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be, we should, without ceasing, counsel all concerned to adopt the plan proposed; and should labour to convince them that a different policy, however plausible, is like that of a man who will be rich—who, impatient of the slow progress of moderate and reasonable gains, is in haste to be rich; who falls into temptation, and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.
We should be very sorry, then, to see the Home Missionary Society annihilated or weakened. We do most unfeignedly wish to see it grow and prosper. If we could, by a volition, double its resources and its missionaries, we should do it instantly, and with all our hearts. But we should do this, specifically, on the condition, that nothing should hereafter be said by the conductors of that Society, about an official connexion with any other Board, and more particularly with any ecclesiastical Board; but that, detached from all such agitating, and, at best, embarrassing connexions, they should hold on, with steadiness and zeal, in their appropriate course; interfering with no Church; entangling themselves with no ecclesiastical trammels; throwing no apple of discord among brethren; nor allowing others to throw one among themselves; ready to do good to all, and receive aid from all, but consenting to be implicated in the ecclesiastical movements or collisions of none.
The truth is, a voluntary association and an ecclesiastical Board do not meet and act together upon equal terms. The one has no other guide than the sovereign will of the associates, which may be accommodated to any alteration of circumstances, and may change every year. The other must be at all times regulated by the constitution of the ecclesiastical body to which it belongs. The one may look abroad, with all the boundless freedom of the most perfect Catholicism, regarding all evangelical denominations with equal eye, and promoting the interests of piety in the bosom of each with equal zeal. The other, in its essential nature, is appointed to watch over the spiritual concerns of a particular department of the kingdom of Christ, and forbidden by every consideration of ecclesiastical delicacy from doing any thing which might be construed as an interference with the affairs of any other denomination. Why should two such bodies be tied together? Why should two active and athletic individuals be
? willing to place themselves in such a situation that the one shall not be able to move without the other? Nay, that the
one may be called by both interest and duty to move at a time, and in a direction, by no means in conformity with either the inclination, the peculiar exigencies, or the duty of the other?
Besides, as was before observed, the members of the Presbyterian Church are extensively divided in opinion between ecclesiastical Boards and voluntary associations. It does not seem to be a settled point on which side the majority lies. But on whichsoever it may lie, one thing is certain, that the adherents to each party ought to have the opportunity of being gratified. On the one hand, those who are conscientiously persuaded that the great plans for converting the world can be best carried on by voluntary associations, surely have a right to enjoy their own opinion on this subject, and to be allowed to act accordingly. Let there be, by all means, a treasury opened upon this plan. Those who are the exclusive friends of the plan, will, of course, devote to its support their chief strength: and some who are not exclusively devoted to it—which, as we have said, is our own case—will yet be its decided friends, and take pleasure in helping it forward. On the other hand, those who are honestly persuaded that ecclesiastical Boards will be most likely to advance, surely and substantially, the interests of the Redeemer's kingdom, undoubtedly have quite as good a right to enjoy their opinion, and to be allowed to pursue a corresponding course. Let all agree, therefore, to gratify them also; to open a treasury into which they can conscientiously pour their offerings. Thus, although the whole religious community cannot go entirely together, yet all may be suited; all may find a body which they can cordially support; and all may be roused to feeling and activity in this great field of Christian benevolence. Whereas, all attempts to force together those who are not fully prepared to come and act together, like all premature and unnatural efforts to compel religious denominations to unite before they are ready for it,--do but in the end promote discord and division instead of peace.
It would truly grieve us, if voluntary asssociations should, by any means, become less popular and powerful in the public mind than they have heretofore been. We think, that in this case, the strength of a very important auxiliary in promoting the welfare of mankind, would be impaired. Much rather would we see them growing in extent, vigour, and popularity, stretching their operations into new regions, and making new conquests for Zion's king. But we must say, that if ever
the time shall come in which the character of voluntary associations shall be made to " stink” in the nostrils of the religious public; if ever the time shall come in which they shall be dreaded as dangerous to the peace of the Christian community, we predict it will be in consequence of their deserting their proper course, interfering with ecclesiastical bodies, disturbing ecclesiastical peace, manifesting an encroaching, and even an invading spirit, and giving too much reason to suspect that they are under the influence of a sinister ambition, rather than of disinterested benevolence.
