« ÎnapoiContinuați »
raise per member; so that a congregation of 160 persons raising 10s. a head, or in the gross only £80, will come in just as much as a congregation of 800 or 1000 raising £400 or £500, or before them if they fail in that. In connexion with the working of the scheme generally, the House should remember that there never was a time more favourable for testing the resources of the equal dividend than the last four or five years. During that time, until recently, though things have somewhat changed now, the tide of afluence has flowed in this country in greater depth and volume than ever it did before. But the Sustentation Fund has not grown with the increase of wealth. Eleven years ago the equal dividend was £140; and anybody knows that that was a great deal more than £150 would be now. As regards the scheme great pains must be taken to explain it, and it is to be hoped office-bearers and others will not grudge the attention necessary to do this. Of course, the scheme will not remove all anomalies. It may exclude some congregations that ought to be included, and include others that ought to be excluded. That is incident to all schemes applicable to human affairs, but the scheme is one certainly deserving of hearty support, as an earnest attempt to solve a problem than which there is at present no more important social question, putting it on no higher ground—the better remuneration of the ministry. (Hear, hear.)
Mr CHARLES Cowan, of Valleyfield, said he had always held, and held now as strongly as ever, that nothing would content him short of the ministers of the Free Church being placed in a position at least as good as that wbich they possessed when ministers of the Established Church. There was a moral obligation binding upon the eldership and the people of Scotland to supplement to the full all that had been taken away; and he was not without hope that now they would feel they had a debt of honour and gratitude to discharge, and that from this day forth a more hearty and generous response would be given to the appeal which had been made to his fellow.churchmen. Two considerations he wished to advert to in connexion. One was the scanty supply of students for the ministry, regarding which he asked how could it be otherwise when the remuneration in other professions was so much higher. His second observation had reference to the great work accomplished through means of the Sustentation Fund in the closes and lanes of our great cities. We were hearing of impending changes in our constitution, and he regarded it as of the utmost importance that they should endeavour to erect what he might call a conservative element in these localities, and to impregnate them with a body who would fear God and honour the queen. He was reminded of the memorable words of Dr Chalmers, that the Sustentation Fund was the sheet-anchor of the Church ; if there was any flaw in that anchor, very serious results were likely to arise, and if the crew of the Free Church were compelled to leave the good ship Free Church for want of provisions-encompassed as it was with so many enemies, and tossed as it had been in so tempestuous a seathat would be an event which the country at large would have cause deeply to deplore. He trusted that, as the result of this discussion, a substantial addition to the fund would be made from all parts of the country.
Mr MILLER, of Leithen, said he had been all along what is called an equal dividend man, and he held he was so still ; but at the same time he gave to Dr Buchanan's plan, now before the House, his most cordial assent. (Applause.) It was unnecessary to say a single word about the great need they had for a scheme of this sort, and he believed Dr Buchanan's plan would enable them to do something towards remedying the present state of matters. To his brother elders especially, he would say that a great deal lay on their shoulders, and he knew from experience that if the elders would put their shoulders to the wheel, and explain to the congregations what is really meant by this equal dividend and by this Sustentation Fund, it would go far towards attaining the object they had in view. He had been over several congregations during last winter, and he had been amazed to see the want of information on this great question. He would suggest that the elders should take the trouble to meet with their own and other congregations, and indoctrinate the people of the Church as to what it is that really wanted. In some places he had found the old scheme of a penny a week was thought to be enough to pay to the Sustentation Fund.
That was never intended to be stereotyped as the measure of the givings of the Church. We are thankful to the large givers, but the permanent burden in the matter of this most important fund must rest upon the mass of the members of the Church. He would ask the Church to remember that, in carrying out the scheme now proposed, they were only doing bare justice to the ministers, for £200 now-a-days was not equal to £150 twenty-four years ago; and he would have liked to see the Church going a good bit further, and acting with a little generosity, as a reward for the arduous labours and services of their ministers. (Applause.)
