CHAPTER X. CHURCHES OF CHRIST IN GREAT BRITAIN.
During the life of Bro. Timothy Coop much money was spent in an effort to build up along the lines adopted by the innovators here in America. Bro. Coop visited this country, and was well pleased with the operations of the congregations that had adopted the modern methods, and he was instrumental in having some American evangelists to go to England, and a few churches were started. I was told that there are about a dozen congregations of these disciples, called "American brethren" by the other English disciples, with a membership of about two thousand, and that it is a waning cause.
The rank and file of these British brethren are more conservative than the innovators here at home, but they have moved forward somewhat in advance of the churches here contending for apostolic simplicity in certain particulars. A few of the congregations use a musical instrument in gospel meetings and Sunday-school services, and some have organizations such as the Band of Hope and the Dorcas Society. The organization of the annual meeting is said to be only advisory. The following lines, a portion of a resolution of the annual meeting of 1861 will help the reader to form an idea of the purpose and nature of the organization: "That this Cooeperation shall embrace such of the Churches contending for the primitive faith and order as shall willingly be placed upon the list of Churches printed in its Annual Report. That the Churches thus cooeperating disavow any intention or desire to recognize themselves as a denomination, or to limit their fellowship to the Churches thus cooeperating; but, on the contrary, they avow it both a duty and a pleasure to visit, receive, and cooeperate with Christian Churches, without reference to their taking part in the meetings and efforts of this Cooeperation. Also, that this Cooeperation has for its object evangelization only, and disclaims all power to settle matters of discipline, or differences between brethren or Churches; that if in any instance it should see fit to refuse to insert in or to remove from the List any Church or company of persons claiming to be a Church, it shall do so only in reference to this Cooeperation, leaving each and every Church to judge for itself, and to recognize and fellowship as it may understand the law of the Lord to require."
The question of delegate voting with a view to making the action of the annual meeting more weighty with the congregations was discussed at the Wigan meeting, but was voted down, although it had numerous advocates. One of the brethren, in speaking of the use of instrumental music in the singing, said they try not to use it when they worship the Lord, but I consider the use they make of it is unscriptural, and it puts the church in great danger of having the innovation thrust into all the services at some future time. All of these churches could learn a valuable lesson from some of our home congregations that have been rent asunder by the unholy advocacy of innovations.
But there are some very commendable things about these brethren. I noticed careful attention being given to the public reading of the Scriptures, and the congregation joins heartily in the singing. I am informed that every member takes part in the contribution without exception. They do not take contributions from visitors and children who are not disciples. The talent in the congregation is well developed. In this they are far ahead of us. While there are not many giving their whole time to evangelistic work, there are many who are acceptable speakers. One brother said they probably have a preacher for each twenty-five members. Men heavily involved in business take time to attend the meetings. For instance, one brother, who is at the head of a factory employing about a thousand people, and is interested in mining and in the manufacture of brick besides, is an active member of the congregation with which he worships. The brethren in general are faithful in the matter of being present at the breaking of bread. When visiting brethren come in, they are given a public welcome, and are sometimes pointed out to the congregation. Also, when brethren return from a vacation or other prolonged absence, they are given a welcome.
They pray much. The week-night meeting for prayer and study of the Bible is largely taken up with prayer. I like the way they point out definite objects of prayer. For instance, two sisters are leaving for Canada; some one is out of employment, and some have lost friends by death. These matters are mentioned, and some one is called on to lead the prayer, and these points are included in his petition to the Lord. Sometimes but one brother is asked to lead in prayer; sometimes more than one are designated, and at other times they leave it open for some one to volunteer. The following hymn was sung in one of these meetings which I attended:
LET US PRAY.
Come, let us pray; 'tis sweet to feel
That God himself is near;
That, while we at his footstool kneel,
His mercy deigns to hear;
Though sorrows crowd life's dreary way,
This is our solace - let us pray.