« ПредишнаНапред »
-first, its capacity for binding together the old and the new ; secondly, its capacity for uniting the clergy and the laity and the different religious tendencies of the nation under the control not of any lesser body, but of the English state and commonwealth itself; thirdly, its central relation to all the divers branches of the Englishspeaking churches throughout the world. It is for us to see that these great opportunities are used—that these towers and bulwarks are manned and occupied by hearts and minds, by a spirit and purpose, worthy of their greatness. It is one result of those very peculiarities which I named that, in the work of strengthening, reforming, and improving the Church of England, every one of us may, in his measure, take a part; for the Church of England, by its very name, is the Church of us all. We all-not only those who teach, nor those only who communicate, nor those only who are converted to this opinion or to that feeling, but we all-are the Church of England, bone of its bone, and flesh of its flesh. By our weakness it grows weak; by our indulgence in foolish farcies it becomes fanciful and childish ; by our strength it grows strong ; by our knowledge, of whatever kind, it becomes enlightened; by our zeal
it becomes energetic; by our sound common sense it becomes useful. This is the true meaning of our being in communion with the Church of England. We bind ourselves in that communion to do the best we can for our country and for the present and future of our National Church. Let us each, according to his power, help to clear out every old abuse, every stumbling-block of needless offence, every ignorant prejudice, every form which has lost its meaning, every obstacle to the full efficacy of our services, our ministrations, our teaching, our prayers. The Church of England is old, but it is still fresh and sound. It is decayed in parts, but it may still be amended and strengthened. It is vacant in parts, but it may still be peopled. Some of its joints are stiff, but they may be relaxed. Its mental and spiritual resources have often been wasted, but they are not yet exhausted. It has harboured much that belongs to the mere dirt and rubbish of the passing fancies of men, but it has also been the home of much that has enlightened and consoled and cheered the hearts and minds of English men and English women for centuries. It has still a mighty work to do, if we who have the charge of
it have the courage and the wisdom and the patience to do it. Forsake us not, O God, in our old age, when we are grey-headed, until we have showed Thy strength unto this generation, and Thy power to all them that are yet for to come!
THERE is here gathered from various sources some information which may help to illustrate the preceding pages. The points which it seems necessary briefly to bring out are (i.) the divisions, (ii.) the constitution and polity, and (iii.) the standards or confessions of faith of the chief Dissenting Churches.
According to the return of the Registrar-General, there are at the present time in England and Wales 172 religious denominations, possessing amongst them 20,749 places of worship. A close and critical examination of this list would require an intimacy with the religious life of the country such as very few people possess, but even a rough analysis affords matter for thought. It shows that if in the past the Church of England has been unable to find room within its pale for every variety of opinion, the same is true of each of the prominent Nonconformist bodies. It shows, too, that if men have chafed at the discipline of the Established Church they have been equally impatient of the yoke of churches untrammelled by State control.
1. The Baptists are a very divided church, and their 1 See Blunt's Dictionary of Sects and Heresies ; the various year-books · and official records; the carefully compiled notes in Whitaker's Almanac ; Dr. Schaff's Creeds of the Evangelical Protestant Churches ; and Canon Curteis's Bampton Lectures.
history has been one of frequent disruption. In 1633 they split up into two main divisions—the Particular Baptists, who adhered to the teaching of Calvin ; and the General Baptists, who asserted the Arminian view of the Redemption. From the latter body the New Connection General Baptists seceded in 1760, and about 200 congregations still exist. The General Baptists are now, generally speaking, Unitarian in their creed, and only about 100 congregations of them remain. The Particular Baptists are the parent stock, and by far the most influential section of the communion. Their churches constitute the Baptist Union; but they again are divided into two great classes—the Free Communionists, who admit to the Lord's Supper all who have ever been baptized; and the Close Communionists, who admit those only who have been baptized as adults. It is said that there are no less than 550 Baptist congregations unattached, who own no connection with anybody beyond the walls of their own place of meeting. At any rate the divisions are still very minute, as is shown by the following list of denominations registered in England and Wales :