網頁圖片
PDF

The utility of such an index in saving much time and labor in research for articles and subjects, is quite obvious, since even those subscribers who do not possess entire sets may obtain access to them in various libraries. That the regular course of scientific and practical publications may not be interrupted, the Index volume, although numbered Fifty, will not be allowed to interfere with the regular appearance of the Journal at the beginning of each quarter; it will be in fact, an extraneous collateral volume. With this volume, however, it is intended to close the series with the end of the year 1845. New Series.—It is expected that in January, 1846, No. 1 of a new series will appear, and it is hoped that an enlarged subscription and a reduced postage, may justify a price equivalent to that of the literary quarterlies, although a more limited patronage and a heavier expenditure, would fully justify the original price of the Journal. While we invite all the existing subscribers to continue, it is expected and believed that many additional patrons will appear for the new series, which will retain the scientific character, but will be made as practical and readable as possible. The Old Series.—Fifty volumes of the American Journal of Science and Arts, will we trust be finished by the end of the current year. They will contain a large mass of important and interesting communications, both scientific and practical, with ample graphic illustrations; being chiefly original American productions, the entire work has thus become a necessary part of the public libraries of the country, and it is to be found in not a few private collections. With a view to its perpetuity and more extended usefulness, the back numbers, as they have run out, have been regularly reprinted, at an expense which has been inadequately

compensated by the sets that have been sold. Many entire sets have been presented gratuitously to infant institutions at home, and to scientific individuals and public bodies abroad, while the current numbers, as they have appeared, have been freely given and exchanged, with and without an adequate equivalent, as the interests of useful knowledge, the demands of courtesy and benevolence, and the liberal spirit of science, required. A very large accumulation of the back volumes of the Journal remains on hand, but it is hoped that they will not be allowed to slumber uselessly in our attic. Entire sets will be furnished, as heretofore, in the hope and belief that they will prove highly useful, while the avails will aid us in reprinting the exhausted numbers, and thus the work may be perpetuated. . In every enlightened country, this Journal has been, for many years received as a work of great value, especially in regard to the western continent, while its relations with scientific men and journals of science, and public institutions, both at home and abroad, have long been fully established; it would be easy to support these positions by numerous authorities, but in relation to a work which has already outlived almost a human generation, such a display would appear to be superfluous. Excepting its much respected coadjutor, the Franklin Journal of Philadelphia, (which, however, in its useful and honorable course, occupies a different sphere,) it is alone, among American journals of science, in having sustained all vicissitudes for more than a quarter of a century, until it has reached a degree of maturity which will, we trust, insure its long continued existence and usefulness, even after its founder shall have ceased from his labors. B. SILLIMAN. New Haven, Nov. 19, 1844.

[ocr errors]

N E W E N G L AND E R.

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

THERE Is A Necessity for EcCLESIASTICAL BODIES MORE ExtendED THAN SINGLE CHURCHES. Each church of Christ sustains important relations to all other churches, and to the church universal, in addition to its peculiar ties to its own members. If the direct end of its organization is the due regulation and training of its own members, for the furtherance of their peace and holiness, the ultimate end of it, to which this first end is subservient, is the advancement of the kingdom of Christ in the world, the welfare of the church universal. This is evident from the fact that each church, like each individual, is but a member of the body of Christ. Hence it is bound indissolubly to that body and to all its members. Its prosperity and peace are in a high degree identified with theirs. For it is divinely ordered, so that of necessity the members should have the same care one for another, and whether one member suffer, all suffer with it; or one member be honored, all the members rejoice with it. 1 Cor. xii, 25, 26. Hence, while the first and immediate concern of every church is with its own members, its obligations do not terminate with them. It has still higher relations, and owes still Vol. III. 21

