« PreviousContinue »
Not a word of the foregoing observations can, however, be adduced in defence of the existent monopoly. No man may do evil that good may come. No man may withhold another's right, lest if conceded it be misemployed. The unprivileged are not cravers of a boon; they with much respect demand their own. They do not fight for it; for they fear God. They, therefore, reason; not, however, to induce their injurers to pity or to aid them, but to convince them of their injustice, and to show to them its harmful re-action on themselves. And the one design and only bearing of the admonitions we have given them is, to guide them so that their reasonings of such a kind shall prove effectual.
But how shall the many hear without a preacher? Who will essay to impart the true religious character to all these guideless thousands? Come, and help us!' is the cry of their con
dition; who answers, 'Here am I, send me?' We turn with eagerness to our Baptist and Independent colleges; for they alone, we apprehend, contain the men we need. Deeming such ministry as theirs will be, more adapted than any other in our country to promote the general spiritual interests of the people we have been considering, we think it specially adapted to produce the social character we long to see. We think this, of course, because of the description of theology they spread; but also, and on this we now press mainly, because their ecclesiastical system is the only one, likely to act to any great extent among this people, which leaves its agents' hearts at liberty to sympathize with them in the wrongs that they endure. We have no desire to see our ministers lecturers on political justice, or agents in managing political associations. Still less would we discover in them a timid connivance at traitorous and insensate projects, or a servile affectation with the poor of sentiments they would among the rich repudiate and ridicule. We would neither bind them to a political creed, nor have them teach as Christian truth that which, though true, is not confessedly within the Christian record. But neither would we have them twaddle about the peculiarly carnalizing tendency of politics; nor, when the heart is bleeding from a thousand wrongs, would we have them ignorant of their existence, or able to apply in social life none but religious lenitives; nor would we have them as citizens fearful of committing themselves by the expression of a deep conviction, because it might be reported to their disadvantage; nor would we have them exaggerating the follies of such as have no helper, in order to secure the favour of the men who need none. those who undertake to apply the themselves acquainted with the
All that we plead for is, that truths of God should make state and sorrows of their
charge; that they should be found men who have candidly and seriously studied what their scholars have so deeply felt as to give a character to all their reasonings and conduct; that they should show themselves able to discriminate, and, if detecting a fallacy or fault, should not seem blind to a principle or an excellence; that their heart should so evidently be the people's as, without a frequent proclamation to that same effect, to win the people's confidence, to produce docility, and to excite sympathy in turn with the minister's desires and designs; that their speech and their preaching in their own professed department should uplift their hearers' thoughts at times to other states than this, disclose to them the civic rights and character of Christians, prepare them to view earth with sobered fancies, and awaken sympathy with God in all His workings and pursuits; that, meanwhile, not a single wrong done by the mighty should be denied, or any of their principles of evil cloked; and, lastly, that in the minister of Christ the poor and the degraded should feel both warranted and bound to recognise a man who, would he speak about their failings, speaks of them to themselves, and who when absent from them is their steady and consistent advocate. Such is the ministry we wish to see engaged amidst our operatives; and we most earnestly invoke our students to think much about the field of labour we thus indicate. Undoubtedly, the field is arduous; but it is not impracticable. Coarseness, distrust, reserve, long-seeming insensibility and mental torpor, all this should be expected for a season; and much of it, with other faults as well, for generations more than one. But an elevated tone of Christian character; a dignified self-government; a sound judgment; a self-devoting zeal for others' interests; a healthy humanity; these, sustaining the action of a copiously rendered Scripture lore, and a wellarranged and forcibly presented Calvinism, will issue, as early as could be reasonably looked for, in compensatory results of the most delightful and satisfying kind. We speak with confidence, for we know the county well: and though we are acquainted with many parts of England where the civilizing influences of godliness are even much more needed, we know of none where they seem likely to produce so obvious and abundant fruit, if only the godliness created be as scriptural as we could wish. Of social and secular inducements to dwell among Lancashire operatives, we confess there are but few. We speak, however, to spiritual men not carnal, and to men so eminently spiritual as while young to be accounted elders. Bachelor's living, nevertheless, should be provided, and such, too, as befits the man on whose exemplary personal refinement the refinement of his people is dependent. And it is with plea.
sure more than common we advert, in this connexion, to the recent resolution of the Lancashire Congregational Union, a sort of county mission, that no minister, whose services they hereafter may engage, or sanction, shall receive less than £100 a-year. We would express, too, our decided preference, were we in our youth about to labour in that county, of settling under that Union's guidance, than, cæteris paribus, in any sphere without it. Possessed of the confidence of the executive committee, a confidence no sensible and honest junior minister could fail to gain, the chief annoyances of a Lancashire country pastor's life would pretty well be neutralized; and by the time his people could support him, they would be substantially removed. If this article should only induce a few of our superior young men to spend their energies in Lancashire, and some other of our home missionary institutions to imitate the conduct of our Independent brethren in that county, it will have been neither written nor perused in vain.
