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THE LOCAL PREACHER AT HOME AND ABROAD. 265
of those who aspire to the honour of being upon the village plan. The town churches would, in my estimation, confer an unspeakable benefit upon the village churches if they would make this a rule and act upon it. To the local preacher himself, too, it would give a sanction and standing to which, I think, he is entitled, as a commendation and authority from the church of which he is a member, to any church where he may be invited to exercise the gifts God has given him; and I would go so far as to recommend that our village churches should not place upon their plans the name of any local preacher who had not the sanction of his brethren at home to be engaged in such a work. More importance ought to be attached to the local preacher's calling than that any man should essay to enter upon it merely because his opinion of himself leads him to the conclusion that he is fitted for it; and he who refuses to comply with the reasonable request that he should preach at home so as to seek the approval of his brethren to preach elsewhere, ought not, in my judgment, to be encouraged by the invitation of our village churches, to oppose so salutary a rule. Christian modesty should restrain any in being too ready to act thus, while a contrary course of action would raise him in the estimation of his friends at home, and introduce him at once to the confidence and Christian esteem of surrounding churches.
I would not for one moment desire to damp the ardour, or to cool the zeal of any earnest brother desiring to devote himself to ministering the Word round about the region where he dwells, nor would I fix too high a standard of qualification; but I think if it be deemed so important that prudence and discretion, and careful scrnting and discrimination should be exercised by our College Committee before admitting any young man upon the roll of students for the stated ministry, there should be something of a like safeguard placed around the entrance to the ranks of our local preachers and I am of opinion that our local preachers generally would not object to this. Some there are, no doubt, who would object, but they would most probably be those to whom it would be advisable and necessary to object altogether.
I believe there is a good deal of unused preaching power in our churches at home which might be profitably and suitably employed to the benefit of our village churches, and to the honour and glory of God. It is a question we should ponder and decide, whether our larger homechurches have done, or are now doing, their duty in this regard, to the smaller churches in our rural districts. From our statistical returns of last year it appears there are 384 local preachers out of a membership numbering 23,999 ; and are we to suppose that is a proportion which exhaustively represents the preaching ability of our General Baptist constituency? It is not much over one and a half per cent. ! I don't know how this may compare with other denominations; but I think it is not a proportion with which we should be satisfied who have such inspiring examples of earnest work in our less favoured forefathers, and who withal have such a free and glorious gospel message of salvation to declare to our perishing fellow-men. If any should be foremost in the preaching of the gospel to the people, it is the General Baptists of this year of grace, for we bind the gospel of our Lord with no fetters, but go forth declaring Him to be “the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”
I am thankfully mindful of the fact that our Sabbath schools absorb a very large amount of the active Christian intelligence of our churches, for we have a glorious army of about 4,600 Sunday School Teachers ; but I believe it is possible for the efficiency of this noble work to be left unimpaired, and yet considerably more effort than at present be devoted to the sphere of the local preacher, for surely when all these industrious working bees of the Christian hive are busy at their useful toil, we are not to conclude that all the best energies of our churches are exhausted ! There must be yet many of our rising young men of piety, of intelligence and ability, besides others of older years, having yet the anemployed gift of speaking to the unsaved the Gospel of Salvation. “The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; pray ye, therefore, the Lord of the harvest that he will send forth labourers into His harvest.”
Moreover I feel that one great means of counteracting the prodigious and growing evil of Ritualism in our villages, is the agency of our Protestant Nonconformist evangelical local preachers as they go abroad, from week to week, upon their mission of preaching the gospel. They are chiefly employed in the villages, and it is very much in the villages that the attempts of Ritualism and Popery are more openly and unblushingly made; there, where we are told," there is a gentleman placed by the Church in every parish,” it is, more perhaps than elsewhere, that the certain sound of the gospel needs to be opposed to the assumptions and teaching of the priest. I know there are some glorious exceptions to this state of things: I rejoice wherever there is a faithful minister of the truth in the village parish church, and I would, for the sake of Christ and the souls of men, their number were multiplied on every hand. But I do know that our nonconformist friends in our villages need all the moral help that can be given them to sustain them against the power of prestige, and patronage, and purse, and priestcraft, with which they have to contend; and the chief element in all they have to encourage and strengthen them, next to their own sturdy and simple faith, is the weekly visit of the local preacher as he goes, with his earnest words of cheer and comfort, to speak the message of truth from the Word of God.
