« ПретходнаНастави »
dividuals are strangers to each other, or are accustomed to meet except on terms of familiarity, is not found to be attended with any serious disadvantages. We have never seen any disposition in laymen to put themselves forward indiscreetly on any such occasion, or to perplex a simple-hearted candidate with the abstruse questions of metaphysical theology. We apprehend, that Mr. Colton would be obliged to travel far before he could find the reality to which bis description could be applied without great abatements.
To the examination of candidates, and the public propounding of their names before their admission to church fellowship, our author's objections are of two sorts ; first, those which are founded on what seems to us an entire misunderstanding of the nature and design of the examination ; and secondly, those which are founded on the idea that it is essentially wrong for unordained members of the church to have any voice, direct or indirect, in respect to the admission of others to their fellowship. We will not occupy time with a task so useless as that of tracing out and exposing arguments constructed on either basis.
To the public covenanting with God and with the church, Mr. C. objects after this fashion :
• It brings the feelings of candidates, which ought rather to be protected, to a painful, unprofitable, and injurious trial. The mode of examination is of this character ; but more especially the coming out required before a public assembly of all the people on the sabbath, and the professions and engagements made in that place. Few persons, especially delicate females and others not accustomed to public gaze, can pass through these ordeals, without experiencing most painful sensations of a class, from which, one would suppose, that very religion they are there required to profess, properly and kindly entertained in the hearts of those who prescribe and authorize these transactions, ought to save them. It is a violence to those proprieties, and to that composure of mind, which are desirable, and which ought to be maintained and protected in the social state.' p. 43.
What shall we say to this? We open the book of commonprayer, at "the order of confirmation."
We read, that " upon the day appointed, all that are to be confirmed, being placed, and standing in order before the bishop, he or some other minister appointed by him, shall read this preface following.” The preface sets forth, that “the church [not the rector, by the way, nor the bishop, but the church, including not only the house of bishops, but also the house of clerical and lay deputies] hath thought good to order that none shall be confirmed but such as can say the creed, the Lord's prayer, and the ten commandments; and can also answer to such other questions as in the short catechism are contained : which order is very convenient to be observed ; to
the end that children, being now come to the years of discretion, and having learned what their godfathers and godmothers promise for them in baptism, may ihemselves with their own mouth and consent, openly before the church ratify and confirm the same.
We proceed. “Then the bishop shall say, • Do you here, in the presence of God and of THIS CONGREGATION, renew the solemn promise and vow that ye made, or that was made in your name at your baptism.” etc. Then saith the rubric, “ And every one shall audibly answer, [delicate females not excepted,] I do.” That we may see what is the “solemn promise and vow" "thus renewed, ratified, and confirmed,' "in the presence of God and the congregation,” we turn back to the form of “the ministration of public baptism ;” and we find it to be a promise and vow to renounce the devil and all his works, the vain
pomp and glory of the world, with all covetous desires of the same, and the sinful desires of the flesh, so that" the promiser" will not follow, nor be led by them;" and furthermore, that be“ will obediently keep God's holy will and commandments, and walk in the same all the days of his life.” This is the Episcopal mode of admission to full communion. Does the candidate admitted in this mode, promise less sweepingly, less solemoly, or less publicly, than the candidate for membership in a Congregational church? The chief difference as to form is, that in the Congregational form, the delicate female unaccustomed to public gaze' stands in the aisle bonneted, and, if she chooses, veiled, to give a silent assent to the words of the holy covenant; while in the other form, she, having answered "audibly" to signify her vow and promise, must kneel with her head uncovered, under the devout or curious gaze of every eye that from the galleries witnesses the laying on of the bishop's hands. Strange it seems to us, that Mr. Colton, with the order of confirmation in his newly purchased prayer-book, did not think of looking at it before stereotyping his objection to the publicity of our form of making a profession of religion. Strange, that his hints about “ delicate females," and “painful sensations," and " violence to those proprieties and to that composure of mind which ought to be maintained and protected," did not remind him of " the thanksgiving of women after child-birth, commonly called the churching of women.” Strange, that the only pre-composed and prescribed form of devotion which Congregationalists retain besides their psalms and hymns,-a form which in its beauty and touching solemnity is not easily surpassed,-should be so unsparingly censured by one who fees from this to all the formalities of the Episcopal liturgy.
We speak of the beauty and touching solemnity of the form which our author censures so unsparingly. See in wbat terms Mr. Colton himself, when he wished to commend that form to the churches of England, could describe it.
• It is extensively a custom in churches of the United States, for all persons who have been approved as candidates for the Lord's table, or for what is ordinarily termed admission into full communion of the church, to present themselves before the whole congregation on the day of the sacramental supper, and there publicly make a profession of their faith, by assenting to certain questions, propounded by the officiating minister, and also to enter into a formal and public covenant with God and his people. And this is a division or separation, and a very solemn and impressive one, not only to the candidates, but to all the witnesses. It is often of amazing and incalculable power, and probably never without some deep impression. I will here narrate a scene of this kind, of which I was once the witness.
It was after a season of some considerable revival, when on a sacramental sabbath, fifty-one of the converts, male and female, old and young, and in some instances parents with their children, presented themselves at the call of their aged and venerable pastor, in the broad aisle of the church, standing in ranks before all the congregation, and directly in front of the pulpit
, and of the communion-table. The house was filled to overflowing, with a mixed multitude of believers and unbelievers—but all interested, all gazing at the scene enacting before them, with an intensity of interest, which cannot be described for the Spirit of God was there. It was a season of revival. These fifty-one persons had now, and in these circumstances publicly separated themselves from the world, there to take the vows of God upon them, in the presence of God, of angels, and of this multitude of witnesses on earth, and then to sit down together, and for the first time to receive the consecrated symbols of a Saviour's dying love.
And the venerable patriarch, their pastor and spiritual father, descending from the pulpit, took his station behind the communion-table, supported on either hand by his elders and deacons, and was about to proceed to the installation of these waiting candidates in the fellowship and privileges of the church. For a moment all was silence and rapt attention, while that aged man of God stood struggling to arm his tongue for utterance. The sympathies of all hearts clustered around him, as he was seen labouring in vain to express his emotions. At last, with a trembling and broken voice, addressing himself to the officers and members of his church, and looking upon this fresh company now coming up, to offer themselves to God, he delivered himself of this brief sentence: This is the day, and this the hour, my brethren, which I have long wished, and prayed, and laboured to see. And the old man could say no more. But, turning himself, he fell upon the shoulder of one of the elders, who stood by his side, and wept aloud. And the whole congregation were instantly possessed of the same feeling, and equally convulsed by the uncontrollable power of their emotions.
Like an elder father, and an elder saint, who on a more joyful occasion took the infant Saviour in his arms, and was satisfied—so did this venerable man, bending alike under the weight of years, and alike hoary with the whitened locks of a care-worn life—so did he, as soon as he could lift himself up again, raise his trembling hands, and streaming eyes, and faltering voice to heaven, breaking once more the protracted VOL. VIII.
pause and awful silence of the place :—Now lettest thou thy servan depart in peace—for mine eyes have seen thy salvation.'
And never will that hour be forgotten by those who witnessed the scene. And its impression on that church and on that people will last while they shall last-while eternity lasts. And names, I trust not few, I cannot doubt, will be found in heaven, in consequence of the im pressions of that occasion.' Am. Revivals, pp. 91–94.
But the greatest and most effectual of our author's objection against the Congregational and Presbyterian discipline, is, that the organization of our churches involves the right and the duty, on the part of the members, to watch over each other's christian character, and to care for all the interests of the spiritual body. We call this his greatest objection, because it is obviously this which gives force to every other objection, and because first and last he dwells upon this more than upon any other. We call it his most effectual objection, because we cannot doubt, that it is, not only in his mind but in the minds of other converts to Episcopacy, the first and most powerful moving cause of dislike to Congregational or Presbyterian discipline. This it is,-this “ covenant of mutual watch and care,”-this strictness of discipline,—that imparts a latent power to what is said about litigation. This it is, which seems to encroach upon the prerogatives of the pastoral office. This it is, which gives point to the complaints about excessive demands on ministers for labor. Above all, it is this, which enlivens and strengthens the argument against the mode of admission to full communion. And if we may here anticipate some other topics not yet touched upon, we doubt not, that when a man finds it particularly unpleasant to have christian brethren “supervising” his conduct, and inquiring into its consistency with the principles of christian holiness, or when for any reason he becomes greatly dissatisfied with the inconveniences and impertinences of church discipline, he is very likely to be smitten with a love of venerable forms, and to be suddenly and deeply impressed with the argument for a christian hierarchy. In this respect, we think the book now under consideration is more likely to be effectual with a certain class of readers, than many other more learned and more argumentative treatises on the same side of the question. The writer seems to be aware where the strength of the argument for his cause lies, and what impression should be made first and deepest.
Shall we then stop to argue this point? We will, at least so far as may be necessary to do justice to Mr. Colton's arguments against the vital principle of our church organization, the principle of the mutual watch and care of church members, and of their common interest and responsibility in respect to the common
But first we must attend to his description of this principle.
• It interferes with personal and private rights, and violates a constructive principle of christianity, by authorizing impertinence, and setting up one member of the church over another, as a supervisor of his private conduct, when both may be strangers to each other, or whatever be their relative character and condition in society. If the principle recognised in the covenant of “mutual watch and care” were attempted to be carried out, it would set society on fire, or rend it asunder. A man in the lowest condition of life is thereby authorized to look into the private concerns of the highest, and determine upon bis conduct, and rebuke him, is he sees fit. The servant may rise to judge his master, and the maid her mistress. The son may excuse himself from his obligations of respect to his father; and the daughter may come out against her mother. None of the common and sacred relations of society could be maintained on this principle, if it is supposed, that persons in all these relations are members of the same church, associated under a solemn covenant to rebuke a fault wherever they see it, and consequently to treat every one according to his personal merits, themselves being judges, each for himself.' pp. 50, 51.
This is all a broad misunderstanding, and therefore, a broad misrepresentation of the principle in question. There is no such thing practiced or allowed in the churches of either the Congregational or the Presbyterian platform. No "interference with personal and private rights," no "impertinence,” no “setting up of one member of the church over another as a supervisor of his private conduct,” is included in the theory or the covenant.
in the lowest condition of life is thereby authorized to look into the private concerns of the highest.” And so of the whole description. If Mr. Colton has always understood the purport of a church covenant as he now describes it, we marvel how he can have so long refrained from going over to a denomination in which no such evils are tolerated.
The principle in question may be set forth in some such terms as these. A particular church is a congregation of believers in Christ, recognizing each other as fellow disciples, and associated for mutual helpfulness in the christian life, and particularly for communion in worship and in christian ordinances. The theory of such an association must needs be some degree of confidence in each other's christian character, and this involves the necessity of some consent of the brotherhood in the reception of new members, and of course, some parallel corsent in the excision of the unworthy. Their mutual helpfulness and communion involves the duty of inciting each other to love and good works, of exhorting one another, and of being ready on all fit occasions and in all proper modes of communication, to warn each other agaiost temptation, to rebuke each other when going out of the way, and to bear each other's burthens and so fulll the law of Christ. A Congregational church covenant means all this and no more. Those