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النشر الإلكتروني

275

CORRESPONDENCE.

The Editor begs to remind his readers that he is not responsible for the opinions

of his Correspondents.

SCHISM. Sir, I perceive, from certain advertisements, that the Hon. and Rev. B. Noel is chosen as one of the arbitrators to award the sum of 1001. for the best essay on the subject of Schism-a subject confessedly of great importance, and the handling of which injudiciously may be attended with effects the reverse of what is contemplated. In order, therefore, that scriptural truth may be advocated in the successful essay, and due justice awarded to the candidates for the prize, it appears imperative, above all things, that the judges should themselves be persons holding wise, scriptural, and equitable opinions on the subject respecting which they have to decide.

I will briefly give my reason for this statement:~" Another Tract for the Times” on the Unity of the Church," " by B. W. Noel, M.A.,” “fifteenth thousand,” has been put into my hands. This tract is excellently scriptural and pious in design, brotherly love, and Christian activity. But I consider it very unscriptural in its theory, its structure, and its working, as it respects the present subject-viz., the “unity of the church," or the “ schism” attending departure

“ from it.

1. Its theory. I say nothing about the great body of scripture texts brought forward (pp. 3, 4,) as evidence of Christian piety and not of Christian unity. I come to this exposition of unity (p. 7)—“ Believers are not one, if they are divided in heart, in profession, or in action. If they cannot act together, openly acknowledge each other to be brethren, and live in mutual esteem, they are not one." In page 13 we have this matter further developed, thus :“ Episcopalians and presbyterians, baptists and pædobaptists, with all others who differ on obscure and undecided points, ought, if they have one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God, and one hope, under the influence of one Spirit, who sanctifies them all, to be one in profession, in action, and in heart." This union of good men is plainly enjoined in the word of God.

Thus, then, we have four " SECTIONS" of the Christian church, but no “ SCHISM. This must of necessity imply an unscriptural theory somehow or other, because, in scripture meaning, a "section" is a s division,” and a “ division" is a “ schism." Four sections only are here specified; but it is not inconsistent with forty. Because Mr. B.

“ with all others who differon obscure and undecided points. All others,” be they many or few, who differ only about such “ undecided points” as divide the above-mentioned denominations. These denominations are all supposed to be composed of pious, conscientious, godly men, holding the unity of the faith in the bond of

Noel says,

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peace-to be of the “ body of Christ, and members in particular." But still they are divided into numerous sections of the Christian church. The question, then, will necessarily occur, “ Is Christ not divided when men, and congregations, and ministers, and divine worship, are separated from one another? What is the scriptural“schism," if this be not? And what the meaning of that adınonition to the church of Christ, “ That there be no divisions (schisms) among you, but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment?" And further _“ I am of Paul ; and I of Apollos ; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ ?” On the above supposition it is manifest that the apostle Paul sees ground to charge the Corinthians with the sin of schism involved in this question—" Is Christ divided ?” And shall professors of Christ's religion, of unity, think now to escape the guilt of schism, though they actually separate from each other, and set up for Paul, for Apollos, and for Cephas, without limitation as to numbers of sects! Impossible! It is awfully certain, therefore, that wherever these several (or numerous) “ sectionsare found in the church of Christ, that that church has her garments dyed in the guilt of schism, even to the girdle.

Mr. Noel has omitted one ingredient in scriptural unity which, in the word of God, is made essential to the very existence of Christian unity-viz., THE UNITY OF DIVINE WORSHIP, That which breaks the unity of divine worship, or destroys the harmony of worshipping God in spirit and in truth, is, I conceive, in the scriptures made the very heart of schism. “ Mark them which cause divisions and offences among you, and avoid them.” But why “ avoidthose who “ divisions,” but for the purpose of avoiding the divisions" which they cause? It is obvious, therefore, that Mr. Noel's theory is unscriptural and erroneous. However we may find it necessary or convenient to conceal or wink at the matter, it is too plain for contradiction, that “ sectionsare “ schisms,” and the guilt of schism must be answered for by those at whose door it lies, be it found where it may.

