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Observer, Mar. 1, 71
" Let us,
mouih, and honoreth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.' But in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men."
Had our first parents cherished becoming reverence for the command of God, they could not have recklessly violated the reasonable prohibition, the transgression of which procured their expulsion from the garden, and entailed
upon their posterity innumerable woes and death. It was unbelief in relation to God's word of promise, which gave rise to disaffection and rebellion in the wilderness, and provoked Jehovah to cut off the Israelites from the possession of Canaan; and this judgment was referred to as a beacon to warn the Hebrews of the apostle's time, lest God should give them a curse, as he did their ancestors, instead of a blessing. therefore, fear, lest a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it.” Had the primitive disciples been more extensively conversant with the ancient Scriptures, they would not have been incredulous when informed of the resurrection of Christ; nor would they have exposed themselves to the severe reproof which he administered. “O fools and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” If the morality of the Bible had been better understood, the dark spirit of intolerance and persecution, doubtless, would not have reared its impious head among the disciples of the Prince of Peace. The fires of Geneva and Smithfield would never have been kindled! Ecclesiastical history would never have recorded those scenes of cruelty and blood, at the bare thought of which the Christian's face is mantled with shame! Like Saul of Tarsus, who "being exceedingly mad" against the disciples of Christ, “persecuted them even unto strange cities,” the authors of these inhuman barbarities “verily thought they did God service." Their conduct, however, was a virtual rejection of the decalogue, “Thou shalt love .... thy neighbour as thyself;" and the injunction of Christ, “Love your enemies." And what did they gain by their cruel and unchristian intolerance ? death of Servetus raised such a flame as set Poland, Transylvania, and Hungary all on fire.” It must not be forgotten that Cranmer, Ridley and Rogers, who were conspicuous in bringing Baptists to the stake in the reign of Edward VI., were all burned by the Romanists in the succeeding reign of Mary !—"Vengeance belongeth to me, I will recompense, saith the Lord."
The words of Witsius are so adapted to our purpose that although they were written expressly for candidates for the Christian ministry, yet we cannot deny ourselves the pleasure of concluding this communication with them. “Let the theologian delight in these sacred oracles ; let him exercise himself in them, day and night; let him meditate in them; let him live in them; let him draw all his wisdom from them; let him compare all his thoughts with them; let him embrace nothing in religion which he does not find there. Let him not bind his faith to a man, nor to a prophet, apostle, nor even an angel himself, as if the dictum of either man or angel were to be the rule of faith. Let his whole ground of faith be in God, alone. For it is a divine, not a human faith, which we learn and teach ; so pure
that it can rest upon no ground but the authority of God, who is never false, and can never deceive."
Observer, Mar. 1,'71.
THE TRIUMPH OF CHRISTIANITY. UNDER this title, the New York Herald gives the following general and comprehensive summary of the present condition of Christianity. It would not be difficult to criticise some of the statements, but we are glad to find in the Herald such a recognition of the mighty and resistless movements of the gospel.
It has become so much the fashion of late, in certain quarters, to speak of Christianity as worn out and effete, that we gladly seize the opportunity to note some facts, and point out some tendencies wbich warrant the belief that the triumph of Christianity is certain, and not so far distant as some may imagine:
It is a fact to be deplored that, in the nineteenth century of the Christian era, scarcely one-third of the human family belong to the religion of Jesus. That is might have been otherwise is easy to say. That it ought to have been different, and more to the advantage of Christianity, might not be difficult to prove. The fact, however, is as we have stated, and the fact we must accept. One-third of the human family nominally Christian, and two-thirds non-Christian-such, in brief, is the world religiously.
On the other hand, it must be admitted that the shadow of Christianity overspreads the nations. Everywhere it is felt to be a great and growing force. It is already the controlling power of the world. Wherever there is progress, energy, enterprise ; wherever there is true freedom, culture, intellectual independence, there is Christianity—and of all these she must be regarded as the parent and the nurse. What have the non-Christian two-thirds of the human family given us during these last ten centuries in the shape of literature? Absolutely nothing. We are not forgetful of the literary out-burst of infidelity which preceded and followed the French Revolution ; but this we claim for Christianity quite as much as anything ever written in its defence; for it sprung out of Christianity, and some of the literature of that period is more Christian than either its authors or its enemies believed. What have the non-Christian two-thirds done for us in the shape of mechanical invention? Absolutely nothing. The steamengine, with its countless applications, the electric telegraph, the printing press, -all these modern forces which are revolutionizing the world, which are breaking down the barrier walls of nations, which are bridging the mighty waters, piercing the everlasting hills, annihilating distance, creating a common interest world-wide in their range-have they not all sprung from, and are they not allied to Christianity ?
