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tionable, their bare opinions may be entitled to great weight. But as to any right to dictate religious sentiments, to bind the conscience by mere assertion and authority—this right is given by the Christian scheme to no man or body of men, far or near, speaking or writing, living or dead, outside of scripture. We are not bound to take their mere word for the smallest item of creed or duty-whether they are popes, councils, or fathers; whether Luthers, Calvine, or bluff Henries; whether Dort-Synods, Westminster Assemblies, or æcumenical commentators. All the right the best of them have is merely that of contributing materials for the use of our free and independent judgments. So says the Christianity that puts an open Bible in the sole seat of anthority. If a man with a triple crown on his head comes to us and says, “ Believe in the immaculate conception,” it is our Christian privilege to say to him, “Prove that this is scripture, else though supported by the whole scarlet world it shall never enter into our creed." If a full bench of learned and godly men, of whom the youngest is more than two centuries old, come to us from the chapel of Henry VII, and say, “ Believe yourselves guilty of Adam's first sin," it is our Christian privilege to say to them, " Venerable Fathers, we honor and love you; but please prove that this is scripture, else we cannot accept it.” If conservative journalists and jurisconsults come to us and say, “ Use not your pulpit against sins which have becoine political institutions," it is our Christian privilege to say to them, “ Gentlemen, with all due respect, it will be necessary for you to prove that the course you require is scriptural, else we must continue to preach against men-stealing, and oppression, and violent perverting of justice in a province.” Such responses are indeed bad Romanism, but they are good Christianity. Each is allowed the largest religious liberty in respect to man; though in respect to the Bible he is under an absolute monarchy.
But does not the Bible require churches to discipline their members for many points of faith and practice; and society to place us all under liability to penalty for much we may believe and do—and is not this really requiring men to submit their religious views largely to the dictation of other men not canonical? To this we answer, that Christianity assumes that its main points are capable of being understood by all who exercise their private judgments faithfully. Hence its requiring individuals, churches, and civil society to discipline us for opposing these main points, so far from requiring them to interfere with or supersede our private judgments, is merely requiring them to discipline us for not acting according to these private judgments faithfully used. If they trouble us for anything else, they are not acting scripturally. They are as much forbidden to put us under penalties for what is according to our faithful private judgments, as they are required to put ns under penalties for what is contrary to their own.
Now this large liberty is very attractive to most persons. But the most material thing about it, is its influence in forming the public to an intellectual habit, to those habits of careful, vigorous, and enterprising thought which go to promote all sorts of freedom and advancement, and thus place Christianity in command of the most powerful and prosperous nations, whose prestige, wealth, science, and power shall preach for her. This is what has actually happened. What nations are like the Protestant in popular prosperity? What Protestants can vie in this with the English-speaking race, which has long been the best stronghold of the right of private judgment? At this moment there is probably more wealth, valuable intelligence, stamina, durable working power among the people of this country and Great Britain, than there is among five times their number of other men taken together in any part of the world. The fifty millions of these two countries contribute for the diffusion of Christianity several times as much as all Papal countries on the face of the earth do to spread their system. It is a proverb—this wonderful Anglo-Saxon energy. And the secret of it is the Christian doctrine of the right of private judgment. This is the subtle electricity which vitalizes all parts of our thrift and ascendency—this the strong heart which, from deep within, silently projects the generons blood to the extremities of the system. The Christian system consists of two parts. One is matter
of rigorous prescription, and remains the same for all coun. tries and times. To this belong the doctrines of Scripture, its moral laws, its sacraments, and its ministry. It proposes that these shall be to us just what they were to the Apostles, and to the last generation that shall walk the earth what they are to us. This is the constant part of that great formula which we call Christianity. But there is another part consisting of variable quantities-quantities fairly belonging to the system and prescribed by it in a general way, but to which no particular values are assigned within the system itself. Some of its general maxims of duty bave variable elements in them, which are functions of the varying circumstances and characters of men. It implicitly requires forms of worship, but gives no directions as to what forms; leaving them to be settled within certain limits by the varying circumstances and characters of men. It implicitly requires some machinery of evangelization, but gives no direction as to what: leaving the missionary, tract, Bible interests to be cared for by such organizations and processes as the varying circumstances and character