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is necessary as a medium of union and fellowship, will it not cement that union, and increase that fellowship, if this body is convened on every momentous occasion in the churches, and assists in all their more weighty and solemn concerns 2 Does it not for example strengthen the bonds of love and fellowship on all sides, if this circle of ministers assemble at the ordination of every new minister among them, and perform the solemnities by which he is installed over his church, and introduced among themselves * While these obvious advantages are admitted to belong to the consociational system, in theory and practice, certain objections are raised against it, which we will now consider. 1. The great objection urged against permanent councils, is the fear that they may gradually accumulate a power which will jeopardize the liberties of the churches. This is the substance of all arguments that we have seen urged against them on the score of expediency. But this argument derives its whole support from the assumption that the decisions of consociations are of necessity mandatory and not advisory. This assumption is built upon the letter of the Saybrook Platform, and the unwarranted inference that there can be no permanent councils, which do not punctiliously follow the letter of these articles. But this is clearly a non sequitur. As we have already shown, the Connecticut consociations in practice advise, without commanding the churches. Not even the semblance of a germ remains, therefore, out of which the most prurient imagination can evolve this monster-growth of hierarchical power. Moreover, the churches are not only guarded by their inherent power of refusing compliance with the decisions of these councils, but also in the composition of the councils themselves. The representatives of the churches,
if they attend, must always be able to outvote the ministry. The moderator is always taken from the clerical portion of the body, and while there is a delegate for every pastor, vacant churches without pastors, of which there are always some, also send delegates. This fact is enough to quell the apprehensions of the most jealous mind. Moreover, if the system involve these dangers, whether latent or palpable, why have not the baneful results already matured and disclosed themselves It has prevailed in Connecticut for more than a century; a period amply suf. ficient to develop its evils as well as its benefits, and while it has promo
ted the peace, purity, and stability
of the churches it has in no way abridged their liberties. Indeed it was adopted there after a sad experience of the evils and dangers of occasional councils, for the express purpose of avoiding them. And it has in a good degree accomplished this happy result, with no weighty counterpoise of evil, at least since the principle has prevailed, that the powers of consociations are advisory and not mandatory. 2. The other objection to consociations, is that they are not sanctioned by Scripture. It is said that the only council mentioned in the New Testament, Acts xv, was occasional and not permanent. To this we reply, that the same argument would overthrow permanent associations of ministers, which even its proposers will uphold. The truth on this subject, we suppose to be simply this. The Scripture shows us the nature and composition of these bodies, and the extent of their power. In these respects, the Bible must be strictly followed, and if it be thus followed, we gain all that is essential to their genuine and scriptural character. The minor circumstances and details of their organization are not defined in Scripture. They are wisely left, like many other unessential things, to be regulated
by Christian wisdom and prudence, adapting them to the various exigencies and necessities of the church. In this class, we rank such things as the duration of councils, and the times and places of their meeting, of their officers, and modes of doing business. In these matters we are fettered by no restrictions, except that we do all things decently, in order, to edification, and the glory of God, and do nothing which his law forbids. These views are commended to the candid consideration of those ministers a New Eßgrand, that &e destitute of consociations, and to those Congregationalists elsewhere, that are now shaping their nascent ecclesiastical organizations. It is believed that the consociational system obviates many of the more plausible objections to Congregationalism, which have hitherto cramped its growth, and made it tributary to Presbyterianism, in the Middle and Western States.* MINISTERIAL Associations. Besides councils composed of pastors and delegates of churches, Congregationalism has its associations, composed exclusively of ministers. These, like fixed councils, usually extend over a county, or a larger or smaller territory, if more convenient, and are designed to embrace all the ministers residing within their bounds. These bodies have no authority to take cognizance of the affairs of particular churches, and are never summoned for this pur
* It may be a wise precaution, to state, that the conductors of the New Englander are not unanimous in preferring standing councils or consociations to occasional councils. The dissentients from this opinion acknowledge, that the prevention of er parte councils by the consociational system, is a point of great importance. But they are jealous of the gradual accumulation of power in the hands of permanent ecclesiastical courts. Should an argument, therefore, in direct variance with this appear in a future number of this work, we hope not to be thought inconsistent with ourselves.—Ed.
