« FöregåendeFortsätt »
out their respective views of church government, that an amalgamation of the two bodies was a moral impossibility. The difference to be found in the two communities is not any mere matter of speculation, or a variation of opinion on non-essentials, but lies broad and deep at the foundation of the government of the Church of Christ; and that difference is as clear and distinct, as anything existing in the system which the Reformers have discarded in the Conference Connexion itself.
Two important elements may be referred to, as embodying the distinctive points at issue. The first is, the inherent right of every church to manage its own affairs, without the right of control or interference, on the part of any Conference, or Annual Assembly, however composed. And the second, that laws for the government of the Christian Church are to be found, in their essential principles at least, if not in their form and substance, in the New Testament, and must not be the subject of legislation by any external authority. On these distinct and important principles, both the Wesleyan Association and the Reformers, from the beginning, took their stand, and published their adhesion to them to the whole world. But the New Connexion does not thus give the right of self-government to the several circuits and societies within its pale ; for the Conference claims to make laws affecting the membership of all united with it; establishing the right of appeal from circuits and members to its own authority, and under circumstances to be determined by itself alone, even to visit circuits for the exercise of church discipline. In these respects, indeed, it may be justly said, that so far as the principles here involved are concerned, there is no essential difference between the New Connexion and the Old Connexion ; for both claim to possess, and exercise, the authority of legislation for membership ; both assume the right to visit circuits, even if in opposition to the wishes of those circuits, and to administer discipline.
The question of union between two separate religious communities must be admitted to be a subject of vast moment to all the interests involved, and demands grave and thoughtful consideration. If such bodies, however, are already one in principle, and there appear to be reasonable grounds for their acting together in harmonious co-operation, then, upon every consideration, as Christians, and because “union is strength,” it is not desirable that such persons should remain in isolation from each other. And so far as these grounds are applicable to the Association and the Reformers, we have already seen, that on the main and essential principles upon which church government is based, they are one and the same; nor are we aware of any difference, upon any other subject, between them.
As to the application of these principles to the government of the several churches, it must of course be left to each Circuit to reduce them to ractice in the way and manner each may deem best. All that can be required, and less than that would not meet the case is, that a fair opportunity should be afforded to every Circuit, calmly and dispassionately to consider the subject, and that the decision arrived at shall be in accordance with the decision of the majority. It is true, that to persons accustomed to central rule and authority, which undertakes to regulate the movements of every Circuit, so as to produce unvarying uniformity throughout an entire Connexion—a thing just about as necessary as that all Christians should hold precisely the same doctrinal views-it may appear somewhat hazardous and fraught with danger to leave every Circuit to determine its own mode of managing its own affairs. Nothing, however, in point of practice, can be farther from the truth. Take the Circuits in the Association as an example, and although we find, in reference to the constitution of the quarterly meeting, for instance, almost every variety of form, yet all being founded upon the basis that each Circuit shall determine that question for itself, and give shape and form to its own quarterly meeting, yet the writer knows not a case in which the peace and harmony of
Circuit has ever been disturbed upon that point.
This subject is now alluded to, because among the Reformersjust as was the case from the beginning in the Association—there is already some diversity of operation as regards the construction of quarterly meetings; in some instances these meetings being composed mainly of officers of the church, whilst in other cases, the whole church is found coming together. Either mode, or a modification of either, provided a majority of the Circuit in the first instance should determine it, would be in perfect harmony with the essential principles adopted, and quite consistent with the connexional form as existing among ourselves.
To dwell upon the advantages of union, formed upon such recognised and well-established principles, is unnecessary, as they must be apparent to every reflecting person. We would only add, that to be satisfactory to all, and prevent any seeming advantage to one side over the other, or any subsequent cause of reproach, the platform of union, as it appears to us, should be common ground; that is, previous designations on both sides should be given up, and one mutually agreed upon should be adopted for the united body. Should the Reformers and the Association, guided by the Great Head of the Church, see their way to a union on such a foundation, and consummated in a spirit of entire reliance upon the blessing of God for its success, the earnest hope may be indulged that by the good providence of God, the event may be so overruled and directed, as to prove a lasting blessing to all immediately concerned in it, and the means of an extensive revival of pure and undefiled religion to the benefit of the world at large. How much does it become all those who may in any way be drawn to the consideration of this important subject, earnestly to beseech, at the throne of grace, that the spirit of wisdom, and of a sound mind, may be abundantly poured forth upon every member and officer in each community, so that every one may be brought into that state of mind which will best enable him to do the will and purpose of God in reference to this matter!
