Page images

scribed form of administration. There arc countries and states of society undoubtedly where a monarchy may be the form of administration best adapted to secure the proper ends of government; and there are times and lands where these ends would be best secured under a republican or representative administration.

Precisely thus it is in regard to government in the church. It is clear to our apprehension that it cannot be demonstrated to the satisfaction of any person who is strictly impartial and unprejudiced, that any one form of administration has been prescribed. Neither the Presbyterian, nor the Episcopalian, nor the Independent, has been able to demonstrate that the mode of government which he prefers has been prescribed in the Church; and however each may satisfy himself on the subject, he can satisfy neither of the others, nor can he satisfy the world at large. The things which are to be regarded as in this respect essential in the forms of administration in the Church, as in the State, are the following: 1. That there should be government and not anarchy:—a rule of law, and not an administration of will. 2. That there should be freedom (a) in the choice of a government; and (6) under the government:—that is, that men shall be free to choose such a mode of government, provided it be consistent with the great ends of government, as they shall prefer, and that under that government there shall be a just and equal administration of laws; and 3. That there may be variety in the form of government, or an adaptation to a particular age, to a particular country, or to the degrees of civilization that may prevail. If these things are secured, then all is secured that is desirable in the establishment of government in Church or State; and precisely in this way we apprehend, is the subject left in the Bible. But if this be so, then it is clear that there can be no ground of exclusivism, provided the essential things in the organization of the church shall be found:—or in other words, neither Baptist, nor Episcopalian, nor Covenanter can properly exclude others from the claim to be recognized as a church. To justify such exclusivism, it is absolutely necessary to be able to prove that one form, and one only, is prescribed in the Scriptures; a work which never has been done, and which never can be done, any more than that it can be demonstrated by a monarchist, a republican, or an oligarchist, that his own form of civil administration is prescribed in the Bible as the only one under which civil government may be lawfully administered among men.

(b.) In like manner, the modes of devotion, and the measures employed in promoting religion in the world, arc left in a great degree, to the discretion of the church. The general precept is given that, "all things should be done decently and in order," and there arc also general principles laid down to guide us in our devotions. Mohammed, with great ignorance of the nature of men, undertook to specify how often, and precisely at what hours of the day, prayer should be offered; and the consequence is a formal, and hollow, and hypocritical prostration of his followers all over the Mussulman world at certain hours of the day: the form without the spirit of devotion. The Saviour secured the true ends of worship in a better way, and with a profounder knowledge of the nature of man. Secret prayer is, indeed, to be offered:—but how often it is to be offered; in what places and with what forms; in what posture of the body, and whether mentally or audibly; of what length, and for what objects, all these are left to the individual himself. The idea is, that true piety will best regulate all these things, and that where there is real love to God all the proper ends of secret prayer will be secured.—Family prayer is to be offered. But at what time of the day; whether with written forms or with no prescribed form; whether standing or kneeling, all these are left to families themselves to be regulated by their own convenience. The idea here is, that there should be freedom, and that intelligent Christian freedom will secure all that is needful.— Preaching is one of the main ordinances of the Gospel, and is essential to the propagation of religion in the world. But whether there shall be preaching once or twice or oftener, on the Lord's Day; whether only on the Lord's day; whether it shall be with a text or without one; whether it shall be in a house, a grove, or by the road-side; whether it shall be from written notes or extempore; whether the sermon shall be long or short, all these are left to the discretion of the church, to be regulated in the way that shall be found to be most for its edification.—Thus, too, in reference to Psalmody; s

and thus, also, in respect to measures for promoting religion. All "measures" may not be equally wise; and the same may not be adapted to all circumstances, and all times. An "inquiry meeting" may be a wise measure for promoting religion, and it is neither prescribed nor forbidden; an "anxious seat" is neither prescribed nor forbidden, and whether it may or may not be used is manifestly left to the discretion of the church. The essential idea in reference to all this is propriety and freedom; and all such things are left, and should be left, to the sound discretion of the church. There is one class of Christians that will be more edified by the use of forms of prayer than by extempore prayers; there is one class that will be profited by "measures" that would be offensive or useless to others; there may be arrangements fitted to one condition of society, or one class of people, that would be highly inappropriate at any other period, or in reference to another class of persons, and all these, within the general direction, that "all things should be done decently and in order," or that the proprieties of religious service shall not be violated, are left to tin sound discretion of the church.

