THE indications are that Russia has gained considerable in the new Czar. Already he manifests a statesman-like liberality of thought which has pleasantly surprised the world. It is related that recently in examining papers bearing upon some official appointments the Czar struck out with his pen the sentences relating to the religious beliefs of the applicants, remarking to the effect that their religious views were their own private matter and had no bearing upon their suitability for political office. It is hoped from this that religious liberty may soon be granted to a degree not enjoyed for centuries in Russia. Such a policy would be welcomed by Roman Catholics, Greek Catholics and Protestants, no less than by the Jews.
In harmony with this view we note the removal of Gen. Gourko, Governor-General of Warsaw, and of Count Ignatieff, Governor-General of Kieff. Both of these men were noted for their anti-Jewish proclivities; and the latter had only recently instituted the severe persecutions of the Stundists mentioned in our issue of Jan. 15. The Czar's uncle, the Prince of Wales, visited him at the time of his father's funeral and doubtless lent encouragement to his more liberal views respecting government.
The Lord-Mayor of Liverpool created a sensation a few days ago in a speech before the Commercial Travelers' Association. Speaking of the need of a higher technical and intellectual culture amongst English workmen, he went on to say that if they did all they could to produce British goods he believed that in two or three years there would not be an idle man in Great Britain. But he feared an unwillingness to acquire this culture and skill, and a disposition rather to do as little work and for as few hours as possible and in a careless manner. "He was afraid there was nothing for it, but to let them (the English workmen) go to the devil."
The gentleman no doubt spoke out boldly what many others have thought, but have not uttered. He says, truly, that his method would give employment to the idle; but he seems not to see what so many overlook; viz., that if the workmen of Liverpool or of all England became more efficient than other workmen the world over, and drew the world's business to themselves by fine work at low prices, it would mean the stoppage of factories elsewhere and idleness of their employees, until they had reached a similar or greater skill and lower prices and should reclaim their trade. Meantime, the constant increase of machinery, population and skill would shortly make matters even worse than now, for the unemployed in Liverpool and throughout the world would be intellectually cultured workingmen who would suffer under deprivations more than at present. This very sort of thing has been in progress for the past twenty years.
No, the Lord-Mayor sees not the real cause of the present social distress. It is but the natural travail and labor incident to the birth of a new order of things, incident to the liberating and enlightenment of the race as a whole and the development of inventions, all of which are but preparations for "the day of Christ"—the Millennial Kingdom.
The recent "bread riot" in Montreal, Canada, and on the same day eight mass-meetings of thousands of unemployed men in Berlin, Germany, demanding employment, tell us how wide spread is the present financial depression. Capital refuses to be risked except with profits in [R1769 : page 40] prospect; Labor refuses to be used on any less favorable terms than at present, realizing that each step lower would not only be permanent, but would lead still lower. The only help is that suggested in the Lord's prayer—"Thy Kingdom come; thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven." Look up yourself, and lift up the eyes and hearts of others, to the dawn of the Millennium. Through all the present mists behold with the eye of faith the first rays of the promised Sun of Righteousness arising with healing in his beams.
Zion Associations of Jews are being organized in Great Britain as well as in the United States, their central thought being a National Movement—the re-establishment of a Jewish Kingdom in Palestine. Jewish journals long silent on this subject, if not opposed to the project, are now devoting space in almost every issue to its consideration. We are glad to see this. It is a "straw," pointing in the direction indicated by prophecy. Trust in the Lord and wait patiently for him, and he will bring to pass all that he has promised. But do not expect it before his time, his fixed time. While the time to favor Zion began in 1878, the treading down of the Gentiles will not be at an end until 1914 A.D. The interim, however, will be more and more a time of turning away of blindness from Israel;—the blindness which happened unto all Israel except the elect remnant, after they as a nation and individually rejected Christ.—See Rom. 9:27-33; 10:1-3; 11:1,7-11,25-32.
The Pope, desirous of devising some scheme for a basis of agreement between the church of Rome and the church of England, summoned Cardinal Vaughan from England to Rome for conference. The Cardinal gave little encouragement to the proposition, even advising that such efforts would be fruitless; but the Pope is not yet satisfied, and proposes a conference with the Catholic Bishops of Salford, Nottingham and Southwark, whose sentiments are understood to be more in harmony with the pope's sentiments.
One effect will be to draw some of the high-churchmen of England Romeward, while the low-church party will unite with other Protestants in the coming Protestant Federation, from which, however, the word "protestant" will probably be dropped.
