Images de page

tenets or ourselves. Our motto is, “Prove all things, and hold fast that which is good.”

REVIEW Of several articles in late numbers of the Millennial Harbinger on the

Nature of the Christian Organization.A discussion more interesting in itself, or more eventful in its results than the one referred to in the above heading, has no where, perhaps, of late been commenced. Its practical influence over the opinions and practices of scores of thousands of intensely interested and active Christian people invest it with absolute solemnity.

The advocates of the reformation in Kentucky alone have been estimated, and perhaps without exaggeration, at forty thousand church members, ministered to by hundreds of clerical or lay teachers of more or less intelligence, and comprehending an amount of wealth, infor. mation, influence, and higlily concentrated activity and energy, rarely placed, in the providence of God, in a similar position. Their first awakened and giant energies were directed against the Fatalism and ANTINOMIANISM of the old fashioned Baptists. Their great battle re.. lated to doctrines, to religious experience, and to the details of pastoral duty. Insensibly to themselves, and by a growth which elicits astonishment no where more than amongst the brotherhood itself, they have acquired a sort of separate denominational existence, and a kind of church character, without concert, without dependence, without consistency.

Is it wonderful, then, that the question has arisen, in full grown energy and strength, Is this accidental church character the iruest and the best? Or, to put the question more generally, What is, or ought to be, THE CHRISTIAN ORGANIZATION?

Additional interest and point have attached themselves to the inquiry by reason of the growing intelligence and more extensive reading o: many of the advocates of the reformation; and no doubt, reflexly also by means of various dise'issions in England and in this country radically involving the great question of ecclesiastical organization.Indeed a common and mighty movement in the general Protestant mind may plainly be observed in this very direction. What it purports, and to what it tends, is known only to the King of saints.

We return, then, with redoubled interest to the review of the remarkable articles in late numbers of the Millennial Harbinger, on this great subject. And in one respect we are by no means disappointed. Admissions with regard to the actual state of things, and the working of the no system, are very candid and ample. They may, thus, very summarily be stated:

1. Small, not very well informed, and irresponsible churches, too often take upon themselves to set apart ministers.

2. Some of these, too many perhaps, are not very well trained for their work, and are sometimes heady, dogmarical, uncourteous, disputatious, and neither very popular nor very useful.

3. As they are not chosen by men competent to judge of their qualifications, as they are not sent by those who are in authority, and as they go forih with no adequate instructions, they, like the churches which first send them forth, become wholly independent and irresponsible. As there is no established mode of correspondence between the churches, so neither is there any mutual dependence, counsel, or aid amongst the ministers.

4. The want of restraint, responsibility, and discipline, are not the only evils which ensue. There is no concerted action, there is no common movement, there is neither the majesty nor might of the corps.

These admissions, and the inferences which naturally flow from them, form, in fact, the main staple of the articles before us. The mind and heart of the writer are evidently full of this great theme, the importance of a wise, comprehensive, safe, and efficient general church organization, and of a painful sense of the exceeding great evils which flow naturally from the lack of it, or defects in lt. Few passages more convincing or more eloquent than the following has ever been written:

"If the New Covenant made no provision for the induction of its agents—if it have given to them no public care for one another-if it have allowed every community to do what seems right in its own eyes—if it have given to its public functionaries to go and come, and operate when, where, and as they please--and if they are only amenable, direcily or indirectly, to the particular community from which they take their departure; then, indeed, the Great Prophet and Lawgiver of the church has been more negligent of the interests of his kingdom, more inattentive to the connexion between cause and effect, between means and ends, than any other author of a new order of society that ever lived; or his apostles and prime ministers have been less attentive to his instructions and less faithful to their Master and his cause than the common functionaries of our present corrupt systems of human prudence and authority,”—M. H., vol. vi., No. 2., p. 64.

A diapason key-note of such truth and power as this, if sustained, and met with a like response, will indeed make the welkin ring, and arouse a great, an enthusiastic, and a mighty community to a harmony of action which will tell upon the destinies of the church for a long time to come.