Mr PETER DENNY, Dumbarton, (elder,) rose for the purpose of speaking to a practical question, or how to get the money necessary to carry out the views which had been so eloquently set before them that day. In the Presbytery of Dumbarton they had had what he might call a congress of the office-bearers within the bounds in the month of April or in March last. The subject was then very seriously discussed, and the hardships of their ministers were eloquently set forth. They had occasion to speak of the abuses that existed, and how to remedy them; and to their shame they found that one of the chief abuses lay with the elders and deacons. One of the abuses consisted in the deacons allowing their office to be a sinecure, in so far as the collection of the contributors was concerned, as they allowed this duty to be discharged by ladies. It was, however, resolved that an end should be put to this abuse, and he was able to speak from experience of the benefit of the change; for he found that after a month or two the contributions which he received were very largely increased. (Applause.) It was true that at first he did not altogether like the work, but by and by he began to like it; and as an inducement for his brother deacons to follow his example, he could assure them that a deacon could with more power enforce the claims of the Sustentation Fund than ladies. In proof of this he might state that he had ascertained that three other deacons in the congregation with which he was connected had adopted the same course, and their experience was precisely that of his own,
He might also state that at the meeting to which he referred an admirable letter, written by a gentleman, had been submitted ; and in this document it was pointed out that there were many gentlemen of considerable means
who did not contribute the amount they might be willing and were able to do, seeing that they found that the people in the congregations did not do wbat they ought, and would rely on any extra contributions they might make. In order to meet this, it was suggested in this document that those parties who were not disposed to give the additional sum through their own congregation ought to send what they could spare to headquarters. This had, he knew, been given effect to in his own Presbytery. The meeting in the Presbytery of Dumbarton had resolved that an attempt should be made to increase the contributions one-fourth, so that a minimum stipend of £200 should be aimed at. He had since ascertained that in order to attain this end the increase should be onethird, and he had no doubt that this would be put right in course of time. He had every reason to believe that in his congregation the additional one-fourth would be raised ; and he also hoped that the same result would be secured in the other congregations in the Presbytery, When once his congregation had attained the position to which he alluded, it would be able to speak with power to the Presbytery of Dumbarton; and if that Presbytery could be brought into the same position, it could approach the Synod, and the success of such a movement would tell upon the whole Church. (Applause.)
Mr TULLOCH, of Livingstone, approved of this scheme, which embodied the principle of an equal dividend with checks in the right direction. He thought the scheme proposed was one characterised by much wisdom, and he trusted it would be very cordially adopted by the Assembly. The checks which they hitherto had, went in the way of merely affecting the minister and not the parties who were the givers to the fund. In this new scheme there was to be a certain average rate of contribution per communicant taken. But it seemed to him that much care would require to be taken just about this very thing. In connexion with this he suggested that in cases where the rate was kept at a certain average in consequence of there being a few wealthy contributors, while the rest of the communicants did not contribute their fair share, the sums subscribed by the former parties should be deducted, and the average rate taken upon the sums contributed by the bulk of the congregation. In illustrating his remarks on this point he cited the case of a congregation wbich had 916 members, and raised £630 for the Sustentation Fund. The average rate, if taken upon the whole, would come to 13. or 14s.; but if they deducted eight communicants who gave £408, the figures would then stand as follows :-908 communicants contributing only £226, and leaving an average contribution of only 5s. per communicant. Another remark which he had to make was, that it would be found that the largest, or among the largest, contributions in the Church, according to membership, were to be found amongst some of the smaller congregations. In making these remarks bis object was to express the hope that when the scheme came to be adopted and fairly worked in the Church, those having its management would keep in view the facts he had brought forward, and the class of which they were representatives, when striking the average of contribution per communicant. He also hoped that the large contributors in the different congregations would throw in their influence, so as to co-operate with the Sustentation Fund Committee, in order that the scheme might be worked to the greatest advantage.
Dr MʻLAUCALAN thought it due to Dr Buchanan, as well as to themselves, that some of those who had been all along supporters of the principle of an equal dividend should state how they felt in respect to this scheme. He rose, therefore, for the purpose of expressing how heartily and cordially he assented to the proposal of Dr Buchanan. If he was charged with inconsistency, he would say that, if committed to the principle of an equal dividend, he was not committed to beyond the sum of £150 a year. Then he thought the scheme entitled to a fair trial from all parties, especially as a definite time was fixed within which the scheme should be tried. This scheme was free from the objection of visiting the failures of congregations upon the ministers. In regard to the Highlands, they must remember that the communicants were an exceedingly small proportion of the congregation, and the principle hitherto adopted was to reckon two-thirds of the adherents in the Highland cougregations as equal to the communicants in a Lowland congregation. But he thought this regulation would require to be revised; the proportion was too high; he thought they should take half of the adherents as a fairer estimate of the proportion which might be reckoned as members in the sense of contributors.
