Monday, 25 August 2014

BAPTIST ASSOCIATION.

THE ANNUAL MEETINGS.

 Mr. W. Quinn moved — That this association recommends to the pastors of the Baptist denomination the wisdom of devoting special attention to the study and preaching of the principles of what is known as the forward social movement in so far as they are in accord with the spirit and teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ.
No one with a proper conception of Christianity could look upon the social system that condemned the greater portion of the human family to hard and unremitting toil for bare subsistence, and caused from want of adequate nourishment and unsanitary conditions the premature death of thousands, and permitted others of the same family who toiled not to enjoy a superabundance of the good things of life, without realising in it the absolute negation of the just and beneficent designs of the Creator. How was it that so much indifference was displayed by honest hard working men to the religion as represented by the churches, and that the urgent appeals made by preachers and writers on orthodox religious topics were no often disregarded? They had not far to seek for a reason for the apathy displayed by the masses. They found the church accepting the view that the few would be rich and the many extremely needy, and although they had the precept "Do unto others as ye would that they should do to you," they found many of her leaders feeding upon "human wreckage," and growing fat upon " human degradation." She had failed to echo the warnings of Isaiah, " Woe unto them that join house to house, that lay field to field till there be no place." and has neglected to cry with clarion notes "The earth it the lord's and the fulness thereof," " And ye shall not tell the land for ever," but had remained silent, and in the name of " a higher spirituality" by sanctioning the right of a few to control the natural heritage of all—the land, had allowed vast tracts of human life to be handed over to the dominion of selfishness and cruelty. All too manifest in the "consecrated circle" had been the spirit of individualism—that spirit of which the historian of the evangelical succession told them how Newton in the slave-trading days, on board a slave ship where negroes were packed together like herrings, and where they lay broken-hearted, stifled, and dying by scores from the cruelties practised upon them by their gaolers, enjoyed "sweeter and non frequent hours of Divine communion than ever before." The good man was evidently unconscious of the awful contract between his own spiritual raptures and the sufferings of the slaves. He thought only of the mercy to himself. And so it was largely with them to-day. The church was called upon to solve the great social, industrial, and sanitary problems of our times. An example of what passed as current Christianity was furnished a short time ago by one of our legislators who said—"he was as proud of being a member of the National Defence League as he was of being a member of a Christian Church." In the light of the Sermon on the Mount, and the record of the life of the lowly Nazarene, was it possible to conceive of Him or any of His disciples being allied with an association whose chief aim appeared to be the perpetuation of the present unjust system which permitted wholesale theft and the worst form of slavery ? ("No.") He thought not. "Ye cannot serve God and mammon." Mammonism, the only form of paganism by the way that Christ denounced by name, and declared to be antagonistic to the worship of God, showed its hideous form even in the church. He would not be bold enough to say that their own body was free from the taint. When they wanted a brother of the laity for the office of president they did not as a rule select for the office a man noted for his piety. No, not a bit of it. The man of social status, the cunning monopolist, who would perhaps lavish a portion of the gold unjustly wrung from the workers, received their devotion and honors which they prided themselves their independence permitted them to bestow.
The church in the past had displayed lack of grit in initiating and supporting reforms designed for the wellbeing of mankind—as witness the tardiness with which it took up the question of the abolition at chattel slavery and the great temperance movement —and he was afraid that unless there was very soon a great awakening the church would again be in the rear when the dawn of the new era of justice and peace burst upon them. He had not overlooked what had been done by the church in the moral and spiritual uplifting of the people. Had it not been for the influence exerted by the church their social adjustments, bad at they were, would be immeasurably worse. But he was desirous that Christian men above all others should realise that with improved methods of production and the concentration of land and capital into fewer hands the ability of the individual to gain an honest livelihood sufficient so maintain himself and family in Christian decency daily became more difficult, and that our system, as had been well said, "is slowly but surely causing the growth of a residuum of the people who are brought into the world to find that there is no place for them." Hence they found from the last census that 1,551 individual in the colony professed to being independent, or in other words to be parasites, living idly upon the toil of others. What an admirable commentary on the injunction of Paul, "If any man will not work, neither let him eat," Side by side with that they found 3,312 toilers unemployed "because no man hath called them ;" and further, 5,403 children between the ages of 4 and 14 earning their bread,children who ought to be at school or running about enjoying the bounties of God in the form of sunshine and fresh air. From another source they found that 705 persons owned half the land values of the colony, and that there were 44,000 men who were landless. To avoid the storm by guiding the reform movement along right lines to right issues should be the aim of every follower of the Carpenter of Nazareth. The principle of competition, which was the keynote of modern civilisation, was simply the application of the brutal law of the survival of the strongest and most cunning.
 There were some in the great world-wide struggle who claimed the right to remain neutral. If the church continued to keep clear of the great social questions, if unlike the Master, it had no message for weary and toiling men but to point them to the rest beyond the grave —if it had no counsel and help to offer in times of perplexity and hardship, and in efforts to bring about a juster and happier social order, the masses would still look with suspicion on its teaching, and in a few years the larger portion of the working classes would be outside its walls. He had no sympathy with those who advocated a violent overturning of present institutions, but believed that the remedy was to be found in a full recognition of the injustice that existed, together with a constant endeavour to introduce institutions founded upon the principle of love to God and man, and in accord with the definite teaching of natural law. At present the church paid little attention to the utter disregard of notions of natural law. That disregard was equally as irreligious and immoral as any breach of which a man or company of people could be guilty, and was inevitably fraught with incalculable evil and disaster. If the church did its best to oppose conditions that directly produced poverty and misery and denounced them in fitting terms, and proposed and supported such efforts as should step by step remove the disabilities from the multitude, they would ere long begin to see the load of wretchedness and misery removed from the people, and should be bringing nearer that day for which all true men were longing.

 The Advertiser 13 October 1894.

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