« AnteriorContinuar »
affluence criminal, when Daniel and Joseph, Job and Abraham, the father of the faithful himself, were men of abundant wealth. It endangers its possessor; it is much more frequently abused than rightly employed; yet the Bible has not forbidden it. It was reserved for the Romanist here as elsewhere, to improve upon the oracles of God, by making poverty in itself meritorious, upon the same principle which canonizes ignorance as the mother of devotion. If our misguided brethren decry all learning in the Christian ministry, let them denounce and prohibit all wealth in the private members of the church. The same arguments which justify the merchant or the farmer in withholding from his pastor the means and the opportunity of literary culture, require him to close his warehouse, and neglect his broad acres, lest they prove, by the revenue they shall afford, snares to his soul.
Having thus disposed of the prejudices, the author enters upon the discussion of the main subject of the discourse :-" The advantages of literature, duly employed, to the Christian ministry.” He builds his argument upon the nature of the minister's duties. These are to ascertain the truth to diffuse it, and to defend it. For any one, and especially for all of these duties, learning and skill and the discipline of every intellectual faculty are evidently indispensable. For when the Christian pastor sits down to his Bible, to draw from it instructions for bis flock, he is to inquire, what has the spirit of God revealed in the passage before him? How else can he expect to know, but by examining it with exactness of attention, with disciplined judgment in the light which criticism and antiquities and history and science may throw upon it. After he has thus ascertained the truth, he has yet to exhibit it to the great congregation-a task equally difficult and momentous. For there are assembled all the diversities of intellectual and moral character; the unlettered peasant and the tasteful worldling, the merchant and the professional man, the docile youth who yesterday was born again, and the hoary Christian whose days are nearly ended, are all come up to listen to the teachings of the pulpit. 'What form of argument shall he adopt? What language? Whence shall he call up images to impress all this variety of mind? Vehement exhortation alone will not suffice. Spiritualizing interpretations, however ingenious, will be heard without effect. There must be thought, and that eloquent thought, uttered in strong and stirring expressions, or the occasion is lost, and the assembly retire;-the cultivated part, to call the sermon dull, and all to feel that they have been but little instructed or benefited. There must be the effort of disciplined faculties, of accurate and varied learning, or the pulpit will be comparatively powerless.
The argument connected with the third division of the minister's duties, to defend the truth, we extract from the discourse:“The Christian Church is assailed at opposite points, by the heretics that assume the name of Christianity to destroy it—and by the infidels who reject its very name with contempt or abhorrence. Is there no advantage gained over the one, in being able, by an
intimate knowledge of ccclesiastical history, to show what the origin of heresy has been, what its stealthy progress and its dreadful issue; and against the other, has not the success been great, of the men who, equipped from the armory of revelation, have yet come down into the fields of this world's science and literature, and foiling the sceptic upon his own ground and with his own weapons, have shown him in the structure of his own frame, in the geology of the earth that he inhabits, in the skill that has shaped its various orders of being, in the order and beauty and splendor of the heavens that shut him in with their curtains of light, in the traditions of earlier history and in the moral lessons of more recent history, in the analogies of science and revelation, in the coincidences of scriptural and of human annals, in prophecy and its wondrous fulfilment, and in the internal marks of disorder within his own bosom,-that man is the revolted subject of a God, mighty, wise, provident and holy—and that the God of the Bible is He?”
There are also peculiar circumstances in the character of our own age, which increase the demand for a liberal-minded and well-educated clergy.