RELIGION VIEWED FROM A PHILOSOPHER'S
It is interesting to have, now and then, the privilege of glancing at a philosopher's thoughts on religion. The following is copied from a philosophical work by 0. w. Wright, and dedicated to Sir W. Hamilton, as the most colossal intellect of the age.
“ Adoration confined to the sanctuary of the soul is what is called internal worship—the necessary principle of all public worship.
“Public worship is no more an arbitrary institution than society and government, language and arts. All these things have their roots in human nature. Adoration abandoned to itself, would easily degenerate into dreams and ecstasy, or would be dissipated in the rush of affairs and the necessities of every day. The more energetic it is, the more it tends to express itself outwardly in acts that realize it, to take a sensible, precise, and regular form, which, by a proper reaction on the sentiment that produced it, awakens it when it slumbers, sustains it when it languishes, and also protects it against extravagances of every kind to which it might give birth in so many feeble or unbridled imaginations. Philosophy, then, lays the natural foundation of public worship in the internal worship of adoration. Having arrived at that point, it stops, equally careful not to betray its rights and not to go beyond them, to run over, in its whole extent and to its farthest limit, the domain of natural reason, as well as not to usurp a foreign domain.
" But philosophy does not think of trespassing on the ground of theology; it wishes to remain faithful to itself, and also to follow its true mission, which is to love and favour everything that tends to elevate man, since it heartily applauds the awakening of religious and Christian sentiment in all noble souls, after the ravages that have been made on every hand, for more than a century, by a false and sad philosophy. What, in fact, would not have been the joy of a Socrates and a Plato if they had found the human race in the arms of Christianity! How happy would Plato—who was so evidently embarrassed between his beautiful doctrines and the religion of his times, who managed so carefully with that religion even when he avoided it, who was forced to take from it the best possible part, in order to aid a favourable interpretation of his doctrine—have been, if he had had to do with a religion which presents to man, as at once its author and its model, the sublime and mild Crucified, of whom he had an extraordinary presentiment, whom he almost described in the person of a just man dying on the eross ; a religion which came to announce, or at least to consecrate and expand the idea of the unity of God and that of the unity of the human race; which proclaims the equality of all souls before the Divine law, which thereby has prepared and maintains civil equality ; which prescribes charity still more than justice, which teaches man that he does not live by bread alone, that he is not wholly contained in his senses and his body, that he has a soul, a free soul, whose value is infinite, above the value of all worlds, that life is a trial, that its true object is not pleasure, fortune, rank, none of those things that do not pertain to our real destiny, and are often more dangerous than useful; but is that alone which is always in our power, in all situations and all conditions, from end to end of the earth, to wit, the improvement of the soul by itself, in the holy hope of becoming from day to day less unworthy of the regard of the Father of men, of the examples given by him, and of his promises. If the greatest moralist that ever lived could have seen these admirable teachings, which in germ were already at the foundation of his spirit, of which more than one trait can be found in his works, if he had seen them consecrated, maintained, continually recalled to
the heart and imagination of man by sublime and touching institutions, what would have been his tender and grateful sympathy for such a religion! If he had come in our own times, in that age given up to revolutions, in which the best souls were early infected by the breath of scepticism, in default of the faith of an Augustine, of an Anselm, of a Thomas, of a Bossuet, he would have had, we doubt not, the sentiments at least of a Montesquieu, of a Turgot, of a Franklin ; and very far from putting the Christian religion and a good philosophy at war with each other, he would have been forced to unite them, to elucidate and fortify them by each other. That great mind and that great heart, which dictated to him the Phedon, the Gorgias, the Republic, would also have taught him that such books are made for a few sages; that there is needed for the human race a philosophy at once similar and different; that this philosophy is a religion, and that this desirable and necessary religion is the Gospel. We do not hesitate to say that, without religion, philosophy, reduced to what it can laboriously draw from perfected natural reason, addresses itself to a very small number, and runs the risk of remaining without much influence on manners and life ; and that, without philosophy, the purest religion is no security against many superstitions, which little by little bring all the rest; and for that reason it may see the best minds escaping its influence, as was the case in the eighteenth century. The alliance between true religion and true philosophy is, then, at once natural and necessary; natural by the common basis of the truths which they acknowledge ; necessary for the better service of humanity. Philosophy and religion differ only in the forms that distinguish, without separating them. Another auditory, other forms, and another language. When St. Augustine speaks to all the faithful in the church of Hippone, do not seek in him the subtile and profound metaphysician who combatted the Academicians with their own arms, who supports himself on the Platopic theory of ideas, in order to explain the creation. Bossuet, in the treatise De la Connaissance de Dieu et de Soi-méme, is no longer, and at the same time he is always, the author of the Sermons, of the Elevations, and the incomparable Catéchisme de Meaux. To separate religion and philosophy has always been, on one side or the other, the pretention of small, exclusive, and fanatical minds; the duty, more imperative now than ever, of whomsoever has for either a serious and enlightened love, is to bring together and unite, instead of dividing and wasting the powers of the mind and the soul, in the interest of the common cause and the great object which the Christian religion and philosophy pursue, each in its own way, -I mean the moral grandeur of humanity.
