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united in common interests, in harmonious concert, and conservative of its own integrity and prosperity.
It must, then, have some ways and means of attaining and securing the ends of its existence. It must, then, have bishops or overseers to attend to such matters. The name imports supervision, and indicates authority. But beyond a single community, unless by concert or previous arrangement, or by some constitutional provision, a single bishop's jurisdiction extendeth not. Now if Christ's kingdom consists of ten thousand families, or churches—particular, distinct, and independent communities—how are they to act in concert, maintain unity of interests, or co-operate in any system of conservation or enlargement, unless by consultation and systematic co-operation? I affirm it to be, in my humble opinion, and from years of observation and experience, impossible. The Bible teaches also its impossibility, and suggests a different system,
The Jewish kingdom was a perfeet theocracy administered by innumerable functionaries and distinct agencies. It was under Moses, Joshua, and the Judges, governed by elders or special agents raised up for the emergency. From a senatorial and consultative system, it became for a time a monarchical administration; but fell back again ander a Sanhedrim, an episcopacy, or eldership, before the close of its various and eventful history.
Christianity, introduced by the Lord in person, by Apostles, Evangelists, and Prophets, was, as has been often demonstrated, placed under the supervision and administration of elders or bishops. These bishops, though raised up and ordained by certain churches, possessed in some way a supervision over cities and districts of country beyond a single congregation. Bishops were ordained in every city so soon as congregations were formed, and these bishops by consultation, either by the way of occasional or periodical meetings, or by internuncios, messengers, or epistles, consulted, advised, and directed the whole communities of Christians in reference to all matters of public interest to the kingdom. They were not lords over God's heritage, over their faith or their conseience, or their estates; but they watched for their souls, and executed the laws of the kingdom. They ruled or administered the affairs of the Christian nation, and directed the energies of the brotherhood in all matters of common interest.
In the course of things the system was greatly corrupted. Unholy and fleshly men sought to add temporal power to the spiritual; and, for filthy lucre's sake, assumed the office, and in the end perverted it into a political and temporal affair. The purer portions of the Christian communities from time to time remonstrated against these abuses,
and occasionally corrected them. But failing to counteract the onward march of corruption, the office having been usurped by fleshly and ungodly men, they began to dislike the very office and name of bishops and elders, and to seek out new powers and functionaries to administer the affairs of the kingdom. In this tumult of passion and disorder, a fierce democracy arose, and the current ran wholly in favor of what was by contrast called a lay hierarchy. These in time became as great tyrants and despots as the old bishops, and taught the important lesson that the changing of men's names does not change their nature, and that a lay administration differed nothing from a clerical one, save that it wanted the intelligence and the talent, while it possessed the ambition and vain glory of the order it displaced.
The prefixing or the affixing of the epithet lay to the title bishop, affects not in the least the capacity, disposition, or character of the occupant of the honor. Lay tyrants or ignoramuses are no more to be trusted than the most talented and educated functionaries; and in general the more enlarged the mental dimensions of any public sunctionary, the more generous and enlarged the principles and acts of his administration. But we need not expatiate on the abuses of things. We only intend to impress upon the mind of the reader that the abuse of any thing is no argument against the use of it.
Soon as a disrespect for hereditary office, or, what is the same thing in effect, under another name, for bishops by succession from the Apostles, the partiality for what we have called lay bishops, or those chosen without regard to such sacerdotal and hereditary ordination, gradually increased, and Independency was born. This among many Protestants became a popular theory, and they undertook to reform the church by making every congregation a sort of kingdom of Christ within itself. This view, under various new modifications and acci. dental attributes, has obtained amongst Congregationalists-much improved and enlarged, however, by the experience of its friends and supporters.
Our Baptist brethren have been partial to it, especially in all the branches and derivations from Welsh and English organizations. In this country they have much improved upon the plan of the Associations, State and Federel Conventions for general and great objects and undertakings. Still, in the fierce democracy of their Congregational movements and disciplinary proceedings, they have been the most disputatious, feeble, and factional people on earth. They are, in the most important and essential of all the ends and uses of government, under the chances of a gunarchy. The majority of their churches, nine times in ten, is female-matrons and their daughters. Hence
the vole on which hangs their disciplinary and congregational affairs and fortunes, is generally, or may be, the opinion or predilections of the weaker vessels." For this reason we have called their government a gunarchy, a name indeed not known in church history, nor in our dictionaries; but which in its derivation from that language from which we have derived all our names of government, simply indicates that form of government in which females wear the diadem. Paul would not suffer a woman to speak, much less to vote in the church; yet on their votes, in such a communiiy, may not merely the reception and repudiation of private members depend; but the election and consecration of all their officers, from the deacon to the delegate to the federal convention, or triennial meeting of the board of directory. But we are not without evidence of the indications of a spirit of reformation at work in that denomination which will in due time repudiate this most obnoxious feature of their ecclesiastic administrations.
