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ANNUAL MEETINGS OF THE CONGREGATIONAL
UNION, &c. THE meetings in connection with the Sixty-Fourth Anniversary of the Congregational Union of Scotland were held in Glasgow on the 3d, 4th, 5th, and 6th of April, and were very largely attended.
COMMUNION SERVICE AND PRAYER-MEETING. A Communion Service was observed by members of town and country churches in Elgin Place Church, on the evening of Monday, 3d April. The attendance was large, and the Rev. David Russell, Glasgow, presided at the service, which was of a very impressive character.
A Prayer-Meeting was held on Tuesday, 4th April, at half-past nine A.M., in Ewing Place Church, which was presided over by David M‘Laren, Esq., Edinburgh.
THE WIDOWS' FUND. The Annual Meeting of members of the Ministers' Widows' Fund was held in the same place at the close of the prayer-meeting, at half-past ten o'clock. The Chair was occupied by the Rev. G. D. Cullen. Mr J. S. Mack read the annual report, which showed that £465 had been distributed in grants to widows and aged ministers; that the subscriptions and interest from investments for the year 1875, amounted to £565, 175. 2 d., and that the amount of the capital fund was now £9776, 145. There were eighty-four ministers connected with the fund, and only sixteen of the churches over which these ministers presided gave contributions to the fund last year.
On the motion of the Rev. JOHN DUNCAN, of Aberdeen, seconded by Rev. Mr Young, of Annan, the report was adopted.
On the motion of Rev. Mr CAMPBELL, the committee of management for the year was appointed.
THE MINISTERS' PROVIDENT FUND. The Annual Meeting of Members of this fund was held in the same place at half-past eleven o'clock, Mr David MʻLaren occupied the Chair. Mr MʻFarlane, the Secretary, read the report, which showed that during the past year, £515 had been spent in annuities to thirteen members, leaving a balance of income over expenditure of £30 to be carried to the capital account, which now amounted to £6275. The total income had been £ 558, of which £ 36, 4s. had been received as donations, and £227, 3s. Id. as subscriptions from thirtynine churches.
Rev. Mr WEMYSS, Edinburgh, moved the adoption of the report, which was seconded by Rev. Mr Anderson, Falkirk, and agreed to.
On the motion of the Rev. Mr CAMPBELL, Dumfries, seconded by the Rev. Mr Masson, Dundee, the office-bearers for the next year were elected.
THE CHAPEL BUILDING SOCIETY. The Annual Meeting of this Society was held in the same place at half-past twelve o'clock, Rev. J. M. Jarvie, Greenock, in the chair.
Rev. P. GRENVILLE, the Secretary, read the annual report, which showed that the income had been £207, besides £115 in repayment of loans by churches. The Treasurer had paid £1080, of which £990 was on loan to churches, to be returned. The capital account had been increased from £2457 to £2568. The total amount at present lent to seven churches at onehalf per cent. interest was £1590 ; and in future the Committee intended to relieve the churches obtaining loans of all legal expenses.
On the motion of the Rev. Mr TROUP, Helensburgh, seconded by the Rev. David Russell, the report was adopted'; and on the motion of the Rev. N. Wight, the Committee and office-bearers were re-appointed.
A vote of thanks was, on the motion of the Rev. P. GRENVILLE, given to
the Rev. Ninian Wight for his valuable services in soliciting subscriptions for the fund.
