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1. A Syllogistic Defence of Baptism. By BENJAMIN
Keach. Edited by J. Baker, Georgia. 2. Puseyism Examined. By J. H. MERLE D'AUBIGNÉ, With an Introductory Notice of the Author. By RobERT Baird. New York, J. S. Taylor, 1843. pp. 79, small 12mo.
If a moral night have passed over the world, some will be satisfied with the first appearances of approaching day; others will remember that the first streaks of the sun's returning light are only harbingers of his full appearance. Protestant Christians generally acknowledge that the Bible is the only illuminator of the moral world; and, that a temporary interruption of its light by intervening obstructions, does not diminish it at its source. A perfect revolution will restore its full benefits.
The graphic sentence with which d'Aubigné, in his work entitled "Puseyism Examined,” has described the return of the Reformers to primitive Christianity, is as full of meaning, as it is vigorous and rich in expression; and on the point at which it aims, no one could wish to detract from the extent of its application. The three periods VOL. XI.-NO. XLI.
which present themselves to his mind, before the epoch of the Reformation, are-1. “That of evangelical Christianity, which, having its focus in the times of the Apostles, extended its rays throughout the first and second centuries. 2. That of ecclesiastical Catholicism, which, commencing its existence in the third century, reigned till the seventh. 3. That of Papacy, which reigned from the seventh to the fifteenth century.
The Reformers, from the third period, wherein the Man of Sin was fully dominant, might have passed back to the second period, wherein, instead of the domination of a Pope, the authority of church councils was acknowledged as supreme.
But the reformation was not a system of juste milieu. It went the whole way; and rebounding with a force which God gives, it fell, as at one single leap, into the evangelical Christianity of the Apostles.”
The Christian world will indeed acknowledge that those who have taken first dawnings for midnoon,-the first streaks of day, which are mingled with twilight, for the full beams of the sun in the heavens;—those who have taken the first gleamings of real truth, confused and mingled with error,—who have grasped some of the leading facts as well as doctrines of true Christianity, while the great source of all may still be hid in obscurity, —the Christian world will be ready to acknowledge, that such are more to be imitated than others who are still in the full midnight of error, though they have both the facts and the principles of right to guide them. But while this is acknowledged, it will not, on the other hand, be disputed, that while a part of the Christian world may be in no danger of returning to Popery; nor, again, to that period which is called ecclesiastical Catholicism,(or the acknowledgment of an authority of the church and of individuals as an addition to that of the Bible itself);-yet that a part of the Christian world, though they are in possession of most of the facts of ancient Christianity, may, at the same time, be far from a complete return to its principles and to their legitimate results. Another part of the Christian world, it will be acknowledged, while they have embraced the great doctrines of the primitive church, disregard the facts of their development; they allow themselves to be led into such irregularities in this respect, as to endanger the continuance of their doctrines, and to open the door for the habitual violation of them. Many in the Church of England wish to return to the authority of the early Christian fathers, as an addition to the authority of the Bible; or, at least, to appeal to it as a consummation of that authority; or, better still, as the result of the imperfect suggestions of the apostolic times, and hence, as the only guide of action for the present age. Others acknowledge the authority of the Bible as supreme, but its directions are of so indefinite and vague a character, as to admit of great varieties of practice; while, therefore, they tenaciously cling to those forms and practices which have been handed down to them from preceding ages, their object will be, instead of supporting these practices directly by an authority subsequent to that of the Scriptures, to return immediately to the Bible, and to secure for themselves, if not its injunction and sanction, at least its permission and silence, so that they claim to be entitled to its authority. The former of these classes have just claim to our respect above those who abjure all authority which clashes with the will of a Pope, and can set aside both the Bible and the authority of the church, ancient and modern, and even that of God himself, for that of a man. The latter class have claims to our respect as still farther removed from such absurdities, and as giving to God and to the Bible at least a partial award of authority. Yet if a people can be found, who look neither backward nor around them for their authority, but place themselves upon the Bible, assured that when they stand there, they are in the foot-prints of a still more venerable antiquity, are they not more entitled to our respect? If a people can be found, who judge of their faithfulness to God, not by the faithfulness of those who have gone before them, but by God's own teachings,-a people who look upon the actions of the past to condemn them or rejoice at them, according as they have been conformed to the Scriptures or not,-a people who look upon former pretenders to Christianity, either to lament and avoid their waywardness and corruption, or to rejoice in their addition to the train of the faithful; but not a people to be decoyed by the pretensions of men, to forsake the directions of their Master, nor to be deceived by an alleged antiquity, to magnify the authority of others,-if such a people can be found, are they not rather entitled to our respect, for adhering to the Bible in the midst of difficulties, which, from the very nature of their position, must continue to oppress them, till the Bible shall succeed in its ultimate triumph throughout the church and the world? And when such a revolution shall take place, as to restore all things to the primitive order, is not the supposition at least admissible, that the number of such a people will be, ultimately, co-extensive with that of the true church? We do not pretend that any such people can now be found; for it is to be confessed that whenever we search for them, we are met by difficulties at every step. Nor, in the ardor of our feelings, shall we conclude that any part of the church has yet leaped fully into the footsteps of the Apostles; much less shall we conclude that all have done so.
