« PreviousContinue »
The heart of the Christian world of coöperation among Evangelical is yearning after UNITY. Geneva Christians throughout the world. and Scotland have again joined their We hope to see these essays repubhands. Three centuries ago John lished in this country. Ecclesias. Calvin and John Knox were fellow. tical bodies in Great Britain and the laborers in the great Reformation. United States have entered into corThe Scotch reformer found a refuge respondence with each other and from papal persecution in that quiet have given their testimony to the city on the border of Lake Leman, desirableness of a more perfect unwhere Calvin had reared the stand. ion of all who “hold the head.” ard of truth. There he learned to The ablest divines of both countries admire that system of church polity have discussed the subject from the which has found among the High- pulpit and through the press, in lands, a home no less congenial than manner becoming its magnitude and at the foot of the Alps. And now importance. Benevolent associa. the historian of the Reformation, tions have been formed upon the having “the faith of Calvin, the basis of Christian union. Conven. cause of Calvin, the Lord and mas tions have been held to digest plans ter of Calvin,” goes from Geneva to of union. In a word, union is fast Scotland to revive that ancient union, becoming the absorbing theme of to greet the successors of Knox in Protestant Christendom. an assembly of Christian freemen. The most important movement on D'Aubignè and Chalmers shake this subject is the recent Liverpool hands together on the free soil of Conference, at which some two bunScotland, as Knox and Calvin did on dred and fifty members of various the free soil of Geneva. “After religious denominations in England, three centuries, Geneva and Scot. Scotland and Ireland, met for prayer land again shake hands together,- and consultation respecting their shake hands in the name of the Lamb, common duties and interests. This -shake hands in the name of his ex. is understood to be but the first of a clusive dominion, and of the inde series of meetings preparatory to a pendence of his church from every convention of the representatives of temporal power,--shake hands in all Protestant evangelical denomina. the spirit of love, of humility and tions throughout the world, which it
is proposed to hold in London some In England, the subject of Chris. time during the present year. The tian union has received increasing idea of such a convention, we be. attention for several years past. Ă lieve, was first suggested in the New volume of essays on this theme has Englander, eighteen months ago. just been published in London, partly
“Why might there not be, ere long, a feeler to try the public senti. some general conference in which the va. ment,” in reference to some plan rious evangelical bodies of this country,
and of Great Britain, and of the continent
of Europe, should be in some way repre. * Christian Unity. _A sermon preached sented, and in which the great cause of rebefore the Foreign Evangelical Society, formed and spiritual Christianity throughin the Bleecker Sireet Church, New York, out the world, should be made the subject May 4, 1845. By Leonard Bacon, Pastor of detailed and deliberate consideration, of the First Church in New Haven, Conn. with prayer and praise? That would be New Haven : B. L. Hamlen, 1845. an “ecumenical council," such as never
+ Speech of Merle D'Aubignè before yet assembled since the apostles parted the Free Church of Scotland.
from each other at Jerusalem, a council
not for legislation and division, but for suggestion now appears before the union and communion, and for the extension of the saving knowledge of Christ. public with a more elaborate expoSuppose such a convention, met at London, sition of his views of Christian or Edinburgh, or Geneva; suppose that unity. These are contained in a the facts respecting the state of evangel. sermon preached before the Foreign ical and experimental piety, are reported Evangelical Society, at its last an. from one country and another in succes. sion, and brought under the deliberate niversary, which is published at consideration of the assembly there, and their request. This is the most these after having been digested and dis- profound and eloquent discussion of representatives to all the regions and the subject which we have yet seen. churches from which they came. Suppose It was not fully appreciated at its the resources of the various evangelical first delivery in New York, nor even churches throughout Christendom are re
when repeated in Boston. In fact ported, their institutions of education, their arrangements and opportunities for the it could be appreciated nowhere, diffusion of religious intelligence, their not even in an assembly of minismeans of self-defense and self-extension, ters, simply on being heard from the their methods of aggression on the world pulpit. It must be studied to be prises for the propagation of the gospel rightly understood. And not only among the nations. Suppose all this so, it must be studied in a certain knowledge summed up and discussed in frame of mind. For it is so pureconnection with the inquiry, what more can we do, and how can we best sustainly spiritual, it so completely sepa. and help each other? Suppose that upon
rates the substance of Christianity that assembly the spirit of God is poured from all its forms, that it needs a out, as the spirit of grace and supplication, spiritual sense to apprehend it. What would be the effect of all this upon Though not adapted for popular the churches and upon the world? How impression, though faulty as a ser. easily may the reader nominate in his own
mon, yet as an essay it ranks with thoughts a delegation from the Congrega- the lucid and classic productions of tionalists, from each of the two great Presa Whately; while in the spirituality, from the Methodists, whose presence in comprehensiveness and catholicity such a convention, to report with one ac of its views it excels even the facord the facts respecting religion in America and the progress of living Christianity
