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Lord Jesus.” What do we hazard ? Sum up what your Christian profession costs. Your profession, which binds you to be what Christ was to the world, a teacher, a helper, a comforter, a brother to it in all its needs. In what respect, in the way of sacrifice of time, trouble, money, is your life other than it would have been if this great work had never been wrought for you, if this great claim had never been made upon you, if this great love had never been lavished upon you and purchaşed your eternal life at the cost of its own shameful and torturing death? You respond to appeals, you give when anything touches your sympathies, you can always be depended on for a trifle to help any good work. Well, but do not even the publicans so? What do ye more than others ? Men of old took up the Christian life with the Cross stamped very plainly on it. Where is yours? Read Mark x. 35; Acts xv. 16; 2 Cor. xi. 23. What does the Cross mean now? Where is the baptism through which we must pass into the kingdom and ascend to its high places? Is there not something like a bitter mockery in it when we think of our easy, prosperous, comfortable lives—devoting some spare guineas, some spare minutes to the work of the kingdom, but taking good care to miss none of the prizes that the men of this world strive after. No sign of a halting Jimb, like pilgrim Jacob when he had wrestled with the angel, and won himself a name of renown in the records not of earth only, but of heaven! He went halting, but all men saw that there was a sacredness about his lagging step and crippled limb. They saw that he had run victoriously in a nobler race and won a diviner prize than earth could offer, but that on earth he must remain a sad, suffering man to the end of his days. But our Christians in these times run swirtly in this world's race, and are as prompt as the men of this world to grasp its prize. And our lives look strangely beside theirs of old. There is a dreadful poverty of this self-neglectful, self-abandoning nobleness of nature, which shone out so grandly in the ages when men hazarded their lives freely for the name of the Lord Jesus, and sorrowed rather than rejoiced if death failed to find them in the perilous path. Our paths are safe enough, our efforts are safe enough, our sacrifices are safe enough. There is no fear of a crippled limb, or a crippled balance at the bankers. What do we hazard? What of present patience and denial do all our bright hopes and glorious visions of the future cost? Brethren, we must either in some way make the fellowship of the sufferings of Christ a reality, or give up talking so much about the Cross, and give up hoping so much about the crown.
NOTES ON THE CONFERENCE BETWEEN THE
WORKING MEN AND THE CHURCHES.
BY THE REV. EDWARD WAITE.
The condition of England at the present time resembles in one respect that of Palestine at the epoch of Christ's appearance, In Palestine there was a national recognition of a Divine Revelation, obedience to which was acknowledged to be the condition of happiness both in this world and the world to come. There were synagogues in every city devoted to the instruction of the population, and to the worship of God. But the issue of centuries of such national profession of religion was that at least one half of the people were “scattered abroad as sheep having no shepherd,” and lived in the neglect of even the outward decencies of worship. In England we have a similar national acknowledgment of the truth of the Christian Revelation. Part and parcel of the constitution of the country is the declaration that the Infinite and Almighty God, the Creator of heaven and earth, has “in these last days spoken to us by his Son;" and "commanded all men everywhere to repent." The land is filled with edifices consecrated to the instruction of the population in the truths of this Christian Revelation; yet the result of centuries of instruction and worship is that half the upper classes and the far larger proportion of the humbler classes, are thoroughly alienated from our religious institutions and indifferent to the public adoration of Almighty God. It may indeed be said that church-going is practised by only a fraction of the working population. And, notwithstanding the reclamations of less careless observers, it may be safely asserted that the generality of skilled artisans throughout England are pre-eminently indifferent to the public worship of the Deity. Ask any artisan in nearly any part of this country, whether engineer, carpenter (we do not speak of Scotland or of Wales), mason, or worker in the ornamental or useful arts, how many of his “mates " are in the habit of going to church on Sundays, and the answer will uniformly be, "Scarcely any of them.” The unskilled labourers who serve these artisans are, for the most part, in the same condition. While acknowledging the success which attends the efforts of good men, wherever they are found, in attracting individuals of all classes to consider the truths of religion, especially in the factory districts—and acknowledging with equal earnestness that the religion of the country cannot be measured by its church-going, the former being both more and less than the latter, it must nevertheless be admitted that the working classes in England are, in vast numbers, indifferent to Divine Revelation and the testimony of the Churches of Christ, to a degree which is appalling to those who consider either the causes or the results of the phenomenon.
