and Protestantism cannot now return to the monastic priest. It retains its national Churches and its married clergy, neither of which looks very stately by the side of Catholicism, if competition with Catholicism is what the evangelical Churches desire.
Gentlemen, Protestantism is not yet, thank God, in such a bad way that the imperfections and confusions in which it began have got the upperhand and entirely stunted or stifled its true character. Even those among us who are convinced that the Reformation in the sixteenth century is something that is over and done with are by no means ready to abandon the momentous ideas on which it was based, and there is a large field in which all earnest evangelical Christians are in complete unanimity. But if those who think that the Reformation is done with cannot see that its continuance in the sense of a pure understanding of God’s Word is a question of life and death for Protestantism—its continuance has already borne abundant fruit in associations like the Evangelical Union—let them at least promote the liberty for which Luther fought in his best days: “Let the minds of men rush one against another and strike; if some are meanwhile led astray—well! that is what we must expect in war; where there is battle and slaughter, some must fall and be wounded, but whoso fights honestly will receive the crown.”
The reason why the catholicising of the Protestant Churches—I do not mean that they are becoming papal; I mean that they are becoming Churches of ordinance, doctrine, and ceremony—is so burning a question is that three powerful forces are working together to further this development. First there is the indifference of the masses. The tendency of all indifference is to put religion on the same plane with authority and tradition, but also with priests, hierarchies, and the cult of ceremonies. It puts religion there, and then goes on to complain of the external character and stationary condition of religion, and of the “pretensions” of the clergy; nay, it is capable, apparently, at one and the same moment, of mingling those complaints with abuse, of contemptuously jeering at every active expression of religious feeling, and doing homage to every kind of ceremony.