« AnteriorContinuar »
It is very great consolation to know, that God has immediate access to our minds, and that if we spread our thoughts before him, in the spirit of humble dependance for his teaching and guidance, he can give a turn to our thoughts and our affections, which may be rendered a great blessing—a blessing which shall be felt when we shall be seen here no more. Then it is highly important for us—and I am not about to detain you by a long address, I think shortness should characterise all the services of the day—it is important for us that we still cherish the spirit of Christian love and unity. It seems to me, that, assembled together, as we are, as a united body, for such holy and important purposes, there is something peculiarly hallowed and sacred in the place and in the spirit. I look upon many this morning whom I personally know not, and I look upon some whom I have known and loved for many, many years ; and there is something in looking back upon life which is refreshing to the spirit, if, in this land of strife and turmoil, where the grand adversary of God and man is ever aiming to sow the seeds of discord and division, we can look back upon some of those hallowed associations where such a feeling of division has never been known. And this is one of the important features, I think, of what I may call our holy association, that we cherish towards each other the most cordial Christian affection. Let the potsherds of the earth strive with the potsherds of earth, but let there be no strife between the churches of God, unless it be a strife to provoke each other to love and to good works. And it strikes me, Christian brethren, that we shall not attend as we ought to the duties which are before us, unless we are the subjects of a large measure of compassion for souls. Oh, that that feeling may pervade all our minds which was so pre-eminent in the mind of our Lord Jesus Christ; when, looking abroad upon the multitudes who were scattered about as sheep not having a shepherd, he had compassion on them. He knew how to have compassion upon the ignorant, and upon them that are out of the way. And then, if we have a feeling of compassion, to this let the proof of zeal be added; for it is of no use to say, “Be ye warmed and be ye clothed,” it is of no use to utter vain lamentations over the moral misery and degradation of our countrymen, if we are not aiming, in our respective spheres of action, according to the talents which God may be pleased to impart unto us, to rescue them from this misery. And, O the pangs which take place in one's mind upon a review of past years, that there has been so little of this compassion and so little of this zeal! And then we will not forget-God forbid that we should—that it is God's blessing which alone can succeed any of our feeble efforts. May that blessing richly descend upon us all at this time, and in our respective localities, as long as we live, and may his smile be enjoyed by us through the long ages of eternity. I trust that we shall all go from this place imbued with those holy feelings which will prove a blessing to ourselves and a blessing to others.
The Rev. J. BLACKBURN said--Mr. Chairman, before the report is read, there are some preliminary matters which require the attention of the brethren. I submit without any speech a resolution to you what I have great pleasure in proposing, namely :
“ That the Wilts and East Somerset Congregational Union, and the Oxford and West Berks Association, be received with fraternal cordiality into the fellowship of this Union; and that the brethren delegated to represent in this asseinbly the Cougregational churches connected with the Surrey Mission, be cordially welcomed to the meeting, and invited to speak and vote as members in all its proceedings."
The Rev. T. Binney having seconded the resolution, it was put to the meeting, and carried unanimously.
The Rev. J. BLACKBURN said, he believed there were some other visitors present, who desired to take part in the proceedings.
The Rev. Dr. Reed—I beg to name as one, the Rev. Peter PARKER, M.D.,
American missionary at Canton, and I beg to move that he be received by this
The resolution was carried unanimously.
The Treasurer, BENJAMIN HANBURY, Esq., also gave in a statement of finance, both of which documents will be printed in the minutes of the assembly.
