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OUR MUTUAL ASSISTANCE SCHEME. Two years have now elapsed since the commencement of the above Scheme, and the results are such as reflect equal credit on the wisdom of its projector, and the sound principles and liberal spirit of the body. Theory has now been converted into reality; and by reality, hope has been gratified, and misgivings not a few, and not a little gloomy, as to the possibility of doing what all admitted to be desirable, are now clearly shown to have been the promptings of distrust, and not of prudence.
By the directions of the Synod, specified details will be furnished to our readers through another and a separate channel. From these it will appear how generally, and how cordially, this Scheme has been supported, and how much good it has been the means of doing. The united contributions of the whole denomination is, indeed, small
, when compared with the magnificent revenues of some other churches, and is even small when compared with the princely donations of single individuals among their members. But it ought to be remembered that this is a supplementary, and not a sustentation fund; and, strange as it may sound, we know it to be a fact, that when the number of members in the Free Church, and the Original Secession, are taken into consideration, and when our supplementary and sustentation funds are put together, the average amount contributed in our depomination, by each individual member, is very much higher than that contributed in the former body. The contributions of our body, for all purposes, average fully £1 for each member per annum; and when the immensely greater amount of wealth in the Free Church is taken into consideration, with even two hundred thousand members, she would have an annual income of five hundred thousand pounds. Thus, though the nominal sum collected for this supplementary fund be small, it is not by any means contemptible, when tried by the rule of proportion. All the congregations deserve credit who have put their hands to the work; but some of them deserve special credit
. Among these we would mention Midholm, Davie Street, Edinburgh, and Ayr, especially the latter—which, all things taken into consideration, occupies the first rank in regard to liberality, and is a pattern to the whole body. Nor would it be right to omit specifying Colmonell
, the smallest congregation, so far as we know, in the body, with its contingent of £10, showing how much can be done, even where the membership is fewest, by the union of will and effort.
What has been already done shows the practicability of the Scheme. That Scheme proceeds on the principle of equality, not of nominal but of proportional equality. Nominal equality would be real inequality; for the same sums are of very unequal value in different stations; and therefore, this fund is distributed so as to proportion the income to the expense. In the first instance, it is aimed to bring all ministers in rural and remote districts to £85, in small towns to £95, and in borough towns to £105. Formerly, the stipend of many of our ministers was very far below the sums named in this scale and multitudes
doubted, and some even despaired of the possibility of such a Scheme being realised. It would be highly desirable, all admitted, but how could the thing be done? We knew from the commencement that all this, and far more than all this, could be done, with the most perfect ease,
if a united effort should only be made. And we had such confidence in the sound principle, the good sense, the generous spirit of our denomination, as to feel convinced that the apparent diffidence of many was the result of cautiousness of judgment, which, though it might make them cool in counsel, would be found, when they came to act, and to give, not to have affected their hearts, or in the least to have impaired their generosity. The result has justified these anticipations; and a very slight increase, over the whole body, above the contributions of last
year, would completely realise the Scheme, as above stated. That is to say, a very slight increase, over the whole body, would give to every minister in a rural district £85, to every minister in a small town £95, and to every minister in a borough town £105.*
By what is already done no person has been injured. We feel convinced that no contributor either is, or feels himself to be, poorer on account of what has been given. The whole difficulty in such matters is, with most persons, entirely imaginary. The love of property, and the reluctance to part with it, in those who have it, is so strong, and the fear of impoverishing themselves is so strong, generally, in those that live by daily labours, that all classes, till once they try, think they cannot do what can be easily done, if they would only allow themselves to make the attempt. Covetousness, while it has been dislodged from the heart of every christian man, has not been altogether expelled from his person; and in many cases of truly good men, the malady takes up its habitation in their nervous system, and makes them pure downright hypochondriacs, in all that pertains to money-possessing their imagination with the idea that it is impossible for them to do anything, when such a conclusion is a piece of pure hallucination, the means being in their hands, and they knowing this to be the case. The man who thinks himself unable to move, because he fancies he is formed of glass, can only be cured by walking; and persons who fancy they can give nothing for charitable or religious purposes, can only be cured by giving. What with many was believed to be an impossibility, has been proved by the result to be, not only not impossible, but not even difficult, inasmuch as it has been done, and no hardship has been experienced in its fulfilment.
