صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

the reader's attention is called to the teachings of the last two chapters.

The eleventh is one of the most remarkable chapters in the Bible. It is the focus of the blended rays of the whole Book of Ecclesiastes. It is a clear presentation of a future judgment and reward, in beautiful figures of illustration. In the plainest language, and with most solemn emphasis, it is finally declared, that for all things God will bring us to judgment. To be more particular, the chapter teaches as follows, vs. 1-6: Do present duty, on all occasions, and all your lives, disregarding threatening obstacles, trusting to God to reward you. This is illustrated by casting bread upon the waters-giving portions to many-the clouds and falling timber, sowing and reaping grain, the unborn infant, vs. 7-10. Use God's gifts with reference to rendering an account; and provide against future misery. The whole chapter may be summed up in this brief sentence: Do and enjoy with reference to a future award!

In the twelfth chapter, first seven verses, we have the close of the sermon. In one of the most beautiful allegories ever penned, comparing old age to a decaying and unprotected house, we are prepared for the sublime and literal conclusion: "Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was; and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it."

The remaining verses, by another writer, show his estimate of Solomon and his work; and also show his sentiments concerning what the Book teaches. He sums up all, as the conclusion of the whole matter: "Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty (profit) of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil." Nowhere, not even in the New Testament, is the judgment more clearly presented. But the circumstances attending the general judgment are reserved for the sublime unfoldings of the New Testament.

ART. III.-Politics and the Church.

WE propose in this article to continue the subject commenced in the last No. of the Review (Dec. 1862), under the above title. We then stated that our object was to show what is the true province of the pulpit and what are the true functions of the church, in their relation to the moral, social, and civil interests of society; the special aim being to meet the popular cry raised in certain quarters against the ministry and the church, of "mixing politics and religion," whenever the people from the pulpit or through church courts are exhorted to sustain the United States Government in its efforts to put down the treason and rebellion seeking its overthrow. It was then distinctly admitted, and we now repeat, that to bring politics, in any just acceptation of the term, either into the pulpit or church courts, for discussion or action, is a clear perversion of the authority which Christ has given to the church. But, on the other hand, we as distinctly assert, that, for the ministry and church courts to enjoin the people under their care to obey "the powers that be," both civil and spiritual, placed over them by divine authority, is but to perform a solemn religious duty imposed by God; and that, consequently, for them to instruct the people upon and warn them against treason, rebellion, and schism, as sins against God and their fellow-men, and to exercise discipline when they are committed, is but a part of the same general duty clearly set forth in the Scriptures; and further, for the ministry and church courts to neglect proper instruction upon either branch of this subject, or to neglect discipline for any of these offenses, and more especially at such a time as the present in our country, when this duty of obedience to rulers is so sadly neglected and these sins are so flagrantly committed by large numbers in every branch of the church, is practically to ignore some of the plainest injunctions of the word of God, and to prove recreant as teachers and governors to the demands of the commission which they hold from the Head of the church. This is the substance of the doctrine sought to be established in the previous article, and it will form the basis of the present. The aim in the manner of presentation is to bring out

only fundamental principles, and to show that the proper treatment of such topics does not invade or involve anything political, but is as essentially religious as expounding the doctrines of grace and urging faith and repentance; it being left to inference, chiefly, to apply the truth thus developed to the great issues now convulsing the nation with civil war.

The main proposition on which the whole discussion proceeds, we here repeat:-That it is within the true province of the pulpit and of church courts, to examine and determine all questions, upon all subjects, in their religious bearings, which affect the moral, social, and civil well-being of society; the Bible being their guide as to topics and the views to be taken of them, and the providence of God in the exercise of a wise discretion determining the occasions on which they shall be presented.

This proposition we proposed to sustain and illustrate, first, from the Scriptures; secondly, from the creeds and confessions of the church of all branches, in its purest portions, in all ages in so far as they speak of the subject at all; thirdly, from frequent deliverances of the church, in past times, upon a variety of special subjects, called forth by particular exigencies; fourthly, from the published writings of men of various branches and periods of the church, who are acknowledged as among its great lights; and fifthly, we challenged that the negative of this proposition could not be sustained by any clear teachings of Scripture, in terms, principle, or by any fair deduction, nor by any evangelical creeds or explicit church action of former times, nor by any prominent names in the ministry.

