« AnteriorContinuar »
shine. "An' after it begun to snow we could n't see nothin' anyhow, partic'larly when everything was all covered up."
"Well," added Mrs. Lecks in conclusion, "as we did n't see the shed, it's a comfort to think there was reasons for it, and that we are not born fools."
It was now growing dark, and but few further communications took place through the little tunnel.
"Before we get ready to go to sleep," said Mrs. Aleshine, "for, havin' no candles, I guess we won't sit up late, had n't we better rig up some kind of a little sled to put in that hole, with strings at both ends, so that we kin send in mustard-plasters and peppermint to them poor people if they happen to be sick in the night?"
This little project was not considered necessary, and after receiving assurances from the gentleman on the other side that he would be able to keep his party warm until morning, we bade each other good-night, and after hav
ing replenished the fire, I got into the stage, where my companions had already established themselves in their corners. I slept very little, while I frequently went out to attend to the fire, and my mind was racked by the most serious apprehensions. Our food was nearly gone, and if relief did not come to us very soon I could see nothing but a slow death before us, and, so far as I could imagine, therewas no more reason to expect succor on the following day than there had been on the one just passed. Where were the men to be found who could cut a road to us through those miles of snow-drifts?
Very little was said during the night by my companions, but I am sure that they felt the seriousness of our situation, and that their slumbers were broken and unrefreshing. If there had been anything to do Mrs. Lecks and Mrs. Aleshine would have been cheered up by the prospect of doing it: but we all felt that there was nothing we could do.
THE UNITED CHURCHES OF THE UNITED STATES. NO. II.
A REVIEW OF THE CENTURY LETTERS ON CHRISTIAN UNITY.
HE readers of THE CENTURY will remember that the article published in THE CENTURY for Nov., 1885, entitled "The United Churches of the United States" was in no sense representative of denominational views, as held in any church or party, but was simply an independent survey of all Christian denominations with their existing grounds of organic unity in doctrine, polity, and worship. The essay was written with no thought whatever of the criticism which has been converged upon it in these pages by champions of the different churches. It has been under discussion for some months past, until nearly all the interested parties have been fully heard. In now offering a brief reply, I might regret the seeming odds of a battle with so many giants at once, did I not hope to stay out of the battle as much as possible, and keep to the main question, in which alone the public can be interested. A mere controversy on Christian unity would indeed be but a sorry absurdity.
As it has been strangely assumed that the essay put forth some new-made scheme of denominational union, in particular a formal coalition on the basis of the Anglican prayer
book, I beg to recall with emphasis my introductory statement:
"We are not yet ready for such schemes, and it would only be a waste of time to discuss them. The first ican churches, if it is ever to come at all, cannot be precipitated by platforms, coalitions, compromises, in short by any mere external association of the different nal modification and vital connection, as true and living denominations, which leaves them still without interbranches of the Vine of Christ."
lesson to be learned is that the unification of the Amer
In pursuance of this statement, the former paper was a mere historical sketch of the unconscious growth of leading American churches towards organic likeness and oneness, as seen especially in their liturgical communion. The plain facts presented in that sketch have not been denied by any of the distinguished respondents, and all the objections to some supposed liturgical scheme of union have, therefore, been but so many formidable javelins hurled into the air. The position taken was briefly this: Our chief historical churches have long been reacting towards the Protestant catholicism expressed in the English prayerbook. That position has not even been assailed or questioned. Here the case might rest, if the aim had been to succeed in an argument rather than to arrive at the truth.
But while the critics of the essay have seemed
somewhat to differ from it, they have much more largely agreed with it, and with one another, and have thus revealed a remarkable consensus of opinions, upon which we may now build up a constructive argument for the continued growth of church unity in the future. To this task the present paper is mainly devoted. If it shall be performed even imperfectly, the protracted discussion will not have been in vain.
