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eternal union with our own, we shall think to some purpose, and shall dispense with books, because the Lord himself will “ help our infirmities” and direct our meditations in the channels of His own omniscient wisdom. And the affections-what rest and depth of delight awaits them! We enjoy our love according to the measure of its return, according to the depth of the nature which responds to it. But what is the love which God will bestow in return for ours? We know not yet. Only we can see that He will present us before the presence of His glory “ with exceeding joy." Only we can see that if God loves as mightily as He works, there can be no limit to the delight which that overshadowing affection will cause when it “ creates Jerusalem a rejoicing and her people a joy." All finite companionship must grow dim before that brightness, and each soul will be “ filled with the fulness of God.”
And when shall these things be? When Christ returns, and receives us to himself. The things of which we speak are “near to come”-however wonderful, they are at the doors." The Bible does not teach us to conceive of the earth's history as divided by a short line from the future heaven, but as brightening into the everlasting day. Are we not taught that at the end of the four Gentile kingdoms of the world the Son of Man shall come in the clouds of heaven? Are we not taught that Antichrist is to be destroyed by the appearing of the Lord ? Are we not taught that evil will grow and diffuse itself until the Son of Man shall come in His glory, and all His holy angels with Him? Are we not taught to “ love,” and “look for,” and "await” the appearing of Jesus Christ; and know that when men say peace and safety, then will come the day of the Lord, like a thief in the night? This was the hope of the ancient Church. It is the hope of the Church still, especially where attention is given to the prophetic Scriptures. Surely it is the natural desire of the affianced “Bride of the Lamb” that her Lord should return. On the promontory of time she awaits and longs for His returning sail, and the banner of the King of kings streaming like a meteor in the darkness. And all things proclaim the truth of her expectations. “Far off His coming shines.” We will fix no dates ; we will not entangle the "blessed hope" with questionable chronologies, or weak specialities of prophetic lore. The main doctrine we hold is this: That Christ shall come again, and that the generality of Scriptures lead us to believe He will come “quickly.” And then will be the resurrection of the saints—"afterwards, they that are Christ's at His coming.” Then will be the beginning of the true eternity. Then will be the opening of the never-ending glory. It may be that a festival on earth, "a marriage supper of the Lamb" at the home of the Bride, an outburst of gladness on earth, shall inaugurate this eternal life, amidst the rejoicing of saints and angels; but the bright company of saints and angels will
go away again into heaven.” The "many mansionis” are not here, but on high ; the building of God is beyond the stars, within our eternal home in paradise.
Are these our prospects ? Ench one has a certain future. Is this ours? What is within determines what is hereafter. If not, a far different one awaits us—the doom of those who have, as the final result of life here, rejected the word of the Holy One--by steady indifference of thought, by refusal to believe and act as if believing—to pray or yield obedience—for such there is another future. Eternal death will open its flaming depths and swallow up alive the rebels, the Korahs, the Dathans, the Abirams of modern times, while God “blots their name out of the Book of Life, and out of the holy city,” and the heaven of the Lamb.
THE "SPECTATOR” NEWSPAPER ON CHURCH
THERE is no question that the Spectator exercises at the present moment a deeper influence upon the educated mind of England than any other weekly newspaper. Directed by the joint energies of the former editors of the National Review and of the Friend of India, it is a perfect voltaic pile of intellectual energy, transmitting its influence along a thousand wires into all departments of our social system. Remarkable alike for solidity and for brilliancy of style, it fights the battle of progress with a vigour which offers a striking contrast to the dreary, malignant obstructiveness of the Saturday Review. Its literary department is as full of power as its political, and its theological zeal is as rampant and outspoken as might be found among any description of Methodists. It battles for its belief or no belief in religion with the fervour of a Catholic crusader. It reasons, it exhorts, it mocks, it inserts reproofs of its own offences, it apologises, and mocks again with the sincerity and pertinacity of one of the theological pasquinaders of the Reformation. Such a paper cannot fail to make its mark upon the time, and the “religious public” would do well to comprehend its aims.
