Page images
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

matters of benevolent giving. The time when narrow and stingy pettinesses could be accounted tolerable is past. A larger horizon has opened. Not only are enormous business enterprises, of every sort, being projected and carried through, but large philanthropies are undertaken. Indeed, the philanthropic movement, of which we nowadays hear much and shall hear more, is pretty sure to distinguish, more than anything else, the closing years of the century. But this is eminently a thoughtful movement. A great deal of the best thinking of the time is being given to just this study of the doctrine of proportion ; first of all, proportionate justice, then proportionate benevolence. And nothing is clearer than that the religious leaders and the churches that strike out most boldly into the mid-stream of this rising philanthropic movement are the ones which God will most honor by his use of them and empower most for their work.

A Daniel Hand sees the condition and necessities of the colored youth in the South, and gets to thinking of the kind of helping needed in order to secure their more advantageous self-help. Presently there grows up in his mind a new sense of proportion. The result is, he gives a million dollars outright, as his part, or rather as a part of his part, and bequeaths at least a half million more toward helping a depressed race on to their feet. And all men feel that there is a beauty and a moral grandeur in such proportionate giving.

Chicago wants a great Christian university, proportioned to the educational needs of this chief central point of the continent, and one man gives two million dollars toward it; nor does any one think the gift in the least out of proportion. Moreover, other persons, men and women, touched by the same thought, come forward with large gifts, similarly proportioned to their ability, and to ihe same beneficent cause.

Chicago needs a new and more adequate system of drainage, connecting the lakes with the river, and twenty-five millions of money are voted for its construction. Minneapolis wants the means and agencies for converting the world's wheat into flour, and millions are freely devoted to the perfecting of the waterpower and the erection of buildings suited and proportioned to what has to be done in them.

A Columbian World's Fair is conceived. As men think of it, and the more they think concerning it, the more there springs up


[ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]


a vastly enlarged apprehension of what it ought to be in order to make it fairly proportioned, not merely to the significance of the great event of the New World's discovery, but also the greatness of the country which creates the fair ; and proportioned as well to the august progress that has been made in the whole world's advancement. And the expenditure of even eighteen million dollars in preparation for this does not seem out of proportion to the scope of the enterprise and the large results to come of it.

When William Carey first proposed, at a meeting of Baptist ministers at Northamptonshire, England, his conviction as to the duty of Christians to attempt the spread of the gospel among the heathen, Dr. Ryland, as is well known, sprang to his feet exclaiming : “Young man, sit down! When God pleases to convert the heathen, he will do it without your help or mine.” But when, a year later, May, 1792, Carey, by previous appointment, preached that epoch-making sermon on missions, and proposed the formation of a missionary society forthwith, the same Dr. Ryland, speaking of the effect of the innovating proposition, declared : 66. If all the people had lifted up their voices and wept as the children of Israel did at Bochim, I should not have wondered at the effect; it would only have seemed proportionate to the cause, so clearly did Mr. Carey prove the criminality of our supineness in the cause of God.” So true is it, that when one begins to get the “realizing sense" of the facts, the subject of proportionate benevolence takes on a new meaning.

In one way and another money occupies a large place in the moral discipline of men. Money can be made to serve uses of an infinite beneficence. The Master has need of it. Whatever we have, we have in trust. Every trust is with a view to use; and with every trust there belongs the duty to put it to the best and utmost possible use. Hence true Christian giving cannot be haphazard, capricious, notional, or merely impulsive. In that case it is almost certain to be defective in amount, and besides, loses half its reacting value to the giver himself.

According to what particular rule or what percentage of income one's giving should be proportioned, is a matter where opinions differ. Every one ought to be fully persuaded in his own mind. But his conclusion ought to be the result of most careful, hearty and conscientious thinking, an all-around thoughtfulness. There is a true sense in which “ all that a man bath” he is to give. Our


[ocr errors]

Saviour, for us sinners, “ gave himself.” “Though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor.” Moreover, he not only gave, he suffered. Proportionate giving will, therefore, first of all have an eye to the debt of love we owe, and will reveal the quality of one's character, the measure of one's gratitude. This is a rule of proportion that cannot possibly be too strongly urged, or be made too much account of.

Then, giving should be proportioned to the measure of our trust. We have received our trust; we have our commission. Nothing could conceivably be added to the circumstances and terms of it to make it more impressive or more inspiring. The experiences and the results of nineteen centuries have made some things very plain. There is no excuse for pinched devisings, or for any dawdling over doubts or uncertainties. The thing now is, to do. And the personal question for each one is, How much can I do?

