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ART. VI.-CHURCH EXTENSION.
SUNDRY ANNUAL REPORTS Of the Church Extension Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church, Philadelphia, Pa. Of the Wesleyan Chapel Commillee, Manchester, England. Of the Metropolitan Chapel Building Fund, London, England. Of the Trustees of the Church Erection Fund of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian
Church in the United States of America, New York. Of the Trustees of the American Congregational Union, New York. Of the American Baptist Home Mission Society, New York. The literature of Church Extension is confined to the Reports of the various societies, committees, and boards engaged in this department of Christian work. One may search in vain throngh our cyclopedias—even “biblical, theological, and ecclesiastical”-no article on “Church Extension" can be found. Abundant information on Missions, Sunday-schools, Bible Societies, Tract Societies, Churches, Church Architecture, Church Edifices, etc., is easily accessible; but it you want to know any thing about Church Extension you must go to the Reports. Surely, our encyclopedists must share the too common opinion that no good thing can come out of these literary Nazareths. We can only say to them, “Come and see.” They contain much more valuable information, for this intensely practical age, than is generally supposed. But as they are annual reports, giving in each case information simply of the year's work, it is no easy task to gather from the few that can be collected a clear view of the organization, history, and plans of this department of work in the various Churches. It would be a great convenience if one could find such information where he has a right to expect it-in works that profess to collect and condense information on all subjects, under suggestive words.
It will be no defense to say that the subject is too modern to claim a place in literature. Some of the Churches have been engaged in this department for years before some of our new cyclopedias were projected-one at least for more than half a century. The best thing to be done is to correct the oversight in the next edition, and if the Reports placed at the head of this article, and others similar, shall lead some one accustomed to historical research to bring this to pass, a valuable service will have been rendered.
That a healthy church-life should take upon itself organized forms of church-work as the progress of events requires, is as natural as that an acorn should develop an oak. It inheres in the very nature of church-life, and the only escape from the law is in spiritual and ecclesiastical death. This is the order of God, and it has been abundantly illustrated in history.
To the Church was committed the "oracles of God”-his revealed will to man—not to be chained within gloomy walls, and its divine light strained out of darkness, through the minds of men who know not God, upon the souls of the multitudes groping in outer darkness, but in trust for the world, to be preserved in purity, translated into all languages, and transmitted to all peoples. It was God's purpose that every child of man should have it in his own tongue, and he has incorporated into the very life of the Church the vital force that through the printing press, given centuries after the word, is now, according to his original purpose, working out the glorious result. Given, a living Church, the word in trust, and the printing-press, and the organized form of church-work found in our Bible societies is as certain as destiny. It is one of the Divine decrees.
Christ said to his disciples, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature." Were these words spoken for their ears alone? They could not obey them fully. Had they been immediatelyóscattered abroad,” and gone everywhere preaching the word, they could not have gone “into all the world” nor preached “the Gospel to every creature." They could not to the men of their own time, and of course could not to the generations yet to come. These potent words, like the promise of the Holy Ghost, were for them and for their children--for the Church that then was, and that now is, and that is to come.
Christ stereotyped the missionary formulary in the great commission, and it comes to us as it did to them; and the Holy Ghost puts the missionary spirit into the churchlife, and it throbs and thrills in that life, and will until the whole world shall be brought to God. The command is “Go;"> and the life-impulse is “Go," and the result is organized going -the Church as a body obeying the command of its Master and Head, and the impulse of its life, and going into all the world and preaching the Gospel to every creature.
But the preaching of the Gospel in the ears of men was not the end. It was but a means to the end. The thing to be done was to “disciple” all nations; to " baptize them” into the Church ; to make them a part of it. The apostles were to preach, but the preaching was to be “in demonstration of the Spirit and of power”-“the power of God unto salvation ”—and the "saved ” were to be added to the Church, the organized body of Christians. It was not enough that the offer of life should be made; men must be made to live, and every one born into this new life must be a means of life to others on beyond him. In the economy of the Gospel, as in the economy of nature, no element of power is to be wasted, but all utilized and made subservient to the final purpose. All increase of the Church is to be assimilated as in a living body, and that not merely to supply the waste incident to living, as in a mature or declining body, but, as in a young life, to bring increase of vitality and working power for Christ's Church, which never grows old. .
