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vital and saving efficacy of the truth is lost, because it is not professed in this identical order ? Yet this, in fact, constitutes the only difference betwixt the Gospel as held by one party in contrast with that held by another.
If it be objected, that the notions entertained respecting catholic truth do not relate to the Bible, but to the interpretation of its doctrines; and that to the teaching from the inspired volume rightly belongs the character and name ; we reply, that mere teaching must necessarily be as sectarian in one as in another, for the simple reason, that it is human. Who would willingly leave the high, holy, heavenly, and sublime region of really catholic truth, as revealed in the holy Scriptures, which is so universal as to exhibit all that can be known of God, the Saviour, salvation, and immortality ;—who, we say, would leave this pure and perfect region, for the dark chaos of human opinion, fallaciously graced by this term ?
We have been taught to respect men and churches for the truth's sake ;” and we are still called upon to “walk by the same rule.” Why should any peculiar modes of thinking be an occasion of separation, if the parties concerned have been taught of God, believe in the Saviour, and manifest a real spirit of religion? The points on which they agree in faith and experience, are the really necessary subjects; and those on which they disagree are certainly not of essential moment, inasmuch as they neither keep them from the cross, nor debar them an entrance into the kingdom of heaven. The same is the case with regard to churches. Those which hold the doctrines of our Lord's atonement, justification by faith only, and the necessity of the new birth, may surely so far dismiss minor points, as to establish a confraternity of affection, allow each other's claims, assist and aid in the promotion of the common good, and endeavour, by every means, to remove the projectiles of spleen and party-spirit, standing in the way of actual fellowship, and to smooth the path to a higher and richer dispensation of the catholic spirit.
It is the peculiar and imperative duty of all who really hold evangelical truth, to cultivate the spirit of union. The times call for this: the elements of the opposite tendency are converging to a point of fearful combination. Párty names are adopted, and party colours are hoisted; but the animus of the anti-evangelical movement is one. It is no stranger on earth, and is only singular by being the last incarnation of the Evil One. The same thing immediately followed the first preaching of the Gospel : "the mystery of iniquity” soon began “to work.” We have now a new muster of the “powers of darkness ;" but the old feature of opposition,—" he that is born after the flesh persecuting him that is born after the Spirit ; ” (Gal. iv. 29 ;)—this is seen through every disguise ; and though the movement assumes the pretence of great forbearance and "zeal for
the Lord of hosts," yet the purpose evidently is, to crush evangelical religion by the creation of an ecclesiastical power, either moral or otherwise, capable of controlling the state of the Christian profession,-probably independent of Rome, if practicable, but, rather than not accomplish this object, in union with that church.
In this threatening state of affairs, it is not the time for us to be either indifferent or sectarian. Whilst we claim from others the rank of a true church of the Lord Jesus Christ, we must be willing to accord this claim-together with affection and respect—to the followers of our Lord, wherever found. We have always, in profession, spurned a narrow sectarianism ; let us do so in spirit. We have, indeed, often been obliged to speak strongly in vindication of ourselves, when violently assailed as at present; but let it be known, that bigotry is not the congenial element of our church. The soul of our system is, we trust, in agreement with our doctrines, which are all universal ; and, amongst others, that of universal love is sacredly held. Our principles, our economy, our objects, are too great, naturally, to allow the little viper, sectarianism, to coil itself in our community, and hiss forth its hatred against all, however excellent, who are not found to be of our party.
There is a living spirit in all churches which must, in its reaction, fix their destinies. If they settle on some narrow notions, they necessarily partake of the insignificance of their adopted opinions. Communities professing adherence and fealty to a sectarian and uncharitable creed, will, however high their pretences, become, in mind, heart, and feeling, that which their theory is in principle. How can the building stand out beyond its foundation ? Now, as we are not cramped and limited in our creed, we ought not to be so in our feelings. Let us move on the dimensions of our own ideal system, or rather of that truth of God which we have been taught. That which is universal embraces every thing,—the little and the great. Whilst we are prepared to perform the least service for our Lord, let us be equally ready to perform the highest, the noblest, and the most costly. Our principles will bear any weight; our doctrines, carried out, will lead to great, extended, and general efforts to glorify God; success, on the scale of the truths which we hold, must issue in the triumphs of the Gospel in every part of the world : and, moreover, should the spirit of controversy, the pressure of opposing forces, the selfish pusillanimity and cowering of our own hearts, the want of zeal and generosity, and especially the decay of faith, holy love, devoted piety, and large and comprehensive views and feelings ;-should any or all of these sinister evils shrivel us up to the littleness of party, the bigotry of sectarianism, and the asperities of religious animosity, and lead to the working out of the interests of a selfish sect ;-then we
shall belie every doctrine we hold,—every sentiment we have been taught,--the brightest examples of our ancestors,-the work of God as it stands before us,—and, most of all, the very truth of the glorious Gospel itself.
5. Our community has hitherto employed its organization and strength in purely spiritual objects : “ Let us” still “ walk by” this “rule, let us mind” this “thing.”
Our system denies no man his civil rights, freedom of opinion, or a proper standing in society. But it has ever denied itself the practice of employing its religious organization for worldly purposes. noble vessel, it has sought for itself an open sea, and deep water, lest it should be stranded on some of those numerous rocks of earthly association and policy, on which others have been wrecked.