(c.) The same thing, we think, is true in regard even to the doctrines of religion. We believe, indeed, that there are doctrines essential to salvation, and that those which are essential to salvation should be held, in order that any professed Church should be recognized as a true Church. We do not, we cannot ask, that any Church should be recognized as a true Church where those essential doctrines are not embraced. There must be a limit on this subject; for there is something in which true religion is distinguished from false—something which is essential to the Christian scheme. But what those essential truths are, and in what denominations they are in fact to be found, is not material to the purpose now before us. In the denominations of Churches to which we have reference in this Article, there will be no difference of opinion among themselves as to the question, whether the essential doctrines of religion are held by each of the others, even when they are most exclusive; for the same essential doctrines of Christianity are held in each of those denominations. The ground of exclusivism in either of those denominations, is not the alleged fact that the others have abjured the essential truths of Christianity.

The two things that are material on this point in respect to the organization of the Church, are (a,) that the essential doctrines of religion should be embraced and held; and (£>,) that in respect to those which are not essential, there should be liberty. Christianity is a system, and it is not difficult to make out what is essential to the system; and it is remarkable that in reference to those doctrines which enter essentially into the system, there should be so substantial an agreement among the, different denominations of Christians. The great body of the Protestant world is united on this point; and within the limits of the Episcopal, the Presbyterian, the Baptist, the Methodist, the Lutheran, the Moravian, the Congregational denominations, there would be no question that the essential doctrines of Christianity are found, and that they can all be embraced as a part of the great family of the redeemed.

But is it to be expected that there shall be absolute uniformity in the modes of faith? Are the doctrines of religion so clearly marked and determined in the Bible that there is no room for an honest difference of opinion? Is it better, if there is a difference of opinion in the doctrines of religion, to attempt to unite all Christians into one great body, with those jarring elements within, or that the Church should be divided into different bodies, each holding essential truths, and each endeavoring to propagate its peculiar opinions in its own way? Is the division into sects and denominations, on the basis of difference in doctrine, contrary to the spirit of Christianity, and a thing to be deprecated in reference to the spread of religion in the world? Is it to be hoped or expected that all men will be Calvinists; and if it is not, is it best to unite, under one great organization, those who differ on the doctrines of religion, or is it best that those who think alike should organize themselves into different communities?

We are obliged to defer the remainder of this Article to the next Number.


Lays of the Scottish Cavaliers. Ninth Edition. Bothwell, a Poem. By W. E. Ayton, D. C. L. Edinburgh.

Memorials of His Time. By Henry Cockburn. Edinburgh.

Religion in Common Life. A Sermon preached before the Queen. By Rev. A. Caird. Edinburgh.

The Gospel in Ezekiel. By Rev. T. Guthrie, D. D. Edinburgh.

We offer for consideration in the list of works presented above, what may perhaps be esteemed to be a curious and anomalous combination. The fact that from works produced among the same people such a combination can be formed, is that which we will now seek to explain.

Scotland may, as to its general history, be considered as notable for two things. One of these is the conspicuousness before the world which has been obtained by the facts of its experience as compared with its resources, population, political influence, or geographic position. Though however these incidents have been conspicuous, they have not been well understood, nor have the lessons been clearly set forth which they are fitted to give. The second thing to be noted in the history of Scotland is the set of romantic contrasts as to position and adventure presented in the lives of those who have attracted the attention of men, so that it becomes a mine of incident for the poet to explore, or the novelist to appropriate. It is time that there were a clearer development of the higher and more interesting contrasts of principle which will be found to run through all the experiences of this strange history.

The works quoted above show that these contrasts remain in being, and are conspicuous still. We feel in this country that principles have only shifted their ground. The conflict, in its grander aspects, is not now beside the Clyde and the Forth, but round the romantic channels of the Susquehanna and the mighty streams of the "Father of Waters." Its earlier stages on a narrower battle-ground can never lose their interest here. They have at least not done so yet; for the travesty of Scottish

Vol. v.—37

« PreviousContinue »