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article professes to consider Mr. Beverley a friendly, though somewhat severe, monitor of the Dissenters, and draws a contrast between his published sentiments and the opinions of this new “sect which is everywhere spoken against;" though it is quite obvious, from Mr. Beverley's Letters to Mr. James,* that that gentleman substantially holds those very views against which the Eclectic wishes to excite the antipathies, and turn the indignation of the religious public.
After the preface, the writer makes a most remarkable acknowledgment in the following words :—“At first sight it may appear that the ancient churches vastly excelled us in love and in christian submission; and we are too sensible of the deep want of these qualities in modern times, to desire for one moment to comfort either ourselves or others, by depreciating the ancients (p. 573). This is indeed a melancholy confession! it is a virtual acknowledgment, that all existing sects have failed to elicit the principle and exhibit the features for which we all must acknowledge the Lord Jesus especially established his church. “Love and christian submissiveness were expected to exist in the church of Christ, not incidentally merely, not as a decoration and ornament of the saints, but as the infallible proof, and unerring sign, that they were indeed that congregation of believers which had been chosen and called in Christ Jesus, to the glory of God the Father.
This we are plainly taught by the words of our Lord, “ that they all may be one, as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us : that the world may
believe that thou hast sent me.... 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). Now, if it be here asserted, that the corporate unity of “all” believers was to be that visible token by which the world should “believe,” and “know," that Jesus was sent by the Father; and if, by this very unity, the “perfect” state of the church was to be tested, then is the conclusion inevitable, by the admission of the Eclectic, that existing churches do not present an aspect to the world by which it can either “believe” or “ know" that the Founder of the Christian religion came into the world with divine authority: and if this be the case three hundred years after that time when Protestants openly came forth from the Church of Rome, in order to set up their churches according to the pattern to be found in the New Testament, then also is the conclusion irresistible, that all attempts at sect-making, according to any principles hitherto sought for amongst us, have utterly failed; and, with such a conclusion, it would indeed be chimerical to attempt any amelioration by new regulation, new codification, new rules of discipline, new pointing, facing, and painting of any fabrics which the hands of men have erected.
By this one single proof, any unprejudiced Christian might, if he would allow himself to take an impartial view of the sect to which he happens to belong, perceive clearly enough that he is externally and visibly to the world the part of a system which answers not the end and design of Him who purchased his church unto himself with his own blood. The love of all the brethren—that love of which so much is said, with the most vivid expressions of holy earnestness, in the New Testament, is not to be found either in the Established Church or amongst Dissenters. None of the dissenting churches practically know what it means : none of the dissenting miņisters ever preach on the subject; neither, if they did, could they by a thousand sermons introduce into their churches, as long as their present system remains, that principle which is to be the proof to the world that Jesus Christ our Lord came upon earth from God the Father. This is the sacred fire of the true church of God, which is not to be found in existing sects: neither can man, by all his ingenuity in the art and science of church-government, bring into life that spark from which this fire is to be kindled. The love of the brethren is the gift of the Holy Ghost in and to the church of God. All church-government-such church-government as is acknowledged in the Scriptures-resolves itself into this principle; and where this principle is not in action, then there is not the church of God. There may indeed be a sect, and a very decent and orderly one too, and in this sect there may
* The second edition of Mr. Beverley's Letters to Mr. James, which has been lately published, with many additions, and with the new title of “The Heresy of a Human Priesthood,” exhibits a stiil closer approximation of sentiment to the Plymouth Brethren.
individual Christians ; but the aggregate is not the aggregate which the Lord owns : it is a congregation of believers, acting together on the terms of a theological treaty of peace, and united together to stamp their approbation on a certain class of religious opinions. The Dissenters' churches are more schools of theology than a gathering of the Lord's people. To uphold a correct system of divinity is far more the object of these churches, than to manifest the life and power of the saints living together in love and union with one another, and with their divine Head.
The Eclectic writer, however, perceives not this deficiency; he has no adequate conception of the Church of God. The ideas of unity entertained by this writer all run on the theory of a theological accordance : on this he argues pro and con as if, could he but succeed in placing this subject in a clear light, he should then solve the great problem; though, in truth, all his remarks on this subject are entirely beside the question, and are such as interest us not at all: for how should those who know what the Church of God really is, care to answer a question like the following : “The most common cause which leads churches to divide into two, rather than cohere and grow as one, is found in the preference of preachers; and how is this difficulty to be fought against by pressing all churches into one ?" (p 574).
The Eclectic writer having, however, made the confession already noticed, has unintentionally cleared the way for something that should represent the Church to the world in another light than it has hitherto been seen—he has in part pronounced condemnation on all sects, by plainly acknowledging “the deep want of love amongst them all”—and with such an acknowledgment has prepared us to look with a favourable eye on any Christians, who profess at least to have clearly discovered the cause of failure in all the existing sodalities of Christians.
