Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

of his affliction; so also it is now the duty of our church to humble herself before God, to confess all her failure of duty, and to pray that her candlestick may not be removed in wrath from this nation, nor the light of truth wholly extinguished amidst the thick darkness of superstition, indifference, and unbelief.

It would be presumptuous io me to undertake the suggestion of the means by which the progress of Romanism may be opposed; the contest is one in which human counsel and foresight will be of little avail : we must fight the battle courageously whenever necessary ; but above all, we must humble ourselves and pray, I should less despair of our preservation if we had more unity amongst ourselves, more charity towards each other, more obedience, as well as love, towards our spiritual rulers. We are all of us too apt to condemn the zeal which does not exactly correspond with or promote our own views; and as to the duty of yielding up our own private opinion to the dictates of authority, and doing, even in things indifferent, that which we know our rulers to approve and desire, resistance is all but considered the sign of genuine piety, and a proof of zeal for the faith of Christ. They indeed will have much to answer for who are more engaged in widening than in healing existing dissensions, and who are more anxious to get rid of the semblance of popery within our communion than to stop its progress without.

But while I suggest to you as members and ministers of our church, more earnestly and heartily to offer up all those prayers with which our liturgy abounds, for the extension of Christ's church, the good ordering and government and peace of that branch of it to which we belong, and to humble ourselves before God in this season of trial, and to pray him to interpose mightily in our behalf: let me entreat you to do all in your power to check, by your word and your example, the growing spirit of independency within the pale of our own communion. If any act can be an act of schism, surely that is so when a clergyman, who owes a legal as well as spiritual obedience to his bishop, establishes himself as the pastor of an independent congregation, and sets at defiance the laws of his church, under the notion that he has a calling to the ministry from a higher source than episcopal authority, and that it is his duty to exercise that calling in a manner contrary to the law. Let me also caution you against sanctioning the notion that the subjection of our church to an ecclesiastical law, expounded in authoritative tribunals, is injurious to the dissemination of truth, and, as it were, the fetters wherewith the exercise of religion is bound. There is something very flattering to human pride in the notion of a free church; but the experience of ages, and the history of those episcopal churches in our own day which are devoid of the support of law enforced by the authority of the state, abundantly proves that there is more real liberty of action, when we take a koown law for our guidance, than there can possibly be when the rule of our conduct is to be drawn from the ever-changing state of public opinion, and the peculiar views or caprices either of the rulers or the people. The state may, if it thinks fit, recognise and encourage other religions besides that one which we think and believe alone to be true; but never let us untie a single cord which still binds os to the state ; let church authority and the power of the ecclesiastical courts be limited to members of our own communion ; but let not the advantage which this authority gives to us be hastily disparaged or thoughtlessly thrown away. It is in union, the result of order established by law, that our strength as a church will be found to exist; without it, there is danger lest diocese should be opposed to diocese, parish to parish, and even the members of the same flock divided into separate congregations, opposed to and contending with each other.

We must not only pray for unity, but act in unity. It is not enough that we all agree in theory that the holy Scriptures are the only infallible rule of faith ; we must have some system deduced from Scripture, about the correctness and truth of which we are agreed ; and surely, my rev. brethren, all here present will agree that though the Liturgy, the Articles, the Homilies, and the canons of our church are only deductions drawn from the holy Scriptures, and rules of faith and of conduct set forth by fallible men, they do yet contain in their substance and in their spirit the very essence of Gospel truth, the perfect delineation of the faith once delivered to the saints, and the very form of church polity, which, though according to the opinions of some, it may not have been perfectly developed in the Scriptures, we are assured by the concurrent evidence of the whole Christian world, was the only form of government known and established in that church, which was built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, and of which Jesus Christ himself is the chief corner-stone.-pp. 19-24.

