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Mabel and Jeanie. A Poem. By Lucinda Ecumenical Councils : what have they done
for the Church? By the Rev. J. G.
IX. Work for Pot, 875
Power of Character. By the Rev. W. M.
Prayer and Providence, 785
NOBLY BORN. By Emma Jane Worboise-
Robinson Crusoe and Missions. By the Rev.
Notes on Linguists, 620
Gates Ajar,” 561
CHRISTIAN WORLD MAGAZINE.
BY REV. J. G. ROGERS, B.A. Though 1870 is not, according to a very common but manifestly erroneous notion, the first year of a new decade, but the last of an old one, yet its commencement affords a fitting opportunity for that brief pause and quiet review so necessary and so useful in the journey of life. We have done with the 'sixties, and may not unnaturally stop to inquire what we have gained from them, what the world has gained from them. We are entering on the 'seventies, and if attempts to cast the horoscope of their future would be unavailing, we may nevertheless find strength and encouragement in listening to those messages of hope which a new era is already whispering to our hearts. We need these resting-places all the more because of the intense anxiety and unresting toil of the age in which we live. We are borne on and on in a whirl of perpetua? excitement that leaves us little time for reflection. Engagements crowd each other so closely that we are able to do little more than chronicle the fulfilment of one, and then hurry to the discharge of another, without being able to inquire as to the tendency of the whole, and the influence which the life we are leading is exerting on our character and happiness. The like rapid succession of events in public life hinders us from appreciating aright the significance and consequences of each. The question of the hour is pressed upon us for a time in many ways, canvassed in speech or article, eagerly discussed in every social circle, debated in Parliament with the passionate excitement that party strife always provokes, settled almost before we have begun to realise its full
proportions and marifold relations, and then thrust out of sight by some new topic that has arisen, and which in its turn will run the same round, absorbing public attention for a season almost to the exclusion of every other, and then consigned almost to oblivion. Thus last year the Irish Church was in everybody's mouth. In public assemblies and private social gatherings, in mansion, in cottage, in the club-room or the village beer-house, at every market, and almost in every railway-carriage, it was the one theme; the press was teeming with pamphlets and letters, the platform was mighty with logical reasoning, vehement denunciation, or eloquent appeal, and even the pulpit was making its voice heard upon a question which all parties agreed to be one of supreme importance. But now it is hardly mentioned except in the speeches of Tories, rejoicing in Fenian excesses, and pointing to them with a malicious satisfaction as proof that the policy of conciliation has failed, and that their prophecies have proved true,-prophecies, which, by the way, no one would ever have cared to contradict, since not the most sanguine Liberal was weak enough to imagine that a few months and a single act of justice would suffice to change the heart of a people, and to remove the effects produced by centuries of wrong-doing. These ill-timed gratulations, however, are about the only reminiscences of a conflict which twelve months ago was stirring all English society to its depths. The past struggle is thrust out of sight by the preparations for another. This is not an age in which a time of vigorous action is to be succeeded by one of rest. The settlement of one controversy only clears the way for the introduction of another, and there is thus little if any interval to take that calm and dispassionate survey of the general characteristics of our national life and progress which is essential to the formation of intelligent views. As the consequence, our judgment is apt to be unduly affected by the circumstances of the hour, and to arrive at conclusions which are extremely superficial. It is well that we should correct the errors into which we are thus apt to fall by that wider observation and that more thoughtful reflection for which the opening of a new year, and especially of a new cycle of years, affords the occasion.
