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ecclesiastical history, Biblical exegesis, mental and moral science. Among the living are not a few who have devoted their talents and energies to the elucidation of God's Word, to meeting attacks upon it, or setting forth in systematic form the great principles of our faith. Still, the leading characteristic of the ministers of our body is that of activity and direct practical effort-seeking, by their pulpit ministrations, their pastoral labors, and through the press, to reach the hearts of men, and build up an intelligent people in the doctrines of the Gospel
It is a pleasing thought that in deep reverence for God's Word, and in an earnest desire to understand its utterances, our ministers
be said to be of one heart and of one mind. With a great diversity in their mental structure and modes of thought, we know of none who discredit the teachings of revelation, or reject the idea of the supernatural. Yea, we doubt if-an equal body of men, on the whole, can be found in any land, whose theological opinions are so just and comprehensive, whose training has been so thorough, whose views of faith and duty are so decided and complete, and who preach the truth with as much clearness and boldness. By this we do not mean that all are equally fervent and devoted, and that there are no important shades of difference in their theological opinions, this would be to expect impossibilities; but that, as a class, they are thoroughly in earnest, and endeavor to set forth fully and distinctly, as they believe it, the faith once delivered to the saints. Then everywhere they are at work, in Europe, Asia, Africa, North and South America, and in the islands of the sea-preaching a pure Gospel and winning souls to Christ. This ministry has not labored in vain. If their success has
. not been so great in numbers as that of the Methodist Church, yet it may be said, without boasting, that if it has not brought so many to a knowledge of Christ, it has done more for the spiritual elevation and perfection of those in the church; and that is just as important for building up a people for the Lord as the other. The relative growth of the different denominations in this country from 1800 to 1850 is thus set forth by a Methodist writer, Rev. Abel Stevens, LL. D. He says, in his
“Centenary of American Methodism, During this period the ratio of the increase of the ministry of the Protestant Episcopal Church, has been as 6 to 1, of its communicants 6 to 1; of the ministry of the Congregationalists as 4 to 1, of their communicants as 2; to 1; of the ministry of the Regular Baptists as 4 to 1, of their communicants as 53 to 1; of the ministry of the Presbyterians (O. S. and N. S.) as 14 to 1, of their communicants as 8,10 to 1; of the ministry of the Methodist Episcopal Church (North and South) as 193 to 1, of its communicants as 171 to 1.” If, then, in the past the ministry has so greatly increased and they have been enabled to accomplish so much for Christ, how much more, with multiplied means and agencies at their coinmand, should those of to-day attempt to build up his kingdom and achieve great things for him!
4th. The one faith of the whole church must also be considered as a means of strength. This faith, formulated in our noble Confession and Catechisms, draws its life from the Scriptures. The union changes not a letter nor an article of the standards. The creed is intact. No revision of its statements, no lowering of its doctrines, no drifting from old landmarks have been proposed. “The Confession of Faith shall continue to be sincerely received and adopted, as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures,” is the basis which brought the two branches together, and nothing less than this could ever have effected the union.
Others can, then, know our creed. It remains the same. It is not toned down to gratify the wishes of any assailant, nor enlarged to guard against or meet every conceivable error. It sets forth no new opinions, it enters into no new domain of thought or speculation. It stands in the same stately integrity of form as of old, and as it was committed to the separate organizations to believe, guard, and defend, so the United Church is to transmit it unimpaired to others, with its living facts and grand dogmas to mould their character and fit them for Christian work and heavenly glory.
The statements of this faith are definite, and in a terminology sufficiently clear and intelligible for the conveyance of Christian truth to all. These can be scrutinised, thoroughly investigated, and tried by the light of experience and the Word. Whilst making no attack, yet presented in a dogmatic form, and buttressed by the truth, they invite examination, and court the fullest inquiry. This faith is not obsolete. We are not of those who believe that every generation is to work out a new system of theology, and that each age must have its own confession. Ours sets forth the way in which we understand divine revelation. It is not above the Bible, nor independent of the Bible, but is in the Bible.
No faith can be more positive than what is embodied in the Confession. It deals with the grandest verities, with the most transcendant themes, with the richest doctrines, and views them in their correlation to each other and to God. It abounds in infallible truths, and, as a system, it is rational, consistent, divine. It speaks for God to man. It addresses the intellect and the heart, and when its truths are grasped by the soul, and allowed to permeate the life, its transforming power is seen in the massive character which it creates, the strong principles which it nurtures, and the consistent godly life which it sustains.
