« ForrigeFortsæt »
they incur no responsibility in withholding their support; and if they can justify, it need not be said an attitude of hostility, for very few commit themselves to actual opposition, but a position of indifference? It ought to be a weighty reason which should induce a Christian to slight whatever opportunity lies within his reach of manifesting his love to his fellow-Christians; and especially should the ministers of the Gospel, of whom emphatically it is said, “One is your Master, even Christ, and all ye are brethren," be prompt to acknowledge their fraternal relationship. What are ecclesiastical differences which separate, in comparison with the Evangelical bond which unites them? Is not an injustice done by them to one another when that bond, for want of being openly acknowledged, is in fact practically disallowed? And, what is more considerable, is not the authority of the Master violated, and will not His heart be grieved ?
On the other hand, let it be freely acknowledged that an important duty, and a corresponding responsibility, rest with the members of the Alliance, and especially with the brethren who are of note among them. Ten years have elapsed since the memorable Liverpool meeting-aa meeting never to be forgotten by those who were privileged to attend it. They have been years of enlarged intercourse with almost all the branches of the Church of Christ in our own and foreign lands. Have no lessons of practical wisdom been learned ? Has no experience been acquired which may be applied to the improvement of the Institution ? Is it impossible to render it more attractive? Should not a willingness be manifested to listen to brethren who allege the existence of difficulties conceived to lie in its constitution ? In a word, Is it not deserving of patient thought if there may not be causes on the side of the Alliance operating to render it less acceptable than it ought to be, and, let us say, than it might become?
But we must content ourselves with having thrown out these hints, for we have no room to pursue them here. Our end will be attained if they shall instigate others to think.
And now, in returning to what more immediately concerns EVANGELICAL CHRISTENDOM, we shall venture to express the hope that our Journal has not proved less interesting than in former years. Our readers will not have failed to notice that for the last six months we have given them four additional pages in every number. This we have been enabled to do by an arrangement with the “Turkish Missions Aid Society;" an arrangement which we trust will be continued, and by means of which our columns are enriched with valuable communications from that most hopeful field of Christian missions, while on the other hand the Society enjoys the advantage to be derived from bringing its information before the public through a medium than which for their purposes a better certainly does not exist.
If we are spared in mercy to enter upon another year, it will be our endeavour still to collect intelligence from all parts of Christendom, and to present it in such a manner as to keep our readers well informed of its religious condition. New arrangements have been made in reference to the publication of our Journal, which we have fully explained in the last page of this volume. It may, however, be stated here that issuing, as it henceforth will, from the Office of the Alliance, the hope is entertained that it will be serviceable in a pecuniary point of view; and that its friends will be all the more disposed to promote its circulation on this account.
And now we once more commend our work to the blessing of God, who can make the feeblest instrument subservient to the greatest ends; and to the support of all our fellow-Christians, as they deem it likely to advance the interests of Truth and Love.
ITS STATE AND PROSPECTS.
A PLEA FOR MUTUAL SYMPATHY AND PRACTICAL CO-OPERATION.
BY THE REV. J. B. MARSDEN, M.A., INCUMBENT OF ST. PETER'S,
BIRMINGHAM.* The Christian Church is the family of Jesus Christ. It consists of all those, by whatever name they may be called, who “live by the faith of the Son of God;" who “ love the Lord Jesus in sincerity;" “who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit;" for by these tokens the number of Christ's mystical body is known.
If this be so, the unity of the Christian Church is to be sought not in its outward uniformity but in its inward life—the life of God in the soul of its members. Not a corporate life-which to me is unintelligible-but an individual life. The life of Christ manifested in us, by which every member of the Church has been quickened—which unites him to the Church's Head—and by virtue of which he is consequently a true member of the living vine,—and therefore of the Church “which is His body."
The Church of Christ is one and undivided. The bond is this—membership with Christ. If we are united to Him we are one with all His family; because there is but one body with which Christ unites Himself. “Is Christ divided :" If this were the case, then His Churches might be so too. But if Christ be one and His body one, then we being many are one body in Christ, and are all of us members one of another. And thus I believe in the Holy Catholic Church.
The differences which exist among Christians do not interfere with this great, this glorious doctrine, that the Church is one. A family may be dispersed—it may be rent by unseemly quarrels—it cannot dissolve the bonds of nature. It does not cease to be a family. Its members may by their estrangement become unknown to one another. They may even look upon each other with suspicion, with unkindness, with dislike. Still the same blood circles in their veins. They have a common parentage. In spite of themselves--and often to their shame—they are after all one family.
And so are we! we who have been begotten again to a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. Now, whoso hath this hope in Him, purifieth himself, even as He is pure. The members of Christ are holy; and here is the true proof of their Church membership. We are members of the great Head, and therefore members of the common household of faith.
And as our life, so too our aim is one. It may be we are too much divided ; it may be we stand too far apart, our language, our equipment may be various, still we move under the same great Captain. We aim at the selfsame achievement.
