Imágenes de páginas

tend, as supposed, to suppress turbulence; but so would imprisoning or hanging the quarrellers; and, therefore, as the latter would not be the right course, though it drew after it this good consequence, so neither may the former. And, though it is confidently, affirmed that greater justice would be done to the conflicting parties by following the Presbyterian model, I more than doubt it. Innumerable cases will occur in which it will be utterly impossible to put a foreign court into an equal capacity of judging correctly with the congregational court. Our opinion as to what should be done, in any case of offence for instance, does not altogether, sometimes not chiefly, depend upon the overt act, but upon the previous character of the offender-upon his manner when dealt with his countenance - tones of voice even. No adequate impression of these things can be conveyed to such as did not see and hear them. It is conceived, then, that any advantage which might be derived, in a foreign court—if there be any advantage, which, however, is doubtful—from freedom from local prejudice and prepossession, would be more than counterbalanced by inferior capacity of judging.

Besides, what must be the consequence, in many cases at least, of removing the power of final decision from the congregational court? How can it avoid happening that an individual, cast out by the latter court, as one in whom its members have lost confidence, and whom they find it impossible to love, will, by the superior court, be thrown back into their fellowship ? and thus the great principle which binds the members together the principle of voluntary combination—is rudely violated.

I feel reluctant, however, to prosecute this argument further, because it evidently removes us from scriptural ground. It raises the question, “What thinkest thou?” The exclusive inquiry should be, “How readest thou?” I place the congregational form of church government on the basis of Divine revelation, and not on the ground of expediency; and shall, accordingly, proceed to test the great principles in which the two forms we are now considering differ from each other, by comparing both with the word and testimony of God. These differing principles we have stated to be but two. Dr. Dick, indeed, the latest and most respectable advocate of the Presbyterian scheme, refers to another principle or two, in reference to which Independents, as he imagines, differ from Presbyterians. The former, he says, maintain that the power of government is vested in the church collective, or in the body of the faithful ; and that the rulers derive their authority from the people : against both of which sentiments he, of course, strongly protests.

We reply, to the first part of this statement, that it misrepresents the principles of congregationalism. It is not denied, indeed, that there may have existed, in certain congregations of this order, a species of spiritual democracy, which reduces pastors to the same level with their people ; but this is a departure from the principles of the system. Real congregationalism is not democracy. It maintains, indeed, that every separate congregation of believers has the entire power of government within itself; but it does not teach that that power is vested in the private members of the church. It admits, and affirms, in common with other systems, that pastors alone are the rulers of the church ; but it more fully explains the nature, and limits the extent, of their authority than they. It teaches that pastors are in no sense legislators --that they rule not by making laws, but by executing those which the Saviour has instituted. It teaches, further, that they are not authorised to execute even His laws without the concurrence of the church. Carson, in his reply to Brown, makes a distinction between ruling and judging : the pastor rules, he states, by exhibiting the law of Christ which bears upon each separate case that comes under the cognizance of the church; the people judge of the application of the law. It may be admitted that this distinction is substantially correct, but the facts of the case may, it is apprehended, be

be better stated. The pastor rules by explaining the meaning of the laws of Christ, and showing their bearing upon the specific case before the church ; and the flock are bound to the execution of the law thus expounded, unless they can show scriptural ground for another mode of proceeding than the one recommended by the pastor, the onus probandi, as we have seen, being thrown upon them. They must, indeed, judge whether he has given a right exposition of the law, as well as of its proposed application; still, they are not called specifically and officially to sit in judgment, but to give their consent to the execution of the law of Christ. And thus, the infinite wisdom of the great Head of the church has provided a sufficient guard against democratic insubordination on the one hand, and priestly domination on the other.

In regard to the other statement of Dr. Dick's, viz; that pastors derive their authority not from the people, but from Christ; I would suggest that there does not exist so much difference between us and himself as he seems to imagine. He admits that in apostolic times, the people possessed and exercised the right of electing their pastors ; but denies that the former could invest the latter with office, or confer authority upon them. I apprehend that most Congregationalists who have reflected maturely upon the subject, would concur with him in the latter statement. They allow, as we have seen, that the act of election by the people, is a previous step to appointment to office, but not the appointment itself; and that the right or power of ordination is vested in official men. They would further allow, also, it is imagined, that the authority of the pastor, after his induction into office, to do what he actually does, is derived from the appointment and laws of Christ. He does not, for instance, teach and rule, because chosen by the people to teach and rule; but because Christ has connected these duties with the pastoral office ; though

certainly these duties are discharged among them, and not others, in consequence of their election.

I proceed, then, to an examination of THE FIRST GREAT PRINCIPLE IN CONTEST BETWEEN CONGREGATIONALISTS AND PRESBYTERIANS : viz., whether a single congregation of believers, agreeing to walk together in Christian fellowship, is a complete church, or only a fragment of a church-the term properly denoting a number of such congregations maintaining the same faith and order, and forming one large body or denomination. The second point in contest between us, viz., whether a single congregation has the entire power of government within itself, depends so obviously and necessarily upon the decision we come to in reference to the first, (for if a single congregation be a complete church, it must have in itself the full power of government, or how could it be a complete church ? if it be not a complete church, it is equally manifest that it can not have the full power of government, or it could not be otherwise than a complete church,) that both points might be resolved into one, and treated of as one. Our opponents have, however, separated them, and some advantages may possibly result from their separate consideration.

Now it will aid us, in coming to a decision upon the first point, to remember the facts of the case, in reference to the usus loquendi of the word church in the New Testament. Let it be recollected, then, that there are unquestioned and unquestionable instances of the use of the word in the Congregational sense. It is, indeed, the ordinary custom of the apostles and evangelists to call a single congregation of believers a church. On the other hand, there is no unquestioned and unquestionable case in which the word church is used in the Presbyterian sense. There are, indeed, passages in which our brethren of that denomination attempt, by the help of conjectural criticism, to show that the word must be used in that sense ; but, if we can show that it may even there bear the Congregational sense, the recognised laws of criticism justify us in affirming that it ought to be taken in that sense. · The great, perhaps I might say the only, argument on which the Presbyterians rely, in support of that sense of the term which they affirm to be its proper meaning in the New Testament, is its application to the whole body of the faithful at Jerusalem.“ We never read,” says Dr. Dick, “ of the churches, but the church of Jerusalem.” That is, doubtless, true; but now observe the inference: there must have been, he thinks, taking the multitude of the disciples into account, many distinct and regularly organised congregations in Jerusalem, each having its full complement of church officers; and therefore, the word church is used here in the Presby. terian sense ; that is, one church made up of separate congregations. He does add, indeed, as a subsidiary argument, to which he evidently does not attach much importance, that many persons were employed in performing the ordinary ministrations, and that there would not have been work enough for them in a separate congregation; thus forgetting that what he calls ordinary ministrations and work, must have been very extraordinary in those extraordinary times. He affirms, lastly, that there was no place large enough for the whole body of the believers to meet in. Upon the whole of this argument I observe,

First, that whatever difficulty the number of disciples in Jerusalem might seem at first view to throw upon the Congregational sense of the word church, in the passages to which we now refer, there is nothing in the whole of the narrative to sanction the Presbyterian conception of its meaning. Who can believe that, at that time, there existed in Jerusalem a number of distinct and regularly organized congregations, having each its elders, kirk-session, &c.; and that representatives from these kirk-sessions met regularly in presbytery to conduct the spiritual concerns of the body? Any man who

« AnteriorContinuar »