higher duties to the whole body of Christ. Nor can it sunder these ligaments, or disown this relationship, without at the same time committing suicide. As well might a a member of the human body undertake to subsist and act for itself alone, refusing to help or be helped by its fellow members. The very attempt to appropriate its whole life to itself, or its own exclusive welfare, would sever it from the common spring of life, torn from which none can live. So is it with the body of Christ and its members. And it is well observed by Owen, that a church which isolates itself from other evangelical churches, is a body to which it is dangerous for any person to commit his soul. Thus arises a twofold necessity for communion and concert of churches, involving of course ecclesiastical bodies more extended than single congregations of believers. 1. They are needed for the care of those common interests which af. fect the well being of the whole body, not less than of its single members. It is one of the clearest of all axioms in secular as well as religious affairs," that all who are affected by given measures, should have a share in their management. Quod tangit omnes, debet ab omnibus tractari. Things which relate to the common defense, welfare, and peace of the churches; and in which agreement is of the highest moment to all and each of them, should be adjusted by a common council representing all, and not by the caprice of single churches. The good which they are all bound to promote, the evil which they are all bound to resist, they may manage with far greater efficiency and success in combined than separate action. United they stand against all assaults; divided they are an easy prey to foes, within and without. The preservation and” promotion of sound doctrine, the increase and propagation of religion, the suppression of error, discord, and prevailing sins, obviously require their united action. 2. Various cases arise in the administration of the affairs of a single church, which either deeply af. fect other churches in their consequences, or are beyond the ability of the churches in which they occur to issue safely without assistance from sister churches. The settlement and dismission of pastors requires the counsel and assistance of other churches on both these grounds. Cases of discipline, either because they are weighty or complex in their own nature, or on account of the obstinate dissensions they engender, or because the person censured insists that he is oppressed, it may be absolutely indispensable to submit to a higher court for advice, before they can be issued with safety. In such emergencies it is the duty of a church to ask, and of its associate churches to render the requisite assistance, to be helpers of their joy, without lording it over their faith. Thus it is clear that the great ends of church organization can not be realized, without the action of ecclesiastical bodies more extended than single churches, and capable of reaching those churches themselves, so far as to further their in

dividual peace and prosperity, and render them tributary to the welfare of the whole body of Christ. Any system of church polity, therefore, which does not make adequate provision for this purpose, is so far forth vitiated by a radical defect. A system which claims adoption, should not only show itself adapted to the internal regimen of single churches, but also well fitted to bring into exercise the communion of churches in all needful combined ecclesiastical action. It must provide ecclesiastical bodies, constituted

by h union of churches, which are

competent to promote the peace, purity, and prosperity of the whole body; to “provide for the common defense, and promote the general welfare.” We believe it can be shown that no system of church government secures these ends so well as the Congregational. Congregationalism reaches these objects by means of councils formed by a union of churches, each of which chooses one lay delegate to attend, together with its pastor, who is always a member erofficio. These councils may be either standing bodies to attend to all cases within their circuit, as in Connecticut; or occasional, selected and formed for each successive case, and dissolved when it is issued. Of the comparative merits of standing and occasional councils, we shall treat hereafter. But we have described the general character of those bodies, which on the Congregational system, transact such ecclesiastical business as is beyond the province or ability of particular churches. And it is maintained, that on a general view, aside from a minute survey of their workings, they are eminently scriptural and rational. 1. They are scriptural. The only example recorded in the New Testament of any ecclesiastical body more extensive than a particular church and its officers, is found in Acts xv. Here it appears that the church at Antioch was annoyed with a contention about circumcision, which it could not of itself compose. They determined to send to the apostles and elders at Jerusalem for advice on the question. From the result of this council, verses 22, 23, it appears that the brethren of the church were joined with the apostles and elders, in deliberating upon and deciding this question. This case is the more striking and conclusive, as to the place which the brethren should have in these councils, from the fact that the apostles were present. Great as were their powers in the planting and organizing of churches, it appears that after these churches attained a settled state, they assumed no exclusive authority or rule over them. Much less then can such a prerogative be conceded to their pretended successors, or to inferior church officers. This example, therefore, is our divine warrant for resorting to councils to dispose of whatever lies beyond the province of single churches, and for composing such councils of ministers and people, as two co-ordinate, mutually poising, harmonious powers. 2. This is agreeable to reason. It accords with first principles, as applied in all analogous cases. All well constructed governments which preserve the golden mean of liberty regulated by laws, between the ruinous extremes of anarchy and despotism, are composed of different powers which represent the different parties in interest. These balance each other, and thus prevent all extreme and oppressive measures. In the doings of ecclesiastical bodies, rministers and churches have each a great and palpable stake. How reasonable then, that they both participate equally in their proceedings? Guarding the rights and interests of all, it secures their hearty coöperation in the great common cause. Withal, the fundamental principles of government in particular churches, are thus carried out into

