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'building] is bound to maintain it, in all its articles, inviolate. • The moment ...... that church presumes to introduce an alteration on its own authority, without seeking and obtaining the
concurrent sanction of the civil power, (which alone can set aside a legal instrument,] it has violated its part of the formal or “implied bargain; it lias forfeited, by such infraction, all its right to the emolument [the trust property). The distinction between the Church, as a church, and the Church as an endowed church, ‘is manifest. Dr. Wardlaw may boast, on behalf of his own church, an unfettered theology; but in no endowed church can there, by possibility, be any such thing. The endowment (the building held on condition of holding along with it a certain creed]—this fetters it. This chain of golden links passes round every article of it, and fastens the whole down. As a church, it may alter its creed,-may cancel it entirely, and adopt a new
This is its undoubted prerogative considered simply as a • church. But this is precisely what it has relinquished in ac
cepting its endowment. As possessing this, its articles, disci'pline, directions for the worship of God, are prescribed to it by a trust-deed which rests on parliamentary authority :--and a change, unsanctioned by that authority, must involve a forfeiture of the endowment. The fact is, that when the faith and discipline of a church are originally settled by the legal authority of a trust-deed, although they may be afterwards sincerely and voluntarily adopted by a church, as a church, yet they are bind‘ing on it, as an endowed church, not by the authority of the word
of God, but solely by an instrument deriving its power from acts of Parliament, and by sanction of Parliament alone can any change be introduced. Is this unfettered theology? Is this the exclusive deference to Christ's authority, which he, as the 'church's Head, demands, and is so supremely entitled to ? * Away with the unworthy compromise of the Church's dignity, and the honor of the Church's lord.'
It is not our purpose to make out, that wherever there are endowments, in the form of chapels, secured to a certain church by law, there is the principle of a national, religious establishment. Dr. Wardlaw has noticed this opinion in his first lecture, and it is not our wish to repeat it here, or to say that he has not satisfactorily met it. We allow the difference between the government of a country appropriating public and national property to a certain church on condition of its teaching a certain creed, and a church, if we may so express it, endowing itself, out of its own property, and securing that endowment to the maintenance for ever of its faith and discipline. Without for a moment pretending, therefore, that the latter is an establishment, we desire to look at it just as what it is—as if there were no national establishments existing, and no controversies respecting them afloat—and to
inquire, whether it can be clearly explained and defended on the avowed principles of Protestant Congregationalism.
The Congregational churches— Baptist and Pædo-baptisthave all their chapels secured by trust-deeds, not to them absolutely, but—to the inculcation of their peculiar principles, and the maintenance of their distinctive discipline. These trustdeeds support generally, perhaps universally, Calvinistic theology --and adult, or infant baptism, as the case may be ;—they sometimes require, in Baptist churches, that the communion shall be strict, no individual not having been immersed in mature age being ever admissible to the Lord's table. They frequently contain very minute enforcements as to the manner in which the church shall conduct its affairs; and not seldom, we believe, prescribe, that, on a certain number of the church requiring it, the minister, and in some cases the deacons, shall be called upon to declare, in writing, their adherence to the doctrines and order' set forth.*
Now, we are not prepared to say that all this should not be ; we are not prepared to say that property, held by a society, and therefore not private, is not to be secured to the society by some legal instrument, and thus preserved from individual usurpation; nor are we prepared, at present, to suggest any new form of doing this, short of those to which we have referred: but we are prepared to put a few questions on the subject, as it now stands, and to propose doubts occurring to ourselves, which, on the principles professed by Congregationalists, we find it difficult to answer or resolve.
Can it be said that Dissenters, Baptist and Pædo-baptist, repudiate creeds, when almost every chapel has one attached to it?
Can it be said that Dissenting ministers are entirely free from the slavery of subscription, when, at any moment, some of them at least, are liable to be required to sign their names to a doctrinal standard ?
Can it be said that Dissenting churches are at liberty to appeal exclusively to the Scriptures—to follow fully their own ictions—to adopt and profess whatever they deem to be the will of Christ-to alter their creed-their mode of baptism—their terms of communion-or, in short, to exercise the right of private judgment, each regulating its own discipline, offices, &c., when they are all bound, by legal instruments, to their own, or their fathers', previous interpretation, at the peril of losing their places of worship?
Under such circumstances, can the language of Mr. Morison,
We bave been informed that the Congregational Board objects to sanction chapels the deeds of which contain this clause.
and the Essex Ministers, be faithfully and honestly used?—such as their objecting to the pretended apostolic scheme, because it puts o down the spirit of inquiry:'--their saying that they expect, 'by the • careful study of the Bible, to clear its doctrines from the rust and the rubbish which the ignorance of former ages has heaped upon them;' (the trust-deeds of some of their chapels providing, 'perhaps, for the maintenance of that rubbish;) their speaking of their society as an institution, all whose preachers say, and say ' without inconsistency and without reserve, the Bible, the Bible only, is the religion of Protestants ?
To all these, however, and a thousand such questions, it will be replied—have not those who build chapels a right to prescribe the doctrines to be taught in them? Have they not a right thus to endow whatever sentiments they please ? and are they not justified, by defining in the legal deed the creed they patronize, to seek its preservation, security, and permanence ?
Their right to do it is unquestionable,—that is, so far as man is concerned. As to any responsibility to their fellow mortals, • they may do what they will with their own.' But no man, or body of men, can, in the sight of God, have a right to do wrong. If, therefore, the matter in question should be wrong, they have not a right to do it. That doubts, at least, respecting its rectitude might fairly be started, will appear from considering it for a moment, in connexion with the principle of Protestantism-the pretensions of Dissent--and the nature of Christianity.
