Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

adequate. Each year calls for a louder cry over impending bankruptcy, in order to the annual extrication from financial difficulties.

Before taking leave of a theme of such profound practical importance, we pause to enumerate a few of the requisites to any right and adequate enforcement of the present pecuniary demand of God's cause, without due regard to which the supply can never, with reason, be expected to approximate to that demand.

The first and fundamental requisite to the full enforcement of the Divine claim is a more complete, general, constant, and forcible exhibition of the scriptural doctrine of the stewardship of the church under Christ, the absolute owner of all things. In the full and correct conception and reception of this truth is laid that solid foundation of principle in its application to the use of property, without which there may indeed be impulsive, spasmodic distribution, but never the intelligent, systematic, liberal, dutiful Christian giving which the word of God evidently contemplates. Having to do in this day with such grand and awful issues, the lesson of Christian beneficence deserves a place next to those first words in the home which bear to the tender conscience and the retentive memory of the little ones of the honsehold the dawning knowledge of salvation by the crucified Jesus; claims a place only second to that of the way of life in the more elaborate unfoldings of the Scriptures, doctrinal and practical, in the Sabbath-school and Bible class; and in the exhibitions of truth and duty from the pulpit demands for itself a place no less important than that which God has given to love to our neighbor in the Decalogue. The obligation to respond in full to every call of the Head of the church must somehow be made plain beyond possible misunderstanding, and that speedily. It must be acknowledged that there are times when the professed people of God have need of the sweet and encouraging words of warning to the angel of the church at Philadelphia, but the present is rath ar a time when many of them need to have thundered in their ears the awful message to the angel of the church at Laodicea. Giving to God's cause has long enough been regarded as something Christians might neglect or not according to inclination ; God's right and liis claim ought now to be enforced, and enforced with increasing point and power till the truth shall become a fire in every covetons man's bones. Said Christ when upon earth, Tlow hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of heaven.” There is to-day a large and increasing class who need something more than honeyed or even plain words if they are ever to be reached by the truth and saved from their idolatry. There died recently in New York city, according to one of our prominent religions journals, a man who had amassed a fortune of $11,000,000. He was a church member in excellent standing, but did the awful death of an Altamont, reproaching his minister who was present, not only with having failed to warn him against his sin of covetousness, but even with having encouraged him in it. We hope there is some mistake about this,—but it is high time that such men, who hold God's MONEY, should, for their own good as well as for the good of the world, be made to understand that fact and the intinite peril of practically denying it, if there is any language that can make them understand it and impress upon them their peril. In short, we cannot but feel that the church is called upon to bring to bear without delay her united wisdom, under the teaching of the Holy Ghost, upon the solution of the pressing problems as to method and means furnished by the necessity for the widest, most complete, and most forcible presentation possible of the true relation of the Christian and his property to Christ the Lord of all.

The second requisite to the full enforcement of God's claim, is that the church be aroused to an adequate sense of her duty to the world. After the inward principle of beneficence must come the outward call for its exercise in deeds of practical Christian giving. The divine agency for such awakening of the people of God is to be found, according to our Presbyterian theory, in the ministry, to whom the great commission was pre-eminently addressed, and in the entire ministry. The infinite importance of the work of giving the Gospel to all the lost world, the imperative divine demand to fill the treasury for this purpose without delay, the awful responsibility of having the conduct of all the Christian stewardship and the salvation of a thousand million souls resting, under God, upon their interpretation and enforcement of the Divine word and ways, must first be impressed upon that ministry, and so impressed that, with the weeping prophet, they shall be ready to exclaim, in view of the message intrusted to them, “His word was in mine heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay.” Our reading is a mistaken one, if the signs of the times do not demand that all the ministry, under most solemn sense of this absolutely overwhelming weight of responsibility, should give a very large proportion of their time to the work of making clear to the people who hold Christ's treasures, this present pressing call from God for the immediate evangelization of the world at home and abroad. By aid of maps of the world the abodes of these dying myriads inust be made as familiar to every churchgoer as is the dining-room or the dormitory in his home; by help of missionaries, and all accessary agencies for communicating mission intelligence, the Sabbath pulpit must make every adherent of a pure Christianity as familiar with the progress of the work at home and abroad, and the present needs of the Lord's treasury, as he is with the prospects and requirements of his own daily business; and by every consideration of humanity and religion to be brought from God's word and his world, and that can rouse the intellect, the conscience, the heart, the imagination of man, the whole soul of every Christian must be so roused that there shall be no possibility, either in the perplexing and absorbing anxieties of business or in the luxurious ease of the fashionable home, of getting for an instant beyond the reach of the awful wail of that thousand millions of souls perpetually hanging over tlie bottomless pit!

