We must Unite!
Thoughts on the necessity of forming a well
organized Union of Evangelical Churchmen
[These words were originally penned in January, 1868. Up to the present day, they have proved painfully prophetic. In the matter of the Irish Church the English Evangelical body has fallen sadly short of its duty. The day of retribution will come. We shall reap as we have sown.]
The title of this tract points to a subject which must always be interesting to a true Christian. That subject is unity. Unity was a thing that the Lord Jesus asked for His people, in almost His last prayer. (John 17.21, 22.) Unity will be part of the perfection of Heaven. Unity with one another ought to be the aim of all travelers in the narrow way. Where is the believer who does not feel that "union is strength" — that religious divisions are the weakness of Christendom — and that the Master's words are true to the letter: "If a house is divided against itself — then that house cannot stand!" (Mark 3:24.) But unity in general, abstract unity, is not the particular subject I wish to handle in this tract. I am writing with a special reference to one section of the Church of Christ. The point that I have in view is the pressing necessity of organized union among Evangelical members of the Church of England. To them particularly I venture to address the paper which I am now sending forth. On them especially, I urge the words which head these pages: "We must unite."
That there is a distinct, clearly-marked body, called the Evangelical body in the Church of England. That the members of this body are the only genuine and thorough representatives of the Church of England — that the theological principles of this body are essentially different from those of Ritualists and Neologians — that the whole Evangelical body is at this moment in a state of extreme peril — all these are points which I shall either take for granted or touch very lightly. They are tempting subjects — but I dare not enter upon them at any length.
I wish in this tract to stick closely to my subject. I shall proceed therefore, without further preface, to examine three questions, which in this day appear to me to demand an answer:
I. Is there a lack of organized union among Evangelical Churchmen?
II. Is such an organized union a necessary thing?
III. Is such an organized union a practical and possible thing?
If an examination of these three questions does not throw strong light on the position and duties of Evangelical Churchmen at this peculiar crisis, I shall be much mistaken.
I. In the first place, "Is there a lack of organized union among Evangelical Churchmen?"
I answer that question, without hesitation, in the affirmative. There is a "conspicuous absence" of organized union among us. The old saying is true, whether we like it or not — that we are "a rope of sand." Each individual particle and fibre and hair of the rope may be sound and good. But there is a curious absence of interweaving, cohesion, cement, and glue about the whole. The huge rope will neither lift, nor pull, nor draw as it ought — in proportion to its size. Try to do anything out of the beaten path of custom — and it falls to pieces.
I grant freely that we have many things in common. You may see clearly that the atoms of sand — are all chips and fragments out of the same quarry. In the main we preach the same doctrines, and hold the same opinions. In the main we support the same Societies, go to the same meetings, subscribe to the same charities, work our parishes in the same way, go to the same bookseller shops, read the same books, papers, and magazines, and groan and sigh over the same evils in the world. But here our union stops. Hitherto I can go, but I can go no further. Now begins the "rope of sand."
For defending common principles — for resisting common enemies — for facing common dangers — for attaining common great objects — for harmonious conduct in circumstances of common perplexity — for decided, prompt, energetic action in great emergencies — for all this I say unhesitatingly, that we have no organized union at all. Every Evangelical Churchman does what is right in his own eyes, and every district goes to work in its own way — and only too many, without suggestions and directions, do nothing at all. In short, for lack of organization, the Evangelical body often finds itself as helpless as a mob. We have God's truth on our side. We have numbers, strength, good will, and desires to do what is right — but from lack of organization and leadership, we are as weak as water!
I dislike making vague and general assertions. Let me come to facts. I will name a few subjects of pressing importance at the present day, and I will ask my Evangelical readers whether we are prepared to act together about them. Have we taken counsel together? Have we weighed them well, and come to any united conclusion? Are we ready to show a common front about them, or are we at a standstill for lack of conference and organization? "Judge what I say."
Take the case of the Established Church of Ireland. That Church is in imminent peril. "Shoot at her! Spare no arrows! This is the city to be destroyed!" — this is the cry on all sides. From Mr. Gladstone down to Mr. Bright, almost all statesmen have a fling at her. The union of Greeks to take Troy is nothing, compared to the union of political parties against the Irish Church.
