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ADDRESS OF THE SECRETARY condition. Were all the pulpits occupied, BEFORE THE GENERAL AS- this
felicitous mode of relief could not SEMBLY.
be enjoyed. These vacancies are so many Mr. Moderator and Brethren, both young
safety valves of discontent. and coeval :-It has been gently hinted to me
Again, in their struggle for existence in mild complaint that the Board of Educa
without a pastor, the vacant churches are in tion generally presented to the Assembly too
a measure compelled to utilize all the spiritgloomy a front, and that it were better for
ual resources they may have in themselves,
and to set their elders at work in a way to its interests to put on a more cheerful aspect. This hint I thankfully accept, as I
bring them into closer resemblance to min
isters, and thus to qualify them better for do all hints for improvement, and I shall
ministerial positions—the moderatorship, for aim now to comply with it. Even the longsuffering Job found fault that men saw not
example. Indeed, such training I understand the bright light which was in the cloud;
to be now going on in several of our westand under this censure I do not wish that
ern churches, developing talents that would any of us should fall. Accordingly, my
otherwise have lain wrapped up in a napkin.
This is a benefit not to be undervalued. present endeavor will be to turn upon your
Another fact also is presented in the revision some of the bright streaks which seem to me to tinge the cloud that may
port which at first sight seems unhappy. It have been drawn over your sky by the re
is our large dependence on other denomina
tions for our ministerial supplies. The port of the standing committee which you
statement is that for the last five years twohave just been listening to. Possibly they
thirds of our net increase of ministers have may serve to relieve its gloom.
been drawn from outside sources. This THE LIGHT IN THE CLOUDS.
would indicate a too meagre productiveness, And to begin where the cloud is densest. on our part, of this important factor in our We report over twelve hundred churches, church life and growth. But even in this great and small, marked "vacant," e. 9., defect there may be a gracious Providence without pastors or stated supplies, in the evolving good. One consequence naturally Minutes of the last year. This fact, at first arising from it must be the introduction into sight, seems somewhat deplorable and even our body of different types of doctrine and discreditable. Nevertheless, I think I can of polity, and we get the benefit of the faith detect an advantage in this condition of and practice of the Methodists and of the things not to be overlooked. These twelve Congregationalists and of the United Preshundred churches afford a fine, ample range byterians and of the brethren across the for candidacy to such of our pastors as may water in Ireland and Scotland. Thus we be dissatisfied with their present positions are greatly modifying our peculiarities, and and would like a change. If they should paring down the sharp angularities of our persecute us in one city, we can now readily Calvinism, and broadening ourselves into a flee into another and seek acceptance there. more catholic church. In other words, we No need is there now of our insisting on are ceasing to be distinctively American staying where we are not wanted, from fear Presbyterian, and are preparing to blend in of not finding another place, and so perpet- more readily with the other Protestant uating a quarrel. Nor are we compelled bodies, when the consummation of a general to abide in straitened circumstances when union takes place. It is a consummation there are so many chances of bettering our for which many are hoping and praying.
A preparation in the same direction pro- reasons why this, the most glorious of all ceeds from the dissolution of so many of callings, should go begging for candidates. our churches, the number of them now There must be some reasons why, when the steadily increasing year by year, largely demand is so great, the response should be from lack of ministers to keep them alive. so feeble.
