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ON EVENING SERVICES AND PRAYER MEETINGS.
The following extracts from communications in reply to Clericus D (see
our No. for March) are deserving of serious attention.– EDITOR.
MANY eminent and pious minis- Towns. · More than 20 years exters have recorded their testimony perience has confirmed my opinion that Prayer Meetings without the of the expediency and advantage exercise of the greatest watchful- of them in building up and strengthness and the soundest discretion, ening the walls of our Sion, and in (unless for instance the minister of promoting true religion and vital the parish preside and the proceed- godliness. I often reflect with ings be subject to his controul and deep regret in how many towns regulations,) have too often dege- around me, as well as through the nerated into sectarian practices, breadth and length of our land, no have furnished an occasion rather church is open in the week-day for for the display of the gift than of an Evening Service. It appears the grace of prayer, for fostering to me that this is abandoning so more a forward temper and a fluent much ground to our dissenting bretongue, than for cherishing that thren whose places of worship are humble, retiring, and self-abasing generally opened once or twice in spirit which at all times becomes the interval between the Sabbath, the Disciples of the meek and well knowing as they do that this lowly Saviour, and especially in tends to keep their congregations their solemn approaches to the united, to increase them also by some throne of grace. Thus, what was stray and perhaps hungry sheep from designed to promote spirituality of our own pastures, as well as entermind, by the great enemy who can taining the higher consideration of transform himself into an angel of preserving their flocks in a healthy light, is rendered conducive to spiri- and vigorous state of soul. And tual pre-eminence and pride. Num- surely if this custom of the Dissenbers have been admired for their ters has, as Clericus D. observes, flow of ideas and words when pray- been copied with other things' by ing with their fellow-men as their some ministers of our National listeners, to whom the words of our Church, (though I am not inclined Lord in St. Matt. vi. 5, 6, might be to pay the Dissenters this comseasonably applied. I quite agree pliment, believing that it was with Clericus D. that a due obser- adopted ages ago by some of our vance of family instruction and de- clerical brethren, who are now as votion, the catechizing children and stars in the firmament) the old servants according to the pious cus- maxim would in this instance be • tom of primitive times, and thus applicable, “fas est et ab hoste harrowing in the good seed of the doceri.'* Does the practice apword which has been sown, by after proximate us to the habits of the thought, meditation and prayer, Dissenters ? it is sufficient to reply would be preferable to an Evening in the language of a charge deliLecture on the Sabbath, in addi- vered by the Bp. of Chester, 1836. tion to the morning and afternoon • If this be so it only proves that services, provided the size of the the Dissenters have been quicker church be well adapted to the po- than ourselves to discover what is pulation of the place. But I to- needed by the wants of the people, tally differ from him with regard and what is suited to their habits : to the establishing of Evening Lec
* The right should be learned even tures in the week at least in our
from an enemy. MAY, 1838.
and we are surely more prudent in tracted, scarce a whisper was heard wielding their weapons than in leav. that this might prove injurious to ing them in their hands to be em- the morals of the inhabitants, or ployed against ourselves. The the theatre become a place for real dignity of the Church is to be assignations. I proceeded unmoved the instrument of salvation; and by the blessing of God, through evil he who made Himself servant un- report and good report; and in the to all that he might gain the more course of a short time had the sahas shewn us how we may best tisfaction of seeing occasionally maintain consistency. His words some of these very objectors withseem written for our purpose, “ Un- in the polluted atmosphere of my to the Jews became I as a Jew, Evening Lecture. Nor after close inthat I might gain the Jews, to them quiry and long experience could I that are under the law as under ever discover any of those badeffects the law that I might gain them
which had been so feelingly apthat are under the law, to them prehended. When unhappily any that are without law as without thing of the kind exists to which law, that I might gain them that your correspondent alludes, I am are without law. To the weak be- persuaded that vigilance, discretion, came I as weak that I might gain firmness, and boldness of rebuke the weak. I am made all things on the part of the minister would to all men that I might by all shortly diminish, if not totally sup
save some.” Was the press it. But grant that Evening apostle blamed for this? We know Lectures in individual instances are that he was.
Did he on that ac- abused, the argument against the count concede? We know the abuse of a thing does not destroy contrary. Was he blamed by his its proper use.