“We saw,” says the Eclectic writer, “ so much to admire in the spirit of the Plymouth Brethren, so many points of neglected truth prominent in their minds, that it was long before we gave up the hope that they would exhibit to England a pattern of a more excellent way than has yet been seen.' This, coupled with the previous confession, is a very incautious admission; for though it is only a passing word, and though the writer never afterwards mentions one of these “many points of neglected truth" which have been prominent in the minds of those whom he seeks to overwhelm with censure, yet he has thus said enough to leave a strong suspicion on the mind of an impartial reader; that there must be something with these said “ Plymouth Brethren" which deserves a more extended, and in truth a more favourable, explanation than this writer has vouchsafed to furnish.
The Eclectic writer says of the “ Brethren,” that they “ are likely to be chiefly signal as firebrands in the Christian world, and supporters of all political oppression (p.575,) though this accusation he afterwards vitiates by complaining that they abstain from all politics, whether of a general or local bearing, refuse “ the rights of worldly citizenship, and think it sinful to submit to bear sway in the world”. ~two accusations that cannot possibly stand together, for how can that man support all political oppression " who carefully abstains from all politics and refuses to interfere directly or indirectly with the evolving events of the age in which he lives ?
The secret of this complaint is, however, to be sought for in the politics of the writer, which are evident enough: he is a political Dissenter, who views with trium, phant anticipations, "the growing power of popular sentiments" (p. 585), but with mingled uneasiness and hatred the formidable array of his Tory antagonists. But it is not with this fact that we are concerned, but with the principle of the writer, on which we have already frequently expressed our opinion : the principle is this, that Christians are bound to join in political opposition against political oppression, or that which seems to them to savour of oppression. Many words need not be wasted in unravelling the intricacies of this dogma, which, though it is not directly asserted by the Eclectic Reviewer is certainly at the bottom of all his remarks on the political feeling of the “ Brethren,” whom he is determined to consider a nest of aristocratic Tories, leagued together by principles favourable to popular oppression. But what, we ask, is the duty of a Christian on this head ? Ought he to be a “ loyal man”-i.e, a Tory, and support a Tory government and the conservative interest ? or ought he to be a liberal, and to be seeking by very vigorous exertions to “promote the greatest possible good of the greatest possible number?" We reply, that he should be neither Tory nor liberal—that he has nothing at all to do with politics ; that they do not concern him in any form or shape; and that he who
“has been translated out of the power of darkness into the kingdom of God's dear Son,” must not interfere in any way, either to aid oppression or to resist it. The Eclectic writer seems, indeed, not a little puzzled with the precepts of Scripture on this head. His politics, which are plainly of the liberal class, and of a very active order too, lead him to attribute a high merit to resistance, on the plea of vindicating mankind from oppression ; and on this account he is ill pleased with “the Brethren," who by their non-resistance refuse to help his party—a line of conduct which he calls “ supporting all political oppression;" but when he comes to investigate that which he supposes to be the secret of the non-resistance, he is compelled to take a line of argument which has ever been followed by the highest school of the Tories in their denunciations of the liberals. He supposes that “the Brethren” refrain from politics because they think government an evil; and therefore undertakes to shew, from Scripture, that it is no evil thing, that it is not of the Devil, but is a good thing for Christians. He takes the 13th chapter of Romans for his text; and remarks, “ that Paul positively assured the Christians it was an ordinance of God to them for goodit was, indeed, their sole human defence against the bigotry of mubs stirred up by avarice or hatred on the part of individuals.”
