Richard Seymour.

The use of the offertory : a letter to the Right Rev. the Lord Bishop of Worcester, humbly suggesting a mode of giving greater efficiency to the Worcester Diocesan Church-Building Society, and to othe online

. (page 1 of 2)
Online LibraryRichard SeymourThe use of the offertory : a letter to the Right Rev. the Lord Bishop of Worcester, humbly suggesting a mode of giving greater efficiency to the Worcester Diocesan Church-Building Society, and to othe → online text (page 1 of 2)
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ST. John's Square.

*'Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have
given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon
the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in
store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings
when I come'."

"Mark how he exhorts them even from the time: for
indeed the day was enough to lead them to almsgiving.
* Wherefore call to mind,' saith he, ' what ye attained to
on this day: how all the unutterable blessings, and that
which is the root and beginning of our life took place on this
day. Moreover, the communicating also on this day in
mysteries so tremendous and immortal, instils great zealous-
ness.' On it, accordingly, 'let each one of you, not merely this
or that individual, but each one of you, whether poor or rich,
woman or man, slave or free, lay up in store by himself.'
Observe also how he avoids being burthensome. He saith
not, ' so much,' ' or so much,' but whatsoever he may have
been prospered in, whether much or little. . . And by his not
enjoining them to deposit all at once, he makes his counsel
easy ; since the gathering by little and little hinders all per-
ception of the burthen and the cost ^"

" The poor hath as much right to your alms, as you have
to your estates; alms being as a rent-charge which God hath
reserved for the poor, out of the estates, which He hath put
into your hands. Hence the same word, which in Hebrew
signifies righteousness, in other oriental languages, especially

> 1 Cor. xvi. 1, 2.

* St. Chrysostom, Library of the Fathei-s, vol. v. p. 60fi, 607-



Syriac and Arabic, is commonly used for alms ; and the
Hebrew word itself is ordinarily translated by the LXX
iXcTj/zoauvrj, almsgiving, or charity : and so it is plainly used
in Daniel iv. 27'." (Compare Job xxix. 11— 16; St. Matth.
XXV. 34—40.)

' Bevei'idge's Sermons, vol. iv. 403.




My Lord,
I HAD fully purposed to attend the late important meeting
called by your Lordship for the revival of our Diocesan
Church Building Society ; and I had intended, if an oppor-
tunity was afforded me, to call the attention of those present
to a mode of proceeding which has long commended itself to
my mind as eminently calculated to obtain for that Society
assistance larger in amount, and more universal as regards
the contributors, than it has ever yet received. Having been
unavoidably detained at home by parochial duty, I venture
to address to your Lordship the substance of the remarks
which I had purposed to make to the meeting; not, my
Lord, that I imagined myself capable of recommending what
I had in my mind by any powers of language, nor that
I imagine myself able to do so now by my pen, but because
I have a deep conviction that the plan to which I wish to call
attention is that which is most likely, under the good bless-
ing of God, to effectually promote not only the building of
churches, but also the other great kindred works in which
the Church is now engaged, and which your Lordship has
proved to your diocese that you have so much at heart.

The mode of proceeding to which I refer is, the regular
use of the Offertory as directed by the Rubrics in the Book
of Common Prayer.

In venturing to address your Lordship on this subject, I
must premise, first, that I am in no way actuated by the idea
that 1 can afford your Lordship any information upon it, or
that any thing I may say can influence your Lordship's
judgment. I am not actuated by any such presumption :
but my desire is, to call the attention of some of my clerical
brethren to a subject which possibly may not have much
occupied their thoughts ; and some of them may perhaps be
induced to read a letter addressed to your Lordship, which
my own name alone has no power to recommend to them.
And I feel confident that your Lordship will not object to
my adopting this mode of stating my strong impressions on
this subject, because upon my acquainting your Lordship
with what I had myself done in this way, you were pleased
to sanction it with your approval. Secondly, that though I
should have shrunk from putting forth any private scheme,
however promising, of my own invention, I do not feel the
same diffidence in calling attention to a practice which ap-
pears to me to have every authority to recommend it, which
either as Christians or as churchmen we could desire for it.

