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standing the reasons adduced by their predecessors, for the opinions they have formed, it is no longer received as proof of an innovating spirit, to examine into the soundness of human opinions, practices, customs, and habits, how long soever they may have prevailed, and been assumed to be correct. The spirit of inquiry is awake, and has been quickened by the discoveries which have been made since the principle of implicit deference to by-gone ages has been on the decline. As it is now acknowledged that the church for two hundred years has slept upon the duty of carrying the gospel to a dying world, and has cherished in her bosom the dreadful evil of lotteries, intemperance, and slavery, the public mind is in some measure prepared to search what other evils may have crept into the church, during the long period of spiritual death and inactivity, wherein the powers of darkness have had ample scope for the exercise of their craft and malice. The maxim of the Bible "to the law and to the testimony," is again coming into vogue, as in the days of the reformation. Why then should we despair of the willingness of Christians to judge of the divisions which have torn the church in pieces, by the infallible standard of right and wrong?
II. Another obstacle that may be supposed to lie in the way of effecting a reunion of the church of Christ, is presented in the powerful interests which bind men to the car of sect.
But who are the persons so strongly interested to support sectarian divisions? The lay members of the church and the people at large would clearly be gainers by the reunion of the church, as they will save the enormous waste of men and money which we have pointed
out as one of the evils of division. The cost of maintaining the ministers of the gospel, theological schools, religious publications, and the erection and maintenance of houses for public worship, would probably be diminished one half by the abolition of sects. It would be principally the ministers of the gospel, and perhaps only a few of them, whose employments would be deranged by the change; and the derangement would be temporary only, as the united church will need all the efficient clergy which the present age can furnish. The officers of our theological schools would not necessarily be subjected to any change of employment, unless such schools, as are not in fact needed, should be discontinued.
But whatever sacrifices might be required of those officers, ministers of the gospel, or the higher dignitaries of the church, in order to remove so vast an evil as that of division, we may not indulge the doubt that they will be made with all the cheerfulness which Christian benevolence does not fail to inspire. Men who have devoted themselves to the service of Christ, may be made to understand what the interests of his church require, and may be induced to act in accordance with their convictions. They may be induced to practice the self-denial so frequently and strenuously inculcated by the Saviour and his apostles, and which they so eminently exemplified in their own practice, even to the forsaking of kindred, houses, lands, places of profit, and to the loss of life itself, if necessary to render obedience to the commands of Christ, and to advance the interests of his kingdom. St. Paul expresses his persuasion in the strongest terms that nothing can separate the true believer from the love of Christ. And there are not lack
ing striking examples in our own times, of men possessing noble minds and commanding talents, who have abandoned comfortable homes, lucrative and honourable employments, the enjoyments of civilized life and country, and a healthful climate, to carry the gospel of salvation to the destitute, and to serve their divine Master in the stations allotted to them in his providence. Many laymen in this country have, in obedience to the dictates of an enlightened conscience, and the requirements of the public good, relinquished the lucrative employments of making and vending the products of the still. And can it be believed that the clergy, who are expected to take the lead in the direction of correct public sentiment, and to be ensamples in all things to the people, will be less disposed to yield to the circumstances that may be imposed on them, in consequence of so desirable a change in the concerns of the church, as the restoration of its original unity?
Perhaps we ought to admit that one of the most powerful interests which bind men to the support of sects, arises from the ambition of ministers of the gospel. There are, in this higly honourable and useful order of men, some who love distinctions and influence; and there may be those whose consequence, in their own view, consists mainly in being one of the leaders of a party, and whose standing would inevitably be lowered by the amalgamation of sects. They could not be great men in a large community, though they may hold a station of considerable consequence in a smaller one. It may be that this might influence some to oppose the reunion of the church. Were there many this stamp, we confess it would present a most formidable obstacle. But we hope their number is small, and
that the opposition would prove feeble. Their characters are probably more correctly estimated than they themselves are aware, and their adherence to the interests of sect, would be attributed to the right cause.
Why then should it be supposed that the interests of Christians will oppose an insurmountable obstacle in so holy an enterprise as that of healing the dreadful wounds inflicted on the church by its divisions? Or shall we be compelled to add this to the list of the evils of division, that it has banished the virtue of self-denial from the church?
III. The subjection of the periodical press to the interests of sect, is another obstacle that may be urged to the proposed reformation.
And by some of the friends of union, it may be feared that the religious newspapers and periodicals of the day are too much under the influence of sectarian opinions, feelings, or patronage, to admit of their becoming the channel of bringing before the public doctrines subversive of their own views, or those of their patrons; and it may be apprehended that there is no other adequate medium of enlightening public opinion.
We are very reluctant to believe that there is any considerable number of our religious publications, into which it would be refused to admit discussions of such grave and important subjects, as the unity of the church, and the duties devolving upon Christians, in consequence of existing divisions. The spirit of bigotry has too much declined, and that of free inquiry has too far advanced to allow the indulgence of such apprehensions. We think it is evident from the complexion of the publications in question, that there will be no disposition to
withhold from the public the opportunity of reading discussions of doctrines not stale, nor manifestly erroneous or dangerous; or of opinions not decidedly singular; especially when deduced from the Scriptures; the acknowledged standard of religious truth. If the danger of losing patronage should be supposed to enter at all into their calculation, they may see the prospect of gaining more by the facility thus afforded to the friends of union, than they would lose by displeasing the apologists for sectarian divisions. The advocates for the unity of the church entertain no fears from the reflection that their opponents would justly claim and be entitled to an equal right to be heard; for they are perfectly willing, if their views are not capable of enduring the ordeal of strict scriptural examination and sound argument, to submit to the decision of an intelligent Christian community.
Should, however, the periodical press, contrary to our hopes, exclude all discussions on the subject in question, there is another resort. It is the glory of the American people that the press itself, in this country, is free as the light of heaven, and in one form or another, is accessible to all; and whatever means may become necessary in order to bring the question of the unity of the church fairly before the Christians of America, it is confidently believed that the friends of union will be found willing to furnish them.
IV. The fear of odium and contempt.
So deeply fixed and rooted, it may be imagined by some, is the opinion of the lawfulness and advantages of divisions, that the advocates and friends of reunion will be treated with derision, scorn, or hatred, as visionary theorists, or dangerous innovators, and perhaps be