It was with a view to bring into the utmost publicity the fact of this indifference, in the hope of thereby gradually removing some of its causes, that the conference held on the 21st of January was devised. It had been conceived in no sectarian spirit. The suppositions present to the mind of the promoters was that if representatives of both the Established Church and of the Nonconforming communities could be persuaded to meet, in a sort of open parliament, fairly chosen representatives of the working-men, and to interchange with perfect frankness their views of each others proceedings and opinions, nothing but good could come out of such a conference. The foundations would be laid of a better understanding. It might be ascertained with some degree of certainty to what extent there was anything special to their class in the non-churchgoing habits of the artisan orders, or whether they were the result of causes operating equally upon the superior ranks. It seemed probable that in such a conference the more common and worthless pretexts of the working-folk for neglecting public instruction and worship might, after receiving patient consideration, receive also a public and useful explosion. If the men alleged the mercenary character of the ministers of Christianity as an excuse for their indifference, they might there be taught to distinguish between the true and false ministers of the Gospel, and exhorted, as they valued their own souls, not to confound them together in one indiscriminate condemnation. They might be taught that the labourer with the mind is just as worthy of his hire as the labourer with the hand, and ought not to be denounced as a mercenary, because according to God's command he receives wages for his special and invaluable industry. If they alleged the variety of Churches and opinions as an excuse for their neglect of all Churches and all truths of religion, they might in such a conference be reminded that they drew no parallel conclusion from a similar diversity of opinions and parties in medicine and in politics. The working people do not abjure all medical aid because of the existence of rival schools, nor all interest in politics because of the opposition of riyal cabinets. They
might be taught to consider that, notwithstanding the apparent diversity, there was a good deal of substantial unity in the teaching of the Churches, and that, in most of them, a working man might hear the very words of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the Saviour of the World. He was not compelled to receive the minor specialities of any Church ; the grand message of the Gospel was that which chiefly concerned him. If again they alleged the need for rest, for fresh air, and for social enjoyment on Sundays, their demands in this direction might in such a conference be frankly acknowledged to be reasonable, yet shown to be quite compatible with a due attention to the requirements and authority of the Gospel. If they alleged the difficulty of obtaining comfortable seats at church, they might be assured that they greatly exaggerated that obstacle to their church-going, and that if they would only behave as reasonably and as patiently in the churches as they did in the uncomfortable third-class railway trains on Sunday evenings, or in equally uncomfortable and windy public-house parlours, they would find that they had over-stated their objection. In this manner it was hoped that all that was unreasonable and simply querulous fault-finding in the notorious opposition of the artisans to the Churches might best receive public correction and a friendly reproof.
But, on the other hand, it was very well understood by the promoters of the conference that the reply to these superficial objections would be far from exhausting the question, or satisfying the working people. It was known to them that there were far deeper causes of alienation, and that the separation between the middle classes and the artisans in the matter of religion was but an exhibition of a more profound and comprehensive difference of opinion and feeling. And it was supposed that if there could be obtained a sufficiently authentic expression of these differences, a light would be thrown upon the path of the Churches which might prove infinitely serviceable to them in their future dealings with the nation on matters affecting Christianity. If it were true that the class-feeling and division of classes generated by our present institutions and our present policy, whether in government, in trade, or in social customs, had resulted among other evil consequences, in the final and general apostasy of the artificers of this great nation from the Christian Church, to an extent endangering, as that Church itself professes to believe, their eternal happiness, then it was high time that those institutions were modified, that that policy were altered, and that those social customs were reformed into an accordance with the Gospel. And it was believed that such a conference as was proposed would elicit, with some clearness and accuracy, a view of the actual condition of the relations between the middle and working classes, and of the feeling of the operatives toward existing institutions, which would serve as the ground-work for some desirable movements in the way of improvement.
It may be interesting to place on record in these pages some brief reference to the process by which, under such expectations, the conference was convened. The proposal of such a convention was no sooner made than it was warmly embraced by some persons whose sanction and support rendered its success almost certain. Mr. Miall, who from the first was pointed out as one of the very few public men whose liberal political career and spotless character would enable him, as President, to conciliate in sufficient measure the confidence at once of the working men and of the religious community, threw himself heartily into the movement, and to him, more than to any one else, is due the possibility of enlisting a committee of invitation whose combined authority and repute should suffice to overcome individual scruples, and to bring together High Churchmen, Broad Churchmen, Low Churchmen, and Protestant Dissenters of almost every name, together with working men representing every variety of operative party and opinion.*
Nearly two months were required to perfect the arrangements, and the course of proceeding was experimental and tentative. At first a miniature conference was held at Anderton's Hotel, in the Strand. A dozen gentlemen, some of them of great note in the literary and ecclesiastical world, invited an equal number of intelligent artisans of various trades, and selected from different
* The names of this Committee were as follows:-James Amos, Incumbent of St. Stephen, Kent Street; John Bates, Engineer; William Booker, House Painter; J. Baldwin Brown, Minister of Claylands Chapel, Kennington; W. W. Champneys, Canon of St. Paul's and Vicar of St. Pancras; J. X. Cross, Printer ; Thomas Guthrie, Free Church Minister, Edinburgh; Newman Hall, Minister of Surrey Chapel; Thomas Hughes, M.P. for Lambeth ; c. Johnson, Carpenter; J. M. Ludlow; Robert Maguire, Incumbent of St. James's, Clerkenwell; Edward Miall; Alexander McAulay, Wesleyan Minister ; Samuel Martin, Minister of Westminster Chapel ; F. D. Maurice, St. Peter's Chapel, Vere Street; John C. Miller, Vicar and Rural Dean of Greenwich; Samuel Morley ; G. M. Murphy, of Southwark ; Christopher Nevile, late Rector of Wickenby, and Vicar of Thorney ; Thomas Paterson, Cabinet Maker; Charles Pocklington, Dyer ; Goldwin Smith ; Henry Solly, Working Men's Club and Institute Union ; Charles Shaw, Engineer; Edward White, Minister of Hawley Road Chapel, Honorary Secretary to the Committee of Invitation.