« PrécédentContinuer »
whose reaction has often produced jealousy and suspicion towards the Church. The Church of England, next to the Church of Rome, has been made by the Act of Uniformity the most schismatic church in Christendom ; it declines all fraternity with Nonconformists, it disavows their churches as Christian societies, it denies the orders of their clergy, it declares its own clergy excommunicate who shall own their ecclesiastical claims, and it proposes, as the only terms of union with Dissenters, the imposition on them of its own formularies and orders.
The Act of Uniformity still remains a blemish on the Church, and a serious error in legislation. The position taken by the first seceders from the Church is that occupied by Nonconformists. Our reasons for dissent are, for the most part, the same as theirs. Our attachment to our own views is as strong as theirs. Our aspirations for Christian unity are as fervent as theirs. Even if we had not the additional ground for Nonconformity which further reflection has produced, we could not subscribe ; for we should be unable to give our assent and consent to what, in common with our fathers, we deem Romish errors and superstitions. Though subscription would bring us into union with the largest, the richest, and the most venerable corporation in the land, and though there are hundreds in that church who hold precisely our views, who have done all that is demanded of us, we could not treat lightly a solemn signature in matters of religion ; we dare not subscribe a lie. If other Christian brethren do not feel our difficulties, we do not question their integrity, and we cannot relinquish our own.
Many of these remarks would be impertinent if addressed to the voluntary churches ; but they are legitimate as they affect a national institution, in whose catholicity or sectarianism every citizen has a personal interest. We may not care for her episcopacy, or desire to use her formularies; we have no desire to contend with Christian brethren on such matters, on which they are free to choose, and able to judge for themselves; but so far and so long as the Church of England receives endowments from the State, so far and go long as her doctrine, discipline, and worship are subject to the control of the Queen and Parliament, she must expect to be as open to criticism as the army and navy, or any other national institution; her proceedings and constitution will be vigorously canvassed, and every citizen will use his influence to modify and alter her. As a national institution we have a right, if we think proper, to attempt to remedy her sectarianism, her narrow and exclusive policy; we have a right to aid in making her as efficient as possible for the great end of her appointment, and as comprehensive and catholic as possible towards other Christian bodies.
In all attempts to improve and beautify her as a spiritual institution, the evangelical section of her clergy may reckon on the co-operation of evangelical Dissenters, who, whatever their dislike to a religious establishment, have too much love for the Gospel to see it the propagator of erroneous doctrine, and a curse rather than a benefit to the land. They will not, and dare not, as English. men, be indifferent to the changes and divisions which proceed within her pale; Episcopalian clergy and their flocks cannot claim freedom from interference till they have acquired independence. As a national institution we shall aim to purify it, to render it catholic and Christian in its spirit; and on the same principle, many of us will, for the benefit of religion and the commonwealth, seek by all Christian means to effect its entire separation from State-patronage and control. We have as much right, and it is as much our duty, though we are Dissenters, as if we worshipped and ministered at its altars, to do all we can to make a national institution accord with our ideas of fitness and Christian law; as citizens and Englishmen we owe it to our country and to truth to promote our views on this, as on any other, national question.
As Nonconformists, we can truly say that we honour the character and labours of the evangelical clergy; we are not surprised at, and deeply sympathize in, the difficulties by which some of them are perplexed; and we urge them to seek the
Tevision and reformation so imperatively required. If their efforts are unsuccessful, there is a yet nobler path which we counsel them to pursue; by secession from an establishment which they cannot reform, they will secure the approval of conscience and the admiration of all good men ; they will hand down their names in association with the illustrious confessors of an earlier age ; and by forming a free Episcopal Church they will acquire a power for usefulness of which they can now form no conception. “Acts of Parliament,” says Canon Miller,* " can unestablish ” the Church, “but as Acts of Parliament have not made, so could not Acts of Parliament destroy her. The secret of her undying life was the union with her living Lord. The pledge of her perpetuity was his promise, his power, and his presence.” Instead of receiving injury by separation from the State, she would grow into vitality and power. Strong in the affection and influence of her sons, and urged forward by the zeal and godliness of her ministers, her purity, her union, her usefulness would be largely augmented; she would enter on a mission of mercy which would render her å blessing to the empire; her pulpits and her literature would become fountains of grace to the people ; her benevolent labours would be liberally sustained ; her influence with the poor would be increased a hundredfold; and experience would soon convince her that the day of her liberation from thraldom was the dawn of her purity and glory.
It would be improper to censure the evangelical clergy because they are not prepared to coincide in these views. Important as is the question of State interference with religion, there are questions to which even this must be subordi. nate,-"the truth as it is in Jesus," and the work of evangelizing the world. If we discuss, in a Christian spirit, the points of difference between Churchmen and Nonconformists, we must not throw into the shade the points of agreement between them; and perhaps mischief may be done to Christian brotherhood by the manner of presenting a great question which our brethren view with doubt and suspicion, and may be excused if they consider an element of discord. Religious controversy, if properly conducted, is not a thing to be deprecated; a measure of it tests Christian unity, and endears it to the heart, as a discord is employed to beighten the sweetness of harmony. In the discussion of differences there is a call for candour and charity. No man must be gagged; the opinions of all good men demand a respectful hearing. Neither side must be censured for its conscientious convictions, nor be expected to relinquish them, if sincerely held, without a manly though fraternal struggle. Nonconformists will be the last to complain of any good men, who, in the spirit of the Gospel, contend for what they deem essential to its interests; they will also be the last to draw back from a controversy into which they are impelled alike by the tactics of their opponents, the spirit of the age, and their reverence for the honour of religion.
It is to be devoutly hoped that religious controversy, however admirably conducted, will not divert the “faithful” on either side from the culture of Christian unity, and the discharge of that divine mission to which all are devoted. High over Churchmen and Dissenters alike Christ reigns, and his truth prevails. The Bible we venerate in common, and search in its mine for the “hidden treasure.” The blood of Jesus is our one atonement for sin, and his righteousness the robe we desire to wear. If one must bave his Prayer Book, which the other declines to use; if the one prefer congregationalism, and the other will not renounce episcopacy; if the one regard the State church as a bulwark of the faith, and the other condemns it as an impediment to unity, and an injury to religion ;-—they may still respect each other's Christian integrity, and rejoice in their common fellowship with the Lord. If the vital elements of Christianity are imperilled, we will stand by each other's side in their defence; for the bolt that strikes the citadel of truth, will do damage to us all. If we are threatened with an inundation of Romanism, so far as it trenches on our liberties, we will unite to oppose it by our legislation ; so far as it assails the truth, we will repel it by “the sword of the Spirit.” Against error and unbelief, against the superstition which would corrupt the Gospel, and the furtive infidelity that would undermine it, we will present a united phalanx; the enemies of Christ's truth shall see in the Christian world no division of counsels. The ignorance and vice which pervade our cities, the profligacy which infests our streets, the amount of misery and want which everywhere invoke our pity, shall find us united in our efforts to relieve them. The Churchman and the Dissenter shall alike be found in the cottage of the poor, by the bed of suffering, or in the hovel of vice; alike rolling back the tide of iniquity, reclaiming the wanderer, solacing the mourner, relieving the distressed, and saving the lost; walking side by side in all that can minister to the well-being of the race; both alike the ministers of Him who “ went about doing good," they shall preach the same doctrines, work for the same Lord, supplicate the same "throne of grace," confide in the same promises. The field of missions in all its ampli. tude shall receive their common culture ; side by side shall their representatives proclaim the Gospel among the heathen, knowing only the rivalry of holy men —which of them shall best promote the Redeemer's kingdom. Onward we are all looking to the dawn of the millennial glory, when the spirit of unity and brotherhood shall anew baptize the Christian world, and under the guidance of her illustrious Founder, Christianity shall enter on her predicted career of universal conquest.