2. Its structure. I conceive that Mr. Noel's body of reasoning on that mode of argumentation by which he endeavours to justify his theory is as unsound and unscriptural as the theory itself, and involves in it the very life and soul of the evil which he deplores as schismatical. I consider that there is much want of due discrimination, in the whole of Mr. Noel's writing on “church unity,” between individual piety and our regard and affection for individuals of pious character, and that public regard and affection which we are bound to exercise to the united church of God, and to the promotion of that spirit of unity so much accounted of in the scriptures. I do not here specify the faulty or commendable persons as bodies, but the thing itself. Mr. Noel himself, notwithstanding the want of discrimination above complained of, does distinguish between men and men, though I fear not always on a scriptural foundation. He writes thus :-“ Let piety alone be a sufficient passport to our hearts,” (p. 22.) Yes, of course, affection to every man, as an individual who bears the image of his Lord, grounded upon the scriptural principle that “every one that loveth him that begat, loveth him also that is begotten of him." But

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I know not how far this agrees with another clause—“Separate from violent men of every party,” &c. (p. 17.) For, let me here ask, cannot “ violent men" be pious men ? If they cannot, we must then make large deductions from professors of piety in the present day. But if “ violent men” may be pious men, and if piety alone is to be a “sufficient passport to our hearts," we may have an affection for persons, as persons of“ piety,” from whom we are bound, by Mr. Noel's rule, to * separate” ourselves, because they are “ violent."

And here, I conceive, we are furnished with a distinction that may lead us further than the system which Mr. Noel has adopted will allow. We perceive that something besides “piety” is requisite, even in Mr. Noel's opinion, to our public recognition of men; and that something besides violence may render it scriptural and expedient to “ separate” ourselves from others. St. Paul speaks of " disorderly" persons,“ busy bodies,” persons “ working not at all, and such as would not study to be quiet.” And what does he command respecting these persons? Why, “ that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly," (1 Thes. iv. 11; 2 Thes. iii. 614.) And yet it is possible that we may be bound to esteem this man “as a brother," notwithstanding this disorder and this proscription.

We may thus learn from the apostle's “ command" above-mentioned, that there are certain things about which“ every brother" is not at liberty to act as he may judge proper ; or, if he does, we must withdraw “ourselves" from him.

Without forcing the apostle's remarks on subjects of practical character into any special rule respecting a theory on the general subject of schism, I think we may take the idea it affords us as a key to unlock Mr. Noel's reasoning. He makes the antipædo baptist and the presbyterian (and he ultimately unites in the same bonds the “ pious dissenter," pp. 10, 21,) each to arrive at his respective conclusion about “ infant baptism,” “ episcopacy," and the establishment," by means and rules which he views and defends as holy, just, and good. The subjects of “ infant baptism" and" episcopacy” Mr. N. speaks of as “ two of the most important points which separate Christians.” “ Should they separate them?” he asks. “ As well might brothers of a family be separated on the most trifling difference on some question of taste or literature, while both have honourable, pure, intelligent, and cultivated minds. God forbid that Christians should be so separated any longer.” (pp. 12, 13.)

It is quite obvious that the spirit of the evil is found in this passage. Mr. Noel asks and answers this question-Ought such “ trifling differences" to “ separate Christians? God forbid." I agree with him in this; there is no legitimate ground in scripture for the separation of Christians from each other. The withdrawing from a " disorderly brother," above spoken of, implies deep guilt on the part of the “disorderly,” and has no application to different bodies of Christians separating from each other, but it is intended as a punishment and reformation-viz., that “ he may be ashamed," and thus brought back to duty and sobriety. Where, then, it may be asked, is the error? Because there must be an error somewhere, if it be a fact that Christians Vol. XII.-Sept. 1837.

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are separated from each other, and ought not to be separated. The fact of separation no one can deny; and the guilt of schism certainly lies deep among those almost innumerable « sections” of the Christian church. But where does the error lie in Mr. Noel's argument ? because he also says, that these “ trifling" matters should not divide them. “ God forbid,” he says, “ that Christians should be separated any longer.” (p. 13.) How, then, does he erroneously or defectively prescribe the remedy ? I answer, Mr. Noel conceals the sin of schism where it really and essentially exists, and places it on problematical and uncertain grounds, making the remedy ineffective, of course, because it either applies partially, or not at all. But this will introduce us to the next consideration; namely

3. The working of Mr. N.'s scheme, as it respects schism. But the discussion of this portion of the subject must be reserved for a future letter.

