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her shores, no gorgeous standards these duties are, we would invite emblazoned with emblems of earthly the attention of our readers. state, amid the pomp of military The great questions of the times pageantry and the din of martial are these : “Where is the church?” music. It was with bended knee, " What ought the church to be ?" and with cheerful, though trem- Church polity is a leading study of bling song, that they consecrated the times. One would think that this earth and these heavens to the the perfection of the church in this honor of the Son of God, as it respect, was essential to its health might be seen in churches ordered and salvation. Every theorist of by his will. In forming them, their course has notions of his own-and pattern was no ill-assorted patch. is as ready to defend them, as the work of the gaudy but soiled rem. Abbe Sieyes was in his day to furnants of apostate Rome-nor was nish a constitution to order, or our it the fantastic product of the brain own unfledged politicians have ever of some wild enthusiast. It was by been to tinker the currency. the open Bible that they laid the We are not surprised to notice in foundations of our polity. It was a certain class of men, a disposition after the pattern showed them in to speak of the defects of our own the mount, that they measured and system, and to remark freely upon wrought each one of its separate these evils and the results to which stones.
they are tending. Some do this, The issue corresponded to their who prefer Congregationalism to faith. The Head of the church every other polity, and for this very smiled upon churches freed from reason, would correct its few defi. the lust of power and framed in ciencies, and give it all the comprimitive simplicity. As the popu. pleteness of which it is capable. lation increased, new churches were Others there are, who seem not to be planted. Soon the fame of these at home in its simple structure, and churches for intelligence and or long for a more splendid establishder; for peace and spiritual fruit- ment. fulness; was borne across the At- This sensitiveness to the defects lantic, and New England church of our own ecclesiastical system,
were founded in the mother and this readiness freely to talk of land.
them, we believe to be peculiar to We are not aware that the Con- ourselves. We glory in it as the gregational churches of New Eng. evidence of a love of truth stronger
а land were ever more truly prosper. than our love of sect. The Pres. ous, than they are at the present byterian, especially, if he is of the moment. We doubt whether there more rigid sort, is so accustomed to was ever a time, when they were appeal to The Book, that he is in. more sound in the faith, more faith- sensibly led by his habitual deferful in discipline, or more abundant ence to its prescriptions, to regard in good works. Never were they it as the end of all wisdom. The so richly blessed of God in the Methodist regards no system as power and frequency of the visita worthy to be thought of, compared tions of the Divine Spirit.
with that Discipline, in which John Their position at present however Wesley so shrewdly reconciled the is somewhat peculiar. Their du. most absolute clerical despotism,
. ties to themselves and to others, as with the intensest popular activity. arising from these circumstances, The Episcopalian considers no ex. seem to us also to be peculiar—and cellence so surpassing as his excelto require a faithful consideration. lent liturgy and government--that To this position, as indicating what petrified specimen of the English Vol. I.
mind in its transition from Rome to But where is the system which to Christ. The Congregationalist, works better than this? Where the alone, is not insensible to the de- polity which better answers the ends fects of his own system, both actual which church polity has a right to and possible-and what is more accomplish? Where in the wide worthy of notice, is free to confess world, is the faith of the gospel them.
more pure, or the piety of the gos. But what are these defects to pel more fruitful, than in these which some among us are some. churches ? Where are the clergy what morbidly sensitive? Why held in higher honor, and their
, we have no creed as a standard of office in greater respect ? Where orthodoxy-we have no usages es. is the unity of the spirit more faith. tablished by authority, as a pledge fully kept in the bonds of peace? to decency and order. Our system Where does the individual Chris. is loose and disjointed. It involves tian more truly feel that he is a the radical principle, that a com: member of the universal church, pany of Christians may choose and and that the member of a sister ordain their own officers, and yet church is in fact united in the same be a church of Christ. It makes fellowship with himself? Whereeach church to be a separate and as he goes here and there through individual existence, and thus tram. the community of churches, does ples on that unity for which the he feel, that in every church he Redeemer prayed and his apostles shall find a home, and be received labored.
by its members with the warm wel. These complaints are no new come of a brother? The practical thing under the sun. They are as workings of any system, upon a old as the very beginnings of the fair trial, we can not but consider Congregational system. The great a sufficient test of its excellence. and good men who were amazed by In vain do we search the world the audacity of its novel principles, over to find more perfectly realized, saw in them only the elements of the ideal of what churches ought weakness and disorder, and pre- to be, than in these New England dicted for the churches based upon churches as they have been and them, a speedy and contemptible now are. When then we are told dissolution. So has it been from that our churches are without or. then till now, and yet for more than der-we plainly reply, it is false, so two centuries has this system held false, that in point of fact, there its vigorous and healthful existence, is no where such real order as with and been a fountain of life in the When it is said our system is universal churches.