* Lecture at Birmingham,
Whether it be given to this generation, or not, to witness such a consummation, it should still be the aim of all Christian bodies to promote, each in its measure, and according to its convictions, spiritual religion, Christian unity, and the salvation of mankind; it is reserved perhaps as an element of the heavenly felicity, to unite in the anthem which shall celebrate the final triumph of our faith. In the meantime, let the spirit of the confessors, whose heroism we commemorate, animate all Christians to the same single-minded respect for conscience, and the same resolute maintenance of truth; let the mantle of the Two Thousand faithful ones who preferred truth to interest, and conscience to dishonour, fall upon the whole Church of Christ-the same tranquil but indomitable courage, the same “ patient perseverance in well-doing,” the same fidelity and zeal in the service of the Lord. In view of the world's necessities, and their own common work and hope, let Church men and Dissenters alike be faithful to truth, faithful to their Lord. Soon will they all have passed into the presence of Immanuel, when, however they may regret their earthly deficiencies in fidelity and in brotherhood, their dissensions will be interred in an everlasting grave. Let brethren of all denominations “love the truth and peace.” Whilst they “ earnestly contend for the faith once delivered to the saints,” let them “ see that they love one another with a pure heart, fervently.” This generation shall pass from the scene, but Christ's chariot shall still roll on in triumph. Anticipating soon to enter the repose of the illustrious dead, it becomes us, on the one hand, to be thankful if we have in any measure imbibed their spirit, and if we possess a humble hope that we shall not be excluded from their august assembly; and, on the other, to bequeath the cause of truth and piety to our successors, in the firm belief that Christianity lives, though its friends and advocates are removed that the one true Church is safe in the guardianship of Almighty love, and that, whatever difficulties arise to the unity of the Church and the triumph of the Gospel, all shall disappear before the brightness of His coming, who is destined, in God's good time, to reign the benignant sovereign of a regenerated world.
THE CHRISTIAN LIFE A CHRISTLIKE LIFE.*
BY THE REV. J. GREEN.
1 Peter ü. 9. SPEAKING to his disciples on one occa- who had been called as Peter was, from fol. sion of his approacbing death, our Lord lowing his craft to following Christ; who said, “And I, if I be lifted up from the had consorted with Christ as he had, witearth, will draw all men unto me.” It is nessing his miracles and drinking in of his by no means difficult for a thoughtful and Divine instructions; who had so grievously observant mind to perceive the growing denied him in the hour of temptation, and accomplishment of this remarkable predic who had been so freely forgiven and so tion; that Christ, willingly or unwillingly generously restored ;-—could not believe in on man's part, becomes more and more the religious generalities, and could not write centre of human thoughts and purposes. or speak as though he did. Society is not Legislation, literature, and the customs of a word in his vocabulary. He writes to society, all render him homage, even though saints, to royal priests, to men of God; to it be unwittingly. He is “ the great power men who had felt the darkness and death of God” even where his character and his of sin, and who had been called into the truth exert but a secondary influence on marvellous light and life of God. He men, restraining their acts rather than re- | writes in this place to impress upon them newing and sanctifying their hearts. But this truth, that the Christian life is a the Christianity which general society is Christlike life-a living to show forth the ! willing to accept is not an element in which praises or excellencies of Christ. a Christian can be content to live, or in I. Let us, then, in the first place, glance which his powers can thrive and expand. at the excellencies of Christ. There is, indeed, a certain religiousness of The excellencies of Christ are, each of i tone which obtains in society, having a them, absolutely perfect; and in his life! semblance of spirituality; but it is not a were so harmoniously blended that none of pure, ethereal, heaven-born principle. Like them are exalted above the rest. Yet some the gossamer thread, though it seems to of them strike us more forcibly than others; I point heavenward, it takes its rise from partly, no doubt, from their contrast to the .. earth and never reaches heaven. It has no tendencies of the age in which we live. power either to draw or bear our souls There is, for instance, his fealty to the thitherward.
truth. And if in this Christ did not bring Our popular religious beliefs are smoothed an entirely new moral element into the and rounded. They have no objectionable world, he at least brought the truth out of angularities; they are yielding, plastic. darkness into a most marvellous light. The But they bring no pure unsullied light of Jewish people, indeed, treasured up the truth to guide our dark and doubting “lively oracles of God” with scrupulous minds ; tbey yield no strong consolation care, but “they made them void by their to ein-laden, sorrowing hearts ; they have traditions.” How they robbed God almost no strength of any kind.
