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them. Such attacks, harmless as they are in their weakness, would derive all their interest from our own notice. But that which is insignificant as the opinion of an individual, acquires importance as the manifesto of a party; and hence it becomes our duty to comment upon many publications which, under different circumstances, we should leave, with all other ephemera, to pass silently to oblivion.
For this reason we have thought it right to notice Mr. Binney's sermon, which, having been preached on a public occasion, and sanctioned by “ The Associated Ministers and Churches of the London Congregational Union," presents itself with an official character. His object is to give an exposition of the nature of Schism, and to show that the character and guilt of it do not apply to Dissent. His ex position may be admitted, but his conclusion denied entirely.
“Schism, regarded as the violation of christian charity, ought to be felt to be an evil of great magnitude. It is a sin-and no slight onea sin in its nature highly offensive to God, and in its consequences most injurious to the Church."-(P. 71.) Such is Mr. Binney's remark on the criminality of Schism. His description of it, as deduced from an inquiry into the sense in which the term is used and applied in the New Testament, will be found at p. 24, et seq., and presents a picture, done to the very life, of a dissenting “Church” when agitated by a party question; the appointment or dismission of a minister for example.
From the facts of the case, and the phraseology of the record, it would seem that the schisms of the Corinthian Church consisted in the indulgence of anchristian tempers, and in the violation of christian sympathy-in heats and heartburnings-in strifes and turbulence-in acrimonious disputes-in factions and party feeling; in short, in such rents, breaches, ruptures, and divisions of the christian body, as resulted from, or consisted in, the violation of that love by which, as members of Christ, they ought to have been connected together, and the strength and purity of which it should have been their constant study to preserve and to increase,
We conclude-first, that for men to be schismatics, they must of necessity be a part of the visible Church. If they are not Christians, they cannot be schismatics. They may be something worse - they may be apostates or heretics, in the modern acceptation of that term ;-but schismatics they cannot be. Second : that as Christians, whatever they may profess or believe, however accurate their views either of doctrine or discipline, if they are distinguished by a narrow, exclusive, and uncharitable spirit, they are distinguished by the elementary principle of the schismatical character. Third : that for one class of Christians to be schismatics in relation to another, more than in relation to the whole christian community, they must both be united in the same Church - be visibly comprehended in the same body, and constitute together one whole. If they do not, then what they are to each other is a question to be taken up by itself, and disposed of on its own grounds.
Upon this principle he proceeds to deny that dissenters can be regarded as schismatics in relation to the Church of England, because they disclaim all connexion with that Church; and since they constitute a body perfectly distinct and independent, they cannot, by their separation, create divisions within it.
VOL. XVII. NO. II.
Anticipating the obvious answer to this assumption, he proceeds to admit that a separation from a Church as a consequence of divisions within it, may also be regarded as schism ; not that separation in itself implies the sin, for “it may be faithless departure from the Church of Christ, and then it is apostasy; or it may be factious departure from a particular Church, and then we consent to call it schism; or it may be compelled departure on- account of sin, and then it is excision and ignominy; or it may be unavoidable departure from fear of sin, and then it is virtue and praise." (Pp. 31, 32.) These distinctions may be fully admitted, and the question is, which of them applies to Dissent ?
Mr. Binney contends that the fathers of Dissent having been forced from the Church, the guilt of division must attach to those who expelled them. “Dissent-present existing Dissent-considered as separation from the Establishment, originated with the Act of Uniformity, in 1662.” We shall take the liberty to trace it a little farther.
The mistaken policy of Abbot, to give his conduct no harsher name, admitted into the Church numbers of men whose first object was to destroy her system ; that system which had been established by her holy confessors and martyrs, and which, by God's blessing, has been continued to our own day. Hence arose a fierce contention between those who would preserve their tried and cherished institutions, and those who laboured to overturn them; or, as we should now say, between the Conservative and the Destructive party. If to destroy the peace and order of a Church, by unauthorized and dangerous innovations, be schism, then these innovators were schismatics. Success gave free scope to their principles, and they advanced from schism to rebellion and murder: murdering the first minister of the crown; murdering the first prelate of the Church ; murdering, at length, their king. Their guilty success brought neither unity nor peace, but rather a multiplication of sects. It was well said at the time
“ The Church of England does all factions foster ;
The pulpit is usurpd by each impostor;
Extempore excludes the Pater-noster.” Happily their reign was short: for it is one of the most signal blessings in the moral government of the world, that evil has a natural tendency to advance, till it reaches that point of wickedness and folly, at which it destroys itself. They fell, divided, hated, and despised; and the Church and King were restored. The fatal consequences of dissension had taught the necessity of peace. It was attempted to unite the opposite parties by mutual concession, but the experiment failed ; and nothing then remained but to exclude those who refused to be conciliated. They left the Church as schismatics, for they were excluded for schism, and deserved and necessary punishment receives its character from the offence with which it is identified.
Modern Dissent, however, is rather personal than hereditary, for it is notorious that a family seldom remain dissenters beyond the third generation. Indeed, when parents are raised to a certain point in society, so as to be enabled to give their children a good education, these children usually abandon Dissent. We have then to consider upon what existing grounds dissenters can so justify their hostile separation from the Church, as to free themselves from the guilt of schism; remembering that nothing short of the most grave conscientious scruples upon essential points will sustain a vindication. To plead mere taste, or caprice, on a question of sacred duty, would be worse than mockery ; cavils on such a subject, disgrace him who urges them; and to resist a Church whose orthodox and scriptural character cannot be gainsayed, only because that Church is recognized and supported by the civil authorities, would aggravate schism by adding to it disloyalty.
If Dissent should justify a separation, by urging points essentially connected with the Church, which it always condemns wherever it may find them, and against which it protests every where, and on all occasions, it may claim the praise of consistency: but the questions will still arise how far its opinion upon these points is mistaken ; and if so, whether that full and candid inquiry, which upon a subject of such importance it was bound to make, would not have conducted it to a different conclusion; or again, whether the points to which it objects refer merely to speculative and unimportant matters, touching no vital question connected with the salvation of the individual, or his advance in heavenly knowledge and holiness. In either case, Dissent cannot be entitled to an acquittal. But if it should appear that Dissent tolerates and recognizes in its own communion, what it objects to in the Church, then must it stand self-convicted of the most gross and inexcusable schism.
A prescribed form of prayer has been made a subject of objection ; yet in very many dissenting meeting-houses, and these among the highest and most respectable, the Church Liturgy is used; nay, this very Liturgy has been translated into Chinese by their own missionary, Dr. Morrison, and published with their own support and sanction. Her terms of communion are condemned as narrow and exclusive. They are indeed too narrow for the heretic and the latitudinarian ; but wide enough for all who hold the truth as it is in Jesus. Her landmarks are those points only which all orthodox Christians hold as essentials, while she leaves all lesser matters to private judgment and conscience. Exclusiveness applies to sectarian communities, for while her banner is the cross alone, theirs is some peculiarity, in no way identified with christian faith, and important only as a party badge. But ministers in the Church are appointed, not by the people, but by patrons! And in how many meeting-houses are they appointed by trustees; and as to the securities attached to the respective plans, the Church at least insures orthodoxy: how far Dissent does so, witness the two hundred meeting-houses which have lapsed to Socinianism. But it is a hardship to the people to sit under a minister whom they have not chosen ! This hardship is imposed upon all the hearers in dissenting congregations, as distinguished from the section which they call “ the Church”-it is imposed on the minority in “ the Church" itself whenever there is a difference of opinion in appointing or retaining a minister-it is imposed upon both congregation and “ Church” when the minister is appointed by trustees. But the Church is supported by fixed revenues !-Has Dissent refused to accept endowments ? But the Church is unjust in compelling support from those who scruple to enter her communion !-Are dissenters in the habit of allowing their own endowments, whether in land or houses, to be held by churchmen rent free? And is the principle affected whether the endowment be the entire estate, or, as in tithe, an undivided share of it? But dissenters conscientiously object to the discipline and government of the Church ! Not one in a thousand has ever thought upon the subject, or possesses the data which are necessary to form an opinion: and they confess, nay avow, that they can profitably worship according to the forms of the Church, and in the Church, for it is one of their complaints against the Church that she will not intercommune with them in public services. Thus upon their own principles, and by their own practice, they stand convicted of separating from the Church only upon factious grounds; and, says Mr. Binney," a factious separation from a particular Church we consent to call schism.” So say we !
