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ART. VIII.-The Evangelical Alliance.*
THE writer of this article was well acquainted with two worthy men, adherents respectively of two of Scotland's sternest sects, who met of an evening to discuss the merits of their churches. They resolved in their wisdom to begin with their points of difference, and they disputed till it was first late and then early, and they separated while the day was breaking without coming nearer each other, but fixing on another night for renewing the controversy. When they met on that occasion, a wiser though not a better man, recommended them to commence with their points of agreement; and they found these to be so numerous and important that they parted at a decent hour on the understanding that they should adjourn the consideration of their points of discordance till they met in heaven. The two men have been in that blessed place for the last quarter of a century-as time moves in this world-but even with the assistance of "Gates Ajar" we have not been able to ascertain whether in their lengthened (as it seems to us) sojourn there they have so exhausted the wondrous sights and truths disclosed to them as to allow of their coming to the points about which they disputed on earth-which was, whether a certain burgh oath, long since abrogated, was or was not lawful.
The anecdote chimes in with "the tune of the times," which is loud in praise of the union of churches and Christians. And yet we are not at liberty to overlook the differences of those who profess to be Christians. The Church of Christ, as a whole, every individual church, and every individual meinber is set for defence of the truth. There have been occasions in which a minority were required by faithfulness to Christ to separate from a majority. Dogmas or ceremonies which they believed to be contrary to the Word of God were imposed on them, and as "whatever is not of faith is sin" they could relieve their conscience only by assuming a position of
* The long and permanent connection of Dr. McCosh with the Evangelical Alliance will invest this account of it from him with special interest for our readers.
independence. Or the church has become so corrupt in doctrine and loose in discipline, that they feel they would be countenancing evil in continuing in it,—and there is no resource but to separate themselves. We rejoice exceedingly in the re-union which has been now so happily accomplished between the two largest branches of the Presbyterian Church in America. But we wish it to be distinctly understood that if men, whether belonging to the Old or New School, appear in that church promulgating dogmas clearly inconsistent with the "system of doctrine" contained in the standards; and if these men, after being kindly warned, insist on continuing in that church, instead of going out of it and seeking to become useful in a sphere of their own, and if they are allowed to continue in that church by a deliberate act of the constituted authorities, then there is no help for it-it may be as sacred a duty to divide that church in some future year as it may be in present circumstances to unite it. We wish this to be distinctly understood at this early stage to prevent conceited youths, or old men who have not grown wiser from age, from introducing at Synods, or on some public occasion, "divers and strange doctrines," which may first trouble, and then divide, the now happily united church.
But while we must ever claim an absolute power to defend the truth, we are not to allow our minds to dwell exclusively and forever on the points on which they differ who believe in Christ the Son of God and the Saviour of all them that believe. The tendency of those who feel that they agree in fundamental truth, will ever be to join in some organic and visible union, and in common action for the salvation of souls and the spread of the Gospel at home and abroad. In order to unity of or ganization it is not needful that there should be an absolute agreement even on matters which are not unimportant in themselves. Thus the question of the time and manner of Christ's second coming has ever been left an open question in the most orthodox Presbyterian churches. When there is a substantial agreement, as there has been for years in the two great branches of the Presbyterian Church, there is no reason why churches should keep isolated and apart, and there are many reasons why they should combine their energies and ex
hibit their unity to the world. We trust that the Presbyte-
setting up a separate agency, say a church or college, in a district where only one is needed? But while these various organizations remain separate is there not a way by which we can, after all, acknowledge and manifest the unity of the Church of Christ?
"I believe in the holy Catholic Church, and in the communion of the saints." This is a doctrine which we Protestants must not hand over to the Romanists that they may claim it as their own. It is all good that Christians should show zeal in behalf of the denomination to which they are conscientiously attached; but when they have done this they are not to be satisfied that they have done all that is required of them; they are never to forget that they are members of a larger church composed of all the faithful, and that they owe duties. to it. It is not good for the individual man to be alone; nor for the individual Christian to dwell apart: both are intended for society and are benefited by it; and if they thwart their nature on these points they will become selfish and sour. But on much the same principle it is not for the benefit of a particular church to look upon itself as the church, the whole church of God; in doing so, it will restrain and hinder the spirit of love and become narrow, exclusive, and bigoted. A church cut off from all connection with other churches is like a pool-sure to become a stagnant marsh-with no living inflow or ontflow, instead of a lake receiving supplies from above, and giving out from beneath fresh and fertilizing waters.
These were the ideas and sentiments which gave rise to the Evangelical Alliance. Men of piety and love in the Established churches of Great Britain longed for some means by which, without compromise of principle, they might hold intercourse with those who were separated from all state-endowed churches. Men of wide catholic spirit in the dissenting bodies, while continuing their protest against all state-endowed churches, were anxious to show that they loved good men in these churches. Christians widely separated from each other, in Great Britain, on the continent of Europe, in America, and in India, desired earnestly to see each other, and to pray and confer with each other. The idea of a Protestant conference was started and was welcomed by choice spirits in many a
church. In particular, at a bicentenary meeting of the Westminster Assembly, held in Edinburgh in July, 1843, a speech by Dr. Balmer, minister of the United Presbyterian Church, Berwick, fell on the receptive spirit of John Henderson of Park, a wealthy and benevolent Eastern merchant, residing in the neighborhood of Glasgow, and thenceforth his purse and a large portion of his time were devoted to the promotion of union among evangelical Christians. A conference, called by the most eminent non-conformist ministers of Scotland, headed by Dr. Chalmers, was held in Liverpool on October 1, 1845, when, in order to remove misapprehensions, and explain clearly the object aimed at, the following resolutions were passed: "That in the prosecution of the present attempt, the Conference are clearly and unanimously of opinion that no compromise of their own views, or sanction of those of others, on the points on which they differ, ought to be either required or expected on the part of any who concur in it: but that all should be held as free as before to maintain and advocate their creeds with all due forbearance and brotherly love." "Further, that any union or alliance to be formed should be understood to be an alliance of individual Christians, and not of denominations or branches of the Church." It was declared to be "the design of this Alliance to exhibit, as far as practicable, the essential unity of the Church of Christ; and at the same time to cherish and manifest, in its various branches, the spirit of brotherly love." These declarations gained the confidence of all who were breathing for union. It had then to be decided who were to be invited to join in this movement, and the Conference drew out a few simple propositions embodying what are usually understood as evangelical views, adding in explanation, "It being, however, distinctly declared, that this brief summary is not to be regarded in any formal or ecclesiastical sense as a creed or confession, nor the adoption of it as involving an assumption of the right authoritatively to define the limits of Christian brotherhood, but simply as an indication of the class of persons whom it is desirable to embrace within the Alliance." An understanding having thus been come to, the Evangelical Alliance was formally constituted in a meeting held in London on August 19, 1846.
VOL. XLII.-NO. III.