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ganic forces of society. Individual effort cannot tear away abuses, by main strength, as Samson tore away the gates of Gaza; but the reform must master individuals first, and through them penetrate society, and lay hold on these organic forces, which work with something of a divine steadiness and power. To attempt to advance Christianity, or any reform incidental to it, in neglect of this, is to subject ourselves to Luther's impetuous rebuke of those simple ones who think the heavens will fall unless they stand, all the time, and hold up its pillars. But whatever organic unity and power Christianity acquires, it must never be forgotten that its theory and its history both prove that it is the work of the Spirit regenerating individuals which produces the church, and not the church which produces the work of the Spirit and the regeneration of men; that it is the life of individuals which flows into the church, and not the life of the church which flows into individuals ; that the church was made for men, and not men for the church.
As the instrumentality, the agency, and the method of Christianity are individualizing, so also is its doctrine. It teaches that each man is of more worth than a world ; that God holds him to a personal accountability, rewarding even his idle words or the gift of a cup of cold water; that, even in his ruin, he is an object of infinite solicitude to God, manifested in the Incarnation, the Crucifixion, and the continued striving of the divine Spirit; that he is renewed by the Holy Ghost, justified by his own personal faith, admitted to free communion with God in prayer, and privileged with the constant indwelling, support, and consolation of the Spirit of God: in a word, it reveals to the Christian, with a startling distinctness, God as the God with whom he, individually, has to do.
These doctrines, applied to the various necessities of human life, are the elements of liberty and human progress. They give us, in the sphere of intellect, free inquiry and the right of private judgment, and the right of every man to read God's word; in morals, the supremacy of conscience; in society, the obligation to universal philanthropy and the duty
of striving to elevate the most degraded; and in politics, the equal and inalienable rights of man. They strike at the root of all oppression, and necessitate the inspired command: “ Honor all men."
Accordingly, a year after the crucifixion had not expired, before rulers were amazed by hearing, from prisoners arraigned before their most august courts, the announcement of that fundamental doctrine of all liberty and christian manliness, that allegiance to God takes precedence of allegiance to man; that the individual has a right of appeal to God, which no government can supersede; and an obligation to obey God, which no human law can annihilate. And it is an interest. ing fact, that an argument much urged in the early ages, by heathen writers against Christianity, was, that its principles annihilated the privileges of kings and nobles, and gave to the ignoble and servile classes equal consideration with the great. And so vital is this sentiment in the Christian doctrine and life, that even the corruptions of Christianity could scarcely eradicate it. If the priesthood became a hierarchy, yet, for centuries, access to that powerful order was open to all classes, not excepting slaves. If kings and nobles superstitiously made pilgrimages to kiss the mouldy bones of saints, they kissed, it may be, the bones of a laborer or a servant.
But, after the lapse of ages, the Romish church was fully developed. Its genius, like that of the old Roman Empire, which it succeeded, was the genius of organization ; its whole development was a steady process of sinking the individual in the organization ; and when it stood forth, in its full-grown monstrosity, it was only the full embodiment of the error, that the life of the individual flows from and is determined by the organization of which he is a part; that organic influences control and absorb individual agency. Hence the action of the individual was superseded by the action of the church. He was made a Christian by her gift of baptism and the eucharist; the prayers and sacrifices that he needed were offered, in his behalf, by her; he was admitted to no communion with God, except through her intercession ; his will, his conscience, his opinions, were in her
keeping; his whole life came to him out of the church; and thus through all Christendom, at last, was heard nought but the dismal roll of a spiritual machinery grinding, evermore, all individual life into one homogeneous pulp.
Protestantism was the reassertion of the old christian doctrine of the personality, the worth, the responsibility, and the rights of the individual. It was the reassertion of the principle that the true method of speculative theologizing and of practical endeavor begins with the recognition of man's individuality, and assigns a secondary, though not unimportant, position to his organic relations. This is the fundamental idea of Protestantism, which, however it may have failed of distinct enunciation, gives unity to the diversified manifestations of Protestantism, and makes it, wherever it appears, the religion of human progress. The very act of breaking away from the ancient church, was an assertion of this principle. The very doctrines of the Reformation were instinct with it. Luther asserted it in the doctrine of justification by faith, annihilating the very idea of salvation through the church, and bringing every man face to face with God, to be saved by his own personal faith, through his own personal regeneration by the Spirit. Calvin brought it out more fully, by the clearer assertion of the supremacy of the Scriptures above all tradition, of the right of private judg. ment, and of the doctrine of the Christian's eternal and personal election. The Puritans still further unfolded the principle, bringing out, in sharper lines, the distinction between the renewed and the unrenewed, and giving more distinctness to the individualism of all human transactions with God. The interest of the Puritans in the Old Testament, their habit of applying to themselves its descriptions of God's special care of the Israelites, and his special commissions to them; their habit of considering themselves appointed by God to do the work in which they were engaged; their habit of finding special providential interpositions, are all the legitimate, though it may be, the unintelligent, expression of the great idea of each individual's relation to God, and God's personal dealings with each individual.
