The fearful effects of infidelity in France roused good men everywhere; and the Church began to show that power of reviving and purifying herself, which proves that the Lord abideth with her for ever.
Some time before things had come to this pass, an English clergyman, named John Wesley, had been striving to awaken people to a more religious life; but he did not sufficiently heed the authority of the Church; and his followers, after his death, quite separated themselves from her, and became absolute schismatics, with meeting-houses and ministers of their own, calling themselves Methodists. Still his fervour and earnestness stirred up many within the Church; and from that time there was much more desire to fulfil the mission of Christians by bringing others to the knowledge of the truth. Sunday-schools began to be set up to assist the catechizing in Church enjoined in the Prayer-Book, and often instead of it; and there was a growing eagerness to convert the heathen abroad. The great possessions and wide trade of England seemed to mark her as especially intended for this work. Some persons went about it by giving their money to any Missionary Society that made fair promises, without heeding whether it were schismatic or not; others had more patience, and trusted their alms to the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, which was managed by the English Bishops.
The American colonies had, by this time, grown impatient of the English Government, and had shaken it off, calling themselves the United States. The Church people among them obtained some Bishops from the Scottish branch of the Church, which the Calvinists had never been able to put down; and every one of the many United States has now a Bishop of its own.
Calcutta was the first English colony to receive a Bishop, in the year 1814. The second Bishop was Reginald Heber, whose beautiful hymns seem the birthright of our Church, like those of Bishop Ken, one hundred and fifty years before. Still very little was done with the natives of India; they were attached to their foul old religion, and Government forbade any open measures against it, though here and there was a conversion; and there have at length come to be three Bishops' Sees, and in the south of the peninsula, in the See of Madras, there are a hopeful number of Christians. The work would everywhere proceed better if there were no schism, so that all Christians could work together. Ceylon also has a Bishop, and many are there gathered in. On the borders of China likewise there is an English Bishopric; and within that empire the French Roman Catholics have been working steadily for many years to win a few of those obstinate heathen to the faith, but with little success, and often receiving the crown of martyrdom.
The French are very ardent missionaries, bearing joyously all kinds of privations, and forming their stations wherever they see any hope of gaining converts. The Sisters of Charity -- good women under a vow to spend their lives in nursing and teaching -- do much to show what the real fruit of Christianity is; and they are to be found wherever there is trouble or distress. There is a great college at Rome, called the Propaganda, where every language under the sun is taught, in order to fit persons for missionary work,
Our own St. Augustine's College at Canterbury is intended to prepare young men to become English missionaries; and north, south, east, and west, are the good tidings spreading, now that the days are come of which Daniel said: |Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.|
The English West Indies were first forbidden to import slaves; next, all the slaves were set free; and there are now four Bishoprics for their black and white population. All negroes seized in the ships of other nations, on their way to be made slaves, are brought back to Sierra Leone, on the coast of Africa, there set free, and taught to be Christians under a Bishop of our Church; and the Christian blacks are beginning to carry the message of salvation into the other parts of Africa, where the climate is so hurtful to Englishmen, that only the negro race could there do the work.
South Africa has three Bishops to rule their English settlers, win the Dutch farmers to the Church, and convert the Hottentots and Zulus. And from them a Missionary Bishop has been sent out to the heathen tribes in the interior of the continent.
North America contains nine great Bishops' Sees, and the huge Island of Australia six. New Zealand, scarcely discovered till within the last fifty years, has three Bishops of her own, ruling over a population of English, and of Christian natives, men whose fathers were cannibals, but who are now hearty Christians; and it is the centre whence a Mission Bishop is seeking to gain to the Church the inhabitants of the beautiful islands that thickly dot the Pacific Ocean. Many of these islanders have become Christian, under the teaching of missionaries from the other Societies; and though great numbers still remain savage heathens, yet the light of the Gospel is in the course of shining upon all the islands far away. Everywhere the Creed, the Lord's Prayer, and the Ten Commandments, in the vulgar tongue, are being taught, and each convert is gathered in by baptism and fed by the Holy Eucharist, as when the apostles first went forth; and no one can mark the great spread of the Church within the last fifty years, without feeling that the blessing of God is with her. The Greek Church has done less; but though still enslaved in Turkey, in Greece she is free, and the yoke of the Mahometan is there shaken off, after her long patience and constancy.
There are dark spots in all this brightness, for Rome still teaches the same errors mixed up with the truth, and the spirit of unbelief is to be found far and wide, questioning and explaining away all the mysteries it cannot understand.
We know that it must be so, for it was to fight with sin that Christ came into the world, and left His Church there; and St. Paul prophesied that evil men and seducers should wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. Daniel too, foresaw that the little horn should spring up, and do very wickedly; and all the tenor of prophecy in the Epistles declares that times of trouble and temptation must try the Church.
It seems that there has been, even from the Apostles' times, an evil spirit opposing himself to our Lord, and therefore called by St. John the Anti-Christ. His manifestations have broken out in many ways -- in Arianism, in Mahometanism, perhaps in the great errors of Rome, and more lately, in Infidelity, and in Mormonism; and it would seem that there is to be some much more dreadful development of |that wicked one| exalting himself against Christ, and severely trying the elect. But we have a certain promise, that come what may, Christ will never forsake His chosen flock; and those who try to hold fast the faith once delivered to the Saints, and to keep the law of love, clinging to their own true branch of the Church, may be sure that He Who has redeemed them, will guard them from all evil, and that they will share in His glory when He shall come with all His holy angels to put all enemies under His feet. Then He shall sit on His great white Throne, and gather His elect from the four winds to dwell in the eternal Jerusalem, which needs neither sun nor moon, for the Lamb is the light thereof.