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"We have a large society in our town," said a friend the other day. "It is quite large, and wealthy
This man supposed a rich society was certainly a good one. "Well," minister?"
said we, "how much do you pay your
"Five hundred per annum," was his reply. "Does that afford him a comfortable maintenance?" "No," said he, "it is not enough; but we cannot raise any more for him. We have attempted it, and cannot do it. He has a hard time to live, without getting into debt. We find it difficult to pay even five hundred dollars. We are a little in arrears every year. Our parish debt increases, although we pay so little to the minister."
"How does this happen, friend, if your society is so rich? Have you no members who are willing to pay their proportion of the expenses?"
"O yes," said he, "we have many who are willing to do their part, and more than their part; but they cannot do every thing. Those who are the most willing, and those who pay the most in proportion to what they are worth, are our men of small property. To tell you the truth, (he added,) our rich men are the most unwilling to pay. They always object to raising money. They are opposed to any improvements, which make any cost."
"Do not, then, boast of having a rich society," I replied. "I am well aware that rich members are not always the best. There are exceptions; there are some rich men who perform their parts well; but there are too many cases of a contrary kind. Rich men love their money. And it is a solemn fact, which many societies have proved by their sad experience, that there are no members of religious societies who exercise so unfavorable an influence, as rich men who are unwilling to pay their proportion of the society's expenses. 'Think of it one moment. A man worth twenty thou
sand dollars, agrees to give five dollars, as his part of some expense. Many others will estimate what they ought to give, by comparing their property with his. He is worth twenty thousand, I am worth one tenth of that, and therefore I will give fifty cents. And yet these persons would willingly have given five dollars a piece, if he had given as much in proportion. Rich men, who are unwilling to do their part, pour cold water on the zeal of others. They are not, perhaps, aware of it; but such is actually the case. And although there are many men of moderate means, who will do their duty, even if the rich man is backward, yet there are too many who conclude what they ought to give, by following his example.
"I see," said my friend, "that I have been wrong in regarding rich men as the best members of a society. Those are the best, who are the most earnestly and zealously engaged in the cause of truth, whether they be rich, or poor."
XI. Our laymen should see the necessity of exercising their spiritual gifts more frequently than they do. Meetings for religious improvement should be held, even in those places where no clergymen can be obtained. Such meetings should be held by every society in this land of Schools, Bibles, and moral facilities. If a society has no interest of this kind, unless they can have a minister, they need awakening from death to life. The Christian Sabbath is too good an institution to be neglected and misspent by those who might otherwise be improving themselves in Christian knowledge and grace.
If there are but half a dozen or a dozen members of a society, who are willing to make the first attempt at holding meetings without a minister, let them start onward. Others will follow. If any convenient place can be found in a public or private house, let it be obtained, and let some sort of religious services be performed. If no one has confidence to utter a prayer, let the Lord's prayer be repeated, and singing performed,
and sermons read; and after these services, -conversation on religious topics. These things will be beneficial. We know it, for we have repeatedly witnessed their effects.
Societies will never know what they can do, until they make the trial of their powers and means. If one stands back in doubt and diffidence, another may, and so nothing will be done. But let one, or two, or three only be resolved to commence, and the way will be made clear. The Lord's blessing will be with a small number who meet in his name.
Good readers can certainly be found in every society. If older ones decline serving, let some father appoint a son, or some other young friend to read a sermon; let those, who have honest hearts and good intentions, speak. Will it be replied, that there is a difficulty here, that very many good, honest believers in the truth, dare not attempt to speak in public on religious topics? We have heard this remark repeatedly, and have passed over it with a feeling of excuse for such; but we now repent of this error. In eight cases out of ten, we can see no just grounds for excuse. Men can talk about religion as well as about any other subject, if they feel it, and really believe it to be of paramount importance. This diffidence, then, is censurable, because unreasonable. Let a man be bruised or pained, and he can make it known, let him receive joyful intelligence, and he can vocally exult and be glad. Why must he be dumb, then, on the best of all topics, religious truth? Is there any reason in this?
One consideration here may be in place. Weak and extravagant speakers have been so often heard in certain other denominations, that some conscientious believers in Universalism are at first startled at the idea of giving utterance in public to their religious thoughts. Every one should consult his own feelings on this subject. If he can talk so as to be clearly understood on other subjects, it will do no harm for him to say something to his brethren on the subject of religion. A good, social
meeting of Christian friends will do much for the spiritual advancement of all who enjoy it. There is a lamentable indifference on this subject. Too much is thought of mere minister meetings; as if no others could be tolerated. This is wrong. We have known societies go onward month after month, and year after year, holding their meetings without a stated pastor, exhorting one another, and praising God in prayers, "psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs," with one heart, and in one spirit of Christian love. They prospered, they will continue to prosper, for the Lord will not forsake such a society as this. It is a glory in Zion; its "walls are salvation, and its gates praise;" and those who behold it will be led to glorify the name of the Father in heaven.
Who can tell how many talented, worthy preachers of God's word, may be raised up in our denomination, from those who will date their first attempts at speaking in defence of the truth, back to the social, religious meeting held by a society destitute of a minister? Think of this, ye who are friends to the doctrine of the reconciliation, and who desire, that all the good means for its advancement among men, may be put in requisition. Remember, that great effects often spring from remote and little causes. Despise not the "day of small things." If any reasonable step can be taken to give success to the cause of the Gospel, it is your duty to ask if you shall not encourage it.
THE LORD'S SUPPER.
I. THERE is nothing more simple or beautiful than the Lord's Supper, in its original form and design. It was instituted by our Lord himself. It has the high - sanction, therefore, not merely of his observance of
the rite, but of his having instituted it also, and administered it primarily to his disciples. It was a venerated custom of the Jews, to perpetuate the remembrance of any important event by a solemn festival, or feast, which, in its regular occurrence, would call the event to mind, excite gratitude for the blessing, and bear down the remembrance of it to future generations. This was the object of all the Jewish feasts. The passover, for instance, was designed to perpetuate the memory of God's goodness in delivering the Jews from Egyptian bondage, and in passing over and sparing their first-born, when the first-born of the Egyptians were slain. The feast of pentecost was instituted in remembrance of the giving of the law to Moses, fifty days after the departure from Egypt, from which circumstance, it bears the name pentecost. The feast of tabernacles was designed to perpetuate the history of the Jews' dwelling in tents or tabernacles, on their journey from Egypt to Canaan; and, during the celebration, they carried in their hands branches of palm, and other trees, with which they erected booths. See Neh. viii. 15. There were other solemn observances among the Jews, such as the feast of trumpets, so called from the blowing of trumpets upon the occasion; the feast of expiation; the feast of purim or lots, and the feast of dedication; each of which had its distinct object in the commemoration of some important event.
It should be remembered, that the early Christians were Jews, well acquainted with the religious festivals of the nation, and in the habit of observing them continually. When, therefore, the Saviour instituted the festival of the Supper, he conformed to an immemorial custom of the nation.
The object of the Lord's Supper was very briefly stated by our Saviour bimself, at the time of its institution. "This do," said he, "in remembrance of me. " Luke xxii. 19. Such we understand to be the great and leading object of the ordinance, to perpetuate a remembrance of the life, sufferings, death, resurrec