Such are the facts of which Christianity has just cause to be proud. If we turn aside from these facts for a moment, and look at what we may call the dominant tendencies of the age, we find equal reason to be hopeful. Prominent among these must be noticed the aggressiveness of Western civilization ; which in Europe and America marches with rapid strides, and is making itself felt in all lands and on every sea. Not only have the millions of Asia ceased to send forth their conquering hordes; they no longer feel it possible or prudent to resist the aggressive energy of these Western forces. With Europe on the one hand, and America on the other, the day is not far off when the Asiatic Continent, in all its length and breadth, shall be revolutionized, transformed, regenerated, by what it is still the fashion to call Western civilization. This civilization is nothing if it is not Christian. With the railroad, the steamboat, the steam-plough, and other mechanical appliances, developing the wealth and utilizing the products of the continent; with the printing press and the electric telegraph,
Observer, Mar. 1,'71.
quickening thought and facilitating expression, the doctrines of Christianity will be more successfully preached than they have ever been by any missionary in any age. As it will be with Asia, so will it be with Africa, so with every island of the sea. The tide of Christian civilization will roll
Where it is accepted, it will remain and bless. Where it is resisted, it will roll on and destroy. This, however, is not all. Inside of this Western civilization itself, there are certain marked tendencies, the result of which cannot fail to be a gain to Christianity. From a variety of causes, all of which are in active operation, nations are becoming fewer but larger. The lesser are gradually being absorbed by the greater. Language is following a similar law, and evidence is not wanting to convince us that this tendency is destined to become more characteristic of the future than it is of the present. A common nationality and a common language for all mankind, is no longer an impossible dream. In proportion as this is realized, so will the conquering forces of Christianity be multiplied, and so will its success be secured. The race will be to the swift, and the battle will be to the strong; and in this great future the United States, the second home of the English tongue, will play a conspicuous part. Let us hope that while the Christian religion thus marches to universal empire, and while the most glowing predictions of the inspired penman are being fulfilled, it may grow also in purity and intrinsic worth. Certainly the Church, as we now see her, is not what she ought to be. The Bride, to use the language of the Book, is not yet adorned for her Husband. The preachers, so far as their work is concerned, have no cause to glory.
· Western Presbyterian.
AN ARCHBISHOP ON CHURCH REFORM. When an Archbishop of Canterbury takes up the subject of Church Reform, and urges that something should be done, it is quite clear that reform is urgent. There must be danger at hand from some quarter or other-immediate danger, and, above all, danger to temporalities. There must be a disestablishment and disendowment motion looming in the distance. Something, therefore, must be done to lighten the Church, so as to enable her to run her race with greater swiftness and strength, and to fight with cleaner hands. Abuses must be thrown over at once. The laity must be called in to help. The enemy is at hand and in force ; work must be done, and done instantly, for who knows what may happen, or what may be threatened ?
Urged, we may safely assume, by some such considerations as these, the Archbishop of Canterbury has drawn up a programme of Church Reform for the ensuing session of Parliament. He is in a despondent mood as respects the past. There were several measures submitted in the last session, but they were “ unaccountably thwarted." The good hopes that were entertained all “ came to nothing." Everything « failed to command such attention as was necessary to ensure their passage through Parliament." The Archbishop cannot understand this. It is inexplicable. We understand it perfectly well, and can also understand the cause of his own want of apprehension. The Archbishop, like most, if not all, of his class and his conviction, lives under the impression that every one is thinking, as much as himself, of the importance of the Established Church ; that the nation watches all its doings with eager curiosity; is anxious about its every step, and ready to promote its interests in overy direction. It
Observer, Mar. 1, 71.
happens, however, that this is not the case. For some reasons, we wish that it were so to a greater extent than it is. But the truth is, that the majority of the people are utterly indifferent about it. The merely nominal Churchmen, who form by far the larger section of the Established Communion, care very little whether it stands or whether it falls, and care nothing whatever about any proposed small reforms. It would be found, we believe, that extremely few laymen ever heard of one of the measures referred to by the Archbishop. The subject is not a matter of interest to them. This is the reason why they were " thwarted” and “ failed to command attention.” They were thwarted because other measures, in which greater interest was taken, stood in the way. They commanded little attention because people did not care to think about them. one who knows the state of English society, these facts will not seem unaccountable."
