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DR. AUGUSTUS NEANDER,
PROFESSOR OF THEOLOGY IN THE UNIVERSITY OF BERLIN, CONSISTORIAL COUNSELLOR, ETC.
In compliance with the request of my worthy friend, the Rev. Mr. Coleman, I am happy to accompany his proposed work on the Constitution and Worship of the apostolical and primitive church with some preliminary remarks. I regard it as one of the remarkable signs of the times, that Christians, separated from each other by land and by sea, by language and government, are becoming more closely united in the consciousness that they are only different members of one universal church, grounded and built on the rock Christ Jesus. And it is with the hope of promoting this catholic union, that I gladly improve this opportunity to address my Christian brethren beyond the waters on some important subjects of common interest to the church of Christ.
This is not the proper place to express in detail, and to defend my own views upon the controverted topics which, as I have reason to expect from the respected author, will be the subject of an extended, thorough and impartial
examination in his proposed work. My own sentiments have already been expressed, in a work which, I am happy to learn, is offered to the English reader in a translation by my friend, the Rev. Mr. Ryland, of Northampton, in England. 1 I have only time and space, in this place, briefly to express the results of former inquiries, which, with the reasons for them, have on other occasions already been given to the public.
It is of the utmost importance to keep ever in view the difference between the economy of the Old Testament and that of the New. The neglect of this has given rise to the grossest errors, and to divisions, by which those who ought to be united, together in the bonds of Christian love, have been sundered from each other. In the Old Testament, every thing relating to the kingdom. of God was estimated by outward forms, and promoted by specific external rites. In the New, every thing is made to depend upon what is internal and spiritual. Other foundation, as the apostle Paul has said, can no man lay than that is laid. Upon this the Christian church at first was grounded, and upon this alone, in all time to come, must it be reared anew and compacted together. Faith in Jesus of Nazareth, the Saviour of the world, and union with him, a participation in that salvation which cometh through him,- this is that inward principle, that unchangeable foundation, on which
1 History of the Planting and Training of the Christian Church, by the Apostles, by Dr. A. NEANDER, Ordinary Professor of Theology, in the University of Berlin, Consistorial Counsellor; translated from the third edition, by J. E. Ryland.
the Christian church essentially rests. But whenever, instead of making the existence of the church to depend on this inward principle alone, the necessity of some outward form is asserted as an indispensable means of grace, we readily perceive that the purity of its character is impaired. The spirit of the Old Testament is commingled with that of the New. Neither Christ nor the apostles, have given any unchangeable law on the subject. Where two or three are gathered together in my name, says Christ, there am I in the midst of them. This coming together in his name, he assures us, alone renders the assembly well pleasing in his sight, whatever be the different forms of government under which his people meet.
The apostle Paul says, indeed, Eph. 4: 11, that Christ gave to the church certain offices, through which he operated with his Spirit, and its attendants gifts. But assuredly Paul did not mean to say that Christ, during his abode on earth, appointed these offices in the church, or authorized the form of government that was necessarily connected with them. All the offices here mentioned, with the single exception of that of the apostles, were instituted by the apostles themselves, after our Lord's ascension. In making these appointments, they acted, as they did in every thing else, only as the organs of Christ. Paul, therefore, very justly ascribes to Christ himself what was done by the apostles in this instance as his agents. But the apostles themselves have given no law, requiring that any such form of government as is indicated in this passage should be perpetual. Under the guidance of the Spirit of