« ElőzőTovább »
themselves of primary importance, but intimately connected with the most sacred interests of the Gospel. What then did the friends of the Union propose? To give battle to every other body of believers ? To attempt a system of proselytism to their party, from Christians of other persuasions? No: but simply that when they exerted their energies to communicate the Gospel to those destitute of it, the effort should be conducted on their own principles of church order. As for building up a mighty ecclesiastical power, this is the very point in dispute. In the Layman's sense of the term, the Union is not ecclesiastical at all, and certainly neither has, nor ever can have, any such power. In respect to the reiterated assertion, that the wish to conduct the Colonial Mission as a branch of the Union, is a proof that the Union is grasping at power, it may be confidenty asserted that the love of power had no more to do with that proceeding than the love of money; and that it would be just as easy to acquire property as to usurp domination by it. The members of other Christian denominations, who have long felt it their duty to carry on their efforts for the spread of the Gospel in connexion with their own denominational peculiarities, and who honestly attach importance to points, though subordinate, on which they have felt it their duty to differ and separate from their fellow believers, will honour in Independents the same open, upright course. To candid minds it neither can nor will be an offence, that they avow their attachment to their own cherished discipline, liberty, and simplicity, and unite among themselves for their preservation and advancement.
5. The arguments by which the Union is defended, are either not at all noticed, or very summarily disposed of. Thus it is called with admiration a begging of the question, that the object of the Union should be pleaded in its defence. Now let it be considered that the point in debate is one of tendencywhat is likely to be the future course and position of the Union? And with submission the avowed and recorded objects of its formation vitally affect the question. It will be said, the avowed object will soon be abandoned, and very different, very opposite purposes attempted. When the proof of this is required, we are, in effect, informed it has always been so: look to all history. Now history will inform us that synodical meetings to settle doctrine and discipline have grown into usurpations. They have pursued their object first by advice, then by authority ; but it was the same object all along. Yet the Layman is a friend of synods, which have an object that naturally grows into abuse, which have only to proceed with the very object of their formation to become courts and acquire authority, while he is the determined opponent of a union announcing an object that must be abandoned and reversed before it could assume dominion, which, indeed, even then, it could not accomplish with its free elective constitution; for it is not in the least conceded, that the “ structure, acts, and assumptions of the Union are in practical opponency to the very principles it professes to promulgate and extend,"-quite the contrary.
Then it is equally matter of surprise to the “ Layman" that the intentions and character of the supporters of the Union should be pleaded in its favour. I reply, the piety and virtue of men is the last and strongest of all securities for their institutions, under an over-ruling providence. Whether in church or state, virtue is the living principle by which the healthy and successful working of the wisest and freest constitutions must be secured. The Congregational Union is put into the hands of our pastors, deacons, and church members. If they will not preserve Congregational principles who will? When the time comes that neither their love of religion, nor their attachment to liberty, will render them faithful conservators of the freedom and rights of their churches, then may the Congregational Union become a dominant tyranny, but never till then, under the constitution of the Union, framed by its honoured founders with a deep and patient solicitude, of which I was eye and ear witness, not to acquire power, but to render it impossible that they should ever possess it themselves, or that their successors should ever usurp it.
6. Then there is expressed such a constant and marked preference of societies
over churches, as a mere suitable instrumentality for great and general operations to promote the kingdom of Christ, as requires grave reflection. Our modern societies for the spread of the gospel are but human expedients; the noblest, I rejoice to acknowledge, in the history of human wisdom, piety, and benevolence. But let it be remembered, churches, not societies, were the only organisation left among Christians by the inspired apostles, for the spread as well as for the conservation of the gospel. That argument comes, therefore, with a somewhat suspicious aspect, which would prove that churches, as such, can do nothing great and extensive in advancing the spread and triumph of the gospel; that for self-defence they must beware of any combination with their sister churches, except in small numbers, and within narrow linits; and that a religion, the very genius of which is expansion and universality, shuts up its individual societies in an incapacity of enlarged communion among themselves and of Catholic solicitudes and efforts for the wide world; so that to complete the machinery necessary for accomplishing the purposes of Christ, it was left to hnman wisdom to perfect the institutions of heaven by the invention of societies with a money qualification. I will yield to no one in zeal and affection for these combinations of Christians; but I cannot forget that they are human, and churches are divine appointments. Observant and thoughtful men of great ability have looked on this aspect of things with some perplexity, and have felt suspicions that churches now are not altogether what iheir divine founder intended, seeing they are as imperfectly adapted by their arrangements, position, and habits, to bear part in the grand enterprise of subduing the world to Christ. These hints are intended only to moderate a confidence in societies, which would seem to advance them to a superiority over churches. But to me nothing could be more objectionable than a society to promote Congregagationalism ; a society not composed of the churches, whose cause alone it is; nor aiming at the spread of the gospel in connexion with it, but simply labouring to promote particular views on the subject of church government. I should think it, indeed, open to the charge of sectarianism, secularity, and undisguised hostility to other denominations of believers.
