Изображения страниц

Observer, Mar. 1, '71.

"It is a large matter, this question of religious belief. In connection with a motion made by Dr. Peddie some time ago, recommending some sort of action against heretics or heresies, Dr. Bruce said that he supposed we had all drifted, more or less, from the Confession. I do not mention this to irritate any one, but to suggest an impartial administration of the law. With all deference and respect, I think it might be a good thing to purge the roll, beginning at the top. The younger men, whose names are at the bottom, would then have ample time to mature their opinions, before the investigation could possibly reach them. I firmly believe that I am quite as orthodox, if not more so, than some of my respected counsellors; and if there is a disposition to push the matter to extremities, discoveries may be made on more sides than one. This whole case has proceeded hitherto on the purest assumption-the assumption that my interpretation of a text was neither correct in itself nor in harmony with the Confession. If my interpretation was not correct, why is it that the Presbytery has not given to the world the orthodox interpretation? Of course, the view taken by the majority of the Presbytery may be the right one, even although it should contradict the majority of the ablest expositors. But was it respectful to any man's intelligence to counsel him as a person who was not to be reasoned with, and instruct him authoritatively to avoid all speculation in the future? To say that there was nothing in Scripture to support the interpretation I advanced, was simply to deny, without proof, that the passage in question could bear the construction put upon it; and that was to beg the whole question. Besides, it did not by any means follow that, because those who drew up the report could not find any other scriptures in support of my view, that therefore such scriptures do not exist. I am of opinon that they do exist; and consequently cannot regard the matter as 'lying beyond the line of divine revelation.' The counsel, then, proceeded upon an assertion that ought to have been proved. In addition to that, it was based upon an insinuation which I repudiated-the insinuation that it involved consequences incompatible with the Confession. But that, also, was a foregone conclusion, for the proof of which I had waited in vain. I am not aware that I have said anything more disrespectful of the Confession than that it is inferior to the Bible. After all this, I was coolly lectured on 'the mildness of the sentence' by members of the Court who had been unable to make good one point in the case."

union ?


Disapproving of having his beliefs pinned to fixed and unchangeable dogmas, his dislike to the proposed union of the U. P. and Free Churches, on the basis suggested, is equally strong, as is seen from the following:"How can men come to intellectual agreement who are not previously united by generosity of sentiment? Union surely means confidence in each other's Christian character, however widely our thoughts may range on certain topics; and not in the concussing of one another into cold and killing formula. And yet we have men in our midst who take part in discussions about union, and at the same time, in the actual intercourse of life, cut themselves off at once from the society of those who dare to differ from them in thought even by a hair's breadth. Papal Rome cannot be much worse than that; and one is constrained sorrowfully to ask-What can such men mean by It would appear that the nine-tenths, if not more, of the religious discussions that take place spring from an equivocal use of words. Certain words suggest to certain minds not a clear scientific idea, but a vague, monstrous, shifting form; whereupon they sound the trumpet, and with the most frantic party cries rush into the arena of debate, and make the strangest contortions, battling with the mist. An anxious inquirer is ready to exclaim-What can all this mingled turmoil of ghosts and men actually mean? good dictionary would often settle the matter with reasonable minds. Emerson says of Plato-At last a man was born into the world who could see two sides of a thing.' All sectarian and mere party-men are such as, having taken up a side, insist that truth has only one side, and that is the side to which they belong. A very melancholy illustration of bitter and narrow bigotry, with the consequent perversion of all fairness and truthfulness to which it leads, is presented to us in the movements of the Anti-Union party. Singularly weak in their defence of the high citadel of Scripture, they make a tremendous noise as they retreat with confused cries into the redoubt of the lower Standards. They seem unable to understand how any one can have an interest in truth and not belong to them. Influenced by worldly ideas of the Church, they fight for what is obsolete; and if their position seems a tenable one, it is because the living world has no interest in dislodging them from it, having turned its back upon the whole affair. They mistake the sepulchre and the cerements of the grave for the risen and victorious life, and would have us engaged in a crusade for the possession of a place from which the very truth itself has fled. It is not by planting the banner of Christianity on the top of every political tower of Babel that we bear witness to that kingdom which is yet to come. Alas, no! although there is much fruitless


