AND WATERLOO PLACE, PALL MALL.
"A drowning man will catch at a straw;" but he would deserve drowning if he should prefer the straw to a powerful arm held out for his deliverance. So thought I, as I contemplated with pain and surprise the pecuniary difficulties of our oldest Missionary Society, and the mode adopted for her relief. Surely, surely we ought to learn wisdom by experience. Again in difficulties? and after so short a time? The annual "stereotyped guinea" subscription was found quite insufficient to meet the increased demand upon the Society's finances; a large and influential meeting of the Society's friends was convened in the metropolis but a few years since, and presided over by the most Reverend President; a great movement was made, with the sanction of all the Bishops; donations to a considerable amount were made; an unusual step was taken, with the view of interesting all classes in the noble objects of the Society; deputations were sent into every corner of the land. The result was a great, increase to the Society's funds, and, thank God, a [3/4] glorious increase in the number of zealous and devoted Missionaries. But, as was to be expected from such a movement, the excitement gradually cooled, the funds fell off, and the last two years have proved to demonstration that it is in vain to trust to such a mode of raising funds. So great is the deficiency that the Society's exertions must, it is seen, be paralyzed, unless some powerful stimulant be at once applied, and I do not doubt but that, with God's blessing, the danger will for the moment be averted. But when this stimulant has lost its effect, what is to be done? The guinea subscription failed, the donations have been swallowed up, the deputation system has failed, and the present donations, be they to any amount, will soon be absorbed; and yet all these modes have received that sanction, which with all right-minded churchmen is the most influential, the sanction of our Bishops. What then is to be done?
That something must be done, something free from the alternations of excitement, some mode adopted more permanent in its nature, more constant and more abiding in its results, is quite clear. For it must be remembered that the daily bread of many of our Missionaries depends upon the resources of the Society; and yet more, the supply of the "Bread of Life" to thousands and tens of thousands of perishing sinners is contingent on the supply of "food and raiment" to these disinterested and self-denying labourers in the distant portions of our Lord's vineyard. And can we sit quietly by and be unmoved, when we see the Society, in its struggles for permanent existence, catching at straws, which have already [4/5] proved too weak for its support; while the Church, whose accredited organ she is, is holding out her powerful arm, and soliciting her to seize it for her deliverance. Why not try the Weekly Offertory? Why prefer any and every other method except that which God has ordained, and which his Church has therefore provided? [1 Cor. xvi. 1, 2.] Are we wiser than God? Can any plan have higher sanction? And with such sanction can it fail? It is indeed quite unaccountable how so many good men, who for so many years have exercised their ingenuity in devising plans for raising money for pious and charitable objects, should have overlooked the only plan recommended in Holy Scripture; and with the Prayer-book in our hands too, actually pointing out and enjoining this Divine method, it really looks like infatuation. I hardly like to say it lest it should appear to be disrespectful, yet nothing, I can truly say, is farther from my heart; but O how earnestly could I wish to have seen, if it had been only a postscript, in those letters of our prelates, which have been drawn forth by the present exigencies of the Society, directing the attention of the Clergy to the Church's prescribed method for collecting the pious offerings of the faithful. It strikes me that it would have come with peculiar effect in those letters; and I believe the appeal would have been responded to from every diocese in a manner which would have set at rest any misgivings as to the future resources of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel; and not only of that Society, but of every other [5/6] charitable institution to which the Church could give her sanction. Why not, I say, try the Weekly Offertory? Is there any objection to its principle? He is a daring impugner of the wisdom of God who could venture to allege any, for He to whom all hearts are known, and the means and circumstances of all, has given this direction for the guidance of his Church by his Holy Apostles; "upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him." Hence it became incumbent upon the Church to give effect to this direction; and accordingly from the earliest days she made provision for enabling the faithful to make their weekly offerings. And when we reflect that in the early struggles of the Christian Church against all the powers of the world, during which period it extended itself into every region of the earth, without any stated provision for its temporal wants, save and except this one of Divine appointment, she was nevertheless enabled to support her ministers, to maintain her widows and orphans, and provide for the destitute poor amongst her members; can we doubt the efficacy of the same instrument now in providing funds for the same purposes, in by far the wealthiest branch of the whole Church Catholic? Some will indeed point to our noble charities, and speak of the large amount of contributions annually raised for benevolent purposes in our land--and yet what are these, large as they are, when compared with the wealth! which God has poured into the lap of England? Test the wealth of the country, for instance, only by the amount of the income tax. Compare our charities, [6/7] our free-will offerings, with our compulsory payments. There must be something somewhere very wrong in principle. For God is robbed: "But ye say, Wherein have we robbed Thee? In tithes and offerings." [Malachi iii. 8.] There is no proportion between what God has given us, and the return which we offer to Him. Nor will there ever be, so long as we shrink from using the divinely-appointed means for obtaining it, and while an Apostolic Church neglects an Apostolic ordinance.-- Why not try the Weekly Offertory?
