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pathy for Mr. Parker would have seemed to express an exceptional regard for that gentleman, and thus have misrepresented the fraternity, falsifying all its past. Other names might, as Dr. Furness suggests, to avoid singularity, have been coupled with Mr. Parker's in this resolution. But the aim of the mover, which was, as we suppose, to signalize the individual, would appear in spite of the amendment, the shift of which would have been transparent. Nor would such an amendment have covered the past. An association, it is true, and especially one of liberal Christians, should not be tied to foregone uses; but equally true is it, that such an association, in establishing a precedent, should have due regard to the fitness and claims, considered in relation to their own antecedents and objects, of the case selected for the new example. We believe the feeling entertained for Mr. Parker by the great majority of the liberal clergy of this country is one not only of perfect tolerance, but of pure good-will, unmixed with any root of bitterness. In the phrase of Paul, he is not "straitened” in them, however straitened in his own affections. But their views are different, their methods are different, their ground distinct. Neither party wishes to be confounded with the other.
Dr. Furness concludes with a glowing confession of “faith in the advent of the true Church; that Church which, turning away from the dry and mouldering symbols of the past, making no effort to galvanize creeds and sacraments, shall draw its life from the fresh springs of the human soul; that Church whose ceremonial shall be the acts and labors and sacrifices of earnest and living men, relinquishing property, popularity, and life itself, when the need is, for freedom and for humanity; that Church whose High Mass is a cup of cold water given to the panting fugitive at the risk of fine and imprisonment, and whose hymns and prayers and liturgies are the daily offices of human love faithfully discharged. ..... Spiritual worship is the worship of life. The hand that is extended to do what soever of duty it finds to be done, that hand is the true religious symbol of faith and prayer. In the true living, invisible Church, every man of every religious name and of no religious name who by working righteousness manifests the love of God in his heart, is an accepted worshipper in full communion with the saints on earth and in heaven. The visible temple of the spiritual Church is this holy and beautiful fabric of universal nature, with its blue unpillared dome over our heads, decorated all round with the tokens of infinite love, and resounding forever with the harmonies of a consummate and unbroken order.”
If spirits like that which these sentences express, and which the life of the writer so nobly illustrates, should ever so far prevail as to shape the politics of any state, the “ true Church” of Dr. Furness's vision would no longer be a dream of pure minds and loving hearts, but a present reality and a Church triumphant. Meanwhile this visible earthly Church with all its imperfections — the ministrant Church with its symbols and its sacraments, the militant Church with its failings and its feuds — must be the “ schoolmaster” to bring us thither. By this agency alone can the vision be realized. Nay, the vision itself is the product of this Church. It is the iris which blossoms at the point of incidence where the eternal sun-grace kisses the ever-breathing, ever-ascending aspirations of Christ's people. The seers and the prophets who divine most clearly the City of God, and plead most prevailingly the cause of mankind, are but what the Church has trained them to be, and prophesy but what she has taught them to see. Their highest inspiration has been caught from her lore, — they have sat at her feet and been nursed at her breast. There is not a word in their mouth but she knows it altogether. Dr. Furness would not be standing where he does, and uttering these fine sayings about the Church that is to be, had hè not been so educated by the Church that is.
We will trust this visible Church so long as it produces such spirits and such lives, and such discourses too, though their posture seem averse and their look askance. And we will trust that this Church which reformers chide — and which is not the petrifaction their impatience deems it, but a pulsing organism, solid and yet moving, a fabric, yet a march, with “lively stones” and a lubricating Word — will get overtake the foremost van of reform, and reclaim her dissentient children, and engage their zeal in a common cause, as the Church of the twelfth
century, when seemingly ready to burst with dissent, by wise accommodation retained and subsidized the wildest radicalisms of that prurient time. Where the spirit of the Lord is, there alone is true liberty; and the spirit of the Lord is once and forever pledged to his Church, and can never more be divorced therefrom. In vain would reformers reform by seceding. The branch that would bear fruit must abide in the Vine. Otherwise it “is cast forth as a branch, and is withered.” Whatever tends to perfect the Church - even this visible Church — in its uses and ministrations, contributes so far to reform the world.
Art. VII. – REVIEW OF CURRENT LITERATURE.
We are comforted, as critics, in the lack of works of larger pretension, by the very striking symptom of a diffused activity of mind in the pamphlets and discourses which embody so much of the best religious thinking of the day. The remarkable Address of Dr. Bellows, which we have already noticed, along with a good deal of ignorant and absurd comment, has called forth also a response, very loud and deep, from minds that have been moved by the questions it discusses, and either heartily accept or as strongly dissent from its suggestions. It is not hard to understand, on the one hand, the strong, manly protest of reason and common sense against the crudities of a popular theology and the errors of a shallow revival, such as we find in the discourses of Gerrit Smith,* — a name honorably identified with so much that is noble in philanthropy, independent in politics, downright practical and sincere in matters pertaining to religious faith. On the other hand, there is a mood of mind less often analyzed, not so well understood or done justice to in the current criticism of liberal religionists, which it is equally important to know, if one would sound the deeper needs of our religious public, or apprehend at once the wants and the future of Protestant Christianity. Especially the question so often raised, and so variously discussed, respecting the prestige, power, need, and organization of the Church, — the “ Church question,” in the phase it has assumed with so many prominent and rarelygifted minds, - it may aid us somewhat to apprehend if we give a
* Three Discourses on the Religion of Reason. By Gerrit SMITH. New York : Ross and Toucey.
little heed to the nearly related phenomenon of the secret longing, or need, or charm, which draws certain characters towards that embodiment of the central life of Christendom, “the Church."
