Imágenes de páginas

religion. And certain it is, that we have no canon or law prohibiting the election of any man to these offices, or requiring, for his discharge of them, any religious qualification. But we question the soundness of a principle which would exempt an officer of a Christian CongreGation from the spiritual obligation of being an example of piety to the worshippers of God, before whom he stands as a prominent and leading man. We question the truth of the proposition, that there can be a regular, standing office in a Religious Society, which is of a Purely Secular character, and, therefore, we prefer beyond all comparison, the theory which carries the Holiness of the Catholic Church into this thing also. We are perfectly aware that, in practice, there is a difficulty in the subject not easy to be overcome, and we make all allowance for deviations from sound principle which rest on the plea of inevitable necessity. But we maintain that the necessity which obliges men to make this deviation, ought never to be fastened upon the Church in the shape of a principle, for this is exalting the exception to the place of the rule. The design, then, of appointing these officers—like every other appointment belonging to the Church—was holy. They were intended, as we must presume, to act in accordance with the pastor, enforcing his preaching by the strong influence of their example. They were elected by the people upon the principle that the best men would generally be chosen, and then they were expected, as persons set on high amongst their brethren, to take especial heed that their light should shine before the rest. Thus understood, the government of the Church exbibits a beautiful gradation: The Bishop under Christ, the Presbyters under the Bishop, the Deacons under the Priests, the officers of the laity under the ministers, all holding their proper rank, and exercising their proper powers, but all uniting in the same spirit, under the same great Master, to promote the sacred interests of 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, good will towards men.'

2. The Church is, secondly, holy in its laws, for these are the laws of God delivered to us in Scripture, and set forth both by precept and example, in the person of our blessed Redeemer and his Apostles. By these laws, holiness of thought, word, and action, are strictly required. Not only are all those crimes forbidden which the laws of man eondemn, but likewise all other sins against the Spirit of purity and peace and love, which no earthly tribunal can know or punish. Not only murder, adultery, fornication, perjury, theft, slander, fraud, and drunkenness are solemnly interdicted, but all uncleanness, all private lasciviousness, all unkind usage, all intemperance, all idleness, all unlawful anger, all pride, all revenge, all hatred, all covetousness, all flattery, all falsehood, while upon the other hand, charity, humility, liberality, submission, industry, hospitality, peace, and brotherly love are set forth as the necessary graces of the Christian, for without holiness no man can belong to the true Church, 'without holiness no man shall see the Lord.' To these laws, the earthly government of the Church must be in complete subservience. Bishops, ministers, and people, can make no rule contrary to these ; for the moment that the visible government of the Church, or of any portion of it, attempts to enact any thing contrary to the Word of God, they not only cease to discharge their proper office, but become traitors to their solemn trust, and open rebels against their Prince and Saviour. Other laws, indeed, they may make; the Church has power to decree in all matters of formal detail, iu rites, in ceremonies, and every other thing necessary to its internal order ; but the Bible is the supreme law, it is the constitution, the charter of the Church, her guide in all her acts, her polar star in all her legislation; and m this supreme law, and in the subordinate rules founded upon it, or decreed according to its spirit, the Church is holy.

3. In the third place, the Church is holy in her worship, because, however the outward modes of it may differ, the substance of it must always be understood to consist of the due administration of the sacraments and the homage of prayer and praise, in both of which acts the soul enters into communion with the Holy Spirit, and breathes, for a time, the blessed atmosphere of heaven. To these sublime and essential characteristics of all Christian worship, the Church adds another holy exercise, namely, the reading of the Word of God, and the explaining it to the understandings of the people. The object and tendency of all which is the same, to make them holy. Therefore in her worship the Church is holy.

4. And, fourthly, the Church is holy in her discipline, by which offenders against her laws are tried and suspended' from her Communion, or, if refractory and impenitent, cut off from her fellowship and privileges by solemn excommunication. The exercise of this salutary and sacred power is rare in our day, but in the ancient and pure annals of the Church, emperors and kings were subjected to the exercise of discipline, and publicly confessed their crimes, and professed their penitence in tears, before they were again received into communion with the faithful. Such was the strict impartiality which refused to make any distinction between the poorest and the most powerful, when the laws of God were in question.

IV. Having thus briefly shown the Holiness of the Cathdie or universal Church of Christ, in government, in laws, in worship, and in discipline, we pass on to the last topic proposed, namely, the high dignity and privileges accorded to the Church through the mercies of redemption.

'Feed the Church of God,' saith the Apostle, ' which he hath purchased with his own blood.' We shall not pause here to notice the strong proof which the passage affords of the Divinity of Christ, nor how plainly the inspired writer declares in it, that God himself, manifest in the blessed person of the Lord Jesus, was our great sacrifice in the blood and agony of the cross. But we pass to the purchase of the Church by this blood. We present to you the simple fact, that for the Church Christ died. That it was the Church which Christ loved, and gave himself for it. 'No man ever yet hated his own body,' saith St. Paul elsewhere, ' but loveth and cherisheth it, Even As The Lord The Church.' For Christ is the head of the Church. It is in the midst of the Church that his praises must be sung. It is the Church that is built upon a rock, and against which the gates of hell shall not prevail. It is the Church to which the Lord adds daily such as shall be saved. 'If any man hear not the Church,' saith our Saviour himself, ' let him be unto thee as an heathen man, and a publican.' It is the Church which is the spouse and bride of Christ. It is the Church which is figured under the new Jerusalem, where God will fix his constant habitation, and on which the glory of his immediate presence will shine for ever. It is the Church for which the incorruptible inheritance is prepared, the celestial paradise opened, and to whom the King of kings has said, ' I will be their God, and they shall be my people.' It is the Church, which, although appointed to a militant state on earth, a state of trial and probation, too often, like her blessed Lord, despised and rejected of men, shall yet go on and prosper in her holy calling, led by his Spirit, and supported by his right hand and holy arm, until that Holy Catholic Church shall be assembled from every period of time, from every denomination of his worshippers, from every age and sex, from every kingdom, and tongue, and people, and nation, and thronging around the effulgence of his throne, shall receive the crown of righteousness, and the robes of glory. Again shall the morning stars sing together, again shall the sons of God shout for joy, for the Church which he purchased with his own blood, shall be proclaimed triumphant in the kingdom of heaven, at God's right hand for evermore.

If such be the dignity, such the holy privileges of Christ's Church, how honorable, how important the office of nourishing and supporting her. How should those men rejoice who are called upon to feed that Church for the life of which the Lord gave his own body. What a blessing to belong to that Church which God has promised to crown, with all blessings. What a comfort to belong to that Church which his Spirit has engaged to comfort. How safely we may dwell in that Church which Christ has built upon a rock, and against which no enemy, no, not the gates of hell itself, shall ever be suffered to prevail.

But it is not enough for us, my brethren, to say that we believe in this Holy Catholic Church, if our lives agree not with our profession, and we turn, therefore, from the brief contemplation of the Church of Christ considered in itself, to the Church of Christ contemplated in the opinions and practice of but too many amongst its governors and its people.

O! what a contrast is here,—the Catholic Church torn into divisions innumerable, which not only conceive

« AnteriorContinuar »