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them liberal views. They touch men nowhere, and accomplish nothing. They hinder the progress of the churches. The one believes and teaches too many things that are not so; the other believes and teaches too little of the big verities of Christ's gospel.
The churches wait for men well equipped and using modern vernacular, who have a message big enough to include the whole doctrine of Jesus, and who are not afraid to let men have it all thrilled with passion and conviction, and who are ready to stand by it with a daily life of personal consecration and devotion.
THE TYPE OF CHRISTIAN CHARACTER FAVORED BY
PROF. WILLISTON WALKER, YALE UNIVERSITY. The task to which your Committee on Program has invited me this evening is to say something regarding “The Type of Christian Character favored by Congregationalism.” Such a theme demands historic rather than theoretic treatment. It is as easy as it is idle to speculate as to what the character fostered by Congregationalism should be. Our interest is rather in some salient features of Congregational character as actually developed by the more than nine generations of Congregational growth on American soil.
In examining the effects of Congregationalism on Christian character the temptation is strong to turn to the lives of individual Congregationalists, especially of those of eminence, as examples. Such figures as that of the patient, self-denying, sagacious William Bradford, among the founders of Plymouth; of the statesman-like Thomas Hooker, in the beginnings of Connecticut; of saintly John Eliot; of Jonathan Edwards, the seer, who seemed almost to talk with Gdd face to face as did Moses of old ; of Samuel J. Mills, the inspirer to missionary endeavor ; of Edwards A. Park, the keen-minded teacher of a larger number of our Congregational ministry than have learned theology from any instructor beside; of Henry M. Dexter, the beloved investigator of Congregational history and principles; of President Finney, the ardent evangelist; of Truman M. Post, the devoted advocate of Congregational ideals ; of General Armstrong, consecrated to the elevation of a despised race, immediately rise
before us. The impulse is natural to seize upon one or other of these heroes of our history, or of many others by whose shining names our annals are adorned, and say: Here is the normal Congregationalist; describe him and you will see the type of character fostered by Congregationalism.
It is, indeed, true that each of the men of eminence of whom mention has been made was profoundly influenced by Congregationalism, and that we see Congregational traits distinctly manifested in them all; but to turn our attention to such individual examples only is too selective and unrepresentative a process. It is as if we should picture the American national character simply by outlining the biographies of George Washington and Abrahain Lincoln. They were representative Americans, truly; but America produces a Washington or a Lincoln but once in a century, and, however illustrative of the possibilities of American political development these chiefs of our republic may be, they tower so high above the average man as to give a distorted impression when held up as the normal and expected product of our ordinary American life.
To judge normal Congregationalism simply by two or three of its most eminent sons is like estimating Methodism as a whole by the standard of John Wesley only; like testing the value of Roman Catholicism merely by a biography of Francis of Assisi; like attributing to Lutheranism in general the peculiar energies and aptitudes of Martin Luther; or seeing the characteristic fruits of Episcopacy everywhere in William Laud. Traits illustrative of some aspects of the branches of the Christian church, of which they were leaders, conspicuously mark each of these men ; but to regard the gen. eral characteristics of great religious bodies as summed up in
any one or any ten of them is to judge corporate religious life by a standard at once too high to represent the attainment of the average Christian, and too narrow to set forth the breadth of collective Christian life.
Though all associations of men are composed of individuals they are far more than a mere aggregation of units. They possess a corporate quality as truly and as easily recognizable as the peculiarities of any individual. The traits of the German, the Irish, or the Italian races are as vivid to our thought as those of any man who bears the common racial name. The city in which we are assembled has a corporate character, a flavor, and a quality of the collective public mind, which, though it may not be fully exemplified in any
one of its fifty thousand inhabitants, distinguishes this community at once from a city on our Mexican Gulf, or on the Pacific Ocean. We speak truly when we say that a certain type of piety is Quaker, or Roman Catholic, or Methodist, for we recognize the corporate traits of which it is the manifestation; and with equal propriety and distinctness we refer to a Congregational type of Christianity.
Three principles, more or less clearly grasped by the founders of modern Congregationalism, have characterized it, and shaped its thought of the Christian life; not that these principles were all clearly formulated. One was expressed with the utmost distinctness in words; the others were implied rather than uttered. But all underlay and conditioned the conception of religious truth, out of which Congregationalism grew.