For example, it will often be the case, not only with the speculative man, but also with the intelligent man of affairs who keeps pace with the general movements of human thought, that he looks back with a certain longing and half regret to the composed and quiet faith which he may have shared in his earlier days, and which is the portion now of multitudes happy in a belief which is no belief with him. What is said of the late Mr. Choate — that there were points of his early creed which he chose never to examine, because he shrunk from the pain of probing and dissecting, and perhaps changing them — speaks to the mood of many who have tried that process and found only weariness for the result. It is not without pain, too, that one sees the current of the world's life sweep by, — that life in which his own portion as a thinking and acting man is cast, — and feels it to be in some sense alien from the life of God, as shared by so many pious souls. In his lonely and still hours, he thinks with a sort of envy of those who have lived loyally and died peacefully in obedience to a creed which his intellect persists in regarding as outgrown, or swayed by motives which his common sense feels to be unsubstantial. The warm glow of pious emotion, like that of the mellowing year, clings to and makes beautiful the scenes where the heart lingers. The tendrils of the living vine are not detached without harsh compulsion, though it were from the rotting trunk and the ruined wall that would drag it on the ground in their own decay. And there are times when the man of critical and adventurous intellect would gladly surrender the joy of elevated thought, or the practical man the dazzling success of life, for an hour of the quiet and sure faith he associates with his memories of the Church, or his ideal of what the divine life of it might be.
Now, if we attempt to analyze the method and tone with which such a mood of mind as we have described is appealed to by the Church of Rome, — which in power, prestige, and executive skill so immeasurably distances every rival, — we shall find it to be something like the following. Without appealing directly to the reason, it suggests subtile trains of thought, whose clew leads to its seat of power. Without much enlightening or instructing the conscience, it takes advantage of the tremendous energy of the hurt moral sensibility. Without regulating or constraining much the tides of passion in the ordinary course of life, it meets them in the confessional with marvellous skill, in all their tortuous detail, by its external tasks of penance and its soulsubduing hints of absolution. It does not much to develop the energy, to heal the misery, or prevent the vice of a people, or to abate any social wrong of which the world is weary, - at least, infinitely little compared with the enormous resources of power at its command ; but it offers the refuge of the convent and the imposing service of the cathedral, and teaches men to merge their sense of sin and sorrow in the impassioned exercise of faith. It opens no new avenue of earthly hope to the humble, the suffering, and the poor ; but it drowns the sense
of all calamity in a hope that belongs to another world. To the remonstrance of reason or the protest of an enlightened conscience it hardly deigns an answer ; but it substitutes a new order of thought, a different array of hopes and motives, and rests its claim and its power on a foundation that escapes the analysis of the thinker or the sturdier sense of the man of the world ; and when they least expect it, they may find themselves helplessly surrendered to the all-powerful magnetism of its charm.
The state of mind so skilfully met by the Church of Rome exists very widely at the present day. In all Protestant lands the want, is felt of some form or other of ecclesiasticism, and a current is setting in that direction. The discourse of Dr. Bellows already referred to has its value as one of the most striking and vigorous expressions, among the liberal party in theology, of that tendency. Naturally, its drift and tone were misapprehended by some who did not readily adjust themselves to the speaker's point of view, or did not enough appreciate his position, as addressing a congregation of thinkers and scholars, from the high vantage-ground of independent and philosophic criticism. And we think, too, that the very earnestness and directness of purpose in his essay betrayed him into some partial judgments of men and things, foreign from his own nature, and lending too ready a handle to those who opposed the main current of the address. We are glad, therefore, that he has followed it by another,* in which, in timely, plain, and eloquent words, he reaffirms his faith as a liberal Christian thinker, disclaims any thought or wish to reimpose the yoke of church authority never so lightly, and avows himself most broadly and positively as sharing the life of the present and the future, rather than the past. Of great value and beauty, in our apprehension, are his criticisms of some points of American life, and his statement of the spiritual good to flow from the uniting of the continents, the mingling life of Europe and America, and the influences of past ages of culture and faith. This is clad sometimes in images and illustrations which may be deemed over-fanciful, and which only the general dignity and force of rhetoric in the discourse rescues from the charge of extravagance even to grotesqueness in one or two instances. But as the clear, bold vindication of a personal conviction and position, — as a weighty, earnest, and powerful address to an audience “ representing, 1. The Independent Congregation and Church over which I am set as minister; 2. The Unitarian Denomination; 3. The Protestant World ; 4. The Nineteenth Century and this New Country," — it is a discourse of rare and peculiar value. We are sincerely glad of the discussion its author has provoked, into which it now enters as a fresh and vigorous element. And we anticipate, from this moving of the waters, a deepening, enriching, and purifying influence on the current of our popular religious life. Even the phrase “ Broad Church ” — which we do not remember Dr. Bellows using once, though it is the legend his work is cur
*A Sequel to “The Suspense of Faith.” By HENRY W. BELLOWS, D. D. New York: D. Appleton & Co.