I take leave, Sir, of your correspondent with great respect for his ability, and for his zeal to preserve the rights and liberties of Independent churches. I believe the object of both the friends and the opponents of the Union is the same. They are unanimous in anxiety for the preservation and spread of Congregational principles of church government in connexion with the pure Gospel of Christ, separate from which, they would all concur in thinking zeal for forms unworthy of a wise and good man. They differ as to the means by which they think their common end will be most effectually promoted. It is to be hoped that each party will pursue the course dictated by their own convictions in a spirit of forbearance and candour towards those with whom, if they cannot agree, yet they will not dispute.
Most respectfully yours,
ALGERNON Wells. *
. This letter has not yet appeared in the Patriot, but Mr. Wells has obliged us with the use of his manuscript, that we may complete the controversy so far as he is concerned. Should the “ Layman" publish a rejoinder, we shall feel it right to print it on a future occasion, and thus our pages will permanently contain a discussion which is too interesting to the Congregational churches, and has been conducted with too much ability to be left in the ephemeral columns of a new6paper, however respectable.
PART I.-ORIGINAL ARTICLES, Essays, &c.
Conder's Remarks on Hymn Book, 787. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS AND CORRES- Correspondence respecting the Cong.
PONDENCE, 12, 140, 204, 276, 310, Union, 827.
104, 476, 540, 604, 676, 740, 826. Corinth, Paul at, 761. Address lo Students at Geneva, 477. Cosmogony of Scripture and Geology,
--- of the Congregational Union, 496, 569, 624, 700.
541. America, Origin and Progress of Unitarianism in.
Earthquake in Palestine, 405.
Errata, Corrections of, 276, 60 4616 .
Faith and Prayer, Union of, 98. i- V. 502.
Fish, the great of Jonah, 703. - VI, 564. Associations, Hints on County, 507. American Poetry. (See Poetry.) Geneva, Address to Students at, 477. Atonement, Reprint of West on the, Geology and Scripture Cosmogony, 376.
496, 569,62+, 206. Authority of Ministers of the Gospel, 1.
- a Question in, 710. Remarks on, 80.
-- Answered, 765. Authorized Version, Walford on the Gospels, Character, and Design of the, Revision of, 335.
Henderson, Dr.on Rom. vii, 1425, 22.
Henry's, Rev. P. Objections to Po. Baptism described as a Cross, 107.
pery, 605, 691,761. Bennett, Dr. on Solomou's Song, 610. Hills, the Land of, No. I. 25. Reply to by Dr. Smith, 694.
- II. Carmel, 210. - Sequel to, 784.
-. III. Engedi, 554. Beverley, Mr. Correction of, 231. Hints on County Associations, 507. Bibliography of the Scriptures, 166, History of the Church at Leamington, 373, 437.
61. British Churches, Claims of the Penin
- Regium Donum, 141. sula on, 303.
Home Missions, on, 93.
Hymn Book, Congregational, Conder's C.
remarks on, 787. Calumuies of a Clergyman and the Rev. W. Ward, 637.
J. J. Canticles, the Targum on, 494.
Improvement of the Mind, 221, 289. Character and Design of the Gospels, Increase of Cong. Churches, 370. 297, 616.
India, Patronage of Idolatry in, 341. Church 'Lands, are they the Property Intercourse with departed Spirits, 549. of its Members ? 362.
Isaiah, chap. vi. Notes on, 684. Church, may not Women teach in the ? Jackson, Memoir of the late Rev. 306.
Thomas, 677. - Reply to, 574.
Jonah, on the great Fish of, 703.
L. increase, 370.
Land of Hills, No. I. 25 - Union, Address of the
- II. Carmel, 210. Committee, 541.
- Ill. Engedi, 554.
Lands of the Church, the Property of - Correspondence its Members, 362. Iespecting the, 827.
on Dissenters, 231.
- Remarks on,
Dr. J.P.Smith on the,
Remarks on, 22.
Sandys's Paraphrase of the Psalms, 101,
569, 624, 706.
-S, Bibliography of the, 166,
-- Dr. Bennett on the
-- Dr. Smith's Reply
-- Sequel to, 784.
"the Bible, 499.
All Souls, 308.
-- on the Sabbath, 439.
o on the ejected Ministers,
- The Child and Butterfly, 640.
to, 603, 691,761.