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Albert Barnes, in his somewhat noted essay, entitled "Exclusivism," and by Rev. Dr. Schmucker, in his volume on the “Unity of Christ's Church"-a work which has attracted more general attention than any other on the subject of Christian union.

So far as the popular mind may be regarded as having any welldefined theory on our subject, it is that we have just stated. It is the staple on which all draw when it is thought desirable to produce a sensation on the subject, or to hold up Baptists to the public gaze, as worthy of special reprehension, because unwilling to subscribe to it. The theory is plausible. Its acceptance and advocacy furnish leverage, by means of which a powerful pressure may be directly exerted on any denomination refusing, for conscience's sake and for Christ's sake, to subscribe to it.

To this theory there are two strong, indeed fatal, objections. The first is this: It assumes, and hence makes provision for the perpetuation of denominations. This we do not believe. Nothing is more frequent, in connection with the discussion of Christian union, than the assumption that Christians will continue divided and sub-divided in the future, as they have been in the past-that there exists a sort of psychological necessity, in virtue of which one man is a Presbyterian, another a Methodist, another an Episcopalian. It is plausibly urged, “We do not all think alike; it cannot therefore be expected that we shall ever be one.” But, is this assumption correct? Is it possible there are laws of the human mind necessitating it? Has it any foundation in Scripture? We deny it. We do not believe in a visible, enforced unity, like that of Rome, forbidding all freedom of inquiry—a conception of the visible church which regards her as a universal corporation, entire and complete within herself, the exponent of doctrine, the maker and interpreter of creeds, and a mediatrix between God and man, dispensing salvation by means of the ordinances, opening and shutting at her will the doors of the kingdom of heaven, blessing or anathematizing at her pleasure. But we do pray and hope for a union of Christ's followers in which all that is purely denominational will be swept away, while that liberty which the Spirit gives and which we recognize as being taught in the New Testament, will be guaranteed.

But, now, does the Bible give a single intimation of this perpetuity of denominations, assumed by Mr. Barnes and Dr. Schmucker, and others? If so, we have not found the passage in our study of the sacred volume, and would be greatly obliged to any who will point it out to us. If Paul censured the dissensions and party feeling in the Corinthian church, and if the spirit of the Bible is against such


things, how much more reprehensible, may we infer, must be the ripened fruit of such schisms and dissensions—antagonizing organizations. If Christ prayed, just before his betrayal, that his people might be one, even as he and the Father were one, how is it possible that the severance of his people, by denominational lines, can be a fulfilment of his prayer ?

The fact is, there is nothing in the New Testament that can fairly be construed into a justification of denominationalism, as it now exists among evangelical Christians. Such rending of Christ's followers was not only unknown in apostolic times, but is by explicit apostolic teaching condemned for all time. And therefore we contend that, as denominations had their origin in post-apostolic times, so they must certainly pass away before “we all come to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God.” Eph. iv. 13. Then our Lord's petition will be granted—“I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them as thou hast loved me." John xvii. 23.

It seems to us that a careful study of the origin of what we may term modern denominationalism affords strong presumptive evidence of the soundness of our position. The Reformation inaugurated by Luther and his cotemporaries found those positive principles about which it gathered all its forces and friends, and insured its triumph, in those points at which it antagonized the impious pretensions of the Romish hierarchy. Had no such points of antagonism existed between Rome and the Bible, and had not their discovery and agitation called attention to them, that great protest against Rome would never have been. But, what has been the chief reason of those noted separations that have taken place, since the Reformation, among Protestants. Every studious reader of modern ecclesiastical movements knows that those separations have been rendered necessary in order to make effective the protest of those bodies so separating, against Romanizing principles, and tendencies retained by the Reformers, or else by manifest departure from the ascertained standard of orthodoxy. The study of the rise of Presbyterianism, of its several subdivisions, and of Methodism, and now of the attitude of Low Church Episcopalians, will satisfy an unprejudiced and intelligent person that they each took their position on one or perhaps more essential points of Christian doctrine ignored or denied by the body from which they separated. Hence the position of Baptists is that of conscientious protestants against views and practices which they regard as unsound and dangerous. If the Reformation had


been a complete return to the doctrines and practices of the primitive churches, such separations as we have noticed would not have been; but as that grand event was only a long step from the darkness, and error of Rome toward the light, and truth of the Bible, rather than a complete deliverance from all darkness, and of perfect emancipation from all error, the successive advances toward such "complete deliverance," and "perfect emancipation ” were necessarily marked by organized separation. For it is a fact, as clearly taught in ecclesiastical history as any other, that no effort to reform a corrupt ecclesiastical organization, or to correct abuses, made by reformers while remaining within it has ever succeeded. In the nature of the case it cannot. Organized separation was necessary. Such we conceive to be the reason for and necessity of modern denominations. We do not say that they apply in every case. only mean to say they apply generally.