bit mous essays of that distinguished in connection with the voluntary princi. prelate on the “ Kingdom of Christ.” ple, would electrify the Protestant world. But it is not our purpose to write We make this supposition, not as expect. a review of the discourse before us. ing to see it completely realized at pres. We shall content ourselves with a ent, but rather because the more conception warms our hearts, and can not but reference to one or two points diswarm the heart of every, Christian read. cussed in it, and such quotations as er." —New Englander, vol. 2, pp. 253, 254. will but invite our readers to peruse
This proposition was made prior the whole. to that of Dr. Merle D'Aubignè to The general awakening among the same effect in the Swiss Con- Evangelical Protestants, on the ference and before the Free Church subject of Christian union, to which in Scotland ? Possibly the idea we have referred, is to be attribuwas first suggested to him through ted mainly to two causes ; viz. the our columns. If not, the fact that extravagant pretensions and efforts the same great measures for pro- recently put forth in various quarmoting Christian union have been ters, in behalf of a formal, lifeless proposed independently by leading Christianity, and the increasing fa. minds on both sides of the Atlantic, cilities for the spread of vital Chris. is additional evidence that the Spirit tianity ; in other words, common of God is conducting his children dangers and common duties. Withforward to this desired consumma. in a quarter of a century a new tion. The author of this noble zeal has manifested itself in the
Romish church. Her tactics have lions of heathen, when entered into been changed with the changes of in the proper spirit, must absorb her circumstances. No longer able or overshadow all minor interests. to enforce her authority out of Those who think and feel alike for Italy by physical power—having no the honor of their common Lord, move left her on the political chess- who are fulfilling his great com. board of Europe, she seeks to make mand in expectation of the same education and liberty subservient triumphs and rewards, have little to her advancement in this western time or inclination for controversy world, while her missionaries crowd with each other, however ready the ports of Oceanica and of the they may be to oppose that which East. Protestants find her every hinders the common cause. where present and everywhere ac Add to these considerations the tive; an antagonist to be encoun- genial influences of revivals of retered in every plan for their own ligion, and it is not difficult to unpreservation or the diffusion of their derstand the tendencies in our day principles; always to be watched, toward Christian unity. if not always to be feared.
A thorough, heartfelt union among In the same period extraordi. Christians is the great desideranary developments have been made tum of our times. It would conin communions, reputed orthodox, centrate the moral power of Chris. but not wholly purged from the tendom, and demonstrate to the leaven of Romanism. The church, world the divine origin and effi. the ministry, the sacraments, have cacy of the Gospel. Attempts to been exalted in a manner deroga. effect such a union have so often tory to Christ and his work, and re failed, because they have been di. proachful to his humble followers. rected not so much towards unity as The great doctrine of justification towards uniformity. The aim has by faith has been assailed or under been to bring the various denominamined. A species of Pharisaism tions of Christians upon the same has arrayed itself against the simple platforın of faith, if not under the Gospel. These things have aroused same ecclesiastical organization. Evangelical Christians of all denom We have never seen any such plan inations to the defense of their com- of union which did not resolve it. mon faith. The controversy with self into this ; that all existing deformalism, prelacy and Romanism, nominations must renounce their has given unusual prominence to peculiarities, excepting that with the simple and fundamental princi which the author of the scheme ples of the Gospel. And Chris- might chance to
might chance to be connected. tians of various ecclesiastical con The Baptist, for example, argues, nections have found themselves that since all other denominations side by side, engaging with equal acknowledge the validity of his ardor in defense of the same es. mode of baptism, while he can not sential truths. The presence of a conscientiously acknowledge the common enemy has enabled them validity of theirs, a union can be to realize to how great an extent easily effected by one general im. they are agreed.
mersion of all professed Christians, In the same period also, the de. in which event he will co-operate mands of the world for the Gospel with them even in distributing the have been becoming more and word of God! The Episcopalian more imperative. India and China argues that since the sects" all are now open to Christian effort, acknowledge his ordination to be and an undertaking so vast as the valid, while he can not so acknowl. evangelization of hundreds of mil. edge theirs, all that is wanting to the
unity of believers is that the bishop 4. The incarnation and atone. should lay hands upon them all, and ment of the Lord Jesus Christ. this being done, all minor diversi 5. Justification of the sinner by ties, about sprinkling or immersion, faith alone. Calvinism, Arminianism, latitudina. 6. The work of the Holy Spirit rianism and the like, may easily in the conversion and sanctification be overlooked. So the Congrega. of the sinner. tionalist regards his own broad and 7. The divine ordinance of the liberal platform as the most natural Christian ministry, and the perpetui. and proper foundation of Christian ty and authority of the sacraments union.
of baptism and the Lord's supper. Now any attempt to harmonize 8. The right of private judgment views so opposite must be a failure. in the interpretation of the Holy The Baptist can not subscribe in full Scriptures. the same confession of faith with Oiher articles of minor importhe Presbyterian or Congregational. tance were added to these. Such ist. He may agree substantially a declaration is valuable in showing with the latter in his views of church Christians how far they are actually polity, and with both in his system agreed.
