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HE tendency of religion in our day is towards union. The controversies to which most of our Churches owe their rise have lost much of their interest for us: some of them are hardly intelligible. The great landmarks of Christianity-God and His love, Christ and His salvation, mankind and their brotherhood, remain, and will remain. They are words of life. But the excitement about exact definitions in theology and correct precedents in Church government has largely passed away. The medieval Church tried to build up a tower of dogma whose top should reach to heaven, and one result was a confusion of tongues. Now we are trying to recover the universal language. Creeds divide: life draws together; and we are seeking in the simpler and grander thoughts of religion the nourishment of a warmer common life. The way is open to large measures of unification.
We are also urged to union by the gigantic tasks which lie before modern Christianity. We have around us masses of men who are outside all the Churches. New problems, social and political, scientific and philosophical, press upon us. There is a new world to be won for Christ. It is not a time to insist on details. The gospel which we have to carry both to rich and poor must lay aside every weight. It has to be translated into modern terms and pushed with modern energy.
Complete union may be impossible, even in the long run. Some of the chasms in our thought are very deep. But without actual fusion of sects there may be federation; and even without federation there may be common action. Of the leading Churches of Britain, the Presbyterians, Baptists, Congregationalists, and Methodists, and large sections of the Church of England, differ only in minor points, and if they chose, could easily work together. And no one can doubt that if they worked together they would have an enormously increased power over the evils of our times.
In any case, union cannot be hurried. Men who have grown up in different habits, and worked in different ways, cannot all at once abandon their peculiarities and make common cause. Some sects, indeed, might be joined at once; but for most the process must take time. The main point is to be moving in the right direction. Each Church should aim at simplifying its ideas, and getting to understand the ways of its neighbours. The way to simplicity is knowledge and the way to union is mutual knowledge.
Its founders believe that union is desirable, and to a large extent possible; and that a wider sympathy and closer co-operation are not far off. They hope to do much to make the thoughts and ways of the different Churches of Christendom familiar to each other, and so to foster a spirit of genuine catholicity. The round arch on their cover may stand for a symbol of this idea, while it recalls the time when Western Europe was, at least in form, one in Christ.
The Review will contain, in such brevity as is needful in order to obtain a hearing, a monthly account of what is going on in the leading Churches
possibly in nearly all the Churches-both at home and abroad, in the spheres both of thought and of practical activity; and it will not neglect those general movements-political, social, or philosophical-which affect the progress of Religion at large in this great world.
Besides this account of the " Progress of the Churches," the Review will summarise the principal articles in the periodicals of the different Churches, and review their literature under the title of "Round Table Conferences." It will contain a few of the best sermons of the month, and in "Pages for Preachers" will give special attention to theological articles. It will give special discussions by leading workers on topics of immediate interest. It will chronicle the work of the great philanthropic societies, and tell the newest tales of missionary enterprise. A series of special articles by Archdeacon Farrar on great philanthropies is in course of preparation.
Following the plan of aiming first at bringing nearer together those who are already not far off, the Review has been placed under a junta of five Special Editors, one of whom will represent each of the five leading divisions of British Religion: the Anglican (Dr. Farrar), the Presbyterian (Dr. Donald Fraser), the Baptist (Dr. Clifford), the Congregational (Dr. Mackennal), and the Methodist (Mr. Bunting). Each will be responsible only for matter which may appear under his own signature. The whole Review will be managed by the General Editor, Dr. Lunn, who will be responsible for all unsigned matter. In the case of the Anglican Church it is not likely that any one man will be accepted as representing sympathetically all the varying views of the great parties which find place within its ample fold; but this want, as well as the information to come from other great bodies-the Roman Catholics, the Unitarians, the Society of Friends, the Salvation Army, and others-will be sup
It is with these views that this journal is established. plied, partly, by the aid of writers of their own.
OUR ROUND TABLE CONFERENCE.
The Reunion of Christendom.
LETTER FROM THE RIGHT HON.
W. E. GLADSTONE, M.P.
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THE RT. REV. THE BISHOP OF RIPON. THERE is a widespread desire for Reunion. good men are praying for it," so the late Canon Liddon said. Some are doing more than praying; they are working for it. But herein lies the difficulty; for those who are working for it are too often disposed to work, not so much for the cause of Reunion, but for a particular Reunion which seems to them the only desirable Reunion. To do this, however useful it may prove, under God's providence, is to start with a premiss which can only lead to limitation in the conclusion. Reunion, if it is to satisfy the Christian
THE RT. REV. THE BISHOP OF RIPON.
ideal-may I not with reverence say, if it is to fulfil the prayer of Christ, must be as wide and as deep as the love which created Christendom. To achieve this, or even to be fit to work for it, we need first of all the spirit of Christ.
The difficulties which stand in the way of Reunion are many. We shall not remove them by exaggerating them, nor by ignoring them. But something may be done by arranging them in order, and by weighing their relative importance. In a short paper this can only be done imperfectly. Much must be omitted, and even the selection of cases may be far from the best.
