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as well say that he has not time to study mathematics. The philologist might just as well say that he has not time to study the facts of language, and therefore must content himself with the philosophy of language. The facts of history are permanent; opinions founded on them are variable and often transient. With a knowledge of facts, one may constantly improve his theory. A theory without facts can neither be safely used nor mended. There should, at least, be one period of history, longer or shorter, general or special, in which the student is so far at home that he can see with his own eyes and think his own thoughts. That spot will be a bright light to him, and will aid him essentially in understanding other things.
THE SCRIPTURAL PHILOSOPHY OF CONGREGATIONALISM AND OF COUNCILS.
[This Article, written by Rev. Dr. EDWARD BEECHER, is the Twelfth in the Series of Articles representing the views of different ecclesiastical denominations.]
WHEN any system is itself a part of a higher and more comprehensive system, the development of its philosophy is equivalent to an exposition of its end, and of the relations. of that end to the higher system of which it is a part.
The higher system of which Congregationalism is a part, is known in the sacred scriptures as the Kingdom of God. To this higher and more comprehensive system Congregationalism sustains vital relations. It is our present purpose to set forth its end, and the relations of that end to the higher system of which it is a part. As this exposition cannot be made by the light of reason alone, but depends on the testimony of God in the sacred scriptures, it may properly be called the scriptural philosophy of Congre gationalism.
The Kingdom of God.
In studying the life, aims, and actions of Christ, we are impressed with three great facts:
1. There were on record certain prominent and sublime predictions as to the kingdom of God, which were to be fulfilled by him.
2. He accepted them as of divine origin, and undertook the work of their fulfilment, by ordaining a system of means to that end.
3. He regarded the universal extension and the absolute supremacy of that kingdom as lying in the distant future.
Let us consider these facts a little more in detail.
The predictions of a future kingdom of God on earth in the Old Testament are many. Of these, however, none are more explicit and sublime, and none more specially regarded by Christ, than those contained in the Book of Daniel. In particular, in the seventh chapter of that book, the prophet first exhibits, as presented to him in vision, a series of worldly kingdoms, represented by a corresponding series of bestial forms, arising from the great sea, amid the strife of the four winds of heaven.
At the close of the series, the Messiah comes, in fiery flames, to judge and to destroy these bestial kingdoms, and to establish, instead of them, the kingdom of God. This glorious consummation is described in language of unequalled sublimity, and concludes with these words: "There was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed."
This, at the close of the chapter, is explained by the angel-interpreter as equivalent to a reign of God through his regenerated people; for, concerning the same kingdom that was given to the Messiah, it is said, "the kingdom and the dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of
the Most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him."
For centuries before the Messiah came these divine oracles had cast their cheering light amidst the gloom of despotic and idolatrous powers. At last he came, and, before the nation and the world, recognized the truth of these great predictions, and declared that the glorious kingdom of God, so long foretold, so long expected, was at hand. He affirmed, also, that he came to fulfil all that had been predicted concerning it in the oracles of God. That he did fulfil the divine oracles, that he did develop and establish the kingdom of God, in its essential elements and principles, is no less true. That he did so, is implied in his fidelity to God, and is repeatedly declared in the divine word.
But he did not effect that universality and supremacy of this kingdom which had been foretold. All people, nations, and languages did not serve him. The kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole. heaven, were not given to the people of the saints of the Most High. On the other hand, Christ regarded the kingdom of God, in its full development, as still in the future, and to be attained only by ages of conflict. The judgment and burning of the bestial kingdoms were not effected in his day. On the other hand, even after his resurrection and ascension on high, he foretold by his servant John, particularly in chapters xii. - xix. of the Apocalypse, a protracted reign of that great bestial power which had absorbed all its predecessors, and the corruption of the nations by a false church, sustained by the beast; and after this a judg ment, equivalent to that foretold by Daniel; and after this the reign of the saints with Christ, or the fully developed kingdom of God. This is yet in the future. It appears, then, that the fully-developed and all-embracing kingdom of God is to be an ultimate result of a system of principles and measures introduced by Christ in his day. In order, then, fully to understand this system of principles and measures, we need to consider what is involved in the ultimate result, and their relations to it.
The Kingdom of God fully developed and Universal. Christ's declaration that his kingdom is not of this world, that is, is not a secular, civil state, but a spiritual kingdom, has led many to regard civil government, commerce, the arts and sciences, education, and the schools as in such a sense secular as to form no part of the kingdom of God. This, according to them, is purely spiritual, and is confined to things ecclesiastical. From this flows an assumption, not always stated, but in fact made a basis of feeling and action, that these secular things arc, in some sense, of necessity, unsanctified and worldly, and that, as such, God has no deep interest in them, and does not design to bring them all under his own influence and control.
Now, though it is true that these great departments of human life have been for ages unsanctified and unsubordinated to the laws of God and to the gospel, and though it is true that in this state of things God reigns, in cordial sympathy, only in and through that ministry of regenerated men who form the church, while the world lies in wickedness; yet the very end for which the church was ordained, was to bring to pass ultimately another result, and that is to bring civil government, the state, commerce, political economy, the arts and sciences, and the schools, under the influence of God, so as to pervade them with the influ ence of his law and the gospel, and thus to make them a harmonious and consistent part of his kingdom. Such a result can only be effected by the universal indwelling of God in the individuals of whom human society is composed, inclining and enabling them to act on his principles and for his glory in all that they do, in all departments of life; so that, according to an ancient prophecy, holiness to the Lord shall be inscribed on all things, even such as have been regarded as earthly and secular.
Viewing the church in this light, even when vastly in the minority, it contains in itself the elements and principles of the kingdom of God in its full and universal development. For this reason our Saviour compares it to leaven, designed to leaven the whole lump.
The fully-developed and all-comprehending kingdom of God on earth is, then, a conception as simple as it is great and glorious. It is the reign of God in all departments of human society, through regenerated and holy men. It involves that constant action of God, in and through men, for which an infinite and omniscient Spirit alone is competent. This action Christ illustrates by the analogy of the constant action of the vine on its branches, which is essential to their vitality and fruitfulness. No power of angels or of men can take the place of this action of God, in and through the individual elements of the social system. No form of government or mode of organization can be a substitute for it. From it results a kingdom which no one can administer but God himself. In it he can have no vicar. He is its constant life, its controlling power. And he controls it, not by force, but by truth, and by holy emotions in view of truth. Hence Christ declared his kingdom to be, in its highest and noblest idea, a kingdom of truth, and thus distintinguished it from secular kingdoms of force, with which Pilate was in danger of confounding it (John xviii. 36, 37).
This kingdom of God does not absorb into itself, or abolish, the civil governments of earth; but it sends a divine influence through them, that directs, perfects, regu lates, and controls them. It does not involve one outward, universal, civil government, administered by Christ and the saints; but it implies that all men have become saints, and administer the various civil governments of earth, and transact its business under the inspiring and illuminating influence of God.
Nor does it imply an outward ecclesiastical organization, with human officers and administrators. It implies solely a Christian organization of society, in all nations and in all its parts, effected, sustained, and animated by God, acting in regenerated men.
Of this perfected society local churches will still be a part. But they alone will not fill out the full idea of the predicted kingdom of God; for that will include the whole