* * *

Observer, Mar. 1, 71.

industry in that direction. How can a nation or an individual promote Christianity except by becoming thoroughly Christian in daily thought and action? But the prospect of the Civil State being thoroughly permeated by Christian principles, is one which may fill not a few minds with considerable dismay; and, therefore, it is more convenient for bellicose theologians who are given to lecturing the State, to recommend the hoisting of a mere flag, and the making of a fair show of religion, although the structure underneath, in many of its departments, is rotten with ungodliness."

From the above it does not seem that Mr. Ferguson is impressed with bright views of the Union of the Churches, should it be consummated on a human basis.

On liberty of opinion, apart from any human code of beliefs, Mr. David Macrae, a guest at the festive gathering, spoke no less strongly than Mr. Ferguson—

"But there is one thing I do believe in, and would contend for, and that is Mr. Ferguson's right to search the Scriptures for himself, and to accept that interpretation of the passage if he believes it to be the right one. We claim this right for him and for ourselves as Protestants. If Mr. Ferguson has no right to judge for himself, even though his judgment leads him to differ from Dr. Peddie's view, or Dr. Harper's view, or anybody else's view, and if the same right does not belong to you to judge for yourselves, even if your judgment leads you to differ from Mr. Ferguson's view-I say if this right of private judgment does not belong to all of us, the Reformation was a mistake, and Protestantism is a lie."

When such sentiments as the above are being uttered, and creating alarm among creed-bound Presbyteries and Churches, they surely indicate an awakening to the realization of the fact that the basis of the union of sectarian bodies is beginning to break up, because it is human, while the only solid and imperishable basis, because divine-the Bible-is that alone upon which true union can be expected.


T. Y. M.

Gravel Bank, Rothesay, February 13th, 1871. DEAR SIR.-I received from Mr. Dick a letter some months ago, a copy of which appears in the December number of your magazine. I did not at the time think it necessary to take any notice of its contents, but seeing he has given such publicity to the letter I feel it my duty, considering the impression it is calculated to produce on the minds of your readers, to make some reference to it. As it is impossible for me to enter into details, I shall only notice one or two of the more prominent points in Mr. Dick's remarks. He says "When he (Henry Seymour) comes forward and professes repentance and his belief in Jesus, wishes to be baptized in His name, and place himself under His government and guidance, you say 'No!"" And again-"You asked Henry Seymour why he wished to be baptized, he replied that he did not consider himself perfect as a Christian unless he was baptized." Now had I really acted in this manner I should indeed have just cause for grief and shame. But I could never refuse to baptize anyone who made such a profession, however deficient he might be in knowledge and experience.` In our interview Henry Seymour made no mention of repentance, belief in Jesus, or desire to be under His government and guidance; in fact, he seemed quite ignorant of the way of salvation. When I asked his reason for wishing to be baptized, instead of saying he did not consider himself perfect as a Christian without baptism, he said his peace had been broken by an expression at the close of a sermon he heard when in Glasgow a few weeks before, and that unless he were baptized he could not be saved. These are, as nearly as I can remember, his own words. Seeing that he was a perfect stranger to me, and aware of his intention to leave Rothesay the next day, I could not say otherwise than "No" to his request. I stated the Gospel to him as clearly as I could, and, in accordance with his expressed wish, gave him a letter to a Baptist minister in Glasgow whom he desired to see before he sailed. If you will allow this to appear in your next issue you will oblige, yours respectfully,