Now what is the Evangelical body in England going to do? Shall we desert our sister because she is unpopular and small? Shall we turn our back on her, like Edom, in the day of her calamity, and leave her out in the cold? Shall we forget that her danger is ours? "Today yours — tomorrow mine!" When a neighbor's house is on fire — then our own is in peril. Are the Evangelical body ready to act together? At present I see no sign. There is no organized union, no harmonious action.
Take the case of our Church of England. That heterogeneous body, of late years galvanized into an unhappy and mischievous activity — is becoming a very serious subject. Its composition is most unsatisfactory. It neither represents the laity nor the parochial clergy. Yet the Southern part of it is gradually swelling itself up, and assuming a consequential position. But how does the Evangelical body treat the subject? Some never touch it with the tip of their finger. Some tolerate it and think it does no harm. Again there is no organized union, no conference, and no harmonious action.
Take the case of the Annual Church Congresses. Whether men like them or not, they have become an institution of the times. Are Evangelical Churchmen to go to them or not? If they do not attend them, the laity cannot understand it, and hint that we are afraid to meet men with whom we do not agree! If they do attend them, an outcry is raised by hundreds, as if the unfortunate attendant were an apostate and a traitor! Clearly all ought to go — or none; yet nothing is ever settled about the matter. Every year the same perplexity arises. And why? All because in the Evangelical body there is no organized union, no systematic conference, and consequently no harmonious action.
Take the case of the best mode of opposing Ritualism. No man, we are agreed, is worthy of the name of Evangelical — who does not deeply dislike Ritualism, who does not regard it as the greatest evil which has arisen in our Church. All over the land there is a common and most harmonious cry in the Evangelical camp: "Something ought to be done!" Yet when we ask what that "something" should be, we receive very diverse and conflicting answers. "Apply to Parliament," says a second. "Besiege the Bishops with letters," says a third. "Flood the country with lecturers," says a fourth. "Get up an aggregate declaration," says a fifth. "Sit still and do nothing," says a sixth. In fact, every man has his own opinion. The whole result is that nothing really effective is done at all. And why? Simply because in the Evangelical body there is no organized union, no systematic conference, no comparison of opinions — and consequently no harmonious action.
Are we prepared to have a machinery set up in every diocese, which shall enable any ambitious High Church Prelate to coerce and snub into silence his Evangelical clergy, either by incessantly worrying them about trifles, or by slandering and gibbeting them as "rebellious" — if they will not bow the knee before the idol of all his schemes? Have we made up our minds in this matter? Are we prepared to act in concert about it? We know that we are not. And why? Simply because there is no organized union in the Evangelical body — no getting together to exchange opinions, no systematic conference, and no harmonious action.
Take the case of concessions for peace sake. There are a good many things now-a-days, which at one time were trifles and indifferent matters, but are now of very serious importance.
It is truly lamentable to observe how few Evangelical Churchmen seem to know, or care to know, what has been going on in the Diocese of Lichfield this very summer. There, through the energy of the Bishop, a Diocesan Synod has been actually organized, and has commenced operations. The very first result has been to split the Evangelical body into three distinct sections! If they had been united, the whole movement might have been completely checkmated. A Synod, without a single Evangelical Churchman present in it — would have been useless. But, as usual, the Evangelical clergy in the Diocese of Lichfield could not agree to act together, and were "a rope of sand." It would probably be the same in every diocese in the land. Most disastrous will be the consequences. And why? Simply because there is no organized union in the Evangelical body, no systematic conference, and no harmonious action.
I might easily multiply my list of cases, but time will not allow me. All these are subjects supplying an illustration of what I mean. They are all subjects on which many Evangelical men, both clergyman and laymen, feel very strongly indeed. But nothing is done, settled, agreed upon, or decided! And why? Once more I reply, because there is no organized union in the Evangelical body, no effort to get together and talk matters over, no systematic conference, no harmonious action.
Of course I am not so Quixotic as to suppose that there can ever be entire agreement in so large a body as the Evangelical body. Complete unity of opinion on all points among Christian men, in a fallen world like this — is a mere dream and vision, and will never be attained.
But I do say boldly, that the lack of organized union, and consequently of harmonious action and cooperation in the Evangelical body, is very great indeed. It is our weakness. It ought to be our sorrow and our shame.
