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   Chapter 1 A GENERAL VIEW

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By the Rev. V. H. Stanton, D.D.

The governing idea of this early morning course, which at the present as at former Summer Meetings is devoted to a subject connected with religious belief, is this year the power that Christianity has, or is fitted to have, to unite Christian denominations with one another, and also to unite races and nations, and different portions of that commonwealth of nations which we call the British Empire, and different classes within our own nation. A moment's reflection will shew that the question of unity between denominations of Christians derives special significance from being placed in connexion with all those other cases in regard to which the promotion of unity is to be considered. If it belongs to the genius of Christianity to be a uniting power, it is above all in the sphere of professed and organised Christianity, where Christians are grouped together as Christians, that its influence in producing union should be shewn. If it fails in this here, what hope, it may well be asked, can there be that it should be effective, when its principles and motives cannot be applied with the same directness and force? In the very assumption, then, which underlies this whole course of lectures, that Christianity can unite men, we have a special reason for considering our relations to one another as members of Christian bodies, with regard to this matter of unity.

But we are also all of us aware that the divisions among Christians are often severely commented on by those who refuse to make any definite profession of the Christian Religion, and are given by them sometimes as a ground of their own position of aloofness. It is true that strictures passed on the Christian Religion and its professors for failures in this, as well as in other respects, frequently shew little discernment, and are more or less unjust. So far as they are made to reflect on Christianity itself, allowance is not made for the nature of the human material upon which and with which the Christian Faith and Divine Grace have to work. And when Christians of the present day are treated as if they were to blame for them, sufficient account is not taken of the long and complex history, and the working of motives, partly good as well as bad, through which Christendom has been brought to its present divided condition. Still we cannot afford to disregard the hindrance to the progress of the Christian Faith and Christian Life among men created by the existing divisions among Christians. Harm is caused by them in another way of which we may be, perhaps, less conscious. They bring loss to ourselves individually within the denominations to which we severally belong. We should gain incalculably from the strengthening of our faith through a wider fellowship with those who share it, the greater volume of evidence for the reality of spiritual things which would thus be brought before us; and from the enrichment of our spiritual knowledge and life through closer acquaintance with a variety of types of Christian character and experience; and not least from that moral training which is to be obtained through common action, in proportion to the effort that has to be made in order to understand the point of view of others, and the suppression of mere egoism that is involved.

These are strong reasons for aiming at Christian unity. But further there comes to all of us at this time a powerful incentive to reflection on the subject, and to such endeavours to further it as we can make, in the signs of a movement towards it, the greater prominence which the subject has assumed in the thought of Christians, the evidence of more fervent aspirations after it, the clearer recognition of the injury caused by divisions. I remember that some 40 or more years ago, one of the most eminent and justly esteemed preachers of the day defended the existence of many denominations among Christians on the ground that through their competition a larger amount of work for the advance of the kingdom of God is accomplished. We are not so much in love with competition and its effects in any sphere now. And it should always have been perceived that, whatever its rightful place in the economic sphere might be, it had none in the promotion of purely moral and spiritual ends. The preacher to whom I have alluded did not stand alone in his view, though perhaps it was not often so frankly expressed. But at least acquiescence in the existence of separated bodies of Christians, as a thing inevitable, was commoner than it is now.

In the new attitude to this question of the duty of unity that has appeared amongst us there lies an opportunity which we must beware of neglecting. It is a movement of the Spirit to which it behoves us to respond energetically, or it will subside. Shakespeare had no doubt a different kind of human enterprises mainly in view when he wrote:

There is a tide in the affairs of men,

Which taken at the flood, leads on to fortune;

Omitted, all the voyage of their life

Is bound in shallows and in miseries.

But this observation is broadly true of all human progress. An advance of some kind in the relations of men to one another, or the remedying of some abuse, begins to be urged here and there, and for a time those who urge it are but little listened to. Then almost suddenly (as it seems) the minds of many, one hardly knows why, become occupied with it. If in the generation when that happens desire leads to concentrated effort, the good of which men have been granted the vision in their minds and souls will be attained. Otherwise interest in it will pass away, and the hope of securing it, at least for a long time, will be lost.