A third requisite to the enforcement of the full Divine claim, and the last we mention, is that appropriate channels be furnished for regular and frequent response to the call of God's word and providence. The order is, first the principle fixed in the heart, next the call for its exercise made imperative, and then the opportunity furnished at the right moment and in the right way for its proper exercise. llere is found the place for all the machinery of systematic Christian giving.

We are of those wbo believe that the only trae basis for any scriptural and permanently effective scheme, is to be laid in the recognition of the truth that Christian giving is the worship rendered to God of our substance, and therefore must be an essential part of a complete Sabbath worship. In accordance with this view, the Directory for Worship, ch. vi., provides for a “collection for the poor, and other purposes of the church,” with every Sabbath service; the General Assembly, in the report of its first “ Committee on Systematic Benevolence,” in 1855, declares that “giving, in the Scriptures, is put upon substantially the same basis as prayer--the one is the sacrifice of the lips, and the other of the substance; "the Scriptures associate xouvwvía as the “communication of benefits, beneficence, liberality,” with teaching, prayers, and the eucharist, as making up with them the complete Christian worship of apostolic times; and the collection was uniformly a part of the religious worship in the primitive church. The wisdom of such an alliance between our Christian giving and our reg. ular Sabbath service with its prayer and praise, may be seen from the fact that, while the prayer and praise are needed to cultivate one set of graces-reverence for God, joy in God and his salvation, dependence upon God, in short, all forms of regard for his infinite worthiness,—the offering of our substance as God has prospered us is just as much needed to cultivate another set of graces—the sense of stewardship and accountability, love for the needy and perishing, readiness to communicate. System implies regularity; and here we have the divinely ordained regularity which is essential to that true system of beneficence after which the Christian heart of this age is reaching out.

It is in connection with this as the basis, that the need arises for plans; in order that none of the interests of the vast field of effort may be overlooked, while to each is consigned its due relative place. From among the almost innumerable working plans offered in this season of planning, we single out that embodied in the “Report of the Committee on Systematic Beneficence” of the Presbytery of North River, as on the whole the most comprehensive of any we have examined, and the best adapted to the necessities of the Presbyterian Church at large. The arrangement for contributions is as follows:

* First Sabbath in each month-Foreign Missions.

"Second Sabbath-Domestic Missions, with its affiliated Boards, Church Extension, and the Committee on Freedmen: the distribution to be made by the donor, or, if not so done, by the church session according to some rule announced beforehand.

" Third Sabbath—The other Boards of our church, viz. : Educatiou, Board of Publication, and Disabled Ministers' Fund. Distribution as before.

“Fourth Sabbath-Presbyterial Mission work, i. e., the supplementing of salaries of feeble churches within our bounds, or direct mission work under the care of Presbytery.

"Fifth Sabbaths—Whenever they occur, to the Bible or other societies, or to any special fund required by the church.

“For Sabbath School collections the same general order might be preserved, with such modifications as would adapt it to the interest and capacities of children."

[ocr errors]

It commends itself as being scriptural, simple, and flexible; while calling upon all who frequent the house of God to worship him in their property, furnishing constant occasion to the ministry for pressing upon Christian stewards their obligation, urging upon them the call of Providence for the world, and giving abundant opportunity for training both young and old into the habit of giving from principle. But while putting forward this plan as meeting our views more nearly than any other we have examined, it is freely admitted that changes in circumstances call for various and, in some cases, perhaps, constantly varying plans, embracing even a wider range than that indicated by the excellent Digest sent out to the churches by the last General Assembly's Committee.

It was said, at the opening page of this essay, that the church of God is slowly being aroused to see the necessity of taking a great step forward in this all-important matter of Christian giving. If her complete awakening is to be hastened, as God in his providence indicates that it should be, the three requirements just indicated must be met, and fully met, by the divinely-appointed leaders in Zion. We must have a clearer, stronger presentation of God's truth,--a more vivid and forcible exhibition of the lost world's needs, and better, more wisely-adapted, and more scriptural plans for replenishing the treasuries of the Lord from the enlarging liberality of Christian hearts, -and we must have these in all

« ElőzőTovább »