Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

and keep their thoughts to themselves, could long maintain consistent felowship?”.... When we see a fellow-Christian in earnest in his inquiries after his Master's will, --- searching the Scriptures, seeking divine direction, discovering an evident desire to know what is right, and to the extent of his knowledge faithfully doing it, -- we are then warranted, nay, more than warranted, we are bound to conclude, that the same conscientiousness has also, and equally, been in exercise in regard to those points on which he has arrived at different conclusions from our own. We may marvel at those conclusions, -- marvel greatly at his not seeing what to us appears so clear. But we must not forget, that his right to wonder is the same as ours. The effect on both sides ought to be, instead of proud and indignant despite of each other's judgments, the exercise of self-diffident humble-mindedness, and the cultivation of reciprocal charity. -- DR. RALPH WARDLAW : A Catholic Spirit ; in Essays on Christian Union, pp. 316, 332–5.

It is painful to think, that, amid sentiments breathing so just and divine a spirit, and so happily fitted to promote good-will and union among all who acknowledge one and the same Lord and Master, this celebrated writer should have felt obliged, by his views of Christian doctrine, to say, p. 317, that “from the pale of the Christianity within which the spirit of catholic love is to be cherished, those must, of necessity, be excluded who hold and avow the principles of Socinianism ;” that is, such persons as are improperly called by this name, namely, believers in one only God the Father, and in his Son and Servant, the man Christ Jesus. The Essay from which we have taken the above extract is one of eight, severally penned by CHALMERS, BALMER, CANDLISH, JOHN ANGELL JAMES, DAVID KING, WARDLAW, STRUTHERS, and SYMINGTON, - divines all more or less noted both in their own land and in the United States. These Essays, written in 1844 at the suggestion of a friend to Christian union, abound in good common sense, united with an earnest piety, and a feeling of intense desire for the prevalence of kinder dispositions and more liberal modes of operation than at present exist in “evangelical” or orthodox churches; but we regret to say, that the charity which they exhibit, catholic as it assumes to be, is so narrow as to exclude those “worshippers of the Father," through the mediation of the Son and the influences of the Spirit, in whose society have been enrolled the names of Carpenter and Channing, of Ware and of Norton, - gifted and good men, who, if they were not acknowledged on earth as co-workers with a Chalmers, a Balmer, and a Wardlaw in the same great cause, - that of a common Christianity, — are, we trust, recognized in heaven by them as fellow-saints and fellow-disciples, now that they have each left the scene of their earthly labors, and gone to another and a holier sphere of God's universe, where the differences that separated them here from each other are probably all unknown.

SECT. IV.

THE DUTY OF HOLDING INTERCOURSE AND COMMUNION

WITH CHRISTIANS OF ALL DENOMINATIONS, AND OF LOVING ALL

MANKIND.

Oh, might we all our lineage prove,
Give and forgive, do good and love,
By soft endearments in kind strife
Lightening the load of daily life!

KEBB.

Let church union and communion be laid upon none but catholic terms, which are possible and fit for all to be agreed in. Common reason will tell any impartial man, that there can be no more effectual engine to divide the churches, and raise contentions and persecutions, than to make laws for church communion, requiring such conditions as it is certain the members cannot consent to.... If ever the churches agree, and Christians be reconciled, it must be by leaving out all dividing impositions, and requiring nothing as necessary to commumunion, which all may not rationally be expected to consent in. RICHARD BAXTER: Practical Works, vol. vi. pp. 186–7.

BAXTER did not regard differences of opinion on various doctrinal questions, or respecting church government, of much importance, while he could regard the parties as real Christians, and disposed to live in peace with others.

with others. To these two points he considered all other things subordinate. Christian fellowship, with him, was not the fellowship of Calvinists or Arminians, of Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Independents, or Baptists: it was the fellowship of Christians, holding the one faith and hope of our Lord Jesus Christ, in unity of spirit, and righteousness of life. This is the only catholic communion which is worth contending for; and which, it cannot be doubted, will, in due time, absorb all other party distinctions and disputes. ... ... His (BAXTER'S] catholic principle of fellowship with all genuine Christians is better understood than it was; though even yet, alas! but partially adopted as a principle, and still more imperfectly exemplified in practice. It implies not indifference to truth, but devoted attachment to it. It involves union without compromise, and co-operation without sacrifice of consistency. It recognizes the exclusive claims of divine authority in religion, and the unquestionable rights of conscience; securing for each individual the power of acting according to his own convictions, while it requires him to concede no less to others. It will ultimately effect what acts of uniformity have hitherto failed to produce, and which will never be brought about either by compulsory measures of state, or stormy controversies in the church. A greater portion of the spirit of Christ, and a brighter manifestation of his holy image, will do more to unite all his disciples, than the most perfect theory of church government that has yet been recommended, or forced on the world. When this blessed period of love and union shall arrive, the services of BAXTER, as the indefatigable advocate of catholic communion, will not be forgotten. WILLIAM ORME, in his edition of Baxter's Practical Works, vol. i. pp. 584, 613.

The preceding abstract of Richard Baxter's sentiments on Christian liberty and communion is supported by innumerable passages in the writings of that noble-minded Puritan. In p. 574 of the same volume, ORME, who seems to have caught the true spirit of his hero, makes on this subject other observations, which are deserving of perusal.