Permit me to point out an important feature of usefulness in the services of our local preachers in their visits amongst the churches, by which they may very greatly aid the denomination. A resolution was passed at the Association in 1860 to this effect—"That this Association regards it as the duty of all the churches in the body to support the three recognized institutions of the Connexion, viz., the Foreign Mission, the Home Mission, and the College.” Now although there is little room for complaint as to the loyalty of the churches to this rule, so far as regards our Foreign Mission, the General Baptist Year Book for 1878 recorded the lamentable fact that ninety-five of our churches contributed nothing to the needy funds of our College, while no less than 105 churches are innocent of gifts to our Home Mission Society! This is a state of things which I think might be greatly improved if our local preachers would use their influence amongst the churches they serve. I cannot but think these three denominational institutions are dear to their hearts; and if they would urge all the churches to make at least one collection in the year for each, a gratifying addition to the funds would be realized. Even though, in many cases, the sum collected might
AT HOME AND ABROAD.
be small, and perhaps very small, I would rather see a 10s., or even a 58., collection reported in aid of these long established and recognized connexional agencies for the extension of the kingdom of Christ, than the depressing blank after blank in our financial statistics. I observe numbers of our larger churches are defaulters also, and I would stir up their pure minds by way of remembrance.
For our local preachers I once more bespeak the prayerful sympathy of people and ministers at home, that they should ever wish them “Godspeed” in their work, and cheer them on by a loving interest and friendly countenance, and by all the aid they can render them for increasing their efficiency and acceptability amongst the people for whose good they labour. This may be done in so many ways that I am sure they will occur to the minds of those to whom I appeal.
And need I ask for our local preachers a kindly and hearty welcome to the hearts and homes of our village friends; and that there be prayer and effort made to bring our rural population into our sanctuaries, that they may hear words whereby they may be saved. And I would crave for our local preachers a little more consideration than is often shewn them in their means of getting to and from the sometimes distant pulpits they are called to fill
. Many of our village friends possess means of locomotion by which they might often relieve the pedestrian local preacher, who must not only walk some miles each way, but also be standing during the greater part of the service he conducts, and during which he is expected to be full of life and vigour, and thus prove that he is in earnest, however listless his hearers may happen to be. I am sure a hearty, loving appreciation of the preacher's visit and labours will not be lost upon him, and every effort kindly made to lessen and lighten his physical exertion, will leave in him so much the more of life and energy, which he will throw not sparingly into his pulpit work. The village homes of England are proverbial for their generous and warm-hearted hospitality, and where the local preacher goes amongst them with the message of truth and the good news of salvation, none is more welcome than he, notwithstanding there may be some exceptions to this rule.
And it will cheer the preacher's heart, and spur him on his work, and fill his soul with devout thanksgiving to God, if he may now and then be told of any good that has arisen from his ministry; it will be a sweet reward for all his self-denying toil, and put a crown upon his rejoicing. No fear that it will exalt him, and make him vain and proud; leave that to him and his God. There is often sufficient to daunt and discourage him, and a gleam of sunshine now and then upon his path will but quicken his steps and drive the chill from his spirit.
And to you who labour as local preachers let me say, yours is a noble and self-rewarding work, a work which the great Master has often blessed to His glory in the saving of deathless souls; it is a work for the world, a work for Christ, a work for souls, a work for eternity and heaven. The priestism of to-day may question, with unblushing impudence, your right or authority to preach the living Word, but the inner consciousness you have of the divine approval outweighs the scorn of men, and bids you onward in your worthy' toil. Your one aim is to bring the world to Christ, to crown His once thorn-clad brow with the
signs of victory, while you lay your laurels at His feet and wait His words of welcome and well done. If you have your Saviour's favour you can well afford to smile at those who would stay your hand and close your lips; and while your heart o’erflows with the sense of debtorship to Him for the great redemption He has wrought for you, you will feel and know that whether at home amongst those who know and love you, or abroad amongst those whom you seek to instruct and save by the ministry of the word, there is no labour too arduous, no sacrifice too great for you to make, by which you can shew your loyalty to your Lord, your love for His gospel
, and your desire to behold the spreading of His kingdom and the triumphs of His cross. Your labour is for God, and He will give it success.
