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as any other member; the government is denominated strictly congregational. And be the church ever so few in number, or ever so much at variance among themselves, there is no remedy, exceptit come from themselves. They may contend for years, two against two, or three against three, without a prospect of peace. Being plunged deep in difficulty, the parties sometimes consent to a mutual council. A venerable council is con. vened, consisting (in many cases) of more and wiser men than the whole church that called them and they come from out of the reach of every bias or prejudice. They are considered, by all parties, as men of talents, and of enlarged views; men of integrity and ardent piety. They hear and labour night and day with many tears and prayers. They make out a result
, wbich is conmunicated with much solemn advice and exhortation. But, unfortunately for both, and all parties, this venerable council, the best situated and qualified of all men to hear and judge and decide, is totally void of power. The result goes to the church, and there it is rejected. The council retire with grief and mortification, leaving the church in a worse predicament than they found them. Now they are ripe for an ex parte council ; and when and how will the troubles end ? Nothing can safely be decided.
“ If, instead of multiplying councils, evidently selected for party purposes, the churches would unite, and covenant together to become one body, of many members, instead of many bodies of few members ; the work of discipline would be easy, correct, and efficacious ; and this was exactly the form of all the apostolical churches. The church of Jerusalem consisted of one body and many members. It consisted of above five thousand men; how many women and children we know not. But they were all one body, under the pastoral care of many elders. Such were all the apostolical churches. They were one united body,' under the care of a suitable number of elders, called the Presbytery. The church in every city or district was a completely organized Consociation. This venerable body of elders, together with delegates from all the churches, has always possessed the right of self-government;-for this is the legitimate body of Christ, consisting of all the saints, with the bishops and deacons. To them, in the apostolic ages, were the difficult cases referred, by the minor churches, for a final decision. They were the hurch, in the higbest sense of the word.
« Let us consider some of the benefits of this union" ot' churches. The benefits are realized chiefly by the brethren
of the churches, rather than by their pastors and elders. It brings the brethren out of obscurity. It brings them forward one after another, to attend to the most important and interesting discussions, both of a doctrinal and practical nature. It brings the churches to deliberate, by their delegates, and co-operate with their pastors, and give their votes on the most important questions. "Delegates of the churches, when they return from meetings of the consociation, realize that they bave been attending a most excellent and profitable school; and with pleasure communicate to their brethren what they have learned in the consociation; so that information circulates through the whole body of churches.
“ We notice another benefit of this union; and that is, that vacant churches derive great advantages from their connexion with the consociation. Being destitute of ministers and spiri. tual guides of their own, they have a claim on any or all the ministers in the connexion, for that aid, direction,
and fatherly care, by which they are kept from going astray, and are enabled to obtain faithful ministers of the Gospel. It is no small privilege to have the aid and assistance of those ministers who are in the closest bonds of union and fellowship. The vacancy of churches is, in a great measure, filled by the union of pastors and churches in the vicinity. The pastors, by this union, become like pastors of the apostolical churches : fellow-labourers, workers together, fellowhelpers, and fellow-servants of the Lord Jesus Christ.
“ But there are still greater benefits resulting from the consociation of the churches. It is a great check to the progress of prevailing errors and heresies. If the consociation is, as it most certainly ought to be, a standing council for the examination and ordination of ministers within their own limits; there will be but little danger of the introduction of beretics into the sacred office. Instances are very rare, if
have occurred, in which heretics of any name have gained an establishment in the midst of an harmonious consociation. But where no bond of union exists in the churches, there is a struggle between the advocates for the various systems of religion. Unitarians and Universalists claim the congregational principle, and introduce their disciples almost imperceptibly into our vacant congregations.
"What is the form of church government in Masachussetts ? It is extinct. There is not a shadow of union of one church with another. Instead of union and co-operation, we stand aloof, and cultivate jealousies and party feelings against each other. Being rarely called together to act in concert, as sister churches, we make but very little accquaintance with Christians beyond the narrow limits of our own parishes. This shameful ignorance of our brethren in Christ, and even of the officers and leading members of his church, ought not so to be.' We ought to be intimately acquainted with our brethren, even at a distance. But how can this acquaintance exist, so long as we utterly refuse to associate, or to cultivate any bonds of Christian union whatsoever ? It cannot take place. We must remain strangers and aliens, for want of some bond of union.
“ There is, in fact, but one alternative. The churches in this State (Massachusetts) must unite-must organize them. selves in union with their pastors for mutual acquaintance, improvement, good fellowship, and discipline; or they must go to ruin. It is as absurd and unscriptural for independent churches to set up for independence of the united body of the church, as for individual towns to set up for the independence of the state or nation. Order, harmony, and peace cannot be preserved and promoted, without a more extensive union than that of a few individuals, or individual bodies.