THE WORKING CLASSES IN RELATION TO
BY THE REV. S. S. BARTON. It is a fact pregnant with matter for deep reflection, that in this nineteenth century of the Christian era, the great body of the working classes of England are without the Gospel, and we fear a large proportion are alienated from it. We are not speaking beyond the record, when we affirm that the majority of these are simply indifferent, and the rest either standing on the border land of doubt, or settled down amidst the cold abstractions of philosophical necessity, and the whole more or less assuming an attitude of avowed hostility, both to Christianity and its teachers.
Did we not recognise the divinity of the Christian religion, with these facts before us, we might seriously impugn its adaptedness to the people, and endeavour to ascertain whether, as a system, it met the instinctive yearnings of humanity ; whether it was of sufficient breadth and compass to include man in all the relations of his being ; whether its sympathies were sufficiently deep to fathom its sorrows, and its aspirations sufficiently high to confirm his longings after immortality. But believing, as we do, that the Gospel is exactly suited to man in all the conditions of his life, and that it meets all the capacities of his nature ; that all its sympathies and sacrifices are with him, and for him ; that it is the people's best and most legitimate defence from oppression and wrong; that their physical and moral health are best secured by breathing its pure and invigorating atmosphere ; that it is the true and only charter of their liberties; the staff of their rights; the sanctuary of their sorrows ;-then we are thrown back on the enquiry, Why are they not with us? Why is their attitude one of hostility and defiance? Why will they reason that Christianity is a lie, an imposture, and declare its teachers to be base and unworthy hirelings ?
It cannot be that Christianity is a failure, however we may have misapprehended its real nature, and failed to embody its spirit of living love. The solution cannot be found in the constantly-varying phases of society, producing new conditions of life that the Gospel cannot reach ; for, however manifold and varied the changes to which humanity is subject in its onward progress, Christianity anticipates and meets them all. It is never taken by surprise. It is at home in every clime, and among every people. It developes their latent energies, and awakens within them high and holy aspirations. It is ever in the van of the most refined and highly cultivated class of mind, and while it would task the powers of the greatest, it stoops to instruct the least. Then the enquiry comes back upon us again, and with an intensity of earnestress, we ask-Why are not the people with us? Why are they either directly opposed to our teaching, or profoundly indifferent to it ?
It would be an easy mode of answering these and similar questions, were we to ascribe the evil to the natural enmity of the human heart; to the unbelieving tendencies of the unregenerate and carnal mind, which “is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." It is in a state of revolt ; law and order are distasteful to it; moral government it denies and spurns as a restraint upon its liberty. Here doubtless is the real origin of all alienation from God; the fountain from whence so many impure streams are supplied. But is not all this assumed, and understood in the scheme of the Gospel ? Does this state of heart and mind, take the Gospel by surprise ? Is there no provision to conquer and subdue it? We have already seen that the Gospel is adequate to the work assigned it, that it contains every appliance necessary to the realization of its mission. But like all other instrumentalities designed to operate on moral beings, it needs to be applied. The agency by which it is to be brought to bear on human hearts is not miraculous. We are not to wait for an angel to trouble the waters. The remedy has been provided by God, it is for us to carry it to the patient. Let us be careful, while attempting to search out the cause, that we do not impugn the efficiency of the Gospel. To throw the whole blame on the natural enmity of the human heart would most readily dispose of the question ; but who would say that it really solved the problem, or removed the difficulty ? To carry out the conclusion to its legitimate results, might lead us to the abandonment of effort and to the hopelessness of despair. Man's depraved character will doubtless go far to meet our enquiry, but are there not other causes in some measure subordinate to this, that account for the estrangement of the great mass of the working population, from the Gospel and its teachers ?
Those who have closely observed the aberrations of the popular mind, and