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Archdeacon Garbett in a recent charge thus states the nature and significance of our times “And now forgive me if for a moment I direct
attention to the times in which we live; nay, to the very days and hours passing over our heads as eminently critical. They are big with results for Christ's Church. They demand, therefore, a spirit, and energy, and yielding up of all our faculties commensurate to their import
This is the more to be insisted on, because there is oftentimes among us an indolence and abject submission of soul to the present. Even in the midst of an extraordinary epoch you find men living as in a dream, regarding the present as the necessary and normal condition of the world, or as a mere repetition of the past. No doubt this indolence of assent and easy submission to things as they are, is innocent enough in the periods of repose, which are intercalated between those revolutionary paroxysms which shake from time to time as they are shaking now commonwealths and Churches. Such times are necessary to evolve the destinies of the human race as they have been to evolve the structure and actual configuration of the planet in which we live. It does matter little in these our critical intervals of history, whether we underrate or exaggerate the present, or permit it to pass by us as in a vision, without a firm grasp of it at all. Not so, however, when a new intellectual, social, or religious phase is being generated from the destruction or modification of the ancient elements, and of which a certain indefinite restlessness and termina
tion of men's minds is an invariable prognostic. The duties which we have, then, to discharge, and the whole line in which our exertions are called
to move, depend upon our understanding the true importance and real tendencies of passing events and measures. The final issue may be greatly modified by a clear and prophetic discernment of them. A misapprehension of them is ruin. And this, too, ought to be well observed; although the final issue of a great and tempestuous period appears, when it comes sudden as well as overwhelming, yet sudden it really never is. It seems, indeed, unaccountable to those who have been negligent of its symptoms or inapt to discern the inexorable connection between cause and effect; but its preparation is really slow. Its advance is gradual. The result from the previously-given religious or political data is perfectly assignable by a true and enlarged philosophy. Moreover, theologically considered in Almighty God's dealings with the world at large, with nations and individuals, there is the same patience and long-suffering, with indications and flashes of the coming judgment intermingled. There is the same withholding of the fatal blow, the like invitations and opportunities of repentance, the like trial of men's spirits, and of alternate repose and threatenings. These great revolutions, like that now in progress, silently mature their elements, and come on, in fact, like a great tempest in summer. There is a long gathering of the clouds, and then the day is obscured, and there are distant
mutterings of thunder and droppings of rain ; and then for a time there is sunshine again, and the vapours seem about to disperse. We say to ourselves that, after all, our forebodings were groundless, and there will be, at any rate, no tempest to-day, and so we turn unconcernedly to our ordinary occupations again. And then on a sudden, when men cry Peace, peace, we know not how the storm breaks. All the elements are let loose, and the lightnings, and the mighty thunderings, and hail are upon us, and there is no escape. It is needless to point the moral. There may be bright intervals in these most perilous times for Christ's Church ; but let no man deceive himself, or the hour of sure destruction will come upon
him like a thief in the night, or the helpless and foolish sleeper. There is only one safety—to be ever on the watch and armed. Una salus nullam sperare salutem. We must look for it, and be ready for the worst.” An intensely secular and material literature is
preparing the world for the judgments, heavy with tribulation, which are ready to fall on Church and State. Genius, intellect, and reason are enthroned as divinities, and multitudes bow down, and offer incense, and adore, and go forth to scoff at all who believe in Jesus as King of kings, about to come forth and reign and rule. The Westminster Review stated not long ago, “The newspaper, the review, the tale by every fireside, is written almost exclusively by men who have long ceased to believe.”
A work entitled, “The Religious Tendencies of the
Age,” states, “The edge of our religious belief has been dulled; the objective truths of religion are comparatively ignored; the sterner features of Christianity are veiled and passed over. If we examine the religious tone of our popular authors, we shall find that an eclectic system, consisting of the mere attractive doctrines of Christianity combined with the latitudinarian philosophers, is everywhere the predominant belief.”
Yet these are recorded by the inspiring Spirit as signs of the last times, evidences of the approaching crisis extorted from hearts that have lost all hope, and intellects that have abjured the truth. Rejecting the sure word of prophecy, they are made into proofs of its fulfilment.
AMID FEARFUL AGITATIONS.
The nations of the earth will be sifted and shaken; cabinets, statesmen, and kings will be in perplexity. Strange antipathies, unexpected and unimagined national quarrels, inscrutable confusion, and conflicting storms will break out among kingdoms and peoples. Democracy, autocracy, and despotism will battle for supremacy. Crowns will fall from royal brows, and sceptres from imperial hands. “ The sun shall be darkened,” and “the stars shall fall.” Hierarchies, rooted deeply in the earth, and Churches, popular and long-standing, will yield before the pressure of the storm. Schism and sectarian bitterness, social and religious disputes, filling men's hearts with perplexity, and giving the world the only reasons for its scoffs which it has, will agitate the whole European family. Ambition, lust of power, and wounded pride will abound; and the earth will groan in yet greater agony in that “great day of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.”
Literary writers interpreting these phenomena