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more than simply an operation of the intellect; the perpetual recurrence of devotional meetings would be unnecessary. But the religion of Christ is a very different thing from either mental science or mathematics. The facts of these sciences once learned, are learned for good. We are in no need of having it continually dinned into our ear that three times three are nine, or that the square of four is sixteen. These operations performed twenty times give no man a deeper conviction of their truth and accuracy. Moral and spiritual truths, truths relating to God, the soul, and eternity, occupy a very different sphere in the realms of thought, and serve for higher and nobler purposes. It is found by experience that contact with the engrossing affairs of this life has a tendency to abate the force of religious truths, and to wear off the impression of eternal things; therefore to feel these truths in all their requisite force, we require to have the impression of them continually renewed. The example of Christ must be ever held before our eyes to keep alive the desire of imitation; the blessings of salvation must be frequently exhibited to draw out holy desires after them, and the duty of prayer must be frequently performed to keep alive the spirit of devotion, so essential to a steady and active piety. This is just what the means of grace are designed to do, to keep alive a feeling superior to earthly anxieties and cares, and to draw away the affections of the heart from those objects that either pollute, or alienate it from God. In the very establishment of them God declares the means of grace to be necessary to the spirituality of our minds, and to the stability of our piety. The man who neglects these must endanger his own piety, inasmuch as he deprives himself of the very thing that God designs to impart life and power to his heart. The week-night congregations, as a general rule are very small, especially in our large towns. The fact is a melancholy indication of the absence of deep religious earnestness among the bulk of our church members. In some instances no doubt, good reasons may be assigned for the absence of many, but in other cases the great hindrance is the want of religious fervour. No man can make satisfactory advancement in the divine life who dispenses with the use of the ordinary means of grace, except on the Sabbath day.
Omission of secret prayer. This alone is sufficient to account for the instability of by far the greater number of those who do not go on to perfection. No man can maintain his religious life, and exhibit a stable and consistent piety without attention to his closet. Prayer is the breath of the soul's life. The thought that the religion of Christ can exist in the heart in the absence of communion with God, cannot for a moment be entertained. This can no more be, than the body can exist without the air of heaven, or destitute of its natural food. Secret prayer then, being essential to spiritual
life, can we be surprised at the instability of a man, when we know that he seldom, perhaps never prays in secret? If the history of unstable souls were known, in reference to this particular thing, we should never expect that they could be "stedfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord." But supposing we could know the religious history of the mass of church members, it is to be feared we should feel great surprise, and something still more, sad, at the exceedingly small amount of time and earnestness spent in secret devotion. The strength of the soul is recruited mainly from this quarter; here daily supplies of grace are to be sought; and here the safeguards of a truly pious life are to be derived and strengthened. You cannot imagine a man coming fresh from the throne of the heavenly grace in secret, with the spiritual dew of Hermon on his soul, and going direct into sin either secret or open. Such a supposition shocks all our ideas of likelihood, and is quite at variance with our experience of Divine things. Secret prayer braces up the soul for the battle of life; gives, so to speak, tone and strength to the inner man, so that instead of standing shivering and shrinking at the sight of spiritual toil and danger, it goes bravely on. "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Unstable souls are not much alone with God. The spiritual is too little their element. They prefer company more in harmony with their low religious condition. They have not the strong secret drawings after God and Divine things which the truly faithful feel. But it is not simply their misfortune that they are destitute of these feelings-these drawings after intercourse with God-it is their fault-their sin.
CURE. All the experienced Superintendents of the Primitive Methodist Connexion know what a large amount of wear and tear there is in our larger Circuits. When our new Roll Books are introduced in June to supersede the March list of members, we see at a glance the serious amount of change that has taken place in the muster roll. In small Circuits our members disappear by tens, in larger Circuits by twenties, and in the largest Circuits by hundreds. This seems very startling, and there may in some localities be less change in the general membership; but in the main it is substantially as we have put it. It may in truth be said that a very large amount of this disappearance of members is unavoidable, and arises from the operation of causes that we cannot control, such as removals, emigration, death, &c. These causes are always at work reducing the number of our members, and always will be at work, and we are prepared to submit to inevitable processes; but a careful examination of the roll will soon convince us that our losses arising out of the changes of time and death are small indeed compared with our loss from another quarter. For instance, in a Circuit comprising from 600 to
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1,000 members, from 16 to 20 will ordinarily die, and even hundreds will fall off from meeting in class. grievance, the plague spot, the sore evil under the sun. we to do here? We believe if the experience meetings were abolished it would make a difference with many. If attendance at the Sacrament, for instance, was the only test of Church membership, many would remain with us as a Church who separate from us. When the current of religious feeling runs low, people do not like class meetings. We wish it to be distinctly understood that we do not recommend the discontinuance of our class meetings-very far indeed are we from such a wish; but from extensive experience we state the fact, that we lose many members who decline in spiritual life, who would still remain with us, but they are not willing any longer to meet in class; and in consequence of this, Methodist law says, they cease to be members.
We have stated a few of the causes of religious instability, at least a few of the causes which in our judgment lead to spiritual decay, and consequent instability; let us now suggest a few means to aid in curing it.
