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NOTES ON CURRENT TOPICS.
We lieed not go from our proper place in order to discipline ourselves for God's service; we need not strive after gifts which He has not entrusted to us, or forms of action which are foreign to our position, in order to do our part as members of His Church.
It is enough that we grow and wax strong under the action of those forces by which He moves us within and without, if we desire to fulfil, according to the measure of our powers, the charge which He has prepared for us. Canon WBSTCoTT.
In the report of Mr Joseph Cook's lecture in the February No. of "Our Day," he cites a letter of Mr. Beecher, hitherto unpublished, in which occurs these sentences: '' Indeed, I suspect that no man can get away from the doctrine of endless punishment except by a process which very materially lowers inspiration. I am free to confess that my mind moves away more and more from the doctrine of endless punishment, but it is at the expense of that belief in the supreme authority of Scripture, and an increase of faith that the living reason of men must determine living questions, and that the moral sense which Christianity educates must in the end sit in judgment on the qualities of religion itself.''
If Mr. Beecher had understood the redemptive value of resurrection, and had been able to trace this thread of light which runs through all scripture, he would never have been forced to take this low view of its inspiration. He would have seen that all the promises spoken by the mouth of holy prophets since the world began are based upon this view of resurrection as a hope. Our Saviour's words about future punishment were spoken, and must be interpreted in subordination to this principle, its full value was in part concealed until after His own resurrection. The "eternal punishment" therefore of Matt. xxv. 41, which is the pivotal passage on this subject, is something to which the unrighteous are consigned before their resurrection from the dead.
Primitive HOPE.—If the apostles interpreted the words of Jesus concerning the day of judgment as the end of hope for the world of the living and of the dead, why were they so anxious for the coming of Christ in their own day? Could they have believed that the mere handful of saints gathered by their ministry was all the harvest He was to gather from even the mass of souls in that generation? If so, why were they so eager for an event which would end their day of hope?
The aspect of the blessing of Church-work which is brightest with promise is that which presents it as the first fruits of a dedicated life. It is the end which determines the character of the work. What we do is generous or base in consideration of the object at which we are aiming, as we do it. I remember to have read a most touching story in which a man is represented as preserving through every vicissitude of declining fortune the sense that he was serving his country. He fell outwardly lower and lower, but he never ceased to be noble. The story is a parable. What his country is to the citizen, the universal church is to the christian; the visible representation not only of all that is loftiest in duty, but also of all that is most august in power. To work for that Society in whose life, eyes are but as days, to whose fullness nations are but contributory elements; for that Society which is indeed the Body of Christ, is a privilege which gives inexpressible dignity to the humblest ministry. If we are often led to think too highly of ourselves, we always, I believe, thnk too poorly of that to which God has called us. "Noblesse oblige" the inspiring • necessity of position has at all times stirred men to splendid efforts. And the nobility of the Christian—if onr eyes are open to see—rises supreme even now. He. traces his descent through a line of martyrs and saints; he holds the charter of an eternal kingdom.
Church Union.—It is evident that the discussions and overtures about church union must reach a higher plane before we can look for any practical issue. We do not discover that any existing churchsystem has reached the high ground of readiness to give up its own interests for the sake of the higher good of the whole body.
The Episcopal Church has made more advance toward this high ground thau any other, in that it offers to surrender its peculiar forms of worship, and to merge itself in a larger Catholic body, provided the Episcopate is retained as the centre of unity and order. But we do not hear of other bodies proposing to surrender any of their distinctive peculiarities. A very high authority among Presbyterians recently stated to us that the"raisou d'etre"of that chnrch is its Confession. Of course if there be no willingness to surrender this for the sake of a united church, there is an end of all hope from that direction. Calvinists might still remain Calvinists in a Catholic Church, but they could not expect to enforce their present creed, with its multiplex and metaphysical propositions upon all their brethren in the one body. All denominations must become willing to subordinate their interests and their opinions to the interests and the common faith of the whole body. The death of selfishness, and the supremacy of the Christ-life which sacrifices itself for the good of all, is what is needed. May God give us all more of the mind which was in Christ Jesus.
In connection it gives us great pleasure to state that a movement is on foot, with promise of success, for the issuing of a call, signed by prominent pastors of different denominations for a united service of prayer for this object to be held in one of the large churches in this city on the eve-of Good Friday. This is beginning at the right end. If Confession of the sins and ignorance that have produced this divine state be mingled with the prayers for light and relief, the end sought must sooner or later be reached.
