Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

power to the established modes in which Christianity is act ing? Does it bring about any peculiar good results lying beyond the sphere of any other active ministry?-In general, does it so benefit the souls of men and so bless the community, that all good citizens should in all ways possible cheer and help it on?

There can be no doubt these points are by many very ill understood. Among those who have examined them, there does not seem to exist perfect uniformity of opinion. Very many are indifferent to the whole matter.

What then is wanted? The answer is plain-Clear statements of facts. These will enlighten ignorance, produce harmony, and wake up those who still slumber and sleep. In relation to the subject of which I am to speak I have no personal interest, -no peculiar zeal. Yet present circumstances give me an opportunity to investigate it freely and calmly. I hope therefore in some mea. sure to supply what I have already said is wanted-clear statements of facts. The admirable Reports of this Ministry, which have been from time to time presented, certainly contain these. Yet they may not reach many minds that can be reached by familiar and regular communications in a religious paper. And statements so important are needed in greater number where there is such an abundance from which to select.

I therefore propose publishing a series of brief articles under the title of the present communication.-It is not designed to make out a systematic treatise on this subject, but for the most part to present cases of interest and significance, as successively they occur, and as they bear on points on which it may be especially needful light should be shed.

UPON WHOM DOES THE MINISTRY AT LARGE

OPERATE? AND HOW ?

In answering these questions as well as any others that may arise, I shall keep as much as possible within the sphere of my own observation. Let me, then, say plainly at the outset, that my remarks will apply chiefly, it may be often only to the northern and middle sections of the city.

There is reason to think some persons greatly in error as to the just general reply to the questions above proposed. I shall, therefore, first make some general statements required by truth.

I say, then, its direct operation is almost exclusively upon the Poor. Not a congregation is assembled in which, at the least, nine out of ten are not from the Poor. But it has a most important indirect operation upon the Rich. I mention here a single mode of this influence. From other societies come Teachers who give generous aid in the Sunday school. They are indeed a part of the ministry itself. And through them, as moral conductors, ever moves to and fro an electric sympathy which does much to preserve all classes in equilibrium.

How does this ministry operate upon the Rich and the Poor? Most beneficially upon both. The various ways in which this influence is exerted, it will be my chief object in succeeding articles to describe. For the purpose already mentioned I will only say here that the great general modes of influence are, as in the established ministry, visiting and preaching, -and, as in the established ministry, both are deemed of great importance. It has, however, been thought and said, visiting is the great and almost only needful thing. I believe arguments and statistics will show the equal importance of the Chapel,-the equal necessity that 'the Poor have the Gospel preached to them.'

Upon whom does this ministry operate? and how? I have answered the questions in a general way. I shall now proceed to particulars. The great influence is of course exerted upon the Poor. I shall therefore speak, in the first place, of them. Let us consider how they are influenced by the visits of the ministry, -leaving the effect of the preaching to be discussed after this topic has been treated in its several branches.

There are among the Poor young persons who have been led astray. An aged infirm man and woman were lately sent to one

of the Ministers at large. Without friends, they knew not where else they could find sympathy for the heavy trial under which they were groaning. Though needy, a gloom of heart,-a grief of spirit was their greatest woe. Though other wants should press sorely as ever, to bave the darkness of earth touched with the brightness of heaven would be their greatest blessing. For their daughter,-their only daughter, deceived with the promise of marriage, had yielded to the selfish passion of one in higher rank, and now, without a husband, lay sick at home with a sick infant in her arms; the young mother at times spitting blood, - and the babe sucking illness from her breast. It was mournful to see in the pale, marred features, once evidently fine and noble, the emblem of a ruined mind. Yes, I speak literally. The wreck of beauty was not the only wreck the spoiler had left behind. The mind itself was diseased and distracted. In her wanderings the vague memory of such cruel treatment would rise in her mind, and in an agony of doubt as to her present condition, she would implore of her own mother assurances of her affection. And once, perhaps in anticipation of some fearful injury, sho at midnight cried out for the watch!'—who entered to witness only the ravings of a crazy woman. But,-blessed be God! whose goodness and grace may find an abode even in the boson of insanity, all the experiences of her poor alienated reason were not thus troublous. She,-yes,—doubt it not, -even she had been a religious person. And the importance of religion, the sacredness of duty, she still strove to impress on those around her. The realities of the sphere of spirits, as well as the objects of this waking world, mingled in her dreams. At times she seemed in her right mind. As there was every reason for supposing her insanity to arise from misfortune, and not from mental constitution, there was hope she might, if not fatally ill in body, be entirely restored.