If this, indeed, was the motive for the “ loyalty” of Christians (such as the Eclectic writer requires, when it suits him, with marvellous inconsistency, to preach Toryism), we may truly say that the Christians had small cause to support the powers that then existed; for, so far from the Roman Emperors being the protectors of the Christians, we know that, on many occasions, they, of their own authority,
ex mero motu," instigated the mob to commit cruelties on the flock of Christ. Was it the mob, or the Emperor Nero, that tortured the Christians in the imperial gardens, after the burning of Rome ? Was Nero, in this sense, an instrument of good” to the Christians ? And yet, under this very Emperor, Paul commanded “every soul in the Church to be subject unto the higher powers ; because there is no power but of God; the powers that be are ordained of God” (Rom. xiii. 1).—This we interpret to mean, that the existing authorities are established by God: they are part of his plan of Providence: they come forth on the stage of this world to bring about events which he has pre-ordained : and because we find them so established we submit to them implicitly. We obey the Queen-she is on the throne. All the commands of existing authorities we obey, except where those commands are against the sceptre of the Lord in his Church. We examine not the origin or title of existing authorities : we should obey an usurper precisely as we obey the lawful sovereign. The tyranny of the monarchy, or of the oligarchy, or of a republic—the courtly rapacities of the diadem, the ceremonious extortions of a polite aristocracy, or the brutal outrages of a democratic government, are varied forms of evil to which we cheerfully submit. We obey “ the ruler” whoever he may be: but we are not
loyal,” for “ loyalty” is a virtue not mentioned in Scripture, though patience, quietness, and obedience, are frequently and earnestly enjoined as characteristics of the Church of God, in its relations with a world that lieth in the wicked one. The Eclectic writer has, indeed, put together some clever sentences about the proper view of government, though, with all his cleverness, he has not succeeded in concealing his own inconsistency on this subject; but he will never be able to persuade us that we are to view government as separated from evil, until he shews a government of which the chief agents are not under the power of the evil one- until he can direct us to some government which does not directly or indirectly encourage sin, either in its domestic or foreign policy, and which does not promote and uphold that which cannot be defended by evangelical authority. The Eclectic writer finds fault with “the Brethren,” because they consider government as part of the providential arrangement of God, which he calls “ an empty notion” (p. 589); but will the writer be bold enough to assert that government is an ordinance of God's grace? If not, what shall we say of the magistracy? If it is neither to be reverenced as part of the provi-dential arrangement of God, nor as an ordinance of grace, in what view are we to contemplate it? The Eclectic writer seems to have found out a tertium quid in this difficulty. “ The magistracy,” says he, “is neither of Providence nor of grace, but for protection of Christians !"- Protection! Truly the Church of Christ has little cause to thank the kings of the earth and the rulers for their “protection” of the Lord's people : and we suspect that the Eclectic reviewer would, on other occasions, find it extremely difficult to reconcile his theory of protection with his theory of the volun
tary principle of which the very soul is a negation of all protection for Dissenting Churches. The Eclectic Review continually inculcates the mischief which protection introduces into the Church of God; but when it suits this same Review to write against “the Brethren,” it can then bring forth “protection,” and sink the “ voluntary principle,” with all the composure of a Tory Critic.
But this question, though thus studiously embarrassed, is a very easy one-let Christians but consider their high calling, and their position in the new life with their risen Head. Let them but remember how they are “coming up out of the wilderness, leaning on the Beloved,” and they will not take any part in any politics : the Tory and the Whig, the Conservative and the Liberal, will be names of old things that have passed away, memorials of fallen man's vain struggle with the curse which is upon the earth, and which is to be removed, not by the sagacious contrivances of the children of the first Adam, but by the power of the second. He who laid the curse upon the earth will, in the restitution of all things, take it off again; but it is not possible that they who work under the curse should themselves remove it ; neither with such workmen is the Church to be confederate. The Church is risen above the labourers and the workshops of the builders of the Tower of Babel, and is privileged with “ a pure language” above the confusion of their tongues. Her duty in the wilderness is not to interfere directly or indirectly in these great concerns of the children of men : but having her conversation in the heavens, from whence also she looks for the Lord Jesus, she will neither, by her loyalty to human governments, promote oppression, nor, by her indulgence of liberal politics, vainly endeavour to resist it.
Our writer has many things to say against “ the Brethren;" because they demand, according to his statement, a perfect unanimity of sentiment in all true Christians. Having first invented this matter of accusation, he designates it as “ their unreasonable hankering after absolute unanimity” (p.585). We deny the truth of the statement most emphatically, and could easily shew, if it were worth while, that a greater discrepancy of sentiment practically exists amongst the Brethren,” than is tolerated in those sects with which the writer is best acquainted. But on this subject all is confusion with the writer; the union of the household of faith in love, and as sons of God joined together in the concord of the new nature, the writer is continually mistaking and misplacing for unanimity of theological views; and he argues backwards and forwards, from one to the other, as if they were the same thing. The concord desired by those whom the writer denounces, is a corporate not a theological union ; a cohesion of love and not of opinion. The unanimity before the eyes of the Eclectic writer is the amalgamation of existing sects submitting themselves to one form of church-government, and giving in their adhesion to one code of discipline and one standard of divinity---this is his idea of union, which he supposes 6 the Brethren" desire, and which he considers himself also bound to speak well of as a possibility in theory, though in another passage he strangely contradicts himself. We put the two passages together :---“ Those who desire to blend all the Dissenters of each city into one Church, must shew us how it is to be effected suddenly, at any other
expense than by individuals renouncing their private judgments, and thus re-establishing Popery---for ourselves, we believe it ought to be aimed at; but that the time is not generally ripe for it, and that to constrain the form of union, before the substance is attained, would embitter the quarrel, and make the rent worse” (p. 574).---“ For ourselves, the longer we live, the more desperate do we become of any greater agreement between sincere Christians than is contained in the barest fundamentals of the Gospel !" (p. 586). A writer who can so utterly forget his own words, within the short space of twelve pages, must have imposed upon himself the painful task of defending a very bad cause.
