Page images
[ocr errors]

the Church, or the affluence of its members, or the abundance of private resources; they are already receiving an income which is amply sufficient. Let it be so.

Still, we would say, it is every way best to make an equal distribution of the fund, as constituting a rule, simple, plain, and in itself unobjectionable, rather than attempting to set up grades and limits which would only “ breed dissatisfaction.” Meantime, the responsibility rests upon those well-endowed ministers, not upon us, to use the addition to their income for God's glory. They may have within their knowledge cases of special necessity or special delicacy, and present the amount of their share to such ; or they may think it right to hand over the sum as a donation to the next year's Augmentation Fund, er the Ministers' Superannuation Fund. Even should they retain it for their own use, why should we judge them? To his own Master each standeth or falleth.

It will be further objected that improper persons will receive it. On this principle of universality, men who are, intellectually speaking, totally unfit for the ministry will obtain a share, and it will be sheer waste. Undonbtedly mistakes may be made, and waste ensue, in some few instances. Better it were so, in a hundred cases, than that a whole denomination should suffer in reputation and in standing by the insufficient sustenance of its recognised ministers.

Again, it will be said, you will, on this universal plan, give an equal portion to men who, morally speaking, ought to have no place in the ministry at all. Granting even this, so long as their names are found upon the roll of the “ Year Book," they belong to the body; and possibly two or three cases of misapplication may occur. The correction is to throw the whole onus upon

the individual associations, and insist upon it that they expurgate, from time to time, their lists of names. Observing only that so long as names are retained upon the list of pastors in association, and printed as such in the list of the “Year Book," so long the course of the distributors of the Augmentation Fund will be clear to pay to each an equal share in the general dividend.

Imaginative persons have suggested as a difficulty: Will not men in some parts of the country raise a schism, branch off into a separate Church on purpose to make a separate pastorate, and claim a share in the equal distribution ? We would impose wholesome restrictions here. No new Church should be formed, or call a pastor for the purposes of this fund, unless admitted into some association. The ministers of the neighbourhood cognizant of the causes of a separation, are best able to judge whether a new Church was needed, and whether it has the prospect of becoming self-sustaining. Let them determine whether it should be received into the list of associated Churches or not.

Our firm belief is, that without importing into our body any extraneous elements, or offending the most earnest spirit of Independency, the conscientious working of a fund like this would, in the course of twenty years, raise the status of our pastors socially, intellectually, and spiritually. They would exert an influence in the land more potent than ever, for good. The incubus of poverty being thrown off, and with it the many evils, the depressing tendency, and the temptations of poverty, the village pastor would rise to new energy, and feel the flush of invigorated zeal under the consciousness that he was neither overlooked nor unacknowledged in his self-denying sphere. The young man filled with noble desires, but working in the midst of opposition, would be spurred on to new efforts as he realised that the strength and practical sympathy of the whole Congregational body backs him up; whilst the very feeblest would receive the impulses of a new life as he shook himself from the burden of pressing anxieties.

T. B. T.

[EDITORIAL NOTE.—We insert this article on “Ministerial Support,” not that we are prepared to accept and endorse the plan which it proposes, but because we regard it as entitled to consideration among the many plans which are now being discussed. We shall give some thoughts of our cwn next month, and shall be happy to make room for opinions of brethren on the scheme of T. B. T.---only requiring that they be very briefly expressed.]


By the Late Reb. Alfred J. Morris. We have often indulged in imagination as to what shape the Bible would have taken, if men had been left to decide it. Had the Bible yet to be written, and the different sections of the Church were permitted to determine the form and mode in which Divine truth should be presented, what may we suppose would be the result ? or would there be any possibility of coming to a decision at all? One large class would fill it largely with doctrinal statements, with logical definitions of Divine mysteries. From them we should have a technical catechism, an elaborate creed. The secrets of the Divine nature and purposes and providence would be expressed in the most precise and formal style, made to fit into a system, placed as orderly as in a catalogue, explained as clearly as in a dictionary. Another large class would have the thought of God clothed in language highly philosophical ; would have the Bible read like a new work on ethics and metaphysics; would ignore plain matters of fact, and deal only with spiritual abstractions; would talk largely of the eternal principles of right, and the eternal fitnesses of things; would make everything general and nothing particular ; would talk of Deity and not God, of humanity and not men, of law and not laws, of sin and not sins; and thus all would be very fine and free, exciting admiration without producing impression, leaving a vague notion of something uncommonly grand, but fixing no arrows in the conscience, and planting no seeds in the heart. A third class would wish the Bible to consist largely of rules of life and methods of devotion. They would supply us with counsels of perfection and the "whole duty of man;" guides to the closet, the Church, and the world; a body of directions for all possible conditions and circumstances of life; a manual of spiritual worship and moral conduct; a code of all the laws that affect our relations to God, our neighbour, and ourselves. These are some of the methods in which men would have wished the truth and will of God to be communicated to the world.

Bat what have we? The Bible is put into a special form, but one having little in common with the forms we have mentioned. It bears a very distinct character. Written by different men, and at different times, and under different circumstances, one principle animates it throughout. It is historical. So far as it could be, it is historical; far beyond what it would have been if left to human will, perhaps far beyond what men would have thought possible, having regard to its character and object as a revelation. It is even more history than many think who possess it, and are familiar with its contents.

About three-fifths of the Bible---speaking of quantity of matter, not of number of books—consist of history properly so called, of the record of facts that actually took place. But this is a very inadequate representation of the case. History enters largely into other portions. The prophetical books contain many records of facts; and what is prophecy itself but history ? what signifies it, in relation to this matter, whether a thing is stated before it happens, or after it has happened? When inspired men describe the future fortunes of individuals, or nations, or the Church, they are essentially historians of things to come. Take again the Psalms, Lamentations, Solomon's Song, and Ecclesiastes, and are they not made up, to a great extent, of either external events or internal experiences ? If the heart is attered, if the secret feelings are breathed forth in sighs and songs,

if penitence bewails sin and now gratitude gives thanks for mercy; if the various processes of the soul in depression and triumph, danger and deliverance, mourning because of guilt and rejoicing because of pardon, are disclosed—is not that history, precious history, the history of spirit and God's dealings with spirit ? And if you go to the most doctrinal or practical portions of the Bible, where you might least expect to find history, the Epistles, in which religious truth is revealed with greatest directness and formality, you will find in them many statements of fact, connected with the writers, and the persons or Churches written to. And, still further, you will find that the mind and will of God are brought out to suit the occasion; the truth and the law are given because required, and as required, by particular circumstances. The writing is addressed to the solution of existing difficulties, the exposure of prevailing errors, the settlement of disputes that are disturbing Christian peace, and the rebuke of faults that are dishonouring Christian character. There is a peculiar adaptation in the letters of the Apostles to the cases before them, and, whether the strangers scattered


abroad, or the Judaizing Galatians, or the polemical Romans, or the divided and worldly Corinthians, are addressed, we have those views of the Gospel and of the Church, which they respectively required. It is easy to see, therefore, how almost entirely the Bible is historical; how history, in one shape or other, the history of God or man, external or internal history, retrospective or prospective history, individual or national history, enters into it, or moulds and colours it throughout.

