The New Zealand Evangelist
Religious Intelligence. — England.—Evangelical Alliance
As this Magazine is to be conducted on the principles of the Evangelical Alliance, and indeed owes its existence to the formation of a branch of that Association in this place, and as the history and character of that great modern movement among the churches of Christ can be but imperfectly known by the bulk of our readers, we shall be justified in giving more prominence to its proceedings than we should otherwise have done. To give a clear and correct view of the nature and object of this Alliance we shall commence at its origin and briefly detail its progress.
The source of this movement is found in the precepts and promises of the word of God; peace and unity are every where enjoined upon the followers of Christ, and promised to them as a special privilege. Increased importance has of late years been attached to these precepts and promises from the aspect of the times; the dangers threatening the church from Popery, Puseyism, and Infidelity. The principle of toleration has been all but universally admitted; mutual co-operation in works of benevolence and piety have been extensive; the intercourse of all denominations with each other has been greatly on the increase; and mis-representations and misconceptions have in this way been corrected to a great extent. In these circumstances the conviction was daily deepened that a substantial unity existed, and the desire became daily stronger, that it should in some proper way be publicly manifested. Various efforts to accomplish this end were made in Britain, America, and the Continent of Europe, with more or less of partial success. The result of these efforts emboldened the friends of peace and unity to attempt something more extensive. After much conference, -correspondence, and prayer, it was laid upon the page 15 friends of union in Scotland to take the initiative in a more general movement. A Memorial, signed by representatives of seven different denominations in Scotland, was sent to leading men of all evangelical denominations in Britain and Ireland, inviting them to a preliminary meeting in Liverpool. This meeting was held in October 1845. There were present about 220 Ministers and leading men belonging to about twenty different religious bodies. The conference sat for three days; and although its proceedings have long been before the public, yet as the statements read and the speeches delivered were by the leading men of all the Evangelical denominations in Britain and Ireland; as these give a clear view and a distinct declaration of the principles held and the objects contemplated by the projectors of the Alliance, we feel anxious to present their sentiments and feelings in their own words.
At the first session of the conference a statement in relation to Christian Union was read by the Scottish Delegates, from which we subjoin the following extracts:—
The duty of union is binding on the Christian Church in all periods of its history. But every age has its characteristic and more pressing obligations, and our own day seems to demand very specially the union of Christians. Indeed, the call to unite has proceeded from many quarters—from America, from the Continent, and from Britain; and all these appeals agree in attesting the felt necessity that prompts them. To what shall we trace then, this unwonted and growing demand from the strongholds of truth for confederation among its friends? First,—To the prevalence of Popery. Towards the members of that communion, we are bound to manifest a kind and benevolent spirit. But the more we cherish goodwill to the worshippers, the more we should lament their errors, and the more earnestly desire their conversion to better views. If Popery were improving, the issue would be less calamitous. But its rites have lost nothing of their grossness, and its doctrines nothing of their heresy. It is gaining, not losing ground. Such localities as seemed the safest are yielding to its assaults. Strasburgh, a town once about as Protestant as Glasgow or Liverpool, is now more than half Papal. In Geneva the Roman Catholic citizens, whether by immigration or conversion, threaten to become a majority; and being invested with political rights, may soon establish their religion in the metropolis of Calvinism.
Our letter of invitation makes mention of Puseyism in Alliance with Popery. We honor the godly in the Church of England, and page 16 we look within its pale for most effective champions against the errors in question. But if we forbore to condemn certain forms of Papal error because they have crept into one more than into another of our communions, there is reason to fear we would be charged with time-serving and partiality, and would be reminded of the proverb “physician heal thy self.” Secondly,—There is a call for union at present against the inroads of Infidelity. A gross and vengeful Atheism is industriously propagated among the working classes. Thirdly,—The condition of the heathen world calls for united exertion in extending the Gospel. Fourthly,—The loudest calls for union arises from the condition of Protestant Churches themselves. In too many instances their doctrine is corrupted, their discipline relaxed, and the flame of a once fervent piety well night extinguished. These then are reasons for uniting. But who are to unite? and what desirable objects can they concur in accomplishing? Those who hold the cardinal truths of Christianity may unite for such purposes as the following. First, to procure and diffuse information respecting the state of religion in different countries. Secondly, to strengthen the hands of good men who, in adverse positions, are labouring to advance the cause of God, and are seeking the attainment of the end, by the use of means of which all Evangelical Christians must approve. And Thirdly, the enlightening of the public mind, by lectures and publications, as to the truth and importance of those facts which give occasion to our union, and the solemn obligation devolving on all Churches to seek their own growth in grace, and to withstand, though it should be by great efforts and sacrifices, a legalized diffusion of deadly error.
We give the following short extracts from a few of the speeches delivered at the conference.
The Rev. Dr. Young, of Perth, said—Sir, I think that if we were to define the object of our Meeting, and then keep it before us, it would facilitate our movements. The object is a simple one. First of all, it must be kept in mind that, apart from the essential union which exists among the godly, we do not look for union beyond a particular point. We have no idea of interfering with denominational peculiarities. But it so happens, that a vital and essential union positively exists among all God's real children. There is an agreement on certain great principles which unite their hearts. And if we can just gather these up, and thus embody a union which, in matter of fact, already exists, the great difficulty is over—so far as a basis is concerned.
Rev. Dr. Vaughan, of Liverpool, said,—Sir, it is no time for us to allow trifles to keep us asunder, to prevent us from acting in concord in relation to the great interests we love. What is the face of Christendom? Look at Romanism. We have heard much of its progress. But my idea is, that the great danger is rather from that subtle scepticism, that religious philosophizing, which has taken possession, to so large an extent, of the cultivated mind of Europe. In Germany, the great mass of educated mind is going off in that direction; and even the recent revolt against superstition, we have page 17 reason to fear, is very little the result of truly religious principles It will, we fear, be little more than the putting forth of a mere Theism, or rather a Pantheism, decked out in all the trappings of imaginative literature, and carrying the public mind into a channel hardly less pernicious to man's highest interests than that which it has left. We have more to fear from this calm, polite, philosophical temper, which affects to be shocked at not being thought Christian, when it is mining at the root of everything Christian, than from that mocking Infidelity which it has superseded. Yes, Sir, and in this country, this specious form of Infidelity is making its way. It is everywhere drifting away the mind of the educated classes from religious truth. We must look at two things. If we fail, it were better we had never met. And if we organize and pledge ourselves in the sight of the proud and sceptical generation with which we have to deal, then buckle on your armour; for, be sure of it, as you exhibit the form of a phalanx, the enemy will become more active than ever. We are not committing ourselves to a holiday exercise. My fathers and brethren must have looked at the thing in another light. Our success will commit us to a course, in which we shall need all the help we are encouraged to ask from above, that we may address ourselves wisely and effectually to our work.
Sir, I cannot conclude without adverting to the state of France. It is in a condition nearly as bad as that of Germany. We should be sorry to see the Jesuits in possession of the machinery of education in France; but at present it is not in much better hands. Who of us, possessing any knowledge of the men that have the colleges of France and the education of that country under their control, can doubt this? Such men as Michelet—men who speak of Moses as “a splendid robber” who plundered Egypt of everything worth possessing,—their books teeming with a thinly-disguised Infidelity. Thus, that vast kingdom has before it the alternative of passing into the hands of Jesuits, or being under the control of such men! These are no times for planting vineyards, and living at ease, they are times for mental labor; and I do entreat of our common Father that He may give us the wisdom and firmness of heart that we need. I wish it for the sake of our common Christianity.
