Page images
PDF
EPUB

is inconsistent with the unity of the faith, and is directly contrary to the will of God. What we mean, is, that independent Churches holding “the one faith, the one Lord, the one baptism," so far from being antagonistic to true religion, rather tends to confirm it, by presenting a united testimony amid a variety of administrations.

It should never be forgotten, that independent administrations do not necessarily imply either hostile separation, and opposition, or erroneous doctrines on matters of faith. Distinctness of administrations by no means involves disagreement. “There are (says St. Paul) differences of administrations but [they worship] the same Lord.” The Apostles did not, by any means, intend to encourage diversities of doctrine, and yet, they founded many churches, each distinct from the other, several even in the same province, which, though not at all at variance, were not placed under any common authority on earth, except that of the individual Apostle who founded them. And, in the earliest ages, the Christian Churches were reckoned by hundreds. It was in later times, and very gradually, that the claims of Rome, and Constantinople, to universal supremacy were admitted. *

In the present day, the Episcopal Church of America is distinct from the Church of England, not because it differs in doctrine, but because it is American. The Churches of Sweden, and Denmark, and other Protestant States, are not at variance with each other, though not subject to a common government. So, also, the Moravian Church-the Episcopal Church of Scotland, and, now, the Church of Ireland, under its new constitution. There is clearly, a Unity of doctrine among all these Churches, notwithstanding the Variety of their forms of worship.

* Archbishop Whately.

CHAPTER XV.

UNITY IN CHARITY.

“But lasting Charity's more ample sway,

Nor bound by time, nor subject to decay,
In happy triumph shall for ever live."

Frior.

The Bible furnishes us with an account of the life of that order--that rare order--of men, who look upon the world, and their fellow creatures with the unfettered expansion of disinterested charity. They seem to have neither time nor room for the expression of mere private, or, personal feeling. Their practical regard to Truth, to Righteousness, and to God, flows on in such a mighty torrent, and with such strength and swiftness, that scarcely anything else appears even for a moment upon its surface. They are so absorbed in their great and glorious subject -God and His salvation--that they treat everything else as comparatively trifling. In a calm and passionless manner, they exhibit a degree of self denial, and make such sacrifices in the cause they have so much at heart, history

that they are far above the suspicion of partiality, or, favoritism : “We seek not yours, but you ”* is the noble sentiment that animates them all. Self-seeking is no part of their ambition. Their aim is man regardless of creed, caste, or, clime. Their mission is to proclaim Truth, and they do so with an unadorned simplicity, and an overwhelming regard to fact, which has no parallel in the

of mankind. Under the New Testament this is peculiarly striking Indeed, in some instances, the Apostles seem to treat the mere outward observances of religion as a matter of secondary consideration. “I thank God (says St. Paul) that I baptised none of you,

but Crispus and Gaius.

For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the Gospel.”+ In the Epistle to the Colossians he does not hesitate to disparage certain “ordinances after the commandments and doctrines of men." He broadly asserts that the test of discipleship was not to be decided “in meat, or, in drink, or, in respect of an holy-day, or, of the Sabbath.” I These institutions he terms “shadows," while in the same passage he directs the whole force of his reasoning to the living “HEAD, from which all the body increaseth with the increase of God.” He seems to tell us that there is something higher and holier than mere machinery, however excellent that may be in itself. For after all, it must be admitted,

* 2 Cor. xii. 14.

+ 1 Cor. i. 14.

# Coloss, ii. 16-22,

that the results of the machinery are the best, as they are the only practical tests, of the machine.

If, (as Mr. Gibbon,* suggests) some of the ancient Fathers were to revisit the scene of their former labours, and examine the complicated nature, and the imposing splendour of the religious machinery which had succeeded the pure and spiritual worship of a Christian congregation, they would gaze with astonishment and indignation on the profane spectacle. But, we think, that their spirit would be, perhaps, more stirred within them (if it were possible), and their indignation still more excited, when they looked over the whole expanse of Christendom, and beheld-not the differences of the outward administrations--but the rancour, the bigotry, and the intolerance which so painfully emerge from them all. Between Papal usurpation, High Church pretensions, and Low Church narrowmindedness, and Sectarian wrangling and bitterness of spirit, they would have but comparatively little to select as worthy of their commendation.

While the members of the different religious denominations hurl anathemas at one time against each other, and at other times, against those outside their pale, and strictly maintain the distinctive badges of their respective “ orders,” as a matter of course, they keep up an exclusiveness which, so long as it exists, renders inter

* See Note.

« PreviousContinue »