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of duty and labour. It would be to waste time were I to enlarge on this subject. Turn to either hemisphere: trace the colonization of New England on the principles of Congregational faith, order, and liberty; and in Old England, the long contest for religious truth and freedom on the same principles. Mark how the liberty, opportunity, resources for the mighty efforts now made to spread the Gospel by both the mother and daughter land, grew out of the previous struggle, happily so triumphant, for truth and liberty, not disjoined, but united. Consider the advancing light and conviction of our times on the impolicy and mischief of the interference of the secular powers with the religion of the people; and the opinions avowed, by Congregational Christians in particular, on the necessity of a universal return to the primitive model of Gospel churches, voluntary, spiritual, and separated from secular unions and interests. Observe the varied, unceasing activity of the advocates of Church and State authority, separate or combined, to build up again the falling fabric of their dominion, whether by the dogmas of an apostolic succession, and a consequent sacramental efficacy in their ministrations ; or by maintaining the right to tax the people for the maintenance of an established sect, as in England, by Church-rates, or in Canada and Australia, by appropriations of the Colonial revenue--and if, in these times, and amidst these scenes, Congregational Christians had shrunk from an open effort to spread their own cherished opinions, they would have obtained, as they would have deserved, no other reward of their supine folly, but suspicion of their integrity, or contempt of their pusillanimity. And it is found, in fact, that the friends of the Union who are charged with advocating an arrangement fatal to the liberties of Congregational churches, are the very men who, by that very suspected organization, have made the first open and vigorous movement to promote the happy union in our empire of attachment to liberty and love to truth, for conscience sake.
Mr. Peck's excursion into the future has its value, because it gives a form, probably as well defined as they admit of, to certain vague apprehensions of possible evils from the Union, with which the minds of many estimable brethren are alarmed. The progress of the mischief is to advance by some such steps as the following:--The Union will acquire wealth. The laity will, upon this, be excluded. Government will then incorporate the Union, now become wealthy, and exclusively clerical. This rich and incorporated body of ministers will be constituted trustees of all chapel property; and in that capacity must decide disputes in churches, in order to which, they must be judges of orthodoxy in ministers; and as decisions are vain without power to enforce thein, it is not to be supposed Government will leave this corporation of clerical trustees and ecclesiastical judges destitute of authority to inflict pains and penalties; and it is still less probable that the power once possessed will remain unemployed ; so that the end will be, despotism and persecution brought about by a conspiracy of Congregational ministers, and Whig or Radical statesmen. Mr. Peek would himself probably smile at my simplicity, were I to offer grave arguments in disproof of the particular modes in which he imagines usurpation may possibly arise from the Congregational Union. Unfulfilled prophecies are equally secure against argument or interpretation. He would say, we can only trace out general probabilities of the future from the analogies of the past, or the tendencies of the present; and that his anticipations formed by this process are apprehensive and unfavourable. Yet, if the matter be calmly considered, these fears may much diminish.
Mr. Peek thinks the Union secure from these mischievous tendencies, while managed by its present committee, officers, and leading friends ; doubtless because they are firm and consistent friends of Congregational principles and religious liberty. The great and almost certain probability is, that their successors will, if possible, be more so. The whole tendency of mind and opinion lies that way, and has long worked in that direction. Congregational Christians of the present day, if they are not more ardent friends of the liberty and spiritual simplicity of churches than their forefathers, yet perceive more clearly the extensive applications of their principles; and have learned, by some additional and most instructive chapters of experience supplied by recent ecclesiastical history, to prize more thoroughly than eyer, opinions, the value of which becomes more apparent by every test to which they are subjected. There is no imaginable probability that this progress will be arrested, much less that it will be reversed, and the current of opinion and feeling flow back from liberty to usurpation and bondage. No.-The measures, which are safe in our hands because of our tried attachment to freedom, may be comnitted with confidence to a posterity who will even excel us in an impartial, courageous, application of the principles we shall transmit to them, to every error, abuse, and usurpation.
Mr. Peek thinks the Congregational Union will be the ready instrument through which Government may introduce its influence and authority into the affairs of our Churches, to the ruin of their liberty and peace. Is it not much more probable that were the Government, indeed, to give any intimations of such a design, or to adopt any measures betraying such a tendency, the opposition given to the attempt by the Congregational Union would be more prompt and energetic than that of any other organised body among Protestant Dissenters? Its declared objects; its numerous open constituency; the deep personal interest of its members in the liberty of our churches; the known character, opinions, and standing of its principal supporters, all point out the Congregational Union of England and Wales as a body that would form the bulwark of liberty.