loose and disjointed, we answer, it To all these objections there is proves not so. No churches, no one triumphant answer. The sys. ministers, are held more tightly totem has been tested by time. The gether; move more in concert, or defects complained of, are defects bring into the field of action a phain its theory-not its practical work- lanx more precise in its movements, ings. These evils against which or more effective in its aggressions. there is outcry, are anticipated But to these defects more parevils, not actual and present de- ticularly. “We have no creed, or fects. They are such as possibly confession of faith, which we remay arise, and against which we ceive as a standard.” And what have no provision, in a nicely bal. if we have no such creed? Do we anced paper-system-no checks and need one? Is it not known, what balances to make the machine go we preach, and what we believe ? right of itself.
Is it not also known, that in the
main, our churches and ministers cal professions—are regulated not believe and preach the same thing? so much by statute as by actual Is the gospel so indefinite and ob- practice. The law of evidence, by scure a thing, that living men can which life, and property, and per. not read what it is in the English son, are protected or forfeited to Bible, and so give or withhold their law, is an unwritten thing. There fellowship, as this gospel is profess- is nothing alarming. We need not ed or denied ? “But heresy will fear that those who follow us will by and by creep in.” As if the lose their memory, or their comnext generation were to have neither mon sense. It is not certain, that intellects nor souls of their own, they will forget what has been the which, enlightened by the spirit usage of the churches—or, in a of God, could be trusted to be paroxysm of folly, will rush from vigilant for themselves. As if the its sober ways into
some fanat present generation were to assume ical disorder. We know that there the care of orthodoxy for all com. are those, who are strangely fond ing time. Heresy will creep in, if of a perfect system of truth and you trust the defense of the faith order, that shall be printed in a to a dead statement of Christian book, and who, because a system truth, rather than to the zeal and is thus printed, will receive it if it vigilance of living teachers. Such be not so very perfect. There is statements, without this vigilance, a charm to such minds in dead ma. guard from no evil, while they chinery. They delight to imagine tempt the heretic to a perjured con- it in easy and beauteous motion. If science, and the true to a false re- it does not so move in fact, it ought liance, in their efficacy to guard to, and they trust that by and by, against error. As summaries of it actually will. If there is fricChristian truth, they are not to be tion in the wheels, and every wheel despised, but as defenses of the brings so much added friction, there faith they are not to be relied upon. is no friction in the idea of the
“ But we have no established perfect church. If to avoid fric. usages. It is true, we have no tion the machinery is kept still, or Directory for public worship and but barely moves, they have only no order of Common Prayer from to imagine how well it is fitted to which we may not deviate. Nor move, and it rejoices their hearts have we a rigid form, prescribed to think of their most excellent by authority for the organization of church. Others there are, who wish a church, or the ordination of a a system most exact and rigid, that minister of Christ. We have usages by ecclesiastical
rules they may however, consecrated by time, and accomplish purposes which they commending themselves to all, by can not compass by logic or piety their appropriate and significant and by the spell of adherence to simplicity.
rules, may supply that magic power “But they are not printed in a to the wand which was book, and enforced by authority.” potent in clerical hands. Hinc illæ What if they are not—they can lacryma. If it be so, then we have not be thus enforced, and yet be good reason, instead of desiring consistent with our distinctive prin- regulations more minute and spe. ciples. In this however, there cific, to render thanks that we have is nothing peculiar or alarming. none at all. There is nothing peculiar. The “ But our system allows the va. customs of the common law—the lidity of lay-ordination in cases of forms of legal procedure, the rules possible exigency.” So does Rich. of admission to the legal and medi- ard Hooker—the often quoted de.
