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Christian churches throughout the world in the unity of the Spirit, without impinging on their Christian freedom.

Other methods, more complicated and imposing, may be adopted without contravening the fundamental principle of the ecclesiastical constitution. The Presbyterian church, for example, may be conceived of in this way. Its presbyteries, synods, and general assembly may be conceived of as agencies for ascertaining and declaring the fellowship, and for making effective the union and co-operation of the local churches. But this method is too complicated and cumbersome to become ecumenical; it issues in a continual cleavage into sections, even when it aims only to be national. And the very weight of the machinery perpetually tends to a unity of organization in which the local churches lose. their distinct existence.1

The Congregational method is to be preferred, because it is most accordant with the primitive simplicity of the communion of the apostolic churches; because it is most consonant with the scriptural idea that the church in every generation is the creation of the living Spirit, and is to preserve its purity by the sensitiveness and discernment of spiritual life; and because it alone is adequate to secure an ecumenical unity of churches, without extinguishing the local church, or repressing individual life and liberty.

5. The Christian church is necessarily catholic. It is in fellowship with all churches in which is the spiritual life. It acknowledges as a Christian church every association of regenerate persons who are united by their own free covenant in Christian fellowship for the purpose of edification and co-operation in the Christian life and work, whatever be the

1 Accordingly, while the text of the Presbyterian "Form of Government" acknowledges the local church, a note authoritatively explains that "the several congregations of believers taken collectively constitute one church of Christ, called emphatically the church"; and that the government of that one church is by the majority of its representatives in Presbytery, Synod, and General Assembly (Chap. xii. and note). And the Confession of Faith (Chap. xxx.), declares that the government of the church is "in the hand of church-officers," to whom, and not to the church, "the keys of the kingdom of heaven are committed."

particular form of their union, and however encumbered with human accretions. As in a crystal, however peculiar its shape, we find by cleavage the primitive form, and by that determine its kind, so into whatever form the church, modified by peculiar circumstances, has grown, if underneath we find the primitive, apostolic church, by that we recognize it as a true church. Thus the Congregational church is essentially and necessarily undenominational, catholic, and Christian. It cannot acknowledge as a church a national or ecumenical organization, the synod, assembly, convention, or whatever may be the complicated machinery by which local churches seek concentration and more imposing union. It cannot acknowledge its own council or conference as a church. But in any organization, national or ecumenical, in any association of churches, however confederated, it acknowledges the local churches which are thus united. The Congregational is the primitive, apostolical church. It takes into its constitution only the essential elements of the church. Christ did not institute this apostolic church as a denomination, but as the Christian church, to be in fellowship with Christian churches everywhere. It is in its very constitution catholic. All who insist that human accretions on this simple form are essential to the church-who set up their national or ecumenical organization as the church, and refuse fellowship to the church in its simple and primitive form-are guilty of schism.

V. The Continuity of Christ's Kingdom in History is the Continuity of the Spirit and Life, rather than of the Organization.

The tendency in investigating religion is now to the historic method. The rationalism which develops religion from the personal consciousness, and resolves Christianity into philosophy and ethics, is congenial to an age of metaphysical speculation, and belongs to a period and type of thinking which is now passing away. The profoundest thought and

scholarship of the day investigate religion historically. But the history of Christianity did not end with the events recorded in the New Testament. The redeeming grace, working in humanity, creates for itself a continuous history. The apologists for Christianity are not to confine themselves to the evidences of the credibility and genuineness of the Bible used by the apologists of the last century. The argument now must take a wider range. It must show Christianity as a power in human history, evolving a system of truth the most satisfactory to human reason as an exposition of the relations of God and man, and effecting a process of renovation of individuals and of society, and a Christianizing of civilization, which, if completed, will realize the highest well-being of man. Christianity, in what it has accomplished, tends to accomplish, and promises to perfect, proves itself divine. When, in some future age, the Christian idea of the kingdom of God shall be realized in society, and it shall be seen, in tracing the history of Christianity, that from the beginning it had promised this result, and tended towards it, then Christianity will have wrought into history a demonstration of its divine origin.

