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professes to promulgate and extend! What would be thought of a mission sint out by a Presbytery for the purpose of teaching Congregationalism !
This leads me to the animadversions made by the worthy Secretary on the objections stated against the mode of representation adopted by the Union. He seems to think that he logically meets these objections, by contending that if a real decision of the churches separately, signified by the votes of the members, had been obtained, instead of ihe less formal one, pronounced for them, by the associations, there would indeed have been great and substantial objections to any Union founded on such proceedings. Surely, could he not see that this is the very dilemma into which he has been driven! Is there not a distinct protest in my last letter against its being supposed that I had conceded the necessity or propriety of any nationally extensive, permanent, ecclesiastical organisation of the churches ? Assuming, however, for the sake of argument, the contrary, it was then submitted that auy such organisation could be founded properly only on a real decision by, and delegation from, the churches, if, indeed, it was intended to treat them as independent churches at all, I may, perhaps, in a great measure coincide with my respected opponent in deprecating such a frightful system of continual electioneering as might arise in the midst of the churches, producing, probably, painful distraction, and, above all, the curse of secularisation. But, as I believe the churches cannot otherwise he fairly represented, as true Independent communities; and as I also think that associations, as generally constituted, can have no proper and legitimate right, unless the churches have distinctly given it to them, to cede over representative ecclesiastical authority, us from the churches to the Union; therefore, I deprecate the Union itself, as practically subversive, by its very constitution, of Independency.
In his first reply to me, Mr. Wells, speaking of the Union, says, “It has maintained a standing for seven years before the church and the world as a recognised organisation of our churches." In the “ Address," it is slated that it is not a union of individual churches, but of county and other associations;" but the disclaimer is immediately after, qualified thus," and no churches are in their individual capacity eligible for Union but such (as) are in connexion with or recognised by the association within whose district they are located.” It would appear from this, that supposing the question of joining the Union had been decided, in the negative by an association, any separate ministers and churches acknowledged by that association, might, in virtue of that acknowledgment, be received as individual churches. Ay or no-is the Uniou one of associations only, or of churches joined by authority of associations and other churches joining separately in spite of that authority! If an association decide by a majority to join the Union, how are the churches in the minority considered ? It is presumed that, in common parlance, the churches generally of the association are spoken of as being joined. If not, what means are adopted to ascertain what churches in the association are dissentient? Il any associations formed only for spreading the gospel in particular districts have assuined to exercise the power of joining the churches to the ecclesiastical Congregational Union for all England and Wales, where did they get any right thus to represent the churches within their district in any matters other than those connected with the limited fundamental objects of the associations themselves? Much as the Union confides in associations for receiving adhesions to itself, when they decide not to join, any one or two churches in the minority, are at once embraced by the liberal Union. Associations, by all means, if they are for us ; churches, in spite of and against associations, if the latter be against us! The Union thus first gives a power to the associations, which, according to the circumstances of its exercise, is either acknowledged or defied. The Union, we are toid, is a recognised organisation of “our churches." Can there be more sweeping words, as seeming to claim, if not actually, yet by fair assumption and repute, the churches of the whole denomination. The mode in which the churches shall be represented in the matter of giving or refusing
their ecclesiastical adhesion to the Union is recommended, not to say prescribed, by the Union itself, before it could have been half-formed and completed. This influential body, praiseworthily conscious of the almost imperceptible power of temptation, declares in one of its first resolutions, that the Union shall not legislate for the churches; but subsequently it has proceeded to legislate that the churches may send delegates, but if so, they must meet and vote with certain ministers and deacons, who need not to be elected by the churches, as the Union itself has appointed them er-officio members, coordinates in voting power with the delegates who may be sent !*
It would seem to be supposed that the Union evinces its liberality and openness by its readiness to increase the numbers of the constituency, or rather of the voting members; the constituency ought to be the members of the churches. Freedom of election and real representation do not consist in the less or greater number of the representatives; but in the latter being, by a free and independent system of choice, duly authorized by the people or the cominunities they are to represent.
The Union is spoken of and vindicated as not wishing to impose any strict or very formal rules for the admission to and conjunction with that body. This is readily admitied. No one complains of strictness in this respect : on the contrary, it is larity in admitting persons professing to speak in the name, and claiming to be a recognised organisation of " our churches," with which the Union is, with all sincere respect, deliberately charged. What kind of a boon would it be considered by the Parliamentary constituency of England, if a law were to be passed, for the sake of having a large and open system of popular representation, giving to all mayors and aldermen in municipal boroughs sending members to Parliamieni, er-officio co-ordinate rights with the members actually elected! Might not the people say, true, we have had a popular system for electing them mayors and aldermen, but then we elected them for mayors and aldermen; we never expected them to be converted, merely on account of their holding of municipal office, into standing members of Parliament, outnumbering, and perhaps outvoting, our own representatives periodically chosen, specially for the Legislature. If occasionally, in certain voluntary societies, ex-officio rights of admission to committees are given; yet
• When the constitution of the Union was under consideration, it was remembered, that there are, in varios parts of the kingdom, Churches most truly denominated Independent : for, on account of their doctrinal or practical peculiarities, they are wot recognised by the Congregational churches in their respective localities, nor admitted to their fellowship. Had ihe Vuion been organized of indi. vidual churches, irrespective of their local associatious, then it must have constituted its Committee a tribunal, to judge the character of every church proposed for almission to it. When, therefore, the existing arrangement was adopted, it was not in the spirit of the crafty policy attributed by the" Lay. man." "Associations, by all ineans, if they are for os, churches, in spite of and against associations, if the latter be against us,"but simply to obviate the invidious task of discussing the character of individual charches not connected with local assuciatiu$, and, at the same time, to Secare entire har. mony of feeling thronghout the Union,
It is ea.y to exercise one's ingenuity in raising theoretical objecti, in, to a system which will vanish in its practical working. The " Layman" suggests, that the associations have exceeded their powers in joining the Union, unless the churches formally authorized them to do so. Now, on that important proposal. it is believed, that no association voted with precipitancy. A formal connexion with the Vgion was suggested at one half yearly or annual meeting, and was discussed and agreed to at the succeeding. There was, therefore, abundant opportunity for a calm consideration of the subject in ibe interim.
If the act of a thesion were not formally voted in each of ti.e associated churches, yet it was so discussed and understood, as to obtain the tacit acqniescence of the brethren in precisely the same way that their approbat on is obtained on many questions of local interest in their respective districte, when no one questions he fact of their concurrence. Had the independency of the charchex hern com. Diopiyed by these acts of the associations, they would doubtless have protested against them: but Their silence is the most expressive indication of their approval of the Unico which they bave con. summaled.
The associations that have thus joined the Union are believed to have done it unanimously : for several others would have been added to the list before now, had it not been for the delicate anxiety of the majority not to pass a vote in which all the brethren could not cordially unite. Surely this fact proves the solemn obligation which rests on those who at present object to weigh the whole question with the nt most impartiality, that they may not continue to deprive their asso. ciated brethren of a gratification, which, but for them, they would immediately enjoy. And where such a state of things exists, that out of deference to the judgment, or it may be the prejudices of some belovert brethren, the associated churches do not act in their corporate cap city; it would be tyranny, worse than that which it is predicted the Union will exercise, to deprive individual churches of their hberty to unite if they think it to do so.
thesion were to oblahou manyel. Had
it must be recollected, that these bodies do not pretend to be ecclesiastical organisations. The latter, according to our principles, must embrace commu. nities wbich are themselves true churches; and ihese we consider to be congregations of faithful men, meeting together and acting in pursuance of the primitive and apostolic examples. Churches then, are not, for the purpose of the present argument, merely voluntary societies. As between man and man, of course whether we are to be Episcopalians, Presbyterians, or Independents, all of us being on a level of intellectual and moral right and responsibility, is a voluntary matter with each of us. But as between those mutually acknowledging themselves to be Independents or Congregationalists, upon principle and scriptural authority, it is not while we profess allegiance to that authority, an indifferent matter of option, whether the organisation of the churches be, or be not, in consistency and good keeping with the apostolic model of the churches themselves. Independent churches, and Presbyterianlike organisations of the same churches, would, it is submitted, be somewbat anomalous.
Our--that is, mine and Mr. Peek's-application of the word “ecclesiastical" is disliked. Pray, what does the Independent system know or recognise of ecclesiastics other than bishops, deacons, and duly elected members of churches ! Why, Sir, did our esteemed respondent not complain of your calling the Union an “Ecclesiastical Association," and of himself for having spoken to me of certain things not being quite consistent with the “ecclesiastical constitution" of the Union ? Ministers and deacons, acting out of their respective churches, may be just as dangerous and assuming an order of ecclesiastics as the world ever witnessed.
