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ART. 1. The Christian Examiner and Religious Miscel-
THE Journal, the title of which we have here quoted, is the ably conducted organ of the American Unitarians. As a periodical, it is one in which we take no slight interest; for it is conducted by our personal friends, and through its pages, which were liberally opened to us, we were at one time accustomed to give circulation to our own crude speculations and pestilential heresies. We introduce it to our readers, however, not for the purpose of expressing any general opinion of its character, or the peculiar tenets of the denomination of which it is the organ; but solely for the purpose of using the article which appeared in the January number, headed The Church, as a text for some remarks in defence of the Church against the prevalent No-Churchism of our age and community.
In our Review for October last, we refuted the pretensions of the High-Church Episcopalians; in the last number, in the article on The British Reformers, we refuted Low-Churchism: we attempt now a refutation of No-Churchism, or the doctrine which admits the Church in name, but denies it in fact. All Protestant sects, just in proportion as they depart from Catholic unity, tend to No-Churchism; and our Unitarians, who are the Protestants of Protestants, and who afford us a practical exemplification of what Protestantism is and must be, when and where it has the sense, the honesty, or the courage to be consequent, have already reached this important point. They cannot be said, in the legitimate sense of the word, to believe in any Church at all. They see clearly enough, that, if they once
admit a Church at all, in any sense in which it is distinguishable from No-Church, they can neither justify the Reformers in seceding from the Catholic Church, nor themselves in remaining aliens from its communion. They have, therefore, the honesty and boldness to deny the Church altogether, and to admit in its place only a voluntary association of individuals for pious and religious purposes; in which sense it is on a par with a Bible, Missionary, Temperance, or Abolition society, with scarcely any thing more holy in its objects, or more binding on its members.
The Examiner, in the article we have referred to, fully authorizes this statement; and though it by no means discards the sacred name of Church, it leaves us nothing venerable or worth contending for to be signified by it. The controversies, for the next few years, it thinks, will, not improbably, revolve around the question of the Church. "What, then," it asks, the Church? what is its authority? what its importance? what its true place among Christian ideas or influences?" These are the questions; and its purpose in the article under consideration is to offer a few remarks which may indicate a true answer to them, especially the last.
In answer to the question, What is the Church? the writer replies, "It is the whole company of believers, the uncounted and wide-spread congregation of all those who receive the Gospel as the law of life. It is coextensive with Christianity; it is the living Christianity of the time, be that more or less, be it expressed in one mode of worship or another, in one or another variety of internal discipline. The Church of Christ comprehends and is composed of all his followers."- pp. 78, 79.
The answer to the question, What is the importance of the Church? is not very clearly set forth. Perhaps this is a point on which the writer has not yet attained to clear and distinct views. It is, probably, one of those points on which "more light is to break forth." The place of the Church among Christian ideas and influences is also not very definitely determined; but it would appear, according to the Examiner, that the sacred writers had two ideas,- for they were not, like our modern reformers, men of only one idea, and these two ideas were, one the Church, the other the individual soul. We do not mean to say that the writer really intends to teach that the Church is an idea, for a "company of believers" can hardly be called an idea, nor can the individual soul; but he probably means to teach that the sacred writers had two ideas, or
rather two points of view, from which they contemplated this company of believers,-the one collective, the other individual.
They loved to collect in idea - the members of Christ, as they styled them, under one idea, and present them in this relation of unity to their readers. Thus viewed, the Church became the emblem of Christian influences and Christian benefits. It expressed all Christ had lived for, or died for. He had loved it, and given himself for it. It was 'the pillar and ground of the truth.' It was 'the body' of which he was the head."- p. 79.
This unity, however, is purely ideal. The only unity really existing consists merely in the similar sentiments, hopes, and aims of the individual members. But
"There was another idea on which the Apostles insisted still more strenously, that of the individual soul. They taught the importance of the individual soul. Around this, as the one object of interest, were gathered the revelations and commandments of the Gospel. Personal responsibleness in view of privileges, duties, sins, temptations was their great theme. They preached the Gospel to the soul in its individual exposure and want. It is the peculiarity of our religion, its vital peculiarity, that it makes the individual the object of its address, its immediate and its final action. Christianity divested of this distinction becomes powerless, and void of meaning. It contradicts and subverts itself."
Here, then, are two ideas, the idea of the company, and the idea of the individual; and the first idea is to be held subordinate to the second; which, we suppose, means that the end of Christianity is the redemption and sanctification of the individual soul, and that the Church is to be valued only in so far as it is a means to this end,- -a doctrine which we do not recollect ever to have heard questioned. The place of the Church is, therefore, below the individual, and being only the effect of the operation of Christianity in the hearts of individuals, as the writer further on tells us, its importance must consist solely in the reaction of the example of Christians on those not yet converted, and in the aid and encouragement union among professed Christians gives to one another in their strivings after the Christian life. This, as near as we can come at it, is the Examiner's doctrine.
The writer throws in one or two remarks, in connexion with his general statement, to which we cannot assent. "It has been maintained," he says, "that the Church is the principal idea in the Gospel. It has been generally supposed that the individual exists for the Church. Ecclesiastical writers have
contended, and the people have admitted, that the rights of the Church were stronger than the rights of the members, that the prosperity of the Church must be secured at the expense of the believer's peace and independence; that, in a word, every thing must be made to yield to the Church."-p. 80. The writer must have drawn on his imagination for this. Ecclesiastical writers have never contended, nor have the people admitted, any such thing. Certainly, so far as our reading extends, the doctors of the Church have always and uniformly taught that the Church exists for the individual, not the individual for the Church, and that she is to be submitted to solely as the means in the hands of God of redeeming and sanctifying the individual soul. This is wherefore Churchmen so earnestly contend for the Church, so willingly obey its commands, and so cheerfully lay down their lives in its defence.
The question of a conflict of rights between the Church and the individual, which the Examiner regards as the great question of the age, is no question at all; for there never is and never can be a conflict of rights. It has never been held by any one of any authority in the ecclesiastical world, that the rights of the Church are stronger than the rights of the members, and that the rights of the members must yield to those of the Church. Rights never yield; claims may yield, but not rights. Establish the fact that this or that is the right of the member, and the Church both respects and guaranties it; nay, the Church goes farther, and presumes the rights she cannot vindicate to herself to be the property of the individual. But where the Church has the right to teach and command, she does not come in conflict with individual rights by demanding submission, for there the individual has no rights. To hold him, within the province of the Church, to obedience, is only holding him to obedience to the rightful authority. When the law says to the individual, "Thou shalt not steal," it infringes no right; because the individual has not, and never had, any right to steal. It is sometimes a convenience to be acquainted with the views of those we wish to oppose.
But, passing over this, we may say, the Examiner holds, that, in the usual sense of the term, our blessed Saviour founded no church; he merely taught the truth, and, by his teaching, life, sufferings, death, and resurrection, deposited in the minds and hearts of men certain great seminal principles of truth and goodness, to be by their own free thought and affection developed and matured. The Church is nothing but the mere effect