THE THEOLOGICAL HALL. The Annual Meeting of the Theological Hall was held in the same place at half-past one o'clock, Mr Low, Glasgow, in the chair. After devotional services had been conducted by the Rev. Mr Brisbane of Cambuslang,
The CHAIRMAN said that the Theological Hall was the most important institution connected with the denomination. The supply of an efficient ministry must at all times be of vital importance to their churches. For some years past the prevailing want of suitable young men entering upon the ministry had been one not peculiar to their denomination, but had been felt by all ; and the question came to be how this was to be remedied. He would appeal to the heads of households present, and more especially to mothers ir good social positions, who had such a mighty influence in moulding the characters of their sons, and who, amidst the family circle, would imbue their minds with the importance of this work. (Applause). Some would have it that their Theological Hall had done its work, and that there was now no longer need for it to exist; but there would be no more fatal step they could take than that, because it would sweep away the very foundation of their system. :(Applause). The Theological Hall had in times past achieved a great and mighty work, and was destined, they were persuaded, to perform a much greater work in the future. He said it in no boastful spirit ; but he hesitated not to affirm that from their Theological Hall had emanated a noble band of faithful ministers who, if not excelling, would stand on a par with those from any institution of a similar nature. (Applause). The pulpit had not lost its power, neither had congregationalism lost its influence in their land. Their churches had been long privileged to enjoy the services of their present eminent professors. There never was a time, perhaps, when we required a higher educated ministry than at present, when old theological systems were being assailed. High, therefore, were the advantages they possessed in having professors so able to instil into the minds of their students sound and healthy teaching. Long might their churches continue to enjoy their services. (Applause). The first duty of young men proposing to enter on the ministry, was to see that they had given themselves to Christ. 'It might be of advantage if a paper were prepared by some one, and circulated among the churches, on the subject of the supply of the ministry. He would not detain them longer, but would conclude by appealing to all present, and to all the churches, to give a liberal support to the Theological Hall, and to remember it in their prayers. (Applause).
Rev. J. M. JARVIE, Greenock, the secretary, read the annual report, which stated that the number of students, at the close of the session of 1875, was nine, while nine applications for admission had been received during the year, five of the applicants having been admitted on probation, two having been left over for decision, and two having been deferred, with the recommendation that the applications should be renewed at a subsequent period. The Professors reported very favourably of the conduct of the students, and of the progress made by them in their studies, Dr Alexander noticing especially the excellence of the sermons read in the class as being in every respect worthy of commendation. Professors Alexander and Gowans had taken charge, between them, of the classes of Professor Robbie during the session, but the Committee were happy to be able to announce that Mr Robbie's health was now such as to permit him to hope that he would be able to resume the duties of his chair for the approaching session. . Reference was also made in the report to the able services of the Rev. Mr Blacklock, of Arran, in teaching a number of young men in Gaelic. The Treasurer's report showed that the total income for the past year, including a balance of £162 at the commencement of the year, was £654, and that there remained a balance in bank, at the close of the year, of £101, the proper expenditure
of the year having exceeded the income by £51, although the income had included a legacy of £45 from the late Mr John Park.
Professor ĞOWAN said that his work had been very much lightened by the willing co-operation of the students. The questions which engaged the attention of the Hall were not antiquated questions, but were of great and immediate interest. He did not say that these subjects were treated exhaustively in their Hall ; but their students were at least initiated into the right method of dealing with them ; and if their Hall only contributed something to set their brethren upon the right methods of handling those questions which agitated society in the present day, he thought it was deserving of support on that ground. He believed that there were natural and spiritual qualifications for the work of the ministry which could be received only from a higher
What were they to do in order to obtain men naturally gifted, men spiritually endowed, men full of love to Christ, and full of zeal to His cause? The only way in which they could get these men was to follow the direction of our Saviour, when he said, “ Pray ye the Lord of the harvest, that He would send forth labourers into His harvest.” (Applause.) He would entreat them, therefore, as the best thing they could do for this Hall, to pray much for the Hall. He would like to see the Hall more introduced into the public prayers of the sanctuary, as well as made more frequently the subject of private prayer. (Applause.)