The Rev. A. Wells—I am under the necessity of informing the assembly that, since the report was prepared, it has been ascertained, by communication with Dr. Raffles, that the opening of his new place of worship must be postponed till a period very near that which has been appointed for our autumnal meeting. Upon the whole, therefore, though the discovery was made too late to admit of an alteration in the report, it has been thought that the wisest course, under these circumstances, would be to ask our Nottingham brethren to receive us in the autumn of the present year, and to postpone our visit to Liverpool till 1842. The Doctor begged me to mention the circumstance; it will be open to him to make any observations which he may be disposed to add to mine,
The Rev. Dr. RAFFLES then rose and said--I presume, Mr. Chairman, it is the duty of every man in this room this morning to do as he is bid by the competent anthorities. It is under that impression, Sir, that I rise, having been bidden to do so, to move the adoption of this report. I am so exceedingly reluctant to speak on occasions like the present, that if, with a clear conscience, I could have kept my seat, I assure you I would have done so, but my conscience would have accused me ever after, if I had failed to fulfil what is impresed upon me as a duty, in the midst of this assembly. I beg leave, therefore, to move, “That the report of the Committee, now read, be adopted and printed; and that this meeting considers the position and progress of the Union, as exhibited in that report, highly encouraging; and the meeting, firmly attached to the principle of union, and deeply impressed with the necessity in times so momentous as the present, of the combination of Congregational churches for mutual support"-I must be permitted to pause, even in reading the resolution put into my hands, at this point, so deeply am J impressed with the truth of the sentiments which are here inculcated. As secretary to one of the largest county unions perhaps in the kingdom, and having been connected with that union now nearly thirty years, I can say with truth, that the reports from the various stations, during no year in which I have been acquainted with its history, have presented so many melancholy and lamentable instances of illiberality. At this advanced period in the history of our country, when one would think that the principles of religious and civil liberty were so well, and so generally, understood and acknow. ledged, it is truly lamentable to receive the reports which have come to us from various parts of the county of Lancashire, of the efforts, the determined and almost desperate efforts, which have been made, in many instances, to crush our rising interests. I speak advisedly, positively to crush them. I feel convinced, that, but for the interposition of the Lancashire Union, they would have been crushed long ago, and nothing but that Union could have saved them. For aught I know, your general Union may be of importance in some instances, to save county unions, as county unions are of importance to save individual stations. Indeed, I am not quite sure, but we shall want your help even as a union in Lancashire. We began our meeting last year, Sir, with a debt of £500, and yet, in the face of that debt, we had the confidence and courage--I don't know what the world will say to our prudence to vote the various stations grants, amounting to nearly £2000, and if our income for the current year be only what it has been for the last few years, we shall thus accumulate, before the end of the year, a debt of £800, I just tell you our circumstances. I am very happy to find that the condition of your affiliated societies is exceedingly good. I am glad to see my friend Mr. Dunn with such a cheerful countenance, for he knows that there is a handsome balance in the bank. I was surprised to hear the amount which the Home Missionary Society has in the hands of the treasurer, and it is possible, we shall come, in forma pauperis, from Lancashire and ask for a slice of your loaf ; else the poor itinerants must starve. Our treasurer told us honestly, “Such is your condition, that I cannot continue to hold office unless you pass a unanimous resolution to this effeet, that there be a reduction, a proportionate reduction, in the grants made to our stations, according to the deficiency which shall appear in the last quarter of the year in the amount of the funds collected;" which is equivalent to saying, “If you do not raise £800 before the last quarter comes, then your itinerants will be mulct in one quarter's income, and you know that when these devoted men have worked for three-quarters of a year, as hard as men can work, they can never be expected to work the last quarter for nothing. Such is our condition ; you will pardon me, I