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CONCERNING THE OLD AND THE NEW. We have just left behind us another of the waymarks of life. With all its sins, with all its sorrows, with all its disappointments and failures, the year of 1868 has now gone. To myself there is something peculiarly solemn in the period through which many of us only lately watched in prayer. And I cannot doubt that it is so with almost everyone else. It is & turning. point in life-a transition from a past which is departing for ever, to a future that is all unknown. In the past there is much to mourn over and to deplore; in the future, nothing can avail us but the presence of God. And between these is a moment wherein we can turn in thought from despondency to hope--from the old to the new. Let no season be passed through indifferently which may be made the means of moral impression and moral profit.
The beginning of a thing, whatever it may be, is impressive and influential on the mind. We have been so made by God that this cannot but be the case. The beginning of life—the beginning of religious, of spiritual life—the beginning of some serious and some arduous task—the beginning of a campaign, or a voyage, or a battle, these are, all of them, deeply suggestive. And among many illustrations, is it not especially so in the opening out and dawning upon us of a new year ? It was only the other day that we were carried out of the past into the present. Old associa ns, old memories, old ideas seemed to vanish at the striking of the midnight bell; and a voice was heard proclaiming, “Behold, I make all things new.” Not one of us but is in some sense a Noah between the new world and the old. As Churches, as pastors, as citizens, as men, we have entered into new relations and responsibilities in contrast with those we were
VOL. V.NEW SERIES.
connected with before. Certainly it is of the highest moment that we should take our leave of the old and enter into relation with the new, in the right spirit and for the right ends. We reach another Ararat to-day, finding our resting-place between the years, and celebrating our deliverance by a sacrifice of thankfulness for the past, and of consecration in the time yet to come. Everything about us is new-our pathway, our prospects, our work, all is new.
And while the receding waters have left debris and disorganisation behind, we see the grass beginning to grow green again on the mountain side, whilst the rainbow girdles the mountain summit, emblem of a God in covenant with men, and of men at peace and in union with Him.
The old and the new ! Let us remind ourselves of the two-fold duty of an unwavering attachment to the old verities of the faith, and yet of preparation for and adaptation to the new and ever-varying conditions of the future. These are thoughts for the season, for we enter now upon a fresh campaign of work and fighting in the world.
One feature of the day we live in, and to which none of us can be insensible, is the presence of inquiry—of questioning-of doubt, if you will, that seems abroad in the air. Whether for good or evil, one cannot read a book, or take up a newspaper, or glance into a serial, without seeing that men are less dependent-shall we say less tractable—must we add, less reverent and more self-reliant than they ever were ? Now-a-days men are not so much unquestioning recipients of dogma as diligent searchers for truth. Now-a-days men will not take their opinions at second hand, but will find them or fashion them for themselves. Now-a-days men will not doff the hat to aristocracies quite so obsequiously as once they did, nor believe in the divine right of kings.” Take commerce, take science, take theology and religion, and it is everywhere the same ; and perhaps there is some danger lest “ the good old paths” should be forsaken for others that are less safe, and lest “ the scribes of our time should be so anxious to bring out of the treasury. " things new," as to forget, if not utterly to despise, those that are
“old." Certain it is that many things are ready to vanish away, in most cases, doubtless, because they decay and wax old ; nor can we, as yet, tell what new things will arise. This emphatically is a time of transition.
Now ought we not, amid these changes, to betake ourselves to the sure standards of the faith? For although we no longer keep the feast with the old leaven, and although for us "old things are past away, all things are become new,” we have to bear in memory the injunction, “ Remove not the ancient landmark which thy fathers have set.” We have to hold fast that which remains, and to contend earnestly, if needs be, for the faith once delivered to the saints. Not but that we should treat, in a generous way, the spirit of honest questioning, wherever it may be found. Christianity fears nothing from inquiry, from patient and candid research. Let the scalpel be used ever so skilfully, or even remorselessly, and we know it will be proved sound to the core. It may be, too, that God has some wise purpose in permitting this jostling between the old and the new—perhaps the removing of those things that are shaken, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain; and it may bring consolation to our hearts to know that, though to our ears the earth's voices are full of discord, yet as God bends toward the sound, He can detect the music -a music that is ever swelling into a louder and more general anthem as the old years and the young roll on.