But if the Bible is history, it is not mere history; not simply a record of events that have taken place, and of actions that have been done, but of God in history. It “ teaches by the hand of God.” While it narrates circumstances and describes characters, it reveals truth. It is a revelation, and especially a revelation of God, and still more especially of His salvation. It is designed to make known and prove His gracious dispositions and purposes respecting the guilty and sinful, to disclose the possibility and the method of forgiveness and holiness, to charge sin home to the conscience and put righteousness into the heart. It seeks this by bringing forth truth, and God's truth; truth as God's counsel, God's law, God's promise, God's work. His holy nature and pure precepts, the riches of His grace, His government and providence, and His eternal recompenses, these are the themes on which the Bible is intended to give us light. But these are treated mainly not by way of statement and description, but as history, the history of Divine dispensations; the history of men, as moral and religious beings, in their inner and outer life; the history of Christian Churches, and, above all, the history of the works and teaching, the sufferings and death of the Son of God. In one word, the Bible is the history of God in men's hearts, men's affairs, men's lives. It is the biography of God, in relation to the conditions and experiences of the sinful and the holy, in relation to their duties and trials, their sufferings and joys, their hopes and fears, their present states and ways, and their eternal destinies.

Why is this ? For what reason has God given to His book an historical character ? No doubt because it is the best. And it is the best because it is the most popular. History in all its shapes has, and always has had a great charm for the human mind. And it has never had a greater than now. Our own times have displayed, perhaps more than any times, the fondness of men for this kind of literature. There has been a wonderful development of it of late years. The most popular works are historical. The greatest authors are historians. We have the highest genius and the profoundest learning put into this shape. The annals of nations, the memoirs of individuals, abound on every hand. Not satisfied with recording facts, we invent them. All sorts of fictions appeal to the imagination, many outraging all the probabilities of history, and some containing more truth, deeper and better truth than mere chronicles of events and records of actions. The novel and romance attest the demand for fact while soaring into regions beyond it. Opinions of every kind, and on every subject, are presented through the medium of history, real or imaginary. The advocates of every favourite view and wished-for change have recourse to this means of attracting attention and producing faith. No class is too clever, too refined to employ the tale as a vehicle of instruction and of argument. The religious tale, the ecclesiastical tale, the political tale, the philanthropical tale, are evermore giving expression to the creeds and theories of different sections of the community. Men of all ages and countries receive a literary resurrection, and appear as representatives of principles. Men live in books who never lived anywhere else, or another and a greater life. The stories of men long since dead are written over and over again. Events and characters are revived and revised. Many who received their acquittal or condemnation generations and centuries ago, are called back for another trial, in not a few instances with a reversal of their sentences. Old verdicts have to be re-justified, and new verdicts have to be delivered. And every fact about the famous is shown afresh in the lights of more recent knowledge and more philosophical criticism ; and made to bear on existing circumstances and requirements. And all this is done because it is liked, because it meets the craving of the times, the tastes and desires of living men. The supply is created by the demand. All classes that read at all, read biographies and histories: the youngest say, “Give us a story-book !” and those too old to be pleased with anything else, are pleased with a narrative. All feel that there is something in fact, in what has been, or might have been, that is attractive to the thought and impressive to the feelings. That this should be so, and more so now than ever, and that, to all appearance it should be more so in time to come than it is even now; that as men advance in knowledge and general culture of their faculties, they should become not less fond but more fond of history; that as books abound, this kind of books should abound more than all-is a strong testimony to the natural want of this species of mental aliment, and a striking illustration of the wisdom and goodness of God in making His book to so great an extent a book of history.

The reason of this charm of history is not far to seek. Truth is better revealed in this form than in any other. We get a clearer, fuller conception of it thus. When we think of moral qualities, it is as the attributes of persons. We can form no idea at all of truth, and justice, and love, as mere abstractions. And when they are exhibited in actual exercise they are plainer and more palpable than in the most correct and most elaborate definitions or descriptions. History gives a body to truth. It is a stereoscopic view. It does more, it clothes it with flesh. It is not painting, nor sculpture, but drama. It satisfies the natural feeling which seeks for living representations and embodiments of things; which in part leads children to dress fictitious men and women, and mimic the engagements and intercourses of actual life, and which leads men but too often to crave the evil fascinations of the theatre. History puts truth into association with human sympathies. Man is of great account to man, of greater account than any race of beings. There is a bond, strong and tender, that binds us to our

« PreviousContinue »