(1) First then respecting the evil of exaggeration. For those who hope and pray for Reunion, it is most disheartening to observe the extraordinary tenacity with which trifles are clung to. But even this would not cause so much mischief, were it not that these same trifles are raised to the position of matters of supreme importance. One or two illustrations may make this clear. We are reminded by a Scotch clergyman in a noteworthy sermon recently published, that it is not so very long since men boasted of their divisions, and prayers used to be offered that "the people might be baptised into the spirit of disruption." Again, a young clergyman was seeking a curacy. He applied to a clergyman of mature years who needed a helper. It was natural enough that the vicar should desire to have a curate whose views, generally speaking, accorded with his own. But judge of the young man's amazement when among the "most important doctrines" on which harmony was expected was that "momentous doctrine of the pre-millenial advent of our blessed Lord." If men could not work side by side in the cause of a common Master without agreement on a doubtful question of, to say the least, secondary importance, the hope of brotherly union seems to fade away. Take another case: A lady, conspicuous, like Dorcas, for her good deeds among the poor and outcast, was accosted by the curate of the parish after this fashion: "You are a good woman; but O, why don't you do some really religious work, such as embroidering an altar-cloth ?" Exaggerations such as these have their amusing side; but they become wicked exaggerations when their observance or non-observance is treated as a matter essential.
It seems to me that, intellectually speaking, the essence of schism lies in raising matters trifling and indifferent to the level of matters essential, and practically creating new societies for the purpose of giving to such matters an importance which could never be conceded to them in the larger body of Christians. Tried by this test, many churches and communions would, I fear, be found guilty of schism. The simple application of the maxim of Vincentius would condemn many things as trifling which habit or prejudice, ignorance or misapprehension, have treated as important.
But there is another form of exaggeration which needs notice. There are practices which individual Christians have found good for their spiritual life. To insist that such must necessarily be good for everybody is an exaggeration. On the other hand, to deny the right of such a practice to those whom it benefits is equally the exaggeration of a trifle. Narrow
ness of view and illiberality of spirit do not belong merely to those who preach that their meat is necessary for the rest of the world. They are also the heritage of those who refuse to their brothers the meat which can nourish their souls. If there are diversities of gifts, there are diversities of constitutions. One man's meat is another man's poison. "It is not necessary that traditions and ceremonies be in all places one or utterly alike; for at all times they have been divers, and may be changed according to the diversities of countries, times, and men's manners, so that nothing be ordained as against God's word." This is the declaration of my own Church-a declaration, I fear, little known and less regarded than it ought to have been.
(2) If there are matters which are trifling and in which consequently exaggerated statements are harmful, there are difficulties which it is not wise or right to ignore. In these we must, I think, remember that to go round an obstacle is not to overcome it, and such circumvention may involve deviation from the straight path. For there is an intellectual integrity which a man cannot fling away without serious inward, ethical loss. "The sacrifice of independent judgment," said the late Bishop Lightfoot, "is in itself an evil."
It will follow that it is no part of a wholesome scheme for Reunion to advocate the suppression of convictions. Convictions so suppressed may, like diseases, work havoc in more vital parts within. It is ill purchasing insincere conformity at the cost of enfeebled energy.
But in addition to this ethical danger, which is individual, there is another ill-result which may arise from this suppression of convictions, and this would be universal. It is surely not too much to ask men to realise that within limits race tendencies do exist. There may be too much fatalism in the views of some on this matter, but there is surely a danger on the other side of ignoring facts altogether. Race tendencies do exist; the mode in which religion takes form among some races does differ and will continue to differ for many years to come. It is not my province to point out the sources or to attempt the explanation of this fact. It is quite sufficient to remind ourselves that the skulls of various races vary. The cephalic indices vary from 58 to 98! Variety of mental range and differences of mental endowments are evidenced by these figures. God may have made men of one blood to dwell on the face of the earth, but He has not made men without allowing the existence, growth, or evolution of varieties of mental type. Here, as within the range of the Church in any one place, there
are diversities of gifts; and these gifts have surely some significance. We are but poor believers in the rule of God's wisdom, if we imagine that these varieties are designed to play no part in the purposes of God, and no service in the history of the development of the race. The Greek no less than the Jew was necessary for the evolution of religious thought. The Roman, as well as the Greek and the Jew, had his share to take in the spread of Christianity when the fulness of time had come. When the Jew-born teacher walked along Roman roads with the Greek language on his tongue to tell the story of the Cross, he showed that in the order of God even the very feeblest races are necessary to the organisation of humanity in the life of God. It was not for nothing that the inscription upon the Cross was in Hebrew, Greek and Latin. We may enlarge the thought, for the principle is the same. In the development of God's purposes in the world, the various races of earth still serve some object. All contribute something without which the final development would not be complete. Perchance even upon the most uncomely peoples may fall the more abundant honour. The convictions which in these various races seem to take the most persistent hold are not without their use. Christianity is larger than the races which have received it. No people and no branch of the Church can give final or complete expression to it. No single race can say to another, "I have no need of thee." Variety of form, therefore, there must be. The best men recognise this. Bishop Lightfoot, I think, it was who reminded his hearers once that it was not to be expected that the Oriental races would or could adopt Western methods when they embraced Christianity. The Eastern peoples of India, China, and Japan must in their worship and in their order find modes which will be profitable and fit expressions of the religious thought and devotion of races which will not cease to be Oriental when they become Christian. When they do so, shall we not gain? Shall we not discover that there were aspects of Christ's teaching which our prosaic Western minds did not appreciate ? Will not these peoples in their turn teach us our defects? Like men who study a great masterpiece and then exchange thoughts, shall we not gain from one another?
Something follows from this thought. The end is not yet, i.e., the fulness of Christ will not be realised till the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. Each race and people will reflect back something of the glory of the Lord. The broken lights when all are gathered blend into one perfect and sunny beam.