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celebrated association? The reason is what we have hinted: it is not the christian, so much as the sectary, that has frequented the platform and the council table. We allow for exceptions; but we fearlessly take our stand upon the general fact. During all these years, there has been combination upon unequal and galling terms. Men of rank and mitred prelates have almost always been “first, last, midst, and without end,’ at the great anniversaries, assuming the air and uttering the language of condescension, lauding the excellent establishment, and often applauding themselves for their condescending readiness to take part with their dissenting friends in circulating the scriptures; but always, beit observed, with the understanding, that speakers or no speakers, religious or irreligious, they should be preeminent, and their princely and clerical claims be well and duly marked. The streams of this influence have run down to every city, town, and district in the kingdom; till, at length, sated perhaps with annual celebrations, and dissatisfied with non-conformist energy and eloquence, the platform has become thinned of their attendance and the subscription list of their names. But who does not see in all this the elements of disunion, in the very forms of union ? Who does not see how the demon of discord may attire himself as an angel of light? But we would rather prosecute this subject further in the words of Mr. James:
‘The prevailing body in this country,” he observes, in the fourth of these essays, ‘is, of course, the church of England. It would be considered as quite contrary to her principles to enter into any kind of association or fellowship with the various communities that have separated from her ranks; the absorption of them all into herself is the only kind of junction which would be hearkened to for a moment. Regarding all who have seceded from her communion in something of the light of rebels, she disdains to enter into any sort of negotiation with them, and aims to reduce them all into entire subjection. The present condition of the English established church is remarkably critical and portentous. With nominal and external uniformity, it has no real internal unity. It is divided into three parties—the tractarians, the high churchmen, or old orthodox party, and the evangelicals. It is obvious that no accession to any scheme of catholic union can be looked for or desired from either of the two former; in their estimation it would be like associating loyal men with rebels. Inflexible in their claims, based upon a personal and official succession from the apostles, to be the sole and exclusive dispensers of divine grace, they look with ineffable contempt upon the men, who, whether presbyterians, independents, or methodists, propose to stand side by side with them in a holy league.
‘I am afraid that little is to be expected, in the way of visible union, from the evangelical portion of the national establishment. It was, indeed, a painful proof of the reluctance of the evangelical clergy, to be seen in any association whatever with dissenters beyond the platform of a Bible society, that only two could be found to take any part in the proceedings of the great meeting at Exeter Hall on the first of June last year.” Many, we believe, are united with us in spirit, and in prayer, who confide in our sincere and simple attachment to the gospel of Christ, and who wish well to our labours, but who, for reasons which they think they can justify to themselves, do not deem it expedient to join in any scheme of visible association with us. I have no doubt of the purity of their motives, and the conscientiousness of their conduct, and that they are convinced that they can better serve their own church, and our common christianity, by standing aloof from any scheme of catholic union, and therefore I feel that I have as little right as I have inclination, to act the part of a censor, or to use the language of condemnation; but no one, I trust, will blame me for expressing my heartfelt regret. For such men I cherish a pure and ardent affection; and whether in visible confederation with them or not, will continue to pray for them and love them, although they will let me do it only in secret. Their very excellences, so great and so obvious, make me regret the more, that any sentiment of their own, or any view of the confederation of others, should prevent them from coming into visible christian union with their brethren of the various protestant communions. The invisible, and yet, still real union, they cannot, and would not prevent, but are as willing and as able as any others to enter into the cordial fellowship of the holy catholic church.”—pp. 184, 185.
We must own that we are a little puzzled to think how the same writer could indulge in the unmeasured strain of a preceeding page, when speaking of the “illustrious triumph of truth and love’ on occasion of the meeting at Exeter Hall, in 1842. He exclaims : “Clergymen uttered the language of brotherly love ; dissenting ministers responded to the sentiments, language, and feelings, of churchmen; while methodists echoed the harmonies of both the other.” Yes; two clergymen, and only two, could be found to take any part in the proceedings | In a note, he says: ‘This, be it remarked, was before the formation of the Anti-Church and State Conference.” With regard to the misnomer, we must just observe, that it was neither an anti-church nor an anti-state conference, but an anti-statechurch conference: but we cite this especially to show how gratifying it is to find that those who do not join in that movement, frequently furnish evidence against their own objections; for lo! while continually avering that the society which the Conference organized, alienates and severs churchmen from dissenters, here it is proclaimed that they were already so alienated, that before any conference, only two could be found to take part in a meeting, the simple purpose of which was union without compromise; and we have occasion to know that others, as well as they, were urgently entreated. A third source of discouragement, if not of failure, in recent attempts to effect a closer connexion among christians, is suggested by the previous considerations, namely, the aim to force into union those whose systems and whose spirit oppose each other. It is well know that individuals to whom applications had been made to join in the movement at Exeter Halland made with most sanguine hope of success—intimated their personal willingness to unite, and their deep interest in the measures adopted; but alleged their ecclesiastical position and obligations as excuses for non-compliance. If this did not damp the ardour, it undoubtedly limited the hopes of those who were most solicitous and most united. They saw, or might have seen, that much previous work was to be done before the universal harmony of the church could be secured; and they were compelled, however reluctantly, to leave these fettered brethren behind, till the state, or their own consciences, should unbind them. What else, however, could have been reasonably anticipated ? and what right