Briefly it may be said (though this would not be an exact description of the whole truth), that the Spectator is devoted to the spread of a theology resembling that of Mr. Maurice. It abhors "Evangelicalism," it maintains the regeneration of all mankind by the Spirit of redemption, it exults in the broadest interpretations of the formularies of the Church of England, and it cherishes with firm and perfect faith the ultimate salvation of the whole human race. As a
natural and logical corollary from such a scheme of opinions, it is opposed with almost fanatical earnestness to all attempts to restore a real and effective discipline in the Church of England, and pours contempt upon every project for its re-establishment. The Church of England is lauded to the skies as the only Church which was ever wise enough to abandon the wild enterprise of distinguishing between man and man. The pæans rise into hallelujahs as the eloquent writers discourse of "that great Burial Service," which consigns all alike to the tomb in sure and certain hope of resurrection to eternal life. And latterly their fiery darts have been discharged without mercy on all who presume to “ occupy themselves with making up and labelling little private parcels of their acquaintances' names, as
good' or ' evil, instead of seeking to sever the evil from the good in the depths of their own heart."
Well, this raises the question of the Divine Authority of Church Discipline—and the interests of Christianity will be best subserved by examining the arguments. The requirements of the apostolic writings are plain enough. Now I have written to you,” says St. Paul, “not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolator, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner, with such an one no not to eat. For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? Do not ye judge them that are within? But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from yourselves that wicked person.” (1 Cor. v. 11–13.) These words of the chief Apostle of the Gospel are as clear and decisive as any that we find in his writings ; they agree with many others that we find elsewhere in the Apostolic Scriptures; and we learn from history that the early Christians regarded them as of equal authority with those passages in which St. Paul lays down the rule of faith to the churches. We see no reason for accepting St. Paul's authority on the doctrines of the Gospel, if we refuse to accept that authority on the discipline of the Church. In each case it rests on the same foundation. Here was a plain direction to “judge” the conduct of those who were “within " the pale of the Church-to "label the names of acquaintances as "good or "evil,'” if you prefer that mode of describing the act; a plain direction to hold no Church communion, not only with the “fornicator and the idolator," but with the "covetous man, the railer, the drunkard, and the extortioner," to put away such decisively from the spiritual community. This was the law of Christ and of God in the first century; at least we are compelled to conclude this, unless we are prepared to give up altogether the apostolic authority of St. Paul. When, then, did this law cease to oblige men's consciences ? At what date did its force expire, like a terminable annuity? Was it in the second, third, fourth, or fifth centuries of Christianity? If there was a reason for this rule, when did it cease to exist ? At what period did it become a proper thing for the “sons of God” to associate closely in the Church with men of every moral quality, to embrace “ fornicators, idolators, railers, and drunkards” as their « dearly-beloved brethren?" Was it under the Cæsars, or under the Popes, or under the Tudor Kings of England, that "labelling your acquaintances” as “good” or “eril" became the "monstrous and unspiritual” act that it now is, according to the Spectator ? It is just as reasonable to make this demand as it would be to ask us when it became false that a man is "justified by faith," supposing we denied that Paul's doctrine on that head were still in force.
But we shall be summarily told that our demand for an epoch of abolition is frivolous, and that nevertheless discipline is impossible, because times have changed. Heathenism is clean swept away. Christianity has permeated society. There is no longer the same reason for drawing a line between man and man. Besides, there are in England three distinct moralities, one of the upper classes, one of the middle ranks, and one of the common people. Three distinct codes of obligation, each one being modified by the circumstances of the class; and that in order to administer discipline, you must first determine on your code of morality; and then apply it impartially to men of every degree. All which being truly interpreted signifies just this : That since it is no longer convenient for the public taste to conform to Apostolic Christianity, Christianity must conform itself to the public taste. It is the old question, who shall govern, God or man? It is idle to speak of times being changed. Here are still the “fornicators, the drunkards, the railers, the dishonest dealers ;” and whatever reason there was for excommunicating them 1,800 years ago, there is the same reason in the present day. The point to be settled is, who speaks with authority, is it St. Paul or the Spectator ?
