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ANNUAL MEETING IN EXETER HALL.
The Society's friends and constituents met, as usual, in Exeter Hall, on the morning of Thursday, May 11th. There was a crowded attendance, every part of the building being thronged at an early hour. The appearance of the platform suggested to the beholder that the whole of the Ministers and Delegates comprising the Congregational Union had simply transferred themselves from the City Temple to Exeter Hall. HENRY LEE, Esq., J.P., of Manchester, took the chair precisely at ten o'clock.
The proceedings commenced by the Rev. ROBERT ROBINSON, the Home Secretary, giving out the hymn,
“Oh, for a shout of sacred joy,
To God the sovereign King." This having been sung, the Rev.S. T. WILLIAMS, of Leicester, offered prayer.
The CHAIRMAN: Ladies and Gentlemen,-We meet on a very auspicious day, the day on which the second person in this realm returns from a visit to a distant part of the Queen's dominions. We all rejoice in the safety with which he has made and completed that journey; and we rejoice in his return, because it is the return of one whom we expect in. future days to occupy a very important position in connection with the welfare of the people of this land, and of all the lands that are connected with it. We trust that the visit of the Prince of Wales to India will subserve the very highest purposes which we have in view. We hope it will be the means of cementing together our Indian subjects with ourselves, and that we shall by this be enabled to prosecute the labour we have undertaken as missionaries to the remotest parts of that wide and extended portion of Her Majesty's dominions. But we meet also to-day for a higher and nobler prupose. We think of that Prince who is King of kings and Lord of lords. We are met in order that we may do something to influence the hearts of men in the direction of adopting measures for the extension of the dominion of the Lord Jesus Christ ; and we are here to receive a report of what has been done in connection with the London Missionary Society for this great end. There are many aspects of society which affect this missionary cause. I shall not attempt this morning to do more than throw out a few remarks, which have a little bearing upon the object for which we are gathered together. The other day the Speaker of the House of Commons, in making a speech to his constituents, referred to the great powers of the world, and he said one of the greatest powers that existed in
the present day was the power exerted by public opinion. We desire to influence public opinion by meetings of this kind, because we know that public opinion is liable sometimes to go wrong. It is possible for a whole nation to be committed to a course which, in the judgment of some, would be an undesirable state of things; and therefore it is that Christian people meet together, as they are meeting in London this month, in order that they may throw in their influence, so as to form public opinion in a direction which will be for the welfare of the entire nation. It is very important that a right direction should be given to this public opinion, because hereafter we shall, more and more, be influenced by the feelings and thoughts and acts of our fellow-countrymen. We think that the best eourse of promoting this is by means of the dissemination of Christianity.
CLAIMS OF HEATHENDOM. The missionary cause may be thought by some to be rather far-fetched, but in this day, when the whole ends of the earth are being brought together,
we see more and more how necessary it is that every agency that works in every land should be made familiar to the mind of the people. There was a time, when some of us were very young, when provinces which are now near, appeared afar off. The railway, the telegraph, and
, the steamboat have brought all the ends of the earth together, and we are as much interested in what is going on at the Antipodes as we are with what is going on in many parts of our own country. We therefore want to look to all the agencies that are employed for the purpose of influencing the world. Why is it that we have this wealth? Why is
that we possess this great intellectual power? It is that we may use it for a right end.
We are sent here for a great purpose by God, and that is to diffuse our influence throughout the world; and if we fail to fulfil that condition on which we hold this wealth, it will be taken away from us. The claim of the missionary is great as a pioneer; he has been the means of bringing to light large portions of the world; he has explored unknown continents, and he has crossed trackless deserts. I will not take up your time this morning by recounting the great advantages that have flowed to the world from this, but I will mention the names of Livingstone, of Williams, of Moffat, and of Ellis, and, last of all, of Macfarlane, as having set forth before us things which were not known previously. The claims of the missionary also might be urged on the ground that he is a discoverer.
on the ground that he is a discoverer. He has been the means of making known to us a great deal about the different tribes of men existing upon the face of the earth, because he has had more intimate relations with them than ordinary travellers. A traveller may pass through the country, and be there for a few days, and write a book, but when the book comes home, and is diffused or spread abroad amongst the public, it simply gives us a passing glance ; but the testimony of the missionary who lives amongst them for years is more valuable, because he is acquainted with the habits of the people, and knows more about their requirements than any man who merely passes through the land.
DIVERSIFIED FORMS OF MISSIONARY INFLUENCE. The missionary has claims on the public also as a peace-maker. He has been the means of preventing war; he has ofttimes led nations who were in the habit of preying upon each other until one or the other of them has been destroyed, to live at peace, and in this way he has rendered important service. And he has always been the foe of slavery; he has had something to do with the extinction of slavery. I hope that we, in connection with the London Missionary Society, shall do our part to carry out this great work, and that the time will come when from Africa we shall have information which will show us that the whole of that great continent is being brought under the influence of the Gospel.
