« PreviousContinue »
things very easily, they give little and they do less for the cause with which they are connected. It is to this class that I address myself in this short paper.
Allow me, dear brethren, to submit to you the following considerations. You class yourselves among believers in Christ, and take it for granted that you are so in reality. If I thought you were not, I would spare myself the trouble of addressing you. Now consider that Christ has called you by His grace not merely to save you, but that being saved you might serve Him. “Go work in my vineyard,” is in substance His command to every soul saved by His grace. “I have chosen you and ordained you that ye should go and bring forth fruit,” does not apply to the Apostles alone. “He died for all, that they who live should live not to themselves, but to Him that died for them and rose again.” Redeemed by His blood, it is expected that all your influence should be exerted on His side against worldliness and sin. This He demands of all believers without exception.
Then, the welfare of the church to which you belong requires that all its members do the work for which they are fitted. If the church be a body, its health and welfare in every respect, require that the head and the foot, the hand and the eye,—that each member discharge its proper functions. If it be “a city compactly built together,” every member must be found in his own place. If an army, then all its members must begird themselves and stand the brunt of the battle. But
every church has much to do besides promoting its own edification. It is an instrument intended by Christ for the evangelization of the world. In this respect how vast is the work before us ! Notwithstanding all that has been done, there is still a world lying in wickedness. Every church of Christ is surrounded by myriads of souls perishing in sin, and it is but little that any church could do to save the perishing multitudes, although all its members were doing their utmost. But how much less if half the members be at ease in Sion! if half the members only are at work, then only half the church's work can be done. Don't you think, brethren, that the church to which you belong might have been in a better state, had all its members been doing their proper work? If things do not prosper, how much of the blame must rest with you who scarcely put a hand to the work !
Then consider whether in standing aloof from the Lord's work you are not injuring yourselves. There is a present reward in work done for Christ and souls. Our Lord speaks of “a hundredfold in this present life," and those who are faithfully serving Him, understand His words. There is a luxury in doing good. Our very attempts to benefit others bring joy to our hearts. Brethren, you cannot know much of this joy, and not only so, but the mere fact of your indolence must raise doubts about your own salvation. Don't you think that you would be far happier Christians were your talents and your substance consecrated to
Christ? It surely stands to reason, and it is borne out by the experience of Christians in all ages, that the most faithful servant receives the largest reward. I can scarcely speak of the greater reward that comes hereafter ; but we all expect this. There is, however, one important question which all of us should deeply ponder—a reward is promisedThe Lord is to say,
“Well done thou good and faithful servant.” What have we done and done well to secure this gracious welcome ?
HISTORICAL SKETCHES OF OUR CHURCHES.
AUGUSTINE CHURCH, EDINBURGH.
BY W. LINDSAY ALEXANDER, D.D. This church was formed in the year 1802. It was an offshoot from that which had been gathered in the circus and subsequently in the tabernacle by Mr James Haldane and Mr John Aikman. The separation was wholly an amicable one, and Mr Aikman, who had been labouring for some years in conjunction with Mr Haldane, having, at his own expense, erected a place of worship in North College Street, the new congregation was received by him there, and he became their pastor. The free use of the building was given by him to the congregation, and at his death it became the property of the Church in perpetuity by his bequest; nor did he receive any remuneration for his services as pastor ; for, possessing independent means, he esteemed it, like the Apostle, a sufficient reward when he preached the gospel to make the gospel of Christ without charge. *
Mr Aikman was a man of no small ability, full of zeal and piety, generous and liberal, and earnestly devoted to the service of Christ; but his active and vigorous mind was lodged in a feeble body, and his frequent illnesses greatly hindered him in his work. It became necessary, in consequence of this, that a colleague should be associated with him in the pastorate ; and, accordingly, first Mr Cowie, afterwards pastor of the Congregational Church in Montrose, and after him Mr Cleghorn, formerly pastor of the church in Wick, was inducted to this office. This latter co-pastorate, which commenced in 1812, continued till Mr Aikman's death in 1834. Much good work was done during this period by both pastors; and the church, though not increased in numbers, was maintained in no small measure of vitality, and had within it much real though somewhat undeveloped power.
Mr Cleghorn being advanced in years, it became necessary that Mr Aikman's place should be supplied by one who might relieve him of the more onerous part of the duties of the pastorate, and the choice of the
From a discourse preached in Augustine Church, on the forenoon of the Sabbath after the Testimonial Meeting, which is reported in our pages.
Church having fallen on me, I accepted their call, and entered upon my work among them in the beginning of 1835, my first sermon as their pastor being delivered on the first day of that year. My ordination, however, did not take place till some time afterwards ; for having great misgivings as to my fitness for occupying such a sphere, I was anxious, before finally committing myself to it, to have some little trial both of it and of myself. At length I became co-pastor with Mr Cleghorn; but this connection soon came to a close, for in little more than twelve months after my ordination, Mr Cleghorn's health so broke down that he was rendered unfit for all public duty, and was obliged to confine himself to a very limited range of private and friendly service. He survived for several years, but never again appeared in the pulpit. His time, after his retirement, was chiefly spent in the study of the Bible, which he perused with great delight in the original languages. He was an excellent Hebrew scholar, an attainment not so common in his day among ministers as happily it is now; and as he had a wonderful memory, which was not much impaired by his illness, his favourite occupation was to commit to memory large portions of the Hebrew Scriptures, which he would repeat in the hearing of any one who he thought could in any degree appreciate their meaning. I have often listened with wonder as the good man rolled out passage after passage, or psalm after psalm, in the grand old tongue in which God spake to His servants the prophets, and in which holy men of old spake and wrote as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. Mr Cleghorn was called to his rest in 1843.
