Billeder på siden

will be our endeavour to provide such entertainment for our young friends in this new department of the Magazine as will not be without value to "children of a larger growth."

But it must be added, no efforts which we can make to improve the literary excellence of our Magazine, or to adapt its religious teaching to the times in which we live, can secure the results we seek, if our readers be indifferent about its circulation. Could we but enlist the active exertions of our present subscribers, we might easily raise our issue to 20,000 monthly, and we should then be enabled to enlarge the Magazine by an additional sheet of 16 pages without any increase of price, and to provide some help for many necessitous

widows whom we cannot now assist. We respectfully appeal to the pastors and members of our Churches to co-operate with us in our attempt to make this Magazine (which is the only publication connected with the Baptist denomination that devotes any portion of its profits to denominational purposes) all that it ought to be. It is for them to determine whether the success we strive to deserve, shall be obtained by us or not, and we shall rely upon their willing aid to increase to increase our circulation, and thereby to promote our usefulness. If they fail us, they cannot, with fairness, complain that the Magazine does not take its place in the foremost rank of similar publications, for its character and influence are entirely in their hands.



Ir is said that, in the production of mischief, thoughtlessness is nearly as fruitful as wilfulness. Assuredly, amongst Christians it is a prolific source of actions whose appearance, if not their influence, is evil. Many of the things which mar the beauty of saintly character, and hinder Christian usefulness, originate solely in a want of earnest consideration of what consistency requires. Dead flies are seldom put into the apothecary's ointment by hands deliberately devoted to wrong-doing. They generally get there through sheer carelessness on the part of some one, but they spoil the ointment as completely as if they had been wilfully introduced for the very purpose.

The design of this article is to

call attention to a custom indulged in by many who probably would not yield to it so constantly if they could only be induced to fairly look at it and see the bad influence it is calculated to exercise, and the evil issues to which it may probably lead. The custom referred to is that of restricting attendance at public worship to one service on the Lord's day.

On the testimony of many witnesses it may be unhesitatingly affirmed that this habit is already wide-spread, and is also rapidly growing, especially in large towns and amongst our wealthier and more influential congregations. In many of these latter, there numbers who have become so habituated to once-a-day worship that they never make an effort to be



present at a second service. thought seems not for a moment to enter their minds that possibly attendance at the House of God twice on the same Sabbath may be within the range of Christian duty, even if it be outside the circle of Christian privileges. This state of things is not confined to those who have made no public profession of religion. Not a few church members are foremost in the practice. It has also spread amongst the office-bearers in our churches, and as many a disheartened minister can witness on eachLord's day evening even deacons are conspicuous by their absence. In reference to the last-mentioned class, it would surely be difficult (excepting in very extreme cases) to justify the custom or frame a passable excuse for it. It is true the Apostle does not mention regular and constant attendance at the House of God as one of the duties of a deacon. Doubtless he omitted this for the same reason that, in his statement of a wife's duties, he makes no mention of love to her husband. He considered such an injunction to be altogether superfluous. Paul apparently did not deem it possible that any man holding office in a Christian church would need to be warned against habitually absenting himself from one-half of the holy assemblies and Sabbath services of that church.

The writer is not forgetful of the fact that to some, attendance more than once a day is impracticable. Old age, or bodily weaknesses, or domestic claims may interfere and absolutely forbid it. It is not to these that the remonstrances and the appeals of this paper are addressed. Duty never requires a person to be in two places at the same time, and those whom duty calls elsewhere are not to be blamed

for their absence from the House of God. Nor is it likely that God will suffer such to sustain spiritual loss by their absence. For them the Divine love, so considerate as well as compassionate, will repeat the wonder it wrought of old in the wilderness when he who could gather but little of the manna had no lack.

