Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

make us worthy of becoming guests at his holy table, who is · King of kings and Lord of lords.' But there is something, the want of which will render us unworthy guests, when at any time we are thus honoured. Our Saviour's parable is replete with instruction on this interesting point. The want of a wedding-garment, when the king upbraided the unhappy man with wilfully appearing without it, rendered him speechless before he knew the sentence about to be pronounced. This wedding-garment therefore, the best robe brought out to be put on the returning prodigal”, and which, after all, it is possible to defile 3_ this is the ornament after which christians ought to aspire, . the garment • of salvation, the robe of righteousness“, different indeed from the • filthy rags of our own righteous

nesses , which tended to the immediate exclusion of the man in the parable from the marriage-solemnity of the king's son. Without this garment, which, like the coats of skins provided for our first parents, Jehovah Aleim has provided for us, we must expect to be alike excluded from the benefits of the sacrificial feast, ordained in honour of the Son of God; while with this garment, as prepared and offered to us in holy Scripture, we shall become not worthy, but ACCEPTABLE communicants, ' accepted * in the beloved 9;' but still ready, with all sincerity,

Tt2

to

3 St Matth. xxii. 12.
3 Revel. iii. 4.
5 Isaiah lxiv. 6.

2 St. Luke xv. 22.
4 Isaiah Isi. 10.
6 Ephes. i. 6.

to adopt the humble acknowledgement of the faithful centurion, · Lord, we are not worthy that thou • shouldst come under our roof; but speak the * word only, and thy servants shall be healed':'

On the subject of the efficacy of the christian sacraments, I have already adverted to the sentiments of our venerable church, respecting the real or imaginary merits of the administrator. You will pardon me for briefly recurring to this topic, since it is for the most part found, that the majority of an unthinking populace are more attached to the personal than to the official character of their clergyman, and generally lose sight of the minister, in their estimation, or contempt of the man, A scandalous, or even a careless pastor, is certainly of all characters the most contemptible in the sight of men ;' and, in the sight of God, of all characters the most abominable. The least punishment due to such a man is to thrust him with all convenient speed out of his sacred office, that the ‘ministry be not blamed. Yet, until thrust out by competent authority, the people ought to know, that their wisdom is to sit still;' that their duty is to adhere to his ministrations, and patiently to occupy the place of hearers, as well as that of communicants, until, regular steps having been taken for the suspension and final deposition of the unhappy man, he be duly removed from the congregation committed to his charge. Where a different conduct is pursued, the door of schism, and, it may be, the door of heresy is thrown open. Indeed ecclesiastical history is full of the success of popular prejudice, when excited, against what is termed the

committed

I St Matth. viii. 8.

corrupt lives of the clergy: And there is scarcely an instance upon record of a sect or party being formed against the church, where the promoters of the schism have not been influenced, in the first instance, by this motive, and where they have not introduced themselves to the notice and favour of misguided men, by inveighing against the clerical orders, and by laying claim to superior sanctity in themselves.

I would therefore recommend it most strenuously to every clergyman, who really is, or who even pretends to be orthodoxr in the faith, to be most circumspect, and anxiously solicitous, that the integrity of his life, and the gravity of his deportment do correspond with the purity of his principles, not only for his own eternal advantage, but for the present and eternal advantage of his flock. For thus only can he expect to be pronounced blameless, if those who, being ignorant of God's righteousness, go about to establish their own righteousness,' shall, after all, · beguile unstable • souls,' and either pollute the purity of the faith by heresy, or rend the unity of the church by schism.

[ocr errors]

To the christian people, who are liable to be

im

impressed by external appearances, as well as to be seduced by specious professions, I would offer one observation, (in offering which I beg that I may not be misunderstood), that, however odious and infectious the bad example afforded by an immoral clergyman may be, yet, if we durst attribute any portion of merit to the best of our religious performances, there is perhaps greater merit due to a patient adherence to an immoral pastor, when regularly authorised to minister in holy things, and when sound in the faith, than is due, when such a stumbling-block (for a stumbling-block it unquestionably is) lies not in the way. In the one case, under grievous temptations to act a contrary part, our regard is wholly shewn to the administrations of the church, and we act in obedience to its authority, received from Christ.

In the other (tho' the most desireable) case, we run the risk, from the natural tendency of the human disposition, of dividing our regard, and of being influenced as much, perhaps more, by attachment to the office-bearer, than by respect for the office. As I merely make this observation by way of suggesting hints towards the right conduct of the laity, I rest satisfied that there is no clergyman who can make use of it, as affording the least countenance or indulgence to an unbecoming and uncharacteristic behaviour in life and conversation. Others may speculate upon right and wrong, but the ambassador for Christ is, in particular, commanded to take heed unto him

self,

[ocr errors]

self, and unto his doctrine'--that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.

6

LETTER XXX.

IT is a favourite doctrine with many of the protestant profession, as well as with the Jansenist party of the Romish communion, that they who are once in a state of

grace, by whatever way obtained, (with or without means), can never totally and finally fall from grace; but are unalterablyI may say, FATALLY fixed, in the love and favour of God, notwithstanding any, nay, every sin which, in the mean time, they may commit. So far indeed has this impious conceit been carried by some, that, fancying themselves to be possessed of this peculiar privilege, they have not hesitated to aver, that they cannot commit sin, that they may slide,' but can never • fall away ;' presumptuously assuming it as a case in point, that neither

the

« AnteriorContinuar »