The Rev. James Hamilton,of London, said—Sir, conscientiousness (which is an essential of christianity.) is only a complete blessing, when it goes along with comprehensiveness of vision. There are minute matters in the word of God, and it is important to advert to them, but it is a misfortune to have only a microscopic eye to discover these. There are very different powers of vision possesed by different works of the Creator. The emmet has amazing powers of vision in his own way. He is familar, every moment, with what would be a revelation to our minute philosophers. He sees how the grass grows; he sees particle after particle adding to the plant he is climbing; and he knows the arcana of nature far better than the microscope can reveal them to the keenest eye of our species. But, while his advantage is such, who would exchange the eye of the eagle—soaring towards mid-heaven, looking at the noon-day sun with an eye that does not blink, and taking in the glorious panorama under it,—page 18for the emmet's eye on his ant-hill? Now, we ought to get this comprehensiveness of view, which Paul had in highest perfection. Let us seek, as a principal gift, this enlargement of vision. But we must also seek intensity of affection. We must pray for that other gift, charity—warmth of affection towards the brethren—that prompt instinct, which leaped up with love, whenever the apostle recognised the image of his blessed Master in the face and character of a brother. Now, if we could only get these two things, largeness of vision, and intensity of affection, as they were combined in the apostle, we should all be in a fair way for an effectual union. Sir, there was a sentiment uttered last night, to which I would for a moment refer. There are here jus divinum Congregationalists, Episcopalian's, and Presbyterians; but I hold that we are all jus divinum unionists. I believe there is as much authority, and as much urgency, in the command to contend earnestly for Christian love, as to contend for our denominational peculiarities. There is as much command to contend earnestly for the cause of Christian union, as for any peculiar tenet in our peculiar creeds. Now, it is with these views I think, that, if we only had a more exalted personal piety, we should be in a fair way to a more enlarged and lasting scheme of Christian co-operation. I believe, we all feel with Dr. Vaughan, that no Church has ever lived in more arduous times than we do. Never in England's history, nor in European history, nor the world's, was a greater work given for Christendom to do. And hence, I cannot but also feel saddened by the thought, that there are passing away from the midst of us—passing away while we dispute about trivial matters—the spirits best qualified to do this work. In this room, perhaps, half the effective mind of British Christianity is represented,—the half of those who are influential through the pulpit, or the press, may be considered as assembled in this remarkable room. But of these men of might,—those who command the public mind,—of these effective men how many are there venerable, grey-headed, who have passed their hard-working prime! And are their equivalents coming on? Are we sure, that ten or twenty years hereafter will witness men as effective as these have been in their generation, and by the blessing of God, still are? Before such venerated fathers pass from us, and the remainder of their strength is weakened in the way, let us improve the present season, as one of peculiar exigency in our Redeemer's cause. Let us agree, not to give up anything, but to go forth and do something.
The Hon. and Rev. Baptist W. Noel.—Sir, I address this Conference full of hope as to the result of our deliberations. I trust that the union we contemplate will be a thorough union—an exceedingly complete one—one activating us constantly—a permanent union. It is not to be a holiday union —not a platform-union, but such a union as our Lord contemplated, when He said, “That they all may be one”—such a union as shall dazzle the world, and disconcert those who predicted that we could not unite. I think, the basis we have heard stated to-day, and in a previous speech, sufficiently indicates how we may proceed. This must be a Union of believers—followers of Christ; else it will be fraught page 19 with danger and disappointment. If it be a union of the living and the dead—of believers and unbelievers—of those who love and those who love Him not—there will be seeds of disunion sown which will constantly spring up. Now, if it is a union of believers, then it must be a union founded on a common faith: and, on this point, I agree that it cannot be a union of Churches; inasmuch as we do not sympathize with each other's systems; but, still more, because Churches, as they are now constituted, do not even in the judgment of charity, consist purely of living beliévers. We do not want to unite the cold and the warm—the enlightened and the bigoted—those who love Christ and those who love Him not. It must be a union of wise men; kind men; warm-hearted men—throughout the world. We must, therefore, have a common faith. It seems to me, that we should have an Institution formed which we may term a Christian Institute, or Alliance, or call by some such simple name as may bring out the fact, that we are united believers in Christ. It is important to keep out the unworthy. If we do not, we shall have disappointments without