Leonard Woolsey Bacon.

Church papers: sundry essays in subjects relating to the church and ... online

. (page 3 of 26)
Online LibraryLeonard Woolsey BaconChurch papers: sundry essays in subjects relating to the church and ... → online text (page 3 of 26)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

the present theory holds that the lines of succession are
not one, but several ; that from the original .conferment,
au&ority and a validity " descend along these lines in
secular matters through an hereditary succession; in
spiritual matters through a tactual succession; that th&
power of the sceptre and sword, or the power of the keys,
as it is not derivable from the subjects thereof, so is not
defeasible by them; and that the question of title to
authority, civil or ecclesiastical, is a simple question of
pedigree. 1 According to this theory, the powers of the
state center in the sovereign. The king, not the pope, is
u the fountain of honor." u L'etat, c'est moi" says the
Bourbon ; " Ecclesia in Episcopo" responds the high*

In its two applications, to church and to state, the lines
of argument by which this theory is sustained are very
nearly equal and parallel. The state is a divine institu-
tion, and so is the church. The ministers of the one are
divinely commissioned, and so of the other. There are*
difficulties objected in either case to any other external
credentials of the divine commission than the credentials
of succession from former ministers. Those whose claims
to authority have been founded, exclusively or mainly,
on hereditary or tactual relation to their predecessors,
have been in a multitude of cases, and for many centuries
almost universally, approved as lawful rulers and bishops.
The two applications of 4he theory are analogous, not
only by parity of reasoning, but by parity of unreasoa-

1. See Macaulay's History of England, Chap. I.

Digitized by VjOOQlC


ableness : for in either case it is easier to show the several
links of the succession than it is to demonstrate any law
of cohesion by which they become a chain, or, the chain
being completed, to hitch it fast to the original divine
commission. It may fairly enough be admitted that the
warrant for ecclesiastical power in Apostolic succession,
is as well accredited, on the whole, as the warrant of the
hereditary divine right of kings.

Applying this theory to the case in hand, we find that
the only right for the exercise of government which the
settlers of New England generally possessed, was such as
was conferred on them by charter from the king of
England. Under such charter, if it was broad enough,
all the functions of government might be exercised by the
the local magistrates in the name of the king. For lack
of such authority, the legislative and judicial acts of the
New Haven colonists were null and void. The only way
in which regular and valid independent government could
be set up in the little province of Quinipiac, would be for
the colonists to import the regularly descended heir of
some Lord's Anointed, — an Otho, or a grand duke
Maximilian — and graft their wild olive with a slip of a
Stuart or a Bourbon.

Likewise in spiritual matters, Davenport and Hooke
might exercise such spiritual functions as their ordination
to the priesthood by English bishops would authorize, but
could acquire no new prerogative from any act of a self-
constituted church. The way of maintaining the functions
of the church from generation to generation, was to obtain
other priests and deacons from the ordaining hands of the
Bishop of London, (whose modest diocese was understood
by a mild fiction of law to include a large part of the Western

Digitized by VjOOQlC


hemisphere ;) or to secure, either from the lords spiritual
of England, or from the cracked succession of the Scotch
episcopate, the gift of a bishop with a pedigree sixteen
hundred years long, whose should be all the rights of
ecclesiastical sovereignty, to have and to hold, and to
transmit to his assigns forever. Both these methods were
practised successively by a few dissidents in the sub-
sequent days of New Haven ; by virtue of which they
became the real church of the colony, having the only
u valid " and authorized ministry. For neglect of these,.
the body of Christian people in the commonwealth became
schismatics and aliens from the church, and their so-called
ministers became guilty (so we are assured,) of the sin of
Korah and of Dathan and Abiram.

III. The "Formal Theory.— This theory appears under
very different phases of development, and is held by very
different parties of civil and ecclesiastical politicians. It
is that the legitimacy, validity, or authority of a church
or of a state are determined by the form of its structure.
There are jure-divino monarchists, jure-divino republicans,,
and jure-divino democrats. So also, there are jure-divino
tri-ordinary episcopalians, jure-divino presbyterians, and
jure-divino congregationalists.

According to the first classes in these two lists, the
state-government in the Colony of New Haven was hope-
lessly vitiated because it did not constitute Mr. Eaton
ruler during his life, and the head of an hereditary
dynasty: the church polity was ruined, because the
pastor, the teacher, and the ruling elder, instead of being
in three ranks in a line of promotion, were all in one rank.
And so, to the other classes, the colonial church and state-

Digitized by VjOOQlC


must stand or fall, in respect to their divine sanction,
according as they agree with or vary from a supposed
u pattern showed to Moses in the mount." They came
into being, as divine institutions, in the act of conforming
themselves to the Scriptural model ; or if not so conformed,
they never did come into existence at all. 1

IV. The Jacobin Theory. — This theory represents the
l)ody politic or ecclesiastic, to originate out of the
unorganized and unassociated materials of human society,
by a u social compact" or " covenant," in which all the
individuals agree, for the common advantage, to surrender
to the new organization — the State, or the church —
sundry of their individual rights and powers, to form the
common stock of authority for the corporation. u The
whole body is supposed, in the first place; to have
unanimously consented to be bound by the resolutions of
the majority ; that majority, in the next place, to have
fixed certain fundamental regulations ; and then to have
constituted, either in one person, or in an assembly, a
standing legislature." 2

According to this theory, the colonists of New Haven,
from the time when they came out from under the
authority of the ship's captain, at least until the close of
their first day of fasting and prayer, when they formed
their provisional u plantation covenant," were u in a state
of nature." They were not a community, but only the

1. For some severe animadversions against this test of church-hood — against

* the whims of theoretic Biblists " and their " Text-made churches," see Isaac
Taylor's Wesley and Methodism, pp. 199-202.

• 2. Paley's Moral and Political Philosophy, Book VI. chapter 3. See also
Emmons's Scriptural Platform of Church Governmmt, reviewed in the previous

Digitized by VjOOQlC


individuals who might become a community whenever
they should agree to act in common. They were not
society, but only the raw materials of society. There was
neither a commonwealth nor a church among them, but
only the possibility of these. By-and-by they concluded
to have a State and a Church, and so they got together in
a barn and created them, appointing officers with divine
authority for administering the functions of the two
institutions — authority which up to that time had not
existed in the colony. Before that, the execution of a
malefactor would have been an act of murder, — either of
private revenge or of mob-violence. Defensive hostilities
against the Indians would have been simply the fighting
of every man u on his own hook," except so far as
individuals might have chosen to club together according
to their "preference for leaders. But any exercise of
command on the part of him to whom the instincts of the
people should turn as their natural military leader, or
any attempt to coerce the shirks and the cowards into the
common defence, would have been an act of tyranny and
usurpation, there having been no unanimous mutual
agreement of the colonists to concede their individual
rights to this extent. And when, after experiencing the
inconveniences of the u state of nature," the colonists
began to frame their covenant, there was no right among
them to compel into the arrangement any individual who
preferred, at his own risk, to live among them but not of
them, as a quiet and peaceable outlaw. The uncovenanted
citizen might be derelict of a moral duty in thus standing
aloof from the mutual engagements of the rest, but the
powers arising out of these mutual agreements of ninety-

Digitized by VjOOQlC


nine of the population could not extend over the one-
hundredth man who had declined to he a party to the

Just so the Christian people of the colony were not a
church, hut only Christian individuals. The administration
of baptism or the Lord's Supper, before the covenant,
would have been, if not sacrilegious, at least a grave
irregularity, and an infraction of Congregational order-
The endeavor of them that were spiritual to restore by
remonstrance and admonition a wandering brother, would
have been the meddling of individuals in that which they
had nothing to do with. The individual would not have
been bound to submit to it ; for " the obligation to submit
arises from the bond of the covenant," 1 and he had never
made any such contract with his Christian neighbors. Any
attempt to report the recusant in the weekly meeting of
believers would have been -both impertinent and futile \
for the man never agreed to suffer any such use of his
name, and the stated meeting of Christians is not a church,
to u tell it to," because the members of it have not formed
a social compact. The exclusion of an obstinate offender
from the communion of saints is a sheer impossibility,
because the saints do not have any communion. They
are men of grace in a u state of nature." If, at length,
the colonists hold u meeting in Mr. Newman's barn to
arrange the terms of an association for mutual care, and
contrive a covenant which should confer on the members
and officers of the institution the divine right of enforcing
a contract, it is optional with those who find themselves
incommoded by too much a watch-care," whether they

1. See Emmons, who is beautifully explicit on this point Scr. Platformr
pp. 5, 7.

Digitized by VjOOQlC


will enter into this covenant, or whether they will remain
as lookers on, or whether they will form a little separate
mutual covenant among themselves.

V. The Rational and Scriptural Theory.— This
theory, as applied to the civil state, avoids encountering
the hypothetical difficulties suggested in what we have
called the Jacobin theory, by simply recognizing the facts
of human nature. The questions whether an aggregation
of human beings living together without any mutual
interests or intercourse is a community or commonwealth ;
— whether u individuals are a civil society before they
have formed themselves into one," — whether "unconnected
individuals, before they have laid themselves under a
mutual engagement " 1 are the subjects of any common
authority — are futile questions: as if one should ask
whether a pile of quicksilver globules would constitute a
pool of quicksilver before being flattened down ; knowing
that it is the nature of globules of quicksilver, not to stand
in a pile like cannon-balls, but to flow together upon con-
tact. A battue of lions in an inclosure is not a herd of
lions, no matter what discipline you may put them under,
for the lion is not a gregarious animal. But a collection
of horses or of sheep is a herd, or a flock, at once, without
waiting to adjust the terms of an agreement, or to secure
the valid investiture or ascertain the pedigree of the
bellwether, because horses and sheep are gregarious.
You do not have constitute them a herd, — they are a
herd. Just so, if you gather human beings together in a
separate population, you do not have to make society out

1. Emmons, Script. Platform, p. 4.

Digitized by VjOOQlC


of them. They are society, because man is a social animal.
And wherever human society is, there are to be found,
either potentially or in actual exercise, all the divine
power and authority of the State.

And all the questions that are raised among the other
conflicting theories of the State, as to the conditions, channel
and credentials of divine authority residing in the rulers
of the State, are shortly disposed of, according to the
rational and Scriptural view, by recurring to that fun-
damental maxim, u The powers that be are ordained of
God." The government de facto, by virtue of its being
the power, is charged by the Divine ruler with the respon-
sibility of administering justice in the land, and is entitled
to be respected and obeyed accordingly. This is the sole
condition on which divine authority is conferred on the
government of any country — that it be the government.
With this agrees the maxim, in its only true meaning,
that " all governments derive their just powers from the
consent of the governed ; " since if this consent, whether
voluntary or coerced, active or passive, is withdrawn, the
power that was is no longer the power, and Grod does not
ordain the impotencies. Without the actual possession
of the power, no degree of de jure u validity " amounts to
a divine commission ; — not bulls from a pope, nor pedi-
grees running back to King David himself, nor any degree
of ideal perfection in the structure of constitution, nor
any certificates of a social compact in a mass-meeting.
But, the power being present, not the absence of any or
all of these conditions can discharge the de facto govern-
ment of its responsibility, nor release the individual from
his duty of subjection and obedience. Of course this
statement is not to be interpreted to mean that all methods.

Digitized by VjOOQlC


of acquiring civil power are right, nor that ther* is no
preference among forms of government ; neither is it to
be applied to the exclusion of the duty of disobedience to
laws requiring sin, or of the right of revolution. But
properly interpreted and applied, this view of civil duty
and authority is the settled result of Christian ethics.

Moreover, there always wan u existing power," residing
in every community of men, latent if not active, which,
whenever on any emergency it is called into exercise for
the punishment of crime or the protection of innocence,
carries with it the sanction of God.

Applying these principles to the case of the New Haven
Colony, we find that before the "constituent assembly ,r
in the barn, before the "plantation-covenant," the colony
was already a state 1 ; and so any malefactor who should
have presumed upon prevalent social theories to violate
public or private rights or religious duties at that early
period, would summarily have found it to be. His judg-
ment would not a long time have lingered, nor his con-
demnation have slumbered, waiting for a social compact
to confer the authority of a magistrate.

1 " If a ship at sea should lose all its officers, or a shipwrecked crew be cast
upon a desert island, this little community would then stand in the condition of
a State. The whole would havo the right to restrain and constrain each one for
the freedom of alL"— Ilickok's Moral Science, p. 219.

It is necessary to guard against a confusion, which seems not unlikely, at the
present juncture (1864), to work some damage in our public affairs, between a
State, and a State government. The State government is the outgrowth or
ordinance of the State. But by a natural metonymy, the word State is often
used to mean the government.

P. 8. The students of "the judicious Hooker" will remember a passage in
the "Ecclesiastical Polity" strikingly parallel to the above from President
Hickok. It may seriously be doubted whether Hooker, if he had found himself
in New England, would have felt that his principles allowed of the course of
nonconformity and schism, which has been pursued by those who caU themselves
his disciples and justify their practices by quoting his book.

Digitized by VjOOQlC


The divine right- of government residing in the little
commonwealth, might have come into exercise and mani-
festation, in various ways. Successive emergencies might
have occasioned successive acts of, authority, nemine
obstante, which might have become precedents for others,
-and so a body of common law, and a sort of British Con-
stitution, have grown up, without one act of deliberate
legislation or foundation. The deference towards Eaton
might, either explicitly or by the general acquiescence,
have committed to him the supreme government of the
colony, and at his death have transferred it to his son
Or the long continued pressure of military exigencies
might have habituated, the people to martial law and
settled their military leader into the seat of general
authority. All these modes of the origin of governmental
institutions in the colony are imaginable; and in any of
them might have been inaugurated the power ordained of
Grod. The method of sitting down consciously and delibe-
rately to contrive the institutions under which the inherent
authority of the State should express itself, is doubtless a
nobler way; a way worthier of such matured and reflective
minds as set up the pillars of the New Haven Colony — a
way which has since become so exclusively the typical
American way of organizing government that we are
tempted to think it the only way ; but it is not one whit
more valid in conferring divine authority than the way
practised in the insurrection on the slaver Amistad, when
the tallest, nimblest and smartest negro in the lot elected
himself captain and king, and exacted and received the
obedience of the rest.

Now bringing the force of this extended analogy to
bear on our main subject of the origin and authority of

Digitized by VjOOQlC


the church, we see at once the fatality of those questions
whether a neighborhood of u visible saints " u living
members of Christ," while u separate an^ unconnected,"
constitute a church of Christ; 1 whether u a number of
Christians merely living in the same city, town or
parish," 2 but having no common interests, no mutual
affections, no stated meetings, and holding themselves
aloof from mutual intercourse, are a church. The ques-
tions are predicated on an unsupposable hypothesis. That
is not the way in which u visible saints " live. When
they try to live so, their sanctity becomes invisible at
once. They are no more, u visible saints," but visibly
unsanctified. u By this we know that we have passed
from death unto life, because we love the brethren." The
problem in theology that begins with supposing a neigh-
borhood of Christians without mutual love and intercourse
under the law of Christ, is as rational as a problem in
magnetism which should be founded on the supposition of
a collection of steel magnets having attraction towards
the pole, but no attraction for each other. If, under the
laws of human nature, human neighborhood implies
human society, and human society implies the state ; then
a fortiori, under the laws of the regenerated nature,
Christian neighborhood implies Christian society, and
Christian society implies the church. The law of Christ
concerning common and mutual Christian duties is already
in force, and the authority of administering its earthly
sanctions resides with the community of Christians. 8

1. Scr. Platform, p. 8.

2. Idem. p. 5, and passim.

3. It is amazing to see Dr. Emmons walking straight forward, with his ey.es
open, into the absurdity that the Jaw of Christ begins to be binding on Christian
disciples only when they have mutually agreed to be bound by it ; and, by


Digitized by VjOOQlC


As touching the credentials of government in the
church, it is hard to see wherein the principle to be
applied diners from that which obtains respecting civil
government. Under the latter, the individual is required
to u submit himself to the powers that be." Under the
former, he is required to u obey them that have the rule
over him." In either case, the wide generality of the
command, interpreted by the inspired absence of express
instruction as to the method of appointing and inducting-
valid officers, points to a like conclusion : — that, under
the necessary and obvious limitations, a de facto govern-
ment, in church as in state, is entitled to the allegiance
of its subjects.

The illustration of this view by the instance of the
New Haven colony is so obvious that it is needful only to
hint the main points of it. The church which, according
to the uniform laws of the Christian life, had crystallized
out of the ship's company during the voyage, having only
such slight, informal organization as the circumstances of
that temporary mode of life required, was not dissolved
when the colonists landed. It was the church authority
subsisting among them already, which was expressed in
the u plantation-covenant." When, afterwards, the town
was u cast into several private meetings wherein they
that dwelt most together gave their accounts one to an-
other of God's gracious work upon them, and prayed

implication that it is binding then only within the bodies that may be formed by
• elective affinity." pp. 4, 5.

Quite in accordance with the Doctor's exegesis of Matthew xviii, 15-17, is the
common construction of the same passage, which holds it to be a sin to report an
offending brother in the lecture-room of the church until after the • first and
second steps," but holds it permissible to advertise him « at sight " in the reli-
gious newspapers, or in a H Result of Council"

Digitized by VjOOQlC


together, and conferred to mutual edification/' and thus
u had knowledge, one of another," and of the fitness of
individuals for their several places, in the foundation-
work, or in the superstructure, 1 — it is possible that they
supposed they were preparing to originate the church ;
but it is plain to the looker-on that the very act of
u casting the town into meetings " was an act of the
church. And the action of the u constituent assembly "
in the barn was, like the adoption of our present national
constitution, not the founding of a new church or state,
but the peaceful revolution of one already in being.

If, within the territory occupied by the colony, a knot
of theorizers on politics had conspired to form a separate
mutual compact for civil government among themselves,
to use a different code of laws upon their members, and
to secure a purer democracy or a legitimately descended
ruler, the proper name for the act would have been
sedition. Precisely so, when dissenters from the colonial
Church did, for no grievance put upon their conscience,
but simply in the prosecution of their Church theories or
prejudices, -split themselves from the congregation, and
refuse obedience to the existing government — " to them
that had the rale" — and insist on importing for their
special use a hierarch in the regular succession, the proper
name for their act was schism.

But on the other hand, let it be confessed that if the
colonial Church had undertaken to exclude from its
fellowship Christian disciples, for causes not demanding
the censure of the Church, nor discrediting the profession
of a Christian faith — if they had reversed the gospel

l. Bacon's Historical Discourses, p. 19.

Digitized by VjOOQlC


principle, and proceeded on the notion that it is better
that ten weak disciples should be excluded than that one
deceiver should be admitted — if thus they had created
outside of their communion a party of Christians whose
only opportunity of fellowship was in a separate organ-
ization ; then the sin of schism weuld have rested on the
heads not of the few, but of the many. The Church itself
would have become schismatic. But it is fair to say that
this does not seem to have been the sin of the churches of
the first nor of the second generation. The general pre-

Online LibraryLeonard Woolsey BaconChurch papers: sundry essays in subjects relating to the church and ... → online text (page 3 of 26)