A fact so remarkable requires What is a loss to us may not be without investigation. If obstacles to enlistment some gain to the general cause of Christian- there are, as we know there are, these obity. The members of these churches thus stacles should be ascertained, and if possible, set free will in all probability go into other taken out of the way. In view of them, beneighboring churches to infuse into them a hold the voice of the Lord calleth unto us little Presbyterian leaven, and thus to hasten in commanding tones, “Gather out the that assimilation and unification of all Prot- stones ;” and oh, could we but do this as we estant denominations of which I have just might, more thoroughly, how many more spoken. Dissolution may thus prepare the would we see running in obedience to the way for glorification on a larger scale. Master's call! If inspiration and incentives
Another fact must be noted. Our Board are needed, and knowledge of the want and is reported to be in debt to the amount of the opportunity is required, let these be ap$15,000. Now debt always makes one feel plied. For again I hear the voice of the a little gloomy. Yet there is an offset in Lord saying, “Lift up a standard among the consideration that more contributions the people;" and oh, could we but lift it up have come to us from the churches than we in its glory and wave it aloft as a signal for have had for some time. It is only because advance, methinks we would witness such a other sources of supply have failed us and rallying around it as would stir the hearts larger demands for aid have been made of God's people with new hope, and make upon us that this cloud has slowly gathered the kingdom of darkness tremble. The time overhead unexpectedly and cast its shadow for discharging this duty cannot be safely upon us. Yet I think a little silvery rim postponed. All the signs of the times indimay be detected around the edges. Our cate that a serious crisis is upon us, which Board will now come into the position re- cannot be ignored. If we fail to act at once, cently occupied by the Home and Foreign we may be sure that, as among the Israelites Boards so successfully; and we shall be of old, the people of the land will be gatherwarranted in bringing our cause before the ing to themselves “prophets of the deceit of church by stirring appeals and attracting their own hearts” and “teachers having much notice. Accordingly you may expect itching ears,” to their own destruction. A to hear from us very soon, unless perchance happy thing will it be if our present consome legacy comes in to silence our cry. dition, rising to view like a cloud in our
A painfully ominous aspect is also pre- horizon, set us to diligent endeavors to avert sented to us in the fact of the reluctance of
the danger. our Christian young men to enlist in large Another result is likely to follow; and this numbers in the ministry. Every year the may prove a beneficial one.
The scarcity disproportion between the churches and the of regularly-educated men will force on us ministers is widening, and we are threatened the necessity of dispensing more generally with a serious scarcity just at a time when with the advantages of a scholastic training, we ought to be fully manned. Yet if we and of contenting ourselves with qualificaare wise this fact too may be attended with tions of a more practical kind in many
whom good results. It ought to incite our presby- we ordain. Already is a tendency to this teries and synods and this Assembly now to developing itself systematically in other deearnest questionings as to the causes of this nominations, the Congregationalists, for exreluctance and to zealous efforts to remove ample, and it has begun to manifest itself in them. When all the other professions are our own. Young men who have exercised overcrowded with occupants, there must be themselves in church work and proved their
gifts in the conducting of religious services, service. There is too much hard work in it and have been encouraged by their success, and too little pay. They forget that it is are asking to be qualified for ordination by through just such service going on quietly taking a theological course in English only, in all our cities and villages that Christ's and presbyteries, together with some of our kingdom is advanced and souls are conmost intelligent laymen, are urging that such verted, and public morals are purified, and persons be allowed and aided in taking the barren wastes are reclaimed, and the wildercourse suggested. Possibly the Lord is in- ness is turned into a fruitful garden; and a tending to teach us that it is not by the at- reward at last secured which cannot be extractions of learning and human wisdom and pressed in dollars and cents. of fine speech that the conquests of the cross And this depreciation is more particularly are to be won; but through the plain, un- manifest when it comes to dealing with canvarnished preaching of the word by earnest didates in their immaturity. We look at men who know little else “save Jesus Christ the young men, it may be, of ordinary inteland him crucified.”
lects and not large attainments and some
what unrefined in manners, yet of earnest BETTER WERE THE CLOUD AWAY. So much, Mr. Moderator, for the light in
purpose and stirred up by the love of God
to serve in the gospel of his Son, and we ask our cloud. I would, however, that the cloud
ourselves, somewhat incredulously, whether were wholly away. Better would it be that
much good can be expected of such persons our sky should all be cleared by the breath
and whether they ought to be aided and enof the Almighty passing over it and cleansing it, and that we enjoyed only the bright couraged in their course of preparation for ing it, and that we enjoyed only the bright the pulpit. Their imperfections scandalize sunshine of spiritual prosperity. There is
We are troubled about the little faults no disguising the fact. What we impera
and foibles which mark them. So, many tively need is a much larger number of men
doubt and draw back and refuse their assistevery way qualified to be the leaders of the
Herein lies the disadvantage of our church in accomplishing the mighty work
Had we only great institutions to which the most cursory observation shows
deal with-institutions which fill the eye, us is pressing to be done for our country and the world. The question is, cannot such men
and give promise of permanence, and are
monumental-the case would be different. be furnished by the Presbyterian Church to
But when it is with individuals that we have a degree more commensurate with her greatness and her wealth ? I believe they can.
