« PreviousContinue »
The change of form and addition of pages to our Advocate, improved quality of paper, new type, and superior illustrations entitle it to a foremost place among modern newspapers—the most finished product of our civilization. To accomplish this a new printing press was required which proves to be all that was expected. As one sees the immense roll of paper suspended on a crane at one end of the press, and the neatly folded papers deposited at the rate of five thousand an hour at the other end, one looks at the ponderous but delicate machinery with mingled wonder and delight, and queries which of the two is most active—the press, or the brain of the editor ? It might be added that for neatness of execution neither can be excelled.
It will be observed that the quality of work in the bindery has been greatly improved, and the introduction of improved machinery has reduced the cost and greatly increased the output. We have already taken at a profit extra work from one of the largest and best publishing houses in the city.
On August 17, 1798, John Dickins, on a capital of $600 borrowed from his own savings, established in the city of Philadelphia the Methodist Book Concern. To-day the aggregate assets amount to over three millions of dollars, and the amount paid out in dividends, etc., to more than four million dollars. In the last ten years the Eastern house alone has paid in subsidies and cash dividends to preachers over six hundred and seventy thousand dollars.
The concentration of the various interests of our Church under one roof was a happy thought. Like a department store, you can get what you want without leaving the building. To separate any one of them would be contrary to the spirit of the age. It is hardly conceivable that any one of the wise counselors of our Church will ever relegate our denominational buildings in New York, Cincinnati, Chicago, and Pittsburg to back streets, thus taking a step backward instead of forward. We believe it entirely compatible with the importance and magnitude of our denomination that we have one large commodious building located in the very best and most convenient part of each of our large cities for the furtherance of the vast undertakings of the Methodist Episcopal Church. New York.
E. B. TUTTLE.
COULD GOD SIN ?
The question is often asked whether or not it is possible for God to sin, and it is generally a very unsatisfactory answer which is given. Some theologians will say that potentially God can sin, but morally he cannot. Such assertions are doubtless based on a vague and shallow understanding of the nature of God. If we conceive of God as a being endowed with personality, and having outward appearance, size, and shape, then we have some grounds for making the statement that God can sin.
8-FIFTH SERIES, VOL. XV.
Before entering upon the discussion of the question of God's power to sin let us notice briefly the limitations or definitions which we wish to give to the terms “God” and “sin.” According to the accepted definition of the term “being” we may call God a being, but to the majority of people the use of the word “ being,” in the definition of God, would be confusing and involve limitations. God is not a limited being, but an unalterable law, and is not influenced by the prayer of his creatures, nor controlled by their efforts. This unalterable law does not act blindly —which would be foreign to the Christian conception of God—but operates on perfect and eternal principles. It involves the highest conception of truth, love, justice, intelligence, and morality, but does not involve the attribute of mercy, since it is forever inexorable and shows no partiality to either infant or sage, prophet or priest, saint or sinner, atheist or Christian.
Now, let us notice the definition and nature of sin. Sin is any want of conformity to law. It is not necessary to say that sin is any transgression of God's law, for God and God's law are one, and when we are not in harmonious relation to this law we are in a state of sin. Throughout this argument we shall call this unalterable law God; and this discussion is based on three given definitions of the terms “God” and sin."
Any violation of law by its very nature necessitates punishment. Every law, whether temporal or eternal, implies that there is attached a penalty for its violation. Could the supreme law pay the penalty and meet the satisfaction of supreme law ? Such a question is a manifest absurdity. Were God out of harmony with himself he would cease to be perfect, and involve himself in a contradiction which would mean utter self-annihilation. Philosophers and logicians may by their delusive reasoning demonstrate that a god can sin, but such a limited god is not God. It is utterly impossible for the human mind to conceive of an unalterable law as potentially or morally subject to change. We do not contradict, but establish, the omnipotence of God when we assert that he cannot sin, for law is only restricted in that it is confined to operate on eternally fixed principles. Thus, in the light of the above, it is easy to understand what is meant by saying that God is not merciful or susceptible to prayer. We answer our own prayers, offered in faith and with earnest desire for some coveted good, by coming into harmony with divine law. We pray in order that our minds may come into harmonious conformity with God, and thus make us godlike by pure and perfect thinking.
In conclusion, therefore, let us understand that above any and every law which man may make there exists the unconditioned law, perfect and eternally changeless, which is God, and the only God, and he does not have the power of self-annihilation—the inevitable result of the slightest deviation or sin.
WALTER S. GREEN. Wheatland, Ind.
METHODISM AND MISSIONS- THE TRUE DEPARTURE.
In 1895, when the writer was on his way from India for furlough in the United States, it was his enjoyable privilege to attend the missionary anniversary May meeting of the Church Missionary Society in Exeter Hall, London. The meeting was an enthusiastic one, and when the summing up of baptisms from the entire field in all lands occupied by the Society was read the announcement of a gain for the
of 11,000 baptisms was greeted with applause as a great success. In that year the gain for the India Mission alone, of the Methodist Episcopal Church, was about 15,000; and it was over 20,000 for all foreign fields for the past year. Judged by actual success one of the youngest of the great missionary societies was leading this older one; and, judged by the comparative success of not one year only, we may well doubt if any missionary society, in organization and esprit de corps, upon the whole has more to commend it. We are glad this matter is being brought into discussion by competent authority in this Revier. Such discussion is timely and valuable. As the discussion turns on the foreign work we confine it to this. Let us “ask for the old paths" and discern if God has been leading us as a Church in our missionary, as well as general, career. Something, doubtless, there is to be learned from others; and we must accept every lesson, taking the best and correcting mistakes. We hold no patent for infallibility, but may it not be that if a divinity has been shaping our organization the true departure is to execute well what we have legislated ?
