The Christian Neighborhood

XXXVIII
THE CHRISTIAN NEIGHBORHOOD

The spirit of Christian missions to heathen lands and the organizations to carry them forward commenced, in most Protestant lands, within the last century. The writer can remember the time when an annual collection for domestic missions was all the call for such benefactions in a wealthy New-England parish; while such small pittances were customary the sight of a dollar-bill in the collection, even from the richest men of the church-members, produced a sensation.

In the intervening period since that time, the usual mode of extending the Gospel among the heathen has been for a few of the most self-sacrificing men and women to give up country and home and all the comforts and benefits of a Christian community, and then commence the family state maid such vice and debasement that it was ruinous to children to be trained in its midst. And so the result has been, in multitudes of cases, that children were born only to be sent from parents to be trained by strangers, and the true "Christian family" could not be exhibited in heathen lands. And as a Christian neighborhood, in its strictest sense, consists of a collection of Christian families, such a community has been impossible in most cases among the heathen.

When our Lord ascended, his last command was, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature." For ages, most Christian people have supposed this command was limited to the apostles. In the present day, it has been extended to include a few men and women who should practice the chief labor and self-sacrifice, while most of the church lived at ease, and supposed they were obeying this command, by giving a small portion of their abundance to support those who performed the chief labor and self-sacrifice.

But a time is coming when Christian Churches will understand this command in a much more comprehensive sense; and the "Christian family" and "Christian neighborhood" will be the grand ministry of salvation. In order to assist in making this a practicable anticipation, some additional drawings are given in this chapter. The aim is to illustrate one mode of commencing a Christian neighborhood that is so economical and practical that two or three ladies, with very moderate means, could carry it out.

A small church, a school-house, and a comfortable family dwelling may all be united in one building, and for a very moderate sum, as will be illustrated by the following example.

At the head of the first chapter is a sketch which represents a perspective view of the kind of edifice indicated. On the opposite page (Fig. 75) is an enlarged and more exact view of the front elevation of the same, which is now building in one of the most Southern States, where tropical plants flourish. The three magnificent trees on the drawing heading the first chapter are live-oaks adorned with moss, rising over one hundred feet high and being some thirty or more feet in circumference. Nearly under their shadow is the building to be described.

Fig. 76 is the ground plan, which includes one large room twenty-five feet wide and thirty-five feet long, having a bow window at one end, and a kitchen at the other end. The bow-window has folding-doors, closed during the week, and within is the pulpit for Sunday service. The large room may be divided either by a movable screen or by sliding-doors with a large closet on either side. The doors make a more perfect separation; but the screen affords more room for storing family conveniences, and also secures more perfect ventilation for the whole large room by the exhaust-flue.

Thus, through the week, the school can be in one division, and the other still a sizable room, and the kitchen be used for teaching domestic economy and also for the eating-room. On Sunday, if there is a movable screen, it can be moved back to the fire-place; or otherwise, the sliding-doors may be opened, giving the whole space to the congregation. The chimney is finished off outside as a steeple. It incloses a cast-iron or terra cotta pipe, which receives the stove-pipe of the kitchen and also pipes connecting the two fire-places with the large pipe, and finds exit above the slats of the steeple at the projections. Thus the chimney is made an exhaust-shaft for carrying off vitiated air from all the rooms both above and below, which have openings into it made for the purpose.

Two good-sized chambers are over the large lower story, as shown in Fig. 77. Large closets are each side of these chambers, where are slatted openings to admit pure air; and under these openings are registers placed to enable pure air to pass through the floor into the large below. Thus a perfect mode of ventilation is secured for a large number.

On Sunday, the folding-doors of the bow-window are to be opened for the pulpit, the sliding-doors opened, or the screen moved back, and camp-chairs brought from the adjacent closet to seat a congregation of worshipers.

During the week, the family work is to be done in the kitchen, and the room adjacent be used for both a school and an eating-room. Here the aim will be, during the week, to collect the children of the neighborhood, to be taught not only to read, write, and cipher, but to perform in the best manner all the practical duties of the family state. Two ladies residing in this building can make an illustration of the highest kind of "Christian family," by adopting two orphans, keeping in training one or two servants to send out for the benefit of other families, and also providing for an invalid or aged member of Christ's neglected ones. Here also they could employ boys and girls in various kinds of floriculture, horticulture, bee-raising, and other out-door employments, by which an income could be received and young men and women trained to industry and thrift, so s to earn an independent livelihood.

The above attempt has been made where, in a circuit of fifty miles, with a thriving population, not a single church is open for Sunday worship, and not a school to be found except what is provided by faithful Roman Catholic nuns, who, indeed, are found engaged in similar labors all over our country. The cost of such a building, where lumber is $50 a hundred and labor $3 a day, would not much exceed $1200.

