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Superstitious adherence to Rites.
open his mouth in the great congregation, and urge the unbelieving to accept the gospel, he is but an intruder into the sacred office; and, instead of the approbation of Heaven, he has only to expect the fate of Uzzah, for boldly presuming to touch the ark of God with unconsecrated hands. Thus formalism ejects from the pulpit all who have not been episcopally ordained, and utters against them her condemning anathema. And not only does she discharge from the ministry all who have not come into the office through the door of an episcopal ordination, but she also disbands and turns over to the world all the churches not formed precisely upon her model. All their members are still out of the pale of the church, and have no part nor lot in the covenant mercy of God. They may be born of the Spirit, exercise ardent love to God, and filial faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, openly profess their Christian hope, and unite with a company of believers for mutual improvement; but if they do not come to the confessional and receive absolution; if they are not episcopally confirmed, and baptized by an accredited minister of the church, and acknowledge subjection to its pontifical head, they are not members of the body of Christ, and have no share in the covenant promises of God; and, out of the church, formalism holds there is no salvation. Her doctrine is,
except ye be circumcised and keep the law, i. e. observe the outward rites of the church, ye cannot be saved.” We will refer to one more fact, evidencing the exclusive nature of formalism, and that too when it gains a partial power over even good men. There are protestant Christians who even maintain not only that baptism is necessary to church communion, but baptism in one particular form. They hold that those only who have been plunged entirely under water, and that too by one who has been himself immersed, have a right to a seat at the table of Christ. An internal cleansing is not sufficient; an outward application of water to signify this internal cleansing, is not sufficient; they would have just so much water applied, enough to cover the whole body. They contend not for the spirit nor the form, but for the form of the form ; not for the substance nor the shadow, but for the shade of the shadow; not for the purified heart, nor the outward rite which typifies it, but for the mode of the rite. This is, indeed, tithing the mint, anise, and cummin, and neglecting the weightier matters of the law. They make not merely the rite of baptism, but a peculiar form of the rite, necessary to church fellowship. They require, as a condition of coinmunion, not only the water of baptism, but a certain amount of water, enough to cover the whole body. The question whether or not they shall commune with a man, is not so much, Has he been spiritually cleansed, or, Has he had water applied in the name of the Trinity ; but, Has he had water enough applied to cover him all over ; for only so much, as they appear to think, will signify moral purification. They seem not to know that " he that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit.” They can commune, as they know they do, with those not purified in heart, who have been immersed; but they cannot sit at the communion table even with the pure in heart who lack immersion. A man may be washed in atoning blood, and have clean water applied to typify the washing of regeneration; but if he has not been washed all over, in the material water of baptism, if a hand or foot has not felt the baptismal element, he must have the table of the Lord barred against him as an unworthy communicant. Our Baptist brethren are not all of them fully emancipated as yet from the bondage to form. We do not blame them for contending for baptism by immersion, but we are grieved to see them lay so much stress on the mere form of a form, the mode of a rite, the manner of signifying inward purification. There is, indeed, in that denomination, a growing spirit of emancipation from this yoke of bondage : many of the members of her communion, some of her ablest and noblest leaders, are casting indignantly away the shackles of form, fixing their eyes on the spiritual element of religion, and elevating that to the chief place in their regard. And they stand ready now, just as they hope to do in heaven, to embrace in the arms of an open charity and communion, all who possess the principle of spiritual life. God speed the day when the catholic spirit, which is now animating the hearts of so many of her mighty men, shall be diffused through the entire rank and file of her great army.
We have said that bigotry accompanies formalism. And no wonder it is so ; for when the outward is inade supreme, it is easy to feel that every rite and ceremony of the church is absolutely necessary to the salvation of the soul. And if so, why should she, how could she, extend the mantle of charity over those who will not perform them? She must, if possible, force a conformity in things which can easily be performed by all. Hence her bigotry naturally assumes the form of persecution. And why should she not force a man to do what will save his soul? Why not make him, if need be, suffer a little in time, and thus save him and others from far severer sufferings through eternity ? So she reasons and thus excuses, nay even applauds herself for all the tears and blood she causes to flow. It is no part of her system to employ argument and attempt to convince the erring. Arguments appeal to the spiritual part of man, and belong to a spiritual religion. But the weapons of her warfare are not spiritual, they are carnal. She em1849.] Formalism needs the Temporal Power.
741 ploys the material fire and sword to compel an outward conformity to her system. The inward faith she deems of comparatively little moment; the outward profession of belief is enough, whether the conscience accompanies and approves it or not. She overlooks or utterly disregards the conscience. She forces an external conformity to her rites, regardless of the internal belief. And why not, if, as she maintains, the external is supreme? It belongs to spiritualism to elevate and improve the conscience; and she has nobly done her duty in this · regard. She has elevated the conscience to its proper place in religion. She has made it superior to the laws of monarchs, the decrees of councils, and the bulls of popes. Sustained by conscience, her sons and daughters have cheerfully borne the cross and met the flames. Daniel, with conscience on his side, cared neither for the king nor his hungry lions. Cranmer, Latimer, Ridley, and a host of others, while they acted out boldly the decisions of conscience, heeded neither the threats of their enemies nor the power of the flames.