have we to expect that the parties in question should practice inconsistencies? It was surely more probable that they would adhere to their sworn allegiance to system, than that they should come forth into the broad and palpable renunciation of it. The fallacy lay in anticipating this; and in supposing that a national system of religion, which is a system of absorption, could by possibility become a system of union. Even those who are presumed to be most liberal, though they write about union and come into the assemblies of other christians, do not in reality unite. They will not relinquish caste. This leads us to the fourth and last consideration we propose to adduce on this subject. We do so, with all humility; but with no little strength of conviction. We apprehend that all the attempts at general union, and particularly the last, have substantially failed, from regarding what is called the visibility of christian union as its ultimatum and goal. It may be doubted whether the very nature of a visible union has not been somewhat misunderstood, when it has been supposed to be entirely comprehended in some great display on a given occasion. Now nothing can be more obvious than that persons may meet numerously in a public assembly to declare their union in a common creed, and bow the knee and sing the song of praise together, and yet not be united. We must not mistake the semblance for the reality, or avowals under excitement for principles. We charge none, however, with hypocrisy, but we fear that many may labour under false impressions. It is in this case as it is with regard to religion itself. The form and outward structure must be distinguished from the living soul. External modes may or may not be the expressions of inward piety and holy zeal. They may be the result and natural efflux of the divine sentiment within; or they may be the mere framework of a nominal christianity. Where they are of the former character, we admire their excellence and loveliness; we see the inward and the outward in beautiful harmony; and we value the outward, not for what it may be in itself, but for its becoming the expression and development of the indwelling glory. And thus the outward association of thousands may be or may not be the indication of a real union; may or may not tend to its production according to the real character of the association, the principles with which it is connected, or the results to which it tends. It may be a confederation of the wisest, the best, and the holiest kind; or it may not. But what we wish to be understood is, that such a demonstration must not be mistaken for union, which we fear it has been to some extent, and so far tended, if not to suppress or neutralise efforts of another kind, to generate too much self satisfaction. It seems to us that as we should aim to be christians more than to declare it ; so we should rather seek to be united than to publish it as a fact to the world; at least to publish it in the manner of a national or ecclesiastical manifesto. If general meetings, smaller or larger, be held as the means of union, we will rejoice, as we have rejoiced in them; but if, as the proofs, we must first be more convinced by widespread piety, real kindliness, and scriptural co-operation. But since we believe assemblies of the kind to which we refer are, or may become one important means of uniting christians, if rightly constituted, conducted, and above all, followed out, we deplore their want of frequency. It is to be regretted that the great meeting at Exeter Hall has not fulfilled its avowed intention, and been more permanently influential and effective, which perhaps it might have become by similar demonstrations in other localities. The metropolis is, of course, the best adapted to the convening of a great assembly, but while it may give an impulse to any important movement, it cannot of itself ensure its perpetuity. It is favourable to concentration. It can bring together in greater numbers and in more rapid association persons of similar sentiments, and thus, for the time, give form and intensity to any purpose; but there is danger lest the flame that is kindled should expire, if it be not fed with fresh fuel, and allowed to spread abroad. As appropriate methods of maintaining, with lasting advantage, this particular order of instrumentality, we may be permitted to suggest that while a great metropolitan convention may be comparatively rare, district, and perhaps quarterly or semi-annual meetings, might be conveniently and usefully held in various parts of London, where the different sections of the christian family might assemble by their representatives. But it is still more important that the large towns or populous districts of the kingdom should be invited into this hallowed fellowship. Let meetings more or less frequent, as circumstances dictate, be arranged for such places, to be brought together at several periods of the year by a central committee acting in concert with a local one. These meetings might unite the advantages of public and private association. They might comprehend what are called public meetings with private conferences. And such meetings and conferences should be especially characterised by two things:–first, abundant prayer; secondly, entire freedom of thought and converse, without attempting any thing beyond the simple and exclusive object of promoting intercommunion and affection. It may be asked, if the meetings were to be made circulating instead of stationary, how are persons to be brought together at such cost, from such distances, and with such expense of time? The answer is plain. There are various occasions on which christians already meet denominationally, and innumerable others on which they hesitate not to incur a far greater cost both of time and money. Let but the sublime object be fully grasped, and all difficulties will vanish. The mountains will become a plain, and we shall see the tribes of Israel on the march, going from strength to strength, and appearing at last in accumulated multitudes in the place of blessing and of praise. They will come from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south. England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, will associate; and the sight and the sound will gladden our whole population, while far off islands and nations will rejoice. Still we lay the stress, not on what is outward, but on what is inward—not on the visible union, but the invisible sentiment and deep working principle—not on the tide of people, but on the flow of soul. The spirit of union is a part of christianity, and christianity is, in its essence, an invisible thing ! It operates irrespectively of modes and forms, of persons and places, of climate and colour. It is glorious without pomp; it is harmonious without compromise. Its light is pure and diffusive, like the light of nature. Its love is the love of heaven. In contemplating the practicability of a general union among christians, we take leave to suggest that the basis of the confederacy must be truth, and freedom of utterance, or, as Jeremy
* “This, be it remarked, was before the formation of the Anti-Church and State Conference.”