« AnteriorContinuar »
certainly present an admirable and inspiring example of a man of heroic mould who strove with equal earnestness for the right to think and reason as truly as for the privilege and obligation to feel and to act, and exemplified most admirably the impulse to love and worship as well as to labor and sacrifice. While we cannot but regret that speculatively he failed to emerge into a clearer adjustment of his speculative and historical faith, we cannot but rejoice that he ever dwelt in the broad and bright light of fervent and cheerful Christian duty and Christian aspiration.
Professor Green died as he had lived in a heroic spirit. When his life was glowing with promise and hope, he was summoned to a speedy departure. He committed to the care of his friend and favorite pupil, Mr. Arnold Toynbee, two discourses of a practical character which he had delivered to his pupils, to be published at his discretion.* He then asked that the eighth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans should be read to him, which he seemed to follow with difficulty, and soon after passed from the shadows of time into the presence of what his philosophy and his faith had held to be the only realistics.
Of the advice given to Robert Elsmere by the supposed Dr. Grey, we have only to say that we prefer the dicta of Niebuhr and the elder Thomas Arnold, though uttered under different circumstances. It is recorded of the first: “ The Word made flesh—the divine brought into visible contact with the human and finding an historical embodiment in an individual—was a doctrine that found a warm response in a mind so full of earnest aspirations towards heaven, and at the same time so thoroughly historical in its views of the world. His personal reverence for Christ was a sentiment that deepened with the progress of his life. He once exclaimed in the course of an argument with the (then) King of Prussia : “I would lay my head on the block for the Divinity of Christ.” Dr. Arnold writes: “ Strauss writes about history and myths without appearing to have studied the question, but having heard that some pretended stories are mythical he borrows this notion as an engine to help
* Mr. Toynbee died soon after, leaving a name not written in water.
him out of Christianity. But the idea of men writing mythic histories between the time of Livy and Tacitus, and of St. Paul mistaking such for realities—!"
Verily philosophy and criticism have made some progress since the days of Niebuhr and the elder Arnold, but they have not yet made it natural or easy for men to stand on their heads, or to adjust the actual universe to the perspective which this position requires.
1889.) Relation of the National Benevolent Societies, etc.
ARTICLE II.—THE RELATION OF THE NATIONAL BE
NEVOLENT SOCIETIES TO THE CHURCHES.*
The only true and proper relation of the great Congregational Benevolent Societies to our churches is, in my judgment, an organic relation,-a relation which puts these Societies, representatively, under the control of the churches. The work to be done by these organizations constitutes one department of the divinely legitimate function of the churches, as truly so, as the maintenance of public worship, the observance of the sacraments, or the sustainment of the Sunday School.
On my first settlement in the pastoral office, forty-seven years ago, I had for my nearest ministerial neighbor on the north, that grand old man, Doctor David Dudley Field,-four of whose sons are reckoned among the distinguished men of our country. He was a leader in his day. And, before Doctor Leonard Bacon rose into prominence, he was the highest authority in Connecticut upon questions of Congregational polity. His active life covered the period which gave birth to the earlier of these Benevolent Societies. It was by him that my own mind was first directed to the uncongregational principles on which these Societies are based. He, with some of his con
* This paper was prepared, by special request, as an Address to be delivered before the General Conference of the Congregational Churches of Connecticut at its recent annual meeting in Meriden, on the 14th of November last. In the order of exercises, followed the report of a committee upon the same subject, whose sentiments it supported. As a matter of record, it may be stated, that the Report was heartily approved, and the Resolutions which accompanied it, favoring an organic connection between the Societies and the Churches, were unanimously adopted. In revising the Address for publication, the writer has added several considerations bearing upon the subject, which, in
consequence of having been limited to twenty minutes in the delivery, he had been obliged to omit. A few other slight changes have been made.
The National Benevolent Societies, whose relation to the Churches is here discussed, do not include such societies, as the American Bible Society, which are constructed upon a Union basis, but only those which are supported almost exclusively by Congregationalists, and regarded as belonging to the Congregational denomination. VOL. XIV.
temporaries, clearly foresaw and predicted that the time was not very far distant, when these principles would assert themselves offensively and injuriously. The views which I advocate, therefore, were not suggested by a present theological emergency. They are not new. They are as old as these Societies. They were earnestly advocated in a report made to the General Association of Connecticut by a Committee of which I had the honor to be the chairman, sixteen years ago. They are as old, I may say, as Congregationalism itself. And it is in the name and behoof of Congregationalism—the polity of the New England Fathers, and of the apostolic churches—that I undertake this discussion.
A fundamental inquiry is: What, in respect to benevolent Christian work, is the prime design of the organization of the local church—which is the only organized church known to Congregationalism—the church in Philippi, for example? Is it not to combine and concentrate all the Christian elements within its sphere of activity in that city, into itself, as a corporate unity, for the greatest possible efficiency in doing good ? These elements thus unified become a coördinated active body of which Christ is the head and the Holy Spirit the organizing life; or, to change the figure, a covenanted band of inspired workers with God and for God. A church is thus instinct with a divine life and power, whether it expends its forces upon the local community, or upon some outside field, as when the Church of Antioch, single-handed, sent forth Paul and Barnabas upon their evangelizing tours; or as the Church of Pastor Harms at Hermannsberg established large and successful missions in Africa; or as recently, the Berkeley Street Church, Boston, proposes to commission one of its members to labor in Japan, or some other Asiatic field.
Suppose now, that the Christian elements in Philippi propose to unite with those in Thessalonica, and in Bera, and in the other cities of Macedonia, where the Gospel has gained a footing, for systematized permanent work, on a large scale, in outside mission fields,–Would it accord with the Scriptural idea, for a few believers from Philippi, and a few from each of the other cities of the province to organize themselves into an association for this purpose, without seeking the authorization
or even the approval of the several churches? Suppose that such an association should issue a circular of this tenor:
“Dear Brethren of the Churches—We have taken it upon our own responsibility to organize 'The Macedonian Missionary Society.' We are prepared to establish and conduct missions among the unevangelized peoples of this province, and in foreign parts. We ask you therefore, to furnish us with laborers, to forward contributions to our treasury, and to give us your sympathies and prayers. We beg leave to assure you, that we, associated as individuals, can do this work a great deal more efficiently, more wisely and more successfully than you, as Churches, can do it.”
What would these churches have said to have seen their church-life thus ignored and overridden? What would Paul have said, to have seen these focal organized centers of Christian light, which he had set up in obedience to the Master's will, held so cheap and obscured? No; this is not the divine order, nor the method of Christianity. These require that the local churches enter into such an association as integers, representatively, at least. No other form of association does due honor to the church, as Christ designed it, or brings it into so close relations to its own appointed work. No other so fully develops the concentrated power latent in it as a divine organism, and so stimulates the growth of its graces. Let the unscriptural individualism, which now prevails in our great benevolent societies, be carried out consistently and universally into all our other Christian relations, and it is questionable whether Christianity, as represented by Congregationalism, would survive the experiment for a century. It would disintegrate us. And I have not a doubt, but that the principal reason why Congregationalism has lagged so far behind other denominations in numerical strength in this country is, that we have sacrificed the church idea to this exaggerated individualism. Individualism has its place,—and a very important one,-in Christian work, as it stands related not only to private spheres of personal activity, but to coöperation with others, wherever circumstances call for it. But, if we would bring the full power of Christianity into action on any large scale for the extension of Christ's kingdom, we can do it only through the principle of concentration as divinely embodied in church organization, and in the unity of covenanted Christian fellowship.