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expect, be found to have been in the bosom of the Catholic or Episcopal Church.
It is often remarked that a man, whatever his previous opinions may have been, always connects himself with that sect by whose ministry he has been “converted.” The reason is obvious. In that sect, truth was first presented to him in a form that could find access to his religious nature. The same truths that have at last converted him, might have been sounded into his ears a thousand times before; but, because they came to him in forms unsuited to bis mental constitution and habits, they were lifeless. To him they were not truths, but dead words. But he finally falls in with Christians whose mental characteristics are like his own, and what he hears from them stirs and moves his soul, as it had moved theirs. He belongs to the sect to which they belong, by nature.
If these remarks be true, in order that there may be union among Christians in character, there must be different sects;
– that is, in order that the religious principle may be equally developed, divine truth must be presented to different men, in forms as various as are their mental constitutions and habits. We ought, therefore, not to wish that all sects should think the same thoughts, and have the same forms and the same tongue. Such unity as this could be brought about only by extinguishing all thought and all interest in religion. Where there is but one church, there is soon no religion. Where the Church of Rome has been most successful in shutting out heresy, she has been also most successful in dwarfing and blighting the religious nature of man. We ought not to mourn that there are so many different sects, but rather to give God thanks, that, through their instrumentality, all men are able to receive divine truths in forms fitted to penetrate through their intellects into their hearts.
And how should this diversity of sects, arising from constitutional and educational differences, affect the harmony of Christians? In no way, except to promote it. The true bond of union between Christians is likeness and sympathy of character, - the possession of like affections, and the being governed by like principles of action. The unity should be, not in the intellectual speculations, in the creed, but in the spirit. Such union a diversity of sects, by giving power and a wider field of action to Christian influences, should produce.
We have mentioned the principal causes to which sects owe their birth and support. At any rate, few would acknowledge that the sects to which they themselves belong had a different origin, or are supported on different grounds. And what is there in these causes to divide Christians and to embitter their divisions with base and bad passions ? Nothing; — and much on the other hand to attract them towards each other. The love of truth, the desire of moral reform, the spectacle of others profiting in a way suited to themselves, form a religion of whose blessings we have drunk; — surely these are all principles of union and friendly fellowship. The strifes and contentions of Christians do not arise from the existence of sects, but from unholy passions never subdued to Christianity. The sectarist, — the jealous, contentious sectarist, because he loves not his brother whom he hath seen, may know that he is not born again. The bonds will be drawn more closely between sects as they are between individuals, in the same degree, as they become more truly Christian.
We have dwelt the longer on this subject, because, in our view, sects are not the artificial and unnatural shapings of some arrogant and dominion-seeking theologian, but are founded on great principles of human nature of which they are types and representatives. All sects have in them an informing soul of truth. But it is only a part, not all, of truth. The reason that there are many sects is, that the imperfect mind of man can only take in fragments of truth. Each sect has its fragment,all together possess its divine body. Christian sects are beginning to recognise their brother sects as the representatives of great truths and of principles of human nature, and to respect each other accordingly. This is one step towards Christian union.
But there is another power at work, -till lately unknown,which is doing more than all things else, to discover and strengthen the bonds of Christian union; —it is the principle of Benevolent Association. This, and not the love of money, or education, is the true spirit of the age; - that which distinguishes our times from all preceding times. It is working wonders in levelling the hills, and filling up the valleys, and making the paths straight, which separate sects. The interest felt in contested doctrines is disappearing in the stronger desire to do good. It is not long since, that sects were at deadly strife, which are now uniting in societies to diffuse temperance, good morals, and the blessings and light of Christianity, through our own and over all other lands. The principle of benevolence is daily gaining dominion over sectarian jealousy ; and Christian sects, instead of being so many hostile kingdoms, each arrayed against the other, are becoming the peaceful and harmonious provinces of one kingdom, whose head is Christ. A union is in progress, - silently, almost unobserved, going on while men have slept, yet rapidly, — the only true and desirable union between Christians, - a union, not of heads, but of hearts, - not of intellects, but consciences, - a union of moral sympathies and ends, and not of intellectual speculations. This union is a holy one, - the herald of a true millennium. May God hasten its consummation!
While writing these remarks, we observe in the bookstores another work by the author of the one at the head of this article, on a Future Life. We have no room left to speak of it, except to say that whatever its merits may be, we are glad to
Our gratification arises particularly from the fact that its author is a layman. We hold it to be an augury of good to theological science when there are many lay theological writers.
