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abiding presence of the Holy Ghost, to aid in this glorious work. is on the side of the preacher, as He is against the shepherds who feed not the flock (Ezek. xxxiv. 10).
There is nothing more certain than that the benefits bestowed through the Gospel are conditional ; and if, as preachers and servants of the Most High, conscious that we possess His commission, we do but use the means, or abide by the conditions laid down, we may assure ourselves of And, oh! what a solemn work is ours.
6. Let him know,” says James, “that he which convertetb the sinner from the error of his way, shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins."
In order to the conversion of the sinner, it is also most important that we have full confidence in our work. " He that doubteth is condemned; or, in other words, the man that doubts condemns himself. How important, then, that we enter upon, and carry through our work in the utmost 66 confidence of faith.” “ All things are possible to him that believeth.” " Without faith it is impossible to please God.” Should a messenger be sent from an earthly sovereign to any of his subjects, promising favours or threatening punishment, and the messenger himself have no confidence in its fulfilment; how could he be expected to deliver his message so that others would believe it? We remember reading an anecdote of the Duke of Wellington, which may illustrate our case. 6. When a certain Commissary-General complained to His Grace that, Sir Thomas Picton had declared that he would hang him if the rations for that General's division were not forthcoming at a certain time, the Duke replied: "Ah! did he go so far as that?
say he would hang you ?' · Yes, my lord.' • Well, if General Picton said so, I have no doubt he will keep his word; you had better get up the rations in time.'' Surely there must be no doubting our own message.
We must have -confidence in it; in the doctrines we preach, in the promises we hold out, in the certainty of the punishments we declare against the evil-doer ; always remembering we have to do with a Sovereign whose character is unalterable, and that the Word is His, not ours.
And should we not also remember to whom our message is sent ? not to the dead, but to the living, who must soon die ; the living, who will stand together with us at the bar of the Eternal God and Judge; the living, but whose life hangs on a thread, and upon the use made of that frail life, “whether they hear or whether they forbear,” depends their eternity of happiness or woe. Well would it be for us, did we learn-as far as such finite minds can—to estimate the value of the soul; and, as we gaze upon the countenances of our audience, to remember the soul's immortality, the awful condition of the impenitent in the eternal death that awaits them, the inestimable price paid for their redemption, and the intensity of the love of God, who, while we were yet enemies, gave His Son to die for us.
Our sermons are not done with when we leave the pulpit. They are
immortal. They will be either the "savour of life unto life or of death unto death.” Those countenances we shall see again, blighted by the wrath of an angry God, or lit up with an eternal joy.
THE CLASS-MEETING. ALTHOUGH very vague and erroneous ideas obtain amongst men outside the pale of Methodism with regard to this question, every Methodist understands it perfectly well; it is not necessary, therefore, neither is it my intention, to enter into any explanation of the subject, or to give a definition of a class-meeting. Considering that the bulk of the readers of this Magazine are Local Preachers, such a course would be superfluous, if not presumptuous. It is well known that a hue-and-cry has of late been raised against the class-meeting; and the object of this article is to vindicate the time-honoured practice of God-fearing people meeting together, and “ speaking one to another."
It is clear that those who have entered the lists against the classmeeting, are not agreed amongst themselves; there is division amongst them. Some would completely abolish it; do away with it root and branch. Others would do away with it as a test of membership ; whilst a third party pleads for such a modification of it as would adapt it to the educational exigencies of the times, and the superior intelligence of our young people who have enjoyed greater educational advantages than ourselves.
I wish to address a word or two of caution and expostulation to each class of these objectors.