Before we attempt to consider any of the problems presented by the actual state of Christendom in connexion with the subject now before us, let us go back in thought to the position of believers in Jesus Christ of the first generation, when His own brief earthly life had ended. They form a fellowship bound together by faith in their common Lord, by the confident hopes with which that faith has inspired them, and the new view of life and its duties which they have acquired. Soon indeed instances occur in which the bonds between different members of the body become strained, owing especially to differences of origin and character in the elements of which it was composed. We have an example at a very early point in the narrative of the book of Acts in the dissatisfaction felt by believers from among Hellenistic Jews, who were visiting, or had again taken up their abode at, Jerusalem, because a fair share of the alms was not assigned to their poor by the Palestinian believers, who had the advantage of being more permanently established in the city, and were probably the majority. But the chiefs among the brethren, the Apostles, take wise measures to remove the grievance and prevent a breach.

A few years later a far more serious difference arises. Jewish believers in Jesus had continued to observe the Mosaic Law. When converts from among the Gentiles began to come in the question presented itself, "Is observance of that Law to be required of them?" Only on condition that it was would many among the Jewish believers associate with them. In their eyes still all men who did not conform to the chief precepts of this Law were unclean. It is possible that there were Jews of liberal tendencies, men who had long lived among Gentiles, to whom this difficulty may have seemed capable of settlement by some compromise. But in the case of most Jews, not merely in Palestine, but probably also in the Jewish settlements scattered through the Gr?co-Roman world, religious scruples, ingrained through the instruction they had received and the habits they had formed from child-hood, were deeply offended by the very notion of joining in common meals with Gentiles, unless they had fulfilled the same conditions as full proselytes to Judaism, the so-called "proselytes of righteousness." On behalf, however, of Gentiles who had adopted the Faith of Christ, it was felt that the demand for the fulfilment of this condition of fellowship must be resisted at once and to the uttermost. So St Paul held. To concede it would have caused intolerable interference with Gentile liberty, and hindrance to the progress of the preaching of the Gospel and its acceptance in the world. And further-upon this consideration St Paul insisted above all-the requirement that Gentiles should keep the Jewish Law might be taken to imply, and would certainly encourage, an entirely mistaken view of what was morally and spiritually of chief importance; it would put the emphasis wrongly in regard to that which was essential in order that man might be in a right relation to God and in the way of salvation.

But the point in the history of this early controversy to which I desire in connexion with our present subject to draw attention is the fact that it is not suggested from any side that Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians should form two separate bodies that would exist side by side in the many cities where both classes were to be found, keeping to their respective spheres, endeavouring to behave amicably to one another, "agreeing to differ" as the saying is. This would have been the plan, we may (I think) suppose, which would have seemed the best to that worldly wisdom, which is so often seen to be folly when long and broad views of history are taken. And we can imagine that not a few of the ecclesiastical leaders of recent centuries might have proposed it, if they had been there to do so. For never, perhaps, have there been more natural reasons for separation than might have been found in those national and racial differences, and in those incompatibilities due to previous training and associations between Christians of Jewish and Gentile origin. Yet it is assumed all through that they must combine. And St Paul is not only sure himself that to this end Jewish prejudices must be overcome, but he is able to persuade the elder Apostles of this, as also James who presided over the believers at Jerusalem, though they had been slower than he to perceive what vital principles were at stake. Believers of both classes must join in the Christian Agap?, or love-feasts, and must partake of the same Eucharist, because the many are one loaf[1], one body. They must grasp, and give practical effect to, the principle that "there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither bond nor free, neither male nor female, for all are one in Christ Jesus[2]."