It is due to Mr. Crabb to publish his letter. If Henry Seymour seemed

Observer, Mar.1, '71

quite ignorant of the way of salvation it was, of course, quite proper to refuse baptism. But his "own words," as given in the above letter, do not show that he was thus ignorant. One thing seems clear-that very soon after leaving Mr. Crabb he satisfied more than one person that he knew his need of a Saviour and that he had repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and he was, therefore, entitled to baptism. We know the Elder by whom he was baptized, and are satisfied he would not have immersed anyone without clear indication that that much had been realized. Of course we understand that many Baptist ministers would deem it wise to send a sailor youth, who believes in Jesus, upon another voyage before baptizing him. Some longer probation and gathering up of "Christian experience" being deemed desirable. But not so the Apostles-their converts were sometimes in open sin, and yet before the close of the day or night they had heard, believed, and been baptized. With them Christian experience was expected to follow baptism and never to precede it. Still they would baptize no one, nor should we, who does not avow an intelligent faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and repentance towards God. We are satisfied that Henry Seymour had that when he was baptized; what he possessed at the time of his interview with Mr. Crabb is not for us to determine. This much we are bound to believe that that gentleman acted as he considered right and proper in the sight of God.



We have now before us two Union movements; one between Disciples and Baptists, and the other among the Presbyterians.

there is much in the former, for the following reasons:

We do not think

1. The main parties concerned appear to have had nothing higher in view than more friendly relations between Disciples and Baptists. True, there are allusions to complete and ultimate union, but of such a nature as to make the impression that such a thing, if attainable at all, is far in the distance and very improbable.

2. A shyness and timidity run through the correspondence, making the impression that they are approaching something fearful, wonderfully delicate, and almost an unspeakable thing.

3. They simply talk timidly about points in which the two bodies are agreed, and certainly could have extended the list of items to a much greater number.

4. The impression made by these men, on the part of the Disciples, of their representing 30,000, might mislead many. They were in no way chosen by the 30,000 of whom they speak, nor sent to the work in which they are now enlisted. So far as those assembled in the missionary convention were representatives at all, it was in the missionary work and nothing else. When the move was made in the convention to make this appointment, it was an outside matter, not in the legitimate scope of the work of the convention, and the committee represented the few who appointed them in the convention, and nobody else. But they had no authority as representatives of the churches, to make any overtures for the churches in this matter as to their relation to the Baptists.

[ocr errors]

Observer, Mar. 1, '71

5. We do not think it any great achievement, or any exalted triumph of the Spirit for these brethren to meet Baptists and talk kindly and friendly on a few points in which they and Baptists agree, nor that Baptists return a kind and friendly reply. They must have placed a very low estimate on themselves, their temper and spirit, to think all they did any achievement, and an equally low estimate on Baptists to think their reply any great achievement. What less could have been expected of Christians on either side? especially when moving so cautiously, guardedly, and on their very best behaviour, with a clear understanding that the whole would go into print? We think they conducted themselves pretty well, quite kindly and friendly. We have no fault to find in this regard, and yet, there was nothing even in this better than we had reason to expect. Indeed, we should have been surprised if they had not done as well. It is certainly not astonishing for highly cultivated preachers of the gospel and religious editors to act kindly and politely towards each other. If it is, we have fallen upon sad times. Suffice it to say, then, that in all these respects their conduct in the correspondence, so far as we see, was faultless.

6. The statements made of points of agreement, so far as they go, are in the main good and worthy of consideration. We rejoice that these points of agreement exist, and hope that their importance will rise up into the minds of all, and that the importance of an agreement throughout-of being of the same mind and of the same judgment-perfectly joined together and having no division, may appear to all.

7. This correspondence in no goodly degree grasps the subject of union, or the evil of division, or the grounds of union, or the method of obviating division. It submits nothing tangible, practical, or intelligible, touching the union, of the two bodies involved, and so far amounts to nothing only a friendly correspondence and interview, with some indefinite references and allusions to union. We shall be happy if some good results shall follow.

