YOUNG Peoples' Societies are the order of the day. The phenomenally successful "Young People's Society of Christian Endeavor" at its recent annual convention claims to have had present over fifty thousand delegates, representing societies numbering nearly three million members. It does not claim to be unsectarian, but allsectarian. Its success is due to the fact that it may be said of it, "All men speak well of you." It won sectarian favor, by making it a fundamental rule that each Society should be connected with some church, and that it must cooperate with the pastor, and that its members must never if possible be absent from the services of its own church. An institution so loyal to sectarianism could not fail to be successful.
But "Christian Endeavor" had its rise amongst Congregationalists, and bears the stamp of their love of liberty in that its officers, etc., are selected by general ballot. The astute managers of Methodism soon saw that the Young People's movement had come to stay, and that if as young people they got the idea of managing their own affairs, selecting their own leaders, officers, etc., it would not be long before they would get to be old folks and have the same ideas respecting conferences, choosing their own ministers, etc.; and this would mean the destruction of the Methodist Episcopal polity, by which the bishops or clergy now manage that denomination's affairs so successfully.
As a result the Epworth League was organized, to handle the young folks of the M.E. Church; and in an unobtrusive manner accustom them to the recognition of Episcopacy in their affairs. Otherwise they are identical with the Y.P.S.C.E. This movement also has scored quite a success. It has just held a convention at Chattanooga, Tenn., where nearly fifteen thousand delegates were in attendance. The M.E. young people are being withdrawn from the Y.P.S.C.E. and from the "Boy's Brigade" into the "Epworth League" and the "Epworth Guards," in which the Church Pastor always has the control. As the Episcopal system made the Church of Rome powerful and great, so the same system is daily adding power and influence to the M.E. Church.
The influence was contageous, and soon the Methodist Protestant denomination organized its Christian Endeavor Societies as Methodist Protestant Societies of Christian Endeavor. Their convention was held recently in Pittsburg.
Baptists, too, concluding that their young people might lose sight of their distinctive doctrines, organized "The Baptist Young People's Union." Their convention, just held at Baltimore, Md., reports 6,559 delegates present.
We cannot feel otherwise than sympathetic with the avowed objects of these Societies, and the manifest endeavors of some of their leaders. Yet on the other hand we cannot overlook the fact that they are strands of another rope which is being thrown around the rising generation, to bind them more tightly to the theological errors which they have inherited, and from which otherwise they would have the better chance to get free. Their time already overfilled with church "work" is now so filled to the brim that they have no time to see the fallacies of their church-creeds nor to seek for truth "as men search for silver." Besides, filled with the intoxication of numbers and the excitement of annual conventions, etc., they have little appetite for spiritual things; they do not realize the inconsistency of much that they profess to believe, and are therefore not hungering and thirsting after something better, and are less susceptible to present truth. They remind us of some in the Apostle's day who knew only the baptism of John, unto repentance. (Acts 18:25-19:4.) Repentance [R1844 : page 176] is the first step, and it is important; but those who would make their calling and election sure to joint-heirship with Christ must be sanctified with the truth,—errors do not produce the right sort of sanctification.
On the whole we would feel glad to see so many young people even slightly interested in religious things did we not realize (1) that it is likely to attract some away from the "deep things of God," the truly spiritual things, and (2) that with the activity of our day these associated and well organized millions will sooner or later realize their power and start crusades (political and otherwise), which will bias public opinion, influence legislation, and sooner or later, probably, be used of Satan against liberty and the truth. It is very safe to follow Apostolic methods and recognize and belong to only "the Church of the first-born" whose names are written in heaven and who altogether will be but a "little flock."
And yet, one cannot overlook the fact that among the earnest laborers in these Societies are some noble men and women, upon the altars of whose hearts burns the fire of full consecration to our Lord. This encourages us, and reminds us that there are numbers yet in Babylon who should be sealed with the present truth. Let us each be fully awake to the use of our opportunities for serving that class.
In illustration of what we mean, we quote from an address by Miss C. Grant before the Epworth Convention. Her subject was "Church Amusements—What to have and what not to have." She urged that the Scripture injunction be remembered: "Come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord God, and touch not the unclean thing." She urged that whatever amusements are recognized be of the stamp approved by the Apostle's words: "Whatsoever things are true. Whatsoever things are honest. Whatsoever things are just. Whatsoever things are pure. Whatsoever things are lovely. Whatsoever things are of good report." But she said,—
"Frankly we must acknowledge that our churches of today are not keeping entirely to that standard. In an endeavor to meet the needs or nature of our younger young people and to hold our own, so to speak, with the world's fascinating allurements, or in special efforts to make (in other words to extort) the money that should be freely given, we have undoubtedly gone too far over on the world's side and I believe that for good reason our church papers are giving the warning cry of 'Danger!' And this danger is the greater because so few seem aware of it. What I would say to those of you here today who are among the workers in this line or who have any voice in the work, and what I wish I could say to all our Epworth young people everywhere, is, present no entertainment that has not been carefully and prayerfully considered in the light of God's word, "Come out from among them and be ye separate and touch not the unclean thing." Many err from blindness to the importance of this matter, but this morning I beg you to go home from this conference now ready, if never before, to scatter light, to open the eyes of others, to say a strong, firm, but courageous No! to whatever has upon it the 'image and superscription of Caesar." But do this not in a dictatorial way that is certain to antagonize, not in an 'I am holier than thou' spirit, that is equally certain to arouse opposition, but in a self-forgetting, Christ-like spirit that shall win others by its firm and loving loyalty.