II. I turn to the second question which I proposed to ask, "Is organized union of the Evangelical body a necessity?"
I answer that question, without the slightest hesitation, in the affirmative. I say that the state of the Church of England, and the aspect of the times, make it all important that we should close our ranks, get together, confer, take counsel, and agree to act together in every emergency that may arise.
When the country was in danger of foreign invasion, we all know well that organization of our national strength was one of the first things that sensible men thought of. None but a madman would have been content to trust to the isolated, independent exertions of each city, or to the untrained and undisciplined valor of farmers suddenly rallying round their pigsties. No, indeed! To get men together, to drill them, to teach them to act together, obey the word of command, move together, stand together, and not squabble about trifles — this was the aim of all wise statesmen of our country.
It ought to be the same in the Evangelical body. We ought to get together, to act together, to stand by one another, to help one another, and to be as one body in resisting error and defending truth. We know nothing of it at present. It is high time that we did.
I must honestly admit that many excellent people are unable to see the necessity of any such organized union as I plead for. "Where is the special danger?" they cry. "Where is the need of any peculiar exertion? False prophets there always will be; divisions there always have been. The evils of our days present no special features of peril. Why disturb the peace of the Church and aggravate our divisions? Why not let things alone? It is a passing cloud!"
Such is the language used by many whose opinions in many other things I respect. I believe, however, they are totally mistaken on this point. They are Crying "Peace! Peace! When there is no peace." I believe that no words hardly can exaggerate the real extent of our peril, and the real necessities of our position.
The whole cause of Protestant religion in England is in danger. For thirty years and more, I am firmly persuaded, a deeply-laid conspiracy has been at work among us, having for its final object the destruction of the work of the blessed Reformation, and the reestablishment of Popery. Whether consciously or unconsciously, none have done the work of this conspiracy so thoroughly as the Ritualistic body. They have familiarized the minds of people with the outward ceremonials of Romanism. They have preached and taught Romish doctrines. They have boldly avowed thoroughly Romish views upon such subjects as the priestly office, the sacrifice of the mass, the real presence in the host, the adoration of the consecrated elements in the Lord's Supper, and auricular confession. They have poured scorn on our martyred Reformers and their opinions. They have publicly professed their kindly feelings towards the Romish Church, and their contempt for the Church of Knox, and Chalmers, and M'Cheyne. They have succeeded in gathering around them a vast crowd of fashionable and wealthy adherents, and in lowering the general tone of public feeling about the difference between Romanism and Protestantism.
In a word, they have successfully undermined the whole cause of Protestantism in this land — while we have been sleeping or squabbling! Church and Chapel, Conformists and Nonconformists, all alike are in serious jeopardy. Let the plague only march on with the same giant strides that have marked its progress during the last five years — and no man can tell whereunto it may grow. If any man had predicted ten years ago that in 1868 the real presence of Christ in the elements, and auricular confession would have been openly taught, unchecked, in Church of England pulpits — he would have been laughed at as a lunatic! But if we have fallen so far in ten years — then I would like to know where we shall be when ten more years have come to an end? At the rate we are traveling now, we shall have the Pope at Lambeth Palace, and the real Popish mass at St. Paul's Cathedral, within ten years! I repeat it deliberately — at this moment the whole cause of Protestantism in England is in imminent peril!
But this is not all. The position of the Evangelical body in the Church of England is in danger. Let no one mistake me when I say this. I have no fear that our antagonists will drive us out of the Establishment. It is not expulsion I fear, but a gradual voluntary secession, and a dribbling away of the life-blood of the Church. I fear that Popish doctrines and practices may gradually be tolerated in the Church of England, under the specious plea of "liberty, free thought, liberality, and letting all men do what they like."
I fear that men of tender conscience will feel it a solemn duty to resign their position and withdraw from the Church of England — rather than be partakers of other men's sins. I am quite sure that there is far more risk of this, than people suppose. A few more deaths on the Episcopal bench — a few more successors of the type and stamp which many of us know so well — a few more speeches like that of the Bishop of Salisbury — a few more addresses pressed upon the unwilling consciences of incumbents — a little more snubbing of recalcitrant and remonstrant Evangelical clergy — a few more evasive and unsatisfactory replies of Bishops to Evangelical laity — a little more of all this, and the patience of many will be exhausted.