At this point, the churches need, we believe, more light, and more thought. There should be a great deal more, not of importuning, but of convincing facts and persuasive reasoning. The time is plainly opportune for a widespread educational movement in this direction. Our churches are waiting for it. But systematic and proportional benevolence does not come, until there has been some proportional degree of systematic education with a view to it.

That every one ought to give something, give it gladly, give with thoughtful plan and method, and give proportionately " as the Lord has prospered him,” does not need to be proved, so much as to be proclaimed, and done. But the time when it was respectable, if it ever was, to talk to people in general about giving a “penny apiece,” is gone. The time is come for insisting on the duty of the more adequately proportioned form of giving, especially for the multiplying of the larger gifts, from those who have in sacred trust the larger means — millionaire gifts from the millionaire giv

And here the prime thing wanted is, to see, to see with a vividness that means conviction, and a conviction that is as a fire in the bones, bow our benevolence should proportion itself to the wants and opportunities at every opening door as the Lord himself shows the way.

Certain as the kingdom itself, is the coming of the era of proportionate, munificent giving. The number of thoughtful, liberal


givers increases, as does the obvious need of continually larger gifts, to meet the necessities of the growing work. And a noble contagion helps it on. It is a sweet and inspiring sense of companionship that is springing up among those whose giving is being measured out in some proportion to their means and to the spirit of the Master. The beautiful and mighty movement is even now going on amid shoutings of, Grace, grace unto it!

No doubt the Christian giving of the Congregational churches compares favorably with that of the churches of any other denomination. There is no other church where the average gifts per member are so large. And still there is little enough occasion for boasting. There has been during recent years no advance in giving at all proportionate to their increasing ability to give. When one looks over the records in our Year-Book, and counts up the lists of churches which, during the year, gave to so many of our great missionary causes nothing at all, it is a sickening picture of narrowed thought and selfish isolation that is presented. Especially is the record a terrible indictment of the heedlessness on the part of the ministry in those churches. Suppose an intelligent revival of the spirit of proportionate benevolence were to sweep through those churches, under the preaching and training and leadership of a ministry widely awake to this transcendently important matter ; what changes would speedily follow ! Rising above the old measures of customary giving, the new gifts would be seen towering like the giant pines of the Pacific coast. And then money, that of the rich and of the less rich, passing through the mint of Christian consecration, will bear plainly the Master's own superscription.

In conclusion, the committee suggests that, as something altogether timely and as being needed more urgently than can be expressed, the definite endeavor should be put forth, by every minister in our denomination, whether his church be larger or smaller, to instruct, to educate, to persuade, and lead, the members, young and old, into this large and grand and blessed field of Proportionate Giving; a giving that shall be :

1. Proportioned to what we have received, to our debt of gratitude.

2. Proportioned to what is needed.

3. Proportioned to the wants of the particular agencies and opportunities before us.

4. Proportioned to the largeness of the secular enterprises which are seen in the world all about us.

[ocr errors]

5. Proportioned to the divine promises as to the use God will make of even “ five barley loaves and two small fishes.”

6. Proportioned to the widened outlook and vastly enlarged thoughts that are coming to be more and more commonly entertained.

It is also believed that along the line of these simple but very vital and fruitful principles, is to be found the new and real orthodoxy, most of all welcome to the Master, and needing to be taught and commended with all possible insistence. For, as every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”

But this duty, the grace of giving an'l of proportionate giving, is by no means to be limited to those who are comparatively rich. It addresses itself to all, rich and less rich, alike. Old Testament and New Testament perfectly agree in this. To seek to be excused from it is to count oneself unworthy of the grace of life. Well for every interest of humanity, at home and abroad, if this law were to thunder and lighten in every church in the land. Once let this grand point be gained in our churches, in all our churches,

- from every one something, from each one proportionately, as he can, and the difference that would speedily appear would be wonderful. Then, every one of our grand missionary causes, home and foreign, will be seen swinging freely, joyously into power, and like stately ships with every sail set and every hidden enginery of motion throbbing at its utmost forward pressure.



The American Board is happy to report a quiet and steady advance during the past three years in all departments of its work.


In its last report to the National Council it was permitted to express its thanks that it had been remembered through the gifts of the churches during the three preceding years more generously than during any previous similar period in its history. It is now permitted to repeat this statement even more emphatically. A comparison of receipts during the past fifteen years, by terms of three

| Page 27.

« PreviousContinue »