Overt acts of schism grow out of the spirit of schism ; and who that has lived much with dissenters, has not continually seen the manifestation and workings of this spirit among themselves ? Hence the jealousies, with all the little intrigues that grow out of them, between rival meetings. Hence the heartburnings, the partisanship, the canvassing, the private pique and the public quarrel, which arise from the most trifling cause of dispute. Hence capricious conduct towards their ministers, to-day dashing to pieces and trampling upon him, who yesterday was their idol. Hence the riotous proceedings in their “church meetings” as they are called ; meetings commenced with prayer, held in a place of worship, and at which none are present but those who make a peculiar profession of religion, yet which are sometimes marked by violence which would disgrace a parish vestry or common pothouse. Hence secessions, and the not uncommon spectacle of rival and hostile meeting-houses of the same persuasion in the same town. We have been accused, says one of their own leaders, who in the next sentence confesses that the charge is true, “ we have been accused of wrangling about religion till we have lost our religion in the
senting com, rather modes to the chu
fray." Thus SCHISM IS THEIR SIN, AND SCHISM IS THEIR PUNISHMENT ; and as the young Spartans were taught sobriety by looking at the drunken Helots, so may Churchmen learn to prize the blessings of peace and order by the illustration which Dissent affords of the evils of confusion and schism.
For a dissenting composition and on a party subject, Mr. Binney's sermon is, on the whole, rather moderate. Not but that the cloven foot is occasionally seen when he alludes to the Church ; but it is half put forth, like the timid disobedience of a child, who is afraid quite to rebel, yet goes as far as it can venture. But when he gets out of the pulpit, like a boy escaped from school, he revels in the Appendix ; and his heaviest denunciations are launched at the Bishop of London. It appears that the Bishop has recommended a work lately published, entitled “Letters to a Dissenting Minister of the Congregational Denomination, by L. S. E., as containing a great deal of useful information and sound reasoning, set forth with a little too much warmth of invective against the dissenters." We have read this book throughout. We know Dissent and dissenters well; for we were very long, very extensively, and very intimately connected with them : and we now declare that the book presents a true, a faithful, an unexaggerated portrait. We could furnish from our own personal and certain knowledge, and from the history of a single meeting-house, more revolting circumstances than any which he has told. If the work of L. S. E. be tinged with “controversial bitterness," we can only say that truth, in such a case, cannot speak in the language of compliment; and justice requires that his own apology should be admitted for occasional failures in point of courtesy, which, he says, “ is purely unintentional, and must be attributed to his dissenting education, of the effects of which, he fears, his utmost endeavours have not yet entirely succeeded to divest his mode of expression.” For the reasonableness of this also we can entirely vouch; and much as we disapprove of such weapons, at least dissenters have no right to complain of them. They are brought from their own armoury, and are in constant use by their own champions. If L. S. E. has not given a flattering picture, it is the fault of the original. We do not break the mirror because it does not reflect a handsome countenance. For the part taken by the Bishop in recommending the work, he requires no defence of ours. It is his duty to take care that the Clergy should thoroughly know their enemies : he did right, therefore, to call their attention to a work, which, we repeat, gives a more complete and faithful picture of Dissent than any other we have met with; while the caution with which his recommendation was coupled, quite exonerates him from all just imputation on account of the temper of the work itself. Charity is to be claimed from all Christians, especially from ministers, and it should shine brightest of all in the characters and