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THE UNION OF THE CHURCHES. *
CO-OPERATION OR INCORPORATION.
TO THE EDITOR OF THE CHRISTIAN SPECTATOR. SIR, –Unity of spirit, it seems, is not sufficient ; we must achieve an ostensible union. The time has gone by in which to be satisfied with the measure of common action attainable by friendly co-operation. We must constitute an ecclesia which shall contain us all. Recognised though it be that we are moved by the same spirit, yet, as we are taunted by the Establishmentarians, who possess little unity but that of form, with our diverse administrations, it is desirable that we should appear to crop off our peculianilies; and, however much they may still continue to exist, present no show of them to the world. Unity of spirit, unity of purpose, "friendly co-operation” is good, but "incorporating union B higher and better.”
Query! If there be ought revealed to us in the word of God, and rendered incontestible by the history of human progress, it is bat our knowledge of the Divine Will, as well as our acquaintance Tith our own duty, is to be attained by the successive teachings of dis Spirit. Alike in the history of the individual and the race, knowledge is secured by advances from truth to truth, and from the pwer to the higher appreciation of the same truth. We know as se" follow on to know the Lord.” There has been no time, and, udging from the past, there is no reason to suppose that there ever will be a time, when the intelligent observer, either of his own Eperience or of the experience of his age, will not say with Robinson, in his address to the Pilgrim Fathers—“I am very perbaded, I am very confident, the Lord hath more truth yet to break ut of His holy word.” But, if this be so, whether is it more ikely that we shall seek and obtain further light as a single eligious body, or as several distinct denominations? Whether is he spirit of enquiry likely to be most influential, and the habit bost cultivated, amongst us if we continue upon a basis of comcomise, or upon a basis of antagonism? Whether will the truth
We are very glad to give insertion to this able comment on the first paper the "Customs of the Dissenters." It is comforting to find that we have pt properly estimated our own blessings in the fragmentary character of British onconformity. This correspondent has, however, somewhat over-rated our endencies to Presbyterianism. All that has been said in favour of larger unions
consistent with an earnest retention of Independency, and we think comatible with freedom of thought and action. The next article may serve as a Factical reply to any extravagant glorification of Congregationalism.
stand the best chance amongst the necessities of more or less cd tending parties, the separate interests of which depend upon measure in which they can maintain their opinions against others, or of one great party, which is the more likely to conti u its authority and prestige the less those who compose it disco e any new truth, or are prepared to act upon their individual, ception of it? Surely, in this particular, there can be no on parison between the advantages of co-operation and incorporati o The difference between the mental activities and tendencie 1 enquiry of large and small bodies, all other things being equa all but proverbial; and hence, in all human probability, to ar a gamate the several Evangelical bodies into one grand demonstra is union, would, whatever other advantages it might secure, place truth itself at such a disadvantage, that it would be an event, * to rejoice over, but very greatly to deplore.
But not only is it probable that there is a greater tende amongst us, under existing circumstances, to prosecute inqi ir with regard to religious truth, than there would be in a vast in corporation, but that existing arrangements permit such inqi ir with less restraint upon our personal liberty. Notwithstanding ! general admission that “ truth is the daughter of time," there a few men who are prepared to admit it without some reservat Further light may be cast upon some things, but, with me Presbyterians Presbyterianism is beyond all question. The Chu e may come to modified notions of Church polity, but with m Baptists, the subject of baptism is incapable of further illuminat The same with the Independent: there is something incapable < further light—there is something which never can be proved to b other than as he apprehends it. The consequence is inevitable. I all religious bodies there is some part of their doctrine, or pol tj or mode of worship, which is inviolable, and the questioning which is little better than atheism or irreligion. But the genia principle of the progressive nature of revelation remains, notw standing these several attempts at limitation, and applies to ed of the matters with regard to which we would assume or as r something in the nature of exception. And by one denominati acting as a counterpoise to the other, and correcting, by its oil assumption of infallibility upon some point, a similar assumption in another, and thus neutralising the general evil tendency, we re able to make some progress towards the ultimate truth. But hs would the truth fare when, not only the individual appetite a aptitude for its discovery was awakened by incorporation, but wb by the same process, we had removed the checks upon the assur tion of finality which arise out of the conflicting assertions of te doctrine? If, under several petty tyrranies some of us are whipp d within an inch of our lives for breaking through old customs, a d
ring to teach God's will other than in the language of our foreers, what would become of us when the force of custom was centrated and addressed to us by the mouth of an immense and incorporation? Verily ! instead of “whips" we should feel bite of "scorpions ;” and we should go back to the time when lom of thought was possible, but freedom of speech hardly to Mlowed. gain, not only is it probable that the spirit of inquiry is better Sated, and more liberty allowed for its exercise under existing ngements, than would be the case by the proposed amalgama, but the several discussions themselves which exist between religious body and another must have a result directly fortunate he truth. No one interested in the advocacy of any principle, to correct views, either of religion or politics, need be informed the most direct antagonism is more favourable to its reception a spirit of indifference; and that that which is not possible I circumstances of listless acquiescence in any doctrine, shall me so upon the firin determination of its opponents to resist rogress. Admitted that the benefit is not in the oppositionpposition brings into conflict the advocates of that which is and that which is false ; and when the arguments for the truth he arguments for an error are fairly stated, and the spirit of sy is aroused, before long the truth will prove the victor. as in the days of Knight Errantry, the Knight most worthy in urance, and who, without the tournament would be considered etter champion, but for the necessity to vindicate his work, is ed to submit to a less pretentious but worthier man ; so, often iscussion of antagonistic principles is the sole way to come at respective value, and the way falsely to estimate is to refuse pportunity for contest. Left to their ostensible merits, the would often gain an easier credence than the true—the meri18 a more ready acceptance than the real; and it is only by ing them to come into competition, as Providence evidently ded that they should, that we can ascertain their real value. nuch, if not the whole, of this must be lost in an incorporation e various sections of the Christian Church. Incorporation ply be achieved by acquiescence in a large number of things rich we do not believe, and silence upon many questions in hl, under other circumstances, we should be prepared to differ.
