Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

damp a true faith, according to St. Paul's definition of it, and end in a belief in nothing that is only hoped for and therefore not tangible, and in the rejection of everything which is unseen or unfelt and therefore hard to realise. St. Paul lived in a realisation of the unseen world, and accepted blessings which could be only spiritually discerned. So, again, we are in danger of too much individualism in our religion. Of course it is necessary that each stone of the spiritual building should be dressed and tried ; that every wandering sheep should be gathered into the fold ; that each member should be fashioned one by one for its appointed work; but when each soul has been built up into the spiritual temple, or has been received into the old, or has been made a member of the body of which Christ is the head, the individualism ceases, the personal pronoun I loses its place in the Christian vocabulary, and we realise not only that we are bought with a price, and are therefore not our own, but that we form one essential part of that great company which is described in Scripture as the one bride of Christ.

In considering all these sacramental teachings, we must never forget that the Christian Church was but the continuation of the Jewish; Christ came not to destroy the law but to fulfil, and he distinctly tells us that He has other sheep not of the Jewish fold : "them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice, and they shall become one flock, one shepherd. On this ground the Church founded infant baptism to take the place of circumcision, admitting the children of Christians to the benefits of the Christian covenant on the faith of their parents, even as Jewish children were admitted, on the faith of their parents, to the commonwealth of Israel. But baptism must not be looked upon as a charm, or treated apart from the Church's distinct order that the child should be carefully instructed till it is brought to confirmation, for which holy training the godparents are a guarantee.

So in respect of the other great sacrament. No Churchman would for a moment contend that there was any other sacrifice necessary than the one great sacrifice upon the cross once offered for the sins of the whole world. And as regards the memorial sacrifice the Catholic would only assert that as our Lord in heaven is daily pleading the one great sacrifice before the throne of God, so we on earth—the priesthood for all the faithful-do offer up a memorial of that sacrifice, uniting us with that service in heaven, where our great Intercessor ever pleads and receives gifts for men. As the Psalmist prophesies: The memorial of Thine abundant kindness shall be shewed, and men shall sing of Thy righteousness.?

Again, as to confession and absolution. No priest would ever claim to pronounce God's pardon as of his own power, or to take effect upon any but the truly penitent. They have been entrusted with the message of pardon to the truly penitent; only God and the penitent know how far the repentance is true and the pardon real. So as to confession, all of every school know well that to win a soul to Christ personal intercourse is of the greatest assistance. It was well put at the Leicester Church Congress, that— if we wanted to fill a lot of narrow-necked bottles with water, you would take them up one by one and not pour the water from a height indiscriminately over all.' Why then quarrel over terms? Personal intercourse of soul with soul is a natural function of the members of the body of Christ, by whatever name it may be called. And the authoritative assurance of forgiveness of sins which the priest is empowered to offer to all true penitents often becomes a blessed means of saving a soul overwhelmed by the burden of its past sins from one of Satan's deadliest snares--the temptation to despair of forgiveness.

Again, no one advocating apostolic succession for the priesthood would for a moment thereby seek to limit the free operations of God the Holy Ghost. Scripture is full of the free manifestations of the Spirit, but these are not permitted to interfere with the duly appointed methods and a fuller appreciation of Bible teaching might exhibit to the world again, as in apostolic times, the full working of a duly organised ministry side by side with the fullest manifestations of the Spirit among the individual members of Christ's body.

May these thoughts on the so-called burning questions of the day help somewhat to a return to unity, the advantages of which cannot easily be exaggerated! To judge of the views fearlessly expounded in this country at Church Congresees, and conventions, and conferences among the different religious bodies, it would seem that we are none of us particularly enamoured of the present state of things.

The very desire for unity, while bringing the different nonconforming bodies to act more harmoniously together, has a direct tendency to make them drift from their old moorings. Wesleyans are drifting away from Wesley and his teaching. Mr. Dale of Birmingham laments the falling away of many of his people from a belief in a divine institution of the sacraments as defined by the Westminster Confession. Baptists are avowedly becoming more negligent in enforcing the baptism of their adults. There are many complaints of increasing worldliness--of neglect of discipline, of increasing political to the neglect of religious zeal. The mechanical arrangements for the supply of teachers and for the regulation of their relations towards their people are often getting rusty and out of gear. And while thus drifting from our moorings or quarrelling among ourselves, infidelity is becoming daily more rampant. In a word, all must allow that the work we are called upon to do for our Lord and for His people might be better done.

There is no better remedy for these evils than a return to unity on the lines of a simple creed, with a greater recognition of the Church of the past ages and a fuller realisation of the unseen world around us, of that great company of the redeemed by which we are compassed about to cheer us in our earthly warfare. All those confessions of faith of which Mr. Greenhough complains are but the outcome of past divisions. The breaking of unity obliged apologies and definitions ; these again called for counter-propositions, till we have, as the preacher relates, the Thirty-nine Articles which contain 670 distinct propositions, the Westminster Confession and Catechism containing ten times that number, and the decrees of the Council of Trent-a number which no man can calculate.' Is it to be wondered at that there should be a longing to return to primitive simplicity of belief?