We confess that we look to laymen for new and valuable views in theology quite as much as to the clerical profession. The former, provided they have any thing like the same amount of learning, occupy a position far the most favorable for original thought. A clergyman, while yet young, with a mind unformed, with an education scarcely begun, becomes a student of divinity. He goes to some sectarian theological school, — puts his mind under the daily supervision of able teachers, his habits of thought and of reading are directed by them, - he is educated into their system of theology, and educated to be hostile to all other systems; and while his mind is in its forming state, it grows up, -as into a mould, — into the creed which has dominion over the institution where he is. * forth from this institution, it is as a champion of its creed, and, what is equally bad, he associates only with its champions and adherents, and thus sees the opinions of others only from a
When he goes
* In speaking thus of theological schools, we would not for a moment be thought to under-estimate their importance. Properly conducted, they are the strong safeguards against fanaticism, and the only places in which the means are collected for training up an enlightened and useful ministry for our churches. But in our country, how few of those, so called, are truly schools of theology; how many, the schools of sectarianism! Because an institution is invaluable when rightly used, it by no means follows that it is so when abused. The perversion of the best becomes the worst.
hostile point of view. And soon, by his friendships, by his worldly interests and prospects, and by a thousand social ties, he is fettered still more closely to a creed adopted almost without reflection in immature youth. On every side he is surrounded and threatened by penalties for thinking. What wonder is it, that he should go on through life, repeating, parrotlike, the systems of divinity by which his youthful mind was educated ! But the intelligent layman who makes theology a study, (and many such there are,) stands in great measure aside from these influences, so unpropitious to truth.
His theological reading is likely to be the work of maturer years, when he can test the theories of books by the experience of life. He has no masters to direct his studies, and is the more likely on that account to go out of the beaten circle of ancient systems. He reads, not so much that he may believe what others think, as to think what he himself may believe. He studies not as a school-boy, but as a man. His worldly interests and his social ties do not, to any thing like the same extent as with clergymen, identify him with a creed or a sect. He stands in a freer air and sunshine, and the road to truth is choked by fewer impediments.
We are not, perhaps, authorized to look for great reforms in theology to laymen, but to look to them rather as aids in breaking down those walls of system which imprison professional theologians, and prevent them from using their learning as an instrument for the discovery of truth. The clergyman and the layman may greatly aid each other by their writings. They stand at widely different points of view, and each may help to correct the errors of the other. The clergyman may have more learning; but the layman will often have a more correct judgment of the practical applications of that learning. They see truth from different summit levels; and the layman will naturally have new views of its bearings and relations. They see men and society under different aspects, and the layman will see many things illustrative of the value of truth, and suggestive of the best mode of applying it, which will never occur to a professional man. How vast an amount of new thought and illustration has been thrown into theological literature in England by lay writers,— by Locke and Newton, by Milton, Wilberforce, and Hannah Moore! These names, and such as these, belong to the history of every step in the progress of both speculative and practical theology in England. May many lay VOL. XXI. —30 s. Vol. III. NO. 111.
writers like these, and like the author of the Natural History of Enthusiasm, arise among us, studious of the Scriptures, and able and willing to give the results of their studies to the world! It will be of equal advantage to Christian truth and Christian duty.
Art. III. — The Way to do Good: or the Christian Charac
ter mature. The Sequel to “ The Young Christian” and “ The Corner-Stone." By Jacob ABBOTT. Boston, 1836.
12mo. pp. 248. ANOTHER crowded volume from a most prolific pen. We have read it carefully, without weariness, but not without satisfaction. It contains more of the author's peculiar excellences, and fewer of bis faults, than either of its predecessors; unless we except the fault of dilation, or rather dilution, for which he is so remarkable, and in which we think he has here surpassed himself. There are readers of a particular class and age, perhaps more numerous than is commonly thought, to whom such extreme amplification is not objectionable, and may be useful. We have never been quite sure for what class or age, if for any specially, Mr. Abbott writes these books, there being in them an unusual mixture of strong meat for men, and milk for babes. But even if he has chiefly in view, as he intimates in his preface to this book," the common classes of society," we are persuaded they would be better satisfied in the end, because they would find themselves aided and more profited, by that condensed style, which admits of greater definiteness and clearness of plan, and will commonly be found to leave upon all grades of mind more distinct impressions. Then there is the fact, that these books would be more likely to be bought, and far more likely to be thoroughly read, if reduced to a smaller compass, - considerations not unimportant to the most disinterested and elevated motive.
We are speaking of this book in connexion with the others, to which, as the title tells us, it is designed to be a sequel. “The Young Christian,' ” says the preface," was intended to introduce the reader to the first steps of the Christian life ; "The Corner-Stone,' to explain some of the simple elements of