Mr Cleghorn's retirement left me sole pastor of the church. I shrank from.the responsibility ; but I had already so far reconciled myself to my position that I equally shrank from the thought of relinquishing it. In this perplexity I requested a meeting of the deacons and one or two others of the principal men in the church, and sought their advice in the matter. They unanimously urged me to remain at my post, and engaged to provide assistance to me for the pulpit,* and to relieve me as much as possible of pastoral duty. I thus became settled at the post, which up till now I have, through the good hand of God upon me, and the sympathy, kindness, and co-operation of the people of my charge, been enabled to occupy.
When I entered on my pastorate forty-one years ago, things in and about the church wore a very different aspect from what they wear
When I recall to remembrance the dark, dingy, comfortless place
* As there were then three public services on the Lord's Day, assistance for the pulpit was rendered necessary. My first assistant was Mr (latterly Dr) John Wardlaw, son of Dr Wardlaw of Glasgow, afterwards for many years an efficient 'missionary in India, and latterly President of the Mission College in connection with the London Missionary Society in the vicinity of the metropolis. He was succeeded by Mr Robert Massie, who laboured with me for a considerable time. Both these are now gone, after having done good service in the cause of Christ.
in which we were wont to meet, the small and scattered congregation that usually met my view from the pulpit, the obscurity of our position in the city, the smallness of our resources, and the general dulness and inactivity that had crept over the congregation, and contrast that with our present position, circumstances, resources, and action, I find it difficult to realise that the one state of things has arisen out of the other. The advance has indeed been great. In numbers and in resources the church has greatly increased, and what is of far greater importance, the zeal, the liberality, the activity of the members in the work of the Lord, have grown exceedingly.
I am well aware that statistics give no adequate indication of the real prosperity of a church. Still they have a certain value in this respect as outward and appreciable tokens of that spiritual progress which cannot be measured. I will therefore enter upon a few details indicative of the advance the church has made. In 1835 the number of members on the roll did not exceed 250; now that number is little short of 600. In 1835 there was no Sabbath-school or Bible-class connected with the church, though one or two of the members were engaged in Sabbathschool work on their own responsibility; now we have five Sabbath schools and five Bible-classes, conducted by members of the congregation and supported by the church. In 1835 there was no systematic effort made by the church to carry religious instruction and friendly Christian help to any destitute portion of our city population ; now we have an efficient Home Mission, with a missionary devoted to the work, and various co-operative agencies striving with him to ameliorate the condition, spiritually and temporally, of the ignorant and poor in a district of the city. In 1835 the sum collected by the congregation for all purposes did not reach £ 500 a year; last year upwards of £ 2000 were collected and expended by this congregation for the support of the gospel and other religious objects. The erection of this place of worship also, internally so commodious for us, and so much externally of an ornament to our city, has entailed upon the congregation an expenditure at which our predecessors would have stood aghast. And were any one accustomed only to the heavy and lifeless, though never discordant, psalmody of former days, to listen now to “ the service of song” as conducted in this place, he would feel himself as if transported to another sphere. The advance, indeed, has been great; let us gratefully acknowledge the goodness of God to us, for it is to Him alone who hath helped and blessed us, that all is due. By the grace of God we are what we are.
The Lord hath done great things for us, whereof we are glad. Blessed be His glorious name for ever !
When I entered on the pastorate forty-one years ago, there were few in the church so young as myself; the great majority of the members were my seniors, some very much my seniors. It was my felicity to find among these not a few who, not despising my youth, lent me all the
kindly help which their experience, attainments, and ability enabled them to render. They were men who knew how to encourage what was. hopeful, and to commend what was praiseworthy, while they faithfully pointed out wherein they saw aught deficient or wrong. Of those whose names were on the roll of the church when I began my ministry among them, very few now remain ; by far the greater part have fallen asleep. They are gone, and we shall see them no more in the Church below. But they have left no painful, no doubtful, memory behind. They were stedfast to the end. They kept the faith. They are now with the Lord. And when the great day of restoration and re-assembling comes, we shall see them again, each one standing in his lot among the tribes of the Lord, in the inheritance of the blessed.
The church wears now a younger aspect than it has done at any previous period of my pastorate. If I look in vain for “the old familiar faces” that used to glance encouragement and cheer to me in the earlier days of my ministry, I am saved from all discouragement and despondency by seeing their places filled by a younger generation, in many cases by the children and the children's children of those who in other years were my comfort and my aid. There is thus good hope for the future, for the young are the hope of the church. May those who now form the bulk of this congregation, prove worthy of the heritage to which they succeed, and, profiting by the example of their predecessors, exceed them in piety, devotedness, and zeal !
THE MODEL CHAPEL-KEEPER.
He is a man who has a real interest in serving the cause of Christ by contributing to the comfort of the congregation assembling in the house of prayer. There are many small matters which irritate and
like ants in larders, or flies in sugar, or wasps in treacle. Neither ants, nor flies, nor wasps are very important from their size, but they may spoil a good meal, or turn a delicate appetite by obtruding themselves into places where their presence is not required. So, too, in a house of prayer-dust is a very trifling thing, but it may cause bad temper in the pew where it is found, and spoil devotion, and make a sermon, good in itself, appear bad. An unoiled hinge of a door may seem to be a matter hardly worth notice, and yet it may spoil the comfort of a whole congregation. A pair of boots which assert their comparative newness every time a man moves, or, as the young ladies
cry out that they are not paid for,” may be very insignificant from some points of view, and yet be an annoyance to minister and people for a whole day. Now a model chapel-keeper will have consideration enough to avoid the wearing of creaking boots-if he finds a rusty hinge anywhere he will use the oiled feather; and he will regularly, every Saturday afternoon, inspect