pose, because they are exclusively clerical, and contain no representation of the Christian people. They are designed to promote the fellowship and mutual improvement of ministers, as well as consultation and concert among them for furthering the common interests of the churches. To them also is assigned the work of examining and licensing candidates for the gospel ministry. No one is admitted to preach, even as a candidate, in our churches, who can not show his certificate of approval and licensure by one of
these bodies, or by the accredited
authorities of sister denominations. Thus they guard the sacred office against unworthy intruders. Moreover, all ministers without charge, must belong to some association, unless in good standing in another denomination, and be able to show a certificate of good and regular standing in it, or they forfeit all character and standing as ministers, and will neither be recognized as such by the clergy, or employed by the churches. As means of preserving a sound and able ministry, these bodies are indispensable. They also accomplish another object of high importance. They become a medium of union and communion between all Congregational churches. Councils include only a small circle of churches and ministers. And it is not the policy of Congregationalism to give a wider range to the agitations sometimes incident to the proceedings of ecclesiastical judicatories. Hence any organic union extending beyond small districts, is impossible, except through some union of associations. This is accomplished by means of a general association, composed of delegates from a considerable number of district associations, generally from all within a single state. This general association meets once a year. It is also attended by delegates from most other general associations in the country, and from
The Romanist regards the justified person not only as capable of fulfilling the moral law, and therefore under its authority, but as being required to fulfill it persectly in order to attain to a state of final blessedness. He believes that he can even go beyond the requirements of the law, and perform works of supererogation, to be credited either to himself or others; while if he fails in any respect to keep the law, instead of trusting solely to the righteousness of Christ for justification, he must expiate his fault by personal suffering, or by the superabundant merits of another. His notion of justification being that of an inward transformation of the soul, in which man's agency is no less concerned than God’s, he looks upon the at
pose of showing that Congregationalism is the polity which best meets the wants of collective as well as single churches, whereby the whole “body fitly joined together, and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body, unto the edifying of itself IN Love.” Eph. iv, 16.
tainment of supreme felicity as impossible, till that transformation is made complete by the full obedience of the soul to all the requirements of the new law. The Council of Trent declares, that “whoever shall say that a justified and so far perfect man is not to be held to the observance of the commands of God and the church, but only to the belief of them, i. e. the recognition of their authority, (as if the Gospel was a naked and absolute promise of eternal life, without the condition of keeping the commandments,) shall be accursed.” Dr. Moehler reasons on the subject in this manner. “It is absurd to talk of entering heaven while stained with sin, be it covered or uncovered. If then we leave this world with some stains of sin upon us, how shall we be purified from them 2 Shall it be by the mechanical deliverance from the body, of which the Protestant formulas speak so much But it is not easy to discover how the sinful spirit is purged when the body is laid aside. It is only he who rejects the principle of moral freedom in sin, or who has been led astray by Gnostic or Manichean errors, who can approve such a doctrine. Or are we to imagine it to be some potent word of the Divinity, or some violent mechanical process from which purification ensues? Some sudden, magical change the Protestant doctrine unconsciously supposes; and this is not surprising, since it teaches, that by original sin the mind was deprived of one of its constituent parts, (the will,) and that in regeneration man is completely passive.” But the Catholic, who can not regard man otherwise than as a free, independent agent, must recognize this free agency in his final purification, and repudiate such a sort of mechanical process, as incompatible with the whole moral government of the world. If God were to employ such instrumentality, then Christ would have died in vain. Hence the church is obliged to hold such views of justification in Christ, and of a moral conduct in this life regulated by it, as that Christ will, at the day of judgment, have both fulfilled the claims of the law outwardly for us, and for that reason also inwardly in us. Wherefore our solace is to be found in the power of Christ, which effaces as well as forgives sin, though in a twofold way. With some it consummates purification in this life ; with others it perfects it only in the life to come. The latter are they who, by faith, love, and a sincere penitential feeling, have knit the bond of communion with Christ, but only partially, so that when they quit the abodes of the living they are not entirely pervaded by his spirit; to them will be communicated this saving power, that at the day of judgment they also may be found pure in Christ. Thus the doctrine of a place of purification is closely connected with the Catholic theory of justification.” Purgatory is the last stage in that scheme of penance by which the soul
* We have already taken exception to this statement of the general belief of Protestants. It is notoriously erroneous at the present day.
