|HE CHRISTIAN CHURCH was designed from the first to be aggressive. It was not intended to remain stationary at any period, but to advance onward until its boundaries became commensurate with those of the world. It was to spread from Jerusalem to all Judea, from Judea to Samaria, and from Samaria unto the uttermost part of the earth. It was not intended to radiate from one central point only; but to form numerous centres from which its influence might spread to the surrounding parts. In this way it was extended in its first and purest times. The plan upon which the apostles proceeded, and the great apostle in particular in his mission to the Gentiles, was to plant Churches in all the great cities and centres of influence in the known world. The theory of one centralization of authority and action in human governments, however extensive the empire may become, is not that which was originally enjoined either by precept or practice in the New-Testament Church. It was the Church theory of the Jewish dispensation which was partly political, and adapted for one nation only; but on that very account could not apply to a form of government designed for the whole world. The new wine would have caused that old bottle to burst. We all know how that Church-theory has been tried, and how, through the fermentation of the little gospel truth it retained, it swelled until it burst. So far as the Church has returned to the centralizing influence of separate and independent Churches, it has regained its original prosperity; its first life has returned with its first mode of action; and increasing activities in that direction have generated increase of life. Soon as, after long perseverance and suffering, it was left free to its original action, those numerous institutions arose which are now deemed essential appendages to a vital and flourishing Christian community. The influence of the past had established a deep-rooted conviction that the officials were the only authorized agents for Church extension; but gradually the cooperation of the whole Church was required, and was found to be the appropriate and healthful exercise of all its gifts and graces. A Church, in which each member has something to do towards its increase, is in its proper and normal state. In proportion as it grows, it must seek to grow more, because growth is necessary to the most healthy state of life; and in proportion as it blesses others, it is itself blest. "I will make them," is the promise, "and the places round about my hill a blessing." What follows? "And I will cause the shower to come down in his season; there shall be showers of blessing." There has not only been the shower in its season in the Church of the Metropolitan Tabernacle, there have been showers of blessing. Why? Because it has sought a blessing, not upon itself alone, but upon others. Of the places round about this hill of Zion which have been made a blessing, we are now to speak. Of the rising and fruitfulness of that hill, we spoke in a former number; we propose here to do little more than enumerate the several institutions at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, reserving the description of each for future occasions.
The chapel in New Park-street is still retained in connection with the Church at the Tabernacle, but it is hoped that by its sale another building will be erected in a more eligible locality. Services are regularly held there, and the Sunday-school is ably sustained. The Sunday-school at the Tabernacle numbers about 900 scholars and 75 teachers. Other Sunday-schools, and ragged schools, are sustained and conducted in other districts, in connection with the Tabernacle. The College, at first, was sustained by the pastor only. As it rose in usefulness and promise, the assistance of others was cheerfully rendered. In 1861, it was adopted by the Church as one of its own institutions; and became united with it at the opening of the Metropolitan Tabernacle. The number of the students at the present time is 91. Apart from these, there are evening classes for young men for languages, science, and elementary tuition; the attendants at which number on the whole about 230. Popular lectures, during the winter months are delivered on Friday evenings in the lecture-hall to students and the public in general. Many of the students are engaged in preaching on Sabbath days in the metropolis and its suburbs, and in distant parts of the country; others are employed in connection with an Evangelists' Association which has numerous preaching-stations in neglected districts, and sends forth a host of men to proclaim the gospel in the open air. This association is chiefly sustained by the students at the evening classes. There are numerous Bible-classes in connection with the Tabernacle. One is held every Monday evening, after the prayer-meeting, at which Mr. Rogers presides. This class is for discussion on given topics, for the purpose of practice in extemporaneous speaking, as well as instruction in Biblical subjects. It is well attended by all classes, and is particularly beneficial as a test of the oratorical powers of those who are desirous of entering the College. Bible-classes are conducted by Mr. Stiff, Mr. Hanks, and Mr. John Olney. All are efficient and well attended. A ladies' class, conducted by Mrs. Bartlett, is both the most numerous and most remarkable in its immediate results: it numbers nearly 700, and 63 have joined the Church from it during the past year. There is a Bible-society depot at the Tabernacle, at which Bibles are sold at cost-price. There is a Tract Society in extensive operation. There is a Jews' Society which holds its meetings monthly. A Ladies' Benevolent Society, a Maternal Association, a Missionary Working Society, and a Sunday School Working Society, are also in full operation. A Fraternal Association has lately been established, with the view of promoting more union of heart and effort amongst pastors and Churches of the same denomination. Missionary work is not neglected. Two City Missionaries are sustained by the Church and people; two other missionaries on the Continent, in Germany; and considerable aid is given to foreign missions.