* Read at the Missionary Conference in Freemasons' Hall, October 12, 1854. VOL. IX. JANUARY.)
one army of the living God.” Thus I understand the communion of saints.
The differences of Christians among themselves are much to be deplored. Yet not because they destroy the oneness of the Church. That is a question which they do not reach, which they cannot disturb—just as the differences of a family or its dispersion across the globe does not disturb the question of its common blood. It may even be a matter of doubt in some of our minds, whether a perfect uniformity be possible; if possible, whether it be desirable; if desirable, whether the pursuit of it, under present circumstances, might not distract our attention, and draw aside our efforts from things of more pressing moment. . Be this as it may, we are still one fellowship.
From these principles we set out. This we believe to be the doctrine which the Scriptures teach as to the unity of Christ's Church. But now we shall, I think, agree upon a second point-viz., that in order to glorify God to the utmost, in all our proceedings, there should be at least that degree of open and acknowledged concert and agreement which becomes a band of brethren engaged, though in different ways, in carrying on one grand design. Let us pass by the question whether perfect unanimity be attainable in the Church. Still we feel that all needless reserves and jealousies are wrong. For we are to strive for the “unity of the Spirit;" we are ' to mark them that cause divisions;" we are to “speak the. same thing,” and to have “the same mind” that was in Christ.
To bring about a spirit such as this has long been the fervent desire of thousands of God's children. The desire is apparent here to-day. Now, it seems not unlikely that God is mercifully answering our prayers in a manner least expected. The missions of the Church may, after all, prove to be the instrument which God will employ for creating a spirit (hitherto, since Apostolic times unknown) of love amongst all the brethren. At least, the missionary field is pre-eminently that on which every endeavour should be tried to accomplish a degree of union and co-operation far beyond what now exists amongst the Churches at home. And this for their sake not less than ours.
Following the terms of the thesis which has been placed in my hand, I would suggest
I. THAT THE AIM OF ALL EVANGELICAL MISSIONS is essentially the same.
It is to preach Christ. An Evangelical mission is established simply for one purpose—to make known amongst the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ. It is a mission to effect spiritual objects. Its aims are high. It may introduce the arts of civilized nations; it may refine the manners of the heathen; it may cultivate the minds of children. But these are not its high, its proper work. They are subsidiary, or at the utmost collateral ; for these advantages may be conferred, and the people left after all in darkness and the very shadow of death. An Evangelical mission is sent forth to rescue the souls of men from the dominion of Satan, and to set up the kingdom of Christ in their hearts. The preaching of Christ crucified can alone do this. All missions have the same object. Wherever conducted, amongst scorching sands or eternal snows--however managed, by Episcopalian or Dissenter-by layman or clergyman—the message is all the sameChrist and Him crucified.
And in carrying on this ministry, the missionary has some advantages. For the most part he is obliged to dwell, to the exclusion of all de bateable questions, those on which Evangelical Christians differ, upon the great commanding features of the Gospel-e. 9., the sinner's need of Christ, His perfect sufficiency, and the work of the Holy Ghost within us. Upon these points there is no room for difference of opinion; and in preaching to the heathen, these must be the prevailing, if not the exclusive topics. “The essential unity" of the missionary work is more evident,
more palpable, if I may so express myself, than it can always be at home; for here, where our hearers from their youth up have been familiar with the Gospel, difficult points must sometimes be discussed. Different views will present themselves. Substantially holding the same fundamental truths, we have unhappily broken up into distinct sections-not always recognising the brotherhood of Christ in those who differ from us. We have Calvinistic and Arminian preachers. We have theories of prophecy accepted by one, and opposed by another; and all this, to superficial, still more to prejudiced observers, seems to interfere with our unity of aim, and of affection too. Now from all these difficulties the missionary work is free. It is the plainest declaration of the simplest truths ;—the milk for babes—for I hold that as the heathen congregations arrive “ at a full age in Christ,” the missionaries' work ceases. They should now become native Churches dependent upon a native ministry. Our work amongst them is that of laying the foundation rather than of building thereupon. Again, the unity of aim in Christian missions is not, to any great extent, affected by that wretched proselyting spirit which exists so much at home. The field is wide; the stations are remote from one another; the missionary's hands are full,—and his heart, too, if he is a man of God. He sees the heathen steeped in sin, plunging headlong into everlasting death! It needs but little of the spirit of his Master to impress him with this deep conviction,—that the form under which the Gospel shall be embraced is a matter of unutterable insignificance, compared with the fact that a heathen is brought out from the strongholds of Satan and made free in Christ. At home the difference between a true Christian and another man is often the difference between morality and spirituality; between a conduct already decorous and a heart now renewed unto holiness. In heathen lands it is very different; there the impressions of sin are hideous! There the unconverted man lives in all the abominations of Satan's worship. Now the soul of this man is the prize for which the missionary contends. Shall he let it go while he invades some neighbouring fold to entice the converted Wesleyan to the Independent camp, or the Presbyterian convert to the Church of England? What would be gained to the cause of Christ by such a triumph? What impression would it make upon the kingdom of darkness? What effect would it produce upon the native Christians-happily still ignorant, for the most part, of the cause of these divisions, of their nature, nay, of their very
name? Too long has it been the custom of professing Christians at home thus to bite and devour one another; and, verily, we have had our reward; we have been consumed one of another, while the world has stood by in wonder or in scorn. Ever since the Reformation our divisions have been our bane. Missionaries have many trials but they and their flocks have many peculiar blessings; and amongst them not the least is this, that the proselyting spirit is almost unknown.