Others can put in the plea of distance, and in many instances this must be deemed a full justification. Butthe question is thereby suggested -"Are not religious considerations too much overlooked in the choice of residence ?" To some no choice is permitted by stern circumstances; but those who are free to decide are not consistent if they decide without any regard to the nearness or the farness of spiritual advantages. It requires more than ordinary reasons to warrant a Christian man in placing his family where their regular attendance on vigorously-conducted worship and an instructive evangelical ministry is next to impossible. For want of care in this matter how many young people who might have become honoured labourers "in the kingdom and patience of our Lord," have been forced into a state of comparative inactivity! They lived so far away from the church to which their parents belonged that they could take no part in its religious and benevolent endeavours. Their piety hath sustained a consequent blight, for there could not be in their case the fulfilment of that promise which of all His gracious declarations our God most abundantly brings to pass, "He that watereth shall be watered also himself." In other instances, this has led either to the neglect of nearly all public worship on the part of younger members of families, or to their absorption into the bosom of the Establishment. The evil of

[ocr errors]

the latter result can only be appreciated by those who know that, as a general rule, in suburban and rural districts, more than in the centres of large towns, fidelity to spiritual religion and evangelical truth demands the maintenance of nonconformity. The losses our Dissenting churches have sustained in this way can scarcely be over-rated. It cannot be too much to ask that Christian professors, in fixing on the locality in which to live, will not forget that the soul has claims to be regarded as well as the body. Supposing that some temporal advantages have to be sacrificed on the altar of spiritual prosperity, will those shrink from the sacrifice who count themselves disciples of Him who said, "What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?"

When, from the number of oncea-day worshippers, all are deducted for whom full justification can be found, there will remain, it is to be feared, a large proportion who are very much without excuse. It is to them the writer would address himself with courtesy and franknessassured that, if they will only consider the matter in all its bearings, they will see that such a custom is not to be yielded to thoughtlessly or unnecessarily. In the limits of a single article the subject cannot be fully discussed. All that can be done is to indicate a few of its alleged evil tendencies. Some of these may appear to the reader to be of an inconsiderable character, but let it be remembered that the subtle influences which mould society, and thereby affect individual welfare and destiny, are composed of elements very minute when separated, but very mighty when combined.

I.-The custom under consideration may be regarded in its relation

to the large numbers of people of all classes who live in the total neglect of public worship.-The facts in th's respect are perfectly appalling, the Registrar-General's returns showing that, on the census Sunday in 1851, out of eighteen millions in England and Wales, nearly eleven millions were not found in any place of worship. Allowing largely for those who from physical disability could not be present, the compiler of the returns states that more than FIVE MILLIONS were absent from simple indifference or disinclination. This state of things must surely create dismay and sadness in the hearts of those who know that "faith cometh by hearing," and that with very few exceptions all conversions wrought by the Spirit of God are wrought on those who are found in attendance on the public means of grace. No individual must in this matter underrate the importance of his own example. Each Christian must be careful not to lend the influence of his own conduct to this crying evil. By all possible constancy of attendance he must silently proclaim his sense of the importance of public worship, and do what he can to allure others into the sanctuary where (humanly speaking), above all other places, the power to heal" them is most likely to be present. Must not "judgment commence at the house of God?" If religious professors leave half the services of the Sabbath unattended, is it likely that the ungodly will be cured of their habits of total neglect ?

II.-This custom may be considered in its relation to the particular congregation whereto those who indulge in it professedly belong.-"God knoweth our frames." wise reasons, and with wondrous adaptation to our nature, he hath ordained worship to be social and


public, as well as individual and secret. In no dispensation, Patriarchal, Jewish, or Christian, hath He permitted His people to forsake the assembling of themselves together. The first recorded act of worship seems to have been united worship. "At the end of days Cain and Abel came with their offerings, as if at a fixed time, and an appointed place, they met before the Lord. Reference scarcely need be made to the manifold provisions there were in "the law that came by Moses" for bringing the people together in their devotions, that heart might sympathise with heart, and voice blend with voice. The early Christians had neither temple nor synagogue in which to meet, but in the face of all disadvantages they would maintain "the communion of saints." Against social and public worship persecution was ever the fiercest, for the foe was wise enough to know that the holy bravery he sought to subdue secured much of its nourishment from the fellowship of kindred minds. "Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend." There is a strange power in numbers. Who hath not felt it? The same sermon is not the same, when, instead of hearing it amidst an array of empty benches, we hear it in the presence of a sympathising multitude. The same hymn of praise is not the same, when, instead of being sung by a few, it is lifted heavenward on the voices of a great assembly. The same prayer even-how different it seems when we can feel that, instead of being the utterance of a small congregation, it is gathering to itself the deep desires of a thousand hearts! How silent, and yet how mighty, is that mysterious sympathy which is secured by the blending of many spirits in the same service!