No one who has read history will say that these critical remarks on the constitution of the Union are not strictly relevant to the subject. In the infancy or rise of ecclesiastical systems, the beginnings are small; the pretensions of the founders are fair; the motives pure; the objects to be accomplished good; but in lime a great and commanding power, capable of being sadly diverted in its exercise, is almost imperceptibly established. “If,” says Mr. Wells, “in his former letter, “the anticipations of the friends of the Union are realised, inisapprehensions will be gradually removed, confidence will grow and spread, and by an imperceptible progress the Union will obtain permanent establishment." MOSHEJM has a memorable passage not inapplicable to the present discussion :-" These councils, of which we find not the smallest trace before the middle of this century (the second) changed the whole face of the church, and gave it a new form; for by them the ancient privileges of the people were considerably dininished, and the power and authority of the bishops greatly augmented. The humility, indeed, and prudence of these pious prelates, prevented their assuming all at once the power with wbich they were afterwards invested. At their first appearance in these general councils, they acknowledged that they were no more than the delegates of their respective churches, and that they acted in the name and by the appointment of their people. But they soon changed this humble tone, imperceptibly extending the limits of their authority, turned their influence into dominion, and their counsels into laws."-Vol. I. p. 198, Ed. 1793. It is not because we may not apprehend, in the present day, precisely the same results from the Union of the Independent churches of all England and Wales, that we are to shut up our book, and learn no lesson at all. The lesson conveyed is-Principiis obsta.
It is endeavoured to be shown that the Union cannot be dangerous, because it will exercise no strictly ecclesiastical authority, nor interfere with the rights of individual churches. To this it is answered, that there may, nay, that there must be, in time, an influential and practical interference with the liberty of the churches by a body ecclesiastically constituted, so large as to embrace contributions and associative influence and power from the Congregational churches of England and Wales. Large combinations in commerce may have originated in no direct or definable aggression upon the absolute or acknowledged rights
of individuals, because they may be the result only of the conjunct employment of the capital of many separate proprietors; but in time they may become sad shackles to the freedom of trade, and as such deserving of the jealousy and discountenance of the public. By ny system of legislation operating upon others avowedly as such, but simply by the astute use and management of their immense combined wealth and powerful influence, these monopolies withhold or let out their vast stores and commodities, in oceans or in driblets, setting the markets to the point of their own well-studied interest. It is not intended to compare in general an ecclesiastical union with cominercial com. binations; but the latter certainly will afford a not inapt illustration of the existence of commanding and regulating power to a dangerous extent, independently of recognised or legislative authority. The existence of associations, as Mr. Peek in his noble letter remarks, is no justification of so large an union as one of national extent. It is not necessary to differ with Mr. Wells about the application of the term “ national.” It may not perhaps be applicable to the Union just in the same way and to the same extent as is intended by the Church of England when it dignifies itself by the same mighty name. But the large geographical extent of ibe Union is of the essence of its objectionableness. Dr. Owen, in his chapter on the “Communion of churches," speaking of synods, observes, -" Their due measure and bounds are given them by concernment and convenience.” And again, “ With this interest or concernment there must be a concurrence of natural, moral, and political conveniences. Some churches are planted at such distances from others that it is naturally impossible that they should ever meet together to advise by their messengers; and some at such as that they cannot assemble but with such difficulties and hazards as exempt from the duty of it.” It is not practically possible for one fourth of the churches to send, so as that they should be actually present, real delegates specially chosen for each annual meeting. A very few influeutial people, who can be almost always there, will act with the money, and in the name of the churches in general. If it should be urged that some such an effect as this takes place in connexion with our large voluntary societies, it is replied that they are open societies of individuals, admissible on no church tests, and professing no ecclesiastical character. An association is a district society, holding its meetings at different places, and always within such limits that every member of it may presumably be able to be present at any occasion
You said, Sir, in your leading article, commenting on my first letter, that Congregational Unions were as old as Congregationalism itself. I have bitherto not noticed this remark; but allow me, with much esteem aud deference, to say, that if you mean such Unions as the one now in question, intended to be permanent, appointing numerous ecclesiastics ex-officio members, to act coordinately with the actual delegates, I think it is somewhat more than you will be able to establish. That synods or councils consisting of the delegates or Independent Churches have been held on special occasions and for special objects, and that with the approbation and participation, indeed, of the great, learned, and pious fathers of our denomination, no one ever denied. If they were, indeed, Congregational Unions such as the present, why did they die away?
