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by the experiences of several months. Every one of these experiences was also liable to be imitated by some corresponding counterfeit. The timid and self-suspecting were of course the slowest to believe in the genuineness of their own experi ences. The confident and sanguine might be hypocrites and self-deceived, but they would rarely know it. As the practical result the "saints by calling," i. e. those who could meet the requisitions of this rigid censorship from without and within, would be comparatively few in member, and with the utmost allowance for the weakness of human nature, could not always be expected to bear their honors meekly. The children and youth of Christian parents were baptized in infancy, in the hope that when the time for their conversion would render it possible, they would be effectually called, or if they should be early called out of life, the grace of God would have first recreated the evil nature which they had inherited from Adam. It is not surprising that with such views of the nature, and the beginning of the Christian life, that a great majority of reputable people born of Christian parents, reputable in their lives, worshiping God in their households, who were taught that God's call to them, if it ever should come, would come in these protracted and thorough-going experiences, and who believed that it had not yet come in such a fashion to themselves, it is not wonderful that they desired to be connected with the privileges of the Christian church, by being admitted to some sort of court of the Gentiles, such as was first provided by the doctrine that the participation of the Lord's Supper was in some way "a converting ordinance," for which was finally substituted the Half-way Covenant," by which on certain condi tions the heads of families were allowed on pledging themselves to certain duties, to present their children for baptism. This Half-way Covenant is denounced and deplored by some unhistorical critics as a peculiarly mischievous device which grew out of the temporary provision that none but members of the church should be allowed to vote. It is far more rational to explain it in the earnest desire of many who could not endure the severe tests of genuine conversion, to be recognized in some way as waiting for salvation to themselves and their households. The status they desired was in theory the same as
had been accorded to baptized persons in every one of the Reformed churches on the Continent and in Great Britain.
The churches of New England in yielding to the arrangement simply fell back into the theory and practice which had been universally adopted in the church till that time. Their abandonment of it was simultaneous with the Great Reviving in England and America, which took various forms and names in those countries and in Germany. Its introduction into New England was an almost inevitable protest of human nature against the overstrained and defective conceptions of the Christian life, to which we have already referred. All honor should be rendered to the churches of New England for insisting so earnestly upon the spiritual nature of the Christian life, as against any priestly absolution of the conscience or sacramentarian cleansing of the heart. To one who rightly estimates the fearful power of practical heresies of this nature to work mischief to the souls of men, the attractions with which such heresies continue to array themselves to the senses and the imagination, and the subtle certainty of the poison which they emit, no words can be too strong to express the honor which all Christian men should pay to those who at such cost and with such tenacity insisted on the truth, that "the kingdom of God is not meat and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost." But we may not deny, on the other hand, that the views of the New England churches in respect to the nature. and tests of the Christian life and the conditions of entering it. or making progress in it were seriously defective. It was no slight error to substitute for personal faith in a living person an intellectual assent to a system of metaphysical propositions, to insist on submission to what was called the sovereign will of God in saving or destroying, in place of relenting gratitude, to the God" who will have all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth." It was no trifling misconception of the spiritual nature of this kingdom which practically taught that little children should not be suffered to come to the Christ who had bidden them, and to hold up impossible and undesirable refinements of spiritual experience as the only grounds of Christian joy and hope. These misconceptions have to a great extent been outlived and discarded. But there are many yet living
from whose young hearts they shut out the brightness of their life, not a few for whom they covered the earth with gloom, and invested death and the future world with anything but the hope which the gospel reveals to the earnest and honest soul. The New England churches are to be honored for the purity of their conceptions of the Christian life so far as they were true; they are not the less to be honored that they have outgrown these misconceptions so far as they were either defective or false. We have nothing but honor for the spiritual conceptions of the Christian life which they cherished and enjoined, and nothing but regret for the unnatural tests by which they judged of its evidences and manifestations in themselves and others.
We find ourselves arrested midway in the course of these somewhat rambling thoughts, which make no pretension to an exhaustive discussion of their theme.
We offer no excuse for confining them thus far to New England, for the obvious reason that inasmuch as in New England Congregationalism has had the opportunity to show its strength and weakness it may reasonably be praised and condemned for what it has done or failed to do in the community which it first moulded and for a long time controlled. Perhaps it may achieve better results under other circumstances. It certainly will not if its friends are unwilling to concede that it is not already perfect in its conceptions of the church, of Christian theology, the Christian life and its ethical and social aims and actions, or if they are unwilling to study its past history in the light of its failures and its defects, as well as in the light of its services and its triumphs. It will be time to forcast its future when we have done justice to its past.
ARTICLE VI.-SOME CONTRIBUTIONS WHICH THE WEST MAY BE EXPECTED TO MAKE TO THE CONGREGATION ALISM OF THE FUTURE.
I AM not unmindful of the remark of George Eliot, that no man exposes himself to such gratuitous obloquy as he who sets up for a prophet: I am ready reverently to say with Isaac Newton, Hypotheses non fingo: at the same time, the men whose boat is carried rapidly on in the strong current of the river, have a justification in looking for what is before them, and venturing judgments with reference to what is yet unseen, that might not be accorded to those who are drifting quietly on the bosom of the broad and placid lake. And when the stream takes on the character of rapids, the canoe-man must in very self-preservation look steadily ahead, must measure the force and direction of the dashing currents, must with an almost prophetic eye discover concealed rocks, must promptly estimate probabilities, and make from time to time decisive choices.
This to a greater or less extent is the condition of life in the West. Indeed it is more or less true to-day of the whole country. The fruit of seed long sown is ripening. Ideas and institutions once honored have lost their power; and new ones are taking their place, the influence of which is yet to be determined. It is enough to observe that to the West lies San Francisco, with her Sand Lots, and to the East, Fall River. ness in all departments is undergoing great changes. New lines of trade are opening; new methods are introduced; ten years of business life are now a generation; and the boy who learned a trade from his father has to learn it anew of his elder brother.
It is far from being unwarrantable, therefore, to look for modifications more or less important in the institutions of religion. A religious denomination is both a set of principles and a group of institutions. These as they exist at any given time are the sum of their own history, they are the product of a long
experience of need and of supply. All else changes, why should a religious denomination be expected to stand still, or to live in its past? It is the purpose of this paper to venture the suggestion of some changes that may be looked for in our own denomination, as the result of its life at the West.
Let us treat it in the three departments of Polity, Doctrine, and Life.
First, as to Polity; the indications are that our development will be in the line of a compacter organization and of a stricter conservatism. This for the following reasons:
1. It may be looked for as the influence of a natural reaction. With the planting of every western community there begins a profound disintegration of society: people are strangely thrown together; much has to be mutually conceded; old habits are largely laid aside, and before they can be effectively resumed, they have fallen into entire disuse. The growth of these communities unfortunately is not a growth in what makes for righteousness. The extremes meet; Bismarck and Chicago, Mandan and Milwaukee are in morals nearer to one another than either is to many an intervening town. They mark the beginning and the end of the line along which we are developing. Look in either direction and you see what the battle is, that must be waged with disorder, vice, socialism, Sabbath breaking, and crime.
It was so
An inevitable reaction from this state of social disintegration I will tend to make the churches more conservative. when social corruption in the seventh century pushed the church to popery and monasticism, and again in the seventeenth, when the profligacy of England under the Stuarts gave rise to the stern severities of the Puritans. Deep lying forces of human nature assert themselves, and whatever her theories, a pure church, a church that values her life, will under similar circumstances tend to a stricter rather than to a looser administration of her polity.
2. To this tendency the large infusion of new material originally un-Congregational, will contribute.
We derive no small part of our denominational growth from the best material of other denominations that comes to the West. Some respectable communions like the Dutch Reformed,