While on this subject, we candidly avow, that we are disposed to extend these remarks much beyond the two Missionary Boards whose reports stand at the head of this article. We once entertained Utopian ideas of the feasibility and desirableness of great NATIONAL institutions, which, with perfect unity of character, and all-absorbing potency of influence, should serve for the whole United States. We were once, for example, of the opinion, that there ought to be but one Theological Seminary for the whole Presbyterian Church. We thought this practicable, and by far the best plan, for promoting that homogeneousness of character, which is a source of such great and multiplied advantages to our brethren of New-England. And we still think that, in theory, there is much force in many of the reasonings by which we arrived at this conclusion. Many circumstances would, no doubt, recommend this course, if the thing were practicable. BUT IT IS NOT PRACTICABLE. Neither the state of the country nor the temper of the age will admit of it. Theological peculiarities, and sectional feelings call for separate institutions. They will be had, and they must be had. And, although it cannot be denied that some serious disadvantages are incurred upon this plan; yet we can as little deny that a greater amount of Christian effort is put forth, and a much greater number of young men called into view and educated for the ministry, than there would be if there were but one such institution in the whole land, even if that were ever so wisely placed, and ever so attractively furnished with buildings, funds, teachers, and books.
The same principle we consider as applicable to most other classes of public institutions. The tastes of Christians, as well as others, are so diverse, that we must not expect to satisfy all with any one institution, as a great NATIONAL ONE. Our lot is cast in times of unprecedented character. There is
abroad among men, and especially among Americans, a degree of excitement, enterprize, impatience of control, and zeal for physical, intellectual, and moral improvement, which must, and will, without a miracle to oppose it, have its course. And it ought to be permitted to have its course; or rather every friend of man ought to help it on, taking care, in every case, as far as possible, to give it a wise and hallowed direction, and to guard against those excesses and deviations in a good cause, to which a zeal, without knowledge, is continually prone. In this career, institutions of the same kind will be apt to be too much multiplied. We cannot constrain all to unite in sustaining any one. Different localities or feelings, as we said, will call new ones into being. This is an evil; but it cannot be prevented without a course of procedure which would be a still greater evil. The whole concern will find its level. Time and experience will bring the claims of each to the test. And the true policy, as well as duty of each, is not to attempt to interfere with the others. Such as most perfectly stand aloof from all interference of this kind, will be most likely to live and flourish. Those which are sustained by the greatest amount of public suffrage will stand; and the rest will decline, or cease to exist. To this ordeal religious institutions must be left, and ought to be left; and he who would sustain them upon any other plan, in this free country, (which, may He who sits as Governor among the nations, long continue such!) manifests very little of that sound practical wisdom which is profitable to direct."
We would venture, then, to express the earnest hope, that between these two Boards there will, in future, be no collision. Why should there be? If their conductors were secular men, animated by a secular spirit, and of course, intent on self-aggrandizement, there might indeed be much room for collision of the most violent kind. But as we must suppose them both to be seeking, “not their own, but the things which are Jesus Christ's;” nothing, it appears to us, can be more easy than to maintain peace and amity between them. Let the conductors and agents of the Assembly's Board of Missions, be careful to ascertain, wherever they go, which those ministers and congregations are, who prefer voluntary to ecclesiastical associations, and who, of course, would rather contribute to the support of the Home Missionary Society than to them; and after ascertaining who these are, let them pass all such by, and go on to those ministers and Churches who are known to be friendly to themselves. Let them abstain from all complaints against the other Board, and never hint at any comparisons between their own plans, movements, and missionaries, and those of the other. Let the Home Missionary Society do the same thing with scrupulous care, and never say another word, in public or private, about amalgamation or union. Let not only these Boards themselves, and their several agents, resolve to take this course, and pursue it with sacred caution; but let all the ministers, elders, and Churches, within our bounds, from this hour, determine that every part of the Church shall be left to its own free, unbiassed choice between the two Boards, and that nothing adapted to excite jealousy or to give pain, shall be willingly indulged on either side. Let this plan of procedure be conscientiously adopted, and rigorously acted upon, and then, we are verily persuaded, these two Boards may move on, each with growing vigour, popularity, and success, without interference, and without controversy. Let this be sincerely and faithfully done, and the precious cause of domestic missions, which is the cause of the purest benevolence, may be pursued with all the zeal and vigour corresponding with its unspeakable importance, and yet with such movements as shall not produce a single jar in the Presbyterian Church.
From the report of the Home Missionary Society we learn, that the number of missionaries and agents employed by the society, during the last year, was four hundred and sixtythree; and the number of congregations and missionary districts aided in their support, five hundred and seventy-seven. Of these missionaries and agents, two hundred and ninety-nine were in commission at the commencement of the year; and the remaining one hundred and sixty-four, were new appointments during its course.
From the report of the Board of Missions of the General Assembly, it appears, that the whole number of appointments, and re-appointment of missionaries for the year preceding the date of the report was three hundred and fourteen; that the whole number of missionaries actually employed was two hundred and thirty-three; and the number of congregations and dictricts aided, more than three hundred und fifty.
This is an aggregate truly animating! We are verily persuaded, that no such account of missionary labour could have been presented, if only one of these Boards had existed without a rival; even if it had enjoyed the most extensive and un
VOL. iy. No. I.-L