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The essential elements of the church.
In the waste howling wilderness
The reader will distinctly perceive that it has not been the intention of the Author in these pages, to represent the Episcopal Church as absolutely free froin every imperfection and defect. It has been his intention however, to show, that this church possesses at least so many of the essential elements of the primitive church set up by the Apostles acting under the express authority of Christ, as clearly to indentify
it with that church—and therefore to warrant us to conclude and affirm that this is truly the church of Christ. How far he has succeeded in making out this point, the reader must judge. His object has not been to un-church other denom. inations but simply to show, that the Episcopal Church, is built on the holy hill of Zion. If others can from the testi. mony of scripture and the light of ecclesiastical history, establish the same thing in reference to the ecclesiastical or. ganizations with which they are connected, he has no controversy with them. On this subject he would say, “ let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.”
The author is of the opinion that it is the duty of christians
Unity and Love. to look to themselves—and not to their neighbors in relation to this matter ; to be principally concerned with the question, whether they themselves, not whether others, are going right.
It has been the Author's earnest desire, and that which he has sincerely sought in all this walk, to follow the guiding pillar of eternal truth. That pillar of heavenly fire, he de. sires from his inmost soul to follow, guide him where it may. The only exhortation that he would address to the reader, who has accompanied him so far on this walk, is Come ye and let us walk in the light of the Lord. Every other light; will prove but the sparks of our own kindling—a mere ignis fatuus that will lead us astray—a momentary blaze that will go out when we most need its illumination. Let us then walk in the light of the Lord. Let us follow the honest convictions of our understanding. Let us
not be afraid to see the truth—nor be unwilling to embrace it. Upon this one point, let us be fully satisfied, that we have verily entered the gates of Zion, and are numbered with her blessed inhabitants. Having examined the matter and looked at it with honest and sincere intentions to know the truthand being fully persuaded that we have verily entered the city of the great King, we can look up to him and say
“ Thy guardian fire-thy guiding cloud,
But alas ! with whatever church we are connected, I fear we shall see much to humble us-much to lead us to confess in deep grief and bitterness of spirit,
“ Too oft within this camp of thine
We wish to detain the reader a few moments longer to take one more look at Zion before we separate.
It has always appeared to us, that among the most unerring marks, that ought to characterize that body which Christ left to represent him on earth and to extend his kingdom over our sin-desolated world—are unity and love. The
The causes of Disunion. very office which christianity proposes to perform for the proud unregenerate sinner, is to bring him to submission to the divine government—to transform his nature, to infuse into his heart the mild gentle spirit of Christ, and to fill his soul with love to God and his fellow men. The object which christianity places before every converted, transformed sinner, is to renounce himself and live and labor for the glory of God.
We should naturally suppose that a company of men, thus renewed in their minds, and acting upon such holy principles would be a band of brothers—among whom there would be but one heart, and one mind. It was so in the early ages of christianity. The pagan persecutor, who trod the disciples of Jesus down into the dust, was often forced to exclaim in wonder and admiration-see how these christians love one another.'
It was the design of Christ that this spirit of unity and love should ever characterize his followers. Hence in his last intercessory prayer, the earnest petition was offered up “ that they all may be one.”
But alas how often have those various religious bodies claiming to be the church of Christ-how often have they exhibited to an unbelieving world, scenes of division and strife —and of angry contention, which have scared and driven far away the angel of peace.
In our view there have been two causes that have con. tributed to this sad result.
1. The one has been the admission of men into the fold and to a participation in the counsels of the church who were not under the influence of true godlinesss. The influence of worldly men who have identified themselves with a party, and breathed into the church the spirit of the world, has done a great deal to promote strise among brethren. Such men have been able to marshall talent, and wealth and worldly influence on their side-to carry their measures by the wisdom that is from beneath, and overrule the counsels of meek. ness and love.
2. There is another cause however which we think has often interrupted the peace and harmony of religious bodies a defect in their organization.
We shall not attempt to lay our hand on those defects
Importance of Christian Union. but simply call the attention of the reader to a few features in the organization of the Episcopal Church which appear to us eminently calculated to promote christian unity.
Christian churches of undoubted apostolic origin may be temporarily agitated and disturbed with internal commotion. This was the fact in relation to some of the churches which the apostles planted-even during their lives. Those disturbances however were transient. They did not lead to disunion and dismemberment.
A season of temporary union and harmony, or of division and strife in any church therefore, does not furnish data from which to predicate any thing with certainty in reference to the apostolic character of that body.
We do not say however, that a continued state of harmony with only slight and occasional interruptions, would not be a strong presumptive evidence in favor of the apostolic spirit and character of any church :—and that on the other hand, constant strife and division-leading to disruption and dismemberment—does not indicate the absence of the elements of that religious compact which Christ formed, and which he designed should continue to the end of the world.
All that we mean to say, is that a temporary season of harmony or of discord in any ecclesiastical body does not furnish a safe criterion by which to judge of its apostolic char. acter.
It is not therefore upon any present indications of harmony through all her borders, that we found an argument in favor of the apostolic character of the Episcopal Church. We believe that in her very organization, she possesses some of the essential elements of peace and unity. Much has been said and written of late in reference to christian union. A volume has recently appeared upon this subject.
The Author remarks,
" That aside from the cardinal doctrines, of man's depravity and guilt in the sight of a holy God—the way of his par. don and restoration to the divine favor through the blood and mediation of his sou—the necessity of regeneration through the influence of the Holy Spirit, there is not perhaps any truth of the Bille more important to the prosperity of the church, than the doctrine of its unity.” And a writer reviewing
• Van Dyck on Christian Union,
The evils of Sectarism.
this volume, in detailing the evils of religious sectarism and the spirit of party in the christian church remarks,
“ It eats out the heart of personal and family religion-it divides families and convulses communities—it saps and undermines the due influence of the ministry—it encourages the spirit of insubordination and misrule—it alienates and embitters against each other the hearts of christians—it strengthens the hands of the ungodly, and loosens the loins of the church-it encourages the contempt of the blasphemer and hardens the heart of the infidel—it wastes and misdirects the energies of the church—fills Christendom with mourning, and covers it with dishonor—whilst it abandons the unenlightened heathen to their own forgotten and unpitied miseries. Sectarism is one of the master devices of satan. It goes farther than any other influence, perhaps, in keeping real christians from that fullness of growth and vigor to which without it they might attain ; stands directly in the way of the conversion of the multitude in christian lands; presents christianity to the heathen in a mutilated and degraded form and fritters away or paralizes the energies of christians for evangelizing the world."*
There can be no doubt but that the divisions that prevail among christians, are a great hindrance to the spread of the gospel and the extension of the Redeemer's kingdom, both at home and abroad. And it is encouraging to know that christians of different denominations begin to see and deplore the evils that flow from these divisions—that the enquiry begins to be agitated—“How shall the dismembered parts of the christian family be again united into one body?”
At such a time it is natural to look around and see what branch of this family has the broadest substratum of chris. tian principle—the largest aggregate of the elements of union
—the widest area of common ground, on which these scattered forces may rally and form themselves into one great holy compact, with Christ for their head—and the glory of God and the establishment of his kingdom on earth, the great object for which henceforth they shall live and labor.
Now we feel confident, that the reader who has accompa
Review of Van Dyck on Christian Union by Bp, Smith. --Literary and Theological Review, p. 509.