The parent Missionary Society of the Methodist Episcopal Church consists of a Board of Managers and General Committee. The former, which is the legal board of trustees of the corporation, and ad interim manages its affairs, is subordinate to the General Committee in some respects, and both of these branches of the Society make reports of their work to the General Conference, to which they are responsible, and by which they are constituted. The board consists of the bishops of the Church and thirty-two laymen and thirty-two traveling ministers, elected, as intimated, by the General Conference. These, with fourteen representatives of the Annual Conferences, appointed for four years by the General Conference, and fourteen representatives selected annually by the Board of Managers from their own body, with the corresponding secretaries, recording secretary, and treasurer of the Society, and bishops of the Church, constitute the General Committee. This committee meets annually to determine fields for mission work, the number of missionaries to be employed, and the amount required for the work. By a happy distribution of the body into seventeen standing committees details of work are more effectually carried out. Finance, estimates, publication, audit, etc., and various fields get special attention. It will inspire confidence in a body like this to pause for a moment and recall the mode of their appointment, which aims at securing from the
entire Church of the connection the best possible selection. The episcopal element is thus chosen from the entire Church, and always by the General Conference, itself picked from the entire Church. The corresponding secretaries and clerical lay members of the board are selected in the same way.
The fourteen Annual Conference representatives forming a part of the General Committee are also appointed by the General Conference, being thus also a selection from a select body of men. The entire Church, lay and clerical, is thus scanned and sifted for the formation of the Missionary Society. It is not a vain boast that it is said to be the ablest and most remarkable company of men that assemble in the United States. In this corporation of ninety-eight men, as they now stand, are found some of the most talented, scholarly, and consecrated clergymen in the United States. In the lay side are found some of the ablest statesmen, jurists, legislators, rulers, and financiers to be found in any land. Indeed, all these are picked, as indicated, from the entire American Union. Here are men accustomed to grappling with every religious, social, and financial problem. If, as is sometimes hinted, occasionally persons should find their way into this body through motives and by means not the highest, this hardly affects the statement that in this Missionary Society we have a very choice selection of tried, competent, godly men.
In presenting an outline of our Missionary Society, or, in other words, in making a kind of syllabus of the organization of the Society and legislation relating to the effectual carrying out of the object of the Society, we may approach the matter as found in our book of Discipline from two standpoints: first, from the standpoint of organization; second, from the standpoint of individual persons as related in any way to the aim of the Society. Its organization and practical working can be effectively exhibited at a glance in this way:
I. BY ORGANIZATION.
1. The General Conference.—Our Missionary Society is “duly incorporated according to law” and is “subject to such rules and regulations as the General Conference may from time to time prescribe.” As stated in the Constitution of the Society, “This Constitution shall be subject to alteration or amendment only by the General Conference." Said Conference, as we have seen, selects those who make up the personnel of the Society, which is thus the creature of the Conference, itself the highest and most select body in the Church.
2. The Annual Conference.— The Discipline states that “Each Annual Conference shall carefully observe the obligations laid on it in the chapter on Missionary Work.” The various demands of that chapter will appear in order in the exhibit hereby made. It is sufficient in this place to state that it is “the duty of each Annual Conference to form within its bounds a Conference Missionary Society," with officers and regulations for its own administration, which is to aid the parent Society in its work. “It shall appoint a secretary for each Presiding Elder's District” to forward the missionary enterprise. The officers of this conference Society are to arrange for the time and place of the annual meeting and also of the annual missionary sermon, “ timely notice of said sermon to be published abroad.”
3. The District Conference.—This subordinate Conference is to exercise scrutiny bearing on the subject of missions. Consequently one important item of business is “to inquire whether all the collections for the benevolent institutions of the Church as recognized by the Discipline are properly attended to in all the pastoral charges, and to adopt suitable measures for promoting their success. This among other things means missions, and here is a place for effective leverage. This Conference apportions the amount to be raised for missions in each charge in its bounds. In due time it receives from the pastor a report of the amount raised.
4. The Quarterly Conference. This Conference is “to observe carefully all the obligations laid upon it in reference to our benevolent causes.” It is to appoint a committee on missions. It is to inquire at the first quarterly session what amount has been received from (a) the church and congregation, () from the Sunday school.
5. The Sunday School.—This school of moral power and benevolence is not overlooked. Each Sunday school is to be organized into a missionary society. The Discipline provides a form of constitution: “A collection shall be taken for missions, as far as practicable, at least once a month.” This Sunday School Missionary Society shall provide “for brief missionary exercises in the Sunday school on the day that the missionary collection is taken.” It shall also “cause suitable literature to be distributed in the Sunday school and to arrange for occasional missionary concerts.”
This exhibit shows how thoroughly the Methodist Episcopal Church is organized from top to bottom in the interest of missions. Let us turn to our second standpoint.
II. THE INDIVIDUAL METHODIST AND MISSIONS. 1. The Bishops.—These chief pastors sustain a very important relation to this enterprise.
The various missions are distributed among them for special personal supervision, each being in charge of a specified field. Then they are active members of the Missionary Society, being exofficio presidents of the Society and members of the Board of Control. This gives them prominence in the organic working of the Society. Again,“ in each Annual Conference the bishop presiding shall inquire whether the Disciplinary plan for the support of our benevolent causes is carried out in every district and pastoral charge; and of each presiding elder whether he has urged in the Quarterly Conference the collection in full for all the benevolent causes.” This inquiry is made “ when the character of the presiding elder is under examination,” and “when