We have seen that the various ecclesiastical and quasi-ecclesiastical or pseudo-ecclesiastical bodies of which our American Christianity is composed may be studied in three general groups or classes, according to the principles prevailing in their structure: The Episcopal, including the Roman Catholic, Methodist, and Protestant Episcopal churches; the Presbyterial, including the Lutheran, Reformed, and Presbyterian churches; the Congregational, including the Baptist, Orthodox, and Unitarian churches. Representative divines in each group have spoken through these columns on the question of Christian union or church unity, and thus furnished the materials for a full comparison of views. Let us take them in the order which we have adopted.
THE Right Rev. Bishop Dudley and the Rev. Dr. J. H. Hopkins, of the Protestant Episcopal Church, have treated the essay with great kindness, justice, and clearness. They both admit substantially its general conclusions-that full dogmatic agreement is still a long way off, and that the liturgical fusion, which has begun, is but a desirable first step towards true church unity. But, as to the matter of polity, they consistently hold that Episcopacy affords the only basis or form of organic oneness. Against this opinion will be urged several consider
First. That forms of doctrine and worship, as well as polity, are ecclesiastical elements affording grounds or germs of organic unity, and are much more important than any mere polity, though it were imagined to be of the most perfect Episcopal form.
Second. That as a matter of fact the Episcopal polity, though common to the Greek, Roman, and Anglican churches, is but little known in the Protestant churches of Europe and America.
Third. That Presbytery, rather than Episcopacy, is the one polity which by common consent has continued historically, from the apostles' time until the present day, in all the chief churches of Christendom, both Catholic and Protestant.
as maintained in these letters, is not allowed by other Protestant churches, nor by the Roman Catholic Church, and is practically viewed by both as involving organized schism rather than organic unity.
Fifth. That instead of seeking a remote alliance with the Greek and Latin churches, it were better to begin with some organic connection of the kindred English-speaking Protestant churches, Congregational, Presbyterial, and Episcopal, and on the basis of their common Anglo-Saxon Christianity to aim at the more general unity of Christendom.
Whether these views be right or wrong, they are existing matters of opinion which must enter into the present discussion, as may appear hereafter. It is a very pleasing feature of both of these letters that they breathe an earnest Christian desire and hope of ultimate church unity.
The Rev. Dr. George R. Crooks, of the Methodist Episcopal Church, also writes in a union spirit and is in accord with the essay on some essential points, with differences which seem mainly verbal. Mistaking the word organic, as hitherto defined and used, he applies it to that figurative organism or mystical body of Christ in which all true Christians are joined as members, rather than to those ecclesiastical organizations or organized churches which are not one, but many, and more or less hostile to each other. Organic oneness, in the former sense of one Christian body, is indeed an established fact, and happily a fact that goes without the saying in these papers, since they would scarcely be possible but for its tacit assumption; but organic oneness, in the common sense of one church organization, is unhappily not a fact; and though such unity be not deemed vital or fundamental, yet it may be important, if not indispensable, as will hereafter be shown. Doctor Crooks also mistakes the term Catholic for" Roman Catholic," and is thereby led into a view of the relations of Protestantism and Catholicism which may be modified by one or two suggestions.
First. True Catholicism, if defined to be historic Christianity as freed from Roman errors, is not inconsistent with "New Testament Christianity," but is the choicest fruit of its own divine development in history. The Protestants themselves, as their name implies, did not wholly renounce it; nor can we renounce it, unless we are ready for the frightful theory that during fifteen centuries from the apostles' time until the Reformation there was no church or Providence, but only one long reign of sin and Satan.
Second. Such Catholic Christianity is in fact more or less fully retained by Protestant Fourth. That the claim to an Apostolate, churches in their forms of doctrine, polity, and
worship, which are not to be found clearly set forth in the New Testament, but are very largely an outgrowth from it in church history under divine Providence. The Methodist Church, for example, has a modified episcopate, liturgy, and articles, which it inherited directly from the Church of England, remotely from the Church of Rome, though without other accompanying dogmas held in those churches.
Third. The Protestant body in its recoil from Romanism may have gone too far away from Catholicism into such extremes as sectarianism, rationalism, and revivalism; but a healthy reaction has already begun, as we have shown, in regard to the historic liturgy, and it may yet extend to the other diseases or abuses of Protestantism, until a true church unity shall have taken the place of our sectarianism, and our latest rationalism at length give way to the vindicated Catholic faith.
