Obrazy na stronie

principle! In one aspect the voluntary churchman is said to contend for a system, the inadequacy of which has already been exhibited ; in the other aspect, he is represented as unconsciously surrendering the whole question at issue. For from the moment he allows external liberality to come in to the aid of local effort, from that moment he justifies the contributions of the state to the same purposes. Tithes and stipends are said to be identical in principle, with the contributions of Christians in London towards the spread of the gospel in Lincolnshire. He who concedes the propriety of the latter, disqualifies himself, it is said, from objecting to the former. Moreover, the experience of every day proves the inadequacy of the united efforts of both species of external voluntaryism, to overtake the increase of population, and the spread of vice and infidelity. While, therefore, Dr. Chalmers hails the efforts of private Christians as a supplement to the grander enterprise of the state, he “confesses a greater value for experience than for experiments,” and points to the unprovided millions of Britain as an argument against relinquishing the chief source from which the ministrations of religion are at present provided. Should this argument be met by the notion that governments are only conversant with the material interests of their subjects, Dr. Chalmers

protests altogether against this debasing view of government," and pleads the precedent of national contributions to universities and museums, to public parks and gardens, to the still more philanthropic purposes of relieving destitution in the Highlands, or rescuing the missing Greenland ships, and to the most analogous object of all, national education, in proof that governments have, and ought to have, “ moral prerogatives” of their own. The desired assistance of government towards the increase of churches in Scotland would harmonize, it is said, with this view of the functions of governors, and would be nothing more than a splendid instance of external voluntaryism. In his three concluding lectures, Dr. Chalmers takes for granted, that his readers are satisfied of the necessity of some establishment, that is, of some legal provision for a clergy. He proceeds to contend for a territorial establishment, that is, an arrangement which allots to each clergyman a stated district to be spiritually cultivated by himself; as distinguished from an arrangement for the mere maintenance of the clergyman, which would leave him to choose his own field of labour. And he then lays down the principles by which the state is to be guided in selecting the body of clergy to be employed by it. Protestantism is to be preferred to Popery; and as it would be inexpedient and impracticable, in working a territorial system, to employ the ministers of a diversity of sects, government is bound to adhere to that selection of an evangelical protestant sect which it has once made. Thus episcopacy is right in England, and presbyterianism in Scotland; while the existence of a protestant establishment in popish Ireland is justified by the necessity of popery, under any circumstances, being made to yield to protestantism.

As we are not of those who are convinced by the respected lecturer's reasonings, of the propriety of an establishment at all, it is needless for us to go into the discussion of how establishments ought to be

constituted. Upon this question the opinion of an advocate of the southern establishment will be more in point.

“When we plead to all these bodies, that, according to the principles of Dr. Chalmers, the State having selected one forun of Evangelical Protestantisin, is bound to abide by its choice, how shall we convince them of our own right to be considered evangelical? Is our doctrine of Baptismal Regeneration evangelical? Or the doctrine of Absolution ? or that of the Holy Communion ? (Those of Schisma and the Apostolical Succession we suppose before abandoned as terms of entry into the Chalmerian Establishment.) Is it not plain that we should lose all the benefit of our sacrifices while we maintained any specific doctrines at all! Can that be an Evangelical Church which destroys more souls than it saves; as we learn from Dr. Pye Smith and Mr. Binney? Nay, we have some fear whether even Dr. Chalmers will stand by us; for we find that a great meeting of the Scotch Establishment at Glasgow lately decided enthusiastically, that * Presbytery alone rests on the authority of Scripture ;' and with all bis patronizing notice of the English Church, there are ominous words in page 28, where, speaking of the established Churches' of England and Scotland, he kindly informs us that we require perhaps a very little change in our servicebooks' (words which cannot apply to the Scotch Establishment, as that which does not exist cannot require change), so that this very little change which we so unconsciously require, would probably include an alteration of our services for Baptism, the Holy Communion, Burial, Visitation of the Sick, Ordination – together with a considerable list of et caterus. The sum and substance then of our gain in adopting Dr. Chalmers's line of argument is this, that after having abandoned our claim as an Apostolical Church, we should have to prove to our adversaries that we are Evangelical Protestants; and supposing this point established, should then at last, after much labour and danger, arrive at the high and palmy condition in which the Scotch Establishment is at this moment reposing. We should have to contend with the ó voluntaries,' and to keep, moreover, place as the servants of state in opposition to all rivals." - British Critic, p. 237.

