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fore, infer also, that we do not, by any nefarious schism, separate and rend ourselves from the holy churches of Christ, in Germany, France, England, and other Christian nations : but that we thoroughly agree with each and all of them in this confession of Christ's truth, and embrace them in unfeigned love: “and although there be discovered, in different churches, a certain variety of expression and forin of explaining doctrine; as also of rites or ceremonies according to the received usage, convenience and edification of particular churches, yet they will notice, that these things never furnished, in any period of the church, ground of dissentions and schism. The churches of Christ, as ecclesiastical history shows, have always used their liberty in this matter. For pious antiquity that mutual agreement in the principal points of faith, in orthodox understanding, and in brotherly love, was abundantly sufficient'.·* The rest of the preface is in the same strain.
* Ergo manifestissime ex his nostris æqui deprehendent lectores, nihil nos quoque habere communionis cum ullis sectis atque hæresibus quarum, hoc consilio, in singulis prope capitibus mentionem facimus, casque rejicientes perstringimus. Colligent itaque et illud, nos a sanctis Christi ecclesiis Germania, Galliæ, Angliæ, aliaruinque in orbe Christiano nationum, nefario schismate non sejungere atque abrumpere: sed cum ipsis omnibus et singulis, in hac confessa veritate Christiana, probè consentire ; ipsasque charitate sincera complecti.
Tametsi vero in diversis ecclesiis quædam deprehenditur varietas in
Let us briefly sum up the doctrine of these extracts from the confession of the Swiss churches. - They contend,
(1.) For liberty in rites and ceremonies of worship
(2.) For mutual forbearance in the article of church government
(3.) For latitude in the forms of doctrinal expression, provided the substance of evangelical truth be preserved: so as that diversity in any or all of these things shall not break up the peace of the churches.-And
(4.) For concord, communion, and love between them, upon the basis of their unity in that faith and doctrine to which they all look for their common salvation.
It might, however, be thought that these sentiments were peculiar to the Swiss churches; and, therefore, not a fair exhibition of the prevailing principles of the Reformation. But it so happens, that this confession was officially addressed in the preface which has just been quoted, to Christians and Christian churches throughout Europe; and was approved by the churches of England, Scotland, France, the United Provinces, and by many of Poland, Hungary, and Germany.* Now, in these churches, there was a very great variety of religious observances, as well as differences of a higher order. Some of them, as the Dutch and Genevese, were Calvinists in doctrine, and Presbyterians in government: others as the English, were Episcopal; and others again, as the German, a sort of medium between Episcopacy and Presbytery. Here, then, we have the larger part of Protestant Christendom, proclaiming with one mouth, and at a moment when the Spirit of God and of glory rested conspicuously upon them, that the greatest of their differen
loquutionibus et modo expositionis doctrinæ, in ritibus item vel ceremoniis, eaque recepta pro ecclesiarum quarumlibet ratione, opportunitate, et ædificatione ; nunquam tamen ea, ullis in Ecclesiæ temporibus, materiam dissensionibus et schismatibus visa est suppeditare. Semper enim hac in re Christi ecclesiæ usæ sunt libertate. Id quod in historia ecclesiastica videre licet. Abundè piæ vetustati satis erat, mutuus ille in præcipuis fidei dogmatibus, inque sensu orthodoxo et charitate fra. terna, consensus.
IB. p. 12.
of them were not trifles, were not great enough to interrupt their communion, or diminish their love: but were all to be absorbed in the importance, all to disappear in the light, of that grace and truth which made them one in Christ Jesus. Nay, that were they, for such
* Eandem (confessionem) et comprobarunt ecclesiæ Angliæ, Scotiæ, Galliæ, Belgii omnes: Polonicæ quoque, Hungaricæ, atque Gerinanicæ multæ.
Sunt. CONF. part 1. p. 4.
causes, to separate from each others' fellowship, they should be guilty of a NEFARIOUS
And none of them were more free, cheerful, and decided, in asserting the obligation of this catholick communion, than the Calvinistic Presbyterians !
Such a concurrence of public opinion and feeling, was nothing more than a concentration of that private opinion and feeling which then pervaded the church of God. The time had not come when orthodox creeds were a party inheritance. It was reserved for after ages to cherish a hereditary veneration for confessions of faith at variance, in material points, with the actual state of principle in the churches which receive them. The spectacle, now so familiar, was not yet exhibited, of contention for every thing in a confession as for a consecrated trust; and of violent opposition to many of those very same things in practical life—the curious and humiliating spectacle of tender affection displayed toward it as a “dead letter," and of unremitting hostility to those who would bring it forth in its energy as " a quickening spirit."
It may not be improper to give an example or two, for the sake of readers who have not access to the original sources of information. LUTHER, in a preface from his own pen to the Bohemic confession, which, it will be remembered, comprchends the faith of the WALDENSES, has the following remarks concerning the churches of the Reformation:
“We ought to give the greatest possible thanks to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who, according to the riches of his glory, hath commanded to shine out of darkness this light of his word, by which he would again destroy death, and illumine life among us: and to congratulate both them,” (the Waldenses,)“ and ourselves, that we, who were far apart, are now, by the destruction of the parting-wall of suspicion, whereby we seemed heretics to each other, brought near together, and gathered into one fold under that one shepherd and bishop of our souls, who is blessed forever, amen!
“But if certain differences" from other churches,
occur in this confession of theirs concerning rites and ceremonies, or celibacy, let us remember, that all the rites and observances of all the churches never were, nor could be, the same. Such an agreement is not permitted by the various circumstances of time, place, and men ; only let the doctrine of faith and morals be preserved. For this ought to be the same as Paul frequently admonishes; 'Speak all the same thing,' saith he. Again, ' That with one mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus