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DURING the present century there has been a wonderful movement among Christian nations towards equality in all things. The laborer, the citizen, the layman, are coming to the front, and the future is theirs. Freedom is in the air. Wild theories of brotherhood and socialism are freely promulgated. To this whole movement questions of government, in order to liberty and security, are fundamental. The churches, busy as never before with the evangelization of the world, feel this ground-swell of re-adjustment, and are freeing themselves from bondage to the State, that they may teach the root-principles of all government. And the movement is back towards the liberty and unity of the primitive churches, with their equality and care for the people. It is coming to be felt that this world was not made for the few but for the many; that the welfare of the people is above the pleasure of the rich or the ambition of the ruler. This movement can not be stayed; it may be guided. And believing that Christ Jesus our Lord put into his churches not only equality but also brotherhood, – love of our neighbor, we find in their government a model for the future State. To cast a handful of salt into the bitter fountain of human passion already flowing, we publish these Lectures.
The title may seem strange, but it expresses better than any uther the contents of the Lectures. Christ dwelt largely on “the kingdom,” which became his Church and which is still coming. Hence organized and manifested Christianity is this very kingdom of heaven coming. The Church is the human side of the kingdom, and the kingdom is the divine side of the Church. In other words, the Church is the kingdom in manifestation. From this central point, polity has been considered in these Lectures; for which no better name could be found than The Church-Kingdom. Whether we have given all the elements of this divine institution or not, and whether we have treated them in their normal relations or not, we must leave it with others to judge. We can only add that we have desired to cover all the elements and to give their normal development.
If our view of the origin of polities be correct, the divisions in Christendom have more honorable foundations than many have supposed. But the same view of their origin presents also the stubborn obstacles which must be overcome before those divisions can emerge in ecumenical unity.
A special call for a full discussion of Congregationalism is found in the action of the last National Council (1886) respecting ministerial standing and the pastorate ($ 124: 8). The inadequacy of ordaining and installing councils to secure purity has led the churches to turn to ministerial standing in associations of churches or conferences as an adequate safeguard easily applied. But in the transition from one safeguard to another, there is danger lest some abnormal principle or practice be introduced which shall work evil. It is hoped that the following discussion may be helpful in avoiding this danger, and at the same time assist in securing uniformity in principle and practice among the free churches of Christendom. The one doctrine of the Christian Church has but one constitution that is normal, whatever incidental peculiarities national life may give it.
All who understand the significance of the action of the National Council, above referred to, will exonerate the Congregational Sunday-School and Publishing Society from all responsibility for views deemed peculiar to any portion of our churches, that may appear in these Lectures.
We have given to this doctrine of the Church an ecumenical comprehension, hoping that the time is not far distant when a general council of free churches throughout the world, including especially mission churches, shall be held in London, at the call of our English brethren, to confer upon all matters of faith and polity.
These Lectures were given in the Andover Theological Seminary in 1883, 1885, and 1886, on the Southworth Foundation, and are an enlargement of the Lectures given in the Oberlin Theological Seminary since 1872, and outlined in the Pocket Manual.
We ask the blessing of the Great Head of the Church and the King of the kingdom upon this humble attempt to present the principles and development of his Church-kingdom.
A. HASTINGS ROSS. PORT HURON, MICHIGAN, 1887.
(4) Initiatory rite: when introduced. (5) Creed.
tempted return to the national Church.
sent. (3) The gospel — the gospel of the kingdom. (4)
tion of royal power.
(4) Invisibility. (5) Infallibility. (6) Perpetuity. (7) Uni-
versality. (8) Equality among subjects.
Patriarchal. (2) The Christian dispensation organically
bound to the Ceremonial.
$ 41. It retained the synagogue form of worship.....