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THE DUTY OF EMPLOYING OUR INFLUENCE AND POLITICAL
POWER ON BEHALF OF THE CHURCH.
Among those who are bound to exert their influence for the benefit of their benighted countrymen, the clergy of course demand the first place. Their gifts, no doubt, if estimated by the rule of our Lord, already far exceed, as they should, those of all other orders: but the more irksome task of exciting others to a liberal and self-denying bounty, has been comparatively neglected. In pressing the claims of the Church, the clergy cannot but feel the embarrassment of appearing to speak for their own order, if not for their own interest; and their difficulty is in some respects the greater, because in worldly rank and position they are the equals of those whose selfishness they are required to reprove. All these are impediments: but they must be disregarded, and God's word must be spoken without fear and without favour, by him who will discharge his trust. Indeed, when we consider the great and peculiar danger of the rich, and how seldom an unwelcome truth reaches
their ears anywhere but in church, it seems the special duty of every pastor, to whose care any of them are committed, to be strenuous in inculcating the snare and deceitfulness of riches, and the great account to be rendered by those to whom much is given. How earnestly does St. Paul exhort his son Timothy, “ Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy!.” He must not content himself with exhorting them to do good, as he adds in the next verse,
richly, readily, willingly," but must solemnly remind them of their peculiar danger—that of trusting in riches. He must “ warn, exhort, rebuke them with all authority.” May there not be some pastors who have fulfilled their duty to the poor, but who have reason to fear lest, in the day of account, the rich of their flock should rise up against and condemn them, for having left them alone unwarned??
As regards the laity, one most important service, which they can perform at the present moment, is that of ascertaining and making known the actual state of things. Until lately, it was hardly known that any considerable want of churches existed. This is no longer the case : but much still requires to be made known. We want (as has been suggested) accurate statistical reports of our existing churches, and of the needs of our population. A layman who has any leisure, would be most usefully employed in collecting and making public these facts. It is a debt of justice to acknowledge the great service which has been rendered, not to Scotland only but to England, by the labours of one Glasgow layman, Mr. Collins. His pamphlet, called “ Statistics of Glasgow Church Accommodation," has done more probably towards making known the dreadful state of irreligion in which the neglected thousands of our town population are actually lying, than any other work. He has refuted the confident assertions, that the dissenters do for the poor what the Church does for the rich ; and that the poor are excluded from the house of God only because they will not come: he has laid bare the monstrous features of the case, by a plain statement of facts. Such a book (modified of course in many particulars) is necessary before we can rightly estimate the state of Birmingham or Liverpool, and even of large parts of London. We want to know how many families in each street or district regularly attend any church-how many go sometimes—how many never—and then, how
1 1 Timothy vi. 17.
2 It is instructive to observe how strongly and keenly the rich are warned of their peculiar danger in the authorized English homily “Of Alms-deeds,” and yet more in those of St. Chrysostom.
many are in conscious separation from the church? thus we could calculate the actual numbers who are deserted by
all men and left to perish without pity and without aid,
In conversation, again, more may often be done by the laity than by those who are naturally suspected of a professional bias. They may make known the actual state of things to those among whom they live; they may assert the duty and blessedness of giving up something for its remedy; in a word, they may confess Christ
We too little think how much evil we may do, by checking (perhaps by a thoughtless word) the rising of some good desire, in those especially who respect our judgment. A man begins to observe the wretched state of his dependants; he doubts whether he is not bound to do something for them; he is just at a critical point; a word, a look may incline him to the good or to the evil of himself and of thousands. And in this state, if he hears one whom he justly respects express even a passing feeling, that “ the expense of restoring the parochial system puts it out of the question,” or that, “ under the circumstances, it is useless to think of a new church in such and such a district,” he may very likely begin to regard the thought which God has put
into his mind as romantic and unreasonable-perhaps to be ashamed of having entertained it: and thus God's Spirit is grieved, and the opportunity passes by, and the world engrosses all that he has, and it becomes useless to press him to do any thing for his Lord, his brethren, and himself.
It is a serious consideration, how much every one of us either raises or lowers the standard of morals and religion, in the society with which we mix; and in consequence how far we are responsible for the errors and faults of our brethren as well as for our own. In some degree it is always so, but in these times more than ever. The form of our government makes the judgment and opinion of every body of men, to a certain degree, influential upon the governing powerupon the nation itself. The politicians of this world may speak of the power and influence thus conferred on every one of us as a political right. To the eye of a Christian, it bears a more high and solemn character—as one of the talents committed to his stewardship. Far better for him to be the subject of an absolute monarch, and have no political power at all, than to possess the privileges of an Englishman, and regard them only as rights to be used as he will, forgetting the solemn account which he must render for them hereafter. The great Hammond was asked, as he lay upon his death-bed, what he considered to be the happiest condition of life? He replied, “ Uniform obedience :" by which he was understood to mean, not merely obedience to the direct commands of God (which is not a condition, but a duty), but moreover such a state as sub