EXTRACT FROM A CHARGE DELIVERED TO THE CLERGY OF THE

DIOCESE OF SALISBURY, IN APRIL AND MAY, 1845. BY EDWARD

DENISON, D.D., BISHOP OF SALISBURY. My REVEREND BRETHREN, WE are met together at a moment when the minds of a large portion of the members of our church are excited and agitated in a very unusual manner; when discussions on various subjects are carried on in a spirit of bitterness which no earnestness for the truth can justify; and when, as the fruits of such dissensions, people are alienated from their pastors, and suspicions and jealousies rankle in the hearts of many who do not openly express them.

It is not to be expected that all, even of ourselves, should exactly agree as to the causes of these differences. But it is hardly possible that we should not estimate alike the amount of evil which is indicated by such exhibitions of them as we have recently seen. We must needs grieve over the existence of a spirit of jealousy and discontent in the Church; and whilst we may well deem that the manner in which it has manifested itself has been in many instances exaggerated, and in some unbecoming, we shall not, if we be wise, neglect to give to it a calm and practical consideration, as men who bear in mind that the one end of our ministry is to bring those committed to our charge "unto that agreement in the faith and knowledge of God, and to that ripeness and perfectness of age in Christ, that there be no place left among them either for error in religion, or for viciousness in life." If we remember that this is to be our one object and aim, we shall not seek the praise of men as our reward, nor regard the approval of the multitude as the proof of a rightly discharged ministry, knowing how vain and fickle a thing popular favour is, by what arts it is often attained, how shallow is the judgment on which it is apt to rest, and how easily it is directed to evil as well as to good. And yet, while we look for approval, not to man, but to God, we shall not fail to recollect that we minister to living men, in whose hearts is to be the work of our ministry, who are to be acted upon, not by naked laws, but by moral influence; whose judgments are to be convinced, and whose feelings are to be consulted ; and whose very prejudices are entitled at our hands to a tender consideration, seeing that we also are men compassed about with infirmity. For myself, my brethren, I would desire thus, at the commencement of my address to you, to say, that if in any thing I have failed, as in many instances I well may have done, to bear in mind, in my intercourse with you, the principles I have just laid down; if I have not consulted, as I should have done, your judgments, or if I have disregarded the feelings of any among you, or have done less than justice to the motives of those of whose conduct in any respect I have had occasion to disapprove, I would even now express my regret, and ask your pardon, and pray God to enable me for the future more carefully and considerately to fulfil the difficult duties of that station to which in the course of his providence I have been called.

I need not say to you, that the immediate points in which the existing differences in our church have of late most conspicuously manifested them. selves, are certain slight diversities in the celebration of divine service, which, as I do not intend to discuss the subject in detail, it is unnecessary for me to specify. And I do not intend to discuss these topics in detail, because such a discussion, unless it were full and accurate, would be worse than useless ; and any attempt really to investigate the questions which have been raised would occupy in matters, trivial in themselves, a most undue portion of the time during which I can now ask your attention. And the time would be unprofitably spent, both on this account, and also because I am satisfied that on some of the points in question I could not lay down any rule, which I could either require or advise you to adopt universally. And this, not so much on account of the want of power to enforce its observance, (for defect of power, though it might prevent a command need not impede advice,) as because I am convinced that it is not by any more stringent application of rules that the wounds of the church are to be healed; and therefore, that which I do not contemplate giving myself, as regards my own diocese, I do not wish to see emanate from the united judgment of my brethren for the church at large. Still less am I willing that the civil legislature should meddle in a matter in which it does not belong to it to originate any new measure; and its attempt to do which would probably be pregnant with disastrous consequences. Nor does it even appear to me desirable that, under present circuinstances, any effort should be made to do away with the possisibility of these diversities by the only legislative power which can rightfully interfere, and to call in the conjoint authority of the church in its Synodical assemblies, and the State through the Crown and the Parliament, in order to clear up by new rules everything that may be doubtful, and to enforce an universal observance of whatever may be approved.