The Pope's long expected Encyclical, or General Message, to the Roman church in the United States, has just been made public. Its items of chief interest to us are: (1) It definitely declares Mgr. Satolli the Pope's representative—the United States' Pope. (2) It refers to Protestants here, desires their conversion to Romanism and suggests that Roman Catholics in general win them over by their examples in living the Christian virtues. This is surely a hint in the right direction: Protestants in general would be glad to see some better exhibition of Christian virtues amongst their Romanist neighbors. Should the Pope's advice operate energetically, it would immediately close about three-fourths of the saloons, breweries and distilleries, and vacate about the same proportion of all the jails and penitentiaries of our land. The Pope is right: such an "example" would convert many Protestants, who would gladly forget the shameful history of the past. But Papacy does not possess the truth which sanctifies, and the few real saints who in past centuries belonged to her communion did not really belong to her faith. The Encyclical says:—"How solicitous we are of their salvation....Surely we ought not to desert them nor leave them to their fancies; but, with mildness and charity, draw them to us, using every means of persuasion to induce them to examine closely every part of the Catholic doctrine, and to free themselves from preconceived notions.
"Great is the force of example, particularly with those who are earnestly seeking the truth and who, from a certain inborn virtuous disposition, are striving to live an honorable [R1770 : page 40] and upright life; to which class very many of your fellow citizens belong. If the spectacle of Christian virtues exerted a powerful influence over the heathens, shall we think it powerless to eradicate error in the case of those who have been initiated into the Christian religion?"
"For the church among you, unopposed by the constitution and government of your Nation, fettered by no hostile legislation, protected against violence by the common laws and the impartiality of the tribunals, is free to live and act without hindrance. Yet, though all this is true, it would be very erroneous to draw the conclusion that in America is to be sought the type of the most desirable status of the church, or that it would be universally lawful or expedient for State and church to be, as in America, dissevered and divorced. The fact that Catholicity with you is in good condition, nay, is even enjoying a prosperous growth, is by all means to be attributed to the fecundity with which God has endowed his church, in virtue of which, unless men and circumstances interfere, she spontaneously expands and propagates herself. But she would bring forth more abundant fruits, if, in addition to liberty, she enjoyed the favor of the laws and the patronage of the public authority."
This would be to make matters stand here as they stood in Europe, during the "dark ages," which Papacy recognizes as its Millennium, the present period of progress and civilization under Protestant influences being recognized by them as the "little season" of Rev. 20:7 in which the devil is loosed in the form of Protestantism.
Many Protestants, while unwilling to return to religious serfdom to Papacy, are convinced that liberty and enlightenment are not always conducive to contentment amongst the masses and would be quite willing to be identified with a Protestant "image of the beast" with sufficient show of strength and authority to awe not only the masses, but also to hold its own against the papal (leopard) "beast,"—still feared even while fellowshiped and fraternized.
But the Lord's program included a new order of things entirely,—"a new heavens and new earth," a new ecclesiastical [R1770 : page 41] system and a new social system. The present enlightenment of the people and their incidental discontent are merely means toward the great end he has in view, outlined in the Scriptures. "He shall not fail nor be discouraged until he have established justice in the earth."—Isa. 42:4.
Steps are being taken to hold a general convention of Catholics, Protestants and Hebrews during the coming Summer. The date has not yet been fixed, but July is suggested. It is to last one week and to have two general sessions daily, and ten sectional meetings each afternoon. Seven cities are reported as competing for the privilege of entertaining the convention.
Rev. S. G. Smith, D.D., of Minneapolis, is the President and Mr. S. Sherwin is Secretary. They, with Rev. Dr. Edwards of Chicago, Rev. Dr. Bennett of Akron, O., Rev. Dr. Burrill of New York City, constitute a special committee to decide upon the most desirable time and place. "Secretary Sherwin has started a systematic plan of organization which will be carried out in every state and country by counties." The Congress will invite representatives from Central and South America and Canada. Among those who have promised most hearty cooperation are Archbishop Ireland (Roman Catholic), Bishop Mahlin (Episcopalian), Bishops J. H. Vincent, J. H. Hurst and C. H. Fowler (Methodist Episcopal), and President of the Chicago University, W. F. Harper (Baptist).
How rapidly matters are moving! It certainly seems probable that the Protestant Federation will be an accomplished fact within six years. It will be a fellow with Papacy though distinct from it, as the Scriptures clearly show. The time is short wherein to serve the truth.
