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had entirely ceased. Ten years ago it seemed to threaten the destruction of the church of England: we have been saved, under God, by the vigour with which the mischief was confronted. The peril is no longer imminent; but our safety still lies in watchfulness and caution. The storm is over, but the swell continues.
The truth is, that human nature, when first craving for religion, naturally seeks for something to gratify the senses, to feed the imagination, and as little as possible to disturb the conscience. A sumptuous form, an incessant round of services, above all, the transfer of responsibility from the worshipper to the officiating priest, satisfy, for a time at least, the clamours of the unquiet soul. It is not until the experiment has been tried that the emptiness of the imposture is discovered. Then, indeed, the alarmed conscience discovers that it has been wandering through dry places, seeking rest and finding none, and that at every step it is still further from its God.
This is the crisis. If the voice of the Spirit of God is heard, the “ deceived heart," which has been thus “turned aside," returns humbled and penitent, and thankfully accepts the cross of Christ. If not, it now enters upon another stage; revolting from superstition, it plunges into unbelief.
We have arrived at this second stage of spiritual delusion, and it does not take us unprepared. The wiser men of all parties foresaw it long ago. One of the early friends of Sterling said, in our hearing, some five-and-twenty years ago, when scarcely a score of the Oxford tracts had appeared, “I have been telling -"mentioning a leader of the ultra-church party, “that they are all on a wrong tack; they are enforcing the minor of their syllogism, the day is not far off when they will have to prove the major.” He saw clearly that while they were blindly urging the form of worship, the question of the reality of all religion, and even the existence of a God, was being, in fact, disturbed, and must be determined anew; and these times have come at last.
As we have said, they do not take us by surprise; nor, in the proper sense, do they need to be confronted with new weapons. The armoury of Scripture contains all that we require, perhaps all that it is desirable or even safe to use. Yet, so to speak, a new kind of fence may be necessary. As there is a manifold wisdom of God, so there is an apparent novelty in the forms of error, fresh combinations of delusion. The old materials, but worked up into a fabric which has the appearance of novelty, and which challenges defiance to the old assailants against whom it professes to have rendered itself impregnable. We do not apprehend any serious difficulty in coping with this new form of infidelity. It is amazingly superficial, or we are singularly blind. What we dread is this, that Christianity, being reduced by the new theology to a mere scheme of generous philanthropy, will very soon be thrown aside entirely. To whatever degree Tractarianism succeeds, a relapse to Popery is the inevitable consequence; in whatever degree the new theology succeeds, infidelity will be the inevitable result. Its religion sits too easily. It slides off, upon the first temptation, from the naked, emaciated form which it encumbers in the sun, and to which it affords no warmth or shelter in the storm. But the evil has not yet reached its height. It may be expected, as well from the position of its leaders, as from their popularity and success hitherto, to spread widely for a time. It affords to the daring speculative youth of England precisely what Tractarianism afforded to the refined and sentimental,--a cause, leaders, and the prospect of renown. It is more flattering to intellectual pride; and intellectual pride is a far more common failing than the ambition which satisfies itself with exercising priestly rule, at the cost, in its turn, of a servile acquiescence in authority.
The relations of the church of England and dissenters are undergoing a great though silent and unnoticed change. On the side of the church, there is not the same dread of dissent; on the side of dissenters, there is not the same hostility to the church of England. We believe that no talent or popularity in any dissenting leader could now unite the vigorous and intelligent body of the younger nonconformists who are beginning to occupy their foremost ranks, in any formidable assault upon the liturgy or the constitution of the established church. All this has passed away, and will probably never be revived. The question will soon be, Whether the church of England herself shall not be re-established on a basis which shall embrace dissent of every kind ? If the interpretation put upon our creeds and articles by the new theologians is allowed, what shall prevent the Congregationalist, the Baptist, or any other nonconformist, from affixing his interpretation ? The theory is already popular, that the church belongs to the nation, not the nation to the church ; and the intellects which, thirty years ago, would have been employed in assaulting the state church, are now attempting to solve another problem, namely, how to render the church more submissively a creature of the state.
Against such dangers from all sides, it will be our duty to contend; and we hope to do so without clamour and evil speaking, though with no hesitating utterance.
But we should be sorry to convey the impression that the Christian Observer will become, more than it has always been, a controversial organ, There are controversies from which we may not shrink, whether our vocation be the pulpit, or the press, or the quiet walk of daily christian life. Beyond this boundary we never wish to step. In diffusing a healthy tone of christian literature; in collecting information on points of interest to christian readers of intelligence; in recording the lives of good and holy men; in holding together, as far as in us lies, the great evangelical party—the reader must forgive a term which we have no wish to avoid—in a word, in humbly assisting to extend the kingdom of Christ, and, as subservient thereto, the best interests of the church of England, in a spirit at once firm and catholic, pur path of duty lies before us for another year. And, in the hope that He will graciously accept our service, we commend it once more to the favour and protection of Him from whom all holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works do proceed.
1. Christian Peace
2. Memoir of Major-General Sir Henry
1. The Prevalence of Unbelief
6. Notices of New Books
7. Public Affairs ...............
1. The Christian in Prosperity
2. The Old and New Testament Dispensa-
3. Human Fossils
4. Life and Character of Sir Robert Peel...... 682
5. Query on Acts xiii. 17-21
6. Liturgical Music