« AnteriorContinuar »
and forbidden, and find a full declaration of the deepest secrets of their faith, expression for their inmost knowledge of the truth, and forms for their most profound feeling, upon the peculiar, and appropriate, and never-failing love of a covenant God towards his own peculiar people."1 The American church, like the old Patristic, like the modern European, will crave, according to the grade of its Christian culture, either the milk that is for babes, or the meat that is for strong men.
Congregationalism now proposes to go from East to West, from North to South, upon its mission of love. Outside of its old ancestral home, it is not yet strong. It enters into a friendly rivalry with other branches of Christ's church, upon fields which they have preoccupied, and upon which it has yet to get a firm foothold. Shall it give up, or modify, its old historical character, and adopt the laxer of the two great systems of evangelical doctrine, and seek to build up churches upon the same doctrinal basis with the pioneering, the fervid, the beloved ? Methodist? If it does, it will fail; first, because it will not be true to its own genius and antecedents, and second, because the wonderfully effective and persistent 6 method” of Methodism will absorb all its acquisitions, upon this basis, into itself.
It only remains, therefore, for Congregationalism to carry into the new regions which it proposes to enter, the very same doctrine, and the very same creed, which it brought over from England and Holland. The denominations with which it has most affinity, and with which it will come into nearest contact, are themselves built upon the Calvinistic foundation. They have become strong and consolidated in those regions by their persevering attachment to their historical symbol. If.they are true to Christ and the New Testament, they will welcome, and not repel, all who stand upon the same doctrinal platform with themselves. The
' Irving's Preface to Horne on the Psalms.
? We use this word advisedly. We feel a deep and warm affection towards that larre denomination which goes everywhere preaching the doctrine of man's yuilt, and his forgiveness througli atuning blood.
merely secondary matter of polity will never, in the long run, alienate denominations who are one in doctrine, and in the experimental consciousness that grows out of doctrine. Standing firm upon the creed of Owen and Robinson, and equally firm upon the polity of Owen and Robinson, who can doubt that an advancing career is in reserve for the Congregational churches ? Thorough orthodoxy (which means thorough accuracy) in the technical statement, in friendly alliance with the utmost freedom and simplicity in the political structure, — the longest and firmest of roots bursting out into the brightest and most delicate of flowers, — this will be a phase of Christianity that must attract and influence. It lies within the province of Congregationalism to originate and exemplify a style of Christianity that will be somewhat unique in the history of the church. Exactitude of doctrine has sometimes been associated, in ecclesiastical history, with rigid and stately forms of polity. The muscle has been enveloped in tissues as tough and fibrous as itself. It is now competent for the most republican of the polities to clothe the bone and the sinew in the warm and flexile flesh; to exhibit the most profound and scientific type of truth in the most simple form of church government, and the most ethereal style of church life. In so doing, Congregationalism will find a welcome from all the true friends of Christ the world over. And particularly will it be welcomed by that large portion of evangelical Christendom to whom the theology of Augustine and Calvin is precious as the apple of the eye. There can be no collision and no hostile rivalry, between denominations that see eye to eye, in respect to an exact and a living orthodoxy. How was it in the days when the Reformers on the Continent fraternized with the Reformers in the British islands? There was much more difference between the Presbyterianism of Geneva and the Episcopacy of London, than there is between the Presbyterianism of the Middle and Southern States, and the Congregationalism of New England. Yet how respectful was the feeling of Richard Hooker, the great defender of prelacy, towards John Calvin. Read the Zurich Letters, and see how deep was the interest which the English prelates took in the prosperity of the Swiss pastors. And yet there was no sacrifice of principle, or of conviction, upon either side, even in regard to polity. Bishops Grindal and Jewell will not be called lax Episcopalians. John Calvin and Henry Bullinger will not be regarded as indifferent Presbyterians. Each stood firm upon his own ecclesiastical position, and each labored, in every legitimate manner, for the upbuilding of the particular branch of Christ's church with which birth, and education, and personal conviction had connected him. But both knew that there is a higher, a more august thing than the external regimen of the visible church. Both felt the mutual respect, and the mutual fellowship, which springs out of a common reception of a common type of doctrine.
