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THE PRESBYTERIAN ASSEMBLY., Issue 15656, 21 November 1914
THE PRESBYTERIAN ASSEMBLY.
The Church generally is beginning to come to its own at last. This is on© of the results, and not the least important, of the war. Previous to that there seemed to be « consensus of opinion that the Church did not count. The working man turned it down, while the politician had no time for it, and tlio philosopher and scientific historian argued that it belonged to an age when men were ignorant and unenlightened. But now- they say that Is all changed. Society and tlio State are absorbing all the essentials of the Church. It is outworn not because opposition has beaten it down, but because the world has assimilated its vitality as summer assimilates spring and leaves it behind. And then, just when we were settling down comfortably into this belief, the Great War bursts upon us, and our science and our politics are found no match for the issues it has raised. What, indeed, are these issues but just those which tho Church had boon prophesying would inevitably come. It had told us that neither men nor nations are profited if they gain the whole world and lose their own souls. It had lifted up its voice against the growing materialism, philosophic and practical, of the time. It had warned the people in the old words : "The wicked shall bo turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God." And we are in hell now, and the Church might say, if it pleased : " I told you so," and it would., speak truly. People had drifted into the idea that tho guarantees of civilisation were in armaments, treaties, social conventions, political institutions, and educational equipments, lint it turns out that these are frail bonds to keep nations from cutting each other's throats. It turns out that nothing is equal to that save the word and power of Him " who hangeth the earth upon nothing " except His own Spirit and Word. The one hope of the world's security and permanence is the ethic of Jesus Christ. A whole vast Empire has been trying the experiment of jettisoning this othic and substituting that of Bernhardt, Nietzsche, and Co., and it has deluged the earth with blood. And the end is not yet. # * * * # * *
The Church stands for both the ethic and dynamic of Jesus Christ. The one without the other is foolishness, and only ends in despair. So it comes about that men are disposed in this hour of trial to turn again to their deserted shrines and thoir abandoned faiths. A little boy was going to bed one night. His mother said to him :
" Tommy, you have forgotten something." "No, I have not." " Oh, yes, you have." "Oh, ho, 1 have not." " Oh, but I know you have." " Oh, but I know I have not. I am not going to say my prayers to-night, and I am not going to say them tomorrow night, and I nm not going to say them tho night after; and, if everything qor.a, well, I ain't agoing to say them again—never no moro." "If everything goes well." Surely the child is father to the man. But, then, everything does not go well. There come tragedies to the individual .and overthrows to the nations, and men find their way to their knees again. As Clough sings:
Almost everyone, when age, Disease, or sorrow strikes him, Inclines to think there is a God, Or something very like Him.
And .so in these times of stress wo are told that churchgoing has been resumed. Thousands who had turned down the Church are beginning to think that, Idee General French's army, she is not so contemptible as critics supposed. In the dark days of the American Civil War a New York lawyer, who had not been seen in church for years, was discovered there. A friend said: " What in the world brings you here?" "Well," replied the lawyer, "we're " in a tight place, and we need all the help "we can get." If God ever laughs, and we have tho authority of tho Bible, in its bold anthropomorphism, for believing that He does, He must surely be sorely tempted to do it at tho spec tacle of men and women sneaking back to Him when they are squeezed and scared, though when everything went well He was not in all their thoughts. But ,t is the glory of tlio Gospel which tho Church is commissioned to preach that oven then, when they can do no better, thoy arc welcomed home and have no re proaches cast in their face. And so men and women are inclined just now to look with a different ago upon the Church and its claims upon them.
This week a branch of the Church has been holding its sittings in our City. It is a Church with a great history. Presbyterianism has been a mighty force in building up individual and national character. It has stood for liberty and enlightenment. The days are long gone since a Stuart King said " it was no religion for a gentleman." There are still, indeod, some snobs who think so even yet. But they are the survivals of an extinct race that draw attention only because of their curiosity. The backbone of Presbvterianism is Calvanism, and it was a distinguished Anglican scholar—Mark Pattison—who puts it on record that " Calvanism saved Europe." Our great novelist reminds us that our " finest hope is finest memory." Prosbyterianism may well face the future with a high heart, for it has a brilliant past—a past that it need not care to exchange for any share in the fabled antiquity of other religions, for any share in the conquests or the bondages of Imperial Borne. In thfs Dominion it is doing excellent work. True to its traditions, it puts strong emphasis upon the educational status of its ministers. It has probably a larger percentage of LTniversity men among it* ranks than that of any other Church. It has provided a seat of learning here—Knox College—which Is not only a well-equipped institution for the training of its preachers, but is both an ajsthetic and educational asset of no mean value to thi i City. Wo are giad to seo that under the present management of its genial and cultured master it is achieving the ends for which if was founded. Its boarding facilities are more than taxed. Though there were -93 men in residence, yet it is not equal to the demand for accommodation. Nine new beautiful rooms were added last year, the cost of which, with tin furnishing:, was borne entirely by Mr John Ross. This brings his total contributions to £18,273. It is a very noble gift, and the whole institution is a living and beautiful monument to the generosity of its founders. In this connection, also, ws havj been struck, in looking through the reports, with the amount of money that has been left to the various schemes of the Church. Apparently these who die wealthy are beginning to remember the church claims in their wills. Year by year the sums thus bequeathed are growing. Thi6 is as it should be. Wo have had to complain before now that rich people are not as considerate as they ought to be of the public needs. Month by month people die in the Dominion leaving money and property worth hundreds of
