Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

of the preacher or preachers in charge, and a competent number of elders and deacons. These jointly co-operate in feeding, ruling, and governing the flock of God, on the rational principles of family government. These consist chiefly in these things, to wit:

“In going before the people, and leading the several parts of their worship, and becoming their example in every duty. In teaching them the principles and rules of their religion ; the knowledge, profession, and practice of those doctrines and duties, that worship and order, which reason and natural religion dictate, and which Christ himself has revealed, superadded, and established in bis Word. It consists in exhorting and persuading, and charging the members of the church with that seriousness, circumspection, and propriety of conduct, which becometh saints; in instructing them how to apply those general principles and rules to particular cases and occurrences, and giving them their best advice under every circumstance. It consists in presiding in their assemblies for worship or otherwise ; in examining and admitting applicants for baptism and church-membership; in watching over and guarding the church against errors and dangers. It consists in conducting the moral discipline of the church; in admonishing, and warning, and reproving, with all gravity and authority, those who neglect or oppose any of the rules, ordinances, and commandments of Christ; and expelling from the church the scandalous, and in receiving again the truly penitent.”+

These individual churches are confederated or united for co-operation. The Church of God, therefore, has within her bounds, at present, three Elderships, viz.: the East Pennsylvania, the Ohio, and the West Pennsylvania Elderships. Each Eldership holds an annual meeting, consisting of all the teaching elders within its bounds, and a delegation from the churches, or rather from the stations and circuits, of an equal number of ruling elders. Co-operation and not legislation is the main object of these meetings: and this is, on the itinerant and stationary plan, combined. Thus it was originally. Whilst some were stationed, others itinerated, in given districts; whilst others again missionated, or travelled at large. This plan the Church of God finds to be the most rational, scriptural, and efficient, and therefore, she has adopted and pursues the same. Every station and circuit is required to support its own preacher or preachers for the time of their service among them, and to aid in supporting the preachers at large, &c.

The Church of God has one religious newspaper under her

* Vide“ Brief View of the Formation, Government, and Discipline of the Church of God,” by John Winebrenner, V. D. M.

patronage : “The Gospel Publisher,” published at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Bishop George M.Cartney, editor.

STATISTICS.

50 70 125 6000

In the East Pennsylvania Eldership there are at present:

Licensed and ordained ministers,
Organized churches,
Regular preaching places, about

Probable number of church members,
In the Ohio Eldership there are :

Licensed and ordained ministers,
Probable number of organized churches,
Probable number of other appointments,

Probable number of church members,
In the West Pennsylvania Eldership there are :

Licensed and ordained ministers,
Probable number of churches, -
Probable number of regular preaching places,
Probable number of church members,

23 35

85 3000

10 20

50 1000

RECAPITULATION.

Aggregate number of licensed and ordained ministers,
Aggregate number of organized churches,
Aggregate number of preaching places,
Aggregate number of church members,

83 125

260 10,000

CONGREGATIONALISTS.

BY THE REV, E. W. ANDREWS,

PASTOR OF THE BROADWAY TABERNACLE, NEW YORK.

The origin of the Congregationalists, as a modern sect, is commonly ascribed to Robert Browne, who organized a church in England, in 1583. But it appears probable that there were churches formed upon congregational principles in the reigns of Edward VI. and Queen Mary, although it is impossible to speak with any certainty respecting them. It is well known that Cranmer, the chief promoter of the Reformation in England, admitted the right of the churches to choose their own pastors, and the equality of the clergy; and it is worthy of note that, in the Bible published by him, the word ecclesia is always rendered congregation. Some of the bishops went further, and advanced opinions which would now be regarded as amongst the distinctive principles of the Congregationalists. But the right of any individual to judge for himself what the scriptures taught in matters of religion was not recognised. The government insisted upon an entire conformity to the established church, both in doctrines, and in rites and ceremonies. The Reformalion advanced slowly; for its progress was controlled by subtle statesmen, who sought the reasons of

any innovation, not in the word of God, but in the calculations of state policy. Many of the leading early reformers were greatly dissatisfied at the slow progress of the Reformation, and would gladly have introduced a more simple and scriptural form of worship. Even Edward VI., popular as he deservedly was with the Protestant party, did not escape censure for the indulgence he showed to Popish superstitions. It was evident in this reign, that a portion of the Protestants in England were far in advance of the standard set up by the king and the prelates; and that the distance between them was daily widening. But the dividing line between the supporters of the hierarchy and the non-conformists was not distinctly drawn, until the Acts of Supremacy and Uniformity passed, in the early part Elizabeth's reign. From this period, there was little hope of perma

of

nent reconciliation between the two parties, although it was not until about the year 1565 that separate assemblies were held. It is from this time that the Puritans are to be regarded as a distinct party. The first open attempt to suppress these assemblies seems to have been made two years after, when a congregation was arrested at Plumbers' Hall, and thirty of them confined in Bridewell for more

than a year.