The former article was confined to the scriptural argument; the present will be devoted to the several remaining points. The argument proper, by which alone such a proposition can be sustained, must rest on the word of God. It is the argument from revelation, as the final appeal; for, "let God be true, but every man a liar." That was concluded in the previous paper. The present will exhibit the argument from authority. We claim for it nothing beyond what the expositions of divine truth by wise and godly men, convened in the councils of the church, or preaching the Gospel, or publishing their matured views, may justly demand from the church at

large. Such expositions probably furnish the best illustration of the meaning of God's word on many of the subjects of which they treat, that we have reason to look for at the hands of men. While, therefore, the direct testimony of God in the Scriptures is the sole rule of faith, and that to which alone every one should bow, and while every man must judge for himself of the meaning of the divine word under the illumination of the Spirit, it is of no small importance to know how the church in past times, and under favorable circumstances for ascertaining the truth, may have viewed any given subject. Upon the question now under consideration, if it shall be found that the church has borne uniform and explicit testimony to the doctrine we have attempted to establish, or if it have given only a general confirmation, it will go far to show that our deductions from the Scriptures are correct. The argument from authority, is not, therefore, to be despised. Neither is it to be abused. With a certain class of minds it is always of preponderating influence. With the adherents of the great apostacy it is everything. They are taught to believe as the church believes, and because she so teaches. But we "have not so learned Christ." We may behold the light which the true church casts along the pathway of her wonderful history without being blinded and led astray by it. Let us search for that light and walk therein.

The first point in the plan we have announced (second in order of the whole), relates to the Creeds and Confessions of the church. This is a most valuable species of testimony, and that to which the least exception should be taken by those with whom we are at issue; for it shows the position of vari'ous branches of the church at times when her scriptural landmarks were established by learned and pious men, after the utmost pains-taking and prayer to arrive at the true sense of revelation.*

The Westminster Confession, which is substantially the exponent of the faith of so large a portion of the reformed and evangelical churches in this country, and to a considera

*It is said in the authentic History of the Westminster Assembly: "The whole time which they were in session was five years, six months, and twenty-two days; during which time they held one thousand one hundred and sixty-three sessions."

ble extent in Europe, may serve as a sample for the creeds of the reformed churches generally, with this remark-that, as the church in this country is entirely separate from the state, very little is said in this Confession, in the modified form in which it has been adopted by the Presbyterian Churches and others in the United States, upon the points at issue, compared with what may be found in some of those of the churches in Europe. But for the most part they all agree in the ground they take as to the province of the church in things by some, in these latter days, deemed secular and political. We quote from the Confession of the Presbyterian Church in the United States:

"CHAP. 23.-OF THE CIVIL MAGISTRATE.-God, the Supreme Lord and King of all the world, hath ordained civil magistrates to be, under him, over the people, for his own glory and the public good, and to this end hath armed them with the power of the sword, for the defense and encouragement of them that are good, and for the punishment of evil doers. II. It is lawful for Christians to accept and execute the office of a magistrate, when called thereunto; in the managing whereof, as they ought especially to maintain piety, justice, and peace, according to the wholesome laws of each commonwealth, so, for that end, they may lawfully, now under the New Testament, wage war upon just and necessary occasions. III. Civil magistrates may not assume to themselves the administration of the word and sacraments; or the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven; or in the least interfere in matters of faith. Yet as nursing fathers, it is the duty of civil magistrates to protect the church of our common Lord, without giving the preference to any denomination of Christians above the rest, in such a manner, that all ecclesiastical persons whatever shall enjoy the full, free, and unquestioned liberty of discharging every part of their sacred functions, without violence or danger. And, as Jesus Christ hath appointed a regular government and discipline in his church, no law of any commonwealth should interfere with, let, or hinder, the due exercise thereof, among the voluntary members of any denomination of Christians, according to their own profession and belief. It is the duty of civil magistrates to protect the person and good name of all their people, in such an effectual manner as that no person be suffered, either upon pretence of religion or infidelity, to offer any indignity, violence, abuse, or injury to any other person whatsoever; and to take order, that all religious and ecclesiastical assemblies be held without molestation or disturbance. IV. It is the duty of the people to pray for magistrates,

« السابقةمتابعة »