We leave this dispute to the parties at issue, and proceed to the main question of the lectures.' We must first, however, set Dr. Chalmers right upon one or two points in which he seems to misunderstand the views of voluntary churchmen. We do not believe that the agency of the Holy Spirit supersedes the necessity of human effort for the spread of the gospel. On the contrary, we know that it is the will of God, “ by the foolishness of preaching, to save them that believe." The only question is, who are to be the preachers ? Are they to be persons employed by the state, or are they to be persons either selfsustained, or sustained by the people of God? Again, we deny the imputation of desiring to treat the preaching of the gospel as a question of free trade. We are equally aware, with Dr. Chalmers, thai in the unregenerate heart there is no desire for the gospel. But then the question arises, is the state to undertake to supply religious knowledge to those who do not possess it, or does this duty devolve upon those to whom, by God's grace, that knowledge has already been communicated? Having thus vindicated our characters as voluntary churchmen, we proceed to answer Dr. Chalmers's argument. We do not, however, intend to do so by following him through his reasonings in favour of the right and duty of the state to interfere in the religious instruction of the community. The assertion is, that the state is not only justified, but is bound, to employ pastors to evangelize the people. Now we request our readers to note the distinction between

pastors and missionaries. It is not a question, whether the state shall employ unattached evangelists. If that were the question, we should be prepared to meet it. But the point at issue is, shall the state provide for the support of Presbyters, of persons sustaining a relation to organized societies of Christians ? Part of the duty of the clergy is to administer the Lord's Supper, the celebration of which involves the coming together of a christian society. The clergy, then, are supposed to be the officers of a society. Instead, then, of discussing with Dr. Chalmers, whether the state ought to take Presbyters into its pay, we shall at once take higher ground; and assuming that he will admit the rule, that that which cannot be done by a given party, there can be no obligation on that party to do, we distinctly assert, and that on premises which Dr. Chalmers will admit to be true, that it is physically impossible for the state to employ a body of pastors or Presbyters.

We assert, then, Ist, that a pastor is a result of a previously existing church; 2dly, that a church is a society of Christians; 3dly, that christian character is incapable of definition by law: and that, therefore, as the law cannot grasp christian societies, so as to be able to say with certainty," this is a church!”—as the law cannot take hold of the cause, neither can it lay its hand on the effect. As it cannot define “ churches,” neither can it define“ pastors," who are a consequence of churches.

1. We are not now contending with those who conceive that all that is necessary to constitute a pastor, is a certain mystical authority conveyed, for many ages, through channels full of the grossest impurily, and communicated by Episcopal or Presbyterian hands to the most ungodly, as well as to the most holy. We are not now arguing with such a man as good Mr. Melville, who tells us that the veriest doctrinal poison becomes food for the soul, if it have passed through the lips of an episcopally ordained clergyman. Alas! that so many excellent men, of whose personal conversion no doubt can be entertained, should be found, at the present day, building such wood, hay, and stubble on the one foundation of the Christian's faith! When their work shall be burned, as assuredly it will be, may they themselves be saved ! Neither are we reasoning with some early Presbyterians, who, fresh from the superstitions of Popery, may have deemed that a virtue resided within their own church, which their fathers had too long attributed to the Popish priesthood. We are dealing with those who have solemnly proclaimed to Scotland, and to the world, that a pastor is no pastor, except he be the chosen Presbyter of a society of christian people. The following passages are taken from the series of tracts, written by Dr. Chalmers, and others, which we have before alluded to.

“ Is it the clear and indefeasible right of a Christian man, to judge for himself under what ministry he shall sit - by what ministrations of the Gospel his soul is edified and blessed—10 whose pastoral instructions and care he shall commit himself? Is it his sacred duty, as well as right, to look to his elernal welfare in this matter,- to look to it for himself, as he must answer for himself at the great day; to take heed what he hears, as well as how he hears ;' 10 take the Gospel on trust at no man's hands ; . not to believe every spirit, but to X. S. VOL. III.

5 B

try the spirits whether they be of God ?' (1 John iv. 1.) It follows at once, from these plain principles of Scripture and common sense, that no minister may be thrust upon a congregation contrary to the will of the people."

“ Be it observed, (and the iniquity of the thing thus comes more palpably out,) that intrusion can only be attempted after all. Physical force may thrust a minister upon the area and walls and pews of a church. Upon the people, without their own consent obtained in some way or other, no power on earth can thrust him. Tyranny, favoured by unhappy circumstances, may, indeed, often compel them to yield a reluctant consent. In country districts, for instance, where there is only one church within their reach, it may happen, in cases. of intrusion, that rather than want a ministry altogether, many will in course of time attend the church, and allow the functionary to preach to them. But allow him they must, or he can never be their minister in point of fact, whatever the law may please to style him. In such a state of matters, - consent being so indispensable from the very nature of the pastoral relation, that without it the relation practically cun never exist at all,—is it to be borne, that advantage shall be taken of the people's circumstances, to extort and wring from them a consent, which otherwise they not only would not be bound to give, but would be bound to withhold, on the ground of their honest and conscientious convictions ?"— Tract V. p. 1.