[ocr errors]

Without enumerating all the points of difference between the prelates and the Puritans, it may perhaps be doubted whether an abrogation of all the rites and ceremonies complained of as superstitious, would not have allayed the storm that was rising against the Establishment, and prevented, for many years at least, the separation that afterwards took place. However this might have been, the attempt to enforce these ceremonies led the Puritans to examine more closely, than they had hitherto done, the ground of that authority so arbitrarily exercised over them. The dogmatic Cartwright assailed Episcopacy with great boldness, and asserted the Presbyterian to be the only scriptural form of church government. The cruelty and intolerance of the bishops had produced a directly opposite effect from what they had intended. Instead of coercing the nonconformists into submission, a spirit of resistance was aroused; and, as is well said by Hallam, " the battle was no longer to be fought for a tippet and a surplice, but for the whole ecclesiastical hierarchy, interwoven as it was with the temporal constitution of England.”

The first church formed upon Congregational principles, of whose existence we have any accurate knowledge, was that established by Robert Browne; but it was soon broken up, and Browne, with many of his congregation, fled to Holland. He subsequently returned to England, and is said by some historians to have renounced the principles he had so earnestly maintained. In the latter part of his life, he seems to have been openly immoral and dissolute. The church planted by him in Holland, after his departure, fell into dissensions, and soon perished. The character of Browne is thus drawn by Bancroft: “The most noisy advocate of the new system was Browne; a man of rashness, possessing neither true courage nor constancy; zealous, but fickle; dogmatical, but shallow. He has acquired historical notoriety, because his hot-headed indiscretion urged him to undertake the defence of separation. ... The principles, of which the intrepid assertion had alone given him distinction, lay deeply rooted in the public mind; and as they did not draw life from his support, they did not suffer from his apostacy." The opinions of Browne respecting church polity are the same in many respects as those now held by the Congregationalists of New England. He maintained,* " that each church, or society of Christians meeting in one place, was a body corporate, having full power within itself to admit and exclude members; to choose and ordain officers; and when the good of the society required it, to depose them, without being accountable to classis, convocations, synods, councils, or any jurisdiction whatever.” He denied the supremacy of the queen; and the claim of the Establishment to be a scriptural church. He declared the scriptures to be the only guide in all matters of faith and discipline. The labours of a pastor were to be confined to a single church, and beyond its bounds he possessed no authority to administer the ordinances. One church could exercise no jurisdiction over another, except so far as to advise or reprove it, or to withdraw its fellowship from such as walked disorderly. Five orders, or offices, were recognised in the church: those of pastor, teacher, elder, deacon, and widow ; but he did not allow the priesthood to be a distinct order from the laity. How far these views have been since modified, will appear hereafter.

Such are the outlines of a system promulgated by Browne, in tracts published by him in 1680 and in 1682. The separating line, between the conforming and the non-conforming Puritans, now became broad and distinct. The former, recognising the Church of England as a true church, and unwilling to separate themselves from the Establishment, demanded only that her discipline should be further reformed, and her bishops ranked as the head of the presbyters. Neither by the supporters of the hierarchy, nor amongst this class of the Puritans, was the great doctrine of liberty of conscience recognised. A different standard of uniformity was indeed set up by each; but the principle of ecclesiastical tyranny was as plainly to be seen in the implicit obedience required to the decrees of synods, as in the oath of supremacy. The non-conforming Puritans would enter into no compromise with the Establishment. They desired its total overthrow, with all its cumbrous and complex machinery, its ceremonies and its forms; and to build upon its ruins churches after the simple, pure model of the apostolic days.

The first martyrs to these opinions were two clergymen, Thacker and Cokking, who were executed in 1583; ostensibly for denying the queen's supremacy, but in fact for dispersing Browne's tracts. Ten years afterward, Henry Barrow and John Greenwood were put to death for non-conformity. Barrow was somewhat distinguished by

* I abbreviate from Punchard's Hist. Cong. p. 247.

« ElőzőTovább »