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remove objections and meet the desires of the whole community ? These modifications were distinctly pointed out under four heads; and the royal commissioners having thus laid the matter before the synods, concluded by expressing their earnest desire that the new formularies, with the modifications thus suggested, should be accepted by the ministers, and prove satisfactory to the churches.
The synods, in their answer, all agreed in returning their heartfelt thanks to his Majesty for his kind intention, and all expressed their desire for the permanent establishment of the Presbyterian form of church government, as held by the provincial synod of Cleve, Jülich, and Berg, and as laid down by them at their meeting in the year 1818; so that the evangelical churches of Rhineland and Westphalia, heretofore divided by so many different kinds of church government, should be all united under one ecclesiastical constitution. With reference, however, to the acceptance and introduction of the new formularies, there was a considerable difference of opinion, some being favourable to their introduction with the allowed modifications, and with the proviso that the churches themselves were satisfied; others, on the contrary, disapproving of any formularies arising from a foreign source, and requiring that the synods themselves should be allowed the formation of their own liturgies, and then should present them to the government for its approval. On coming to the vote, the majority declared themselves in favour of the government plan; and the dissentients, satisfying themselves with a protest, which is even to the present day occasionally repeated in their synodal assemblies, yielded to it their practical acquiescence. With the exception of such occasional protests, the whole church has from that time preserved its unity unbroken. The very names of " Lutheran” and “Reformed” are no longer heard ; and the only two ecclesiastical distinctions which are known throughout the whole district, exist under the names of the Evangelicals and the Catholics. Such is, in brief, the history of the Protestant churches, as they now exist throughout this district of the Prussian dominions.
After this brief sketch of their history, it may not be uninteresting to add a few lines respecting their present constitution and statistics. The two original branches to which we have referred, are still recognised, and the two provincial synods still hold their regular sittings, but they are incorporated together by a complete intercommunion of churches, and are known, as a whole, under the name of “The Evangelical Church of Rhineland and Westphalia.” The civil authorities, I need not say, take care to hold a kind of supervision over the whole, for which purpose there are two civil courts or royal consistories, as they are usually termed, the one held at Coblentz, for regulating the Rhineland branch, the other at Münster, for regulating the Westphalian. The two chief spiritual courts, which still retain their original names, the one of “The provincial synod of Cleve, Jülich, and Berg,” the other, of “The united provincial synod of Mark,” carry on their operations entirely distinct from the civil courts, and only communicate with them on necessary occasions. Each of these two branches again is divided into a small number of districts, each district into dioceses, which have a local presbytery and a superintendent, and each diocese into separate churches, varying in number from five or six up to twenty.
The provincial synod of Cleve, Jülich, and Berg, contains under its jurisdiction five districts, which districts contain twenty-five dioceses, and number altogether about three hundred and fifty churches.
The united provincial synod of Mark, again, contains under its jurisdiction three districts, sixteen dioceses, and numbers about two hundred and fifty churches.
These churches are governed according to the usual mode adopted by Presbyterian Christians; and though they are strictly connected with the state, yet patronage is a thing altogether unknown, inasmuch as each separate church has the exclusive right of electing by suffrage any candidate who is duly authorised and ordained to exercise the ministerial office amongst them.
I could add several other particulars respecting the state of these Rhenish and Westphalian churches, and the progress they are making in disseminating the principles of Protestantism among the Roman Catholic population, but I fear I shall be trespassing too far upon your valuable
and shall therefore reserve them for a future communication. I only add, that the sources from which I have drawn the facts now laid before you are original ones, and published under the authority of the “evangelical church" itself, so that their authenticity may be fully relied on. Whatever reflections might be drawn from them on the interworking of church and state, I leave for the thoughtful reader to elicit, as my present object has been simply to deal with facts, and to leave sentiment to every one's own suggestion. There is, however, one thing I would mention in the conduct of our German brethren, from which we may learn a lesson worthy of all imitation, and that is, their manifest desire to promote Christian union, and their willingness to diminish rather than exaggerate the diversities existing between different communities. If we could all learn the force of the sentiment inculcated upon the Westphalian churches by their worthy president, namely, that differences of opinion among real Christians arise rather from the incompetency of words adequately to express the shades of religious sentiment, than from any variation in the essential elements of our religion itself, I believe that we should find very few obstacles in the way of bringing the proposed union of all evangelical Protestants in this country to a higher degree of perfection than the most sanguine have ventured to anticipate. Gosport.
J. D. M.
New England is the home of Congregationalism. It is true there are Congregational churches elsewhere : they are numerous in England, Wales, and Scotland, as well as in many of the states of our own Union, and most of these do honour to the name which they bear, and are living witnesses to the excellence of the polity after which they are ordered. There is no place, however, which Congregationalism calls her own, with such manifest propriety, as New England. Few are the communities in New England in which a church does not exist founded on this platform-few, in which such a church does not stand foremost, in its spiritual beauty and fruitfulness—in the energy of its moral influence—in its place in the respect of the community—in its hold on the intelligence, the cultivation, and the wealth of the population. These churches are the true genii loci. In their separate and confederate strength, they are felt to be the glory of New England at home. They have made her to be a fountain of health to our landand this land itself, through her, to be the light and hope of the nations.