It seems overlooked, or forgotten, that this Congregational Union, from which so much danger to the principles and liberties of our churches is apprehended, has for its object, its only object, the spread of those very principles, and the defence of those very liberties. It exists not to violate our cherished sentiments or to stifle our freedom, but to promote the widest extension of both. It secks to unite Congregational churches, that, by their union, they may learn more than ever to value and cherish their principles and liberties; and to put forth the most vigorous efforts to multiply, both at home and abroad, the numbers of those churches in which our liberties shall be enjoyed and our principles embraced. It is neither more nor less than a voluntary society to promote Congregational opinious, practices, and privileges; and had it been called a Society, instead of a Union, it is probable that many of the fears it has excited would never have been felt.
It is neither correct nor fair to apply to the Union, epithets and names which, in their current use among us, have an obnoxious signification, and excite well-founded alarms, without showing that the words, in their exceptionable meaning, are truly applicable to it; and that its organization is similar to that of other bodies which have proved injurious, and have brought into ill repute the very terms by which they are known. Thus delegation is spoken of, as if delegates were, in the Union, chosen to manage the affairs of the associations or churches by whom they are elected, or to exercise authority over them: whereas their only duty is to assist in conducting general proceedings for the advancement of objects common to the Congregational body; in which proceedings, the church or association, which sent deputies to the annnal assembly, is not in the least bound to concur or assist by any vote or act of their representatives. Then national and nationalisation is spoken of. There is nothing national about the Union, in the obnoxious sense of the term national, as applied to ecclesiastical proceedings. It does not introduce into religious affairs national authority; it does not prescribe religious opinions or forms for a nation; it does not make every person a member of the national church, and deal with him as such, who is a subject born of the empire. It merely seeks the voluntary union of all within certain geographical limits, who have freels adopted common sentiments, to promote religious opinions and objects. It is called ecclesiastical, which it is, inasmuch as it is a union of churches, but which it is not, in the usual and obnoxious sense of a convocation of ecclesiastics. It is grouped with Synods, Conferences, and so forth. Now, for the sake of illustration, and with no invidious, unkind intention towards our Wesleyan brethren, let it be considered what would be the change wrought in their Conference were it assimilated to our Union. If every preacher and class-leader were, ex officio, entitled to attend and vote at a Conference, to which also every congregation might send delegates freely elected by the members; if, moreover, the Conference had no hold on the trustdeeds of chapels-no appointment of preachers- no power over the worship or discipline of any congregation-no authority to receive or reject ministers—but that its sole functions were by general voluntary efforts to promote the doctrines, the liberties, the numbers of Methodists ;- it might, indeed, still retain the name of a Conference; but the same name would designate a very diverse body, but not more diverse than the Congregational Union, which is spoken of as if it had equal or even greater tendencies to excessive and hurtful power.
Meanwhile, not a word is hinted of the consequences of non-union; of the breaking up of the present feileration of Congregational associations and churches, and of the dispersion of the brethren who, by their union, have alreally enjoyed and
communicated so much edification; welcomed to holy fellowship brethren representing distant and numerous bodies of believers; and entered into solemn engagements to concur in vigorous efforts to promote the cause of their Great Master, on the basis of the liberty, truth, and spirituality which they believe he imparted to his churches, and fidelity to which they believe to be a solemn duty in them, and most well-pleasing in his sight. Would it be no reproach on the judgment, piety, and temper of our body, if now they must needs scatter again, after what would be thus proved an abortive effort to unite? Would it be no argument against our views of church-government, that in accordance with them there can be no union of Christians in greater numbers than can worship in one building, or under the charge of one pastor? The purposes of human society, civil or sacred, can never be duly attained without both smaller and more intimate associations, and also more general and extensive combinations. The laws of our nature, and the necessity of our circumstances lead men first to combine in small unions, and then to construct more extensive communities out of the federation of many of the lesser bodies. Thus are nations the unions of multiplied families. In the domestic circle endeared regards, mutual helpfulness, common interests, are in full force and close bonds. In the national federation, what is lost in intenseness of feeling, and nearness of union, is gained in the extent and grandeur of commerce, art, law, dominion, security, freedom, great actions, common sentiments, and national characteristics. And as this would be a cold and cheerless world were there no closer unions and more intimate feelings than nationality can supply; so would it be a mean and narrow world were there no views and purposes more enlarged, elevating, and grand, than could be supplied by the lesser circles of households and confined neighbourhoods. Yet must we not, for the sake of national communities, sacrifice the liberties or duties of households ; nor so stand on domestic rights as to make them inconsistent with the relations and obligations of the citizen. Similar is the case with men in their sacred interests. There must be the close, endeared domestic union in separate churches, whose household liberty must be jealously guarded against every intrusion. But there are duties for truth, for the world, yea, even for themselves, which separate churches, continuing isolated and unconnected, cannot discharge. There are large views, sympathies, objects which require the united action of combined numbers. Were not this felt, where were the need for our great voluntary associations for promoting the kingdom of Christ? What, but for them, would be now the state of all Christian churches, not our own merely, but of those of every name? How cold, powerless, and inactive? The delaration of common sentiments, the pursuit of common interests, the sympathy of common feelings, by great numbers of men, is one of the grand and necessary instruments of promoting the welfare of our race. It cannot be safely dispensed with either in the world or in the church.
