« PreviousContinue »
Mr. Maecoll tells us that in accepting this Home-Mission work among the people of the Wynds, his great wish was to test, by actual esperiment, how far the Gospel of Christ could repeat its recorded miracles of grace among the most hopelessly fallen of our country's population. He says, “The main, and, as it seemed to me, most need. ful, question to be kept in view from the first was this,—Can a church, a true primitive church, after the example of the Acts of the Apostles, be gathered from these Wynds? Can we now, in these days, grow such a church simply from the seed? I wanted honestly to try that. My futare ministry and life's work depended on whether that was possible. If nothing could be done but gather people into a building, to hear sermon or service, I confess I had no mind to labour at that. If even higher work could be done, but only upon people in respectable dress, and already living decent and industrious lives, I would have doubted if this was the work of the Gospel.* I wanted to know if miracles of grace could still be wrought in the name of Jesus—if the true evidence that Christ is come was to be found in the work He still continued to do—if we could still point doubters, like John's disciples, to similar facts, only more inward and more needful, and fully promised : . The deaf hear, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the dead are raised up, and to the poor the Gospel is preached.' This, therefore, was my first work...... I was jealous, almost to a fault, for several years, of every well-dressed stranger that entered the church. I did nothing to encourage him to settle with us. I was anxious that no doubt should finally rest upon the experiment we were conducting. I hoped no one should be able to say that we had carried other soil from longcultivated fields, and so dressed our own bare rock.”
It was truly a "work of faith” this; and, except as a "labour of love,” too, and as prosecuted in the unwearied "patience of hope,” it could never bave been carried on. At first the people around seem to have maintained a sullen, dead indifference. Slowly, very slowly, did they come to the new church. “Each one had to be asked before he came-some had to be asked scores of times." Still they did come; it was not labour finally in vain.
Among various strange and most opposite characters, thus 'drawn together
from the miserable dwellings of the Wynds, Mr. Maccoll mentions some who "came with certificates of church-membership twentyeight years old, kept carefully, like title-deeds, when everything else was gone." What tales of wandering from God, and heart-aching misery, could those dreary years unfold! Tender and touching details of individual cases are given, illustrative of various phases of human character, and the winning power of earnest, loving toil. But we have not space to transcribe them.
Mr. Maccoll soon began to infuse his own earnest spirit into the hearts of his people. Immediately after the first communion in the
This is strongly pot. But we presume that Mr. Maccoll means, simply, that Dothing would satisfy him short of evidence that the provisions of the Gospel were fully equal to the very utmost demands of human nature, in its most helpless spiri'ual necessities. And surely the desire was as praiseworthy as it was bold.
Wynd church, a few young women who had joined in the service waited upon their pastor to tell him how it had been impressed upon them, that, when Jesus was on earth, He sent His disciples to say that the “kingdom of heaven was at hand;" and that they would like to go round to some of the houses with tracts. They added, “ We have here six shillings to pay for them. We hope to give that at least every month."
They agreed to spend an hour, between the morning and afternoon service, among the people in the neighbourhood, and invite them to go with them to church. It was also resolved" to meet together for five minutes every Sabbath, at the close of the morning service, to apportion the tracts, and implore “power from on high.”
Referring to these fellow-helpers, Mr. Maccoll says, “These were hard-working girls, chiefly engaged in factories or warerooms; but in a few weeks we had thirty of them thus engaged. And every Sabbath afternoon, for months after, as we sung our opening psalm, I saw one and another of the more successful entering the church, with several followers in ordinary working dress. In a little time we arranged to speak to the people of the district about their buying Bibles for themselves; and in one year these girls sold no fewer than seven hundred at full price.
• These were our first Bible-women, and were working for two years before the famous ' Missing Link' was made known by the much and justly honoured L. N. R. This Bible-work went on, and goes on still."
Before long, classes were formed for the purpose of training workers for various departments of service; and, in a short time, twelve “male helpers ” began to visit the neighbourhood.