But while we hold fast our attachment to the ancient landmarks of the faith, we must also cultivate a spirit of preparedness for the ever-widening and ever-altering circumstances of the future. At this season we enter upon a new chapter in our lives and in our work. We are, as it were, outward-bound emigrants, thrown upon a strange land, among strange circumstances and strange peoples, and we are compelled to gird ourselves right manfully to grapple with the new conditions of our existence. Everything about us is new. There are new forms of thought, new modes of evil, new combinations of circumstance, new fields of usefulness and self-forgetting service for God and men. Here we are, all of us, in new conditions, and we must work if we would be faithful. Error has so many strongholds that we must be ever up and doing; assailing it with pen and tongue, and deed; with the sword of the Spirit, by the Word of truth on the right hand and the left. Truth has so many relations that we must dress it in no Hebrew robe, or classic raiment, or middle-age costume—it must wear the clothing, ani speak the language of to-day. We want, indeed, no new Gospel; we need seek for no new light; but while believing that the “ one blood ” still runs in the veins of humanity, and that Jesus is the alone and ever-unchanging Saviour, we must accept, intelligently and courageously, the position we are found in, and we must go forward to the "mark of the prize of our high calling of God in Christ Jesus." The voice of the new year to all is “onward and upward.” May we hear it, and in a wise Christian oblivion of the past, “ forget the things that are behind, and press
forward to those that are before." There is one application of the subject more. If we are reminded of anything at this season, it is of the uncertainty—of the mystery that hangs over the untrodden future, on the very frontiers of which we now stand. Of the past we know too much. In the past there have been inconsistencies and failures-feebleness of effort--infirmities of tongue and temper-neglect of prayer, and consequent unwisdom and sad imperfectness in spirit and speech. But over the future there rests a veil, and we cannot rend it or draw it aside. What adventures we shall meet with in the year, what new features it will show, what hidden currents will rush along its bed, whither it will bear the ark of humanity, we do not know. That God is in the year we do know. This is all. And surely this is enough. There are things that grow old, and there are things that never can, over which time has no possible power. The years get old; not so the foundation-facts of our faith. National customs and usages get old ; but not the practice or the efficacy
of prayer. And scientific and philosophic theories ; the Scriptures of truth
And political arrangements too; but faith, and hope, and purity, and brotherly kindness do not. These are the true evergreens, and everything else, just like the holly-leaves and the holly-berries, must fade. Anyway, if the past is full of mercy, there is hope and urgent work in the future; and “the wild bells,” the echoes of whose music are lingering yet in the “wild sky,” “ ring out the old, ring in the new.” We cannot but believe that a better age is coming. From a thousand directions come the signs of the approach of "the new heavens and the new earth”—of the generation that bear the “new name," and sing “ the new song." go out and invite that time in; let us, at all events, make this year a happier one for the world and for ourselves than the last has been, and thus we shall translate into actual fact the prophecy our Laureate has shaped into noble words :
“Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite ;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
J. W. B.
MINISTERIAL SUPPORT.-AN AUGMENTATION FUND :
AND HOW TO RAISE IT. We pause a moment in the outset to distinguish between the word Sustentation and Augmentation. The former aims rather at providing the full support of the pastor ; or, at all events, supplying the larger portion of his income, so as to raise it to a certain uniform minimum, say of £180 or £200 a-year, from a central source. By the latter, we simply intend a fund that would supplement or augment the local gifts, yet so that these should still constitute the predominating item in the whole stipend. Augmentation would leave the same variety, the same inequality, in respect to income as now, between Church and Church, minister and minister. The distinction between the two terms is important. Sustentation will work well only on a Presbyterian basis. Inasmuch as it places the minister virtually above the control of the individual Church, there must necessarily be some other and higher Church Court for the induction and dismission of pastors, and for discipline. Now, to make the pastorate independent of the Church to which they minister, is certainly not the system of the Congregational body, nor would it accord with the principles or feelings of our people. Hence the jealousy of and grave objections to a Sustentation Fund. Augmentation, on the other hand, leaves the selfgovernment of each Church completely intact. It does not affect the principle that the minister must live in the affections of his people, in order to live at all. Discipline, if unhappily required, would be retained within the verge of the individual fellowship, though no doubt under the supervision of the associated Churches. The advantage, whatever it may be, or disadvantage, of variety in the amount of stipend, according to the sphere in which a man labours, would still exist. An Augmentation Fund, whilst supplying to each minister a sum which would render him more free from pressing anxieties, makes no pretence to place all on a common level of equal emolument.
There is no place, therefore, on the principle of an Augmentation Fund, for the alarm which some nervous persons have expressed, that it is simply the thin end of the wedge to bring in Presbyterianism. Granting that the independence and self-government of the Churches is the Scriptural rule, we maintain that mutual helpfulness and aid, that the strong should support the weak, and that the Christian affection and Christian beneficence of each one toward the other should abound, is equally the Scripture rule ; for, if one member suffer, all the members must necessarily suffer. In devising any organisation, we must guard against certain evils :
1. We hold it as an axiom that no scheme will prove satisfactory which would tend to diminish or dry up the fountain of Christian liberality in the Churches. It should be the aim rather to stimulate and enhance the systematic gifts of the members; and, if possible, to open up a new vein for profitable working.
2. We hold it as an axiom that no fund, whether designated a Sustentation or an Augmentation Fund, will be acceptable, which impairs the cherished independency of our Churches, or controls important points of Church action.
3. We hold it as an axiom that no fund will either meet the requirements of the case, or be acceptable to our body, which degrades the pastor into the recipient of a charitable dole at the hands of a Committee whether of laymen or ministers; or which creates a dis inction without a difference (i.e., as to merit or ability, or, indeed, of claim arising from necessity), between ministers having £80 a-year income, and those having £100; or between those receiving £120, and those who reach £150; and closes the door against all whose income reaches a higher sum.
4. We hold it as a settled principle that no scheme of augmentation will work well which apportions a given sum to the several County Associations, to be distributed amongst certain members of their own circle, and denied to others, that it can ever be made practicable, or work without perpetual heart-burnings, jealousies, and dissatisfaction.
5. And, finally, we hold it as indubitable, that if we are bound to guard the grand principle of the self-action and autonomy of the Churches; we must, with equal conscientiousness, sustain and exalt the self-respect and proper independence of the pastors before the Church and the world.