« AnteriorContinuar »
"He's no better than an old deacon's face worked painfully; heathen !” said Miss Martha, but he presently came close to his scornfully. “And it's my opinion boy, and laid his great knotty hand he's no business in the Church. He on his soft curls. told me once he didn't believe the " Alick," said he,“ Cato's God is Lord ever hardened anybody's good enough for me, and if you'll heart, because it wasn't at all like stick by Him I'll be satisfied. the Lord to do it. I quoted him a There's some things too hard for us, dozen passages of Scripture; but and I hold the Lord never meant you might as well talk to the wind. we should make ourselves wretched He even went so far as to say that with trying to reconcile 'em. But he didn't understand much about the Lord's love is just as clear as prophesying and interpreting and sunshine, and so long as I know speaking in tongues; but he knew He's my Father I ain't agoin' to his blessed Lord, and nobody could worry about His dealin's with me. make him believe He was any such It'll all come right some way. It kind of a person--worse than old must come right.” Colonel Northway, who used to set Alick looked up. His eyes were his slaves at work they couldn't do tired, but not defiant; and they and then whip them for failing. I filled with tears as he met his call such talk blasphemy."
father's anxious look. “I call it common sense,” said “I'm not worth much, father,” Alick, hotly. “And the blasphemy he said, clasping the rough hand is in dressing up the Lord with a in his smooth white ones. character that would be a disgrace “Oh, my boy,” faltered the to any human being. You shake father, breaking into a passion of your faithin everything by attempt- tears : “I would give the world to ing to force your horrible doctrines win you. And His love is greater upon us. I've been rebelling against than mine.” your God and your Bible these At that moment old Judy's words three years; but I feel sometimes were made true. Alick came to as if I could believe in Cato's." himself. The phantasies of mad
Alick dropped his head upon his ness passed away. He saw the face hand, wearied out with the sudden of the loving, pitying Lord, and flush of excitement, Miss Martha went to Him raptured and went out without a word. The astonished.
NEW LIFE IN AN OLD CHURCH.
BY THE REY. J. UPTON DAVIS, B.A. It was early summer ; the day broke with light clouds, and a gentle breeze from the bay; the flowers opened in the field and garden. The most timid of church-goers remembered the Lord's day, and when the bells rang out—the sweetest chime in the country—the lanes grew dusty with the feet of worshippers, and the dull streets gay with the multitude that kept holy day. The rich tones of the organ silence the rustle of entrance, and soothe restless thoughts to quiet meditation; and there is nothing in the building to disturb the calm. The voices of the clergyman and of the choir lead the assembly as a matter of taste. The prayers are reverent in tone; the sermon is orthodox, and without
offence. As a matter of taste the service is simply perfect. Sion looks the very perfection of beauty. This goes on month by month; occasionally a thrill of excitement is created by the advent of some earnest zealous man, whose thin, pale, fragile form tells of a life spent in sacred toil afar off. They admire his pleading, and give to the cause. They receive a report in due time, and are perfectly satisfied.
One would not be hard on such a community. They may be kind to the poor in the way of blankets and domiciliary visits; their religion may be very modest and retiring, but so far as rumour speaks that morning service is the beginning and the end of it. A fishing village three miles along the coast is utterly neglected. Behind the hills are scattered hamlets where Christian worship is never supplied to the aged, the weak, the lazy, and the careless. In the alleys and back streets of the town itself are wicked men and godless children. The schoolmaster and a few inexperienced or untaught assistants drag a score or two unhappy youngsters through a chapter, and liberate them with a dull hymn buzzing in their ears. Inside the church it is all you could desire for chastened order and propriety ; outside the church there is inaction, indifference, dull content. The church-goers are passably moral, and will probably go to heaven some day. The absentees are industrious six days, and lazy the seventh ; keep out of gaol while they live, and will apparently keep out of paradise when they die.
