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time for those, whose common object is the glory of God, to band themselves closer in holy efforts to save souls, and exercise an inventive ingenuity in making their influence tell to the greatest advantage for such an end, rather than in watching for each other's halting ;-it is such a time,—when a world rises before us as yet unevangelized, and the providence of God leading the way, and pointing to China, Japan, and the millions under their control, reiterates the command of a dying Savior, “ Preach the gospel to every creature !” We must live, toil, suffer, die, for Christ. Appeals to christians must be made so long as there is a pagan land, as there are dying sinners without a bible, or the grave in its gloom is but the entrance to the dark world of despair.
Art. VI.-Bacon's CHURCH MANUAL.
A Manual for young Church-Members. BY LEONARD Bacon, Pastor of the First
Church in New-Haven. New-Haven, 1833.
This is just such a book as bas been long needed by the American churches. We are glad our author has had the boldness to declare the truth ; and we hope our readers will attentively consider and treasure up the conclusions which are here stated. It is a book of results. Almost every page contains thoughts which would admit of amplification, and suggest to a considerate mind, materials for profitable reflection. The ground here taken, as to the nature and constitution of the church, we are sure can, in the main, be sustained; and it is one, we think, which is peculiarly important to be understood and acted upon at the present day, and in our own country. With these views, we shall esteem it matter of gratitude and joy, if we can do any thing by our humble efforts to bring this work yet more into notice, or add any further strength to its earnest enforcements of christian duty.
Like many valuable works, the volume before us was first prepared as a series of lectures, and preached to the author's own people; and it so far retains its original form, that each chapter is preceded by a suitable text. The following table of contents will show our readers, at one glance, the wide range of topics embraced in the discussion.
1. Constitution and rights of the Apostolic churches: text, “Confirming the churches.” Acts, xv. 41. 2. The officers of a church: text, “ Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons.” Philip. i, 1. 3. Ordinances and ceremonies : text, “ Upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached to them.” Acts, xx. 7. 4. Duties of church-members : text, “ We, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.” Rom. xü. 5. 5. Discipline in a church : text, “Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out, therefore, the old leaven.” i Cor. v. 6,7. 6. Responsibility of Church members as professors of religion : text, " Among whom ye shine as lights in the world.” Philippians, ii. 15. 7. Relation of churches to each other: text, “But as touching brotherly love, ye need not that I write unto you, for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another. And indeed
do it towards all the brethren which are in all Macedonia.” 1. Thess. iv. 9, 10. 8. Responsibility of the New England churches: text, “ From you sounded out the word of the Lord.” 1 Thess. i. 8.
Besides these discourses, there are several valuable notes by way of appendix. We shall follow the author in the order he has adopted, and make some observations on a number of the subjects discussed in the chapters above mentioned.
On “ the constitution and rights of the apostolic churches,” Mr. Bacon has taken what we conceive to be the scriptural view of the subject, to wit, that there is no particular divine constitution any where to be discovered in the new testament; and that the whole machinery of church organization and church government, as it exists in most of our denominations, was entirely unknown to the apostles and primitive christians. Thus he says :
The mode in which Christ and bis followers were associated during his ministry on earth, was not the model of a church. That little company was rather a family, or a school, or both, than an ecclesiastical organization. The man of Nazareth appeared among his countrymen as a great and divine teacher of religious truth ; and like other prophets and teachers, he had his retinue of followers and immediate disciples, who always accompanied him, and waited on him, and who formed one family, of which he was the head. This was not a church ; they all worshiped in the synagogues and in the temple, like other Jews; Jesus was the master, and they were pupils in his family. In this family, Judas Iscariot was the steward, who had the charge of their common purse, and provided the supplies for their common table. Out of this family, Christ selected twelve, who were to be the particular witnesses of his life, death and resurrection, and whom he called apostles. Them he sent forth on one occasion, before his death, to perform a circuit through Judea and Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom.
After the resurrection and ascension of Jesus, his apostles and other personal followers, while they waited at Jerusalem for the promised effusion of the Holy Spirit with his miraculous gifts, continued to live as before, in an association more like a family than like what was asterwards called a church. It was not till their numbers were increased by thousands, and the need of some organization began to be felt, that
any thing like the institution of a distinct and permanent religious society appears to have been detinitely contemplated. And then, nothing more was done than was necessary in that present exigency. Thus the whole constitution of the church at Jerusalem grew up by degrees, as one step after another was called for by a succession of circumstances altogether peculiar. When the family became a church-when the daily worship in the temple, and the daily lectures of the apostles to the multitudes which gathered around them with one accord in Solomon's porch, and the meetings in private houses for prayer and the breaking of bread, became the regular religious institutions of a completely organized christian society, we have no occasion, even if it were in our power, to determine. It is enough for our present purpose to know that there were apostles and evangelists, and other preachers of the gospel, before there were churches; and that, therefore, neither the preacher nor the evangelist, nor the apostle, as such, is necessarily an officer in any church. Pp. 30–32.