thousands "of pounds, and scarcely a penny to anything outside their own family. Perhaps it is extreme to say -with Carnegie that ha who dies rich dies disgraced. Nevertheless, money is a great trust. It is a trust that "reaches out far beyond oneself or one's family. It is a trust to be administered for the community and for the tState that have enabled us to acquire it. Not long ago there died in America Dr Daniel K. Parsons. It was he who first taught Carnegie to give as he has been doing. Parsons was wealthy, but ho wanted to enjoy seeing his money turned into the joy of others before he died. So he gave away all his while ho was alive. The last donation ho accompanied with this quaint and characteristic letter: Fifty thousand dollars, farewell! You have been in my keeping for many years, and you have been a faithful servant. Your earnings have helped to educato many young men and women, who have helped to make the world better. Now you are going into the hands of other stewards. ... I expect that every dollar of this endowment fund will be kept intact and doing good for 500 years. Now, fifty thousand dollars, farewell! Go into the keeping of younger men, and God's blessing go with you. Do your duty, and give the poor boys and girls of Vermont a fair chance. And so Dr Parsons, though dead, is now more living than ever. He did not wait till his hand was forced, for, as he pithily said, "coffins were never made to carry money "—a striking variation of the old Spanish proverb that "shrouds have no pockets." And this thought suggests a word as to the causes which the donors select for their 'benefactions in the Presbyterian Church of this Dominion. "Charity should begin at homo" is an old saying, and very tTue it is. So it is natural that work among " our ain folk" should have a primary place in the sympathies of Church members. Of this kind of work none makes a stronger appeal than that of the orphan children. It is very wonderful how this field ha« developed. A few years ago it was unentered. Now it is one of the most popular, as it is perhaps the most pressing, of the Church's charitable undertakings. Duncdin, we believe, was the first to make the venture. It hit upon the right man as superintendent. To praise Mr Axeken would be as superfluous as to paint the lily. And tho 6ame might be said of his co-partner in the work, Sister Mary. He has this year a family of 300 in his charge. But ho is as buoyant under his responsibilities as the buoy that rides and dips at sea. The wise and generous donor of the Glendining Home has prudently resolved to taste the joys of his generosity in this incarnation, and the blessing of tho 74 boys and girls in that institution at present should descend upon him. The Christchurch one has had two or three lucky windfalls during tho yearone of £I,OOO, one of £250, and it was made residuary legatee of an estate that will probably bring in some £5,000. Wellington is able to present the rather unusual report that its income exceeds its expenditure by £325. In this connection, too, may be mentioned the Church's home mission efforts. It contributed upwards of £4,000 for this puxpoeo last year. It received a legacy of £I,OOO, while another estate valued Jit from £6,000 to £B,OOO ha* been bequeathed to it, subject to certain conditions and life interests. The Laymen's Missionary League wore contemplating a movement to raiso £B,OOO in aid of this cause, similar to that which they carried through f-o successfully in 1913 in aid of the foreign missions of the Church, and which resulted in tho magnificent sum of about £13,000. But this horrible war, which has pinned so many beneficent operations to the wall, will probably hold up this one 100. Then the native population are not forgotten. The Church is making ft vigorous effort to educate and Christianise the Maoris. It has a training school for boy.i and gills and nurse 6 and missionaries at work, and last year it contributed about £1,500 to carry on this work of faith and labor of love. So that it is clear that its obligations to the needy at home are not forgotten. # # # # # # * But while charity should begin at home, it ought not to end there. " Beginning at Jerusalem" was the instruction of the Church's Founder; but it wa« no less His command to "disciple all nations." And the Presbyterian Church in this Dominion has boen trying to fulfil both injunctions of its Lord and Master. Wo have not t-paec to reefer iu any detail to its foreign mission work—its work in the Islands of the Pacific, in the Canton villages, in India. It must suffice to say that last year it contributed £15,621 for this purpose. Tho gross total raised by the Church lust year was £157,226, an increase of nearly £13,000 over that of 1913. Part of this eurplus was no doubt due to the special effort on behalf of the Canton Village Missions. The Church that is thus willing to back its faith by finances of such magnitude aa we have indicated clearly shows that it is a iiving and progressivo ono. All tectums of the oommunity should be glad of this. The clever criticß who try to pull the Church to | pieces may be challenged to produce a substitute "with a record like this. Mr Augustine BirreH's advice may be offered to them: "Faith may be weU left alone, "for she is, to give her her due, our " largest manufacturer of good works, and "when her furnaces are blown out mora"lity suffer*.''
THE PRESBYTERIAN ASSEMBLY., Issue 15656, 21 November 1914
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