صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

qu'elles ne nous demandent pas ce que nous ne pouvons faire, et qu'on me permette de le dire, ce qu'elles ne font


elles-mêmes. Oui: le multitudinisme genevois est resté vivant chez elles; et certainement elles lui doivent une portion notable de leur consistance au dedans, de leur influence au dehors. Elles font appel, comme nous, à ses souvenirs et à ses gloires ; elles forment, avec nous, ce que le monde chrétien appelle, et appellera toujours, • l'Église de Genève. Nous ne la renions, au fond, pas plus les uns que les autres. Elle a été, elle est, elle restera, notre mère à

tous." *

Such are the feelings in favor of Nationalism on the part of M. Bungener, a member of the Genevan Church, a church to which many would not even concede that title, and of which the ecclesiastical renown centres upon one great name ; while the civil history of the country presents but little of interest either in ancient or modern times. But the questions at issue between these two Genevans are of wide Christian concern, and especially to ourselves. If the Genevans cannot be proud of their Calvin, as they cannot in all things, — and even he is not truly their own, - they have little else of which to speak before Christendom. Very different are the recollections which are awakened by the past history of such a Church as ours.

Its roots are found to penetrate deep into the history of the most freely and fully developed nationality in the world, and its firm hold upon the past is one of its best auguries for the future. It has lived through Saxon rudeness, Norman rapine, baronial oppression and bloodshed ; it has survived the tyranny of Tudors, recovered from fanatical assaults, escaped the treachery of Stuarts ; has not perished under coldness, nor been stifled with patronage, nor sunk utterly in a dull age, nor been entirely

* Seances Historiques de Genève — Le Christianisme au 4ième Siècle,

p. 153.

depraved in a corrupt one. Neither as a spiritual society, nor as a national institution, need there be any fear that the Church of this country, which has passed through so many ordeals, shall succumb because we may be on the verge of some political and ecclesiastical changes. We ourselves cohere with those who have preceded us, under very different forms of civil constitution, and under a very different creed, and externals of worship. The “rude forefathers," whose mouldering bones, layer upon layer, have raised the soil round the foundations of our old churches, adored the Host, worshipped the Virgin, signed themselves with the sign of the cross, sprinkled themselves with holy water, and paid money for masses for the relief of souls in purgatory. But it is no reason, because we trust that spiritually we are at one with the best of those who have gone before us in better things than these, that we should revert to their old-world practices ; nor should we content ourselves with simply transmitting to those who shall follow us traditions which have descended to ourselves, if we can transmit something better. There is a time for building up old waste places, and a time for raising fresh structures ; a time for repairing the ancient paths, and a time for filling the valleys and lowering the hills in the constructing of new. The Jews, contemporaries of Jesus and his apostles, were fighters against God in refusing to accept a new application of things written in the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms; the Romans in the time of Theodosius were fighters against him, when they resisted the new religion with an appeal to old customs; so were the opponents of Wycliffe and his English Bible, and the opponents of Cranmer and his Reformation. Meddle not with them that are given to change is a warning for some times, and self-willed persons may “ bring in damnable heresies :" at others,“ old things are to pass away;” and that is erroneously “called heresy" by the blind which is really a worshipping the God of the fathers in a better way.

When signs of the times are beheld foretelling change, it behooves those who think they perceive them to indicate them to others, not in any spirit of presumption or of haste; and, in no spirit of presumption, to suggest inquiries as to the best method of adjusting old things to new conditions.

Many evils are seen in various ages, if not to have issued directly, to have been intimately linked with the Christian profession ; such as religious wars, persecutions, delusions, impositions, spiritual tyrannies. Many goods of civilization in our own day, when men have run to and fro and knowledge has been increased, have apparently not the remotest connection with the gospel. Hence grave doubts arise in the minds of really well-meaning persons, whether the secular future of humanity is necessarily bound up with the diffusion of Christianity; whether the Church is to be hereafter the life-giver to human society. It would be idle on the part of religious advocates to treat anxieties of this kind as if they were forms of the old Voltairian anti-Christianism. They are not those affectations of difficulties whereby vice endeavors to lull asleep its fears of a judgment to come ; nor are they the pretensions of ignorant and presumptuous spirits, making themselves wise beyond the limits of man's wisdom. Even if such were, indeed, the sources of the wide-spread doubts respecting traditional Christianity which prevail in our own day,

it would be very injudicious polemic which should content itself with denouncing the wickedness, or expressing pity for the blindness, of those who entertain them. An imputation of evil motives may imbitter an opponent and add gall to controversy, but can never dispense with the necessity for replying to his arguments, nor with the advisableness of neutralizing his objections.

If anxieties respecting the future of Christianity, and the office of the Christian Church in time to come, were confined to a few students or speculative philosophers, they might be put aside as mere theoretical questions. If rude criticisms upon the Scriptures, of the Tom-Paine kind, proceeding from agitators of the masses, or from uninstructed persons, were the only assaults to which the letter of the Bible was exposed, it might be thought that further instruction would impart a more reverential and submissive spirit. If lay-people only entertained objections to established formularies in some of their parts, a self-satisfied sacerdotalism, confident in a supernaturally transmitted illumination, might succeed in keeping peace within the walls of emptied churches. It may not be very easy, by a statistical proof, to convince those, whose preconceptions indispose them to admit it, of the fact of a very wide-spread alienation, both of educated and uneducated persons, from the Christianity which is ordinarily presented in our churches and chapels. Whether it be their reason or their moral sense which is shocked by what they hear there, the ordinances of public worship and religious instruction provided for the people of England, alike in the endowed and unendowed churches, are not used by them to the extent we should expect, if they valued them very highly, or if they were really adapted to the wants of their nature as it is. And it has certainly not hitherto received the attention which such a grave circumstance demanded, that a number equal to five millions and a quarter of persons should have neglected to attend means of public worship within their reach on the census Sunday in 1851 ; these five millions and a quarter being forty-two per cent of the whole number able and with opportunity of then attending. As an indication, on the other hand, of a great extent of dissatisfaction on the part of the clergy to some portion, at least, of the formularies of the Church of England, may be taken the fact of the existence of various associations to procure their revision, or some liberty in their use, especially that of omitting one unhappy creed.

It is generally the custom of those who wish to ignore the necessity for grappling with modern questions concerning biblical interpretation, the construction of the Christian Creed, the position and prospects of the Christian Church, to represent the disposition to entertain them as a disease contracted by means of German inoculation. At other times, indeed, the tables are turned, and theological inquirers are to be silenced with the reminder, that, in the native land of the modern scepticism, Evangelical and High-Lutheran reactions have already put it down. It may be that on these subjects we shall in England be much indebted, for some time to come, to the patience of German investigators ; but we are by no means likely to be mystified by their philosophical speculations, nor to be carried away by an inclination to force all facts within the sweep of some preconceived comprehensive theory. If the German biblical critics have

« السابقةمتابعة »