For that society, or organism, into which Jewish and Gentile believers were alike brought, a name was found; it was that of Ecclesia, translated Church. It will be worth our while to spend a few moments on the use of this name and its significance. We find mention in the New Testament of "the Church" and of "Churches." What is the relation between the singular term and the plural historically, and what did the distinction import? The sublime passages concerning the Church as the Body of Christ and the Bride of Christ occur in the Epp. to the Colossians and Ephesians[3], which are not among the early Pauline Epistles. Nevertheless in comparatively early Epistles, the authorship of which by St Paul himself is rarely disputed, there are expressions which seem plainly to shew that he thought of the Church as a single body to which all who had been baptized in the Name of Jesus Christ belonged. In the Epp. to the Galatians and 1 Corinthians[4] he refers to the fact that he persecuted the "Church of God," and his persecution was not confined to believers in Jerusalem or even in Jud?a, but extended to adjacent regions. He might have spoken of "the Churches of Syria," as he does elsewhere (using the plural) of those of Jud?a, Galatia, Asia, Macedonia[5]. But he prefers to speak of the Church, and he describes it as "the Church of God." The impiety of his action thus appeared in its true light. He had not merely attacked certain local associations, but that sacred body-"the Church of God." Again, it is evident that he is thinking of a society embracing believers everywhere when he writes to the Corinthians concerning different forms of ministry, "God placed some in the Church, first Apostles, secondarily prophets" and so forth[6]. Again, when he bids the Corinthians, "Give no occasion of stumbling, either to Jews or to Greeks, or to the Church of God[7]," or asks them whether they "despise the Church of God[8]," although it was their conduct to brethren among whom they lived that was especially in question, it is evident that, as in the case of his own action as a persecutor, the gravity of the fault can in his view only be truly measured when it is realised that each individual Church is a representative of the Church Universal. This representative character of local Churches also appears in the expression common in his Epistles, the "Church in" such and such a place.

The usage of St Paul's Epistles does not, therefore, encourage the idea that the application of the term ecclesia to particular associations preceded its application to the whole body, but the contrary, and plainly it expressed for him from the first a most sublime conception. I may add that there is no reason to suppose that the use of the term originated with him. We find it in the Gospel according to St Matthew, the Epistle of St James and the Apocalypse of St John, writings which shew no trace of his influence.

There is no passage of the New Testament from which it is possible to infer clearly the idea which underlay its application to believers in Jesus Christ. But when it is considered how full of the Old Testament the minds of the first generation of Christians were, it must appear to be in every way most probable that the word ecclesia suggested itself because it is the one most frequently employed in the Greek translation of the Old Testament (the Septuagint) to render the Hebrew word kāhāl, the chief term used for the assembly of Israel in the presence of God, gathered together in such a manner and for such purposes as forced them to realise their distinctive existence as a people, and their peculiar relation to God. The believers in Jesus now formed the ecclesia of God, the true Israel, which in one sense was a continuation of the old and yet had taken its place. This was the view put forward by Dr Hort in his lectures on the Christian Ecclesia[9], and it is at the present time widely, I believe I may say generally, held. I may mention that the eminent German Church historians, A. Harnack[10] and Sohm[11], give it without hesitation as the true one.

Among the Jews the thought of the people in its relation to God was associated with great assemblies in the courts and precincts of the temple at Jerusalem, which altogether overshadowed any expression of their covenant relation to God as a people which they could find in their synagogue-worship, however greatly they valued the bonds with one another which were strengthened, and the spiritual help which they obtained, through their synagogues. But Christians had no single, central meeting-place for their common worship at which their ideal unity was embodied. It was, therefore, all the more natural that the exalted name which described that unity should be transferred to the communities in different places which shared the life, the privileges, and the responsibilities of the whole, and in many ways stood to those who composed them severally for the whole. The divisions between these communities were local only. They arose from the limitations to intercourse and common action which distance imposed. Or, in cases where the Church in some Christian's house is referred to, they were due to the necessity, or the great convenience, of meeting in small numbers, owing to the want of buildings for Christian worship, or the hostility of the surrounding population. Moreover these local bodies were not suffered to forget the ties which bound them all together. Those in the Greek-speaking world were required to send alms to the Churches in Jud?a. Again an individual Church was not free to disregard the judgment of the rest. After St Paul has reasoned with the Corinthians on the subject of a practice which he deemed inexpedient, he clinches the matter by declaring, "we have no such custom neither the Churches of God[12]." Lastly, the Apostles, and preeminently St Paul, through their mission which, if not world-wide, at least extended over large districts, and the care of the Churches which they exercised, and the authority which they claimed in the name of Christ, and which was conceded to them, were a unifying power.

Thus the plural "the Churches" has in important respects a different connotation in the New Testament from that which it has in modern times. In the Apostolic Age the distinction between the Church and the Churches is connected only with the different degrees to which a common life could be realised according to geographical proximity. By a division of this nature the idea of One Universal Church was not compromised. The local body of Christians in point of fact rightly regarded itself as representative of the whole body. The Christians in that place were the Church so far as it extended there.