Fourth. The Roman Church and the chief Protestant churches, notwithstanding their wide differences, rest primarily upon the same Holy Scriptures and share largely the same Catholic Christianity; and it is at least conceivable that in the lapse of time, by the transmuting force of American institutions, and under the pressure of common dangers, they may be brought slowly together from their present extremes, having shed their respective errors until at last they join in the one essential faith of Protestant Catholicism as the full flower of New Testament Christianity. Professor Crooks himself argues very forcibly that the chief Roman dogma of sacerdotal supremacy is doomed to die out, both in Church and State, in the wake of political causes; and he may thus refute his own imaginary picture of an immediate crude coalition of" Romanists and Protestants in one ecclesiastical government."
Fifth. The English liturgy, as we have seen, affords the grounds and germs of such a gradual coalescence of Protestant with Catholic Christianity in the American churches; and when the Methodist Episcopal Church completes its reaction with the rest, the Wesleyan prayer-book, instead of lying a nullity, will serve to bring it into more visible communion and organic connection with the other great historic churches of Christendom.
Dr. Crooks, as a representative of episcopacy without apostolical succession, finds no organic bond between the Greek, Latin, and Anglican churches, but hopes for some closer union of the Protestant churches, to be reached by recognizing their essential spiritual unity as a divine fact, by acknowledging one another's churchly standing in their intercourse, and by coming into more organic coöperation for the great ends of their common Christianity.
THE two representatives of the Presbyterian Church have reviewed the essay from different standpoints. The late Dr. Archibald Alexander Hodge, as if with a prophetic utterance, and in an elevated Christian tone befitting the theme, discussed the doctrine of the invisible Catholic Church, and set forth in glowing terms its unbroken unity, as including not merely all true believers on earth, but the whole company of the redeemed in heaven. The surviving disputants may well recognize such doctrine as common ground, while still taking to themselves the reproach that the visible church as yet so little reflects the glorious oneness of the church invisible. Unhappily, our existing denominations cannot be viewed merely as so many harmonious groups of organized churches, or legitimate varieties of church organization, dwelling together in manifest unity. Having been largely produced by warring sects and factions, excommunicating and unchurching one another, they exhibit an apparent dismemberment of the very body of Christ, which has become the great flagrant scandal of our age and country, and has made it the plain duty as well as impulse of all Christian people to seek for more outward organic unity, as well as to hail the providential signs of its inward growth and expression. In any other view, we could only adjourn our questions of doctrine to the millennium, and wait until we may all join in the perfect liturgy of heaven. Practically, indeed, this is the course taken by some extremists who would consecrate mere denominationalism, extenuate sectarianism, and make schism itself chronic, in the face of their own false dormant ideal of an invisible Catholic Church.
In contrast with such errors, Dr. Hodge has impressively shown that the various church organizations, through the indwelling Spirit, will yet grow together toward a true organic unity, consistent with due variety, as but so many members in the one mystical body of Christ. And the latter part of his letter refers to such unity in the three organic spheres of doctrine, polity, and worship. As to the first, his hopeful view of the dogmatic consensus of Protestant Trinitarian churches is a most valuable and timely contribution to the general argument for church unity, and would be only more complete could it include, on the basis of a common American Christianity, those Unitarian churches which express the flower of Puritan culture, as well as that great Roman Catholic Church which is already in the lead on such social questions as marriage, temperance, education, and property. As to the second opinion, that unity in polity would be
more difficult than unity in dogma, I have nothing to add to the former paper, except what may be found in the sequel. As to the third, it may be said that the argument from numbers against the growth of liturgical communion, like most statistical arguments, can be used on both sides of the question, and will probably be met from the other side by such answers as the following:
First. That the liturgical churches of Christendom outnumber in membership the non-liturgical churches as three or four to one.