"To specify somewhat as to what not to have, I will illustrate by plain mention of some examples. There is a so-called 'Brownie Entertainment;' what could be less suggestive of harm than that name? Without due investigation, it has been entered into by our churches here and there and has proved to be theatrical in its real nature; children have been kept out very late practicing; dancing, under the changed name of marching and 'drills,' has been taught, and in one instance by the very person who instructed certain ballet dancers; in some places the entertainment has been called the church theater. Can such work be consistent with our vows, with holy Christian living? Its effect upon the spiritual life of the young people engaged in it, I leave you to imagine."
The Rev. C. H. Payne, of New York City, spoke of a coming revival which he intimated might be in the nature of a revolution. We wonder whether or not he may have gotten a glimpse of the true Church's power and kingdom soon to be manifested (Rom. 8:22,21) and the new earth (social order) under that new heavens (ecclesiastical order). He said:—
"It will be a revival of original Christianity. The greatest need of the world today is the Christianization of Christianity, the making of Christianity what Christ himself intended it to be. Christ's own type of Christianity must and will be realized. The present age has been marked by brilliant discoveries, but the greatest discovery has yet to be made, and when made will startle and quicken the world. That discovery is the discovery of Christ. He has never yet been really and fully known; has never been rightly recognized; never had a fitting place in the world for which he died. He is coming to the front as the rightful and recognized leader of his own forces; the church will soon awake to see Him as her true leader, listen to His words of command and follow Him to victory....It is my firm belief that the church of Christ is on the eve of such a mighty spiritual and moral upheaval; the incoming [R1845 : page 176] of a revolutionary power that will make the church truly Christian, in fact as well as in name, and sweep the world forward toward the Millennial dawn."
"In consideration of the feelings of my fellow human beings, I hereby agree, in my ordinary conversation, not to speak ill of persons, especially in their absence, but to speak well of all as opportunity is afforded, and as I can conscientiously do so."
We trust that this movement may do some good, and help to stop one of the greatest evils in the world, "gossiping." But we remind the prospective or probationary members of the "royal priesthood" that the Chief Priest of our profession (or order) has put upon all who would be recognized by him as members of his glorious Melchesidec Priesthood, a pledge whose conditions are much more sweeping and comprehensive than the above. We fear that many have overlooked it. It is to this effect:—
"A new commandment I give unto you,—that ye love one another." "Love as brethren; be pitiful, be [R1845 : page 177] courteous: not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing, but contrariwise blessing." "Be kindly affectionate one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another." "He that loveth not knoweth not God, for God is love." "Respect all men, love the brotherhood." "Love one another with a pure heart fervently." "Love suffereth long and is kind; love envieth not; love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up; love seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, and thinketh no evil." (1 Pet. 3:8,9, 1:22; Rom. 12:10; 1 John 4:8.) "Let us not love in word, neither in tongue [merely], but in deed and in truth [sincerely]. And hereby we know that we are of the truth and shall assure our hearts before the Lord."—1 John 3:18,19.
Where love rules the heart, even imperfectly, it commands that we think as little evil of one another as possible; and that we judge each other's motives generously, charitably; and if we love others as we love ourselves we will be careful to screen each other's imperfections from others, except where principles are involved. Love is the very essence of our Lord's spirit: and "if any man have not the spirit of Christ [to some measure and growingly], he is none of his." Let us therefore practice and acquire tongue bridling, not merely outwardly, and from "consideration for the feelings of fellow men," but as one of the necessary graces of the heart which if absent would prove that we are "none of his."
We have wondered considerably that The Evangelical Alliance, the first movement toward ecclesiastical union, organized in A.D. 1846 (the U.S. branch later), has kept so quiet of late; when "Union" has been heard on every side. We are not surprised, therefore, to learn through the Presbyterian Banner (July 24) that,—
"It is the purpose of the Evangelical Alliance for the United States to extend its work by the organization of local branches of the Alliance in the cities and towns throughout the country, with the object of promoting the interests for which the parent organization was formed.
"The Alliance shall stand in the name of Christ on the side of practical religion, good citizenship, enforcement of law, promotion of sobriety, the prevention of cruelty, the alleviation of suffering, the correction of injustice, the rescue of the unfortunate, the reformation of the depraved, and for such kindred ends as pertain to the true social mission of the Church.
"In the furtherance of such objects it is distinctly declared that the Alliance shall not attempt to exercise ecclesiastical or administrative authority over the allied churches. It shall be the servant of the churches, recommending such united action as it deems most wise. It shall be a purely voluntary association, which leaves the churches, with all their diverging views of doctrine and polity, absolutely unsolicited either to worship or to fellowship, which would contradict their independent convictions. Nor shall it lay the churches under any financial obligations."