The preservation of unity within the Church of each place where it was imperilled by rivalries and jealousies and misunderstandings, such as are too apt to shew themselves when men are in close contact with one another, and of unity between the Churches of regions remote from one another, in which case the sense of it is likely to be weak through want of knowledge and consequently of sympathy-these appear as twin-aims severally pursued in the manner that each required. Not indeed that it is implied that everything is to be sacrificed to unity. But it is demanded that the most strenuous endeavours shall be made to maintain it, and it appears to be assumed that without any breach of it, loyalty to every other great principle, room for the rightful exercise of every individual gift, recognition of every aspect of Divine truth the perception of which may be granted to one or other member of the body, can be secured, if Christians cultivate right dispositions of mutual affection and respect.

There is one more point in regard to the idea of the Church in the New Testament as to which we must not suffer ourselves to be misled, or confused, by later conceptions and our modern habits of thought. We have become accustomed to a distinction between the Church Visible and the Church Invisible which makes of them two different entities. According to this, one man who is a member of the Church Visible may at the same time, if he is a truly spiritual person, even while here on earth belong to the Church Invisible; but another who has a place in the Church Visible has none and it may be never will have one in the Church Invisible. This conception, though it had appeared here and there before the 16th century, first obtained wide vogue then under the influence of the Protestant Reformation.

It arose through a very natural reaction from the mechanical view of membership in the Church, its conditions and privileges, which had grown up in the Middle Ages. But it does not correspond to the ideas of the Apostolic Age. According to these there is but one Church, the same as to its true being on earth as it is in heaven, one Body of Christ, composed of believers in Him who had been taken to their rest and of those still in this world. In the earlier part of the Apostolic Age the great majority were in fact still in this world. The Body was chiefly a Visible Body. It had many imperfections. Some of its members might even have no true part in it at all and require removal. But Christ Himself "sanctifies and cleanses it that He may present it"-that very same Church-"to Himself a glorious Church, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but holy and without blemish[13]."

Now while one can understand the point of view from which in later times so deep a line of demarcation has been drawn between the Visible and the Invisible Church as to make of them two entirely separate things, and although to many it may still seem hard to do without this distinction, or in the existing condition of the nominally Christian world to employ that primitive conception of the Church even as, so to speak, a working hypothesis, I would ask whether the primitive conception is not a nobler and sounder one. Surely it places the ideal in its right relation to the actual. The full realisation of the ideal no doub

t belongs only to another world; yet if we believe in it as an ideal we must seek to actualise it here. There is something unwholesome in acknowledging any ideal which we do not strive so far as we can to actualise. And plainly participation in the same grace, and the spiritual ties arising therefrom, ought to find expression in an outer life of fellowship, of intercourse and common action, and such common organisation as for human beings in this world these require. No doubt it is always too possible that the outward may hinder the perception of the inward. But if we can guard successfully against this danger, the inward and spiritual will become all the more potent by having the external form through which to work; while the outward, if it is too sharply dissevered in thought from the inward, loses its value and even becomes injurious.

Again, a view of the Church is more wholesome which does not encourage us to classify its members in a manner only possible to the Allseeing God; to draw a line between true believers and others, and to determine (it may be) on which side of the line different ones are by their having had spiritual experiences similar to our own, and having learned to use the same religious language that we do; but which on the contrary leads us to think of all as under the Heavenly Father's care, and subject to the influences of the Holy Spirit, and placed in that Body of Christ where, although the spiritual life in them is as yet of very various degrees of strength, and their knowledge of things Divine in many cases small, all may and are intended to advance to maturity in Christ.

It is necessary that the relation of the idea of the Church upon which I have been dwelling to her subsequent history for centuries should be clearly apprehended. Its hold on the minds of Christians preceded the very beginnings of organisation in the Christian communities, and it would probably be no exaggeration to say that it governed the whole evolution of that organisation for many centuries. Particular offices were doubtless instituted and men appointed to them with specific reference to needs which were making themselves felt. But all the while that idea of the Church's unity and of her holiness was present in their thoughts. And certainly as soon as it becomes necessary to insist upon the duty of loyalty to those who had been duly appointed to office, and directly or indirectly to defend the institutions themselves, appeal is made to the idea, as notably by the two chief Christians in the Sub-Apostolic Age, Clement of Rome and Ignatius.