joy on one face calls up an answering brightness on many countenances ! The fervour of one heart helps to foster the sacred fire in another. Each feeling of grief or gladness, of fear or hope, seems to be contagious, and swiftly passes from one to another, till at last scarcely a soul is left untouched! Is it not with regard to results such as these that God bids his children come forth from their solitudes, and join with each other in prayer and praise. Public worship is to be maintained because incident to it-we had almost said created by it-are spiritual influences which can scarcely be realised when each worshipper is alone.

If the above be a true statement concerning public worship, it must follow that each worshipper by his presence contributes to the efficiency of the service. He gives as well as receives help from his companions in the House of Prayer. When he is absent, he keeps back so much life and power from the devotions. That this is not mere theory most of us can testify. Empty pews here and there, have strange power to chill those who occupy surrounding places. Vacant seats are so many weaknesses in the electric chain that links soul to soul, and along which the currents of spiritual sympathy have to travel. Hence we plead with once-a-day worshippers on the ground not of what they lose, but of what they cause others to lose. We say nothing now of the good they miss, but of the harm they do. By their absence they, to a certain extent, take spirit from the general praise, fervour from the common prayer, and force from the sermon.

III. This custom may be considered in its relation to the minister. -Dean Ramsay tells of a woman who lived in the neighbourhood of

the church to which Dr. Chalmers was drawing vast crowds. She was asked if she ever attended any place of worship. "Ou, ay," she replied, pointing to the church, "there's a man ca'd Chalmers preaches there, and I whiles gang in and hear him just to encourage him, puir body." Despite the selfcomplacency of the woman, she did not much overrate the importance of her presence. If she, and many others like her, had kept away and left the great preacher numerous empty places to look at, it might have been a clog to the chariot wheels, even of his eloquence. We know it is not appealing to the highest motives when we speak of churchmembers, and others, being constant in their attendance for the sake of encouraging the minister. But if one be pondering whether he will go or stay away, it is surely neither unlawful nor unseemly for him to throw into the scale against staying away this consideration. "By my absence the minister may be disheartened." It is not forgotten that ministers ought to be above all such influences. Thinking of the grandeur of their theme and the issues of their labours full of loyalty to Christ and of zeal for his glory, they ought to be able to conduct the service and proclaim the truth with equal force and fervour, whether few be present or many. Of course they should strive to cultivate a lofty spirituality, which would lift them out of the region of petty considerations as to who are there, and who are not there. They should seek the spirit of their Lord, who to that one Samaritan sinner, by the well of Jacob, discoursed with as much of divine zeal and fulness, as when to the thronging multitude he preached the sermon on the Mount. But it must be borne in mind that we

have this treasure in earthen vessels." It may be a weakness on the part of a minister to be saddened as he looks round on Sabbath evenings, and sees the places of so many of his leading people vacant; but "those that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak." It is, we are aware, not a modern idea-it belongs to oldfashioned notions about the relative duties of people and pastor-and yet we venture to urge that some little weight is due to this argument against "once a day;" it is oftentimes to the minister "a heavy blow, and a sore discouragement."

[ocr errors]


IV. The custom may be looked at in its relation to the families of those who indulge in it.-For the young, the habit of regular attendance on public worship is of prime importance. The neglect of it has been with numberless youths the first step towards utter ruin. from the house of God-wandering on Sabbath evenings through the streets or fields, they have verified the saying that "Satan finds some mischief still for idle hands to do.” Some Christian parents have the fear that if their children be at all constrained to attend a place of worship, they will imbibe a strong dislike to it. Experience and observation alike convince us that the fear is, to a large extent, groundless. On the other hand it may be asked-"Did ever any young person get a liking for the House of Prayer by being freely allowed from very childhood to go or stay away just as his own fancy dictated ?" We have seen irreparable mischief result from the too feeble exercise of parental control in this respect. We have known not a few who, in mature life, have given God thanks that their early home was one in which the duty of attendance on worship was insisted upon with all

« ForrigeFortsæt »