We rightly look back to the past for those creeds of the Church round which all Christians have rallied from the beginning. We look back also to connect ourselves as one body with that glorious roll of saints, apostles, prophets, and martyrs now at rest in the Paradise of God, but we also look on. The past history of the Church during succeeding ages points to great phases of growth which have risen from time to time in successive waves in higher and more beneficent influences upon the world. As the outcome of the first principles of Christianity, the position of woman was raised and honoured, and the slave, though slavery was permitted to exist, was received as a brother. The persecuting spirit and cruelties of heathen Rome were suppressed.

But with the destruction of the Roman Empire fresh nations had to be converted. This must ever be a gradual work; the old leaven of heathendom remains for a long time rampant; some of it though dormant remains among us still. And this new work was hindered by the great division of the Eastern and Western Church. The worldly ambitions of a corrupted Christianity claimed war and statecraft for its weapons, and the persecutions of heathen Rome were revived under the auspices of Christianity. Slavery and the slave trade became again prominent, and superstitions lingered among a partially converted people. But with the invention of printing and the consequent circulation of the Bible rolled in fresh waves of progress. In this work the Reformed Churches and many of the nonconforming bodies took a prominent part. The spirit of cruelty and persecution, which for a time was accepted in turn by the different religious bodies as they each obtained dominion, has been now well nigh destroyed. Under the guidance of Wilberforce, supported in this country by a revived spirit of religion in which the Church and the sects equally shared, slavery and the slave trade were put down. All these great advances were made in spite of our increasing divisions. The great promise of universal peace is still unfulfilled, and this can never be accomplished till our divisions cease, for how can we preach peace to the world while we, the repre

, sentatives of Christ, are conspicuous for our loss of love as shown by our internal quarrellings ? God grant that, in this our nation, as VOL. X.-No. 53.

K

the nonconforming bodies have been so instrumental in furthering the two last advances of Christianity in the overthrow of persecution and of slavery, they may join us in removing this hindrance of Christian divisions, and thus prepare the way for those fresh waves of progress which yet remain to fulfil the blessed promises of Christianity for the benefit of mankind.

Even while we live in separate communions we may strive to love and honour one another more, respecting each other's motives, even if we fail to understand the principles which actuate them. Let us strive to be less political and partisan, to bear more with each other's weaknesses, to have patience with each other's sins. Let us pray together more earnestly for the fulfilment of Christ's prayer that all who believe in Him

may

be one. The power of Christianity is not dead; it is only the faithless lives of professing Christians which hinder and chill the work. The drawing of the inner life of each one to a nearer likeness to Christ Jesus our Lord is a step towards unity to which we may all attain, for, in the beautiful words of the preacher, “We all recognise Him as the one Being whom it is good to follow, the one Power without weakness, the one Love which knows no change, the one Truth without the shadow of a lie.' 'At His feet all Christians of every name gather; by His cross all of every name are attracted, and to all He is the chiefest among ten thousand and altogether lovely.' And we must add with St. Thomas that He is our Lord and our God, for a common belief in the very and eternal Godhead of our Incarnate Lord will ever be the real and only source of all true unity.

NELSON.

A DREDGING GROUND.

No one has so many pleasant memories as the naturalist, and no other naturalist so many perhaps as the marine zoologist, whose sport always or almost always takes him where Nature is at her best, and whose hunting grounds are limited only by the limits of the sea itself. When we come to look into the actual modes and methods by which the marine zoologist inveigles his prey within bis grasp, these we find vary considerably. First and foremost there are the rocks and rock-pools, left bare by the ordinary tides, where, with aid of his hammer and his chisel, he cracks and chips his prey from out the oozy crannies and the slippery sides of the weed-fringed boulders. Or, if these show symptoms of becoming exhausted, he waits until springtides lay bare that lowest and least accessible zone wherein his chiefest spoils do congregate. Or again he bribes the local fisherman or fisherwoman to bring him the “rubbidge' found adhering to the lines and lobster pots—a plan which has produced as large a crop of rarities as any that could be named. But perhaps on the whole the easiest, as well as the most profitable, and certainly by very far the most entertaining method of capturing his prey is by means of the naturalist's dredge—which brings me straight to my present subject.

The actual operations of dredging are probably too well known to need description, especially since the return of the Challenger, with all its freight of things rare and undescribed, over which savants, it is whispered, are even still in some cases hotly disputing. The main difference between these larger operations and our own small shallowwater dredgings is that the process in our case is of course an infinitely simpler one. Instead of a matter of seven or eight or even ten hours, a quarter of an hour or twenty minutes at the most is amply sufficient for the letting down and drawing up of our dredge, while in place of prepared lines and high-pressure engines, 'toggles,'travellers,' and patent accumulators,' an ordinary rope and a pair of good stout arms are the only engines needed. As for the comparative advantages of deep and shallow dredging, a good case probably might be made out on either side. If our chance of a prize is less, on the other hand our danger of an absolute blank-of a dredge returned empty on our hands-is less also. Not that the element of luck can at all be

« VorigeDoorgaan »