One such principle, and the one of which mention has been made, as clearly formulated by the founders, was that of the sole authority of the revealed will of God in all matters of faith, practice, and government. Our spiritual ancestors were Congregationalists simply because they believed that God had revealed a Congregational order of church polity no less than a manifestation of his gracious purposes to sinful men. Nothing for which a lower authority than that of God himself could be cited was binding on the Christian. Nothing which bore the impress of the Divine will was to be neglected or set aside. Their interpretation of that revelation differed in many respects from ours. They looked upon the Bible as in the same degree authoritative from cover to cover, and drew equally from law-giver, historian, psalmist, prophet, evangelist, or apostle, what they conceived to be the immediate and absolute will of God concerning all that the church should be or know. They regarded all Divine revelations as shut up within the Bible's pages. The record therein contained they viewed as full, and no less as final and complete. Our altered conceptions of the progress of revelation have changed our emphasis on many portions of the sacred volume. We recognize a human element and a progressive character in revelation, and an adaptation of some of its aspects to local circumstances and temporary stages of development which they did not perceive. Unlike them we do not believe that a minute and complete pattern of all proper church organization can be gathered, or was divinely intended to be gathered, from scattered hints and phrases of psalmists and apostles. We see in the Bible great principles rather than detailed prescriptions of church government. The Book which they and we alike honor as the Word of God we do not use in quite the same way as they did; but we shall be false to a basal principle of our Congregational heritage if we fail to listen for God's voice in whatever revelation he has made. He alone binds the conscience, and deserves obedience.
A second principle, not so distinctly put into words as that at which we have just glanced, but equally evident in the practice of our spiritual ancestors, was the confident belief that religious truth can be ascertained from the records in which the Divine will has formulated it by the honest and painstaking application of the ordinary processes of the mind, such as are employed in the search for facts and principles in any other department of human knowledge. The interpretation of God's truth, they held, has not been placed in the keeping of a teaching church, to whose fathers, doctors, and councils the individual judgments of Christians must conform. Truth, they affirmed, has not been set forth finally, and without possibility of further revision, by ancient councils, whether of Nicæa, Ephesus, or Chalcedon, or even by modern assemblies, however honored, at Dort or Westminster. Truth lies open, they believed, to the reverent search of all who would seek it. The tools they brought, the common tools of learning in that age, were exegesis and dialectic argument. They did a noble work with them; but the modern workman needs to supplement them from the ampler chest which the study of archæology, of history, of sociology, and of the natural world has furnished. Yet, however much his equipment has been enlarged, this principle of the right always to search for Christian truth and to seek for fuller and more accurate presentations of its content, is a basal element in Congregationalism to-day.
Closely connected with this view of the openness of religious truth to reverent, patient examination is a third principle, like the one just noted, unformulated by the founders of Congregationalism, but implied in their thought. Congregationalism is pre-eminently a layman's type of Christianity. In a true sense the whole Reformation movement out of which Congregationalism sprang was a protest of the laity against the denial of the universal priesthood of believers which the mediæval hierarchy had made. But Congregationalism went much further than Lutheranism or Anglican Episcopacy. The layman, it held, if equally learned, is as able to judge of Christian truth as the minister. It is as much his duty to do so. More than that, he claimed of right his part in the government of the church. By the votes of the lay membership the minister was chosen; by lay election new members were added to the church; by the suffrages of the laity as a whole, not at the will of the pastor alone, or assisted by a few chosen lay elders, discipline was administered. Distinction in office was asserted, but the conception of any sharp line of discrimination between “clergy” and “laity” Congregationalism repudiated. The whole body of disciples was, in theory at least, entrusted with the duties, rights, and privileges of the church. All are alike stewards in the household of God. And this, too, is a principle which modern Congregationalism has received as a part of its birthright, and one which the increasing democracy of society has but emphasized with the flight of time.
Our conspicuous Congregational trait that flows from these principles is a spirit of self-reliance in undertaking Christian work or in maintaining the institutions of the Gospel. By self-reliance I do not mean any forgetfulness of that ultimate dependence upon God which is the fundamental element in all true piety, and is as marked a trait of Congregationalists as of any body of Christians beside. From the chartering of the Mayflower to the planting of the latest church in the newest portions of Oklahoma, trust in God, and confidence in his blessing upon those who labor with him, has been the motive spring in Congregational endeavor. But among Christians of equal sense of the dependence upon God of all true Christian life, there is a great difference in the degree in which the personal responsibility for the human share in all Christian enterprises implied in the Apostolic declaration : “We are laborers together with God," is felt. It is to the credit of Congregationalism that its disciples generally have shown themselves ready to take the initiative in planting churches and schools in the communities in which their lot is cast. A company of Congregationalists, even in the absence of a minister, is seldom without a leader, or without a sense of their duty to undertake some active Christian work. And in proportion as Congregationalism has accomplished its appropriate results, it has trained its disciples to efficient democratic self-government in church affairs, to ability to bear responsibility on church committees, and to some degree of self-direction in Christian activity. It would, indeed, be too much to claim any conspicuous manifestation of these self-reliant qualities in every Congregational church; but, remembering that we of the Congregational name are not the only possessors of the Congregational polity, it may truly be said, I.