For what part of divine Master? I trow not.
religion can be named which has Having been entrusted for some not been abused and made producyears with the Curacy of a market tive of evil effects. Though nearly town, I felt it expedient in conse- 20 years have elapsed I can look quence of the smallness of the con- back with satisfaction to the inno. gregation on Wednesday and Fri- vation to which I have alluded. day mornings to substitute for the The Evening Lecture removes an prayers on Wednesday an Evening obstacle to the attendance of our Service with a Sermon. No sooner poorer brethren as well as that of was my intention known in the others who have domestic cares parish than the rumour gave rise to and engagements which cease at the most fearful forebodings. By the approach of evening, and leave some it was asserted that it would their minds open to serious thoughts lead to the demoralization of the on the one thing needful. And parish, that servants would be con- there is something in the very taminated, and that in short the stillness of Evening which contriChurch would become the resort butes to invite the renewed soul of the most abandoned characters. to communion with its God, and to It struck me however, as a curious raise the affections from earth to circumstance, that this new anxiety heaven. And it is delightful to for the welfare of the place should behold the people of God meeting be manifested by certain persons, together to redeem a portion of as well as on such an occasion as their time from the world, and this; and particularly when I re- after the toils of the day laying flected, that on a party of strolling down their worldly concerns at the players having improperly pro- door of the Lord's house, and encured a licensed room for their ex- tering in, in order “ to behold the hibitions to which crowds were at- fair beauty of the Lord and to visit His temple.” Where a due been successfully controverted by impression under the Divine bless- the able and pious Bishop of ing is made on the hearts of any of Chester, in his charge of 1835, our hearers on the Sabbath, one cer- otherwise how would the usefultain effect of a healthy state of ness of our church be curtailed, soul is an appetite for spiritual and the religious culture of her food. There will be an unquench- members; and how great the abable desire for the sincere milk of surdity that one hundred persons the word or for its strong meat. may at any time assemble at the And if not to be obtained in the public house with impunity; but Parish Church it will frequently be should the clergyman of the parish sought in theConventicle; and how- call together more than nineteen of ever efficient be the ministrations his cottagers for the purpose of exon the Lord's day, if they be not plaining to them the word of God, followed up with suitable spiritual he is to be held guilty of a breach means in the week, such as pri- of the law,
and subject to a severe vate visits, Evening or Cottage penalty. What decided proofs of Lectures, I am inclined to think the energy of delasion which is there will be much instability and constantly exerted by the evil one leanness of soul, and that after all on the minds of men, leading them it may be said of many,“ the hun- to believe a lie, are exhibited in gry sheep look up and are not fed.” these and similar facts which are
Residing at the present time on daily occurring !* a living in the country, with ham- To my clerical brothers, and to lets far apart I find it expedient to others who may partake of his substitute Cottage Lectures for an feelings, I would addEvening Service at church. But • Tu ne cede malis, sed contra bere also appears that honorary audentior ito,'t or in the more apenmity which pursues invariably propriate language of the inspired every good institution, and proves Apostle, let it be said, “none of that we live in a world, the domi- these things move me ; nion of which is usurped by him Isa. li. 7, &c. May we all Jabour who has power to blind the minds to preach the word in season and and understandings of men. Ac- out of season, teach our flocks cording to the view of a learned publicly and from house to house, civilian who holds a responsible warning every man, and teaching office under the Archbishop of every man, in all wisdom, that we Canterbury, it is contrary to
may present every man perfect in Law for the clergyman of the Christ Jesus. parish to meet more than nineteen
W. C. members of his flock in a cottage
The writer of these remarks hapfor the purpose of expounding to
pened to be present most unexpectedly in them the Scriptures, and uniting the gallery of the House of Commons with them in prayer and praise. when the late worthy member for Brad. On this construction of the law an
ford brought forward his Bill, and which abandoned and malicious character
was after some opposition carried, to
relieve the clergy from the penalties of the intended to lodge an information conventicle acts, interpreted as it has been against me ; but in the interim he by Dr. Lushington. Great was his surwas convicted of horse stealing,
prise to find that the learned civilian, the and for this crime transported for
professed friend of civil and religious
liberty, was the loudest opponent of this life. I know that under the robe
relief bill! I shall not soon forget, nor of this ecclesiastical authority the perhaps will he, the bold, able, and punzeal of some has been reprobated,
gent rebuke for this inconsistency of his and perhaps the spiritual apathy public conduct on the occasion inflicted
by that Christian senator, Mr. Hardy. and indolence of more been defend
+ To evils yield not; but more bold ed. Dr. Lushington's opinion has proceed.
» also see It appears to me that a wiser
parish. But Prayer Meetings mode of considering the subject of should be discussed separately. I Evening Lectures would have confine myself now to Evening been, simply to have stated it, Lectures. and not to have pre-occupied I cannot admit that Evening the minds of your readers, by Lectures are copied from Dissentelling them what Clericus D. on ters, or set up to compete with mature consideration, has thought them. Many who know little fit to do in his own case. It is about Dissent, or Dissenting pracclear that the discussion is not tices, have established them in likely to be so profitable to him- imitation of the Rev.S. Walker, of self, as it
may be to others, inas- Truro ; the Rev. T. Robinson, of much as he requests the considera- Leicester, &c. and others, on their tion of a subject on which his own own judgment, in the full expectamind is made up. But probably tion of great benefit to their parhe intended altogether the benefit ishes. Neither can I allow that of others.