While no injury has been sustained by contributors to this fund, they have been the means of doing much to increase the comfort of our ministers, and especially of those of them whose privations were greatest; and reflections on this will shed a benign and tranquil satisfaction into their hearts, of a kind which gold and silver never can excite. It should, therefore, be the resolution of every one, without exception, that he will not do less. This is necessary, in order to show that we give from principle, and not from impulse. Impulse is like a mountain torrent that flows only when the rains fall, or the snows melt; but principle is like a stream fed by some living fountain, • In addition to this, the fund has secured a manse to every minister who is without one. that pours its waters daily into the sea, yet each succeeding day flows in undiminished fulness. If the principle of sanctified generosity be implanted in our bosom, it, as well as every other grace, will be ‘in us like a well of living water, springing up unto everlasting life.' To all eternity, literally, we will feel the grateful impulse steadily, continuously actuating our minds, and this will be secured, that, though the stream of our liberality may be divided, it never will run backwards.
It is not, however, enough that we do no less than has been done. Without one particle of painful self-denial, the Scheme above explained could be completed, and more than completed. An effort, therefore, should be made to attain this end. Presbyteries and sessions, and influential and intelligent individuals throughout the country, should use their influence for this purpose. We would not have authority used, but merely influence. And when we say influence, let not this be misunderstood. Everything like an outcry about money we would utterly repudiate. It is indecorous and unwise. Extensive observation has satisfied us, that nothing has a more certain tendency to chill and to alienate people's hearts, and to restrain and freeze the current of their liberality, than lecturings, and scoldings, and querulous admonitions on the subject of money. All individuals, and all parties, who have tried this, have failed, and they all will fail, to the end of the world; for they are acting contrary to the nature of things. Liberality is a voluntary thing, and it only can be increased by strengthening liberal and generous inclinations. And this cannot be done by force. God can bring water out of the rock by smiting it, but this can be done by no man on earth, nor even by any angel in heaven. All that has the nature of force, whether physical force, or attempted authoritative coercion, or vehement invective, or clamorous demands, or habitual complainings, so far from gaining the will, are just so many ways of checking it. It is proved by all our experience, and must have been observed, by all who have made human nature in any degree their study, that the will, like a high-mettled steed, when rightly trained and managed, will yield to the gentlest pressure of the rein, and obey the faintest whisper of the voice; but like the same steed, when rudely curbed, and harshly addressed, it champs the bit, and prances, and rears, and moves backward, and turns round, and by every sort of motion, attempts to unseat the unskilful rider. Liberality cannot be promoted by force, nor can this be done by direct influence, even of a rational and moral kind. The waters cannot be increased by frequent and direct application to the stream, but by secretly feeding the fountain from which the stream takes its rise. Apply directly to the stream, and the more frequently you do so, the more its waters diminish, and they will not increase, cry out about their scantiness as you may. But feed the fountain, and the waters will flow sweetly, and naturally, and abundantly. To smite the waters, by direct application to the stream, even with the rod of God, in uninspired hands, will be certain to divide them more or less; but feed the fountain, and all its waters will cohere, and flow in a united current. Therefore, in order to increase this fund, we would have sessions, and presbyteries, and elders, and deacons, and all influential and intelligent persons, to try and feed the fountain. Let them endeavour to increase the principle, the piety, the vital godliness of the community; let them endeavour to obtain increased impressions on their own minds, of the obligations they are under to devote themselves unto the Lord, and let them disseminate such feelings; let the value of divine truth, and the necessity of maintaining it, by a faithful testimony be inculcated ; let the value of our principles, the principles of the reformed and covenanted church of Scotland, be more fully brought forward ; convince the people that they have a work to do for God, a good work, a great work, a work that concerns the welfare of their country, the good of the whole world, and more than the good of the whole world, which concerns the glory of the great God who created them, and of the allmerciful Saviour who died for them; convince them that it is their present duty, yea, their high honour, and their distinguished privilege, to be the adherents, and the representatives, and the supporters of a cause, for which their martyred fathers, of immortal memory, shed the best blood that ever flowed in Scottish veins, and died in the hope, which they proclaimed, when they stood on the threshold of heaven, that it was yet to be Scotland's reviving; convince them of the grandeur of the work, and of the utter degradation and everlasting infamy it would be, if we should show ourselves so degenerate sons of these great-hearted, and strong-handed, and high-souled fathers, as to allow the work to fail in our hands, in these times of peace and tranquillity, which they sustained in defiance of privation, and exile, and torture, and death;-convince them of these things, and like one digging a well, you have perforated the rock, you have reached the region of the waters, and they will flow of their own accord.