But in the Report presented to the Synod of Cincinnati, on Christian Union, presented by Mr. W. C. McCune, from a special committee appointed last year, which appeared in our columns last week, the reader will find the ground of union described by a master hand and defended with great boldness and manly ability. We had a brief correspondence with Mr. McCune on this subject several years ago, and not only esteemed him as a kind and good man, a fair and honourable man in investigation, but one who, in a higher degree than most men who talk on the subject, compre hended the situation. We see now that he has grasped the subject more fully, completely overcome some difficulties he had then, and handles the whole subject with a master hand. The fact, too that the Synod commended the subject of Christian Union to the consideration of all her people, advising them diligently and prayerfully to search the Scriptures concerning this matter; requested all the ministers to preach on the subject during the Synodical year, appointed a committee to memorialize the subject of Christian Union, and ordered the Report to be printed, show that the Report was well received-that it was not an empty formality, but a theme of deep interest. In this report the union of Christians is treated as a matter of divine authority, and not a matter of human expediency or policy. Mr. McCune is a man of faith. He believes and reverences the Bible, and the Lord Jesus the Christ. He has gone back and lifted up his eyes to the great Head of the Church-Head over all and blessed forever and ever, and searched His teaching, for His ground, of union with determina

Observer, Mar. 1, '71.

tion to take it and stand on it. We cannot see how a mind of such justness, such clearness, and under the influence of such full assurance of faith, with the clear light now in it, can fail to work its way out of the narrow limits of sectarianism, not into "Liberal Christianity," which means anything or nothing, faith or unbelief, but into the full and clear light and liberties of the children of God; free from all that is human, and bound by all that is divine.

There is one idea running through this Report, that we think incorrect and an embarrassment to the argument from first to last, and that is the idea of an organic union of churches, or the confederation of churches into an organized body. The kingdom of God is not an organized body with a visible head on earth, nor car there be such an organization without a class of officers and many terms not found in Scripture. We get this idea of confederation, or organizing churches into a general body, from the Pope. He is the highest authority we have for that kind of confederation or union. That is not the union that Jesus prayed for. John xvii. 20, 21. He prayed that we might be one as He and his Father are one. They are not one in that sense-in a confederation of churches-in an ecclesiastical organization. In what sense are they one? They are one in mind, in spirit, in the scheme to save men, or, as it is sometimes expressed, one in "the plan of redemption "-one in the gospel-of one mind in the entire work of recovering man. They work in all matters unitedly, in harmony and together. They never work in antagonism. So the Saints should be one in the faith, in the gospel, in the church, of the same mind and the same judgment; work together in union and harmony; worship together in the unity of the Spirit and bond of peace, in the same communion; act together in the same good works, spreading the gospel and building up the kingdom of God. They should preach the same gospel, believe the same and practice the same. In the one body, the one Spirit and the one hope, the one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all above all, and through all, and in all, is "the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace," and not in a general organization or confederation of churches. The attempts at such confederations, the despotic rule in them, their oppressions and the efforts to break them off and free men from them, have been most fruitful sources of division. They are the machinery for the schismatic to rive churches asunder. The Lord did not create them. His kingdom is on a much simpler plan than that, and his arrangement for the accomplishment of every good word and work is much more effective. There is no waste in his divine and glorious system of means in making and running expensive machinery, or literally, in supporting ecclesiastical dignitaries, or great organizations, more fruitful in rending the body asunder than in any good work. The Lord has arranged so that all the means and men can be applied directly to the work without any waste or squandering of means. There is not an evidence of the existence of any combination, or confederation, beyond a single congregation in an organized body. And even in the single congregation the whole affair was simple, not having an officer except the overseers and deacons. Any co-operation beyond this was a voluntary thing for uniting their efforts to assist their poor brethren at a distance, or evangelize the world, and was simply a temporary arrangement for an exigency, and no perpetual organization.


We feel a deep interest in this matter, and specially in Mr. McCune, the chief mover in it, and unite with him in saying, 'Let us all frankly and fully confess our obligation to submit to Christ's authority in this

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »