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rarely descend to the deeps of the individual or national character. The American people is, perhaps, the most undemonstrative race on earth, as far as concerns the outward expression of its real faith. It exercises the national privilege of personal independence and boundless talk, up to the extreme verge of actual peril to the practical religion of the land. But when this crisis appears, the manhood and womanhood that have slept so long in the background rise with a majesty that dwarfs the whole theoretical and rhetorical demonstrations of the past. This sudden change does not mean that these people have fallen away from an advanced principle into compromise with despotism, and treason to spiritual freedom. When occasion demands, they will die for this but now, something is to be done of great use to man in his present state; and the American people has not reached that sublimity of self-abnegation that it will dissolve human society, or annihilate the Church of Christ, to vindicate its perfect logical consistency to a theory of the millennium.
So, when there comes a period of reconstruction in the church, like that since the war in the United States, the people, as represented by the practical, influential majority, survey the ground, estimate the elements already at hand, cast a hopeful glance towards the future, and begin to combine and consolidate, through all the churches, for a great tendency to a powerful, healthy, working Christianity. We are sometimes told, that the most striking thing in the popular churches is their falling away from the old theologies. Doubtless, there is a vast theological fermentation through the whole region of our ecclesiastical life. But we shall greatly mistake, if we regard this as more than a negative phenomenon. The most important fact in our present church life, and one fraught with untold blessings to our country, is the closing up of the masses of Christian people to make the church of Christ a mighty, progressive, religious, and philanthropic power in the national life of the future. This fusillade of theological controversy is only the encounter of the flitting cloud of skirmishers; sometimes nothing better than the pranks of a
squad of ecclesiastical "bummers;" while the great army of a redeeming Christianity, organized in powerful divisions, led by veteran commanders, moves like a providence from the valleys to the sea, terrible only to the foes of man, a redeeming angel to all who lie in the prison-camps of sin and the dungeons of unbelief.
Contemplate the tremendous forces represented during the last two weeks' review of the religious and philanthropic bodies of the country. From the Catholics to the Hebrews, every denomination furnishes an eager, influential party, that drives at a practical American form of the religion of Jesus Christ. The Episcopal Church (least American of any composed of native-born people) is silently gathering its energies for the trial that awaits it; and when the day of schism is precipitated by its High Churchmen, the vast majority of its moderate clergy and laity will be found in possession of the organization, ready to offer the hand of fellowship to the progressive Christianity of the land. While the smaller clerical lights of the Methodist Church are wrangling over the admission of lay representation in the Conferences, the powerful laymen of that vast denomination have virtually taken possession of the whole concern, by the weight of money, social and civic influence and personal character, leading the really influential preachers and bishops in the road to progress. They are filling the land with costly churches, and doing a work of social and spiritual regeneration, incomprehensible to a mere student of philosophical theology. The Presbyterian Churches, always in Europe the vanguard of civil and religious reform, are drawing nearer one another, not to fashion a new catechism, but to help the New Republic towards a higher religious life. The Congregational bodies, Calvinistic and Baptist, were never so vigorous and rapidly increasing in numbers and the efficiency that rejoices all good men. The Liberal Christian Churches, Unitarian, Universalist, "Christian" of both divisions, are full of a new life; and that life is on the same plane as the bodies already described. The Reformed Hebrews, Theists, Spiritualists, religious reformers and agitators of every epoch, are compelled more and more
to forget their criticism and protests, to meet the calls of a kind of work that is drifting them towards a practical Christianity. For the drift through all these powerful organizations that contain the people who saved the country and will govern it, is not towards a philanthropy that ignores God and Christ and the gospel of love; but towards the highest form of Christianity represented by the person, gospel, and life of Jesus Christ.
It may be said, that thousands of the people engaged in these church movements are not in sympathy with their creeds and forms. But here is the very point of the matter: This great, united, progressive, Christian tendency is the real Church, including all these creeds, forms, divisions, marchings, and countermarchings. It is everywhere felt that only secondary men are absorbed to-day in criticism, the splicing out of creeds, and ecclesiastical upholstering. The people who will rule every division of the grand army of the Lord in the United States of America, are not greatly interested in these theological or ecclesiastical questions, but are toiling among their fellows to awaken the new flame of hopeful consecration and thoughtful love, which alone can bear them through the great days before us. We perpetually underrate the effects of a Christian public spirit in lifting masses of men out of the little cells of their private conceits, and inspiring them with a burning zeal in a good cause. Individualism in religion says, "Let each man cultivate himself, alone, up to the heights of manhood, and then all will be well." Christianity says, "You can never become a man at all, until you forget your individuality in the glorious sense of brotherhood man, discipleship of Christ, and sonship to God; and, lifted upon the rising tide of a providential public opinion, sweep on to the conquest of error and sin, and the exaltation of holiness and truth."