Such was the case. What did it call for? What did the weeping father and mother and the sick daughter require? A thousand times more than physical comfort, a thousand times more than a world's wealth; they required moral influence, spiritual consolation. For their comfort, for their good, they more required it. And they have obtained what most they had need of.

The Christian Pastor has commenced and will continue his visits. It was no easy matter to find their abode. Poverty had driven them to a place which, though in the very midst of men, is hidden deep from human sight. Several dreary flights of stairs led him to the room. It did, indeed, present a scene of suffering, of despair. There was no furniture save a miserable bed, a table, and two chairs. The mother was walking the room with the poor child in her arms. On the bed lay the pale, distressed, helpless daughter. Soon, I trust, this scene will, in the most important respects, be changed. Though suffering continue, there will also, through God's help, be joy unspeakable, and despair will be changed into an immortal hope.

Let me present briefly one other case. A few days since we called on an infirm old lady. She welcomed us with signs of peculiar joy. To one acquainted with her past history they needed no explanation. When first visited by my friend, she had living with her a niece sixteen years of age. This niece was the main support of her life, and was all her heart could desire, kind, faithful, true.

Soon after, the next room was taken by a family in which lived two or three young girls. They observed their neighbors, saw that the niece was interesting and attractive in personal appearance, and formed an acquaintance with her. At once to her own aunt her countenance was changed. The beauty was fading away from her heart. In great distress, fearing a sad result, yet ignorant how she could herself prevent it,—the old lady adopted the only measure in which she saw hope, and sent for the Minister at large. He saw that the worst of all woe was impending. By the strong application of religious motives, he succeeded in rescuing the young person from her dreadful situation. Still more. Not only were shame and misery prevented. They were exchanged for glory and joy. The girl was placed in the Sunday school with a devoted teacher,-and became a regular worshipper at the Chapel. No one is now more interest

ed in the instructions she receives, and the services in which she joins.

Besides this, a good family was found. She has now lived in it a long time, and the lady she serves has become greatly interested in her. Alive to spiritual realities, useful and beloved at home,- who can measure her gain, her joy, her prospects opening into another world?

Many cases of this kind might be enumerated, but it is perhaps better to describe a few in their fullness and truth,--than to give a long, dry catalogue which must needs be without truth or spirit.

Those I have given may suffice to give some idea of the influence exerted upon this class of persons by the Ministry at large.

INFIDELITY AND UNBELIEF.

I shall next speak of the effects of this ministry upon persons sceptically inclined.— Infidelity is generally, perhaps, more a matter of feeling than conviction. And it is often a matter of feeling not against Christianity, but against the professors of Christianity. Very often an aversion to the great institutions of our Faith and to the spirit of those who sway them, passes under the comprehensive term, scepticism. This aversion may almost always be accounted for, and sometimes indeed partly justified. Christians speak of the infidelity of the heart. For how much of it will they have to render account! - Infidelity is sometimes, no doubt, born out of the deepest inward guilt and grossest outward crimes of which human nature is capable. Still, it is none the less true, that many deny the Faith on account of the unfavorable action upon them of our social-christian institutions and habits. This action excites in various ways unpleasant feelings, which being often revived, are at length associated with just enough of superficial argument to give them permanence and steady hold upon the mind. In such cases the way to remove the infidelity is evidently to

« ZurückWeiter »