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· This hot and schismatical spirit, which, to a greater or less extent, pervades all the religious parties in Scotland, does not spring from great conscientious differences as to doctrines or church order. The Church of Scotland, the Reformed Synod, the Secession Church, the Relief, the United Original Seceders, and the Free Church, are all presbyterian in their ecclesiastical polity; agree in their doctrine, worship, discipline, government, and ecclesiastical forms of procedure. The Westminster Confession of Faith, and its two Catechisms, are the principal standards of them all. It is only in a very few points, and these not points that touch a sinner's salvation, that they are at variance one from another. Nay, farther, the Independents, Congregationalists, Baptists, Methodists, and Moravians, all teach the doctrine of justification by faith in the atonement of Jesus; so that it may be affirmed, that the doctrines of the cross are preached, with more or less fidelity, by nineteen out of every twenty ministers in Scotland; and yet there is scarcely such a thing as two ministers of different denominations exchanging pulpits with each other. In the most of parties there are laws directly forbidding it. Were a minister, in some denominations, to venture upon the extraordinary step, he would likely be rebuked by his presbytery; and, if he did not confess a fault, he would be subjected to deprivation of office and benefice.
Such bigotry and sectarianism are not like the manly character and national affection of Scotland, and the cause of them must be sought in something deeper than ordinary discrepancies of judgment. Besides, there is an anomaly about them which sets at defiance the ordinary rules of reasoning and judging of religious disputes. Servants passing from one family into another--young women at their marriages-farmers and merchants changing their residence-have no great scruple about changing their denomination, and they are most gladly received as accessions by the church to wbich they apply for admission. By this means, there is a perpetual infusion of new blood into the veins of every church in Scotland; and yet such is the sectarian taint acquired by every new intrant, that he would likely be shocked at the gross impropriety of the very minister whom he left for the mere sake of convenience, and whose spiritual child he is, appearing in the pulpit of his present pastor. Such things must not be done in Israel. Every one must keep within the limits of his own tribe, and refrain from breaking down the comely order of God's house.'-pp.388—390.
Let us now take another view of the subject. It may be useful to advert to the causes of the failure of various projects for union among christians, which have been hitherto devised. The first and most glaring has been the aim to secure uniformity of opinion instead of unanimity of feeling. This, in fact, is the claim of infallibility, and the fountain head of persecution. The assumption of a right to require a conformity to our own ideas as a term of communion is too certainly connected with the
enforcement of that right wherever there is the possession of power; and the authoritative demand for agreement, while it cannot be really obeyed, because conviction cannot be coerced, will awaken resistance or produce slavish subjection; and hence legislators have often set up an idol, that is, error for worship, and at the same time kindled a fiery furnace for disobedience. The worst form of this device was the Act of Uniformity; and, perhaps, the best, though equally fallacious in principle, was the attempt of the good Archbishop Usher to reconcile episcopacy and presbyterianism. This proceeded on the notion of mutual concession ; each party abandoning its peculiar practices and laws. The same may be said of the scheme of comprehension attempted at the Restoration, which, for a similar reason, came to nothing.
Another cause of failure has been the bringing into the very scene and centre of an external and visible union, the spirit of separation and the claim to superiority. And here, for the sake of illustration, we may refer to the most distinguished visible union of the present day, and avowedly for the simplest yet noblest purpose, the circulation of the holy scriptures without note or comment. We were among the first to hail the appearance of this fine confederation of piety and public spirit, especially as a pledge of union, and an assurance that christians were one. We remember, however, with what ominous solemnity an eminent nonconformist, when he saw the prospectus of the Bible Society for the first time lying upon our table, slowly drew his finger across the splendid list of parliamentary and ecclesiastical dignitaries, and exclaimed, — These men will spoil it !' and now, after forty years of experiment, we are somewhat prepared to estimate the prophecy. Far be it from us to depreciate this Society, or to overlook its past and present doings, which will remain for ever in the records of christianity; but so far as the highest end of union among christians was to be anticipated, we must express our conviction that little, if any thing, has been accomplished by it. We cannot see that christians are much, if at all, more united by its influence. Has it really combined in holy friendship and fellowship the dissevered members of the spiritual family? How has the kind of union which has been visible, been maintained? Has the union of effort really produced any union of heart! We regret to be compelled to admit that, with a union on the platform, and perhaps in committee-rooms, all has for the most part ended. But what has been the union there? and what is it now? and why has not an efficient, real, christian union grown-as we affirm it has not, and the present sighs and pleadings of men disposed to union prove it-out of this outward, visible, and celebrated association? The reason is what we have hinted : it is not the christian, so much as the sectary, that has frequented the platform and the council table. We allow for exceptions ; but we fearlessly take our stand upon the general fact. During all these years, there has been combination upon unequal and galling terms. Men of rank and mitred prelates have almost always been 'first, last, midst, and without end,' at the great anniversaries, assuming the air and uttering the language of condescension, lauding the excellent establishment, and often applauding themselves for their condescending readiness to take part with their dissenting friends in circulating the scriptures ; but always, be it observed, with the understanding, that speakers or no speakers, religious or irreligious, they should be preeminent, and their princely and clerical claims be well and duly marked. The streams of this influence have run down to every city, town, and district in the kingdom; till, at length, sated perhaps with annual celebrations, and dissatisfied with non-conformist energy and eloquence, the platform has become thinned of their attendance and the subscription list of their names. But who does not see in all this the elements of disunion, in the very forms of union ? Who does not see how the demon of discord may attire himself as an angel of light? But we would rather prosecute this subject further in the words of Mr. James :
