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influence out of all proportion to their area or any force of statistical exhibit.
Our third suggestion is, the cultivation of the intensive personal and church life. Thoughtfulness, piety, and consecration are necessary to a healthful spiritual life. These need no exploitation. Like the aroma from the broken alabaster pot they fill the whole house. Not a great church or churches, a great and dominant denomination or series of federated religious societies, desirable as these doubtless are, but a great spirit of good-will, of toleration, of service, and above all, of reality, is the need of the hour.
The willingness, yea, even the passion of one people for one fold, one shepherd, has been evident in the past and will be found, in the future, undiminished and undiluted.
FRANK S. FITCH, New York,
RELIGION IN ENGLAND IN 1901.1
BY REV. J. MORGAN GIBBON, LONDON, ENG. Mr. Moderator, Fathers and Brothers :
Other and abler men being needed at the moment for home service, the Congregational Union of England and Wales have deputed me to carry the benediction once more across the Atlantic. This benediction, charged afresh with faith and love of your brethren in Britain, I now deliver. “Grace be unto you, Congregational ministers of America, and to your churches, and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen."
Sirs, it may seem to some that this office which I now serve is of no great importance, but, since my own appointment at all events, I have been equally astonished and delighted to discover its high
antiquity and its rare distinction. To my eyes, the Bible now teems with delegates. Apparently no man ever came to much good in after life who was not at some time a delegate. Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David, Isaiah, and many another far-sounding name, have lent lustre to this office. In the New Testament, what were the twelve, and even Paul, the thirteenth and greatest, but delegates? But I choose rather to cite Epaphroditus, who raised the office to the rank of apostleship, and all but lifted it to the level of martyrdom. He is the exemplar and patron saint of all delegates.
Brothers, I stand before you, then, in this succession, a humble brother of the order of Epaphroditus. May his order never fail ! May brotherly love continue to grow till its messengers, flying like shuttles from shore to shore, shall weave the nations into one, and this world, united in itself, shall be admitted into union with sister worlds, and the angels, delegates from the heavenly spheres, appear on earth again!
But the benediction is best delivered without comment, only, pray believe me, that we mean it, and that intensely. No lesser greeting would serve. Many things beside, and wider than the sea, divide us. England does not quite understand America; nor do you quite value the British feeling towards you. Perhaps if you ever launch a Mayflower you'll know better than you do.
Meanwhile I tell you the simple truth, that, commercial rivalry and political bickerings notwithstanding, Great Britain entertains for America something of that peculiar sentiment which a mother retains for her first born; and I state another truth when I add that
1 in no section of the British public is this affection and admiration stronger than in those churches of your own faith and order whose greeting I have borne across the sea.
In these degenerate modern times the benediction often serves a somewhat low function. It used to mark the close of a discourse and welcome as the signal for dismission. But from the beginning it was not so. In ancient and better times it was oftener the keynote than the full stop. And perhaps you will allow me for this once to resort to apostolic usage, so that, speaking now on my own responsibility only, I may lay before this Council some account of the work of God in Great Britain at this time.
1. To be quite candid our sky is somewhat overcast and the augurs differ in their reading of the weather signs.
Harnack without whose name no address is now complete, has told us that “the real difficulties in the way of the religion of the Gospel remain the old ones.” This saying is true. Our great difficulty is the chronic, viz., the corruption of man's heart, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life. But, in addition to these old and chronic difficulties, what we have in common with you and with all churches everywhere and always, there is at the present moment, in England, a recurrence of certain spiritual maladies which many hoped had disappeared altogether, but which, either because the cure was never complete, or because nothing human can be done once for all, have broken out again with great violence in our midst.
For example: Our Protestantism was counted a settled thing, yet either because our Reformation, though in itself a noble work and well done, yet was not done well enough or could not be done to last forever, symptoms of the old Roman trouble have shown themselves very plainly of late in our National Church, and the Establishment, so far from being a bulwark of Protestantism, has become its most serious menace.
If the Pilgrim Fathers could now visit our shores they would scarcely recognize their native land. For time has been fruitful in changes. Steam and electricity have built up a new England on the site of the old England. But if they entered one of our numerous or rather innumerable High Churches they would be constrained to say, “ This, alas ! we know. Here time has stood still. This is the old England of our day! For now, as then, the church is busy with beggarly elements, with caps and capes, with candles and smoke, with the multiplication of rites and the invention of schemes for the extermination of dissenters.
Of open, aggressive unbelief we have little or none at the moment. Bradlaugh is dead with us, as Ingersoll with you. Indeed, Biblical criticism told severely on the old infidelity. It has damaged the infidel's Bible and wrought havoc with his stock arguments - the logic which sought to show that if Eve's serpent did not literally walk and talk, neither shall the pure in heart see God. Men are no longer caught in that net. But on the other hand there is among us a vast deal of silent, often sorrowful, unbelief. Agnosticism is widely prevalent, and for many who had no great depth of conviction before the attack on the historicity of the Bible has fallen like a divine judgment. Having no root in themselves, they have withered away.
Again : Our English Sunday, like our English Bible, was fondly held to be a thing that could not be shaken. It was in truth a great good day, an eloquent witness, a silent impressive preacher that bade all men rejoice for the Lord was risen from the grave. It was an indispensable ally of Protestant Christianity. For a man's religion is as his Sunday is. That is a girdle which holds things together; but partly because its Christian title was never established, partly for other very different reasons, our English Sunday is fast ceasing to be a Sabbath. The Lord's day seems as though it was about to depart from our shores, and our week of seven common days were to be left unto us desolate.
Once more : In common with the rest of the world, we in England thought that the war spirit was about to be laid ere the old century set behind the throne of God. As we read the sign and omens they betokened a halcyon time of peace. We revelled in Imperial Rescripts; we hailed the Hague Convention. We acclaimed the Czar as a new Messiah. The Christian anthem was in the air. “Peace on earth, good will to men !” went sounding round the world. Yet war came, for Christ was not born in the heart of the nation, and even the angel-song, without the divine truth, is but sounding brass and tinkling cymbal -- the anthem of peace a slogan of strife!
Finally, to close this black list it is doubtless known to you that our own denomination is at the present time in a state of some difficulty and unsettlement.
II. Well, now, such being the state of things among us, you will easily believe that Jeremiah and Cassandra are not wholly wanting to us, or silent on such a tempting situation. But they are far from representing the spirit and temper of the people in England. I should say, rather, that our temper of heart and mind is best described as that of expectancy,-a chastened, wistful, curious, confident watching for the Lord.
We believe in God, and therefore we are optimists. We think that we are on the eve of great things.
Our religion has a way of trying men's faith, not to say of frightening the people, by making as though it were about to die. But these dyings - Christianity has often died, but always into larger life.
God is frequently represented as a warrior, but scarcely ever as armed with any weapon of defence, for he does not fight against, but through men. He does not so much triumph over as by his enemies. His not merely to overcome, but to make all things do his will. All sides fight for him. Friend and foe are of his army, and every battle is the Lord's. And in England we see already things doubtful, things deplorable, things we feared, being manifestly pressed into the service royal.
In the Anglican Church, for instance, criticism and ritualism are acting and reacting on each other in a curious way. Ritualism without doubt, by fastening the minds of men, who perhaps could not otherwise be led, on the Cross of Christ, as the central fact of religion, enabled many to live safely and peacefully with the Master, while criticism was busy with the outworks of their citadel. And now, having been used to break the shock of the attack, criticism is slowly eating its way, like an acid, into the exaggerations of ritualism, so that we may look for a race of clergy in England at once broader in their sympathy and firmer in their faith than we have ever known before.
We have the first fruits in men like Canon Gore, Canon Scott Holland, and Dr. Davis. But God will send forth many more such, and, when they abound in our land, the lines will be laid for such a measure of Christian union as we can neither ask nor think as yet, and the peace of God, that passeth all understanding, shall heal the old sore of His people.
In the Free Church things have necessarily followed a different course. Criticism has at length gained a hearing. It has used the permission to utter itself at considerable length. Much of what it has to say is now generally admitted; but there is a time for all things, and people are getting just a little tired, and also a little hungry. Man cannot live on criticism alone.
A certain man going to a concert fell in with another, who entered into conversation with him, and told him many curious and interesting facts concerning musical instruments, explaining minutely in what way the bow of the violin was made of horse-tails, while the strings owned a still humbler origin. At first he listened with much interest. Yet, after a while, he grew weary even of horse-hair and
a catgut. Turning to his learned and loquacious instructor, he said, “Thank you ! but I should now like to hear a little music !”
Well, many in my country have longed to see some great champion of orthodoxy take the field; but he has not appeared. There has been no formal representative. But, without doubt, we are a little tired of J and E and P and the rest of them who wore the