am sure, for alluding to it. I was compelled at the very point in the resolution at which I had arrived, to state the circumstances of the case, which bear upon it—"And the extension of their principles as connected with the glorious Gospel of Christ in its purity, would encourage the Committee and all their friends of the Union, to redoubled efforts for promoting its efficiency.” It would be really amusing, Sir, if it were not that the importance of the subject prevents that which is mere amusement, in connexion with such a topic as this, but it really would be amusing to observe the various opinions which are entertained and expressed in different parts of the country about this Union of ours, at least in the north of England. There are some who really look upon it with very great suspicion. I assure you, they have serious apprehensions about it. I do think they are somewhat alarmed, lest the liberties of our churches, the rights of Independency, should, in some way, be compromised, or damaged, or injured, in your hands. Well, then, there are others, who think, “Oh, it is a very harmless thing, this Congregational Union. Good men from the country meet their friends in London ; they just shake hands, and ask each other how they do, and wish each other God speed, and then part. There is no harm in that." These are the extremes of opinion about this Union. I rejoice, Sir, that the principles of the Union, and the position of the Union, redeem it from either of these extremes ; as to the first extreme, that it is altogether ruinous of our principles. Why, if we are united for any thing, it is to maintain those very principles which we are supposed to be endangered. Is there a man in this room, who, if he saw those principles damaged or injured, would not take up his hat and say, Brethren, good morning to you, I have had enough of your Union?" Have we any power to keep him? It is perfect absurdity. We, in Lancashire, have heen engaged for thirty years in as large a union as any in the kingdom, and pray, Mr. Kelly, (turning to the Rev. John Kelly of Liverpool,) do you know of any instance in which the principles of religious liberty, or the rights of a church, have been damaged by our Union ? There has not been a solitary instance, you know full well; it is utterly impossible to cite one. And if our county unions work well, and even these alarmists admit that, I believe those who oppose the general Union, would be the last to object to the county ; but, I say, if the principle, carried out to the limit of a large county, has never done any damage, is the principle likely to do damage when carried out to the extent of a whole kingdom? Assuredly not. And then I rejoice in the present efficiency of this Union; I rejoice in the good which it is now assuredly doing, in the extent to which it is carrying out its operations, sustaining and promoting the cause of the Redeemer in various parts of this empire, and now connected with the Colonial Mission, and the Irish Evangelical Society in the sister kingdom, and with the Home Missionary Society. I rejoice to know, that these movements redeem it from the character of that which is trifling, that which is merely
inoffensive, that which cannot do any harm. It is a noble institution. I rejoice, from my heart, that God put it into the breasts of the brethren to form it. I rejoice to see the bonds which binds us together in this Union strengthening year by year. I rejoice to see its operations extending and accumulating, and the institution acquiring strength and vigour, and influence and power; and I rejoice in the assured anticipation—its principles justify the anticipation, for they are the principles of the New Testament, they are the principles of the word of God- I rejoice in the anticipation of the progress and still increasing usefulness of this institution generations after I am gathered to my fathers. Brethren, still unite, still combine. The enemy is one in his efforts to overthrow ; be you one in your efforts to sustain your brethren, in upholding the great cause to which you are consecrated, and commit this Union as a hallowed trust, a sacred property to your posterity, for ages yet to come. The motion is:
* That the report of the Committee now read be adopted and printed; and that this meeting considers the position and progress of the Union, as exhibited in that report, highly encouraging; and the meeting firmly attached to the principle of union, and deeply impressed with the necessity in times so momentous as the present, of the combination of Congregational churches for mutual support, and the extension of their principles as connected with the glorious Gospel of Christ in its purity, would encourage the Committee and all the friends of the Union, to redoubled efforts for promoting its efficiency."