And so will it be upon the wider arena of denominational life and action. By identifying itself, always and everywhere, with that theological system whose most fitting material symbol is Plymouth rock, while yet it maintains, always and everywhere, that simple and spiritualizing form of polity which is in such perfect keeping with the doctrine which it enshrines; by uniting the firmness and solidity of the æcumenical symbol with the freedom and flexibility of the local — church, Congregationalism will receive the “ God speed” of the church universal. Go where it may, upon this continent or upon other continents, it will hear from the lips of the worn and weary penitent, the warm words of the hymn :
“ Brethren! where your altar burns,
Oh! receive me into rest."
We have thus, Brethren and Fathers, considered some of the reasons for the cultivation, among ourselves, of a stronger symbolical feeling, and a bolder confidence in creed-statements. In so doing, we are well aware that we tread upon difficult ground. In the minds of some, the symbol has come to be associated with rigid, and more or less monarchical forms of church polity. The adoption of an exact denominational creed seems to carry with it the renun. ciation of Congregational freedom, and to pave the way for judicatures, and a central government in the church.
But there is no necessary connection between strict doctrine and high-church polity. Each subject stands, or falls, upon its own merits. No one will deny that John Owen was as thorough a Calvinist as ever drew breath; and that he was as thorough a Congregationalist is equally certain. What hinders any denomination from being inspired with the very spirit of Dort and Westminster, so far as doctrine is concerned, while yet it cleaves to the most democratic republicanism in polity?
For this matter of doctrine is an inward conviction, a voluntary adoption, if it is anything at all. The denominational symbol is not to be forced upon a denomination. It cannot be. It must be the free act, the self-chosen creed, of the churches. Hence we have spoken of a symbolical feel. ing, a denominational confidence and respect towards creeds, rather than of any particular measure, or method, by which a symbol might be cunningly insinuated into a church, or sprung upon it as a surprise. That which is inward and spiritual must first exist, in order to that which is outward and formal. · While, therefore, we would not, if we could, impose and inflict a creed upon any unwilling church, we confess that we would, if we could, inspire every church upon the globe, with an intelligent and cordial affection for that “ form of sound words,” around which the sublimest recollections of the church militant have clustered, and out of which its purest and best religious experience has sprung.
To deepen a feeling which already exists in Congregationalism; to strengthen a confidence which has never died out, has been the purpose of these remarks. Whether this feeling and confidence should once more give itself expression in the formal action of the denomination is a question that will be answered variously. But will not all agree that the action of the denomination at Cambridge, and Boston, and Saybrook, has never been repudiated; that if Congregationalisin has any corporate existence, and any organic life, by which it maintains its identity from generation to generation, it is still comnitted to the symbols that were then and there made public. Shall we not do well, then, to cherish the recollection of what was done when the foundations of the Puritan church were laid in this Western world ? Associated and assembled, as we are, to collect and preserve the memorials of our denominational history, ought we not, more than ever, to think of, and prize, that system of truth which has made us historic, which has given us our position among the churches of Christ in the world, which is the secret of our active and tenacious vitality, and without which we should long ago have crumbled and disappeared like the seven churches of Asia ?
NOTICES OF NEW PUBLICATIONS.
1. — Rawlinson's HERODOTUS. The full title of this work, which we give in the note below, clearly indicates its character and object. The first two volumes have already been received in this country, and the others may be expected soon. They are beautifully printed and illustrated ; they are books which are a real delight to the eye, and the only pain which they give is from their price. The work is very appropriately dedicated to Rt. Hon. E. W. Gladstone,who finds time, in his superabundant activity, to devote himself to statesmanship, to theol. ogy, and to classical learning ; and has recently, for his own amusement, amid the turmoil of political life, written three ponderous and beautiful volumes on Homer. A fit companion to this English Herodotus is the splen
1 The History of Herodotus: a new English Version, edited with copious Notes and Appendices illustrating the History and Geography of Herodotus, from the most recent sources of information, and embodying the chief results, historical and ethnographical, which have been obtained in the progress of cuneiform and hieroglyphical discovery. By the Rev. G. Rawlinson, M. A., assisted by Sir Hen. Rawlinson and Sir J. G. Wilkinson. In 4 vols. Vol. I. (Book I.) Svo. pp. 698. Vol. II. (Books II. and III.) pp. 616. London, Murray. 185. per volume.