The Archbishop is naturally anxious that the history of last session shall not be repeated. He, has, therefore, given the utmost publicity to the subject, in the hope that “ the attention of our clergy and laity may be directed to what we deem desirable.” We can briefly sum up what is considered to be desirable. First, there should be a revision of the " Table of Lessons,” the order for the use of the Burial Service, and some amendment in the rubric relating to the Athanasian Creed. These proposals have to do with Church worship, and, of them all, it may be said that, if they should be adopted, scarcely any one will know that they have been adopted. Secondly, it is thought that some measure should be brought forward which shall “ give the laity of each parish their legitimate influence, and yet not interfere unnecessarily with the discretion of the parish clergy.” This has to do with the government of the Church, and may be important or not, according to the character of the measure. Then follow five measures relating to Church administration, viz. 1. Ecclesiastical dilapidations ; 2. The retirement of disabled clergymen from their cures ; 3. The sale of next presentations ; 4. The reform of the Ecclesiastical Courts; 5. The sequestration of Benefices. Having enumerated these, the Archbishop solemnly says, “I do not think that we shall have done our duty to the Church and nation till all these questions have been finally settled."
We were on the point of saying that we read the sentence we have just quoted with unmitigated astonishment, but, on consideration, we are not astonished. It is just such a programme of Church Reform as might be expected to be introduced under the patronage of the Bishops. It is not merely small; it is miserable, tinkering, and patching. It leaves out every question, which has to do with the moral influence of the Church over the nation. It was hardly to be expected, perhaps, that the Bishops would themselves bring in a bill for their removal from the House of Lords. There has been only one "self-denying" ordinance in our history, and it was proposed and carried by men of a very different stamp from the spiritual peers of the realm. It is scarcely reasonable to expect another. But there are other questions about which something might have been said. Lay patronage, Bishops' patronage, Government patronage, Church discipline, the manner in which Bishops are elected, the mal-administration of ecclesiastical funds ;-nearly all that causes scandal is to be left alone. Yet the Archbishop of Canterbury thinks that the duty of the Bishops“ to the Church and nation" will have been discharged by accomplishing a reform which leaves untouched every one of these things. With all of them left as they are, the Establishment will be an ideal Church. There
THE STATE CHURCH, AMERICA AND MR. MIALL.
will be nothing more for either Archbishops or Bishops to do. If the demoralising effects of a Church Establishment were ever seen, they can be seen now. When its chief officers, having the opportunity, decline, not merely to touch abuses that cry out for removal, but intimate that they are not abuses at all, what sort of conscience must such men have acquired ?
THE STATE CHURCH, AMERICA, AND MR. MIALL.
MIALL and other advocates of disestablishment in this country must be somewhat puzzled by the agitation in a contrary direction which is gathering strength in the United States. "It appears that a numerous and influential party have begun to take objection to the fact that all reference to God and Christianity' is omitted in the Constitution; and the object of the movement is to secure such an amendment as shall 'indicate that this is a Christian nation, and place all Christian laws, institutions, and usages in our government on an undeniable legal basis in the fundamental law of the nation.'
The above cutting is forwarded by a constant reader of the Observer, with something like an expression of approval and with intimation that the State is in duty bound to take care of the spiritual interests of the people.
We know Mr. Miall very well. We have heard him as a preacher, read him as an author, and followed him as a politician. Of course we have no authority to speak for him; but we know enough to enable us to say that he is not at all "puzzled by the agitation in a contrary direction which is gaining strength in America." Mr. Miall and « other advocates of disestablishment” enunciate a simple scriptural principle, and if all the States in the world go against it there will be nothing puzzling in that fact, because the governments of the nations have almost always gone wrong in matters of religion. We have no objection to the Constitution of the United States being amended, and shall not be at all puzzled if they so amend as to recognize God and Christianity. This they can do without setting up a State Church. Nor is there any danger of the Americans establishing a Church; nor do we believe in the existence of a party so desiring, if the Roman Catholics be excepted. They, of course, desire a State Church where Romanism can be established and abominate it where their own Church is not the favoured one.
We say not, that it is not the duty of the State to care for the spiritual welfare of the people. But all proper care, in that direction, can be bestowed without establishing a Church. Indeed the spiritual welfare of the people cannot be properly provided for where there is an Established Church. This is said because spiritual welfare requires perfect freedom in faith and worship—which freedom includes the right to worship as the worshipper considers best pleasing to God and the right to abstain from paying for or supporting forms and modes of worship of which we do not approve and consider not acceptable. If the Americans were to establish a Church, that Church must be the Roman Church or the Church of one of the Protestant sects. The whole nation must contribute to sustain it; and thus Romanists must be made to pay for the religion of those whom they deem heretics, or Protestants must be compelled to support a system which they ascribe to Satan. In our country the Church of Rome has been the Established Church, and then Protestants were burned for non-conformity. Then came the Protestant Established Church and Romanists and Puritans were sent to the stake or the gallows. We have a State Church now. Its hands are stained with blood, and its treasury, to this very hour, is enriched by monies forced from men who do not belong to it but who hold it in abhorrence.