number. If we admit men of bitter spirits, men of false views, men of crotchety, imaginative, impracticable minds, men who cannot act together, but who will desert the cause (and one deserter is worse than a thousand that refuse to join us)—they will give occasion to the world to say, that the best men, the choicest men of the Church of Christ, cannot unite. “See,” they will say, “how they are scattered to the winds! It is important, then, to keep out the narrow-minded, the unenlightened, the bigoted, the microscopic, the “emmet”-minds; and to have the eagle minds, the living minds, the minds which cannot indulge in differences, because these are swept away before a torrent of light and love. We are the head of the civilized world, and if we stand true, other Protestants will be ashamed not to join us. But, if we fail, our fall will be a signal to Europe; and the infidel principle of the equality of all religious systems will be recognised throughout the world. And now, I would earnestly beseech those venerable brethren, on whose heads “age has set its snows,” to consecrate their energies to this work. I would call on Mr. Bickersteth, Drs. Newton, Wardlaw, Leifchild, and Mr James, to consecrate their strength to it, and make it a triumphant union. I hope, they will not give a mere adherence to it, but lead on Christ's armies triumphantly, and overbear all the opposition of the cold-hearted, the timid, the bigoted, the narrow-minded, and the exclusive. And I ask Mr. Hamilton, and Dr. King, and Dr. Candlish, and others, to give all the energies of their manhood to this work; believing that, under such exertions, there is a prospect before the Church, which will make admiring angels bow down, and bless God, that they have seen what other ages have not seen. Already there is a scene here not paralleled in history;—already, to see that so many of us can meet together, and frankly express our opinions, is that in which the Church may delight: and it is but the beginning of something, depend upon it, something far greater, such as will secure, eventually, fruits in which, perhaps, the universal world will rejoice, when the Great Redeemer is crowned, and this world bows to His sceptre.page 20
Sir Culling E. Smith said—He liked the expression, that there had been found a desire for Union. He was connected with a colony, South Australia, in which mining operations had just commenced on a large scale, and much valuable ore had been brought to light. Every body, however, knew that the precious metal had been there ever since chaotic times. It had only been found now. So with regard to the love of the brethren. It exists in every converted heart. Its existence in the Church dates from the Church's foundation. But events, thank God, were bringing it up to the surface. And here he saw before him a great Christian mining company, who were determined to excavate and exhibit that precious ore of primeval charity. Affection, however, without principle would be inadequate to the occasion. A disposition to unite, without a basis of faith, would not accomplish the end. They had found such a basis. It had united them; it did unite them. And what united them was sufficient to unite their brethren throughout the world. The present times, I feel, and would have the Conference to feel, are momentous times. If I see a simultaneousness of events connected with any other subject besides religion, I am obliged to refer it to the great ruling providence of God; but especially so in religion. When I see every country coming into a state of solution —Germany, from one end to another, presenting the aspect of parties breaking up, and the Popery of the Romish Communion ceasing to satisfy intelligent minds in that country; nay, the same being true of the cold Rationalism, which has long prevailed there, so that even Strauss himself is said to shrink from the abyss into which his principles are leading him;—when I look to Vienna, and know that 3,000 persons attempted to meet there on religious questions, and had to be dispersed by an armed force;—when I know that the Rabbis met at Frankfort, but a few months ago, saying,'” Our system is going to pieces, let us try and make a new one;—when I look to Syria, and see society in a state of liquefaction, so that around Jerusalem there is no government but that of an Arab; and every one almost watching for some event in the West or the East, to give it a new character;—when I look to France, and think of the hundreds of congregations which have left the Romish Church, and are seeking for instructors;—and, when I look at home to the turmoils and changes and movements in Society, to the state of things in Ireland, and the agitations in the Romish Church, (Who can tell but we may have a Ronge, or a Czersky there?):—when I look at the religious phenomena which all the countries of Europe at this moment present, and think of the words of a distinguished Italian, now dead,—“There are three lives,” said he, “in Europe those of Louis-Philip, Metternich, and the Pope. If these men die within twelve months, all Europe will be in convulsion:”—when the was is melting, and is preparing to receive a new impress, and, amidst all this, I cannot but feel that you hold in your hands the seal, bearing the device of the olive-branch, which God intends that you should stamp upon it; I cannot but look forward with joy to the prospect which this movement opens up before us.
