Imágenes de páginas

nation Services, taking for granted that the candidate is found suitably versed in the studies of his intended profession, and duly qualified in all minor respects, proceed at once to the state of the heart and the affections; leading him to serious self-examination relative to his

personal dedication of himself to God, and his views in reference to the sacred and responsible office which he is about to undertake. The church supposes that these points had been well meditated upon before; and the answers which it demands are not to be the mere suggestions of the moment, but the result of much previous self-examination and humble prayer. The bishop's investigation also is in a great measure supposed to be conducted under the same idea; and indeed the simple fact of the candidate's solemnly applying for holy orders, under circumstances which imperatively demand a rigorous self-scrutiny, and at an age which allows him ample time for serious deliberation, together with the unequivocal avouchment in his testimonials to his piety, morality, orthodoxy, and general competency, might very reasonably preclude the suspicion that in any such case the first element, the fundamental basis, of religious qualification was wanting. Yet such is often unhappily the fact. How important, therefore, is it that our venerable prelates,

though they have it not in their power, however they may be disposed, to effect all that would be desirable towards counteracting the evil, should at least exert themselves, without fear or favour, to do what the actual circumstances of the case properly allow. In the present low state of discipline in the church, it would be thought by the world a very harsh proceeding for a prelate to address a candi. date of the class we have been describing, as probably one of the early Fathers would have addressed him : “My son, I have examined you with care, and find your general attainments quite sufficient. I have nothing to ob. ject to your doctrinal sentiments, and I have reason to believe your life correct and moral; but, as an overseer in the church of Christ, it becomes me to add, that I do not perceive in you any evidence of a truly devotional spirit. I have no sufficient reason to conclude that you have thought so seriously upon the nature of your own baptismal obligations as becomes a devoted servant of Jesus Christ, or that you have duly reflected upon the awful responsibility of the office for which you are a candidate; an office which demands, in addition to that personal piety that is necessary to all, a disinterested zeal for the salvation of mankind, and a willingness ‘to spend and be spent'in the service

of God. Retire then, my son, for the present; devote a sufficient space of time to the devotional study of the Scriptures; to an acquaintance with your own heart; to humble prayer for the guidance and direction of God's Holy Spirit; and to a vigilant endeavour to become meet in point of spiritual as well as mental attainments for the holy office towards which you aspire. Then shall I most gladly admit you to the sacred ministry, with a confident hope that you will prove an ornament to your profession and a blessing to the church of Christ.”

The introduction of this imaginary case will suggest to the reader more strongly than any argument, how necessary it is that there should be a great improvement in the discipline of the church, especially as respects the preparation and training for holy orders; a point which we shall have occasion strongly to revert to in considering the importance of a specific education for the clergy; without which a bishop, whatever his zeal, his wisdom, or his piety, can perform nothing effectually for preventing the evils under which the church at present mourns. Yet what can be done ought doubtless to be so; and it seems undeniable that it was always intended that the examination of candidates for holy orders should have a particular reference to what may be called their devotional qua

[ocr errors]

lifications. The statutable tests and subscriptions are supposed in law, whatever they may do in fact, to ensure orthodoxy and uniformity of doctrine: the usual testimonials are supposed to secure morality of character: the bishop's examination, as enjoined by the canons and statutes, effectually provides for adequate learning and knowledge, both classical and scriptural; and the responses and stipulations in the Ordination Services pre-suppose personal piety and religious qualification. Still, as far as the lamentably lax state of discipline, and the circumstances of the times will allow, the necessity of the last mentioned qualification, being the most important of the whole, and that on which all the others must be grounded, should be distinctly kept in view throughout the whole process of education, attestation, and examination. High attainments, either in divinity or literature, cannot always be expected; and shades of difference on points of doubtful disputation, where the opinion of the church is not quite clear, may be entertained with comparatively trifling inconvenience; but “a spirit of devotion” is absolutely essential to the due discharge of the ministerial office; and to elicit and maintain such a spirit among his clergy must consequently be the most anxious aim of a Christian prelate.

vii. By the reform of abuses. Our prelates may further promote devotion, together with zeal for the influence, honour, and stability of the Established Church, by the reform of abuses.- What number of abuses may exist it is not the object of these pages to ascertain: indeed, the effort of the author throughout has been rather to suggest remedies than to specify defects. He most sincerely believes that few of the abuses which occur in our Establishment are fundamentally interwoven in the system ; but they often greatly affect the details of discipline and

of discipline and administration. Our ecclesiastical courts, for instance, require a minute investigation; and it would be greatly to the honour of the church, if they were placed upon a better footing. Visitations also, as usually conducted, do not adequately answer their intended object in enabling a prelate really to know the moral and spiritual state of his diocese, with a view to correct whatever may be found amiss.

But two abuses which must be mentioned as mournfully tending to check the progress of religion, and to bring obloquy upon the Established Church, are pluralities and nonresidence. Both of these evils our bishops might probably find means to diminish; especially since the Legislature has rescued

« AnteriorContinuar »