Dr R. J. Brown made some remarks, which, as far as they could be heard, were to the effect that care should be taken to secure that congregations should not lose the stimulus of direct personal return, by having their increased liberality merely distributed over the Church.
Mr Rose, Minard, said, -Moderator, in the note appended to the Sustentation Fund Committee's report, it is stated that the Highland congregations are to be rated, not according to membership, but that twothirds of the sitters are to be regarded as the membership for the purposes of the new scheme. I wish the Assembly distinctly to understand that, if the Sustentation Fund Committee act on this principle, the whole synod to which I belong will be at once cut off from any interest whatever in the new scheme. And I protest that if a principle not suitable to our circumstances, and not acted upon in other parts of the Church be applied to us, in self defence we shall be compelled to act on the principle of seat-letting, and making our returns accordingly. I wish this to
, be distinctly understood. Hitherto, I believe, in our Highland congregations the actual attendance has been returned as sitters; but if we are to be treated by the Sustentation Fund Committee in the exceptional way proposed, we must just, in self defence, adopt your way of letting seats, and making our returns accordingly; and I protest, that if our returns shall be found henceforth to be different from what they have hitherto been, this shall be the explanation of it. Sir, I desire to acknowledge the benefit the Sustentation Fund has conferred on the Highlands, and our high appreciation of the services of Dr Buchanan, convener of Sustentation Committee. I would not have us suspected of ingratitude, either to the Church or to him, in this respect. But while I make this acknowledgment, to which I suppose my brethren from the Highlands will adhere, we would not be understood as doing so in forma pauperis. We ha l, and still have, a right to participation in this fund, on its broad basis of an equal dividend. It was the understanding on which we adhered at the Disruption; and we have on the whole kept our contract with you. The moral influence of our adherence is yours still, as it was then, and in our contributions to this fund, if we cannot boast of being perfect more than others, we have at least been progressing; and at our last meeting of synod it was found that over our bounds we are £200 this year in advance of the previous year.
Moderator, parties in the Lowlands can have little conception of the character of our congregations as to their pecuniary resources. Our young men, and women too, many of them, leave us in the spring for work in various parts. The young men go to fishing and other occupations; the young women, I am sorry to say, many of them to field labour. We are thus left, during the summer months, with congregations consisting chiefly of old men, women, and children. When the young people return to remain at home during the dead season of the year, they are, to a large extent, without any employment. We are thus situated in a position entirely different from your congregations, whose members and adherents have access to work all the year round. Ours, to a large extent, are absent from us for the whole summer season, and unemployed during the rest. We can indeed, properly speaking, have only one contribution from them annually ; and it is in vain to expect 7s.6d. each from them in their circumstances. I think, Moderator, we have reason to complain of the position into which the regulation of the Susteutation Committee puts us ; and as stated already we shall just have to defend ourselves by seat-letting, as you do, if the Committee persevere in a method of treatment unsuitable to our circumstances.
Mr Bain, Gariocb, said that he highly approved of the plan just laid on the table of the Assembly. He felt assured that, though it might, for a time, cause a diminution of the Communion Roll, it would doubtless raise the Sustentation Fund, as it provides for the recompense of individual or congregational effort—the want of which provision has hitherto been the chief defect connected with our excellent Sustentation Fund. In illustration of discouragement arising through this defect he might mention the case of his own congregation. His congregation had been originally rated at £84 a year for the Sustentation Fund, and on receiving a communication from headquarters, he had used his influence, and succeeded in bringing them up to £100. But the minimum dividend of £150 did not follow. There then came the one-fourth more movement, which his congregation entered into heartily, and completely carried out what was expected of them. But the £150 dividend did not come. Next came a request for one-eighth more, which his congregation also achieved. (Applause.) But the £150 dividend was not yet in sight at all. (Laughter.) They were still appealed to, and he was almost ashamed to come to the people again, in the circumstances; but he said to them that if they helped him to get above the aid-receiving point and keep there, he would not ask them to do more. They made the effort, and had come above the equal dividend; but they felt it somewhat mortifying that every communication they received appealed to them to come out of the aid-receiving into the aid-giving. Many individuals and congregations, it is well known, made great exertions to increase their contributions and raise the Fund; but a greater number, it is evident, did not, and so particular effort was swamped in general apathy. The provisions of the plan before the House tend to remedy this evil. The interesting statistics just given by Dr Buchanan, of the great rise in prices and wages, whilst the Sustentation Fund has risen so little, are eminently calculated to advocate with success the claim of ministers to a rise in their income.