Not only is Congregationalism most at home in New England, but this is the place of her nativity. Her soil was possessed in the name of a free spiritual church—a church which should be free that it might be spiritual, and which was to be spiritual, that it might continue free. Her colonists reared upon her shores no gorgeous standards emblazoned with emblems of earthly state, amid the pomp of military pageantry and the din of martial music. It was with bended knee, and with cheerful though trembling song, that they consecrated this earth and these heavens to the honour of the Son of God, as it might be seen in churches ordered by his will. In forming them, their pattern was no ill-assorted patchwork of the gaudy but soiled remnants of apostate Rome—nor was it the fantastic product of the brain of some wild enthusiast : it was by the open Bible that they laid the foundations of our polity; it was after the pattern showed them in the mount, that they measured and wrought each one of its separate stones.
The issue corresponded to their faith. The Head of the church smiled upon churches freed from the lust of power and framed in primitive simplicity. As the population increased, new churches, were planted. Soon the fame of these churches, for intelligence and order, for peace
and spiritual fruitfulness, was borne across the Atlantic, and New England churches were founded in the mother land.
We are not aware that the Congregational churches of New England were ever more truly prosperous than they are at the present moment. We doubt whether there was ever a time, when they were more sound in the faith, more faithful in discipline, or more abundant in good works. Never were they so richly blessed of God in the power and frequency of the visitations of the Divine Spirit.
Their position at present, however, is somewhat peculiar. Their duties to themselves and to others, as arising from these circumstances, seem to us also to be peculiar—and to require a faithful consideration. To this position, as indicating what these duties are, we would invite the attention of our readers.
The great questions of the times are these : “Where is the church ?” “What ought the church to be?” Church polity is a leading study of the times. One would think that the perfection of the church, in this respect, was essential to its health and salvation. Every theorist of course has notions of his own, and is as ready to defend them, as the Abbé Sieyes was in his day to furnish a constitution to order, or our own unfledged politicians have ever been to tinker the currency
We are not surprised to notice in a certain class of men, a disposition to speak of the defects of our own system, and to remark freely upon these evils and the results to which they are tending. Some do this, who prefer Congregationalism to every other polity, and for this very reason would correct its few deficiencies, and give it all the completeness of which it is capable. Others there are, who seem not to be at home in its simple structure, and long for a more splendid establishment.
This sensitiveness to the defects of our own ecclesiastical system, and this readiness freely to talk of them, we believe to be peculiar to ourselves. We glory in it as the evidence of a love of truth stronger than our love of sect. The Presbyterian, especially, if he is of the more rigid sort, is so accustomed to appeal to The Book, that he is insensibly led by his habitual deference to its prescriptions,—to regard it as the end of all wisdom. The Methodist regards no system as worthy to be thought of, compared with that discipline, in which John Wesley so shrewdly reconciled the most absolute clerical despotism with the intensest popular activity. The Episcopalian considers no excellence so surpassing as his excellent liturgy and government—that petrified specimen of the English mind in its transition from Rome to Christ. The Congregationalist, alone, is not insensible to the defects of his own system, both actual and possible—and what is more worthy of notice, is free to confess them.
But what are these defects to which some among us are somewhat morbidly sensitive? Why-we have no creed as a standard of orthodoxy-we have no usages established by authority, as a pledge to decency and order. Our system is loose and disjointed. It involves the radical principle, that a company of Christians may choose and ordain their own officers, and yet be a church of Christ. It makes each church to be a separate and individual existence, and thus
tramples on that unity for which the Redeemer prayed and his apostles laboured.
These complaints are no new thing under the sun ; they are as old as the very beginnings of the Congregational system. The great and good men who were amazed by the audacity of its novel principles, saw in them only the elements of weakness and disorder, and predicted for the churches based upon them, a speedy and contemptible dissolution. So has it been from then till now, and yet for more than two centuries has this system held its vigorous and healthful existence, and been a fountain of life in the universal churches.
To all these objections there is one triumphant answer. The system has been tested by time. The defects complained of, are defects in its theory-not in its practical workings. These evils against which there is outcry, are anticipated evils, not actual and present defects. They are such as possibly may arise, and against which we have no provision, in a nicely balanced paper-system-no checks and balances to make the machine go right of itself.
But where is the system which works better than this? Where the polity which better answers the ends which church polity has a right to accomplish? Where in the wide world, is the faith of the Gospel more pure, or the piety of the Gospel more fruitful, than in these churches ? Where are the clergy held in higher honour, and their office in greater respect? Where is the unity of the Spirit more faithfully kept in the bonds of peace? Where does the individual Christian more truly feel that he is a member of the universal church, and that the member of a sister church is in fact united in the same fellowship with himself? Where—as he goes here and there through the community of churches, does he feel, that in every church he shall find a home, and be received by its members with the warm welcome of a brother? The practical workings of any system, upon a fair trial, we cannot but consider a sufficient test of its excellence. In vain do we search the world over to find more perfectly realised the ideal of what churches ought to be, than in these New England churches—as they have been and now are.
When then we are told that our churches are without order-we plainly reply, It is false, so false, that in point of fact, there is nowhere such real order as with us. When it is said our system is loose and disjointed, we answer, It proves not so. No churches, no ministers, are held more tightly together; move more in concert, or bring into the field of action a phalanx more precise in its movements, or more effective in its aggressions. But to these defects more particularly.
“ We have no creed, or confession of faith, which we receive as a standard.” And what if we have no such creed? Do we need one? Is it not known what we preach, and what we believe? Is it not also known, that in the main, our churches and ministers believe and preach the same thing? Is the N. S. VOL. VIII.