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TIDE TABLE FOR THE NORTH WALES…

THE CHURCH AND THE SOCIAL…

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THE CHURCH AND THE SOCIAL CRISIS. THE NOBLE SPEECH of the Archbishop of York, in the House of Lords-a speech which has been so widely read that there is no need to. quote from it-serves to direct public attention to. a question of great importance to every citizen in this Christian country. The question is: What is the right attitude of the Christian Church towards the movement for social reform? It is much easier to. ask that question .than to answer it. But it is evident that answered it must be, and that upon the nature of the answer depends both the future of the Church itself and the solution of the most pressing problems of the age. One primary difficulty which presents itself is, that Socialism has not yet clearly and finally defined. itself. Various schools propound their peculiar theories, advance their claims, and offer their remedies for the evils which exist. With some of these the Christian Church can, have no deal- ings whatever. There is a form of Socialism which ignores the Creator of mankind and scorns the very name of religion, thereby violat- ing one of the most sacred instincts and institu- tions of the race. With that form of Socialism the Christian Church will ever decline to negotiate. But there is also a form of Socialism which aims at elevating society, morally, mentally, and physically; which seeks to con- secrate labour as well as secure the just re- cognition of the worker and his rights. With this form of Socialism the Church must ever express its deepest sympathy, extending a help- ing hand and praying for an abundlance of Divine blessing upon its energies. One great and serious fact forms a common platform for both the Christian Church and Socialism, namely, that there exists a woeful need for a deep-rooted and far-reaching revival of society in general. For obvious reasons that revival must adopt the working classes of the country as its Istartling point and base of operations. It is here that the greatest problems exist, and it is here that the dire results of the exist- ing evil are most acutely experienced. A casual glance at the annual returns of the Board of Trade will reveal the fact that the worker does not enjoy the status he deserves in the life of the nation. It is a self-evident truth that the working classes of a country produce the wealth of that icountry. 'Take the statistics for 1907. In that single year the commercial profits (ex- clusive of the profits of the railway companies) amounted to £ 367,814,155. Add to that the sum of ^41,241,692, the profits of the railway com- panies, and we have a grand total ot ^409,055,847. But there is a sad, a tragic, side to this picture. In the production of this gigantic total of profits 4,369 precious lives were lost, all of whom were bread-winning members of the poorer families, of our land, and 135,914 workers were injured. In the face of these sor- rowful figures, apart from any other appeal to public sympathy, the workers of our nation de- serve the most generous consideration, and. the deepest respect of every member of society. Ana there are other and not less striking aspects of the same great question. In this wealthy land of ours., the richest country in the world, the great majority of the people are poor, and in the* chief cities thousands of working men and their families eke out a miserable existence on earnings considerably below the sum which is reckoned as a living wage. Here are. some of the figures. In wealthy Glasgow 59 per cent. of the families have to subsist on less than a living wage; in York, the proportion of such familes is given as 43.4 per cent. and in the great Metropolis the number of such families is represented by 32 per cent. If you add to these facts the conditions under which labour is car- ried on in many instances, the effects of the fearful sweating system," and the revelations as to the housing of the working classes in some off the largest industrial centres, then the demand of the workers for due consideration and the cry for the immediate reform of existing conditions must appeal to the reason and con- science of every sane man and woman. It is in ,answer to this cry that the various social in- stitutions of the land are putting forth their energies; and here the question may be asked What should be the attitude of the Christian Church to this great social movement? Some of the leaders of that movement have sought to advance their cause by condemning the Church; but it is obvious, in the light of history, that their criticisms are far from being fair, to say the least. Admiration is due to the courageous fidelity of these men to the cause they have espoused, whose zeal is doubtless the outcome of a burning sense of the injustice from which their fellows suffer and of an honest de- sire for real and permanent reform. But while all this may be taken for .granted, and while we may all admit and deplore the many defects of the Church (irrespective of sects and denomina- tions), it is still true that many of the epithets hurled at it by some of these men, and the bitter criticism directed towards it, are unjusi- fiable and uncalled for. Many of them forget tliat all along the centuries (with a few painful exceptions when the ,spiritna.1 life of the Church was at a low ebb) the Christian Church has fought the very evils which they so vigorously denounce at the present day, and has toiled to the point of fleath for those very principles which underlie the demands upon their pro- gramme. Moreover, whilst every other section of the community turned a deaf ear to the cries of the victims, the Christian Church, notably dJumimg the last century or so, has founded, or caused to be founded, institutions for their pro- tection and welfare. Let not the Church be exempted from blame, when and where blame is due, and let it not be above criticism, however keen, when that critic- ism is conducted on reasonable lines and by persons guiltless of the defects which they attribute to those whom they accuse. But, at the same time, let not these men, who. never raised a hand to assist the Church in its great work, but whose vision of social life has been suddenly illuminated, abuse an institution which has been .steadily working for the uplifting of mankind since first it received its commission from the greatest Reformer of the ages. Much of this abuse, no doubt, is a result of a misconcep- tion of the duty of the Church and the scooe or sphere of its activities. It must be admitted that many of the problems with which present- day Socialism is concerned are primarily and purely questions of economics, and as such are without the immediate power of the Church to deal with—if not, indeed, outside its functions. They are, and will remain, questions to be dealt with by the legislative assemblies of the country. But it is equally true that the Church has a duty in respect of many of these problems, the neglect of which will bring down upon it not alone the criticism of men but the extreme displeasure of its Spiritual Head. Christianity is ahead of every known; religion in its advocacy of the claims of man's physical nature, based upon the idea of its sacred relation to its Creator. Many of the deficiencies in the past history of the Church in regard to social service may have been due to an incorrect conception of this doctrine. All the woes and physical sufferings of humanity, all the injustice and tyranny of mankind, are directly attributable to the terrible fact of sin, by whatever name it may he called. Were sin to be expelled, as a factor, from the life of humanity, the reform of society would already be an accomplished fact. Expel impurity from the fountain, and all the streams will become pure as crystal. The Church's primary duty is to offer to mankind the great medium whereby this freedom from the dominion of sin may be obtained. A power which will transform the sinful heart of man and redeem his lost character must necessarily do much ito improve 'and eventually perfect these physical conditions and circumstances. Therefore, let the Church direct her efforts primarily and chiefly towards this end. By so doing she will furnish man with the means of securing his own release from, the enemy and equip him with the arms necessary to a success- ful conflict with the enemy and the succour and redemption of other victims. Every true re- formation of society must start with the in- dividual, and every true form of the individual must commence inwardly. This must be the starting point of all real reform. But the Church must also keep her eye upon the enemy, and must direct her most powerful weapons of at- tack upon his forces and it is here that lie can join handls wiith the outside agencies which are at work. Her attacks must be directed against all those forms which make for injustice oppression, and vice. Whilst directing her wrath towards the assaulter, she must as in the past, exercise charity towards the assaulted The aims and work of the Church and those of every true social reform movement form a com- plete parallelism, and should in' no instance be brought into conflict. If reforms arc to be ac. complished, they can only be brought about by the unity and harmony of these two great forces.

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