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THE FREE CHURCHES.

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THE FREE CHURCHES. ONE of the most hopeful signs of our times, is the increased unity and brotherly love between the various Nonconformist denominations. To a certain extent, no doubt, sectarian zeal is productive of good, but too much of it is an unmitigated evil. Wales is, no doubt, the home of a religious nation, but sectarian jealousy has oftimes marred an otherwise beautiful and peace- ful Principality, It is with thankfulness, therefore, that we recognise the closer federation of the churches of Christ, and the pity of it is, that state thraldom and official shackles prevents the inclusion of thousands of right-minded Churchmen in this federation. An object lesson in this direction may be seen this week in Liverpool where the an- nual conference of the National Council of the Evangelical Free Churches meet. This is rather a high-sounding name, but for once a name of this character denotes an associa- tion which has at heart the best of all possible objects, and whose members include some of the best, wisest, and most learned men of the country. This unity and brotherhood of the Non- conformist churches is much greater and more real than that which is supposed to exist, but doss not, between the different factions in the Church of England. There are many important differences between the representatives who this week meet at Liverpool, but the differences are greater in method than in belief. The Congrega tionalists prefer a system of independent churches, which, to a large extent, are self- governed, and only to a very limited extent controlled by any central authority. The Wesleyan Methodists, have, on the other hand, an elaborate—and a somewhat com- plicated-system, w hicb works fairly smooth- ly wheel within wheel. The Presbyterians (and the Oalvinistic Methodists) have different ideas as to church government, and church discipline. The Baptists pay special regard to one particular doctrine, not to the exclusion of others, but as a fundamental article of their belief. Still, all these great bodies have more in common than they have antagonistic. In fact, they cannot be said to be antagonistic in any! particular, and in those differences that cer- tainly do exist, it is very pleasant to notice that they agree to differ. Some years ago, a plan of re-union among all the Protestant churches was mooted. It was a splendid ideal, but impossible of realisation. The Church of England representatives at once claimed that the Nonconformists should recognise the 'historic episcopate,' which in other words meant that they should acknow- I ledge themselves to be in the wrong in being Nonconformists at all. As might be expected, they did not assent to this un- reasonable demand for self-condemnation, and the suggested union fell through. But the idea was not lost sight of, and it was decided to organise an union of those churches who did not make unreasonable demands upon one another. In the short time it has been in existence, this plan has been a great success. At the present time there are no less than 600 local Free I Church Councils, and they have already made their influence felt in the various neighbourhoods where they have been es- tablished. We look for a good deal of beneficial work from these local councils. One of their most important duties will be to prevent waste. In some districts there is much waste of energy, waste of money, and waste of time, in consequence of two 1 or three denominations striving to obtain possession of one locality. Other districts again are left neglected and uncared for. It is to be hoped that a good deal of this will now be prevented, by a better under- ) standing between the denominations. Many men of fame have been in Liver- pool this week, including Dr. Clifford, the i retiring president; the Rev. W. L. Wil- kinson, an ex-president of the Wealoyan (Conference; the Rev. H. Arnold Thomas, Dr. A. B. Bruce, Dr. W. T. Davison, Dr. Bowman Stephenson, Dr. Maclaren, and others. Among the Welshmen who take prominent part, we find the Rev. H. Price Hughes, Rev. Evan Jones (Carnarvon), Mr. A. T. Davies, Rev. Wynn Davies, &c, I &c. We hope much from this Conference, but we hope more from the work of the local I branches.

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