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“ A thousand daily sects rise up and die,
“I HAVE thought much,” said Ridley to his friend, “ on the explanation, which you were so good as to give me yesterday, of the doctrine of the Apostolic Church :' and I have referred again to the passages of Scripture which you quoted. There appears to me no doubt that our Lord and his Apostles contemplated the formation of an uniform, undivided, and organized body; branching throughout the whole world, and maintaining everywhere the same essentials of doctrine and discipline-a body which should have authority in controversies of faith,' and power to expel disorderly members from its communion-itself being preserved from error by the ever-burning lamp of scriptural truth. And I can well imagine how great an advantage and blessing it must have been, in the earlier ages, that such a visible body should exist, wu which all Christians might safely join themselves for edification and communion; and, consequently, how pernicious and sinful it must have been to break in upon this providential arrangement. The union with such a Church seems to present that happy medium between a blind submission to human guidance, and a presumptuous leaning to our private judgment, which is exactly suited to our condition as fallible and responsible beings: and no other state of things could well be conceived more calculated to preserve that friendly communion amongst Christans which is so strongly enjoined in the word of God; or to re-establish that fellowship, if unhappily it should have been broken: and no other system appears more adapted to spread itself over the world, and embrace all nations and languages, and retain them in the true faith.
“One difficulty, however, occurs to menamely, that if the Church is one, and that only is the true Church which maintains the Apostles' doctrine and discipline, we unchurch many existing bodies of Christians which have varied from these conditions.”
“I see,” said Herbert, smiling, “ that you have forgotten my advice—to keep your mind fixed on the evidence given in Scripture to the doctrine of the Church. It is a doctrine of which I think Scripture furnishes abundant proof. If Scripture admit of different interpretations, then the best help to guide us to the right meaning is the testimony and practice of the first Christians: and in the case before us the practice of the ancient Church fully corroborates the view which I have taken. But I see that you have been perplexing yourself with the present aspect of the Church; and though you acknowledge that Scripture speaks very plainly; and do not deny the ancient uniform constitution of the Church; and even admit that you discern great advantage in such an arrangement, and suitableness to our condition - yet, because, within the last century or two, certain sects have sprung up, without being excommunicated, in this corner of the world of ours, you must alter the whole system, proved by Scripture and ancient usage, and recommended by its manifest adaptation to the wants of human nature, for fear, as you say, of unchurching these modern separatists."
RIDLEY. I confess that you have described with tolerable exactness what has been the drift of my thoughts.
It is a most common fallacy. The great misfortune is, that right-minded persons, like yourself, should so frequently fall into it. But tell me now, what do you mean by that word “unchurching ” which you have used ?
RIDLEY. I meant that, in defining the Church as you have done, you deny its blessings and privileges to those bodies of Christians who do not belong to it.
HERBERT. Just so. You seem to think that we act uncharitably to those bodies of Christians, and deprive them of certain valuable privileges. But I would fain ask, What possible effect our opinion, whether true or false, can have on those communities? How can it affect their claims either one way or the other? Our opinion cannot unchurch
those who really belong to the Church of Christ; neither can it make those persons members of the Church, who are not so. We cannot arrest God's grace, or shorten his arm to save; but neither, on the other hand, can we extend the privileges of his church to those who refuse to accept them, -except by persuading them of their danger.
RIDLEY. All that is true. But then, do you not lay yourseif open to the charge of illiberality and want of charity, by refusing to acknowledge them as Churchmen?
That is to say,—though we believe our neighbours to be walking in an unsafe course, or, to say the least, at great disadvantage, we ought never to invite them to join themselves to us, and share our privileges, but let them go on as they please, without one word of caution or admonition. This may be liberal ; it may be called liberal to explain away the word of God, and say that one form of religion is as good as another, when God expressly teaches us the contrary. It may be thought very liberal to say that separation from the Church is no sin, when Scripture declares it to be so: but I deny that it is charitable. I deny that it is charitable to