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that is, means which stand in some intelligible relation to the end to be accomplished. *
And the exercise of this saving activity or grace of Christ among men gives rise to the church. The church' is not in itself a source, but an object and product of salvation. The church does not save, but is saved; and for the individual units that compose its membership it is the sphere of salvation, as the human body is the sphere of transformation for the elements of matter that enter into its constitution. “ Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for it; that He might sanctify it, having cleansed it by the washing of the water with the word, that He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing.” The church is not an institution established in order to receive and convey the grace of Christ, but the continuous product of that grace in its saving activity among men; as the flame of the lamp is the continuous product of the combination of the carbon of the oil and the oxygen of the atmosphere. Neither is tbe church a substitute for Christ; as though Christ Himself were absent in heaven, and were carrying on His work here on earth now through the church by means of chosen representatives or vicars; but it is the body of Christ, in which Christ Himself is immediately present to every member. The representation of the church as the body of Christ is a figurative expression of the idea that it is a society whose members are bound together by a solidarity of spiritual life and interest, which has its foundation in their common union with Christ. The church is, therefore, not an institution that is created by a power outside
* The difference of the two conceptions of grace which are here contrasted, is of immense importance for the historical development of Christianity; for as one or the other of these conceptions prevails, we get courses of development and systems of religious life that are as wide apart as the poles. The one is largely a system of superstition and outward formalism; the other of rational faith and inward piety—the one prevailingly magical, the other prevailingly ethical. And these opposite conceptions and systems have their origin in different conceptions of the incarnation and of the person of Christ.
of itself, but an organism that grows by an immanent force, howbeit under the modifying influence of the personal units that compose its membership.* As the continuous product of
* The conception of the church as a growing organism ought to settle all debates concerning the question of a legitimate ministry and polity. The orders of the ministry and the governmental polity of the church were not fixed from the beginning, in the way of supernatural divine ordination, but were left to develop themselves according to the demands of times and circumstances in succeeding ages. If any particular form of church government is revealed in the New Testament, we believe that it is the Congregational; though that by no means settles the question of organization for all time. That form of governmental polity must be considered most legitimate and most divine which, at any particular time and place, best answers the purpose and produces the best results. As an organism the church must be essentially one ; although that oneness does not necessarily require what is now commonly called "organic unity,” that is, unity of outward political organization. The conception of a physical organism, in which the different organs or members must necessarily be in physical or local contact with each other, probably gives rise in some minds to the notion that there can be no real unity of the church without unity of outward organization. But the church is a spiritual organism, and its members may therefore be spiritually one, although belonging to different ecclesiastical bodies. There may be more than one fold, and yet but one flock and one shepherd. See John 10:16, R. V. There is more than one family (Tatpiá) in heaven and earth, but they are all named from one Father, and in Him they are all one. See Eph. 3:15, Greek and R. V. In Christ all Christians are essentially one, no matter to what different organizations they may belong and by what different names they may be called. And if once this spiritual and essential unity, which is not a nominalistic abstraction, but a profound reality, were properly recognized and acknowledged, there would be less need felt for ex ternal unity, and less anxiety and labor for it that will probably remain fruitless to the end of time. In the sense of external organization the Church never was one at any period in the past, and never will be one in the future, until her historical development in time shall be completed. When there shall be but one state organization throughout the world, then there may also be but one church organization, not sooner. The entertaining of these views, however, should not blind any one to the inconveniences and wrongs arising out of the many divisions into which the church is at present outwardly split up, and many of which have originated in no real moral and religious interest at all, but either in mere theological trifles, such as questions concerning the mode of baptism, or in party prejudice and passion.
the grace of Christ, the church is the communion of saints; and as the body of Christ, in and through which He exercises His regenerating and converting grace, she is the mother of saints.
In the Word and Sacraments Christ is spiritually present to the soul as the author of salvation, in the former offering, and in the latter sealing and communicating His renewing and sanctifying grace to the believer. The sacraments are not channels for the conveyance of something called grace from an absent Christ, but signs of Christ present in the Church and standing in an immediate relation of creative love to the souls of the faithful. And they are efficacious signs, that is, signs producing the effects which they signify; or they are seals, pledging the reality and presence of the grace which they represent, and rousing and confirming the faith of the recipient, whereby he accepts and appropriates the grace that is signified and offered. As visible symbols attached to the promises of the Gospel, without which they have neither meaning nor force, they are aids and supports to faith. This is in agreement with the old observation that, while God does not need sacraments for the bestowment of His grace, man needs them for the reception and appropriation of it. The grace is not a physical, but a moral good, and can therefore not be infused into the soul by a physical operation; it can only be received by a moral process, a process involving the intelligence and will of the receiving subject; and to initiate and sustain this process is the design of the sacraments. This does not imply, however, that their efficacy is merely subjective, or, in other words, that the faith of the subject gets out of them only what the imagination has first deposited therein. There is in them, as instrumental signs and organs by which Christ inakes His presence and power felt in the Church, an objective efficacy and force ; but this force is
To help to heal some of these divisions will, therefore, be a noble work; but this healing will probably come, not so mach by making direct war opon the existing divisions, as by promoting a proper sense of the already existing higher unity.
moral in its nature and can produce its proper effects only when met by a corresponding moral condition in the soul. It follows, then, that while the sacraments are true and efficacious signs of divine grace, in the sense that the grace signified, that is, some particular energy of divine love, is always present, they do not accomplish their effects ex opere operato, that is, in consequence of the mere performance of the physical ceremony, like some magic rites or charms; for these effects always depend upon the faith or freedom of the recipient. Where there is no faith in the recipient, there the grace of God is exhibited too, in word and sacraments, but it does not accomplish its proper results.
THE NEW BIRTH.
BY REV. CALVIN S. GERHARD, A.M.
It is a remarkable fact that on a subject of such vast importance, and one so clearly defined in the Scriptures, as the new birth, there should be so much difference of opinion among Christians. Many claim that it is brought to pass through baptism, whilst others declare that it is an experience and has nothing to do with baptism. Between these two positions there are various shades of belief, but all Christians hold, in some sense, either to the one or the other opinion named; they either believe in some form of baptismal regeneration, or accept some form of the experimental theory.
How are we to account for this variety of beliefs ? Why does one large portion of the Protestant Church see no meaning in baptism, except as a test of obedience, or a sign of grace otherwise bestowed? Why has there been such a falling away, not only from the teachings of the Roman and Greek Churches, but also from the doctrine of the sacraments, as held in the early Church, and the Reformation Churches ? And, moreover, why have the Churches, which lay but little, if any stress on the sacraments as grace-bearing ordinances, made such rapid progress in nearly all Protestant countries? How are we to account for the rise and swift advancement of Puritanism, and the various forms of Methodism? Must it not be admitted that it is largely due to the fact that the sacramental theory of religion has in a great measure lost its hold upon the masses ? They believe in conversion, but do not believe in baptism. They readily admit the necessity of the new birth, but cannot see what baptism has to do with it.