As they went from house to house, they soon met with a difficulty which was dealt with in a very original fashion. Waiting upon the minister, they said, “We cannot longer get people to follow us into church in the afternoon, because, they say, we are all now so well dressed.” “What do you propose then ? ” asked Mr. Maccoll. The question was followed by a request for a short service in the evening, especially with reference to this class.* This was at once acceded to, on condition that “they would come out in their working clothes, so as to induce others to do the same. The tame elephants, as in jungle hunting, might thus bring in the wild. Accordingly, about thirty visitersthe young women putting aside their nice dresses and bonnets, and the men their broadcloth, and coming out in the dress which they wore at work-went round and gathered the first evening thirty others. We now instituted what we called our night brigade,-a band of male visiters, armed with bull's-eye lanterns, who penetrated the dark
cluses' and stairs,' a little before the service began, to get promises fulfilled. The second evening we had ninety present, the third about a hundred and fifty, and soon we had the church half filled, sometimes crowded : : some of the visiters would peep into the vestry, before service and say, 'We have swept the closes clean to-night.””
* Service is not held in the churches in Scotland, as with us, on Sunday evenings.
Speaking of the people thus compelled to come in, and of the effect produced upon bis own mind, as he gazed upon the strange-looking congregation, unaccustomed to Christian worship, Mr. Maccoll remarks, * The audience affected me profoundly. They taught me how to preach. There they were, many of them in rags, some of them unwashed, some brought in from their firesides, as they remained after their Saturday night's dissipation. Many had never in their life been within a church door; many had not been for ten or twenty years.
"And there they sat, as I stood up to preach, looking into my eyes with eager search, as if for light, waiting to know if I really had any good news for them. They seemed to say, 'We have come, for once in our life, at any rate, within your reach ; and we shall listen to-night till you've done. Say your best; do your utmost: we are dead, hopeless creatures. We know we ’re lost; you need not tell us that. We believe in hell; we have been there: but is there salvation for us? Can you do anything to save us ? For God's sake, try!' And I did try. But for a little, I lost sight of them in tears; for my words were broken and mingled with sobs. But, as it happened, * my emotion moved them. Some of them were softened, and their hearts took away impressions from the truth....... The church now began to fill more rapidly. At each half-yearly communion we had a larger addition to the membership, sometimes thirty or forty. The communion class, held for six weeks before the communion, was our harvest time. Then our 'latter rain' fell, and we reaped our precious seed. What stories of life were told me at those periods, and what records of mercy were unfolded !”
Four years of noble, unwearied work, and the rejoicing labourer records, “ The Wynd church was filled !” There was a complete staff of elders, deacons, visiters, collectors, and Sabbath-school teachers ; aod, besides the services in the church, fifteen meetings were held in different sections of the district.
And now the time seemed to have come for carrying the work further, and pushing into the outlying territory. The experiment as to whether or not “a church, a true primitive church, after the example of the Acts of the Apostles, could be gathered from the Wynds,” had succeeded, and succeeded sooner and better than most had expected. Then a har. vest could be reaped from other similar fields; cnly let the
sower go forth to sow.”
"From the beginning,” writes Dr. Maccoll, “I had taken to the work in the Wynds, not simply to form a congregation and be a pastor, bat, by God's blessing, to conquer a great and urgent question that concerned this and other cities.......I believed that the seed of all change for the better, of all renovation, of all permanent progress, was the truth of the Gospel. I believed it was seed suited to our soil, even where most barren, most waste, and nigh to utter cursing. I believed that an apostolic church could be grown from that seed. I did not yet know what such a church could not do. I believed that faith need have no impossibilities."
After much careful thought, plans for wider action were laid before
several wealthy and warm-hearted friends, and one theory snggested was the building of a church in another part of the Wynds. One princely Christian man, rejoicing in the progress already made, offered a thousand pounds towards this object, soon after adding eight hundred, and finally subscribing six hundred more. Several others freely and generously entered into the scheme; and on July 4th, 1859, five years after the opening of the first new Wynd church, the foundation-stone of a second was laid in the “ Briggate.”
The prosperity of this work in the Wynds gave new heart and hope to those who were labouring in similar fields elsewhere. The story of the Briggate church, as it became known, gave a mighty impulse to mission work. Our Church Building Society was able to complete two churches that had long been proposed, in addition to four previously built or bougbt. The effect upon the Wynd work was of course very great. Not only were the people encouraged, but we were able to launch upon the rising tide several schemes that had been for some time upon the stocks. A colporteur had already been employed. A Bible-woman was now engaged, and a clothing fund instituted.”