“Work in the wild waste places, though none thy love may own;
A Deacon with a Good Degree. The late Mr. THOMAS KIRKMAN was born at Garland's Lane, Barlestone, Nov. 20, 1813. He was the eldest son of Thomas and Jane Kirkman, who for some years during the last century, and many during this, were consistent and useful members of the old church at Barton. As a boy and youth he was very truthful, and hated deception in any form, as indeed he did all through his life. Though having the advantages that a religious home and training give, he did not at an early age avow his attachment to the Lord Jesus. Being of a diffident disposition it was a great cross for him to take up when he decided to come out from the world and join himself to God's people. The earnest prayers of his father and mother, and the desires of his friends were at last realized, an on March 17th, 1844, he was baptized, and became a member of the Barton church. Henceforward he was one of the humblest Christians that ever lived. Gentle in manner, simple as a child, he was very patient under provocation, and daily sought, in his quiet unassuming way, to glorify his Saviour. Those who knew him but partially esteemed him, those who knew him intimately loved him. He was elected to the office of deacon in 1858, and for twenty years faithfully served the church in that capacity. He sought not name or honours, but unostentatiously did good, and was quite content to be hidden behind the good he did. The present ministers of the church, as well as several of their predecessors, can thankfully bear testimony to the generous hospitality of his home. He was, indeed a true friend to those
who served " in the word and doctrine.”
During the few years that the writer of this notice worked with him in church matters, there was never for a moment the least misunderstanding between us, but the most fraternal co-operation. Blessed by God materially, he found great delight, more especially in his later years, in liberally contributing to the various works of the church, whilst he frequently responded to appeals for help from without. Again
A DEACON WITH A GOOD DEGREE.
and again has he been heard to attribute all his success in life to the Lord. Unlike some he did not thrust his influence offensively forward merely on the ground of his position and possessions. Humble in spirit, like the Lord whom he delighted in honouring, he was always willing to pay deference to the opinions of others, leaving his own judgment to pass for its own weight and worth. No minister could desire a more faithful or prudent deacon, or lenient hearer. No wife could have a better husband, and no children need wish for a kinder or better father. As an employer of labour, he was just in his dealings with those who served him, seeking and desiring not only their temporal, but also their spiritual good. He was a thorough Nonconformist both from training and conviction. And it is remembered by some how, during the church rate controversy, he appeared before the magistrates in defence of his principles. But though firm in his adherence to Baptist and Nonconformist principles, he had a heart full of charity towards all who loved the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity and truth, and were endeavouring to lessen human sin and suffering and sorrow, and raise men Godward. He loved our Foreign Mission, and liberally contributed to its funds through several channels. Probably his interest in it was all the more intense from the fact that one of his sisters, Mrs. Stubbins, belonged to its staff. More than once he served on its Committee. He also willingly helped our other denominational institutions. The words recently uttered about a well known nonconformist who has just gone to his rest are true of him—“No one could fail to be struck with his modesty, his absolute recoil from prominence and publicity, where those could
by possibility be avoided. He never coveted to stand in high places. To the last his life was more one of deeds than words. Not less striking was his simplicity. Of pretence, finesse, show, petty ambitions, and unworthy intrigues, he was absolutely incapable." Now that he has gone from us we hear of poor widows speaking of his kindnesses to them. They tell how, just before their rent-day, he would call upon them and render them much needed help. “We shall miss him," say they, with thankful hearts
, and tear-filled eyes. Truly he“ caused the widow's heart to sing for joy."
On Nov. 13, 1878, he passed away, very suddenly, from his earthly to his heavenly home. The writer witnessed his death. He came into the room from the farmyard, received me with his usual kindly greeting and smile, said a few words to his wife and myself, and in a few minutes his spirit was with God. His rapid exit from earth to the glories of heaven seemed more like a translation than death. In our chapels at Barlestone and Bagworth, on Nov. 24th and Dec. 8, my colleague, Mr. Needham, preached funeral sermons from Rev. xiv. 13, and 2 Sam. xii. part of 23 v., to large and sorrowful congregations. The remains of our beloved friend and brother lie in the graveyard at Barton, waiting the resurrection morning.
Two of his seven children are members with us, one of the two being a deacon. Our prayer is that the rest may love and serve the God of their father and mother, that ultimately they may stand before the Lord in the “house not made with hands."
The beautiful life and sudden death of our departed friend speak loudly to us; and this is what they say—“ Be ye also ready, for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of Man cometh.” J. GREENWOOD.