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NATURE OF THE CHRISTIAN ORGANIZATION.
JEFFERSONVILLE, IA. April 12, 1812. Brother Campbell,—Since my return home from Texas, after a win. ter's absence, I have read, with much interest, your Nos. on - The Nature of the Christian Organization.” It is a subject which, it appears to me, claims the in
mediate attention of all the more intelligent and influential members in all the churches. For facts (which are stubborn things) speak loudly in favor of a reform: Church government and gospel discipline, in the current reformation, are certainly defective; or, at least, they do not result in that unity of spirit and concert of action which seem to have been desired by the writers of the New Testament. Were there no defects in these matters, would there be such a general falling away of the converts added to churches in times of great excitement? Or would the advancement, augmentation and prosperity of the churches depend upon those vigorous efforts of passion-stirring pathos displayed in affecting anecdotes, with which many of our recruiting preachers sometimes intersperse and generally conclude their discourses? If men love the truth for the truth's sake, or for the sake of Christ, why is it that they do not act in faith, confidently relying upon the promises of God for the blessings of pardon and eternal life? I am truly sensible that the vitiated taste of the present age does not find in the simple and unadulterated word of truth that zest which it seeks. But, in order to conform to this vitiated taste, is it right for us to compromise the truth with human depravily for the sake of gaining proselytes ? Because other parties pursue this course, can we urge it, therefore, in justification of ourselves? Is it not, in spirit and character, part and parcel of the great system of proselyting distinguished by •s anxious seats” and “mourning benches”? Or, have we a precedent in the history of the original proclaimers of the gospel of peace? I could instance churches which, within a fuw years, have had scores of converts added to them that are now scarcely alive-that have very few active members, other than those who were such previous to the ex. citements, which resulted in such large accessions 10 their numbers. This evil, if such it be, will be remedied only when the views and principles contained in the numbers above alluded to shall have been carried into successful operation. Then, we may anticipate the restor
ation of Christian unity, when the congregations shall have attained to a proper sense of their duty and furnished their official corps with the necessary means to apply themselves enorgetically to the fungtions of their station. Healthiness by faith will then be enjoyed in all the churches. The object of Christian organization must be to preserve Christian order and Christian manners. If so, is it agreeable to good order for the bishop of a congregation to admit persons who, owing to some objectionable traits of character, would not be received as members of the church over which the bishop presides ? that person who is a proper subject for bapụism scripturally entitled to membership in the church? Who, then, is in the wrong; the bishop who administers baptism or the church that refuses to receive the baptized? Would it not be better, in such a case, to defer the ordinance until the church could become satisfied with the sincerity of the applicant's profession? The proper business of the church, like that of her Lord, is to seek and save that which was lost; and when, by her instrumentality, one is saved from his sins, that individual should not be again condemned for old sins that have been pardoned. They should be forgotten; for the spirit of the new institution is expressed in these words: “Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more." The apostle adds: “ Now where remission of sins is, there is no more sacrifice for sins needed." For they are remitted, and are not the ground of a second condemnation.
BENNINGTON, N. Y., June 14, 1842. There is no small degree of misunderstanding prevailing in this region upon the position you have taken in the article entitled
Christian Organization.' Some of the brethren understanding you to speak with reference to co-operation and general conservative matters, and others contending that you should be understood to speak of all matters-faiih, morals and discipline, as well as the former. To this class of interpreters, the first number of the series has been urged as opening the entire malier discussed, and also the whole scope of your previous labors as a writer, particularly your article 10 Bishop Otey, in the “ Harbinger” of August, 1835, on Episcopacy and Presbytery. Against these arguments it has been urged that you have, by experience, learned ihe infeasibility of the previous sentiments, and have, consequently, so far changed your views of the Christian policy as to advocate some kind of a ministerial presi. dency over the whole body of disciples. This, I am sorry to say, is the interpretation of some who have been amongst us, who thus use it to aid their own efforis to establish an imperial episcopacy, or some other heast of the papal progeny: Another class of the brethren are in doubt as to what you would be understood to mean. In this lalier class I have myself been until recently. We request of you an explanation, or rather an answer to the following questions:
1. Are you pleading for a general ministerial presidency, composed of bishops, or others, over the whole body of disciples, or over districts of churches, which shall be the regulator of the morals and discipline of such body or district ?-or,
2. Are you advocating a general concert of understanding and
action among the disciples for protection against imposition, the wounds of false friends, and for wholding forth the word of life". securing the purity and growth of the body?
I have drawn up the foregoing by particular request, and solicit an answer in the next succeeding “ Harbinger.”
Yours, &c. &c.
A. P. JONES.
I have neither time nor space at present for much comment on the above. I am aware that there is much ground of complaint on account of the errors alluded to by brother Gates. He is not the only complainant on such accounts. Thousands affirm the conviction that the making of disciples is a work of far inferior importance to that of saving those that are made. And certain it is that the teaching and discipline of the disciples is in all the apostolic writings the great object. Without bisl ops and well accomplished teachers there is little or no importance to be attached to the work of baprizing—not a tithe of the baptized can enter the kingdom of Heaven.
