It was moved, “That the best thanks of the assembly be respectfully offered to the President for his eminently practical and kindly address.”
IHAVE to second this resolution by the order of the committee, whom I obey at once, I suppose on the ground that while my patriarchal brother Aldis represents the older folks, who are glad to see the middle-aged men in such power, I represent the very young people, who look up to our middle-aged brother, Mr. Maclaren, with not less love, but with far greater awe; for I am persuaded that Brother Aldis and Dr. Brock are incapable of that silent admiration and intense wonder which we all have as we look on while the angel has wrought so wondrously this day. I have peculiar delight in seconding this resolution, because if I have a faculty at all it lies in rather a practical direction.
I fear I am rather worldly. I calculate very much a man’s love to Christ by the quantity of money he is willing to give in proportion to what he has got, and up to the present moment I have never found a, test that is more available, It generally comes to the correct thing in the long run, for I find that the great talker and even the wonderful gusher does not last nearly as long as the person who gives the two mites that make a farthing, being all her living. The love of God often makes a man give half his income and be very imprudent. The money matter somehow puts metal into grace, and makes it last all the longer. I am sure that from the address we have heard a great deal of mischief will come. I told Mr. Maclaren that if I had to speak I should endeavor to pull him to pieces. Mischief will come in this way.
The endowed churches will say, “We always told you so; this is the result of your voluntary principle”; and they will begin at once to deal out very severe reflections upon us. Well, for my part, I have arrived at that period of life in which wisdom is at its prime — between forty and fifty. Brethren are rising up to that period, and declining afterwards, so I have heard, and the point I have reached about all criticism is utter and entire indifference to it, except to endeavor to pick anything practical out of it;. I believe that anything that is true ought to be said, whatever result may come out of it, and that if we were, to throw ourselves open to an adversary by the avowal of a fault, it would frequently be the wisest thing to do, though it may not; look like it. Policy might say, “Conceal that”; but it would be to conceal a source of evil. The better thing is to drag it out, give your adversary all the advantage he can possibly get by it, and then, having cleared yourselves of the evil, the preponderating advantage will soon be on your side.
For my part, I glorify and bless the Lord, not that any brother of mine serving the Lord should be poor, but that there are so many hundreds among you who can be poor, and poor cheerfully, for our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake; and although at the present moment some colleges cannot find men, I am besieged, I am pestered, bored almost to death, by the hundreds of young men eager to push themselves into this very Baptist ministry, which is so poorly paid, not looking for pelf, because their ministry is of another kind. If all the salaries could be increased, and we thereby induced one solitary mercenary brother to become a Baptist minister for the sake of gain, the increase would be a terrible loss. But it cannot be said that we have done so. There is no lie beneath God’s heaven so astounding as that we ministers preach for what we can get. There is not a man among us who gets a large salary but who is worth ten times and fifty times as much, and might have twenty ways of earning it, which we could take tomorrow. Some of us can say that we should be better off without our church than with it, notwithstanding that they give liberally to us. We have taken care to be more liberal to them than they have been to us — from the man with the largest income to him with the smallest — and I may say for us all, at the day of judgment it shall be revealed, that with simplicity of heart and singleness of purpose, we have given ourselves up to this work of the Lord Jesus Christ, and we defy all inspection of this matter, as we are prepared to meet the eye of God at the last. So far, there has been great good come out of evil, for it is not a little thing to be able to say that without fear of contradiction.
At the same time we must do something to increase the salaries of these brethren. I do not know how it may be done; I know how it can be left undone — it is by leaving it to the Baptist Union. I am, myself, a part and parcel of it. I do not know whether I am a committee-man or not, for I do not think it has anything to do that requires a committee. I asked Mr. Maclaren if his duties had been very severe, and he said he had delivered one address, and was going to deliver another, It is the most impracticable body beneath the moon, and I myself am part of it: therefore I bear the censure. But it is time we were not so. Here is this Augmentation Aid Society. Well, if you will take it up, and work it, let it go on. In the name of everything that is good, it ought to have been yours years ago; but if you are going to lie on the baby, to overlie and smother it, pray leave the children alone. Why, I have more confidence in my friends, Charles Williams and Charles Leonard, than in the whole lot of us together, including Mr. Leonard and Mr. Williams; for, somehow, things do get done by one or two brethren who are called to the work, and are wonderfully left undone by a whole company of brethren, all earnest., but none particularly called to lead the way. This Augmentation Fund has increased its income this year., and reached £2,640, and has helped one hundred and thirty-one brethren, adding £20 to their incomes, which has been a great blessing. But the singular thing is, that while one hundred and thirty-one have been helped, only one hundred and thirty-one have applied, so that nobody has been refused, and there must be a large number of you who do not know that any such help is to be had; otherwise I think that probably you would have applied. I do not know if possibly you would have subscribed, and increased the funds had you known of them, but it is possible you might have come forward and shared them. That at least seems pretty clear to me, judging your minds by my own. The society has done indirectly a very great service, for years ago the incomes of the brethren helped amounted on an average to £75 or £76. At this present moment the average stipend of the assisted ministers comes to £87, which, with the £20, makes up £107, so that there has been an improvement of some £12 or £14 each all round of those helped, apart from the help the society has given.