to do, and these in their immaturity, it is
often hard to believe them worth spending CONDITIONS OF ITS REMOVAL. much labor upon. Yet, it may be asked, In order to this, first of all I think that a what are our institutions for, if it be not to higher estimate of the sacred office ought to educate just such as these and fit them for pervade a large portion of our ministers and their calling? The final cause of a theopeople—a higher estimate of what is implied logical seminary is the ministry, and without in it and of what are its proper qualifications, the candidates it is idle property. These, and of its untold worth to the world. I fear therefore, are what we should be seeking we are taking too low views of it and are not for first of all, careful only about the genuhonoring it with the regard and attention ineness of the raw material we put into our which it deserves. We are governed too institutions to be worked up. Yet not too much by the humble appearance of the in- hopeless in view of defects; for oh, had our cumbents and the obscure positions which blessed Lord been as strict and exacting and many of them occupy, and of the small as impatient towards Peter and James and emoluments which many of them receive. John, and the rest of the twelve, stupid and Parents who desire great things for their faulty as some of them seemed to be, as we sons see little prospect of having their am- are towards some of our students, where bition gratified by their sons entering such would have been the princes of the church
sitting on twelve thrones, judging the twelve dom. And oh, if we are only true to our tribes of Israel ?
missions, “how beautiful upon the mountIn order to strengthen our faith on this ains” and over the plains of our beloved point, let me here state a fact recently land should be our feet as we publish the brought to my knowledge. A year ago good tidings of peace, and say unto Zion, there graduated from one of our theological Thy God reigneth.” seminaries a class of fourteen licentiates. Such are the terms in which our calling They were young men of average grade. is designated in Scripture. If it be anything By particular request the results of their it is the grandest conceivable. Now what we eight months' service were reported by them need is to realize the fact, to live up to it, to their professor. I wish I could give you to magnify it in the eyes of men. And then, the details as given to me; but there is time having just conceptions of what it is, our only for a fact or two. One has gone on a duty, for which we shall then be properly foreign mission. Two are laboring in the fitted, will be to labor for the multiplying West. The others are scattered here and of our numbers. It is the work to which there over the middle states, some in pretty the providence of God is imperatively sumhard fields. A summary of what they re- moning us. These vacant churches should port is this: 607 persons added to their be supplied; the new churches we are organchurches, mostly on profession of their faith; izing should be provided for; our foreign three new church buildings started; Sab- populations increasing by unprecedented mibath-schools revived and enlarged, and an gration from all parts of the old world, at increase of contributions to the boards. In the rate of two thousand per day at last acview of such facts we ask, does it not pay? counts, we should be preparing ourselves to
take in charge; the dangers to our free inGOSPEL ESTIMATE OF MINISTERS.