For it will hardly be denied by any one, that the practice
of collecting on every Lord's Day the offerings of His people,
accordingly as God hath prospered them, and enabled them
to offer, is an apostolical practice. It is in strictest agreement
with St. Paul's instructions to the Churches of Corinth and
GalatiaS It was therefore (almost beyond a question) the
mode in which they, who learned their faith and practice
from the very lips of the apostles, made their offerings for
pious and charitable works, — such as for the relief of the
poor brethren at Jerusalem *, or for the support of the apos-
tles®, when engaged in that which was strictly the apostolic

' 1 Cor. xvi. 1,2. •'■ Rom. xv. 25, 26.

* riiil. ii. 25 ; iv. 10—18.

work, the propagation of the faith ^, — works, I need hardly
observe, almost identical with our own almsgiving, and our
offerings for the extension of our Redeemer's kingdom, whe-
ther at home or abroad. Nor was the practice of connecting
this exercise of devotion towards God, and love towards man,
with public worship, new in the apostles' days. It was, as
your Lordship is doubtless well aware, simply the con-
tinuance of what was practised under the Mosaic Law, which
.ordered that the Israelites should not appear "before the
Lord empty'," and that "every man should give as he was
able, according to the blessing of the Lord his God, which
He had given him^" The apostles, therefore, did not
originate, but, under the guidance of the Holy Ghost, they
perpetuated in the Church this practice of connecting alms-
giving with public worship.

Further, — That this apostolical usage is ordered by the
Church of England, is evident from the plain directions in
the Book of Common Prayer, — directions repeated in sub-
stance, though with some variations, at every revision of the
Prayer Book, from the first book of Edward VI. to that set-
tled, as now used, after the Restoration. (See the Rubrics
before and after the Offertory Sentences, and also the last
of those which follow the Post Communion Service.) This
practice, therefore, to which I am anxious to call attention,
having been sanctioned and ordered by the Apostles, and
likewise enjoined by the Church of England, appears to me
to have every authority attaching to its observance, which
either as Christians or as churchmen we could desire for it.

To come now to the particular purpose for which I venture
to address your Lordship, — I learn from the report of the
late public meeting, that amongst other resolutions adopted
was this : " That it is desirable that all classes of the com-
munity be interested in the promotion of the object of this
Society." By all classes are of course meant, not the rich

' 2 Cor. ix. \—fn. « Deut. xvi. 16, 17 ; Exod. xxxiv. 20.

' Ecclus. XXXV. 4 — 11.


only, who can afford to give largely, but the middle and loiver
classes, the farmer, the tradesman, the artizan, and the
labourer, who, though they may not be able to give largely,
are nevertheless equally able, and equally bound, to act upon
the apostolic rule, which teaches every Christian man, whe-
ther rich or poor, to give " as God hath prospered him" My
Lord, the principle embodied in that resolution appears to
me to be a most important one. The offerings of the poor
are, to say the least, not less acceptable to God than those of
the rich. And while any such association of Christians, as
this for building churches, is confined to one class only of the
whole body, there is, I would humbly suggest, something
wanting in order to our obtaining the fulness of God's bless-
ing upon our work. That this is true, not in theory only,
but in practice, is well known to all who are acquainted with
the workings of our different religious societies, which have,
I believe, invariably prospered in proportion as they have
received the offerings, and with them the prayers and sym-
pathies of " all classes of the community." Such a resolution,
therefore, had, I consider, peculiar propriety. But the ques-
tion will naturally occur to many minds, as it does to my
own, — How are we to carry this resolution into effect? And
such a question is the more reasonable, because I recollect
hearing a similar resolution ably recommended and adopted
at a similar meeting presided over by your Lordship's pre-
decessor. And what has followed? Let any one glance
his eye over the list of contributions in the late reports, and
he will be compelled to reply, " Nothing." And, my Lord,
it is because I have my fears that the resolution lately
adopted may be followed by a hke result, that I venture thus
to express my sentiments.

I need hardly say, that on the Clergy of your Lordship's
diocese it almost entirely depends, whether this resolution is
really to be acted upon or not: nor will it be denied, that as a
body they have every inclination to act upon it, and to promote
in every possible way the designs of this Society. And yet.


my Lord, with every good disposition on their part, I have my
fears that unless some means, hitherto untried, are resorted
to, that resolution will continue almost a dead letter, and the
Society be supported, as hitherto, with very few exceptions,
by one class of the community only. That your Lordship^s
appeal to your diocese will be promptly responded to by
many, and that the more pressing difficulties under which
the Society labours will be removed, I feel no doubt. Indeed
this has been already proved. Nor do I doubt that the
exertions of the Society's Secretaries will be rewarded by
some increase in the annual subscriptions to the Society's
funds. But, my Lord, I have nevertheless my fears that
this Society will not do the extensive good which it might
do, and which is urgently looked for from it, until the co-
operation of all classes is secured to it ; and I am fearful that,
notwithstanding this resolution, that co-operation may not be