Second. That in this country it is the least ecclesiastical denominations, the evanescent sects, that are without liturgical tendencies, as they are also crude in their doctrine and polity; while only the historical churches, of European origin, can yield the proper data of the church problem, and these are vitally connected with the contents of the English liturgy in a ratio of forty or fifty to one. Moreover, as we have seen, they are already, knowingly or unknowingly, resuming elements and portions of that liturgy in their worship, and logically tend to it as the best devotional formulary of Catholic and Protestant Christianity.
This starts the only question in the other letter demanding attention. In meeting it, I must reluctantly forsake, for the moment, an independent position, and come down to the denominational ground which the critic has taken. The Rev. Dr. Howard Crosby, declaring himself an out-and-out Presbyterian, offers seven objections to the prayer-book as received opinions in the Presbyterian Church. With due respect, I am obliged to say that not one of them has any foundation in the recognized standards of that body. My replies must be brief.
First. The Directory for Public Worship (ch. v.) does not "object to the stereotyped prayer, however excellent," but does object to "mean, irregular, or extravagant effusions, as a disgrace of Divine service." Such effusions, becoming themselves stereotyped, are worse than any "open-eyed reading of prayer," and in fact sometimes open the eyes of the unhappy listeners.
Second. The Larger Catechism (Q. 186188) does not object to the invocation, peroration, and well-ordered brief petitions which it finds in the Lord's Prayer as being "too artificial and tending to a mechanical mode of worship"; but it does prescribe the right use of that liturgical form and didactic model of common prayer. To repeat it at least once in each public office is not treating it" as a mere magical formula," but is keeping strictly within the scriptural rubric, When ye pray, say Our Father.
Third. The Shorter Catechism (Q. 99) also
enjoins the whole word of God as a rule of prayer; and if therefore any "Presbyterians object to the Litany in toto as putting the believer far off from God and calling on Him to spare him as a miserable sinner," they simply object with the Pharisee to the very words of the contrite Publican, as well as to the penitential prayers of priest and people weeping between the porch and the altar. If they object to its devout repetitions as " unmeaning," they must object to the like repetitions in Holy Scripture. If they could object to its solemn pleadings and tender entreaties and manifold intercessions as" having no feature suited to the child of God or joint heir with Christ," they would object to the supplications of the prophets and apostles themselves. But before they object to its scriptural petition against sudden death as "a relic of Romanism," they should consult the Roman original (a subitanea et improvisa morte) or the Anglo-Saxon version. (a subita et eterna morte). They might also profitably consider the beams in their own extempore litanies, the "irreverent," the "sarcastic," the "tedious prayers," etc., of which that accomplished Presbyterian divine, Dr. Samuel Miller, speaks in his useful treatise.
Fourth. The Form of Government (ch. iii. v.) does not "hold that all believers are priests in the sense of being ministers, or that "a minister is only an ordained ruler and leader of the people, with no more authority to pronounce absolution upon the penitent than any one who is not a minister"; but it does most plainly distinguish him from the mere representatives of the people as a minister of Christ and ambassador from God, declaring pardon in Christ's stead. The Confession also (ch. xxx.) names among his high functions, "power to open the kingdom of heaven unto penitent sinners by the ministry of the Gospel, and by absolution from censures, as occasion shall require." Consistently with such teaching, the declarative Absolution, prefixed to the English daily service, is simply an authoritative proclamation of the Gospel, made solemn and direct by a special act of worship on the part both of minister and people. If any Presbyterians are thoughtless enough to object to that formula as "a remnant of the Roman Absolution," they should be informed that its very motive was as Protestant as its meaning; that it was first suggested by Calvin himself; that it was taken very largely from a Calvinistic liturgy; and that it was alternatively called the Absolution or Remission of sins, in deference to Puritan scruples against a word of Popish sound.
Fifth. The Confession of Faith (ch. xxviii.) does not "abhor the doctrine of baptismal regeneration" as rightly stated, but does de
clare it a "great sin to contemn this ordinance," guards carefully against the abuse of it, and defines it as a "sign and seal of regeneration even unto infants" (Q. 177). And the Baptismal Offices merely express the substantial sense of this definition in strong liturgical terms. Any Presbyterians who abhor such doctrine may find it discreetly maintained by that saintly man, the late Dr. Archibald Alexander, in the second chapter of his work on religious experience. As to the Holy Supper, the Confession takes some higher views of the Real Presence than can anywhere be found in the English communion office. In fact, the only "remnant of transubstantiation" that 'appears in that office is a solemn ordinance against it as "idolatry to be abhorred of all faithful Christians." Presbyterians who are horrified at such a rag of popery will have their horror increased on learning that the stringent rubric was first procured by that uncompromising reformer, John Knox, in 1552, and fully confirmed at the last revision in 1661, according to Mr. Procter's history of the prayer-book, "in compliance with the wishes of the Presbyterians."
Sixth. The chiefframers of the above-named standards, though certainly "not in love with the Episcopal liturgy" as it was imposed upon them by the Act of Uniformity two centuries ago, protested that they had "not the least thought of depraving or reproaching the Book of Common Prayer," but wished only to "avoid both the extreme that would have no forms and the contrary extreme that would have nothing but forms";* and their. exceptions to the prayer-book, in matters of mere usage and taste as well as principle, like some of the objections before us, have long since been fully met by the changed conditions of American Presbyterianism, which now neither enjoins nor forbids the use of a liturgy.
Seventh. The Presbyterian Book of Common Prayer affords a summary refutation to Dr. Crosby's objections, all and each of them. Among the legal revisers of the English liturgy in 1661 were the very authors of the Presbyterian formularies, such as Anthony Tuckney, Regius Professor of Divinity at Cambridge, who had written nearly the whole of the Larger Catechism; John Wallis, Savilian Professor of Geometry at Oxford, who had been secretary to the Westminster divines, and had himself prepared the Shorter Catechism; Edward Reynolds, afterwards Bishop of Norwich and author of the General Thanksgiving, who had composed the most important parts of
* Documents of Revision, 1661.
The Book of Common Prayer, as amended by the Presbyterian Divines in the Royal Commission of
the Confession of Faith; Edmund Calamy, the very leader of the Presbyterian clergy, who with Spurstow, Newcomen, and Arrowsmith had been in the Assembly's committees that framed the Directory of Worship and Church Government; to say nothing of the learned Lightfoot, the silver-tongued Bates, the saintly Baxter, and other great Presbyterian scholars and martyrs whose praise is in all the churches. The emendations and exceptions of such men, duly modified by American authorities, precedents, and usages, yield an edition of the prayer-book to which no Presbyterian can bring any objections whatever without taking the ground from under his feet. Dr. Crosby, as an out-and-out Presbyterian, will henceforth become a valiant champion, not merely of the prayer-book, but of that church unity which is an essential principle of Presbyterian polity as well as the flower of Christian charity.
Resuming now our task, we may sum up Presbyterian opinion, according to the teaching of Dr. Hodge, as based upon the inward spiritual oneness of the churches, yet looking forward to their outward organic oneness, still to be attained through the slow ripening of their knowledge, love, and zeal, and other graces of the Holy Spirit.
THE letters of the two learned divines representing the Orthodox Congregational churches, though making no allusion to the essay, admit of a logical connection with it as affording. valuable opinions needed to complete this survey. President Seelye, of Amherst College, gives a profoundly spiritual view of the fellowship of saints and of churches, and likens the universal church to the universal state, as being one in its essence, though manifold in its forms, Congregational, Presbyterial, Episcopal, and as tending finally to a Christian theocracy, in which the autonomy of the particular church shall be consistent with the autocracy of the universal church.
Professor Fisher, of Yale College, in his more practical and very suggestive letter, maintains that, since the decree of Papal infallibility, Christian union is practicable only among Protestant denominations; and he finds three obstacles to such union-in the reigning dogmatic intolerance, in the prevalent ritual diversity, especially as to the rite of baptism, and in the divine-right theory of church government as held by Episcopalians, Presbyterians, and some Congregationalists. At the same time, he admits that a mere governmental, as
1661, and in agreement with the Directory for Public Worship of the Presbyterian Church in the United States. With a supplementary treatise.