The last months of 1869 have been gloomy enough. With trade depressed and languishing in almost every department, the columns of the Gazette crowded with lists' of bankrupts, numbers out of employment, and pauperism steadily on the increase ; with some of our working classes disposed to listen to the talk of mere charlatans or political adventurers, who would fain ride to power on a whirlwind of popular discontent; with Ireland scorning the olive branch held out to her, and replying to our message of peace by hostile demonstrations and impossible demands, agrarian murders, and the election of a convicted traitor as one of her representatives; with France calling out for a repudiation of the treaty which was thought to be a masterpiece of political wisdom, and not only a cementing bond between the two nations, but a source of real profit to both ; with Rome summoning all her forces to engage in a new crusade against the rights of conscience and the progress of humanity; with political unsettlement and discontent in Italy, Spain, and France, there is a good deal that looks sufficiently dark and discouraging. We can quite understand how some one, especially if he belongs to the class who rarely think for themselves and pick up the few ideas they have from some favourite newspaper, or perhaps from the gossip of railway carriages, may take a very despondent view and talk in a very lugubrious style. “Ah, this is all that comes of your boasted progress. You have been telling us long enough of the benefits to be secured by the adoption of what you call Liberal principles, and here is the result. More poverty, more wretchedness, more crime than ever. Your free trade is a dead failure, and even those who once believed it have now been compelled to confess it. It has thrown our trade into the hands of our rivals, paralysed the enterprise of our capitalists, impoverished our artizans, and now the palmy days of our prosperity are fled, never to return; and poor old England, which has come out triumphant from the attacks of her foes, is now sinking as the result of the mistakes and follies of her own children." This is the sort of notion that is popular among one class of talkers, who take advantage of the depressing incidents of the hour, and looking wistfully back to the “good old times,” whose difficulties and trials are kept wholly out of sight, fill the air with their lamentations over the prosperity that has departed, their predictions of the evils to come, and their condemnations of the spirit of progress by which the change has been brought about. A capital illustration of this style of talk of these pessimists is found in a recent speech of Mr. Charley, who, as he has not succeeded in preserving the Irish Church or in impeaching Mr. Gladstone, is now engaged in a still more Quixotic attempt to overthrow free trade. Compelled to admit the cheapness of bread, he sought to neutralise the force of his admission by telling the people that dear bread, with plenty of money to buy it was better than cheap bread and little money to buy it. He forgot altogether to tell them that, under the system which he is so anxious to revive, trade was most depressed and money most scarce at the very time when the bread was dearest. It would not of course have suited his argument to remind his hearers of this, and many of them, with perhaps the speaker himself, were carried away with a statement that seemed to be very reasonable, so long as they simply looked at the present and did not concern themselves with that retrospect which would at once have exposed the fallacy that lurks in it, and taught them that at the worst the choice was between cheap bread with little money, and dear bread with less money.
If a man of this spirit is a religious man, he will find just as ample ground for mournful utterances. “Look," he will say, " at the growing laxity of religious men in respect to truth, the strange dallying with various forms of error, the abandonment of positions which were once held to be vital to the Christian faith, the daring assaults of science, and the feebleness with which they are encountered, the bold and defiant attitude of the enemies of the Gospel, and the hesitating and paltering style in which their vaunting challenges are met. Talk of liberty! Liberty has run to seed and degenerated into the wildest licence. It is this foolish talk about liberty which is hurrying us on to the cold and dreary negations of Rationalism, and it is under the shadow of its name that Romanism is stealthily, but rapidly and surely, extending its power. A Colenso, a Voysey, a Mackonochie, these are the creations of liberty, and if we are to go on at the present rate there will soon be little truth left for this liberty to assail. There is enough and too much said about the intelligence, and progress, and science of the age; but all that we find is a steady current setting in against all that we have been wont to hold in deepest reverence and to guard with most jealous care.”
In reply to those who indulge in these lugubrious utterances we would say, “Go to a loftier height, and take a broader survey, away out of the mists and clouds that are round about you in these low valleys, and get you up into the mountain to breathe a purer atmosphere, and take a wider range of vision. The path along which we have been advancing during the past ten years, if looked at carefully, may show you enough to rebuke your cowardly unbelief, and to restore your faith in truth, in righteousness, and in God. Neither the world nor your own country has been going back during a period which has been as fertile in events, as marked by true progress, as full of encouragement to those who are labouring for the elevation of their race as any similar period in history. We question, indeed, whether it is possible to point to any previous ten years in which so much true work has been done, so many abuses swept away, so much ground recovered from the kingdom of darkness. It is perfectly true that, so far as commercial and material interests are conc
ncerned, the last four years have presented a very different aspect from that of their predecessors, but this severe and protracted check to prosperity is only for a time, and is certainly to be traced to causes which do not at all affect the soundness of those principles for which the en