We want to create a public opinion upon this matter. Mr. Maclaren has created it this morning, I believe. There are some members of our churches who pay more to black their shoes than to support their ministers. I am certain there are many farmers that pay more for their license to shoot than they ever subscribed per annum to listen to the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is really to me scandalous that we should have to subscribe to this society, since in some cases there is no necessity whatever that the pastor should receive any aid from a society. The system of pew rents is not, I think, likely to be abandoned, but it has been the death of us on account of fixing a shilling a quarter — a shilling a quarter. Two sermons every Sabbath-day — give them the week-days in; a halfpenny a sermon. Brethren, I am astonished at you that your sermons are not worth more than that. I do not hear you, but those people who do should be able to appreciate you, and show what the value of your discourses must be. On the other hand, if these brethren are incorrect, and I should hope they must be, then I have to turn round upon the friends who hear you, and say it is outrageously unjust, and that is putting it on the lowest scale. It certainly is unkind and unchristianlike; still, there are a number of churches that cannot do more. I do know some that are doing their utmost, and God be thanked for it: I delight to see the little churches. I differ from Mr. Maclaren as to their being a source of weakness. I have formed a great lot of little churches, and mean to form a great many more — not in villages, but in London, because they grow. As many slips as ever we put in the ground all seem to strike. In the large towns, Manchester, Liverpool, and elsewhere, we might increase indefinitely, and be better represented. We must all set to work, and build a chapel in Manchester every year. That is one of the things to begin with. We ought to try and build two every year in London. We are building one. The fact is, we are poor. There can be no doubt about that, and therefore we must use all our means judiciously and well, and help those that are the poorest among the poor. In Turk’s Island, I am told, all the white population go to church: the brown people, men of color, go to the Wesleyans, but the very black are all Baptists. What is true of Turk’s Island, I think, is very largely true of this other small island in which we live. We do get a large number of poor people. This is not to our dishonor, but to our glory. We delight to gather in the poorest of the poor and preach the gospel to them. That is by no means such a weakness as should make us despair. So long as we have got the truth and the Spirit of God with us we are not afraid. But being poor as we are, we must do all we can, and put all the ability God has entrusted to us in the monetary line for his service.
While we, as a denomination, are poor, the Baptists in England, I believe, who are not true to their name, are the richest people in the world. I believe the best Wesleyans, certainly the best Congregationalists, very many of the best Church of England people, and all the best Plymouth Brethren, have been baptized. We simply stand out. The others, for reasons best known to themselves, slink every man to his tent in the rear, and escape some of the reproach that we have to bear. Baptists that; are members of respectable churches, I do not respect you, having left your brethren and deserted your colors for the sake of being respectable. We are not respectable at all because we put baptism out of the font into the right place. A man says, “I do not like to be called a Baptist;.” “Sir, there is no Baptist that wants you to be; he does not feel so proud of you, or think it any honor to have his name coupled with yours.” The oldest name of all is John the Baptist, who existed, as our Welsh friend said, a long time before there was any Wesleyan, or anything of the sort; and we speak with no bated breath when we stand right out for the sake of the vindication of a rite, as it is called, but which rite draws with it one-third part of the stars of heaven, for the view you take of that rite affects your view of almost every other truth. A gentleman once told me he did not care twopence for baptism. The reply is; “Why don’t you give up the twopenny thing, and have a view of it; which it would be worth while caring for, and which you would maintain?” Brethren, I have heard of some of your misfortunes since I have been here, as well as some of your joys, and I thought nobody would be able to say at Plymouth, you had been better fed than taught. I only hope that today you will be half as well fed as you have been taught.