PROGRESS In SCOTLAND.—There must be some deep-seated reason for the growing disaffection toward the Westminster Standards in the mother country of rresbyterianism, as illustrated in the following, taken from the Presbyterian Journal.
—A private conference of the Glasgow Free Presbytery was recently held to consider the subject of the Confession of Faith. Dr. Candlish introduced the question by making a statement to the effect that it was desirable to change the formulas so as not to require that ministers and elders should be asked to declare their agreement to the whole doctrine of the Confession, but rather in the general substance of that doctrine. A good many ministers and elders took part in the conference—some agreeing fully with Dr. Candlish, a few differing from him, and the majority stating that it seemed to them unnecessary to press the matter forward throughout the Chnrch for discussion at present. After very full consideration Dr. Candlish intimated that he would not ask the Presbytery to take any practical step in the direction that he had indicated; but that he believed the matter to be of so much importance that it must very soon command the attention of the Church.
The following ominous paragraph appears in the"Messenger"of the English Presbyterian Church: "Dr. Walter Smith's article in the Contemporary Review 011 the Scotch Church question is remarkable for what it says, not on the question of disestablishment, but on the drift of theological opinion in Scotland. Dr. Smith has no doubt that Disestablishment is coming. It is purely a question of time and of growth of modern tendency. Discussing its consequences, he anticipates that the chief result of it will be the adjus tment of the standards of the Church in harmony with the change which has taken, and is taking place in the religious opinion of Scotland. Dr. Smith says that all their more thoughtful and able young ministers have a period of hesitation before they sign the formula of the Confession, and that many of those who are doing the work of elders decline to put their names to the document. The ordinary preaching does not run on the lines of the Church's creed. The Confession, he says, is ignored. The Gospel of Divine love is substituted for the Gospel of Divine Sovereignty. A change of greater moment than any since the Reformation has taken place in the ordinary teaching of the Church, and Dr. Smith believes that the greatest and most important work of the Presbyterian Church will be to re-adjust the Confession in conformity with the actual faith of the members of the Church."
The Presbyterian Church in this country will have to follow in the same direction, or else present the same disgraceful spectacle of a church that professes to believe one thing and preaches another. Meanwhile, we believe we are doing that Church the highest service by bringing out from the Word of God a doctrine of the last things which more truly conserves the essentials of the evangelical faith than do the speculations which are rife in our day, and which find in the divine lore and the divine sovereignty the one common centre of all things.
We hope to live to see the day when the dark and dishonoring view of the purpose of God in providing resurrection through Christ for all the dead which now draws its trail of error and gloom through our Confession will be displaced by that true view which throws the light of "hope toward God" upon even the resurrection of the unjust. Nothing else will ever dissipate the mists which still becloud the mind of the Church upon this whole subject.
The Five Lives OF Seed Corn.—Professor J. Beal's record of interesting and useful tests of the germinating possibilities of small grain, especially wheat, was communicated to The Tribune some weeks ago, ahowing that repeated sprouting followed drying up, the fifth or sixth time .Dr. E. Lewis Sturtevant, of our State Experiment Station, has since published report of similar investigations with the seed of maize, indicating the same wise provision of kindly natnre to the end that harvests may not fail. He introduces his data with pleasing statement of the curious fact, the existence of which may well excite wonder and gratitude:
"It is often surprising to see how admirably a plant has sometimes become possessed of functions for meeting and overcoming the variable changes to which it is subjected by climate. Seedis planted, germinates, a drouth comes and the soil becomes dry and parched. The swollen seed has commenced its life, but apparently its attempt has been in vain, for the seed is now again dry and hard, and the caulicle appears withered and dead; the rains come; the seed again swells and renews its attempt to grow. The vital functions of the seed are so strong, and so arranged that its resistance at this period of its life to unfavorable agencies is great, and with a return to the conditions favorable to growth, its suspended life again starts into action."
That this vital function should withstand one repression is indeed noteworthy; that it should endure to be nipped four successive times and still show some degree of effective life is very remarkable.
As to denominational loyalty, one word we think will give the true teaching: Who is most loyal to a noble ancestry? He who boasts of its worth, while living without exertion on its wealth, or he, who by a worthy activity, would carry forward in increased measure, its wealth and honors? Prof. W. W. Lovejoy.