It is in itself evidence of a common spirit and common tendencies that broadly speaking the same form of constitution in the local Christian communities, though not introduced everywhere with quite equal rapidity, was so nearly everywhere almost on the confines of the Apostolic Age, and that soon it was everywhere. Ere long, with this form of government as a basis, plans were adopted expressly for the purpose of uniting the local Churches on terms of equality among themselves, especially in combating error. And at length in the name still of the Church's unity there came, however much we may regret it, the centralisation of Western Christendom in the See of Rome.

All these measures of organisation, from the earliest to the latest of them, were means to an end; and we shall regard them differently. But we ought not any of us to regard means, however they may commend themselves to us, and however sacred and dear their associations may be, in the same way as we do the end. There must always be the question, which will present itself in a different light to different minds, whether particular means, even though men may have been led by the Holy Spirit to employ them, were intended for all time. Moreover there are points in regard to the earliest history of Church organisation which remain obscure, in spite of all the labour that has been expended in investigating them: for instance the exact relation of different ministries, of the functions of different officers, to one another, the exact moment when the orders of ministers which proved to be permanent appeared in this or that important Church, the part which any of the immediate disciples of Christ had in their establishment, the ideas which at first were held as to the dependence of the rites of the Church for their validity upon being performed by a lawful ministry. Upon these matters, or some of them, it is possible for honest and competent inquirers to hold different opinions. But no such doubt hangs over that End which was also the Beginning, of the Church's life, that conception of what she is, or ought to be, as the society of those who confess the Name of Jesus Christ, and who are His Body. I insist upon this because I think that amid discussions on the origin of the Christian Ministry, the significance of that more fundamental question, namely, the right conception of the Christian Church, is apt to be too much lost sight of. About this, though men still do not, they ought to be able to agree, and it should be our common inspiration, both impelling us and guiding us in seeking our goal.

We need it to impel us. The obstacles to the reunion of Christendom at the present day are such that a motive which can be found is required to induce and sustain action in seeking it, whenever and wherever the opportunity for doing so presents itself; such a motive is to be found in a deep conviction of the sacredness of this object, so that our eyes maybe kept fixed upon it even when there appears to be no opening through which an advance toward it can be made, and there is nothing to be done save to wait and watch and pray. But in order also that the result of any efforts that are made may be satisfactory, it is necessary that our minds should be under the guidance of a great and true idea, and that we should not simply be animated with the desire of meeting immediate needs. These are the reasons which I think justify me for having detained you so long over the consideration of the fundamental conception of the Church which is rooted in the Christian Faith itself as it first appeared and spread in the world.

I will now, however, before concluding make a few remarks on one part of the complicated problem of reunion facing us to-day. The part of it on which I desire to speak is the relations between the Church of England, and the Churches in communion with her in various parts of the British Empire and in the United States, on the one hand, and on the other English Nonconformists, the Presbyterians of Scotland, and all English-speaking Christians allied to or resembling these. It will, I think, be generally felt that this is a part of the subject which for more than one reason specially invites our attention. There are, indeed, some, both clergy and laity, of the Church of England, though they are but a very small number in comparison with its members as a whole, whose interest in the subject of the reunion of Christendom is mainly shewn in the desire to obtain recognition for the Church of England, as a portion of the Church Catholic, from the great Church of the West. But in view of the attitude maintained by that Church there appears to be no prospect of this and nothing to be gained by attempts at negotiation. Endeavours to establish intercommunion with the Churches of Eastern Christendom may be made with more hope of success. Indeed there is reason to think that in the years to come the Church of England may be in a specially favourable position for getting into touch with these Churches and assisting them to recover from the effects of the War, and to make progress; and Englishmen generally would, I am sure, rejoice that she should undertake such work. But the question of the duty to one another of all those bodies of English Christians which I have specified comes nearer home and should press upon our minds and hearts more strongly. It is a practical one in every English town and every country parish, and almost everywhere throughout the world where the English language is spoken. Moreover, even the most loyal members of the Church of England, in spite of the points of principle on which they are divided from those other English Christians, resemble them more closely in many respects in their modes of thought, even on religion, than they do the members of other portions of the ancient Catholic Church from which they have become separated. And in addition to the distinctly religious reasons for considering the possibility of drawing more closely together and even ultimately uniting in one communion these different denominations of British Christians, there is a patriotic motive for doing so. Fuller religious sympathy, more cooperation, between the members of these different denominations could not fail to strengthen greatly the bonds between different classes amongst us, and to increase the coherency of the whole nation and empire.

