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T may be as well to consider the subject in hand from the Religious, Political, Social, and Domestic standpoints, and see how and in what way they are one and all passing through a time of transition.
To use a simile, the times in which we live seem charged with electricity, like as is the atmosphere at certain seasons. Every class and condition of life is in some way affected by this, so to speak, electrical current, either consciously or unconsciously.
The prince and the peasant alike perceives that there is "something in the air," but what that "something" is it would be hard to define.
The nearest approach to a dim definition has been not unhappily expressed in the term, "The Spirit of the Age." In the first place, then, who can doubt but that there is an upheaval in all sections of society with regard to religion. It is a testing time. Men, women, and even children are asking themselves and their teachers, Have we hold of a rope of sand or an unbreakable rope? Is it necessary to be a scholar or to be possessed of a mint of money in order to understand and find salvation and spiritual satisfaction? Ought not creeds to have a practical and comforting effect upon conduct, and should not that
which is divine permeate practically the whole mass, rich and poor alike, and make them mutually members of one corporate whole?
Is Christianity "played out," or are we just beginning to realize with a threefold intensity that there is a latent and indestructible power in the gospel of Christ of which we have only half availed ourselves?
Does England understand her destiny under Providence as the heart of a world-wide AngloSaxon Empire, which is to spread glad tidings throughout the world, or is she to be doomed to the darkness of drunkenness, debauchery, and devilry? Such are some of the momentous questions which require an answer.
In approaching this theme it is necessary to go step by step, and with deep humility to lay down certain landmarks in order to keep the way clear in front of us.
To begin with, it is all-important to recognize the deep indebtedness of this age to the past.
The pioneers and pioneeresses of practical progress do not generally live to see the fruits of their labours realized.
The patriarchs of the past were all mindful of coming generations, and principles perennial were planted deep down to fructify in the future for the benefit of the whole of humanity. The intense longing for the welfare of all classes and sections of the human race, which is an acknowledged characteristic of the age in which we live, was not born without the throes of travail, and any pampering of this pet of the nineteenth century might possibly
kill, instead of fostering, a healthy offspring of an awakened humanity! First in importance is the influence of RELIGION.
Religion is tHE TIE BINDING THE CREATED TO THE CREATOR. The regulation of religion is no easy matter; it affects the higher part of human nature, and is almost immeasurable in its intensity.
The Anglo-Saxon race has been singularly happy in possessing a custodian of its civil and religious liberty, which, notwithstanding its too numerous laches, is indissolubly bound up with the history of the people from the earliest times. The Church of England when almost sound asleep still preserved the nation from spiritual stagnation: the Church of England might evangelize, not only the British Empire, but much of the earth, were all the vitality of her faith to be put forth!
Now, there is no intention on my part to leave unacknowledged the numerous religious agencies which are at work in this country, and which are endeavouring to stem the tide of wrong-doing which wrings the hearts and aches the heads of the thoughtful. The cry of "Religious Equality" is, I believe, a delusion and a snare; but the demand for Religious Freedom is one of the safeguards of society. I regard the religious movement originated by Mr. William and the late Mrs. Booth as one of the most remarkable of our time, and I think the Salvation Army has gone through sufficient persecution and obloquy to test its principles. It is succeeding in tapping a strata which, owing to the increase of population, was left entirely destitute of spiritual influences, and our magistrates could testify to the
elevating effect it is having upon our rowdy classes. The discipline and esprit de corps of its military system appeals to an English instinct. "General" Booth's" Social Scheme" is a grand conception, and it is to be regretted that Church and class jealousies have prevented its being made more national. On reflection the nation may have to confess that it was a great opportunity lost. All honour to Sir John Gorst, M.P., no biassed authority, for having had the courage to state his convictions of the "Darkest England" scheme. In his letter to "General" Booth, of September 26, 1893, Sir John writes:
"Your arrangements seem to me to be based on sound principles, and to furnish a pattern which public authorities might with advantage copy in their attempts to deal with the difficulty of the unemployed. .
"This great principle of giving work and not 'charity' (as it is wrongly called) pervades all your institutions. . It seems to me that the experiment you are trying has, so far as it has gone, yielded results of a most encouraging character, and it would be a national misfortune if want of funds should prevent its being carried out to the end."
Rome, Geneva, Berlin, Paris, India, all and several, are trying to have their sway in this country, Rome with its Papacy, Geneva with its Calvinism, Berlin with its Rationalism, Paris with its Sunday Desecration, and India with its Theosophy. There is also a hybrid growth in our midst which, though its principle is "to have neither a habitation nor a name," goes by the name of "Undenominationalism." As a bulwark against contending creeds it is my conviction that the coming democracy of England will look, and