1st. Those who would do away with the class-meeting, root and branch. I believe that, as a rule, those who are clamouring for the abolition of this distinctively Methodist institution have had little or no experience of the benefits associated with it; and, consequently, are not in a position to form an intelligent opinion upon the subject. It would be well, perhaps, for such to pay a little deference to those whose experience qualifies them to speak with some degree of assurance with regard to the question. There are millions of godly men and women within the pale of Methodism to-day, who bave had long and rich experience of the spiritual blessings connected with this means of grace, and if they were appealed to on this subject, and their advice sought, they would say with emphasis, and with perfect unanimity, “ Don't give up the class-meeting, for it is the most blessed and healthful means of grace that the Methodist economy provides.” Now, I submit that the opinion of so many competent and credible witnesses on this point, is entitled to the respectful consideration and deference of those who have had no experience in the matter, and who, as a consequence, are not in a position to form an independent judgment thereon. If, indeed, the class-meeting did neither
good nor harm, but were simply useless, even in that case no one should need to be so very anxious to do away with it, to stamp it out as they would a nuisance ; but, seeing that it is a fruitful source of spiritual blessing and good to so many souls, and of harm to none, we ought, for the sake of those who can and do derive profit from it, to be anxious to conserve it, rather than destroy it. Don't act the part of the “ Dog-in-themanger ; deprive the ox of the hay you cannot eat. Don't foul the water you cannot drink. If you cannot appreciate the class-meeting, don't seek to deprive those of it who can. Such a course would be mean and selfish in the extreme.
2nd. A word now to those who would do away with the class-meeting as a test of membership. You would preserve it as it is, excepting its compulsory feature. You would not insist upon attendance at it, as a condition of membership, but would allow it to be optional. Persons might attend, or stay away; turn their back upon it if they chose ; still they would be recognised as bona fide members. That plea looks very reasonable on the face of it; but, unfortunately, facts are against it. I have known churches-Methodist, though not Wesleyan churches-to adopt this free-and-easy system; and the result, in every case, has been such as ought to prove a warning to churches that are seriously contemplating such a step. It is no wonder that the mere formalist should fail to enjoy or relish the class-meeting, and wish it removed as of membership; for it is an intensely spiritual means of grace, a direct appeal to the higher life, the spiritual consciousness and the religious enjoyments and experiences of the members. And if it should cease to be a test of membership, still, so long as it remains in its outward form, it must, in the nature of things, be a test of vital and experimental religion, as applied to its members.
Like the stethoscope, by which the physician tests the soundness or unsoundness of the respiratory organs of his patient, so the class-meeting, in the hands of a competent and skilful leader, will guage, with tolerable accuracy, the spiritual health and condition of each mem ber in his class. Or, like the pulse, it is a true and infallible indicator of the force of the vital current which transfuses life and energy through the believer's soul. Such being the case, it is no marvel that the mere formalist, the worldlyminded, and those in whose souls the life of God is at a low ebb, should wish to destroy the thermometer, which, with such uncompromising fidelity, indicates the measure of their religious earnestness and power. The atmosphere which pervades the class-meeting is anything but congenial to such souls. The mere formalist is not in his
element there. That is no reason, however, why spiritually-minded and intenselyearnest Methodists should be called upon to throw down the fences of the Church, and, in the most indiscriminate way, admit into its pale men, who have little, if anything, in common with themselves, and who, from a want of sympathy with real spiritual effort, are more likely to hinder than to help.