It would be unwise, if in proposing steps towards reunion, difficulties and dangers connected with them were ignored; and I believe it to be my duty frankly to refer to some which suggest themselves to one looking from a Churchman's point of view. There are two chief barriers to the union of members of the Church of England and English Nonconformists that must be mentioned.

(1) That which I will refer to first is the connexion of the Church of England with the State.

This connexion is not, I think, such a hindrance to religious sympathy as it was, but it would be untrue to say that it is none. And there is of course the danger that if disestablishment became a political question, and especially if it involved the deflection of endowments which have long been used, and on the whole well-used, for the maintenance and furtherance of religion to secular objects, feeling between the majority of Churchmen and those who in consequence of their views in the matter became opposed to them might be seriously embittered. Yet there is good ground for hoping that the question of the relations of Church and State and all matters connected therewith will in the years that are coming be faced in a calmer spirit, and with truer insight into important principles, than too often they have been in the past. It should certainly be easier for those who approach them from different sides to understand one another. Particular grievances connected with inequality of treatment by the State have been removed; while a broad principle for which Nonconformists stand in common has come to be more clearly asserted, through their attaching increasingly less significance to the grounds on which different bodies amongst them were formed, as indicated in the names by which they have been severally known, and banding themselves together as the "Free Churches." But in the Church of England also in recent years there has been a growing sense of the need of freedom. It is better realised than at one time that in no circumstances could the Church rightly be regarded as a mere department of the State, or even as the most important aspect of the life of the State. However complete the harmony between Church and State might be, the Church ought to have a corporate life of her own. She requires such independence as may enable her to be herself, to do her own work, to act according to the laws of her own being. This is necessary even that she may discharge adequately her own function in the nation.

It is not part of my duty now to inquire in what respects the Church of England lacks this freedom, or whether such readjustments in her connexion with the State can be expected as would secure it to her, implying as the making of them would that, although she does not now include among her members more than half the nation, she is still for an indefinitely long time to continue to be the official representative of religion in the nation. But I would urge that when these points are discussed the question should also be considered whether, in a nation the great majority in which profess to be Christian, the State ought not to make profession of the Christian religion, which involves its establishment in some form, and whether there are not substantial benefits especially of an educative kind to be derived therefrom for the nation at large; and if so how this can in existing circumstances be suitably done. It should be remembered that in many cases the forefathers of those who are now separated from the National Church did not hold that a connexion between Church and State under any form was wrong; but on the contrary their idea of a true and complete national life included one. I think it is well to recall the view in this matter of men of another time. It is desirable that we should make our consideration of the whole subject of Church and State as broad as we can, and that we should strive not to be carried away into accepting some solution which at the moment seems the easiest, when with a little patience some better and truer one might be found possible.

(2) The other barrier to which I have referred is the claim of the Church of England to a continuity of faith and life with the faith and life of the Church Universal from the beginning, maintained in the first place through a Ministry the members of which have in due succession received their commission by means of the Historic Episcopate, and, secondly, through the acknowledgment of certain early and widely accepted creeds. This continuity was reasserted when the Church of England started on her new career at the Reformation, though at the same time the necessity was then strongly insisted on of testing the purity and soundness of the Church's faith and forms of worship by Holy Scripture. These guarantees and means of continuity are valued in very different degrees by different sections of opinion in the Church of England, and some who attach comparatively little importance to matters of organisation would attach great importance to the formularies of belief. But there can be no doubt that any steps which appeared seriously to compromise the preservation of the great features of the Church of England in either of these respects would cause deep disturbance among her members. On the other hand, it will be readily understood by all who can appreciate the changes that in our own and recent generations have come in men's view of Nature and of Mind, and in the interpretation of historical evidence, that definitions of belief framed in the past may not in every point express accurately the beliefs of all who nevertheless with full conviction own Jesus Christ as Lord. It is obvious, I think, that, if the Christian Church is to endure, there must be on the part of her members essential loyalty to the faith out of which she sprang, and which has inspired her throughout the ages to this day. But it is an anxious problem for the Church of England at the present time-and it is likely to become so likewise, if it is not yet, for all portions of the Church in which ancient standards of belief, or those framed in the 16th century, or later, hold an authoritative place-to decide wherein essential loyalty to "the faith once delivered" consists.