Freedom of action can only be secured by this. When a church of Christ admits the co-ordinate power of some earthly interest, it then loses a large amount of its religious character and freedom. The motives, passions, and schemes of human policy, intermixed with the Gospel kingdom, necessarily bring the spiritual features of the institution to a resemblance to secular government, and greatly impair its efficiency and vigour. The dissemination of the truth is, in such cases, retarded ; the indefeasible rights of the ministry are interfered with ; the just freedom of the people of God, in their individual and aggregate association, compromised; and the laws of Christ subordinated to the ordinances of man. This state of things has never taken place but by the corrupt assent, connivance, or solicitation of the church. In the loss of truth, purity, and piety, the master-passion of fallen man—ambition is found to be as common in ecclesiastics as in other persons ; and a careful examination of the question will show, that all the evils referred to have sprung from this fountain. To array the church in the
gorgeous attributes of worldly greatness; to secure her dominion, authority, and power ; to free her from the obligation of obedience to civil government, even in secular things ; and then to put down all good men, and associations of believers, as heretics, schismatics, and rebels ; have been the leading policy of bodies calling themselves by the Christian name. To effect these worldly alliances, means have been employed which would have been inimical to religion, had it existed ; but as the matter stood, nothing was lost, because nothing was possessed ; whilst a return to right principles has ever been rendered infinitely difficult, because of the amalgamation of the two elements and the two interests,—the secular and the spiritual.
This is the secret of much that is stigmatized as schism. Causes have been sought, and probable reasons assigned, for the numerous separations which have taken place from the Establishment in this country. The parties have been blamed in no very measured terms for the sin of rebellion ; but the true cause has often been put aside.
To place the subject in as inoffensive a point of view as possible, it may be affirmed, that when a number of men obtain the right faith of the Gospel, and feel the force of truth on their consciences, they immediately perceive themselves “under the law to Christ;" this impels them to obey his word in propagating the Gospel ; they have been impeded in this, and harassed, and persecuted, so as to be driven to seek, in a separate fellowship, repose and a freedom to obey God. This is our own case. Our position gives us liberty to follow the Lord according to the injunctions of his own blessed word. Let us, therefore, “stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.” (Gal. v. 1.)
This spirituality of purpose and object has been our strength. The power of the church is its purity and holiness. Let any individual believer unduly entangle himself with the affairs of this life, and he is instantly shorn of his strength, and becomes “as other men.” In like manner, when a Christian body yields itself to worldly views and influences, it loses its beauty and strength at the same time. The Spirit of God breathes softly or powerfully on a people who present for the visitation a pure and elevated piety, a believing and obedient heart, a retiring and self-denying spirit, the habit of supplication and prayer, and a living exhibition of the truth. This working and operation of the Spirit of God is the life of the church, and is never found but in union with spiritual minds and spiritual institutions. A worldly policy can never be a fit channel for the waters of life to flow through ; and although a combination of men may possess the power to exact obedience to its mandates, whilst the spirit, end, and means employed all quadrate with earthly dominion ; yet it is always found that such bodies are powerless in saving mankind, and imparting the consolations and hopes of religion. The strength of our community has been its unmixed spiritual organization and designs ; let this continue, and we may humbly and confidently hope, that Almighty God will still employ us in the extension of his truth and the salvation of the world.
But the spirituality of which we speak has, all along, been our bond of union. Not on human and earthly, but on common religious, interests, this fellowship has ever been kept up; and it is safe in proportion to the predominance of this feeling. The architects of formalism are building their fabric with fragile materials. The attractions of external show and fascinating ceremonials, cannot last long. The passions grow cold with age; they loose their grasp on the withering enchantment; and the new sentiments of the next generation will demand a fresh creation. Those who are labouring in this vocation must go farther, or lose their labour. The understanding being out of the question, and the heart finding no
food for its best feelings, a superstition of horror must be contrived ; the conscience must be blinded and coerced, and the imagination must be taught to roam in a world of fancied furies.
It is different with the fellowship of Christian love. This is intelligible, cordial, enduring. It is not an objective union merely, an attraction of the eyes, the fancy, the taste ;—it is the religion of the heart. It is founded in salvation equally enjoyed in Christ ; the similarity of nature experienced in the new birth ; the convergence of minds and hearts, attracted to each other by like graces, joys, and objects; and it is the warm impulse of the divine affections. Every one that loveth him that begat, loveth him also that is begotten of him.” (1 John v. Religion has, in its own element, been our all in all. Let it be eherished, strengthened, and invigorated. God dwells in the pious heart, and he equally lives in the spiritual church. With his presence and grace, we shall be omnipotent; in his absence, every thing must fall into decay and ruin.
We have finished the review of our status as a church. The ground we have trodden has been perilous. Many things have been “set down, not in malice,” but in unmixed pain. Parties in that Church for which we have ever cherished the sincerest respect and affection, and which it has been our unfeigned desire to honour and support,-have obliged us to speak in the language of severity. This is a subject of sorrowful regret. But we owe more to the truth than to man ; and to desert or fail to vindicate that great work which God has wrought amongst us, would, in his sight, be esteemed as apostasy from it, and probably be visited by the withdrawal of his long-continued grace and blessing. We believe the men who have put the agitation in motion against ourselves, are the worst, the most dangerous, and also the most dishonourable, enemies with whom the real Church of England has had to contend since the days of Laud ; and, in some of its features, the present CONSPIRACY ” is much more fearful and formidable than even that in which Laud himself was concerned.
But, turning from this disagreeable part of the subject, what, we ask, do we see in our own position ? Much to excite our gratitude, much to cause us great accountability, and much to create great solicitude. That God has displayed such extraordinary grace to us, may well teach us thankfulness. How great the number who have been already saved! And how numerous the witnesses now on earth to the power of the Gospel! This is our joy and crown of rejoicing. But it ought to call forth our gratitude that, against such a time of trial,—we may say, such a falling away and apostasy from the standard of Christian truth,—as the present, the great Head of the church has, we trust, in some measure, provided for the calamity, by raising up a body which is separate, independent, and free to act; and which, we are sure, cannot, except