THE CHEVALIER BUNSEN'S CONSTITUTION OF THE CHURCH OF THE FUTURE.
WHEN the bishopric of Jerusalem was established a few years since by the British and Prussian Governments, a sort of demi-official volume was published under the sanction of the Prussian Government in reference to the subject, especially the episoopal part of it. In 1843 a copy of this book* was given by the Prussian Ambassador, the Chevalier Bunsen, to his friend Mr. Gladstone ; who read it "with deep but painful interest." The sore point, if we rightly understand the matter, was an implied claim on the part of the self-constituted Lutheran Church, to set up for its ministers an equality of privilege, or right of "communion," with those of the Anglican Church, which bad got the Apostolical succession, as Mr. Gladstone mathematically demonstrated some years ago. The epistolary discussion between the Prussian and the Englishman was carried on in the most friendly manner', but without leading to any approximation in opinion, for they differed fundamentally and toto cola. Mr. Gladstone, as we all know, considers bishops and priests Divinely appointed ; that a particular virtue resides in them, derived from and transmissible by the act of consecration duly performed ; which virtue alone imparts efficacy to the sacraments of the church. He would not undertake to pronounce the certain damnation of a Lutheran, a Presbyterian, or a Protestant Nonconformist : such a one may be saved by some especial mercy ; but his baptism is invalid, he can derive no benefit from the commemoration of the Lord's supper ; he has rejected the appointed means, and is not under covenant.
To these notious the Chevalier Bunsen is diametrically opposed. He does not allow Episcopacy to be of Divine origin, or even of Apostolical institution ; though he willingly concedes that it may possess advantages as a form of church government, and be productive of religious benefit ; but these effects will depend upon the opinion and social condition of the country where it may exist. Chevalier Bunsen does not even allow of
• emeinalnische Darkgung nut Urban:as.
any distinct order of priests as a religious body privileged in any way over laymen; though the existence of clergymen as a separate order may be socially and religiously beneficial. The opposite idea of a priestly caste Christ overthrew by the mere fact of his being Christ : be was the reality, of which the ancient priest, whether Jewish or Pagan, was but a
"All religions, especially those of the great historical races, have priests, and sacrifices by priests, and therefore of course a priesthood. In all religions, the man who is permitted to approach immediately to the Deity with prayer and in- tercession is called priest, m the sense of the presenter of a sacred offering. A typical sacrificial priesthood existed both amongst Jews and Heathens, though the latter were not, as the former, conscious of its significance. It held forth to man a Lope of reunion with God, in that some were allowed immediately to draw near to Elm; it was a witness of man's actual separation from God, in that only some were permitted thus to approach Him. A body of men, chosen either from some particular race or the people generally, formed the medium of their union with the Deity, both as nations and individuals, and carried on that intercourse of the soul with God, on the belief of which as possible, and the consequent attempt to realize it, all religion is founded. This priesthood approached the Deity, and was answerable for the faithful and reverent performance of religious worship. The acts of their symbolical mediation consisted in offerings of the possessions of the worshipers, (the destruction of animal life being the most general form of offer- ing,)and were always intended to signify the surrender and destruction of self and what belonged to self for the service and honour of God. Such offerings are
termed sacrifices. • •
"As a natural consequence of this state of man's religions feeling, all the offer- ings of those Heathen nations whose history is preserved, as well as of the Jews, were either sin-offerings or thank-offerings. This is clearly shown to be the case by the Levitical ordinances of the Jewish temple, and by the history of all Pagan religions and forms of worship. The outward offering is in all of them symbolical, and, indeed, regarded from that point which commands a view of God's purposes with respect to the human race, typical at the same time. All religions whatso- ever have for their inward ground that feeling of need which springs from the in- terruption of man's union with God by sin, and for their final object that reunion, for which, however dimly and uncertainly, men were encouraged to hope. All their sacrifices were attempts at this restoration founded on this hope. But it was not possible that such attempts should ever fully realize that to which they aspired : and this for two reasons,—in the first place, because, if considered as mere symbolical outward acts, they could, of course, effect nothing in a matter where that which is essentially inward, namely, the moral disposition of the heart towards God, is concerned; and in the second phift, because it was not in man's power really to 000summate that inward act, which these outward sacrifices expressed."
It follows from this, that the ancient priesthood were a necessary im- perfection; being sinful, they could not act as a medium between God and man. This was for Christ alone: by his advent the ancient priest- hood was superseded, and every Christian became possessed of the full privileges of the church, and entitled to the priestly character. It is a consequence of this view, (which, however, is reserved for the book, and dimly indicated in the correspondence ) that a church with a priesthood such as we have hitherto seen established was a probable evil and a cer- tain imperfection : it was a "clergy-church" rather than a Christian church. When the truth of this principle was invisible or only darkly seen, the Roman, Lutheran, Protestant, or Piesbyterian Churches, would be better than none, and some of these would be better than others. As the truth becomes clear and the social mind more fitted for acting upon it, a different ecclesiastical organization becomes desirable; and the Chevalier Bunsen promulgates his idea of what it should be (and doubtless the ideas of others) in The Constitution of the Church of the Future.
The circumstances in which it originated, and the principles on which it is based, involve the broadest and perhaps the most generally interest- ing portion of the book; but the remainder is not without value either in a literary or a practical point of view. To establish his theory more formally than can be done by a mere annunciation or general statement, the author takes a review of the history of the Churches under the Em- pire, during the middle ages, and since the Reformation. To show that his theory is practicable, he exhibits at length the present constitution of the Prussian Church; which he contends is an excellent stock to engraft a true Christian church upon, and then proceeds to show in -what way this should be done to constitute "the Church of the Future." It its difficult to convey an idea of this "constitution," without going into the subject at a length neither convenient nor desirable; but we will endeavour to furnish an outline of its leading principles. The Prussian diplomatist would really change little; he would only modify or endow with life. The parishes would remain much as they are: the clergyman would be, as now, assisted by a council or vestry, elected by "adult members of the church, of blameless character, and regular partakers of the sacraments." The functions of this "vestry" would be various ; assisting the minister in all things, religious as well as secular,— except in the composition of his sermons; for the Chevalier holds that preaching is the immediate business of a minister, and the only one to which he is especially appointed by Scripture. The vestry, however, would stand as a sort of moderator or admonisher between the minister and the congregation ; advising him touching conduct or doctrine, and expounding to or rebuking the people when they presumed to criticise without foundation. The present superintendence of various kinds and grades (not perhaps greatly differing in object from our intermediate dig- nitaries between bishops and priests) would change its names and be modified in its secular and bureaucratic character : the Prussian school- masters would form an active body in the Church of the Future, which would also be animated by classes of religions persons, resembling, it would seem, those charitable bodies in the Romish Church whose mem- bers are not under vow. Lastly, there would be a bishop to each circle, (district or diocese,) assisted by two lay counsellors : and this bishop would be a clergyman, not because a ruler of the church must be one by necessity or primitive precedent, but on account of the critical fitness of things. For the organization and functions of the various classes, the reader must consult Chevalier Bunsen's volume ; but the sketch we are endeavouring to convey may be assisted by the author's summary exhi- bition of the members of his proposed diocesan convocation, when it should meet for despatch of business.
"The following plan of the circle-synod, which meets once a year, will give a clearer view of what we have just said. We assume in this case, also, our aver age number of 100 parishes, and 10 deaneries to the circle or diocese.
A. Clergy. 1.i The bishop, as president 1.1. 2. The deans of the remaining deaneries 9 109 3. The other parish clergymen so B. Laymen.
1.} The bishop's counsellors 2
2 The delegates of the presbyteries 100}
& The delegates of the college of deacons 122
a) Schoolmasters, one for each deseery 10 It) Other deacons do. do 10
The bishop opens the assembly; which first elects a clerk, or secretary, from amongst the clergy or elders. One of the bishop's counsellors is naturally his deputy in floaters of administration or of a judicial character; but where the ques- tion is one of doctrine, his place is taken by a clergyman c.hosen by the members
There would also be a larger or national assembly, in which the higher orders both clerical and lay would appear in virtue of their office, the lower by delegation.
The plan seems more calculated for German than general adoption, and perhaps rather wears an air of political organization than of religious development; as it certainly owes its interest to the position of the author. The literary and expositional parts of the book have an intrin- sic value. The general principles are broad; the leading view is logical, and well maintained by argument. The survey of ecclesiastical history presents the essence of the subject, not altogether free from the national disposition to transcendentalism, but so modified by the experience of the practical statesman, as to impart peculiarity of character to the compo- sition, rather than mysticism or obscurity. The style is clear, easy, and for the most part happy in the terms characterizing the various religions. The account of the present condition of the various churches of Christen- dom—by no means complimentary to them—is searching in its criticism and nice in its terms ; while the exhibition of the present state of the Prussian Church may be recommended as a clear, close, and we presume an authoritative exposition of the organization and discipline of a Pro- testant body, respecting which it is desirable to have information, without regard to actual circumstances or possible events in Prussia with her new re,gime.