There are three species of church organization and government. The first, that of Papacy; the second, that of Episcopacy; the third, that of individual responsibility, with the Bible as its constitution. One of these must be expected, at length, to gain the entire ascendency, to the subversion of all the others, as well as of the numerous intermediate forms which now exist. How far the investigation which is now in progress may lead toward this point, will only be determined when the result itself shall appear. But so much as this may be said with safety, such are the elements which are in motion, and such the mighty hand that controls them, that when the general agitation by which the Christian world is stirred
shall subside and recur to a position, that position may be taken as an actual advancement. It will be nearer the Bible. If the Oxford efforts have produced such an agitation, one thing must be already apparent : such men are awakened to conduct the great discussion, that it may be expected, that if the Reformation of the sixteenth century has fallen in any degree short of evangelical Christianity, the present rebound will complete its lodgement in that elevated and glorious place. If that place is ever reached, the present Christian world will be sisted ;-antichrist will be made to appear in his full and hideous deformity ;-his grasping tentacles will be drawn in, and loosed from the multitudes who now feel them but slightly pulling them to a fearful vortex, which may they now happily escape. The Protestant world at the present instant is, doubtless, full of those influences and corruptions which the extreme degradation of the middle ages brought upon the church; and these, by the present agitation, are likely to be discovered and fully tested. The Man of Sin, though he feels himself gratified by the trifling push he has already received, when he finds himself tumbled by it from his throne, must pull away his polypus arms, which, in such myriad numbers, have stretched themselves abroad. The absurd position which the Oxford Tracts have taken, will, as a matter of course, gratify Papists and supporters of Papacy; but the multitude who are coming up behind these men, and whom they are rousing by their own absurdities, will destroy both Papacy itself, and have we not good reason to say ? -all, which is between it and the Bible. The rising power is awaked, which, if it is wisely directed, will mount upward more and more, in the fearful struggle. The presages which were uttered at the outset, by men whose souls have grasped the truth and who find it, as the world already begin to witness, incorporated within them,-these presages, taken in connection with the facts which have gradually been making their appearance,the profound talents which appear on the arena, and appear on the arena with such entire commitment to the great theme which agitates them,-make it more and more evident that no middle course, or, as they say, media via, will be stopped at; but the Bible and the first form of Christianity in their simplicity will only produce a satisfaction.
But we shall leave this general description, and confine ourselves to the subject we have proposed. By keeping two points in view, we shall endeavor to satisfy ourselves in reference to the identity of a people who may have any claim to apostolical ground.
I. Gieseler says of the primitive churches, " That they were independent bodies, or congregations formed after the model of the Jewish synagogues;" “that their elders were of equal rank;" and Mosheim: "All of the churches in those primitive times, were independent bodies; or none of them subject to the jurisdiction of any other." “The assembled people elected their rulers or VOL. XI.-NO. XLI.