« ElőzőTovább »
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 xovwvia 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 communicute. 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. : Education, 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."
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
the congregations. Without these it is vain to expect the actual standard of liberality among Christians to approximate to that true and divine standard to which Christ is at this da summoning Protestant Christendom to advance.
Art. VII.-Brief Suggestions on Presbyterian Reconstruction
and Unification. Most of the matters connected with the practical completion of the re-union of the two great branches of the Presbyterian Church were so arranged in the “concurrent resolutions,” that they will probably work themselves through to a satisfactory solution, in accordance therewith, withont serious friction. So far as now appears, the “imperfectly organized churches ” will become perfectly organized in five years at the longest. The Missionary Boards of both bodies will become consolidated. Corporate rights, records, etc., are to be adjusted and combined. We presume this will be done in a manner acceptable to all parties. Three subjects only just now appear to require the light of further discussion, in order to reach safe practical conclusions :
1. The Basis and Ratio of Representation in the General
Assembly. The committee having this subject in charge have rightly judged that the present ratio of representation should be greatly reduced. This is a maiter of overbearing necessity. The present Assemblies are each too large for the convenient dispatch of business and the hospitality of any but the largest cities. United, they would tend to become a huge crowd, rather than a grave, well-organized, deliberative assembly. Abont this there can be no doubt. The only question is as to the best method of reducing the ratio of representation, in order sufficiently to reduce the number of the body. The Reconstruction Committee have recommended the substitution of synodical for presbyterial representation. This has much to recommend
it. It will surely accomplish the object. It is making constituencies of existing ecclesiastical bodies or church-courts known to our system, instead of erecting new districts for the purpose. On the other hand, it is open to very grave objections.
The Synods generally meet but once a year. They cover large districts of country. Their members, to a great extent, are little known to each other. The candidates to be voted for will mostly be strangers to those who vote for them. On account of the distance and expense of travel, they are often attended by minorities only of their members. These circumstances furnish capital opportunities for men of a little activity and forwardness to electioneer, and plan, and get their favorite candidates ahead of others who would more fairly represent the mind of the Synod; and would be its choice if there were a fair opportunity to exercise such choice. We regard this as a very formidable objection. It becomes serious just in proportion to the numbers and geographical extent of the Synod, both which conditions are unfavorable to a full attendance, and to any effectual counteraction of the movements of cliques and ecclesiastical aspirants and politicians.
Again, all the habits of our people, the whole historical lite and development of our church, are in the line of presbyterial representation. They feel that in this way they know who they are voting for, and cannot often be outgeneraled by petty cliques or aspirants. Ordinarily, the active and effective ecclesiastical supervision of our churches; the knowledge of their ininisters, officers, members; and of the interests and wants of our congregations, is through our Presbyteries. These bodies will be reluctant to part with a prerogative to which they have always been accustomed, which invests thein with much of their importance, and which they think more safely lodged with themselves than with Synods. The question then arises, is there no way of effecting the reduction of representation which all admit to be nccessary, and still retaining it in the hands of the Presbyteries?
We throw out the following plans for consideration; recognizing it as quite likely that thorough discussion may show unforeseen difficulties to be involved in them :
Let every Presbytery numbering twenty-four ministers or less, be entitled to send one, and but one, commissioner, either elder or minister, as it may see cause. Let every Presbytery numbering over twenty-four and not more than forty-eight, be entitled to two commissioners, of whom one must be a minister and the other an elder; when over forty-eight and not over seventy-two, let it have three delegates, of whom one at least must be an elder and one a minister; when over ninety-six, four delegates, one-half ministers and one-halt elders. This allows one delegate for every twenty-four ministers and every fraction of that number. By thus doubling the unit of constituency, the number of commissioners will be reduced considerably more than one-half. This will be effected by the union of many of the smaller Presbyteries of the two branches on the same territory. We think exact figuring would show that the Assembly thus constituted, would not, after the re-union, much outnumber three-fourths of our last Assembly. However this may be, it will be easy to bring it to the exact size desired by adjusting the unit of constituency to it, making it-instead of twenty-four-twenty, thirty, thirty-five, or forty, and their respective fractions, as may be deemed best.
Special provisoes might be made, if deemed desirable, to guard against any undue preponderance of clerical or lav representation in the Presbyteries entitled to delegates in odd numbers. It might be ordered that the odd commissioner should be alternately minister and elder, or that, whether minister or elder, he should have the major vote of the elders separately, and the ministry separately. Doubtless other devices and arrangements might be made to meet all reasonable objections.
The great objection to this is that it would aggravate our present inequality of representation-giving to twenty-three ministers who together constitute five Presbyteries five times as many representatives as twenty-tour ministers composing oue Presbytery.
To obviate this and other difficulties we look with favor upon the following plan which has been laid before us : Assuming that the ministers in the united body number not far from 4,000, let the church be divided into districts comprising