Professor ROBBIE said that he regarded this Institution as of such vital importance to the churches in Scotland, that there was nothing that appeared to him more desirable than that it should have the full confidence of the churches, and having that confidence because it deserved it. If they were weak in that department, they were weak everywhere. A ministry deficient in godliness, or unsound in the faith, would bring a blight upon the whole of their church life in Scotland ; and in order to the confidence of their people in this Theological Hall, they should all know with what care and anxiety the Committee entertained applications for admission to it. It was a most delicate and difficult work the Committee had, in saying whether these young men were to be encouraged to go on or not. They had to try to see the germs of power sometimes under a rather rude and unpromising exterior. They had to guard, on the one hand, against rejecting one who by culture might be made an able minister of the New Testament, and on the other hand, against encouraging one whose character was superficial, and who would disappoint them at last. They had had disappointments in the history of this Hall; and those bulked largely in the view of people ; but they had also had a very considerable measure of success. During these sixty-two years of its history, how many had gone out from it to do a good work for the Master in the sphere where they had to labour! They had only to look to the churches in Scotland just now, to see them maintaining honestly the old banner, holding it up — men who were equal to any of their neighbours in other churches in their actual qualifications for their own particular work. (Applause.) And they did not retain all their men—they did not retain, perhaps, even the best men ; but they were not so selfish as to think those men altogether lost who, in various spheres of labour south of the Tweed, in mission fields, across the Atlantic, in Australia, were doing the very work for which they were trained in the Hall. The Committee had an anxious work in determining the education of students, and the Professors had also work which, in those days, was growing more and more an anxious work. It was wont to be quite enough if a man was sent out to preach who had a competent knowledge of the facts and doctrines of the gospel, and some power to support these in an impressive manner. He did not need much to be a defender of the faith-his work was building, and not so much fighting. The trowel, and not the sword, was his chief instrument. But these young men now went forth with the sword as well as the trowel. Christianity was being assailed in its historical foundations; and he supposed that the publication of such a book as that designated Supernatural Religion, had made many a minister feel how very inadequate his understanding of the very foundations of Christianity, and the original documents by which its truth must be sustained. Their students could not be allowed to go forth ignorant of matters like that. They must at least put them in the way of finding such knowledge. He felt that their great resource was in the power and grace of the Lord, who had received gifts for men, and gave to men the qualifications necessary for all departments of Christian service ; and it was well that they should be reminded, as Dr Gowan had reminded them, of their dependence upon the Lord of the harvest for the real prosperity of such an Institution as this. (Applause.)
Rev. GEORGE M'HARDY, M.A., of Kirkcaldy, in moving the adoption of the report, said-In discharging the duty I have undertaken now, I cannot forget how critical and delicate a matter it has become of late years to advocate the claims of this Institution. For some time there has always been some difficulty or other to meet. For a while, it was the objection, expressed in various parts of the country, that human learning and academic studies only cramped and chilled the spirits of the men who were designed to become ambassadors of Christ ; and against this had to be asserted again and again the value and supreme necessity of an educated ministry. Then came the period of the dearth of candidates and applicants for admission, when those who ventured to speak in behalf of the Hall, had to plead the duty of self-sacrifice on the part of young men, and the propriety of resigning the tempting rewards of business and commercial success for the higher rewards of the service of the Gospel. Now there is a change again ; but it is not quite so easy to seize hold of the exact difficulty which has to be faced. I hope the day is far distant when the supporters and the Committee of the Hall will shrink from criticism; for criticism is a healthy thing, and no institution can long prosper that affects to be superior to it. But criticism, to be of any value, must be both moderate in its tone and intelligent in its basis. If it indulges in sweeping charges and railing accusations, it only exasperates those against whom it is levelled, and defeats the object it professes to have in view ; and it is earnestly to be hoped that among ourselves anything approaching to this will be carefully eschewed as altogether beneath the dignity of sensible Christian men. (Applause). But while I take no objection to the tone of the criticisms made upon our Theological Hall, I must say that I do feel dissatisfied with the degree of intelligence exhibited in some of those criticisms. I was very much amazed and saddened at Dundee last year, when the Chairman of the public meeting-a gentleman whom I have long been accustomed to respect-complained that all the students of our Hall ought to receive a University education, as if that were not already the case, nor had been so for a long series of years. The complaint, I am glad to see, is not repeated in the printed form of the address which has since been published ; but it appeared in the local papers at the time; and those of us who live in the neighbourhood occasionally hear of it yet. It is well that it should go forth to all our Churches, that our Hall system, in the case of every student, includes and insists on an ordinary course of University training, and thus gives the young men who pass through it the same advantages as are possessed by the students of other denominations. That is a fact which ought to be known more clearly and distinctly than it appears to be that no similar mistake should ever be made again.
