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Arnold, I confess I never yet met anybody who could thoroughly explain why, at one and the same time, he abjured Puseyism —'
* No nicknames, Frere, I beg!"
"Disowned Apostolical Succession, and dissented from Rome, yet unchurched Dissenters, and every Sunday professed · I believe in the Holy Catholic church.""
“ We must then agree to differ, as we have often done before. I can reconcile all four things, though I own I wish I was not obliged to 'unchurch Dissenters.'”
"Perhaps you will thank me then, if I show you that, even on your own principles, you need not do so. Has it ever struck you that in that same glorious old creed, which I can accept as heartily as anybody, the punctuation of the last paragraph wants mending ?”
“ What do you mean?”
“Let me ask you in turn, what you mean by the apparent distinction drawn between the Holy Catholic church' and 'the Communion of Saints.'”.
"I suppose one may be considered the outward form, the other the spiritual reality.”
“Good, though that was not the way in which I was going to put it. You believe, then, that the visible form was intended to be the embodiment and the sign of an invisible truth."
"I do; but mind, I say the form is ordained, as surely as the truth. My clerical friend Ashley, for instance, says that the Evangelical Alliance embodies the same invisible truth-the Communion of Saints; but neither he nor I would therefore call the Alliance a church.”
“Nor I, believe me! But I was going to say that I reach the same conclusion substantially that you do about the creed, by a new construction of the clauses in question. May we not read them thus :- I believe in the Holy Catholic church, the communion (or community of Saints ;' the latter clause explaining the other, and, in fact, giving a definition of the church universal ?"
“You are a divine, which I am not, and a Greek scholar, which I have left off trying to be, I am sorry to say ; but are you sure about the substitution of the word "community' for ' communion ?'"
“No doubt about it. If it seems too bold to put a concrete word there in place of an abstract, try the intermediate term * fellowship.' We then may read the confession thus, a little paraphrased :-'I believe in the Holy Universal Church, which is the fellowship of holy persons.'”
“Well, I will reserve my judgment," as my poor father used to say when he was puzzled. But how does that help you ?"
"How? Why by stamping with catholicity all and every fellowship of holy persons; and by making any community met together in the name of Christ, a section, ipso facto, of the Universal Church." “What, without a bishop ?" "Aye, without a bishop, and without the Three Creeds, and the Four general Councils, and the presumed precedent or sympathy of a distracted and dimly seen Christian antiquity. Give me that, Arnold, which constitutes Christianity, let the possessors of it be brought together into one circle, for fellowship in piety and prayer and united action, and there you have at once a branch of the church catholic."
“I will ask you a question by and bye, as to the bearing of all that on Bethel Chapel yonder; but you are plainly in the humour now for talk, and I like to listen. So proceed.”
“Nay, Arnold, tell me if you think I am wrong. I do not want to expound when we come to talk. But let me say this, to me the Universal Church is assuredly invisible. It comprehends all true Christians, and none beside. This is, as it appears to the eye of God. If we want to embody it on earth, we must take, so far as we can, the same distinction. Not the creeds accepted, not the forms of outward organization, make any society a true church. It must be composed, as its first and essential condition, of holy men.”
“But how are you to find out the holiness?" "All human judgment is fallible, and I only answer, by the best possible means—which means are not the simple adoption of three creeds or thirty-nine articles, or the acceptance of episcopal authority, or the concurrence in a national profession. No; these conditions, when they are made the foremost thing, seem to me utterly to ignore the first essential of a true church; and whatever else the community so constituted may be, it cannot be, ec vi termini, a'community of saints.”
“Still, Frere, I press the question. Do you in your soul believe that the church at Bethel is a community of saints, pure and unadulterated ?"!
"No, I do not; to use the parable which you Churchmen are so fond of quoting, The wheat and the tares grow together until the harvest.' But here is the point: we start with the declaration that the visible church ought to include the holy and none beside. Then, it becomes our duty and endeavour to ensure this result. We do not acquiesce in the nominal Christianity of those who are evidently not Christians, nor make up the visible church of the visibly reprobate.”
"Of course we all wish that we could make the visible a type of the invisible. But I am afraid you find human nature in the long run too strong for you. I confess I cling to the idea of seeking the same result by a proper episcopal organization, and by 'godly discipline.' Nullus episcopus, nulla ecclesia.”
"Don't quote that motto, Hope. I see on your shelf there Edmond de Pressensé's · History of the First Three Centuries.' Just take down a volume and look at the motto there."
“ Ubi Christus, ibi ecclesia.”
“Ah now, is not that the truth? “The Church is where Christ is'; a noble motto to a noble book-but more; it has been the key-note of our Congregationalism from the first. We find it in the Scriptures too. Look at the great church' passage in St. Matthew, “Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven,' and so on—but on what authority? Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them. Now does not that show as plainly as can be shown by words, that the Christian congregation is the Christian church? When I say aloud then-as I do Arnold, more than once or twice in the year, rabid Dissenter' as I am—those stately words of The Apostles' Creed,' I put this meaning into them, which was, I am assured, the meaning of the authors, whoever they may have been—I believe in the holy Universal Church, the great unseen confederation of the holy in all ages and all lands. As a Christian, it is my duty to help in reproducing this confederation in miniature, and in outward form, in the sphere wherein I move. And this can only be done by constituting communities on the ground of a common Christianity alone ; excluding, so far as we can, all unbelievers, admitting ; so far as we can, all believers. In a word, our principle is this, CHRISTIANS ALL, and CHRISTIANS ONLY.”
