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the report in this case, but approve of Mr Fraser's application, and award a grant of £30 from the Aged and Infirm Ministers' Fund, to be paid in the meantime out of the unexpended interest of years 1865-66 and 186667; it being understood that, in accordance with an arrangement already made through the action of the Presbytery of Kelso and Lauder, aided by assessors, Mr Fraser will continue to pay the sum of £60 annually toward the support of an assistant.”
HOME MISSION SCHEME.
Mr Wilson, Dundee, submitted the report, (No. III.) After some preliminary remarks, he said The committee have had in prospect to send, as usual, early in the present month, evangelistic deputies to preach in the open air, from day to day, in localities and districts where there are multitudes of people living in utter ignorance and neglect of the ordinances of the Christian religion. I refer to this subject not for the purpose of explaining to the Assembly the nature of the work of these deputies, nor to call their attention to the singular blessing that has attended their labours in many places, formerly destitute, where we have now large and flourishing congregations, but for this reason, that we are suffering from the want of several deputies to labour in districts to which we have not found men to send. We are still open to receive offers, and will be most grateful, especially if some of the younger ministers of the Church will offer us their services during the summer montbs for this most important department of labour. There are three or four districts to which we had purposed to send deputies in this evangelistic labour, where, unless such offers reach us—unless we can get the services of a large number of ministers—we shall be obliged to leave the work during this summer undone. Perhaps the extent and variety of the work embraced within the province of our Home Mission and Church Extension Scheme is not sufficiently adverted to on the part of some of the congregations of our Church. Including ordained ministers and advanced students, we have, in connexion with the scheme, about two hundred paid agents employed in various localities of the country. We have our rural stations, we have our territorial missions in large towns, we have territorial churches in large towns, in their infancy, and we have Church extension charges scattered over the country, but still in their infancy, and requiring considerable aid from the funds of the committee. In fact, this Home Mission and Church Extension Scheme contains within itself a Church of very considerable magnitude. Indeed, the number of our Home Mission stations and the charges to which we pay grants is larger than the whole Presbyterian Church in connexion with us in England. This work has been sustained, and must still continue to be sustained, by a single annual collection made in the spring of every year. There is always a biennial collection for the evangelisation of the masses ; and I must advert to this for a single moment, because this year it happens the collection is to be made in the month of August, and also for this reason, that while the collection annually made in April has been sufficient in amount to enable us to carry on our ordinary operations, this biennial collection is never more than half enough to meet the exigencies of the case. The collection made for the evangelisation of the masses is to meet expenses incurred by the committee in grants to ministers of territorial charges in large towns, and to meet the grants paid to territorial mission stations in large towns which have not been sanctioned by the General Assembly. Our collection in August has never come up to £2500, and that is just the half of what is required for the demands made upon us. Were it not that the collection in April somewhat overlaps what we require for the maintenance of our ordinary stations and the payment of station grants, we would inevitably be in debt. In regard to our deputies, I am informed by one who has taken great and deep interest in the cause of our home missions, and has laboured with the most unprecedented success—Mr Howie, of Glasgowthat he wishes the attention of the Assembly and of the committee to be directed to a circumstance which is historical. A great many years ago, when the zeal of our Church was fresh and warm, we were wont, during the sittings of the Assembly, to pervade this city with open air preaching; and I trust next year this may be kept in view that we may revive the practice. Mr Howie tells me he preached in front of the Register Office, and that he never preached to an audience more interested or more deeply impressed ; and I hope that at next Assembly we may get the aid of ministers from all parts of the country, so as to produce some effect by this agency in Edinburgh. One word as to the success which has attended the scheme, which has encouraged the members of the Church to prosecute it with increased vigour. Looking back over a period of ten years, and tracing the history of the Church during that period, I find that through the instrumentality of our home mission operations, about 80 charges have been added to the Free Church, with a membership of not less than 30,000. Thus, through the agency of this scheme we have added—from the masses of our large towns and mining districts—at the rate of 4000 a-year to the membership of the Church. That is a most gratifying and important result, worth far more than all the money the Free Church has hitherto expended upon it. It is only by the instrumentality of such an agency as is employed in connexion with the Home Mission and Church Extension Scheme that our Church can long continue to be really a national Church, embracing the great bulk of the population of this country, and keeping pace with the increase of the population. Apart from this work we would soon lag behind; the heathenism of the country would soon come to be making invasions of all kinds upon its professed Christianity. It is through this scheme that we take up arms to make war upon the heathenism of the land, and by the blessing of God to subdue the unreclaimed wastes and bring them under Christian culture. Besides, in connexion with this, it is not to be overlooked that God has in a very signal way blessed the work of the Free Church in connexion with this scheme.
