« ElőzőTovább »
supplying our spiritual needs. I do not know that we gain much in Churches by contriving regulations whereby men of a low moral tone may be kept up to a certain certain level of conduct. It is better to leave things free, and they will find their level. Our congregations learn by experience and grow wiser; to spare them the experience by letting a patron manage things for them, would be an unspeakable loss to them—to say nothing of the possibility that they may acquire their patron through the auction mart.
If a man must be dependent on some concurrence from without in getting recognised as a teacher, the very best dependence, the simplest, the manliest, is on a people. A congregation loves in the main, manliness and intelligence; and if candidates would but have courage and say manfully what they believe, they would find it more to their advantage than the manufacture of elaborate artificial baits for itching ears. There is something elevating, after all, if men would but realize it, in the appeal to the heart and conscience of a congregation, which has both a heart and a conscience if preachers know how to touch it; and if they do not, the system which most swiftly remits them to obscurity is the best, both for Church and world.
But we are told that we carry our dependence with us through life. Living by our ministry, we must please to live. Now, we look fairly in the face the position of a beneficed clergyman in his parish; perhaps next to that of a naval captain, the most independent in the public service. We know the difficulties and trials of our own. And we hold, unhesitatingly, that ours is the higher, the freer in a true sense, and the more fruitful of Christian work. Such freedom as the clergyman boasts, has absolutely no charm for us. We have no care to preach to those who are ordered by law to hear. We hear much of the admirable largeness of the Church of England, which can find room for all kinds of teachers within its pale. But a vision rises before us of the misery of the congregations by which such freedom is purchased ; congregations whose most sacred convictions are outraged, or their patience taxed to breaking strain, purely by a secular patron's will. Such freedom, held at such a cost, is, in our sight, far from beautiful. Used to a true freedom, we should feel a miserable bondage in such legal liberty. We only care to speak to those who love to hear us, or whom we can win by the manifestation of the truth of God. We recognise the reaction of the congregation on our ministry as in every way a good and helpful thing. We could by no means dispense with our dependence in the midst of our independence, and we try to sustain ourselves against the temptation to please our fellowmen at the expense of truth, by “setting the Lord always before us, because He is at our right hand we shall not be moved.” And we may point to the steady advance
of our ministry in culture, character, and independence of thought and expression, as a proof that our system is not so weak even on the point which seems most open to hostile criticism. It is true, without doubt, that some difficulty is likely to beset the man who departs far from the beaten track of thought in our pulpits. We are not at all sure whether difficulties ought not to beset men who feel a call to open new highways. No truth ever yet established itself in the world without some one suffering for it.
But there are men among us, not a few, who speak the truth, face the suffering, and are rewarded by carrying their congregations and a yet wider company with them in time.
All the proposals for the reformation of the abuses of patronage, look in the direction of an increase of the rights of the congregation. But it may be doubted whether any solution of the perplexing problem will be discovered which will maintain the appearance and name of a National Establishment on the one hand, while it gives free play to the individual life of the congregation of worshippers or the communicants on the other. We believe that in the Independent principle alone it will be found that there is rest.
Perhaps the most striking feature of our modern life is the measure in which the work for which the Church has hitherto been responsible is being taken in hand by the secular power. Education even is passing out of the charge of the Church into the charge of the whole community. The Levitical function of the clergyman, which has hitherto been a legitimate and powerful source of his influence, is rapidly declining in importance; and as it declines, the main reason why the State should maintain a costly, cumbrous, and ill-compacted system of ministration passes away. A vast Church system, for which the State should be responsible, widened so as to cover the whole land, would simply, with regard to many of the purposes for which it has hitherto existed, be superfluous or obstructive; while the higher purposes to which the function of the ministry of the Gospel must increasingly confine itself, are beyond the reach of State organization, and can manifestly be maintained in a much simpler and more effective way. Year by year there seems to be less and less need and room for a vast organization calling itself the Church of England. For the main purposes for which it has hitherto been worth while to maintain it, England is becoming The Church.
There is one other argument for a wide comprehension which I must notice as I conclude. It is urged by Mr. Fowle, in his essay on “ The Church and the Working Classes," with considerable power. It may briefly be stated thus :—We are living in a democratic age. The democratic principle is in the ascendant, and that which best harmonizes with democratic maxims and instincts will be the ruling Church principle of the future. Now, Democracy is strong in
organization. It organizes, or proposes to organize, everything. Labour, capital, property, land, social arrangements and domestic life, must all pass under its plastic hand if it is to work out its cherished ideas. Mr. Fowle maintains that" not only is the idea of an endowed Church suitable to a Democracy, but it is the only method in which a democratic religion can develop itself.” To us the advance of the democratic principle furnishes the final and decisive argument against the policy of the extension of the system of the Establishment. There is a prior consideration for Churchmen. The clergyman who can please himself with the dream that the spirit of the Democracy which is looming in the distance, is likely to find itself fitted with a religious habitation in anything even faintly like the time-worn Anglican Establishment, must be sanguine indeed. But we pass that by. This spirit of Democracy is an advancing and, in its present aspect, a menacing power. The next great experiment in the organization of society will be under its auspices. This tendency to universal organization is a tremendous power, but at the same time a terrible danger to the higher freedom and life of mankind. We have no right to be fearful or faithless. If Democracy is to reign in the coming age, there is some high purpose which it has to serve, some sacred mission which it has to fulfil. But the condition of the fulfilment of that mission must be the maintenance of some counteracting and counterbalancing influences within the pale of the national life. The centripetal force in Democracy is tremendous. The counterbalancing centrifugal forces are intelligence and religion. These demand both the freest play and the strongest stimulus to resist the intense but contractile force of the principle which is challenging the chief place in the management of human affairs. If intellect and religion are to pass under the organizing hand, there are dark days for humanity in store.
It is precisely because the tendency of the times sets so strongly and manifestly in the democratic direction, that we ought to watch eagerly for signs of new and independent activity in the higher regions of the life of the community. Instead of rejoicing that Christianity under the auspices of the Establishment principle will fall naturally and easily into the new order, we should pray earnestly to be delivered from an Endowed Democratic Church, and contend strenuously for the freest play of the energies and activities of the religious life. It is by the conflict and balance of principles, not by the undisputed dominance of one, that the nobler freedom and the vital progress of society are assured. And it seems to be in unconscious but happy prevision of the higher necessities of the democratic era, that the lay mind is pressing the question of the Disendowment and Disestablishment of the Anglican Church.
J. BALDWIN BROWN.
IT is possible, of course, to treat the present calamities of France
in the fashion of a spurious Habakkuk, to exult over the easy victories of the Prussians, and to set forth our intimate acquaintance with the judgments which Providence has in store for the sins of a great nation. But such is not our purpose. We regard, on the contrary, the present situation of France with greater hope than ever, and can neither find in her .past or in her present history grounds for treating her as the possessor of an exceptionally aggressive spirit among the nations of Europe.
Recent disclosures have proved to satiety that the French nation did not desire the war; while the antecedents of Bismarck, as a man of peace and good faith, and a review of the utterances of Prussian publicists with respect to France for the last thirty years, are not such as to convince us that Prussia did not desire it. On the contrary, we are convinced that she did—a war with France was quite in the programme of the Bismarckian policy—a war which should give Prussia an opportunity of extending and consolidating her domination over Germany, and of recovering what, by a pleasant fiction, she is pleased to call her lost provinces of Alsace and Lorraine, and about which she has been clamouring ever since 1815 with far greater pertinacity than the French have clamoured for the Rhineof which French clamour, by the way, we had of late years heard
nothing. In such cases the real guilt of bringing about war is with the party which provokes it to be declared; and this Bismarck, by the Hohenzollern intrigue, contrived to do. When we add to this the fact, that the practice of Prussia has for years been a standing menace to France on her northern frontier, and that she refused to listen to any offers of mutual disarmament, it seems to us there can be no doubt on which side the real provocation arose.
But passing over this argument, and admitting that France, though not desirous of war, was justly punished for the precipitation and folly of her Government, she has, since Sedan, in every possible way, disconnected herself from the acts of the late Emperor, and offered peace on any conditions, save those which implied the surrender of a large portion of her people into a state of eternal bondage. Prussia, however, would listen to no terms short of this; her arrogance, ferocity, and barbarism grew with her unexpected successes—successes wholly due to the corruption and incompetence of the Government which had been a greater criminal towards France than towards her adversary, and Bismarck determined to reduce a prostrate and defenceless nation to extremities. A besieging army invested the most splendid capital of Europe, in order to rain down fire and iron upon it, or to starve it out, as circumstances might direct, and to set two millions of people “simmering,” to use Bismarck's choice expression, “ in their own gravy."
Driven to such desperate extremities, heroic and chivalrous France arose anew and girded herself for a war of liberation, and the result has been that the Germans have been baffled in a way which now excites their rage and despair. They have not been able to rain down death upon Paris, because the fair city has set them at defiance, and shown an energy of defence which has deceived all the calculations of the German men of battle ; and as little are they likely to subdue it by hunger. The whole of France is arming around them; and the young troops of the country, which some of our journalists are pleased habitually to style “hasty levies,” and whose dispersion has been proclaimed with exultation to the world day after day for nearly three months, show themselves now, in the army of the Loire and in the army of the North, a match for fire-proof Prussian and Bavarian soldiers, accustomed to years of Teutonic drill ; and the result of this heroic resistance by an unarmed nation is, that the German armies are already in a position of great danger, that probably Prussia will have to curse her early victories, which inflamed her arrogance to the height of intolerable ferocity, and Bismarck will have to writhe in all the mortification of a baffled spirit, who would not know mercy, but will have to know humiliation.