Admitting then the principle to be Divine, and therefore "very good," and seeing that it is adopted into the ritual of the Church, ought we therefore to act upon it? I cannot expect an answer in the negative. There may be reasons against its instant adoption in every parish, arising from the neglect of it hitherto; but none against an immediate preparation for it--a preparation I mean of people's minds for its future adoption. To thrust the practice of the offertory upon parishes altogether unprepared for it by previous explanation and instruction I must think unwise; we might kill a patient by thrusting down his throat a medicine which otherwise administered might have cured him. And if we, the clergy, after much serious thought and calm deliberation, have at length awakened to a sense of our own neglect of this o any other ritual observance, we shall be much mistaken if we think our people shall at once recognize its necessity, or appreciate the value of it, merely because we practise it. It will be presented to them [7/8] in the garb of novelty, and though not new in fact it is new to them, and to shock a prejudice, even though it be an erroneous one, is not the best way of correcting it. I reverence a prejudice which resists what appears to be a novelty in any thing which is connected with religion. And because the laity (not to say many of the clergy) have neglected to read the rubrics in the Prayer Book, the observance of such as have been neglected will look like the introduction of novelties, and hence the claim which they have upon us to be taught beforehand the reason for certain changes. And sure I am, that so long as we keep close to the Prayer Book, and, after previous teaching, gradually assimilate our practice to the directions there laid down for us, it will be no difficult matter to get the judgments of our people to go along with On these grounds therefore I think there may be good reason against the immediate introduction of the offertory into every parish; but no good reason why in the course of a very short time it may not be in full operation in every parish in the kingdom--in every parish however large--in every parish however small--whether agricultural or manufacturing--because the principle is Scriptural and the practice is enjoined by the Church.
It is no answer to this, to plead the smallness or the poverty of the parish: the amount to be realized is not here the immediate point in question; if we only do our duty faithfully and zealously, we may well leave the result to Him who has all hearts in His hands. He did not enjoin on "every one on the first day of the week to lay by him in store as God should [8/9] prosper him" without knowing that this would embrace many more of the poor than of the rich. The offertory indeed presents an opportunity for those who "have much to give plenteously;" but God has not limited the "blessedness of giving" to the rich, nor the "good reward in the day of necessity" to those who "have much," and why should we plead delicacy, which is here quite out of place, for depriving the poor of a blessing and reward? Is the sacred treasury of our Christian temples to be open only to those who can cast in much, and closed against the reception of some poor widow's two mites? The "deep poverty of the churches of Macedonia abounded unto the riches of their liberality," and it has come to pass that wheresoever the Gospel has been preached in all the world, this which these poor people did has been told for a memorial of them. And is that which St. Paul approved and praised to be discouraged by us, and Christian "poverty" in England to be stigmatized as incapable of "abounding unto the riches of liberality?" and that too untried? I well remember, not many years ago, stating in a sermon, as my reason for not having daily service, the impossibility of getting a congregation; strangely overlooking this fact, that I had never given the congregation the opportunity of proving the point one way or the other; but when I opened my Church I found that the impossibility had been imaginary. Let any of my brethren in the ministry, after due preparation, only try the offertory, and I have little doubt but that they will find, as I have done, that the poor in their parishes will, in proportion, give more than their wealthier [9/10] neighbours. The amount of the contributions of the poor will, if the offertory be generally adopted, amount to a large sum; but if the blessing which shall attend their self-denying liberality shall be anything like that which followed the gift of the poor widow's two mites, we shall have no fear for the success of all those good works which shall be forwarded by such contributions.
And as the poverty of a parish is no valid plea against the use of the offertory, so neither is its small size. Where two or three meet together in Christ's name, their prayers are accepted, and so will their offerings be. The population may be small in number, and yet there may be amongst them two or three whose means are not so. This, I am answered, may be true, but these two or three are farmers, who can give, but will not. May I ask my Clerical brethren, have you ever fairly tried them? Have you (forgive me for asking the question,) have you ever duly taught them the Christian duty of almsgiving? Some shrink from teaching this duty lest their hearers should be led to trust to their works. But this danger may be guarded against by proper teaching. It can never justify the neglect of teaching it at all. But are there no parishes in which the only sermon touching upon almsgiving is the sermon for the Queen's letter, or for some other specific call of charity? And then wonder is expressed at the smallness of the contributions, and the niggardliness of the farmers and tradespeople present. It is frequent drilling which makes a good soldier; he would cut a sorry figure if his manoeuvres were to be taught him only [10/11] when he is meeting the enemy. The blame of defeat would rest, not upon the soldier, but upon his officers for neglect of proper training. And I am tempted to think that in many instances the amount of the farmer's almsgiving is in proportion to the amount of \ns previous instruction upon the subject. If he be not duly trained, the love of money will fairly beat the call of charity out of the field. But one very great advantage of the offertory is, that in addition to all other teaching, there is a weekly sermon preached upon the duty, the blessedness, the reward of almsgiving, a sermon addressed to rich and poor alike, which precludes the preacher from the charge of being personal, because it is written for him, and enjoined by authority; and safe from the charge of false doctrine, because it is composed, almost exclusively, from the written Word of God. [The sentences read during the collection of the Offerings.] I therefore think that neither the pleas of poverty nor of the small size of a parish are valid ones against the use of the offertory. Poor parishes and small ones may be able to contribute but little; but every little will help, only let them "be merciful after their power," "not grudgingly, or of necessity, for God loveth a cheerful giver."