It is in the wise observance of this law that the word of God is “to increase mightily and prevail,” and every department of church-work shonld be wisely adjusted thereto. The ultimate victory imperatively requires that the Church should constantly advance to new positions, and that each new position gained should immediately be fortified and firmly held, and made the base for further advances, and that the lines of communication should be always open from the center to the most distant outpost. That Church that settles down in a spirit of conservatism-simply to take care of what it has--should be granted a superannuated relation to the on-moving host. When it shall get its present membership safely to heaven its work will be done. It has lost sight of the fundamental principles of its charter and of the end of its being, and the sooner the world can be delivered from the influence of its example of dignified idleness the better for the cause it has ceased to serve.
A clearer recognition of the true principles and purpose of church-organization, and of the fundamental laws of successful church-work, is developing in most Protestant denominations agencies of increased efficiency; or, more accurately, perhaps, the inner and essential life of the Church is pressing out into organized forms of work, as determined by the laws of its life and the necessities into which it grows.
The inost striking example of this is found in the department of Church Extension, as seen among the Wesleyans and others of Great Britain and Ireland, and the Preshyterians, Congregationalists, Baptists, and Methodists of this country.
CHURCH EXTENSION AMONG THE WESLEYANS OF GREAT
BRITAIN. The Wesleyans of England seem to have been the pioneers in this, as a separate department of work. Many of their chapels had been erected when their people were able to contribute only a small part of their cost; but out of their poverty they could put in enough to make the property security for the balance needed, and could then borrow the remainder. In this way large debts were accumulated, and in many cases the trustees found themselves unable to provide even for the accruing interest. Of course they were at once involved in serious trouble, and were constrained to seek aid from the stronger. The evil soon grew to such magnitude that it arrested the attention of the Conference and the whole denomination. The extent to which the trust property of the denomination was, on inquiry, found to be involved, occasioned general anxiety and alarm. The danger of losing much of what they had, seriously checked the work of acquiring more. They were made to feel that every department of Church interest and work suffered with this. The household could be neither happy nor prosperous with the sheriff's hammer hanging over the homestead; and the homeless lost hope of home when they saw that it could only be had with hard struggle and this peril of loss.
Some of the best minds of the denomination were given to the solution of the problem. The relief of the embarrassed chapels was seen to be the work of years; and beyond was the work of aiding the weak and destitute, so long as the Church should be true to its mission of preaching the Gospel to the poor and discipling the nations of the earth. The result was the organization of the Chapel Fund Committee in the year 1818. Special appeals in behalf of distressed chapels were to bo at once discontinued, and annual collections throughout the connection were to be taken and put into the hands of a committee composed of ministers and laymen, who were charged with the duty of investigating each application with care, and
distributing the funds placed in their hands as the circumstances of each might require.
The Report of 1851 states:
When first established, in 1818, it was designed to obviate the great inconvenience and expense of ministers leaving their circuits to beg for particular chapels. This evil was at once removed, and by one general collection all private applications were superseded and abolished, and, by all circuits contributing a little, the whole of these distressed chapels were gradually relieved. But it was proposed and hoped that help would soon be given toward the erection of chapels in the smaller and poorer circuits. This important object is as desirable as ever, but seems to be far distant. Yet an immense improvement has taken place in the management of our chapel affairs.
The Report of 1852 contains the following epitome of the work of the Committee:
From the period of the establishment of the fund until 1823— five years—the annual income was distributed chiefly in meeting ordinary deficiencies. [That is, on interest that trustees were unable to pay.) In 1823 the Committee first applied the income to the reduction of principal. In 1827 a small loan was taken up and repaid out of the yearly income, and in 1829 a second in the same way. In 1832 a rew loan of nearly two hundred thousand dollars was taken up, and repaid, with interest, by yearly installments, in about
In 1845 an “experiment” was tried not wholly unlike that which some would urge upon us now in this country. sisted in uniting the Chapel and Educational Funds for the ensuing seven years. It was supposed that their natures were so kindred that their alliance was most natural, and that their united claims would procure a considerable increase of receipts, and that the moiety would suffice for each. But the result proved that the two united received less than the Chapel Fund alone had during the preceding seven years. Both causes suffered immensely from the experiment, and thenceforward each has had a separate management, to the great advantage of both, and no advocate of consolidation can be found.
In 1855, the whole system having become somewhat complicated, was, pursuant to the order of the Conference of the preceding year, revised and simplified. The Report for that year says:
The various Committees to whom the oversight and management of chapel affairs had previously been intrusted have been amalga