« AnteriorContinuar »
converts among the heathen, when they learn the his tory of Christian sects, would hear it as the record of a period past, and of an evil removed, and from which the church had learned the curse of division and the blessings of union; and they might escape the snare into which we have fallen. But let them become acquainted with the controversies in the church from which they received the gospel, while these are actually agitating and distracting us, what can be expected but that the war of sect will at once break out among them? And who can calculate how long and to what degree they will be doomed to experience its bitterness, and how many centuries the latter day of glory may be retarded? May the Lord in his mercy deliver the heathen from the evils of division. May they know Christianity only in its benign, peaceful, sanctifying, and all its heavenly influences.
8. It weakens and tends to destroy the church. This operation and tendency is manifest in many The divisions of the church are wasting its resources, both of money and men.
Almost every denomination feels the necessity of having its theological school, although perhaps not more than a dozen of students are found in it at the same time, and this school must have its library, and as many professors as one that instructs two hundred students. Some deem it quite important to have also their sectarian college, and even their sectarian academy, to educate their youth, with the view to transfer them afterwards to their own theological seminary. To sustain these institutions, there must be agents and a complicated and expensive machinery for obtaining the funds necessary to defray the original cost and the continual expenditures. Each
denomination thinks it also quite essential to have also its newspaper, magazine, and books, to diffuse intelligence of its operations, and to defend and promote the peculiarities of its faith and practice. Several of these theological seminaries, colleges, and academies, newspapers and magazines, might be united in one, without the loss of any real advantage, and to the saving of an immense waste of money, and of the precious time of a host of instructers and editors.
Every denomination must also be at the expense of having its preacher, and of building, repairing, and furnishing its church, and perhaps a lecture room besides; so that it is not uncommon in compact settlements, to have four or five places of worship, with as many preachers of the gospel, to accommodate four or five hundred hearers, who might all, with much profit in every point of view, meet at one place, and enjoy the ministry of one man. On the other hand, in sparse and poor settlements, it is in many instances impossible to support public worship, for the sole reason that a sufficient number of Christians of the same denomination cannot be found to defray the expense; and consequently the population in such places rapidly become heathens in a Christian land; while if those among them who value the gospel, would only disregard the petty distinctions which keep them apart, they might enjoy all the privileges of the Christian religion, and be bringing up Christian, instead of heathen families.
We do not complain that too much money is expended for the support of the gospel. The people of this country have ample means, even under the wasteful expenditure induced by our sectarian divisions, to sustain the institutions of religion at home, including the supply of
the destitute in our new settlemens or elsewhere; but it grieves us to reflect that so much is wasted when the whole is needed. For all the money which the people are willing or can be persuaded to cast into the treasury of the Lord, there is urgent need to print and distribute Bibles and tracts, to promote sabbath schools, to support the cause of foreign and domestic missions, of seamen and of prisons; institutions which some in almost all the denominations of Christians are hailing as the harbingers of the latter day glory. But how can it be expected that these benevolent associations will be sustained with a liberality in any degree adequate to the exigency of the times, so long as the support of public worship at home is made many times more expensive than it need be.
Consider also the prodigious waste of men. correct computation be made of the waste of men, caused by the division of the church into sects, the result would doubtless surprise even those who have been in the habit of mourning over this waste as an evil. We ask, can the church afford such a waste? The truth is, that educated men of piety, are scarce. The world needing many times more than it possesses, to answer all the purposes of benevolence, and there is a great deficiency even to supply the wants of our own country. How great then is the pity that such multitudes should be stationed where one half their number would do all their profitable business as well; and how much more is it to be lamented that a host of talented men should be employed in building and repairing partition walls, which the interests of the church require to be demolished.
But besides the wasteful expenditure of men and money, there are other tendencies in the division of the
church to impair its energies and eventually to bring it to destruction. The Saviour himself recognised the truth of the sentiment that divisions weaken and destroy, for he says, Matt. xii. 25, "Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city and house divided against itself shall not stand." On what possible ground the church should be exempted from the operation of a principle applicable to all other communities, we are at a loss to imagine.
Let us advert to its operation in politics. There are in all free governments two parties, one of them supporting, and the other opposing the administration. When one of these parties fall into controversy among themselves, and become rent into two or more divisions, does that party gain or lose strength by it? Without doubt its strength is impaired by the division. In regard to the subject of religion, there are also two parties, its friends and its opposers. Would the friends of religion be encouraged by learning that infidels, Roman Catholics, Unitarians, and all the other opposers of the cause of Christ, had united under one name, and are acting under the same counsels and with one heart in opposition to the truth of God? And would our opposers rejoice, or would they tremble to see Christians cease from their contentions, healing their divisions, and uniting in one brotherhood, to bring the world to the obedience of the gospel?
The church is represented as engaged in a warfare with its enemies. To wage war, it is necessary that there be two opposing armies. One of these armies we will suppose to have no other divisions than convenience requires, each division, regiment, battalion, and company acting under the command of one general in chief;
the other army is divided into separate bands, all professing indeed to be on the same side, but each wholly independent of the other, and of course choosing its own time and mode of operations. Which of those two armies, assuming them to be equal in numbers and skill, would combine the greatest strength? We need not wait for an answer. The church has been very improperly compared by the apologists for sect to the host of the children of Israel beautifully divided into tribes, each acting under its own prince and under its own banner, and marching to the conquest of Canaan. But these tribes were led by one commander, and were moved by one soul; and independence, jealousy, contention, and discord were not inscribed on the banner of each, as they are on those of Christian sects. The various sects do indeed profess to be subjected to the same captain, namely, Jesus Christ; but his commands come to their prejudiced ears in such contradictory sounds, that instead of being moved to act in unison, they move in opposite directions.
The pages of ecclesiastical history afford ample proof of the position that the church has been weakened by its divisions. During the first century commencing at the birth of Christ, when the church was united, more was done to diffuse and maintain Christianity in its purity and power, than in many centuries after she was shorn of her strength by becoming the subject of divisions. And during the short period subsequent to the commencement of the reformation, while the protestant church remained undivided, more was effected in the extension of Christianity and the establishment of its influence, than in the centuries of theological controversy and sectarian zeal which have followed. What progress