We have of course some ministers,-men, I rejoice to think, doing noble work for Christ-who never passed through any regular course of University training;
but these brethren had no connection with our Hall. Their case stands by itself, and must be judged on its own merits.
Again, I remember seeing a statement regarding the application of three of our younger ministers and one of our preachers for admission into the Established Church, and on the statement was founded an unfavourable criticism on the discipline and training of our Theological Hall. Now the fact was, as I personally knew, that two of the ministers referred to had never been students in our Hall at all—(hear, hear)—and serious injustice was accordingly done both to Professors and Committee by charging them with the blame of four instead of only two defections. The mistake of course arose from ignorance or a failure to examine into the facts; but criticism is a responsible thing, and especially responsible when it is directed against the work of Christian brethren ; and we owe it to each other to make ourselves clearly and intelligently acquainted with a case, before we presume to pronounce an unfavourable judgment. (Applause). Strangely enough, not long after this reflection on the Hall for secessions to the Established Church, came the suggestion, contained in the Dundee address I have already referred to, that the theological classes of that Church, not now presenting the same grounds for opposition and alarm as they once did, might suffice for our students. Thus on the one hand, the Hall is blamed for not keeping its students out of the reach of the attractions and temptations of the Establishment; and on the other, it is broadly hinted that we may now profitably send our students to receive the training of the Establishment, and dispense with any separate Theological Institution of our own. (Laughter.)
Such contradictory expressions of opinion are exceedingly confusing. What are we to think? There must be great misapprehension somewhere as to the real work of the Hall, the design it is intended to serve, and the results which, considering the appliances available, it is fitted to produce. Of course, what is true for us, must be true also in a certain measure for all other dissenting Denominations; and on the principle which I have just mentioned the theological classes connected with the Universities, which are the theological classes of the National Church, ought to be considered sufficient and suitable for all the various religious bodies. But this does not seem to be the case. Every Denomination feels, and it must have good reasons for feeling, that so far as theological and special training is concerned, it must educate its own students and candidates for the ministry. (Hear, hear). And at least, until the Theological Chairs of our Universities are dissociated from the Established Church, and open to competent men of all Denominations, as the Arts Chairs are, the present state of things must necessarily continue. (Applause).
In judging the results accomplished by our Hall, there are two things which must specially be taken into account,—the number and quality of the students sent up by the Churches, and the strength of the teaching staff. With regard to the number of the students, it is well known that for some years, that has been considerably limited. The ministry has not now the peculiar attractions it once possessed ; and young men of energy and talent are more strongly tempted in the direction of secular business. A serious consequence of this is, that when qualified men are required to fill vacancies in the pastorate, or to take advantage of openings for Christian work in the large towns, it is only to an imperfect extent that the Hall is able to meet the demand. The Churches have little choice; and as in every Hall or Academy you like to mention, there is always an average of comparative failures, it sometimes happens, owing to the emergencies of the case, that after the two or three promising young men of each year are laid hold of for vacant pulpits, the remaining one or two may be thrust into positions for which there is no adequate personal fitness. But this disadvantage of a limited choice would not be so much felt, were the Churches to send up to the Hall some of their very best young men,-young men who show by their strength of character, their mental ability, and their sound grounding in the elements of education, that they are fitted to exercise influence in the world. (Applause). Much depends on the material which the Churches give the Professors on which to work; and if those who came forward to devote themselves to the ministry among us possessed, in addition of course to genuine piety, the tact, the intellectual force, the practical energy, which we so often find in the young men who enter the walks of commerce, there would soon, I am convinced, be little ground for complaint. (Applause). I am glad to think that during the last