Taking this view, we accept the providential mission of denominations. We believe those now extinct or dying had a mission. We look upon the denominations that have sprung up since the Reformation just as we did while it existed, and now do as it has ceased to exist, upon the Christian Commission, the channel of so many blessings to our sick and wounded soldiers during our Civil War. It was raised up of God to meet the demands of a great emergency. It did a grand, a noble, a philanthropic, a Christian work. But the occasion calling it into existence passed away; and, the occasion passing, it was dissolved. So with the various denominations. They have been raised up of God to do a special work. That work done they have fulfilled their course, and “waxing old are ready to vanish away." The Reformation, we have said, was not a perfect return to the New Testament conception of the church. It was indeed a resurrection to "newness of life," but still “ bound and having the grave-clothes on.” Hence the perpetual clashing between creeds and the spirit of the Bible, as at once apprehended by and inspiring the evangelical Christian consciousness, has been the evidence of a constant struggle to be free from those relics of the long entombment of vital Christianity. But when the protest God has raised up a body of faithful men and women to enter is heeded, when the evil against which they bore testimony is removed, there is no longer any necessity for their protest. Their work is done. If these statements, which it seems to us cannot be successfully refuted, be accepted respecting the origin of denominations, it is evident their mission is temporary, and will be fulfilled and they dissolve before we attain visible union, as we believe it is yet to be realized. Visible union based on the supposition of the perpetuity of denominations may be to some a pleasing fancy, but is indefensible in theory and impossible in practice.

But second. If denominations are to remain while union is realized, then we must concede the impossibility of ascertaining the teaching of the Bible respecting Christian doctrine, church polity, and the ordinances. There is no reason that can justify denominational organization and separation except that those so withdrawing regard themselves as set for the defence of some doctrine denied by all the others, or some essential principle of church polity to which others are recreant, or against some perversion of the ordinances as to their design or order. For we lay it down as an axiom, in all discussions on the subject of Christian union, that a denomination not the sole representative of some doctrine or principle of church polity, or ordinance denied or perverted by all others, has no divine right to exist. It has not the authority of Jesus Christ for existing. Hence it has no mission, and should immediately merge itself into others holding the same principles. If then, denominations are to be perpetuated, the assumption is they will exist, and ought only to exist, because they are the representatives of certain views deemed essential but not held in common.

And this is just the ground on which denominations justify their distinct existence. The representative men of no evangelical body would venture the defence of its existence, and of efforts for its perpetuation and growth, on the ground that it ought to be perpetuated apart from the special mission it has as the sole defender of some essential principle. The evangelical denominations make their appeal to the Word of God. Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, all claim support for what is peculiar to them in the Bible. We say nothing now on the question which of them is sustained in making such appeal, or whether any one of them is. We only call attention to the fact of their making such appeal to the “law and the testimony" in support of their respective views and practices. Granting, therefore, that the future union of Christians is to be of such a nature as to provide for the existence of denominations thus radically differing from each other, how can we escape the conclusion that the Bible is the most incomprehensible of all books, and that it is impossible to ascertain what it teaches? If denominations are to be perpetuated, then it follows that the Christian consciousness will never be able to comprehend the mind of the spirit respecting the doctrines, polity, and ordinances of the New Testament.

But is this supposable? Is it reasonable? Has God given us a volume to be our guide in regard to all matters of faith and practice, and has he promised, and does he give his Holy Spirit to enlighten the human mind, so that it may understand that Word, and yet is it impossible for us to comprehend its doctrines, or learn the nature and design of its ordinances ? Can we not learn from this inspired volume the truth concerning the person of Christ, or the doctrines he taught? Are the allusions of the Bible to the subject of church polity so indefinite as to doom us always to uncertainty and conflict as to whether Episcopacy, Presbyterianism, or Independency be the Scriptural form of ecclesiastical government. Are the references to the subject of baptism so vague, so mystical, that we cannot determine whether immersion or sprinkling be the mode, or whether infants and adults, or both, be the proper subjects? All this, and much more of the same nature, must be true on the supposition that the divisions now existing will continue. The conclusion is, therefore, that if we are to remain thus divided, the Bible does not reveal its truths with sufficient clearness for us to comprehend them, and hence that in seeking union we must make no claim to positiveness on any points of doctrine or views of the ordinances on which others may happen to dissent from us.

Against such liberalism we enter our protest. The gospel of Jesus is the proclamation of positive truth, and not the license of latitudinarianism. We will, therefore, not consent to such a reproach being cast upon the Holy Spirit. We will not admit that his utterances are so ambiguous as the theory of union we are considering assumes them to be. The truth he has revealed is a unit. Each separate truth is but a part of one grand, complete, harmonious whole. The Christian consciousness has never yet fully comprehended the truth as a whole. The relation of doctrines and ordinances, of spirit and of form, of the internal, invisible unity existing between Christ and his people, in the eternal purpose of God, and the proper visible realization of that unity in the union of Christ's people, has never yet been fully understood. That it would be some day has been the dream and hope of many who have died in the faith. To attain it has been the aim of many devoted servants of Jesus. Progress has been made, rapid progress is now making in this direction. Somewhere in the future it awaits the visible church of Christ. “Thy watchmen shall lift up the voice; with the voice together shall they sing: for they shall see eye to eye, when the Lord shall bring again Zion.” Isaiah lii. 6. The comprehension of the truth has, as yet, been limited, incomplete, partial. It has not yet been grasped in its complete unity. Gradually it is being unfolded to the consciousness

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