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ARTICLE VI.--DR. OSGOOD ON THE BROAD CHURCH.
1. The Religious Aspects of the Age, with a glance at the
Church of the Present, and the Church of the Future; being Addresses delivered at the Anniversary of the Young Men's Christian Union, of New York. By SAMUEL OSGOOD, D. D., and others. New York: Thatcher & Hutchinson,
1858. 2. The Broad Altar Pulpit: A semi-monthly publication
of Sermons by eminent clergymen of various Christian denominations. Vol. I, No. 1. The Broad Altar. By Rev.
SAMUEL OSGOOD, D. D. New York. 1859. 3. The Coming Church and its Clergy. Address to the
Graduating Class at the Meadville Theological Seminary, June 30, 1858. By SAMUEL Osgood, Minister of the Church of the Messiah, in New York. New York: Christian Inquirer Office. 1859.
Dr. Osgood ia well known as one of the most learned and cultivated ministers in the Unitarian denomination. The recent discussions in that body upon the subject of the Broad Church, began with his speech delivered before a Christian Association in May, 1858, and contained in the first of the pamphlets whose titles are given at the head of this Article. It is he, as much as any other, who set on foot this movement, to which the attention of the public has been lately drawn by the discourse of Dr. Bellows, at Cambridge. To Dr. Osgood, therefore, we naturally look for authentic information in regard to this new idea or scheme ; and such information we have furnished us in several publications, the latest of which is the Address at Meadville. To this Address, as being the most recent and most mature statement of his views, we shall principally refer, deriving, however, what light we may from other sources.
It may be well to remark that this movement has no connection with that powerful party in the Church of England, to which Dr. Arnold belonged, and of which Mr. Maurice and Mr. Kingsley are distinguished leaders. In the two movements there is a similar conception of the nature and offices of the visible church, and some approach in theological belief. But the departure of the English divines who have been named, from the standards of orthodoxy, is hardly sufficient to bring them into doctrinal sympathy with the American Unitarians who are now debating the project of a Broad Church.
In reference to this new church, our readers will desire to learn its proposed basis of organization. What calls for its formation? Is it to supplant existing churches, or to be developed from them? What is to be the creed, and what the principle of fellowship? What is to be its peculiar work in distinction from the church as at present established? Whence does it hope to gain its members? Does the plan give promise of success ?
In answering these questions, we avail ourselves of Dr. Osgood's aid. After warning the Meadville students of the disappointment to which the young theologian is liable from having cherished an exaggerated confidence in speculative doctrines and arguments, compared with the power of personal affection, and with other forces by which the world is governed, he proceeds to assert the possibility of a ministry that shall be at once enlightened and affectionate; that shall lay hold of all the elements of useful influence. This ministry is to be realized in “the Coming Church,” which it is the object of the discourse to portray. First, we have the Idea of this Church of the Future. And here we fall back on the Author's own words:
“ All churches or religious communions, whether Gentile, Jewish, or Christian, rest upon some real or alleged revelations of God to the souls of men; and all join to prove that the normal and rational state of our humanity requires religious associations quite as decidedly as domestic and civil associations, and brings the three into the most intimate relations. Christianity, of course, did not create, but matured the idea of such religious union; and the Christian Church fulfilled the more or less vague and mingled hopes and promises of the Gentile and Hebrew Churches. The Christian Church owes its preëminence to the nature of the Divine manifestation upon which it is based, and to the nature of the human fellowship which it establishes. It is based upon faith in the immediate presence of God in man, in such presence especially and supernaturally in Jesus Christ, and generally in all men who receive the Holy Spirit that gave him his Divine unction or supernatural Messiahship. "God in Christ, and through the Spirit with all true men,' this is the essence of the Christian faith, and the fellowship thereby established in accordance with this faith. The faith itself implied a close and exalted fellowship, since it drew all believers together around a central personality, in the unity of a powerful and all-pervading Spirit. It drew them together around the Master as the center of Divine influence or head of the communion, and associated them together as co-working members under that head; and as such united not by politic expedients or mechanical adjustments, but by vital organism. The Church of the Apostles began with the practical assertion of the truth which our profoundest modern philosophy is now most emphatically declaring—the truth that the complete or Divine Humanity is not contained in the individual man, but in mankind continuously and collectively, as regenerate and nurtured under Divine influence; and thus the very nature of our humanity demands that the religion that most redeems and exalts it shall be social as well as individual, universal as well as personal, or shall unite men with each other in uniting them with God. Hence the Church Universal, with its divine faith and human fellowship, beginning with the first visible congregation, then extending its fellowship throughout the world, and lastly, as death and deepening insight exalted its associations, opening its affections to all the people of God on earth or in heaven, and embracing them all in one blessed communion.”—Meadville Address, pp 5, 6.
To this comprehensive church Dr. Osgood claims to belong, in company with all Christian believers, while he exercises the prerogative of interpreting for himself its essential idea, and finds himself on this point at variance with the theories which have heretofore prevailed:
" Using this prerogative, we are in some respects at issue with the two great divisions of the Christian Church that have figured heretofore most conspicuously upon the arena of history; and at issue also with the two tendencies in the political and philosophical world that aim to supplant the Church altogether. The prevalent Churches are distinguished by two characteristic principles. The Church calling itself Catholic, bases its communion upon an exclusive priesthood, dispensing the grace of God through Christ's incarnation, by magical sacraments to be received in implicit obedience; whilst the Church calling itself 'Evangelical,' and quite as fitly called Calvinistic, bases its communion upon a certain order of dogmatic teachers dispensing the grace of God, especially offered by Christ's death, by a magical doctrine and mystical experience. Both build the Church upon the idea of God in Christ through the Holy Spirit, and both
build upon the sacrifice of Christ for the salvation of the world; and so far both are right. But in our view both are wrong in their limitation of the objects and means of the revelation and the sacrifice. The Catholic is wrong in limiting the blessing to the priestly sacraments and passive obedience; and the Calvinist is wrong in limiting it to the vicarious dogma and a mystical experience. The Catholic maintains fitly that the virtue of Christ's sacrifice is imparted to the believer by obedience; but he errs in limiting obedience to priestly legitimacy. The Calvinist maintains fitly that the virtue of the sacrifice is imputed to the believer by faith ; but he errs in limiting faith to the equivocal idea of vicarious satisfaction of inexorable justice, and to a mystical assurance of election, instead of interpreting its power as largely as we interpret all spiritual blessings that set us upon new ground, and give us privileges beyond our own work or merit. Both err by narrowing the idea of Divine Revelation and true human. ity—the Catholic mainly by a false antagonism between nan and nature, which regards matter as accursed and God as withdrawn from the earth, and bases redemption upon ghostly austerities and a transubstantiated wafer ; the Calvinist mainly by a false antagonism between God and man, which regards humanity as utterly depraved, and God as implacably wrathful, and bases redemption solely upon the imputed merits of a Divine victim and the consequent release of vidners from an otherwise hopeless doom. The breadth of God's grace and man's capacities is thus sadly narrowed by the two systems; and the Broad Church now rising throughout Christendom cannot consent to be bound by the limitation. We claim the right and duty of worshiping God in all his manifestations, whether in nature or the soul, Providence or Christ, and of recognizing humanity in all its powers and capacities, as well as in its infirmities and sing. Two distinctive principles mark our dissent from all the old High Church priesthoods, as well as from Rome, their rightful head, and from all the Low Church dogmatists, as well as from Calvin, their rightful head. The first principle is the presence or immanence of God in all created things, according to their degree of life. The second principle is the right and duty of our humanity to receive and cherish the Divine spirit of love and truth in the whole compass and hight of our faculties, whether within or beyond the customary ecclesiastical inclosures. Our Broad Church agrees with the former Churches in the faith that Christ is the Son of the living God, but goes beyond them by recognizing all other mani. festations of God, and opening the whole of human life to their blessing. It is, in ghort, the Church of the Divine Humanity. Its essential standard is not ritual conformity, as under the Church of the Incarnation and Transubstantiation, nor dogmatic orthodoxy, as under the Church of the Atonement and Election, but life in God's love. Under this standard we shall have our ritual order and our doctrinal convictions, but these will not, as of old, be the all-in-all of the Church. The Broad Church will rule and regenerate men, not by trampling upon anything sacred to our humanity, but by accepting humanity in its spiritual capacities, and presenting them for the Divine blessing and guidance. It will believe in the Incarnation and the Atonement, and embrace and complete them both in its Divine Humanity. It will believe not only in God's manifestation and reconciling work of old, but in his constant presence and grace.”—Meadville Address, pp. 6, 7, 8.
We might with truth deny the justice of this representation of Calvinism. Calvin founds the whole mission and work of the Saviour in the love of God, though he also holds that "God, in a certain ineffable manner, at the same time that He loved us, was nevertheless angry with us till He was reconciled in Christ.”* In other words, Christ is the gift of God's infinite love to sinners, though His death is the indispensable ground of their forgiveness. Such is Calvin's doctrine, and such is the doctrine which none deny except the Socinians. So “the vicarious dogma,” “the mystical experience,” and “the mystical assurance of election,” are phrases which rather stigmatize than properly characterize the Calvinistic system. But we will not interrupt the Author's exposition to debate this topic.
Nor will we take more than a single sentence to complain of the vagueness of his assertion of the “immanence of God in all created things,” which is either a Pantheistic sentiment or expresses a truth which none are disposed to question. Not more clear or distinctive is this second principle which affirms our right and duty “to receive and cherish the Divine spirit of love and truth in the whole compass and hight of our faculties, whether within or beyond the cus-. tomary ecclesiastical inclosures."
Thus dissenting from the “priestly and dogmatic charches," the advocates of the Broad Church are equally opposed to both sections of the no-Church party; to those who would supplant the Church by placing the well-being of man in commercial and political prosperity; to the radicals, also, who disown both Church and State, and rely on spasmodic reforms and agitations.
In the second head of the Meadville discourse are considered the Functions of the Coming Church, especially in their bearings on the minister's office.
“Evidently, in order to build up the Church of the Divine Humanity, or of God with men, it is necessary to impress men with a true sense of God, and to lead them to express this sense in good will, and, moreover, so to arrange the round of services that such impression and expression shall bear fitly upon each
* Institutes, B. II, Chap. xvii.