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"Sweetly and sagely
In order grave the maker of all worlds
Still undulates the rhythm of human progress;
His angels on whose song the seasons float
Keep measured cadence: all good things keep Time
The ages of Faith precede the age of Science, not because Science is to supersede faith, but because, as the apostle taught, knowledge without charity is but "sounding brass or a clanging cymbal "; a franchised mind, as our poet sees, requires a franchised soul; Christianity not only has prepared men for the triumphs of science, but enables them by its continuing spiritual power to gain these triumphs and not lose themselves.
The conclusion to which the musing astronomer comes is, trustingly and fearlessly to launch his book. The scholar, the thinker, the searcher after truth, must
"Work on and fear not!
Work, and in hope, though sin that hope may cheat."
There are retributive forces in store for those who abuse God's gifts, but the Tree of Knowledge will prove to be man's heritage, together with the Tree of Life.
The Poem has a noble close:
"The stars! Once more they greet me!
Yon winter moon
Has changed this cell thick-walled, and iron-barred,
How great thou art! Thou only, free of space,
Matter, methinks, in thee is turned to spirit :—
The tide descends :
Cheered by that light he loves. I too obey :
I too am called to face the Infinite,
Leaving familiar things and faces dear
Of friends and tomes forth leaning from yon wall:
When cleansed to bear it. O how sweet was life!
How sweeter must have been had I been worthy-
Then shall these eyes star-wearied see and live!"
The most thoughtful poetry of our time is in accord with its deepest theology; and the Universality of Christianity is the religious aspect and interpretation of the largest teaching Science is giving of Nature in the doctrine that the Universe is a Whole.
"CHANGES IN METHODS OF ADMINISTRATION" OF THE AMERICAN BOARD.
THE "Congregationalist," in replying to the editorial question of the REVIEW, Does the American Board propose to continue its proscriptive policy? specifies what in its opinion may not be, and what may be done. Of the "things which are very clear," it says, "One is that the great majority of those who give to the treasury of the Board is unwilling that its money should be spent in teaching what it considers a loose theology, and will persistently disapprove of any action which may favor that, on the part of its officials."
This, we suppose, means that the resolutions which committed the Board to theological partisanship will not be repealed at New York- a course which we ourselves do not anticipate as probable. It is so much easier in times of excitement to bring any large body into a false position than to extricate it. Even when the mistake is realized by some of those who may have led the way into it, few have the courage to retrace their steps. The usual course is to allow the ill-advised action to stand, and meanwhile try to devise some method by which its harmful workings may be relieved or neutralized.
"Another" (thing which is clear) it goes on to say, "is that the great majority of Christian people for whom the Board has been working is wholly unconvinced that because a council can be found to ordain here a man whose doctrinal position more or less differs from that of historic Congregationalism, it would necessarily, therefore, be either right or wise to send such a man to the unevangelized."
This, we suppose, means that the Board will not attempt at its next meeting to reconsider the very decisive vote by which it denied the competency of councils to pass upon the theological qualifications of missionary candidates: and here again we should agree that such reconsideration is improbable. Doubtless the majority of the Board would prefer, so far as the practical alternative may present itself, to allow any churches within its constituency, which may be so disposed, to act for a time independently. The reply of the churches to the denial by the Board of the theological competency of councils was given in a dignified, but in a very positive manner, through the Council which ordained Mr. Noyes as a foreign missionary. And other replies of similar import may
be expected as often as occasion offers.
Still we do not see how the
Board can consistently reconsider its action in reference to councils, for that action was originally necessary, and remains necessary, as the complement and support of the assumption by the Board of theological functions. It would place the Prudential Committee in an awkward dilemma to enjoin upon them by resolution "unabated carefulness in guarding the Board from any approval of the doctrine of future probation," and at the same time allow the Committee to accept the advice of councils recommending candidates in sympathy with that hope.
So far, then, we agree with the predictions of our contemporary in regard to what is improbable, in the near action of the Board, as to any change in its present proscriptive policy. But having stated so clearly what may not be expected, it goes on to say: "On the other hand, were the majority to be convinced that any changes in methods of administration would obviate serious difficulties now thought to exist, no doubt they might consent to them."
Precisely what the words which we have italicised are intended to mean we cannot determine. The whole paragraph seems to imply that the minority have some changes to suggest, to which the majority might on certain conditions be ready to "consent." We are not aware of any such purpose among the minority. As we said in our former article, the responsibility for the management of the Board is now entirely in the hands of the majority. It would be altogether an impertinence for the minority to propose "changes in the method of administration." The majority may fitly propose such changes as would in their judgment "obviate serious difficulties now thought to exist." And when proposed it can at once be seen whether they are sufficient to meet the present emergency.
Certain changes, however, of the kind referred to, namely, in the method of administration, have been already suggested, the working value of which may be a fair subject of discussion in advance of the meeting of the Board. We mention two or three in the way of illustration.
One change, of which we have heard the suggestion, and which we have reason to believe will be found necessary to preserve the present organization of the Board intact, is that of conferring some appropriate authority upon the Presidential office. At present the office is simply influential. And events continually prove how insignificant, at critical times, mere influence is when contrasted with actual power. A letter of advice is a very poor equivalent to a vote. When absolute authority is conferred upon a small body of men who have a distinct policy to carry out, it is for them to decide how much or how little heed they will give to influence from any quarter whatever. What is naturally wanted is the authority to enforce influence on the part of those with whom it has been vested, to the degree in which such persons are supposed
to have responsibility. For want of any such authority the position of the President of the Board must have been, one would think, embarrassing to the occupant, as it has certainly been misleading to the public. Let any one recall the public utterances of Dr. Hopkins at the meeting at Des Moines, or read his letter subsequent to that meeting upon occasion of the retirement of the Hon. Alpheus Hardy from the Prudential Committee, or let one go back and inquire into the extraordinary personal efforts which he made to modify the action of the Prudential Committee in the case of the first rejected candidates, and it will be seen of how little authority were the opinions and judgment and influence of Dr. Hopkins as President in determining the policy or directing the executive management of the Board. It is hardly necessary to ask how far his successor has been satisfied with the facilities which he has found at his disposal for bringing about the object for which, after much deliberation, he accepted the Presidency, namely, to effect an agreement between the two parties in the constituency of the Board. His letter of acceptance was interpreted as making for peace, and it is generally understood that his personal efforts have been toward the same end, but the management of the Board has been in no way, so far as the public can judge, affected by his relation to it. Indeed at no time has the Prudential Committee exhibited so determined and intolerant a spirit as during the past year.
We cannot, of course, say what effect a change in the Presidential office, such as that of making the President an ex officio member of the Prudential Committee, would have toward "obviating the serious difficulties now thought to exist." That would depend entirely upon the personality of the President. A man of deep missionary enthusiasms would have the opportunity of making his influence felt beyond his vote. But the change in itself seems to be one worthy of the consideration of the Board. If effected it would at least give unity to its public deliverances. At present there is constant confusion growing out of the variation between the semi-official utterances of the Board and its official actions. What is now needed more than anything else is perfect consistency in statement and action on the part of the majority. This is something which we think the minority has the right to ask, by whatever method those in control of the Board may think best to accomplish it.
Another proposed change in method is that of transferring the examination of candidates from the Home to the Foreign Department. The immediate occasion of this proposal seems to lie in the fact that it has of late fallen to the lot of the Foreign Secretaries to visit the more liberal seminaries of the denomination to present the claims of foreign missions. As would naturally be the case from their sense of the needs of the various fields, they have pressed the claims of the foreign service upon the students. And they have urged them to apply to the Board, assuring them of considerate and sympathetic treatment. But the students know perfectly that these assurances are personal and not official.
The door of entrance to the Board is well understood by them to be located on the other side of the house. They are familiar with the nature of the correspondence and examination which attend application to the Board, and with the general method of the presentation of cases. And they are not disposed to repeat the experience of applicants of former classes.
Would not, then, the proposed transfer, which may take advantage of the broader views and sympathies of the foreign secretaries, exactly meet this difficulty? We think not, for the very patent reason, that it would seem to the ingenuous minds of the applicants like "climbing up some other way" than that which the Board had carefully marked out. They recall the action of the Board in which it emphatically negatived the resolution of Professor Fisher, "That the missionaries of this Board shall have the same right of private judgment in the interpretation of God's word, and the same freedom of thought and speech, as are enjoyed by their ministerial brethren in this country," while passing the resolution, from which we have quoted, enjoining upon the Prudential Committee special carefulness in guarding the Board from those who were at that time exercising the right in question. Unless, therefore, such a transfer should be understood to imply a change of policy on the part of the Board equivalent to a change in its theological resolutions, we do not see why any student contemplating the missionary service should wish to take advantage of it, especially where direct and honorable ways of entrance upon his work are open to him from the churches.
The change in method which has been formally proposed and strongly advocated by some is that of the reorganization of the Board with the view of making it a representative body. We do not care to anticipate the discussion upon this proposal, which may take place at the meeting of the Board, for we do not see the practical bearing of the proposal upon present difficulties. The discussion, if it takes place, will be very interesting, especially as it may run out upon cross lines. It will be of interest, for example, to note what position the more zealous advocates of a stringent Congregationalism in Japan will take in the attempt to make the Board a truly Congregational body. But the reorganization of the Board according to Congregational principles can hardly be expected to be brought about in time to affect present issues. It can hardly be expected that the reorganization can be made thorough and comprehensive. And any change allowing a certain representation of the churches, but practically keeping the control of the Board for several years in the hands of the present corporation, would of course avail nothing in the immediate emergency. In fact, there is more danger that the discussion of this question will divert attention from the present difficulty, than that it will bring forth anything radical enough in its result to aid in solving it.
The present difficulty is a very simple, but a very obstinate one. It