In short, God has mercifully granted an opportunity to the world, in these last ages, of seeing in missionary churches that sectarianism is not inseparable from Christianity. These distant pastures have not yet produced the rank weeds of this controversy; they flourish fair and green amidst the deserts that surround them. As yet the simple truths of the Gospel are sufficient for them, and they live thereby. No old wounds rankle there where everything is fresh.. The pages of Church history they can read with profit and yet turn over without a blush. The fathers of these converts from the heathen shared in no persecution, such as Christians have inflicted on their brethren, and they have suffered no afflictions such as brethren have received at the hands of Christian Churches. The missionary field, then, invites a grand experiment. It is this; the recovery of the true catholic spirit so long neglected or denied. There is in all Evangelical missions an essential unity of aim; why should there not be enlarged mutual sympathy? The object in every case is the same; the means in every case, though dissimilar perhaps, are not discordant; the agents are members
of the same mystical body, drawing all their powers from one living Head. Does not this impose the obligation of mutual sympathy? This is the second point to which I am conducted by the terms of the proposition in my hand.
II. THE SYMPATHY OF WHICH WE SPEAK ought, then, I conceive, to be active, constant, and diffusive. 1. It must be active. Love is a salient principle. ,
It seeks for opportunities; it delights in exercise. A missionary of the right spirit will rejoice with no mea
neasured, hesitating joy, in the success which attends the labours of his brethren of another name. He will never grudge the inroads which another makes upon Satan's kingdom. The field is the world. There is ample scope for all God's labourers, were they increased one hundredfold. It is pitiful to observe sometimes the too visible reluctance with which Christians admit the successes, even amongst heathens, of Christians of another name. How silent when they rejoice! How ready to hint disapprobation—to magnify their faults—to dwell with something not far removed from satisfaction on their failures! Where is the mind of Christ in all this? And where the mind of the first and greatest of all missionaries, who could and did rejoice if Christ was preached, though it were only out of strife and contention? The spirit we must cherish is that of active sympathy. The successes of those who differ from us are not barely to be recognised ; they are not to be received with a cold acknowledgment of their truth. They are either the triumphs of the Gospel, or they are a delusion; and if a delusion, then undoubtedly a triumph of the Devil's! If we are not prepared to place them in the latter class, we must admit their title to the former. They are victories won for Christ; they are His triumphs, and, if His, then ours—ours—for we are Christ's. The want of active sympathy in the successes of other sections of the Church is, to my mind, whenever it is found a conclusive evidence of a sectarian spirit.
2. Again, this sympathy should be constant. We should ever regard with the kindliest interest the toilsome, though unpretending labours of all who work in Christ's vineyard. There are occasions,—bursts of disaster or of triumph, -which will awaken the most listless and provoke the sympathies, or the congratulations, of the most indifferent : but true Christian sympathy runs in a deeper channel. Perhaps we have all of us felt that the missionaries of that particular Society with which we connect ourselves in more direct service, never need our sympathies so much as when they toil and toil, month after month, year after year, with no visible
We feel that the world, nay, what is far worse, we feel that the Church, is ready to blame them for faults which are none of theirs, for sloth, for needless expenditure, for want of wisdom, aye, and for want of grace. We have to protect such men from the impatience of their own friends, and still more from the reproaches and disparaging surmises of the world without.
Now we at home should learn, and we should invite our missionaries abroad,—to extend this sympathy,—these charitable constructions, this determined, hoping against hope,-beyond the narrow confines of our own communion. We must not have one measure for ourselves and another for our brethren. If they have made their mistakes, so have we. If they need our forbearance, we too have been in want of theirs. Let every missionary cultivate a generous spirit. Of all men, he has most occasion for it. He is an isolated being; he lives in his own world; he is surrounded by his own converts; he ministers in his own Church. Of all men, let him beware of selfishness—the selfishness of the Hebrew prophet_“I only am left alone, and the worshippers of Baal are many." Nothing, with the grace of God, will more conduce to restrain such feelings than the habit of constant sympathy with missionaries of other churches.
3. And this sympathy must be diffusive. It is not difficult to fix upon some one object, or class of objects, and make them the subject of our sympathies. The peculiar cast of our own minds, or the peculiarity of our circumstances,