For, allow me, my Lord, to ask, in what way are the
Clergy to proceed to obtain the assistance of the middle and
lower classes of the community ? The system of collecting
from house to house is one which is burthensome, and to
many minds very distasteful : and those who would be most
likely to act upon it, have already their collections for mis-
sionary purposes, their subscriptions to schools, and other
periodical demands, which are likely to make them reluctant
to add to them the claims, most just though they be, of
our Church Building Society. And supposing a plan to be
adopted similar to that which is practised by the Society for
the Propagation of the Gospel, and by the Church Mis-
sionary Society, and periodical meetings held, or sermons
preached for the benefit of this Society, — I believe, my Lord,
that though this plan might succeed to some extent, the
success would be but partial. I speak from some little ex-
perience, as the secretary for a large district of our two oldest
societies ; and I venture to assert, what I have long felt, and
believe to be felt by very many of my brethren, that we need


some better machinery, by which the sympathies of the whole
body of the Church, not of a few parishes here and there, but
of every parish in the kingdom, and of every individual in
each parish, may be aroused, and not aroused only, but con-
tinually acted upon, in order that adequate means may be
supplied for the great works in which the Church is engaged.
In proof of this, I may appeal to all who have taken any
active part in the increased efforts made of late to send mis-
sionaries to our long-neglected colonies, and to other parts of
the heathen world. Who has not heard heart-stirring nar-
ratives of the wants of those colonies, and appeals, apparently
irresistible, in behalf of all from whom the knowledge of their
Saviour is still withheld ? And under the influence of such
appeals it has seemed to be impossible, considering the many
and great blessings which we of the Church of England
enjoy, that the means would be withheld from the Church, of
accomplishing (so far as money can avail) that great part in
the conversion of the world, which the Providence of God has
so plainly committed to her. And yet we learn from the last
report of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, that
during the past year, though their noble efforts have been
enlarged, their income has not increased : and if we turn to
the Church Missionary Society, we find that the efforts of
that society also are most seriously hindered, owing to their
straitened resources. Experience, therefore, does not appear
to encourage the attempt to interest all classes of the com-
munity in favour of our Church Building Society by similar

Here then, my Lord, it is, (I would humbly suggest,) that
the Offertory, as ordered by the Church, seems to come to
our relief. Instead of periodical collections, made from house
to house, at the expense of much time and trouble, it provides
the means of making such collections on every Lord's Day
in the Lord's house. Instead of confining many of the good
works in which the Church is engaged to one class of the
community only, we may thus impart a share in them to


thousands, and tens of thousands, whose means will not allow
them to contribute in any other way. Instead of the neces-
sity of holding meetings, and burthening many of the Clergy,
— generally those who bear the heaviest burthens in their own
parishes, — with the task of travelling about the country as
deputations from their respective societies, and thus entailing
on the societies themselves considerable expense, every pastor
will, as part of his regular ministrations, invite every member
of his flock to make his weekly offering to God, " according
to his ability." Instead of the excitement, too often produc-
ing little fruit, of eloquent speeches from the platform, or
charity sermons from the pulpit, every member of the
Church will, on every Lord's Day, be appealed to in the
words of God, and exhorted " to do good unto all men," " to
be merciful after their power;" and will be reminded, that
" with such sacrifices God is well-pleased," and that, " He
will not forget their works and labour that proceedeth of
love." And, instead of the system — savouring, surely, too
much of the Pharisaism against which our Lord has repeat-
edly warned us, and certainly tending to produce unchristian
motives — of publishing to the world every gift which is
offered, we should enable all to exercise this part of Christian
charity, as a solemn duty to be transacted between themselves
and God, and exercised after the simple and unobtrusive
manner prescribed to us by our Lord.