Spiritualism always works thus by an energy from within, acting outwardly, and prompting to any efforts or sufferings for what she deems the cause of truth. The spirit within constrains her; and, under this constraint, the labors and pains of the body are made of no account. They are borne but not felt. On the other hand, externalism always works froin without, and thus makes her way inward. She uses the dungeon and rack to rectify the faith of her children. She uses the relics of antiquity, the pretended bones, blood, and garments of apostles and martyrs, to beget reverence for the good, a reverence which always degenerates into blind superstition. And governing her faith thus by outward means, and defending and spreading it by the sword, she needs either the aid or possession of temporal power. Hence she has always courted an alliance with the State, and looked with longing eyes at the purple robe and the executive sword. On the other hand, spiritualism meekly says, “my kingdom is not of this world. I indeed hold authority. I am a king and possess a throne. But my government is a spiritual one. My law is the law of love. The sanctions of my law are moral. The force I use is the power of argument and truth, and my subjects all serve me in spirit and in truth. Formalism has no sympathy with such a kingdom, no wish to hold such an one. She asks for an earthly crown and a sword of State. She needs them to enforce her doctrines and prevent schism. She needs them to repress thought and compel her children to receive, without question, her dogmas and decrees. She needs them as a compulsory power for collecting her tythes and filling her treasury. Without the arm of the law, she fears that she shall be left to starve in penury. She cannot
trust the power of affection; she must have also the power of the sword. Spiritualism acts on a different, a voluntary principle. She asks no compulsory support. She trusts, for a livelihood, to the spontaneous promptings of that spirit of love on which her system is based. She asks the civil power only to protect her and let her alone ; and then she will support herself and the government too if it be a good one and worth sustaining. Her principles and morality are the underground basis, the solid rock, unseen by the common eye, on which the fabric of the civil government rests secure.
Remove them, and only a foundation of sand would remain; and, when political storins arise and beat on the civil fabric, it would fall with a fearful ruin. She keeps, indeed, no fellowship with injustice, or oppression, or tyranny; but she is the upholding basis of all equitable governments. Formalism is ready enough to lend her aid to despotism. She supports the State, and the State, in return, compels its subjects to pay tythes and conform to the established church. So is it now in Russia; so is it, too, in England, where the church and State have formed an unholy alliance and sworn to sustain each other. The Greek church in Russia has almost no spirituality. It is but an appendage and prop of a despotic government. In England, the spiritual element has been nearly exiled from the established church and has sought an asylum among the dissenters, and lived outlawed and persecuted. But it lives and thrives, and is gaining a giant strength which it will, ere long, use for sundering the iron bands of connection between the hierarchy and that aristocratic and oppressive government. Let her mitred bishops imprison a few more Shores, and the sleeping lion of England will awake and shake his mane and utter a roar that will spread terror in both cathedral and palace. Formalism always loves power : not content with ruling the church, she aims also at ruling the State. She did rule it, with a despotic hand, in the times of Hildebrand (Gregory VII.) and his immediate successors, who disposed of crowns at their pleasure, and had kings and princes for their servants. But when the civil power has been too strong for her, and civil rulers unsubmissive and intractable, she has still courted an alliance, and consented to be the pander of the State, the adjunct and servant of the government. So is it now in England and in most of the nations of Europe. The church is degraded from the lofty eminence which she ought to hold as a servant of God, a supporter and defender of divine truth and a censor of public morals, to the place of a fawning sycophant and cringing slave. In fact, when united with the State, she naturally becomes either master or servant. Neither the church nor State will, any more than the sun in the firma1849.]
Formalism opposed to true Progress.
ment, endure an equal and a rival. When united, the one ever has been and must be the master, and the other the slave. In the eleventh century, the church was all powerful, and the State was in servitude. In the nineteenth, the two have changed places.
The State commands and the church obeys. Nor is this the only evil of a union of church and State. It is generally attended with a loss of the catholic spirit, or spirit of universality, which properly belongs to the church of Christ. Religion is for man, for the whole human family, not for one particular State or nation; and so spiritualisin teaches, which requires faith of her children; a faith that may be exercised by an individual, by every individual, but not by a province or kingdom. She begins with an individual ; but she is expansive and universal, embracing all mankind. She forms a kingdom of her own, a confederation of all believers in all lands; and claims the right to inherit the earth. She stops not with an individual, or a State, or empire, but assumes the work of evangelizing all nations. Her spirit of love is hemmed in by no national lines ; she confines her benevolent efforts within no parallels of latitude or longitude; her sympathies and efforts are coëxtensive with the ruins of the apostasy and the habitations of man. But the natural effect of a connection with the State is to limit her efforts to the country with which she is allied. It destroys her character of universality; it narrows her purposes and plans, and kills her spirit of aggressive evangelization. She may still compass sea and land to make proselytes, as did the ancient Jews; but it is all done for the glory of Judea, that Jerusalem may be the chief city of the world. The Lutheran church, but for her connection with the State, would have redeemed Germany, and Europe even, from the dominion of Rome. She had the means and the power to do it; but she lost the will, when she threw herself into the palsying embrace of the State. She had a vital energy, which would have renovated Europe; but she became the adopted child of princes, and heir to a few electorates and dukedoms, and forgot that she was the child of God and heir of the world. And so she lost, by degrees, her diffusive spirit of universal philanthropy, and has now degenerated, in some places, into a dead formalism; and, in others, into a heartless rationalism; results, one or both of which generally follow the marriage of the crown with the mitre.
5. Another hurtful influence of formalism is her resistance to the progress of the human race. She venerates the ancient; she has her unchangeable and time-honored usages, by which she is moored fast in her place. She cannot move forward; she knows nothing of progress; she has expunged the word from her vocabulary; she fears