“Is that the principle carried out at Bethel ?"
“Unquestionably it is, and in a thousand churches beside. Do you not recollect once expounding Oken's theory to me, by the aid of a microscope ?”
“Yes, well enough: but what has that to do with the matter ?”
"Why we fell to talking, you remember, about the old physiological notion that every atom of a plant or animal contained as in a microcosm, a pattern of the full development. Such a microcosm, I think, that every Christian church should be: a type, in its minuteness, of the Temple not made with hands."
“But do you not belong to a Denomination ?"
“ Certainly not, except in a very vague sense. The denomination belongs to me, if you like! For the word denomination means just a name you know : and among the churches which are trying to realize the ideal I have sketched, there are varieties which it is found convenient to denote by special names. Thus there is the Independent denomination, the Baptist denomination, and so on. But I hope you don't think that these denominations are realities, ecclesiastical bodies, as the English Establishment for instance, the Wesleyan Connexion, or the Free Church of Scotland." ;
"I confess I have always thought so."
“Then you must disabuse your mind pretty quickly, my dear fellow. The true phrase is churches of the Baptist, or of the *Independent denomination,' in other words, ‘churches denominated Baptist, or Independent.' The bright idea of turning the name into a thing, the denomination' into a 'body' arises, I
hink, from the constitution of a certain Committee, representing some Independent, Baptist, and Presbyterian Churches, and called the Committee of the Three Denominations. It is possible that the Unions' of whose recent meetings at Hull and Birmingham we have read the accounts, may embody some dim desire on the part of certain Nonconformist magnates to fuse these Christian societies into an organic whole: but I can see, even in this quiet nook at Oakworth, that it won't do. The CHURCH among us is, and must remain, everything."
“ But, my dear Frere, do you mean to say that every church,' as you call it, is to remain disconnected from every other church ?"
"In organization, yes : in harmony, affection, co-operation, no. As I take it, the New Testament Sanctuary has no sevenbranched candlestick as of old : but the candlesticks distinct from each other, and only one because they are held together in the Master's hand.”
“Then supposing there are two or three such churches in one town or village
"Who said anything about two or three in one town or village? If the true church is the assembly of Christians, ought not the Christians of a place therefore to assemble?
"All in one place ?"
“Why, you are unconsciously quoting Scripture. Yes, of course I say, and that on Bible authority, all in one place,' and 'with one accord,' provided indeed they are not too numerous. Then they may separate, and ought to do so. But, under other circumstances, to divide in the same locality, and to establish different congregations, is a procedure which I will leave to you to criticise and condemn. I have not a word to say in its favour: though perhaps it is sometimes an unhappy necessity."
“Well, Frere, you have told me a few things to-night, which I acknowledge I did not know before, about your Dissent. I am not prepared now to encounter all you have said. But you told me last week that I was mounting into the realms of the ideal ;
and it strikes me at present that you have been up there once or twice this evening. At any rate, your picture of a church is rather unlike what I have now and then seen on my travels. You may be all right here at Oakworth, for you have everything your own way among the Nonconformists, and Bethel stands alone. I am glad its doors are open to all Christians: though you have not told me what creed they are required to subscribe."
“None, save that which we think every Christian must believe."
“That point also might raise a discussion—but I wished to say that in less favoured parts than Oakworth I have seen a pretty picture of your Catholic church as realized among dissentersBethel in one street, Ebenezer in another, Ænon over the way; here the scars of a 'secession, there the ruins left by a 'split.' (You see I am up in some of your Dissenting terms.) And what Bethel owns, Ebenezer excommunicates, while Ænon restricts all communion to those who believe the whole Ænon scheme of doctrine. Where is your holy Universal Church then? Do you wonder that lovers of peace seek a home in our venerable Establishment ?"
"I think your description overdrawn, Arnold, but frankly where anything like that state of things exists, I acknowledge that the Christians of the place have forgotten the principles of catholicity.”
“Yes, so the Plymouth Brethren say, and so introduce forsooth a new sect."
“Aye, and one more exclusive and intolerant often than all the rest. They should rather have tried to reconcile.
“Does not the Evangelical Alliance try to do that?"
“ To a certain extent. But my objection to the Evangelical Alliance is, that it strives to do without the Church what ought to be done in the Church. It finds, truly enough, that no existing church fully expresses the unity of believers, and it institutes a Society for the purpose.”
"Brindley used to say, that the great use of rivers was to feed canals. I have sometimes thought that the great use of churches in our day seemed to be to support Societies.”
“Apt enough : and I think the objection to the Alliance, with all the excellent points of that institution, and the good service it has done, to be fatal and insuperable. Christ intended His Church to exhibit the unity of believers, and nothing but the Church can ever do it." .
"Amen to that! After all, Frere, we are nearer than we have sometimes thought. But I own, I cannot give up my dream of a National Church-a reformed Church, of course, as I have always said—but a great Christian organized Society that would