« Prev The Articles of the Evangelical Alliance. Next »

§ 114. The Articles of the Evangelical Alliance.

Literature.

Report of the Proceedings of the Conference, held at Freemasons' Hall, London, from August 19th to September 2d inclusive, 1846. Published by Order of the Conference. London (Partridge & Oakey, Paternoster Row), 1847.

Comp. also the Proceedings of the Seven General Conferences of the Alliance, held at London, 1851, Paris, 1855, Berlin, 1857, Geneva, 1861, Amsterdam, 1867, New York, 1873, and Basle, 1879, all published in English, some also in the German, French, Dutch, and other languages.

The General Conference of New York, the first held on American soil, was the most important, and its proceedings (published by Harper & Brothers, N. Y. 1874) form an interesting panoramic view of the intellectual and spiritual state of the Christian world at that time.

CHARACTER AND AIM OF THE ALLIANCE.

The 'Evangelical Alliance' is not an ecclesiastical organization, and has, therefore, no authority to issue and enforce an ecclesiastical creed or confession of faith. It is a voluntary society for the manifestation and promotion of Christian union, and for the protection of religious liberty. Its object is not to bring about an organic union of Churches, 916nor a confederation of independent Churches, but to exhibit, and to strengthen union and co-operation among individual members of different Protestant denominations without interfering with their respective creeds and internal affairs. It aims to realize the idea of such a Christian union as is consistent with denominational distinctions and varieties in doctrine, worship, and government. It may ultimately lead to a closer approximation of the Churches themselves, but it may and does exist without ecclesiastical union; and ecclesiastical union would be worthless without Christian union. It is remarkable that our Lord, in his sacerdotal prayer, which is the magna charta of Christian union, makes no reference to the Church or to any outward organization. The communion of saints has its source and centre in their union with Christ, and this reflects his union with the Father.

The Alliance extends to all nationalities and languages, but is confined, so far, to Christians who hold what is understood to be the Scriptural or evangelical system of faith as professed by the Churches of the Reformation and their legitimate descendants. It thus embraces Episcopalians, Lutherans, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Baptists, Methodists, Moravians, and other orthodox Protestants, but it excludes Roman and Greek Catholics on the one hand, and the antitrinitarian Protestants on the other. The Quakers, though unwisely excluded by Art. IX., are in full sympathy with one of the two chief objects of the Alliance—the advocacy of religious liberty.

THE CONFERENCE OF 1846.

The call to the London Conference of 1846 for the formation of an Evangelical Alliance against infidelity was sufficiently liberal to encourage all orthodox Protestants to attend without doing any violence to their confessional conscience. But the High-Church elements, from aversion to miscellaneous ecclesiastical company, kept aloof, and left the enterprise in the hands of the evangelical Low-Church and Broad-Church ranks of Protestantism. The meeting was overwhelmingly English, and controlled by Episcopalians, Scotch Presbyterians, and English Dissenters. Next to them, America was best represented, and exerted the most influence. The delegation from the Continent was numerically small, but highly respectable. The whole number of attendants was over eight hundred ministers and laymen, from about 917fifty distinct ecclesiastical organizations of Protestant Christendom, among them many scholars and ministers of the highest Christian standing in their respective Churches and countries. Those who took the most active part in the proceedings were Sir Culling Eardley Smith (President), E. Bickersteth, B. W. Noel, W. M. Bunting, J. Angell James, Dr. Steane, Wm. Arthur, T. Binney, O. Winslow, Andrew Reed, of England; Norman Macleod, W. Cunningham, W. Arnot, R. Buchanan, James Begg, James Henderson, Ralph Wardlaw, of Scotland; Drs. Samuel H. Cox, Lyman Beecher, W. Patton, Robert Baird, Thomas Skinner, E. W. Kirk, S. S. Schmucker, of the United States; Drs. Tholuck, W. Hoffmann, E. Kuntze, of Germany; Adolphe Monod, Georges Fisch, La Harpe, of France and Switzerland. The meeting was one of unusual enthusiasm and interest. One of its most eloquent speakers, Dr. Samuel H. Cox, of New York, characterized it as an assembly

'Such as earth saw never,

Such as Heaven stoops down to see.'

The late Dr. Norman Macleod wrote during the meeting, in a private letter recently brought to light:17191719   Memoir, by his Brother, 1876, Vol. I. p. 260 (N.Y. ed.). The letter to his sister dated Aug. 4, 1846, should be dated Aug. 24. 'I have just time to say that our Alliance goes on nobly. There are one thousand members met from all the world, and the prayers and praises would melt your heart. Wardlaw, Bickersteth, and Tholuck say that in their whole experience they never beheld any thing like it. . . . It is much more like heaven than any thing I ever experienced on earth.'

THE DOCTRINAL BASIS.

The part of the proceedings with which we are concerned here is the attempt made to set forth the doctrinal consensus of evangelical Christendom as a basis for the promotion of Christian union and religious liberty.

The Rev. Edward Bickersteth, Rector of Walton, Herts, and one of the leaders of the evangelical party in the Established Church of England, moved the adoption of the doctrinal basis, and Dr. S. H. Cox, a Presbyterian of New York, supported it in a stirring speech, on the third day (Aug. 21). After considerable discussion and some unessential modifications, the basis was adopted on the fifth day (Aug. 24), 918nemine contradicente; the vast majority raising their hands in approval, the rest abstaining from voting. The chairman then gave out the hymn,

'All hail the great Immanuel's name,

Let angels prostrate fall.'

It 'was sung by the Conference with a depth of devotional feeling which, even during the meetings of the Conference, had never been surpassed.'17201720   Proceedings, p. 193.

The doctrinal basis is expressly declared 'not to be a creed or confession in any formal or ecclesiastical sense, but simply an indication of the class of persons whom it is desirable to embrace within the Alliance.' It consists of nine articles: (1) the divine inspiration and supreme authority of the Holy Scriptures; (2) the right and duty of private judgment in the interpretation of the Holy Scriptures; (3) the unity and trinity of the Godhead; (4) the total depravity of man in consequence of the fall; (5) the incarnation of the Son of God, his atonement, and his mediatorial intercession and reign; (6) justification by faith alone; (7) the work of the Holy Spirit in conversion and sanctification; (8) the immortality of the soul, the resurrection of the body, the judgment of the world by Jesus Christ, with the eternal blessedness of the righteous and the eternal punishment of the wicked; (9) the divine institution of the Christian ministry, and the perpetuity of Baptism and the Lord's Supper.

The basis is merely a skeleton: it affirms 'what are usually understood to be evangelical views' on the nine articles enumerated. To give an explicit statement of these views would require a high order of theological wisdom and circumspection. For the practical purpose of the Alliance, the doctrinal basis has upon the whole proved sufficient, though some would have it more strict, others more liberal, since it excludes the orthodox Quakers. It has been variously modified and liberalized by branch Alliances in calling General Conferences. The American branch, at its organization in New York, Jan., 1867, adopted it with a qualifying preamble, subordinating it to the more general consensus of Christendom, and allowing considerable latitude in its construction.17211721   See Vol. III. p. 821.


« Prev The Articles of the Evangelical Alliance. Next »
Please login or register to save highlights and make annotations
Corrections disabled for this book
Proofing disabled for this book
Printer-friendly version





Advertisements



| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |