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our power to protect him in the inalienable right of free thought and speech. But we cannot concede that a man is honest, either with himself or his fellows, who labors directly or indirectly to undermine a creed with which he suffers himself to remain in formal alliance.
It may be said, that in all this we have but stated an argument against ecclesiastical alliance itself. We have but stated, it may be assumed, the obstacle to free thought and speech which sectarian organizations necessarily present. If a man connects himself with a sect, he naturally sells his mind and heart to its interests; and so, instead of continuing a free man in Christ, he becomes the slave of a creed. And hence, is it not better, it will be asked, to keep wholly aloof from parties and creeds? Is it not safer at least, for each man to do his work in his own way, without regard to the opinions or the methods of other men ? Shall not the individual be an individual alike in his opinions and in his efforts to instruct other men in them ?
We should have some respect for this complaint against sectarianism-for, in itself, it is not a little plausible—if it came from persons whose practice accorded with it. But with rare exceptions the complaint comes from persons who are not only in formal alliance with a sect, but who insist on remaining so,—and this too, even against the protests of their brethren. Indeed, they regard as persecuting any attempt to make them act in accordance with their professions. They say, that no man can safely be connected with a sect; but if an attempt is made to remove them from this unsafe position, they are persecuted! They say that the true position for every free man is individualism ; but any attempt to put them into this true position, is persecution ! And nine tenths of the trouble and unkindly feeling which exist between such persons and their ecclesiastical associates, do not arise directly from the difference of opinion between the parties. The real case of alienation is in the fact, that one party insists on remaining where it says it cannot safely remain-in fellowship with a sect.
Now we insist that every man who stands in a Calvinistic pulpit is morally bound to preach Calvinism. In that position he has no right even to debate its essential dogmas. But remember, he is under no obligation to stand in such a pulpit. The most arbitrary stretch of sectarian power
never compels a man to assume an obligation to teach its doctrines. We do indeed complain that Calvinism has pursued an arbitrary cause in its dealings with men outside of its pale. We have seen instances of bitterness, misrepresentation, and persecution, in the dealings of Çalvinists towards persons who neither had nor desired to have, any formal ecclesiastical relations with them. But we do not complain of Calvinists,—on the contrary we honor and respect them,—when they resolutely interdict any attack on their dogmas, as coming from persons in voluntary alliance with them. There are scores of preachers and writers in the so called Orthodox church, who have no moral right to be there. We do not censure, we heartily commend the inflexibility with which the genuine devotees resist the right of such persons to assail their principles. Our doctrinal sympathies are, of course, with the proscribed party; for the general tenor of doctrine and practical appeal coming from this party is what we are most familiar with as Universalists. But we cannot feel that men have a right even to teach truth from a false position.
What should we say if a Christian missionary were to pursue such a course with the Mahommedans, whom it is his business to convert to the Christian faith? Suppose that in the outset of his career, in order to get a hearing he avows himself a Mohammedan, and this too, in the most direct way-by formal alliance with them. He accepts the Koran with a mental reservation, however, as to the interpretations he shall put upon it; assumes the Mohammedan name, and then, having secured the confidence of his Mohammedan hearers, he forth with commences, in somewhat ambiguous terms—it might not be prudent to call things by their right names to throw doubt on the claims of Mahomet as the prophet of God, to unsettle the minds of his hearers as to the doctrines which he himself has virtually obligated himself to teach, and to insinuate-it would not be safe directly to state the essentials of the Christian faith? Were there such a case, as a Christian people we should all agree with the person supposed, that Mohammedanism is a grave error, and that the Christian is the true doctrine ; while we should brand him as a hypocrite and traitor-meriting the scorn of every honest and highminded Mussulman. The devotees of error even have
rights; and among these is the right to protect themselves against imposition.
As to the allegation that all ecclesiastical alliances are prejudicial to freedom of thought-considered in itself and without regard to the inconsistencies of those who usually make the allegation--we will venture a word. We freely concede that they do present a temptation such as is commonly affirmed. A man of average social sympathies soon finds himself attached to his party as something quite distinct from his principles. He finds it painful to break his party ties even when the claims of new connections call upon him to do so. We think it would hardly be to any man's credit, could he without a struggle sever the ties binding him to those who have been his associates in faith and purpose. He must be lacking in the ordinary sympathies and affections of his kind, did all party alliances give way so easily. We should not choose such a one for our companion in any relation of life. Fortunately, few persons are so cold of nature, so insensible to attachment, so repellant in what pertains to the social qualities of the race. We think it a virtue not only to love the doctrines, but to “ love the brethren." Aside from the good, or what in some cases may be the evil, growing out of social relations, it is positively pleasant to see brethren banded together. An organization of human beings held together by cords of mutual sympathy and affection, viewed in itself, wholly irrespective of the results attendant upon it, is to us, we should hope to every body, a gratifying spectacle.
But like all other good things, this thing which we call organization is liable to abuse. It presents peculiar temptations-it exposes men to peculiar dangers—it involves peculiar responsibilities. In families, we have seen it lead to a heartless indifference to the welfare of all without the narrow circle. In neighborhoods it sometimes degenerates into petty clannishness, and mean jealous rivalries, as respects other communities. In states it often makes patriotism selfish and unprincipled, aggresive on the rights of other nations ; and not unfrequently it fosters the worst passions of the human heart as respects the subjects of other powers. In sects and parties it sometimes makes truth and right subordinate to the assumed interests of the fraternity ; makes the sect the controlling interest, and the cause its tributary ; gives " to party what was meant for mankind;” and when the welfare of the brotherhood is thought to be concerned, it often reverses the fundamental principle of morals-sactioning the maxim, “ the end justifies the means."
But in all these and similar cases it is a shallow philosophy which sees the efficient cause of these evils only in the family, in the neighborhood, in the state, in the sect; and it is a reckless logic which thence argues that the family, the neighborhood, the state, and the sect, as organizations, should be swept away. Grant that in the organization we find an occasion of evil, the real cause is prior to organization ; is in human nature ; is in the social wants and tendencies of the race,-tendencies and wants which are meant for geod; which, if carefully regulated, lead only to good; but which the imperfection, the ignorance, the selfishness of man often make the occasion of mischief and crime.
Talk as men will about the evil of sect, no one ever tries to keep clear of sect. Persons who make opposition to sect their sole cause, involuntarily find themselves organized into a sect. The sectarianism which wars upon sectarianism is quite as real, and, as our observation testifies, quite as bitter, as intolerant, as exclusive as any thing it seeks to remove. Ecclesiastical alliances—to confine our statement to sectarianism as it relates to theology—do present strong temptations to individual integrity, whenever a change of conviction calls for a change of position. Weak virtue will be likely to succumb before strong social habits and affinities. But this only makes the merit of integrity the greater; it only gives to the conscience that overcomes the temptation the greater strength for the advocacy of newly-discovered truth. And this, we doubt not, is the purpose of Providence. The lover of truth must pass through trying ordeals, that his fidelity may be tested ; his integrity strengthened, his fitness established for the advocacy of precious truth. The love of truth must be supreme over all selfish attachments; and he that fails to evince this higher love cannot make a successful apostle of the truth, be his position what it may. Neither ecclesiastical affinity nor individualism can be a substitute for that supreme devotion to honest conviction which
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undeesiastical body the mean thatable, give
gives the law of conduct in any and every social position.
If we are right in what we say of associated action in matters of faith—if it be true, that ecclesiastical organization necessarily results when any considerable number of minds are drawn together by a common faith and sympathy,—and every one practically concedes this,-it follows that an undebatable theology is demanded by the social instincts of human souls. As a matter of logic, such a theology is demanded to account for the fact that ecclesiastical bodies have ever and everywhere existed. It is the idea of individualism that every thing may be debated by every body—an idea obviously suicidal if consistently carried out. It is the idea of associated action, that there must be rallying points—points never to be disturbed-points to which every member of the confederate body owes unquestioning allegiance. In . every ecclesiastical body, these rallying points make an undebatable theology.
Again, every ecclesiastical body finds its peculiar power in the stability of its principles. We mean that its doctrines, in so far as they are regarded as undebatable, give the organization as such a power—a power quite distinct from what is contributed by the individual energy of the several members. But let each individual feel at liberty to criticise, question, or repudiate any one of the points really essential to the faith around which all the members are presumed to rally, and the common faith loses its distinctive power—if, indeed, under the supposition, it is not a contradiction in terms to call the faith common. Whatever the form of action may be, the result is individualism. The structure of faith to be of any service, must rest upon a rock. Those who profess to act from a common belief and sentiment must, while in this associative relation, look upon their principles not only as truths, but as fundamental truths. They are no more to be debated than the axioms of mathematics or morals. In all ecclesiastical operations the root of power is not simply in theology, but in an undebatable theology.
We cannot conclude our suggestions on the subject under consideration without offering a word as to its practical application ; more particularly its application to Universalists as a religious body.