“Popular education is advancing, and, although the infidel statesmen of our day look upon the education of a nation in science and art as being in itself a sufficient security for their happiness and virtue, the whole history of our race belies their hope. А partial knowledge of the facts in any phenomenon or science, is the surest basis of error, and certainly that knowledge is most partial which excludes all knowledge of moral facts; which, having told men of the wonders of creation, and having widely unrolled the volume of nature's glories, artfully draws the veil over the handwriting and superscription of nature's God; and which, having driven its disciples through the vast round of nature's miracles, from the habits of the insect, up to the revolution of starry worlds, ends the lesson without announcing to him that all these are but the out-courts of creation, that the boundless power which framed them, is linked to an ever-watchful holiness, that there is a Creator, who is withal the Judge of his creatures, and that all the splendid scenery of the universe beyond has no honor like that which this world derives from its having been the field of the great drama of redemption. To guard against the fearful consequences of an education thus systematically partial and incomplete in its lessons, and therefore erroneous in its results, the Christian ministry must be instructed, that it may instruct; armed, that it may repel; and clear-sighted, that it may detect the enemy." p. 21.
The last few pages of ihis discourse are devoted to the consideration of the necessily and mode of guarding against the abuses of theoloyical education. Here Mr. Williams urges, in the language of great faithfulness and affection, the duty of the churches and the ministers, -of the churches, to watch with prayerfulness and parental tenderness over the interests of all seminaries of sacred learning, to remember, with earnest supplication, in the assembly for public prayer,
in the closet, and in the devotions of the household, those who are preparing to go forth, and those who have already gone to preach the Gospel;—of the ministers, to carry onward and perfect their education, to cultivate all fraternal and Christian sympathies, to mingle with their labors for others an assiduous effort to promote their own salvation, to study the perfect character and breathe the amiable spirit of Jesus—to imitate him in his humility, in his acts of goodness, and in his various methods of reaching and reclaiming the sinful hearts of men. Our limits do not allow us to present extracts from this part of the sermon. We hope, however, it will be extensively read; for we think its views and its spirit well calculated to remove prejudices, and to correct erroneous opinions concerning ministerial education. Indeed, these seem already to be breaking away. It is becoming more generally believed that learning and religion were made to dwell together. And we delight to anticipate the time when through all the church of Christ, they shall go hand in hand, watching, like sister spirits, over the interests of Zion, and assisting each other in training the soul for its immortal career.
BAPTIST MISSIONARY SOCIETY OF MASSACHUSETTS.
The Thirly Third Anniversary of this Society was celebrated in the Federal St. Baptist meeting house, Boston, on Wednesday evening, May 27, when the Board of Trustees presented the following
REPORT. It pleases God to honor holy men, who are eminently devoted to his service, as the instruments of bringing into existence those important benevolent institutions, which he employs as the means of meliorating the condition of man, and diffusing the blessings of Christianity among the multitudes who are exposed to perish. All those great charitable associations and benevolent societies, that compose the mighty machine which Jehovah has put in operation, and which is destined, in his hand, to effect the moral renovation of the world, were devised by men who had learned “not to live unto themselves, but unto Him who died for them and rose again.” Such was the character of those venerated men, who were honored as the founders of the Baptist Missionary Society of Massachusetts, in the services of whose thirty-third Anniversary we evening engaged. Among them may be mentioned the names of Stillman, Baldwin, Smith, Gano, and others of kindred spirit, whose praise is in all the churches. Most of them “rest from their labors,” and have entered their peaceful and eternal home in the heavens. This is the oldest Instirution of the kind in the country, connected with our own denomination, having been organized May 26, 1802. The original members, though living in a country which God had most highly favored, knew that there was a great destitution of the bread of life, a great moral dearth in
many portions of it. To supply this destitution, and alleviate this dearth as far as possible, they formed the noble purpose of combining their influence and exertions in a Society, which has been the means of accomplishing an amount of good that can never be accurately known till eternity shall fully disclose the events of time. Since its formation more than 70,000 dollars have been expended, under the direction of its Trustees, in the support of preaching among the destitute. “ Through its instrumentality, hundreds of feeble churches have been revived and enlarged; other hundreds of churches have been gathered; and thousands of souls have been brought under the saving influence of the Gospel.” It was not restricted, except by its want of ability, from sending the word of life into any part of North America: its inissionaries have traversed various portions of it, and it inay be truly said, in the beautiful language of ancient prophecy, " The wilderness and the solitary place have been glad for them, and the desert has rejoiced and blossomed as the rose. For many years after its organization, no object in the land was dearer to the heart of Baptist Christians; and its Anniversaries were seasons of peculiar and engrossing interest. To enjoy these seasons the friends of Zion would coine to the Metropolis of the State, from various and often from distant regions; and, after mingling in its hallowed scenes, and becoming acquainted with the atfecting details contained in its Annual Reports, would return to their homes with chastened feelings, and a determination, by the blessing of Almighty God, to pray and labor more for the salvation of undying souls, and make greater sacrifices to send the Gospel of Christ, with its saving power, to the multitudes who must without it perish in their iniquities.