“ Every thing contained in the Word of God, bearing upon the settlement of ministers, the rights of conscience and of private judgment, the responsibilities and obligations of men, contributes to establish the great truth, that the Christian people, that is, those who are duly and regularly admilted to the privileges of church membership, should, at the very least, have full liberty to give or with. hold their consent to the settlement of a minister among them, and by so doing to secure or prevent his admission as their pastor. The statements which the apostles have left to us of the conduct they pursued, and of the principles by which they were animated in such matters, plainly prove that they would have been no parties to thrusting ministers upon reclaiming congregations; and as we have also to this effect the testiinony of Clement, mentioned by Paul, (Phil. iv. 3,) as one of his fellow-labourers, whose names are in the book of life,' and who was settled minister of the Church of Rome under apostolic superintendence. In his Epistle to the Church at Corinth, written during the lifetime of some of the apostles, he assures us that the apostles, in preaching the Gospel over the world, appointed the first-fruits of their ministry to be bishops and deacons, (for there were only two orders of ordinary ecclesiastical office-bearers in those days,)' with the consent of the whole Church. We are fully warranted to expect, that a principle which rests upon such high and sacred authority, and which is in itself so reasonable and proper, will work beneficially for the interests of religion, and that the neglect or violation of it will be attended with the most injurious consequences ; and this has been most fully confirmed by the history of the Church of Scotland.”- Tract VII. pp. 1, 2.

If any Christian doubts whether the above be a doctrine of Scripture, we refer him to the tracts themselves, the religious argument of which we conceive to be unanswerable.

II. Who, then, are “the christian people?" We believe the definition of the 19th Article of the Church of England cannot be improved. A church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men, in which the pure word of God is preached, and the sacraments be duly ministered.” The condition of a true church is two-fold, relating to the character of the people, and to the minist

ations of the pastor. The pastor may be ever so faithful and efficient, but if the people be not a people fearing God and working righteousness, and if a jealous discipline be not maintained by the church over its members, with a view to this end, such a society is not a church of Christ.

III. A christian people must be a people of Christians, and hence the question arises, who, then, are Christians? Doubtless they are those whom God hath chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world, that they should be holy and without blame before him in love." “ He that is in Christ Jesus is a new creature; old things bave passed away, all things have become new.” “ As many as have received Him, to them hath He given power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name; which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” Between such there is a mutual recognition, a spiritual freemasonry; which, though there is much imperfection in all human discernment of character-much hypocrisy among professors, and much timidity among true believers-is yet sufficient for all practical purposes of discipline. But if even the people of God are liable to be imposed upon,-(and this is the argument constantly in the mouths of the pious opponents of pure communion)-how much more difficult must it be, or rather how utterly impossible, for the law of the land to define who are Christians! When the natural philosopher has learnt to take hold of the lightning or the wind, we shall believe it to be possible for unregenerate, or even regenerate, statesmen to define by statute the impalpable characteristics of christian character. Will it be attempted by the ancient mode of doctrinal tests? Alas! the experience of the three centuries during which the reformed churches have been in existence, has proved the utter inefficiency of such modes of ascertaining character. It is part of the case with which the Church of Scotland is now going to Parliament, that with all the admirable standards which the kirk possesses, and which every minister is compelled to subscribe, there is yet a large number of un-evangelical licentiates whom it is an object to keep out of parishes. The opponents of the veto are represented by Dr. Chalmers himself, (Tract xi. Page 5.) as “ wanting to gratify their distaste for that theology which is dear to the people of Scotlaud,” by forcing upon parishes persons by whom that theology will not be preached. But every one of the persons whom the veto would exclude, has passed through the most scrutinizing, doctrinal ordeal that ingenuity and piety could enact. If the law then has proved itself unable to test the ministers, how can it undertake to test the people? Or failing verbal tests, will it trust to the discernment of church officers and the efficiency of church discipline ? This would be to assume that church officers are themselves spiritually minded, regenerate men. “ Spiritual things are spiritually. discerned.” “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” He feels not its existence ; he recognizes not its subjects. Where then is the fulcrum, by the aid of which the philosophy of the state is to succeed in elevating the religious condition of the world ? To what market shall the christian advocate of establishments have recourse (and we thank God that there are such statesmen,) in order that he may purchase that secret of evangelical chemistry, which shall effectually separate the godly from the ungodly. Purchase purchase! purchase! Brethren in the Lord, remember, we beseech you, the words of the Apostle Peter, when Simon Magus offered him money, saying, “ give me also this power, that on whomso

« PoprzedniaDalej »