If it be said, you have the great associations you plead for, in the grand voluntary societies, against which no exception is taken,- I reply, so we have, for the purposes they are confederated to advance; but we want another for a purpose which not one of them contemplates—that is, to promote Congregational principles, and the spread and increase of Congregational churches. And the body by which this object can be gained, must be formed of no other elements than those which our churches supply; and, reverting to a former argument, it is contended that as there must be larger confederations of Christians than individual Congregational churches, if it be impossible to combine those churches, then is nothing left but to assert either that such combinations are needless, or that they must be built solely on a money qualification--a stigma on Congregational church-government which, I, for one, hope will be wiped away by the long continnance and peaceful progress of the Union now defended. We are probably advancing into periods when combinations formed on principles of excessive authority, having waxed old and feeble, will vanish away; when, in churches, even more than in states, institutions destructive of liberty, and therefore hostile to the spread of the Gospel, the purposes of God, and the salvation of men, will be removed by the hand of Providence, employing for that purpose the progress of opinions and events. Then must other combinations of God's servants, in which the individual liberty and the united efforts of his churches shall be happily reconciled, come into powerful, unimpeded action ; for it is impossible the juncture should ever arrive, in which mankind shall cease to gather and act in large associations. May the Congregational Union be one of those favoured and honoured instruments of the glory of God, the advancement of truth, and the salvation of men !
But I have done; and it is time I had, for I am ashamed of the length of this communication. If the Congregational Union of England and Wales be a design dangerous or fatal to the liberties of the churches, it must be either, first, by the intention of its founders, which is not imputed; or, secondly, by its constitution, bat that is guarded not only by rules and declarations, but by the most approved of all human defences against the encroachments of authority - a free, open, unerceptionable constituency :-or, thirdly, by its objects ; but they are all for the promotion of liberty, not for its destruction, I leave it to God, and to the calm, candid judgment of his servants, and am, Mr. Editor, yours, with respect, October 13, 1837.
A Layman's Third Letter. SIR, -As you have been pleased to say that the correspondence on this subject is of no ordinary interest, perhaps, at your convenience,-and I beg that this may be consulted,-you will allow me to continue my remarks.
You stated, in your observations on my first letter, that you had never heard any thing against the Union, except vague and intangible predictions of evil. I have, however, taken the very tangible course of objecting to some of the acts of that body, as indicative of its injurious tendency; and in my last letter I object to the very constitution of the Union, as being itself subrersive of Independent principles.
Before I proceed to endeavour to show that Mr. Wells' last letter, eloquently discursive as it was, in no way meets the objections raised, allow me to correct hiin on a point in which he has mistakenly misrepresented me. He says, “Indeed the Layman' intimates that his own reference to particular proceedings of the friends of the Union was made rather for the purpose of illustrating their views, than on account of any intrinsic importance in the facts themselves thus brought under consideration.” I have looked again at my last letter, and although it is stated that the object of the first one was, by referring to certain acts of the Union, to illustrate the dangerous tendency of the views of its friends, yet I cannot find any intimation that there was no intrinsic importance in the acts in question. The intrinsic importance of them consisted in their being prominent examples of the covetousness of ecclesiastical power, as operating on the open, free, and popular system of our voluntary benevolent societies. Let any one ask the Methodist Conference whether it considers it to be a matter of intrinsic importance, that the government and control of the Methodist Missionary Society should be, in effect, that of the Conference? So great was considered the dangerousness of the precedents set by the Union, first, as an avowedly extensive ecclesiastical organisation, in connecting its ecclesiastical machinery with a specific voluntary society, and then, through the latter, making an ungrantable application for a grant from the London Missionary Society-that I dismissed, for the time, more general arguments against the Union, for the explicit statement of this special objection. Not having been corrected as to my statements of fact, as contained in my last letter, it is only necessary to say, that none of the objections before stated as to the connexion between the Union and the Colonial Missionary Society have been removed.
