The New Parochial Consciousness Of The Church -- By: Thomas Chalmers

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 059:233 (Jan 1902)
Article: The New Parochial Consciousness Of The Church
Author: Thomas Chalmers


The New Parochial Consciousness Of The Church

Rev. Thomas Chalmers

In the history of Christianity, there have been two general forms of religious activity, and these forms, though always in some measure coexistent, have usually succeeded each other in great eras. One form is that of evangelization, and the other is that of parochialization; and the thesis which this article proposes is, that American Christianity is passing, and should pass, into an era of parochialization. I say this as one who has had full sympathy with the traditional type of evangelism. But evangelism is not to continue as it has the dominant form of militant Christianity. The popular conception of vital and aggressive religion which was to persist in this country for more than a century and a half was fixed by the Great Awakening at Northampton. And it has been a distinctly American conception.1 Since that day American Protestantism has judged of earnest, virile Christianity almost wholly by the evangelistic standard. When revivals have been frequent and sweeping, the church has enjoyed the consciousness of prosperity. When they have ceased, the church has languished, or lived on in the patient hope of their return. They have been the one great object of the prayers of the faithful.

This era of evangelization has been one of the most beneficent epochs in the history of the church. The Great

Awakening transformed the moral and religious life of New England.2 The fervor it kindled in the church enabled Christianity to overtake the tides of migration westward, establishing, as the fruits of successive revivals, in cities, villages, and country districts, the permanent institutions of Christian life and worship. Without financial aid or recognition from the state, our Christianity has covered the continent with its churches. It is a feat of evangelization almost unparalleled in the history of Christianity. The denominations which were best calculated to give expression to the spirit of the Great Awakening have reaped the harvests of the century and a half. The Methodists and Baptists, never having enjoyed the prestige of state patronage, unfrightened by threatened respectability, have surrendered themselves fully to the evangelistic idea, and have been, therefore, the great religious forces of the country. The Presbyterians and Congregationalists have prospered in almost exact proportion as they too have interpreted the spirit of the era. The Episcopal Church has shared neither in its spirit nor its prosperity.

But there are already indications that the era is passing, and it is natural that it should. Som...

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