Art. II. A Revived Ministry, our only Hope for a Revived Church. By one of the least among the Brethren. pp. 60. Jackson and Walford. We place the above pamphlet at the head of this paper, because we are about to write, not upon its character, but its subject. Ignorant of the author's name, we are yet glad to say, that his mode of treating his important theme is creditable to him. With his sentiments we generally agree; as to their substantial truth we have no doubt. One of the most pleasant features of his little work is the manifest and tender sincerity with which it is written. There is no exposure of a defective state in a nondefective spirit- no carnal condemnation of carnality-no casting out of devils by Beelzebub the prince of the devils. The writer is without censoriousness; indeed we can imagine the exercise of greater severity to be in harmony with the purest charity. Whoever he be, he speaks like one who has a burden,' and therefore speaks in a tone worthy of regard from all who value the restoration of the 'old ministry.'
It has been the boast of Nonconformists to have a regenerated ministry, and though the boast has been sometimes rather loud, we think it has been justified by their history. Compared with the endowed ministry, there can be no question of its decided and vast superiority in point of spiritual religion. Among the various bodies of evangelical Dissenters, a really ungodly minister-one who has never passed from death unto life-is the
exception, the comparatively rare exception. We believe this to have been so from the beginning, and we believe it to be so now. But it does not follow, therefore, that we have any very great grounds for trust and glory. The ministry may be in the main a converted ministry, and yet it may be far from a state which would justify complacency and inspire hope. The godliness may be decent, and yet share the fate of most simply decent things. The question we put is-does the religion of the ministry among evangelical Dissenters oblige us to look elsewhere for the principal cause of what is humbling and dispiriting in our religious condition.
It is assumed in this inquiry, that there is something 'humbling and dispiriting in our religious condition.' We have no pleasure in saying or thinking so. It is our wont to take the brightest views that reason may permit on subjects associated. with the welfare of the world. We would fain escape the im. pression that has forced itself upon our minds. We did not seck it, we cannot resist it. But having it, we dare not conceal it. Long ago we eschewed and denounced the policy of keeping things quiet that ought to be remedied. It does nothing but perpetuate them. The time is come for grappling with the present question, and not to do it may entail heavy and lasting consequences upon all that we wish and most justly prize. It is not necessary to enumerate the evidence that our spiritual case is far from a cheering one. Statistics are not to be had, and, if they were, would be comparatively useless. Any one having a general acquaintance with our churches, will understand and appreciate the questions, which we now propose with fear and trembling, and not in the spirit of an indictment. Are our churches increasing so as to make inroads on the masses of ignorance and sin that surround them? Are they increasing at all, when the increase of population is considered? Are they, as a general rule, in a decidedly flourishing state? Would a stranger going among them be struck with their embodiment of the primitive idea? Are they to the world what the representations of Scripture would justify us in requiring that they should be? Are they signs, witnesses, blessings? Is the ministry, taken as a whole, religiously powerful? Does it, by the aid only of honest and healthy means, lay hold upon the popular mind? These questions, and many more of the same kind, we are compelled to answer in the negative. What is the reason of all this? We have a Scriptural theology, holding fast the vital elements of spiritual power. We maintain an ecclesiastical organization possessing special adaptation to the growth and diffusion of godliness, and sympathising more directly than most others with the temper of the times. We possess learning enough to pro
tect us from contempt, on account of gross incompetency to fill the position that Providence has assigned to us. And there is no lack of men to take charge of all existing societies, and many more. What then is the reason? Our simple answer is-there are several reasons, but the principal one is the want of a more entire and vehement consecration to the work on the part of ministers. There are other causes operating in different degrees to the same result, but we are persuaded the root of the evil is in this. The ministry of any church is the rule and source of its prosperity. Like people, like priest,' is an everlasting proverb. Given the ministry, and you may safely conclude as to the state of the body, its character, its works, its progress. And that which in the ministry is, above all other things, so sure a sign, and potent an influence, is the presence or the absence of a deep spirituality. Much stress is laid, now-a-days, on the power of the individual will and heart. The error in some quarters is in an exaggeration, a strange exaggeration, of this truth, and thus agency and instrumentality are confounded, and more is made of believing than of truth, as if the eye were all, and the light were nothing. But the fact remains, that infinitely more depends on what men are, than on any of the things with wnich they have to do. To rely on machinery for spiritual purposes is the worst of all delusions. Institutions of the best construction are only bodies, and the body without the spirit is dead. There may be exact definitions of doctrine, fit and proper polities, ripe learning, polished address, words without end, and yet a lack of the only power that can vivify, direct, and glorify the whole. The essential part of the service may be wanted, and a question like that of Isaac's have to be proposed-Behold the fire and the wood; but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? We think that such a question may be put respecting our ministry. Is it manifestly a ministry from God? Is it aggressive in its modes of action, eminently devoted, earnest, self-denying, unwearied, painful? Do those who preach give unquestionable evidence of the single eye, and thoroughly consecrated heart? Do they, by persevering effort in the midst of discouragement, by preferring the laborious and useful, but ill-requiting lot, by sacrificing prospects of personal ease and profit to the good of large and neglected neighbourhoods, and by regulating their exertions, not according to the requirements of official propriety, but the exigences of human souls, make it clear that their only end is the profit of many that they may be saved? Are there prevailing indicatious among them of the true temper of the missionary, the reformer, the martyr? Do they exhibit a constant spirit, abiding in spheres till sufficient time has passed to prove the real worth of their plans of operation?