It is the last straw that breaks the camel's back. The cup will at length run over. A few here and a few there will be tired out and begin to secede. Great will be the joy of the enemy.
We are not popular. High Church and Broad Church always make common cause against the Evangelicals. Nothing will please them more than to see us resign one after another. A fatal day it will be, when this gradual process of secession begins. But if the present system of tolerating everything and everybody goes on much longer, I am persuaded secessions will begin. Once let them begin, and our position is lost.
But this is not all. The very existence of the Church of England itself is in danger. Ritualism is gradually robbing our Church of some of its best members among the laity. Not a few bankers, lawyers, doctors, and members of Parliament, are dropping off and leaving the ship. Their minds are thoroughly shaken. They cannot understand an Established Church in which the service is Popish in one parish — and Protestant in another! They are getting disgusted with the continued toleration of Popish novelties, which their own common sense tells them are as thoroughly unscriptural. Some of these men go off to the Plymouth Brethren; some join the Baptists, Methodists, or Independents; some stand aloof altogether, and will take no part in the Church's affairs.
This state of things is most mischievous and harmful. It evidently cannot go on long without leading to most disastrous results. Little by little, the very life-blood of the Church is being drained away. Many of the middle classes are sick to death of Ritualism. Thousands of tradesmen in town, and of farmers in country parishes — are thoroughly determined not to put up with Popery in our churches. They will not have it at any price; and if it cannot be kept out or turned out — then they will soon cease to be Churchmen altogether.
A few more years of this draining process, and the Church of England will become a minority in the country! Once become a minority, and we shall be treated like our sister Church in Ireland. Statesmen and mob orators alike will declare that the Church of England must be gotten rid of. The voice of the people will demand our destruction, and on modern principles it will be obeyed. I say it deliberately — I believe that the very existence of the Church of England is in peril.
In the face of the dangers I have just adverted to, an organized union of Evangelical Churchmen appears to me a positive necessity of the times — an union not only of the clergy, but also of the laity — an union not only of the London clergy and laity, but of all Evangelical Church people throughout the country — an union above all so systematically organized that we shall be able at a day's notice to stand to our arms, to form square, to man our walls, to advance, to take up any position which circumstances may require, and in any event to act together.
I know not what other people may be waiting for. They may be expecting deliverance from this crisis, from some quarter of which I know nothing. If they do expect it, I hope they will tell us what it is. For my part I see no gleam of light on any side.
At all events, time is flying — and mischief is spreading! Whatever is before us, the Evangelical body ought to be ready to act promptly and decidedly and together. They cannot do it now for lack of organization. For these reasons, organized union appears to me a positive necessity of the times.
It is my own firm belief that lack of union and internal harmony lost the whole body of the Puritans from the Church of England in 1662. If they could only have agreed to sink their petty private scruples, and act together for the common good — they would have occupied a position in the Church from which they could never have been dislodged. Lack of union and harmonious action weakened the party, and almost ruined the Church of England. I only hope that most unsatisfactory and disastrous page in our Ecclesiastical history, may never have to be written a second time!
III. The last question I undertake to consider in my paper, is one which I approach with much diffidence and hesitation: "Is an organized union of the Evangelical body practical? Is it a possibility?"
This, I freely admit, is a very difficult point. Scores of things, we all know — are theoretically desirable, but practically impossible. The stern logic of facts cannot be gotten over. If things are impossible, it is waste of time to attempt them. Now, is such an union as I have been speaking of in this paper, possible or not?
I grant that there are many difficulties in our way, and difficulties of a very formidable description. Whether they can be surmounted or not, is a problem which has yet to be solved.
One difficulty of course is not peculiar to ourselves. It arises from the constitution of human nature. Like all other bodies of men, the Evangelical body contains innumerable varieties and shades of character. Some are timid — and some are rash. Some are crotchety — and some are cautious — and some are fiery. Some are eaten up with an excess of charity, and abhor all collisions. Some are always riding hobby-horses, and will never consent to dismount from their favorite little animals, to march on foot, and to keep line. Of course it is no easy matter to get all these varieties of character to agree, to combine, and to work together. This is no doubt a grave difficultly.
