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1 correction by Moorlock - Show corrections

AROUND THE CHURCHES. BY UBIQUE. REV. JOIN BONGERS ON THE INCOME TAX. The Congregational Church in Tamar- Street is a modern building of a some- what plain and unfinished exterior, but with fairly comfortable seats and inter- ior well lighted by electricity. There is no pulpit of the usual type, its place being supplied by an erection which seems to be a combination of a prie-dieu and a reading-desk. This stands on a large roomy platform that occupics the whole of the east end of the church, providing accommodation for minister; choir and organ. I was in my place some minutes before the hour appointed for public worship, and watched the as- sembling of the congregation. Punctu- ally to the moment one of the doors leading to the platform opened, and the choir entered in a body, while the organ rendered as an opening voluntary the well-known "But the Lord is mindful of His Own." The instrument is small, but remarkably sweet in tone, and, though a pipe organ, is not provided with pedal notes, but is sufficiently powerful for the building in which it stands. When the service began the spats -- providing for about 350 worsihippers -- were about half occupied. The minister, a recent arrival from N.S. Wales, in succession to the Rev. J. G. Wright, is a comparatively young man, tall, slight, and with a pow- erful penetrating voice that not even the rattle of passing wheels, audible through the open doors, could drown. On this evening the regular organist was absent, and the duties were efficiently undertak- en by Miss Howard, a leading member of the choir. Tamar-street church is to be congratulated upon the possession of a wcll-balanced, skilled, and apparently well-drilled choir who, under the baton of the choirmaster, Mr. Thompson, lead in the musical portions of the service. It is by the choir that the service pro- per is commenced; the 95th Psalm being chanted in good time and with good ef- fect. Then the minister rises and bends in silence at his desk. While the con- gregation, unbidden, assume the usual at- titude of prayer. This opening prayer is of the old Puritan type, as becomes the representatives of the "Independents," now termed "Congregationalists," and for the most part consists of quotations from Holy Scripture, linked by a few words of   adaptation, and is followed by the Lord's Prayer, chanted by choir and congrega- tion. I have heard some compositions for this purpose that seemed to me to be anything but suitable for the utter- ance of these immortal petitions -- jerky, lilting dance-music inventions, presum- ably for the purpose of exhibiting the abilities of the performers, but on this occasion music and manner are all that can be desired, only that one could wish to hear more of the congregation. In- deed, all through, I was struck by the fact that, contrary to the Congregation- al ideal, in a Congregational Church, con- gregational singing did not prevail. Af- ter prayer came the hynmn, "The Lord is King." followed by a lesson from the Gospel by St. Matthew, and then a part of that beautiful poem by Whittier, con- taining the lines, quoted by the preach er afterwards in his sermon: To Thee our full humanity, Its joys and pains belong; The wrong of man to man, to Thee Inflicts a deeper wrong. The usual "long prayer" followed, and again I was struck by the flavour of old-time Puritanism, this time especially in the cast of thought, which seemed to hold the condition of this life as irre- trievably sad if not hopeless, only to be brighteend by the "compensations be- yond"; and the idea of time as some thing apart from, instead of a part of, "the great eternity." The latter part of the prayer was evidently preparatory to the sermon, for the leader referred to the present as a time of "grave anxiety and fear hovering over many a home"; and the petition for our legislators was em- iphatic in desiring that they might be granted such wisdom as would prevent their "making such mistakes as would bring disaster upon the people"; while the whole reference concluded with the expression of a desire that "our worst fears may be averted." "Free-will offerings " was the title giv- en to the erstwhile "collection," during which the choir rendered the anthem, "O Worship the Lord." Another hymn, and we seated ourselves to. listen to a ser- mon on the published subject -- "The In- come Tax: Payment or Passive Resist- ance?"   I am bound to say that whlat we heard was not a sermon. As Mr. Bongers is not widely known in Launceston, I re- gretted this, as it deprived me of the op- portunity of describing his methods in discharging his legitimate duties as a teacher of Divine things. Every man placed in the responsible position which Mr. Bongers occupies must answer to his own conscience and Master as to the mes- sage he delivers to those who hear him, but one may be permitted to doubt whether it is not an error of judgment to step into a pulpit on a Sunday even- ing and deliver from thence -- where no one has the right of reply -- a political harangue on a burning question of the day. The preacher is a religious and theological teacher and guide, and as such he has a right to be heard in silence, and is protected in that right by the law of the land. But in the realm of politics, the man-in-the-street knows as much and is as capable of forming an opinion as is the preacher -- perhaps more capable -- and has as much right to speak and to be heard. Politics are matters for pub- lic and free discussion, and when a man enters the arena he has no right to close the mouths of those who think different- ly from himself. But this is precisely what the preacher does. It is true Mr. Bongers, who spoke from the words, "Render therefore under Caesar the things which are Caesar's, and unto God the things that are God's," pleaded that this question of the income tax closely affects the material comfort of the peo- ple, and that if the churches would suc- ceed in winning the sympathies of the said people they, must interest themselves in social end economic questions. It is true too that Mr. Bangers founded him- self on the declaration of the Christ, that He canme in fulfilment of the words of Isaiah, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, Beeause He hath anointed me to preach the Gospel to the poor; He hath sent me to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord." I think it was the late Henry Ward Beech- er, who described this as "the ordination sermon of Jesus"; but with all due re- spect to Mr. Bangers, I cannot for the life of me see how the address of last Sunday evening was "enjoined upon a perpetuator of Christ's ministry" in obedience to such an ideal, nor how Mr. Bongers's sermon is an example of the church's interest in economics. Two thirds of Mr. Bongers's address would have been admirably adapted to meet the needs of the coming indignation meeting, and I for one cannot help regretting that the time and place of that meeting were not chosen for its deliverance. I do not propose to go into the de- tails of the address, reference to which was made in the cohluns of yesterday's "Examiner." Briefly put, Mr. Bongers's advice was not passive, but active re- sistance -- first pay the tax, then turn the Counceil out, and choose the proper men to represent the public wishes in Parliament, We were exhorted to "fetch

Ministers up with a round turn," and to visit with "political death" members who had not done their duty in this matter. Further, Mr. Bougets illustra- ted the attitude he wishes us to adopt by the story of a burglar and a lady in Sydney. The burglar having entered the lady's house uninvited, was met by the hostess with active, not passive re- sistance, in the shape of a loaded re- volver, and when he took a hurried de- parture we were assured he carried no- thing away with, him that did not be- long to him, "except the lead." Later on Mr. Bongers urged the people with threefold advice (1) to avail themselves of the opportunities of objecting to pay provided by the many inaccuracies in the demand, (2) to ask that time be allowed for payment, and (3) to appeal to the Ministry to summon Parliament to meet at an early date, and in the meantime to refrain from imposing penalties for non-payment. In his references to the action to be taken against sitting members, Mr. Bon- gers said "This touches Launceston closely," and urged us to "set friend ship and sentiment aside, and do our duty, for," said he, "some will have to accept their walking tickets." In concluding, the preacher endeavour- ed to turn the political into a religious deliverance, but the attempt was not a success. One sentence was worthy of note: -- "Love is the great economist, whose weights and measures rule in heaven." No; in my humble judgment it is a mistake, and a dangerous mistake, to use the fended pulpit as a platform for partisan political propaganda. I may heartily endorse Mr. Bongers's advice, but not the occasion of its deliver- ance.