The Bishops of the Protestant Episcopal church have issued a Pastoral Letter to their people, warning them against "seductions to lawlessness," and against the so-called "higher criticism" of our day which threatens to wreck all faith in the Scriptures on the part of those who are misled thereby. The Pastoral has its good points. We quote extracts:—
"We, your Bishops, having been assembled to take order, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, for the extension of the kingdom of God, have availed ourselves of the opportunity to meet in council to consider our duty in view of certain novelties of opinion and expression, which have seemed to us to be subversive of the fundamental verities of Christ's religion. It has come to our knowledge that the minds of many of the faithful clergy and laity are disturbed and distressed by these things; and we desire to comfort them by the firm assurance that the episcopate of the church, to which, in a peculiar manner, the deposit of faith has been entrusted, is not unfaithful to that sacred charge, but will guard and keep it with all diligence, as men who shall hereafter give account to God....
"The minute and reverent study of the divine Word must always be necessary and will always be profitable. The time will never come when men will not be obliged to combine the separate portions of God's Word, to study the fashions in which they were given, and to consider the operation of the Holy Spirit, both in and through the sacred writers; and the time will never come when the honest student of God's Word will not require and will not welcome every critical appliance which the providence of God may furnish, to cast new light on the sacred page. It would be faithless to think that the Christian religion has anything to fear from the critical study of the holy Scriptures.
"We devoutly thank God for the light and truth which have come to us through the earnest labors of devout critics of the sacred text. What we deprecate and rebuke is the irreverent rashness and unscientific method of many professed critics, and the presumptuous superciliousness with which they vaunt erroneous theories of the day as established results of criticism. From this fault professedly Christian critics are not always exempt; and by Christian critics we mean those who, both by theory and practice, recognize the inspiration of God as the controlling element of holy Scripture."
"Any instruction or any study which makes any part of the Bible less authoritative than it really is, which weakens faith in its inspiration, which tends to eliminate Christ from the utterances of the Prophets, or which leads a man to think of miracles with a half-suppressed skepticism, is a pernicious instruction and a pernicious study."
The sound logic of such "Pastorals" will appeal very favorably to a large class of Protestants; and, not having the correct view of the subject, the feeling will arise, would that we had a Pope or a Council of Bishops whose letters to the church would come with apostolic authority. And as the Scriptures show, by and by this desire will result in the general union of Protestants to which the supposed power and authority of the bishops of the Episcopal church will be added as "life to the image."
At the January monthly gathering of the M.E. Ministers of Brooklyn, the Rev. J. Rippere of the DeKalb Ave. church astonished the others by the following truthful observation, the force of which seems not to have dawned upon the minds of ministers in general. He said:—
"If the standards of the Methodist church are right, then nine out of ten members are going to hell. We preach and are taught to preach that without holiness and purity no man shall see God. Put that standard up and you must have a Purgatory. Our funeral orations are at war with our theology. Our philosophizing cuts the nerve of our conviction."
We are glad that the brother's eyes are opening a little. Although the first effect of the light of reason is to shock and stagger him, it may do him good eventually, by directing him to the discrepancy between the teachings of his Methodist standards and the true standard—the Word of God.
The effect of the error upon a thoughtful mind is toward one of two things;—to look about for a Purgatory, or to reduce the meaning of the word "holiness" to a level which would permit everyone not an out-and-out criminal to be considered holy. Such seems to be the effect upon the majority of ministers; for their funeral orations generally send "the ring-streaked and speckled" Christians (as Bp. Foster styles them) to glory and to "see the Lord," and exclude only the blackest of the black goats. As a consequence holiness is at a discount in all the churches, and those who profess to be of the "sanctified in Christ Jesus" are sneered at as Pharisees who would raise the heavenly standard so as to exclude the unsanctified. One of the ministers at the above meeting (Rev. Dr. Poulson) evidently took a very lax view of holiness; for in replying to the above he said, "We may differ as to the meaning of sanctification." But, we inquire, is there any room for difference of opinion on the meaning of such simple English words as holiness and sanctification? And are not the Greek words which they represent of equally fixed meaning? Only such an emergency would lead intelligent men to quibble about the meaning of such simple words, to the [R1771 : page 42] confusion of themselves and their flocks.
We trust that the Rev. Rippere's eyes may yet open wide enough to see that while only the holy will ever see the Lord, the others will not, as the Methodist standards teach, be roasted and toasted for ever in hell; but that the Millennial age will be the great Purgatory in which with many and few stripes the Lord will "thresh the heathen" and bring all to a clear knowledge of himself, to a correct appreciation of holiness, and to a grand opportunity for reconciliation through the precious blood and for return to God and to perfection by the "highway of holiness" then to be opened up for "whosoever will," who has not had a full opportunity in the present life.
While this subject is fresh in the minds of the Brooklyn Methodists, we think it would be well for the brethren there to see that all the churches are supplied with tracts on the subject—PURGATORY (No. 17), A REPLY TO BP. FOSTER'S NEW GOSPEL (No. 25), and DO YOU KNOW? (No. 21). The Tract Society will supply the tracts freely. Let the light shine!