This subject, however, leads the writer on into the promulgation of sentiments which ought to be recorded as a specimen of that vicious medley of philosophical and religious language, which, not only in some periodicals, but in some pulpits also, passes in these days for wisdom sanctified. The sentences we number, not that we intend to comment on them separately, but that we may leave materials for reflection with our readers. (1.) “How shallow is that philosophy, or that religion, which desires uniformity in this world. (2.) It could not be attained without sacrificing all individuality of character, all peculiarity of education and experience. (3.) The world is a scene for the formation of mind : and in our progress towards perfect truth there must needs be considerable difference of judgment. (4.) Such imperfections
call forth many virtues, which otherwise would have had no exercise. (5.) This is in entire consistency with the whole scheme of the world, and with the existence of physical evil. (6.) Moreover, God values minds and hearts more than the propositions or the systems which our minds contemplate; and for the due discipline and cultivation of the former, many a false step must ordinarily be made and discovered. (7.) Power must be gained by fatigues and failures; humility must be taught by the consciousness of error; the feebleness, too, of the human judgment must be displayed by permanent and irreconcileable differences” (p. 585).
Ŝo teach the philosophers of the sect : but what says the Scripture ? “ If there be consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit
, if any bowels and mercies, fulfil ye my joy, that ye be like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vain glory, but in lowliness of mind, let each esteem others better than themselves." (Phil. ii. 1-3). “Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind, anil in the same judgment” (1. Cor. i. 10). “ Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace, and the God of love and peace shall be with you” (2 Cor. xiii. 11).
The philosophical religion of the Eclectic writer can thus scarcely be reconciled with the doctrine of the New Testament.
The charges brought against the “Plymouth Brethren" by this writer, are very numerous, and some of them very minute, frivolous, and trivial; but one of these accusations, though purposely placed amongst the trifles, contains indeed a matter of the most serious import, and which may not be thus treated, as merely one of their absurdities: “If we sigh and groan that not all Christians admit of open ministry," says this writer, “ our hearts will become hard, on occasions really calling for
They say that they are excluded from all dissenting churches by the act of the other party, who, by having fixed teachers, and fixed time for them to teach, grieve and quench the Spirit. Well; it is to be lamented: but do they forget that others have an equal difficulty in bearing with the Plymouth views and practices ? It only proves the desperate nature of the attempt after uniformity” (p.586). Now, the question of “open ministry” is not a minute peculiarity only, it is every thing. All that the dissenters are called upon to defend in their faulty system, and all that “the Brethren ” seek to establish, turns upon this point; for, as the writer knows very well, it is not merely a controversy about the number of the teachers, whether there shall be one, or two, or more ministers in a church, but whether this principle shall be acknowledged and acted on in all its bearings, and followed out in all its consequences, that the Holy Spirit is to be ruler and director in the church of God. They that acknowledge this to be a fundamental truth, will, on enquiry, soon discover that its due acknowledgment involves in condemnation all existing arrangements, and that to own it, and to follow it out when owned, would go to the root, yea, and pluck up by the roots, the established order of dissenting churches. The Eclectic writer is well aware of this; and perceiving all the dangerous consequences (dangerous we mean to sect) of owning this principle, endeavours at the commencement of his article, by some pages of dexterous special pleading, to solve the problem of churchgovernment, as a question of statistics. . He would have us believe, that the members of the early Christian churches were exceedingly numerous, that there were ten thousand members of the church of Antioch in the time of the Apostles; and that, therefore, there were many ministers for so many members. We should be sorry to stop here to confute this fable. Any one reading the first verse of the Epistle to the Philippians may see that there was at Philippi a plurality of bishops, or overseers, in the small church gathered in that town: and, indeed, it would be a figment not more audacious, to assert that there were twenty thousand Christians at Philippi
, than to fix ten thousand as the number of believers at Antioch in the time of the Apostles. It is not, however, a question of statistics, and numbers, and of captains over tens, and captains over hundreds, and captains over thousands. They that desire 6
open ministry,” desire it not merely because it is an ancient ecclesiastical fact; but because it puts the church of God in a condition to be ruled in its corporate capacity by Him who rules every individual believer. “ As every man hath received the gift, even so minister one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.” This is, in a few words, the mystery of church-government set forth in the