It is always more or less detrimental to the ascertainment of truth to allow our previous conclusions 10 assume the position of fixed and fundamental truths, to which nothing is to be at any time added, either in the way of correction or enlargement. On the contrary, we onght rather to act under the conviction that we may be wiser to-day than yesterday, and that whatever is true can suffer no hazard from a candid and careful reconsideration In this view of the subject, I am accustomed to examine all questions—literary, moral or religious; because I am, from much reflection and long observation, constrained to regard it as the only safe and prudential course.
We expected a new discussion of the whole subject of organization at the moment we commenced this series of inquiries. And, indeed, there is one general if not universal demand for more light on the subject. The condition of almost all the churches in the land call for it, and we have entered upon the subject under the conviction that an inductive examination of the whole New Testament is essential to a proper view of this subject, and that to ascertain the mind of the Spirit on this subject, as well as upon all others, a very calm, sincere and faithful attention ought to be paid to all that is written, directly or indirectly bearing upon the subject.
There is too much of independence and democracy in one scheme, and too much monarchy and despotism in another scheme of ecclesiastical organization and administration. We are all agreed that Christ's kingdom is a well organized body for all divine creations are organ: ical structures. A self-preserving and conservative principle is essential to all bodies, and that is the reason of all organization.
The Church of Jesus Christ is an institution characterized as franght with the highest evidences of divine wisdom and prudence. To suppose it then destitute of the conservative principle would be, in one sentence, to negative all these attributes, and to anomalize it as an exception from the whole scheme of creation and providence.
But if it have a conservative principle, then it must have a govern. ment; FOR WHATEVER PRESERVES, GOVERNS. The conserva principle in all bodies, physical and moral, is the governing principle. In nature, grace and glory, that principle is attraction. In physics, it is called gravity ; in grace and glory it is called love. Love works in the way of election and concentration. It chooses its object and reposes upon it. In Christianity, love is the supreme law. In the Christian government it reigns. Government without love is not Christian government. Now the great mystery of all false religions is, that they seek to govern themselves without love. The true religion enthrones love.
That communities should be unler the government of love, and yet have no election in that government, is the climax of ecclesiastical absurdities. But to reconcile the notion of political authority or ecclesiastical government with electing grace, is no easy task to some minds. To proceed, however, to the questions, objections and difficulties expressed and implied in the preceding documents, I would only remark at present-that as the conservative principle of every institution is the governing principle, and as the governing principle in Christ's kingdom is love, and as love operates only and always in the way of election, there must always be a selection of persons to hold the rod of authority in the Christian communities. Hence, neither hereditary descent nor mere extrinsic appointment to office from superior ecclesiastical tribunals can at all comport with the genius of Christ's religion, nor with the cordial acquiescence of an intelligent, free and reflecting population.
Again, as government has respect to actions, not to opinions nor sentiments, the Christian senate or eldership can never, legitimately, become guardians or censors of men's notions, of their opinions, or of articles of belief. When, therefore, we speak of the duties of ruling and teaching, as connected with the elder's office, or of the duties and obligations of the Christian ministry to have an oversight of the interests of the Christian communities, we do not contemplate them as censors of opinions or a tribunal of critics on matters speculative or doctrinal, but as vigilant superintendents of the education and behaviour of the Christian communities.
In reference to the questions above stated, we need then only add, that the Christian ministry are responsible to the Lord and his people for the faithful discharge of their duties as the presiding rulers of the church, and as having the ministry of the word committed to their hands for those districts of country in which the Lord has placed them. For example, the elders of all the churches in Kentucky, besides their several special charges of the respective flocks committed into their hands, have also the ministry of the word throughout the whole state committed to them, both by the Lord and by the brethren. Hence if they fail, in the use of all lawful means, to have the gospel preached in all that country, they must give an account to the Chief Shepherd when he come.
But this much in anticipation of the evidence to be adduced. The proof, if proof be required, will, we doubt not, be ample and satisfactory.
INCEST, ACCORDING TO THE PRESBYTERIAN
GENERAL ASSEMBLY. The Rev. Mr. McQueen, of the Presbytery of Fayetteville, North Carolina, did, on the 2nd of October, 1840, enter into the holy bonds of matrimony with the sister of his deceased wife. Charged with the crime of incest on this account, he appeared before his own presbytery, and being convicted by it as guilty of said sin, he made his appeal to the General Assembly, which, at its last session, after a long discussion, confirmed the judgment of the Presbytery, and so Mr. McQueen stands an excommunicate from the whole Presbyterian Church on account of the sin of incest.
The decision of this case is a very public and unambiguous proof that infallibility is none of the attributes of the General Assembly. 'That any body so learned, so numerous, 60 pretending and so im. posing, should have published to the world so palpable a blunderso flagrant a violation of all the laws of interpretation and construction, is a demonstration of the tyranny of antiquated prescription and servile aequiescence not to have teen expected in the year 1842, and from such a body as that which represents the whole intellect and learning of the Old School Presbyterian Church.
The question of incest, in such a case, is to be decided either upon the reason and nature of the previous relation of the parties, as respects origin or collateral descent in blood, or upon the prope, construction of the passage in the Jewish law designating the offence. Now, as incest, according to our vernacular, indicates “ Unnatural
VOL. VI.-N 8.