« ZurückWeiter »
good, she would have nothing to do with us, or with our fancy fair; we are quite too wicked.'
Did she say so?' inquired Alfred. ‘She might as well ; when a person chooses to be singular, and will not co-operate with others, what is it but condemning them ?'
• As Noah did the world, by building the ark, while they were running after their pleasures. I have no doubt they said he was very provoking; and yet he was right after all. But, Etty, you have not yet told me what this work of yours is intended for ?'
'I can tell you it is just another way in which she is showing her agreement with you, cousin,' cried Bessie, still answering for Etty ; she is exercising self-denial; she would not put a finger near our light and tasteful work, but she is mortifying herself, soiling and spoiling her hands, making up those odious dresses for the girls at the ragged-school; and I verily believe she has sacrificed the character of her own wardrobe to procure them. She could hardly appear at the fancy fair, I believe.'
Etty coloured deeply, but made no reply. Her uncle looked at her, and said, Ah! well, she is studying a higher character than the character of her wardrobe, I suppose; even cousin Bessie herself“ being judge;" and though there may be those that consider
" her work an exercise of self-denial, I have no doubt she will find one satisfaction arising out of it, which their fancy fair will not afford to them. She knows her work will be of use. I dare say you are a good deal interested in this ragged-school, Etty ?'
O yes, indeed, uncle,' answered Etty, warmly. ' Interested,' cried Bessie, again, 'why, she is so much interested that she visits it, I don't know how often ; and spends hours trying to drive the thousandth part of an idea into the heads of some dozens of the dirtiest little creatures you could imagine.'
'It is a great pity her charity does not begin nearer home,' said Alfred, a little sharply. 'Pray, Bessie, may I ask, what benefit could result from your fancy fair, were everybody so refined as to shrink from what you consider such an unpleasing part of the duties connected with a ragged-school? And am I to conclude that your
interest in the matter exhausts itself in getting up a fancy fair, and in the excitement, and the éclat, and the fun, in short, attendant upon holding it? I would willingly think better of you, cousin, and I trust you will begin to think more gravely upon this and kindred subjects than you seem yet to have done. It is pleasant,' he went on, to find that there are still some little runnels from the genuine spring; it is not their fault that they are but runnels, and we must try to convert them into copious streams.'
He placed a liberal donation in the hand of Etty for the raggedschool, receiving a look of joyful gratitude in return; and added, as he left, « The best wish I can leave with you all, in connexion with your present object, is, that I may not again meet you similarly engaged. I hope that, one day, you will come to believe, with me, that fancy
fairs, and all other spurious and artificial modes of so-called “Christian Charity,” are a sad mistake. They are signs of the dotage of Christian love. They may please you, but depend upon it they do not please the Lord of the Bible. Do you imagine he is gratified with an offering of dolls and purses?'
The Church, or · The Cause;" Whick ?
WHEN I was a youth, I used occasionally to meet a clever, intelligent senior friend, who, having been a native of the same place, and for a time connected with the church there, would ask me, in a comical tone, 'How s the cause?' Subsequently, I heard the phrase on many hands over and over again, and may possibly have acquired the habit of using it myself. For when I first became an earnest Christian, to me the cause of religion was the cause of causes, and I could well sympathize with the worthies of the elder time, who, by their devotion often unto blood, sufficiently entitled themselves to speak of that which was dearer to them than life, as, emphatically, “ The cause.'
Many years have passed since then, and I confess to not now hearing the phrase with the same satisfaction. In some quarters, it is little better than downright cant to speak of what purports to be the cause of religion—the cause of Christ—as the cause, when many things, utterly at variance with the spirit of the New Testament, which is the spirit of the Master, are palpably the cause dearest to the heart of the easy utterer.
But waving this, with the altered condition of Nonconformity in the land, there has also gradually grown up a difference between things that were once identical, or nearly so. And I put it to any thoughtful observer of the signs of the times in our Dissenting Zion, whether, now-a-days, there is not often a painful discrepancy between the church and the cause ? Whether that which now promotes the one, does not often interfere with the other? Whether the cause,' in its altered sense, is not too frequently the object of solicitude, instead of the church?