The ninth chapter of the volume before us contains an account of a glorious revival of religion, which, while beginning in the Wynds, extended outside. The promised “power from on high” came down in more than ordinary measure; and “the word of the truth of the Gospel ” became, on a wondrous scale, a living message of convic. tion and salvation. Some of the most careless and hardened were "pricked to the heart;” and, under the transforming energy of the Spirit of grace, became new creatures in Christ Jesus. At one communion-service a hundred and sixty new members were admitted. Out of several deeply interesting details we can select only one case.
Mr. Maccoll thus relates it :-“One Saturday morning a young man called
*I have been at your meeting several times,' he said. "Three of us commenced a prayer-meeting in our establishment, and had forty present. There is, however, one young man, over a department, possessed of fine gifts, who is a ringleader in wickedness. If we could get him converted, we could do anything. I have spoken to him frequently on religious subjects, but have been obliged to give it up. Latterly I have taken to prayer, and for three weeks I have continued seeking grace for his soul. At the end of that time he came to me, to speak of these things, of his own accord. I have had him one night at the Wynd meeting. I shall have a walk with him this afternoon, and would like to bring him in to see you, if I can manage it. Will you let us come?' 'Surely,' I replied. Often during the day I telegraphed the case heavenward. In the evening they both entered. There had been a hard battle. It had lasted nearly an hour at my door, as I afterwards learned. We were soon upon the great subject. 'Have you been long concerned ? 'I asked. 'I have been two or three times at your meeting, but I can hardly say I am concerned ; my heart is hardened.' 'How did you feel the first time you were there p' 'I felt it was a reality.' 'Have you been accustomed to attend church? *My father is an elder ; but I have rarely attended church for the last six years.' ' And have been going into all sorts of wickedness ?' 'Yes.
And so we entered on the great question of sin, and reasoned of righteousness and judgment to come. Then we knelt; and as we rose, I observed he had been weeping. Next morning, the Sabbath, as I entered for the early prayer meeting, I saw him there.” That day and the day following there was a sharp struggle, and then the following note told Mr. Maccoll the glad tidings of deliverance :—“ Praise be to God! I have been enabled to cast all my care upon Christ. I could not sleep last night for a long time, so exquisite was the joy I felt....... Pray that I may be instrumental in turning many from darkness to light."
Very prominent in the work in the Wynds we recognise the element of prayer. “The prayer-meeting had, from the first, been the centre of our work. Here our motive power was largely generated. Every wbeel in our machinery was attached to some part of the gearing that was moved here. The great driving-belt, however far it travelled, always passed back again here... ... In the midst of these services, I placed a carefully-studied, brief, practical, and, if possible, stirring exposition from some book of the Bible. Once a month I gave news of mission work, gathered from all available sources ; and we prayed for places, persons, churches, and stations that thus interested us."
Not a little instructive is it to observe in the latter portions of this rolame how, as the blessed work prospered and spread, new and altogether unexpected opportunities and agencies of usefulness opened up; One enterprise leading on to another, and successive conquests making the way for still further triumphs over the kingdom of evil.
While we gladly commend this unpretending record of earnest and successful evangelizing to our readers, let us also ask their thoughtful attention to those notices of our own Home-Mission work which appear from time to time in this Magazine,
No. XCV.-"THE HARSH COMMAND.” * " It came to pass that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him...... Take now thy sa, thine only son Is iac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah ; and offer him there for a burnt-offering upon oue of the mountains, which I will tell thee of." (Genesis xxii. 1, 2.)
How shall we account for so strange a command as this ? We have often heard and read of heathen parents, offering up their sons and daughters in sacrifice to their grim idols; a custom which the Christian religion justly censures as detestable, and which, by the Law of Moses, the Israelites were taught to abhor. But that the true God should have commanded a father to offer up his beloved son, as a burnt sacrifice, is what could never have been expected by any who were acquainted with His character and perfections. That such a command was given, we know; and our familiarity with the narrative serves to allay our wonder at the fact, and our faith in God suffices to
Ses " Wesleyan- Methodist llymn-Book,” hymn 286, verse 1.