Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

only. And even this is regarded by most Romanists as entirely incompatible with their faith. Brownson says, it may do for Protestants, but not for Catholics.

We believe that the theory, whose ground principles we have tried to state, furnishes a most powerful, and indeed, irrefragible argument in favor of Protestantism, and against the exclusive claims of Rome; proving that the former is the genuine and legitimate offspring of the life of Him who dwells in his Church in all ages, and who in the Reformation of the sixteenth century, carried it forward and upward to a higher stage of its progress. We have not attempted to define particularly the conditions which determine the process by which Christianity develops itself in the world, nor the manner in which this process is carried forward. The field for thought here is very wide and inviting, indeed, but, at the same time, very difficult; opinions here, too, would doubtless differ often very widely. In some respects also certainty, even so far as usually possible to human speculation, is unattainable. For while human means are undoubtedly employed, and finite conditions permitted powerfully to affect the process, yet still, at the same time, it is wholly, and in all its stages, under the control of Him to whom all power has been given in heaven and on earth, and whose ways and thoughts are far above ours, as far as the heavens are above the earth. Those, however, who may wish to investigate this side of the subject, will find no little assistance, as well as derive no little information from the study of the Rev. Dr. Schaff's treatise on the question : “What is Church History?" We have endeavored merely to illustrate the principles on which the idea of an organic development of Christianity in the world, is fundamentally based. Those who desire to study or discuss those principles, may find them in the three following propositions:

I. Christianity is ESSENTIALLY a new Life.

II. Christianity, as Life, is governed in its action by the Law of LIFE.

III. This Law of Life is that of growth, or ORGANIC DEVELOPMENT. Norristown, Pa.

G. D. W.

ART. III.-THE DUTCK CRUSADE.

It is to be presumed, that even our Dutch brethren themselves, as well as their small company of misguided allies in our own body, have become pretty well satisfied by this time, that their late attempt to get up a Dominican crusade against the German Reformed Church, was both wrong and unwise. There was no occasion for it, and it has accomplished nothing but the contrary of what the movers of it proposed. It was a grand impertinence from first to last; and it is sufficiently plain, that it is so regarded by the good sense and right feeling of the community generally, the very tribunal whose verdict, from the peculiar circumstances of the case, was most confidently expected to go in its favor.

THE CASE IN ITS FACTS. There was no fit occasion, we say, for any such denominational assault. The ostensible plea for it, as all know, was the charge of certain wrong tendencies on the part of the great body of the German Reformed Church, which a small faction of discontented minds in its bosom, pretending to be particularly evangelical and orthodox, had no power to redress, without the aid and comfort of such foreign ecclesiastical intervention. But curious enough was the process by which it was pretended to establish the truth of this grave accusation. The Church still professed to hold the Heidelberg Catechism, and had never before in truth shown itself more in earnest in

magnifying its authority and insisting upon its use. No doctrine had been pronounced ecclesiastically, which could be said to call for reconsideration or repeal. No step had been taken by the Church, no rule imposed, no decision given, which could be regarded as in the least degree changing its creed or constitution, or laying so much as the shadow of embarrassment on any man's conscience, however tender or weak. There was nothing positively, in the action of the Church as such, that could be said to require either remedy or reform; not so much as an inch of ground, on which to plant fairly an issue with it in any measure answerable to the gravity of the charge in question. All fell back on the vague general statement, that the Professors at Mercersburg had been for some years past publishing views, which the anti-catholic spirit of the times chooses to stigmatize as Romanizing, and that the Synod of the German Reformed Church had not called them to account for so doing, at the cry simply of this same spirit.

