« ElőzőTovább »
church. In particular, at a bicentenary meeting of the Westminster Assembly, held in Edinburgh in July, 1843, a speech by Dr. Balmer, minister of the United Presbyterian Church, Berwick, fell on the receptive spirit of John Henderson of Park, a wealthy and benevolent Eastern merchant, residing in the neighborhood of Glasgow, and thenceforth his purse and a large portion of his time were devoted to the promotion of union among evangelical Christians. A conference, called by the most eminent non-conformist ministers of Scotland, headed by Dr. Chalmers, was held in Liverpool on October 1, 1845, when, in order to remove misapprehensions, and explain clearly the object aimed at, the following resolutions were passed : “That in the prosecution of the present attempt, the Conference are clearly and unanimously of opinion that no compromise of their own views, or sanction of those of others, on the points on which they differ, ought to be either required or expected on the part of any who concur in it: but that all should be held as free as before to maintain and advocate their creeds with all due forbearance and brotherly love." “Further, that any union or alliance to be formed should be understood to be an alliance of individual Christians, and not of denominations or branches of the Church.” It was declared to be “the design of this Alliance to exhibit, as far as practicable, the essential unity of the Church of Christ; and at the same time to cherish and manifest, in its various branches, the spirit of brotherly love." These declarations gained the confidence of all who were breathing for union. It had then to be decided who were to be invited to join in this movement, and the Conference drew out a few simple propo sitions embodying what are usually understood as evangelical views, adding in explanation, “It being, however, distinctly declared, that this brief summary is not to be regarded in any formal or ecclesiastical sense as a creed or confession, nor the adoption of it as involving an assumption of the right authoritatively to define the limits of Christian brotherhood, but simply as an indication of the class of persons whom it is desirable to embrace within the Alliance.” An understanding having thus been come to, the Evangelical Alliance was forınally constituted in a meeting held in London on August 19, 1846. YOL, XLII. —NO, III,
The Society has now been in existence for twenty-four years, and during that time it has effected a large amount of good. It may not have fulfilled the expectations entertained by the good men who instituted it, and who in the delight which they experienced in fellowship one with another, and as those who had been ficrcely contending came forward to express their affection for each other, spoke as if the millennium had actually dawned. Still it has succeeded in accomplishing various important works. It has been more effective than any other agency in keeping before the Protestant Church a grand truth, which it has often been tempted to overlook in its denominational zeal,—that of the unity of the church. It has not stopped discussion,—there must still be much discussion before the truth can be ascertained,-but it has certainly lessened the acrimony by which theological controversy has so often been characterized. It has not perhaps been visibly a great power, at least in the view of the world. But invisibly and inaudibly it has exercised not a little influence for good ; and in our world the unseen and silent forces are after all the most efficacious,--the light which comes so pleasantly from the sun produces greater effects than the lightning with its thunders -the gently flowing stream has in its course more influence than the rushing waterfall. Supposing the Church of Christ to be represented by “the wheel in the midst of a wheel,” we believe the Evangelical Alliance has, by its prayers and the spirit which it has diffused, yielded an oil which has helped to keep the wheels from creaking, and made the machine move with more ease and greater velocity. If it has not produced universal love, it has at least softened asperities. It has quietly created a public sentiment and given expression to that sentiment. If it has not accomplished union, it has made Christians long for union, and prepared the way for coming unions.
It can claim also to have promoted important practical work. It has united the people of God, of all sections and nationalities, in prayer more thoroughly than ever they have been before. It is through its influence that the “Week of Prayer" has been observed so uniformly all over Christendom; at almost every place where there is a Branch of the Alliance there have been meetings to pray for the children of Christian parents, and for the promotion of great public measures in which all Christians are agreed. It has exerted its influence to combine Christians in great religious efforts, as in opposing rationalism and infidelity on the one hand, and popery and ritualism on the other. It has been particularly active in sheltering the persecuted for conscience' sake all over the world and to gain this end it has used its influence with the British, and with other governments. The Madiai in Florence, Matamoros, Alhama, Trigo and their fellow-Protestants in Spain, the missionaries and Turkish converts in Constantinople and other parts of the East, the Baptists in Germany, and many others, have been protected from severe persecutions by the influence which it has exerted. We have heard American missionaries from Turkey declare that they owe more to the Evangelical Alliance in protecting them from eminent danger than to all other instruments whatever.