From a careful review of the Scriptures on this subject, we have found, that churches established by the Apostles were composed of
a large number of ministers, with their individual churches, These, in cordial union, fellowship, and co-operation, composed what we call a consociation. And from the days of the Apostles to this day, the orthodox churches have been nearly on the same ground.
Their ecclesiastical judicatories have been of the nature, and have had the effects of a consociation of the churches.'
These remarks are pointed and excellent. And, I may add, that every word which the author has written in favour of what be calls the “ consociation of churches, applies with equal force in support of the Presbyterian form of church government. The plan of consociation, as it exists in Connecticut, which the writer, no doubt, had in his eye, is neither less nor more than Presbyterianism as far as it goes. And, indeed, the writer frankly acknowledges that, in the apostolic age, that united body of churches and pastors, not only for giving advice, but for the exercise of ecclesiastical authority over all the churches represented, and for the restoration of which be pleads, was called a " Presbytery." The advantages of this system in Connecticut have been equally indubitable and sig
* Christian Spectator, Vol. III. p. 460-463.
nal. And had the churches in that State, a « General Consociatiou,” to which appeals might be brought from the county or district consociations, they would have a form of government, in the opinion of Dr. Dwight, greatly improved, and still better adapted than at present to maintain general order and purity. Had Massachusetts,more than a century ago,united with Connecticut in the adoption of the consociational system, there is every reason to believe that she would have been, at this hour, as free from the Unitarian heresy as her next-door and happier sister.
The truth is, the indispensable need of some such system, for binding the churches together in one harmonious and cooperating body, as Presbyterianism furnishes, is daily disclosed by the expedients to which our respected congregational brethren are compelled to resort; for which their original system makes no provision; and which, though sometimes successful, are still oftener found totally inadequate to the purposes for which they are intended. For all these exigencies, the Presbyterian form of government, in its essential structure, makes appropriate and ample provision. For terminating all controversies between churches and their pastors; between different parties in the same church ; and between different neighbouring churches, it furnishes the most prompt and regular means. It cannot prevent the existence of offences; but it provides the most expeditious and effectual methods of removing them. It cannot reverse the laws of depraved human nature ; but it offers the best means of restraining the disobedient, and reconciling the alienated, that human infirmity admits. It has, not power to banish selfishness, violence, and schism from the church ; but it furnishes ties for binding together individual churches and pastors, and for facilitating
their ecclesiastical union and co-operation, more easily, happily, and completely than any other system which Christendom presents. If the machinery of this system were complicated ; if there were a single unnecessary wheel, there would be some ground for objection. But the truth is, it is not more efficient than simple. There is no part for show or mystery; nothing but what is at once adapied and necessary to attain the object-HARMONIOUS, ACTIVE UNION.
Now the question is-seeing we are blessed with such a system of church government; a system more admirably adapted than any other to promote the harmony, purity, and extension of the church ; a system pre-eminently suited to secure Christian liberty with Christian order ; a system which some of the most learned, wise, and pious divines that ever adorned the New England churches, have cordially approved, and expressed an earnest desire to have introduced among themselves ;-1 say, having such a system bappily established among us, shall we trifle with its essential principles ? shall we refuse to avail ourselves of the advantages which it places within our reach ? shall we trample it under feet as a thing of nought ? This were, indeed, infatuation. What would be thought of a functionary of the civil government, who should allow himself to violate one article after another of the public constitution, which he had solemnly engaged to support, and which could only be really useful so long as it was kept entire? Would it be considered as consistent with either political or moral fidelity? I presume not.
As little can we justify either the wisdom or the integrity of him who, entrusted with office in the Presbyterian Church, proves faithless to the ar. ticles of her constitution. He may imagine, every time he departs from the spirit of that constitution, that the infraction is of small importance, and that the evil arising from it will be more than counter-balanced by a greater good; but the form of government may be compared to a compact building. However firm it may be while it remains entire, yet if one stone after another be displaced, or taken away, the whole edifice will be seriously weakened, and if the practice be continued, must soon be levelled to the dust.
Some ecclesiastical evils, like some bodily diseases, have a tendency to cure themselves. While others, like diseases of a different sort, tend not only to the continuance, but also to the extension and perpetuation of the mischief which they generate. Of this latter class are many of the departures from Presbyterial order. They affect others, as well as ourselves. They give rise to trouble, and, perhaps, to extended, intricate, and incurable trouble afterwards. They disturb, and, it may be, poison streams which ought to flow equably and pure to every part of the body. And their effect often is to introduce members or measures into the church, whose influence is permanently and increasingly mischievous. When
any man solemnly unites himself to a particular ecclesiastical body, and especially when he offers himself 10 her as a candidate for the office of one of her teachers and rulers, he is bound in honour,-anterior to all formal engagements to that amount-he is bound in honour to observe her rules, to consult her peace, and to make her interest his own. The idea of any man coming into such a community with