3rd. I want to have a word or two now with those who would not do away with the class-meeting, even as a test of membership, but would so modify it as to adapt it to the requirements of the times, and the superior intelligence of the young people amongst us, who have enjoyed greater educational advantages than we have. It might do very well for our forefathers, you will say, but the present generation is so far advanced in intelligence that it cannot tolerate the old style, but requires an adaptation, or a compromise, between the experience-meeting and a Bibleclass. I have no wish to say one word in disparagement of the Bibleclass. It is very useful and essential, particularly for our young men and
But let the Bible-class be a Bible-class, pure and simple, and keep the class-meeting in its present form, as an experience-meeting, separate and distinct from the Bible-class, without any attempt to blend them, or to roll the two into one. Each is good in its place. Neither one can supply the place of the other. While the Bible-class, properly conducted, is admirably adapted to indoctrinate our young people in the truths and principles of the Scriptures, and thus to fortify their minds against the abounding scepticism of the age, it will not meet the case of those in whose hearts the love of God is pent up; and, unless this has vent, it is like “ fire in their bones.” The cry of such earnest souls is, “ Come, all ye that fear the Lord, and I will tell you what He bath done for my soul.” They want, in fact, the opportunity which the classmeeting affords, of giving utterance to their pent-up feelings. Neither can the Bible-class meet the case of those who are bowed down by sorrow, and need the loving sympathy of their brethren and sisters. Often it is that our minds are beclouded and our spirits cast down by reason of the difficulties of the way and the temptations of the enemy; and what we want at such times, next to Divine comfort and succour, is the sympathy which flows from Christian fellowship. “As iron sharpeneth iron, so doth the countenance of a man his friend.” As it was in the days of Malachi, so it is now. “Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another;” now, they “forsake not the assembling of them. selves together." A fellow-feeling, like a magnetic link, draws them together, and binds them in a common brotherhood. When they thus meet together to speak of God's gracious dealings with them, to recount their hair-breadth escapes and marvellous deliverances from the jaws of their enemies, and to dwell upon the unfailing promises of God's Word, they inspire one another with a boldness which enables them bravely to meet every difficulty and danger that may confront them. Such a strengthening and invigorating effect has the class-meeting upon its mem. bers that often they feel, like the Psalmist, that they “could run through a troop or leap over a wall.” We would not speak hardly, nor think hardly, of those who plead for a modification of the class-meeting; they may be as strongly attached to Methodism as we ourselves are, and as earnestly desire and labour for its prosperity as we do; on this point,
however, we cannot see eye to eye. In our opinion, the maintenance of the class-meeting in its present form, and as a purely experience-meeting, though not, perhaps, absolutely necessary for the maintenance of spiritual religion, or the Divine life in the soul, is a means of grace, the importance and helpfulness of which cannot be exaggerated.
I dare not trespass any further on your space, or on the patience of your readers ; but should like, in a future number, to resume the subject. Bradford.
THE WESLEYAN METHODIST LOCAL PREACHERS'
CHAPTER XXXI.-Annual MEETING AT LYNN, 1877.
BROTHER EDWIN BENSON, of Tring, President.
THE General Committee met on Saturday evening, June 2nd, in the Wesleyan Schoolroom, Tower Street, Lynn. About fifty chapels in the Lynn, Downham, and Wisbeach Circuits, besides six open-air stands, were occupied by the brethren on the Sunday. Certainly there had been a famous working committee here, to get such a number of chapels; and as collections were made in most, if not all of them, the Norfolk friends showed the abundance of their liberality.
The brethren met for business on Monday morning, June 4th, in the Wesleyan Schoolroom, Lynn. The Report showed 2,074 benefit and 680 honorary members ; total, 2,754; being an increase of 151 benefit and 40 honorary members. The benefit members' subscriptions amounted to £1,093 15s. ; an increase on the former year of £83 14s. The increase of the income from various sources enabled the Treasurer to invest another thousand pounds, raising the primal figure from 7 to 8; total capital being, £8,564 15s. 9d.
Brother E. Benson was elected President, Bro. John Carter re-elected Treasurer, and Bro. Thos. Chamberlain Hon. Secretary.
Petitions were sent from the meeting to Parliament in favour of the Bills for closing public-houses on Sundays, and in favour of the Permissive Bill, and against opening museums, the National Gallery, the Crystal Palace, &c., on the Lord's day.
In accordance with the resolution of the preceding Annual Meeting, Dr. Aldom, ex-President, delivered an address in the Chapel on the morning of Tuesday, After the address the brethren and friends celebrated the Lord's Supper.
The giving of an address by Dr. Aldom was in conformity with the old practice of preaching an official sermon by the ex-President; a practice