Close attention to the tendencies of things in the administration of ecclesiastic organizations, will intimate important lessons to those who would test principles by their practical operation. All societies de. monstrate in their history not merely the tendency to centralization, but the necessity of a general superintendency of some sort, without which the conservative principle cannot operate to the prosperity and furtherance of the public interests of the community.
But the New Testament itself teaches both by precept and example the necessity of united and concentrated action in the advancement of the kingdom. It lays down some great principles and applies them to the emergencies that arose in the primitive times:
1. It inculcates the necessity of co-operation, and specifies instances.
2. It inculcates the necessity of two distinct classes of officers in every particular communiiy.
3. It indicates the necessity of a third class of public functionaries, and gives examples of diverse ministries.
4. It exemplifies the utility and the need for special deliberations, and of conventions on peculiar emergencies.
5. It allows not persons to send themselves or to ordain themselves to office; but every where intimates the necessity choice, selection, mission, and ordination.
6. It inculcates a general superintendency of districts and cities by those who preside over the churches in those districts; that is, it makes it the duty of the Christian ministry, by whatever name it may be called, to take care of the common interests of the kingdom in those places and districts in which it is located and resident.
7. It claims for every functionary the concurrence of those portions
of the community in which he labors, and holds him responsible to those who send, appoint, or ordain him to office.
Before we look more particularly into the provisions of the New Institution as found in the Record, either for proof or illustration of the items enumerated, we shall suppose that no such provisions existed in the Book itself; and that it contemplated such a perfect independence of communities, called churches, as to make their Christian care, inspection, and co-operation, precisely commensurate with the indi. vidual members of a single community. Would it not then follow that Christian communion would also be necessarily narrowed down to the same limits? Whatever are the legitimate boundaries of care, counsel, admonition, reproof, inspection, and co-operation, must necessarily limit Christian worship and the fellowship of saints; else we must suppose the possibility of communion regardless of the character and standing of those with whom we communicate.
But there is a still more delicate and responsible species of cominunion, sometimes called ministerial communion, on the proper exercise of which most essentially depends the character, dignity, and success of the Christian ministry, to which we more especially invite the attention of our brethren. I lay it down as a maxim not to be questioned, that where there is Christian communion of any sort, special or common, there must be an amenability of the participan's 10 some common tribunal, and a mutual responsibility to watch over, and nourish, and comfort one another,
Suppose, then, (but indeed we have not to suppose such a case; for it too often happens,) that numerous communities, each upon its own responsibility and at its own discretion, sends abroad public ministers of the word, without proper regard to the character and attainments of such public functionaries; and that, in their various and extensive peregrina. tions, they visit the churches and commune with them; will it not follow that, either directly or indirectly, such evangelists and missionaries are responsible to those churches, and to be as subject to reproof, admonition, and general supervision as they are entitled to the aids, encouragement, and Christian hospitalities of the congregations they visii? But is it so amongst us! Are all our public men of such a character, call, and mission as we approve? Or are not some of them their own messengers, or the Apostles of irresponsible communitieswithout piety, moral character or intelligence, worthy of the counte. nance, esteem, support, or affection of the Christian communities? And shall we commune with them and recognize them as ministers of Christ, or the messengers and evangelists of his church!--merely because they had either the vanity, self-esteem, or boldness to assume
an office and a character which neither the church on earth nor in heaven awards to them!
The cause of reformation has suffered more from this portion of its pretended friends than from all its enemies put together. This state of things is indeed generally attendant on the incipiency of all public and social institutions. But we have had a very large portion of this unhappy and mischievous influence to contend with. Every sort of doctrine has been proclaimed by almost all sorts of preachers under the broad banners and with the supposed sanction of the begun reformation. We are glad to follow, rather than to lead public opinion amougst ourselves on this subject. Experience teaches with effect, what theory could not accomplish.
But to ruturn: If the New Covenant made no provision for the induction of its public 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, directly 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.
There must, then, be some great mistake lurking in the minds of those who imagine that Christ's kingdom is a collection of ten thousand particular communities, each one being wholly absolved from any respect, co-operation, inspection, or subordination in reference to any work or purpose necessary to the carrying out and perfecting that grand system of sanctification and conversion which began in Judea under the rich effusion of the Holy Spirit, and which from Jerusalem has spread as froin a radiating centre, through so wide an area as that which at one time or another since has acknowledged the divine character and mission of Jesus of Nazareth as the only Ambassador of Jehovah in setting on foot and in consummating a grand mediatorial and recuperative system, bringing glory to God, peace to earth, and good will among men.