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MINUTES

Of the Ministers' Conference, held at Hemihut, May 25th, 1858.

(the Ministers' Conference annually held at Herrnhut, under the presidency of a Bishop of our Church, is generally attended by from sixty to eighty ministers and candidates for the ministry, of the Lutheran and Reformed communions. Subjects connected with their ministerial and pastoral duties are discussed, and commuications read from corresponding members in almost every part of Europe. It has long been a means of encouragement, especially to pastors in isolated situations, and has helped in no small measure, to keep alive the pure flame of evangelical truth in many a district. Next year, it will complete its centenary, on which occasion a sketch of ita rise and progress will be given. We regret to notice the absence, for the last two years, of the interesting correspondence from the Tyrol and other parts of the Austrian empire.)

First Session, From 10 To 12 A. M.

After singing and prayer, br. Curie, the president, in a short introductory discourse, remarked, that notwithstanding the many changes which had passed over the Church of Christ since the first meeting of the little band of ministers at this Conference, its formation had remained immoveably the same, according to the text for the day, "Ye are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner-stone, in whom all the building fitly framed together, groweth unto a holy temple in the Lord." (Eph. ii. 20, 21.) Imperfect as this building still was, there were many cheering promises which directed our eyes onward to its latter-day glory; and our labors with all their imperfections, would, if faithful and earnest, co-operate in bringing round that blessed consummation. Even in the darkest period of the church's history, the Lord had manifested his power, and wrought wonders beyond all human expectation. So it had been in the times of Luther. And again in our own age, we might say that far more had been done in the last half century than any one could have predicted. The word of God had made rapid progress. At the very time when it was assailed on all sides, and its authority degraded to a level with that of human writings, it had, by the blessing of God on the exertions of the British Bible Society and its auxiliaries, been distributed over almost all the world, and published in nearly every language under heaven. The Gospel, after long remaining stationary in the nations of Christendom, had now its missionaries among the remotest heathen nations. And, last of all, the awakening conviction of the deplorable spiritual ignorance of the masses in Christendom itself, had given birth to the Home Mission. These considerations should lead us to thank God and to take courage.

After this address, the Conference called to mind the five brethren who had been present the preceding year, but were now at rest with the Lord. Of these pastor Kloss, of Burkersdorf, who had attended its meetings for fifty years, had commissioned Pastor Bourquin, of Hennersdorf, to convey to the Conference his farewell salutation and good wishes.

The programme of subjects for consideration, previously drawn up and circulated by the Directing Board, at Berthelsdorf, is as follows :—

1. How can we best confirm our charge in the faith of the Gospel? a. By constant reference to the Scriptures. (John v. 39. 1 Cor.

xv. 1—4.)

h. By reference to the experience which we may make of Christ's redemption, if, under conviction of sin, we turn to him by faith; (John vii. 12—17. Rom. x. 6—8; comp. Deut. xxx. 11—14;) or which we have actually made. (John iv. 42, ix. 25, 35—99, xx. 28.)

2. The Bible declares, and experience confirms it, that the conversion of the heart is not the work of man. (Matt. xv. 17. Phil. ii. 13.) How are we to endeavor to further God's work in the hearts of our people?

a. By the full and faithful proclamation of the Gospel. (Bom. x. 14—17. Acts xx. 18—20.

b. By unwearied perseverance in the care of souls. {2 Tim. iv. 2. Tit. ii. 12.

c. By prayer for the Divine blessing. (Phil. i. 3, 4. 1 Thess.

i. 2, 3.)

3. What encourages us to hope that our labor will not be in vain?

The promise of the power of the Divine word; (Isa. lv. 10, 11. Jer. xxiii. 29. Heb. iv. 12, 13 ;) and of the work of God's Spirit in the heart. (Phil. i. 6. Joh* xvi. 8—11.)

4. What course is to be recommended for the instruction of youth?

a. Children cannot be too early made acquainted with our Savior and what he has done for us. (Luke xviii. 16. 2 Tim. iii. 15. Eph. vi. 4.)

