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while many who have clung to power, have spent embittered lives from the hopelessness of directing those over whom they were placed.
And nowhere more than in the History of our Reformed Church is such hopelessness displayed: nowhere more than in the events of that history must the prominent actors have been burdened with feelings of this nature. At the very commencement of the movement, such must have been the lot of all men actuated by a deep desire for a purified Church. For they saw the monarch, who at first appeared to lend all the aid they needed for working out an emancipation from error, turn round after a while, and shew himself to have been only a reformer for his own ends, and when these were attained, purification of doctrine and the driving away of error became to him matters of little importance. We know that those noble men, Colet and More, men ready to give up substance and life for religion, felt thus and were in despair.
And in that next stage of the Reformation, when a queen professed herself the nursingmother of the Church, some of the most earnest of her children found her no better than a stepmother. It must have been with a feeling not much alien to that of Moses in my text, that Hooker, and men like him, looked forth upon the dissensions of that age, in the midst of which he called God to witness that the purpose of his noble book was “not to provoke any, but rather to satisfy all tender consciences.”* And if we follow the fortunes of the Church down the stream of time we shall constantly hear echoes of a like character coming forth from amidst the tumult of opposing parties even down to our own days. But slight has been the acceptance hitherto of any Eirenicon, and it is with but little hope, I think, that writers and preachers now raise their voices to proclaim the old, old theme, “Sirs, ye are brethren.”
At the present time, however, there are peculiarly strong reasons why the members of the various bodies of Christians among us should bethink themselves of their brotherhood, and why we of the Church of England, as having the best right and the greatest power and by consequence the gravest responsibility herein, should be foremost in softening down such sharply defined differences as without sacrifice of principle we may, for the promotion
* Walton's Life of Hooker, 1833, p. 173.
of a greater unity. The measures at present under consideration in the National Council now assembled will as one of their numerous consequences bring Churchmen into closer connexion with Nonconformists than they have been hitherto. This will be the case first from the contemplated provisions for education which are to affect the country at large, and it is of the greatest importance to the Christian character and success of our national education that this connexion should, if possible, be one of united rather than of contending agents. The recent debates in Parliament may read us one valuable lesson if we be warned by them of the danger there is lest Christian teaching should be omitted from the public schemes of education by reason of the dissensions that prevail among professors of Christianity.
In our Universities too, it is apparent that we shall soon be called upon to work side by side with men of other traditions than our own. It is not perhaps probable that the different state of things about to be inaugurated by our legislators will be strongly felt for some years to come, but that it will in time produce a very sensible impression on our institutions is doubted by few. It seems therefore not unwise, at the threshold of such a change, to attempt to gain an idea, even if an imperfect one, of the relative positions in which Churchmen and Dissenters stand to each other, and how they came to occupy those positions. The enquiry might be carried to a length utterly unsuited for an address from this place, but that the subject may be in some degree limited, I propose to consider it under two great phases, which may be styled respectively Early and Modern Dissent. The first will embrace that time in which arose those dissentient bodies which are sometimes grouped together as the Three Denominations: the Presbyterians, the Independents, and the Baptists. The second will deal with those dissenters from our Church who have risen into prominence since the middle of last century. These two sections so far surpass in numbers and influence all other dissenters taken together, that for our purpose they may be regarded as representing the whole area of Nonconformity. Under their control also are almost all the educational establishments throughout the country which could come into conflict with those of the Established Church, or out of which members would be likely to be sent who would attain any important place or gain any great degree of influence within the Universities.
It is clear that we can scarcely appreciate satisfactorily the position in which these bodies stand to ourselves unless we first consider how they came to be in that position. Such consideration may haply supply us with warning and guidance. Seeing how our forefathers mistook the treatment of cases of tender conscience, we may perhaps profit by their failure, and learn how to avoid further alienation or more grievous embitterment of the feelings of men who profess, like ourselves, to be the advocates of pure and enlightened Christianity.
When the Reformation gave free course to liberty of thought, men were not found to be slow in availing themselves of this freedom. There had been indeed since the days of Wycliffe much dissension within the Church, but it had not been able to create any great revolution. This was owing partly to the lack of means of intercommunication, partly to the troublous times in which coöperation for religious purposes was impossible, and which swept away most of the men who were fitted to be leaders of the people. Now however