A C-N. REVIEW-No. Il. That the exigency amongst the friends of reformation, calling for some more wise and comprehensive church organization is real and not imaginary, is well attested in these emphatic words of our author:“As we advance in this discussion many voices from all corners of the land call for a thorough investigation of the subject, and importune a reconsideration of the state of ihings amongst us.

* * * All feel the want of a more systematic union, co-operation, and effort in the great cause.

But we must confess a painful sense of disappointment, when we look for the distinctness, the grasp, the energy, and comprehensiveness to which the solemn magnitude of the subject should, as it seems to us, have elevated the writer. When he speaks of existing evils there is no want of definiteness, or burning sarcasm; when he portrays the need of a better state of things, the tones he utters are those of truth and power; but when he seriously addresses himself to the main subject to which his heading refers and which in fact the exigency requires-what remedy can be applied-what is the Christian organization? it seems to us as if the writer faltered, either because his own ideas were not perfectly well defined; or, as if he had some misgivings whither his great principles, if carried out, might conduct him; or, as if cautiously feeling the pulse of his readers to ascertain how far they were prepared to follow him in his discussion.

In one place, indeed, he distinctly and boldly avows the conviction that the great principles of the Inductive Philosophy are as truly applicable to this question as to any other, either in nature, in ethics, or in theology. And yet it has seemed to us, as if the method of his present inquiry, in most cases, is any thing rather than inductive. He starts with general positions instead of arriving at them by a rigid induction. He takes for granted the sources of evidence, or the field upon which are to be gathered the facts for his induction, and he deals far too much in opinions and affirmations to suit the taste of a stern friend of rigid induction.

In theology, strictly so called, in the great doctrines of the New Covenant, ihe writer is often very happy in the application of the inductive principle. We conceive iha', in his polemics, particularly where he differs from the fatalism, antinomianism, and immediatism of his chief opponents, the majesty of his strength, and the secret of his surcess depend mainly upon the right use of the inductive method applied to the words and facis of holy writ.

But here he seems first to have correctly asked himself, and iruly to have answered the previous question, what are the sources of evidence, and what the field from which are to be gathered the facts for a wise and safe induction. And here he stands with the strength of a giant upon the great principle, “The Bible, the Bible alone is the religion of Protestanis."

Has he, with equal deliberation, clearness, and iruth, set himself down to the previous question, What are ile sources of evidence from which a knowledge may be derived of THE CHRISTIAN ORGANIZATION? What is the field upon which are to be abundantly reaped or carefully gleaned the facts which are to be made the basis of a sate induction upon this great subject?

'The inquiry is not, is his mind made up upon this subject? He certainly is fully persuaded that it is: but is it maturely and wisely made up? Is he as ceriainly right in the opinion that the outward order of the church can be sufficiently inferred from scripture, as in the belief that saving doctrines can be surely proved from scripture? With all his positive assertions to the contrary, we think not. He often seems disposed to widen the field, and to venture on the induction of other faces. In the glowing ara eloquent passage formerly quoted, he speaks of the aposiles and prime minisiers of the Great Lawgiver," as if their acts were safe exponenis of his instructions. And he is very ready to adduce the practice of the early Christians in favor of breaking bread every Lord's day, and in favor of the immersion of believers.

The principle which has commended itself to our judgment as alone soundly inductive upon this subject is briefly expressed ihus:-Doctrines essential to salvation can only be proved by a "hus sailh the Lord;" but practices desirable for the good order of the church are fufficiently proved by the practice. All facis, therefore, which have relation to practice (not moral, but ecclesiastic practice is intended,)




whether derived from scripture or antiquity, and are clearly so ancient that no departure from the more ancient can be proved or fairly ioferred, are all the legitimate materials of a sound and safe induction upon this subject.

Many such facts are recorded in scripture. Of some of these the writer has made an admirable use (not, however, in the inductive way) in the elucidation and proof of his self-assumed positions. We have no objection to their being so used. We are even greatly delighted with a laborious and caresul INDUCTION of all the facts recorded in the New Testament relative to the Christian organization, and with a candid and clear statement of the general principles to which they lead. And the main weight and force of our objection to the articles before us, is, that they seem to us signally, to have failed in this comprehensive grasp, this bold march, this only sound and safe method. In our next, in our poor way, we shall attempt a single outline of what, in part, that great inductive argument might be.