Here, indeed, is the peculiar method by which the religion of Christ has changed the civilized world. Paganism can boast its lofty group of marvellous men, worthy to be enrolled among the chosen of the race; and it is easy to cull from their lofty words maxims that do not contradict, yea, often confirm, the sayings of Christ. But the Christian religion,
first of all, professed to regenerate individuals by bringing them into the inspiring atmosphere of a refreshing public opinion. It appealed to the social, civil, family instincts of men; set before them not an alien God, but a Saviour, at once the companion of Deity and the brother of every soul; and a spirit of self-sacrifice for the common good, whose symbol is the cross. It does not go about cultivating exotic and rare specimens of sainthood, but awakes such a marvellous enthusiasm in communities, peoples, nations, that every man is compelled to respect the right, and is lifted off his feet, spite of the gravitation of his elegant or vulgar selfishness. All the great reformations of Christianity have come from this rising tide of an inspired public opinion, which floated off great minds that otherwise would have lain stranded for life on the sand-bars of private conceit or degrading sins. If we wait till every soul is a saint, we shall never get any thing good. God's mighty works are achieved by inspiring vast masses of very ordinary people, and hurling them, like the incoming of the Atlantic surge, right against some obstinate wrong. It is just in this way, that the mass of American Christians, in all the great denominations, are being inspired with a new zeal for a vital Christian religion, deep and simple and obstinate and practical enough to fight the combined armies of despotism, anarchy, and sin.
This growing Christian public opinion, which is uniting and fusing all the progressive elements in every church, is, of course, felt most strongly in those parts of the country where Christian influences have longest prevailed, and society is most homogeneous. It is a great mistake to speak of the West as the land of religious liberty, in contrast to New England. . The force of a Christianized public opinion is incomparably stronger in the East, than the West. It compels sceptical and wicked men to conform to a civilization higher than themselves. It supplies the conditions of a speedy and safe moral judgment on private character or public affairs. It makes the great religious bodies ashamed and afraid of bigotry, and perpetually draws together the most vital elements of a practical, spiritual, progressive religion. The West is still a country
where settlement has far outstripped civilization, in the sense of the organization of a sensitive, elevated, Christian public spirit. It has already produced, and is producing, individual men and women whom the country delights to lift to the highest posts of honor, especially in industrial, military, and civic affairs. But it is a land, too, where great bad men can do untold mischief; where any folly, eccentricity, rascality, if it only be strong and shrewd enough, can get on its legs, assail and insult the most sacred faith and institutions, vilify the noblest men, and keep its ground till a slow and uncertain public opinion can be rallied with prodigious effort to cast it down. So religious exclusiveness and bigotry reign there with a brutality and violence scarcely to be conceived until experienced; while multitudes of people, held in their Eastern associations by the pressure of a Christian civilization, fall below their higher selves on coming to us, and forget all for which they were most esteemed in their old home. Yet even in the West, especially the North-West, where society is more united under the leading influence of the New-England and New-York mind, the same tendency appears; although Catholicism and copperhead Episcopacy rear their heads in insolent pretension in these cities, and every form of scepticism, even to a scoffing atheism, desolates the land. Yet every church is alive with the gathering together of the American brotherhood of religion, which, with faith in God and man, under the banner of Christ the Lord, is marching on to possess the country, and slowly lift it to that only civilization which can insure the life of the Republic.
The formal union of the really Christian bodies or people of the United States comes slowly. The people in all the churches who feel this inspiration are multiplying occasions. to unite with one another in all semi-religious work, and they drag along these huge, ungainly ecclesiasticisms faster than such machinery was ever trundled before. All changes in creeds or organizations are in the interest of union and liberty. The Young Men's Christian Association is becoming a new church, including the most vital elements of all the old churches of orthodox proclivities; and already the more
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