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Observer, Aug. 1, '75.
d. A note on the genuineness of the last twelve verses of the gospel of Mark, is appended at the close of the volume, which we think will be accepted as a complete refutation of the argument advanced by some eminent critics and commentators of the present age in favour of rejecting these verses from the inspired canon. We believe that this note alone will be regarded by appreciative readers as worth the entire price of the volume.
A STAKE FOR HERETICS.
This is not a stake to which we would attach heretics for the purpose of helping them to martyrdom ; but a stake which we would like to stick on the subject of heretics,
It is popularly supposed that heresy consists, mainly, in unsound views of doctrine. And this generation has seen a pretty general attempt to make heresy-hunters odious. But the Bible idea of heresy has nothing to do with doctrine. A heretic, according to inspiration, is a man who withdraws; who pulls off, like an ox, unwilling to work kindly with his fellow.
In Congregational Churches, where the force that holds brethren together is mortal, where the centripetal power is brotherly love, heretics have their grandest sphere of operations. Nor is this any argument against our system. You can scatter a handful of sand around the axle of an ox-cart, and it will not disturb its movement. But one single grain of that sand will stop the movement of an Elgin lever. And the more perfect a system of church-government, the more its government is like the government of the New Jerusalem, the more easily a disturbing force may make itself felt there. A policeman with his club can take away to the lock-up a man who disturbs your religious assembly. But you cannot dispose of an unruly son in that summary manner.
Is, then, the family less perfect as an organization, than civil government ?
Here is a man who expected to be chosen deacon, or chorister, or trustee, but the people did not select him. In the exercise of their right of suffrage, they fixed upon another person as more suitable. This disappointed office-seeker begins at once to draw off, to pull the church apart. He has his satellites, who revolve around him ; who wink when he winks; who give vent to sternutatory explosions when he sneezes. And he begins to wink, and they begin to wink; and he begins to sneeze and they begin to sneeze. He leaves the choir, they leave the choir. He stays at home from the prayer-meeting, they do the same. And before the body of the church are aware of it, here is a group of men and women within the church, who set themselves deliberately to the work of breaking the moral ties which bind them to the church, of making a schism in it, of dividing its forces, so that the adversary may conquer them in detail.
This is the heresy against which we stick this stake; a heresy a hundred-fold worse than that of incorrect opinion ; a heresy of the heart from the body of Christ; from Christ Himself, who would have all His Disciples one in Him, as He is one with the Father. It may be a source
Observer, Aug. 1, '75.
of grief to you
brother in Christ does not think as you think about decrees, the trinity, free agency, or half a dozen other matters in the philosophy of religion. But, if he holds to the Master, and to those who love Him; if he is willing to pull with them, instead of pulling away from them, do not call him a heretic, or try to kill him with anathemas. The real heretics may seem very sound in the faith, while actually very unsound in practice; may have the kingdom of God in their heads, while Satan's kingdom is in their hearts. We have stuck our stake.
ACCORDING to a habit which, whether good or bad, seems to have grown too strong to be easily shaken off-according to a habit I say, which
, I have acquired of looking at both sides of every question, I must speak of a few popular remedies that, in my candid opinion, will not remove this dangerous debility which I fear is becoming so prevalent.
First, let me say that sensational preaching will not cure the complaint. It may bring it on, or aggravate it where it has already appeared, but it can never remove it. Hence when a church is prostrate and helpless, it is not advisable to send for a professional revivalist whose stock in trade is a variety of funny anecdotes, pathetic stories, sulphurous threats and horrid catastrophes. He may, with the battery of his strong personal magnetism, excite the body into the semblance of great vigour, but when he is gone, the fictitious strength disappears also. The treatment is a dangerous one, and none but a compact well-disciplined congregation can assimilate the discordant elements which under the name of converts it often introduces into the body.
Neither do I think that a change of “pastors" is a good remedy. It is a very common one, I know, but it is rarely useful.
The pastor in a church, like the maid of all work in a family, is expected to do everything, especially the disagreeable things which the rest of the members decline to perform. For the most part he is found only in weak churches. A strong church needs no pastoral labour except that of the elders or bishops, and in cases of marked debility one pastor is about as good as another. Change of itself is an evil, unless made with a view of conforn:ing more closely to the Scriptural model. In the latter case the pastor would soon be sent out and sustained in the more congenial and profitable labour of evangelizing.
Of course I cannot recommend fine houses, organs, choirs, entertainments, and such like. They have often been tried, and as often failed. The desire for such things is like the morbid craving that some patients have for indigestible and hurtful food. It is always an unfavourable sympton, and the objects of such an unnatural appetite should as far as possible be kept out of sight. But let us now turn to the positive side of the question.
The first thing that I recommend to be done in a “weak church” is that each member shall seriously consider his individual responsibilitics. Hiz inquiry should be, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do ?” Let the
Observer, Aug. 1, '75.
answer to this question be sought where alone it can be found in the book of the New Covenant, especially in that portion which is comprised in the apostolic epistles. I have great confidence in the power of God's Word when each individual willingly brings its truth to bear upon his own conscience. There are some things which Christians cannot leave undone and be guiltless in the sight of Him who will come to judge His people. These are the positive duties of members as individuals in a congregation of Jesus Christ
. I shall not attempt here to point them out. God has already set them forth, and, if the reader be ignorant of them, yet a member of the body of Christ, he is certainly standing on slippery ground, and woe to him if he seeks not at once the rock of eternal truth.
Every weak church should turn itself into a committee of investigation and become inquirers and seekers. There are men that have spent months seeking pardon, but that have not spent as many hours learning the duties of the pardoned. The whole subject of church relationship
. should be thoroughly canvassed and its obligations clearly ascertained. There should be no disposition, much less attempt, to evade or shift responsibilities. The duties of private members and the work of the officers of the congregations should be thought on and talked over till the whole matter is made familiar to all. If there is a preacher in the number of the inquirers he can assist in the investigation, but he is not to carry it on while the others are merely idle listeners.
Each Disciple must read and know for himself, and not for another.
When the truth is known the next step is to love it. They who receive not the love of the truth are given over to strong delusions that they may believe a lie and be damned. So Paul affirms substantially in his Second Epistle to the Thessalonians, and the fact ought to startle all careless ones from the sleep of indifference, and excite in them an affection for that word which is able to purify, strengthen, and save. How
many, who in years gone by knew the truth and laboured for it among the Disciples, are now apostates gone back to the world or deluded again by the fables of sectarianism. These persons either received not, or else, after receiving, lost the love of the truth. Some who still retain the knowledge of Divine things are, nevertheless, liable to the wrath of God, for they hold the truth in unrighteousness.
But how shall we get this affection for the pure word that is so essential to our present peace and our eternal joy? By reading, meditation, and prayer." Truth to the ignorant or worldly mind has few or no attractions. Like her Divine Author, there appears no beauty in her that the soul should desire her. Her sayings seem hard, and her burdens grievous to be borne. But to the honest inquirer who earnestly desires to behold wondrous things in the law of the Lord, she reveals herself in her true character, as a kind sympathizing friend and an ever faithful guide in the paths of holiness and peace. The earnest mind that lingers in the scenes of inspiration will gradually be filled with sùch a love for the things of Christ as they are shown by the Holy Spirit in the Scriptures of truth, that all contrary likings and unhallowed desires will pass away. Then will be felt, as never before, the grandeur of the Gospel and the utter insignificance of all human wisdom and the vanity of all worldly things.
Observer, Aug. 1, '75.
When the love of the truth repossesses the hearts of God's people they will find no difficulty in assimilating one to another, and manifesting that brotherly kindness so essential to the welfare of the church. Each member of the one body will strive to manifest in dress and behaviour that prudence which, for the Master's sake, avoids all offence, even towards the least of the saints. What is called church-life is sometimes nothing but a miserable sham. The law of Christ, that ye bear one another's burdens, is ignored by three-fourths of the membership. A few willing ones do nearly all the work and pay nearly all the expenses. The others live not to please their brethren in the Lord but their own selves. Let all such look well to their condition of heart; “For he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen ?" He whose heart is right towards them that have obtained like precious faith with himself, through the righteousness of God, will never wilfully evade the responsibilities that rest upon him as a citizen of the commonwealth of Israel. He will never neglect the weekly meetings, or refuse to contribute his part, whether talent or money, to the need of the church. Neither will he by word or deed intentionally bring a reproach upon them to whom he is bound by the holiest of all ties, that of brotherhood in the illustrious family of the righteous Father.
A weak congregation needs especially to separate itself from the world, to divest itself of worldly thought, and free itself from worldly practice in all things that pertain to religious life. It must learn, once for all, that true heaven-approved success consists not in many proselytes, much wealth or high social position, but in the number of them that are sanctified and made perfect in Christ Jesus. This success can be achieved only through the agencies and instrumentalities that have been ordained of God. The unadulterate word and the pure spiritual worship must be earnestly maintained. All those merely human appliances, whether designed for saint or sinner, that are so attractive to the carnal heart, must be rigidly excluded, that the work of salvation may rest upon the wisdom of God and not in the peradventures of men. The people of the Lord should be so far separated in all their religious acts from the unscriptural practices of sectarianism, that the world can tell at once that they are indeed the peculiar people who have a rightful claim to the name and promises of the Anointed, who gave Himself for them, that He might redeem from all iniquity. “Be not deceived," says Paul; "Evil communications corrupt good manners." Again he says, “ Be not conformed to this world, but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind."
A religious society conducted on worldly principles, or fashioned after a sectarian model, is not a church of Jesus Christ, and is consequently no part of the kingdom of heaven. The sooner this truth is recognized the better for all concerned. On the other hand, every society originated and developed by the gospel, and in which the spirit of truth dwells, is & body of which Christ is the Head. “For,” says He “where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in the midst of them.” It may be a matter of doubt whether the word church is ever applied in the New Testament to all the people of God collectively. I often use the word in this way, although I sometimes have a suspicion that this extended ecclesiastical sense may be a gloss of Rome first
Observer, Aug. 1, '75.
used, perchance, to favour the notion that the great earthly body must have an earthly head. Be this as it may, the spiritual unity of the people of God can be secured and maintained only by having each congregation follow the Divine guidance in all things pertaining to doctrine and discipline, so that nothing shall be done that is not warranted by command or precedent in the word of God.
A church that knows and loves the truth, that is filled with brotherly kindness, and conforms itself in its worship and discipline to the revealed will of Christ, will not fail to abound in good works. These will come as naturally as effects follow their sufficient cause. That church will then be strong in the strength that comes from God, a strength sufficient for every trial and available for every righteous purpose. Having within itself all the elements of a perfect life, it will grow in grace and in a practical knowledge of the truth, and through its own talent it will sound out the word of the Lord to the regions around, till, like a little leaven, it has transformed the whole mass, and reproduced itself in other congregations that will love the same things, and be filled with the same Divine Spirit.
I have the utmost confidence in the truthfulness and ultimate success of the principles which I have attempted to advocate in these essays, and in this confidence, however foolish it may appear to them who still retain the old Jewish notions of a worldly kingilom under the Messiah, in opposition to the spiritual reign of the invisible yet ever present Christ, I offer the foregoing desultory advice to all concerned.
American Christian Revieu'.
VISIT IN DETROIT.-DISCIPLES FROM GREAT BRITAIN.
WE were most cordially greeted by the brethren, and made welcome to the hospitalities of Bro. W. Linn, where we had every comfort heart could wish. As the leading men here have been denominated “the impracticable," " the Scotch element,” etc., by those who could not
“ shape their ideas precisely according to their liking, we must ask the reader's patience while we give them a little more than a passing notice. We ask this, too, because the things of which we are to speak are of general practical interest and importance. Bro. P. Č. Gray is one of the overseeers.
He told us his
age, do not remember precisely-say sixty-seven. He became a Disciple of Christ early in life, and was present in Glasgow, Scotland, when Alex. Campbell was imprisoned. He has had much experience; has read and observed closely. He retains his powers remarkably well
, walking for miles over the city with apparent ease. He reads with great readiness and ease; and is naturally ready and gifted as a speaker. He is buoyant in spirit, and hopeful. He stands high in the church and out of it. Bro. Alex. Linn, Sen., is one of the overseers. He has not reached sixty years. We have seen but few men of clearer natural understanding than he has. He is a gifted speaker, and a man of good report within and without. He has a most retentive memory. He has read much, and still reads, and, at least, forgets but little.