6. A religious spirit is most readily excited by narrations from the Gospels or Old Testament history. This forms the best foundation for further religious instruction.

c. Committing hymns to memory is also a useful practice. (Col. iii. 16.)

d. In communicating religious instruction and specially in preparing candidates for confirmation, attention should be directed not merely to the increase of knowledge, but to producing a lively impression of divine truth in the heart. The children must feel the paternal heart of the pastor. What comes from the heart, goes to the heart.

e. The minister's joining in prayer with the children is calculated to make a good impression. He must also point out to them the difference between praying by rote and praying from the heart, and lead them to keep up an intercourse of prayer with Jesus.

I. In considering the first question, notice was taken of the diversities of spiritual condition amongst our charge. There are in many congregations believing souls who are members of the body of Christ. It would, however, be wrong to suppose that such need no further confirmation in the truth. Others have been awakened from the sleep of sin, and have begun to taste something of the powers of the world to come; but they cannot give satisfactory grounds for their faith. Others have a knowledge of the truth, but have not yet come to that living faith which produces a sure hope of everlasting life. Many of this last named class are exercised with doubts, partly suggested by others, and partly by their own hearts.

How, then, is the pastor to deal with these different characters? When those who are in earnest for their soul's salvation, and have already experienced something of the power of Christ's atoning blood, are assailed by doubts, they should be regarded as temptations, and the simplest and most efficacious means of getting rid of them is prayer. But in the case of doubts supposed to spring from reason, such as those relating to the miracles mentioned in Scripture, it will be well to show that these doubts have their origin not so much in the intellect as in the heart, which seeks for reasons to entrench itself in unbelief and so turn aside the convictions wrought by God's Spirit. Such persons should be reminded of our Savior's words, "My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself." (John vii. 16,17.)

But in general it was acknowledged to be the duty of eve*y minister of the word to direct his people to the Scriptures, both publicly and in private. The sermon ought not to be merely from a Scripture text, with occasional quotations, but an exposition of Scripture, founded upon Scripture, and leading back to it again,— and not to detached truths only, declared in individual texts, but to the whole truth It should point to the whole wonderful connection of the Holy Scriptures of both the Old and New Testament, not frittering the body of truth into isolated fragments, but building up from the individual statements a complete knowledge of the truth in its entirety. It is therefore of great importance to encourage our people to read through the whole Bible in course. For edifying as it is to read, and that repeatedly, detached portions of Scripture, it peculiarly tends to the strengthening of our faith and the furtherance of our knowledge of saving truth, to have the whole connection of the sacred word revolving before our minds. And this will at the same time supply the most effectual weapons against those perversions of Scripture doctrine by which so many are led astray.

The whole discussion powerfully reminded the Conference of our Savior's words: "Without me ye can do nothing." They felt that all their labors would avail nothing, unless the Holy Spirit convert the heart, and confirm it in the faith. This must not, however, make us slothful in the Lord's service; on the contrary, his condescending to make use of men as his instruments ought to encourage us to faithfulness in our office. Because we are God's servants, we ought to listen the more attentively to what his Spirit says to us, and suffer neither the threats of man, nor the seductions of ease, to turn us aside from following it; and then we may confidently believe that he will not suffer his word to return to him void. Did we but depend more fully on the Spirit's working with the word, our ministry would doubtless be attended with more blessing.

II. This led to the discussion of the second question: "How are we to endeavor to further God's work in the hearts of our people?"

The Conference heartily joined in the first answer given in the programme: "By the full and faithful proclamation of the Gospel." To this belongs also the serious side of the Gospel,—the declaration of God's wrath against sin, and the preaching of repentance. These two points, we regret to say, are more or less neglected in various quarters at the present day. There is much said about the love of Jesus Christ to sinners, and the faithfulness with which he follows the lost sheep, and the happiness of his kingdom, in order to induce sinners to enter in; but the holy purpose of this love, and the impossibility of forgiveness of sin and eternal salvation without a turning of the heart to God, are not sufficiently insisted on. We should attend more to the example set us by the preachers of the age of the Reformation, on whose labors the Lord laid

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