I do not say that it would not be well that, under other circumstances, and in a different spirit, the attention of the church should be directed, in the most legitimate and authoritative manner, to the questions which have been of late the occasion of difference; as I do believe that in other respects much good might be done, and much evil prevented, by the existence of a living power of government in the church, by which its system could be adapted to the changes which time works in the fabric of society, and its energies be directed, not by the mere voluntary efforts of individuals, but by lawful authority, to a fuller recognition of the privileges, and a more earnest discharge of the duties, which rightly devolve upon it both at home and abroad. I expressed an opinion to this effect in a former Charge, and to this I still adhere. But the immediate subjects which then called forth my remarks were of a different nature from those which we are now considering; and so far as I am at present advised, and without intending to fetter my discretion in any case that may arise, I may say, that I do not look to any legislative enactments for a remedy to our present distractions. I trust rather to a return to that moderation and sobriety of feeling in the community at large, which will surely result from a patient, quiet, and conciliatory course on the part of the clergy-a course which will make it manifest that the spiritual guides of the people have really at heart, before all other things, the spiritual good of those committed to them; and that they recognise the Gospel of salvation, in its purity and its fulness, as the one only means by which this is to be compassed and secured.

Of course, in what I have said I imply an opinion, that the obligation on the conscience of the clergy of the letter of the Rubric in every minute particular, is not so stringent as it has been sometimes said to be ; but that some modifying influence may be allowed to long-established custom; to inconvenience, amounting in some cases to necessity; and to the feelings of those for whose edification all our services are designed. Two different classes of persons, indeed, are united in pressing to the utmost extent the stringency of

existing obligations, though with objects diametrically opposed; the one aiming at establishing a complete uniformity in the exact observance of existing laws, the other secking to work out a new and further reformation, by proving the necessity of a change, in that existing laws are at once obligatory on the conscience, and impossible to be observed. Let us consider well before we give in our adhesion to either of these parties, lest we either compel changes which we do not desire, by making other men prefer them to existing inconveniences, rendered intolerable by a harsh and narrow scrupulosity, or willingly embarking ourselves in the pursuit of changes, find the remedy ,when attained, worse than the disease, and haply destroy the church in seeking to reform it. The high sanction which has been given to the less rigid view by his Grace the Archbishop of Canterbury, in his late Pastoral Letter, may perhaps make it appear unnecessary for me to say even thus much. And yet it may not be amiss to remind you of that which those among you, who have ever had occasion to consult me, well know, that this has been the principle which I have always maintained—the principle that there are cases in which established customs are sanctions, in not departing from which the conscience of an individual need not be aggrieved ; and that, though we should not be reluctant to make improvements considerately and judiciously, where existing customs are careless and bad, (and in many respects such improvements have been made, and are continually in progress,) these should be in cases in which the edification of the people is plainly concerned; whereas on a mere theory, or in matters indifferent, or of little moment, it is better not unnecessarily to disturb that order which we find existing.

I hardly apprehend that I shall be misunderstood in what I have said, as though I either undervalued the importance of outward order, or were careless as to the rules by the due observance of which it is to be maintained, or were indisposed to the discussion of any questions which may arise respecting these, when it may seem expedient to consider them. I have now administered the affairs of this diocese during eight years; and whatever may have been my failings and shortcomings, (and that these have been many and great I assure you I am deeply conscious,) I am content, in these respects at least, to refer you to the experience you have had in past intercourse with me; and to abide by the judgment which very many among you have had opportunity to form.