It is not enough, however, that the fountain be fed; channels must be opened in which the waters may flow, and in order that these may be kept from sanding up, they will require to be periodically cleaned. It is always a very unpleasant kind of work to clear a water-course from the accumulated mud at its bottom. The workman, from standing in so unpleasant a position, is in great danger of cold, followed by rheumatism. When, in our former article on this subject, we attempted to clear the water-courses of denominational liberality, from the sand and mud which had been accumulating for generations, the chilling influences which arose from the manifold strata of deposited prejudices and habits, and customary modes of feeling and action, led us for a time to fear that cold and rheumatism, for life, would be the only result of these labours. The cordial response, however, that has been made to the former appeal, convinces us that the well-spring of principle in the body is both clear and strong, and that we will not only be borne with, but as one doing disagreeable work, will receive general approbation and encouragement, in occasionally attempting to widen and improve the channels into which the fountain empties itself, that so its waters may become increasingly available.
The preservation of evangelical religion in this land, so far as man can see, must now depend, almost entirely, on the voluntary liberality of the people of God. And in doing this, so far as we can in any degree understand the signs of the times, no denomination that continues truly evangelical need expect its numbers to be increased. On the contrary, unless there be a revival of vital godliness, we feel convinced that there will be, very soon, either a great decrease among the professed adherents of evangelism, or which is worse, that evangelism will become more and more diluted in order to suit the pantheistical, ethereal nothingarianism, that is covering the highest regions of the literary firmament, and whose mystic clouds of illuminated and many-hued vapour, are beginning to spread a bright obscurity over some quarters of churches called evangelical. Therefore it becomes all that believe in Christ, that really love God, that are impressed with a sense of the unspeakable importance of divine truth, to consider how much is dependent on them, and to inquire how they can best perform what the great King and Head of the church has entrusted to them as their peculiar work.
In indicating a few things necessary to be kept in view by contributors to this, and similar funds, we would recall to mind, the spirit in which the disciples at Antioch proceeded in sending relief, during a famine, to their afflicted brethren in Judea : "Then the disciples, every man ACCORDING TO HIS ABILITY, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judea.' Every man should give. The genuine members of the church are all equally interested in her privileges, all equally indebted to her Head ; one by one they are forgiven; one by one they expect to be admitted into heaven; and one by one, without exception, they should “honour the Lord with their substance, and with the first-fruits of all their increase.' Not a hoof that belongs to Christ shall be left in bondage, and not a heart that belongs to Christ should beat with a bondman's spirit: not a hand that belongs to him but should be opened to give for his cause. Many of Christ's people may have little to give; but let all of them give, and the union of littles will approach to much. Single drops, each of which is small, when united, form the great continent of waters : Gaseous particles, by their union, form the great aerial ocean that God has hung over our heads, and with which he has clothed our globe, as with an outspread mantle; yea, the whole material universe, whose bounds are beyond what the imagination can conceive, or human arithmetic can express, is formed by the union of individual atoms, so small as not only to escape the eyesight of man, but to elude detection by the finest and most powerful instruments of his invention. Let every man who loves Christ, give his drop, his particle, his atom, however small, and the union of these will amount to much. Except in peculiar circumstances, it is wrong for any individual not to give, and it is a scandal for a whole congregation to keep back.
Every man should give; and as the disciples did, let every man give according to his ability.' 'Every man according to his ability determined to send relief unto the brethren which were in Judea.' No man should excuse himself on the ground of inability; for God's rule is, according to his ability; and if this rule be observed, and instead of beginning with cold-hearted words about inability, persons would speak the warm and grateful-hearted words of christians, each one frankly