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and luxuriate upon the delicious fruits of the land. Mind gains strength by exercise. It is able to take hold of a great many truths and to discover a great many relations to which it would have been a stranger if it had only lived upon the traditions and creeds of former generations. The more we examine truth and trace the relation of one truth to another, the more we love it—the stronger is our attachment to it. If you want an orthodox ministry you must have an independent one
Ecclesiastical Polity and Influence.
By Rev. Wm. B. BROWN,
The necessity for government lies deep in the nature of things, and can no more be set aside than can thc laws of nature themselves. Government, to be perfect, must always be framed and administered in harmony with these great laws. Perfection in moral government, or the govern, ment of moral beings, whether human or divine, civil or ecclesiastical, must confer upon all its subjects the most enlarged freedom and responsibility in the direction of its affairs, which can be, consistent with realizing the proper end of its existence. This the great laws of the human soul require. Liberty is no less an inalienable right than life itself. Liberty, not only as the opposite of slavery, is inalienable; it is equally so as the opposite of every influence which tends to limit man in whatever he may choose to do, short of interfering with the rights of others. Government, in proportion as it does not recognize these great principles, is a curse and not a blessing. Divine government harmonizes with these views. It grants to man the most enlarged freedom and participation in its affairs, of which he is capable. It imposes no limits, except where the great laws of his being impose them. Parental government should conform to the same rule. It should limit the child no further than his good or the rights of others may require. Civil and ecclesiastical governments must rest on the same basis. To curtail the liberties, or control the actions of a single member, farther than to prevent his infringements upon the rights of others, is to make war upon one of the great laws of nature-to strike down the only foundation on which true liberty can rest. Deprive man of a single liberty to which he is justly entitled, and restlessness follows; he will either struggle to regain his lost inheritance, or, yielding to dig. couragement, will disregard all his God-given prerogatives, and cast himself into the lap of despotism, where his mental powers will slumber in inactivity till the period of his exit from earth. Man will never rest till he is wholly free, or wholly lost to freedom. Rest in this latter case is only the quiet of a morbid intellect—of a crushed spirit.
Governments, civil or ecclesiastical, to secure permanency and strength, must rest on a basis, which, within the sphere of their control, shall confer upon their members all their just rights, or deprive them of all. Where this is not the case, a struggle between the people and the rulers always ensues, which weakens the government and which never terminates till one of the parties yields to the other-till. the people gain or lose, within the circle of governmental operations, their entire freedom. These two forms of government, (and there are but these two distinct forms among men, we shall denominate, for want of more definite terms, and to avoid circumlocution, Independent and Despotic. The first form of government is in the hands of the people; they choose their own officers-make and administer their own laws. The other is in the hands of rulers whom the people have no power to elect or to depose from office. Of course they can enjoy, within certain limits, only such privileges as their rulers may choose to confer.
It is a momentous inquiry, After which of these patterns ought governments ordinarily to be formed? To answer this question, we have only to ask, In accordance with which system will government secure to its members the most enlarged freedom of thought and action, and the greatest responsibility in governmental affairs, with the least liability to infringement on the rights of others. That the independent form of government secures the first condition there can be no question. But does it as effectually guard private and public interests as the other form would do? Let the history of despotic governments (and the world has known but few others) answer. That independent government as just defined, except perhaps in some cases where the people are grossly wicked and ignorant, is the natural and most desirable form of government, probably no American will deny. This admission is sufficient for our present purpose, for certainly under this rule no company of Christians will ever be excluded from the right to govern themselves on the independent system. In making the admission, as we freely do, that when a people are found too ignorant and wicked for independent government, any person having the qualifica tions and ability may come forward and for the time being establish and adıninister government over them, the position that independent government is to be the general rule, is in no degree set aside. Despotic government is only submitted to in this case as the less of two evils. Nor may the ruler. regard his right to govern as a permanent one. He is bound to instruct the people, especially in the great principles of independent government, and as soon as they become qualified to exercise it, he must resign his office with all that pertains to it, into their hands.
It is now time to lay down the broad, and perhaps it will appear to some, uncharitable statement, that since the second, or beginning of the third century of the Christian era, nearly every prevailing form and modification of church government, has been in the sense defined, despotic in its nature and operations. It is not intended that these governments have always deprived their members of all their inalienable rights; for the circle of their dominion has not always been as extended in every direction as is that of human liberty; nor is it meant that the rulers in ecclesiastical organizations have been disposed always to go to the full extent of their power in controlling their subjects; but it is meant that within the sphere of religious faith and practice, the officers of ecclesiastical bodies have held over the people despotic power.
Before adducing proof to substantiate the correctness of this position, we wish to call the readers attention to the nature and extent of government in the church prior to the period just specified, and show that then pure independency prevailed, and how that form of government was driven away by that insatiable desire to exalt self and debase others, which always characterizes unsanctified human nature. It has generally been supposed that the scriptures reveal no regular system of church government;—that Christians are left without a pattern dictated by inspiration, after which to form their principles of ecclesiastical polity. Beyond all question those who search the scriptures or study early church history, to find the prototype of our present religious organizations, will search in vain. But let us not therefore conclude that God has given us no instructions in so important a matter; let us rather suspect ourselves to have departed from the simplicity of early gospel times.
Opening the New Testament, a clear light will be seen to shine on the following most important points.
A Christian church will be found to be an independent local body, consisting of a company of believers in Christ, associated and meeting together for the public worship of God, for the observance of gospel ordinances, and for mutual assistance in the discharge of all Christian duty. If we
search the scriptures for information respecting diocesan, or provincial, or national churches, we shall search in vain. No such ecclesiastical bodies are addressed by any of the apostles, or even referred to, however incidentally, in any part of the Bible. In the apostles' days they were unknown; they are all the off-spring of foretold apostacy from God. The churches are always addressed as independent bodies. Each of the seven churches of Asia,” though all of them are located in the same district of country, is addressed as a distinct church. We read also of the churches of Galatia," of the churches of Macedonia," of the churches of Judea," and of Paul's "going through Syria confirming the churches.” Those arrangements of later days, which united all these churches into one, and wrested from them their God-given prerogatives, have no authority from the word of inspiration.
It is probable that these churches, almost from their commencement, had some regular form of organization, but it was simple in its nature, and such as they themselves chose to adopt. Eacb church claimed the right, and exercised it, of receiving and disciplining its own members—of appointing and dismissing its own religious teachers. The right of discipline implies the right of admission. The church of Corinth is to discipline its own members, and the church of Rome, or of Jerusalem, or even the apostles themselves, except by way of counsel, may not interfere. Paul, as a public teacher and an inspired man, often calls on the churches to administer discipline, gives them instructions pertaining to the subject, and even reprimands them for its neglect, but he never administers it himself, nor authorizes one church to do it for another. Numerous quotations from his writings, sustaining this position, might be given, but our limits will
not allow it, and besides it is too plain a case to need them. In that noted passage in 2d Cor., 13: 2, where Paul says, “ If I come again I will not spare,” there is no proof at all that he refers to the matter of discipline. He simply means that when he comes, flagrant sinners in the church shall receive from his lips the severest rebuke. This interpretation renders the passage in question harmonious with all others on the subject of discipline. It leaves it where Christ in the 18th of Matthew does, and where the scriptures always do—in the hands of the local church.
As it respects the appointing and dismissing of religious teachers, but little need be said. It was generally if not always done by the churches directly, or by councils of their