The inquiry after the state of the cause' will be answered by an account of the size of the building, its architectural character, the number of attendants, their wealth and social standing, the carriages that may be seen setting down their fashionable occupants, the renown of the minister for oratory, intellectual power, or popular talent. And if the chapel be in a commanding situation ; the minister one whose name is ‘up; the congregation highly respectable; with a goodly number of wealthy merchants, or manufacturers, or people of 'independent means, especially if Sir Somebody This, or Alderman That, be in full communion, and the subscription lists to various
denominational objects entitle the members of the society to anxious consideration at the hands of wide-awake secretaries, why everybody would pronounce the cause at Silk-street to be in a flourishing condition.
Or, if you are inquiring comparatively as to the best cause' in any of our provincial towns, the answer, in perhaps seven cases out of ten, perhaps in a larger number, would still be given on the same principles ; and that is the most prosperous which contains most of the elements already mentioned. If there be half-a-dozen causes' in a town, there is too generally more or less of a sort of sub-rivalry existent. It would be denied; but there it is. The individuals themselves possibly unconscious of the fact, or, at least, not liking to recognise it, unwilling to admit or to believe it.
Now, I have observed that causes' may be built up at one another's expense ; but not churches edified, i.e., built up, so. For whatever is unworthy, ungenerous, unkind, reacts perniciously on a church, while it may nevertheless answer the purpose of the cause.'
The union of A, B, and C, may promote the prosperity of the cause,' and at the same time seriously lessen that of the church.
Uncompromising fidelity to the principles or truths least welcome, and therefore the more necessary, in any locality, may injure the cause,' while establishing the moral health of the church.
The style of preaching most adapted to advance the mental and moral growth of those who will receive it, may prove to be little adapted, in some meridians, to secure the growth of the cause.' It is at least possible that the man most calculated to fill the place,' may be greatly wanting in the qualities needed in one who is to be the guide of souls in their life-long pilgrimage to the celestial city. He who can most readily give the people what they like, is not necessarily the man who can and will give them what they ought to have. Then the cause' flourishes, increases, but the church does not grow proportionately in what the Saviour most regards.
Trial, affliction, so necessary to the individual Christian, often in the history of the church so useful to the body, makes sad havoc with the cause.' Ministers, e. g., like other Christians, need the chastening which is not at the time joyous, but grievous; and to be confined to the chamber of sickness, or brought into the presence of death, may render them a hundred times fitter to lead the devotions of the people, and may impart an authority to their deepest utterances which they never had before. But, in many instances, his seclusion has proved a damage to the cause,' which it has never recovered. Other causes' have caught away sundry attendants; there are certain vacant sittings' which make the deacons look significantly grave, and drop ominous hints; for as it is an ill wind that blows nobody any good, the cause’ in Cobweb-lane, or Honeyplace, is looking up,' as commercials say, at their expense. So that a ministerial friend of mine says, 'It is a sin for Dissenting ministers to be ill.' Churches may have reason to bless God for a pastor's sickness ; what cause’ is not rather hurt by it?
Shop artifices may greatly assist in increasing the cause,' but do they not incalculably injure the church ?
The cultivation of a sectarian spirit will often cement a people together, preserve them from straying even to greener pastures and sweeter waters, and make them zealous in bringing in recruits ; is any church of Christ benefited thereby ?
But why go on to increase the number of illustrations, they crowd in upon the mind, and sadden it. I check my pen, therefore.
I have sometimes compared the relation of the two to each other, although not quite correctly, to that between the body and the mind, or spirit. One may have the finest bodily health, while the mind is starved. A fat man with a lean soul is not an impossibility. Neither is the reverse. The beloved apostle wished that his friend Gaius might be as healthy in body as he was prosperous in soul. Or, I have thought of the relation between a tradesman, or merchant, and his business. The latter may be growing rapidly, while the man himself is, as a man, dwindling, pining, deteriorating.