John REMINGTON Mills, Esq., on rising to second the resolution, said- In the observations which I am about to make, I shall confine myself to the motion which has been put into my hands to second. There are two points in it which have deeply impressed my mind, and I will just advert to them for one moment. “The necessity in times so momentous as the present, of the combination of Congregational churches for mutual support." Sir, I think no one can look abroad and say these are not momentous times to the interests of vital godliness. It might be of very little consequence what forms of church order prevailed, if there were no danger that, in the ascendancy of one system, we should be giving up the real interests of Christianity. But it is impossible to see the awful extent to which evangelical religion in the Church of England is yielding to the progress of Puseyism, without seeing that upon the evangelical Dissenters of this country, Independents, Baptists, and Methodists, does the cause of Christ at this moment mainly depend; and my belief is, that if we were to relax in our efforts to sustain Christian principle, Christian truth, and Christian liberty, the condition of the very worst periods of our country would shortly be realised. The times, therefore, are exceedingly momentous. There is one other point to which I would call attention, as to the “necessity of combining for mutual support, and the extension of their principles as connected with the Gospel of Christ in its purity." I must say, that the circumstances of the times call upon me, and call you to consider, whether we are maintaining Congregational principles as strictly as we ought to do, those principles which we profess to deduce from the New Testament as most congenial to the spirit and example, not of the fourth and fifth, but of the first century. I would ask those reverend gentlemen who are present, and lay gentlemen also, whether there is not in some quarters a shrinking from the honest avowal of these principles, and whether the painful circumstances in which they are sometimes placed have not induced many of our Christian brethren to think that if they confine themselves to the preaching of the great principles of the Gospel, apart from the discipline of the churches, that will be sufficient ? Sir, I look upon these principles as means to an end. I think it is the duty of the church, not merely to aim at the conversion of the present generation, but to secure the prosperity of the church for the time to come; and I regard the Congregational order as the means of maintaining the church in its principles and in its purity. And therefore, while I do not think that it is desirable to leave the great doctrines of Christianity unimpressed upon the congregation, I do say, from a thorough conviction, that if means be not taken to enlighten young people, to enlighten the churches themselves on the great principles of Congregational faith, and order as well as faith, the churches themselves will languish, and parties will be induced to think that it is of little consequence, as we often hear it said, of little consequence what order of discipline be observed, if they only maintain the great principles of religion. Sir, let us never abandon vital piety as the great foundation of our churches ; but let us always feel that, in order to secure the propagation and continuance of that piety, we must maintain a Scriptural discipline. I venture, therefore, very respectfully to throw out these hints, because I think these are momentous times to the cause of religion, and to Congregational principles. Difficulties have been noticed in the report. Why, if one thing makes this union more important than another, it is that such difficulties may be settled without the jarring of public disputation. I think that it is the grand feature of this institution, that those differences which might lead to open rupture are, by Christian spirit, Christian wisdom, and Christian advice and co-operation melted down into cordial and sincere agreement. I trust that this will be the case with regard to Ireland, and that we shall live to see the time, when, on this side of the channel, as well as on the other, there will be but one object, and one cordial effort for the promotion of general piety. With these remarks, Sir, I beg to second the resolution.
The Rev. Dr. RAFFLES said-Before the resolution is put, I beg to say a few words with reference to what fell from Mr. Wells. Delays have taken place in the building of the chapel, which will prevent it from being opened before August; and it was thought by many that, as the opening of the chapel would bring a large concourse of persons from a distance, many of our friends might not find it convenient to attend twice, when the first occasion was so close upon the other. Upon the whole, therefore, it did appear best, as the Nottingham friends were prepared to give you a hearty welcome in the coming autumn, that they should have the gratification this year, and the pleasure be reserved for us next year. In the name, therefore, of my friend Mr. Kelly, in the name of other pastors of churches in Liverpool, and in the name of the churches themselves, I give you a most cordial and hearty invitation for the autumnal meeting of 1842. The resolution was then put and carried.
The Rev. Thomas MILNER, M.A., of Northampton, then read the annual circular letter, which he, and a committee in Northamptonshire, had prepared, on the choice of Deacons.
The Rev. Dr. BURDER, of Hackney, then said I have received across the table the resolution which I hold in my hand, with a request that I would move it. In many cases one would almost shrink from moving a resolution of this nature, because compelled to express an opinion without having had the previous advantage of hearing the opinions of others. On the present occasion, however, I am sure the judgment may be as prompt as the expression if it should be short.
“ That the letter on the choice of deacons, now read, has been heard by this assembly with much satisfaction, and is cordially adopted to be printed for distribution, under the revision of the committee, in concert with the respected writers of the tract, agreeably to the suggestions that have now heen offered in the meeting, as embodying counsels likely to be of great use in an affair nearly affecting the peace and prosperity of the churches and the assembly presents its best acknowledgments to their respected brethren, the Rev. Messrs. Milner, Griffith, and Toller, by whom this valuable document has been prepared.”
I think I may say, that I am not aware that any statement contained in that letter is unscriptural, that any representation is unguarded, or that any expression is inac