But if I should be unwilling, in any case, to enter upon a general discussion from which I could not hope that practical good would result, while it might give fresh occasion for controversial disputation, so am I thankful to say ihat I am not aware of anything in the state of my diocese which makes it neces. sary for me to follow a course to which my feelings and my judgment are alike opposed. Often, when harassed in mind with reflections upon the condition and prospects of the church, suggested by the bitterness of newspaper controversies, or by acts of individual indiscretion, or by the expression in one or another quarter of hasty or unwise opinion, I turn to my own diocese, and look around me, and inquire, “ Where are the signs of this universal agitation and unsettlement of men's minds of which we hear so much? where are the evidences of the weakened influence and impaired usefulness of the church ?" And then I say, “ I will not judge of these things from the malignant misrepresentations of those who, whether members of the church or not, do not love it, or from the alarmed apprehensions which disturb the judgments of some whose hearts are rightly fixed; but I will judge from that which I see and know, and am competent to form an opinion about. And if this presents to me the signs of improvement in all those respects in which inward life would outwardly develop itself, I will take courage, and be of good hope ; and if there be troubles, I will trust that through these, too, God in his providence will bring his church, and perhaps will even purify and strengthen it by them."

And in saying this, I am far from meaning that there is any especial differ

ence between the state of my diocese and that of others. On the contrary, I believe that the general aspect of the church would justify the same conclusion ; and that if they who are apprehensive and alarmed, instead of drawing their ideas from such sources as I have referred to, would carefully inquire into the state of things around them in their own neighbourhood, and exercise a calm and impartial judgment upon the information they would thus obtain, many a disquieted mind would be comforted, and many a faithful but anxious spirit cheered.

For myself, at least, while I see many deep-seated corruptions to mourn over, many weaknesses and imperfections which we must desire, rather than hope, to remove, many technical difficulties which may be magnified by scrupulosity into serious evils, and some grave, practical embarrassments and anomalies which we must, perhaps, under existing circumstances, be content, at least for a time, to bear with, -I am yet bold to say, that in those respects which are the present subjects of apprehension, I have good hope and confidence for the church. I have good hope, because I believe that the members of the church, and its ministers especially, will be true to it, and to that heavenly Master who is its one supreme Head, I believe that they will not fail thankfully to remember what they have received, and what it is their bounden duty to preserve. They will recollect that, as members and ministers of the church, they have received, as a deposit, the one Catholic faith, that faith which was once delivered to the saints, fully revealed in the holy Scriptures, the sole depository of all saving truth, and embodied and set forth in the Creeds, the sure bulwarks against heretical innovation. They will recollect, that when this truth was obscured by corrupt additions, and overlaid with an excess of ceremonial observances, it was again, by God's good providence, brought forth fresh from the unsullied source of the revealed word, and disentangled from the perplexities in which it had been involved by the sophistries of men. Knowing this, they will be thankful for that Reformation to which they are indebted for this blessing, and will neither themselves speak disparagingly of it, nor sanction the use of such language in others. They will distinguish between the imperfections and faults of the instruments, and the effects wrought through them by the providence of God; and they will not undervalue the Reformation itself on account of the vices of sovereigns, or the rapacity of courtiers, or even the faults which may be noted in those of our own order, whom we may most wish had been free from all blemishes, knowing how much of evil is blended in all things done by the instrumentality of men, and that it is the work of God to bring out good from mixed materials, and by erring instruments.

They will, therefore, thankfully acknowledge that weare indebted to the Reformation for the clear declaration, when it was much needed, that our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ is the one sole Mediator between God and man; that bis merits, and not our own works and deservings, are the only ground on which we can be accounted righteous before God; and that lively faith is the appointed means by which we are to appropriate to ourselves this justification.

They will recognise, as the fruit of the same Reformation, the establishment of the supremacy of the Word of God, and its free dissemination ; the vindication of their due honour to the Sacraments of our Lord, as the two only outward signs ordained by Him as means of inward and spiritual grace; and the restoration to the laity, in its integrity and purity, of that one which had been maimed and corrupted by the Church of Rome. They will count it good that the national independence of the church was successfully asserted; that the use of a reformed Liturgy was secured to us in our native tongue; and that the Clergy were restored to that Christian-liberty in respect of the holy estate of matrimony, the undue and enforced restraint of which had been the source of great evils. And, lastly, they will remember that the Articles of our church are the appointed safeguard to us of these and other blessings, and

« AnteriorContinuar »