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SOCIETY FOR THE PROPAGATION OF THE GOSPEL
IN FOREIGN PARTS., SIR-In offering the remarks which follow, I take for granted that every minister of the church of England is deeply interested in the prosperity of the venerable Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts.
The question, then, in this matter is—How can we, the parochial clergy, be most instrumental in increasing the efficiency of the society ?
In one of your Numbers for last year, I noticed the recommendation of a plan, which was adopted, with considerable success, in the parishes in which I am professionally interested. Your readers may remember that the plan recommended last year was—that the minister of the parish should, on the Sunday before Christmas-day, bring distinctly before his parishioners the claims of the society to their affection and support, and should exhort that the head of each family, throughout the parish, should call together his children and servants on the morning of Christmas-day, and, having set before them the blessings of the Gospel and the duty of all Christians to assist in its propagation to distant nations, should encourage them to join him in his labour of love, and, according to their respective means, contribute to the funds of the society.* These contributions should be sent to the minister to be forwarded to the society.
As my short experience has proved to me that our people not only require to be urged to the performance of duties not laying immediately before them, but also to be assisted in the detail of their arrangements, it might, perhaps, be productive of good, if, in populous parishes, some such short address to the parishioners as the following were printed, and placed in the pews, and in the free-sittings, in the church, on the morning of the Sunday before Christmas-day.
To the Parishioners of MY CHRISTIAN BRETHREN, -I am entitled to presume that you are all anxious to extend to others the religious blessings which are so happily enjoyed by yourselves; and that you not only feel it to be your duty, but find it also a pleasure, to be in any degree instrumental in promoting the salvation of your fellow-creatures. My object, therefore, in laying this paper before you is, not so much to exhort you to the performance of your duty, as to offer a few suggestions as to the manner of making your exertions most effectual.
I would therefore submit to you the following PLAN FOR YOUR ADOPTION, as a means of increasing the funds of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Fo. reign Parts.
Let each person into whose hands this paper may fall humbly desire that he may be made, in some degree, useful in extending the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour'; and then meekly, but firmly, resolve that he will adopt some plan for the purpose; for instance:
Let him, on the morning of Christmas-day, the anniversary of that day on which to us was born a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord, call together the various members of his household-children, servants, and dependants-and, in few words, explain to them the blessings of Christianity, and the claims of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel upon every good churchman; and then exhort them to contribute according to their ability to its support; which might be done in some such terms as these:
Our blessed Lord hath said " I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”. This passage, and many other parts of ScripI will now state the results which followed the adoption of this plan, in our united parishes, last year, in a pecuniary point of view :
1.-In the united parishes of W—and T— , containing together a population of between 4000 and 5000, we received and transmitted to the secretary of the district committee, in the neighbourhood, the sum of 121. 11s. 2d., making a return of about 21. 10s. for every 1000 persons. Allowing the whole population of England and Wales to be 13,894,574, according to the census of 1831, the benefit to the society at this rate would be 34,7361. 8s. 6d., in one day. However, reducing the average, for reasons which need not to be detailed, from 21. 10s. to even ll. per 1000 persons, the benefit to the society would be 13,8941. lls. 5d.
II.-If the result of our labours should be less satisfactory than it ought to be in a pecuniary view, still, in addition to the positive increase of means, to whatever amount it may be, we have reason to believe that great spiritual benefit will be the effect of an earnest ap
ture, abundantly assure us that the knowledge of Christ is salvation. The most essential service, therefore, we can render to our fellow-creatures is to make known to them the Gospel of Christ, and, for this purpose, we must be willing -nay, we must be glad, to make some sacrifice of those things we have received of a bountiful
for unless we are ready to do this, we cannot be said to love one another, and we must not forget the words of Christ—" By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." Let it therefore be our satisfaction, as it is our duty, to assist in carrying into distant lands the knowledge of Jesus Christ, and bringing the consolations of the Gospel of liberty and peace to those who mourn in the captivity of ignorance and sin. Let us joyfully contribute our mite to increase the funds of that excellent and venerable Society for the Propagation of the Gospel,
which has a claim to our affection and support as having for its object the salvation of sinners, and as having so long used those means of accomplishing its great purpose which are in strict accordance with the Word of God, and the principles of the established church. For, let me tell you that the great objeet of this society is to place the Bible in the hands of those who know not the true God, to afford facilities of worshipping in those pure and scriptural services which are the glory of this church and the great bulwark of Christian doctrine in this nation, to reform the hearts of the wicked, to lift up the spirit of the contrite ones, and to direct all to the cross of Christ as the way of salvation, and to the Spirit of God as the sanctifier of his people. As to the means by which this venerable society would secure its object, it is by sending abroad good and able men as ministers of God, lawfully appointed to the work of evangelists, that by means of these preachers the people may hear of Jesus Christ; and hearing, may believe in him, and believing, may call upon him, and calling upon him may be saved.