higher ecclesiastical bodies. In each case the ministry and brethren cooperate in its administration. Finally, this construction of councils furnishes the highest security, that the choice, wisdom, and piety of the churches will be collected, and brought to manage her great and weighty concerns. They are composed of pastors, the chosen spiritual guides of the churches, who give themselves wholly to these things, and of representatives of the people, who will ordinarily be chosen on account of their superior fitness to transact such business. Let us next consider the power of these councils, and the extent to which their decisions are binding upon churches. THE DEcisions of CongregationAL COUNCILS ARE ADVISORY, AND FOR that REASON OF MOST SALUtARY efFICACY. Here we find a distinctive peculiarity of Congregationalism. As, in states, that is the best government which secures the just rights and liberties of the subject on the one hand, and the supremacy of law and order on the other; so in ecclesiastical polity, the great problem is, to preserve the rights of conscience and Christian liberty inviolate on the one side, and on the other to preserve truth, holiness and unity in the churches. We believe that no men who live, or have lived, have mastered this problem so well as our Puritan fathers: that they understood the Lord's way, and therefore the true way, of guarding each interest, without detriment to the other, and of bringing both to their utmost perfection. According to both the theory and practice of Congregationalism, the decisions of councils are advisory, and not absolutely binding upon particular churches without their own consent. That the Scriptures warrant the assumption of no more than advisory powers by councils, appears—

1. From the fact that supreme authority, under Christ, in matters of discipline, is conferred upon the churches. Matt. xviii, 17 ; 1 Cor. v., 5, 13.

2. The Apostles did not assume dominion over the faith, but were only helpers of the joy of the churches. It may well be concluded that such dominion is denied to all subsequent and inferior ecclesiastical persons and bodies. It is their of. fice to help he joy and further the peace and welfare of the churches, but not to rule over them.

3. The result of the council already adverted to, Acts xv, authorizes this same conclusion. The form of their result is more like the delivery of an opinion than a mandate. And yet it is not mere advice, in the ordinary sense of that term. It does not stand in the same relation to the parties advised, as the same counsel would if it came from any indifferent or accidental source.” It is counsel given in God's appointed way, by those to whom He has committed the office of expounding his word, and helping the churches to

* The only seeming exception to this view of the power of councils is found in the Saybrook Articles. Art. W. declares, that the decision of the council “shall be a final issue, and all parties shall sit down and be determined thereby.” But while such is the letter of these Articles, the great principle of Congreationalism which we have declared, has or the most part ruled in practice, especially since the first half-century of the existence of the Platform. The churches of Connecticut have taken these Articles as the general basis of their system, without a strict observance of every clause. While consociations see that their decisions are not trifled with, and are almost uniformly successful in procuring the ac* of the hos. in them, yet they no more than occasional councils compel the churches to accept them, against their conscientious convictions. or do they pass sentence of non-communion for such refusal, unless in those clear cases of persistence in antichristian heresy or malpractice, which would exscind from the fellowship of all Congregational churches.

gain a knowledge of his will in such cases. As such, it is to be solemnly weighed and cordially welcomed, with a predisposition to abide by it, until it is proved to be unscriptural. The presumption is, that it is the voice of God, until the contrary is plainly proved. This being so, all doubts on the part of the churches turn in favor of the ascendency of the council's advice. And since the very summoning of a council by a church implies some degree of doubt, the probability ever is, that the advice of the council will prevail. In questions of mere prudence or expediency, it ought always to be decisive. When conscientious objections to its advice are entertained, that advice may properly be rejected, till these scruples are removed, which is almost always accomplished. Hence, in theory and in practice, their decisions have a paramount and controlling influence, with as rare exceptions as the friction arising from human depravity occasions under any system whatever. And this acquiescence of the churches is the more perfect, because it is voluntary, and not forced upon them, against their own conscientious convictions. While this system provides for general order and unity, of the most precious, because most cordial kind, it leaves the liberty and independence of the churches unimpaired. It does not compel them to do or sanction what their consciences condemn, what they believe to be clearly wrong, and forbidden by the word of God. Thus a great provision is made for Christian liberty and purity, which is the distinctive glory of our system, viz. that whenever a church deems the advice of a council clearly opposed to the law of God, it is left free to fall back upon that first principle of all religion, that we ought to obey God, RATHER THAN MAN. Any ecclesiastical system which does not shape itself into harmony with this great principle, is essentially vi

« 上一頁繼續 »