This faith is not now for the first time promulged. It has been tried. It has been in the fire. It has stood the test. No other religious system has passed through such a fearful ordeal. It has a long list of martyrs and confessors. Thousands and tens of thousands, who spoke different tongues and lived in different lands, and, at various times, have sealed their testimony to its truth with their blood. This faith makes heroes, not your petit-maîtres of sentiment, or your admirers of a loose, flabby, or negative theology, but strong men who feed upon the living word—men of thought and of action, of resolute purpose and unflinching integrity-men who can wield a strong arm for the right, and, when need be, die in its defence-men who have in the past initiated great moral enterprises, who have done much to carry them forward or bring them to a successful issue.
This is the faith of our church. The world disrelishes it, error fears it, infidelity makes its strongest assaults upon it, a liberal Christianity seeks its overthrow. This faith, assailed all through the ages, maligned, caricatured, and denounced as
partial, cruel, dark, vindictive, is ours—ours to preach in its fulness, ours to hold up, to defend, and to propagate-ours to amplify, illustrate, and explain, and ours to clothe with living beauty and spiritual warmth. This faith lives. It has lost none of its power. It is still mighty in pulling down strongholds. Let it be faithfully proclaimed, fully presented, and God will own it, as he has ever done, to arouse the conscience, touch the heart, and draw souls to the cross. It is suited to saint and sinner, to the conversion of the ungodly, and to the edification, growth, and prosperity of the church. It is suited to the present as well as to the past, to all classes and conditions of humanity, and with it the herald of the cross has the fullest liberty to set forth the law in all its strictness, purity, and force, the Gospel in all its divine amplitude and richness, and to build the whole fabric of doctrine and duty, of faith and practice upon Christ, the great corner-stone.
Here, then, are four elements of power for the future, not in themselves, but only as they are vitalized from above. The Holy Ghost must move in them and by them. They receive strength, and efficiency, and might from him. Their power is his. If a love of truth and a love for the God of truth have brought the two branches together, its influence will be seen, for life and love cannot be separated. Their one system of faith must show its divinity by what they are and what they do. No creed, however correct, will save; no ministry, however gifted, can renovate; and no combination of numbers and wealth has any supernatural energy. These are only great in the greatness of the divine strength. This being so, it shows where the church has to look, and what the church has to seek.
If this re-union, as is believed, has been effected by the Holy Spirit, his aid must be specially sought in consolidating the different parts, and in making the one body a grander agency for the accomplishment of his gracious purposes in the earth. This is the first of duties, for it is only under his genial smiles that the church can grow in spiritual beauty, and only under his renewing energy that it can expand. Let it then be understood, and let it animate the body itself, that the noblest offering which it can make to all concerned, is a REVIVED
CHURCH—a church all aglow with his quickening presence and sanctifying power. The evils of past years have not been so much in the division of the body as in supineness, worldly conformity, and indifference to the wants of Zion, and the urgent claims of a dying world. This must be remedied. 'The church's strength has been consumed too much in and by itself. Congregations have sought their own good, and not that of the whole; large churches have frequently nursed their greatness, and allowed feeble enterprises to die under their shadow ; virtual independency has wielded too much influence in cities, and movements for church extension, instead of receiving the encouragement and aid of wealthy and united churches, have started with a sickly existence, or have perished through their neglect. We have seen many wrecks of such. The union should teach the need of association, combination, and mutual help in establishing young enterprises, and in fostering them in their early history. But the defect referred to is seen in other departments. The church has not given its strength to the Lord, nor looked for its power in the number of converts brought to him. In neither body, the past year, was there an average of six persons from the world to each church, and that with all the appliances of the pulpit and the press, the Sabbath-school and home influences. Souls, not territory, must be the cry, and strength in the future must be measured by the multitudes born into the kingdom. Content with a moderate growth, the church has allowed great causes to languish, and to do little more than hold their own; and thus it feebly received because it feebly gave. Now, though visibly larger, it is not really increased. Its numbers and equipments are the same.
If the late incorporation into one does not create more enthusiasm, develop more vigor, inspire more daring, and awaken a greater missionary spirit, then little, if any thing, is gained—nay, there will be a loss. Life and force, warmth and energy are needed; but these will not come by resolutions, but by acts; not by wishes, but by prayers ; not by looking on, but by comprehending the magnitude of the work and the issues involved; not by the union of the Old School and the New School, but by the weakness of both taking hold