The master or mistress of the house may then express a willingness to receive, in the course of the day, from the several members of the family, such little offerings as they may be disposed to make in support of the society; or they may leave a box in some fixed place for the reception of contributions, having first written on the front, or on the lid, the following words
“ SOCIETY FOR THE PROPAGATION OF THE GOSPEL.
“ Box for Contributions." All contributions thus received by heads of families should be sent in the course of the week to the officiating clergy, to be forwarded to the parent society; or to the secretary of the district committee in the neighbourhood.
That the God of peace may make you perfect in every good work to do bis will, working in you that which is well-pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, is the hope and prayer of
Your pastor and faithful servant, A. B.
peal to our people upon this subject, and a strong statement of the glade ness with which the truth has been again and again received by multitudes of the heathen.
The great argument in favour of this particular method of increasing our efficiency is, that machinery of vast power may be set in motion, without any very unusual exertion; and that, by a single effort on the part of the clergy, we secure the interest and co-operation of large numbers in the work we design to further; besides, no labour is lost according to this plan. You have no two persons walking over the same ground, and no one person going over the same ground twice; but each individual is working powerfully in his own independent sphere; and the matter is brought before the great mass of the people, by their own natural advisers and friends, and in a manner highly calculated to secure the point.
Every Christian family is, in truth, a little church of God, in which the head of that family is the officiating priest, for the maintenance of piety and charity, and all the families in a parish form together one large family, of which the minister of God is head; and all the parishes in a diocese form one large family, of which the bishop is the head; and all the dioceses in Christendom form one large family, of which Christ is head. Surely, then, no plan is better calculated to promote the glory of God, our Saviour, and the good of our fellow-creatures, than one which recognises and acts upon this simple classification of all Christian people.
Would any of the rural deans, who approve of this suggestion, bring the matter under the notice of the clergy within their districts ?
Your obedient servant, D.
LESLIE ON THE USE OF ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY. SIR,—The opinion of the early church is an invaluable test of religious truth. Yet, however, in accordance with common sense, this assertion is, at the present day, frequently impugned. It is openly scoffed at and derided by the sectarian, and meets with hardly better treatment from some members of our own church. To be fettered by the opinions of early writers, who after all were but mere men, is considered, by many, an intolerable hardship, and restraint of Christian freedom. To form our own theories on religious subjects, without reference to the recorded opinions of the primitive church, is esteemed an essential part of a Christian's liberty. Any attempt, moreover, to control this, is looked on as an approximation to the system of popery. Yet this was confessedly the principle of the early church. "Quodcunque prius, verum, quodcunque posterius falsum,” is the sound rule of interpretation adopted by Tertullian, and still more fully developed at a subsequent period, by Vincent, of Lerins ; and is, undoubtedly, the principle on which our church proceeded in reforming herself from the errors of popery. That this sound test of truth may again be applied, in opposition both to popery and puritanism, is much to be wished; and the republication, in the “ Tracts for the Times,” of parts of the two treatises just alluded to, may, it is hoped, help to
restore to its former influence this principle of catholic interpretation. With the same view I venture to recal to the memory of your readers some passages from Leslie's “ Letter on the Study of Ecclesiastical History.” Such sound and judicious views deserve to be more generally known.