This, we have no doubt, is a true account of the matter; and it is time the christian world were disabused of their errors on this subject. Men have clung, as with a dying grasp, to a few shreds of ancient tradition, and deemed it sacrilege to meddle with these consecrated relics. They have attached a peculiar sacredness to their own constitutions, councils, ordinances, creeds, and decisions, as if they rested on divine right and apostolic authority. We do not believe one word of it. We cannot find a trace of them in the bible. We there find the ordinances of baptism and the Lord's supper established, and small bodies of christians meeting together, with some general principles of organization. Here the scriptures leave us. The necessity of the case, the peculiar exigencies of the people, the laws of general propriety, are the only foundation on which the minuter organization of the church now rests. So far as different systems answer these purposes, and do not contravene the higher good of the whole body of believers, so far we admit their utility and obligation, and no farther. We are not aiming at any particular denomination or sect, nor are we fond of unnecessary innovations; but we do protest against that spirit, wherever it may be found, which would fetter us down to certain forms of nominal christianity; and, rearing around us walls and barriers over which we may not break or look, tell us, that however much the soul may glow with love to the cause of Christ, it may not venture one step beyond, nor mingle in effort or christian communion with those of another name. We care not where this spirit exists, whether in Congregationalist, Presbyterian, Episcopalian, Baptist, or Methodist; we say it is utterly hostile to the genius of christianity, and greatly impedes the progress of divine truth, and the extension of the Redeemer's kingdom. We do not, for ourselves, believe that there is a denomination on earth, whose churches are in exact accord
ance with those of apostolic times; nor do we consider this fact as of the least importance. Nay more, we doubt whether any two churches then existing could have been found, which did not differ in some particulars in their organization. The beautiful theories of church government, devised with so much care, and put together with so much skill and art, have, we are sure, no manner of resemblance to the churches mentioned in the Acts and the Epistles. The primitive christians, could they come among us, would be not a little surprised to hear their assemblies, gathered by stealth for worship, with or without particular standing officers, referred to as the models after which the superstructure of denominational churches is supposed to be fashioned. They were simple hearted men and women, exposed to continual persecution, and bound together in christian love; forming and modifying their regulations exactly as was needed ;--never once dreaming that they or their successors were bound to a single system, by some great code provided by divine authority.
The apostles unquestionably exerted a controlling influence and authority in many cases, but for no other reason than that they, by their superior knowledge, and their qualifications as inspired men, could better decide what the general good required. The whole design of the primitive churches, of all their ordinances, worship, and officers, was simply and solely to promote the spread of the Redeemer's kingdom among men. Whatever means, in their view, might reasonably and consistently effect this object, they hesitated not to employ; and they never seem to have placed their measures, old or new, on any other ground. Happy will it be for the churches of Christ, when they return once more to the same great principles of action. No man, we think, can candidly, and aside from prejudice, read the Acts and Epistles, and not feel that such was the case.
The reason of associating together, was to further this great end, mutually to enliven the feelings of devotion, strengthen the principles of piety, and aid in and urge to the discharge of duty. The church, as a body of true believers, were the representatives of Christ, through whom the all-pervading Spirit might act; and they were under solemn obligations of gratitude and love to make his name known, and recommend his religion among men.
It was to them the world was to look for an exemplification of the great truths of christianity; and through their prayers and exertions in applying the truth, the Holy Spirit was to reach the consciences and hearts of men. No where is this great design more clearly presented, than in the first epistle of Peter, addressed to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, and Cappadocia, and written, as is supposed, by Hug, about the eleventh year of Nero. See chap. ii. verse 5. “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices,
acceptable to God by Jesus Christ."
And again, verse 9, “ But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people, that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into liis marvelous light.” How perfectly consistent is this object, with every variety of external organization which may reasonably promise to do good! It was in accordance with this design that the apostles acted. Some things were practiced in some churches and not in others. Some officers existed in one and not in another : some met in one place, some in another; and all had a right to do what might be most conducive to the general good. If in any case a community of goods seemed necessary, the measure was adopted. If one church peeded aid from another, it was freely given. If advice was desired, they sought it. And thus the primitive christians lived together, very frequently ate together, worshiped together as a family, and felt their object and end to be the same. An extended edifice, or cumbrous establishment, embracing a great variety of regular fixed officers, can no where be discovered. The essential foundation was simple republicanism,--an elective system. As Mr. Bacon well observes, “the idea of the gradual formation and organization of the apostolic churches, which seems to lie upon the very surface of the new testament, is the key to many difficulties in the controversy which has been agitated for two centuries and a half about church officers."
In the same connection he also refers to Planck's Geschichte der Christlichen Gesellschafts-Verfassung, vol. i. pp. 1–50.That learned writer has there taken the view authorized by common sense, and demanded by the very circumstances of the apostolic church itself. He shows clearly, that it was not till the exigency of the case required it, that the Jewish converts had any other idea than that of grafting christianity, as a modification, upon Judaism. Of course, they would not think of forming a new or separate establishment immediately. They met in the temple and synagogues with their brethren, and in addition to this, they met in their own private assemblies. They received among them whom they chose, and they mutually sought to aid each other onward in the divine life. They had a right, and exercised it, to make such alterations as they wished, provided the general good required them. The only rules were those of benevolence and propriety; and as abuses were discovered and imperfections seen, they were corrected, and more form and consistency given gradually to their šxxanciar, assemblies or churches. These churches were, therefore, nothing more or less than families, societies, or coinmunities, larger or smaller, as might be, living and worshiping together. Their officers evidently were appointed, and increased or diminished in numbers, just as their circumstances seemed to need. One clear instance of this is the appointment of