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After the Reformation, the same principle reasserted itself. The church was organized as an association of persons, and with the recognition of personal rights. The principle passed from the church into the state. Geneva became "the seedplot of liberty." Subsequently the Puritan churches more completely transferred the principle of their own organization into the Puritan state.
Thus the principle of the organization of the church, as an association of persons united in the fellowship of a common life, common interests and ends, and a common law, went out into human thinking, and became a power in civilization, loosing the bond of race and force with which society had been bound by Satan, bowed down and nowise able to lift up itself during all the centuries. The state is no longer a race united by common descent, and holding down subject races by force; but it is a people, of whatever locality, united by common interests under law; and the jurisprudence of Christendom assumes that government, whatever its form, rests ultimately on the consent of the people. Even the doctrine of the "social contract," elaborated by the Jesuit Suarez, taught by Locke, Sidney, and Rousseau, and terribly declared in the first French Revolution, is a recognition and distorted expression of this truth.
Perhaps it may not be going too far to say that the constitution of the church as an association of regenerate persons has furnished an important principle of political and social progress. It is in antagonism to the heathen conception, which regards the man as subordinate to his institutions, and which looks primarily to a change of institutions for the improvement of the man. The same is the error of modern "socialism." In opposition to this error, the church embodies the principle, which all experience veri
Therefore, if the rulers have not the right to rule, but are usurpers, or if rulers require what is unjust, their subjects are not bound to obey them, unless perhaps, in exceptional cases to avoid scandal or danger." In confirmation he quotes Augustine (De Civitate Dei, Lib. iv. Cap. 4). "Aside from justice, what are kingly governments but great robberies.". Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, Second Division of Part ii. Quest. 104, Art. 6.
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fies, that the only real progress of society consists in the actual improvement of the individuals composing society. A strong and virtuous people insure a strong and just govern
The second maxim: "Where the church is, there is the Spirit," gives the contrary conclusions. The child is reregenerated in baptism by the opus operatum of the church in its behalf. It is thus born into the church, and thenceforward governed by enforced authority. If afterwards the baptized person deviates from the faith, or disobeys the commands of the church, he is subject to inquisitorial torments and death. Thus the old principle of despotism becomes the principle of the church itself; and the power which was working to redeem the world becomes imprisoned in an iron arm that smites and kills.
III. The Church as an Organization is Subordinate to the Life.
1. The organization is the outgrowth of the life.
Man, by virtue of his rationality, is an organizer. As God expresses his thoughts in worlds and systems, man expresses his thoughts in cities, states, institutions. It is man who forms his institutions, not the institutions which form the man. So Christian faith and love create Christian institutions. The new Christian life displaces the old, and creates all things new. The church, as an organization, is the outgrowth of the life. It may be said to be the organization of the life, as the mustard-plant is the organization of the life of the mustard-seed.
2. The organization exists for the ends or purposes of the life.
The conception is of spiritual persons united in fellowship by their oneness with Christ for the purpose of mutual edification and helpfulness in Christian life and work. This principle is determinant of the constitution of a church. It is incompatible with the conception of a church that it should
absorb the individual in the society, or by its organization come down on him to suppress or crush his personality. The conception of a church requires that its organization and its organic action emphasize and develop the individual personality. It exists for the very purpose of subserving the spiritual life, growth, and power of its members. It must not be, therefore, an organization so massive as to oppress the life, but so consonant with the life as to help it, as a trellis sustains and helps the vine.
Accordingly the growth, power, and prosperity of a church are proportional to the degree in which it calls out its individual members to spiritual life and activity. If it becomes only a receptacle, taking in and holding its members as dead things, it is thenceforth only a whited sepulchre, full of dead men's bones.
3. The church is not mediatorial. It does not stand between man and God, to bring the divine blessing from heaven by its sacraments and the opus operatum of its service.
The subordination of the organization to the life necessarily involves the three characteristics just mentioned, and is a necessary inference from the principle: "Where the Spirit is, there is the church."
From the church this idea of the subordination of organization to the life has penetrated human thought respecting political and social institutions. When Christ came, the iniquity of the world was full. As at that time religious faith was withered, and scepticism had attained its greatest power and widest dominion, so the principle of government by force had reached in the Roman empire its consummation. The Western nations were ruled under military despotism by the will of one man, and held in his hand for his own personal use and enjoyment. The people, educated through many generations under the reign of force, had lost the capacity of refinement of feeling and the enjoyment of the gentle and kindly emotions, which were displaced by
ferocity and blood-thirstiness, so that even theatrical spectacles were insipid if not spectacles of blood.
In the midst of this civilization the Christian church appears, like a dewdrop, distilling silent and unseen from the air. It makes no direct assault on existing institutions. Not claiming the sword, which rightfully belongs to the civil ruler, it can only stand in the presence of the great organizations embodying the power of the strongest, and let its presence do its work, educating the world to understand that institutions are the outgrowth of human thought and life, and that they can never be right and salutary till they embody truth, justice, and love, and not selfishness grasping and ruling by force. It introduced Christian charity as a power in civilization. It taught men self-sacrifice in service. The Roman slavery passed away before it. At last thre conception embodied in the Christian church when it first stood in the civilization of the Roman empire, like a dewdrop trembling on a leaf, has created a new conception of political and social institutions and a new civilization. Man is no longer regarded as existing for institutions forced upon him; but institutions exist for man, and are the creation of his thought and life. In like manner, the church has educated man to the true method of securing the progress of man and the reorganization of society. It is not by immediately assailing institutions, as if a change of institutions would recreate the man; but by new creating the man, that he may cast away institutions no longer fitting him, and create new.
It has been the great mistake in the education of the race to believe that there is no safety for man except as by external and superior power he is restrained and constrained, and institutions and rules are framed and put on him, into conformity with which his thought and life must grow. But the words of Milton are always true:
"Who overcomes By force, hath overcome but half his foe."
There is no real progress, except as men accept truth on conviction, conform their lives to it in Christian love, and
freely embody their Christian thought and love in institutions. This is the truth evermore embodied and expressed in the Christian church. Fearful forebodings agitate some minds, whether republican government will not prove a failure, and men are discussing what will be the political constitution of the future. But all experience is teaching and emphasizing the doctrine of Christianity, that the true order of human advancement is from the individual to the organic, and not the reverse; and that the grand requisite is to educate the people in knowledge and true piety. An ignorant, selfish, irreligious people will fail under any government. An intelligent and Christian people cannot miss a wise and beneficent government.
All this is reversed by the other maxim: "Where the church is, there is the Spirit." It gives us the organization first, the life created by and flowing from it; the organization externally and authoritatively established, and externally and authoritatively imposed on men, cramping, confining, crushing them to its own rigid form; the individual existing for the organization, and to be used for its purposes. It makes the church as an organization the mediator between God and man. The Spirit of God and his redeeming grace are communicated only through it. The sinner cannot come to God, nor God to the sinner, except through it. Thus the church takes up into itself the principles of heathen civilization, which exalts the organization above individuals, and loses them in the homogeneous pulp into which it grinds them. The church becomes a spiritual despotism, which suppresses the liberty wherewith Christ maketh free, dries up the springs of spiritual life, whence the freedom of man must flow, and perverts the authority of God and the sanctions of the world unseen to uphold oppression.
It is a curious fact in the history of the hierarchy that the inextinguishable truths of Christianity find utterance in it, but in perverted and monstrous forms. For example, the hierarchical church denied the doctrine of the divine right