It was late in the autumn, all but a few leaves were fallen, the sea rolled in dull crashing thuds upon the shingle, the sky was dark, a thin mist drizzled now and again, the dirty roads and damp streets were almost vacant, and the bells ceased that wretched Sunday with the church half empty, the people shivering, the organ out of tune, and the minister facing crimson cushions, and uncomfortable men. The wind rose, the rain pelted against the glass ; utterly miserable was everybody, and glad to get home. That night the storm of 1867 broke. The fishing smacks were in. A fine schooner was drifting on the rocks running out from the Naze. Nothing could be done, she went to pieces, all was broken up but the mast. The few men on board seized that, a current drew them into a cave, a rope reached them, and they were dragged safe to the shore. The frank skipper know no disguise : “Come lads, we are a full muster, let us give thanks!” Every one uncovered and bowed their head. In rough strong terms, so unlike the religious phraseology the townsfolk knew, the master gave thanks, and closed with a reverent quotation, “ All we like sheep have gone astray ; but the Lord hath laid upon him the iniquity of us all." More than one listener remembered how the familiar words lingered in their ears, “All have gone astray. on him the iniquity of us all.” Some of the crowd were present at church the next Sunday; they breathed a prayer for such as go down to the sea in ships. The first hymn closed with one refrain,
"Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee
The lesson was the mission of the seventy. There was an unusual glow in the minister's manner. The watchers of the night-storm started when he announced his text, “ All we like sheep have gone astray. The Lord hath laid upon him the iniquity of us all.” The discourse ran upon a higher level than usual. A sermon without words, a variation of “Oh, rest in the Lord,” showed the organist had been touched, and the people went home with faces grave and hearts subdued.
Next month, in deep winter-tide, the second congregation slowly grew. At the New Year many stayed to Communion. A few called at the parsonage to speak of the new questionings within them. Several poor sick bodies were surprised by kindly visits. The infant class was taken in hand by a pupil teacher; the young men gathered for debate, and Bible study and prayer. One person~a Quaker--opened a night-school on the quay, and presently drew in a score or two of lounging lads. A farmer, renting a few acres by the fishing village, put planks into his shed, bought a few lamps, and, with his daughters leading the hymns, conducted a short service of reading and song. Over the hill the country folk began to ask for something like it. They would pay the carriage of any who would come. Only one volunteered, two were gently pressed into the service, and at the year's end a room was built in the larger village; a young man was induced to settle among them, and while the villagers supported him, one central church still sent assistance and contributed some share of the expense. In the worst part of the town a room was opened during the week with papers, magazines, and a good fire, and used on Sunday for an hour of brisk praise, short prayers, and plain speech. This was conducted by a young lawyer, his wife, and sister. The relays sent off in these and other directions left no gaps in the original congregation. The staid people, who are always aghast at the thought of any religious movement, were hardly converted, but did not oppose. The critical fraternity, a clique of short-sighted and tight-handed people, thought the outlying places should take care of themselves, there was plenty to do at home. One of them being shoved into a corner by the inquiry what needed to be done, frankly suggested that each pew should be furnished with a book-box, and he would pay for his own. The
people whose souls were prospering, but who were untrained to the new order of things, lent the countenance of their purses and presence to the bolder and more enthusiastic. The neighbouring towns were surveyed. In the most growing and needy a nucleus of their own faith and order was gathered, who, being backed by the older community, were able to hire a hall, to secure the assistance of a willing clergyman, and to make a success of their experiment. Two or three congregations joined in this plan.
There was a little excitement at first. The curious came to look, the lovers of novelty for a change, and the lovers of God for inquiry and imitation. Presently absolute sobriety marked the progress of things. The results were gradual but continuous and manifest. Some
women were better clothed, more children were in the day-schools, desert gardens became fruitful fields, the savings-bank was fuller, and petty crimes diminished. This was confessed by every one. Young persons coming to town were looked after, helped to work and lodgings, and shielded from many seductions. Eager listeners and constant worshippers were noticed, spoken to, and made at home in the Church. The vagrant hearers were somewhat more settled. The people who took seats and neglected their engagement to fill them were not missed, for a band of young men were recruited from the workshops and street corners. Money was spent on the building with prudent economy, and hearty response was always given to special appeals. Several scholars became communicants. Fishermen, farm labourers, and other country folk came down, as never before, to the morning service. A singular daring marked some very retiring Christians, who made it a practice to go about doing good in a very quiet way. The elders were at first surprised and soon delighted to find one after another telling of God's work in their hearts, and a year or two revealed such a change as became the talk of neighbouring Christians and abundant reason for great praise to God. The old orthodox meetings rose to freshness and power. The Dorcas became a more healthy social gathering.