We are far from affirming that discipline such as Paul commands can be restored in the English Church or administered by the English clergy. On the contrary, we agree with the Spectator, that the proposal is “monstrous," and would make a “hell” of England. The scheme, if faithfully carried out, would require the excommunication of probably the large majority of the nominal adherents of the Establishment, and would end in breaking up "society." But the conclusion which we derive from this fact is, that the Church of England is framed on principles wholly foreign to those which controlled the structure of an Apostolic Church. An effective discipline can be administered only by a spiritual society—a society in which the members are substantially good men. A parish in which all inhabitants who have been christened are reckoned Church members cannot apply the laws of the New Testament. Men of undecided or indifferent character cannot be expected to feel any zeal in "putting away” persons who are defective in morality; and as for committing the duty to an inquisition of the clergy, that would be abhorrent to the spirit alike of Englishmen and of Protestantism. St. Paul's command was addressed to the whole Church, "Put away from among yourselves that wicked person.”
The truth is, that this difference on discipline reveals one still deeper bebind—a difference on some of the fundamental questions of Christian theology. Men's ideas on ecclesiastical affairs are mainly determined by their profoundest conceptions on the nature of the spiritual life. If men really believe, with Mr. Maurice, that the Christian redemption embraces all mankind in such a sense as to constitute all men actually sons of God,” or if they believe that the ceremony of baptism, rightly administered, is the medium of conferring regeneration" by the Holy Spirit” on every one who receives it, then they consistently regard ail the inhabitants of a parish as Christians, and you cease to wonder that the little difficulty about “ discipline,” or about burying bad men with very hopeful language, gives no anxiety to such theologians. But the clear infraction of apostolic law involved in such proceedings, entitles you to conclude that the theology is false, and the system pernicious to the souls of men. If, on the other hand, you believe, as we believe, that the rite of baptism is not accompanied by the grace of spiritual regeneration, and that all men are not born regenerate through redemption, but that the grace of regeneration is bestowed irrespective of age, sex, or social standing, by the Divine mercy, apart from sacramental action, and always when genuine is accompanied by the “fruit of the Spirit" in a substantially good and holy life, then you will form your church of those who profess to be thus "members of Christ and children of God," and express a willingness to abide, through Divine help, by New Testament law; and in such a society you will find it perfectly feasible to "put away” the fornicator, the railer, and the drunkard, and to "label" such persons as “evil,” exactly in the manner denounced by the Spectator, and commanded by the Apostles of Jesus Christ.
To realise such a discipline as a means of moral education, and as an organised testimony against the depravation of modern society and of the modern Established Church, is one of the main objects of our Secession, and it is one from which no serious and thoughtful man should be turned aside by misrepresentation of its aims, or exaggeration of its difficulties, or sinister forebodings as to its results. To determine inward character absolutely is impossible; to form even a probable judgment on it in the early stages of the spiritual life is a task from which the ablest seers might well shrink; to judge decisively on the absolute good or evil of the fairest-seeming saint or the worst-seeming sinner, is a work from which wisdom will withhold its hand; but to none of these undertakings are we summoned by the New Testament. It is conduct, and conduct alone, which we are commanded to "judge” and “label;" and as long as the world lasts a fornicator and a drunkard and a railer and a cheat will be characters clearly cognisable by reliable evidence; and as long as the Church lasts she is required by the Almighty to expel them from her communion. In so doing, she at once fulfils her principal function of seeking to “sever the evil from the good in her own heart,” and brings to bear upon society the most potent instrument for its reform.