Another difficulty arises from the very first principles of the Evangelical creed. We who are called, rightly or wrongly, Evangelical Churchmen — are trained and taught to acknowledge no Father but God, no Master but Christ, and no rule of faith but the Bible. We shrink almost intuitively from submitting our judgment, even in appearance, to the judgment of others. We dislike even to seem to follow a leader, as if it was ignoring the right of private judgment. We are fond of our old Protestant liberty of thinking and acting for ourselves. Now, to combine in one body a number of men who are thoroughly imbued with these principles, is of course no easy matter. It is another great difficultly.
One more difficulty arises from the habits of working, to which Evangelical clergymen are accustomed. We are most of us so thoroughly engaged with the weekly business of our own pulpits and schools, parishes and congregations — that we make little time for anything else. Hundreds of excellent clergymen hardly ever leave their parishes, except for the annual missionary gathering in their county town, or their monthly clerical meeting. Their life is an unbroken round of quiet home duties, sermons, lectures, school management, pastoral visitation, and good works within the limits of the parish boundaries. You really cannot get them to look at anything in the Church and the world outside these boundaries!
Episcopalians in theory — they are almost Independents in practice. With all their grace and excellence, they appear to forget that they were not ordained to be ministers of their own parishes alone — but ministers of the whole "United Church of England and Ireland," and that whatever affects the interest of that Church or endangers its position — ought to be of deep concern to them. Men in this state of mind are of course as backward to come forward and join a public combination, as a hermit is to leave his garden of herbs and his cave. These "cave and garden" Evangelicals are a serious difficulty.
But I cannot concede, after stating all these difficulties, that organized union of Evangelical Churchmen is an absolute impossibility. I have a better opinion of my beloved brethren who really love the Gospel, than to suppose that they will not come forward and combine, if once convinced that there is a necessity and a cause. There is One who can "make men of one mind in a house" — and He has not entirely forsaken us.
I see on all sides, the principle of association carried out to an enormous extent in these latter days. I see chambers of commerce and agriculture established for commercial purposes. I see law leagues and reform leagues established for political ends. I see trades unions established for the promotion and defense of class interests. I see the Jesuit body overspreading the world for ecclesiastical ends — a sword whose hilt is at Rome, and whose point is at every man's heart. I see even the English Church Union (for the Propagation of Romish Views in the Church of England) numbering its thousands, and exerting great influence and power.
And shall I believe that Evangelical Churchmen cannot be combined, organized, and united for the defense of Christ's truth? Shall I lazily sit down and say, "There is a lion in the way!" There is "a hedge of thorns across the path!" The thing cannot be done? I will not say it yet. I will never concede — if we will only look the matter firmly in the face! If only some of us lock up our hobby-horses; others of us come out of our caves, and lay aside petty jealousies and self-conceit. I will never concede that a league of Evangelical Churchmen is either impracticable or impossible. I see Scotch Presbyterians mustering every year in Edinburgh by hundreds, for their General Assemblies. I will never believe that English Evangelical Churchmen cannot form an organized union if they will only try.
Does the machinery for forming such an organized union exist already? That is of course a delicate question, and one which will receive very different answers. I do not think, as some, that our great missionary societies supply a basis of union. They have their own work to do — and that work is evangelization. Let us not attempt to mix them up with controversy. They have enough on their hands already.
I do not think, with other valued brethren, that our great aggregate clerical meetings supply a sufficient basis for our union. They have their own annual work to do, and that work is generally simple edification. They are not numerous enough yet. They are not all composed of purely Evangelical elements. In some cases they do not comprehend the issues.
Now is there no other existing nucleus of organized union? My belief is that there is. I have a strong impression that at this moment, there exists no better center of union than the London Church Association. It may be young in years, and at present comparatively weak. It may have made mistakes at its beginning. It undoubtedly began too much as a Negative Anti-Ritualistic Society, and not sufficiently as a Positive Evangelical Society. But all must allow that it has lately assumed a very much bolder and more decided position. Its conferences in London are the most remarkable demonstration of Evangelical feeling and opinion that has been made for many years.
In short, at this time I see no more likely beginning for a league of Evangelical Churchmen, than the "London Church Association." If we only rally round it, and give it a hearty and united support — I think it offers a fulcrum for shaking the country and uniting all Evangelical Churchmen. If we stand aloof from it, like the men of Succoth and Penuel — then we must not complain if it does not succeed.