It will be found, too, that so far from having made a Society for the propagation of the Gospel in connexion with Congregational views of church-goverte ment a matter of positive objection on my own part, it was distinctly admitted, that, upon principle, it may be justifiable; but then it was denied that a Coagregational Union, constituted by ecclesiastical representation, was necessary or desirable to exist to be the controller of a society formed for such an object. There was, it is true, some doubtful reserve of opinion made with regard to the expediency, in point of effect, of so very formally, by name or otherwise, connecting such a society, its main object being the spread of the essential Gospel, with the extension of denominational principles, as that the latter should appear almost to be in the same rank of importance with the primary one; but it was
the denominational ecclesiastical control of a specific missionary society, which was the real objection then urged, and which is now reiterated. A pious and liberal Churchman may feel no insuperable objection to subscribe even to a directly Dissenting or sectarian object, as, for instance, to the erection of an Independent, Baptist, or Methodist chapel, He may know that the tendency of his donation may be to aid the influence of the denomination with which the chapel is connected; but he overlooks this accidental result for the good of the general object of propagating essential saving truth. But suppose that this same chapel case came to him in the more indirect, but more pugnacious shape of a request for a subscription to the chapel fund administered by some great ecclesiastical denominational Union, which is striving how relatively large and powerful it can be and look, not only before the church, but the world,-be may justly hesitate whether his deed of benevolence may not involve a want of fidelity to his own creed and church. He might feel nearly the same doubts if he were to subscribe to a missionary society under the controul or influence of the denominational ecclesiastical incorporation. He might not even object to aid in the support of a special mission taken up and principally maintained by Independents, as such, who would thus be presumably, or even avowedly, extending, with the Gospel, their own disciplinary principles. He might content himself by saying. “ The field is the world ; no one denomination can occupy every where: I will encourage all who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. But then I cannot ally myself with the denomination, as such, by strengthening the power and influence of the entire, formally organized, ecclesiastical body, with whose sectarian principles I con. scientiously differ." Many a pious Dissenter has been happy to subscribe to the Church Missionary Society; but if that were connected with, and controlled by, a society of bishops, archdeacons, and church wardens, formed to oppose Dissent, and to propagate, by periodical publications and otherwise, the principles of the Esiablished Church, it is questioned whether some of our conscientious Non-Cons would not feel, to say the least, less satisfaction in contributing their money, when it might be supposed to encourage such a society. The distinction is clear between the cases supposed ; the one, even though plainly involving, as a consequence, denominational advantage, does not seem to present that altendant result as a priniary and prominent object; the other may appear to directly tend to the building up of an opponent and mighty ecclesiastical power.*
All through the reply of Mr. Wells, the motives, the intentions, and objects of the friends of the Union are repeatedly referred to, as being satisfactory arguments for the propriety of its plans and proceedings. We are told, for instance, that it is strange the Union should be looked at with apprehension and jealousy with regard to the principles of Independency, since it is its very object to propagate those principles through the world. But what an obvious petitio principii is this, when the objection is, that the structure, acts, and assumption of the Union, are in practical opponency to the very principles it
Here it may be fairly asked, wbether “ pionis and liberal cbarchmen" have experienced any difficulty in subscribing to the Wesleyan Missionary Society, or the Baptist Missionary Society, although they are strictly denominational Institutions, and whether men of genuine liberality are not more likely to respect a people who honestly avow their principles and preferences, than those who say they have none, or are mean enough to conceal what they have, for the sake of a little reputation, to be acquired by avowed latitudinarianism? If Dissenters subscribe to the Church Missionary Society, it must be with the knowledge of the fact, that its missionaries are mainly under the control of the Colonial Bishops, which superintendence, it will be allowed, is sufficiently denominational.
The statement, by implication, that the Congregational Union “is striving how large, and powerful it can be and look,” is not in acccordance with the " Layman's" professed respect for its members, nor with the facts of the case. All the statistical returns that have been obtained, have been designed to aid the solution of one important question, which men of all parties now anxiously propose-What has the voluntary principle been able to provide for the religions wants of the community? The returns and calculations that have been made, were to meet that inquiry, and not, as so unkindly insinuated, for the purposes of denominational display. VOL. I. X. 9.