Such destitute settlements abound all over the West and South, while, along the Pacific coast, China and Japan are sending their pagan millions to share our favored soil, climate, and government.

Meantime, throughout our older States are multitudes of benevolent, well-educated, Christian women in unhealthful factories, offices, and shops; and many, also, living in refined leisure, who yet are pining for an opportunity to aid in carrying the Gospel to the destitute. Nothing is needed but funds that are in the keeping of thousands of Christ's professed disciples, and organizations for this end, which are at the command of the Protestant clergy.

Let such a truly "Christian family" be instituted in any destitute settlement, and soon its gardens and fields would cause "the desert to blossom as the rose," and around would soon gather a "Christian neighborhood." The school-house would no longer hold the multiplying worshipers. A central church would soon appear, with its appended accommodations for literary and social gatherings and its appliances for safe and healthful amusements.

The cheering example would soon spread, and ere long colonies from these prosperous and Christian communities would go forth to shine as "lights of the world" in all the now darkened nations. Thus the "Christian family" and "Christian neighborhood" would become the grand ministry, as they were designed to be, in training our whole race for heaven.

This final chapter should not close without a few encouraging words to those who, in view of the many difficult duties urged in these pages, sorrowfully review their past mistakes and deficiencies. None can do this more sincerely than the writer. How many things have been done unwisely even with good motives! How many have been left undone that the light of present knowledge would have secured!

In this painful review, the good old Bible comes as the abundant comforter. The Epistle to the Romans was written especially to meet such regrets and fears. It teaches that all men are sinners, in many cases from ignorance of what is right, and in many from stress of temptation, so that neither Greek nor Jew can boast of his own righteousness. For it is not "by works of righteousness" that we are to be considered and treated as righteous persons, but through a "faith that works by love;" that faith or belief which is not a mere intellectual conviction, but a controlling purpose or spiritual principle which habitually controls the feelings and conduct. And so long as there is this constant aim and purpose to obey Christ in all things, mistakes in judgment as to what is right and wrong are pitied, "even as a father pitieth his children," when from ignorance they run into harm. And even the most guilty transgressors are freely forgiven when truly repentant and faithfully striving to forsake the error of their ways.

Moreover, this tender and pitiful Saviour is the Almighty One who rules both this and the invisible world, and who "from every evil still educes good." This life is but the infant period of our race, and much that we call evil, in his wise and powerful ruling may be for the highest good of all concerned.

The Blessed Word also cheers us with pictures of a dawning day to which we are approaching, when a voice shall be heard under the whole heavens, saying, "Alleluia" -- "The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever." And "a great voice out of heaven" will proclaim, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he shall dwell with them, and they shall be his people. And God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying; neither shall there be any more pain; for the former things are passed away."

The author still can hear the echoes of early life, when her father's voice read to her listening mother in exulting tones the poet's version of this millennial consummation, which was the inspiring vision of his long life-labors -- a consummation to which all their children were consecrated, and which some of them may possibly live to behold.

"O scenes surpassing fable, and yet true!
Scenes of accomplished bliss! which who can see,
Though but in distant prospect, and not feel
His soul refreshed with foretaste of the joy!

"Rivers of gladness water all the earth,
And clothe all climes with beauty; the reproach
Of barrenness is past. The fruitful field
Laughs with abundance; and the land once lean,
Or fertile only in its own disgrace,
Exults to see its thistly curse repealed.

"Error has no place:
That creeping pestilence is driven away;
The breath of Heaven has chased it. In the heart
No passion touches a discordant string,
But all is harmony and love. Disease
Is not: the pure and uncontaminate blood
Holds its due course, nor fears the frost of age.

One song employs all nations; and all cry,
'Worthy the Lamb, for he was slain for us!'
The dwellers in the vales and on the rocks
Shout to each other; and the mountain-tops
From distant mountains catch the flying joy;
Till, nation after nation taught the strain,
Earth rolls the rapturous hosanna round.

"Behold the measure of the promise filled!
See Salem built, the labor of a God!
Bright as a sun the sacred city shines;
All kingdoms and all princes of the earth
Flock to that light; the glory of all lands
Flows into her; unbounded is her joy,
And endless her increase. Thy rams are there,
Nebaioth, and the flocks of Kedar there;
The looms of Ormus and the mines of Ind,
And Saba's spicy groves pay tribute there.

"Praise is in all her gates: upon her walls,
And in her streets, and in her spacious courts,
Is heard salvation. Eastern Java there
Kneels with the native of the farthest west;
And Aethiopia spreads abroad the hand,
And worships. Her report has traveled forth
Into all lands. From every clime they come
To see thy beauty, and to share thy joy,
O Zion! an assembly such as earth
Saw never, such as Heaven stoops down to see!"*

* Cowper's Task

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