“Of all history, the ecclesiastical is the most beneficial ; as much more as the concerns of the church are above that of the state-our souls above that of our bodies -and our eternal state more than the moment we have to stay in this world. These, and these only, I may say, is the division of all controverted points in divinity, either as to doctrine or discipline; for every one of them must be determined by matter of fact. It is not refining and criticisms, and our notion of things, but what that faith was which was once delivered to the saints. This is matter of fact, and must be determined by evidence; and where any text of the New Testament is disputed, the best evidence is from those fathers of the church who lived in the apostolical age, and learned the faith from the mouth of the apostles themselves, such as, Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp, &c. These must know the best sense and meaning of the words delivered by the apostles ; and, next to them, they to whom they did deliver the same; and so on, through the several ages of the church, to this day. And those doctrines, and that government of the church, which has this evidence, must be the truth. And they who refuse to be determined by this rule are justly to be suspected; nay, they give witness against themselves that they are departed from the truth. Thus the church of Rome will not be concluded by the evidence, but by what they call the authority of the church; then they make this authority the same in all ages, and so settle all upon the authority of the present church. The same method would baffle and silence our vile sectaries, of several
For example, Who can read that history of Eusebius, and doubt that episcopacy was the government of the church at that time and before all over the Christian world ? In which we find nothing of the papal supremacy, or presbyterian purity, but flagrant episcopacy everywhere in all churches ; yet, with this difference, that whereas our dissenters (may we not add, too, some of the clergy ?) have this plea only left to bawl and wrangle, as if our bishops look more upon them, and assumed greater authority than those primitive bishops did pretend to, over their presbyters and people. The case is so far otherwise that, if our bishops should speak now in the language used by those early apostolical bishops, that rout would be ready to stone them, and cry out, blasphemy! If they were told that the bishop does immediately represent the person of Christ ; that, therefore, as the apostles and disciples were obedient to Christ, so ought the presbyters, deacons, and laity, to be obedient to their bishop; that who kept not outward communion with his bishop, did forfeit the inward communion with Christ the head......for that he is the principle of unity in his church, and who is not in communion with him is out of the unity of the catholic church,—this would be called high-flying with a witness. Yet this was the language of the holy Ignatius, and those primitive, and even apostolic times...... The state and history of the primitive church shews, by a stronger argument, i. e., of fact, what was the government of the church, as established and left by the apostles. For that is, after all, what must determine us: it is not what schemes and contrivances we may fancy, but what that government was which, de facto, the apostles left in the church; and that must continue till a greater, at least as great, an authority shall alter it......But some think that the apostles left no standing government in the church, but what might be altered by the church in after ages, according to occasions and emergencies; and so episcopacy, presbyters, or anything else, may come in. These make no great matter of the government of the church, so as they cry, the doctrine be sound. But they consider not that the government was ordained to secure the doctrine, and no instance can be given, from Jeroboam down. wards, when the change of the government did not bring along with it a change of doctrine.”
This latter assertion Leslie illustrates by reference to the state of the early church of England during the great rebellion, and of Holland; to which we may now add the case of Geneva, as an instance of the lamentable effects of spurious and ultra-protestantism.
ON THE POSITION OF PADAN ARAM, In reply to the Remarks of Dr. Paulus upon the subject, contained in his Review
of Mr. Beke's Origines Biblicæ. SIR,- In the Hebrew Scriptures we find frequent mention made of Padan Aram or Aram Naharaim, which is described as being the country into which Abraham and his family first went after their departure from Chaldea, and in which, when Abraham proceeded thence into Canaan, Nahor and his descendants continued to reside. This country was, by the Jews of Alexandria, considered to be identical with the Mesopotamia of the Greeks; and accordingly, its name was so rendered in the Greek Translation of the Hebrew Scriptures made in that city, which bears the name of the Septuagint version. This identification (although from Judith v. 5—7, and Acts vii, 2—4, it is manifest that it could not have been universally admitted at the times when those two books were written,) was, together with many other Rabbinical opinions in Geography, adopted without question among the early Christians; and notwithstanding that it has always been attended with difficulties which commentators have not been able entirely to surmount, its general correctness appears never to have been doubted.
In my Origines Biblicæ,* however, I have taken upon myself to deny altogether the correctness of this identification; and I have in that work (pp. 122–133,) given my reasons for the opinion therein expressed, that Padan Aram, so far from being represented by Mesopotamia, was situate very much nearer to the confines of Canaan ; and that, in fact, its true position is to be looked for in the neighbourhood, and probably to the southward of Damascus.
The opinion thus expressed has met with the most decided opposition from Dr. Paulus of Heidelberg, who, in a Review of my work published in the Heidelberger Jahrbücher der Literatur,t at the same time that he scoffs at my belief in such a vulgar error as that “ the Bible is the written word of God,” manifests not less his indignation at the presumptuous attempt thus made—and that above all by an Englishman,—to disturb, in this as well as in other particulars, the “ received orthodox, and truly Rabbinical interpretation" of the Jews of Alexandria, to whom he would appear to attribute an infallibility which he denies to the writers of the text itself.
It is not my intention upon the present occasion to comment on the subject of that review generally : my object is simply to confine myself to the learned reviewer's criticism of my opinion on the subject of Padan Aram.
In order to do this with justice, both to my reviewer and to myself, it is necessary that I should discuss his observations in detail.
He begins thus, then : “ I will now proceed to notice a single special example of the most assuredly not rational) method of the author. The Haran of Gen. xxvii. 43, xxviii
. 10, cannot be the Charro so well known from its connexion with the history of Crassus. And why not? Why, because, although it be true from Gen. xxxi. 22, that
* “Origines Biblicæ; or, Researches in Primeval History," vol. i., London, 1834.
For January, 1835, pp. 43–61. VOL. VIII.- Dec. 1835.