But for a few years past, the interest in this Society has been gradually diminishing among our Christian friends. This, however, will not probably be regarded as a subject of regret, when we consider the causes which have contributed to this result. Within this period, there have arisen a multiplicity of benevolent Societies, vastly important and interesting in their character and kindred in their object, which has very naturally and unavoidably diverted, to some extent, that almost exclusive attention which was once devoted to this Society. In consequence of this, the followers of Christ have been enabled to enlarge their operations, to ex end the machinery of ineans, and thus roll on the tide of Christian influence with greater rapidity and power, and hasten forward the accomplishinent of Jehovah's glorious designs in bringing back this revolted world to its allegiance to the Prince of Peace.
We ought to rejoice, therefore, that our churches have not been willing to contine their efforts and energies to one Society, however inportant may be its object; but that they have been ready cheerfully to sustain vther institutions, which are blessing thousands of thousands of our apostate race. The efficiency and extent of its operations have been materially lessened especially since the organization of the American Baptist Home Missionary Society; a Society to which this contributed to give birth. To
that important Society, it immediately relinquished a great portion of the field which it once attempted in some degree to cultivate. As you were informed in the last Annual Report, this Society has become auxiliary to that, which, though its offspring, is now regarded the parent Society.
Being a national institution, it has engaged the sympathies and awakened the energies of our denomination more extensively than any local Society could have done. And besides; the fact, that one of its primary objects is to aid in preserving the mighty West from the baneful influence of infidelity and Popery and saving its rapidly increasing millions from the " blackness of darkness forever, can hardly fail to make an impressive appeal to every feeling of patriotism and Christian philanthropy.
Another circumstance which has operated to lessen the influence and efficiency of this Society is the fact, that we have had in the State two distinct organizations for Home Missions, whose objects, especially within a few years past, have been substantially the same.
In the collection of funds, the Convention and this Society have to some extent unavoidably interfered with each other, and been a mutual source of embarrassment.
In view of these facts, and feeling the importance of simplifying and systematizing, as far as possible, our benevolent operations, the Trustees have, for a long time, regarded it as exceedingly desirable that some change should take place by which this object might be accomplished. During the year preceding the last Anniversary, it will be recollected that a union between the Board of the Convention and the Trustees was effected, so as to act in concert in the collection of funds. This arrangement, however, after a short experiment, was not found fully to answer the end for which it was entered into; and at the last Annual Meeting of this Society it was, by mutual consent, dissolved. At that time, a Committee was appointed to obtain a well qualified agent as soon as practicable, that this Society might be found an efficient coadjnor to the American Society. This Committee corresponded with several individuals on the subject, but were unable to secure the services of any suitable man.
Till the time of the Annual Meeting of the Convention, its Board labored under a similar embarrassment. This circumstance served to increase the conviction in the minds of the Trustees, as well as of others interested in the same object, that the time had arrived for some change to be effected. Accordingly, when the proposition was made by the State Convention, at its annual meeting in October last, to ierge this Society in that of the Convention by changing its name and transferring its funds, responsibilities, &c., to ihat body, the Trustees were willing to listen to such a proposal; and atter a mature and prayerful consideration of the subject, they unanimously decided that in their opinion it was expedient that the proposed amalgamation should take place, provided it could be consistently and safely done. Having obtained the necessary advice and made the appropriate arrangements, the