I shall pause here, with our good 'Spectator's' leave. But a quarter of a century's experience, and sundry intimations that the day is far spent, induce me thus to invite the serious thoughtfulness of Christians to the fact, that the two things are not in our day necessarily the same, and to respectfully solicit their pondering of the title of this paper, and with which too I may round it off :
THE CHURCH, OR THE CAUSE;" WHICH?
Record of Christian Missions.
NAVIGATOR'S ISLANDS. We copy the following article from the 'Samoan Reporter,' a journal conducted and printed by the missionaries of the London Missionary Society. It is published twice in the year, and is beautifully got up, as well as admirably edited. Among other things of interest it contains a meteorological register for the past year.
*Five-and-twenty years ago, the Samoans were living under the influence of a host of imaginary deities, and steeped in superstition. At his birth every Samoan was supposed to be taken under the care of some tutelary or protecting god, or aitu, as it was called. The help of, perhaps, half a dozen different gods was invoked in succession on the occasion, but the one who happened to be addressed just as the child was born was marked, and declared to be that child's god for life.
* Those gods were supposed to appear in some visible incarnation, and the part:cular thing in which his god was in the habit of appearing was 10 the Samoan an object of veneration. It was, in fact, his idol, and he was careful never to injure it, or treat it with contempt. One, for instance, saw his god in the cel, another in a shark, another in the turtle, another in the dog, another in the owl, another in the lizard ; and so on, throughout all the fish of the sca, and four
footed beasts, and creeping things. In some of the shell-fish even gods were supposed to be present. A man would cat freely of what was regarded as the incarnation of the god of another man, but the incarnation of his own particular god he would consider it death to injure or to eat. The god was supposed to avenge the insult by taking up his abode in that person's body, and causing to generate there the very thing he had eaten, until it produced death. This class of genii, or tutelary deities, are called aitu fale, or gods of the house.
"The father of the family was the high priest, and usually offered a short prayer at the evening meal, that they might be kept from fires, sickness, war, and death, Occasionally, too, he would direct that they have a family feast in honour of their household gods ; and on these occasions a cup of intoxicating ava draught was poured out as a drink-offering. They did this in their family house, where they were all assembled, supposing that their gods had a spiritual presence there, as well as in the material objects to which they have referred. Often it was supposed that the god came among them, and spoke through the father or some other member of the family, telling them what to do in order to remove a present evil or avert a threatened one. Sometimes it would be that the family would get & canoe built and keep it sacred to the god. They might travel in it themselves, but it was death to sell or part with a canoe which had been built specially for the god.
Another class of Samoan deities may be called gods of town or village. Every village had its god, and every one born in that village was the property of that god. I have got a child for so-and-so, a woman would say on the birth of her child, and name the village god. There was a small house or temple also consecrated to the deity of the place. Where there was no formal temple, the public house of the village, where the chiefs were assembling, was the temple for the time being, as the occasion required. Some settlements had a sacred grove as well as a temple, where prayers and offerings were presented. The Swift One, the Sacred One, Destruction, the God of Heaven, the Great Seer, the King of Pulotu, were the names of some of the village gods.
* In their temples they had generally something for the eye to rest upon with superstitious veneration. In one might be seen a conch shell suspended from the roof, in a basket made of cinit-network; and this the god was supposed to blow when he wished the people to go to war. In another two stones were kept. In another something resembling the head of a man, with white streamers flying, was raised on a pole at the door of the temple, at the usual hour of worship. In another a cocoa-nut shell drinking-cup was suspended from the roof, and before it prayers were addressed and offerings présented. This cup was also used in oaths. If they wished to find out a thief the suspected parties were assembled before the chiefs, the cup sent for, and each would approach, lay his hand on it, and say, “With my hand on this cup, may the god look upon me, and send swift destruction, if I took the thing which has been stolen.” The stones and shells were used in a similar way, but the cup is especially interesting.—(See Kitto's “ Bible Illustrations," vol. i. p. 426, on Divining Cups.") Before this ordeal the truth is rarely concealed. They firmly believe that it would be death to touch the cup and tell a lie.
• The priests in some cases were the chiefs of the place; but in general some