This offence was taken to have reached its climax, when the Synod, nearly two years ago, refused to receive the resignation of the senior Professor, simply because it was seen at the time that there was a disposition with some to make an unrighteous use of the case, by construing it into a virtual act of censure. There was of course no room for that; for there had been no charges tabled and no trial of any sort then or before; it never suited the policy of Berg, Helffenstein & Co., to proceed in any such regular and honorable way. The body of the Synod, moreover, was fully persuaded that there was no just cause for prosecution of any sort, and that the agitators in the case could neither form nor sustain charges amounting to what they loosely affirmed. There was proof enough of this indeed in the simple fact, that with full opportunity given them for the purpose, year after year, they had all along refused to make the attempt in a regular and constitutional form. Had they done so and failed, there might have been some show of reason in their pretending that the Synod would not allow justice to take its course ; although even then it would have been hard to say, why their judgment must be accepted as right, and that of the Synod condemned as wrong. But no such issue was ever joined. They never gave the Synod a chance to try their complaints. They demanded rather that their agitation should pass for a full prejudgment of the whole case, and that the Synod should act upon this as a sentence already established and settled beyond contradiction. This the Synod would not consent to do. Had there been a general conviction in the body that there was cause for prosecution and censure, no other course could properly have been taken, in the default of everything like a regular inquisition and trial. How could such a body consent to resolve itself in this way into a tribunal of mere Lynch law? But, as already said, there was no conviction of the sort named; but a very strong and general conviction just the other way; a conviction, namely, that the agitation in question could not make good its own indefinite charges and accusations, and was to be regarded as in the main malicious and unjust. In such circumstances, what must have been thought of the German Reformed Synod if it could have allowed itself to become the tool of any

such irresponsible prosecution, passively lending itself to its iniquitous views and aims ? By an almost unanimous vote, as it will be remembered, the body not only refused to enact what in the predicament of the case would have been construed into a virtual condemnation of the Mercersburg Professors, but went still farther : passed resolutions, declaring its unabated confidence in them, its approbation of what it conceived to be the reigning drift of their teaching, and its wish to retain their services still under the same general form in its institutions.

Out of this proceeding, it has been endeavored since to raise what some have facetiously affected to call a crisis in the history of the German Reformed Church. Dr. Berg did not himself, indeed, see it in that light just at first; and no one more distinctly condemned the use which was made of it by his hotheaded colleague, the Rev. Jacob Helffenstein, in his famous alarm put forth at the time, through the religious papers of other denominations. In a marvellously short time, however, he was brought to change his key. Whatever other reasons may have influenced the step, it was found convenient to lionize his transition to the Low Dutch Church, by making it a step for conscience' sake; and he now fell in, accordingly, with the hue and cry which had been got up in certain quarters on the outside, that the German Reformed Synod had formally endorsed all the views of its Professors, and that these

views were all that Tom, Dick, and Harry saw fit to make them, after their own crude fashion and humor.

Then came the report of the Dutch delegates to their own Synod, designed to help forward the same misrepresentation, by clothing it with a sort of documentary semi-official authority on the minutes of that body. Altogether, it was a most unbecoming paper. The delegates had no right to act as hostile spies, under the garb of pretended friends, and to lay themselves out to serve the views of a disorganizing clique, in the bosom of the body whose ecclesiastical hospitalities they were permitted to enjoy without suspicion or reserve.

But if they did consider this bad office to be their privilege, they were bound, at all events, to exercise it with some regard to truth and right. When it was proposed to prejudge in such public style the whole merits of the case in hand, and on the force of such prejudication to bring the sweeping charge of heresy against a whole sister denomination, the least they could have been expected to do certainly was to have taken proper pains to study and understand the business they meant to judge, by waiting to see it to an end, and by trying to get at its real nature and sense. This, however, they did not do; and their report turned out to be, accordingly, as false in point of fact as it was ungentlemanly in purpose and spirit. It treated the case in hand as if it had been one of formal trial; when it had been, in truth, an attempt only to evade the responsibility of a regular prosecution, by securing snap judgment in another way. It assumed that the version put upon the matter at issue by the agitators, was already so much settled truth, when there had been no inquisition at all to establish anything of that sort. And then it construed the action of the Synod at once into a formal ratification, not only of all the actual views of the Mercersburg Professors, but of all that these views were taken and charged to be by this same arbitrary version ; when, in reality, the action of the Synod carried in it no such intention or sense whatever. No wonder that such a paper received by the Synod of the Dutch Church, excited general indignation in the Church which was thus wronged, and that the Ger

« AnteriorContinuar »