Chapter VIII. The Church--In the Nation, the Empire, the World
NOW when all the foregoing facts are brought to a focus, the resultant conclusion is a call to one of the greatest undertakings ever committed to the Church of Christ.
And this call comes reinforced by every consideration that can appeal to the heart of serious Christian men and Churchmen. It is the call of CHRIST; it is the call of the Church; it is the call of the hungry, perishing souls of men; as those calls come indeed from every part of the mission-field. But from this field we can hear, as undertones, many varying needs, many unrivalled opportunities. We hear the pathetic appeal of the Indian, whose lands we have inherited; whose means of livelihood we have destroyed; whose character we have contaminated by our diseases and our vices; and whom [153/154] we have threatened with complete extinction. We hear the appeal of the foreigner from China or Poland, who has escaped from age-long ignorance and thraldom, to find in our free institutions a city of refuge, where he can develop the higher attributes of manhood and citizenship. We hear the cry of the refugee Jew from persecuting Russia, on whose person has been inflicted the tortures of the Middle Ages, with the refined instruments of modern civilization. And above all we hear the cry of our own kith and kin, men of English blood and speech, members of British Christianity, and of the Church of England, who have left the fabrics, the endowments, and the countless opportunities of the motherland to face the loneliness and hardships of pioneer life, without churches, without Sundays, without Sunday Schools, without means of grace, to become the fathers and founders of young communities, and to reproduce in those communities, from a moral and a religious point of view, what our care or our neglect has produced in them.
And in the new conditions in which they are placed their hearts are peculiarly open to the claims of CHRIST and of His Church. Separation from home and friends, a hard lot in the present [154/155] and an uncertain future, often lead them to Bethel, like Jacob, where they see an open heaven and an upturned ladder with the angels of GOD ascending and descending upon it. There is perhaps no mission-field in all the world where as many precious souls may be won to the LORD JESUS Christ. Men may be brought by thousands into living spiritual union with Him. And, being so won, the position in which they are placed gives them incalculable power for the spread of His spiritual kingdom. They can give a tone to the young communities in which they dwell, and leaven them with saving influences that will endure through many generations. And they are not mere units in the midst of small communities, but members of a large brotherhood, citizens of a great kingdom, fathers and founders of a great nation. They are Englishmen, in the midst of an English people, forming an integral part of the British Empire.
Now think for a moment what this implies! Think what the Jewish nation has been to the world! Its psalmists and prophets have been the great social, moral, and religious teachers of the ages. Think what the Greek nation has done for the world! Its sages and poets and artists still sit [155/156] in our seats of learning, and instruct our teachers in the principles of philosophy and art and letters! Think what Britain has been and still is to the world! The mother of nations; the mother of Parliaments; the mother of the institutions that guarantee freedom and justice even to the poorest and most helpless; the civilizer, the evangelizer of the world. Then consider that our Canadian mission-field carries in its bosom all the possibilities of a powerful national life. Its immeasurable areas, its inexhaustible resources, its invigorating climate, its high level of general intelligence, its flourishing institutions, and its social conditions that appeal to all that is best and noblest in man--can any one doubt that these, under the blessing of God, will produce a great nation in the northern part of North America in the course of the twentieth century?
Now consider what an opportunity is offered, in the bosom of this young nation, for the exercise of the moral and religious influences that alone can make a nation truly great. A large proportion of the immigrants who come to our shores are by birth, profession, and training, members of our Church. If we simply claim our own from among [156/157] them, and minister to them, we must infallibly exercise a far-reaching influence on the national life.
And the Church of England in Canada is peculiarly fitted to this special work. It is but a repetition of what she has done in the motherland. She is the historic Church of the English race. She has adapted herself to the conditions of life in the new world. With all the steadying influences of a hierarchy, a creed, a liturgy, and the noble traditions inherited from the Mother Church, she is nevertheless a purely democratic institution. She trains her own clergy, taken from her own sons, in her own Theological Colleges. She calls them to her parishes by a system of patronage of her own creation. She elects them to her bishoprics under canons which she has herself framed. She makes laws for the government of all her members, official and private alike. In the love and loyalty of her children she will find in due time ample support for all her ministrations. And experience has shown that there is no body of teaching, no form of worship, no moral and spiritual influence that can appeal with greater force to the sober thought of the modern man than the ancient creeds, the [157/158] reverent congregational service, and the Gospel of the Atonement and of sanctification that are ever associated with the ministrations of the Church of England.
Building up a great nation in the virgin fields of the Dominion, we are surely called also to build up a great national Church. For we are not sending missionaries and holding services in a desultory fashion, and, as it were, at random; but we are moving along well-defined lines. We are nursing missions into parishes, each with its incumbent, its church, it parsonage, its schoolroom, and the full equipment of parish life. We are banding parishes into dioceses, each with its Bishop, its Synod, its executive, and the full equipment of diocesan life. And the dioceses, self-governing within well-defined limits, and in course of time to become self-supporting, are all welded together into one central organization that enables East and West and North and South, though thousands of miles apart, to realize the unity of the one Church, to speak with one voice, and to act like one man, on behalf of the trust committed to her care, and of the vocation wherewith she is called.
To help build up a nation! To help build up [158/159] a national Church! That is the mission with which the Anglican communion is charged in the Canadian mission-field to-day. Can we imagine a more inviting, more inspiring, more responsible call?
We have not the space to pursue the inquiry further. But manifestly we are only standing here on the threshold of the great theme; for beyond the Dominion lies the British Empire, of which it is an integral part. Who can set limits to the influence of a great Canadian nation, and a strong Canadian Church, entrenched in the centre of a world-wide Empire? And beyond the British Empire lies the wide, wide world. Who can fix bounds to the influence of such an Empire, essentially moral, humanitarian, and Christian in all the main features of its life, upon the destiny of the whole race of man and of the universal kingdom of Jesus Christ? with the Anglican communion as its heart, its intellect, its conscience, its inspiration, its most vigorous missionary influence, perhaps even the centre and basis of the reunion of a divided and enfeebled Christendom. This would usher in the age of gold; for it would be the fulfilment of the LORD'S most earnest prayer, and the [159/160] accomplishment of His most cherished work, "That they all may be one . . . that the world may believe that Thou has sent Me." "And there shall be one fold, and One Shepherd."