Page images

zeal! The missionary, no matter the sex or sphere, is entitled to occupy the preeminence of disinterestedness and philanthropy. Who can grudge to such the meed of grateful and generous applause ? How truly may we apply to them the language of a philosophic writer! “If I am asked, who is the greatest man, I answer, the best; and if I am required to say who is the best, I reply, he that has deserved most of his fellow-creatures.”—From an Essay on Missions, by the Rev. Richard Winter Hamilton.



INDEPENDENTS. Congregational principles have flourished or declined in proportion to the prosperity or decay of real christianity. In the early days of the church, their perfect adaptation to all the developments of social piety was beautifully displayed. During the long night of papal rule, when the glory of the religion of Jesus Christ was obscured, nothing can be traced of their existence beyond a faint recognition by the persecuted church in the wilderness.

With the revival of religion came the revival of our principles. Passing over for the present their spread on the continent of Europe, let us glance at England. “Two centuries ago," says Dr. Vaughan, congregationalism could make mention of knights and nobles, of some of the greatest names in literature and in arms, and of not a few among the most intelligent and wealthy in the middle class, as giving to it their honest preference before all the systems of that age. The most interesting space, beyond all comparison, in the history of British intellect,

space between 1640 and 1660; but the true manhood of these memorable times was clearly the manhood of English Independency.” A time of darkness followed. Under the Stuarts, profligacy reigned, and godliness declined. Independency shared the lot of christianity.

Since that period, with the advancement of religion, liberty, and intelligence, how glorious has been the progress of the simple and sublime principles of Independency. Verily the blessing of God has been upon them. From the insignificant


was the


number of twelve or fourteen ministers and churches, the congregationalists (including Baptists and Independents) now number nearly four thousand.

Fifty years ago the simplest allusion to the spirituality of the kingdom of Christ, the sufficiency of the scriptures, the exclusive right of Christ to reign over his own church, or the voluntary support of christianity, would have been laughed to At the present day these grand fundamental doctrines are not only practically shown forth in the thousands of congregational churches, in all their excellency and vigour, but they form the theme of discussion with civil and ecclesiastical rulers, they are involved, more or less, in what are called the great questions of the day, and supply topics of the deepest interest to the leading and popular journalists of the age.

The mightily augmented power wielded by the friends of congregationalism affords matter for grateful reflection. Amidst all our defects, our internal divisions, our just causes for the reproach of our enemies, it is plain to all who survey the subject with an impartial eye, that the congregationalists of the world are achieving, under God, by their various institutions, a far greater amount of spiritual good to mankind than all other christians put together. We speak advisedly. Let every reader examine the subject for himself and decide.

Founded as our principles are upon the word of God, and handed down to us as a precious legacy by our noble forefathers, wh sealed them with their blood; let us rejoice, dear young friends, thus to witness their advancement, and let our hearts glow with holy joy whilst we look upon this as the pledge that they are destined under God to rule the world. But, amidst our rejoicing, let us be mindful that never were our principles met by a more determined or more systematic opposition than at this day. They are despised but imitated. Let us feel, however, as Dr. Vaughan would have us feel.

“We are content,” to be despised, so we may instruct. We are willing to be accounted weak, so we may impart salutary counsel to the strong. We can even bear with men who heap insult upon our persons, so they adopt our principles."

Viewing then the aspect of the times, and the present position of congregationalism, what is required but that the rising race of Independents may rightly understand their duties, and in the

he says,


spirit of their venerated forefathers, nay, in the spirit of the Great Founder of congregationalism, the King of Zion himself, carry out these principles in all their purity and power. Be it our high privilege, as it is our aim, to stimulate them to this noble enterprize. Dear young friends, apply yourselves to this work with a zeal worthy of the cause. Examine for yourselves the scriptural foundation on which your principles stand. Be thoroughly indoctrinated with them. Familiarize yourselves with the history of these principles, and see how eminently they have “ been conservative of the great vitalities of our holy religion.” Converse much with the holy and noble-minded fathers of Independency, till you breathe their love of religion and religious liberty, till you are baptized with their spirit. Consider how much, under Providence, the future progress of Independency depends on the piety of its advocates, and on their intelligent acquaintance with their own principles, and then ask yourselves whether

you have ever realized how solemn and momentous are your obligations to give yourselves to the study of these things, that you may act worthy of your principles, worthy of your denomination, worthy of your age.

