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Jesus. Those who call this sectarianism, or High Church, plainly show that they understand neither the authorized meaning of terms, nor the nature of Christian duty. There is no question, it is true, that individuals and bodies of professing Christians, by perverting these principles, or carrying them to excess, may deserve to bear the stigma of these opprobrious names. But it is just as plain, that all enlightened and conscientious Christians, and by consequence all Churches, which are made up of individual Christians, are bound to use all means consistent with the entire exercise of Christian charity; in short, all those means which they are cordially willing should be used toward themselves, for promoting the reign of that faith and practice which they sincerely believe will be conducive to the best interests of mankind. It is beautiful, indeed, and truly edifying, to see the disciples of Christ acknowledging Christians of different evangelical denominations as brethren in Christ, communing with them, and joyfully co-operating with them in plans and efforts for spreading the Redeemer's kingdom. All this may be done without the sacrifice of a single truth or duty; nay, to the great advancement of Christian edification. But when those who consider themselves as "witnesses for God,” in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, (as all professing Christians ought to be, and to consider themselves, are willing to give up every distinguishing point in their testimony, to break down every fence which excludes error, and to pronounce all steady and consistent contending for the faith once delivered to the saints," sectarian bigotry; they may greatly applaud themselves as patterns of expanded charity; but they rather deserve the title of latitudinarians, and, so far as their influence extends, are but preparing the way for that liberality which really confounds truth and error.
We think, then, that we see very powerful reasons why every denomination of Christians, as such, and especially in an extended, growing, and free country like this, should have in constant and vigorous operation a Missionary system for publishing and extending their own peculiar principles, sending forth itinerant preachers, disseminating books, and planting Churches of her own order; and thus, while they are ready and liberal in contributing, as far as they are able to the extension of the cause of Christ in general, bend their principal force toward the propagation of that pure system which
Christ has committed to his Church to be maintained and extended.
On the other hand, we are quite as well persuaded that voluntary associations for spreading the Gospel have been eminently useful,—may still be eminently useful,-and ought by no means to be denounced or put down. They may enlist as active, steady, and liberal coadjutors, many whom, perhaps, no ecclesiastical body could attract or engage. They may gain access to persons and places which no ecclesiastical Board could so well, or, perhaps, at all, reach. And their irresponsible and unshackled movements may prove eminently conducive to the extent, the popularity, and the vigour of their operations. We have, therefore, greatly rejoiced in the existence of such a body as the “ American Home Missionary Society.” We have wished it well, have been glad to hear of its prosperity; and cannot for a moment doubt that it has been extensively useful. Thus we have thought concerning it; and thus we still think. It holds a most important place in the great operations of the present day for the conversion of the world." Important as is the Board of Missions of the General Assembly, and freely as we give to it our first and our peculiar affection, as the organ for extending that Church which we decisively prefer to any other on earth;-it by no means, in our opinion, supersedes the necessity of the Home Missionary Society. There is ample room for both and more. There is abundant need of both. And no one, it seems to us, can doubt that a much greater amount of good has been accomplished, and is likely to be accomplished by both, than by either alone. Our judgment, then, is, that both ought to be encouraged and sustained. Let each keep its proper place; let each do its appropriate work—and all will be well. There, surely, ought to be no collision in such a cause as this; and, surely, there need be none, if all parties, after informing themselves of the real state of facts in every part of the country, were disposed to act, in all cases, in the genuine spirit of the Gospel
Some, indeed, have felt apprehensive that voluntary associations might become animated by such a spirit of inordinate ambition; might so encroach, and grasp, and invade, as finally either to break down those ecclesiastical Boards which are now prosperous and efficient, or so bind them to their own car, as to embarrass and enfeeble their movements, and ultimately to defeat the primary purpose for which they were
formed. Dangers of this kind have been apprehended by some from the movements of the Home Missionary Society. But surely a plan so obviously unjustifiable as this, ought not lightly to be imputed to a body of truly pious and respectable men. Such a course, on their part, would be as plainly impolitic and unwise as it would be unjust. It would be blindly indulging a spirit of present cupidity, at the certain expense of a proportional loss of influence, and consequently of power, in time to come. In our opinion, the real strength, and the ultimate consummation of the popularity and unenvied triumph of the Home Missionary Society, will be best of all consulted by her faithfully retaining that place, in truth, as well as in the public eye, which has been described:-interfering with no ecclesiastical arrangement; seeking no connexion with any ecclesiastical body; subjecting her plans and movements to no ecclesiastical stipulations. A different course, though it may promise to that Society more influence and potency at present, will assuredly engender jealousy, hostility, and strife, and tend ultimately, and at no great distance of time, to weaken and embarrass it in a manner and to a degree not now anticipated. Nay, we will be candid enough to say, that if we were capable of entertaining such projects, and were about to sketch a plan by which that Society might most speedily and surely gain a paramount influence in the United States, we should advise its conductors sacredly to act on the principles just laid down. They would thereby make more friends, create fewer enemies, excite less jealousy, and speedily gain a degree of influence over all open, candid, liberal minds, which scarcely any thing could resist.