The missionary has done good service in making known to us many facts and circumstances which have tended to expose the wrong-doings of traders. We ought to be very thankful for this, because we do not always understand or estimate the influence which this has upon the native mind. But the missionary has claims upon the Church as a herald ; he is the messenger of the churches to the remotest parts of the earth; he is fulfilling the great commands which God has given us,
l to " go into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature." The influence that he exercises is not only upon the world away from us, but it is great upon the world near at hand. Our liberality is stimulated, and it is a good thing that money should be drawn from our pockets. Nothing is worse than to harbour a selfish feeling, nothing is
. worse than to be niggardly in the distribution of that which God has given to us; and we ought to be thankful that He has put it into the hearts of men, and put it into our hearts, not to waste our wealth or to spend it all upon ourselves, but to consider that there are thousands of people in other parts of the world who are waiting for the Bread of Life, and that we may, by this instrumentality, be the means of raising them into a higher state of civilisation and of enjoyment. The missionary also has claims upon us because of the difficulties and dangers he undergoes. He goes forth as a soldier to fight the battle, and he goes forth as fully equipped as we can send him; but, notwithstanding that, he goes forth under great difficulties. We ought, therefore to encourage in every possible way we can, the fulfilment of his great mission.
How ARE THESE CLAIMS TO BE MET ?
Presently we shall have to hear from the Report that we have had a larger income than at any previous period; but, I believe, although the income is larger, the balance is less than it was this time last year, and I am sure you will be thankful for this. You will be thankful that the money that you give is expended by the Society; and, having had an. opportunity of reading the Report, I am quite sure you will come to the conclusion that the money has been spent wisely and well. But are we to stop here?
We know that for vigorous life there must be growth. Everywhere, if there is not this growth we shall not succeed. Are you. prepared to come forward with more liberal means and with men? It is men that are wanted; the money would be forthcoming if we had men. Are there no young men in this assembly who are willing to consecrate themselves to this great work? I trust there are, and that the Missionary Society will not be able to say, as they do this day in the Report, that they are short of men. We want at this moment a large accession of missionaries. I believe the wealth of the country is very great, so great that it can scarcely be estimated, and I have no doubt that if the Board of Directors could show a good case, very large sums of money would come to their help. We appear to be on the eve of a very great change. We have passed through a period of military glory; we have passed through a period of the extinction of slavery; and now it seems as if we had accomplished some great changes in this country, and the religious aspects of the country were coming very strongly to the front. I hope it is so. We have no occasion to be afraid of the contact between light and darkness ; we have no occasion to fear battle between truth and error. It is well that all that can be said against Christianity should be said ; it is well that men should endeavour to decry as much as possible all the agencies that are put forth for this end. We have no occasion to be alarmed. We believe that the Word of the Lord will have free course, and we are conscious that these difficulties will have to be met; we are conscious that these changes will have to take place. But, amidst all these changes, and amidst the excitement of men's passions, we believe that the time is rapidly approaching when the knowledge of the Lord will be extended to every land, and men will feel that the only course which can really tend to the advantage of a nation will be the full and free acceptance of the great principles which are to be found underlying and pervading the religion of Jesus Christ.
The Rev. Dr. MULLENS, the Foreign Secretary, read abstracts from the
ANNUAL REPORT. A year of great calamities in the material world has not been wanting in spiritual blessings to the Church of Christ, which sought them. While some have preached with earnestness another Gospel, and the outbreak of priestly pride and intolerance has been unusually violent, among the friends of this Society and the brethren of the Churches around them, never was the doctrine of the Atonement more ably upheld or more warmly accepted; never were the lofty but simple position of the Christian pastor, and the right of free speech and free service in every member of Christ's Church more firmly held amongst us, or more truly used for the edification of all.
AGENCIES OF THE SOCIETY. It is, in some respects, a misfortune that the directors of a missionary society are required to present to their friends an annual report, not merely of the funds entrusted to their charge, but also of the progress which the labours of the missionary brethren are making, and of the results which those labours have attained. Solid results and real progress would be far better gauged and understood, were they computed for longer periods. Vast cathedrals, massive pyramids, the palaces of kings, though but material things, require time and care in their erection. With how much greater reason are time and toil required in the moral and religious progress of the nations of the world! The Directors report with regret that they have been unable to maintain the staff of English missionaries at the point that was reached last year. They have sent forth five new missionaries, in addition to the brethren who have returned to their stations after a visit home. Of these, three have proceeded to India, one to China, and one to the mission in New Guinea. In addition, four ladies have been sent out as missionaries—two to North India, one to Shanghai, and one to Madagascar. But the losses of the year have been unusually heavy, and no less than ten missionary brethren have been withdrawn from the Society's service. Of these, four have been taken away by death, and four others by retirement, all of whom have rendered to the Society long and valuable service. The Society has also lost not a few of its home friends and supporters; able and beloved ministers, who have often pleaded its cause, or trained missionaries for its service ; and officers of our churches, who have aided it by their counsel, and sustained it by their gifts. Amongst the latter, the Society has suffered a special loss in the death of Mr. J. A. Baynes, who was one of its active and earnest Directors. His early training, his intimate connection with Bristol, had long bound him in