perpetually, by their lie of formal service, How entirely different from this is the a titbing mint, and anise, and cummin,” | spirit which, tbroughout, pervades the New punctilious as to washings and divers caro ) Testament! There all is real, tangible, and nal ordinances, but forgetting the weightier ! relating to the individual man. So that to matters of the law. And if there is false. come out from the religiousness of popular hood in the high concern of God's wor literature and general cociety, and tarry for ship, the spirit of truth exists nowhere in a time amid the writings of Paul, and John, Nor were the Jewish people by any and Peter, is as though one should come means alone in their want of allegiance to up from a moist enervating atmosphere to the truth. For while the masses of the the mountain's beight, where the brisk Gentiles were sunk to the lowest depths of 3 and breezy winds would rouse and reani- debasement, the educated and the philo mate the whole life within him. The man ! sopbic among them were regardless of
* A Sermon preached at the late meeting of the Yorkshire Association at Scarborough,
truth. “What is truth," said Pilate, “ that , remarkable for its contrast with the selfisha man should care to risk anything for it?" ness of men, than his fealty to the truth When “ THE TRUTH" came into the world, was to their untruthfulness. It was God. all men hated him. But the world groaned like condescension in the Lord of glory to under its bondage to falsehood; God was come to such a world as this; but instead dishonoured ; and it needed that the Re of coming in his glory, as he one day will, deemer and Restorer of men should come though “being in the form of God, he as the King of Truth.
thought it not robbery to be equal with The denunciations of Christ were the God; he made himself of no reputation, severest utterances ever expressed, but they and took upon him the form of a servant, were never malevolent, nor ever wore a and was made in the likeness of men : and malevolent aspect, though they stirred up being found in fashion as a man, he the venom of proud untruthful men such humbled himself, and became obedient as those “hypocrites," the scribes and unto death, even the death of the cross." Pharisees. Yet there was no effort on He chose a life of lowliness : “He who was Christ's part at any time to seem truthful, rich became poor, that we, through his 20 pushing his truthfulness into promi poverty, might be made rich.” nence. It flowed forth from him at all This self-denial was not all concentrated times with perfect spontaneity, as from a | in some single act or acts of surpassing fountain ever full and springing. His virtue. It was daily, habitual, constant; choicest friends felt its power to pierce “from Bethlehem's inn to Calvary's cross." and enter their hearts quite as keenly and Yet he knew for whom he undertook. frequently as others did. “Martha," our What meaning there is in those words,
Lord said, when Martha was doing her “He knew what was in man,"—their dark · utmost to express her love to Christ, suspicions, their cruel misjudgments, their : "thou art careful and troubled about many hard unbelief! He felt all the wrong they
things : one thing is needful : and Mary did him, as none but he could feel it; yet hath chosen that good part, which shall not | he never murmured, nor ever grew imbe taken away.” And with what truthfull patient. He chose to endure “ great consimplicity he pronounces against the uni- | tradiction of sinners against himself.” And versal judgment of men, in those startling Christ had no society here but that of yet decisive words, “Ye cannot serve God sinners. We speak of congenial spheres, and mammon.” A writer of genius has and we so speak of the congeniality of a characterized much of the religiousness of sphere as though that were a foremost the present age, in the title of a book which requisite to engage our service. The Son he has given to the world—“Is it possible of Man had no congenial sphere; none to to make the Best of Both Worlds ?” I pro sympathize with his sorrows, to bear his nounce no judgment here on that book, burdens, or to share his joys. But he simply observing, that such a title could cheerfully and perseveringly submitted to no more have been given to a book in the all in order to become “guch an high priest age of the Reformation, or in the days of the as could be touched with the feeling of our Puritans, than “The Rare Jewel of Chris infirmities, tempted in all points as we are, tian Contentment," or, “Good Thoughts yet without sin." And while he thus subin Bad Times ; Good Thoughts in Worse mitted, he taught, by example, the exercise Times; and Mixed Contemplations in Better of self-denial in his disciples. Who can Times," could be the titles of books of the see the Lord of glory washing the feet of present day. The titles of each sufficiently hardy fishermen, without being filled with indicate the state of feeling in their times. astonishment at his self-denial, the humility So, too, the truthfulness of our Lord's of his spirit ? judgment was opposed to universal senti Another striking excellency of Christ is ment, when he taught that liberality was his zeal. Christ's zeal was not of a kind not to be measured by pounds sterling, to lead to sudden, passionate engagement "the widow's mite” being the richest gift in the service of God. It never tired nor that was cast into the treasury. The Holy | flagged ; it needed no repose. Nor did it Spirit, the Spirit of truth, was given him require the excitement of great occasions or without measure, therefore, in fealty to the l of admiring multitudes to call it into free truth, “Never man spake like this man." exercise. It was an all-pervading holy
There is again, as another excellency of principle of his soul, having for its object Christ, his self-denial. This is scarcely less the glory of God and the salvation of men.