G. B.

BURIAL OF UNBAPTIZED PERSONS.

MR. EDITOR, -A circumstance will, I fear, sooner or later, arise our of the Register of Births Bill which the clergy should be prepared to contend with ; and, for the purpose of ascertaining the line of conduct which, under these circumstances, I ought to pursue, I shall be Happy, through your Magazine, to learn your opinion, and that of my clerical brethren who may be more conversant with the questions involved in it than myself.

From the spirit of opposition which in many cases prevails to our venerable church, and the indifference which is manifest respecting the sacraments of our holy religion, it is to be feared that many persons will content themselves with registering the birth of their children, thereby securing their temporal advantage, whilst, careless of their spiritual, they bring them not to the sacrament of baptism.

Will it not, therefore, be the daty of the clergy in future to inquire whether the person who may be brought to him for burial has or has not been baptized? And if it is found that he has not been baptized, how ought the clergyman to act as regards his burial ? If he follow the instructions contained in the rubric, of course he will not read the burial service over such person; but how far will he be supported in his refusal by the common or statute law ? Indeed, the question might be profitable, if opened among ourselves as a clerical body, how far the baptism of dissenters is valid ? But I believe Sir John Nicholl's opinion is, « that it is valid, though informal,” and therefore, in such a case, Christian burial cannot be refused. But where no baptism at all has been administered, I conceive it will be the bounden duty of the clergy to refuse to perform the burial service.

If, Sir, you can find admission for this communication, you will oblige, yours very truly,

A PRESBYTER.

DISSENTERS AS SPONSORS.

SIR,- In reply to "A.C.C." I would hazard an opinion, that if none but communicants may be sponsors, according to the discipline of the church of England, (Can. 29, 1603,) and if none are admissible to communion, according to the same discipline, who have not been confirmed, then, unless there be reasonable ground for believing that the individual presenting himself has been confirmed, and is a commupicant in the church, whether he call himself a dissenter or a churchman, he is not, strictly speaking, admissible to be a sponsor; and any clergyman may fairly, and without any reasonable offence, plead the discipline of the church, as the ground for refusing to admit him in Such a case. I am Sir, your obedient servant,

L.

ECCLESIASTICAL VESTMENTS.

MY DEAR SIR,-Having lately been led to look at a periodical of the religious class, which, from the bitterness of its tone, I presume must be losing its popularity and its profits, and which I will not help to save from extinction by naming it, I have observed some articles reflecting on the authors of the Oxford Tracts, with respect to ecclesiastical vestments and postures at the celebration of public worship.

The two points to which I mean to allude here are, the restoration of the ancient stole or scarf, as a part of the liturgical dress of a deacon, and the practice of reciting the prayers of the morning and evening service at the rails of the altar.

As to the former matter, it is sufficiently notorious that the leading principle of our Reformation was, a determination to return to the old paths of primitive Christianity, from all the corruptions and innovations which had from time to time been introduced into our church by the adherents of the see of Rome. Our reformers departed from this rule in some few particulars, where they found that usages, in themselves allowable and proper, were so perverted by the superstitions as to make them, at that time, prejudicial to the church. Of this kind were, probably, many of the canonical articles of dress of the clergy. It seems, however, but natural to suppose that the same principles which enjoined the disuse of such articles or practices, under those circumstances, would direct the restoration of them as soon as the objection was removed. In the present condition of our church, prevented from legislating for herself in matters of this kind, it seems hard to tie every clergyman down to an exact conformity with what has been expressly authorized, when he has good evidence to produce from orthodox-catholic antiquity for some apparent innovation in such à point as a stole or scarf, especially if his own bishop has not expressed disapprobation of his conduct. It might, however, be wise to abstain from anything very unusual, for fear of offence to the unLearned; and therefore a plain black scarf might, probably, be more

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