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a presbyterial commission prevented the formal and legal action, which they would have taken under presbytery. The hierarchal connection ceased. They became, in fact, a Congregational council, at least in spirit, and resorted to prayer. Nothing could have been done better adapted, or more powerful, to secure the end aimed at. The gospel is not a system of law, but of love and of divine influence and of heart-searching power. Such should ever be the atmosphere created by a council; such the power on which it relies. Well does Dr. Wisner say: " contentions among brethren always grow out of the want of a heavenly mind, and usually take place in the absence of the sanctifying influence of the Holy Spirit." The power of a council, then, in such a case, lies in the restoration of that which has been lost, and in a manifested sense of the presence of God. This is especially important in all cases of division and contention. But it is universally true of all councils, that a devotional atmosphere should predominate in them. A formal acknowledgment of God is not enough. If it be true that the Lord giveth wisdom, then prayer is the most powerful mode of gaining wisdom for others, on all subjects on which a council is called to act.

In accordance with these views, the national Congrega tional council, which is soon to assemble at Boston, will devote the whole of the first day to prayer. Questions of doctrine, of church order, and of benevolent enterprise, will come before them. But on all questions, nothing can throw so much light as the presence of the divine Spirit, and a powerful development of the spirit of self-sacrifice and self-denial for the good of others, in accordance with the example of him who came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many. This is the vital essence of Christianity. This is its true doctrinal, organic, and practical power. The field is wide. The necessities are obvious. An unparalleled work of Christian evangelism and organization for our country is needed. The great practical question is: Has the denomination the

power, liberality, self-sacrifice, and self-denial needed to meet the emergency?

It appears from this general view of Congregational councils, that they differ greatly in principles and spirit from those assemblies known in church history, after the second century, as councils. These were based on the hierarchal principles, and passed authoritative canons. This introduced into the church a kind of canonic literature, which has expanded into folios, and, like the Jewish traditions condemned by Christ, made the word of God of no effect. This principle of hierarchal unity required councils above councils as larger territories were represented, and metropolitans and patriarchs to preside in them; and an attempt at an organized universal hierarchy was the logical result. There has indeed been some dispute in this hierarchy as to the supremacy; some placing it in the pope, others exalting a general council above him. But by securing the right to call the council or not, at his pleasure, the pope, in fact, has carried the day.

The restorers of Congregationalism were well acquainted with the history and effects of such councils, as one main cause of the subversion of the original Congregationalism, and it is not surprising that at first they should apply some other name to their own assemblies, based on a denial of the hierarchal principle. Accordingly we find, in the old writers, that they are called by various descriptive names, such as conferences, consociations, conventions, synods, rather than councils. But their advisory nature, or some other reason, has led to the adoption of the term "councils," for the common and smaller assemblies of the representatives of the churches, applying the term "synod" or "consociation" to the larger and less frequent gatherings. But at last, usage is extending the name to what would formerly have been called a synod. Our national council is the legitimate successor of the general synods of New England.

VOL. XXII. No. 86.

39

Ideals of Congregational Development in the Future. Congregationalism, since its modern restoration, has acted in circumstances opposed to the proper development of its real tendencies and full power. It began its career in the midst of compactly organized ecclesiastical hierarchies covering the whole ground. Of course it could not act on society according to the original idea of its divine Founder. Let us consider what would be involved in this, and what would be the results of Congregationalism were it to become universal.

Let us then suppose that the Congregational principle of unity, intellectual, moral, sympathetic, among free local churches, to the exclusion of all hierarchal organizations, has obtained the ascendency.

One obvious result would be, the cessation of the divis ion of local churches among many independent upper organizations covering the same ground. Then the Christian population of each locality could form itself into as many local churches as should be needed, and could properly be sustained Then would come to an end the extravagant system of multiplied feeble local churches, to which rival hierarchies give rise, and the waste of resources, collision of interests, jealousy, proselytism, and unbelief which neces sarily result.

In the primitive church, there was not even one such upper hierarchal organization. Mosheim has on this point stated the truth so emphatically, that we quote his words: "All the churches in those primitive times were independent bodies; or none of them subject to the jurisdic tion of any other. For though the churches which were founded by the apostles themselves frequently had the honor shown them to be consulted in difficult and doubtful cases; yet they had no judicial authority, no control, no power of giving laws. On the contrary, it is as clear as the noon-day that all Christian churches had equal rights, and were, in all respects, on a footing of equality. Nor does there appear in this first century any vestige of that conso

ciation of the churches of the same province which gave rise to ecclesiastical councils and to metropolitans. But rather, as is manifest, it was not till the second century that the custom of holding ecclesiastical councils first began in Greece, and thence extended into other provinces " (Murdock's Mosheim, I. 72).

In a Christian population there are always strong tendencies to local unity, which will organize, in the requisite number of local churches, all who are not divided by fundamental doctrinal error. The departing principle, the principle of waste and extravagant expenditure, is found in the upper hierarchal organizations. Let it be but once universally conceded that these are in opposition to the unity at which Christ aimed, and to the highest development of his kingdom, and the great, the all-pervading principle of division and of repulsion among Christians will be done away, and the true principles of Christian unity will begin to operate with a power unknown before. God, through his word, will centralize, unite, and control his free and holy churches with a divine, all-pervading, joy-diffusing power of light and love.

Another result would be, the opening of the way for the removal of doctrinal differences among Christians, by an unobstructed comparison of views, and a reference of all things to the divine standard of truth- the word of God. Nothing has so great power to neutralize and arrest candid investigation and comparison of views, as the existing hierarchal organizations. They are bound to defend, by their whole organic power, all that is within their respective enclosures. Creeds become, not declarations of doctrinal results, reached at particular times, to be used in the study of doctrinal development, in which light they are of great use, but fixed doctrinal standards, above the Bible, and between the churches and the Bible. Remove the hierarchal principle, let no hierarchal interests divide the Christian community into fixed organizations, holding together their elements by powerful organic attractions, let the Bible

and the true laws of interpretation and development have full sway, and a candid comparison of views be unobstructed, and existing doctrinal differences would be finally removed, and all of the sacramental host see eye to eye.

Another result would be, an increase of patience in thought and investigation, as opposed to the haste and authoritative decisions of hierarchies. All decisions made in haste and under excitement, by the mere power of a majority of votes, are simply adjournments of discussion to other and better times and circumstances. No decision will permanently stand that is not based on truth. But all hierarchies tend to a hasty decision, by majorities, according to existing standards. On the other hand, Congregationalism tends to patient thought, full discussion, and a decision by the Bible. This operation of the system, in certain well-known cases, is so well set forth by Professor Park, that we cannot do better than to use his words :

"When President Edwards promulgated his views, the clergy opposed him. His friends were few, his foes were the vast majority of staid and gentlemanly divines. Had he and they been trained under an authoritative organization of churches, there is little doubt that he would have been summoned before their tribunal, and, in its summary action, every member of the court inflaming every other, and all of them in a state altogether unfit for grave deliberation on intricate themes, he would have been condemned, and in all likelihood a new denomination would have been started, and its differences from the old would have been exaggerated, and its distance from the old would have been looked upon as a great gulf. But he appealed to the sober men of the country, wherever he could find them; they reflected, each man for himself, and some approved, others doubted; and the more part could see no reason broad enough to warrant their refusal of fellowship with him; and so the truth increased mightily. His friend Hopkins was thus encouraged to show his opinion. The clergy resisted him. He was reasoned against and rhymed against.

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