing towns, you are very well aware. And does not the fact present the loudest argument in favour of such societies as this? To rest satisfied with such a state of things is an impossibility to a Christian man: and it is only in the measures which home missions contemplate or admit of that you can find an efficient remedy. We plead not for the preaching of "another gospel," nor for the application of any novel remedy; we have already expressed our belief in the inutility of mere knowledge; nor have we any greater faith in the advocacy of virtue. It is essentially defective, because it confines its care to the present ; it overlooks futurity, and makes no provision for its enjoyment; and even in the accomplishmeut of its own object it is a failure. Popular sceptical philosophy is equally useless, were it only for its unintelligibility. Take a man of ordinary intelligence, a man more intelligent than many who understand the gospel sufficiently to be sanctified by it and to have derived from it a good hope of future glory, and try to find, in the writings of Carlyle, Emerson, Parker, Morell, and others, an answer to the question, "What must I do to be saved?" and you may, by the uncouthness of your phraseology, so excite his wonder as to divert his mind a little from his own sorrows, but you can give him no reply which can soothe his difficulties or dispel his fears. A system which is too profound for the great mass of mankind, is one by which man, as man, cannot profit, and is not to be compared to that gospel which is adapted by its simplicity to the comprehension of the child, and commended