ADVANTAGES OF CHRISTIAN FELLOWSHIP. For christians to join themselves in particular societies or congregations, in order to carry on the great interests of religion, appears to be both a duty and a privilege. It stands upon jusi foundations as a duty, and as a privilege it is attended with excellent advantages. We propose now to show some of the advantages of such an agreement for christian fellowship.

1. It gives courage to every christian to profess and practise his religion, when many persons are engaged by mutual agreement in the same profession and practice. We do not love to be singular, and to be pointed out by the world as standing and acting alone, especially in the affairs of God and religion; but when a good company unite themselves together for such a sacred purpose, this takes away the reproach of singularity; they all strengthen one another's hands in the ways of the Lord, and they bear up with more firmness of heart against the reproaches of the world.

2. It is more for the particular edification of christians, that such societies should be formed, where the word of Christ is constantly preached, where the ordinances of Christ are administered, and the religion of Christ is held forth in a social and honourable manner to the world. Hereby every christian knows where to go to hear the gospel preached, and multitudes are instructed at once in the great things that relate to their eternal peace. Hereby those who have known the things of Christ more easily call to mind what they have learned, and are admonished of their daily duty by the public preacher. Here their prayers are united, and their songs of praise, and such a union of prayers and praises is delightful and acceptable to him who inhabits the praises of Israel, and who has encouraged them to agree in asking mercies from God, and to strive together in prayer. United devotions are much more likely to obtain


3. Such a holy fellowship and agreement to walk together in the ways of Christ, is a happy guard against backsliding and apostacy; it is a defence against the temptations of the world, and the defilements of a sinful age. Having given my name up to Christ in a public manner, how shall I dare to renounce him ? Having joined myself to the followers of Christ, how shall I break those bonds, and depart from them, or disgrace that holy fellowship by any known sin? Having made a public profession of my avowed obedience to Jesus as a Lord and a King, how can I dare decline his service, or indulge myself in those iniquities which his gospel forbids ?

4. Christians thus united together by mutual acquaintance and agreement, can give each other better assistance in every thing that relates to religion, whether public or private. They warm one another's hearts by mutual holy conversation; they support one another when ready to fall, and raise and restore those that are fallen in a spirit of meekness; Gal. vi. 1. But as Solomon warns us, “ Woe to him that falls while he walks alone, who shall help him up? Or how can one be warm alone ?” Eccles. iv. 10. Hand joining in hand adds force and strength, assistance and stability, to any purpose or design whatsoever; and frequent meeting together gives fellow christians opportunity of exhorting one another to maintain their common christianity, as in Heb. x. 25 : “ Forsake not the assembling of yourselves together, but exhort one another, and provoke one another to love and to good works.” Christians, when they come to mutual acquaintance and agreements of this kind, they afford better help to one another, when under difficulties, by advice, and under sorrows they relieve each other by christian consolation and social prayers. They afford greater aid and strength to each other against temptations and dangers, because they are better informed of each other's circumstances and tempers. They know one another's wants and weaknesses more, they pity one another with more tenderness, and they guard each other against the common injuries and insults of men. Happy the persons who are thus united in the fellowship of the gospel, and who, by practising these duties, and communicating and enjoying these advantages, cast a glory upon the gospel of Christ.

How beautiful is the order of the gospel, and the fellowship of a christian church! How strong and plain are the foundations, and the grounds of it! It is built on eternal reason, and the relation of things, as well as on the word of God. How happy it is, that the very light of nature dictates to christians far the greatest part of those duties which church fellowship requires, supposing still that the revealed doctrines and sacraments of christianity are first known and acknowledged. The peculiar positive prescriptions relating to christian churches are but few; whereas the general duties are such as reason and the light of nature seem to propose and approve in all voluntary religious societies whatsoever. If a deist, who professes nothing but natural religion, once came so far as to receive the christian faith, and the sacraments, his reason would lead him into almost all the parts of christian communion which I have described. It is the evil mixture of the needless and fanciful 'inventions of men, with the plain and common dictates of the light of nature and scripture, in public religion, and the imposition of these things upon conscience, that has been the disgrace and ruin of many christian churches, and is a high misdemeanour against Christ, who is the Lord and King of his church. Reason and revelation are the only principles of his religion, and of the government of his kingdom.

How little do they value the true interests of the christian religion, the public honour of Christ and his gospel, or the edification and comfort of their own souls, who neglect this holy

« PreviousContinue »