stitutions from the hostile forces that are However insignificant we ministers may gathering themselves up to dispute the suappear in the sight of the world, let us re- premacy with the influences that have hithfresh our minds and hearts with looking a erto ruled in the nation are to be averted ; moment on the estimate put on us in the opening fields abroad are calling for occugospel, by recalling some of the titles by pancy, and these must be entered upon. which we are there designated. If we are And to meet these demands, up to the measin reality what we profess to be, the called ure of fair expectation, no labor should be of Christ into his ministry, we are numbered spared and no sacrifice begrudged, no care among his ascension gifts to mankind; and omitted. Worthy candidates must be prayed ought not a present from the Lord of glory for; yea, they must be sought out, and that, to be accounted worth something? We are too, with as much scrutiny as the jeweller set forth as “ ambassadors of God to beseech employs in ascertaining the genuineness of men in Christ's name to become reconciled the precious stones which he is to set for the unto God;" and what greater dignity can adornment of a bride; and, when found withwe be honored with than to be sent on such out the means of education, they should be an errand from so high a court? We are educated with as little grudging of time and employed as “laborers together with God” expense as the lapidary shows in polishing for the cultivation of his fields, and for lift- the costliest of gems. This is our work. ing onward and upward that glorious temple Shall we gird ourselves to it in the name of which he is rearing of living stones quarried the Lord, or shall we fall back into our easy and shaped out of the mass of fallen human- chairs as so many seem to be doing? saying ity. And can there be a more honorable to ourselves, It is the Lord's prerogative to occupation than this? We are appointed call his heralds ; let him call; it is not for to be the heralds of Jesus Christ sent forth us to interfere. Which course shall we to prepare the way for his coming and king- take?
EVANGELIZE THE NEGROES. the church will see scores of trained bands There is no reason why the Negroes should
of men and women from this redeemed race not be redeemed and elevated, and made a
hastening across the ocean, with the faith blessing to this country. The gospel and
and hope of the true missionary, to take the the grace of God can do it. But churches, outstretched hand of Ethiopia, and to kindle Sabbath-schools, missionary societies, min
a circle of lights on her benighted shores isters and private individuals must arise and
that shall ultimately encompass the Dark address themselves with tenfold greater
Continent. earnestness, liberality and faith to this work.
A SERIOUS QUESTION. The Negroes respond most readily to the appeals of the gospel; they are eager for Is our church taking the part it should in schools and gospel privileges ; and were the moulding the future of the Negroes of AmerChristian people of the land to take hold of ica ? Are we as a church meeting the exthis work as they should and could, they pectations of our blessed Lord who gave as would have the whole race under the puri- the crowning evidence of his messiahship fying influence of the gospel in less than
that in him “the poor have the gospel twenty-five years, and make them a bless- preached to them"? There are seven milling to the country and the world. An elo- ions of them, and millions more to come. quent colored speaker said:
Thousands and tens of thousands of them
are without schools and gospel privileges. The American Negro is the legitimate offspring of that civilization which is giving its
We believe that the future of these millions language, its customs and its laws to the whole of people will be, under God, just what the world. The time will come when there will be Christian churches of the land determine it one civilization, one universal language, the shall be. In their uplifting and evangelizacivilization and language of that little island tion God in his providence has given us the off the continent of Europe. The American
opportunity of sharing in the grandest work Negro is in that civilization. He is of it. He
of the age in which we live. Opportunity can never retrograde. His movement must be
taken at the flood tide leads on to certain onward, not backward. There is no limit to bis possibilities in any community where he
success; but neglected, loss and failure are esceeds the whites in numbers. Along the
the inevitable results. Oh what an opporsouth Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico the tunity has God given the Presbyterian Negroes of this country will cluster. They will Church of this land! and we sometimes form a loyal and patriotic community, a friend fear that it will be lost. Here are the to the republic and the nation, a shield and
means; there are the people. The means sword in war, a glory and pride in peace.
are in our hands; the people are at our And in those American Negroes also the doors. God has committed the Negroes in hope of Africa lies. Among them are the America to the care of the Christian people future evangelizers of their fatherland. Al- of the country. If they are the wards of ready our brethren of the Synod of Atlantic the nation, much more are they the wards (our colored Synod) are reaching out their of the church ; and their condition, whether hands towards Africa, and have put them- regarded as to the past, the present or the selves in connection with it by sending one future, should impose a sense of deep reof their number to that land, and their sponsibility on every enlightened conscience. churches and Sabbath-schools pledged for If the Protestant churches fail to influence his support ; and others are in training for and shape their future, then the Romish the work. And the time will come when Church will do it. She is far-sighted