The Evangelical Alliance has branches in nearly every country in which there are Christians. But by far the most important organization has hitherto been the British—we hope the American is henceforth to rival it. Down to this year, the history of the Evangelical Alliance is the history of the British Branch. For many years the ruling spirit in it was Sir Culling Eardley, a country gentleman of high status, nominally attached to the Episcopal Church, but in fact a member of the church universal. . Since his decease there has been a felt want of one commanding mind to give life to the institution. It has had to meet, if not with opposition, yet with coldness, lukewarmness, and contempt. It never expected to meet with any favor from High Churchmen, or from Ritualists, or from Rationalists, or from Broad Churchmen (seeking to make the doctrines as few and undistinctive as possible), for it always opposed these parties; but it has met with no support from many persons who might have been expected to stand by it. Church leaders have been afraid heartily to identify themselves with it lest they should thereby lose their influence with their denomination; and hence the management of it has in many places devolved on weaklings, who have had no name or power in their locality. Ministers of the established churches of England and Scotland have de
clined to join it, as in doing so they might seem to be making all churches alike, and bringing down their own favored church to the level of the dissenting churches. In Scotland, especially of late years since the death of Mr. Henderson of Park, the Alliance has called forth little zeal and enthusiasm, which have all been expended instead in defending denominationalism, and at the best in promoting denominational unions. We believe that Scotland has been a loser thereby, and the grand barrier to the union of the Presbyterian churches in Scotland is to be traced to the non-recognition of the unity of the Church of Christ. Then in England many Episcopalians, even of the evangelical type, have stood afar off, lest they should lose the prestige their church derives from their supposed apostolic succession. Yet in spite of all this callousness and indifference the Evangelical Alliance has kept its place in Great Britain and Ireland, and if rightly guided will come to have a more extended influence in these times, when state endowments are being broken up and all churches are put by the government on the same footing.
The Alliance has had five General or Ecumenical Conferences : in London in 1851; in Paris in 1855; in Berlin in 1857; in Geneva in 1861, and in Amsterdam in 1867. All of these, and especially the three last have been eminently successful, and have left a blessed influence behind them, more particularly in the way of strengthening the struggling Protestant evangelical churches situated in the midst of Romanism and infidelity. Take the conference held three years ago at Amsterdam. The Alliance went to that city at the earnest request of a few devoted Evangelical Christians who felt themselves powerless to resist the tide of rationalism in the state church. In that church there are about 1500 or 1600 ministers, and of these we could not hear when present at the conference, of more thau 300 or 400 who preach the doctrines of the cross ; a far larger number are avowed rationalists, and a considerable proportion of these are naturalists or humanists, who do not believe that a miracle has ever been performed ; and the rest utter no certain sound of any kind. A merchant in the city, bred in Scotland, but now living in Amsterdam, said to the writer of this article, “This is a very difficult place in
which to bring up a family. My daughter not long ago was not able to go to the Scotch church as the day was wet, and she went to the nearest parish church, and returned from it in deep anxiety, crying out, 'What am I to believe, the minister told us to-day that Jesus never rose from the dead."" It was into this city that the Alliance went in August, 1867. It sat for ten days, and discussed the profoundest topics on which the mind of man can meditate,—theological, missionary, moral, and social. The truth was defended, and errors exposed by the most erudite scholars and profoundest thinkers of Germany, France, Holland, and Great Britain ; and plans for extending the Gospel and removing the evils that abound in our world were unfolded with great eloquence and power by some of the greatest philanthropists now living. The result was most beneficent. A twelvemonth after we met in London an excellent minister, perfectly competent to report the effect, and he assured us that more good had been done to Evangelical religion in those ten days by the Evangelical Alliance than by all other agencies during his twenty years' residence in that city.
At the meeting in Amsterdam, a requisition was handed in, through Dr. Prime, from the American Branch, praying that the next General Conference should be held in the city of New York; when it was moved by the Rev. Dr. Steane, the active Honorary Secretary of the Society, and seconded by the Rev. Dr. McCosh, a member of the Council of the Alliance, that this prayer should be granted. This leads us to speak for a little of the history of the Alliance in America. At the first Conferences in Liverpool and in London, American Christians felt as deep an interest and took as active a part as British Christians in the forination of the Society. But the unhappy question which so long distracted the churches in America, cast up in the Alliance, and American Christians feeling their situation unpleasant, withdrew from the association. It was not till the year 1866, that is till after slavery was abolished in the providence of God, that an understanding could be brought about and a harmony effected between the American and European churches. It was one of the highest privileges which the writer of this article has enjoyed