This narrative should serve to show how, when a town Church is stirred by a sacred impulse, it will steadily set itself on work and effort outside its own walls and beyond the ordinary means of grace. The endeavour must not be spasmodic but patient; should not be confined to one line of things, but aim at various levels; may not absorb a single class of mind, but draw out men and women of all sorts. Thus distant villages, neglected districts, and increasing suburbs receive attention. Ignorance, squalor, and poverty are thought of as well as culture, indifference, and impiety. The cottage meeting, the nightschool, the vacant seats, and the Sunday classes, share in the careful activities which reach the huts on the beach and the hamlets over the hills.
Hard and fast lines cannot be laid down for missionary work around us. So long as the opening up of new enterprises does not impair the efficiency of the old ones, the more the better. Each must be conducted without servile imitation of other men's
processes, with due regard to the circumstances of the work, the bent of the worker, and the resources at command. All must be limited by the sacred demands of the toilers' own natures. They must be fed with strong meat to do strong work; milk-fed babies, and men that live on the excitement of the hour, will perforce faint and be weary before the night cometh. These enterprises must also be restricted by the sacred obligations of home life. The families which scarcely ever meet together except at meals fall short of an ideal home, and will become terrible roots of evil in any Christian community.
Such movements are sure to be criticised. Alarmists will caution against excitement. But Christian men have yet to learn that eager
ness in quest of money, popularity, power is right; but eagerness in quest of the sinful, the wandering, the lost is wrong. Easy people, who like to have everything done for them, and are quite willing to pay for it, will be impatient of those scattered families that cannot meet in a school-house to read and pray among themselves. Churches that have imported their own ministers should be ashamed to make such objections. The strayed children of God's hand up country need adapted ministers of grace for their recovery as much as the occupants of comfortable pews in town. Another set argue :
• The churches are open and not full; if the town folk don't come, we won't go after them; the fault is theirs not ours." This we deny. It does not exhaust the obligations of Christian men to have built a magnificent church in a good situation, to have it kept clean, to have it open twice on the first day of the week, and to have a trained minister lecture on Christianity with more or less wisdom, while they stay at home or occupy a sitting once a week. Christian duty goes beyond that. The gospel is a King's message, to be heralded far and near. Its ministry falls on every believer, and should be “fully proved” by urgency, pressure, and compulsion. Our Lord did not abide in heaven till men came to Him. He came to us and now sends us to others. On earth He did not restrict His efforts to the temple nor to the synagogue. His adherents caught His enthusiasm. Andrew finds Simon his brother. The Samaritan woman is no sooner converted than she invites others to an audience with the Christ. We must go and do likewise ; and tell to everybody the facts of human loss and the story of Redemption's work,
The ground of such energetic work, the fundamental reasons for carrying it out to some prosperous issues, are the simplest and broadest possible. There is a universal need for it. There is every provision for its success. Thankful hearts cannot but be impelled to take it up. The interests involved-of men and of God are too sacred not to have weight with gladdened saints. The men and women who will play their part in this field wisely and well shall share in the rewards of their Redeemer ; they, too, shall see of the travail of their soul and be abundantly satisfied.
Dunedin, New Zealand.
THE BANKER'S STORY. It was a large black walnut frame, in their way-things that pleased and it hung almost from the ceiling them, that developed the better in the little bedroom. It was a qualities of their nature, and that mother's work, putting it there. had a lesson on the face of them. She was always doing something There was the nail with its brass quietly for the good of her boys. head, and the large red cord, and She never found much fault with then two fine tassels hanging down. them; but she was always dropping There was no chromoor oil-painting a word of advice, and putting things by the old masters within the frame,