In these observations I hope, my Lord, I shall not be
thought to speak slightingly of practices of late so generally
resorted to. I am not forgetful that they have been sanc-
tioned by the highest authorities, and that God has to a great
extent blessed them for the accomplishment of much good.
And if, therefore, I depreciate them, it is only in comparison
with what I believe to be the more excellent ivay, the way
taught us by Apostles, and prescribed to us by the Church ;
and because I have my fears, that, until we return to that
way, those who have at heart the promotion of true religion
both at home and abroad, will have the pain of seeing the



building and endowing of churches, the extension of sound
rehgious instruction, and the propagation of the Gospel,
continually halting for want of the means of sustaining

Your Lordship is, no doubt, well aware, that this opinion
has been recently advanced by several writers who have a
power to recommend it, such as I have no pretensions to.
Mr. Palmer, in his " Inquiry into the possibility of obtaining
means for Church Extension without Parliamentary Grants *,"
after showing, that "six millions of the inhabitants of
England and Wales are beyond any effective control and
guidance of the Church, with her present means, and that
no less than 6000 additional clergy are requisite, at this
moment, to place her in a state of full efficiency" — maintains,
that the weekly collections by the Offertory, if made in every
congregation, would in all probability provide the means,
which the Church requires to enable her to build and to
endow, within the next 20 years, the requisite number of
sacred edifices. Mr. Markland, in his " Remarks on English
Churches, &c.^' has a chapter on the same subject, a part of
which (and I might say the same of it all) is so pertinent to
my purpose, that I will quote it at length. " We will," he
says ^, " take as an example a church, in a city or town, with
a congregation of about 700 persons of mixed classes of
society, deducting one-third part for children and the very
poorest of the congregation, say 232, there would be left 468
as donors :



Annual Amount.



£. s.


75 contributors at 2


. 487 10




. 260




. 130




. 43 6





31 1


^£951 17


' 2nd Edition,

p. 13

^ Pp.

146, 117.


" These minute calculations may seem almost derogatory
to so high a subject as Christian charity ; but more general
statements may be doubted or denied, and these specifications
will enable a Clergyman to form some idea what may be done
in his own church in raising annually from his congregation
the largest sums in the most effectual and least onerous
manner. The sums themselves cannot but be regarded as
moderate, and might be modified and varied in many respects.
If the contributors of the larger sums were fewer in number,
those of less amount might, on the other hand, be more
numerous ; still a sum of from J900 to £1000, might, from
such a congregation, be annually collected. Occasional
absence and deficiencies would be supplied, doubtless, by
more Uberal contributions at the great festivals. Many would
feel, that extraordinary mercies demanded a larger measure
of bounty, * Give unto the Most High as he hath enriched
theeJ' (Ecclus. xxxv. 10.) But if we take the collection, as
above, at £950, and deduct one-fourth, as sacramental alms
(to be appropriated as such alms have been usually distri-
buted), £237 10s., a surplus will remain of £727 10*. This
residue might be divided into equal proportions, the one-half
to be applied in aid of the parochial schools, of hospitals, and
dispensaries, and other local purposes, for which sermons
have been accustomed to be preached, and the other moiety
be paid over to the Societies for Church Building, and the
Propagation of the Gospel both at home and abroad, in such
proportions and manner, as the wants of these societies might
from time to time demand."

" As a further illustration of this practice,^' Mr. Markland
adds in a note, ''we will take an existing city church with a
congregation of 1000 persons in less affluent circumstances,
generally, than those comprised in the above statement : in
this church there has been collected, during the past year, on
the several occasions when the Holy Communion was admi-
nistered, the sum of £85 35. 7d., and when eight charity ser-
mons have been preached, £145 16s. 7d., total £231 Qs. 2d.


Supposing weekly Offertory collections to be made in this
church from two-thirds of the congregation, according to
something like the following scale, the result would be as
follows : —





222 conti'ibutors at 1





Sums actually received in one year

Excess £682 1? 10"

Annual Amount




. 577


. 288


. 48




. 231


I have no fear, my Lord, that Mr. Markland (having in his
mind especially our town parishes) is over-sanguine in his
expectations of what would be obtained by the regular use of
the Offertory. And, in confirmation of this opinion, I beg to
submit to your Lordship the following statement, which my
friend, the Rev. Robert Eden, Rector of Leigh, Essex, has
sent me of the Offertory collections in his church, from
Advent Sunday, 1841, to Advent Sunday, 1842: —

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Online LibraryRichard SeymourThe use of the offertory : a letter to the Right Rev. the Lord Bishop of Worcester, humbly suggesting a mode of giving greater efficiency to the Worcester Diocesan Church-Building Society, and to othe → online text (page 1 of 2)