А С. REVIEW-No. III. It will be found by INDUCTION that the facts in the records of the New Covenant which relate to the order and outward practice of the church, refer chiefly to the ministry, the sacraments, and 10 discipline. As a poor specimen of what seems to us to be called for, of a great inductive argument, it is our purpose to give a very brief and condensed sketch of part of the induction relative to the first of these topics-THE CHRISTIAN MINISTRY. We say a part of the induction only, for all the facts which may be gleaned from the gospels will be omitted, and most of those from the Acts and the Epistles. From the two last sources only, one class of facts will be made matter of induction—those, namely, which relate to the ministry of a single church, the church of Ephesus.

This is a great narrowing down of the argument, but still hardly sufficient for our purpose and our space. It will help us to be more rigidly inductive.

Our preconceived opinions, then, are by no means met in this case; for assuredly we should have taken it for granted that the church at Rome, or the church at Jerusalem, or that where the disciples were first called Christians, the church at Antioch, would have furnished us with most ample materials for the purposes of our induction.

In point of fact, however, neither of these churches has more than two documents, out of which the materials of our induction may be drawn; whilst, with regard to Ephesus, there are five such documents, and several of them exceedingly full and minute. There are two notices in the Acts, in the 18th, 191h, and 20th chapters; ihe letter of Paul to the Ephesians, his two letters 10 Timothy, and the letter of John in the Apocalypse 10 the angel of the church at Ephesus. These are the ample documents.

Now the true method is, rigidly and carefully to dissect all these documents, to methodize and compare every fact relating to the minis. try, and thus arrive, thus far, at our conclusions upon them; or, in other words, from this induction frame our general propositions. From such an induction we would ask whether it is not clear

Ist. That ministers were first sent to, and afterwards ordained from amongst the Ephesian converts, by those having authority, and not by being set apart by the members themselves.

2d. That there was an order of ordained deacons in this church, ordained and ruled over by one having authority.

3d. That there was an order of ordained elders or bishops in this church, ordained and ruled over by one having authority.

4th. That Paul first, Timothy afterwards, and some thirty years later the angel of the church at Ephesus, were, successively, ihese persons in authority. And,

5th. That these ihree orders of ministers, and the saints at Ephesus formed but a part of a more universal church, beiween the officers and members of which there subsisted a mental harmony, communion, dependence, and concerted action, which constituied ihem members one of another, and all members of Christ.

The key-stones of this induction are the facts recorded by the first uninspired ecclesiastical historian, of the names of the principal persons, from Paul and Timothy downwards, who had chief authoriy in this church for the space of nearly 300 years; and his testimony ihat the ordained elders and deacons still retained office in this church, performing like functions with their predecessors-ordained and ruled over by one having authority.

Collateral aid, of the utmost consequence, is brought to this inducvion by a similar analysis of the history of the planting, progress, and subsequent state of ail the other churches planted by the Apostles; for there appears to be no deviation or departure in the case of any of them, in these main respects, from the apostolic practice, until subsequent to a period when well known powerful causes of corruption growing out of the decay of piety, and large accessions of worldly grandeur, wealth, and power, were unhappily in full operation.

Most devouily is it to be hoped, that, in those inquiries and discussions which are likely to settle for many years the Christian organizavjon of a great body of zealous disciples, no other method of investiga. tion hut ihe inductive and only true, may be adopted and pursued; and what the results wrought out, may with more than human precision (in answer to many prayers for God's guidance,) most accurately correspond with the Pentecostal pattern, when the disciples were of one accord and one mind, and continued steadfasily in the Apostles' decurine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread and in prayers!

A C-N.

Our intelligent and aciomplished correspondent, in his No. I., has, in very apposite :erms, correcily sketched the principal defects in the existing organization, if orgauization it may be called. He also acquiesces with us in submitting the all-important investigation to the canons of the inductive philosophy; but in his second number expresses some dissent from ihe manner in which we apply those canons to the subject. He conceives that I have "started with general positions instead of arriving at them by a rigid induction;" and that I deal far too much in opinions and affirmations to suit the taste of a stern friend of rigid induction,"

« PrécédentContinuer »