Rev. Dr. Massie, of Manchester said, I particularly admire the page 21 term Evangelical Alliance. It is possible to be confederated as Protestants in name but not in love. The most severe antagonism may be maintained to the system of the Papacy; the most strenuous-adherence to what are reckoned Protestant tenets, and the most earnest advocacy of Protestantism as a system, may be cultivated, where the elements of Christian union do not exist, and where the fellowship of the saints cannot be enjoyed. But Evangelical union requires the presence of Christian love; and Evangelical principles cannot subsist without producing the development of Christian love, and inspiring a desire for the union of the brethren, that they all may be one in Christ. An Evangelical Alliance, then, is what I hail with the most cordial welcome, as the harbinger of brighter days to the Church, and the precursor of a more triumphant diffusion of Scripture truth in the world.
The Rev Dr. Alder, of London remarked,—They had met there, at an important period in the history of the world, to avow their adherence to, and their union in that great visible center of unity recognised as such by all sound Protestants, the truth of God as contained in the Holy Scriptures. Our union, therefore, is not sectarian, because it is founded upon the truth as it in Jesus; nor is it of a latitudinarian character, because it is limited in its range by the truth upon which it is based. The Rev. Dr then enlarged upon the importance of two of the great principles which the Meeting had substantially affirmed, viz: the superiority of Christian truth over the modes and forms under which it is embodied; and the supremacy of the Gospel, not merely as a revelation, discovering to man the wisdom of God, but as a medium of operation—as being the power of God into salvation to every one that believeth; art instrument which the Church should employ in her aggressive movement against religious error, at all times and in all places. He further remarked, that, during the sittings of the Conference, he had frequently been reminded of an anecdote connected with the personal history of the venerable Wesley, who having received from a Correspondent in Dublin, a communication which related to the peculiar state of the Wesleyan Society in that City, concluding with the enquiry, “Where, Sir, is all this to end?” replied, in his characteristic style, to his desponding friend, in the following terms, “Dear Brother, you ask me where is all this to end? Why, in ‘Glory to God in the highest,’ to be sure, ‘and on earth peace, good-will towards men.'”
Rev. Dr. King, of Glasgow, said—As to the Scottish Statement, the preparation of it was a small affair, and I am ashamed that it should be so formally acknowledged. Besides, it is indebted for decided improvements to the suggestions of others. But the document possesses interest quite independent of its own merits. It shows how much we were agreed in Scotland before enjoying the benefit of this Pentecostal effusion; and indeed we there present a declaration at doctrinal views, more full and decided than it has been thought wise to venture on in our collective assembly. The paper is an evidence, not only of doctrinal agreement, but of mutual friendliness. All our Meetings were characterized by delightful page 22 harmony; and as respects those of us who approve of the same form of government, I could not help frequently asking myself, Why are we not one denomination? All of us from Scotland were so pleased with the concord we had attained there, that if our visit to England had failed of its object, I declare we would have so far broken the integrity of the empire as to set up, not a separate kingdom, but an independent confederacy; and, after fortifying our arguments by example, we would have come back to you repeating our invitation. But we have not failed; we have signally succeeded; out success has surpassed our highest anticipation. And while that success is most cheering in itself, and cause of profound thankfulness to God, it teaches us emphatically the lesson never to despair or even doubt of a good cause.
“So passed off the Liverpool Conference, a Convention that will be noted in Ecclesiastical History. Its sessions occupied three days; all its resolutions were unanimous; and so completely was the interest sustained to the end, that numbers still occupied their seats, as if reluctant to quit them when the business was concluded.”
The bearing which that Meeting is likely to have upon the future movements of the Church, as well as its own intrinsic importance, will sufficiently apologize for the space we have allotted to its proceedings. In future numbers we expect to detail the subsequent history of the Alliance.