I have always found, that, when men of sense and virtue mingle in free conversation, the harsh and confused suspicions which they may have entertained of each other gradually give way to more just and more candid sentiments. In reality, the example of many great and good men averts every imputation of impropriety from such intercourse; and the information which I have myself occasionally gained by conversing with learned teachers of many different sects will always make me remember with satisfaction, and acknowledge with thankfulness, the favor which they have done to me by their unreserved and judicious communications. ... In truth, men of improved understandings and rooted virtue do not suffer difference of opinion to give them unfavorable impressions of each other. ... ... Will the reviewer suspect me of any predilection for infidelity and disloyalty, ... because in the exoteric and esoteric doctrines of the English church I have met with no rule by which I am pledged to entertain any hatred whatsoever to Dissenters, whether Protestant or Catholic; because, “ as much as lieth in me, I would live," and exhort others to live, “ peaceably with” the Lutheran, Greek, Roman, and Genevan churches, and all other Christian societies; or, finally, because with the light of natural religion, and in the spirit of revealed, I think it my duty to be

kindly affectioned towards all Jews, Turks, infidels,” schismatics, “ and heretics," as belonging to "one" great “ fold under" the care of "one" good · Shepherd"? How does the sacred and indispensable duty of doing good, especially unto those of the household of • faith,” absolve me from the obligation to do good, if it be possible, to all other men ? Are they not endowed, like myself

, with rational faculties, capable of physical happiness and social union; and placed, or at least believed by me to be placed, in a state of discipline, as subjects of reward or punishment in a life to come? Why, then, should I “ judge them," or " set them at nought;" or, by my intolerance, “throw stumbling-blocks in their way" to the adoption of that religion which I have embraced as true ? — DR. SAMUEL PARR: Works, vol. iii. pp. 275-6; and vol. iv. pp. 509–19.

The practice of incorporating private opinions and human inventions with the constitution of a church, and with the terms of communion, has long appeared to him [the writer) untenable in its principle, and pernicious in its effects. There is no position in the whole compass of theology, of the truth of which he feels a stronger persuasion, than that no man or set of men are entitled to prescribe, as an indispensable condition of communion, what the New Testament has not enjoined as a condition of salvation...... It [the Lord's Supper) is appointed to be a memorial of the greatest instance of love that was ever exhibited, as well as the principal pledge of Christian fraternity. It must appear surprising that the rite which of all others is most adapted to cement mutual attachment, and which is in a great measure appointed for that purpose, should be fixed upon as the line of demarcation, the impassable barrier, to separate and disjoin the followers of Christ. ... According to this notion of it, it is no longer a symbol of our common Christianity: it is the badge and criterion of a party, a mark of discrimination applied to distinguish the nicer shades of difference among Christians. ROBERT HALL: Preface and Introductory Remarks to Terms of Communion; in Works, vol. i. pp. 285, 291.

What I, above all other things, wish to see is a close union between Christian reformers and those who are often, as I think, falsely charged with being enemies of Christianity. It is a part of the perfection of the gospel, that it is attractive to all those who love truth and goodness, as soon as it is known in its true nature, whilst it tends to clear away those erroneous views and evil passions with which philanthropy and philosophy, so long as they stand aloof from it, are ever in some degree corrupted. My feeling towards men whom I believe to be sincere lovers of truth and the happiness of their fellow-creatures, while they seek these ends otherwise than through the medium of the gospel, is rather that they are not far from the kingdom of God, and might be brought into it altogether, than that they are enemies whose views are directly opposed to our own. DR. THOMAS ARNOLD : Letter 26; in Life and Correspondence, pp. 72–3.

It was a sad defect of the Reformation, and a disastrous error of the reformers, that, with all their sublime conceptions of Christian liberty, as they maintained it against Papal intolerance and oppression, they did not understand the wide extent to which it ought to be maintained against themselves and against one another.

Having abolished the despotism of the Papacy, they did not clearly see that the church only wanted the lordship of Christ. They thought they must settle terms of communion, and rules of faith, which Christ and the apostles had not settled. The great law of church fellowship and communion is contained in Rom. xiv. 1, "Him that is weak in the faith receive, but not to doubtful disputations." Christ received all that came.

We hear of no applicants for church privileges being rejected by the apostles. ... The gospel is an institute of faith and knowledge, but it is still more an institute of love and holiness. With an open Bible in hand, and the laws of love and liberty on our lips, and the rights and obligations of independent private judgment on the forefront of all our religious movements, how can we set up bars and gates to shut out of our own particular enclosures of the church of Christ, the weak and ignorant, and erring in faith, whom, nevertheless, God accepts, and with whom the Holy Spirit deigns to dwell? How can we be guilty of such arrogance and inconsistency? How can we allow ourselves thus to sin against our weak brethren, and put stumbling-blocks both in their way and in the way of sinners ? How can we so belie our professions, and dishonor our Master, whose living and dying charge it was, that we should love one another as he loved us; and whose prayer it was, in the immediate view of his crucifixion, that we may all be one, even as he and the Father are one; that we may be one in them? John xvü. 21. ... When Unitarianism arose, it was made a question, both in Europe and America, whether it should be tolerated as an allowable diversity of opinion, or expose its subjects to separation and excommunication. The subject of the precise character and relations of Christ had been long debated in the ancient church, and had been the occasion of sanguinary wars and persecutions. ... Under these circumstances, it is not strange that it was a matter of regret with many, that the controversy concerning the character of Christ should be revived in modern times, and that there was a general disposition to prohibit dissent on this subject in most Protestant churches. ... The Presbyterian churches in England, Switzerland, and France, adopted the same principle of toleration as the church of England; and Unitarianism gained the ascendancy among

« AnteriorContinuar »