In conclusion, I may add, that where the offertory has been fairly tried, it has succeeded beyond the most sanguine expectations of its friends. [See the Appendix.] It has taught and exercised the bounden duty and exceeding privilege of Christian almsgiving, and formed a [11/12] channel along which it can flow in one continuous and unceasing course. If a streamlet flow but now and then, it awakens hope only to end in disappointment; the fields through which it bends its short-lived course may for the moment put on the hue of verdure, but when it fails, the scorching sun soon withers all its promise. And just so is it with the stream of Christian benevolence; it is not enough that it burst forth now and then, under the influence of some strong excitement, and with the excitement die away; but taking its rise at the Fountain Head of boundless love, that it flow on in one calm and regular and continuous course, where the thirsty will know that they may ever find water, and the weary find refreshment. The Weekly Offertory is a channel cut out by Divine Wisdom, and in primitive times the stream of Christian offerings was poured into it, and was found sufficient to supply the needs of a ministry which evangelized the remotest corner of the world. It is quite equal to the same task now; and I am daily more and more convinced that nothing but this is capable of meeting the yearly increasing demands upon the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. Other methods have failed. Why should not its friends try the Weekly Offertory?
I would not have it supposed that I am looking only to the interests of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, in suggesting the above thoughts concerning the universal revival of the Offertory. Its proceeds, after first deducting a large proportion for the sick and aged poor of each parish, would go far towards relieving the spiritual and temporal destitution which prevails so fearfully in our own land, and which has the first claim upon the sympathies of English Churchmen. For we must not forget Who has said, "Let the children first be filled."
I conceive that there can be no objection to an annual statement of the appropriation of the offerings being issued, and signed by the Minister and Churchwardens.
Several of our Bishops have expressed themselves strongly in favour of the revival of the offertory; and in his late Charge the Bishop of London, in alluding to the collection made on Palm Sunday in 1842 at the Offertory, towards the Colonial Bishoprics' Fund, stated that the collection had far exceeded his expectations, and had realized the large sum of £8000!
 I have extracted the following statement from the Rev. W. Palin's excellent Sermon on the "Weekly Offertory."
Parishes in which the Weekly Offertory has been restored.
Christ Church, St. Pancras
1841. £1436 13s. 9d.
1842. £1637 8s. 5d.
St. Peter's in the East, Oxford 1841 £661 11s. 11 1/2d.
Harlow, at one Offertory collection, for St. John's Church £580 8s. 6d.
Wilmcote, a very small hamlet of Aston Cantlow, 1842 £32 13s. 10 1/2d.
(This parish is not included in Mr. Palin's List.)
Kinwarton and Great Alne, two small purely agricultural parishes, not exceeding together 400 inhabitants, in which the Morning Service is alternate, 1842 (being the second year of the revival of the Weekly Offertory) £44 9s. 5 1/2d.
Mr. Seymour, the Rector, in a most admirable published letter to the Bishop of Worcester, states, that the contributions from these two parishes alone to the Worcester Diocesan Church Building Society, far exceed the whole of the smaller contributions of the entire Diocese to that Society. Every diocese might profit by the knowledge of this striking fact.
Leigh, a population of 1300, almost exclusively poor fishermen 1842 £142 13s 2 3/4d
Distributed among five Church Societies (through the Bishop of the diocese) and the poor.
Woolpit, population 944; 1842 £95 0s. 0d.
 The above are only a few specimens out of many which might be produced as illustrating the value of the Offertory, merely as a means of raising large funds. I am indebted to Mr. Seymour's letter above alluded to for the following extracts from a pastoral letter of the excellent Bishop of New Jersey in favour of the Weekly Offertory.
I, This was the primitive mode. II. This is the simplest and most direct address that can be made to the parishioners. III. This is the Church's proper action, in her due organization under the direction of her ministers, on the call of her Divine Head.
This plan combines many advantages.
1. Its frequency is an advantage. The contribution can never be forgotten.
2. Its constancy is an advantage. The supply from it will be perpetual and sure. There is nothing to be trusted like a habit.
3. Its simplicity is an advantage. It is intelligible by every one, and will commend itself even to little children.
4. Its moderation is an advantage. Returning frequently, it of course calls, at each time, for comparatively little. Thus it meets the convenience of all. "If thou hast much, give plenteously; if thou hast little, do thy diligence gladly to give of that little."
5. Its inexpensiveness is an advantage. It will cost nothing for agencies, and be encumbered with no officers.
 6. Its sobriety is an advantage. It makes no exciting appeals, and creates no heat, to be followed by a more than corresponding coldness. It is the oozing of the water from the rock that fills the springs. It is the gentle dropping of the dew that clothes the vales with verdure.