My own mind is fully made up. Whatever be the fault and defects of the London Association — I mean to support it so long as it sails under its present colors. If any man will show me a better machinery — then I will gladly give it my attention. At present the Church Association seems to me to occupy the field alone, and I humbly think that it deserves our support.
A central organ of union in London can of course do little — unless it is supplemented by local organization throughout the country. I cannot see any great difficulty in the formation of such local organization as the times require. If the Evangelical clergy and laity of a diocese, or a county, or a town, or a district, will only get together, draw up some simple rules, appoint a secretary, and open communications with the Central Association in London — then the thing is done. The whole country would soon be covered with a network of close and intimate relations among Evangelical Churchmen. At any given moment the central committee in London would only have to send a letter to the secretary of each provincial association, and start a whole train of machinery.
Just as in some huge manufactory, you have but to turn a handle and turn on the steam, and the whole array of spindles and looms begins to move and hum, until the building vibrates with busy activity — so the secretary of the Central Association would only have to post so many letters, by direction of the committee, and in every county of England, Protestant and Evangelical Churchmen would start into life and action, and stand on their feet "an exceeding great army."
To do what? someone will ask. For what purpose is this organization? That is a question which cannot be fully answered until the organization exists. The machinery must be created, before the results can be fully realized. But surely there are many benefits which a moment's reflection will show us would at once accrue. Prompt action would be obtained, and prompt expression of opinion would be elicited.
A bill is in Parliament: "Send up petitions and letters about it."
A difficult question has arisen: "Send us your opinion about it."
An attempt is about to be made to coerce the consciences of the Evangelical body: "Be prepared for it — and act together."
A Semi-Romish lecture has been delivered by some Bishop: "Call the attention of your members to it."
A valuable lecture has been delivered by some champion of the Evangelical cause: "Tell your members of it, and get it printed and circulated."
A conference is about to be held in London on some important point: "Ask some of your leading members to attend it."
These are only instances of what would be the benefits of organization. If any man thinks there is nothing much in all of this, I can only say that I totally disagree with him. At present I am quite sure that nothing of the kind is ever attained, or possible. At this moment the Evangelical body is like a mixed multitude of Spanish guerilla soldiers — all individually brave men and good patriots, but weak as water, for lack of union and organization — helpless in the face of a small disciplined army, and unable to resist invasion.
I leave my subject here. Time will not allow me to go further, and I trust I have said enough to supply food for reflection. If I have only dropped a few seeds of thought, and set the wheels of some abler minds than my own revolving — I shall feel that I have not drawn up this paper in vain.
All I plead for is that something may and must be done. Meetings for mere talk and conference — have their dangers as well as their advantages. This incessant talking about things, and having passive impressions aroused within us — is likely to have an hardening effect on our minds, unless something is actually done. Action, action in the most literal sense, is what is needed.
It was the highest praise of the great Athenian orator, that, when his speech was ended, men did not say, "How fine and clever!" but, "Let us march against our enemy!"
If the Church Association is worthy our support — then let us each resolve to give it hearty and active cooperation, both in town and country. If it is not worthy — then let us have something better in its place. But let us, at any rate, forever lay aside mere talking and grumbling and complaining. Let us resolve that something shall be done, and that it may be done — and let us unite and organize without delay.
We have sat still long enough and waited for I know not what. It is high time that we make up our minds to wait no longer. We have sat by the banks of the river long enough, and indulged the foolish hope that the stream of Ritualism would run itself dry. But the stream grows deeper and broader every year! We have folded our arms and refused to come forward, unless compelled to do so — and have caught nothing by our quiescent and tame attitude except contempt. If we mean to preserve Evangelicalism in the Church of England — if we mean to preserve our own position — if we mean to keep the Martyrs' candle lighted — then we must boldly change front, alter our tactics, and take up a new position. We must draw the sword — and cast away the scabbard! We must stand to our arms — and fight.
Our warfare no doubt must be waged spiritually, but really. I repeat it, we must fight!
(a)Some Evangelical Churchmen, I know, are men of a gentle and tender spirit, have an instinctive horror of controversy, and always shrink from it in dismay. I can understand their feeling. I do not wonder at it. Controversy no doubt is an odious thing, and has a desperate tendency to injure our souls. But surely there are times when controversy is a positive duty — when, as the Apostle Jude tells us, we must "contend earnestly for the faith."