Then follow the Nine Articles of Faith, some of which are excellent, of course, but being what is "usually understood as Evangelical," they contain three items which would debar any who had been well "sealed in their foreheads" with the truth; viz., profession of faith in the trinity, in human immortality and in eternal torment;—quite sufficient to keep separate the Cleansed Sanctuary class.*
Quite probably there will be a change of the name of the Alliance, about the time that the Church of England joins it, and gives it "life," power, vitality (Rev. 13:15), so that thereafter federated Protestants will act with Papacy and assume a general supervision of the government and morals of the world;—to their betterment in some respects, no doubt, but to the prejudice of present truth and its servants and agencies.
It will be noticed in the above quotation that "practical religion, good citizenship, enforcement of law," etc., are prominent;—first in the list of objects to be attained. This means that as soon as the Alliance has its branches in good working order, it will take a hand in practical politics and make its influence felt in government circles. The same disposition is to be noticed in the Christian Endeavor and other Young Peoples' Societies: they adopted resolutions which show that they are not averse to using the influence of their members in guiding the affairs of State. No doubt the motives are excellent; but experience, as well as Scripture, teaches us that such power will be used dictatorially when once obtained. No man will be able to buy or sell (exchange) spiritual doctrines, when that power is at its zenith, except such as bear its stamp of approval or orthodox or evangelical "marks."—Rev. 13:16,17.
How strangely the affairs of earth sometimes move! For instance, the governments of Europe consider Socialism their most dangerous enemy, and yet the force of circumstances is impelling them to adopt socialistic measures. The increasing military armament makes necessary increased revenues. Europe imports little except the necessaries of life, and taxes on these cannot be increased; for it would bear too heavily upon the poor masses. It must, therefore, be gotten from the well-to-do. But how? There is great opposition there to class taxation such as an Income Tax; and the only way out of the difficulty is for the governments to take control of certain classes of manufacture and raise the additional revenues in the way of profits. And this is the essence of socialism—which claims that all the large business operations should be conducted by the government with the people's wealth, and for the benefit of the people.
Russia has been trying the liquor business for nearly a year in four of her provinces (much after the style of the South Carolina dispensary system), and has determined that it will be expedient and profitable to extend it. The Czar's ukase decrees that the system shall be extended to eight provinces on July 1, '96, and to seven other provinces by July 1, '97 and to the remainder of the empire by Jan. 1, '98. The object is claimed to be a decrease of drunkenness, and purer liquors; and it is claimed that these have been the results thus far. No doubt it is true that restrictions can be enforced by government-employed-and-paid liquor manufacturers and sellers, that could not be enforced amongst those directly interested in the profits. But undoubtedly the profit of the immense business is the chief reason for its being monopolized by the government. The report of the success of the scheme in Russia, together with recent reports that drunkenness is greatly on the increase throughout Europe, and their need for revenue, will doubtless lead the other nations of Europe to similarly monopolize the manufacture and sale of liquors.
While this would doubtless be the way to regulate the evil, it will present the peculiar anomaly of so called "Christian nations" engaging in a disreputable business. Fancy the Czar, the head of the eighty millions of Greek Catholics, and the Kaiser, at the head of some forty millions of nominal Christians, providing them with whiskey, wine, beer, etc., in the name of God and as the representatives of Christ upon the thrones of "Christendom" [R1846 : page 178] (Christ's Kingdom). Fancy the signs—for instance, Emperor William III., by the grace of God, Exclusive Manufacturer and Seller of all Kinds of Intoxicants, to the Christian church-nation of Germany. Sarcastically this might be termed driving the devil out of the liquor business, and giving the monopoly of it to God. To such absurd conclusions do the erroneous claims of "Christendom" (that its rulers are of divine appointment and that in them is fulfilled the claim that the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and his anointed) lead.
The Eighth Annual Conference of American Hebrew Rabbis was held this year in Rochester, N.Y., July 10-12. This is an attempt to harmonize Orthodox and Radical (infidel) Jews. Dr. Wise, the President of the Conference, declared that they had "abolished the barrier of circumcision." Another speaker (Dr. E. G. Hirsch) said, "If we can keep the old Sabbath, let us; but if we cannot keep it, let us have the new." With the Jews, as with others, there seems to be a desire for Union no matter what the sacrifice of faith or principle.
The Woschod, a St. Petersburg organ of the Russian Jews, declares that Jerusalem will soon have a Jewish university. Students of all nationalities and all creeds will be admitted, but the rules will be in accordance with the Jewish ritual. The Semitic languages and Jewish literature will find special attention. The university is to be opened in 1897 in localities rented for the purpose, but a suitable building will be erected soon after, as the funds are in readiness. What is still needed is the permission of the Turkish government, and suitable teachers.
This is one of the best evidences of Palestine's revival. It must, we believe, become socially elevated, and quite wealthy within less than twenty years, to permit the fulfillment of Ezek. 38:8,12,13, before A.D. 1915.