It may seem at first sight that when the Church of England has serious questions to grapple with affecting her internal unity, and especially affecting that unity in variety which to some considerable degree she represents and which is the most valuable kind of unity, attempts to join with other Christians outside her borders in considering a basis of union with them are unwise at least at the moment, as tending to increase the complexity and the difficulties of the position within, and as therefore to be deprecated in the interests of unity itself. I do not think so, but believe that assistance may thus be obtained in reaching a satisfactory settlement even of internal difficulties.

For, in the first place, there has of late been among members of the Church of England a change of temper which should be a preparation for considering her relations with those separated from her in a wiser and more liberal spirit than has before been possible. Those Churchmen who would insist most strongly on the necessity of preserving the Church's ancient order do not usually maintain the attitude to dissent of the Anglican High and Dry School, which was still common in the middle of the 19th century. The work which Nonconformist bodies have done for the spiritual and moral life of England, and the immense debt which we all owe to them on that account, are thankfully admitted. No one indeed can do otherwise than admit it thankfully who has eyes to see, and the sense of justice and generosity of mind to acknowledge what he sees. And the inference must be that, although the belief may be held as firmly as ever that the Spirit of God inspired that Order which so early took shape in the Church, and that He worked through it and continues to do so, yet that also, when men have failed rightly to use the appointed means, He has found other ways of working. This view, when it has had its due influence upon thought, can hardly fail to affect profoundly the measures proposed for healing the divisions which have arisen.

Then, again, on the other side-the side of those separated from the Church of England-there is more appreciation of the point of view of Churchmen in respect to their links with the past and their idea of Catholicity. This is due partly to a broader interest in the life of the Church in former ages and the heroic and saintly characters which they produced than since the Reformation has been common among those English Christians, who are, in a special sense, children of the Reformation; partly, perhaps, to a growing doubt, as views of Christian truth have become larger, whether after all a single doctrine or opinion, or reverence for the teaching of one man, can make a satisfactory basis for the permanent grouping of Christians. At the same time in regard to fundamental Christian belief, the meaning which the revelation of God in Christ has for them, they are and are conscious of being at one with the Church.

Striking evidence of these new tendencies of thought on both sides is to be seen in the movement originated by the Protestant Episcopal Church of the United States for a World-Conference on Faith and Order, and in the manner in which the proposal for such a Conference has been received in England, and the steps already taken in preparation for it. A body of representatives of the Church of England and of the Free Churches has been appointed, and a Committee of this body has already published suggestions for a basis of union. These have still, I understand, to come before the general body of English representatives, and it is intended (I believe) that the proposals of the Committee, after being examined and possibly amended and supplemented by the larger body, should, with any proposals that may be made from similar joint-bodies in the United States and in the British Dominions, be considered by a body of representatives from the whole of this vast area. Any conclusions which are thus reached must then lie, so to speak, before all the denominations concerned. Opportunity must be given for their being widely studied and explained and reflected upon, and if need be criticized. For the Church of Christ is, or ought to be, in a true sense a democratic society, a society in which, subject to its governing principles, the spiritual consciousness of all the faithful should make itself felt.

For the end of such a process as this we must wait a considerable time. Meanwhile there are obvious ways in which the cause of unity may be promoted; viz. through seeking for a larger amount of intercourse with the members of other denominations than our own; for more joint study of religious questions and frank interchange of views, and more cooperation in various forms of moral and social endeavour. The way would thus be, we may hope, prepared for fuller intercommunion, and it may be for corporate reunion.

FOOTNOTES:

[1] 1 Cor. x. 17, R.V. mg.

[2] Gal. iii. 28

[3] Col. i. 18, 24; Eph. i. 22, v. 23 ff.

[4] Gal. i. 13; 1 Cor. xv. 9.

[5] 1 Cor. xvi. 1, 19; 2 Cor. viii. 1; Gal. i. 2, 22.

[6] 1 Cor. xii. 28.

[7] 1 Cor. x. 32.

[8] 1 Cor. xi. 22.

[9] The Christian Ecclesia, pp. 3 ff.

[10] Die Mission u. Ausbreitung d. Christentums, p. 292.

[11] Kirchenrecht, 1. pp. 16 ff.

[12] 1 Cor. xi. 16.

[13] Ephes. v. 26, 27.

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UNITY BETWEEN CHRISTIAN DENOMINATIONS

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