is purified from sins committed after baptism, when the atoning merits of Christ, and the sanctifying influences of the Spirit, communicated through that ordinance, are no longer available. It may be defined “a place or state after death in which the souls of just men are purified from all venial sin, or in which they expiate such offenses committed in this life, as do not merit eternal damnation.” We have already seen, (Vol. II, p. 585,) that Dr. Wiseman does not claim that the doctrine of purgatory is explicitly taught in the word of God. Moehler speaks of it simply as “well-founded in tradition;” and all standard Roman Catholic writers argue the existence of purgatory from tradition and philosophy rather than from Scripture. With tradition, of course, we have little concern ; we do not bend to its authority. Yet it may be useful to insert a brief sketch of the rise and progress of the doctrine of purgatory, as seen in the writings of the Fathers. It is conceded by Romanists, that Tertullian (who died A. D. 220) is the earliest writer who makes mention of prayer for the dead as a custom of the church. Origen and Cyprian, who flourished about the middle of the third century, also allude to the practice of offering oblations for the dead, and particularly for martyrs, on the anniversary days of their decease. But the design of these seems to have been to commemorate their virtues, and to render thanksgiving to God for the grace vouchsafed to them in life and in death, rather than to procure any benefit for the deceased themselves. We have an instance of thanksgiving for the dead in the burial service of the Protestant Episcopal church. “Almighty God, with whom do live the spirits of those who depart hence in the Lord ; and with whom the souls of the faithful, after they are delivered from the burden of the flesh, are in joy and felicity; we give thee hearty thanks for the good evamples of all those thy servants, who, having finished their course in faith, do now rest from their labors.” But this thanksgiving, so far from implying a belief in purgatory, contains direct testimony to the immediate felicity of all the righteous after death. Such probably was the tenor of the earlier prayers for the dead to which Cyprian and Tertullian allude. The martyrs were held in great esteem. It was natural that they should be specially honored on the anniversary of their martyrdom, and thus in time be canonized by converted pagans accustomed to the deification of heroes. Nor is it surprising that certain passages in the Revelation of John should be construed by fanciful interpreters to mean, that the prayers and intercessions of saints and martyrs were continued after death, and that the departed themselves could be benefited in the intermediate state, and obtain part in the first resurrection, through the intercession of saints on earth. The opinion was somewhat prevalent, also, that all men at the day of judgment will pass through a purifying fire; an opinion founded perhaps on a misconstruction of 1 Cor. iii, 13–16. Yet there was no such doctrine as the modern doctrine of purgatory generally entertained in the church as late as the middle of the third century. Cyprian" says expressly, “when we have departed hence, there is no place left for repentance, and no effectiveness in satisfaction (or penance.) Here life is either lost or held. * * * To him who confesses, pardon is freely granted: to him who believes, a salutary indulgence is granted from the divine pity; and immediately after death, he passes to a blessed immor
tality.” It must be owned, however, on the other hand, that Tertullian advances the idea, “that the abode of a departed spirit in the prison of the intermediate state might be prolonged, and that its final resurrection might be delayed, on account of the smaller sins which it had committed in the flesh;” and hence infers the utility of prayers for the dead. But this was the fanciful notion of a single individual. Cyril of Jerusalem, who flourished about the middle of the fourth century, uses language on this subject which implies a belief in “a place of penal though not of eternal separation from God, whence departed spirits might be extricated by the prayers of surviving friends.” He intimates also that those prayers for the dead are especially efficacious “which are offered during the celebration of the Eucharist,” and draws an analogy from the customary release of state prisoners on occasions of public festivity and joy. Thus “prayers for the souls of the dead in general,” were grafted upon the old “ thanksgivings for the happy departure of the pious dead.” Yet Cyril admits that the idea that the dead could be benefited by the prayers of the living, found many zealous opponents in his day. Toward the close of the same century, and at the beginning of the fifth, the belief in the efficacy of prayers for the dead became more general, as is plain from the testimony of Augustine and Chrysostom. “Beyond all doubt,” says Au
* Quoted by Coleman, Christian Antiquities, p. 417, and by Faber, Difficulties of Romanism, p. 191.
* Cyril speaks of the prayer after the consecration of the elements at the holy communion, in these words: “We offer this sacrifice in memory of all those who have fallen asleep before us, first, patriarchs, prophets, apostles and martyrs, that God by their prayers and intercessions may receive our supplications; and then we pray for our holy fathers and bishops, and all that have fallen asleep before us, believing that it is a great advantage to their son's to be prayed for, while the holy and tremendous sacrifice lies upon the altar.”—Catech. Mystug. 5, n. 6.