the object has been to make proseI think the question of no small lytes, but to build up in their most importance, and having had the holy faith, those who have been experience of not only ten years in awakened to see their danger, and the ministry, but more than sixteen have been led to "r
lay hold upon years trial of Evening Lectures, I the hope set before them in the may speak as one not unacquainted gospel." with the matter. Let me premise,
In order to render what assistthat Clericus D. has mixed up two ance I can towards arriving at a things, which have no necessary
satisfactory judgment, I will place connexion, and therefore should be before your readers the principal separately considered. There are advantages and disadvantages of many who have Evening Lectures Evening Lectures, and then make in their parishes, who do not yet a few observations.
Among the see their way clearly on the point
clearly on the point advantages, I will number the folof Prayer Meetings. There may
There may lowing : be advanced one and the same ob- 1. A means to those not altojection against both, that they are gether ill-disposed to spend their held in the evening, but distinct time profitably, and preserve them grounds of objection may be ad- from the temptations which Beer vanced against Prayer Meetings, Shops and such places afford. which will not hold good against 2. A means of grace for the Evening Lectures.
conversion of sinners; Even fools I have made longer trial of both who come to scoff, may remain to than Clericus D, and without wish
pray. Eccles. xi. 6. ing to hide the difficulties, can 3. A means of unfolding more safely affirm that in my judgment, at large, many important truths the good effects have greatly coun- contained in the word of God. terbalanced the evil. There is no 4. Evening Lectures are a preunmixed good here, and it must be servative for our sheep, against acknowledged, that Prayer Meet- wandering into other pastures. ings require more constant superin- 5. They promote union among tendence, and vigilant watchfulness " those that love the Lord Jesus of the minister, to keep the balance Christ in sincerity," and growth in in favour of the good. With good grace, and in the knowledge of our rules, well observed, Prayer Meet- Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. ings, under the superintendence of 6. They are a means of refreshthe minister, will, in my judgment, ment, amid the toils and trials of advance the cause of Christ in a life during the week. The disad
vantages I have at any time heard can conveniently be spared. Those named, are,
on the Sunday Evening, for those 1. Some parents, for the sake who have not had the opportunity of hearing, sometimes neglect their of going more than once to the children and housebolds.
house of God. Young persons 2. Children sometimes make the who would form part of a catelectures an excuse for being absent chetical class, and have already from home, and spend their time been twice to church, would spend elsewhere.
the evening more profitably under 3. Servants and apprentices, the instruction of their parents. supposed by their masters and mis- 3. · Most of the respectable tresses to be present at the lecture, and serious people' of Clerimay be found seeking their plea- cus D.'s parish could not reasonsure in the company of the idle and ably be astonished that their profane.
domestics were in mischief, while 4. Occasionally improper con- they were at the lecture, because duct may have occurred at the
seldom happen that place of divine worship.
all the influential members of a I have watched and weighed the family are absent at the same time. advantages and disadvantages of And if masters and mistresses once Evening Lectures, at all seasons of found their servants going elsethe year for a long time, and where, when permitted to go to the through God's blessing am able lecture, that permission would be most unequivocally to assert, that withdrawn altogether, or for a in my own experience, the advan- considerable time. Under the cir. tages have far outweighed the dis- cumstances alluded to by Clericus advantages; indeed I consider that D. I only wonder he could with lectures are so entirely beneficial any comfort have continued the to my own agricultural parish, that lecture so long as ten years. The I have considered the disadvantages husband, or wife, or some influenwith reference to others, and not tial member should always be at to myself.
home on the Sunday evening; and Observe in the first place ; in case no member of the family be
1. That in all matters of paro- present at divine service, it is easy chial arrangement, localities must for heads of families to inquire if be considered. What may be their servants were in their proper suitable for one place, will not places at the lecture. be so for another. We cannot de- 4. To prevent any improcide for one another, and must not per conduct at the time of the judge one another. At a Clerical lecture, it has been found suffiMeeting, Clericus D. might, “ in cient to have a whole range of the multitude of counsellors," learn separate seats for males and fewisdom suited to his own case. males ; and if a much larger num
2. From what we know of ber than usual be expected, to the limited education of the mid- request the churchwarden dling and lower classes in former schoolmaster to sit in some paryears, I should much question ticular part of the church or schoolwhether there was more Family room, will be found an additional Catechising than at present. There security against impropriety of were not many capable of perform- conduct. ing the duty. But be that as it 5. It is not possible to lay may, Evening Lectures need not down regulations which shall suit interfere with that wholesome and all parishes. Circumstances and godly practice. The lectures in the habits
Clericus D. has not week are for the benefit of all who informed
your readers of what