« AnteriorContinuar »
more honor the denomination to which they belong, who continually prefer, and even oppose, its separate interests, to those of the whole kingdom of Christ on earth; or those who judge the interests of that kingdom steadily and purely preferred by all its members and officers, to be the very best way of promoting those of the denomination ? each in his own sphere and place, certainly; but each for the kingdom of heaven!
The sin of sectarianism appears to me to be rottenness at the heart of the body and poison in the very soul of the church. It is a deadly injury to any denomination of our vaunted fondness! It consists in exalting local against universal interests; private against catholic views ; party against piety; policy against principle ; and our men, our measures, our doctrines, our views, our prosperity, against the glorious commonwealth of the King of Israel. And what is this, but exalting earth against heaven ? It hardens the heart of a minister of Christ, and saddens the soul of a private disciple : converting the former, while it justly lessens his influence, into a cruel inquisitor, or a facile jesuit, or a wily politician; the latter, into a sickly bigot, or a dissocial monachist, or a barren devotee. Piety hence is nothing—but as party feels its influence. It soon loses the liberality that rejoices to pronounce, grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity ;"_"tothem that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints ,with ALL THAT IN EVERY PLACE CALL UPON THE NAME OF JESUS Christ our LORD, BOTH THEIRS AND OURS.” This to me appears the elemental mischief of the papacy; the very “mystery of iniquity," whether it “works” in embryo, or is developed in living vigor of monstrous youth or more horrible maturity. It dethrones the King of Zion, just in proportion as self is exalted to the supreme episcopate. If there is any sin denounced in the “ oracles of God” as the very quintessence of deceitfulness, the very sublimity of treason, the very hypocrisy of spiritual usurpation; in short, the very personification described as “the man of sin, the son of perdition, who opposeth and exalteth HIMSELF above all that is called God, or that is worshipped ;" we have here the identity of the evil in the temper of sectarianism.
If this temper were well analyzed, it would be found to consist of very unlovely and anti-christian ingredients. It is wholly alien from “ the fruit of the Spirit.” The elements of its composition would be found probably to be deceit, hypocrisy, ambition, selfishness, apprehension, suspicion, envy, jealousy, sordid feelings, false zeal, and the wrath of man“ which worketh not the righteousness of God.” Its holy pretensions constitute one of its worst characteristics: but another of its worst is—the stealth and the address with which its influence often invades the truly good! The evangelic histories confirm this position in reference to the apostles themselves, and illustrate the terrible sinuosities of the sin : all other history demonstrates its influence over common mortals; and that of the church particularly, its too potent spell over ecclesiastics in every age of the christian era. In short, no man is more deceiv
ed by it than he whose self-complacency, beguiling him from a needful vigilance against its approaches, presents him to himself as an exception to the rule! “ Do
think that the scripture saith in vain,30 The spirit that dwelleth in us” (the native moral temperament of every individual) “lusteth to envy ?” Hence he neglects himself, in that very matter, in which the care of others can do least for his preservation; and cares for others, in those very relations in which he ought to honor the supreme Inspector and feel as much the solemnity of his own accountable action.
There are personages, of other denominations than those to which any of us belong, and on both sides of the Atlantic occasionally found, whose high-church childishness is as proverbial, as their low-christian manliness is notorious. For themthe high-church party, I mean—it is less incongruous, possibly less criminal, to identify themselves with the church ;" to view their own sect as “the kingdom of heaven;" and sublimely to abandon îheir more evangelical and better taught brethren, to the imaginary resource of “the uncovenanted mercies of God." For them, exclusive pretensions may be less shocking ; possibly more in the way of their characteristic vocation ; less dishonorable, it may be, to their intellectual vigor.
66 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child.” But for us, there is no such apology. We were never taught it, I think, by “ holy mother church.” It is no part of our profession. It is not congenial with our creed. No one of us could avow it. Our churches would not endure it. Our piety, all of heaven that there is in it, reclaims at the perversion. The apostles of the Lamb teach it not; and while they every where remind us that the kingdom of Christ “is not of this world," they also “ beseech us by the mercies of God,” if there be “ any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies,” to “fulfil their joy, that we be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind." They say to us, “Let nothing be done through strife or vain glory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.” This exhortation may be considered a sovereign recipe, prophylactic and therapeutic both, against the mighty malady--the epidemic of ecclesiastics since the primitive ages. To follow it, is perfect freedom from the influence. No one would thus become the stern spontaneous censor of his brethren ; none would find his spiritual wardrobe empty of those desirable garments or heavenly mantles, with one of which a brother's nakedness could be concealed and a covering furnished, without connivance, even for “a multitude of sins." We should think it then as necessary to our theological
accomplishment to be “simple concerning evil," as it is obviously to be “wise unto that which is good.” This is true wisdom. " Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another.” And let us not forget, while " the purity of the church" has ever been the persecutor's plea and passport to all enormities, that “the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace”-and not in war of them that make war. Let us remember that Jesus Christ hath said, “Blessed are the peacemakers : for they shall be called the children of God.” If I mistake not, this is the age, and this the country, and this the crisis too, for the obligations of anti-sectarian christianity to be felt, its characteristics exemplified, its excellencies acknowledged. What I know of Quakerism has quickened my sense and matured my detestation of the evil.
2. Another evil, kindred in nature to the former, is this; A too strict and even an illiberal construction of doctrinal orthodoxy. I mean here to sanction nothing like latitudinarianism; nothing like denying the propriety of conscientiousness even in little things; nothing like indifference to truth, in its major or its minor relations; nothing like servility or tameness in any of the details of faith or practice. We ought to be as really conscientious in little things as in great ones : to preserve the mens sibi conscia recti 31 in the least, as truly as in the greatest. But ought we to insist alike on all in the creed of visible communion; and make every thing a term of recognition which has