Surely there is a vast difference between controversy sought voluntarily — and controversy which is thrust upon you. That the present controversy is thrust upon the Evangelical body, I firmly maintain. We have not left our ground. We stand in the old paths. The attack begins with our antagonists. It is a defensive warfare that we wage. Paul was doing God's work as much when he withstood Peter at Antioch — as when he addressed Ephesian elders. Let us not doubt that Paul's Master, when we tread in Paul's steps — will preserve us from harm and take care of our souls.
(b)Some brethren will say that we are weak, and unable to cope with the armies of High Church, and Broad Church, and Indifferentism combined. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be next week — or next year? Will it be when the Ritualistic Churches have increased in number, and Romanism prevails? Will it be when the Real Presence is preached in half the pulpits of London, and auricular confession is practiced throughout?
Shall we gather strength by irresolution and inaction? Shall we nerve our minds by a masterly inactivity, and by sitting still until our enemies have surrounded us, bound us hand and foot, and gagged us? Away with the unworthy thought! I trust we know better than that!
(c)I remind my brethren that we are not weak, if we make a proper use of the Scriptural means which God has put into our hands. Two thousand Evangelical clergymen, backed by their congregations, united, organized, praying, and working in the holy cause of Christ's pure truth — are a host that cannot be easily overcome.
(d)I remind my brethren, moreover, that we shall not fight our battle alone. There is a great Head of the Church whose eyes are on all that goes on in the earth, who holds in His hands the hearts of rulers and statesmen, and can raise up friends for us both in Church and State, both among Lords and Commons. The Lord God of Wycliffe and Luther, the God of the Martyrs of Oxford and Smithfield — is not dead, but alive. The battle is not always to the strong, the wealthy, and the numerous — but to the humble, the praying, the active, the vigilant, and the brave!
(e)I remind my brethren, above all, that we have no other alternative. If we are base enough to draw back, and refuse strife and contention for Christ's truth — then there will soon be nothing for us but submission and disgrace.
Some men may cry, "Peace, peace! Oh, sacrifice anything for peace!" but there can be no real peace while our Church tolerates and fosters Popery! Is ecclesiastical peace so sweet — that it is worth purchasing at the expense of truth? Is a quiet life so precious, that in order to secure it, we will tolerate transubstantiation and auricular confession? God forbid that we should say so!
What others think, I know not. For my own part my mind is made up. I have come to one decided conclusion. I say: Give me a really Evangelical Church of England — or no Church of England at all! When the Church of England renounces her evangelical principles, and goes back to Popery — her glory will have departed. She will be an offence to God, and not a resting-place for any true Christian. We must unite!
Since these pages were originally penned, in January, 1868, the course of public events in England has proved more than ever the crying necessity for organized union among Evangelical Churchmen.
The sudden attack made by Mr. Gladstone on the Irish branch of the United Church of England and Ireland — the repeated unfavorable divisions upon the subject which have taken place in the House of Commons — the imminent danger which manifestly threatens the Evangelical branch of the Church — all these are patent facts which speak trumpet-tongued. They all cry aloud to the Evangelical body in the Church of England, "Awake! Organize! Unite!"
But what are Evangelical Churchmen doing? Absolutely nothing at all! They present at this moment, the most melancholy spectacle that English Church history has exhibited for three hundred years. They seem unable to discern the signs of the times — unable to comprehend the increasing peril of their position — unable to get together and agree on any bold, decided, thorough line of action — unable to show a compact, united front against their enemies. Men look at one another, and say, "Something ought to be done" — and then go quietly home, and do nothing at all! With nineteen Evangelical men out of twenty, the interests of the Church at large seem as nothing compared to those of their own parishes!
This state of things cannot and will not last. The end must come. Whether the poor old Church of England will become downright Popish, or downright latitudinarian, or go to pieces altogether — is a problem which I will not pretend to solve. We shall know more about it in ten years. But this I will boldly say — that of all the bodies within the Church's pale — none is so thoroughly disunited and disorganized as the Evangelical body — none is so completely unprepared for action — and yet none possesses such internal elements of power, if it only knew how to use them.