It is earnestly to be hoped, then, that the conductors of the Home Missionary Society will, in time to come, scrupulously adopt this course: that we shall never hear more of amalgamation with the Assembly's Board of Missions; of a Joint Executive Committee beyond the mountains; or of any other device for implicating either Board with the plans and movements of the other. On some points of policy and duty we feel dubious, and as if nothing but fair experiment could indicate with certainty the wisest course; but as to the correctness of the judgment which we have expressed, we have no more doubt than we have of the truth of any mathematical axiom. And if we belonged to the Board of Direction, or to the Executive Committee of that Society, and were as exclusively devoted to its interests as a conscientious Christian ought to
be, we should, without ceasing, counsel all concerned to adopt the plan proposed; and should labour to convince them that a different policy, however plausible, is like that of a man who will be rich—who, impatient of the slow progress of moderate and reasonable gains, is in haste to be rich; who falls into temptation, and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.
We should be very sorry, then, to see the Home Missionary Society annihilated or weakened. We do most unfeignedly wish to see it grow and prosper.
If we could, by a volition, double its resources and its missionaries, we should do it instantly, and with all our hearts. But we should do this, specifically, on the condition, that nothing should hereafter be said by the conductors of that Society, about an official connexion with any other Board, and more particularly with any ecclesiastical Board; but that, detached from all such agitating, and, at best, embarrassing connexions, they should hold on, with steadiness and zeal, in their appropriate course; interfering with no Church; entangling themselves with no ecclesiastical trammels; throwing no apple of discord among brethren; nor allowing others to throw one among themselves; ready to do good to all, and receive aid from all, but consenting to be implicated in the ecclesiastical movements or collisions of none.
The truth is, a voluntary association and an ecclesiastical Board do not meet and act together upon equal terms. The one has no other guide than the sovereign will of the associates, which may be accommodated to any alteration of circumstances, and may change every year. The other must be at all times regulated by the constitution of the ecclesiastical body to which it belongs. The one may look abroad, with all the boundless freedom of the most perfect Catholicism, regarding all evangelical denominations with equal eye, and promoting the interests of piety in the bosom of each with equal zeal. The other, in its essential nature, is appointed to watch over the spiritual concerns of a particular department of the kingdom of Christ, and forbidden by every consideration of ecclesiastical delicacy from doing any thing which might be construed as an interference with the affairs of any other denomination. Why should two such bodies be tied together? Why should two active and athletic individuals be willing to place themselves in such a situation that the one shall not be able to move without the other? Nay, that the
one may be called by both interest and duty to move at a time, and in a direction, by no means in conformity with either the inclination, the peculiar exigencies, or the duty of the other?
Besides, as was before observed, the members of the Presbyterian Church are extensively divided in opinion between ecclesiastical Boards and voluntary associations. It does not seem to be a settled point on which side the majority lies. But on whichsoever it may lie, one thing is certain, that the adherents to each party ought to have the opportunity of being gratified. On the one hand, those who are conscientiously persuaded that the great plans for converting the world can be best carried on by voluntary associations, surely have a right to enjoy their own opinion on this subject, and to be allowed to act accordingly. Let there be, by all means, a treasury opened upon this plan. Those who are the exclusive friends of the plan, will, of course, devote to its support their chief strength: and some who are not exclusively devoted to it—which, as we have said, is our own case-will yet be its decided friends, and take pleasure in helping it for
On the other hand, those who are honestly persuaded that ecclesiastical Boards will be most likely to advance, surely and substantially, the interests of the Redeemer's kingdom, undoubtedly have quite as good a right to enjoy their opinion, and to be allowed to pursue a corresponding course. Let all agree, therefore, to gratify them also; to open a treasury into which they can conscientiously pour their offerings. Thus, although the whole religious community cannot go entirely together, yet all may be suited; all may find a body which they can cordially support; and all may be roused to feeling and activity in this great field of Christian benevolence. Whereas, all attempts to force together those who are not fully prepared to come and act together, like all premature and unnatural efforts to compel religious denominations to unite before they are ready for it,- do but in the end promote discord and division instead of peace.
It would truly grieve us, if voluntary asssociations should, by any means, become less popular and powerful in the public mind than they have heretofore been. We think, that in this case, the strength of a very important auxiliary in promoting the welfare of mankind, would be impaired. Much rather would we see them growing in extent, vigour, and popularity, stretching their operations into new regions, and making new conquests for Zion's king. But we must say, that if ever