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lives, and they think they would rather make no profession than do this; or they wish to wait and be sure that they are fully decided before they take this step, lest they also should wound the cause of Christ. Or, instead of inquiring what the Bible requires of young Christians, they are waiting for some special impressions to guide them in their path, and not receiving them they are content to neglect a public confession of Christ. Perhaps there are some obstacles in the way of their being baptized. They may expect opposition, and they shrink from the conflict
; or they may settle down in the opinion that “a man may be just as good a Christian out of the church as in it.” We have sometimes been asked the question, “ Cannot one be a Christian without joining the church?” To this there is only one an
As we believe that no one should be admitted to the church unless he is a Christian, it follows that we believe there are Christians out of the church. But can they grow while remaining outside, as they can by entering it? Let experience and observation answer.
We admit that there are many in the church who are not as consistent, earnest, and active, as they ought to be. But look among all those who profess to have been converted, and who from any of the causes we have named, deliberately and persistently neglect to make a public confession of faith in Christ, and see if you can find one earnest, active, growing Christian among them.
Next comes the neglect of other religious duties. We have referred to the fact that the powers of body and mind need to be used in order to physical and mental development. It is equally necessary that the Christian use means in order to his spiritual development. God has appointed such means and, if they are neglected, it follows, as a matter of course, that the Christian character will not be fully developed. If the closet is an unfrequented place, if the word of God is not read and studied, if trifles serve as excuses for absence from public worship and from the social meeting, and if constant attendance at the Lord's supper is thought unnecessary, then it is no wonder that the neglecter does not grow, and that he persuades himself that growth is not to be expected. We
e are aware that there are differences as to the talents which men possess. God dispenses these talents in different proportions, “ dividing to every man severally as he will !” But there is also a great difference as to the use which men make of the talents given them. No one knows what he is able to do till he tries. There was a time when those who are now strong and active in the service of God, were weak and feeble. An effort to do a thing will often carry with it the power to do it; and continued efforts to do little things will increase our power for performing great ones. The use of each one of these different means of which we have spoken will have an extended and a reactive influence. The study of the Bible will not only increase our knowledge of spiritual things, but this increase of knowledge will lead to prayer, thankfulness, and watchfulness, and to Christian activity. Prayer and its attendant duties will not only increase our piety, but this increase of piety will lead to a desire to know more and to do more. And Christian activity will not only develop spiritual strength and lead to usefulness, but the possession of this strength will incline to the study of the Bible, and to prayer.
Thus our spiritual development may continue and progress. We shall not come into a condition from which we cannot develop more fully. We shall not reach a bound beyond which we cannot pass. We shall not attain a height from whence we cannot ascend higher. But we shall be “rooted and grounded in love;" “ we shall become strong in the Lord;" we shall be strengthened with might by his spirit in the inner man,” and we shall “be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth and length, and depth and height, and to know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge." And with all our acquirements, however large and extended they may be, we shall still be disposed to say:
“O for a closer walk with God,
A higher, holier frame,
That leads me to the Lamb.
ART. VIII.DOCTRINE AND POLITY OF THE FREE
The division of the Protestant Churches into a considerable number of different denominations is often complained of as a scandal and accepted as an element of weakness. The Romish Church boasts of its long continued unity as a proof that it holds all essential truth, that it shares the constant guardianship of God, and that it must be an instrument of controlling power. It points at the schisms and feuds of Protestant Christendom as an evidence that a fatal fall must be awaiting that ecclesiastical house which is so split into factions and divided against itself.
* The following article was originally prepared by request and read before an Association of Ministers, in reply to the question, What are the views and peculiarities of the Freewill Baptists? Though presenting nothing specially new or striking, it was thought by the writer that such a plain and connected statement might not be without profit to the readers of the Quarterly, and it is therefore offered for insertion. We sympathize with that view and cordially give it a place.-ED.
But the changeless unity of a fossil is not the highest kind of unity. It may preserve its form, but it does so at the expense of its life. It is fixed because it has changed to stone. And the outward unity of a Church which is secured and maintained, not by an intelligent inward sympathy, but by external pressure, by forbidding independent thought,—by prescribing a creed and forcing it down reluctant throats,—-by frowning upon inquiry and giving all conscientious dissent a martyrdom,—thus strikes at all genuine life, and defeats the very object for which the Church was built. When a Church becomes a sepulchre to bury souls, instead of a school to quicken and consecrate them, it is to be adjudged a nuisance and abated as soon as possible.
A new denomination often springs up as the fruit of a reaction against ecclesiastical tyranny, or appears as an embodied protest against errors that refuse to yield to milder treatment, or is called into life and action by some neglected truth which can get no adequate expression from the lips of existing teachers, and so it summons forward a new speaker that shall send it ringing through the air, and compel attention to its claims. To one or the other of these causes may be referred every new denomination of history that has made any moral mark in the world, and undertaken the accomplishment of any distinct and needed mission. And until there is moral breadth enough in the life of a single denomination to allow all truly religious thinkers room for study, and all truly religious workers fields for effort ; and till there is an appreciative charity that shall both tolerate and welcome all the minor diversities of belief and form that can coëxist with a true Christian spirit, separate religious denominations may be expected to remain and perhaps to multiply; and they may also be looked upon as something better than unmixed evils. When Lot and Abraham cannot work together without contention, it is better that each settle in his own sphere and spend his strength in agriculture, than that they dwell together and wear out their lives even in honest quarrels. If one cannot triumph through believing with Calvin, let him win his victory by working with Arminius. If the liturgy proves a strait-jacket to an aspiring soul, let him journey calmly upward in meditation with George Fox, or mount the chariot of spontaneous fervor with Whitefield and the Wesleys and go speeding to the sun.
In view of what has been said it is easy to infer that the strictly denominational life of the various sects expresses the truth only in part and imperfectly. Each stands chiefly as the symbol of certain truths, or principles, or methods, which others are supposed to ignore or unduly subordinate. Most of them hold the great central truths in common, while the denominational differences often have respect to the less essential characteristics of doctrine and polity. Or the differences may largely result from the different degrees of prominence given to the various elements of denominational life. One exalts a sentiment to the first rank and the controlling position which another puts into a very inferior and uninfluential place; and so the results are various. Nitric acid and atmospheric air are composed of about the same elements, but the different methods of mixture give us quite dissimilar products. So religious denominations, appearing radically unlike when seen in their concrete character and life, often differ very little in the elements which enter into them. One has an abundance of oxygen, and so exhibits a powerful and active vitality; another has a larger percentage of azote, and so is passive, speculative and dreamy.
No denominational life can be properly understood, nor its value fairly estimated, until something at least is known of its origin, history and providential mission. It must be seen in its relation to the special necessities which it seeks to meet, to the errors against which it comes forth to wage war, and to the truths which it undertakes to vocalize and exalt. Its special doctrines will be true or false, in the broad sense of those words, in proportion as these doctrines needed a strong and faithful assertion and secured it; and its polity will be really a right one just as far as it wisely organizes Christian sentiment and energy for an effective service in the field where that polity appears. Luther's tenet of justification by faith, which quickened despairing Europe into a hopeful and energetic life, and threw off the oppressive burden of popish ceremonialism, would have been a poor rallying sentiment for a people festering with the vices of a pharisaic antinomianism. Colonial and State Rights might