Superior Leadership. Religion is often compared in the Bible to certain forms of vegetation. Now we know that although the processes of vegetable growth are not entirely under our control, and are even quite beyond our comprehension, still the skill and experience of the gardener or husbandman often produce important results, both as to the acceleration of the growth and the improvement of the species. Ye are "God's husbandry," says the book, trees of his right-hand planting, a noble vine, wholly a right seed. Now, that which good husbandry or gardening does in nature, good leadership does in the church. The leadership, at least in our forms of it, is peculiar to Methodism, and arises out of the impossibility of our ministers taking the complete oversight of our societies. If our preachers had but one society requiring their pastoral oversight we should not in that case require leaders in the same sense as we now require them. But it is a common case among us for the superintending minister of a circuit to be unable to see some of the societies for weeks, and sometimes even for months together. The sphere of his labours covers a large extent of territory, and while absent from parts of his flock and engaged in performing distant duties some one must take the oversight of these societies, to administer reproof, warning, instruction, or correction, as the case may be. Now it is perfectly clear that work of this description ought to be committed to intelligent and skillful hands; and it is equally evident that the improvement, enlargement, and consolidation of a society depend very much on the piety, prudence, sagacity, and intelligence of such a deputy. Hence the necessity of good leaders, seeing so much depends on their
management. We all know the extreme difficulty of finding such men in sufficient numbers to meet the ever-recurring wants of the connexion; and how often have we to deplore the sad necessity of laying hands suddenly on men.
The mind of a leader ought to be richly stored with theological sentiment. His position and duties require this. He speaks to the same people week after week and month after month on the important matters of religion and salvation. It is desirable that his instructions should be to the point, changing their tone and sentiment with the ever-varying emotions of religious experience. He should lead his flock into the green meadows of God's word, and beside the still waters of divine consolation. When "cast down" he should cheer them with the promises of God; he should warn them of the dangers that beset the Christian path; he should encourage them to aim at a higher religious life, and help them into it by his own example-and thus "employ each art, reprove each dull delay, allure to brighter worlds, and lead the way.'
Have all our classes such a leader at their head? We are free to confess that, in our judgment, this is one of the weak parts of the connexion, and it is weakness in a vital part. The quality of the instruction imparted in our classes is neither so rich, varied, nor nutritive, as it ought to be. And yet we get the best men the connexion affords to fill this office. If our leaders are not learned, nor skilled in the word of God, in most cases the disability is a matter of necessity. The advantage has been denied to the station they occupy in the social scale. Ignorance and incapacity in several directions are among the unavoidable disabilities of their position, many have, nevertheless, instructed and elevated themselves to a very creditable extent, who, previous to conversion, possessed no scholarship at all; and it would be equally unreasonable, cruel, and unjust to utter a harsh expression against so useful and self-denying a body of men as our leaders are. But the effects of this imperfect state of things are of course none the less to be regretted. It is very desirable to have this means of grace-our class meetings-improved, rendered more instructive, and more stimulative of divine things. Men grow tired of hearing the same things, very little varied, rung incessantly into their ear. If any thing could be done to impart a larger amount of Bible instruction in our classes, so as to do away with that monotonous sing-song style in which they are ordinarily conducted, we think it would be an improvement. We should have the word of God read more or less in all our devotional meetings, and by this means many might be instructed in the doctrines of the Bible who have not the means of instruction at home; and a large amount of gospel truth might, in time, be brought under their attention in this way. New views of divine truth would thus dawn on the mind, material for pious
meditation would be obtained, and the soul be furnished with that spiritual pabulum essential to its growth, improvement, and stability.
A more diligent pastoral oversight. The leadership in Methodism is designed to supplement this department of ministerial labour. It is easy to apprehend that when a preacher has to attend to ten or twenty different societies it is impossible for him to exercise the supervision that is desirable in person. He cannot render himself ubiquitous. His visits are often paid at very considerable intervals; they may be hailed with joy by the people, and he may be the means of transfusing spiritual life and vigour into the church when he goes, but his visits being few and perhaps far between, some poor unstable soul that he might have advised with, reclaimed, and brought back to the society, had he been present to look after him, may have quite abandoned the fold, or, as we term it, "left society." This is an evil that rises out of the constitution and arrangements of connexionalism; but if we would have the benefits of the system we must submit to unavoidable evils.
The division of Circuits in populous districts will meet in part the demand for increased pastoral oversight; but many Circuits will always demand a large amount of physical toil in travelling long journeys on foot, and this will not only trench on the time for family visitation, but also by exhausting the energies of body and mind, disable a man for the proper performance of the duty.
In large towns where much time is not consumed in travelling the duty may be more easily performed, and it is certainly of vital importance to the interests of our Societies. The Conference gives the expression of its opinion in relation to this matter, and the importance it attaches to the due performance of the duty by exacting forty family visits per week from every junior minister, regardless alike of the differences of locality, population, or the extra demands of pulpit preparation. This gives in the year nearly 2,100 family visits, which is nearly as much work, to do it well, as a man of ordinary strength can perform.
Now it might be reasonably asked, when we look at this rule, what more can be done in this department of ministerial labour? Why demand a more watchful vigilance over societies to preserve and establish wavering souls? The answer is, first, because it is not done. The rule, we fear is not adhered to nor observed according to its own terms. And in our judgment it cannot be done with due regard to the right performance of other imperative duties. It is too great a tax on human nature. Second, when attempted, it is not well done; family calls are set down for pastoral visits, where religious instructions are not given, where children are not noticed nor catechised, where the Scriptures are not