There has been a must blessed outpouring of the Spirit of God upon many of our churches, both in the rural districts and in large towns. Nor has this gracious work of the Spirit been withdrawn, for I believe that at this moment there are being elevated out of the lowest stratum of society many most hopeful and most earnest Christians. But we are not to look solely at the direct action of the scheme in reclaiming lost souls ; we ought also to look to its healthful, in vigorating influence upon the existing congregations of our Church. It is not the scheme of a committee of the Church operating upon one locality and another by agency paid directly by them and sustained by them; but not one of those mission stations has grown into vigour and health without engaging the active and hearty energies of a very large proportion of the membership of our existing congregations. I believe there is no instrumentality at work within the bosom of our Church so fitted to keep alive and stir up the Christian zeal and energy of the membership of our Church as this Home Mission Scheme. It may be said that the scheme has arrived at such a condition, both of magnitude and organisation, that if we can sustain our present scheme of operations, if the Church furnishes us with means simply to carry it on, we can expect or desire little more. I would desire, however, to place under the notice of the Assembly one or two great desiderata –particularly this: in the history of the territorial mission charges in large towns, the mission reaches a certain stage of advancement in the course of a very few years, in which it becomes very much like any of our established congregations. That is to say, a considerable number of members are gathered, and, however poor or ragged and destitute they may have been, they are laid hold upon by our mission agency, they become clothed and in their right mind, and they are as respectable in outward appearance as our congregations generally are. This practically shuts the door against the access of those who are now in a state of nakedness and rags; and I believe it is essential to the progress of our territorial missions that special services should be held for men and women in their week-day clothes. Of necessity, therefore, it arises that the minister himself of a territorial charge must have three services on Sabbath, besides a multiplicity of week-day services, and the onerous burden of household visitation. All this overtaxes his strength, and if you are to sustain these mission churches in full vigour, every such minister would require an assistant to preach the third service and to labour in the work of visitation. We hear complaints of overtaxing work of the missionaries in the foreign field, but I fear we shall have a somewhat disastrous account of the overtaxed energies of some of our Home Mission agents; and there is nothing I would more delight inand I am quite certain it would tell very
the progress scheme—than to offer aid to such charges as those I have referred to, which would enable them to continue the three full services on Sabbath, besides week-day services and household visitation, in full vigour. This has been again and again brought under the notice of the Home Mission committee, and I am quite sure that if all the cases were stated to the Assembly where the ministers feel overwhelmed by labouring in the unhealthy and confined closes of our large towns, the membership of the Church would be roused to contribute most liberally to the aid of ministers labouring under such circumstances. (Applause.)
Dr W. G. BLAIKIE, in moving the adoption of the report, said-It must be gratifying to the Assembly to know that the Home Mission Scheme continues to be attended with an encouraging measure of success in all the different branches of its operations. It has been said, and said truly, that growth is one of the best signs of vitality. I am sure there never was then a scheme that grew more rapidly than our Home Mission did a few years ago. At first the mission was limited to the single object of providing ordinances in districts where the number of adherents of our Church was too small to enable us to maintain an ordinary charge, but, by degrees, branch after branch has been added to the functions of the Home Mission. When it was resolved by the Church to take up the subject of territorial missions in earnest it was the Home Mission that
was required to attend to it; when new charges required to be fostered, that could not be maintained in the ordinary way by the Sustentation committee, it was again the Home Mission that had the charge of such congregations committed to it; when you determined to send forth deputies to spread the word of life in all parts of the country, and take possession of the highways and hedges, again you had recourse to the Home Mission committee; when it was thought desirable that our students should be relieved from the duty of teaching, and provided with occupation more congenial to their future operations, once more the Home Mission committee were charged with the duty; and when the construction of railways and other works of industry threw great masses of population suddenly upon particular districts, like sheep without a shepherd, again the Home Mission committee was required to look after them. It is very true that for the last few years we have not had any new branches added to this scheme, but I hope the Church will not allow the Home Mission committee to think of adopting for their motto, “Rest and be thankful ;" we shall rather, I hope, take for our motto,
Forgetting the things that are behind, and reaching forth unto those that are before.”