The principle of Protestantism is the right-and what is more -the duty, of individuals and communities judging for themselves in matters of religion, and appealing directly and solely to the Scriptures. In addition to this, Protestantisın having arisen after ages
of ignorance, apostacy, and corruption, and it being therefore impossible that “the rust and the rubbish' of accumulated centuries could be got rid of at once, it is to be expected that one generation of its genuine children will improve upon another, and that successive steps will be both made and required in order to get back to all that is apostolic, and (in the language of Mr. Morison) to see the doctrines and institutions of our religion in all the brightness and beauty of their original—the brightness and beauty in which they appeared when they first 6 came from the hands of the Redeemer.'
Such is Protestantism. But is it consistent with this, for the men of one age to fix all that is to be professed and done by posterity ? as if, in the first place, their successors had not the same rights and duties with themselves; or as if, in the second, they had done every thing that required to be done, and that nothing remained, in the way either of reformation or discovery, for others to accomplish ?
But, it will be said, they do not mean this. Other generations are at liberty to think and act as they please, only, as truth is so important, and they have built their edifices for its support and propagation, they secure, by a deed, its future maintenance, and therefore make the holding of it the condition and tenure of enjoying the property.
Is this, then, consistent, either with the pretensions of Dissent, or the nature of Christianity ?
Dissent objects to all dependence of the Church on any thing whatever but argument and persuasion. It condemns the patronage of Parliaments—the attempts to support or preserve truth by law-and the conduct of that community which consents to be so circumstanced as not to be able to change its creed,' without appealing to the civil power, or giving up the advantages it possesses. All this it condemns, because the principle involved in it not only offends against truth, by placing its support on an arm of flesh, but is as likely to be applied to the cause of error; and if so, may perpetuate it, by enlisting prejudice and interest on its side, and by closing for ever, or for many generations, the eye, and the understanding, and the conscience of multitudes, to the light of evidence, the demonstrations of argument, and the voices' alike of apostles and their Lord. Do not, however, they who thus feel and speak, fall into something very similar to what they condemn, when, instead of confiding in reason and argument, they commit the keeping of the truth to law-to the civil courts—to parliamentary protection—to secular power ? They not only, by this act, appear, at least, to put more faith in force than persuasion, in man than God, - but they gratuitously surrender into the hands of the state, their own liberty and that of their children. Established churches get something for the vassalage with which Dr. Wardlaw so unanswerably upbraids them; the property they hold, on the condition of ceasing to inquire and to learn, is given to them by those who impose the conditions ; but a voluntary society, after creating for itself its sacred edifice, voluntarily surrenders both its liberty and it, and says to the state, this I have built;—thus and thus at present I
believe ;—this belief I never ought to alter ;-the Bible, and the * Bible only, has been hitherto my religion ;--that it is to be no more ;-I hereby declare that if I should profess to be taught by “the Bible to alter any thing I now acknowledge, that alteration * will certainly be error: to secure, therefore, the truth, I give 'myself, my creed, and my property, to thee ; do thou see that I
continue faithful that I endanger not, nor depart from, the ‘unquestionable verities I now enumerate ; or, if I do, punish me by ejecting me from my own building, and thus serve and save the truth by force.'
There is no exaggeration in this. When a creed is fixed, and attached to a certain building by a church, its operation is not
only to hold other generations to it, in all coming time, but to hold to it those who impose it on themselves, so that (we speak it with deep reverence) if the Spirit of God were copiously to descend upon them, and lead them into truth, and show them some great error they had established, they would have to abandon their property, in order to obey the mind of the Spirit; or to sin against the Spirit, by concealing their convictions to retain the property; or to violate the law by departing from the terms of their own deed-at once stultifying themselves and sanctioning posterity in farther departures.
Dissent always speaks of the Reformation as incomplete ; regrets that the fathers of the English Church gave permanency and immutability to the imperfect, and still corrupted and disfigured form of truth, which was all they had attained to; and it laments that all argument must necessarily be lost upon a church, the ministers of which, whatever they may think, are committed and bound to what other ages have fixed and prescribed. But is not this the direct and necessary tendency of their own conduct? Suppose there was no established church at all, but that the whole land was completely filled with Independent and Baptist chapels; that all the people were divided between them, and that they were all in trust as such chapels now are; what would be the use, in such circumstances, of carrying on the Baptist controversy! The ministers might preach, and write books,--the people might hear and read; but if either party suffered themselves to be convinced, they must do it at their cost-the minister must leave the people—the people their place. Living beings can think and be affected,-evidence and truth may operate upon them, and alter their convictions; but bricks and mortar cannot be convinced,-a piece of parchment is deaf to argument, - it has made up its mind, — and resolutely adheres to its first thoughts; it has put a certain construction on the Scriptures; and hence, whatever may be, in fact, the announcement of the Bible, and the Bible only,' and however they who are in the power of the parchment may profess to appeal to it, as long as they remain in the house regulated by the deed, and as long as the world itself, or the house, at least, stands, all others who ever possess it, must dip adults, or sprinkle sucklings, as the case may
be! It makes no matter what turn the controversy is taking out of doors. Let it be supposed that some peculiar discoveries had been made, and that it was now obvious that one of the parties was triumphantly and demonstratively right, still it would be impossible for the other to admit, acquiesce in, and act upon this, unless it abandoned all its chapels, which would be a great sacrifice; or petitioned the legislature to gire it leave to follow its convictions, and obey Christ,--which would be a greater. Until the one or the other of these things was done, the parties in