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has no head but Christ, and that the power arrogated by popes, councils, and bishops, is gross usurpation. In regard to particular churches, he is a strict congregationalist. Each church, he says, is competent to its own government, and connected with others only by the bond of charity. No others are authorised to interfere with any of its concerns, but in the way of brotherly counsel.
* Every church consisting of the above parts,'(i. e. well instructed believers,) . however small its numbers, is to be considered as iq itself an inte grai and perfect church, so far as regards its religious rights; nor has it any superior on earth, whether individual, or assembly, or convention, to whom it can be lawfully required to render submission; inasmuch as no believer out of its pale, nor any order or council of men whatever, has a greater right than itself to expect a participation in the written word and the promises, in the presence of Christ, in the presiding influence of the Spirit, and in those gracious gifts which are the reward of united prayer.'– Vol. ii. p. 193.
The choice of the minister, he says, belongs to the people. The minister, if possible, should serve the church gratuitously, and live by the labor of his own hands. This unpaid service he pronounces more noble and consonant to our Lord's example and that of the Apostles. In accordance with these views, he favors the idea of a church consisting of few members.
* All that pertains to the worship of God and the salvation of believers, all, in short, that is necessary to constitute a church, may be duly and orderly transacted in a particular church, within the walls of a private house, and where the numbers assembled are inconsiderable. Nay, such a church, when in compliance with the interested views of its pastor it allows of an increase of numbers beyond what is convenient, deprives itself in a great measure of the advantages to be derived from meeting in common.'Vol. ii. p. 194.
He maintains that ministers are not to monopolise public instruction, or the administration of the ordinances; but that all Christians, having sufficient gifts, are to participate in these services.
"The custom of holding assemblies is to be maintained, not after the present mode, but according to the apostolical institution, which did not ordain that an individual, and he a stipendiary, should have the sole right of speaking from a higher place, but that each believer in turn should be authorised to speak, or prophesy, or teach, or exhort, accordiog to his gifts; insomuch that even the weakest among the brethren had the privilege of asking questions, and consulting the elders and more experienced members of the congregation.' Vol. ii. p. 203. — Any believer is competent to act as an ordinary minister, according as convenience may require, provided only he be endowed with the necessary gifts; these gifts constitutiog tiis missjon.' p. 153. If therefore it be competent to any believer whatever to preach the gospel, provided he be furnished with the requisite gifts, it is also competent to him to administer the right of baptism; inasmuch as the latter office is inferior to the former.' p. 157.-- With regard to the Lord's Supper also, it has been shown, in the preceding chapter, that all are entitled to participate in that rite, but that the privilege of dispensing the elements is confined to no particular man, or order of men.' p. 158.
We entirely accord with the spirit of freedom which these passages breathe ; but from some of the particular views we dissent. The great error of Milton lies in supposing that the primitive church was meant to be a model for all ages. But can we suppose that the church at its birth, when it was poor, persecuted, hemmed in by Judaism and Heathenism, supplied imperfectly with written rules and records, dependent for instruction chiefly on inspired teachers, and composed of converts who had grown up and been steeped in Jewish and Heathen errors,—can we imagine, that in these circumstances the church took a form which it ought to retain as sacred and unalterable, in its triumphs, and prosperity, and diffusion, and in ages of greater light and refinement ? We know, that in the first ages there were no ministers with salaries or edifices for public worship. Christians met in private houses, and sometimes in the obscurest they could find. On these occasions, the services were not monopolised by an individual, but shared by the fraternity ; nor is there a hint in the New Testament that the administration of the Lord's Supper and Baptism was confined to the minister. But in all this we have no rule for the present day. Indeed, it seems to us utterly repugnant to the idea of a universal religion, intended for all ages and nations, and for all the progressive states of society to the end of the world, to suppose that in its infancy it established an order of worship, instruction, and discipline, which was to remain inviolable in all future times. This doctrine of an inflexible form, seems to us servile, superstitious, and disparaging to Christianity. Our religion is too spiritual and inward, and cares too little about its exterior, to bind itself in this everlasting chain. The acknowleged indefiniteness of the New Testament in regard to this subject, is no mean proof of the enlarged and prospective wisdom of its founder. We believe that with the diffusion of liberal views the question will arise, whether our religion cannot be taught and administered in methods and forms more adapted, than those which now prevail, to its spirit and great design, to the principles of human nature, and to the condition and wants of society. Among the changes which may grow from this discussion, we do not anticipate the adoption of Milton's plan of sentencing ministers to earn their bread by the sweat of their brow; for we think that we see no reasons in the general spread of knowlege for enlarging their means and opportunities of study and intellectual culture, that they may meet the increasing demand for more enlightened inculcation of Christian truth. 'At the same time, it seems to us not unlikely that, in conformity to Milton's suggestion, public instruction, instead of continuing to be a monopoly of ministers, may be extended freely to men
of superior intelligence and piety, and that the results of this arrangement may be the infusion of new life, power, and practical wisdom into religious teaching, and the substitut on of a more natural, free and various eloquence for the technical and monotonous mode of treating subjects, which clings so often and so obstinately to the performances of the pulpit.-Again, we do not expect, among the changes of forms and outward worship, that Christians, to meet our author's views, will shut their churches and meet in private houses; for large religious edifices and large congregations seem to us among the important means of collecting and interesting in Christianity the mass of the community. But perhaps narrower associations for religious improvement may be formed, in which the formalities of public worship will be relaxed, and Christians may reap the benefits of the more familiar and confidential meetings of the primitive converts. It is indeed a great question, how the public administration of Christianity, including modes of discipline, instruction, and worship, may be rendered more impressive and effectual. This field is almost untrodden; but if we read aright the signs of the times, the day for exploring it draws nigh. *
We have said that whilst we dissent from some of Milton's views on the subject of our present remarks, we agree in their spirit. It was evidently the aim of all his suggestions to strip the clergy, as they are called, of that peculiar, artificial sanctity, with which superstition had long arrayed them, and which had made their simple, benignant office one of the worst instruments of am. bition and despotism. We believe that this institution will never exert its true and full power on the church and on the world, until the childish awe, with which it has been viewed, shall be exchanged for enlightened esteem ; and until men, instead of expecting from it certain mysterious, undefined influences, shall see in it a rational provision for conveying important truth, and for promoting virtue and happiness, not by magic, but according to the fixed laws of human nature.
The remainder of the Treatise on Christian Doctrine' furnishes opics on which we should willingly remark; but we have time to glance at the opinions in which Milton differs from the majority. He rejects infant baptism, and argues against it with his usual earnestness and strength. He not only affirms with many other Christians, that the fourth commandment relating to the Sabbath is abolished with the rest of the Mosaic system, but maintains, what few have done, that under the Gospel no cime is appointed for public worship, but that the observance of the first day of the week rests wholly on expediency, and on the agreement of Christians. He believes that Christ is to appear visibly for the
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judgment of the world, and that he will reign a thousand years on earth, at the end of which period Satan will assail the church with an innumerable confederacy, and be overwhelmed with everlasting ruin. He speaks of the judgment as beginning with Christ's second advent, and as comprehending his whole government through the millennium, as well as the closing scene, when sentence will be pronounced on evil angels, and on the whole human race. We have now given, we believe, all the peculiarities of Milton's faith. As for that large part of his work, in which he has accumulated scriptural proofs of doctrines and duties in which all Christians are agreed, its general tenor may be understood without further remarks.
It may now be asked, what is the value of this book ? prize it chiefly as a testimony to Milton's profound reverence for the Christian religion, and an assertion of the freedom and rights of the mind. We are obliged to say, that the work throws little new light on the great subjects of which it treats. Some will say, that this ought not to surprise us; for new light is not to be looked for in the department of theology. But if this be true, our religion may be charged with the want of adaptation to our nature in an essential point; for one of the most striking features of the human mind is its thirst for constantly enlarging knowlege, and its proneness to lose its interest in subjects which it has exhausted. The chief cause of Milton's failure was, that he sought truth too exclusively in the past, and among the dead. He indeed called no man master, and disclaimed the authority of Fathers, and was evidently dissatisfied with all the sects which had preceded or were spread around him. Still he believed in the perfection of the primitive. church, and that Christianity, instead of being carried forward, was to be carried back to its original purity. To use his own striking language, the lovely form of truth,' which Christians' at first embraced, had been hewn into a thousand pieces, like the mangled body of Osiris, and scattered to the four winds ;' and consequently he believed, that the great duty of her friends was • to gather up limb by limb, and bring together every joint and member. In conformity with this doctrine, he acted too much as an eclectic theologian, culling something from almost every sect, and endeavoring to form an harmonious system from materials
gathered from the four winds. He would have done better, had he sought truth less in other minds, and more in the communion of his own soul with Scripture, Nature, God, and itself. The fact is, that the church, from its beginning, has been imperfect in knowlege and practice, and our business is not to rest in the past, but to use it as a means of a purer and brighter futurity. Christianity began to be corrupted at its birth, to be debased by earthly mixtures, as soon as it touched the earth. The seeds of that cor. VOL. XXIX.
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ruption which grew and shot up into the overshadowing despotism of papal Rome, were sown in the age of the Apostles, as we learn in the Epistles; and we infer from the condition of the world, that nothing but a stupendous moral miracle, subverting all the laws of the human mind, could have prevented their deve. lopement. Who, that understands human nature, does not know that old associations are not broken up in a moment; that to minds plunged in a midnight of error, truth must gradually open like the dawning day; that old views will mingle with the new; that old ideas, which we wish to banish, will adhere to the old words to which they were formerly attached, and that the sudden and entire eradication of long-rooted errors would be equivalent to the creation of a new intellect? How long did the Apostles, under Christ's immediate tuition, withstand his instructions ? Even Peter, after the miraculous illumination of the day of Pentecost, remained ignorant, until the message from Cornelius, of that glorious feature of Christianity, the abolition of the Jewish peculiarity, and the equal participation of the Gentiles with the Jews in the blessings of the Messiah. As soon as Christianity was preached it was blended with Judaism, which had power to neu. tralise the authority of Paul in many churches. In like manner, it soon began to be spoiled' of its simplicity by philosophy and science falsely so called,' and to be encumbered by pagan cere monies. The first Christians were indeed brought into wonderful light,' if their Christian state be compared with the darkness from which they had emerged; but not if compared with the perfection of knowlege to which Christ came to exalt the human race. The earliest Fathers, as we learn from their works, were not receptive of large communications of truth. Their writings abound in puer rilities and marks of childish credulity, and betray that indis, tinctness of vision, which is experienced by men who issue from thick darkness into the light of day. In the ages of barbarism, which followed the fall of the Roman empire, Christianity, though it answered wise purposes of Providence, was more and more disfigured and obscured. The Reformation was indeed a glorious ear; but glorious for its reduction of papal and clerical power, and for the partial liberation of the mind, rather than for immediate improvements of men's apprehensions of Christianity. Some of the reformers invented or brought back as injurious errors as those they overthrew. Luther's consubstantiation differed from the pope's transubstantiation by a syllable, and that was all the gain; and we may safely say, that transubstantiation was a less monstrous doctrine than the five points of Calvin. How vain, therefore, was Milton's search for the mangled Osiris,' for the lovely form and immortal features of truth,' in the history of the church!