Impending Changes In Congregationalism -- By: George Perry Morris

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 061:244 (Oct 1904)
Article: Impending Changes In Congregationalism
Author: George Perry Morris

Impending Changes In Congregationalism

Mr. George Perry Morris

Something more than the fact that a new century has begun, makes a diagnosis of the age opportune. Thoughtful men realize that they are navigating waters where currents meet and surge; or, to change the figure, that they are living at a time when the topography of systems of belief and forms of polity are being changed by the heavings of fires within.

Landmarks that once were thought safe to steer by, and as everlasting, are gone. New peaks to guide the mariner have emerged. The tremors of the upheaval unnerve many, just as does the earthquake’s weird and ominous thrill. There is an atmosphere of uncertainty as to the future, a disinclination to dogmatize; the mood of the hour is one of toleration, not only because some think it a lofty mood, but because others deem it a prudent mood. Reverent agnosticism is now permissible where formerly joyful certitude was thought to be indispensable. These are all signs of man’s intuitive feeling or reasoned conviction that striking changes have come recently in the realm of theology and the realm of polity, and that other changes are impending.

Here and there pioneers who have forged ahead, fought with the enemy, explored the new territory, and sounded the depths of its streams and riches of its mines are certain that a New Epoch for Faith has arrived. But, to change the figure again and abruptly, the ground-swell of the storm which a few

have outridden or are outriding is still giving many a navigator—clerical and lay—serious qualms as to whether his anchors will hold if he elects to lie by, or whether his boat will breast and surmount the waves if he sails out into the gale and on the open sea.

What are some of the signs of the times?

Philosophical materialism is passing, but practical materialism is rife. Whether more or less than formerly is an open question on which wise and good men disagree, and it is not a question pertinent to this discussion. But that practical materialism is sufficiently diffused and dominant to cause some of the purest of American patriots and most loyal advocates of democracy to be pessimistic as to the future, will be conceded by all who are in touch with the thought of the time as it finds expression in sermon, current literature, and conversation. The state as an institution waxes mightier as men concede to it collective power formerly carefully retained by individuals. The school, symbolizing learning, multiplies numerically, adds to its endowment at a prodigious rate, both through gifts of individuals and public taxation, and grows in favor with Democracy, whether deemed an instrument for culture or ...

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