|We have here the rare instance of a Christian Church containing within itself all the varied appliances of Christian zeal in modern times. These have risen successively, and expanded, as the spontaneous and appropriate expression of that zeal. This may go far to show that it accords with apostolic times. If the principles and motives be the same, the fruits, allowing only for the difference of circumstances, will be the same. Nor is it difficult to see a similar diversity in the methods of aggression in the primitive Churches, according to the circumstances of those times. The Church at Jerusalem had its mission both to the Jews and to the heathen. There it was, says Paul, that "James, Peter, and John gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision." The Church at Antioch had its foreign mission; for it sent forth Paul and Barnabas on a missionary tour into Asia Minor. "When they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away." They had their Pastor's College; for Paul says to Timothy, "The things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also." They had their Home Missions; for of the Church at Thessalonica, it is said, "From you sounded out the word of the Lord in Macedonia and Achaia." They had their Tract Societies, as far as circumstances would allow."When this epistle," said Paul to the Church at Colosse, "is read among you, cause that it be read also in the Church of the Laodiceans." They had their Bible Classes. "These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so." There were Mrs. Bartlett's classes in those times. "Help those women which laboured with me in the Gospel." They had their Benevolent Societies. "It hath pleased them of Macedona and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem." They had their working ladies for the poor. Honourable mention is made of one to show how honorable it is in all. "There was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and alms-deeds which she did." We are then informed of what those alms-deeds consisted. We should have supposed they consisted in money only; but no! she gave her time and her labor. At her death, "all the widows stood by Peter weeping, and showing the coats and garments which Dorcas made while she was with them." If there were no Sunday-schools in the first Churches, it was simply because they had neither the learning nor the books required, not even the Scriptures. A foundation was laid for them by the Master, when he said, "Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of heaven." Although, therefore, all the institutions connected with our Churches are of recent origin, the germs of them existed in primitive times, and remained for development when that which hindereth should be taken out of the way. New as they may be in practice, they are not new in principle or theory. They are the natural growth of true Church-principles, which struggle for expansion by event legitimate means and on every side. Remove the pressure of outward violence and inward formality, and the Church springs up to this as to its natural state, and breathes its native air. It is by the great variety of aggressive means that the zeal and efforts of each and all the members of our Churches are brought to bear upon the same end. It enables every one to answer the question for himself, "Lord, what wilt that thou have me to do?"|
Such a Church, with its many agencies in incessant operation, becomes a power, not in this country merely, but in the world. Such were the first Churches in Corinth, in Philippi, in Ephesus, and in Rome. Most of these arose, as in the case before us, almost entirely from the labors of one man. Is not this then, we ask, as we appeal to its efficiency, as we appeal to its spirituality, as we appeal to its internal harmony, as we appeal to its development of all Christian gifts and graces, and as we appeal to its freedom from all the evils of secular ecclesiasticism,Is not this the fashion after which the Gospel was originally designed to spread, and in which it can best be extended in any country and in any age? The combination of many churches in one system of organization for the support of missions, both at home and abroad, may be the best thing when Churches are small and feeble in themselves; but it is second-best only to the primitive plan. It is more costly, and it creates a power unknown to the apostles, and detrimental to the liberty of individual Churches. We admit its great utility in a transition state from false to genuine Christianity, and are thankful for its results, but, at the same time, we are persuaded it has its limits, and is chiefly valuable, as it restores to the Church, and multiplies its own centres of illumination.