With them, Protestantism found in the memorable words of John Robinson, clearer and more conscious utterance of itself as the religion of progress than ever before.
Thus possessed of a more conscious apprehension of its position and work, the New England mind has more distinctly defined, and more thoroughly vindicated the Protestant principle, and carried it out more completely in all its applications to the great doctrine of human rights, human liberty, and human development in the church, in the state, and in social life. Especially the New England Theology has concerned itself in defining and vindicating the doctrine of individual personality and responsibility; it has pruned from Protestant theology inconsistencies which have come down from the old system based on organic influences as the centre of all thought and action; it has descended into the profoundest discussions of psychology to vindicate human free-agency, and into the profoundest discussions of
1 " Brethren, we are now quickly to part from one another, and whether I may ever live to see your faces any more the God of heaven only knows; but whether the Lord has appointed that or no, I charge you before God and his blessed angels, that you follow me no farther than you have seen mc follow the Lord Jesus Christ.
“ If God reveal anything to you by any other instrument of his, be as ready to receive it as ever you were to receive any truth by my ministry; for I am verily persuaded that the Lord has more truth yet to break forth out of his holy word. For my part I cannot sufficiently bewail the condition of the reformed churches, who are come to a period in religion, and will go at present no farther than the instruments of their reformation. The Lutherans cannot be drawn to go beyond what Luther saw; whatever part of his will our God has revealed to Calvin, they will die rather than embrace it; and the Calvinists, you see, stick fast where they were left by that great man of God, who yet saw not all things.
" This is a misery much to be lamented; for though they were burning and shining lights in their times, yet they penetrated not into the whole counsel of God, but, were they now living, would be as willing to embrace further light as that which they first received. I beseech you to remember, it is an article of your church covenant, that you be ready to receive whatever truth shall be made known to you from the written word of God. Remember that and every other article of your sacred covenant. But I must herewithal exhort you to take heed what you receive as truth, examine it, consider it, and compare it with other scriptures of truth, before you receive it; for it is not possible the Christian world should come so lately out of such thick antichristian darkness, and that perfection of knowledge should break forth at once." - Neal's Puritans, Vol. II. page 146.
ethics to define the nature of virtue. It is the legitimate, and as yet, the most complete utterance of the central idea of Protestantism. If it has been charged with being metaphysical rather than Scriptural, and ethical rather than theo. logical, it has incurred these charges only in defence and development of the essential principle of Protestant theology; only because these metaphysical and ethical discussions were necessary to demonstrate the grounds of man's personality, responsibility, dignity and rights, and thus to vindicate the doctrine of man's direct and personal relations to God, the justice of his condemnation as a sinner, the propriety of free offers of salvation to all, and the consistency of the doctrine of justification by faith. If it has been charged with an inclination to rationalism, it is only because it insists on seeing the reason of its faith. If it is charged with innovation and heresy, it is only because it makes Protestantism consistent with its own fundamental principle. If it demands distinctly defined conversions, and delights in special revivals and remarkable providences, it is because it thoroughly believes and earnestly teaches that God is a God “with whom we have to do.” If it meddles with politics, it is because it knows itself to be the guardian of human rights. If it easily runs into reforms, it is because its whole life is the development of the essential principle of human progress. If it is not preöminently churchly, it is because its vital principle makes Ecclesiasticism impossible, because it believes that the church comes from God's Spirit, and not the Spirit from the church; that the principle of church unity and development is the continual presence of God's Spirit regenerating men to be its members and calling men to be its ministers. — “Successio Spiritus Dei, doctrinæ et ministerii divini."
Christianity then recognizes the true principle of human progress and assigns to it its proper position. The great work of Protestantism has been the reassertion of this principle and the restoration of it to its proper preeminence. Accordingly, the whole course of Protestantism has been marked by awakening the mind to activity, by developing