of the times may seem to make most efficient. Moreover, the system, as a whole, is not cast into one unalterable shape. Now it appears as a busy biography, then as an authoritative lesson, next as a logic and philosophy, again as a parable or proverb, still again as a many colored poem. It is like an angel, who at one timne stops at the tent of Abraham under the dusty forın of a traveler, at another encounters Joshua as a war-captain with a drawn sword in his hand, at another as a man's hand writes startling laconics on the wall, at another shines and sings as a plumed glory in the air over Bethlehem. So flexible is Christianity; and, we may add, so powerful. Instead of being some rigid machine such as man makes, and to which yielding is the same thing as breaking, it is a solar system such as God makes, where, within the embrace of certain great constants, every orbit is continually changing in many ways, and yet all the changes are so summed and adjusted as to furnish the conditions of a mighty and stable equilibrium. On the tacit condition that the simplicity of the system shall not be outraged, each man is left to consult his own sense of beauty and fitness as to its equipage, its dress,
and largely all that is mere body in it; and thus the esthetic partialities of each nature being enlisted on the side of the system, it can be embraced more readily, retained more firmly, felt more deeply, and propagated more zealously. As to style of worship, each may adopt that which he finds most apt at impressing and spiritualizing his own mind. Whether he can achieve most devotion standing or kneeling; with liturgy or without; before surplice and bands, or a black coat; under Gothic, Grecian, or Saracenic angles and curves, let him judge and suit himself. He can be governed by a church democracy, or a ministerial conference, or a general assembly, or a bishop, as he shall find most pleasant and profitable to his peculiarity. We feel most at home in the modes of Congregationalism, and perhaps think we have discovered that the New Testament Church had the feeling before us; but if any one has a different taste we will not forbid him to follow it, for Christianity has not forbidden him. He may fight the common enemy with such weapons as he can handle the best. If he is best master of the sword, let him use that; if his skill is in archery, let him fit sharp arrows to the string ; if his heavy strength takes most naturally to the ponderous battleaxe, let him swing that like crusading Richard; if it suits him to go into battle on foot or on Bucephalus, with Saul's armor or David's sling, why, in the name of Christian liberty and the New Testament, let him go after his own fashion and be God-speeded. In this way every man is turned to the best account. His idoms become so many Christian
In. stead of rousing into opposition the individualities of a large part of mankind, by one sweeping Act of Uniformity, Christianity gives thein full play and enlists them into its service. A system that so adapts itself to the various circumstances, natural traits, and lawful moods of men, never becomes superanuated, has the freedom of all countries 'as well as ages, lays hold of society at all points, and levies support from a wide range of forces.
Another source of power to Christianity is its preaching ministry. The Pagan priesthood has always been chiefly sacrificial and ritualistic. Islam has no clerical order: the Imam not being appointed by the Koran, nor devoting him. self to religious teaching as a business. There is no preaching of any account in the Greek church: very little in countries thoroughly Papal. An Italian sermon is almost an eccentricity. Ritualism, sacrifice, absolution-these are held to be the chief functions and forces of the priest. But Christianity has set apart an order of men to the exclusive work of expounding, enforcing, and propagating the system, chiefly in the way of oral public argument and appeal-men who shall not be novices, but apt to teach, manifesting the Word through preaching, giving themselves wholly to it that their profiting may appear to all. We say “exclusive;" for the administration of the sacraments which falls to them occupies so small a fraction of time that it may be overlooked in this connection. Accordingly all Protestant countries are so many sermon-making and sermon-hearing countries. Of a Sunday there are more popular religious discourses pronounced in them, many times over, than in all the world besides throngh all the year. And they come, too, chiefly from trained men to whom this form of teaching is almost their sole business. All proceeds on the principle that it 'pleases God by the foolishness of preaching, both to save them that believe, and to make believers.'
A powerful peculiarity of Christianity! It secures to it the best possible defenders and propagandists. It secures to believers regular, frequent, and ablest instruction and prompting in Christian principles. And it carries forward this instructing and prompting, this defense and propagation under the most engaging and efficient forms, mainly by that public address which so economizes the time and labor both of audience and speaker ; which so rouses his own power, moves the popu
, lar sympathies, and meets the popular taste-mainly by this, supplemented by such occasional dealing with the individual as may be required to meet important specialties in his condition.
In concluding this enumeration of the sources of the power which belong to the Christian system, let us bring into a single view two which well deserve a more extended consideration. These are its obvious utility and mighty sanctions. We have already called attention to the fact that the religion of Christ