I should like to say a single word or two upon one branch, and one only, of the Home Mission operations—I mean our territorial work in large cities. I think there cannot be a doubt that the extraordinary growth of our large towns, the rapid accumulation of population there, is one of the most momentous and significant facts of the present time. It is almost like romance to be told that only two hundred years ago London was no larger than Glasgow at the present time, and that the inhabitants of Edinburgh were probably not so numerous as the present inhabitants of Leith. There were then only four towns in England where the population reached 10,000 souls. The state of things now is entirely changed. The population is crowding into particular districts and towns, and the great enterprise is laid upon the Churches of dealing with these masses of population, whose physical and moral and spiritual condition is so low, as, humanly speaking, to be almost hopeless. I do not deny that the rural parts of the country have their own social problems, but beyond doubt the condition of the masses in our large towns is the most important question before us at this time. Now, I do not hesitate to declare that the only instrumentality that seems thoroughly fitted for the work in connexion, of course, with other agencies of a subordinate kind)—thoroughly fitted to lay a basis upon which you may rear the superstructnre you desire-is the territorial scheme of Home Mission operations. And this is not a mere matter of theory. We have seen it exemplified; we have seen the wilderness turned into the fruitful field; we have seen the valley of dry bones become filled with an exceeding great army of living men.
Moderator, during the last few months a great deal of interest has been excited through England, and much discussion has taken place upon the subject of the marked and conspicuous alienation of the great mass of the working classes there from the services of the sanctuary. A great deal of discussion has taken place upon that point, and many things have been spoken of as likely more or less to remedy the evil which is so great and so glaring. I have read a great deal of what has been said and written upon it, and I have read it with two feelings—in the first place, with thankfulness, that to a large degree, although I am sorry I cannot say altogether, the state of things deplored in England does not exist in Scotland; and in the next place, with the very firm conviction that our territorial missions, if carried on in the spirit of love and zeal, are adapted by God's blessing to remedy the evil among us so far as it does exist, and prevent it from spreading farther. I do not think it possible that that class of people can cherish the idea that the Christian Church is indifferent to them, and that they have got nothing to do with the Christian Church, when they see the Church actively and zealously engaged in such operations as have been carried on in some of the destitute districts of our large towns on this side the Border. In fact, I think we may say that during the last few years there has been—I speak of Edinburgh as knowing it best-a manifest improvement in the feeling of that class of the people in reference to religion. There have been added to the Free Church—as Mr Wilson informed us—about 30,000 members, in connexion with the Home Mission Scheme. During the last twelve or fifteen years, the number of communicants in connexion with the Free Church within the limits of the Presbytery of Edinburgh has increased from 15,000 to 20,000, being an increase of about 5000; and this increase, I believe, is in great measure owing to the new territorial charges. Besides this, the class of people referred to have now more of a home feeling in our Church in Edinburgh than they could have had previous to this movement.
I cannot but advert to another most important service of the territorial scheme, which has likewise been hinted at by the convener in his statement. The Home Mission has supplied work for many of the members of our older congregations. It has kept them from what is the greatest possible evil in a Church-stagnation—and has opened a field for the employment of their Christian talents; and not only so, but those members of our older congregations, when they have gone down to the poorer districts, and have had some experience of the kind of work to be done there, have received a loftier impression than before of the intense diffi. culty of this work, have been led to feel the utter inadequacy of human resources to the accomplishment of it, have been thrown more directly and earnestly upon the grace of God, have been led to pray more fervently for the outpouring of God's Holy Spirit to turn the wilderness into a fruitful field ; and perhaps this has some connexion with the fact that it is upon many of these territorial congregations and districts that the shower of Divine blessing has mainly descended, while, at the same time, drops from heaven have fallen to refresh other congregations and other districts of our Church. And, then, there is this other fact : our territorial operations have led to a fuller development, a larger manifestation of the working ability of ordinary people in connexion with the Church of Christ. Mr J. H. Wilson stated, in last Assembly, that among those that are actively engaged in work in his congregation were many persous occupying the most ordinary spheres—mechanics, servants, and people who were not in the high social position, which previously we had been accustomed to think necessary before any one could undertake public work in the service of Christ. Some of the new congregations have taken the lead in this matter, and the reaction upon other congregations has been very beneficial. I read Mr M Coll's book with feelings of humiliation to think that, whereas among those that have been picked up from