In his remarkable address to the Methodist Conference...

The Indianapolis Star

In his remarkable address to the Methodist Conference at New York last Monday, William T. Stead made several statements that are of a kind to attract notice, and among others this: "In my visits to various parts of the world, I haven't found any one who thought the Church of Christ was a force in the world to-day. You speak of it to kings or the great men of Europe, and ask their opinion of its power, and they shrug their shoulders and tell you that the Christian Church has been allowed to go to the devil."

There is no reason to consider this an exaggeration, for the churches themselves have noticed it, and numerous sermons have been preached on the Church's loss of hold on the masses. Why is it, and what is the remedy for it? Will Mr. Stead's program of going in for universal peace reform the Church or increase its effectiveness? Nobody who stops to think will believe that. It is no doubt the right thing to do, but there is no prospective element of popularity in it. In fact there is a probability that the lessened efficiency of the Church is due to too much of that sort of thing—too much of reforming some one else. Sermons on universal peace have been common enough, and likewise sermons on the importance of converting China, and the evils of Mormonism. There is hardly any phase of reform or any theory of political economy that has escaped discussion. And that sort of preaching never converted a soul, nor added a praticle to the effectiveness of the Church.

History can be searched through and no record be found of successful religious propagation that did not make it a personal matter. It was all addressed to the individual—"Woe unto you. scribes and Pharisees. hypo crites!" "To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your heart;" "I seek not your's, but you." It may get to the extreme of Eggleston's "You are hair-hung and breeze-shaken over hell," but whatever form it takes it is something that goes home to the individual hearer, and makes him resolve to do something for the improvement of his own condition. Naturally that condition of ferment is hard to make continuous, and that is why there are "revivals" from time to time. Men drop into a condition of rest, of satisfaction with what they have attained, of "smug complacency," as Mr. Stead calls it. Sometimes that condition becomes so extreme that a reformation becomes necessary. Sometimes the change comes in an unlooked-for way, but there is always evidence that satisfactory religion can be had when it is gone after in earnest and on a personal basis.

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