Wednesday, 12 February 2014

19° Century London Christadelphians

 From

the
RELIGIOUS LIFE OF LONDON.

by
J. EWING RITCHIE,
author ofbritish senators,” “the night side of london,” etc.
LONDON:
TINSLEY BROTHERS, 18, CATHERINE STREET, STRAND.
1870.

What good men have been persecuted and suffered wrong because they bore the name of a sect distasteful to an imperious majority!  How the mob have thirsted for their blood!
  “These are Christians—away with them to the lions,” said they of old Rome.  “Down with the Roundheads!”
 was the cry of country squire and rural parson when a few devout men such as Richard Baxter and others more or less known to fame met in a small room to keep alive the spirit of piety and prayer amongst themselves.  It was the same when Wesley and Whitefield, often at the peril of life, proclaimed in parishes of England sunk in ignorance Gospel truths.  There are thousands who, like the late Isaac Taylor, of Ongar, could tell how a “Church and King mob” kept them in perpetual fear, because they were “Meetingers.”  There are yet parishes in Suffolk and Norfolk where to go to chapel is to insure your being despised as a “Pogram,” and cut by all the dignities of the village, even if you have the learning of a German professor and the piety of a saint.

  In the Babel of London, however, it is different; here, there is a rage for new names, and there are preachers and people ever ready to resort to a new name, as if novelty were a possibility in our day, after eighteen hundred years of theological hair-splitting and threshing of straw.  The Christadelphians are the latest production in this way.  They meet in Crowndale Hall, Crowndale Road, St. Pancras Road, every Sunday; in the morning, at eleven, for the breaking of bread, and worship; in the afternoon at three, when there is a Bible-class especially for inquirers, when opportunity to ask questions respecting the one faith is afforded; and at seven in the evening, when we are told the Word of God is expounded in harmony with the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus anointed.

  One of the most active teachers is Mr. Watts, late of Vernon Chapel, King’s Cross Road.  The Athenæum Hall, Temple Road, Birmingham, seems to be the headquarters of Christadelphian publications.  There are published there the Christadelphian Shield, the Biblical Newspaper, and the Ambassador, monthly periodicals, and other publications more expensive, and aiming to be standard works.


This, I take it, is the epitome of their faith:—
One God, the Eternal Father, dwelling in heaven in light of glory inconceivable; one universal irradiant Spirit, by which the Father fills all and knows all, and when He wills, performs all; one Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, begotten by the Spirit of the Virgin Mary, put to death for sin, raised from the dead for righteousness, and exalted to the heavens as a Mediator between God and man; man a creature of the ground, under sentence of death because of sin, which is his great enemy — the devil; deliverance from death by resurrection, and bodily glorification at the coming of Christ and inheritance of the kingdom of God, offered to all men on condition—1, of believing the glad tidings of Christ’s accomplishment at His first appearing, and of His coming manifestations in the earth as King of Israel and Ruler of the whole earth at the setting up of the kingdom of God; 2, of being immersed in water for His name; and 3, of continuing in well-doing to the end of this probationary career.”
This is the teaching of the new sect.  They rejoice in their emancipation from the bondage of orthodoxy.

  Mr. Watts says:
“My past nineteen years of religious life I regard as so much lost time taken up with the fables and follies of man’s fleshly mind, systematized upon a pagan theology; and although I honestly thought myself right, and strove hard to lead others, yet I am now fully persuaded it was all done in ignorance of the true knowledge of God.”
  He tells us the Evangelical party in the Church or Dissent do not know the Gospel.
  “Nothing can be more clear,”
 he says,
 “than that this (their doctrine of the resurrection) first item of the Gospel as preached by Jesus and the Apostles does not form any part of the teaching either of those who pretend to be the successors of the Apostles, or the sects and parties of Dissenters who have imbibed their system of theology from the same polluted stream.”
  The doctrine of the soul’s essential and inherent immortality is a pagan myth.  For the heathen there is no future life; for them what Macbeth wished has come to pass, and life is indeed
“The be all and the end all here.”
The mere belief of this doctrine relieves orthodoxy of the perplexing problem, What becomes of the heathen? and of course strikes at the foundation of the doctrine of purgatory.  Yet we are not to suppose there will be no punishment for the wicked and the disobedient; they shall beaten with stripes, and then, according to the righteous Judge, enter upon that second death state, from which there shall be no resurrection—an opinion the direct opposite of that of Origen and Archbishop Tillotson, first promulgated in modern times by Dr. Rust, Bishop of Dromore.  The Calvinistic formula is also, in the opinion of the Christadelphians, a mere travesty of the subject of the atonement.  As to man in general, he is born to die.  God treated the first man federally.  He put him on probation, and in him all his successors stood or fell.  We never read of immortal, never-dying souls in Scripture, and to foist such a meaning on 2 Cor. v. 8, as that it proves the existence of a separate state of disembodied spirits, is to handle the Word of God deceitfully.

  Once Mr. Watts believed in a kingdom in the sky, a throne in the heart, a seed of Israel, a New Jerusalem and promised land, all mystically referring to something at present existing in the so-called Christian Church.  He does so no longer.  His eyes are opened, the light is come, and he and his friends, chiefly juveniles, rejoice; and if they have the true light, who shall say they have no reason to rejoice?  Farewell, writes Mr. Watts, in a poem considered poetically of doubtful merit—
“Farewell to the false, I welcome the true,
And begin the year with Christ anew.”
This reference to poetry reminds me that the Christadelphians have a hymn-book of their own, to frame which appears to have been a matter of no little trouble.  With the hymns used by Christian churches in general they find much fault.  They require something manly and robust, whereas the churches of all denominations rejoice in what is sentimental, and their songs of praise and devotion are described as “oceans of slops.”  Whether the Christadelphians have much improved theirs, I leave the reader to judge.  As a specimen I quote one verse from Montgomery’s well-known poem, “The Grave.”  In their hymn-book I find it printed thus.  I quote from memory:—
“There is a calm for saints who weep,
   A rest for weary Weyyah found;
In Christ secure they sweetly sleep,
   Hid in the ground.”
At present the Christadelphians do not seem very flourishing.  In their little room—which is miscalled a hall—there are about forty of them of an evening, quibbling earnestly, and to the best of their ability.

In taking leave of the Christadelphians, let me refer to a passage in our Church history.  It is notorious that the celebrated Henry Dodwell, Camden Professor of History in the University of Oxford, in order to exalt the power and dignity of the priesthood, endeavoured to prove that the doctrine of the soul’s natural mortality was the true and original doctrine, and that immortality was only at baptism conferred upon the soul by the gift of God through the hands of one set of regularly ordained clergy.
p. 300-  p305
File:Women in Industry during the First World War, London, c 1918 Q28553.jpg
Women in Industry during the First World War, London, c 1918
A general view of the central hall of Crowndale Works, an anti-gas mask factory, in Camden Town, London. A mass of women sit shoulder to shoulder on long tables to prepare the glass for the mask eyepieces.
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