fender of the Elizabethan or Eng. tical and political commonwealth. lish church and so does every By this very principle do we secure other man, who is not ready to the church, as far as it may be in swallow any absurd conclusion from this world of ours, against the dithe divine right of the ministry. visions and strifes that are inci
“But it holds the doctrine, that dent to all societies of imperfect it is the church which constitutes a man its pastor by its electing 5 But it is a matter of complaint voice." And what republican is among laymen, that we have no there who should object to this doc- ecclesiastical system; and there trine ? Nay, what American is are some, who, because we have there who owes to this doctrine no book of standards, do not attach first asserted for the church, all the themselves to our societies, but blessings which it gives his country, unite with the church of the prayernow that it is adopted in the state, book.” This may be so—but we should not blush for his ignorance doubt whether this is the true reaand ingratitude ? Well is it, that son, for there are many other reait holds these principles. They are sons than this why a man in New its glory, because they are just- England may prefer the church of and if they had been earlier as- Queen Bess to that of John Robinserted, they might have proved son. We can see however, that this health and salvation to the dying may be possible with men, whose church. To hold the opposite, is dissatisfaction on this ground, is fosto make the priesthood to be the tered by the influence and example church, and to give to the body of of their spiritual guides. But we the faithful, when the church has can not easily see how a New Engbecome corrupt, no hope of deliv- land man, taught by a truly New erance, except from the source England minister, would hold such whence hope has forever fled. It is a sentiment. He would know betto fasten upon the diseased body, ter, or if he did not, he might easily which, if left to itself, might gather be taught, that such securities for the struggling energies of returning faith and order are of little worth, life, a carcass of death, and thus to and that the evil which they occapoison and stifle its remaining vital- sion, is too certain to be incurred ity. He however who, from this ad- for the doubtful advantage which mitted principle, infers that, as a mat- they bring. It would seem that the ter of fact, our churches do not con- simplicity of our system, its free. sult and respect their ministry, and dom from forms, its easiness of give them all reasonable influence working, and its demand on the and control, argues from the theory living energies of each individual of our system, but not from its actual member of the church, might be workings. He argues just as all made, not merely its sufficient monarchical Europe does, from apology, but its triumphant vindicawhat they suppose must be the case tion. It is easy to see on the other in respect to democratic America. hand, how it may and must happen, To convict him of a false conclu. that when the minister is continusion, the very rocks of New Eng. ally complaining of the looseness land are ready to cry out.
of his church, and is calling for a “But we destroy the unity of book of standards, and is manifestly the church, by giving a separate deficient in sympathy with its great and independent life to the local and peculiar principles, the membody.” Nay, we uphold that unity bers of the church may conclude, by this very thing—but it is a moral that they are in a rickety and falling and spiritual unity, not an ecclesias. establishment, and may look about
for the protection of one that is of a religious teacher is recogni. more firmly built.
zed in the New Testament as esWe complain then of much of sential to the perfection and prosthis distrust of our system, as with- perity of the church, and his qualiout just occasion, as untrue to the fications are described with admirafirst principles of our polity, and ble fidelity and truth. He is a man forgetful of all the lessons which well instructed in the truths which history inculcates. We complain he is to teach, with skill to adapt of it, as most injurious in its con- them to the common mind, and sequences—as certain to be the with the earnest desire to accomcause of the dissatisfaction which is plish this end. He is also a gensaid to exist. It can not but hap- tleman, intelligent, courteous and pen, that what the teacher distrusts, open-hearted, who scorns duplicity the disciple will disown and deny. and self-seeking, both in handling The strength of our system is a
the word of God and in his intermoral strength. It consists in the course with his fellow-men. But confidence of living men in each he is not a priest. He is in no other, and in the system under sense a mediator between God and which they live. The good sense He consecrates not the bapof thinking men, the experience of tismal water, which introduces the the past, the voice of all history, infant to the church. He makes testify in its favor.
Where are the not the bread of the eucharist, to men who neglect these advantages, be the food of the soul, through the and fail to rally around the remem- virtue that passes from his consebrances of the past, and the use crating hands. He is not studious fulness of the present, the best sym- of the rights which belong to his pathies of their hearers? Why do order in the church. He strains they not breathe into their hearers not himself to keep his order or the true New England spirit? Why himself in his place, by a forced • do not they show the evils that lurk antagonism against the fancied inin every other church, and war roads of his flock. against its spiritual simplicity and Whatever improvements are prolife? We speak thus freely and posed by or for the ministry, should strongly of this distrust, because we be based upon the apostolic model. regard it as without just cause- They should be made in the direcas ungrateful for the best system tion of the Bible and of common of church government with which sense, and not in that of the church, the world has ever been blest, as after the traditions of men. Now unmindful of the corruption with it has happened of late, that an which power has ever cursed the epidemic of high church feeling church, as untrue to the high trust has invaded various regions of Prowhich God has placed in our hands testant Christendom. As was to for the generation which is to come be expected, its attacks have been after us, and as suicidal to our pres- most violent where the predispo. ent life and hope.
sing causes were the strongest ; While we are so earnest upon but it has not been entirely unfelt this point, we do not contend, that even in the healthful atmosphere there are no deficiencies in our of New England. Our Episcopal. churches. We have more than brethren are greatly amazed or enintimated already, that there is a couraged, we hardly know which, call for improvement, and that such at the appearance of some sympimprovement may be attained. It toms of church feeling in so unex. is natural first of all to notice such pected a quarter. as concern the ministry. The office The ministry, it is argued, must