therefore, the consequence must be that many of those leous opinions which now have some chance of rectification, d be allowed to go unquestioned, and the evils they produce be etuated amongst us. irther, there are two modes of obtaining a knowledge of that bo is true ; that which comes from an abstract argument, pective of experience, and that which comes by arguing from
the "test of experience" as to that which must, in the nature the case, be right; and, within the domain of both religion ar politics, it is questionable whether the larger proportion of ol knowledge, and that upon which we can best rely, has not bei obtained by the latter rather than the former process. It is ce tainly that by means of which we have arrived at our knowled of civil polity, and learned how to appreciate and obtain of political liberties. Unless we had experienced the evil of a King imposition of taxes, without the consent of Parliament, we shou never have arrived, by abstract argument, at a correct notion of practical value of the limitation in regard to this matter which have now provided for in our Constitution. Unless the secor Charles had presented us with an extreme illustration of the co sequences of the right to grant a “ declaration of indulgence," is probable that the bounds which his Parliament set to the exerci of the right, would have continued to exist to a much later da than was afterwards possible. The same with almost every politic liberty we possess; we have arrived at it, not by a priori argumen but by “the logic of events.” Nor is this less true, though pe haps, less obviously so, in our religious belief and religious libertie When Luther began his opposition to Tetzel and his indulgend he probably had not the remotest idea that he would end in den ing the Popish claims altogether. When the Nonconformists 1662 left the pulpits of the Establishment, they never surmise perhaps, that their act would ultimate in a denial of the magistrate authority in every religious dispute whatever ; but, as the germ the denial was in their act, it needed but the act to teacht principle. The same with other religious truths ; individual co viction of duty has impelled, and the discovery of a principle k followed ; and hence, to the force of individual conviction we a largely indebted for the knowledge of the truth which we posse But if a large proportion of the knowledge we have obtained by come to us by individuals acting out their own personal convi tions, is it wise to ask them to combine upon a basis which mu necessitate them to keep many of their convictions in abeyane If we have gained so much by personal force and individual a prehension of duty, is it desirable to reduce that force to the lowe ebb for the sake of a merely external union ? Rather is it not the force upon which we should rely, and which, we should both mo thoroughly cultivate ourselves, and enjoin upon others ?
But true religion is not merely an acquaintance with religion truth, but is real and of value in proportion as it leads us to a upon an individual sense of duty. There is something beyon either the mental or moral appreciation of the will of God. Ther is the submission of the heart, and the life, to that which we belier to be His will. Consequently, whatever shall lead us, unconcerned int consequences, and unmindful of our own comfort, or the ufort and convenience of our friends, to attempt to do and teach will, is a real moral force in the regeneration of the world ; and itever shall diminish or misdirect this force, must be an evil. I will be true to themselves, and true to their God, in proportion hey have few reservations, and make few compromises of any : not in proportion as their sense of advantage even to God's le leads them here to a concealment, and there to an apparent al of their convictions. We are more likely, too, to make a ake as to what, upon the whole, will be most conducive to the Tess of religion, by arguing from what, to us, appears to be best, by arguing from what must be best, from what we personally independently of all such considerations, to be right. Nay, estion whether the chief moral-or, rather, immoral causeswhich we are now suffering, are not the immediate result of compromises which are necessary to existing incorporations ; that what at present is needed is, not so much charity as truth, $ much incorporation as a more individual and outspoken letion. The religious world, already, is full of shams and rices, that, to a purely honest man, inust be deeply painful. lesire for an apparent unity, even now, pushes us frequently to erge, and, sometimes, it is feared, beyond the verge, of common sty and truth. Which alternative must exert the most prejudi. Auence over the unbeliever—the individual oneness between i's convictions and the external manifestation of them, which prevent his union with even any existing body of Christians, I want of coincidence between the inward faith and outward sion of a man, which may enable him to coalesce with all ? h, again, is the most effective moral force, the humolest ting denomination, the members of which know no mental ation other than the plain grammatical sense of the language they use, or the religious body which is large, because many ministers, to secure that advantage, are prepared to forswear elves, and, to speak the whole truth, “to do evil that good ome?" Surely, we must shut our eyes to the consequences of incorporations based upon compromises, when we wish the I amalgamation of religious bodies. There is a strong tentowards evil in most compromises. But, in religious matters, s especially the case, because it is the region of conviction ; o end can reasonably be supposed to be desirable, to secure
it may be necessary to conceal or subordinate any truth which God may favor us. i must we forget the necessities of spiritual progress. Death essary to life. “ Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground ie, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much
The measure of light which is best fitted for one generation