No one has ever contended that the meaning of an Independent Church is, that it is Independent of all obligations with reference to a spiritual and fraternal communion and co-operating intercourse of charity and zeal with other Churches and the Church Catholic. Jurists and writers on the law of nations never misunderstand one another, when, according to the most natural phraseology, they speak of nations, however differing in relative extent and power, as “independent states.” It has never been supposed that, therefore, they are independent of moral and social obligations towards each other, and mankind in general. The opponents of the Union are not necessarily, as some would seem to suppose, Vitra-independents. Have they ever disapproved of the assembling, upon occasions arising, of ministers and others, deputed by the
Churches in any particular neighbourhood, for the purpose of counsel and influence respecting both doctrine and discipline? This is a totally different thing from a permanent ecclesiastical organisation. A series of sypóds, how. ever frequent, would never constitute a Congregational Union. But consider the limitations prescribed by Dr. Owen even to synods. After suggesting the case of smaller ones, he admits that, “ if occasion require, and it be expedient,” there may, without any abridgment of the liberty of particular Churches, be, through means of the lesser synods, a General Assembly of them all. Observe, however, his great cautiousness on the subject. “ But," says he, “this is granted only with these linitations-1. That the rights of particular Churches be preserved in the free election of such as are to be members of all these synods. 2. That they assume no authority or jurisdiction over persons or things civil or ecclesiastical. 3. That none are immediately concerned in this proper synodal power or authority who are not present in them by their own delegates.” The second of these limitations the Union has ceriainly, as was to be expected from the high character of its founders, endeavoured to observe. It is, however, with sincere bumility and respect, submitted that they have not been equally cautious on the other points. Besides the irregular mode of joining the Churches by the voice of associations not specially authorised for the purpose by the Churches themselves, it must be remarked that some ministers have been present at, and it is believed taken part in, the proceedings of the meetings of the Union, or voted, who have never been elected delegates for the purpose by their Churches. No unkind reflection is intended by this statement. The rules of the Union justified, as between them and that body, their reception as ministers. Some have certainly only attended as auditors desirous of witnessing the interesting proceedings. But the Union calls itself an organisation of " our Churches," not an association of certain ministers and laymen among Congregationalists. "It must therefore be affirmed,” says Dr. Owen, “ that no persons, by virtue of any office merely, have right to be members of ecclesiastical synods as such. Neither is there either example or reason to give colour unto any such pretence, Farther is no office-power to be exerted in such synods as such, neither conjunctly by all the members of them, nor singly by any of them, Officers of the Church, bishops, pastors, elders, may be present in them, ought to be present in them, are meetest for the most part so to be ; but merely as suck it belongs not to them. The care, oversight, and rule of the Churches whereunto they do belong—the flock among them distinctly is committed unto them; and for that they are intrusted with power and authority by virtue of their office. But as unto their conjuuction in synods, which is a mere act and effect of the communion of Churches among themselves, it is not committed unto them in a way of peculiar right by virtue of their office. If it be so, without respect unto the magistrate in calling them, or the Churches in choosing them, then it belongs unto them all, &c.” Now, such synods as Dr. Owen would have approved never would have professed to govern, legislate for, or interfere with the liberty and independence of particular Churches any more than the Union does; and yet he thinks they should only consist of delegates from the Churches, freely and fairly elected ; and that even ministers have no right to sit in such synods merely as such, without being sent there by election of their people. Would not this apply, u fortiori, to the case of a permanent ecclesiastical organisation, embracing all England and Wales?
We are accused of using words of ambiguous effect, tending to misrepresent the character of the Union. Does not this far more correctly apply to our esteemed friends of the Union? Who will be responsible, it is said, for “non-union ?" It is denied that there was more non-union among our denomination before the body styling itself the Union was established. Undoubtedly there was not the same formal ecclesiastical “organisation ;" but this latter is a word not quite conveying the same idea as Union. Whether is there more or less, in the true sense of the term, of union, among the Churches