My Studies this time are about Congregational History. It has been very interesting reading, and I wondered if we ever think about what it is to be a Congregationalist and even if we know what the influence of the Congregationalist church has had on our world.
We grew out of Puritanism. Puritanism in its essence is a real zeal for purity in doctrine, worship, and conduct. This zeal has always been in the world. Every land and time has produced its Puritans. There were puritans amongst the Hebrews, Elijah was one, another Ezra, John the Baptist another. From the first century of Christian history until now, there have been people who resisted the corruptions of their day. Martin Luther, Calvin, John Wycliffe, John Huss to name but a few.
These Puritans, and then the non-conformists, suffered through the Reformation, some going to Holland then on to America. Others meet in small house churches. They formed the way we worship today our ideals.
Â It is the right of every Christian to have immediate access to the Throne of God. Out of this everything else flows. Every believer is a priest and every seeking child of God is given directly wisdom, guidance, power. But the Christian also has duties. Every Christian is relied upon to take a share in conducting God business on earth. Christians, who have the mind and heart of Christ, can be trusted to manage their own church affairs without the interference from bishop or pope, Council or general assembly.
This is the reason we are called Congregationalists, we believe that the congregation can be trusted to decide on what form of worship we have, who should choose the minister and other church officials, who should be admitted to the church. We are ecclesiastical democrats. We believe in government of the people, by the people, and for the people. That is our platform and our creed.
So what has been our mission? It has taught the world new lessons in freedom. It has demonstrated that people may be trusted. By admitting laymen, into the church governance it has developed a sense of personal responsibility and produced a body of
Christian people who have profoundly influenced the temper and methods of the entire Christian world. There is not a denomination which does not bear the marks of our influence.
Above all, we have contributed to the development of democracy. We have been at the forefront of education, founding colleges and planting the ideas of knowledge being indispensable. If men are to be trusted then they must be We have sent Christian workers out into the world, carrying the gospel. We preached the rights of the black men in Southern America to abolish slavery. We are free to plunge at once into whatever great work the Lord assigns.
But we have given more than our spirit. We have been assisted by lavish contributions of men of money. Who funded the building of Churches and the work of the church at home and abroad? You will be surprised to learn of the names of the faithful and influential laymen who have been influenced by the marks either of Congregational ancestry or Congregational training.
We are neither sectarian nor exclusive. Our hospitality to all members of Christian faith and our willingness to cooperate with all who call upon the name of the Lord has been our crowning glory. We dwell on the points on which we agree with our neighbours, rather than on the points on which we differ. Ministers do not often preach about what it is to be a Congregationalist. Is this the reason that our people do not really know our history?
But as Congregationalists, we do not need to push the distinguishing principles of our church or expect denominational loyalty.Â We pass readily from one locality to another; we have no quarrels with anyone. In claiming the right to worship God in our own way, and do our work as seems to us best, we give every, the body of Christians the right, we claim as our own. We deny to no man the freedom with which Christ has set us free. We are willing to cooperate with all branches of the church so far as they will let us. We strive to live in peace with all our neighbours.