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HELD AT PORTSMOUTH,
ON OCTOBER 6TH, 7TH, 8TH, AND 9TH,
T was a great bound from Carlisle, the Border City, in the north, to Portsmouth, the greatest naval station in the world,
in the far south. Congress could hardly have set a wider distance between two places of meeting, and certainly could not have found two towns more unlike each other. This is true, also, of this year's locale as compared with Congress towns in previous years, except, perhaps, in 1876, when Plymouth was the place of meeting. This circumstance gave, as will be seen from the discussion of subjects reported in this volume, a distinct local colouring to the programme, and secured the twenty-fifth meeting of the Church Congress from the risk of dulness, which is inevitable when worked out topics, which present no new phase, are set down for discussion.
There was a decided freshness in the list of subjects, and of selected Reallers and Speakers, which was most welcome to the habituès of Congress. For example, War has never before had a place in the programme. It was a fitting opportunity to consider “the doctrine of Holy Scripture and the attitude of the Church with respect to war," for the Church Congress had met in the stronghold of England's defensive works and warlike operations Congress for the time was shut in by hill fortresses on the one side, and sea sorts on the other : its members breathed, so to say, for the nonce, the bellicose air which pervades Portsmouth and neighbourhood; it could not but catch the spirit and tone of the place, and discuss, but with gentler accents than those of artillery and steel, the great, and seemingly ever-present reality, War.
The special meeting for soldiers and sailors was a novelty ; and the subject of “Emigration,” considered in the light of the Church's responsibility in the matter, if not altogether new, was timely and fresh. Old Testiment Revision was, of course, another new topic, so also the teaching work of the Church.
The political campaign, which was being carried on in preparation for the dissolution of Parliament and a general election, has left its
mark upon the Congress. First, as regards attendance. The number of sull-member tickets issued was 2,141, which was smaller than would have probably been the case at a less busy time. On the other hand, nearly double the usual number of day tickets were sold. This points to a large attendance of inhabitants. To compare with other years : Carlisle numbered 1,967 members; Reading, with exceptional advantages of position, about 3,640 ; Derby, in the Midlands, 3,219. Considering time and place, Portsmouth did well.
But the impress stamped upon the Congress by the political campaign which was proceeding was the emphasis that it gave to the importance of the subject of Church Defence. The three noble sermons with which the Congress opened, notably the Bishop of Carlisle's, gave the note which rang out steady and strong through the length of the four days' session.
Yet, perhaps, the best and stoutest defence the Church made is found in the programme of the Congress. Let anyone read over carefully the list of subjects discussed any year, and reflect that these discussions present only a small portion of the varied interests and manifold activities of the Church of England, and he will obtain some idea of the extent of the Church's work, the vigour of the Church's life, and the fidelity of the Church to her Master and to the mission He has committed to her. And if it be said that the dissensions within the Church of England are so serious that she is as a house divided against itself,” and would fall but for the bracing of the State's powerful arm, let such an one analyse the list of Readers and Speakers (200 or more), take note how cach school of thought, aye, how almost every shade of opinion, finds expression upon the Congress platform, and learn from the peace, and unity, with abundant life (specially marked at Portsmouth) manifested in these great gatherings of Churchmen, how comprehensive is England's Church, how wide her embrace, how free and generous her love!
I had hoped that another pen would have written for the preface of this volume a retrospect of the Church Congress. At the last moment I am disappointed. The Church Congress has lived through a quarter of a century of eventful Church life. Notwithstanding the remarkable revival of conciliar action in every Diocese in the land, the Congress, which has been largely instrumental in quickening this, shows no sign of weakness or decay ; on the contrary, every year adds to its interest and influence, to its strength and permanency. I think I cannot at this juncture, do better than recall the origin, object, and progress of