• The prevailing body in this country,' he observes, in the fourth of these essays, is, of course, the church of England. It would be considered as quite contrary to her principles to enter into any kind of association or fellowship with the various communities that have separated from her ranks; the absorption of them all into herself is the only kind of junction which would be hearkened to for a moment. Regarding all who have seceded from her communion in something of the light of rebels, she disdains to enter into any sort of negotiation with them, and aims to reduce them all into entire subjection. The present condition of the English established church is remarkably critical and portentous. With nominal and external uniformity, it has no real internal unity. It is divided into three parties—the tractarians, the high churchmen, or old orthodox party, and the evangelicals. It is obvious that no accession to any scheme of catholic union can be looked for or desired from either of the two former; in their estimation it would be like associating loyal men with rebels. Inflexible in their claims, based upon a personal and official succession from the apostles, to be the sole and exclusive dispensers of divine grace, they look with ineffable contempt upon the men, who, whether presbyterians, independents, or methodists, propose to stand side by side with them in a holy league. I am afraid that little is to be expected, in the
way of visible union, from the evangelical portion of the national establishment. It was, indeed, a painful proof of the reluctance of the evangelical clergy, to be seen in any association whatever with dissenters beyond the platform of a Bible society, that only two could be found to take any part in the proceedings of the great meeting at Exeter Hall on the first of June last year.* Many, we believe, are united with us in spirit, and in prayer, who confide in our sincere and simple attachment to the gospel of Christ, and who wish well to our labours, but who, for reasons which they think they can justify to themselves, do not deem it expedient to join in any scheme of visible association with us.
I have no doubt of the purity of their motives, and the conscientiousness of their conduct, and that they are convinced that they can better serve their own church, and our common christianity, by standing aloof from any scheme of catholic union, and therefore I feel that I have as little right as I have inclination, to act the part of a censor, or to use the language of condemnation; but no one, I trust, will blame me for expressing my heartfelt regret. For such men I cherish a pure and ardent affection; and whether in visible confederation with them or not, will continue to pray for them and love them, although they will let me do it only in secret. Their very excellences, so great and so obvious, make me regret the more, that any sentiment of their own, or any view of the confederation of others, should prevent them from coming into visible christian union with their brethren of the various protestant communions. The invisible, and yet, still real union, they cannot, and would not prevent, but are as willing and as able as any others to enter into the cordial fellowship of the holy catholic church.'—pp. 184, 185.
We must own that we are a little puzzled to think how the same writer could indulge in the unmeasured strain of a preceeding page, when speaking of the illustrious triumph of truth and love' on occasion of the meeting at Exeter Hall, in 1842. He exclaims : Clergymen uttered the language of brotherly love ; dissenting ministers responded to the sentiments, language, and feelings, of churchmen; while methodists echoed the harmonies of both the other. Yes; two clergymen, and only two, could be found to take any part in the proceedings! In a note, he says: “This, be it remarked, was before the formation of the Anti-Church and State Conference. With regard to the misnomer, we must just observe, that it was neither an anti-church nor an anti-state conference, but an anti-statechurch conference: but we cite this especially to show how gratifying it is to find that those who do not join in that movement, frequently furnish evidence against their own objections; for lo ! while continually avering that the society which the Conference organized, alienates and severs churchmen from dissenters, here it is proclaimed that they were already so alienated, that before any conference, only two could be found to take part in a meeting,
* This, be it remarked, was before the formation of the Anti-Church and State Conference.'
the simple purpose of which was union without compromise; and we have occasion to know that others, as well as they, were urgently entreated.
A third source of discouragement, if not of failure, in recent attempts to effect a closer connexion among christians, is suggested by the previous considerations, namely, the aim to force into union those whose systems and whose spirit oppose each other. It is well know that individuals to whom applications had been made to join in the movement at Exeter Halland made with most sanguine hope of success—intimated their personal willingness to unite, and their deep interest in the measures adopted; but alleged their ecclesiastical position and obligations as excuses for non-compliance. If this did not damp the ardour, it undoubtedly limited the hopes of those who were most solicitous and most united. They saw, or might have seen, that much previous work was to be done before the universal harmony of the church could be secured ; and they were compelled, however reluctantly, to leave these fettered brethren behind, till the state, or their own consciences, should unbind them. What else, however, could have been reasonably anticipated ? and what right have we to expect that the parties in question should practice inconsistencies? It was surely more probable that they would adhere to their sworn allegiance to system, than that they should come forth into the broad and palpable renunciation of it. The fallacy lay in anticipating this ; and in supposing that a national system of religion, which is a system of absorption, could by possibility become a system of union. Even those who are presumed to be most liberal, though they write about union and come into the assemblies of other christians, do not in reality unite. They will not relinquish caste.
This leads us to the fourth and last consideration we propose to adduce on this subject. We do so, with all humility, but with no little strength of conviction. We apprehend that all the attempts at general union, and particularly the last, have substantially failed, from regarding what is called the visibility of christian union as its ultimatum and goal. It may be doubted whether the very nature of a visible union has not been somewhat misunderstood, when it has been supposed to be entirely comprehended in some great display on a given occasion.
Now nothing can be more obvious than that persons may meet numerously in a public assembly to declare their union in a common creed, and bow the knee and sing the song of praise together, and yet not be united. We must not mistake the semblance for the reality, or avowals under excitement for principles. We charge none, however, with hypocrisy, but we fear