1865, April 2nd - Opening of Casterton Scots Presbyterian Church
OPENING OF CASTERTON CHURCH. (Communicated)
The occasion of the opening of the above church has been looked forward to with feelings of hope and expectancy for a considerable time, and now that the event has actually been accomplished it will form a landmark in the history of the church, which will bear testimony to the zeal and energy of the present congregation.
Some time ago the people of Casterton and neighbourhood were under the necessity of going earnestly to work to provide themselves with an edifice which should at once supply the accommodation of which they stood so much in need, and also meet the growing requirements of the district. The necessary organization was soon found and set in motion, and in a short time a suitable site was obtained. The church is a substantial brick building ; is neat and elegant in its appearance and is not only a credit to the Committee of Management, but an ornament to the township in which it is situated.
There are six windows on each side, and these are filled with strong tinted glass, and surrounded by label mouldings. The roof is covered with slate, and the vestry is placed outside at the end of the building. The internal arrangements comprise a centre aisle, the pews, which are Gothic, being wide and roomy, and upon the open principle which obtains in nearly all modern specimens of ecclesiastic architecture. All the woodwork, including the inside of the roof, is tastefully stained and varnished. The pulpit, which stands in the centre of the north end, is of the usual form, The pulpit fittings will be of rich crimson velvet, which, contrasted with the varnishing, will produce a pleasing effect. The whole interior has a most pleasing appearance, the object of the Committee being to have everything substantial and neat, and in this they have admirably succeeded.
In recording these events, it may be mentioned that the district is purely pastoral, and the population, of course, very scattered. The erection of such a church in such circumstances, affords the most gratifying evidence of the deep interest taken in the due observance of public worship, and divine ordinances, by all classes. It may also be stated that a Bazaar is contemplated towards the close of the year, in order to liquidate whatever debt may be left upon the building ; and if the idea be carried out we are certain that the ladies of the Casterton district--with the assistance of their lady friends--will be but too happy to do all in their power to make it a grand success.
On Sabbath last the church was formally opened for public worship, when the services were conducted by the Rev. W. Graham. There was a very large attendance of the people of Casterton and the neighbourhood, the church being crowded in every part. After the preliminary services of praise and prayer, the reverend gentleman preached a sermon from the text-Ps. xxii., 3, "O Thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel." At the close of the sermon the reverend gentleman, said--We are this day met to give thanks to Almighty God, and to congratulate each other upon the termination of our undertaking to build a house in which God was to be worshipped, and in which his truth was to be proclaimed from Sabbath to Sabbath. It is a just reproach to a country when its nobles and merchants dwell "in ceiled houses," and the house of the Lord lieth waste, when its other public buildings are palaces, and its churches hovels. We want not indeed the decorations of a sumptuous architecture to aid our worship ; we want not the Grecian temple with its perfect symmetry and exquisite sculpture, nor yet the Gothic cathedral, with its long-drawn aisles, its fretted roofs, its dim recesses, and its dimmer religious light. But we rightly deprecate whatever is mean, and rude, and tasteless. The sense of sacredness ought not to be shocked, nor tbe eye of taste offended. A house of worship should harmonise outwardly with its inward purpose. It should be an object to hallow and beautify the street or the landscape. It should be an object to suggest thoughts of God and of heaven to the passer-by. It should be an object to live in the memory, and to recall holy lessons in after years, and in other scenes--an object of which we may be able without impropriety to say, "Our holy and our beautiful house."
How entirely the edifice where we now meet fulfils these conditions, I need not stay to remark ; for one has only to look around on its form and structure, its combined spaciousness and compactness, its commodious arrangements, its chaste and graceful embellishments, its entire architectural harmony, to perceive that it is a noble monument to the liberality of the congregation--a proper subject of pride and congratulation to the Committee of Management, as well as to the people for whose use and benefit it has been erected.
Architecture, however, even the most appropriate and perfect, is not that which makes a house of worship really beautiful. Beauty, at least in its higher sense, is a property, not of buildings and places, not of natural things at all, but only of spiritual objects. It pertains to the inner not to the outer life of things. And hence we must look beyond the mere masonry and furniture--to the spiritual end to which the house of prayer is appropriated. For what end do Christians come to the sanctuary ? Is it merely to sing praise, to offer prayer, to hear the word, to celebrate the sacraments ? These are a means, not an end. The grand end of the Christian sanctuary is that the worshipper may become personally, inwardly holy. Be this, then, your grand aim in coming up to this house of prayer Sabbath after Sabbath. Come with a desire and purpose to be made wiser and better. Come with a lively faith, and, feeling of Christ's presence. Come to worship with a whole devoutness of your whole heart. Come to seek and to find strength for duty, and power over temptation. Best not in mere attendance, in in mere bodily service, in mere outward worship. The worship which God requires is the offering of souls purged from sin and clothed with the beauties of holiness.
And bear in mind that the work of acquiring personal holiness brooks no delay. It is but a little while, and this sanctuary will be to you only a recollection of the past. It is but a little while, and the Sabbath bell shall no longer ring for you, and the voice of psalms no longer greet your ear, and the pulpit no longer plead with you on behalf of Christ. It is but a little while, and you shall be yonder before the great white throne of judgment. On this side of death you must be saved, if ever. Therefore, "Seek ye the Lord while he may be found ; call ye upon him while he is near. Behold, now is the accepted time ; behold, now is the day of salvation.' Long may this house of prayer defy the ravages of time ! Long may it abide a city of solemnities--a quiet habitation--a tabernacle that shall not be taken down." May the blessing of God Almighty rest upon this sanctuary which has been erected, and is now dedicated to His honour and glory ! May it be consecrated by Christ's presence, and by the Holy Spirit's blessing,? May truth be preached in it for many generations ; and may its services result in the salvation of sinners, and in the edification of saints ! "The Lord has chosen Zion : He hath desired it for his habitation. This is my rest forever ; here will I dwell, for I have desired it. Peace be within thy walls and prosperity within thy palaces, now and evermore. Amen ! amen !
"The Border Watch" (Mount Gambier, SA) Saturday, 15th April 1865.