But the time of a convenof divinity. But immersion is with tion would not be spent in the most him a vital point. The moment he profitable manner in the attempt to concedes it, the moment he becomes frame a creed for Protestant Chris. indifferent to it, the moment he ap- tendom, the design of which should pears before the world with a dec. be to produce exact uniformity ei. laration of his faith which disre. ther of belief or of worship. Ad. gards it, that moment he ceases to mitting that such a document could be a Baptist. We can not expect be framed, it would hardly be worth him to make such a sacrifice for the the labor which it would cost. It sake of union. Neither can he ex- could not bind the present, much pect us to become Immersionists. less succeeding generations. What The Methodist will not become a we want is the unity of fact, not of Calvinist, nor the Presbyterian an theory; unity not uniformity. The Arminian. The Episcopalian will Liverpool Conference was of course not surrender his jure divino suc. discountenanced by Episcopalians cession, nor will the Congregation- generally; and we learn from prialist yield any of the “ divine rights” vate sources, that the Baptists were of the brotherhood.
with difficulty prevailed upon to These various denominations may co-operate in the movement. It indeed unite in some common de. would be still more difficult to bring claration of their views as opposed the Baptists of this country into such to Romanists or to the non-evangeli- a plan of union, for if they will not cal sects. But such a declaration unite with us in circulating the must necessarily be limited to a few Scriptures without note or comgeneral statements. The Liverpool ment, or with an unmutilated text, convention, composed of delegates they surely will not unite with us in from nineteen different evangelical a public confession of faith. If they denominations, adopted as the basis will not stand with us upon the Bi. of union the following articles of ble as it is, much less will they come faith; viz.
upon any other platform. The 1. The divine inspiration and au- tendency of the Baptist denominathority of the Holy Scriptures. tion in this country, instead of being
2. The doctrine of the Trinity. towards liberality, as in England, is
3. The utter depravity of human more and more towards an exclu. nature in consequence of the fall. sive sectarianism. The American
Tract Society has succeeded better tempts to produce unity among difthan any other of our great benev• ferent denominations of Christians olent associations, in harmonizing by articles of agreement. Like the the views and efforts of different convention for the joint occupancy denominations of Christians. But of Oregon, such a union lasts onthe Methodists have no connection ly till one of the parties feels strong with it; the Episcopalians but little; enough to give notice of its termin. the Old School Presbyterians less ation and seize the whole, and probably than heretofore. These then-prepare for war.
In eve. all, with the Baptists, have their ry such plan, the less liberal senti. separate " book concerns,' or ments will prevail over the more “boards of publication,” which liberal. The spirit of the former naturally engage their sympathies is—triumph; of the latter-conmore than the united body. Simi- cession. Hence the latter has no lar boards are called for among alternative but to yield, or to with. Congregationalists and “Constitu- draw; and there will be less friction tional” Presbyterians, and yet an in separate than in combined action. other is demanded for the West. We have no wish for uniformity. Moreover, the Tract Society, in its It is not essential to unity. Nay, it very endeavors to be liberal is in has often been its hindrance and its danger of becoming sectarian; and scourge. The attempt to enforce at the moment when it is underta. it has often led to the most cruel king to supply our country with an persecution. The author of the evangelical literature, (if not indeed discourse before us makes the diswith an itinerant ministry,) it is ac tinction between unity and uniformi. cused before the world of suppress. ty palpable by the following striking ing the facts of history and the comparison of our national union voice of the illustrious dead, to ac. with the temporary republic of commodate itself to a bigoted secta. France. 666 One and indivisible,' rian or anti-sectarian prejudice. was the motto of a republic without
The “ plan of union" entered in- liberty-a republic of atheism and to by the General Assembly of the massacre. E pluribus unum,' is Presbyterian Church and the Gen- the motto of that great expanding eral Association of Connecticut, for union which spreads its protection promoting harmony among Presby over our freedom. The common. ierians and Congregationalists at wealth of Christ's own Israel is the west, has in the opinion of some commonwealth of freemen; and furnished occasion for discord ra while it is so, it can not take to itself ther than union. The mixed ec. the bloody motto, One and indivis. clesiastical organization which it ible ;' its unity must be none other established, has produced a bad Pres. than unity in diversity.” (p. 28.) byterianism and a worse Congrega We have already seen, that the tionalism, and after the experience author in his proposition for a conof almost half a century may per vention which should represent the haps be rejected by both the origi- various evangelical bodies of this nal contracting parties as inexpedi. country and of Europe, does not ent and unsatisfactory. It is dis- specify the preparation of a creed carded extensively in the newer set. or ritual as one of the objects of tlements, as less favorable to unity that convention. We presume that of feeling and action, than the inde. he would regard this as one of the pendent existence of Presbyterian least important objects which could and Congregational churches, with come before so august a body. In the usual fraternal correspondence fact he tells us, that one of the greatand intercourse. So much for at. est hindrances to the advancement