What I now say is, that the continuity of this historical manifestation, so far as it has yet proceeded, is found in the spirit and the life, rather than in the outward organization.

1. The organization is itself an expression of the life. The church, as an organization distinct from the family and the state, is a peculiarity of Christianity. The Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians, the Mahometans, Boodhists, and Brahmins, have a religion, but not a church. The very existence of a church, separated from the world by fellowship in a new and spiritual life, and distinct from the state, is a peculiar and remarkable manifestation of the divine life. in humanity. Recall the characteristics of this organization, the new principles embodied in it, the revolution in human institutions wrought by it, and you will see that the organization itself is a wonderful exponent of the divine and renovating life of the Spirit working in humanity.

2. The organization itself has a continuity that is historical. Man organizes his thought and life in institutions. He is liable, therefore, to take up into the church the ideas and spirit of the age in which he lives, and thus to encumber it with accretions of human origin. But the overlaying of the church with these accretions, does not destroy it. The Lord, who knoweth them who are his, has owned every association of devout and spiritual worshippers as a church. Thus the church, even as an organization, has had historical continuity. It was, indeed, at times, a hidden church,the real churches not even knowing themselves as such,yet not the less real. When the Romanist asks: "Where was your church before the Reformation?" the answer is ready: "It was wherever those whom the Spirit had renewed were associated in spiritual fellowship; according to the words of Jesus: Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.""

3. But this continuity is through the Spirit, more than through the organization. If the church is constituted according to the maxim, "Where the church is, there is the Spirit," then the divine action in redemption culminated in setting up a massive organization, in which the Spirit is imprisoned, like a bird in a cage, and which is to stand unchanged through all generations; salvation is only in it, and all that is done in it is Christ's doing. Then the history of Christianity is the history of this organization; Christianity is responsible for its corruptions; the history of Christianity becomes the history of intolerance, persecution, corruption, oppression, and opposition to human progress; and history becomes a perpetual refutation of the claim of Christianity to be from God.

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We cannot accept this fatal doctrine. The church of today is not one with the apostolic churches by the line of apostolical succession, stretching without a break through the dark ages, like the electric wire beneath the ocean, and transmitting the life of Christ only by the completeness of the tactual connection. The historical continuity of the

church, even as an organization, is the continuity of the life, always quickened by the Spirit and organizing itself in the church. The institution is not perpetuated by the tenacity of the organization, cohering as it stretches through the centuries, but by the organizing force of the inward life; as an animal body is not perpetuated by the coherence of its material, which is always passing away, but by the indwelling and ever-organizing vital force.

Therefore Christianity is not responsible for the abuses which have dishonored the history of ecclesiastical organizations.

4. While the church, in its historical continuity as an organization, manifests in history the continuous presence of God's redeeming grace and of his kingdom, that manifestation extends beyond the church in purifying and transforming society. This is like the diffused daylight, filling the atmosphere, which more than the sun's direct rays manifests his light. This manifestation is in the clearer and more complete system of doctrine evolved by the thought and life of the advancing ages; in the broader, clearer, and more spiritual ethics; in the higher tone of the moral life; in political institutions founded on justice and human rights; in the pre-eminence of philanthropy; in the creation of a Christian civilization.

5. The historical continuity is such that the present is always evolved from the past. While the Christian church does not, by an organization taking precedence of the Spirit, impose the past as an unchangeable mould on the present, yet it does not cut the present adrift from the past. While the unity is of the Spirit, yet it is the same Spirit, advancing always the same truth and life, meeting with the same redeeming grace the corruptions and perversions of humanity in the diverse forms in which in different ages they appear, and setting up the same kingdom of righteousness on earth. As in the individual "the child is father of the man," so in the life of the church the present is the offspring of the past.

This may be illustrated in the Romish and the Protestant doctrines of tradition. Tradition, in its primitive form, was

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