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Bearing these thoughts in mind, we come to the conclusion, after much anxious thought on the subject, that in order to successful operation the scheme must be characterised by two principles in gathering the fund, viz., universality and regularity; and also two in the distribution of it, viz., universality and uniformity.
Looking first at the efforts requisite to raise the desired fund, we say it must be universal-raised by the united contributions of the entire membership of the body. A certain minimum contribution from each member of each Church having been fixed and agreed on, the said member should be expected, by the mere fact of membership, to contribute to the support of the Gospel ministry—the preaching of the everlasting Gospel—at least that sum per day. Here comes in the principle of regularity ; day by day, day after day, continuously. But if any are so poor as to be absolutely indigent, or so young that they have no ownership of money or means of earning it, they should still be expected to take their share, by collecting it from neighbours or friends better endowed, so that the law of universality and of regularity may not, in any case, be broken.
Now we are possessed with a deep and ever strengthening conviction that if religion be not worth, to any man, woman, or child, who professes it, a farthing n-day, it is worth nothing ; his religion is worthless! On the contrary, if a farthing per day, at least, and as much more as can be properly and honestly afforded, were laid by for aiding the proclamation of the Gospel, with the offering up of a daily prayer that Christ's kingdom may come, and the ministry of the Word be made successful, the immovable basis would be laid of a scheme which would lift the whole body of Independency out of poverty and humiliation.
We take no account here of the gifts of the wealthy; the legacies of the dying ; or even of the liberality of the congregation, as distinct from the membership. We base our calculations upon the gifts of the enrolled members ; and affirm that the regular, stated, unceasing contribution of the smallest coin of the realm per member daily, would form an ample fund from which to administer help and augmentation to the extent needed. Our invariable plan (a mistake common, also, to other religious bodies), has been, when money is wanted, to seek up guinea subscriptions; but guinea subscribers are not very plentiful in our borders, and where they are found, the same few are invariably applied to on all occasions, and exhaustion or weariness not unnaturally ensues. We would say, Reverse the method : without refusing the sovereigns, look up the mites; and, always holding fast the two grand elements of power-regularity and universality-success is sure.
Will not such a plan diminish existing funds, and impede the working of existing institutions? We say boldly, not in the least. This fund would spring up, we believe, not only as a pure addition to all that is now customary in our Churches; but as a stimulant to all other giving. There are numbers amongst us that never contribute, who would now begin. His lips
Those who are already liberal, would not feel the daily gift of so small a, sum the slightest burden. Moreover the duty of properly sustaining the ministers of truth is one, which, at present, the pastor never refers to in his pulpit discourses. A man of delicate sensibility would suffer any amount of privation rather than exhort and persuade the Church to which he. ministers to give him a more adequate support. The labourer and the artizan may be receiving thirty or fifty per cent. more wages than was usual when his ministry began a quarter-of-a-century ago; the draper's assistant and the domestic servant, in many instances, obtain fully double the amount customary at that period; every clerk and every employé in the district has obtained a yet higher rate of increase ; whilst he, good man, with no one to speak on his behalf, receives uncomplainingly the same or even a diminished remuneration from year's end to year's end. are sealed in silence; and no one opens his mouth for the dumb-ton behalf of such as labour in the work of the ministry. You may sometimes hear the exclamation, half-contemptuous, half-pitying (the pity harder to bear than the contempt): “We wonder, poor things, how they do manage so well upon their limited means !” Yet how few push the inquiry far: enough to ascertain that this “doing" and this “managing" is by dint of a life of stern self-abnegation, in which one, who has all the sensibility of high culture, deprives himself, and those dearer than self, for long years together, of all but the barest necessaries. Privation this-such as is , praetised by no other class in the community, and which too often tells painfully upon the man's frame and vigour, his courage and his manhood ; : and, as life ebbs away, he sometimes, confesses to himself, wonderingly, as scarcely knowing the cause : I have lived as if only half-alive!
Once, however, institute a central fund for angmentation of pastors' incomes, and you immediately unseal the lips of a thousand advocates, who will plead fearlessly and faithfully on behalf of their brethren; and whilst shedding new light on the blessedness of aiding the high service of the Master, in falfilment of His great command, “Go, preach the Gospel,” will so instruct, so educate the latent liberality of our people, that, bursting forth afresh, it shall gladden every existing institution amongst us, whether for local or foreign objects. The Augmentation Fund, properly managed, will enhance, not diminish, the sum of present efforts.
A further objection is raised in this shape. Will it not prove very troublesome? To be always gathering in these small contributions will surely be excessively irksome and annoying; besides, how can it be done? We reply, no great results can be attained without trouble; moreover, others accomplish it, and live by it. Look, for instance, at the Methodists. Unhappily, that very allusion will furnish, with some, a further ground of objection. When we have shown that augmentation does not bring in Presbyterianism; and next, have removed scruples about its lessening current funds—then we shall be charged with a sort of furtive Methodism : You will make Methodists of us.” If that means that we are in danger
of changing our received doctrines—we say, No; or that we are about to alter our method of Church government, and set up Congress—we say, Not at all. But if it simply mean that we should be methodical in all our arrangements; if it mean that we should methodically and diligently turn every gift to account, and cultivate the obscurest corners of the field ; if it mean that we should adopt the motto and the practice : “ All at it, and always at it”—we not only take up the reproach, but count it praise. When others have cut down the jungle and opened a good path to some fertile region, he is guilty of unwisdom who refuses to walk therein, because the pioneers appeared to be of another clan.
Without advocating any specific plan in the present paper, we have such ample confidence in the sagacity and business tact discoverable amid the thousands of our Israel, as to feel certain that all practical difficulties would give way, and the best method be ascertained in the course of the first twelvemonths. Most givers would probably prefer a box, into which they might, morning by morning, or evening by evening, cast their daily contribution at the hour of private prayer. And as to the gathering in of the universal daily gift, at stated intervals, various plans will suggest themselves to the ingenuity of the thoughtful. One thing, only, it seems important here to state, that the fund raised in each Church should be kept strictly separate from all other collections, and entrusted to officers popularly chosen, and intent upon this one thing; keeping steadily in view the principles of universality and regularity; no one omitted or overlooked ; no' day without its votive offering ; no young disciple admitted to the fellowship without a faithful pointing out of the duty expected of him, and a distinct enforcement of obligation; and the minister of God's truth stirring up, on fit'occasions, the zeal of all. Thus will obstacles be overcome.
Before addressing ourselves to the topic of distribution, let us just estimate the capabilities of the scheme. What sum might it be expected to realise ?
The “ Year Book” supplies no numerical statement of the total membership of Congregational Churches. According to the accounts rendered in the Baptist Manual,” it appears that they number about 175,000 members in England and Wales. We shall probably not exaggerate our numbers if we take 250,000 as the basis of our calculations—in all likelihood they exceed 300,000. Let us assume the lower figure. One farthing each per day—even supposing that no one of us gave more—one farthing per day from each of our members, carried on throughout the year, would present the Treasurer of the Augmentation Fund with the noble aggregate of upwards of ninety-five thousand pounds.
Look at the matter in another aspect-in order to form a fair judgment of its practicability, as far as the resources of our members are concerned. Using round numbers, say, that one-half of the members restricted themselves to the mere farthing a-day; that one-fourth of them gave a halfpenny a day; one-tenth of them, one penny a-day—according to the following scale--the results of universality and regularity will excite surprise. Let us place them thus :Say, 50 per cent. of our members give d. per day......... 247,500 25
Here is a grand total! Without reckoning anything given by the congregations; leaving out of account all the wealth and princely liberality outside our membership, here is a fund which would allow £120,000 for augmenting ministers' incomes--would place in the hands of the Directors of our Foreign Missions £150,000; would afford a gift of £20,000 for Home Missions ; £20,000 for the Continent—just now so imperatively called for; £20,000 for Colonial work; £10,000 for a Superannuation Fund—not too large in the estimation of vise men; and still leave a surplus of upwards of £10,000 for special cases-new interests, College bursaries, &c., &c.!
Returning from this bright vision to the farthing per member per dayis it an incredible or impracticable gift from our people? Granted, that some are wretchedly poor--where do we find farthings thought less of, more uselessly expended, nay, more recklessly squandered than amongst the poor? Granted, that some are sluggish, indifferent, unwilling; they are the very people who bring dishonour upon our name, and infest the Church with grumblers and fault-finders. These will either become wiser, and improve; or grow weary of applications for the gift, and withdraw—& most desirable consummation. But, who that loves the Lord Jesus Christ with heart-love, could not commence and continue the habit of giving some small sum daily to the service of his Saviour, for the spread of truth and righteousness, by systematic frugality, by mere care to avoid waste. Of course, there will be difficulty; naturally, there will be some disappointment; and some time may elapse before it becomes universal.
Supposing that the Augmentation Fund for the year has been gathered and sent to the treasurer by a stipulated day: On what principle shall the DISTRIBUTION be made ? Who shall be the recipients? And what rule shall regulate its apportionment?
In seeking a practical rule, the most natural thing is to ascertain the amount received from the Church, then fix a definite sum, below which all shall obtain assistance, and beyond which no augmentation shall be given. Say £150 a-year (the sum suggested, in a recent discussion, in another
Denomination), were received from the Church, the minister is supposed to be placed beyond the need of this augmentation ; but that all falling short of that sum, should be eligible to share in the apportionment of aid. Is there any propriety in such a rule ? Not the least; for many a pastor with £150 a-year is absolutely poorer, his resources are actually more circumscribed, and his inevitable anxieties greater than those of another, we do not say with £140, but with £70. The one may live in a town where the rental is 'high, local taxation exceedingly oppressive, price of provisions greatly in advance, and all outward claims more urgent.
The other may live in a village, amongst plain people, where appearances are little considered, with a comfortable house and good garden for a sum less than his town brother pays for rates. With few callers and no “society”—if he has not more than heart can wish, he knows scarcely a want or á care. are strongly inclined to believe that ministers, who feel most burdened with anxieties in these days of luxury, will be found precisely in the class that reach or just overstep £150 a year. So little can mere monetary assessment fairly express the need of augmentation.
Others would leave the distribution to a committee in the District Association. This would lead to nothing but misery and recrimination. Intentions may be the best and the most honest, but the administrator and recipient are too closely associated for perfect impartiality; favour, or prejudice--subservience or undue independence would certainly warp the judgment.
A favourite scheme with many is to attach any new resources to some existing endowment'; and that the trustees should be invested with full powers to administer aid at their discretion. We know many of our brethren, most worthy men, who deeply need aid, whose wholé career has been a battle with penúry, who could never be induced to apply by petition to such trustees with testimonials of standing, and the details of necessity. Anxiety and want have long been their attendants, but they still hope to go to Heaven without once having sullied their manhood by soliciting charity. Seeing then that insuperable practical difficulties lie in the way of determining the scale of distribution by the amount of present salary; or of apportioning it out through Committees of Association, or by way of testimonials and requests addressed to a Board of Trustees-after much consideration we feel convinced that the only valid scheme must make the distribution universal and the dividend equal. In other words, that all ministers in town and country, enrolled on the list of accredited Congregational ministers, should be presented with one uniform gift; the rich shall not receive less and the poor not receive more than the equal share in the fund. The amount of the gist in augmentation will be ascertained by dividing the amount of the Augmentation Fund by the number of ministers on the rollon our calculation, rather more than £40 each.
Two objections will be raised to this plan. In the first place, it is said, you will give to many who really do not need it; either by the numbers of